My Daughter’s Religions by Sara Frykenberg

I find it interesting how certain or settled we often expect our little ones to be instead of getting curious about them or acknowledging that they are curious.

My daughter, Hazel, is six years old and will be starting first grade next week. She loves cats, swimming, her cousin, and food. Purportedly, Chinese style barbecue pork buns come first in her heart, even before mommy and daddy (though we are a close second). She also prefers to run instead of walk; and has recently declared that she is Taoist and Shinto. This determination came after some discussion which went something like this:

Sitting at the kitchen table one morning, Hazel declares “My best friend asked me if I was a Christian and I told her I was. I am a Christian.”

Mommy the agnostic is a little surprised. Daddy, the atheist, is biting back a retort—he is somewhat hostile towards Christianity. I am only hostile to abusive, hetero-Patriarchal Christianity. I say to Hazel, “Oh. That’s interesting. Do you know what that means?”

“No. What do Christians believe,” she asks.

Continue reading “My Daughter’s Religions by Sara Frykenberg”

From the Archives: Child of the Earth by Elizabeth Cunningham

Moderator’s note: This marvelous FAR site has been running for 10 years and has had more than 3,600 posts in that time. There are so many treasures that have been posted in this decade that they tend to get lost in the archives. We have created this column so that we can all revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted October 18, 2020. You can visit the original post here to see the comments.

I have a vivid childhood memory of being sick with the stomach flu and standing in the doorway of my parents’ bedroom looking for my mother. Her care for sick children was tender and thorough. She would bring us ginger ale and toast with jelly. When she had time, she read us stories. I can remember her steering me, heavy with fever, back to a bed that she had magically smoothed and cooled. But that day my mother lay in her own bed in an old nightgown, not stirring. She had the flu, too, and could not get up to care for the rest of us. It was a shocking and sobering moment.

As I grew older, I transferred my need for comfort, reliability, and continuity from my mother to the earth, the sure turning of the seasons, beloved trees, waters, and rocks.  As a young mother, I looked forward to sharing my own childhood joys with my children, among them jumping into autumn leaf piles. The first time my children leaped into a leaf pile, they came up covered with the ticks that have now made my region the epicenter of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Nor was I able to share with my children the joy of drinking water straight from a stream.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Child of the Earth by Elizabeth Cunningham”

To Nurse at the Same Breasts: Muslim-Jewish Kinship in Literature and Life by Joyce Zonana

It is tempting to read these recurring images of milk twins in Arab-Jewish literature as no more than a symbol, albeit a powerful one, of the profoundly intimate “brother- (and sister-)hood” of Jews and Muslims in the  pre-partition culture of the Middle East and North Africa.

But the image of “milk twins” is much more than a metaphor or a symbol: it represents a reality. For it seems that many Jewish and Muslim women, living side by side as they did, had in fact regularly nursed one another’s children.

Joyce Zonana. headshotTobie Nathan’s panoramic novel about Jews and Muslims (and Christians) in early twentieth-century Egypt, A Land Like You, revolves around one central image: two infants—one Jewish, one Muslim; one male, one female—peacefully nursing at the breasts of a young Muslim woman, Oum Jinane (“Mother Paradise”).

After the birth of her long-desired daughter Masreya (“The Egyptian Woman”), Jinane travels from her poor Muslim neighborhood to a poor Jewish neighborhood to help another young mother whose long-desired infant son is languishing because she has no milk.  “It’s a miracle, a great miracle,” the Jewish boy’s relatives declare:


Never had any neighborhood in Cairo been so excited by a baby’s nursing. Until bedtime, the child nursed three more times at the breasts of abundance. He took hold of one nipple, little Masreya  another, and the two children’s hands sometimes touched. You would have thought they were two lovers entering Paradise as they held each other’s hands.

Continue reading “To Nurse at the Same Breasts: Muslim-Jewish Kinship in Literature and Life by Joyce Zonana”

Feminist Parenting About Sexuality Part 4: What to tell my daughters by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir

In this blog series, we have discussed:

—The importance of admitting how painful this subject is

—Reminders that I am NOT saying all men are bad or maleness is bad, because men and maleness are truly inherently beautiful and divine

—The necessity of facing honestly just how scary and horrifying the epidemic of violence against females is in our world today

—The truly evil, vicious destruction pornography is causing to female bodies and male psyches in training many, many males to rape and abuse females, and grooming females to normalize and comply with rape and abuse by males

Continue reading “Feminist Parenting About Sexuality Part 4: What to tell my daughters by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir”

Lucky by John M. Erickson

This past weekend, I was asked by an individual why I decided to get my Ph.D. in American Religious History focusing on LGBTQ spirituality and sexuality.  Now, I’ve been asked this before, and if you know anything about me, you know I like to shock people at times, so my usual response is: “I have always been fascinated with people tell me I was going to hell.” 

It’s almost the end of Pride Month and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on where we’ve come and where we must go.

This past weekend, I was asked by an individual why I decided to get my Ph.D. in American Religious History focusing on LGBTQ spirituality and sexuality.  Now, I’ve been asked this before, and if you know anything about me, you know I like to shock people at times, so my usual response is: “I have always been fascinated with people telling me I was going to hell.” 

