Branwen, Welsh Goddess of Love and Beauty by Judith Shaw

judith Shaw photoBranwen, Goddess of Love and Beauty, daughter of Penardim and Llyr, sister of Bran the Blessed, King over all the Island of the Mighty, was loved by her people for her gentleness, compassion and beauty. As Mother of the king to come in the tradition of the Old Tribes of the British Isles, she is the embodiment of Sovereignty. She is the Center from which all life emerges. She rules over the Land, both its spirit and its manifestation. Her vision is long, seeing the whole, the greater scheme of things. Sometimes this knowledge can be too much to bear.

Branwen (“white raven”), is most likely an ancient Goddess whose sacred spot is Cadair Bronwen (Branwen’s Seat), a mountain peak in the Berwyn range of Wales. Cadair Bronwen is topped with a cairn that resembles a nipple from afar.

Continue reading “Branwen, Welsh Goddess of Love and Beauty by Judith Shaw”

Book Review: Hild & The Patron Saint of Ugly by Mary Sharratt


Literature touches our spirit in a way that film, television, and even art cannot. Instead of presenting the passive viewer with a visual image, good writing demands our participation and co-creation. The words become the springboard for our own imagined vision of other worlds and other lives. In this imagined space, we can experience profound insights and revelations–soul-growing experiences we carry with us forever.

Books that try too hard to be spiritual can have the opposite effect. Discerning women demand books that respect us instead of preaching to us. Too often religion has been interpreted by and for men, but when women writers reveal their spiritual truths, a whole other landscape emerges, one we haven’t seen enough of.

Marie Manilla’s The Patron Saint of Ugly (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 17, 2014) and Nicola Griffith’s Hild (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2013) are two such transporting novels. They both draw on the lives of female saints in fresh and evocative ways.

Continue reading “Book Review: Hild & The Patron Saint of Ugly by Mary Sharratt”

Tis Babos: The Dance of the One Who Gives Life by Laura Shannon

Laura Shannon

The one who gives life, the one who gives birth: this was the original image of the Creator. Not God but the Goddess, both mother and midwife to the world. Throughout Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, North Africa and beyond, Goddess worship laid the foundation for European culture. Thousands of years later, a deep reverence for the woman who gives life – the midwife – survives in Greek and Balkan dance rituals which still echo from the distant past.1

The mamí (from mámmo, grandmother) or bábo (old woman) was a respected woman, usually older, with the wisdom and experience of age. The midwife is publicly honoured on Midwivesʼ Day, January 8th. Known as Babinden in Bulgaria, Tis Babos in Greece, this women-only celebration is an important holiday in Bulgaria and in numerous villages of displaced Thracians now relocated in Greek Macedonia. One such village is Kitros, whose inhabitants originally came from Bana, on the Black Sea coast of northern Thrace (today Bulgaria). A hundred years have passed since they left, but the womenʼs festive costumes still indicate their old Bana neighbourhoods; traditional foods, songs, dance, and other customs are kept alive despite decades of brutal loss and change. Continue reading “Tis Babos: The Dance of the One Who Gives Life by Laura Shannon”

A Beltane Story by Barbara Ardinger

Barbara ArdingerOnce upon a time there was a beautiful princess—NO, stop right there. Tales like this do not require princesses. Let’s try again. Once upon a time there was a sturdy young woman who lived in a small town in Mitteleuropa not too far from the castle of the Holy Roman Emperor.

The girl’s name is Madchen. Her parents are a Farmer and a Cunning Woman. She is proud to say that just last fall she actually saw the Emperor, who is a stiff, elderly man who always wears a fussed-up military uniform and a pince nez and has enormous sidewhiskers. The Emperor did not, of course, notice the girl as he sat in his carriage and waved stiffly to his subjects. But what Madchen doesn’t know is that Crown Prince Rufus, whose uniform and sidewhiskers are considerably more modest than his father’s and who was riding on a great red Royal coachstallion in the parade behind his father’s coach, noticed her immediately. That girl, he said to himself, is a girl I must have! Continue reading “A Beltane Story by Barbara Ardinger”

Women’s Ritual Dances: The Dancing Priestess of the Living Goddess by Laura Shannon

Laura ShannonKyria Loulouda calls to her sister to help her wind the yards of woven girdle around and around my waist. Kyria Stella’s aged fingers, still strong, tuck the sash ends in tightly, smoothing down the fabric she and Loulouda wove themselves. The snug embrace of the sash supports my back and encourages me to stand proudly upright.  As they help me with the intricate tucks and pleats of the festival dress, and the careful tying of the flowered headscarf, I see their tired, careworn faces come alight with joy and expectation. When they are satisfied, they turn me towards the mirror, smiling.

