Rosemary Radford Ruether wrote a classic text: “Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing.” Ever since I laid eyes on this amazing book and was convinced of the genius Ruether offered within these pages, I adored images of Gaia.
The great goddess is usually pictured holding the world as her womb, a loving representation of compassionately pulling all the hurt and agony to her abdomen for healing.
Ruether says in “Classical Western cultural traditions” of which “Christianity is a major expression,” we “have justified and sacralized” notions of God and domination (3). Such ideas teach us that domination is “the ‘natural order'” and “the will of God” for the “male monotheistic God” and his followers (3).
But Gaia is so much more and challenges these patriarchical messages in today’s culture. To imagine the divine with this motherly image helps with “ecological healing” (as Ruether says), and, being able to picture a “personified being” in the feminine (4). Gaia is truly special.
When I moved to Texas I learned about a remarkable woman, named Colette Casburn Numajiri, who was behind “The Goddess Project: Made in Her Image.” She would bring women into a photo studio with photographer, David Clanton, and transform them into a particular goddess, and create images that enabled people to imagine the divine feminine embodied in real women.
You can see the project photos and even get your own calendar of the goddesses here.
You’ll see breathtakingly feminine divine images like these:
Usually when we picture the divine, we see reflections of the divine in the masculine. God is pictured like Gandolf or Professor Dumbledore, a wise old man with a long white beard. Jesus hangs on the cross with his masculine anatomy covered. Very rarely are there photos that call our imaginations toward the divine power, strength, and compassion embodied in women.
I knew immediately Colette’s project was taking Ruether’s book to all new levels. In her book, Ruether talks about how when we envision the divine feminine, healing can happen for the whole earth. I saw Colette’s project doing just this!
As I learned more about the other women who modeled, I really wanted to be one myself. Not just any goddess though. I wanted to be Gaia. Afterall, she was the basis of Ruether’s book. She is the divine mother who holds the hurting world in her womb. I wanted my body to reflect this amazing visual.
Thankfully, I had the amazing and incredible honor of doing just that. I can barely describe the excitement and joy to experience my very female body empowered to spur imagination for ecological healing through the divine mother. My body was special, something to imagine the sacred.
When my photoshoot was scheduled with the photographer and the studio, I told Colette I was so thrilled I wanted to frolic through my house! And when I finally arrived at the studio, we had our work cut out for us!
We hear that modeling is hard and I’m pretty sure none of us believe it. I didn’t. How hard is it to stand there and get your photo taken, right? But it was such hard work that I slept the rest of that day and the entire next day!
When I first arrived we started with hair and makeup.
Next, we began to figure out the attire for Gaia. Since I’m not actually pregnant, we had to fake it. We did this so that when we went back and photoshopped the globe into my womb, it would look right!
We took lots and lots of photos. Some of them we laughed at. Some of them caught our breath. But all of them held exciting potential to imagine the divine feminine.
After lots of work from the photographer, the visionary (and, you know, the model), we sat back to look at our work.
We were pleased. Colette and David observed the images and were really excited about what they can do with them.
Really, the point of this article and this incredible project is this:
All women, not just those of us who dress up and model the divine feminine for “The Goddess Project: Made in Her Image,” are special, something to imagine the sacred. Women’s bodies matter and they reflect the divine beauty.
Below is a sneak peek at one of the images taken with Ruether’s book (but we cut out the bottom, so there’s still some surprise once the editing is done!)
Keep watching for more. We hope you’re as excited to see the final images as we are!
Radford Ruether, Rosemary. Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing. (New York: Harper Collins, 1992).
Dr. Christy Sim has over 450 hours of training in domestic violence, sexual assault, strangulation, legal and forensic implications of violence, the neurobiology of trauma, trauma-informed care, gender, and developing a community’s response to violence. Sim currently sits on the Institutional Review Board for Claremont School of Theology where she assesses care for vulnerable populations being researched by PhD and Masters Students. She holds an M.Div from Nazarene Theological Seminary. She was previously the Executive Director of Stronger, an organization that designed and provided healing tools for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. She also spent two years as the Accreditation and Technical Assistance Coordinator at the Kansas Coalition against Sexual and Domestic Violence (KCSDV) where she worked with 29 domestic violence and sexual assault programs helping enable a standard of trauma-informed care.
She graduated August of 2014 with a doctorate in Global Health and Wholeness with her main
area of emphasis and research in healing after Domestic Violence from St. Paul’s School of
Theology. In the academic world, Sim has taught several courses for Friends University (Wichita, KS),
including: Imagining Healing for Violence & Poverty, a basic Introduction to Ethics Class, and
Philosophy. She has volunteered with various organizations to teach courses on ‘surviving
violence’ and ‘self-care towards healing,’ created from her doctoral research and designed to
help mothers with young children after the experience of violence.