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Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts #6

Descent to the Goddess: A Way of Initiation for Women

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Book by Perera, Sylvia Brinton

112 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1983

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About the author

Sylvia Brinton Perera

11 books27 followers
Sylvia Brinton Perera, M.A., is a Jungian analyst who lives, practices, teaches, and writes in New York and Vermont and lectures worldwide. Originally trained as an art historian, she earned her M.A. in psychology and graduated from the Jung Institute of New York. Her publications include Descent to the Goddess; The Scapegoat Complex; Dreams, A Portal to the Source (with E. Christopher Whitmont); Celtic Queen Maeve and Addiction and The Irish Bull God: Image of the Multiform and Integral Masculine.

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5 stars
209 (52%)
4 stars
108 (27%)
3 stars
63 (15%)
2 stars
12 (3%)
1 star
5 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 23 of 23 reviews
299 reviews14 followers
February 27, 2016
This is one of the most important books written about the meaning of the Feminine and the importance of making the inner journey of descent in order to mature in individuate as a human being. Perera utilizes the myth of Innana/Ishtar's descent to visit her dark sister, Ereshkigal, to situate her discussion of the need for women (and I would hold, men) to be initiated into the Mystery of the Feminine, which in Jungian terms is the unconscious. There are many other such discussions, such as in the works of Marie-Louise von Franz, Marion Woodman, June Singer, Esther Harding and Helen M. Luke and others, this volume is brief and very much to the point. Perera writes with a compact clarity of style and holds the reader fascinated in her discussion of one of the most necessary steps in one's Individuation process.
It is in the deepest, darkest depths of our unconscious where we find the purest gold, the hidden treasure of the essence of whom we are meant to be. I recommend this book very highly, especially for those who are involved in women's studies, the study of the Feminine, or are in therapy themselves. It is not for self-help counseling, it is for serious students/explorers of the Soul.
Profile Image for Lina.
36 reviews
May 22, 2021
Extremely thick text. No unnecessary word used; and those chosen to be written - every one of them carries the weight and falls in place.
I would say this book is not for a random lay person to read. One has to have some experience or previous exposure to the Jungian analysis of the fairy tales or myths. Otherwise, most likely the reading will end up in disappointment as a result of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge to follow the concept.
Profile Image for JHM.
568 reviews51 followers
February 12, 2009
This book was my introduction to "The Descent of Inanna" -- and while I now would have a somewhat different perspective than Perera takes, it's still an excellent tool for opening up an ancient text for modern relevance.
180 reviews20 followers
February 21, 2022
This was an interesting exploration of the Inanna-Ereshkigal myth, and had a lot of psychological insight up unto a point. The problem with examinations of the feminine is that they are exploratory. For so many years the feminine has been hidden by projections of the male anima and of the mother, and we are only beginning to delineate the actual thing. So this is a great exploration that provides answers only up unto a point, and then the explanations become hazy.

Still well worth reading.
Profile Image for Sacha Rosel.
Author 9 books67 followers
August 8, 2022
All those enchanted by "Women who run with the wolves" will fall in love with this book, smaller in scope and length but as fascinating and trailblazing. Focused on one specific myth revolving around Sumerian goddess Inanna and her descent to the underworld and its queen Ereshkigal, as described in the poem "Descent of Inanna" and in Sumerian (later Akkadian) mythology at large, the book analyses each step of the myth from a Jungian perspective. Adding elements from her own experience with patients, Perera weaves a tale meant to empower women and help them face both their fears and powers, hopefully attaining a better understanding of life and balance in the relationship with themselves and others. The style sometimes may be confusing, and the combination of myth analysis and psychoanalysis perhaps excessive or not as seamless as in Pinkola Estés' book (which, coming decades later, owes much of its structure to Perera's work), but overall Descent to the Goddess is an illuminating read.
Profile Image for Karen.
402 reviews16 followers
August 28, 2021
One of the classic Jungian texts, using the Sumerian myth of Inanna’s descent to the underworld to the dark goddess, Ereshkigal to talk about a woman’s rejection of patriarchy and initiation into the feminine. Complex and rich.
July 15, 2022
Trochu ťažké na čítanie a na pochopenie vďaka použitia jazyku (na rozdiel od napr Marion Woodman), ale zato plne vhladov.
Profile Image for Cath Van.
87 reviews
May 10, 2012
What I like about the books in the series 'Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts' is also what I find makes them not an easy read. They are filled to the brim with the symbolic, with imagery, one has to read each word with care and then all over again to grasp the meaning. Being interested in Jungian Psychology also helps as it has a language of it's own.
Descent to the Goddess is no exception to this rule. With the myth of the descent of the goddess Inanna to the underworld as vehicle Sylvia Brinton Perera analyses woman's need for an inner female authority in a masculine oriented society. Having finished reading it doesn't mean I've finished with it I expect. There's more to come.

