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Priestess, Mother, Sacred SisterReligions Dominated by Women$
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Susan Starr Sered

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780195104677

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195104677.001.0001

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(p.3) Introduction
Priestess, Mother, Sacred Sister

Susan Starr Sered

Oxford University Press

Ethnographic and historical studies of women and religion have thoroughly documented patterns of women's exclusion from positions of significant religious leadership. Scattered throughout the world and the centuries are instances of religions dominated by women—in which women have been the leaders, the majority of participants, and in which women's concerns have been central. The key examples presented in this book range from ancestral cults among Black Caribs in contemporary Belize to Korean shamanism and the Feminist Spirituality Movement in 20th-century United States. There are cross-culturally relevant social patterns in women's lives. To begin with, in every known culture adult women grapple with motherhood. Most women are, have been, or try to become mothers, or conversely, make efforts—sometimes even life-threatening efforts—to avoid becoming mothers. Many, if not most women, are concerned with controlling the number of children whom they bear and raise, and with determining the way in which their children are raised. The diverse implications of motherhood, as this book shows, strongly resonate with women's religious beliefs and rituals.

Keywords:   women, religions, cults, religious beliefs, rituals, religious leadership, motherhood

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