04 January 2007

Missing Index for Walker's "Myths"

As a pilgrim intent on peeling back the layers of obfuscation (look it up!), one begins to discover Graves' "White Goddess", Briffault's "Mothers", Camphausen's "Yoni" and Barbara Walker's 1120 page opus, "Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets" isbn006250925X oft quoted in this blog. Yes, OK sometimes Barbara is "over the top", I know her motivation too, too well - but she, unlike many other writers' over heavy agendas, does in fact well cite her source material - extensively, and page by page - her book's genius. All the more strange then that her 1120 page book fails to offer any index whatsoever. Shame! shame! on the cheap editors of HarperCollins. No index until now- a free PDFd 40+ page index to Walker's amazing work by two amazing altruists, Cheryl Brooks and Beedy Parker -

In Beedy Parker's own words: "A comprehensive (40 page, 6400 entries) index to The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barabara G Walker, is available, by e-mail or as print copy (at cost of copying and postage), from Beedy Parker at beedyparker@gwi.net , (207) 236-8732, or 68 Washington St., Camden, ME, 04843. We view this as an ongoing project, subject to correction if errors are found or more entries should be made.

"The index was produced by Cheryl Brooks, a professional indexer, in 2003, at the instigation of B. Parker who was frustrated by not being able to retrieve many of the fascinating references in the Encyclopedia which do not have their own alphabetic entries. Barbara Walker herself, who was contacted, said that the publisher did not feel that an enormous index, added to an already large book (1124 pages) would make sense. So we undertook to do it ourselves and are now making it available to others.

"Barbara Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (HarperCollins, 1983) is an extremely valuable reference, based on the author's wide reading in folklore and mythology. It documents, entry by entry, the fate and historic distortion of matriarchal religion by triumphant patriarchy in the last few thousand years. Reading it, slowly and methodically over the course of several years, was a revelation to me and put into place many of the seemingly senseless customs and rationalizations of creeds and beliefs of our major religions and our folkloric traditions. A recurring theme is the metamorphosis of feminine deities into masculine form, especially within the Christian and Judaic traditions.

"I understand that the WEMS, as we have come to call it, is not entirely respected in all academic circles. Barbara herself sees this as largely patriarchal backlash. It is also based on scholarly doubts about some of her sources (a marvelous bibliography of some 385 books), within the context of a battle for academic high ground in the shifting world of history of religion since the arrival of Women's Studies. Barbara Walker has the advantage and disadvantage of not being an academic, free to read as she pleases and judge for herself, as does the reader, but not held to scholarly proof and peer approval. She also has written on more esoteric subjects, tarot, sacred stones, women's rituals, and is a gifted and well known designer of graphic knitting patterns, all rather suspect to serious students. Her book The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects (HarperCollins, 1988) provides an iconic adjunct to the WEMS, and it would appear that her work in researching women's religious history stems from her fascination with pattern and symbol, which are often keys to a hidden and repressed past, seemingly innocent.

"The book was welcomed with accolades in the 80's and has been on course reading lists and many bibliographies. The essays at particular entries are excellent, well written and often stand by themselves as thoughtful critiques of cryptic subjects. I hope that an index will make it even more useful as a reference to information which is not readily available to people, particularly women, who wonder how we got to where we are.

"My purpose in making the index available is actually as an environmentalist, because I see, as does Barbara Walker, our treatment of women, socially and within the great religions, as part and parcel of our destructive treatment of the "environment", as "Other", and disposable, by the dominant mind set. Feminine and Nature are often seen as similar and even the same, now and in the past, whether worshipped or abused. I do not think we can survive our abusive views and behavior. Shaking this domineering foundation at its historic and prehistoric roots could help bring us round to the respect, care and love of the natural world we are a part of, to true awe. I see this reference as a revolutionary resource."

from Beedy Parker, 02 January 2007

Again, the link to Barbara Walker's WEMS Index.

1 comment:

artguy101 said...

I enjoy Walker's work on mythology - but all too often she introduces glaring errors...

Examples off the top of my head are claiming that the word "idea" means "the god within" when the root word in Greek means nothing of the sort. Or she will write that the Yiddish word "shlemiel" (a fool) is derived from the story about Peter Shlemihl, when in fact, the Yiddish words is hundreds of years older than the story! (How many other carts is she putting before the horse?)

Walker is an extremely talented and engaging writer (although not nearly as brilliant as Graves.)

I just follow the rule that I need to double check her sources...

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