I felt like many of this book’s Campbellian claims for some version of a monomyth (read: unified theme) were thrown in without much expounding to make me truly believe there’s a strong thread there. There’s definitely a thread — a theme of flight. But I don’t think it means they’re woven together. They’re just similar threads — one here and one there — and it’s the book itself tying them together. A lot of times you have to take Young at her word or look at her endnotes to connect the dots yourself to work out the claims she mentions in passing. I’m not saying she doesn’t do a good job at explaining things, but she isn’t always clear. For example she states this passage with an endnote, rather than detailing how they’re interpreted as male:
“The angel who drives Adam and Eve out of paradise, the one with whom Jacob wrestles, and those that appear to Hagar, Daniel, Abraham, the Virgin Mary, the women at Jesus’s tomb, anand Muhammad are all male.”
She states a lot of things as fact without a proper lead-in. She does eventually explain this passage with examples after a tangent or two, but up until that point you have to take her at her word until she arrives there and you’re just better off having looked at the endnote. This isn’t the best example of that, but hopefully you get the idea. You can guess what she is getting at until she makes a full circle, but all the while you have to suspend your skepticism. She makes her arguments out of order, making her chain of thought hard to follow. But that keeps you on your toes. The topic is never boring, even if you have to do a lot of the work.
This work seems like a conglomeration of her musings and observations of patterns — ideas she is justifying by fitting into her frame. What also stood out is her highlighting of stories that don’t fit the pattern she’s selling; she also talks about men who fly. Of course you can’t talk about women without contrasting them to men, but the titular subject(s) are otherwise misleading for the broad area this book covers. It’s broad because so many higher beings can fly regardless of their association with wings or flight to the point that it feels like she arbitrarily chose the beings she put into the book, possibly overlooking some and shoving in others. She even talks about Amelia Earhart, so flying mortals are under this umbrella. Like I said, arbitrary.
Here’s some interesting passages from the book:
“Princess Diana captured the world’s attention and imagination to a degree almost unprecedented by any other royal figure in history. The media was excessive in describing — and thus defining — her ‘fairytale’ romance, wedding, and happily-ever-after life. They just never got which fairy tale it was. On the one hand, she was the modern ‘wonder woman,’ having and doing it all…the fairy tale she really lived out, though, was that of the captured bride…”
“For all the detailed testimony elicited by the inquisitors, Hans Peter Duerr is struck by their apparent lack of interest in the actual contents of the ointment, beyond the fat of unbaptized babies and other repellent ingredients. He concludes that the influence of mind-altering plants was actually suppressed because it would have led to a natural explanation for reports of flying, and therefore would not have provided evidence for the existence of devils and their ability to physically interact with human beings.”
“But Elizabeth goes further. In perhaps her most astonishing vision, received during Mass on Christmas Eve, Christ appears to her in the body of a young female virgin, crowned and sitting on a throne. When questioned, her angel explains to her that hte virgin ‘is the sacred humanity of the Lord Jesus.’ In this vision, Elisabeth then questions St. John the Evangelist, asking why Christ has appeared in a woman’s, rather than a man’s, form. He answers that Christ has chosen the female form ‘to signify his blessed mother as well,’ because it is she who intercedes with her son to forgive the sins of humanity.’ Hildegard got it right; Christianity had entered an effeminate age.”