cover image Priestess, Mother, Sacred Sister: Religions Dominated by Women

Priestess, Mother, Sacred Sister: Religions Dominated by Women

Susan Starr Sered. Oxford University Press, USA, $27.5 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-19-508395-8

In this provocative and scholarly study, anthropologist Sered examines a dozen women's religions, which together constitute almost all the well-documented female-dominated religions of the world. Both obvious and previously overlooked in such studies is Sered's exploratory axis of motherhood (in the social and emotional sense rather than the biological one). Despite the dissimilarities that are to be expected in such a diversity of cultures as this, patterns still emerge: an interpersonal rather than an individualistic orientation; an emphasis on food (served in quanity rather than in small, symbolic portions); a this-worldly attitude that seeks to eliminate suffering here and now; a dearth of creation stories and end-days scenarios; no sense of forcible conversion or holy war; and no worship of a single, all-powerful, male deity, etc. Sered's work is complex, rich and pervasive, but never pedantic. Illustrated. (May)