The Dancing Goddesses: Folklore, Archaeology, and the Origins of European Dance

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W. W. Norton & Company, Feb 11, 2013 - Social Science - 448 pages
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A fascinating exploration of an ancient system of beliefs and its links to the evolution of dance.

From southern Greece to northern Russia, people have long believed in female spirits, bringers of fertility, who spend their nights and days dancing in the fields and forests. So appealing were these spirit-maidens that they also took up residence in nineteenth-century Romantic literature.

Archaeologist and linguist by profession, folk dancer by avocation, Elizabeth Wayland Barber has sleuthed through ethnographic lore and archaeological reports of east and southeast Europe, translating enchanting folktales about these “dancing goddesses” as well as eyewitness accounts of traditional rituals—texts that offer new perspectives on dance in agrarian society. She then traces these goddesses and their dances back through the Romans and Greeks to the first farmers of Europe. Along the way, she locates the origins of many customs, including coloring Easter eggs and throwing rice at the bride. The result is a detective story like no other and a joyful reminder of the human need to dance.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - mykl-s - LibraryThing

Elizabeth Wayland Barber writes about much more than dance in this surprisingly fascinating book. I expected it would be a quick read, glancing at the many figures and skimming a few passages. Instead ... Read full review

THE DANCING GODDESSES: Folklore, Archaeology, and the Origins of European Dance

User Review  - Kirkus

An exhaustive study of how a series of remnants of early religion lie at the roots of European folk dance.Barber (Archaeology and Linguistics Emerita/Occidental College; The Mummies of Urumchi, 1999 ... Read full review


Dancing as Life
Geographical Maps
Marking Time
To Bring the Spring
Friday St Friday
The FrogPrincess 10 The Cosmic Arrow
Bride Testing
The Hut
Part Three Dancing Back throughTime 17 Medieval Traces
Keeping Together in Time
Bracelets from Kiev withRitualMotifs Notes
Illustration and Credit List Acknowledgments

The MagicSleeve Dance

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About the author (2013)

Elizabeth Wayland Barber is the author of Women’s Work and The Mummies of Ürümchi. Professor emerita of archaeology and linguistics at Occidental College, she lives in California.

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