This is a continuation of an earlier blog in which I discuss home altars as a way to bring beliefs about women’s spiritual power into the body and daily life.
In my bedroom, images of the Snake Goddesses of Knossos sit on a cabinet painted by a Greek woman with images of birds and flowers. Between them is a crystal ball, while before them are three shells, the smaller of which was given to me by a Maori woman from New Zealand. Above them is an image of the sea in Molivos, Lesbos, painted by my friend Judith Shaw in the year we were both living in the village.
On the adjoining wall, is a wand made from a small branch that fell from the Sacred Myrtle Tree, adorned by ribbons from our rituals there, and two small plaques, one of a tree and the other of a bird that was given to me by Laura Shannon who views me as her mentor and whom I view as my spiritual daughter. I will use the wand to bless my new home when all is ready.
In my bathroom I placed an image of a bird-faced Goddess from Cyprus who wears large hoop earrings and holds a bird-faced baby. She is surrounded by stones and shells I have collected from the sea over the years. These images turn bathing into a ritual.
In my dressing room, I remember my ancestors, especially my mother Janet Claire Bergman, her mother Lena Marie Searing, and Lena’s mother Dora Sophia Bahlke. When my friend Breedge Scanlon and I viewed the apartment I eventually bought, I commented that there would be no room for my great-grandmother’s couch that I inherited from my mother. “You must make room for it,” she insisted, and so I did. It was told it was covered in black horsehair originally, but when it was in my grandmother’s living room it was covered in light blue velvet. My mother recovered it in white silk with pink flowers and made it a feature in her bedroom. It now graces my dressing room.
My mother’s life-sized baby doll soon returned to her place on the couch. I also set my baby doll on the couch. She wears my Swedish grandfather Linneus Bergman’s christening dress, which must have been made by his mother or grandmother, and a baby jacket I stitched by hand for my baby brother who died shortly after his birth when I was 13. My mother and I both loved those dolls. She saved them and others for me. After my mother died, I washed and repaired her baby doll and bought her clothes for each of the seasons. The doll became a symbol of our love for each other and of our shared love for babies and children.
Above the couch is a large print with peacocks that I reminds me of the peacocks in my grandmother’s garden that flew in from the adjoining Los Angeles County Arboretum. Next to the couch is my grandmother’s sewing cabinet. On it sit a vase with peacock feathers from my aunt Mary Helen’s garden (how we loved those peacocks!) and a small collection of family photos. Above it is a poem “The Bridge” by Dorothy Hillard Moffat that I found hand-copied among my mother’s things. It begins, “The way I walk, I see my mother walking, her feet secure upon the ground.” Below the poem are photos of my mother and myself as babies and my mother as a bride.
My father’s mother Mae Inglis who was Irish Catholic taught me that the Blessed Mother is always with us. My altars remind me that this is true.
Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist and ecofeminist writer, activist, and educator who lives in Heraklion, Crete. Carol’s recent book is Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.
Listen to Carol’s a-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parliament of World’s Religions.