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When God Was a Woman

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  3,489 ratings  ·  246 reviews
Here, archaeologically documented, is the story of the religion of the Goddess. Under her, women's roles were far more prominent than in patriarchal Judeo-Christian cultures. Stone describes this ancient system and, with its disintegration, the decline in women's status. Index, maps and illustrations.
Hardcover, 265 pages
Published January 1st 1990 by Marboro Books (first published January 1st 1976)
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Paloma Vita It shows up in grey beside the other ISBN. It is 9780880295338.
Paloma Vita If you hover over the image of the book, you will see a link appear to "more editions" if you click on it, it will take you to a page showing all the…moreIf you hover over the image of the book, you will see a link appear to "more editions" if you click on it, it will take you to a page showing all the editions.(less)

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Sam Grace
Apr 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
It's definitely written in a way that is accessible to pretty much anyone, and should be part of your education in that it remains a perspective that people hold on to. But most academics - feminist archaeologists, Classicists and historians included - agree that the majority of the evidence cited doesn't really hold up to snuff. (I'm speaking in particular of Marija Gimbutas' work, which is the most often cited.)

If you loved this book, I strongly recommend following it with Cynthia Eller's The Myth o
Lage von Dissen
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Stone discusses the history behind the religion(s) of the Goddess. Various religions in the past held that "God" was a female deity, as only females are the creators of life. There is anthropological and archaeological evidence which suggest that the earliest religions were those with a female deity. It wasn't until Indo-European religions (which eventually developed the Judeo-Christian cultures) came through with their male-dominator culture, that the Goddess was first suppressed. With this sup ...more
Jun 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was a very insightful look into a wide variety of past religions and cultures where women were revered and had much higher standings than in current cultures. I only wish that Stone could have read the beginning of Captivating before writing her introduction. How sad it is that the continuous misreading of the Christian creation story has led so many women to shy away from this religion and has led so many men to think themselves superior.
David Rauschenbach
Dec 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to David by: Claire Penneau
Favorite Quotes:

Jacquetta Hawkes wrote in 1963 that “...Australian and a few other primitive peoples did not understand biological paternity or accept a necessary connection between sexual intercourse and conception.” In that same year, S. G. F. Brandon, Professor of Comparative Religion at the University of Manchester in England, observed, “How the infant came to be in the womb was undoubtedly a mystery to primitive man... in view of the period that separates impregnation from birth, it seems
Apr 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Merlin Stone really knocked this introduction into how the Goddess religions were conquered by monotheism. It's very short and many ideas are skimmed over. I also wish she had used foot/end notes instead of just a bibliography. It makes it a lot harder to see specific books that match with specific ideas and quotes.

She talks about the evidence found through archeological digs, ancient documents, religious practices, etc about the actual existence of Goddess worship. Where it was prac
Zoe Zuniga
Jul 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I was raised with the ideas that are counter cultural and this was one of the basic texts that my mother quoted often. None of this seems controversial or weird to me though I have come to learn that it does to most people.

I thought it was common knowledge that women were seen as positive, smart and leaders who where of course equal to men, for ten or 20 thousand years and that things only changed very recently within the last 2 to 3 thousand years.

She also told me that t
B Sarv
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
To read this book after having read Joseph Cambell's Masks of God made clearer to me that religion originated as a way to explain the unexplainable, most of which can now be explained. In this book that uneasy feeling that reading the story of Adam and Eve is explained. Through oppression and outright massacre the patriarchal myths and their purveyors overthrew what had existed for tens of thousands of years. In the scheme of humanity's interaction with nature and explaining it through mythology ...more
Jude Arnold
Jul 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
WHEN GOD WAS A WOMAN by Merlin Stone
“I am Nature, the Universal Mother, mistress of all elements, primordial child of time, sovereign of all things spiritual, queen of the dead, queen also of the immortals, the single manifestation of all gods and goddesses that are. My nod governs the shining heights of Heaven, the wholesome sea breezes, the lamentable silences of the world below. Though I am worshipped in many aspects, known by countless names, and propitiated with all manner of differen
Sharon Miller
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This book is a classic for a reason. It is engrossingly compelling. I do wish it were longer, the author states one idea after another, and more explanation and development of her ideas would have been great. I am sorry to say that I am not well-read enough to know how dated Merlin Stone's scholarship is or how this book holds up today. One small item is that I have noticed in my own exploration is that Steven Mithen in "After the Ice" states that Gobekli Tepe shows no evidence of a Mother Godde ...more
Nov 18, 2009 rated it did not like it
I can't believe I forgot to review this book. I read it months and months ago.

