From the Archives: A Feminist Retelling of Noah’s Ark

This was originally posted on May 4, 2018

My daughters came to me after Sunday School one day, concerned about a story they had heard in which God drowned almost everyone on Earth. So I sat down and thought about why a community might want to tell that story, and what valuable wisdom might be lifted from it for my children. Here is what I told them:

God/ess  has  many  faces,  which  help  us  understand  different  things we  need  to  know  at different  times. Sometimes we think of God/ess as Crone, an old, old  woman  crowned with silver hair as  an  emblem of her wisdom, who helps us  learn to let go of anything that is holding back the wellness of our community and ourselves. 

One  day, Crone Goddess saw that her people were hoarding their belongings and  not sharing with each  other. They had become greedy and selfish, using up the  land around them rather than treating it as a revered and sacred friend. They had  cut down many trees without thinking about how to protect the forests and the  animals who live in the forests. They had set some members of the community up as more important and more powerful than others. They had oppressed other  members and treated them with scorn.

Crone Goddess went to the wisest elder of the village, Grandmother Noah. She said to Grandmother Noah, “The people are selfish, and they are hurting the land and  each other. They are cutting down trees and being mean to anyone who is weak or  different.”

Grandmother Noah said, “Yes, Crone Goddess, and I have tried to help them, but  they turn their faces away from our wisdom. They no longer share with me, either,  and I am forced to work to the point of pain, all day and night growing and  gathering food for myself, because they have forgotten the wisdom of Crones.”

Crone  Goddess  said, “Grandmother Noah prepare for a ceremony when the moon  has waned to its thinnest crescent. You must build an ark of my waning moon.”

Every day, Grandmother sang the songs to build an ark of the Crone Moon. She  gathered the energy of water, air, fire, and earth, and she built an altar in the center  of  the  community. She carved the altar in the shape of a crescent moon. For water  energy, she gathered bowls and chalices of water. Into them she poured water that  had been blessed under the full moon, and she added tears of grief for her  community’s sickness. For air energy, she wove capes of feathers and downy  blankets. For fire energy, she lit a sacred fire and candles. For earth energy, she  brought the fruits of the earth, nuts and vegetables and other good  foods. She  brought all the food she had stored against the coming winter. These things  she placed in between the two points of the crescent moon on top of its stone  base. She danced around the altar, beat her drum, and sang the songs of death,  mystery, age, and letting go.

The  people laughed at Grandmother  Noah.

“Fool!” They cried. “You should be storing up your belongings and hoarding  power  as we do. Those old  ways are useless and silly.”

But Grandmother Noah paid them no heed. She continued to gather energy from  water, air, fire, and earth, and to sing strength and power to the Crone Moon altar  every day and night.

Finally, the night of the last sliver of Crone Moon arrived, the night before total darkness. Crone Goddess came to Grandmother Noah and said, “Beloved  Grandmother, you must be my face for our people. You must call them to our altar  tonight.”

So Grandmother Noah went to the Crone Moon altar and called out in her old, wise  voice, “Come! Come to the Crone Moon ark, where you may release your  diseases  and find freedom and wellness!”

“Why should we come?” asked the people. “We do not need your medicine. We are  free and well.”

But some of Grandmother Noah’s children and grandchildren came when she  called. And these were the few who were scorned most by their community. They  were lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. They were fat, differently  abled/disabled, very old, and very young. They were the poorest, the brokenhearted, and the ones with darker skin. They were women who had been abused as  possessions, their most vulnerable female places treated with violence. They  gathered around her and said, “Grandmother Noah, we are here. We will heed your  call.”

And Grandmother Noah told them to bring all their animals to the altar as well. As  night passed into day, more of her children and grandchildren gathered around the  Crone Moon altar. That night, as the sun set, the sky was completely dark. There  was no moon to light the sky, and even the stars were dimmed behind clouds. A  great wind arose, tearing at the trees and houses.

“Come!” called Grandmother Noah. “Hold to the altar! The Crone Moon Ark will  protect us!”

 And all the people and animals held to the altar and to each other. Slowly, the  crescent moon of the altar grew larger and larger, until it became a large silver  crescent boat, resting on the ground.

“Climb into the ark!” called  Grandmother Noah.

So the people and animals helped each other climb into the Crone Moon Ark, and  when they were inside that silver crescent, the wind did not touch them. Then a  great storm arose, with terrible lashing rain, hail, and lightening.

“Hold to each other! Do not let go!” called  Grandmother  Noah.

And the people and animals held to each other inside their ark, and the storm did  not touch them. The people who had not come to the altar saw the storm knocking  branches from trees and shaking houses, and the rivers beginning to flood, and  they were afraid.

“What will become of us?” they cried.

Then they saw Grandmother Noah and her family, safe inside the Crone Moon ark,  surrounded by calm and protected from the storm.

“Let us come, too! Save us!” cried the people, and they rushed to the altar.

They were afraid that the people at the altar, people they had scorned and rejected,  would not let them into the ark of safety. But those at the altar opened their hearts  to their kindred and welcomed them to come into the ark.

But Grandmother Noah would not let them in.

