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The Virgin: Mary's Cult and the Re-emergence of the Goddess Paperback – Dec 1 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (Dec 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0750950641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0750950640
  • Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 2.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 299 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,693,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


'Mr Ashe deploys real scholarship in crisp ironical, stimulating prose' Sunday Times'Mr Ashe makes an honorably sharp distinction between his history and his speculation, and his book is thought-provoking' Philip Toynbee in the Observer

About the Author

Geoffrey Ashe is a well-known and respected writer on Arthurian myth and legend, and is the author of Merlin, King Arthur's Avalon, The Discovery of King Arthur and The Hell-Fire Clubs. He lives at the foot of Glastonbury Tor.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x99c65144) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99cc1d2c) out of 5 stars Eye-opening examination of the pagan roots of Mariolatry March 18 2015
By Tom - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Most Evangelical Christians would view with amazement Roman Catholicism's elevation of Mary to Queen of Heaven, Mediatrix, and Co-Redemptrix, positions which rival (and often overshadow) the offices of Jesus Christ. Yet Mary is mentioned only briefly in the Gospels and Acts and isn't cited at all in the Epistles. How did Rome's transformation of humble Mary to semi-deity and "channel of all grace" come about?

In this fascinating book, eminent English historian and mythologist, Geoffrey Ashe, clinically deconstructs the development of the Marian cult. Worship of a life-giving, nurturing mother goddess was quite common in ancient civilizations. The Old Testament makes many references to the Canaanites' mother goddess, Asherah. As Christianity spread from Judea to the far reaches of the Roman Empire it encountered pagan religions with their popular female deities and their promotion of mother goddess worship. What resulted was predictable.

The worship of Mary began within some quasi-Christian fringe heretical groups (e.g., the Collyridians) in parallel with mainstream Christianity. Beginning in the late-300s elements of Mariolatry began to creep into the church. Because Mary worship had no explicit support in the Bible or in the writings of the early church "fathers" Marianists spawned their dogmatic extrapolations with the syllogistic argument that since it was possible for God to do thus and thus regarding Mary then He "must have." Bible texts were manipulated and reinterpreted (Mary as the new Eve, Mary as a type of Elijah, Mary as Wisdom, Mary as the ark, Mary as God's beloved spouse, etc.) to support the new Mary-goddess ideology. The common folk eagerly embraced Mother Mary as the "Christian" alternative to their former beloved pagan mother goddesses.

While Ashe is not a Christian, this masterful examination of the pagan roots of Mariolatry is an extremely valuable resource for interested Evangelical believers. Excellent! Outstanding!
HASH(0x99cce174) out of 5 stars eccentric and odd April 1 2015
By Mr. D. P. Jay - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is eccentric and somewhat odd, coming as it does from someone connected with Glastonbury. I dutifully read this as it was leant to by a. woman who said it was 'the only book that makes sense to her about Our Lady’.

It suggests that the female goddess was the earliest object of worship because of her life-giving power. This cult was superseded by established state religion with its male priests who sought to use religion in order to enforce law and order. The female, however, was never entirely suppressed and, even in Israel, where wisdom becomes hypostasised yet is female. I readily agree with the argument and have sees it more closely within the dialectic between the Indus Valley and Aryan civilisations.

Ashe argues that the virgin birth tradition is authentic - Matthew and Luke have it but John doesn't - however, Mark, as the earliest tradition words a question ‘son of Mary whereas it has ‘carpenter's son'. It is not until the 4th century that Jews attack the tradition - there is no conservative reaction to the virgin birth tradition, unlike that against Petrine wishes to preach to Gentiles. To claim that the story is midrash, claims Ashe, is not possible - it is not a quantitative but a qualitative leap from the legendary birth stories of Old Testament heroes.

He argues, also, for the perpetual virginity - 'until' doesn’t mean they necessarily 'came together' later - 'Until I make thy enemies my footstall' - does that mean that when the enemies ARE routed that the King will no longer sit at God's right? John is asked to look after Mary because there were no other brothers - they were cousins, or Joseph's children by a previous marriage - he came to Mary's family as a poor widower and they were living together like brother and sister until they married - and remained thus. This is not prudery but consistent, Ashe claims, wi¬th the idea that Jesus was son of God and. thus a special new seed of life was implanted in Mary's womb and the womb remained pure because it had been a shrine. The fact that people have to dig hard. to prove this suggests that it must be true - if it were invented, the gospels would have made it much more plain.(?)
He also argues that the dating of the census is correct as Quirinius had been governor of Syria in BC 7 (Herod's time) as well as at a later date AD. Saturn rind Jupiter aligned in BC 7. 'Guided by the star' ,eats they worked out calculations.

