I was driving through one of the more conservative corners of Orange County, California, a couple weeks ago and went past a very pretty brick church with a tall, proud steeple and signs in the front yard giving times of worship services. I have no idea what kind of church it was, but as I went past, a car pulled out of the driveway and began following me. It’s a public street, I said to myself. Looks like a tony neighborhood. No need to worry about being followed. So I neither sped up nor slowed down. At the red light, the car behind me pulled up beside me and the driver, a young man, looked at me. As soon as the light changed, he sped ahead, changed lanes, then slowed down just a little. As I pulled up behind him at the next red light, a hand came out of the driver’s window. A finger was aggressively elevated.
Good grief! How had I insulted this driver? The guy made a right turn, I stewed and fussed a couple of miles…and then it dawned. My bumper stickers. I have four on my car. PROTECT OUR MOTHER EARTH—SHE’S THE ONLYONE WE’VEGOT. THANK GODDESS. BRIGHT BLESSINGS. And my current political bumper sticker: IMPEACH THE SUPREME COURT. (This last, of course, is a comment on the Citizens United decision, which many people think is doing incalculable damage to the political process.) For years, my friends have been telling me that at any gathering, they can always tell I’m there by the bumper stickers on my car.
My guess is that it was the Goddess bumper stickers that annoyed the young man who gave me the finger. That’s too bad. Bumper stickers are examples of free speech, aren’t they? Maybe I’m not a conservative millionaire, but I can express my opinions, can’t I?
Since anything that ever happens is fodder to a writer, I’ve started inventing religious bumper stickers. LET THE EARTH BRING FORTH GRASS, THE HERB YIELDING SEED (Genesis1:11). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, BLESSED ARE THE MEEK, FOR THEY SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH (Matthew 5:5). He also says, REJOICE AND BE EXCEEDINGLY GLAD (Matthew5:12). Actually, I think we should make bumper stickers out of the whole Sermon on the Mount. Maybe if we did, someone would pay attention to those teachings. (I just did a tiny Google search and found a bunch of gifts, coffee mugs, T-shirts and signs with the Beatitudes. Few bumper stickers, but the hits show that someone’s thinking in what I believe is the right direction. Hooray!) The Qu’ran gives us another potential bumper sticker: DO NOT VEIL THE TRUTH WITH FALSEHOOD, NOR CONCEAL THE TRUTH KNOWINGLY (Qu’ran, Ch. 1, verse 42), and Confucius says, HOLD FAITHFULNESS AND SINCERITY AS FIRST PRINCIPLES (Analects, I:8, ii). These are nice, general, and properly religious. I don’t think anyone could object to them as bumper stickers.
So let’s get more feminist. Imagine driving around with this bumper sticker on the back of your car: LADY OF ALL POWERS IN WHOM LIGHT APPEARS. This is the opening of a poem by Enheduanna (ca. 2300BCE), the daughter of Sumerian King Sargon and the earliest identified author of either sex in world literature. (The illustration is a figure said to be Enheduanna.) Here the opening line of a poem the Queen of Sheba (ca. 1000BCE) is said to have written after her famous visit to King Solomon: WISDOM IS SWEETER THAN HONEY. The second stanza says, I WILL LOVE [WISDOM] LIKE A MOTHER. It is said that the true source of wisdom in the Bible is Shekinah, Yahweh’s female partner. In Proverbs, Shekinah she says, HER WAYS ARE WAYS OF PLEASANTNESS, AND ALL HER PATHS ARE PEACE (Proverbs3:17). I’d love to see this on rear bumpers on highways and alleyways all over the world. Maybe it would steer some minds to peace. Three verses later in Proverbs we read WISDOM CRIETH WITHOUT; SHE UTTERETH HER VOICE IN THE STREETS (Proverbs1:20). Yeah. Who pays attention to the wisdom of a woman? Back in the olden days (and as recently as yesterday), damn few people did. But our voices are getting stronger. People are indeed beginning to listen to us. Some of us are uttering wisdom in the halls of legislatures.
Here’s a great line from a poem attributed to Sumangalamata (ca. 6th c.BCE), an early follower of the Buddha: AT LAST I AM A WOMAN FREE. Now there’s an utterance we can all get with. Print it up and put it on your car. Then live like you’re free.
Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) was a Christian mystic and abbess who knew nothing about the Goddess as we know Her today. Cynthie Garrity-Bond wrote about her on May 1; if you haven’t read that essay, please read it now. Now let’s find a bumper sticker from Hildegard. After all, she wrote letters of advice to kings and church fathers; surely she can speak to us, too. And she does: PRAISE TO SOPHIA! LET ALL THE EARTH PRAISE HER! Another medieval Christian mystic is the anchorite, Dame Julian ofNorwich (1342-1416). I have used a saying of hers as a mantra and written fairy tales using it, too.ALL SHALL BE WELL.ALL MANNER OF THINGS SHALL BE WELL. It seems to me that anyone driving behind this bumper sticker couldn’t help but feel a bit more optimistic. We need more optimism in the world today.
Other bumper stickers? TheIsis, Astarte chant or any of our other popular Goddess chants. We can also find good spiritual, pagan, and Goddess bumper stickers in metaphysical bookstores. But one word of caution. While it’s good to see a pithy proverb on a rear bumper, let us please not restrict our thinking to bumper sticker adages and sound bites. Life just isn’t that simple. We need to give reasoned thought to affairs of both the spirit and the earth. (But that’s a whole ’nother blog, isn’t it.)
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.