He has been a trickster, a shaman, a divine child; he has been a sacrificial victim, a consort of the earth goddess, a warrior, a sky king; and the creator, a distant and impersonal immensity. He is the male divine, seen in the many gods of myth, and his life story is told here in this graceful and illuminating account by David Leeming and Jake Page. Illustrating their points with materials ranging from the prehistoric cave paintings to the mystic Jewish Kabbalah, from the ancient Indian Vedas to tales of the North American Indians and other myths from around the world, Leeming and Page reveal the changing mask of the male divine. We see how that divinity emerged in some areas from cults involving "animal masters" (as in the Bear Man of the Cherokee Indians), sorcerers, and shamans who embarked on spirit journeys. God sometimes appeared as the trickster-as Loki of the Norse people, Legba of Africa's Yoruba, Raven and Coyote of North America, and Krishna of India-both creative and bedeviling.
With the Neolithic age came the rise of agriculture and animal husbandry, of settlements and specialization in the roles of males and females-and a more sophisticated body of myths and rituals. Here the Mother Goddess was dominant, and the male God became her consort, ultimately dying in order that nature might be renewed. The authors illustrate this new stage in the male divine with tales of the Egyptian Osiris, the Caananite Baal, and Wiyot of California's Luiseno Indians, among others. They describe the rise of a male sky God as "the equal to, the true mate, of Goddess, who was still associated with Earth." In the Iron Age, the sky God became more aggressive, separating from the Goddess and taking his place as the King God, as Zeus, Odin, and Horus. Ultimately he emerged as the creator, a more distant and impersonal force. Here Leeming and Page also illuminate an important trend-a sense that the divine is beyond gender, that it permeates all things (as seen in Chinese Tao, the Indian Brahmin, and En Sof of the Kabbalah). They see a movement in the biography of God toward a reunion with the Goddess.
"As the Supreme Being becomes less Goddess and less God," they write, "it speaks more clearly to the essential human need for unity and understanding." In their previous work together, Goddess, Leeming and Page provided a marvelous biography of the female divine-an account that won a wide and enduring audience. Now, in God, they provide the perfect companion volume-completing, as the authors write, "a record of what we humans believe ourselves at the deepest level to be."