EASTER OF THE GODDESS: A VIEW FROM GREECE by Carol P. Christ


On Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday the blogs on feminismandreligion.com celebrated mothers and God the Mother.*

 This is my body, given for you.

This is my blood, given for you.

While these words are the center of a Christian liturgy celebrating the sacrifice of Jesus as the Christ, they are more appropriately spoken of our own mothers. Your mother and my mother and all mothers, human and other than human, mammalian, avian, and reptilian, give their bodies and blood so their offspring might have life. True, mothers do not always make conscious choices to get pregnant, but almost all mothers affirm life in their willingness to nurture the young who emerge from their bodies and from their nests. Had mothers—human and other than human–not been giving their bodies and their blood from time immemorial, you and I would not be here.

The Easter liturgy fails to acknowledge that the original offering of body and blood is the mother’s offering. Christianity “stole” the imagery associated with birth and attributed it to a male savior. If that was all Christians had done, it would have been bad enough. In most countries today there are laws against theft. Christian theologians and liturgists should also be given an “F” for plagiarism–defined as presenting the ideas of others as if they are one’s own. Z Budapest was right when she famously famously opined, “Christianity didn’t have any original ideas.

Not having any original ideas is perhaps forgivable. If mothers had still been honored, surely they would have forgiven their sons for wanting to be honored too. Most mothers are quite willing to share what they have with their children. The essence of motherhood is generosity, loving the other as the self. Yet Christians continue to insist that the idea of self-giving love originated with Jesus, and that no one would ever have thought of it, but for him.

Christians did not stop with stealing ideas from mother-honoring cultures. They thumbed their noses at mothers. They said that the body that gave them birth was evil: the source of sin, the “devil’s gateway” in the infamous words of Tertullian. They compounded the crime of theft, adding to it the crime of libel! Real women have been punished for the “sin” of “Eve” ever since.

The denial of the mother is inherent in the Platonic worldview adopted by Christianity. The Platonic worldview, like other paths of “renunciation” of “the world” is the pinnacle of ingratitude. Stripped of its trappings, its bottom line is this: birth into this world through the body of a mother just isn’t good enough. Birth into this world just isn’t good enough. Birth through the body of a woman just isn’t good enough.

While I recognize the hope for eternal life on which the rejection of life in this world is based, I consider renouncing life in the body and in this world to be a fundamental “category” mistake. Those who choose the path of renunciation are “life” rejecting “life.” Life in the body is not life without death. But should we reject the gift of life because it doesn’t last forever? Should we reject flowers because most of them bloom only in spring? Or should we delight in ephemeral beauty and in our own lives which are not eternal? It seems to me that our so-called “higher” civilizations took a wrong turn a couple of millennia ago.

Maybe it is not too late to turn back. We can begin by giving thanks to our mothers, our ancestors, female and male, to the web of Life, to Earth itself, and to the cosmos, without whom and without which we would not be. My Easter prayer is simple:

Let us bless the Source of Life,

And the cycles of birth, death, and regeneration.

With this simple prayer, we can replace egotism with an affirmation of our interdependence, and our greed for what we do not have, with gratitude for all that has been given to us.

*Today is Easter Monday in Greece.

Carol P. Christ is a founding mother in the study of women and religion, feminist theology, women’s spirituality, and the Goddess movement.  She teaches online courses in the Women’s Spirituality program at CIIS. Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions.  One of her great joys is leading Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete through Ariadne Institute



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13 replies

  1. Brava! The standard-brand churches, and especially Christianity, did indeed steal belief and ritual from the earlier pagans and Goddess-worshipping peoples. You’re right–they mostly stole Our Mother and respect for our mothers from us. And the papacy and the churchmen want to keep their power, so I bet they won’t give us anything back. Right??

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  2. Not without a helluva fight!!!

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  3. “Yet Christians continue to insist that the idea of self-giving love originated with Jesus, and that no one would ever have thought of it, but for him.”
    No Christian I know insists on this. Many, if not most, Christians would think this odd.The idea of self-giving love did not originate with Jesus. Jesus embodied it, modeled it, and lived by it. His example asks us to attempt the same, not to believe that he invented it. I think you are referring to a small porportion of Christians, and the problem I am having with this is that it doesn’t reflect what the majority of Christians actaully believe. I have a problem with those Christians who do insist that all Christians believe exactly as they do,but I also feel as a Christian that I should speak up when I feel as if I am being squeezed into such a tiny box.

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  4. I know, i know, I am back so soon. I didn’t comment on the rest of the post. Obvoiusly, I have a strong aversion to patriarchy and the failure of the Christian faith to recognize the original offering of the woman’s body. I am very interested in this suject. I have been thinking more and more lately about the harm being brought up Catholic has caused me personally. My own mother died fearing purgatory because she stole those sugar twin packs from resturants. There was a real crisis of faith for me in that, as I held her hand and prayed with her.She was unable to comfort me after I had been sexually abused because she was conditioned to see girls like me as ruined, literally. The list of complaints is long, and this isn’t the place for it. The work you are doing here is much needed to be sure. I think, though, that the Christian church is evolving slowly but surely, and as sure as there is the need for exposure of false and harmful beliefs, there is also a need to acknowledge the changes that are taking place.

