When I was 17, I left the US to live and study in Europe for a year, with Womanspirit Rising crammed into my backpack. This book, edited by Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow, gave me the solid ground of a feminist worldview which honoured women, the body, and the earth. My favourite chapter was the last one: Carol’s foundational essay ‘Why Women Need the Goddess’, where she writes, ‘The simplest and most basic meaning of the symbol of Goddess is the acknowledgement of the legitimacy of female power as a beneficent and independent power’. These words, indeed that whole essay, became the pole star for my journey through the world, helping me name what was missing in both the academic world and the world of dance.
I was deeply impressed by Carol’s presence in the beautiful film about Marija Gimbutas, Signs Out of Time, by Donna Read and Starhawk. Although Carol’s contributions were brief, her striking poise and quiet dignity shone from the screen, in an exquisite embodiment of the ‘legitimate female power’ she wrote about.
Our paths finally crossed, in a most improbable way. In the year 2000, I began teaching annual seminars of women’s ritual dances on the Greek island of Lesvos – not knowing that Carol lived there – and by 2005 was spending most of every summer there, immersed in studying traditional music and dance. One evening, playing Greek music in an outdoor taverna in Molivos, I spotted a tall blond woman in the audience whose quiet presence kept drawing my attention. It took a few minutes for me to realise who I was looking at, and then the penny dropped: ‘That’s Carol Christ! It’s her! from Signs Out of Time!’
When the band took a break, I went to her table and introduced myself. She was as startled to be recognised as I was to see her, saying, ‘Nobody here knows who I am’. I discovered to my shock that this was true. Apart from her colleagues in the local Green Party and the WWF, who knew her as a passionate ecological activist, neither locals nor expatriates in Molivos seemed to realise that one of the great minds of feminist spirituality was living among them. We kept talking, and I remember the band had to play quite a few songs without their drummer before I reluctantly returned to the stage.
From then on, my friendship with Carol was a highlight of my Molivos summers, and we grew very close. We had wonderful times swimming, sitting in her garden, discussing books, sharing meals; wherever we (or any other musicians) were playing, she loved to listen to the live music and join the Greek dancing. She invited me to make use of her amazing library, with its views of the glittering Aegean through windows framed by handmade lace curtains, for whatever papers I was working on. And every year I invited her to give a talk on ‘Goddess cultures in ancient Greece’ in my seminars of Women’s Ritual Dance. This photo shows one of the deeply thought-provoking sessions we enjoyed with her.
Knowing Carol/Karolina as both mentor and friend was one of the greatest gifts in my life. Excited by my research into Balkan women’s circle dances and their links to Old European Goddess cultures, Carol urged me to return to academia, saying over and over that the work was important and I had to get it out there. She encouraged me with rituals to find my voice, got me blogging on FAR, and helped open numerous other doors. And she generously offered supportive critiques of my work in progress, always able to spot just where an argument needed pruning, strengthening or focusing.
In 2011, after years of dreaming, I finally joined Carol’s Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. The tour was amazing – especially when I experienced a miraculous healing from debilitating perimenopausal bleeding at the thousand-year-old myrtle tree of Paliani. I treasure this photo of the two of us on that day, with her favourite nun, under the sacred tree.
Carol told the story a couple of years later in her FAR blog, telling how she went back to Paliani (since I could not get there myself) to offer a ‘tama’, a votive, on my behalf. With the money I gave her, Carol chose the perfect offering – a pendant of a heart with a vulva shape in its center – and hung it for me on the holy tree. (More lovely photos of Paliani are at Paula Mariedaughter’s blog from the 2017 tour. Recently Paula also wrote a moving tribute to Carol.)
We kept in touch. Most days we emailed or spoke on the phone, and in the final months of her illness we did gentle yoga together daily via Skype. Before she passed to the realm of the ancestors, Carol asked me to take on the directorship of her non-profit organisation, the Ariadne Institute for the Study of Myth and Ritual, and was delighted that I was willing – with the help of experienced co-leaders Mika Scott and Tina Nevans – to continue the Goddess tours. (The next tours will be October 1-15, 2022 and September 16-30, 2023; details coming this fall on goddessariadne.org). We aim to follow Carol’s template as best we can, to keep her knowledge and wisdom alive for future generations of Goddess pilgrims.
Carol also left me her unpublished papers (with instructions to bring them into the world), as well as her astounding collection of books on Goddess studies, feminist spirituality, egalitarian matriarchies and ancient Crete. My intention is to create the Carol P. Christ Memorial Library in one room of my Greek home – not far from Athens airport – so that visiting Goddess scholars may have access to this invaluable resource. I hope this will help maintain the golden thread of Carol’s life and legacy, so that other seekers may be guided by her, as I was.
