Encounters with the Goddess: An Ethnographic Study of the Emergence of Feminine Forms of Consciousness

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Date
1994
Authors
Damron, Bonnie Lucille
Advisor
Caughey, John
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Abstract
This dissertation examines one aspect of how new cultural meanings have developed among some contemporary American women. This particular development concerns a shift in their meaning system away from male-centered symbols towards a meaning system that includes and even emphasizes feminine symbolic forms. From an outsider's point of view, the contemporary "goddess movement" might be seen as a fad, but what does it mean from an insider's perspective? This dissertation presents an ethnographic exploration in depth from the insider's point of view, into the lives of eight women for whom goddess symbols have become an integral part of their meaning systems, their consciousness, and their social worlds. This study explores the emergence of goddess forms in the experience of these informants. It examines what images appear in their consciousness, how they interpret these patterns, and how their interpretations of these patterns affect their daily lives within their social worlds. The theoretical framework consists of two components. The first is the field work component based on ethnographic research methods such as ethnographic interviews, life history research, and self-ethnography from the journals and other writings of informants. The second component is the theoretical framework woven from three distinct disciplines. They are cultural anthropology, the study of myth as it pertains to goddess imagery, and Jungian psychology. Interpretive methods from these three fields assist in describing the process through which these informants have developed new forms of consciousness that derive from goddess mythology and goddess imagery. This research shows how participation in the study of dreams and goddess mythology helped informants reconstruct key elements in their meaning systems from a woman-centered perspective. It also reveals how informants made lifestyle choices in order to cultivate and pursue their relationships to goddess images and other forms of feminine consciousness, and how they have accomplished an integration of inner images with outer dimensions of their social worlds.
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