Let Us Now Practice Her Presence by Barbara Ardinger

I’m giving you a twofer this month: a poem and a ritual. I’m writing this a few days after the latest mass shooting in Texas by a crazy white man and a few days before the next debate by Democratic candidates. But you know what? I’m getting real tired of politics and…well, what’s going on around us. Tweets. Bullets. Fires. I’m a liberal, but I’m deciding that there must be a better definition of “conservative,” one that has nothing to do with politics. The OED defines “conservation” as “the action of conserving; preservation from destructive influences, decay, or waste.” Further down: “conservative: a preserving agent or principle.”

Back in the late 80s and into the 90s, I taught a class I called Practicing the Presence of the Goddess, which evolved into a ritual circle. As far as I know, most of the women in the class are still spiritual feminists (though the term hadn’t been invented then), a couple have died (cancer is an awful thing), and one is fading into dementia (but she still remembers our class). Among other assignments, I asked them to read Carol Christ’s splendid book Laughter of Aphrodite (1987), and once we went as a group to hear Marija Gimbutas speak on her newest book The Civilization of the Goddess (1991).

It was while I was teaching my class that I wrote the poem and the ritual. Today I see them as “conservative,” i.e., as “preservation from destructive influences [and] decay.” That’s the kind of conservative the world needs today. A revival of the true old-time religion.

Once upon a time

ages and ages before the Garden of Eden was constructed

and had a landlord and walls and fiery angel guards—

Once upon a time

ages and ages before we fled to therapeutic couches

and became Adult Children Of—

Once upon a time

for ages and ages before time

we lived with our mothers and our Mother.

Once upon a time

we planted and reaped and labored and danced together

we lived and lay down together in honor

and we were all children of—

two-legged and four-legged and many-legged

winged and finned and rooted

crystalline and cloudy—

we were all Her children

and the powers of the Power were present in our lives

Once upon a time

She was present in our lives

every day and in every task

and everybody knew the Lady of the Lands.

But now we stretch to find Her presence in the lands

and perhaps we see that Her time that once was

is coming round again.

Perhaps once upon a time is nearly now.

Serenissima is probably the first goddess I Found. That was when I figured out that we all need to take better care of ourselves. It’s ten times truer today than it was back then, isn’t it. Serenissima is the goddess who holds our hands, rubs our shoulders, and serves us homemade soup. She teaches us the vital life-preserving skills of self-love, self-care, and self-time. I believe anyone who is conscious needs to invoke Her into their lives. Here’s an updated version of the original ritual.

Cast your circle, alone or with your circlemates or friends, and decorate your altar with the most beautiful things you can find. Light candles of your favorite colors and lay this month’s calendar page or this month’s pages from your organizer or your phone or tablet with your calendar open on the altar (but out of the way of dripping wax). Pour pure water into your most beautiful chalice and set it on the altar. Invoke Serenissima with these words:

Holy Goddess Serenissima—

touch my life

and give me the space and time

to nourish and cherish myself.

Sovereign Serenissima,

show me the path to your peace and strength.

Visualize the goddess moving her fingers across your calendars and making changes. See meetings being postponed and deadlines being extended. Understanding that like all goddesses, Serenissima usually works in subtle ways, remain aware of possibilities for the next month. Look for ways you yourself can facilitate changes. She may create the opportunities, but it’s your own actions that will open up your self-time.

One important lesson Serenissima often teaches us is how to say no. Practice saying this powerful little word at appropriate times. Another lesson may be to learn how to set proper priorities and delegate tasks both at work and at home. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Work with Serenissima. Let Her whisper in your ear, let Her guide you, let Her open doors for you.

See the candle flames on your altar as stars of opportunity, as shooting stars that bring sanity and serenity into your life. Invoke the goddess again with these words:

Beautiful and gracious Serenissima,

Majestic Goddess, Tranquil One, Easeful One—

show me Your ways woven of light and dark,

show me Your threads of shining work and play…

and I will move with You.

With You I will dance.

Take a sip of the water in your chalice. Savor the way the water touches your lips and tongue. Consider the natural, unthinking way your mouth accepts it, the way you swallow without thinking about how you do it.

