November, A Silent Month? by Barbara Ardinger


Barbara ArdingerNovember, 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.

giant head

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 goddess Sophia enthroned

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Astarte Asherah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

Courage.
Intellect.
Friendship.
Creativity.
Sisterhood.

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.

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19 replies

  1. Loved Isis and the Angel. I always thought of angels as female as a child. Imagine my surprise to learn that theologically they are male (think Michael, Gavriel) because femaleness is less perfect than maleness. Luckily the image of angels as one of the female faces of divinity was too firmly etched in my mind to be removed by theology! Let’s hear it for Gavriella and Michaella!!!

    And then there is the fact that the “Archangels” have been understood to be part of the “Heavily Host,” the armed and armored army of God. Luckily I did not grow up with such imagery either–though it is prevalent in Orthodox iconography and especially in Lesbos where the patron said is the armored and armed Archangel Michael also known as Efstatios, the most common name on the island.

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    • The pictured angel is Sophia, the Gnostic goddess. Not a goddess of holy wisdom, but holy wisdom embodied.

      Yes, all the famous angels in all the standard-brand religions are male. A lot of them are armed. Some of the angels in the Old Testament disguise themselves as men. Never women.

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      • “Then I looked up—and there before me were two women, with the wind in their wings! They had wings like those of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between heaven and earth.”

        But aren’t these “women” actually angels in Zachariah 5:9? Or what in the world are they? My guess is that the original manuscript had them as angels and then some ancient editor altered the text?

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  2. “They take up their pens and tablets and begin to write.”

    A lovely revision of “they take up their weapons and begin to fight.”

    And I don’t want women to be mightier than the sword either. I would rather see the meek, the poet, the nature lover, inherit the Earth. Here’s to Gavriella and Michaella!!!

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    • Sarah, the notes in my Bible (NRSV) state, “The winged female figures, a popular motif in Near Eastern art…are analogous to the cherubim whose outstretched wings provided protection for the ark and a throne for the Lord.” [sic].

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  3. So mote it be! Wonderful Barbara.

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  4. Powerful and “fun” piece! Thanks, Barbara.

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  5. Loved the Oz head but— you forgot the neolithic ‘Venus’ figurines! The one made from a woolly mammoth’s tusk!!

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    • The Willendorf Mother and Her Sisters were named Venuses by the Victorian men who found them and couldn’t imagine a real goddess. Because anything that came before Abraham was a “fertility cult,” that’s what the figures became in their minds and writings: fertility figurines. Well, that’s sort of what they really were–the joke’s on the Victorian archaeologists because they were embodied fertility to people who needed fertile women to keep their clans and tribes alive and growing.

      Thanks for recognizing the Wizard’s head. He’s a perfect god. Well, until he’s unmasked.

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  6. Wonderful! And so true – women’s voices, especially when we speak up together, are so deeply powerful. Your post is also an important reminder two days before election day here in the US that those of us who live here need to be heard very clearly at the ballot box on Tuesday. So many women not so many generations ago struggled so hard, some giving up their lives, that our voices may be heard by voting and so many women across the globe still are without that right.

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  7. We’re silent no more. So mote it be! And yes, love the wizard head! Perfect!

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  8. Thanks Barbara. We are not silent because the great oz ordered us to be silent. I am silent so I can
    listen to the Earth, her beings and other women. There is great power to inner silence. Make sure that when we speak, it is improving that silence. I’m off to meditate. Thanks for you post.

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    • Excellent point. Yes, silence is good. I love it when the neighborhood is quiet–no blaring TVs, no arguing on the sidewalks. Perhaps the significance is voluntary silence so we can hear our inner voices, not being silenced by people or forces that think we should sit down and shut up. Ya think??

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  9. Love the juxtaposition of this quiet time of year and the lifted voices of women. Let’s speak, write, sing, dance, and sit in silent wonder.

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  10. as always; love your insightful words! standing in my truth and shining a light and silent when i need to be…yet speaking when i need to!

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  11. Very interesting All Saints & All Souls commemoration. I share your delicious melancholy composed of silence and rest from hard work today too. Thanks for the insights.

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  12. Your post comes at just the right time for me. At my UU church tonight I will be hearing the nuns on the bus, silent no more!

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  13. This is a great post Barbara and I love the talking head of Oz!

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