The Sanctuary of One Another by Molly Remer

53850207_2292227257656150_5800641319395131392_o“Please prepare me
to be a sanctuary.
Pure and holy
tried and true.
With thanksgiving
I’ll be a living
for you.”*

Beautiful Chorus (Hymns of Spirit)

In March, my husband drove our daughter into town to work at her Girl Scout cookie booth and released me to prepare for an all-day Red Tent retreat for my local women’s circle. After I packed my supplies for ritual, I set off on a walk in the deepening, rain-dark twilight. As I walked, I sang a song of sanctuary over and over, until I felt transported into a different type of consciousness, my feet steady on muddy gravel, the leafless branches stark against grey sky, moss and stones gleaming with sharp color against the roadside. A fallen tree absolutely carpeted with enchanting mushrooms caught my eye and invited me off the road and into its arms. As I stood there, feeling as if I had stepped out of ordinary reality and into a “backyard journey,” the spring peepers in the ephemeral pool in our field began their evening chorus. It has been so cold out with below freezing temperatures, snow, and ice for days since first hearing them in early March that I actually wondered if they would survive to continue their song.

Mercifully, though, it is not a silent spring. Continue reading “The Sanctuary of One Another by Molly Remer”

Practical Lessons in Kindness from the Grasshopper and the Ant (With apologies to Jean de La Fontaine for significant changes to his fable) by Barbara Ardinger

Note: This story was originally posted early in 2016. I’m posting it again because, thanks to the state of UNkindness the Abuser-in-chief has pasted all over the semi-civilized Semi-United States, we need lessons in kindness more than ever before. I bet you agree with me!

“Curses on that grasshopper!” exclaimed the ever-busy Madame Fourmi. “All he ever does is play. He’ll be sorry when winter comes.”

And so it went. Every day, Mme. Fourmi spent the morning scrubbing her front steps. And Monsieur Cigale?

“Partaaaaayyyyy!” Every day, he sped by on his skateboard. “Hey, Auntie Ant, stop cleaning the concrete and come and play with us. We’re gonna start a band!”

“Not on your life,” muttered this grandmother, most of whose conversations with her many daughters and granddaughters consisted of instructions on how to properly clean their homes and hills and how to prepare and store food for the winter. “Life is serious business, it is, it is. We need to plan ahead.”

Continue reading “Practical Lessons in Kindness from the Grasshopper and the Ant (With apologies to Jean de La Fontaine for significant changes to his fable) by Barbara Ardinger”

Christmastime for the Self by John Erickson

We’ve all been there.

Sitting around the tree watching the kids open presents.  Attempting to enjoy a holiday meal with extended and immediate family that you may or may not have traveled thousands of miles to see.  Trying with every fiber of your being to not talk about the elephant, or red hat, in the room.

We’ve all been there.
Sitting around the tree watching the kids open presents.  Attempting to enjoy a holiday meal with extended and immediate family that you may or may not have traveled thousands of miles to see.  Trying with every fiber of your being to not talk about the elephant, or red hat, in the room.

Alyssa Edwards

I get it.  It is hard to not go home for the holidays. It’s also hard to sit at home and watch every one of your friends post online about their dinners, get-togethers, and other joyous events while you sit at home.  I also understand that many of us, as a result of our sexual and/or gender identity, or maybe our political preference, don’t feel comfortable going home or, can’t go home.  This is not ok and that is why it is so important that we all have our chosen families to be with during these times of communal gathering or more importantly, ways to cope while we are at home in these uncomfortable situations to make sure we take care of ourselves and make it out the other end.
Because this blog comes out on Christmas Day, I wanted to give you a few tips that I do to self-care in these situations.  Remember, there is no right or wrong thing to do.  I encourage you all to make your own list.  The only thing that matters is you take care of yourself!
John’s Top 5 Tips for Dealing with “Those” People
  1. Your car is your friend – Seriously, I cannot count the # of times that I have found myself driving around for that extra 5 minutes to just collect my thoughts or calm myself down.  If you need to, jump out to your car and sit back and relax for a second or drive to a gas station (Kwik Trip in Wisconsin is my go-to) and pick up a soda to drink.
  2. Drink (if you can)  – look, I know not everyone drinks (or is from Wisconsin) but sometimes you just need to make yourself a cocktail (responsibly).  However, if you are going to drink, remember that old adage: loose lips sink ships.  If you get too loose, you may say something you regret (or didn’t plan on saying; I’ve been there).
  3. Bathroom Sanctuary – Sometimes you may not need to use the restroom but you need a place to go and just lock the door, check Facebook, call a friend, or simply breath.  The bathroom is the perfect place to do that.  Find it.  Use it (even if you don’t have to).
  4. Dinner Conversation – Before I go anywhere, I always brush up on a few facts.  How are the Packers doing? How about the Milwaukee Bucks?  Can you believe they STILL haven’t finished that construction?  No matter if you’re traveling somewhere near or far, if you think you need to make sure you can participate in dinner conversation without bringing up the two forbidden topics (Politics and Religion), then do so!
  5. Push Back – Ok, sometimes it is ok to engage.  I mean, how are we ever going to get out of this great divide if we don’t talk to each other.  Now, that doesn’t mean it will go over or there will be some type of magical aha moment but it is ok to say something, especially when your crazy Aunt/Uncle/Cousin/Second Cousin/Random Friend of Cousin who no one invited starts spouting off some nonsense (like Mexico 1nlYpaying for Trump’s wall because that just isn’t going to happen).  If you feel safe enough to push back and say something, especially when someone if being completely and totally rude and inappropriate, always make sure you have an exit strategy. That is either a friend you can call, a room you can go to, or a nap you suddenly want to take.  No matter what, if you do choose to engage always remember to a.) Speak calmly and slowly at all times (Republicans are triggered when you yell and provide them with too many facts too fast); b.)  Make direct eye contact; c.) Make sure you always have something to take a long sip from afterward to prove you made your point.
I have to admit, I am quite lucky.  I know I have written a lot on this site about what has happened to my family since the election of the Fascist-in-Chief.  Luckily for me, I surround myself during these times with people who openly love me, my views (for the most part), and allow me to be myself, or simply, we just don’t talk about “it” because they clearly know now that we were right about Trump and his cronies. I don’t have to use these tips because the people they apply to, don’t really come around our holiday gatherings.
However, if there is one thing that I learned, it is that this election has cost us each something.  Whether that was a friend, family member, or a part of yourself that you never think you’ll be able to get back, we need to respect these losses and the pain that comes with them.  I promise you that it will get better (heck, better starts on January 3, 2019).  We have a long way to go until 2020 (I mean, a LONG way to go) but I know we will all get there together, one way or another because there are better Christmas and holidays to come where we won’t have to use these tips and tricks to survive anymore.
So, from my family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  I’m thankful for each and every one of you this holiday season (unless you voted for Trump).

