Athene: Image and Energy

Overview

When Athene sprang full-grown from her father Zeus's head, a new image of the feminine was born to Western consciousness - an image that has been central to its myth of progress ever since. Yet is has been hard to honour the paradoxical complexity of a goddess who presides over war as well as the peaceful arts, who subverts the ruling order as much as she seems to support it. Starting from a penetrating analysis of the goddess's mythologies and beginnings, Ann Shearer shows how mainstream consciousness, from the ...
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Overview

When Athene sprang full-grown from her father Zeus's head, a new image of the feminine was born to Western consciousness - an image that has been central to its myth of progress ever since. Yet is has been hard to honour the paradoxical complexity of a goddess who presides over war as well as the peaceful arts, who subverts the ruling order as much as she seems to support it. Starting from a penetrating analysis of the goddess's mythologies and beginnings, Ann Shearer shows how mainstream consciousness, from the early Church Fathers onwards, has diluted and even suppressed the original power of the image, until this embodiment of a special kind of focused energy became seen as a disembodied mind. But she shows too how another image of Athene has been carried on an underground stream that runs through the Christian Gnostics, the cult of the Black Virgin and the mysteries of alchemy. The energy has not been lost: this book skilfully reminds us of what we already half knew. Can we now honour the fullness of Athene's battling energy? What is its place in today's society? These are the kinds of question this thought-provoking book addresses. And in her evocations of images of the goddess through the ages, the author is indeed helping to reclaim Athene's energy for us now.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The scope of this well-written, thought-provoking book extends well beyond the Greek goddess of wisdom. Shearer (Woman: Her Changing Image) discusses with keen insight Athene in her various manifestations: as a classical figure, an archetype and an emblem of state. But Shearer goes beyond the best-known roles to examine the earlier divine prototypes which molded Athene's identity, and also how her traits have influenced subsequent mythic figures. Her analyses of the Black Virgin and the Hagia Sophia in Christian thought and of Florence Nightingale in nationalistic secular society are all particularly astute. At times it's not entirely clear what constitutes the "Athene-ness" of some figures, but in the vast majority of her discussions the vital energies of that paradoxical goddess are offered with real clarity. Athene is an extremely complex and contradictory figure, and Shearer doesn't always resolve every complexity she forwards. Perhaps, as is befitting her training and private practice as a Jungian analyst, she believes it is better for patient or reader to work things out for themselves. More far reaching and less shrill than Lee Hall's recent Athena: A Biography (Forecasts, March 24) Athene offers the modern reader new interpretations of a very old and powerful female figure. Photographs. (July)
Library Journal
Unlike Lee Hall's recent Athena: A Biography (LJ 4/1/97), which was a lay reader's approach to mythology, Shearer, a Jungian analyst, informs her exploration of Athena's shape-shifting over the course of centuries with a grounded knowledge of imagery and symbols from ancient cultures. Atop the Acropolis in Athens stands the most famous representation of the goddess: with spear and helmet, she bears the goatskin aegis and the Gorgon's head. Her great gift, when she choose to bestow it, is "foresight, discrimination, and harnessed power that understands precisely the fitness of every action." Shearer painstakingly illustrates the goddess's power to effect transformation. From Greek myth, Shearer pursues Athena as Minerva in the Aeneid, and the attributes she shares with the Virgin Mary and the allegory of Wisdom; later Athena assumes her opposite as the Black Virgin and Lady Alchemia. Shearer even finds Athena's spirit manifested in Florence Nightingale. An elegant study for informed readers.Amy Boaz, "Library Journal"
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140194951
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 9/1/1998
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.76 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Author's Acknowledgements
Prologue: Birth of a Goddess 1
1 Under the Aegis 7
2 The Maternal Measure 23
3 The Feminine Heritage 41
4 Remembering Medusa 60
5 The Mind of Minerva 74
6 Fallen Angels and the Daughters of Men 88
7 The Seat of Wisdom 118
8 The Armour of Allegory 138
9 Virgins, Witches and Uncommon Gold 158
10 Public Cult and Private Devotion 181
11 The Lamp and the Darkness 203
12 Logos and Psyche 224
13 Athene Unarmed 244
Notes 274
Bibliography 287
Acknowledgements 298
Index 302
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