Continue reading “Lucky by John M. Erickson”

Homebound by Joyce Zonana

When my parents left Egypt, they left behind everything they’d grown up with, all the objects that carried their deepest associations and memories. They taught me to scorn such “things”—what others value as mementos or souvenirs—rightly reasoning they can be lost in a moment. But while we have them, it is lovely, I’m learning, to let the spirits embedded within them, the memories and feelings they evoke, surround and comfort us. As I move through this house, I feel bound to my own and others’ histories, embedded in a rich and complex life that nurtures and sustains me. And as I sit still and knit, I sense that I am knitting (knotting) up the by now long, loose threads of my own life, shaping them into a coherent and satisfying whole.

Joyce ZonanaWhen I was growing up, home was the last place I wanted to be. It’s not that ours was an abusive or angry household: both parents loved me and my mother labored to create a calm, clean space to contain us all. It’s just that I felt suffocated.

Part of the problem was that we were immigrants. My parents were struggling to find their way in an alien culture, and, with little else to hold onto, they clung to their customs and traditions. I wanted to be “American,” to mingle with classmates, to venture into the vastness (New York City!) just beyond our door. The Middle Eastern culture from which we hailed had strict rules for women and girls, and my mother expected me to follow them. She herself was an excellent cook, a creative seamstress and scrupulous housekeeper, a devoted and dutiful wife. I rejected all of it, refusing to cook, ripping out seams, balking at my weekly chores of dusting and vacuuming and ironing. Instead I dreamt of life as a writer, a renegade, an outlaw. My role models were hobos and witches and gypsies; more than anything, I yearned to be free, longing to “walk at all risks,” like Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh.

Continue reading “Homebound by Joyce Zonana”

Child of the Earth by Elizabeth Cunningham

I have a vivid childhood memory of being sick with the stomach flu and standing in the doorway of my parents’ bedroom looking for my mother. Her care for sick children was tender and thorough. She would bring us ginger ale and toast with jelly. When she had time, she read us stories. I can remember her steering me, heavy with fever, back to a bed that she had magically smoothed and cooled. But that day my mother lay in her own bed in an old nightgown, not stirring. She had the flu, too, and could not get up to care for the rest of us. It was a shocking and sobering moment.

As I grew older, I transferred my need for comfort, reliability, and continuity from my mother to the earth, the sure turning of the seasons, beloved trees, waters, and rocks.  As a young mother, I looked forward to sharing my own childhood joys with my children, among them jumping into autumn leaf piles. The first time my children leaped into a leaf pile, they came up covered with the ticks that have now made my region the epicenter of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Nor was I able to share with my children the joy of drinking water straight from a stream. Continue reading “Child of the Earth by Elizabeth Cunningham”

Feminist Parenting: How you treat children is how you see yourself – Part 1 by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir

I lived with my mother until I was 11 years old. In all that time, she never once told me to “be good,” and I can count on one hand the number of times she ever punished me for anything. She was strict, and she often used the infuriating answer “Because I said so,” but she called us her “angels,” and we got along wonderfully.

Then one day, I was abruptly moved in with my father, against my will (and against my mother’s will). Suddenly, without understanding why, I was always in trouble. When I least expected it, I would be chastised and punished. I was not allowed boundaries – my clothes were borrowed without asking, my belongings given away to my half-siblings without asking, my mail opened and read, my phone conversations eavesdropped onto, and I was lectured regularly about the bad things I probably wanted to do and must not do and would be punished if I did them. Continue reading “Feminist Parenting: How you treat children is how you see yourself – Part 1 by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir”

Poem: “Safer at Home in these United States” by Marie Cartier

Content Warning: Child abuse, domestic violence. 


Safer at home is what we are told to do in these United States right now,

and the idea is you will not be able

to spread the virus, or catch the virus, if you are home.


I was never safer at home growing up

and sure, people talk about that—safer at home—

but it’s not safe for everyone, especially if you don’t have a home,

and certainly not one you are safe in.


I think of the girl I pass sometimes, walking my dog at night.

She puts herself in a green bag and curls around the meter block to be invisible and sleeps.

She pulls the bag over her head and draws the cord. I was afraid it was a large animal dropped off

until I got closer and saw it was a woman, the top of her head visible beneath the closed bag.

I must understand that she has no home, and she came from one at some time– that was not safe.

Do you remember the little boy? So cute—with a little man’s hat and

a twinkle in his eye, eight years old. His parents beat him repeatedly because he didn’t put his toys away correctly, and because they thought he was gay. He was eight. Continue reading “Poem: “Safer at Home in these United States” by Marie Cartier”

Forgive Me My Ancestor(s) by Elizabeth Cunningham

Elizabeth Cunningham

When I was a child in the 1950s we often played cowboys and Indians. There is a photograph of my brother and me in no doubt inauthentic costume complete with feathered headdress. In kindergarten I named myself Morning Star. (I just googled and see that I must have gotten the name from the 50s television series Brave Eagle, the first with an indigenous main character. Morning Star is the female lead.)