“You may not come in here,” she  said. “You are forgetting something.”

“Please, tell us what we are forgetting!” cried the people, afraid the storm would  wash them away.

“Look at our ark, and then tell me what you are forgetting,” said Grandmother Noah.

The people looked at the Crone Moon Ark, full of people and animals holding each  other. Then they remembered.

“Our animals! we did not bring our animals! But it is too late to go back for them  now!” cried the people.

“It is not too late,” said Grandmother Noah. “You may not enter the  ark  if  you  betray your animal kindred, the least and the lowest of your broken community.”

The people cried out in anger and fear, but Grandmother Noah would not let them  into the ark. So the  people turned back out into the storm and flood, the rain, hail,  and tearing winds, to find their animals. The rains and floods drenched them until  they were completely sodden with water. The wind and hail pounded them until  they were sore and bruised. But they worked together and did not stop until they  had found every single animal in their community, every dog, cat, bird, rabbit,  mouse, squirrel, cow, sheep, goat, duck, goose, horse, frog, and snake. It took the  people hours to gather all the animals in the storm and flood, and then they took  them to the Crone Moon  Ark.

“Now  you  may  enter,” said  Grandmother Noah, and the people and animals  helped each other to enter the silver crescent.

As soon as they gathered inside the ark and held on to each other there, the storm  did not touch them.  All through that dark night, the storm raged, and it raged for  forty days and nights. The people grew weak and exhausted inside the ark. But  they had the food and water and fire and feather coverings that Grandmother Noah had  gathered there. The storm and flood washed away all the people’s houses, all their  belongings, and all their treasures. But the ark of the Crone Moon carried all the  people and their animals through the storm in safety.

Finally, the storm waned, the winds and rain calmed, and the sun shone again.  Grandmother Noah did not know whether it was safe to leave the ark, so she called  her friend Raven and asked her to fly out and see whether the land was safe.  Raven flew out, but she did not know whether the  and was  safe. She had no  answer for Grandmother Noah.

Grandmother Noah waited a few days and then called her friend Dove and asked  her to fly out to see whether the land was safe. Three times, Dove  flew out  searching. Finally, Dove came back with an olive branch in her beak, and by  hat  Grandmother Noah knew the land was at peace.

The people returned to where their homes had been, but all was washed away. At  first, the people wept and complained at the loss of all their belongings and wealth.  But they gradually realized that complaining would not bring back their belongings. They had to start over, building new homes and forming a new community. As they  worked the simple tasks of building homes, gathering food, and forming their  community, they remembered the joy of a simple life. They remembered the  importance of sharing and togetherness, of harmony with the land and all  creatures. They remembered the strength, wisdom, and power of Crone Goddess and  Grandmother Noah, and they were careful to treat her with respect and reverence.  Most of all, they remembered that the outcasts of their community had saved them  and led them to new life. They remembered that they all needed each other, and  that they all were one kindred.

The people built an altar together in the center of their community. They gathered  often at the altar to tell their stories and share each other’s joy and sorrow. They all brought generous gifts to share, and they danced and sang their gratitude to  he  Womb and Source of all Creation.

And Crone Goddess saw that her people had learned to let go. They had stopped being greedy and selfish. They no longer used up the land around them. Now they  treated it as a revered and sacred friend. They stopped cutting down many trees.  Now they planted trees and lovingly protected the forests and the animals who live  in the forests. They no longer set some members of the community up as more  important and more powerful than others. They did not oppress anyone or treat  anyone with scorn. Instead, they treated each person as equally sacred and precious.

The stormy death-birth waters of Goddess, who is Crone, and Mother and Matron,  had washed the people free of their chains and diseases of fearful greed. They  were reborn into her divine image once more, as compassionate and openhearted  kindred. So Crone Goddess became reborn also, as the young Girl Goddess She  painted a beautiful rainbow in the clouds and told them, “This is the sign of our  covenant. New life will always be available to you, and I will always help you to let  go of your prisons, of anything that divides and oppresses you. I  will always  provide you an ark of  kindred to help you weather the storms of death and rebirth. I  will always give you the hope of a new moon that lives within the darkness. My love  will always be stronger than your fear. I set my seal upon you, my rainbow people:  freedom and wellness and  joy.

Trelawney Grenfell-Muir has taught courses about Sex, Dating, Marriage, and Work in the Religion and Theological Studies Department at Merrimack College and about Cross Cultural Conflict in the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A Senior Discussant at the Religion and the Practices of Peace Initiative at Harvard University, she holds an M.Div. from the Boston University School of Theology with a concentration in Religion and Conflict, and a Ph.D. in Conflict Studies and Religion with the University Professors Program at Boston University. She currently writes articles, book chapters, and liturgical resources about feminist, nature-based Christianity.

Categories: Ancestors, animals, Bible, Ecojustice, environment, Faith, Female Saints, Feminism and Religion, Foremothers, Gender, General, God/des, Healing, Nature, Relationships

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1 reply

  1. Dear Trelawney
    Once again your post brings me to tears of despair and hope
    Thank you for sharing your creative imagination and inspiring thought and work
    Blessings upon you and your precious family and community


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