Are you as “excited” as I am for Alan Butler’s and Janet Wolter’s new book America: Nation of the Goddess? Destiny Books, the publisher, has put up a description of the forthcoming title on parent company Inner Traditions’ website, and it’s as chock full of crazy claims as you’d expect. The two authors posit that a “secret cabal” of related families are secretly running the United States on the twin principles of “sacred geometry” and “goddess worship.” It’s almost as though Robert Graves’s White Goddess and Margaret Murray’s Witch-Cult in Western Europe had a ménage à trois with Holy Blood, Holy Grail.
You have to love the four bullet points that the publisher considered the highlights of this soon to be classic text of crackpot conspiracies:
I’ve dealt with the first three claims in my previous coverage of these researchers. My detailed discussion of the alleged pagan origins of the Grange is here; my discussion of the Washington Monument penis-vagina imagery is here; and my discussion of the New York Orion’s Belt claim, with a map showing why it’s wrong is here.
The baseball diamond claim is new to me. And to think, my uncle helped build and used to manage a local baseball stadium. Who knew that the devoted Catholic was secretly a goddess worshipper building a pagan temple!
The authors conclude with the startling revelation that nearly every city in America has a temple to the Goddess hidden in plain sight--their baseball diamonds--exposing the extent to which the Venus families are still at work behind the scenes.
Does this also include softball diamonds? How was this affected by changes to the Knickerbocker Rules after 1845?
Of all the book’s nutty claims, this is the one I’d like to hear the argument for since I can’t conceive of how a baseball diamond and a goddess temple are alike. It must have something to do with “sacred geometry,” but to what end? Of course, anyone who believes, as Butler does, that the recently added paths around the Washington Monument are the fulfillment of a centuries-long quest to draw a vagina around the phallic obelisk probably has no issue with assuming that modern baseball diamonds are the fulfillment of an ancient baseball-Freemason conspiracy.
This concept of “Venus Families” has the whiff of the ridiculous. According to Butler and Wolter, the secret elite are goddess worshippers who venerate the planet Venus as symbolic of this goddess, and these families “trace their lineage back to the Eleusinian Mysteries.” This is especially obnoxious because the Eleusinian Mysteries were decidedly not meant to be restricted to an elite few. Now, granted, the ancients all conspired to honor the sacred rites of Eleusis by preserving the great secret revealed during initiation (believed to be a shaft of wheat, symbolizing rebirth), but pretty much anyone could participate in the Mysteries and be initiated into the cult of Demeter and Persephone, and thus the promise of eternal life—provided he or she had the money to pay the entrance fees. Each year hundreds or even thousands of people came from across the Greco-Roman world to be initiated. (Jan Bremmer gives the number as 3,000, though some were mystagogues rather than initiates.)
It smacks of the ridiculous to view this as something that was so esoteric that only an elite few families were privy to the Mysteries’ darkest secrets. This claim must derive from the historical fact that after 300 BCE, when the Athenian state took over the Mysteries, they were placed in the control of the Eumolpidae and the Kerykes families; however, the Eumolpidae, while goddess worshippers, claimed to be descended from Poseidon and/or Hermes, while the Kerykes claimed relations to Hermes and to Demeter. The Kerykes were the driving force behind expanding the Mysteries’ membership to anyone who spoke Greek and lacked blood guilt, even slaves.
But the planet Venus wasn’t associated with the goddesses of Eleusis, Demeter and Persephone. In Greek mythology, it was the planet of Aphrodite, the Roman Venus, as the name suggests. Aphrodite had a very different cult, one often identified with Ishtar and Astarte, the Eastern goddesses associated with Venus. If you were trying to make a case for “Venus” families, you might do better to look at Ishtar.
All of this is ridiculous, though, since the Greeks didn’t recognize that the morning and evening stars were the same, or identify them with Aphrodite, until the fourth century BCE, nearly 1,100 years after the Eleusinian Mysteries were established.
We can’t read too much into a book description, since they are usually written by PR flaks who don’t really understand the books they promote, but I found this interesting: In the description, the “Venus families” have “a lineage tracing back to the Eleusinian Mysteries” but also are active in the Grange, and the authors “trace its lineage back to the Cisterians.” So what were the “Venus families” doing between the time Theodosius I closed the Mysteries in 392 CE and when the Cistercians were established in 1098 CE? If they were privy to the secrets of the Holy Bloodline and the ancient mysteries, how did they manage to fall victim to Byzantine Christians and Gothic Arians, who under Alaric destroyed Eleusis and killed the last hierophant of the Mysteries, a usurper.
If we believe Butler and his friends Scott Wolter and Steve St. Clair, they waited in their secret lairs for three centuries before becoming the Merovingian kings in France and failing at that job, too. Two centuries of hiding later they became Knights Templar and failed at that. Then four centuries later they became Freemasons and once again failed to take over the world… unless they are ruling it right now. How is it that the “Venus families” manage to be so bad at ruling the world? For all the imagined esoteric power of their Mysteries, this mysticism seems to be no match for the temporal power of arms.
Finally: I didn’t know that Janet Wolter is a paid research assistant for Committee Films, the producers of America Unearthed, the show hosted by her husband. Nothing like keeping it all in the family! And what a lovely coincidence that her book is scheduled to be published at the end of November, just in time for the next season of America Unearthed (should it be renewed), which will undoubtedly serve as a promotional platform for the book.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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