When I was a teenager, my aunt came across a privately printed book The Gentleman on the Plains about second sons of English aristocracy hunting buffalo in western Iowa. My great grandfather accompanied them as their clergyman. I wish I could find that book now to see how this enterprise was presented. In my adolescent mind these “gentlemen” looked like the local foxhunters in full regalia. On opening morning of foxhunt season an Episcopal clergyman (like my father) was on hand in ecclesiastical dress to bless the hunt and then invited to a boozy breakfast. Continue reading “Forgive Me My Ancestor(s) by Elizabeth Cunningham”

The Door by John Erickson

Faith is something we get from each other, and sometimes in the most magical of circumstances, faith becomes embodied by the person you love the most.

I have a Ph.D. in American Religious History but I’ve never been much of a religious person.  It’s been one of the conundrums of my life but nevertheless, I found religion and its role in influencing, for good and bad, the lived experiences of the LGBTQ community something worth exploring.

I’ve been struggling with writing this post ever since I graduated and officially became “Dr. John.” In preparing for my defense, the Chair of my Dissertation Committee requested that at the start of the defense, he wanted me to introduce my project, its overall scope, and most importantly why I wrote it.

Why did I write it?  How does one answer why they chose to devote 8 years of their life to a single subject in search of an original idea?  While some would sit and grapple with this question, I knew what the answer was all along because it always was (and always will be) about my maternal grandmother, Gladys Hritsko.

I wanted to know what made me different.  Throughout my dissertation, I interviewed people who, much like myself, grew up in similar small towns, attended the same conservative church services, and heard the same damning things that I did about my sexuality being preached from the pulpit. Many of my subjects were deeply hurt by religion and it set some of them up for years of searching and painful memories and experiences that both forced them to leave their religious and faith-based communities they grew up in or, in the worst case, being kicked out by their family as a result of their religion.

Continue reading “The Door by John Erickson”

Mother – Daughter Betrayal by Sara Wright


Today is my mother’s birthday and although she has been dead for more than a decade I still think of her almost every day. At the time of her death I had not seen her for twelve years. Not by choice. After my father’s sudden demise my mother chose my children, her two adult grandsons to be her protectors, and dismissed me from her life, permanently.

When she died, my mother divided her assets evenly between my children and me, forcing her only daughter to live beneath the poverty level for the remainder of her life.

The final betrayal.

At the time of her death I was teaching Women’s Studies at the University.

Continue reading “Mother – Daughter Betrayal by Sara Wright”

The Race-ing of Innocence: Calling All Feminists to Converse by Marcia Mount Shoop

mms headshot 2015Well over 100,000 people and counting have read a blog post called “Nothing But the Truth: A Word to White America After the Recent Unpleasantness in Washington DC” that I wrote. Going on 400 commenters have weighed in on my website.  I have not been able to keep up with replying to all the comments, but I have read them all. And a few cluster around the topic of childhood innocence and the role of adults in nurturing/protecting/informing children around the realities of things like racism, sexism, and the ugly layers of American history.

This exploration of the nature of childhood and our culture’s role in nurturing what we value about childhood calls out for feminist reflection.  So, I put this out to the FAR community of conversation for discussion.

Some of the comments that interest me the most are those who gave the young men from Covington Catholic a pass because they are “just kids.” And they felt media and others were being too hard on them to expect them to understand what was going on in front of the Lincoln Memorial when competing narratives about our country converged.

Continue reading “The Race-ing of Innocence: Calling All Feminists to Converse by Marcia Mount Shoop”

Help, My Daughter Got a Bunch of Princess Stuff for Christmas! by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir

Every year, I see multiple pleas from concerned mothers (rarely fathers, because (straight) fathers rarely take on emotional labor of child rearing) wondering what to do about the pile of pink plastic that just came into their home. It’s such a scary pile. It whispers, “come here, little girl… let go of your individuality, your power, your freedom. Join me in the glamour and popularity of gendered subordinate dehumanized servitude… everybody’s doing it… first one’s free….” Mothers (well, the ones who pay attention) look at that pile and see a desolate road ahead of princess girls who grow into teens that think they need to look like pornified sex kittens, who grow into young adults that think it’s ok for men to treat them like sex objects, and on into a bleak dystopian future of internalized misogyny.

I can’t promise that I’ve come up with a magic formula to prevent all that. After all, our girls are met with a barrage, a deluge, of toxic messages luring them down that path in every movie, TV show, magazine, billboard, and media around them. Even female meteorologists can’t just wear suits or have short hair or look plump. And none of my strategies will work if family members are modeling that females should try to please the “male gaze.” So I am not offering a magic bullet. All the same, here is how I handled the Pink Plastic Menace – as usual, a joint effort with my sister Tallessyn Grenfell-Lee.

Continue reading “Help, My Daughter Got a Bunch of Princess Stuff for Christmas! by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir”

A Ritual to Bless Our Children by Barbara Ardinger

It was maybe twenty-five years ago that I first got addicted to the Sunday morning news/talk shows. I’d turn on the TV at 7 a.m., watch an hour of local news, then Stephanopoulos at 8 a.m., then MSNBC until noon or later. Not anymore. This morning, I turned the TV off at 10:00 and immediately got into the shower to wash off what I’d been hearing. I’m worn out by the news!

