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. 150
illustrations and 9 maps