Dearest Carol, may you rest in peace, with the blessing of the Goddess.
“The serpentine path is the path of life, a snakelike, meandering path, winding in and out, up and down, with no beginning and no end, into the darkness, into the light.” – Carol P. Christ, A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess
PHOTO 1: Womanspirit Rising, edited by Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow. First edition, 1979.
PHOTO 2: Carol P. Christ, 2014. Photo by Monika Klinger.
PHOTO 3: Under the holy myrtle tree at Paliani. Photo courtesy of Carol P. Christ.
PHOTO 4: Carol P. Christ.
Laura Shannon is one of the ‘grandmothers’ of the worldwide Sacred / Circle Dance movement. She trained in Intercultural Studies (1986) and Dance Movement Therapy (1990), and holds the M.A. fin Myth, Cosmology, and the Sacred from Canterbury Christ Church University in England. Her primary research in Balkan and Greek villages seeks out songs, dances, rituals and textile patterns which descend from the Goddess cultures of Neolithic Old Europe, and which embody an ancient worldview of sustainability, community, and reverence for the earth. In 2018 Laura was chosen as an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Sacred Dance Guild. Her articles and essays on women’s ritual dances have appeared in numerous publications. Laura is also Founding Director of the non-profit Athena Institute for Women’s Dance and Culture. She lives in Canterbury, Greece, and the Findhorn community in Scotland.
27 thoughts on “Remembering Carol Christ – and going forward in her footsteps by Laura Shannon”
Oh such a beautiful tribute and I am so grateful to hear that her unpublished work will become available, that the tours will continue and that Carol’s mission will live on in such meaningful ways… She truly was the “Mother” of the women’s spirituality movement.
Thanks, Sara. Yes indeed, Carol was one of the foremothers of all of us, and now and always will be our ancestor. Let’s hope the doors open for her work to continue in a world which needs the message of the Goddess more than ever before.
I do think of her as a Foremother. As much as I miss her physical presence I feel a strange sense that she is very much with all of us who loved and admired her – regardless of whether we knew her in person. She made herself so present to us through her blog… these last months I have missed her commentary so much – now oddly I sense she’s there in the background. Sometimes I find myself asking ‘what would Carol say’….I will be forever grateful that her blog and her pilgrimages will live on thanks to dedicated women like you.
I am so frustrated now – i want to re -read A Serpentine Path – I gave my copies away when I could no longer read printed books (thank god for kindle) and now it’s impossible to get this book in any form. I’ sure that I am not the only complaining person!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hi, I think Carol had arranged for A Serpentine Path to be republished by Goddess Ink.
Thanks for your lovely words, Sara, and your interest in A Serpentine Path. Yes, Mara is right, a republication of A Serpentine Path was in the works before Carol passed, and we hope to be able to move forward with that very soon. Fingers crossed!
I also sense Carol’s presence ‘in the background’. She is an ancestor now and I believe she will continue to bless and guide all of us who loved her and are engaged in similar work in the world.
Thank you for this lovely essay, Laura. I’m still having a hard time with the fact that Carol is no longer with us in this life. It is inspiring that you are going on to carry on with her work. Together, you and she will stand as beacons of feminist thought.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I know what you mean! Even though I believe that life, death, and regeneration are one holy circle,I miss my friend Carol and just need to give time to that grief. The funny thing is that she is the one I would have called to talk to about my feelings… Carol was and will always be, as you say, a beacon of feminist thought. Myself, I feel like a candle next to a lighthouse – but in our work of creating a more loving, compassionate, and earth-honouring world, any light is welcome! I trust Carol’s choices and will do my best to carry on with her message and her work. Through her words she will always be with us.
What wonderful memories. The full interview that Carol gave for “Signs out of Time” is available on Youtube as “Behind the Screen Interview with Carol P. Christ”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHOPCjCjY8s
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you for posting this link! Yes, it is well worth watching, as are the other videos she posted on her website on the ‘Videos’ page: https://www.goddessariadne.org/videos
What touching and beautiful memories of our friend you share here! I send you a multitude of thanks. I love your idea of a memorial library. And, yes, publish what she left to us. I have half a dozen of her books on my shelf, and I’ll be happy to make room for more of her work. You are blessed indeed to have become Carol’s friend in Greece and to have spent such good time with her. Thanks for sharing. Bright blessings.
LikeLiked by 3 people
Thank you, Barbara!