Now don’t get me wrong. I am totally against any “normalizing” of the Troll-in-Chief. In fact, I’m convinced we ought to pack him into capsule with about a hundred cheeseburgers and without his phone and fire him off to one of the outer planets. Maybe Saturn, which astrologically forces us to face ourselves and to get to work and learn our life lessons.

Continue reading “A Ritual to Bless Our Children by Barbara Ardinger”

Activism Helps You Heal: #RESIST #NeverAgain by Marie Cartier

Here we are, as I write this,  a week after the horrible shooting of 17 students and teachers in Parkland, Florida. And the beginnings of a new student led movement: #NeverAgain—never another school massacre like what happened in Florida.

Today, one week after this horrific event, you had massive student walk-outs all over the country to protest the government’s refusal to do anything substantive about it. Here are images of student protests.

One of the out spoken survivors of the Parkland shootings, Emma Gonazlez, has turned into a spokeswoman/teen, for the movement, fueled by her fiery speech the day after the shootings.

Emma Gonzalez

She has continued to speak out as have the other students.

And the movement grows. 

I am a college teacher, a college teacher in two public universities. I teach students one to four years older than the students at Parkland. Last week at one of the public schools I teach at there was an active shooter warning that turned into a hoax. I have in the past been on lock down because an active shooter was on campus. This is a very real problem for me.

Today I heard the president of the United States suggest that the solution to the every growing problem of gun violence is to arm teachers or other school officials with weapons. As a black belt in karate, I have had gun training and gun safety as part of my training and it is part of my self-defense resume. I had to learn it. What I can tell you about owning a gun (which I don’t) is that having a gun is not the same as knowing how to us one. I know how to disarm someone, if I am lucky and the fight goes in my favor. Anyone with any experience in self-defense will tell you that the quickest way to escalate a situation is to introduce a gun into the situation.

Continue reading “Activism Helps You Heal: #RESIST #NeverAgain by Marie Cartier”

The Last Time, by Molly Remer

I lie in bed with him, cementing the details in my memory. The way the morning air is heavy and green. The sound of last night’s raindrops continuing to drip from the overfull gutters on the roof. The insistent stab of a single-note bird song in the air. His head nestles in the crook of my arm the way it has done every morning for three years. Blond hair against my nose, breathing in the slightly baby smell of him. “This is the last time,” I whisper softly. “We are all done after this. This is the last time we will have nonnies.”

This is not the first last time for me, but it is the last, last time.  The first baby was born 14 years ago and gathered to my breast with all the tenderness and uncertainty and instinctiveness of a first, first. “Do you want nursies?” I whisper to that new little boy, and we begin the next steps in our bond, nursing for nearly three years, until one day, six weeks away from the birth of the next baby boy, I decide that we truly have to be done. I am a breastfeeding counselor for other nursing mothers and I feel like I should want to tandem nurse my two boys. I fondly envision their hands joining across my body, the easy love and camaraderie between them blossoming through this shared time with their mother. But, I feel an intense irritation with nursing while pregnant, nearly a sense of revulsion and the almost irresistible urge to shove away my sweet little boy as I prepare to greet the life of another. I talk to my midwife about my feelings and she explains that with her own two daughters, the agitated feeling at nursing the older one did not go away with the birth of the second, but instead became dramatically worse. After hearing this, I feel panicky and I decide we do, in fact, have to wean. He is a very verbal and precocious toddler and I am easily able to explain to him that it is time to be finished nursing. One night though, he lies in bed with me crying and begging to nurse. He says he really needs to. I tell him, “remember, we’re all done, but if you really, really need me, if you really, really still need to have nursies, you can.” He doesn’t nurse, but instead falls asleep, reassured that while our nursing relationship might be over, I’m still here.

Continue reading “The Last Time, by Molly Remer”

Empowering Toys and the Problem of Class Divisions by Katie M. Deaver

I recently noticed that I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about financial security, the way class systems work in the United States context, and how these types of realities inform my feminism.  Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that for the first time in my life I am not a student with multiple part time jobs, but rather am a “real” adult working full time at a job that offers retirement and medical benefits.

As I’ve written about before, I grew up in a poor family in rural Wisconsin and as a result I am often hyper vigilant about my finances.  While I likely go a bit overboard when organizing my budgeting, balancing, saving, and spending this type of organizing is something I can control.  The simple act of paying a bill, or determining how much I can spend on groceries this week gives me a profound sense of safety because for the first time there really is enough coming in to support my basic needs.

Continue reading “Empowering Toys and the Problem of Class Divisions by Katie M. Deaver”

Gratitudo et Fortitudo by Natalie Weaver

One of the bigger problems with being the only Classics major at a Jesuit university is that all my friends were fairly old men before I had even reached drinking age. Now, they are pretty much gone back to the cradle of the grave, save one, who is on his way to a remote retirement home. As a young woman, my coterie wasn’t a terrible problem for me because some deep part of my psyche had been convinced, since I was about nine years old, that I myself was an old man. I sort of felt at home reading about the Second Punic War and identifying with the sexual ramblings of the naughty old Latin poets, noting between me and my teacher-purveyors of such materials only the occasional, modest differences in skin elasticity and dental sheen.