Anyway, I couldn't even finish it. It was boring and dry and ridiculous.

The author has no background in archeology or anthropology. She's an artist.... with an agenda. And she twists everything to fit that agenda.

I also found it obnoxious that she vehemently accused others of bias when she is INCREDIBLY biased herself.

Basically, I didn't believe much of what she said.
Nov 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
What can I say about this book that has not already been said? It was not a complete eye-opener, having previously been exposed to ritual and belief systems that venerated the sacred feminine, but Stone's work is a landmark on this topic.
Joanne LaFleur
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. For most of my life, I had believed that male supremacy was always the order of things, from the very beginning of time, and that everything we women would ever have would be because men all got together and said "Okay. We agree that you can have birth control and that 70-cents-on-the-dollar job." (Or whatever.) Of course, the idea that male supremacy was the only way things had ever been was most likely the result of a Christian education that taught me that the stor ...more
Erin Moore
Feb 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Merlin Stone synthesizes a great deal of the scholarship and ancient narratives of the goddess religions (though, as she points out, at the time of the Upper Paleolithic, everything was a goddess religion.) She reminds us of Innin, Inanna, Nana, Nut, Anat, Anahita, Istar, isis, Au Set, Ishara, Asherah, Ashtart, Attoret, Attar and Hathor, amongst others. She takes us on an ambition journey, travelling from the dawn of the Neolithic, through the Sumerian myths and writing, over to Cret, and then g ...more
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: girly-grrrrrl
An important book. Two things: One, this book reads academically meaning it can run dry at times. Secondly, though academic in nature the sources of Stone's theories have been questioned and posed as conjecture by some "experts" since the publication of this book in 1978. Now that we got that out of the way let's talk about the meat and potatoes:

There is no question, regardless of the exact methods of worship or the exact conduct of the women in relation to business and sex, families
Ksenia Anske
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Women of the world, read this book. This is your legacy, your power, your truth. It explains what men with the help of church and organized religion have taken from us, and have suppressed and persecuted for thousands of years (this book was published in 1976, the year I was born, but it was an eye opener for me, as I'm only now starting to read the work of feminists). It's important we learn the facts about the early female religions and clear up the confusion, misunderstanding and suppression ...more
Aaron Meyer
Nov 18, 2010 rated it liked it
An overly feminist book to say the least, at the beginning and cropping up from time to time, but besides that I did enjoy it to a degree. There are many things which I definitely don't agree with her on and I can say I marked the book up pretty good while reading it. She tries to present goddess worshipping peoples as the pinnacle of achievement and present the Indo-European "invaders" as warmongers and the bringers of patriarchal society. She doesn't show you that these goddess worshippers wer ...more
Esther-maria Lindner
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Although this is a slow read as a lot of information and history needs to be digested, I believe it is an incredible book, that should be made compulsary literature in schools as it gives a new and different perspective and account of the development of religion from originally matriarchal religions and societies that were then thwarted for patriarchal power and religions. However a core of today's patriarchal religions have their foundation in the original goddess societies. It is a great book ...more
Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
I will pick which letter I will use for the a to z author challenge later.

This book was interesting in the fact, while not that historically accurate* (it was also originally written in 1976), that did not bother me. I read this as more of a spiritual contemplation then a historical document. I am debating on putting this on the feminism shelf, but at the same time not sure if it belongs there. We shall see how my bookshelves progress. LOL

