In Memoriam Patricia Monaghan: The Goddess Community Remembers and Mourns by Dawn Work-MaKinne

Patricia Monaghan, scholar, author, poet, activist, artist, visionary and vice-president of the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology died early on November 11, 2012 after a two year journey with cancer. Patricia was one of the Founding Mothers of the Goddess Spirituality community in the United States, and her loss is a profound one for our spiritual and scholarly communities.

I was a very junior scholar when I first met Patricia in the 1990s. I had long admired her work, especially O Mother Sun!, her comprehensive study on sun goddesses. We were at a regional gathering, and Patricia had been deputed to lead a table of discussion devoted to Goddess scholarship. When we introduced ourselves, she simply said that she was Pat, from Chicago. Our discussion was rolling along when recognition hit. As I remember, I broke into the conversation. “You’re Patricia! From Chicago! “ I enthused. “Your work has been so important to me!” One of Patricia’s key characteristics was her generosity, especially with young and emerging scholars. I left that gathering with her email address, and I thought I was the richest young woman in the world. In the ensuing years, she encouraged me all the way through my doctorate. We had a long and joyous journey together.

Patricia was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. to Irish-American parents, and maintained dual Irish and American citizenship. She earned her undergraduate and first graduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where she studied English and French literature. She also earned an MFA in creative writing (poetry) from the University of Alaska. She worked as a journalist in both Minnesota and Alaska, writing about culture, nature, and the intersection of the two. Patricia earned her PhD in Science and Literature from The Union Institute in Cincinnati in 1994. In 1995, she joined the faculty of the School for New Learning at DePaul University, where she taught classes in arts and environmental sciences.

Patricia Monaghan

Goddess scholars and women’s spirituality practitioners, however, will remember Patricia for her groundbreaking contributions to the fields of Goddess Studies and Women’s Spirituality. In 1979, she published the first encyclopedia of female divinities, a book which has remained steadily in print since then and was recently republished in a two volume set as The Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. A long-time scholar of Celtic lore, she also published The Encyclopedia of Celtic Myth and Folklore. She edited a three-volume collection of essays entitled Goddesses in World Culture, published in late 2010. Patricia brought her lifelong interest in Ireland together with her commitment to women’s spirituality in The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog: The Landscape of Celtic Myth and Spirit. This is a unique travelogue of Irish heritage sites and their relation to goddess figures. Her other books on women’s spirituality are The Goddess Path and The Goddess Companion, both introductory books on the subject; O Mother Sun, an analysis of world myths about solar goddesses, Wild Girls: The Path of the Young Goddess, a group of stories for girls about youthful goddesses; and Magical Gardens, a book of garden designs based in mythology that was reissued in early 2012. A revised and expanded edition of Meditation: The Complete Guide was recently published. At the time of her death, Patricia had just finished co-editing with her spouse Dr. Michael McDermott an anthology of writings called Brigit: Sun of Womanhood. She was also revising The Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines for a paperback edition. Both can be expected in 2013.

Patricia’s scholarship and immersion into Irish landscape and heritage produced in her a profound appreciation of the writer and artist as oracle and seer, prophet and visionary. The last few years of her life were devoted to the projects she held the most dear: The Association for the Study of Women and Mythology,The Black Earth Institute, and Irish folklore study. The Black Earth Institute is dedicated to inspiring artists to serve the causes of inclusive spirituality, protecting and healing the earth and fighting for social justice. She focused her work and travels increasingly on discovering Irish mythology and folklore. The creation and development of ASWM were high priorities for Patricia. ( ASWM supports the work of those whose scholarly/creative endeavors explore or elucidate aspects of the sacred feminine, women and mythology. Through conferences, publications and networking, ASWM opens dialogue among disciplines, individuals and spiritual traditions. Scholars and creative artists in all media whose work deals with images of the feminine divinity, as well as those interested in the work of such scholars and artists, participate in ASWM’s activities.Patricia was committed to the importance of recognition of new work, to call attention to Goddess scholarship within academia at large. She was devoted to the mentoring of new and emerging scholars. She will be endowing an annual prize for ASWM.

Memorials are being held the weekend of December 1 in the Madison, Wisconsin area, but Patricia’s influence reaches far beyond. A goddess-sister of mine in Des Moines, Iowa, has created a memorial celebration here, and vigils and ceremonies have been and will be held in many local communities. ASWM plans a ceremony of remembrance in conjunction with the Symposium in St. Paul, Minnesota in April 2013.

Because of Patricia, I am now writing my first book. I have not written a word since she moved into the spirit world. Her spirit chides me. More than anything, she would wish for our work to go on, for scholarship about the goddesses and the female divine and the women’s myths to thrive. She has created a royal road upon which we can travel, and her generosity and inspiration will light the way. I will go to Wisconsin this weekend and say yet another goodbye. Then I will come home, and write.

