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The Priestess & the Pen: Marion Zimmer…

The Priestess & the Pen: Marion Zimmer Bradley, Dion Fortune & Diana…

by Sonja Sadovsky

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It is possible that my understanding of this book is slightly marred by not having read the works by Diana Paxson that are referred to in the text. I have read Dion Fortune and_ Mists of Avalon_ by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Sadovsky's analysis of the portrayal of priestesses in these works seems accurate. And I agree that these fictional representations have influenced the ritual and personal spiritual work of many contemporary Pagan women.

I have two thoughts to contribute to the discussion of this topic. The first are a few quibbles about the priestesses of Avalon in _Mists_. It struck me, after a detailed rereading of the work, that the religious ideas presented are more than a little incoherent. On one hand we are told that the Goddess does not require sacrifice. But then Igraine is informed that betraying Uther, who had been forced on her by the politics of Avalon but whom she has come to love, is a sacrifice required of her. Avalon is also supposedly a supportive environment for women; but what kind of supportive environment for women fails to provide communal care for children. Hello--doesn't worshiping a Mother Goddess at least imply that one should be a good mother. There is a bit more to being a mother than merely not having an abortion. Then Avalon goes to great lengths to create a king, Arthur, who will be loyal to his Pagan roots as well as suitable for his Roman/Christian subjects, but then send him be raised by Christians so that he is appalled and guilt-ridden by the Pagan rites he is put through. These are wise women? In the long run, the rising Christian cult seems to be superior to the stumbling, bumbling and incoherent institutions of the Avalon priestesses and Druid priests.

My second comment is that, despite its popularity with women's spirituality groups, the Triple Goddess was actually a product of a male poet, Robert Graves. In _The White Goddess_ he lays out a scheme, very male centric, of the Goddess as muse, mother, and layer-out of the male poet. In a later essay he introduces the Black Goddess as another aspect, one that comes to the poet when he is no longer the lusty lover. The Triple Goddess of Maiden, Mother, Crone is not taught by the British Traditions of Wicca, although the ideas have infiltrated some groups from the larger Pagan culture.

Overall, the book is worth reading. ( )
  ritaer | Mar 8, 2017 |
The Priestess and the Pen is a powerful piece of work. It is labeled "groundbreaking". This is a fair assessment of Sonja Sadovsky's book.

Using the writings of Pagan authors such as Dion Fortune, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Diana Paxson, Sadovsky explains each authors influence on goddess worship and modern paganism.

This is not light reading material. The reader must sit and concentrate on the subject at hand, but it will be worth it. Sadovsky was able to open my mind, broaden my thoughts and increase my understanding of her viewpoint.

Some key ideas from the book:
"Priestess is a symbol of independent female authority, and a living link to the Goddess she serves."
There are four types of Priestess', each type is reviewed and explained in the book.
1. Earth Mother
2. Moon Mistress
3. Witch Queen
4. Warrior Queen

The Goddess herself is:
1. eternal
2. light and dark
3. maiden, mother and crone
4. dark mother of mystery.

Sadovsky further explains that the threefold goddess is not always accurate nor fitting. The goddess has a 4th face, "hidden but key to personal power and self identity."

The author herself sums up the Priestess and the Pen in the introduction by writing "Priestess and Pen focuses on the literary character of the Priestess in 20th century fiction"

I think she more than adequately succeeds in her goal. My understanding of Modern Paganism is greatly enhanced by reading this book and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in Paganism, or the works of the three spotlighted authors.

FYI- everything in quotation marks was directly quoted from Ms. Sadovsky's work, the PRIESTESS AND THE PEN. ( )
  ljldml | Nov 12, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 073873800X, Paperback)

This groundbreaking book by brilliant debut author Sonja Sadovsky shines new light on how three profound minds shaped the course of history. The fantasy novels of Dion Fortune, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Diana L. Paxson influenced the image of the priestess in Neopagan and Goddess-centered spirituality throughout the world. The Priestess and the Pen shows how their work revolutionized womanhood, created space for women to reclaim their power, and energized the women’s equality movement.

Presenting a radical reinterpretation of the Goddess as four-fold rather than three-fold, The Priestess and the Pen adds dimension and relevance to the traditional Triple Goddess archetype in a way that has never before been considered with such daring reverence. This revolutionary work is poised to become the foremost historical resource and contemporary interpretation of the Pagan priestess, taking up the torch of Drawing Down the Moon and Triumph of the Moon.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:51 -0400)

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