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One part companion book to Sacred Places of the Goddess, one part a record of spiritual journeys and personal calling, Walking an Ancient Path is a decidedly non-linear journey for a book written by a confessed Virgo. Author Karen Tate connects topics ranging from the historic to the personal, and woven throughout are oblique references to political struggles, companioned by advice after she learned difficult lessons about leadership, organization and Goddess spirituality. While reading this book gives me a sort of hodge-podge sense that the author has a lot to say but not necessarily a concise way to say it, what is gleaned between the lines are lessons of real quality: this is a woman talking about what it really is to be a priestess – and that’s a conversation that really needs further discussion.

Blessedly free of revisionist history and feminist anger, this book doesn’t quite have a center but still has something fresh within it. Tate takes a few controversial stands, and her courage deserves praise: you do have to include men in plans for feminist social change. The Goddess path is centered on experience. The logical mind does sometimes fight magical influences – and that’s actually a good thing, because it keeps you grounded and aware that you are responsible for your own actions. After a brief tourist guide supplement that seems a continuation of her book Sacred Places, WAAP then wanders through a variety of spiritual concerns ranging from love to death to community organizing.

The weakness of this book is oddly, its organization. While the careful planning is readily apparent upon reading the table of contents, something about the separate pieces do not quite fit together. This might be a well-intentioned attempt at making the book comprehensive, when a subject as complex as Goddess spirituality defies the comprehension of a single tome. It’s a forgivable error, especially since each disparate section has real juice to it. The Goddess path, like every other religious path, is simply too vast for containment between pages, and in this book, the cup runs over with Tate’s brand of feminist spiritual thought.

Tate’s spirituality is anchored in her experience with direct goddess-related experiences that she has had in exotic locales. Don’t let this discourage you: nowhere does she say that meeting the Goddess requires a passport.

Walking an Ancient Path is a great initial step in exploring Goddess spirituality. Each section offers exercises, food for thought and personal experience that come from an authentic place within Tate. Do not concern yourself with chronology or logic – simply approach the book from the angle you need it, and see where that path may lead. Tate, based on the experiences she relates in this book, might tell you the same thing.

 

~review by Diana Rajchel

Author: Karen Tate

O Books, 2008

pp. 393 $24.95

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