The Long Journey Home

Christine Downing, Editor
Christine Downing, Editor Shambhala Publications $15 (301p) ISBN 978-0-87773-937-1
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
Paperback - 316 pages - 978-1-57062-685-2
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Heavily footnoted and broad in scope, this collection begins by examining the inconsistencies of the earliest versions of the Demeter and Persephone myth by Homer and Ovid. By cross-referencing classic and modern thought with literary, cultic and agrarian views, Downing ( The Goddess ) allows the ``various interpretations to contradict, complement, complicate, and ultimately enrich one another.'' Among the issues debated are Demeter's true character and motivations (nurturing, selfless mother vs. obsessed neurotic); the ``necessity'' of Persephone's rape (a commonplace cruelty vs. her own desires of womanhood); maidenhood vs. menopause; homosexual vs. heterosexual love; the secrets of the Eleusinian mysteries and the Thesmophoria; and life vs. death/renewal. Despite centuries of gender bias in the myth's retelling and translations, Downing and her contributors reclaim the myth as their own: ``We hoped that the discovery of a prepatriarchal world,'' the editor posits, ``might help us imagine forward to a postpatriarchal one.'' Standout contributions include ``Learning From My Mother Dying'' by Carol P. Christ, poetry by Alma Luz Villanueva and Herta Rosenblatt and John Daughters's wickedly funny ``Hades Speaks.'' (July)