When my phone rang one day early in 2004, it was an acquisitions editor at RedWheel/Weiser. “We like the way you write,” she said to me. “Would you write a book for us?” “Sure thing,” I replied. “What would you like me to write?” “We want a daily calendar book,” she said. “Call it 365 Pagan. And put lots of goddesses in it.” (Notice that they changed the title. I have no idea why.)
So I signed the contract and wrote the book. To meet their deadline, for six months I wrote every morning (which means I wrote thirty or thirty-one daily pages every two weeks), edited (so I could still pay the rent) every afternoon, and did research every evening.
What I found out when I sent them the completed manuscript, however, was that they’d wanted a frothy little gift book. What I’d sent them was a real book, with real scholarship, real history, real writing. It was too long. But when you’re writing a calendar book, you can’t just lop sixty pages off the end; you have to trim every single day. They wanted 300 words per page, max. I edited each page down to 301 words.
Here’s part of the review from Publishers Weekly. It made me very happy.
Ardinger’s latest contribution to pagan literature is a short-essay book of days jammed with facts about goddesses and saints, alongside an assortment of random pop culture references and personal musings. The author of several books including Finding New Goddesses, Ardinger is a regular encyclopedia of knowledge not only about paganism but more broadly about significant women figures and goddesses in history (think Julian of Norwich, Mother Teresa, and Isis, all of whom make appearances among the 365 days). … Chocolate lovers will surely delight to learn the story behind Lady Godiva (July 10) and those uninitiated into the history of Sophia (December 16) will be happy to learn of her illustrious past.
One thing I discovered in writing Pagan Every Day was that if you’ve studied enough metaphysics, then you can find a nice metaphysical meaning in nearly anything, just as I did for Barbie, Miss Piggy (the Goddess of Everything), and Dirty Dancing. I think it’s cool that I’ve heard from people who say they just start rereading it every January 1.
Here’s my tribute to the All-American Goddess. (The only person who ever called me Barbie more than once was my mother-in-law. Don’t you try it. I won’t answer.)
March 9: Barbie
Like Athena from the head of Zeus, Barbie was born (in 1959) from the mind of Ruth Handler, cofounder of Mattel, Inc., and named after her daughter. Well … if you want to know the truth, Barbie is known to be a knock-off of “Bild Lilli,” a lascivious doll from a German tabloid. But our Barbie wasn’t a naughty German plaything. Like “Kitten” on Father Knows Best, like Mouseketeer Annette, our Barbie was an All-American Girl. She became the most popular doll in America. The author of Forever Barbie writes that she “may be the most potent icon of American popular culture in the late twentieth century.”
Reader, have you noticed that Protestants don’t have goddesses? The faithful of the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches have Mary Mother of God and gaggles of saints, but the sixteenth-century Reformers reformed Mary right out of the church. The Puritans further purified the church of beauty and holidays. John Knox wrote a tract called A Monstrous Regiment of Women, in which he attacks uppity women like Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots and praises women who know their proper place. In the early Protestant churches, everyone could be a saint, but no one could even think about being a goddess.
Today, America worships the goddesses of the silver screen and MTV, but who’s the greatest popular goddess? I nominate Barbie as Protestant Goddess, as the Goddess of All Girls. Just as Isis is She of Ten Thousand Names, so Barbie is She of Ten Thousand Wardrobe Changes. Behold the apotheosis of the doll.
Hail, Barbie, full of grace,
Mattel is with thee.
Blessed art thou among dolls
And blessed are thy multitudinous accessories.
Holy Barbie, girlfriend of Ken,
Play with us now
And as long as plastic and fabric will last, amen.