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Motherhood(s) and Polytheisms: Epistemological and Methodological Reflections on the Study of Religions, Gender, and Women

In: Numen
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  • 1 Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
  • | 2 University of Erfurt
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Abstract

Through an approach that combines the academic study of religions with motherhood studies, this article examines rarely considered maternal aspects of Demeter, a goddess of the pantheon of ancient Greek religion. We first discuss theoretical input and concepts drawn from maternal theory that are relevant to uncover innovative lines of research on religious representations and practices in polytheistic systems of the past. In this way we also contribute to broader epistemological reflections in the history and study of religions. Then, considering the Homeric Hymn as well as key ritual elements of the Thesmophoria festival through the lenses of maternal theory, we examine the mother-daughter relationship and the role of the mother as maternal trainer. This concrete case study from the ancient Greek world demonstrates the relevance for historians of religions of considering past polytheistic systems while harnessing the fruitful interdisciplinary potential of maternal theory.

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