“You may not remember,
but let me tell you this,
someone in some future time
will think of us.”
I put on my boots and jeans, grab my priestess robe, pack a basket of ritual supplies, and meet four close friends in a nearby cave. We feel a little nervous about holding ritual on unfamiliar land, but we decide to push our boundaries and do it anyway. The land needs us, says my friend. The other people who come here are meth-heads and vandals.
We take our drums and climb to the top of the cave, singing as we find our way up the steep hillside. On top, looking out across the country, we sing: cauldron of changes, feather on the bone, arc of eternity, ring around the stone. We laugh and practice some more songs, some hearty, some tentative and new. We tie up small bundles of our symbolic burdens with stones and let them down over the edge
using handspun wool yarn until the yarn releases, taking our burdens with them. Suddenly, we hear the sound of tires on the gravel. Slamming doors. The sound of loud men’s voices. The smell of cigarette smoke. A ripple of uncertainty passes through us. We are once again tentative and we feel a current of unease. What should we do? we whisper to one another. The voices draw nearer, there are calls and hoots. My friend looks at me and says: this is where we make our stand. We hold hands in a line at the edge of the cave roof, gazing out into the horizon. A hawk wheels overhead. We sing. The approaching voices quiet. We sing louder.
I am a strong woman, I am a story woman, I am a healer, my soul will never die.
We project our voices and yell: we are the witches, back from the dead!
The voices stop. We wait. We hear doors slamming. The sound of tires on gravel. We are alone once more.
We descend into the cave singing a song composed on the spot: Deeper, deeper. We’re going deeper. Deeper, deeper. Deeper still.
We strike a pose based on the carvings described in the classic book, When the Drummers were Women. Archaeologists described carvings of priestesses carrying drums as, “women carrying cakes to their husbands.”
We shout: “we’re not carrying cakes!”
I stand on a rock in the center of the cave and sing: she’s been waiting, waiting, she’s been waiting so long, she’s been waiting for her children to remember to return. My friends join the song and we move deep into the darkness where we face the “birth canal” at the back of the cave, listening to the small stream within trickle, laugh, and bubble as it emerges from the dark spaces deep within the heart of the earth. We begin to sing:
Ancient mother we hear you calling. Ancient mother, we hear your song. Ancient mother, we hear your laughter…
Just as we sing the words, ancient mother, we taste your tears, droplets of cave water fall on our faces, splashing our eyelids.
It might seem simple on the surface, but gathering the women and calling the circle is a radical and subversive act. A revolutionary act. In my work with women’s circles and priestessing, I am repeatedly reminded that gathering with other women in a circle for ritual and ceremony is deeply important even though it might just look like people having fun or even being frivolous, it is actually a microcosm of the macrocosm—a miniature version of the world we’d like to see and that we want to make possible.
In the book, Casting the Circle, Diane Stein observes that women’s rituals, “…create a microcosm, a ‘little universe’ within which women try out what they want the macrocosm, the ‘big universe’ or real world to be. Within the safety and protected space of the cast circle, women create their idea of what the world would be like to live in under matriarchal/Goddess women’s values…The woman who in the safety of the cast circle designs the world as she would like it to be takes that memory of creation and success out into daily life…By empowering women through the microcosm of the ritual’s cast circle, change becomes possible in the macrocosm real world.” (p. 2-3)
It starts with these private ritual and personal connections and then, as Stein explains, “A group of five such like-minded women will then set out to clean up a stream bed or park in their neighborhood; a group of twenty-five will join a protest march for women’s reproductive rights; a group of a hundred will set up a peace encampment. The numbers grow, the women elect officials to government who speak for their values and concerns. Apartheid crumbles and totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe end, disarmament begins, and laws to control polluters are enforced. Homes, foods, and jobs are opened to the world’s homeless, and often begins in the microcosm of the Women’s Spirituality ritual circle” (p. 3)
“Feminism catches fire when it draws upon its inherent spirituality. When it does not, it is just one more form of politics, and politics never fed our deepest hungers.”
–Carol Lee Flinders (in The Millionth Circle)
Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates
women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing. She is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and finished her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of Womanrunes, Earthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Brigid’s Grove.
Categories: Divine Feminine, Earth-based spirituality, Ecofeminism, female friendship, Feminism, Goddess, Goddess feminism, Goddess Movement, Goddess Spirituality, Goddess Spirituality, Mother Earth, Priestessing, Ritual, Sacred Space, Spiritual Journey, Spirituality, Women's Power, Women's Spirituality, Women's Voices