Before I met Merlin Stone I was blind. It took her a little time; she gave me a strong dose of love, and from then on I could see—see the world as a feminist, that is. Merlin converted me, so if you haven't yet read her work, be prepared to bring the Goddess into your own life as well.
I'm Lenny Schneir. Shortly after meeting Merlin in 1976, she moved into my two-room Greenwich Village apartment. She had just published her scholarly book, When God Was a Woman, which documented 8,000 years of Goddess history in pre-patriarchal religions. Her devotion to Goddess research and the Women's Movement continued throughout her life until her passing at the age of 79 in February, 2011. I admired her, worshiped her, and for thirty-four years we were partners.
Sometimes my friends would jokingly ask me, "What's she doing with a guy like you?" I was probably the most unlikely convert—a male chauvinist—and totally unaware of the consequences of sexist behavior and language. But Merlin stuck with me, educated me to the importance of gender equality and the amazing powers of the Goddess. I was witness to her continuing authorship—her next book, written in the first two years after we met—Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood—along with many lectures and articles.
When Merlin passed away, I was grief stricken and didn't know if I could go on, but her voice spoke to me ever so clearly, telling me that I could help carry on her work. The result is Merlin Stone Remembered: Her Life and Works. Merlin appointed me the custodian of all her important documents, so I have put together a wide range of work that will recall her life for those who knew her, and introduce a new generation to the accurate account of the roles Goddesses played in pre-history.
Of course, I didn't do this all on my own. Merlin's daughters, Jenny and Cynthia, gave me documents of their own—photos and information that surprisingly had gone unsorted and unorganized until now. Imagine, we never had an accurate timeline of Merlin's life—her education, travels, career as an award-winning artist and sculptor. I have included some of her unpublished work, even selections from a novel she never got a chance to publish, in Merlin Stone Remembered.
Gloria Orenstein has written an introduction that places Merlin's work within the Women's Movement up to the appearance of When God Was a Woman. With the help of co-author David B. Axelrod, I was able to tell my own love story—a story of redemption and devotion, and okay, a little humor—because the way Merlin put up with me demanded a sense of humor!
We have a third author, Dr. Carol Thomas, who appeared just when we needed a career Women's Studies professor to broaden our presentation of Merlin's work. Dr. Thomas has written a chapter in the book entitled, "The Legacy of Merlin Stone: One Feminist's View," as well as the Preface and Epilogue. And so it seems that good luck—I would like to think sent by the Goddess—brought me to Dr. Thomas, one of the most highly-educated and respected women I know, who was willing to give her perspective on how Merlin's books helped launch a new Goddess religion and added a new dimension to the Women's Movement. Since then, similarly, Linda Winburn Walker has become instrumental in assembling and promoting Merlin's work. I continue to be guided by powerful and wise women.
I was always amazed at Merlin's incredible travels while doing her research. I'd ask her, "How did you do it? How did you travel the world alone with very little money, especially not knowing the languages?" Merlin would tell me story after story of how just the right person or solution would appear just as she needed it.
"It was like I was following the lead of the Goddess," she told me. Truly, Merlin was inspired. She once told me she was in a supermarket completely frustrated because she couldn't find the information she was looking for when her shopping cart ran over a book that contained the information!
But, in case you don't know Merlin Stone yet—or if you need some reminding—let me give you a critical quote and then some further facts:
"In the beginning people prayed to the Creatress of Life, the Mistress of Heaven. At the very dawn of religion, God was a woman. Do you remember?"
These were the words in the opening lines of Merlin Stone's When God Was a Woman, a book that exploded onto college campuses in the 1970s due to her groundbreaking research that proved the role of women in early religions. Had religions always been ruled by men? What happened to all the women in early religions—the Goddesses? As it turns out, they played key roles for eight thousand years—but their history had been all but obliterated by later patriarchal religions.
In the 1970's, Merlin Stone set out to prove that early Gods were actually Goddesses, but precious little historical evidence survived. On a quest to find the evidence, Merlin traveled to England, Lebanon, Crete, Turkey, Cypress, and a number of other countries searching for answers in their libraries and museums. With limited financial resources she traveled alone, living out of a backpack, using public transportation, even hitchhiking when necessary, searching for the answers in countries where she did not speak the language. There were no computers or laptops, so Merlin's notes were handwritten and transcribed on a typewriter after returning to London. Her quest was compelled by what she called an "inner voice" that told her where and how to find the information—and she did.
When God Was a Woman was first published in London by Virago Press in March, 1976, under the title The Paradise Papers: The Suppression of Women's Rites. The book was instantly recognized as an important work, and Dial Press purchased the rights from Virago to publish the book in the United States under its final, celebrated title, When God Was a Woman. And then, we'd have to ask the Goddess herself why, but Merlin Stone—accomplished artist, sculptor and writer—flew from London to Miami Beach in September, 1976, to visit her mother when she chanced upon a man on the beach—me, Lenny Schneir. Merlin was an ardent feminist and I was a self-professed male chauvinist and professional poker player. But something "clicked," sparks flew, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Of course, I didn't know it at the time, but Merlin would transform me from a diamond-in-the-rough gambler into a feminist and believer in the Goddess. Two total opposites became soul mates. What else can I do now but help carry on her message? I think you will enjoy what we have assembled for you. Merlin always told me if you wanted to get the "real meaning" of her book When God Was a Woman in one chapter, it would be Chapter Ten, "Unraveling the Myth of Adam and Eve," so we've had it reprinted in Merlin Stone Remembered.
We want you to know and understand the complete Merlin Stone. We have everything from her cute little baby pictures to photos of the mammoth metal sculptures she created. You'll be amazed by the incredible woman named Merlin Stone who certainly changed my life and, hopefully, will change yours too. May Merlin and the Goddess bless and guide you.