Gratitude and Sharing: Two Fundamental Principles of Goddess Spirituality by Carol P. Christ


carol p. christThe more I practice the spirituality of the Goddess, the more I understand that earth-based spiritualities are rooted in two fundamental principles:  gratitude and sharing.  We give thanks to the earth for the gift of life. As we recognize our interdependence and interconnection in the web of life, we are moved to share what has been given to us with others. *

When I first began to lead Goddess Pilgrimages in Crete, I was inspired by a line in Homer to begin a pilgrimage tradition of pouring libations of milk, honey, water, and wine on ancient stones. At first I knew the form, but not its deeper meaning.  It gradually dawned on me as I thought about the large number of pouring vessels in the museums, the altar stones, and the Procession Fresco from Knossos, that an important part of Minoan rituals involved processions in which people offered first fruits back to the Mother whose body had produced them, and poured libations on altars.

kernos stone kay keys

Over twenty years of performing the ritual of pouring libations has convinced me that this was not “a” but “the” central Minoan ritual.  Its purpose is to thank Mother Earth for the bounty She has bestowed on us. The pouring of libations is not primarily “fertility magic,” performed to induce the earth to produce another harvest. First and foremost, it is an act of gratitude for the gift of life and the gifts of life. The act of moving to and from the altar, in conjunction with others, and the act of pouring liquids onto stones embodies the grace of the flow of life.

The pouring of libations is also central in African-based spiritual traditions, where liquids are often poured onto the earth or into rivers or streams.

libation-pouring2

When everyone in a community approaches an altar and pours a libation, the community is integrated without hierarchy. The essence of these rituals is expressed in Faith Rogow’s song, “As we bless the Source of Life, so we are blessed,” which was taught to me by my friend Judith Plaskow.  I have come to see that expressing gratitude for what we have been given and celebrating our place in the flow of life is one of the primary purposes of prayer and ritual.

The other basic principle of earth-based spirituality, sharing, is an outgrowth of gratitude. We did not “make ourselves,” but were given the gift of life out of and from the long history of our universe, our mother earth, the places where we live, our ancestors, and our mothers’ bodies. When we realize this on a deep level, and with gratitude for what we have been given, we are motivated to share what we have with others–in the human community and also in the whole web of life.  In traditional communities ritual feasting is also a way of redistributing wealth.

Some spiritual feminists have asserted that ethics stem from a transcendent principle of justice that calls to us from outside the world. Others would say that we require the words of the prophets or the model of Jesus to convince us to act morally. Some might even speak of the fear of God.  But I would say that the impulse to share what we have and to work to create a more just and harmonious world stems from recognizing how deeply we are connected to each other and to all others in the web of life in the body of our mother earth.  The rituals of earth-based spirituality always end in feasting, the sharing of food and drink, the original communion.

ritual%20feast

*Thanks to Mary Hunt who in her introduction of me on the WATER teleconference featured these lines from one of my recent blogs, prompting me to write the words in this blog, as part of one of the chapters of the book I am writing with Judith Plaskow, tentatively titled, Goddess and God after Feminism: Body, Nature, and Power.

Carol P. Christ spoke on a WATER Teleconference on January 16, 2013 which you can listen to now if you missed it.  She is a founding mother in the study of women and religion, feminist theology, women’s spirituality, and the Goddess movement.  She has been active in peace and justice movements all of her adult life.  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



Categories: Earth-based spirituality, General, Goddess Spirituality

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18 replies

  1. Thank you Carol, yes, gratitude and sharing. So deeply true. This is the foundation of our relationship with the sacred earth.

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  2. Thanks Carol! How the model of giving and receiving leads to domination has been on my mind of late and your words offer a clear alternative.

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    • Hi Irene,

      I just came up with this today:

      Patriarchy is a system of male domination, rooted in the ethos of war which legitimates violence, sanctified by religious symbols, in which men dominate women through the control of female sexuality, with the intent of passing property to male heirs, and in which men who are warriors are permitted to kill men, rape women, seize land, and to own or otherwise dominate conquered people.

      Stay tuned for an explanation, clause by clause.

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      • So true, Carol. We don’t like to look patriarchy in the face. But all that you list is a part of this system that was so nakedly on display last Sunday. I don’t usually watch TV, let alone professional football, but I caught a few Superbowl plays AND the half-time show. What I saw was the violence of masculine socialization in our culture completely encompassing and overpowering the over-sexualized femininity of our culture (Beyoncé bumping and grinding during half-time). It horrified me. If felt I was watching the gladiators in the Roman colliseum. Like Rome, Superbowl Sunday exhibits a decadent culture where not only sexism was on display, but the other -ism as well — racism: these modern-day gladiators were by and large African Americans. Because I surround myself with feminists and our allies, I could only watch for a short while, walking away, saying, “Those football players are trying to kill each other.” Yikes!

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  3. Thank you Carol…beautifully said.

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  4. Sharing needs no outside validation– the pleasure of being around happy (or at least less miserable) people is a good in and of itself.

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  5. Thank you Carol as you continue your clarion call to return to earth based spiritualities via the goddess. I find myself in a delightful spin-cycle of transformation focused upon the realities of her gifts and wisdom.

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  6. Beautifully said Carol. After touring with you, pouring libations has become one of my most powerful ritual acts. Personally – and maybe I’m exposing too much here – I feel there is something erotic and intimate about the act. To share, to be grateful – this makes us whole and connected to not only one another but to the earth and to the divine. Thank YOU for sharing. Forever grateful. x

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    • Jassy, how wonderful that you experience libations as erotic. We are our bodies, our wisdom is embodied, and how wonderful that you experience your gratitude in such an embodied way. If you don’t know Audre Lorde’s essay “The Power of the Erotic,” I think you should look it up, because she’ll validate your feelings and not make you feel like you’re sharing too much. It’s just our sex-phobic socialization in our sex-crazed culture that makes us feel that way.

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  7. I didn’t have time to read this yesterday. It’s filled with juice and wisdom. Thanks for writing it and explaining the true base of sharing. Sharing is indeed how life flows through us and around us and enlivens not only our little lives, but the planet herself. Brava!

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  8. As always your wordcraft opens deep truth in our hearts. Gratitude and sharing are truly the path to a joyful life and a recognition of the interconnectedness of us all. And I am so happy to hear that a new book is in the works.

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  9. Carol —

    I love this post. Gratitude for our lives, for life is the foundation of not only our earth-based ethics, but also central to Buddhism. And as a Unitarian Universalist, I can only say (an ironic) “Amen, sister,” to your lifting up of the “interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part,” (the UU 7th principle) and how it moves us as people to share and create a just world.

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  10. Nancy, stay tuned, I am in the process of writing 2 posts explaining my definition of patriarchy you responded to above.

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  11. Maybe pouring is erotic, bringing feeling into our bodies, because our bodies are 90% water.

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  12. In my own pagan tradition, when making a libation, we say “What we give to you is yours already” or similar words.

    If I am making an offering of bread or biscuits, I usually crumble them up, spin round with eyes closed, and scatter the pieces. So that, the offering goes not where I have chosen, but where the world chooses to take it. Of course, that would not work well with many offerings.

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Trackbacks

  1. Our Mother Whose Body Is The Earth by Carol P. Christ | Feminism and Religion
  2. Gratitude and Sharing « WiccanWeb
  3. Our Mother whose Body is the Earth {Carol P. Christ} | The Motherhouse of the Goddess

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