The chalice and the blade : our history, our future

by Riane Tennenhaus Eisler

Book, 1995



Call number


Call number



San Francisco : HarperSanFrancisco, c1995.

Original publication date


Physical description

xxiii, 271 p.; 24 cm

Local notes

The Chalice and the Blade tells a new story of our cultural origins. It shows that warfare and the war of the sexes are neither divinely nor biologically ordained. It provides verification that a better future is possible—and is in fact firmly rooted in the haunting dramas of what happened in our past.

User reviews

LibraryThing member JohnnyGnote
The biggest mistake people are making when reading this book is they keep refering to feminism when in fact this book is about humanism and the imbalance in our society today. Historicaly she is correct in pointing out that wars and bully behavior can be atributed to the male aspect of society. In some cases I disagree with her but for the most part the book hits on some very valid points. It is often hard for people to accept anything that shakes the foundations of the status quo and she does exactly that. Taken with a grain of salt this book should be read if for any other reason than to see a different perspective on life and our history. Too often academia pollutes the minds with so called fact and pseudo science that is based on bias and rhetorical theory. The mind is like a parachute, it only works when open.… (more)
LibraryThing member Colby_Glass
A seminal, life-changing book. I cannot recommend it enough. Recent archaeology shows that during and before Crete (7000 to 3500 BC) we were a peaceful, nurturing, partnership society. Mostly vegan. Women had high status and often ruled. The great Goddess was worshipped.

Then the barbarians from the edges [like north of the Black Sea] invaded. They brought with them a dominator culture with warfare, slavery, meat eating, rule by men only and the dark ages. Women became property, like cattle. Our culture has been the same ever since.

Eisler makes a convincing argument that until we address women's issues, nothing else will improve. Similar arguments are made in _The World Peace Diet-, but he blames everything on the culture of eating meat.
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LibraryThing member TFHetrick
A non-fiction 'changed my life' book. This is one of those bells that can't be unrung.
LibraryThing member dotmpe
I am very glad to have stumbled upon and bought this book. It is an eye opener, thought provoking, and its social commentary still relevant. One very valued read.
LibraryThing member wyvernfriend
Interesting look at the past and the surges and resurgence of feminism or a balance which she refers to as gylany. She points out that over the centuries there have been a lot of attempts, once gylany or feminism rears it's head to supress it, which is usually followed by a period of resurgance of more masculine values and often wars. Sometimes I think she oversimplifies it but there are occasions where it actually makes sense. The most annoying thing about this book is that it keeps referring to it's sequel, and how she's going to treat such and such topic in greater detail in the sequel, this could be better served as footnotes rather than part of the text.… (more)
LibraryThing member exlibrisbitsy
I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to read this book. A lot of what I read in its pages changed my entire worldview and caused me to reevaluate the history of the world as I knew it through a feminist lense and to change how I felt and thought about that history. There was a lot in this book that I didn’t completely agree with but there were many parts that I was glad to have read and have reached a deeper and richer understanding of the world because of it.

The Chalice and the Blade is a book divided into two basic parts. The lion's share of the book is devoted to a detailed history of human kind comparing and contrasting the two different basic types of worship: god worship and goddess worship, worship of a dominating war-like god and worship of a nurturing loving goddess. The societies that practiced these are taken apart and examined and a lot of history is re-evaluated along these lines of dominator societies and equality societies.

The beginning was fascinating to read about, to hear about these societies that practiced worship of a female goddess that were run by a semi-democratic government with women making up the majority of the leadership. To hear about the research and archaeological work on these sites, the fact that they had paved roads, irrigation systems, drainage systems, and probably lived in better and cleaner cities than some people in third and fourth world countries today can boast of, eight thousand years before the birth of Christ was absolutely stunning to read about. To hear about their destruction at the hands of dominator societies, heartbreaking.

A lot of history starts to make sense once you read the beginning chapters of this book. How do we learn such amazing things and then "forget" them for centuries on end? Why does our society seem to stagnate for thousands of years at a time? What happened to the goddesses of long ago? These and more are answered and the answers make this book worth the read in my opinion.

Some of this book seems very anti-christian and anti-semitic. Those parts were a little uncomfortable to read about. It does explain why the first half of the bible is filled with war and hate and the second half peace and love. If you can hold on until chapter nine the answers will surprised you. This author is not anti-religion, just anti-hate. Jesus Christ was actually one of the first recorded, and definitely the loudest, speaker for the support of love and equality of all people. After reading the chapters that came before, you realize how amazing it is that he spoke the way he did in the time and society that he did. It was pure blasphemy.

A lot of the coverage of the more recent history I didn't really agree with. This happened a few times in the earlier chapters but it happened a lot later. It seemed like the author just went too far and tried to draw the lines of comparison too much and in places where they didn't belong. Was there a hatred that sparked Jesus' disciples to try and oust the women placed in positions of leadership in the church? Yes. Was the same hatred of women and their gaining of equality and rights what helped spark World War I and II? Not so much. Her expertise is clearly with the former and not the later.

In spite of that and the ending, which seemed to me to have lost its way, this was a powerful and enlightening book. Read it for the first three quarters if nothing else. The new insight and the new worldview you will gain about the history of god and goddess worshiping cultures makes it worth it. Just be prepared to switch gears once she gets beyond her realm of expertise as she does stumble in the last few chapters, and by the end finds that while this new understanding can change how we view our past not even she can come up with a way for it to help guide our future. Many questions are answered in this book, but some we just have to answer for ourselves.
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LibraryThing member Isisunit
I read this book eons ago and was floored by not only all of the interesting data that Ms. Eisler was positing, but by the wealth of documentation that she provided to support her hypothesis. And it really didn't hurt that it clearly shows how well the world functioned with matriarchal societies, as opposed to all the issues we face under the patriarchal societies that we have today.

Personally my belief is for Power With, not Power Over. And between matriarchal and patriarchal, the matriarchal society is much closer to Power With.

Jut my very, very, quick 2¢ for a book that I read back in 1989.
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LibraryThing member swampygirl
While I do not agree with all the exact speculations and facts Eisler presents in this book, she does an excellent job of exploring certain themes I am very interested in at the moment. In other words, this book has gifted me with the vocabulary to properly discuss (probably mostly with myself) the problems I have with society at large, and for that I am thankful.… (more)
LibraryThing member sumariotter
I read this several years ago and found it incredibly exciting and paradigm-changing. I would like to reread it again now from a more critical perspective to see if it still seems that way...
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