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  5. Theft is the middle name of patriarchy. Murder and rape its first and second names. Theives, rapists and the murderers of the Goddess, of her cultures and lands. The worship of the male gods is just one more co-optation of the female soul.

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  6. Let us work together to create a world in which women’s bodies are sacred and daughters and mothers will be able to comfort each other without the intervention of patriarchal judgments.

    Lorie-Ann, you photo looks so much like my little Mattakia who was my trusty little companion for many years and the thought of whom brings tears to my eyes still.

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    • The little dog is Avery, and she is a rescue. She had never been outside, and was a scrawny little ball of matted fur. It has been a real pleasure to watch her unfurl into a vibrant creature who loves nature. At first she was terrified to be outside, now we have a hard time keeping her out of the creek. Her spatial ability seems a bit impaired, due to her earlier confinement, and without a leash she would run off the edge of a clliff so we have to keep her tethered. At first she was afraid of wind and would flatten herself out if a bird flew over, so the fact that she loses herself in nature now is wonderful.There has been a huge crack down on puppy mills in my area, and currently there are up to 80 small breed dogs at our shelter. Just last month they rescued 31 dogs, 25 of whom looked identical to Avery. We are guessing she came from this mill as well. We adopted Avery the day after our little dog Toto passed away from old age. The grief for Toto was unbearable, and we only went that day to see if we could get used to the idea of another dog but there was Avery and you know the rest. So sorry about Mattakia.

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  7. Little Mattakia was also a rescue doggie, all 5-6 pounds of her. She was my true love (as it turned out) and she died in 1988. Now I have 2 others, but that little poodle mix was special.

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  8. Hi Carol, Thanks again for an amazing post. You know, so often on this blog I get my butt kicked (in the sense that I am powerfully and constructively challenged by what you and others write). I know that what you write is true in so many ways – it resonates with me in my core – and it always causes me deep reflection. I am one who is still Christian-identified, as you know, but not in a such a way that I am blind or deaf to its harm, habitual erasure of women, and its deeply patriarchal symbols and practice. My friends and I often ponder how long we’ll last within it (the paradox of our ‘seeing’ and ‘staying’ is not lost on us). There is something within me though that *must* do the work of feminist theology within Christianity; to plunder and pirate that which has been taken away from women – to change and transform it in ways that affirm women, earth, the whole web of life. And to do the creative and biophilic work of constructing and weaving new webs, new symbols, new language and rituals that open the space for women’s empowerment and liberation (which is also liberative for men). And the opening of that space may mean that women and men leave Christianity, and I happily support that move (and happily have on the many occasions when friends of mine have walked away). To many of my friend’s dismay, I stand and participate on the boundary of church and Christianity (boundary in the way Mary Daly defines it) – but I do so with explicitly feminist pre-commitments. It is still a liberative place for me, at least in the way I have found to participate in it – which is creative, feminist, and women and Goddess-loving…but it is not without struggle – which is why sisterhood and collaboration as so important to me (and I know you too).

    Anyway, I think all this is to say that you inspire me and I appreciate your work so much. And it challenges me to stay centered, honest, and accountable.

    One last thing: I’ve mentioned this in some comment before but I think it’s worth mentioning again. In the small church community I participate in we have a practice of explicitly affirming and celebrating women, Mary, Goddess – and build that into our language, prayers, and rituals. So for our communion ritual we often use the poem “Before Jesus” by Alla Renée Bozarth as our liturgy as we share in bread and wine. We use this often as a way to remind us all that birth and life starts with our mothers, and not make it all about Jesus, as if he did anything alone. I think this kind of creativity is necessary especially in Christian churches, and it makes a difference, it really does.

    Thanks Carol!

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  9. Turtle woman, you comment just came online. I do not disagree with you about patriarchy. However, I do think there can be men without patriarchy and that Goddess Mother must love them as much as she loves all of her children, human and other than human. I haven’t found a male God image I like, but I don’t rule out the possibility of finding one in a post-patriarchal world sometime in the future.

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  10. We are lucky enough in the UK at the moment to have a series on prime time television entitled “Divine Women” presented by the historian Bettany Hughes. First programme was on goddesses, second on priestesses with a discussion about the role of women in early Christianity, and the third is next week. If you can get BBC programs on your computer, you may be able to access them.

    There is a link to Open University pages at http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/culture/religious-studies, and there was an article in The Guardian at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/10/wisdom-women-written-out-of-history

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  11. Bettany interviewed me in Eressos on Sappho for the series last fall, but apparently the whole section on Sappho was cut by the final editors. Siggghhh. I guess Sappho just isn’t recognizable as a divine women, but only as a poet and a lesbian, this despite the fact that she is one of the few voices from antiquity to speak of the Goddess in a woman’s voice.

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  12. I had heard (from Graham Harvey) that you had been interviewed but that this part was cut. However, I am glad to say that there was quite a bit on Sappho as poet, with at least a suggestion that she was a priestess. Not as much as you (and I) would like, but not bad for a popular program.

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