Profile Image for Jessica.
104 reviews31 followers
October 24, 2013
Interesting interpretation and deep analysis of Inanna's myth by a Jungian Analyst. I can't say I was particularly captivated by the author's interpretation of the Goddess descent in general, but she does raise some fascinating points in regards to a woman's journey into the underworld (unconscious) when she has lived under patriarchal values all her life, its relation to depression and anxiety, and how it can transform us from a psychological point of view. I also found the author's analogy between certain aspects of the myth and the role of the psychotherapist extremely valuable for me as a therapist.
Profile Image for Faith Justice.
Author 11 books59 followers
July 12, 2016
This book is an interesting artifact of the 1980's feminist period. I lived through that time as an activist, so I had a nostalgic response. The author leads women in repressed relationships with men to their own agency using the myth of Innana/Ishtar in a Jungian framework of analysis. It still works as a metaphor, but the psychological framework seems dated in light of the strides made in brain science and the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy. This book is not for the casual reader.
Profile Image for Alicia Anderson.
Author 2 books76 followers
March 2, 2014
I got some new material out of it, but I felt like the writer was really hammering her points home in the final few chapters. The same myth is covered in the Heroine's Journey (In fact, I still want to go check to see if this was a resource for Murdock's chapter about descent). It felt very much like it was written for a Jungian psychotherapist by a Jungian psychotherapist, and not for a layperson.
19 reviews1 follower
December 26, 2012
This was horrible. It is indeed a Jungian book, not only by Jungian Analysts, but I suspect mostly FOR Jungian analysts. It is in no way useful for a layman with even an enthusiastic interest in archetypes. And I cannot for the life of me find the way of initiation in there. At least not on any practical, concrete level. No steps to take etc. It's "just" an indepth analysis of a myth.
12 reviews
January 4, 2009
Non-pathologizing take on women's identity development and the pain therein.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
37 reviews
December 18, 2014
Read this years ago, and came across it today as I was weeding (!!!) my bookshelves.
Profile Image for Marianne.
6 reviews2 followers
April 30, 2015
The myth is interesting. The rest of the book is not worth the read.
Profile Image for Erica Rhinehart.
15 reviews1 follower
August 19, 2015
Mythic reflections of the deep feminine psyche...a must read for women who have been called by their inner-wilderness to explore the forgotten essence of their dark feminine power.
26 reviews8 followers
June 30, 2020
I wanted something terrible, Kali-like. This book was too hopeful for me.
Profile Image for Annna.
25 reviews
May 18, 2015
Now that is an interesting take on feminine psychology.
Profile Image for Jessica.
43 reviews2 followers
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September 29, 2018
If you want a Jungian psychotherapist's take on ancient Sumerian mythology, you definitely want to read this book.

Personally I am not much interested in Jung or archetypes so much of the book was not pitched at me. Nevertheless I found the discussion of the myth and its relevance for modern women thought provoking and so I do feel glad to have read this.
Displaying 1 - 23 of 23 reviews

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