November, which begins with All Saints Day (yesterday) and All Souls Day (today), gives us a quiet, welcome break between the loud make-believe of Halloween and the incessant caroling of the winter solstice season with its popular holidays. In the Northern Hemisphere, the days are noticeably shorter and darker now. Where I grew up, it’s gray, cloudy, and often rainy. It has always seemed to me that people are turning inward and the month is closing in on itself. Even today in southern California, I feel a delicious melancholy composed of silence and rest from hard work.
For two millennia, the standard-brand churches have admonished women to be silent. As it is written, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (1 Timothy 2: 11-12).
Let’s say that today is a typically gloomy November day. The sun is lazy and clouds are floating mysteriously across the sky. Look, they’re gathering over there in the east. As clouds often do, they begin to assume shapes. Let’s look closer…and we begin to see a fiery mountain. Above that fiery mountain floats a giant head. Listen! The head is speaking. “I am One, the Great and Powerful. Thou shalt not take My Name in vain. Thou shalt have no other gods before me for I am a jealous God—”
But the silence of this gloomy November day is suddenly broken as the women standing in the mud at the foot of the fiery mountain suddenly begin to shout back at the preaching giant head. “There’s been plenty of gods before you,” one woman shouts. “And even more goddesses came before you,” calls another woman.
Isis. She of Ten Thousand Names.
Asherah. Who Stood Beside Jehovah in the Temple.
Allat. Whose Name Was Stolen by a God.
Astarte. The Joyful Morning Star.
Lilith. Who Refused to Lie Beneath.
Sophia. Embodied Holy Wisdom.
Aphrodite. The Great Creatrix.
The giant head seems not to have heard the women. He is still ranting. “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation—”
“We will be silent no more!” Now all the women in the mud around the foot of the fiery mountain are standing up and shouting together. “No more will we be your handmaids and helpmeets. No more your servant nuns and serving girls. No more your submissive wives and daughters. For we have found Our Words of Power.”
And the women raise themselves up out of the mud and turn their backs on the giant talking head at the top of the fiery mountain. They walk away. They organize themselves into clans and tribes. They gather in ovulars (because “seminar” is rooted in “semen,” of which they’ve had quite enough, thank you) and conferences to ponder weighty and highly speculative issues. They begin talking together. They take up their pens and tablets and begin to write. And they are…
…US. And we are no longer silent. As we thrust the F-word into religion, we lift our voices and speak our words of power. We speak to each other. We listen to each other. We speak out into the world. Let the world—let that giant head on top of that old, old, old mountain—hear us chant. Silent no more. Silent no more. We have learned to speak for ourselves. We’re silent no more. So mote it be.
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.