We gaze at ourselves, a row of three women, dressed alike. Like the butterflies embroidered in bright silks on the dark cloth of the bodice, we too are transformed. The food is prepared, the housework is done, the animals taken care of for the night; the other women await us in the square where, by tradition, they will open the dance with their own singing as they have done countless times throughout their lives. We are in the village of Pentalofos in Greek Thrace in the early twenty-first century, living a timeless scene which has been repeated through the generations for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. Continue reading “Women’s Ritual Dances: The Dancing Priestess of the Living Goddess by Laura Shannon”

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, Feminist Theology, and Finitude by Linn Tonstad

Linn Marie TonstadIn David Kelsey’s theological anthropology, Eccentric Existence, he emphasizes that finitude renders creation vulnerable, but he still insists on the goodness of what he terms the “quotidian proximate contexts” in which human life is lived: our ordinary, everyday lives. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels bring together a multitude of characters – ethnically, religiously, and otherwise diverse – in the chaotic yet lively city of Ankh-Morpork (a fictionalized London). The Discworld offers what I see as a theology of everyday flourishing that fits with both Kelsey’s analysis of finitude and with significant feminist theological claims.

The books focus on the men and not-men (women, werewolves, vampires, trolls, a six-foot tall dwarf named Carrot, and a Nobby Nobbs) who populate the city and bring it to life. The characters of Pratchett’s city offer a vivid imaginative rendering of the vulnerabilities and possibilities of life in everyday finite contexts that bring together diverse creatures in the service of the goal of common flourishing. Although all theologies outline a social imaginary, whether implicitly or explicitly, the dry and technical character of much theological reflection can make it difficult for the reader to imagine what life would be or could be like given the proposals advanced by a particular author. Pratchett is a consummate observer of the everyday, and his world brings to life what a theology of the everyday would look like. Continue reading “Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, Feminist Theology, and Finitude by Linn Tonstad”

Getting It Done: The Buffy-Blodeuwedd Connection by Kate Brunner

Kate Brunner You guys, you’re just men—just the men who did this… to her.  Whoever that girl was before she was the first Slayer.  You violated that girl… made her kill for you because you’re weak… you’re pathetic and you obviously have nothing to show me!

-Buffy Summers in “Get It Done”-

A woman made of flowers and fluff forsakes her marriage vows, manipulates another man into committing premeditated murder and then runs from the scene of her crimes and her sentence. Admittedly, my initial exposure to Blodeuwedd left me more than a little befuddled. While I was confident there had to be something more empowering for me to take away from Her mythology, I realized it was going to take far more work to get at it, to help what I needed emerge from the story. Continue reading “Getting It Done: The Buffy-Blodeuwedd Connection by Kate Brunner”


carol-christOn the recent Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete, I visited the Historical Museum in Heraklion where I saw a beautiful embroidered silk panel of a mermaid identified only as having come from Koustogerako, a village in western Crete. As it is unlikely that a man in a Cretan village would have been talented in embroidery, in this case “Anonymous” most definitely “was a woman.”

In this thread painting a mermaid surrounded by fish is holding the anchor of a ship in one hand and a fish in the other. In Greece the mermaid is the protectress of sailors. In a well-known legend, a mermaid said to be the sister of Alexander the Great, emerges from the sea in front of a ship during a storm and asks: “Is Alexander the Great still living?” If the sailors answer, “Yes, he lives and reigns,” the ship is saved.

mermaid greek0001

In this image the mermaid–who does not much resemble “the little mermaid” of recent lore—is identified by the woman who embroidered her as: “GORGONA, H THEA TIS THALASSIS,” MERMAID GODDESS OF THE SEA.” Assuming that the woman who created this embroidery was probably a Christian, I was surprised to see that she nonetheless referred to the mermaid as a Goddess. Was this phrase passed on to her down to her from pre-Christian times? Did she see any contradiction between her Christian beliefs and the “Goddess of the Sea?” Continue reading ““MERMAID, GODDESS OF THE SEA” by Carol P. Christ”

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