Book Review: Goddess Durga and Sacred Female Power by Laura Amazzone

[Reviewed by Janine Canan]

Goddess Durga and Sacred Female Power is exactly what this book is about: it’s an exploration of the sacredness of the Great Goddess of India and of womanhood itself.

In its pages, author Laura Amazzone takes us on a pilgrimage to the traditional ten-day harvest celebration of Durga that takes place in India and Nepal every year. We experience each day of the ceremony, meeting the Goddess herself, along with her manifestations as Saraswati Goddess of Creativity, Laksmi Goddess of Abundance, Kali Goddess of Transformation, Taleju Goddess of Tantra, Ancient Grandmother, Kumari Girl Goddesses, Matrikas, Yoginis, and the women of Nepal.

Carefully, thoroughly, the author explains aspects and details of the puja which most westerners would be unfamiliar with. Mesmerizing descriptions of colorful devotional rituals are interwoven with well-researched information on their history and meaning, and explanations of their powerful impact on the participants’ psyches.

Amazzone’s personal journey is a search for a Goddess who can heal her from traumatic childhood abuse by a violent father. Through her account, we are allowed to share in inner experiences which are fully integrated into the sociopolitical and spiritual realms. This is empowering feminist writing at its best. Goddess Durga conveys a profound respect for women as it meditates deeply on the current condition of women, and what it means to be a “cosmological” woman.

Janine Canan is the author of Ardor: Poems of Life. Visit JanineCanan.com for more information).

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Goddess Durga and Sacred Female Power is also a fascinating introduction to the ancient Indian practice of Tantra, according to which “in order to know Goddess, one must become Goddess.” The author, a tantric practitioner herself, is able to render difficult, complex and esoteric matters involving sex, death, femaleness, and divine energy with generous clarity.

The rare intelligence of this book—its passion, inspiration, thoroughness, and eloquence—is stunning. The book is itself an embodiment of the divine feminine energy known in India as Shakti. One feels that the author’s whole being has gone into it, for it speaks not only from outer knowledge but from inner knowledge as well. The writing is superb—vivacious, poetic, articulate, flowing—a compelling mix of complex intellect and sweeping fire.

Goddess Durga combines the depth of a devotional book with the breadth of an educational guidebook. It is also an incisive feminist treatise, and a cornucopia of Goddess lore. Blending eastern Tantra with western women’s spirituality to explore what female really means, it makes a unique and significant contribution to worldwide women’s spirituality. This is truly a work of women’s spirituality, for it shows every cell and chakra of a woman to be holy, indeed holiness itself. This impressive, meaty first book is so full of interesting asides that it seems to be the ground-work for several books yet to come.

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