Merlin Stone 1931 – 2011

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 26, 2011 — 18 Comments

“For people raised and programmed on the patriarchal religions of today, religions that affect even the most secular aspects of our society, perhaps there remains a lingering, almost innate memory of sacred shrines and temples tended by priestesses who served in the religion of the original supreme deity. In the beginning, people prayed to the Creatress of Life, the Mistress of Heaven. At the very dawn of religion, God was a woman. Do you remember?” – Merlin Stone, “When God Was A Woman”

Word has come to us that sculptor and art historian Merlin Stone passed away this week after a prolonged illness. Stone is perhaps best know for her groundbreaking 1976 book “When God Was A Woman”, a work that was very influential on feminist theology, and, as the book’s blurb puts it, “made the concept of a female deity accessible.”

Merlin Stone

Merlin Stone

“The Goddess is not just the female version of God. She represents a different concept.”Merlin Stone, Time Magazine, 1991

While Stone and other Goddess-oriented writers of her time eventually came under increased scrutiny for some of their historical assertions, her work became a touchstone that paved the way for many to embrace Goddess religion, modern Paganism, or to simply broaden their own conceptions of deity.

“I think we should have a huge global memorial to Merlin. She was the first one who gave us back our historical heritage as women. Her research was diligent, “When God was a Woman” changed my life.”Zsuzsanna Budapest

“As a Woman of the Goddess, and Devotee of Higher Learning, Merlin Stone’s work sparked a Depth of Integrity that spoke volumes of a Rich, untapped goldmine of Herstorical perspectives within Conventional University environments early on in my studies; her work marked a trail-blazing path toward a place where intellect and mysticism found a comfortable home within the *Thea* logical Realms of Scholarly imagination.”Rosmarinus Stehlik

“It was a revelation to me, the idea that the Bible still contained the remnants of the goddess. I felt that cool water was rushing over me. For the first time in my life, I felt that there was an open door for me to approach a “god” who looked like me, whose accessibility wasn’t confined to the men in the congregation. [...] Thanks, Merlin Stone, for breaking me out of my American Christian blinders.”Anonymous respondent, The Daily Dish, December, 2010

My condolences go out to Merlin Stone’s friends and family, may she rest in the arms of the Goddess.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

    "When God Was a Woman" is one of the most deliciously subversive books written in my lifetime. Someone once said that it is one thing for a writer to be able to convince readers to open their minds enough to genuinely ask, "what if?", but it is a whole other proposition to force readers to ask "OH MY GOD, what if……????"

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cat-Neshine/100000611662747 Cat Neshine

    Surely the Goddess will welcome her with wide open arms. Psyche guide your steps to the Summerlands,

    • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat_C_B

      This book was an important one in my own Pagan spiritual formation. Merlin Stone should be long remembered.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KellyAnnBray Kelly Bradshaw

    Never to be forgotten by those who walk the Goddess's path…

  • Peg Aloi

    I think pagans who have come into the community within the last ten or fifteen years may not be able to fully appreciate the impact that the goddess spirituality movement had on contemporary paganism. It's also true that among some communities, witchcraft and Wicca seekers and practitioners were not always warmly welcomed. I remember going into a feminist bookstore around 1986 (when I was in graduate school) that had a huge selection of books, but the clerk looked at me blankly when I asked if they had a copy of Drawing Down the Moon. I was writing for a feminist student newspaper and started a column called "The Witches' Bookshelf" which mainly book reviews. I got many notes and postcards sent to me care of the paper from women asking me if I knew of any Dianic or all-women pagan circles they could become part of. There was an enormous desire for such groups but apparently not enough of them to satisfy all seekers, and this was in the most famous enclave of feminism in the United States, Northampton, MA. Books like Merlin's helped to affirm and inspire women who sought spiritual affinity with nature and female deities. Her work's significance cannot be overestimated.

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

      I think Peg has put this very nicely. We are celebrating not just one extraordinary woman or one extraordinary book, or even the power of one extraordinary idea, but a very crucial time in our history, a time when Everything Changed.

  • Kate

    My copy of WGWAW is in storage, but I needed a quote from it, so I started a web search for it, and found a Wikipedia article:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_God_Was_a_Woman

    It's not very complimentary. There are several See Alsos, but only one reference: Philip G. Davis, Goddess Unmasked, Spence Publishing, New York, 1998. ISBN 0-9653208-9-8; review: R. Sheaffer, Skeptical Inquirer (1999).

    I noticed that the page was last updated on February 23. The complementary Wikipedia article:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merlin_Stone

    …gives her death date as February 23, and was last modified on Feb. 26.

    So was someone just waiting for her to die so they could leap into Wikipedia with a not-very-nice review? Someone else needs to add some balance to this article!

  • Eahr Joan

    With a lineage of gratitude to our vanguard scholars who paved the way including: Margaret Alice Murray, Gertrude Rachel Levy, Marija Gimbutas, Asphodel Long, and now dear Merlin Stone.

    When God Was A Woman set me free and our subsequent visits launched the encyclopedia. These memories are now some of my most memorable life treasures.

    Soar safely, Merlin and Goddess take-you-gently back home.

  • S Thompson

    I was an art student of Merlin Stone’s at CCAC in the late sixties. This was several years prior to her writing of WGWAW. She was a wonderful teacher; inspirational, vibrant, accomplished. Even then there was an aura of electricity that surrounded her and transformed the people who met her. Merlin was a visionary. I am so saddened by the news of her passing.

  • S Thompson

    I was an art student of Merlin Stone’s at CCAC in the late sixties. This was several years prior to her writing of WGWAW. She was a wonderful teacher; inspirational, vibrant, accomplished. Even then there was an aura of electricity that surrounded her and transformed the people who met her. Merlin was a visionary. I am so saddened by the news of her passing.

  • Rhiannonsmist

    Another way to look at it is my Goddess gave birth to your God. Yes she will be both missed and honored. The Summerlands are now home to she and Issac Bonwits. The conversations there must be so fantastic.

  • http://paganhumanist.com/ William Blumberg

    Just the title alone "When God was a Woman" was inspirational as it sat on bookstore shelves. A simple statement calling into question a dominion over culture idea on the nature of deity. For some who read Merlin Stone, it was if the world could be made right at least within our own understanding of divine nature. Thank you Merlin for your words and life.

  • len

    i hear the Goddess calling to the other women "hear she comes" you will live forever.

  • maater

    Thank you Merlin, you opened my eyes to the history, your contribution has been immense , I profoundly appreciate what you have done, it was life changing for me. I had an instinct but no words no thoughts, you gave me the words, I can't thank you enough for your contribution. Blessed be on your journey.

  • Raven Weed

    Merlin Stone changed my life and my world. I will be forever grateful.

  • Leslie Fish

    Merlin Stone is dead?! I saw her at PantheaCon, just a couple weeks ago. Who will carry on her work now?

    –Leslie <;)))>< Fish

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Leonard-Schneir/100002275620071 Leonard Schneir

    Merlin Stones words had tranformative power, millions of men and women who read when god was a woman and ancient mirrors of womanhood never looked at themselves, their religion or the world in the same way, merlin had a positive impact on so many and should never be forgotten, it was merlin who brought back the Goddess (1976) and introduced Her to all people from a feminist point of view. there will be a memorial/birthday celebration for merlin near tampa fl on 9/24/11 information available at http://www.merlinstone.net

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Leonard-Schneir/100002275620071 Leonard Schneir

    you are confused, merlin was i'll and for the last 2 years she only left home a couple times for doctor visits.