Know that this sip of water is a tiny gift, a single drop of the essence of the Most Serene One. Drink more water. Feel its glowing essence as it enters your body. As you drink, recall what a chalice is: it’s the true holy cup, the original Grail, your Mother’s breast. As you drink in sips and seconds of time, remember that Serenissima’s water becomes part of you (our bodies are 90 percent water) and that in small, human ways you embody Her.

We are all, each of us and every one of us, drops of Her gentle rain touching parched and thirsty lands, and when we bring Her serenity into our lives, one day at a time, one drop at a time, we are bringing Her back to all Her children. Conclude your ritual with these words:

Most Serene, Majestic Goddess—

I accept this day.

Tranquil One, Easeful One—

I accept all my days.

Goddess of Harmony and Repose—

I accept all my days as Your days.

As you open your circle, remember that it may be open now, but it is never broken.


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 DayFinding 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.

Categories: Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General, Goddess, Goddess feminism, Goddess Spirituality, Healing

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18 replies

  1. I love, love, LOVE that poem. I got caught in the rhythm of it so easily, like a fun stream whirling a leaf about as it goes through the woods. Really beautiful.
    I agree with what you say about conservativism. I’m a libral as well. I had a moment while I was listening to the news a few weeks ago and hearing about a few republican politicians who were distancing themselves from our current elected chief. It struck me how aweful they have it. I mean, us liberals already know that we’re going to oppose quite a bit of what’s going on, but these republicans are just trying to back the ideals behind conservativism–preserve and conserve traditional values, whatever that means to them. Then, ironically, people voted for him out of wanting something different, and he’s turning everything on its head, and these poor republicans can’t follow their team leader. I suddenly had a lot of empathy for them. Sure we’re on different ideological platforms, but I can still recognize when something is devistating for the opposition and they’re just kind of stuck in the middle.
    Anyway, total tangent. I also loved reading your bio. I’m actually going to check out some of your books now. Thanks for what you do, and thank you so much for sharing your art and the ritual.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Love the poem “Once Upon a Time,” Barbara. Thank you for sharing it with us today.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Agree with Esther Nelson here, and thanks, Barbara Ardinger. But who is that goddess holding the globe of planet earth — she must be Mother Nature, herself, and thus protecting our planet always, and with great love.

    Liked by 2 people

    • How can “mother ” Nature protect us when she’s under global assault? Isn’t that asking a bit much?


      • As far as I can tell, the drawing is just a drawing of what the artist (I don’t know who that is) thinks a classical or romanticized goddess might look like. There are numerous images of a goddess cradling the globe. The image became very popular about the time I was teaching my class.


        • Yes, I believe you are right – the problem with “mother” is that she gives all traditionally and is willing to sacrifice herself for us – I personally cringe when I read that “mother” nature can take care of us all – because I think it fosters the belief that we owe her nothing in return and that we are absolved from self responsibility – do you see what I am getting at here?


  4. Such a beautiful post! So needed. I felt myself calming down and breathing more deeply and easily juts reading it! Thank you!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Practicing Her Presence – it’s getting harder and harder.

    Like you …” I’m getting real tired of politics and…well, what’s going on around us. Tweets. Bullets. Fires.” (I don’t even know what tweets are).

    Insanity is normal.

    Thank you for this journey into a reality that is beyond the ugliness of now…

    And May Many Blessings come your way, dear Barbara.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this ritual, Barbara. Thank you for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I so needed this! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I think we all need a break right about now. It’s Sunday and guess what’s all over the Sunday morning talk shows. Yes, let’s all take a break. Do the ritual, my friends. Maybe it’ll help.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Oh this is just beautiful. How much it blessed me today. I don’t know if there truly was ever a time when humans didn’t have the foibles we have now, in some flavor or other, but there is surely wisdom and truth in reaching for that – inside ourselves, in history, in our stories, in our myths, in our ancestors, in our kindred otherkind… so poignant and lovely, the tapestry you wove here.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you, thank you Barbara for reminding me of Serrenessima. She is such a powerful being that I forget to call on, Thanks for the reminder. I am learning to love my sour old biddy self. How hard she works to make her community better, how much she cares, how she shines a light even when exhausted and discouraged. How ‘sour’ can mean new interesting vinegars for salad dressing. How healing sleep is.
    Thanks from a sour old biddy who appreciates you and your work.


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