Dawn Work-MaKinne is a 2010 Ph.D. graduate in Women’s Studies in Religion at The Union Institute and University, Cincinnati, Ohio. Her dissertation is titled “Deity in Sisterhood: The Collective Sacred Female in Germanic Europe.”

Categories: Foremothers, General, Goddess Movement, Herstory, Loss, Women and Scholarship

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10 replies

  1. I, too, met Pat in the early 1990s. It was at the Llewellyn booth at a Book Expo here in Los Angeles. She was enormously generous and creative, and I still have a letter from her (written on paper on a typewriter) tucked into one of her books on my shelves. She’s been an inspiration to many of us who love the Goddess, and we already miss her. Dawn, thanks so much for writing such a lovely tribute.


  2. I have several of her books on my shelf. The sheer volume of Goddess-related information that she made available was such a gift. She will be missed.


  3. Thanks, Dawn. It’s wonderful to have ALL of Pat’s Goddess work listed in one place. Although I’ve read most of it, it’s still amazing to me how much she wrote as well as creating ASWM and working at the same time. Pfew!


  4. Pat was on my Ph.D. committee. She was enormously helpful and supportive. After I was done with my Ph.D I wrote to tell her that I had returned to the religiously conservative plain Quakers. I never heard another word from her though I wrote her several more times. I was very hurt. Yet over the many years since I got my Ph.D. I fell back in love with the Goddess, yet intertwined it with a Christianity of sorts and remained a plain Quaker. I read none of Pat’s books because I felt rejected. I was about to buy one of her books since it seemed it answered a search I was finding nothing else might answer. Then I canceled it, still hurt. I thought, I need to write her again. Did a search and found that she had passed on. Wow. I’ve been reading what many wonderful women, and her husband have said about her. It seems stupid now, so late, to forgive her years of silence. But all the things “you” have written about her, especially her husband’s writing, have let me forgive her for her silence. And I thank “you all” for that gift. I’m going to go and order one of her books now. Guess it’s long past time.


    • Dear Francis, thank you for leaving this comment. I’m sad to hear about your rocky experience with Pat, but glad that you have ‘found’ her again. I hope that reconnecting with her work will be a good and healing experience. Bright blessings to you!


  5. You people all like the work of Patricia Monaghan, but she has disrespected my tribe, let it be known. I am the last member of the Raeti tribe. There is nobody but me who calls themselves a Raeti. I am a herdsman. I have my mountain and my land and my traditions. I write in the Raetic alphabet and speak the Raetic language. There is nobody left but me who still does these things. When I die, my culture will die. But Patricia tried to hurt my culture while I am still alive. She has written a book called “goddesses in world culture.” In this book she said that our main goddess was called Raetia and was also known as Estu. No. Raetia is the land of the Raeti. It is in the alps of Switzerland, Italy, and Austria. Ritu is the name of one of our goddesses. Estu is another of our goddesses. Patricia said that we Raeti had knowledge of what she called “our lady.” I will know explain the truth of Raetic god and goddess worship. The Raeti recognized male and female energies in the natural world, and our gods and goddesses represented those energies. The things with male energy were things like mountains and rivers and the sun. These things always remained the same, and would only hurt us if we were foolish or disrespectful. The female energy was in things like the rain and snow and seasons. These things were not constant. The goddesses liked to interfere in everyday life. For them to be friendly, we had to sacrifice people on their altars and write their names on things. If a goddess was angry with us, she might knock down our houses with a storm, or make our cattle get a disease. The mountain, having male energy, would never do that. In our tradition, we write the names of our goddesses on many things and give them many offerings, because they would even be angry with us if we just did nothing and ignored them. Being female energy, they would be jealous and vengeful and the only way to ensure good health or mild seasons was to always write their names and worship them. We feared the goddesses and admired the gods. The gods did not get angry or kill us for going about our business. A god would only kill a person for building their house in an avalanche zone, or going the wrong place on a mountain. They just existed as themselves and didn’t do anything else. The main point is that for my tribe, goddesses inhabited anything that could kill for no reason, and gods inhabited constant forces that would only kill for certain reasons. There was a kind of war between sexes in that way. That might be offensive to you, but it’s my tribes’ culture and if you don’t like it, that is fine, but don’t try to change it and make it seem like we were your ideal culture when we weren’t.


  6. I just discovered Patricia Monaghan’s The Red-Haired Girl From the Bog and think it quite wonderful. I was so hoping to be able to connect with Monaghan on the internet, so was terribly disappointed to find that she has died. I feel like I’ve been waiting my entire life for this book!


    • Hi Denese, I just wanted to say that it’s the same with me. I’m just reading The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog for the first time too and am so enjoying it, so I too feel very sad to discover that Patricia has died. However, it looks as though there is a wonderful body of writing that she has left. I wondered if you might also enjoy a book that I’ve just finished reading called If Women Rose Rooted – The Power of the Celtic Woman by Sharon Blackie. It’s exquisite and contains a lot of beautiful Celtic mythology and interviews with Celtic women on mythological, spiritual and earth-based paths.



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