Warriors, Witches, Women: Mythology's Fiercest Females
There’s a positive glow of ultra-feminist girl power emanating from Kate Hodges’s engaging compendium of mythology’s fifty fiercest females. Don’t expect a tired selection of traditional Greek and Norse ones, though – in this book we meet a hugely diverse and inclusive range, from an Aboriginal gender-fluid serpent to an African preening mermaid-like water goddess obsessed with money and material things – ‘the ultimate selfie-queen’.
The book is divided into five sections: witches, warriors, bringers of misfortune, elemental spirits and munificent spirits, and readers can dip into the different sections at will – this is not a book to be read in a linear way. The profile of each heroine (or provocateur) follows a clear format of four pages, starting with their provenance, alternative names and a short precis giving basic information. Hodges then delves deeper, giving key behaviours/ powers, anecdotes and links to lives of modern-day women, often attempting to redeem a character who has been maligned unfairly through negative stereotypes perpetrated throughout history. However, it is the lush, clean, often paredback illustrations by Harriet Lee-Merrion that really elevated the book’s content for me. Each character has a full-page portrait depicting key characteristics and talismans associated with her craft; for example, the Greek priestess The Pythia sits in a cauldron holding laurel leaves and a dish of spring water, thick vapours rising around her from the ground. In this state, she tells the future. My personal favourite? Japanese goddess of mirth and revelry, Ame-NoUzume. This big-hearted party girl’s superpower is sure to make people giggle!