I never felt like a girl, although, to be sure, one’s ability to assess such a thing is limited to one’s observations and conceptions about what, for example, a girl is or does or thinks. I found myself “ungirlike” in comparison with my conceptions of “girl-ness,” perhaps most notably in the operations of my mind. I felt “old” and “serious.” I remember contemplating with enormous focus the abstractions of total being and absolute nothingness from my nursery room. My big wheel was solid black, and my Dad got me into fishing and hooking live bait. I had read Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil by eighth grade; my favorite book was Camus’ The Plague until it was replaced by Hesse’s more romantic investigations in Narcissus and Goldmund; and I spent my days writing philosophical poems and trying to teach myself to paint in the style of Chinese ink and wash painting. I couldn’t stand Sweet Valley High novels, and even my doll play was odd. I had a gay Ken doll, whom I named David, and his best friend was a shaven-headed Western Barbie, whose backstory was a woeful tale of drugs and topless dancing.   Continue reading “Gratitudo et Fortitudo by Natalie Weaver”

It’s About More Than Just The Ariana Grande Concert by Karen Leslie Hernandez


It’s not just about this one act of violence.

It is horrific, there is no doubt, and I am in no way belittling this act of terror, but, I am always perplexed when these things happen, and how it turns into something so horrible that we forget how many children die every day around the world from other things, including terror.

Just yesterday, dozens of toddlers drowned off the coast of Libya.

One can easily find the statistics (which do vary) – an estimated 19,000 children die every day around the world due to effects of malnutrition and disease mostly in non-descript villages. Many of these young children die alone – they are unseen and forgotten.

Trafficking of children is higher than it has ever been with approximately 400,000 children trafficked worldwide every year, with an estimated 50% of these children trafficked for sex.

Our children are dying on our streets by other children’s bullets, and they’re dying in our schools by other children’s bullets.

Our children are dying at the hands of police officers.

Four to seven children die every day in the United States at the hands of their own parents.

It is difficult to find accurate numbers, but it’s estimated that a total of at least 150,000 children have died in Iraq since 2003, and in Syria since 2011.

A record number of children were killed last year in Afghanistan.

Pakistani children have also paid with their lives in drone strikes.

No one knows exactly how many Latino children die every year trying to cross over the US border through the desert.

The targeting of children anywhere is especially heinous. What happened in Manchester is stunning, horrible, outrageous and indescribable. However, we didn’t just fail these young people and their parents in Manchester, we are failing our children everywhere in the world. Continue reading “It’s About More Than Just The Ariana Grande Concert by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

The End is Nigh by John Erickson

How will the world end? No, it isn’t Lucifer himself coming from hell to bring in the end times, it is someone far worse, and his name is Donald Trump.

John Erickson, sports, coming out.When I was a little boy I was terrified that I would live to experience the end of the world.  Whether it was by an asteroid, Y2K, or a zombie plague, I would make myself sick by picturing these horrible things that could befall me and my family.  Although I was a precocious child, the crippling fear that would lurch its way up my stomach and into my head would sometimes make it impossible to sleep at night.  While I like to think I grew out of that phase, I now sit here feeling that way again.  I’m crippled with fear that the end of the world is at hand and there may be nothing we can do to stop it.   How will the world end? No, it isn’t Lucifer himself coming from hell to bring in the end times, it is someone far worse, and his name is Donald Trump.

By the time you’re reading this post, the first Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will have occurred and, no matter where you look, the aftermath will haunt us for weeks to come.  We will either be sitting here, coaxing in the sunlight that Clinton has, in proper fashion, just goaded Trump into revealing to the 100 or so million viewers that will have chimed in to viewing how completely dangerous he truly is, or will we be scurrying to uncover decade old bunkers that were used during the 1950s and the Cold War to take shelter from the fallout to come should, Donald Trump become the next President of the United States. Continue reading “The End is Nigh by John Erickson”

Syringa vulgaris, Gerard, & Me by Kate Brunner

katebrunnerA vast array of massive issues are affecting the Land today. Rampant pesticide use, trademarked GMO seed, fracking, mining, illegal dumping, indigenous sovereignty, water rights, accelerating extinction rates, municipal waste management, clear cutting, increasingly extreme weather patterns, and on and on. Every one of them, big issues affecting our world. The arguments raging around these issues overwhelm & confuse me. (Why, for example, were some of my former Texas neighbors actually opposed to recycling?) Grappling with these questions, I sometimes find myself with an enraged mind, not to mention an aching heart, as I struggle to understand how we got here & why we aren’t doing more to address these and other grave environmental challenges that are, day-by-day, becoming increasingly necessary to confront.