To be mother of MJessiah was every Jewish girls dream and this girl had the right family background to nurture him. Heredity plus environment produce geniuses - this God's implanting of Jesus in this family was right. True she didn't understand-the mothers of geniuses want their sons to be normal sometimes and wish it were so even though, at other times, they are proud that their sons are different.

Jeremiah 31;15-34 is quoted serially by the gospels - taken as one whole it makes sense, urges Ashe.

Cana in Galilee is a case where Jesus went against his resolve not to turn stones into bread - at the request of his mother; thereafter he disdains her as she's wishing the wrong things for her son.

Virgin birth, perpetual virginity, magi &c. I do not find congenial. though I accept that my arguments against them are in line with the spirit of this age - Ashe points out to me that there are other ways of looking at them which can be argued in ways I'd never thought of - it is just that I don’t wish to argue for them so have
never really looked at the subject in the way he does.

There is no evidence in the epistles of Mary's importance in the early church, so how does the cult develop? Ashe suggests she is a compulsion, deep in the human psyche. Rev. 12 was never used of Mary except in so far as she represents the church. Even Philo and the Gnostics didn't use Mary as a cult figure. The typology
was obvious yet resisted - clearly a strong anti-Arian belief because Christianity sought to stand out against the paganism of its day, not be assimilated with it.

Ashe’s thesis is connected with the heresy known as Collyridian, who offered bread rolls to Mary (Holy Rollers) and were feminists with a female priesthood. It is suggested that Mary retired with other women and became a mystic when John went to Ephesus and she became a cult figure. Epiphanius (4th Century) fought this group, insisting that Mary wasn’t commissioned to baptise or preach, let alone preside. He suggests Mary was either martyred or she was immortal, the second coming of Elijah. (The seeds of the immaculate conception and the assumption come from this suggestion, he argues, and its synthesis with the feminist sect.) Thus she was the one who would still be alive to see the kingdom come. By 431 Ephesus had a church dedicated to Mary and claimed ‘Mary Theotokos’ and John beloved are here with us.’ The cult of Diana was so powerful that it had become that of Mary.

By the Middle Ages, Mary had become a figure of God’s love to balance out his justice. Catholics have disclaimed devotions to Mary as ‘excesses’ yet until Vatican 2 all such excesses eventually became orthodox and accepted as the church was unable to resist the tide.

I cannot comment on Ashe's reconstruction of history but I do accept his conclusions: the pope has defined as dogma two doctrines which came from a non-apostolic sect which fed into the mainstream. Now that we know this we cannot go back on a dogma once defined – thus we must accept that God works outside the mainstream
and this should lead us to a reappraisal of protestants, to women priests and to an acknowledgement that revelation works through the psyche - Jung's anima figure is in Mary and a whole faith will be one in which ma1e and female are balanced in the individual and in God.

We need to remember that the rosary uses Mary's life story as a background for meditation on Jesus and icons
always portray her with her son. Devotion to her is not for her own sake but for truth.
HASH(0x99cce1c8) out of 5 stars Simply false Nov. 4 2015
By Cestusdei - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Virgin Mary is not some sort of goddess. Catholic history and doctrine are quite clear about that. Pagans had plenty of goddesses, but Christians did not. So their devotion to Mary was unlike that of pagans to goddesses, which the pagans were well aware of. They did not see Christians as being like them. If you want the truth do not look in this book.
HASH(0x99cce510) out of 5 stars Interesting, but rambling and biased Nov. 9 2015
By Carla Schmidt Holloway - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pretty rude toward Jewish faith, biased toward the proto-orthodox line of Christianity. Frequently hard to figure out what they're trying to get at.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99cce48c) out of 5 stars Geoffrey Ashe's book "The Virgin" Dec 23 2012
By Tterrence Saunders - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very learned essay if quite unorthodox one on the rise of the veneration of Our Lady in and outside the Christian Church. I'd recommend it to all denominations,Roman Catholic,Anglican,Protestant and Eastern orthodox alike.
Full of historical facts and reference as well as interesting speculation.I have a copy both for myself and my sister.
An exciting book.