A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess by Carol P. Christ

carol christ“The serpentine path is the path of life, a snakelike, meandering path, winding in and out, up and down, with no beginning and no end, into the darkness and into the light.”

“Great courage and honesty.” Starhawk 

“Luminous prose.” Booklist

“A healing vision.” Choice 

“A healing vision, a flowering of self-confidence and self-love.” Patricia Monaghan

As this year comes to a close, I am engrossed in the task of putting the finishing touches on A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess. In the spring of 2016 it will be published by the Far Press, founded by Gina Messina-Dysert.  A Serpentine Path is the original title of the memoir of my journey from despair to the joy of life on the first Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. It was published in 1995 as Odyssey with the Goddess, a title chosen by the publisher.

A Serpentine Path CoverA Serpentine Path marked a turning point in my life and in my career as a writer. During the time described in my memoir I had fallen into a deep despair, sparked by the end of a marriage, the end of a love affair, and disappointment in my career. Hoping to make a fresh start, I chucked it all in, and moved to Greece. Not surprisingly, my despair followed me there. Nonetheless, as I would learn, I made the right decision, for as my Greek therapist was to tell me, I needed to learn to live in my body, not my head, and Greece was the place to learn how to do that.

I was at a crossroads in my spiritual quest. I left Christianity for Goddess feminism, yet I felt the Goddess had abandoned me. I had a contract to write the first Goddess thealogy, but as I said in my speech at Harvard, just before I made the decision to move to Greece, I did not know who the Goddess was. A personal being who cares about the world? Or the name we give to the cycles of birth, death, and regeneration in nature? My inability to answer this question led the editors to return the first draft of my Goddess thealogy with the comment that something was missing, though they could not identify what that was.

Despite receiving positive and even glowing initial reviews, Odyssey with the Goddess was withdrawn from print and remaindered following a negative review in a feminist publication. The reviewer said that she did not understand how anyone who called herself a feminist could let herself be so disappointed in a love affair with a man. My editors, who were male, immediately lost confidence in the book.

Despite this deeply upsetting turn of events, writing Odyssey had given me the clarity and the confidence I needed to write the Goddess thealogy that was published as Rebirth of the Goddess two years later. In living the journey described in Odyssey, I found myself, and I found the Goddess. Moreover, in the process of writing about my life, I created the authentic voice I was seeking after I became frustrated with the objective voice of traditional scholarship. Nonetheless, because it had been taken out of print, I remained slightly embarrassed by Odyssey, wondering if I had revealed too much about myself, made myself too vulnerable in the world.

Fast forward to last summer. During the spring Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete, I was urged to make all of my books available in e-book. After submitting the manuscript of my forthcoming book with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, to the Fortress Press in August, I took up the e-book question. My initial research led me to believe (wrongly) that a Word or PDF copy of a manuscript would be necessary to create an e-book—something I didn’t have for my earlier books. One of the women from the spring tour responded that Odyssey was her favorite of all my books, suggesting that, as it is a short book, she might be willing to type it for me.

I thought about this offer for about a week, and then decided to begin retyping the book myself with the thought that I could take out a few embarrassing details about the failed love affair. As I retyped the manuscript I was a-mazed at the courage of my younger self, and I found that the prose was indeed “luminous” as the reviewer for Booklist had commented. I also confirmed that the insights about life and the Goddess that I described had stood the test of time.

Although my life has had its ups and downs since then, I never again feel into the deep despair I felt in my younger years. I have learned to give up expecting life to turn out as I want it to, and in the process I have learned that love is everywhere if only we open our eyes. I have become ever more convinced that the Goddess is a personal being who cares about my life and the life of all other individuals in our world. There is not a single important detail in the book that I wanted or needed to change. At the same time, I thoroughly enjoyed adding a new preface and epilogue and delighted in revising the book in order to allow its insights shine through ever more clearly. I am absolutely thrilled that the book will finally be released under its original title A Serpentine Path, the title that evokes The Mysteries of the Goddess I discovered.

Carol P. Christ is author or editor of eight books in Women and Religion and is one of the Foremothers of the Women’s Spirituality Movement. She leads the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete in Spring and Fall. Serpent art by Judith Shaw. Photo of Carol by Michael Bakas.

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