Entire rivers run orange, mountains have their tops blown off, gaping holes in the seabed gush millions of gallons of crude into the world’s waters, acres of forest burn, & cities drown. We are entering the 6th mass extinction, but the first one we’ve played an active role in triggering. Two months ago, I listened to a top field ecologist cite statistics from NASA climatologists that predict at the current extinction rate, only 50% of all animal species will survive into the next century.

I wonder when humankind will remember that we ARE, in fact, one of those animal species. NASA just gave my great grandchildren a 1 in 2 shot of surviving the 21st century.

Living through my ordinary days with all of that kicking around in my head & heart can honestly be a challenge sometimes. It is my ecofeminism and my earth-rooted paganism that sees me through this crises of faith in my species.

Right now, I am just beginning to enter into sacred relationship with a new-to-me patch of Land. After nine years of dwelling in mostly subtropical climates in central Queensland & Gulf coast Texas, I recently relocated to southwest Colorado. I am getting reacquainted with a Land that moves through much more distinct seasonal changes than the Land of my most recent experiences. Instead of just summer and not-quite-summer, I moved in to a true spring for the first time in quite a while.

Settling into our new home over the last few months included a good bit of time in our new gardens; weeding, composting, mulching, learning about the community irrigation system, pruning, transplanting, and of course, identifying the assorted flora & fauna making appearances all around us. It turns out, this has been a heck of a year for lilacs & garter snakes. They’ve both made exceptional showings around here throughout this spring & early summer; fat, lush, numerous, & bringing their lessons into my life full force with the power of nature’s own magic. Continue reading “Syringa vulgaris, Gerard, & Me by Kate Brunner”

I Used to Paint All the Time by Natalie Weaver

Natalie Weaver editedI used to paint and draw all the time as a child.  I thought about majoring in art as a college student, but I went to an institution that did not have any applied arts courses in the curriculum.  I had gone to college on a scholarship that I could not duplicate elsewhere, so I settled for a number of art history classes and gave up any formal pursuit of art.  However, when I had my children, I rediscovered art.  More accurately, I did not rediscover it so much as I fell in love anew.  For, I found in working with my children a tremendous liberation.  It did not matter if it was “good” or not, had the “right” form or not, used the medium “correctly” or not, or said something “properly.”  I learned all over again that people could have hearts for heads; skies could rain jellybeans; and skin could be blue just because you like it that way.

Doing art with my children opened up my courage to recognize creative expression as a sacramental act.  Both when it is done for overtly sacred purposes as well as when it is done for more secular ones, art of all media can be an outpouring of the spirit into the material world that allows one to say to another: here I am, this is what I have felt, did you see this, I’ve been there too.  Once freed from norms about how something ought to be used or made or discussed or interpreted, art has the potential to become revelatory, both of the human and also of the divine (or, perhaps better, of the human as divine). Continue reading “I Used to Paint All the Time by Natalie Weaver”

I Am a High School Drop-Out by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezIn 1985, four months before I was supposed to graduate from high school, I awoke one morning, made a hasty decision to escape my harsh reality, and by the end of the day, I was a high school drop-out.

Even now, with a BA from Wellesley College and two theological master’s degrees, I have a difficult time admitting I dropped out of high school. It’s not necessarily because I am embarrassed, but more, it is because it reminds me of that very painful time in my life.

My journey is, I am aware, different, to say the least. However, as I rummage through my past, I am always reminded that I didn’t get here alone. No, indeed, there were many beautiful souls that helped me get to where I am today.

In all the work and conversations I have had with women around the world – women in the Slums of Mumbai, domestic violence survivors, rape victims, women that have experienced war and trauma, incest survivors – I am always reminded of one thing – women are all born with strength, beauty, hope, and a future. Somewhere along the way, for many of us, things change, and the sad reality is that things change because of where we are born, or our educational opportunities, or our social class, or our race, or our religion, or our place in the family, or mental illness, or abuse, and so on. I think a lot of times things change for women, simply because we are women. Continue reading “I Am a High School Drop-Out by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

What If Jesus Had Gone to Daycare? by Katey Zeh

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As a maternal health advocate, I cherish the season of Advent as an opportunity to connect a beloved Christian story to the lives of women today who struggle to bring new life into the world under horrific circumstances. Every year I write something about Mary’s pregnancy and birth. In many ways she is no different from the “Marys” around the world who are young, poor, and unexpectedly pregnant, and who go on to give birth in unclean environments. I often pose the question to communities of faith, wasn’t the Christmas miracle equally that Mary survived the birth? How different would Jesus’s life have been if he’d never known his mother?

I continue asking these questions, but after my daughter was born last October, I have found my Advent reflections shifting to mirror my own parenting experiences. I began to think beyond Mary’s birth and into her early months of motherhood. One morning last December, after a particularly awful night’s sleep, I came downstairs to hear “Away in a Manger” playing on the radio. When it got to the line “But little Lord Jesus/No crying he makes,” I rolled my eyes dramatically and pictured Mary doing the same as she bounced a screaming baby Jesus in her arms. Continue reading “What If Jesus Had Gone to Daycare? by Katey Zeh”

All We Need to Make Magic by Molly

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Photo taken by my 12 year old son this month.