Thank you Laura for this beautiful tribute to Karolina. I’m delighted to hear that the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete will continue and that you will be participating in it. I’m also thrilled to learn about the Carol P. Christ Memorial Library. I would be happy to donate to it in memory of Carol.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Thanks, Nick. The Ariadne Insititute for the Study of Myth and Ritual, Ltd., is a 501c3 non-profit educational and charitable organization set up by Carol to administrate her Goddess tours. If you wish to donate, you can send a tax deductible (US) contribution to Ariadne Institute, P.O. Box 5053, Eugene, Oregon 97405, USA and specifiy that it is for the CPC Memorial Library. If you are outside the US please contact me for other ways of donating. We so appreciate your support.
Such lovely tribute, Laura, thank you.
Thank you for sharing stories of your friendship with Carol – and also good news about continuation of her goddess tours and the preservation of her extensive library. You are a most apt and willing successor in this work.
Thank you, Betsy! I know you know the magic and power of Crete first-hand. It is such an inspiration for us to be able to travel on that sacred land. More than that, I feel it brings a blessing to the whole island to have people travelling to the sacred sites with hearts, minds and inner vision open to all that has survived from the matristic past. The more we can understand that there is a more peaceful and sustainable way to live, the more we can practice these values in our own lives and help create a sustainable future. There’s no time to lose on this one, but I believe the ancestors – both recent and ancient – are standing by to guide and to help.
Just outstanding, thank you so much for sharing your memories both personal and professional. They weave together a wonderful tapestry of a life of meaning that has touched so many of us.
And a memorial library – who knows where that will take you, us, the world. Thank you for holding all of this in sacred trust and spirit
Wonderful that there’s continuation of her work.
Thank youm Laura, for this beautiful tribute to Karolina. Condolences. Carol has been such a brilliant thinker. She articulated Goddess religion for our own day. Mara Lynn Keller
Thank you, Mara. This is true of you too!! And thanks for writing Carol’s obituary with Ellen. If anyone missed it, Trista Hendren has posted it on the Girl God site at http://thegirlgod.blogspot.com/2021/07/obituary-of-carol-p-christ-1945-2021.html
Thank you so much for sharing this! I miss her.
Me too, every day! It feels so strange not to be in touch with her in the usual ways… but I do feel her presence, as Sara said, and that is a great comfort, as is the legacy of her writings which we will do our best to keep alive and accessible. And her influence will live on through all who were inspired by her.
Dearest Laura, So beautiful to read your story/tribute about your beloved friend, Carol Christ. Of course, I have read and have been inspired by her many works, and her wisdom. I am deeply touched by her dedication to the Eternal Feminine. She leaves a beautiful legacy. And it is no surprise to me that she has given her unpublished works to you to bring out into the world..and asked you to take on the directorship of her Institute. What blessings you will bring to the Goddess Pilgrimages…as you did for our pilgrimage in 2019… you will always be in my heart, and the sacred time we shared in dance and ritual. Blessings of love to you…Janis DeLuca
Thank you, dearest Janis! Yes, being with your pilgrimage of women to Greek sacred sites was incredibly precious for me too. It is so wonderful, isn’t it, to travel to the places where the gates are open and the Goddess lives… just as pilgrims have done for so many thousands of years. Much love and many blessings to you too and for your own deeply moving and valuable work with the feminine divine! xx
Thank you so very much, Laura, for your beautiful words, keeping Karolina’s spirit and impact alive. I miss her dearly, too. I am thrilled that you, and Cristina and Mika have taken up Karolina’s legacy, and that her work will continue and evolve.
I think it must have been through you that Karolina mentioned in her blog the book by Mary B. Kelley, Goddess Embroideries of the Balkan Lands. I cannot thank you enough! That book was the answer and documentation to my life long belief in the survival of maternal teaching of the Peace of the Goddess through textile pattern and other tangible and intuitive ways, even in modern times. It was the confirmation of my childhood feeling of the peace of being with my mother, and through contemplation of embroidery pattern she provided. This was the feeling that carried me towards Karolina’s Goddess pilgrimages. It is so wonderful that you bring your knowledge of traditional dance and art to the Ariadne Institute.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Ariadne sisters, and Karolina, for the deep knowledge you impart and for the community you sustain!
Crete 1999, Lesvos 2001, Crete 2018
Such a beautiful story and photos. Thank you for sharing.
I miss her so much. What a gift her work is and so fortunate that she knew her path, started early in life raising the consciousness, and never giving up in all these years – with new unpublished work. I can’t wait to read it.
Love to all Ariadne Sisters,
Cailin (colleen) O’Connor
Crete and Lesvos 2014, 2018