Women Who Fly: Goddesses, Witches, Mystics, and other Airborne Females

ISBN : 9780195307887

Serinity Young
432 ページ
156 x 235 mm

From the beautiful apsaras of Hindu myth to the swan maidens of European fairy tales, tales of flying women--some carried by wings, others by rainbows, floating scarves, or flying horses--reveal both fascination with and ambivalence about female power and sexuality. In Women Who Fly, Serinity Young examines the motif of the flying woman as it appears in a wide variety of cultures and historical periods, expressed in legends, myths, rituals, sacred narratives, and artistic productions. She introduces a wide range of such figures, including supernatural women like the Valkyries of Norse legend, who transport men to immortality; winged deities like the Greek goddesses Iris and Nike; figures of terror like the Furies, witches, and succubi, airborne Christian mystics, and wayward women like Lilith and Morgan le Fay. Looking beyond the supernatural, Young examines the extraordinary mythology surrounding twentieth-century female aviators like Amelia Earhart and Hanna Reitsch. Throughout, the book Young traces the inextricable link between female power and sexuality and the male desire to control it. This is most vividly portrayed in the twelfth-century Niebelungenlied, in which the proud warrior-queen Brunnhilde loses her great physical strength when she is tricked into giving up her virginity. Centuries earlier the theme is seen in Euripides' play Medea, in which the title character--enraged by her husband's intention to marry a younger woman--uses her divine powers in revenge, wreaking chaos and destruction around her. It is a theme that remains tangible even in the twentieth-century exploits of the comic book character Wonder Woman who, Young argues, retains her physical strength only because her love for fellow aviator Steve Trevor goes unrequited. The first book to systematically chronicle the figure of the flying woman in myth, literature, art, and pop culture, Women Who Fly is an exciting, fresh look at the ways in which women have both influenced and been understood by society and religious traditions around the world.


Introduction; Chapter 1 - Earth, Sky and Supernatural Women; PART I - Supernatural Women; Chapter 2 - Winged Goddesses of Sexuality, Death and Immortality; Chapter 3 - The Fall of the Valkyries; Chapter 4 - Swan Maidens: Captivity and Sexuality; Chapter 5 - Angels and Fairies: Male Flight and Contrary Females; Chapter 6 - Apsaras: Enabling Male Immortality - Part 1; Chapter 7 - Yoginis and Dakinis: Enabling Male Immortality - Part 2; PART II - Human Women; Chapter 8 - Witches and Succubi: Male Sexual Fantasies; Chapter 9 - Women Shamans: Fluctuations in Female Spiritual Power; Chapter 10 - Flying Mystics - Part I - West; Chapter 11 - Flying Mystics, or the Exceptional Woman - Part II - East; Chapter 12 - The Aviatrix: Nationalism, Women and Heroism; Conclusion; The Exceptional Woman; Women and War


Serinity Young is a research associate in the Department of Anthropology at New York's American Museum of Natural History. She is also Adjunct Assistant Professor of Classical, Middle Eastern, and Asian Languages and Cultures at Queens College.