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The Language of the Goddess

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  916 ratings  ·  42 reviews
The goddess is the most potent and persistent feature in the archaeological records of the ancient world. In this volume the author resurrects the world of goddess-worshipping, earth-centred cultures, bringing ancient matriarchal society to life.
Paperback, 388 pages
Published February 1st 2001 by Thames & Hudson (first published 1989)
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Gimbutas' seminal (I use the word ironically) work is a beautiful, yet flawed, artifact. The plethora of images showing carvings and etchings on neolithic pottery and statuary, for the most part, is astounding and worth the price of the book alone. Gimbutas provides a taxonomy of these neolithic (and some paleolithic and some bronze age) patterns and representations based on her idea that there was once a Mother Goddess cult that spread from Anatolia into Eastern Europe between the 8th and 3rd c ...more
Regina Hunter
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I love this book, but funny part is that this book was from the library and someone had written side notes in pencil, questioning and commenting on the text. I loved it, because it actually made me think over much of the information given instead of just absorbing it.
Tim Pendry
There is one good reason to own this book - the illustrations and, I suppose, the reference material at the back but it is not to be taken seriously theoretically.

Gimbutas was a romantic eccentric, part of whose importance is that she fuelled the rise of the matriarchal myth in feminism and in neo-paganism.

It must not be forgotten, however, that she was a serious academic and the flaw here is merely one of shifting from the evidence, rather imaginatively if inappropriately, to a 'grand narrativ
Nov 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Lithuanian-American archaeologist Marija Gimbutas gets a bad rap in many circles for her attempts to reconstruct the societies and religions of Neolithic Europe, which often spin thick layers of speculation on very thin evidence. To say nothing of her projecting the ideals of modern feminism unto prehistoric societies. Nonetheless, over the course of this year I have re-read a couple of her books and for all the pure guesswork in them I must say that they do contain much useful information.

For t
t bannon
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Extremely interesting. Makes great connections between folk traditions that exist today but originated 10,000 years ago. There is a LOT of detail for the academic reader but the overall explanations and descriptions are fun for the casual reader. Mother Nature - the original goddess and lifegiver - has withstood thousands of years of male dominated religions like a female rebel insurgency that the armies of men can never defeat. Some of her interpretations are just that - INTERPRETATIONS - nobod ...more
Brian Griffith
I really admire Gimbutas's lifetime of work, and this book shows many fascinating clues about Old European culture, and whole notion of "cultures of the goddess" seems extremely helpful to consider. But in explaining the patterns of meaning behind the images or symbols found in ancient artwork, I feel like she has to be speculating. Each assertion seems quite plausible but her eagerness to put it all together, find the code, and accomplish her life's work goes a step beyond her previous professi ...more
Feb 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Marija Gimbutas has sailed seas of thought alone that no one else has sailed. In doing so she has discovered an ancient civilization that existed from the Upper Neolithic until about 5,000 years ago. She was a personal friend, and my interview with her can be found on my profile page under Writings.

James N. Powell
Dec 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
I have read this book 2 times before this visit. I went back to look for particular symbols and found them.

The narratives were wonderful, again!

If you are looking for material on the Divine Feminine, this is one of the books you should read.
Dec 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Brava for Marija Gimbutas. Her scholarly writing is so readable, her work was all fresh and new, and she added a voice to the literature that is totally feminist. One day her critics will eat the goddess's sacred raptors. ...more
Robin Tobin (On the back porch reading)
I enjoyed the audio book of this. I love books that help me put history's pieces in today's prospective. ...more
Alicia Mcathy
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Denise M
Aug 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-as-book
Gimbutas was a powerhouse of excellent research and commitment to her area of study. A fundamental resource text.
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“I believe that in earlier times, obscenity as a concept surrounding either the male or female body did not exist.”

“The reason for the great number and variety of Old European images lies in the fact that this symbolism is lunar and chthonic, built around the understanding that life on earth is in eternal transformation, in constant and rhythmic change between creation and destruction, birth and death.” (316)