“The tools are unimportant; we have all we need to make magic: our bodies, our breath, our voices, each other.”


As November drew to a rainy close, we had a small family full moon ritual on our back deck and incorporated a simple gratitude ritual into it. The sky was overcast so we couldn’t actually see the moon, but my four-year-old daughter wanted to get out glow sticks left over from Halloween. We had so much fun dancing around with them and making patterns together in the dark night. We sang a chant I recently made up:

Hallowed evening
Hallowed night
We dance in the shadows
We offer our light.

We did a simple gratitude practice by placing corn kernels in a jar, one for each thing we are grateful for from the past month. We started out slowly and taking turns and then we sped up and the gratitude offerings came tumbling out, over one another. Even the one-year-old added corn, rapidly yet with great concentration to make it actually go in the jar. We drummed and called out, “We are ALIVE! We are GRATEFUL! We are POWERFUL! We are CREATIVE!” When we finally decided to close our ritual and go back inside, the moon peeked out from behind the clouds to briefly say hello and it felt like a blessing on the magic we’d just created together.

As we went back inside, I felt relaxed, happy, and connected. For being something very simple, not particularly pre-planned, and semi-chaotic, it felt like one of our deepest and most connected personal family rituals. The quote above from Starhawk floated back into my mind and I reflected that when I try “too hard” to get things ready for a perfect ritual, I often end up feeling a disappointed. Sometimes I feel like giving up on holding ceremonies with my children entirely. Last year, as we prepared to walk our Winter Solstice Spiral, the baby had a poopy diaper that extended up his back. I often end up snapping critically at whomever isn’t doing it “right.” My boys make fart jokes. My husband gives long-suffering sighs. Our circle looks more like a lopsided peanut. Our humming together discordant and off-key. As we lie on the ground together on the Spring Equinox to do our “Earth Listening” practice together, the kids wiggle and fight, pushing one another off the blanket and exclaiming in loud voices so no one can hear what we’re listening for. We listen to a shamanic drumming CD, but the only one to reach a trance state is the baby as I pace back and forth with him in a baby carrier. The four year old ends up crying because she doesn’t see anything and she wanted to see something cool. Martyrpriestess emerges to complain that she doesn’t know why she even bothers trying to do nice things for anyone if this is how you’re all going to act.

I recently finished reading Under Her Wings: The Making of a Magdalene, by Nicole Christine. A theme running November 2015 007through the book was the concept of “As Above, So Below and As Within, So Without.” I read this book as part of my research for my dissertation about contemporary priestessing and as I read, I kept thinking, I want to hear from the Mamapriestesses, from the Hearth Priestesses! Where are the other practicing priestesses with children at home? I noticed in Christine’s book that the bulk of her work took place after her children were grown and, to my mind, she also had to distance or separate from her children and her relationships in order to fully embrace her priestess self. I notice in my reading and my research group that many women seem to come to priestess work when the intensive stage of motherhood has passed, or they do not have children. Is there a very good reason why temple priestesses were “virgins” and village wise women were crones? Where does the Mamapriestess fit?

As I read Christine’s book and witnessed her intensive self-exploration, discovery, and personal ceremonies and journeys, I realized that in many ways personal exploration feels like a luxury I don’t have at this point in my parenting life. How do we balance our inner journeys with our outer processes? Christine references having to step aside and be somewhat aloof or unavailable to let inner processes and understandings develop, since our inner journeys may become significantly bogged down in groups by interpersonal relationships, dramas, venting, chatting, and so forth. For me, this distance for inner process exploration isn’t possible in the immersive stage of life as a mother. And, yet, I also know in my bones that I’m not meant to give it up. How does the As Within and the So Without actually work?

I return to our Full Moon gratitude ritual. My oldest son, 12, whose height is rapidly extending into manhood, totes his tiny brother on one hip with practiced ease, offering his own glow stick and helping my little one hold his into the air. He expresses gratitude for the fun he’s been having this month with his new video game and, “I’m grateful for you for doing things like this with us, Mom.”

My second son, 9, my bravest child, crawls willingly into the darkness under the deck to retrieve lost glow sticks, poked purposefully down porch cracks by the one year old. He returns, triumphant, holding the bundle of sticks aloft.

My daughter, nearly five, tips her face back, looking up at me with eyes alight, “I’m glad to be a Goddess Girl!” she calls out…

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Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri. She is an ordained priestess who holds MSW and M.Div degrees and she is currently writing her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly’s roots are in birth work and in domestic violence activism. She has worked with groups of women since 1996 and teaches college courses in group dynamics and human services. Molly is the author of Womanrunes: a guide to their use and interpretation, Earthprayer, Birthprayer, Lifeprayer, Womanprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit. She has maintained her Talk Birth blog since 2007 and writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at her Woodspriestess blog. Molly and her husband Mark co-create original birth art jewelry, figurines, and goddess pendants at Brigid’s Grove.

Note: If you have children at home, I’d love to hear from you about the Mamapriestess topic! If you do not have children by choice, how does this play into your spiritual work? If you do not have children and that is not by choice, how does this play into your spiritual work?

