Songs We Sing By Barbara Ardinger


Even though I’m a spiritual feminist—and a pretty cranky one—I like the old familiar Christmas carols. I’m listening to a CD of Christmas songs in my car. One of the songs on the CD has the line, “God is watching us from a distance.”

There’s a reason Plato banned music from the Republic. Music gets into our heads and it stays there. Not only the tune and the rhythm, but the lyrics, too. So what idea does this song plant in our heads? God is out there. Watching us like we’re being baby-sat From a distance. So if we should happen to fall down, maybe he’s only watching and he doesn’t have long-enough arms to reach down and pick us up.

Passive watching is a key difference, of course, between the standard-brand religions (also called the religions of the book) and the Goddess religion. They’ve got a transcendent god somewhere up in heaven, up in outer space, up on the mountain, sitting up in the judge’s throne. Keeping an eye on us so if we misbehave, he can slam some thunderbolts down at us.

We’ve got a goddess right here. We’re an earth-based religion. One of the favorite neopagan clichés is that we worship the ground we walk on. Our goddess is the grandmother of their god, and she’s not on top of a mountain (though she could be). I think she spends a lot of her time in the kitchen. Or maybe in artists’ studios and writers’ rooms. She may slap us upside the head if we misbehave, but she doesn’t use thunderbolts and she teaches us how to act better. Hopefully with more courtesy to our kin, who include everything on the planet—rocks, trees, flowers, wild critters, domesticated animals, the so-called pets we do not “own,” and all the people on the planet. Not “our fellow men,” because at least half of them are our sisters. Our kin.

So back to the song. If I’m going to sing along with the CD, I change that line about God watching us from a distance to this: “Goddess watches us, here and no-ow.” Try it yourself. As you sing about a goddess keeping an eye on us right here and right now, you’ll absorb the idea of immanence. You’ll feel that she’s really here. You’ll come to know it. You’ll be planting “goddess seeds” in the consciousness of the planet.

There’s another song that I used to hear and sing when I used to go to mainstream metaphysical churches. It’s a beautiful song titled “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” The more we sing those words, the more peace will build up on our planet, which really needs some peace. But again, there’s a troublesome line in the song. “With God as our father, brothers all are we….” That’s that same god who’s watching us from a distance. He’s a father, but is he a papa? Our daddy? A comforter? Not hardly.

When I used to go to metaphysical churches and sing “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” I started singing my own words to that troublesome line. It’s a simple change—“With Goddess our mother, children all are we./ Let us sing with each other, in perfect harmony.”

It’s an ideal devoutly to be wished. If Jesus is the Prince of Peace, I keep wondering, why do his followers fight so much? Let them sing our songs with revised lyrics, and maybe the prince will arrive more peacefully. Not just with the winter solstice, but in any season.

Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic.  Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations.  When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.



Categories: Goddess Movement, Goddess Spirituality, Thealogy

Tags: , , , ,

11 replies

  1. You “said” what’s in my heart. Blessed be, Sister.

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  2. he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. …

    Peace on earth, Good will to all.

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  3. It came upon a midnight clear
    that glorious song of old,
    with angels* bending near the earth
    to touch their harps of gold:
    Peace on the earth
    good will to all,
    in the web of life.
    The world in solemn stillness waits
    to hear the angels sing.

    *I am keeping the angels for now, because for me they were always girls, images of the divine as female.

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  4. In one of my earliest books, A Woman’s Book of Rituals & Celebrations, I also rewrote “Joy to the World”:
    Joy to the world,
    The light is born.
    Let earth begin to sing.
    Let every heart
    Rejoice in the light.
    And heaven and nature sing,
    And heaven and nature sing,
    And heaven and earth and nature sing!

    This is not, of course, a reference to the famous White Light, but simply the light we see by.

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  5. Just recently, one of my teachers here at CST told us that the goddess Asherah is often depicted as a “decorated tree.” It just so happened that the night just before, another teacher passed out a picture of the god El, depicted as a mature man with a long beard. El & Asherah, it is said, had “70 sons & daughters.” One of these sons was Yahweh (another was Ba’al, which accounts for the sibling rivalry). So, Yahweh’s parents were a man with a beard and a decorated tree… Santa and a Christmas tree? My teacher said that people were very reluctant to give up their Asherah, because she was the protector and keeper of children. So, is that what we are doing? Is Grampa El putting gifts under Grandma Asherah’s skirt for the children every year at Christmas? Well, I found the idea pretty entertaining, and this year I went around to every Christmas tree I saw and greeted it “Good day, Lady Asherah!”

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  6. But Xmas is supposed to be the ultimate inversion of the distant God syndrome, the Incarnation, Emmanuel–God with us. The Divine enfleshed. It becomes difficult to summarize a religion so tritely when one really looks at the underlying theology of the same.

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  7. OK. I can’t resist getting into this rewriting songs thing. From my book (1st edition, 1989, other editions followed) She Lives! The Return of Our Great Mother:

    Silent night, holy night, all is dark, yet it’s bright
    ’round Our Great Mother and Child
    Holy infant so tender and mild
    Sleep in Our Mother’s peace
    Sleep in Our Mother’s peace.
    I also wrote new lyrics to “Joy to the World” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” And to give equal time (or equal aggravation, as the case may be) rewrote the traditional Hanukkah hymn, Rock of Ages:
    (1)
    Through the ages has our song increased in its power
    ’til it wells up in our hearts at this wondrous hour.
    Though the night’s around us, yet her light surrounds us,
    and it’s bright all the night as her love shines through to us.
    (2)
    Children of Our Mother’s womb, light the way to gladness.
    Sing this song to end the gloom of a long night’s sadness.
    And the hills surrounding, now with joy abounding
    dance with light all the night and a love astounding.

    [all songs from “Winter Solstice Ritual” in She Lives! The Return of Our Great Mother. Latest edition: Combined Third Edition, 2011]

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