Most of the early literature concerning women’s religious experience is about exceptional women; those who diverged from the traditional female role to become nuns, mystics or charismatic leaders. While women were permitted to be prophets and visionaries they rarely played an important part in church organisation. This paradox is explored in this book and a number of themes emerge: in particular, the dominance of male symbolism within the great religions. The question of whether men and women apprehend religious systems and signs in the same way is also explored. In considering the contemporary scene, the book is able to look at the ways in which religion affects the lives of women in different societies and in different historical periods; this gives us a larger view of the ways in which our own perceptions of ‘femaleness’ have been constructed out of the religious world views of both the past and the present.
First Published in 1983.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction Pat Holden 2. Mediums, Controls and Eminent Men Vieda Skultans 3. Theosophy and Feminism: Some Explorations in Nineteenth Century Biography Diana Burfield 4. Doves and Magpies: Village Women in the Greek Orthodox Church Lucy Rushton 5. Gender and Religion in a Turkish Town: A Comparison of Two Types of Formal Women’s Gatherings Nancy Tapper 6. Essence and Existence: Women and Religion in Ancient Indian Texts Julia Leslie 7. Women, Fertility and the Worship of Gods in a Hindu Village Catherine Thompson 8. Women in Judaism: the Fact and the Fiction Rabbi Julia Neuberger 9. Between Law and Custom: Women’s Experience of Judaism Jonathan Webber 10. Women Excluded? Masking and Masquerading in West Africa Elizabeth Tonkin 11. Men, Women and Misfortune in Bunyole Susan Reynolds Whyte