Additional resources:

That Christmas Morning Feeling by Marie Cartier

MarieCartierforKCETa-thumb-300x448-72405What follows is an excerpt from my current project—a novel I have been working on for over ten years. It is finished—sort of— in various journals and I am currently trying to pull them all together. These are the opening pages. Thank you so much for your support of my work. The novel is called- That Christmas Morning Feeling.

Book Number Sixteen

This is how I feel about incest, I mean learning to talk about it…speak Incest, as in capital “I” – Incest, like French, German, – Incest…right? Because you don’t talk about it, you talk it…you, as in you alone, you talk it; you use it in a sentence. “This is what happened to me…” And no one talks back.

And, why compare it to French or German? There are whole countries who will talk back to you if you speak French or German. Learning Incest is like learning Martian – you think to yourself, maybe there’s a planet somewhere where learning Martian would be useful…but it is certainly not here… no one can speak Martian here, correct your grammar, help you write a poem, check your iambic pentameter…whatever. My point is, learning Martian, well, if you learned it…how would you ever know if you were speaking it right? If someone on Mars could actually understand you? Of course, you wouldn’t know. You would just have to really love Martian enough to learn to speak it – even though…And then, of course, assume that you might meet and if you ever did meet a Martian and you had invested all this time in learning Martian just in case you would ever run into a Martian, you’d hope that he would understand you. Or she. Whatever. Continue reading “That Christmas Morning Feeling by Marie Cartier”

Four Days of Bliss (or How I used The System to beat The System) by Vibha Shetiya

Vidha SI’m not particularly fond of my periods – they’re painful, full of cramps. But they are a part of who I am, and I’m not going to apologize for them. We women, especially those of us belonging to the sub-continent, have been shamed or embarrassed into silence, while being reminded that motherhood is the most exalted position a woman could ever hope for. I mean, isn’t that paradoxical – if it weren’t for the bloody nemesis (pardon the pun), we would never get to experience motherhood.

I grew up in a Western environment (in southern Africa) where “period” wasn’t necessarily synonymous with repulsion. But when I moved to India, the land of my birth, soon after my “life-altering” experience, things began to look different. I came to realize that I ought not to be like the neighbour girl who was so besharam, or shameless, that she insisted on announcing her monthly ignominy to the world by refusing to conceal the fact that she had indeed been at the pharmacist’s to buy sanitary pads. Why, the pack of pads, sealed in newspaper and carried in a little black plastic bag was right there for the entire world to see on her ten minute walk back home! I gradually came to understand that “those four days” were taboo – do not speak of “it,” do not make it obvious even if you are writhing in unbearable pain, do not contaminate sacred space with your womanly profanity. Continue reading “Four Days of Bliss (or How I used The System to beat The System) by Vibha Shetiya”

Loss of Soul: Identity and The Stories We Tell by Kaalii Cargill

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The effects on the world of the loss of the Feminine, the loss of Soul, are incalculable. Instinctive knowledge of the holy unity of things, reverence for the interconnection of all aspects of life, trust in the power of the imagination and the faculty of the intuition — all this as a way of relating to life through participation rather than through dominance and control, has almost been lost. We can see the effects of this loss of soul everywhere today, not only in the devastation and pollution of vast swathes of the earth, but in the unhappy, impoverished and hopeless existence that people endure in the hideous and ever-expanding suburbs of our cities, in the increase of diseases like cancer, diabetes and mental illness — particularly depression. The old are neglected and even ill-treated in a culture more interested in achieving targets than caring for people. The young are offered nothing to aspire to beyond the material goals promoted by the media.

– Anne Baring, 2013. Awakening to the Feminine. Archive Publishing. Extract from Chapter 10 in “The Dream of the Cosmos: a Quest for the Soul.”

Continue reading “Loss of Soul: Identity and The Stories We Tell by Kaalii Cargill”

Sanctuary of Echoes by Natalie Weaver

Natalie WeaverTomorrow I will have the unique opportunity to hear my son recite a poem I wrote before his class. The students were invited to select a poem to memorize and perform along with props or costumes as suited the material. The only conditions were that the poem be a minimum of twelve lines, published in a book, and in good taste. A poorly chosen poem, he said, would result in perpetual detention.

I was excited when he expressed enthusiasm for the assignment. I asked him what kind of poem he would like to learn. Something humorous? Something dramatic? Something tragic? Something about love? War? I read to him first those famous opening words of Virgil’s Aeneid: Arma virumque cano (I sing of arms and a man…). I thought surely he would be intrigued by the rhythm and the promise of such a tale. He asked for some other options, so I presented favorites from the Medieval Hebrew canon. I taught him Adon Olam, since he was curious about learning poetry in a foreign language. He liked it quite a bit and learned how to pronounce the Hebrew, but this was not his choice. I pulled out selections from Catullus’ eulogies for his brother. I searched Sappho for something playful. We read more contemporary options from the usual suspects in an anthology of poetry that I had used in a college course: Frost, Dickinson, Poe. I even introduced him to the seductive “duende” of the great early 20th century Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca in his Poet in New York.

Continue reading “Sanctuary of Echoes by Natalie Weaver”

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