*To be fair, academically. histor
Diana Libby
Jul 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A "MUST READ" for every woman and girl...and for educated men who want to be more so. Some may mistakenly read this as a "Feminist" book. Given the years and years of patriarchal crap women have had to live with, I think it eloquently attempts to balance the equation. I can't say enough GOOD about this book. It is historically interesting and insightful. It is not written for women or by women - it is written for humans. Hopefully, the bright ones out there will read it and spread the wisdom it ...more
Nancy Szul
Sep 09, 2012 rated it liked it
This book was read in defiance of the patiarchal order of things. In a quest for spirituality, I had to go back to my ten year old logic and rebuild what worked, from there. The book was actually a spin off of Joseph Campbell's earlier readings. I liked the historical view, but i can't say I agree with the spin of the logic, but then again, I can't agree with the opposing spin. Fun, lifts your wings sisters!
Tish Forteath
Jul 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you're weak on your knowledge of ancient mythologies, and you only have a vague idea of the importance of women in them, then this book is for you. For me, it provided the context out of which the current world religions developed. It provides an understanding that may make you question everything you believe and the emerging new spiritual practices that you may find yourself doing. It is powerful knowledge, and I have no idea where I go from here.
Susan Bremer O'Neill
I read this book around the same time I read Gerda Lerner's "Creation of Patriarchy" as they are powerful companions. Read as part of my Vermont College Bachelor's Degree program, I think that all women should read this.
Janet Parfitt
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual
I thought this book was extremely factual and interesting. It details how the original matriarchal religions were destroyed by later patriarchal religions and goes on to describe how this affected the treatment of women in general. A really eye-opening read!
Mar 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
I just found this in a box of books
I just found again...Every good feminist should read this. ;)
Vanessa Bouna
Jun 13, 2018 rated it liked it
5 stars for the content, 2 stars for the editing.
I am generally very interested in anthropology and the history of religion so I've read a few books on it. And for all the problems this book has with its editing (it took me a few months to get through, and the first fifth was downright frustrating), I hadn't realized just how much our idea of religion begins with Judaism. Anything other than the Abrahamic religions is in another category of the pockets of our minds labeled 'indigenous'. We have
Maureen O'Brien O'Reilly
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
I re-read this book during Holy week. I had been feeling very despondent about the theme God sends His Son to die for our sins, violence is a solution to problems. Life,the wonderful universe, is so much more than sin and death and conflict and war. How did we pick this violent,vindictive local diety to be elevated to the One God? I felt sad and irritable. Four thousand or more years of humanity chasing favor with a God who demands not mere blood sacrifice but painful physical annihilation of Hi ...more
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Well...the writing style, the sloppy arguments, and the messy research kind of made me want to pull my hair out while I was reading this. Stone absolutely made an important point that archaeologists and anthropologists should not make the assumption that everything is, was, and always will be male-centric, but then skewed too far the other way, which ended up detracting from the good parts of the book. She makes a lot of assertions regarding pre-history that are simply impossible to back up and ...more
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It’s a bit dated (the book is 40 years old) but the way it describes the subjugation of women throughout history is still resonant today.
Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I recommend this book to anyone who's interested in the anthropology of religion or kinship. It serves as a good introduction, especially for ancient religions. I enjoyed it very much.
Bruce Campbell
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read on early religions

The author lays out a very detailed synopsis of the early Goddess worship practices. Lots of names and dates which can be a bit confusing, but there is a very nice date and name chart at the end. Wish there was a book like this for early celtic religions. All in all an excellent read.
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Merlin Stone is a sculptor and professor of art and art history, perhaps best-known for her feminist book, When God Was a Woman.

Merlin Stone became interested in archaeology and ancient religions from her study of ancient art. She taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo. From 1958 to 1967 she worked as a sculptor, exhibiting widely and executing numerous co
“Yet rather than calling the earliest religions, which embraced such an open acceptance of all human sexuality, 'fertility cults,' we might consider the religions of today as strange in that they seem to associate shame and even sin with the very process of conceiving new human life. Perhaps centuries from now scholars and historians will be classifying them as 'sterility cults.” 43 likes
“Many questions come to mind. How influenced by contemporary religions were many of the scholars who wrote the texts available today? How many scholars have simply assumed that males have always played the dominant role in leadership and creative invention and projected this assumption into their analysis of ancient cultures? Why do so many people educated in this century think of classical Greece as the first major culture when written language was in use and great cities built at least twenty-five centuries before that time? And perhaps most important, why is it continually inferred that the age of the "pagan" religions, the time of the worship of female deities (if mentioned at all), was dark and chaotic, mysterious and evil, without the light of order and reason that supposedly accompanied the later male religions, when it has been archaeologically confirmed that the earliest law, government, medicine, agriculture, architecture, metallurgy, wheeled vehicles, ceramics, textiles and written language were initially developed in societies that worshiped the Goddess? We may find ourselves wondering about the reasons for the lack of easily available information on societies who, for thousands of years, worshiped the ancient Creatress of the Universe.” 25 likes
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