Why “God” as “She” Provokes us:Semiotically Speaking --The Significance of the Divine Feminine


  • Kristy Coleman Long Island University




goddess spirituality, paganism, alternative cosmologies


Why does the idea of the divine feminine result in such intense fear in some people and excitement in others? Writings on the Goddess movement consistently document that adherents sense the power of symbols and use them intentionally to create something profoundly different. My approach employs semiotic theory to offer a terminology and established theoretical base that imparts an understanding of “what” and “how” Goddess spirituailty and its alternative cosmology pose for some such a risk and for others such promise. Replacing the established transcendental signified of “God” with “Goddess” ruptures and displaces the systemic and totalizing structure of Western metaphysics. This is why, I believe, reactions to the idea of the feminine divine can be so pronounced. For some, the Goddess promises to solve Western culture’s problems by creating a new, more female-valuing symbolic structure. For others, She threatens the very core of the current system of signification and everything within it.

Author Biography

Kristy Coleman, Long Island University

Kristy Coleman earned her doctorate in Religion and Culture from Claremont Graduate University. Her dissertation, “Resurrecting the Repressed Feminine,” combined Luce Irigaray’s work with Coleman’s ethnography of a Los Angeles-based Dianic Wiccan group. She is currently faculty member and associate director for Long Island University’s Comparative Religion and Culture Program.


Christ, Carol. “Why Women Need the Goddess: Phenomenological, Psychological, and Political Reflections.” In Womanspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion, edited by Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow, 273-87. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992.

???. Rebirth of the Goddess: Finding Meaning in Feminist Spirituality. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1997.

???. She who Changes: Re-Imagining the Divine in the World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Derrida, Jacques. Positions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

Driver, Tom. Liberating Rites: Understanding the Transformative Power of Ritual. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998.

Eliade, Mircea. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion. London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968.

Eller, Cynthia. The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won’t Give Women a Future. Boston: Beacon Press, 2000.

Goldenberg, Naomi. Changing of the Gods: Feminism and the End of Traditional Religions. Boston: Beacon Press, 1979.

Grosz, Elizabeth. Sexual Subversions. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1989.

???. Jacques Lacan: A Feminist Introduction. New York: Routledge, 1990.

Irigaray, Luce. Speculum: Of the Other Woman. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985.

???. An Ethics of Sexual Difference. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993.

Jantzen, Grace M. Becoming Divine: Towards a Feminist Philosophy of Religion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

Lacan, Jacques. Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the Ecole Freudienne, edited by Juliet Michell and Jacqueline Rose, translated by Jacqueline Rose. New York: W. W. Norton, 1982.

Orenstein, Gloria Feman. The Reflowering of the Goddess. New York: Pergamon Press, 1990.

Reilly, Patricia Lynn. A God who Looks Like me: Discovering a Woman-Affirming Spirituality. New York: Ballantine Books, 1995.

Salomonsen, Jone. Enchanted Feminism: The Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Silverman, Kaja. The Subject of Semiotics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Starhawk. The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. New York: HarperCollins, 1979.

Talalay, Lauren E. “A Feminist Boomerang: The Great Goddess of Greek Prehistory.” Gender & History 6.2 (1994): 165-83.

Ucko, Peter J. Anthropomorphic Figurines of Predynastic Egypt and Neolithic Crete with Comparative Material from the Prehistoric Near East and Mainland Greece. Royal Anthropological Institute Occasional Paper 24. London: Andrew Szmidla, 1968.



How to Cite

Coleman, K. (2007). Why “God” as “She” Provokes us:Semiotically Speaking --The Significance of the Divine Feminine. Pomegranate, 7(2), 117–127. https://doi.org/10.1558/pome.v7i2.117