Karen Tate’s book of sacred sites throughout the world provides tour-guide patter in travel-ready form. Whether you’re in Greece or Arizona, check this book for a feminine-myth story while admiring the abandoned temple, natural formation or goddess-influenced art. Bits of history are mixed in with points of modern interest, and folklore merges with mythology. Whether you’re on a tourist bus and killing time until the next stop or at your computer at home with this book on hand, Tate will widen your world.
If there’s a single point that can be taken from Sacred Places of Goddess, it is that women are sacred everywhere. How men and women have sought and found the goddess throughout the history of the world comes from a place fraught with cultural context and gender expectations that aren’t quite the same from country to country. Because this book is a travelogue, it can only explain that context up to a point: if someone wants to truly dive into any one goddess experience, it must be used as a jumping off point, a place to learn what questions to ask or to know what language to order from Berlitz tapes.
Tate performs a wonderful service by making a concentrated effort to highlight the Goddess in regions where women are most suppressed. She dares to write of countries she herself cannot visit: she writes of Mecca, which only allows in observant Muslims, as one such site. She also points to Middle Eastern countries besides Saudi Arabia: Syria, Lebanon and Jordan are especially difficult to travel for women, and the whole of the Middle East is a complicated trip for any western traveler. She also looks into Japan and the geisha, Pakistan and India and their tug-of-war between the feminine and masculine and locations throughout the world where the cultural machismo might cause us to forget how sacred the feminine really is. At some point, the women in these places where they are now suppressed had real power. At some point, they will have it again.
Traveling or not, Sacred Places offers the enjoyment of imagining mysterious lives that went on before modern feet traveled a place. Whether that causes you to kneel at the altar of the black Madonna or to kiss some stone in Ireland, you can always come back to Tate for a story about the great mother who came before all of it.
~ review by Diana Rajchel
Author: Karen Tate
Consortium of Collective Consciousness, 2006
pp. 420, $19.95