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Was virgin birth real? Can women have sex with gods? Is it possible to give birth to a deity? What is women’s agency in all of this? Marguerite Rigoglioso (MA ’01; PhD ’07) discusses her groundbreaking first book, The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece, exploring the “rape by gods” and supernatural conception stories from Greek history and myth in a startling new way that places virgin priestesses at the core of Western civilization. Her careful research makes the case that divine birth was something deliberately attempted by holy women –– an elevated form of spiritual practice anciently considered the only means of bringing avatars and true leaders to incarnation. This serious scholarly study has tremendous implications for world religions with divine birth claims, including Christianity. It also invites us to think about the possibility of human sexual encounters with non-corporeal entities, and what women’s role may be in bringing future avatars to the world. For more information on her work, visit


Marguerite Rigoglioso, PhD, is the author of The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece and Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity (Palgrave Macmillan 2009, 2010), books based on her doctoral dissertation at CIIS. She holds a doctorate in humanities and a master’s in philosophy and religion, with a concentration in women’s spirituality, from CIIS, as well as a bachelor’s degree fromVassarCollege. She teaches pioneering courses in women and religion at CIIS,DominicanUniversity, and theInstitute ofTranspersonal Psychology. Marguerite delivered a James C. Loeb Classical Lecture on her first book atHarvardUniversity in October 2009.