“Let us note here that fertility is only one among the Goddess’s many functions. It is i
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book to read and re-read. Marija Gimbutas is an appreciated lithuanian archaeologist who created the word "archaeomythology", a new multidisciplinary research field where deep studies of archeology and mythology-ancient people cultures studies are connected in order to understand ancient world on an intersting and useful level. She directed for all her life a lot of archeological european digs where she found meaningful artifacts, she also spoke many languages and this also helped st ...more
Darlene Reilley
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mfa-reads
The Language of the Goddess is a visual exploration of Goddess art throughout European history. It is an essential read to anyone wanting to know more about the Goddess cultures, specifically regarding figures and symbols. For me, the information regarding the birds, bulls, and river were essential touchstone pieces. I highly recommend this book.
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Very nice collection of the artifacts from early Indo-European excavations in the 60's. Gimbutas arranges the material masterfully so that the reader has a glimpse into the ritual symbols and markings and what their significance may have meant to ancient peoples. ...more
very good book raises some interesting thoughts and questions about the rise and fall of the "godess cultures". ...more
Oct 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great for helping me see archaeological connections to myths and legends.
Shaktima Michele Brien
Universal patterns to understand how Nature works, our eco-planetary system, and us, who we are, as conscious human beings.
Linda Laponi
Aug 02, 2022 rated it it was amazing
As groundbreaking as the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphics. This is how ethnography should be done. A classical study of synthesizing symbols and figures found in relation to temples, myth, linguistics, pottery, stonework to develop and validate meaning of artifacts in the Neolithic.
Mar 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Ever SO long, rich in illustrations and detail. Completely worth the investment of time to learn of the history of the Goddess and women's strength. ...more
Michelle Mormul
Apr 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful big gook. Honestly, I did not read it all. Looked at all the pictures.
Flint Johnson
Feb 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I find Gimbutas' work to be stimulating, suffering mainly from two issues. First, she based her work here on her efforts of decades past which was limited by the development of archeology at the time. Second, no other scholar of equal standing (let alone scholars) were present to keep her work honest, which means that she loses credibility because what she worked on was never critiqued by a scholar with an opposing viewpoint but an open mind. Neither of these issues are her fault, but the result ...more
John Kulm
Apr 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Exploring the meanings of images in archeology 40,000 years ago, 30,000, 10,000, 2000, 800... the meaningss remaining consistent through time. Interesting how modern society might dismiss these images as archaic, even though we're really not so far removed from them and their energy can still be found running through our unconscious and in otherwise esoteric dreams.

Gimgutas presents an enormous number of archeological pieces and presents them in a clear pattern. The book has a huge number of il
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
I liked this book but it is definitely more on the archeaological side of things so I would think the average reader would not enjoy it. It is not an easy read. But if you like this kind of research and want to look at the symbols of the ancient Goddess culture to understand the origins this is a fascinating book. I was also able to look at modern day religious symbols in churches and architecture and match the symbols that I saw in this book to what you see today. It's interesting to be able to ...more
Jan 16, 2016 rated it liked it
I think her "evidence" for her overarching theory is on very shaky ground, but the book is great for studying symbolism on neolithic through bronze age artifacts, which is very interesting to me as someone studying European folk art. A lot of these very old symbols still show up in European textiles, especially in Northern Europe and the Slavic countries. ...more
Jul 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Have wanted to get my hands on one of her books for years now,and still haven't managed to do it. When I do, then will post a review. ...more
Katalin Koda
May 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Amazing images of the Sacred Feminine
Karen Kostyal
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
This was great for a look at ancient artifacts, however I agree with other reviewers that some of the interpretations are speculations at best.
Serenity L
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
Again.... It wasn't what I was expecting. This is a reference book ...more
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Joseph Campbell d...: Joseph Campbell and Marija Gimbutas 1 8 Nov 05, 2013 01:34PM  

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Marija (Alseikaite) Gimbutas (Lithuanian: Marija Gimbutienė), was a Lithuanian-American archeologist known for her research into the Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures of "Old Europe", a term she introduced. Her works published between 1946 and 1971 introduced new views by combining traditional spadework with linguistics and mythological interpretation, but earned a mixed reception by other profess ...more

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“The reason for the great number and variety of Old European images lies in the fact that this symbolism is lunar and chthonic, built around the understanding that life is in eternal transformation, in constant and rhythmic change between creation and destruction, birth and death. The moon's three phases-new, waxing, and old-are repeated in trinities or triple function deities that recall these moon phases; maiden, nymph, and crone; life-giving, death-giving, and transformational; rising, dying, and self-renewing. Life-givers are also death-wielders. Immortality is secured through the innate forces of regeneration within Nature itself. The concept of regeneration and renewal is perhaps the most outstanding and dramatic theme we perceive in this symbolism.
It seems more appropriate to view all of these Goddess images as aspects of the one Great Goddess with her core functions-life-giving, death-wielding, regeneration, and renewal. The obvious analogy would be to Nature itself; through the multiplicity of phenomena and continuing cycles of which it is made, one recognizes the fundamental and underlying unity of Nature. The Goddess is immanent rather than transcendent and therefore physically manifest.”
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