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Description: Drawing on myth, religious beliefs, and a revealing selection of iconography from the Paleolithic Venus of Willendorf and ancient Egyptian images of Isis to medieval Madonnas and contemporary visions of female Hindu deities, psychotherapist and folklorist Shahrukh Husain offers readers a comprehensive, cross-cultural panorama of goddess worship through the ages. Using a wealth of examples from every era and tradition, she traces a long and primal struggle that over the course of millennia saw originally female deities usurped by male-dominated priestly hierarchies, a process reflected both in myth and in actual religious practice, which saw the goddess principle attacked, diminished, and eclipsed, but never entirely eliminated. Husain examines cosmic concepts of creation and seasonal fertility, the mythic rivalries and partnerships between male and female divinities, and the explicitly sexual duality personified in the West by the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene (but common to cultures all over the world), as well as such other aspects as the warrior, the queen, and the witch or crone who snips the threads of Fate. Finally, she reviews contemporary attitudes, values, and rites, finding a new vitality after centuries of suppression: the goddess is today a subject of renewed interest to feminist theorists, cultural historians, Wiccans and Paganists, and even environmentalists, for whom the Gaia hypothesis offers a powerful metaphor reconciling modern science with ancient wisdom. Filled with vivid full-color illustrations and dozens of informative sidebars on subjects as diverse as the Vestal Virgins of Rome, the Matronit of the Kabbala, and the almost universal association of the planet Venus with goddess figures, this is a book that will appeal to a wide audience, from scholars in women's studies, anthropology, folklore, and ancient history to more general readers interested in the female influence on cultural evolution and the antecedents to modern New Age thought. Shahrukh Husain is a psychotherapist, folklorist, and storyteller. She has lectured extensively and has worked as a consultant on TV documentaries and in an advisory role to members of Parliament on cultural matters ranging from marriage and race to religion and language issues. Her publications include Daughters of the Moon: Witch Tales from around the World (1993) and Handsome Heroines (1996).