365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the Goddess
by Patricia Telesco
I picked this book up in Glastonbury because it looked like an easily accessible and handy method of being introduced to new female deities from around the world. I wasn’t expecting anything life-changing or academically sound, but even without those expectations I was appalled and slightly disgusted that 365 Goddess had managed to find its way into publication. But before I begin my shredding of this work, let me introduce it.
365 Goddess, by Patricia Telesco, who has authored 24 other books on herbalism, magic, and Wicca, is a daily guide that introduces a Goddess from world mythology alongside daily practices, affirmations, and short rituals that are designed to bring that Goddess’s blessings into the readers life. Each day is given one page, and is also assigned to a festival from around the world, such as Imbolc, Independence Day, Peppercorn Ceremony, and Daedala.
Some of the daily activities are rather nice, and I could see myself introducing them in a group setting as icebreakers, simple ways of working with the group, or with a little change they could be used as larger ritual activities. However, these activities are largely nothing to do with the actual practices and worship given to the Goddess concerned. For instance, January 20th (festival: “Aquarius begins”) is given to Oya, the Nigerian spirit of death, cemeteries, hurricanes, tornados, and the Niger River. Interestingly enough, Telesco has chosen to completely ignore Oya’s main (and most important and culturally significant) associations and instead has depicted her as a “mother goddess and spirit of the river Niger”. The daily activity for her is to “enjoy a glass of water when you get up.” No. Oya tears down houses, ushers the dead spirit to the afterlife, raises storms and hurricanes, and destroys what needs to be destroyed. Her lessons are harsh and difficult – a glass of water will not please her. Similarly, Telesco seems to have assumed that, because Christian saints often have holy wells to their names, the female saints in her book were all once Goddesses who ruled over fresh or spring water.
Throughout this book, Telesco has made the mistake of turning some quite dark and terrifying Goddesses into beautiful, loving mother Goddesses. In fact, it’s hard to turn the page without finding the words “loving” and “mother”, “bosom”, “fertile”, and “birth”. Reading 365 Goddess you’d think that the Goddesses’ only qualities were in their reproductive organs – a conclusion that would undoubtedly turn off a wide variety of people who would otherwise benefit from finding out about the various Goddesses in the book. Indeed, it seems that as long as you’re a woman with the ability to bear children, this book is for you.
Worse still, however, are the glaring factual errors and inaccuracies that occur frequently throughout the book, errors that could not have got there if the writer had bothered to research beyond perhaps one page or one article on the Goddess in question. Erzulie, for instance, (April 24th, “Peppercorn Ceremony”, Bermuda) is said to “extend her springlike energy whenever we need it, especially when our pockets and hearts are empty.” No. Anybody who actually serves Erzulie (Freda, Dantor, Ze Wouj…? Telesco is obviously not aware that there are many spirits named Erzulie, and they are definitely not the same!) knows that she does not just give without getting something in return. Her sacred colour is not blue either, as this book declares.
Even better is her entry for May 19th, which is associated with the Welsh festival of “Hay on Wye”. *Headdesk* And the Goddess Damara: “Throughout England, Damara is celebrated as intimately connected with May…” According to Telesco, “English children believe that Bringing in the May also conveys Damara’s blessings.” Yes, because all of us English-born and bred people went gathering flowers in May, making garlands from them, skipping merrily hand in hand to the castles which we all own. Well, I’ve never even heard of Damara, and I’ve certainly never brought in the May as a child.
As I read further into the book (yes, I actually finished it: but then, it was so hilarious in places that I was actually looking forward to turning the pages to find out what other stupid mistakes had been made) I got the distinct feeling that Telesco had simply flicked through a few book indexes to get names of Goddesses and read a Wikipedia entry or a couple of pages (max, maybe as little as a few sentences) about the Goddess concerned. This would certainly explain her acknowledgements page, which thanks the service department of Amazon Books and the marketing department of ABC-Clio for obtaining reference material for the book. Surely, if you have spent a long time and effort writing a book about the Divine Feminine you’d be thanking a loved one, family member, or a particular Goddess? This just suggests that 365 Goddess was a simple marketing ploy either by the author or the publisher, which makes the entire work seem bitter and very unspiritual. Further, this research method obviously didn’t work, as during her extensive research Telesco failed to realize that the two separate Goddesses named Nepthys and Nephthys (note the tiny name spelling change, caused simply by the fact that ancient Egyptian does not transliterate entirely into English so has words sometimes spelled differently in their transalation) are in fact one Goddess. If this weren’t a book review, I’d swear a lot now.
The introduction of the book is brief and leaves a lot to be desired, purporting the inaccurate and frankly un-useful idea of “The Goddess” being worshipped as a single entity all over the world, in a form of Maiden-Mother-Crone. I could spend page after page criticizing this out-dated, academically disproven, and harmful view, but this is not the place.
Overall, I could have possibly tried a few of the exercises in the book, but the obvious lack of care taken in its creation doesn’t make me comfortable in doing so. Further, the shocking number and nature of inaccuracies found throughout 365 Goddess makes this book completely untrustworthy even as a source to find new Goddesses to do further research on. Beyond their names it is clear that Telesco’s information is largely wrong, and at times even their names are questionable.
Sadly, this book represents the absolute worst in New Age and Pagan publishing, and it angers me that people can make money from such work whilst excellent authors with factually correct information and original ideas remain unpublished.