John Erickson is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History and holds two MA’s from Claremont Graduate University. John serves as a commissioner on the California Commission on the Status of Women. He is President of the Hollywood Chapter for the National Organization for Women, a boardmember for the City of West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, a board member for the ACLU of Southern California, the Legislative Action Chair for Stonewall Democratic Club, and a board member for the National Organization for Women.

And the Pies! Ongoing Grateful Thanks for Tradition by Marie Cartier

In November 2017 I wrote about pie baking. 

And in November 2015 I also wrote about pie baking.

Photo by Lisa Hartouni

In November 2016, I was destroyed by the “election” and wrote a post in November of that year “For Strong Women” just to help many of us keep going.

Continue reading “And the Pies! Ongoing Grateful Thanks for Tradition by Marie Cartier”

The Hate U Give by Esther Nelson

These days I live in a perpetual state of simmering outrage given the popular support of the “goings on” and happenings within our current administration.  The lies, the deceit, the xenophobia, the racism, the misogyny, the homophobia, the anti-intellectualism—things that have been around a good long time, but now seem to have settled in comfortably with those who have the power to keep it all in place.  I’m discouraged.

But then, there’s this:

The Hate U Give, a YA (Young Adult) novel authored by Angie Thomas, spent 50 weeks at the top of the New York Times bestseller list after its publication in February 2017. The book has received numerous awards and also has enjoyed an immense popularity.  It has also generated considerable controversy.

The following is the author’s profile from Amazon’s website:  “Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books.”

Continue reading “The Hate U Give by Esther Nelson”

Women’s Ritual Dances and the Nine Touchstones of Goddess Spirituality – Part Four by Laura Shannon

In Rebirth of the Goddess, Carol P Christ offered Nine Touchstones of Goddess Spirituality as an alternative to the Ten Commandments. The Nine Touchstones are intended to inform all our relationships, whether personal, communal, social, or political.[1] In this four-part blog (here are parts 1-3 Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) I am exploring ways in which these Nine Touchstones are inherently embodied in traditional women’s ritual dances of the Balkans, which has been my spiritual practice for over thirty years.

Carol’s Fourth Touchstone is: ‘Speak the truth about conflict, pain, and suffering.’ Many women’s dance songs which allow the women to speak and sing their grief and pain. When we bring that pain into the healing container of the circle, sharing simple steps, Dancers in the circle simultaneously give and receive support for their own and others’ sorrow. Ultimately, the sense of community  and solidarity in the circle transforms our grief so that the burden becomes manageable. Many historical songs, too, tell stories of women being abducted or abused, and how they fought back or got away – or not – so that they are remembered and honoured by future generations.

Continue reading “Women’s Ritual Dances and the Nine Touchstones of Goddess Spirituality – Part Four by Laura Shannon”

I Was Brainwashed to Believe I Wasn’t Human. Now I’m on a Mission Against that Cult-Part 3

Trigger warning: rape, sexual assault, domestic abuse, graphic sexual content

In Part 1 of this story, I introduced a discussion of Johan Galtung’s theory of cultural violence as it relates to my experience as a young woman in an abusive relationship. To recap:

Cultural violence is: “…any aspect of a culture that can be used to legitimize violence in its direct or structural form. Symbolic violence built into a culture does not kill or maim like direct violence or the violence built into the structure. However, it is used to legitimize either or both.”

Cultural violence against women is: Normalization and promotion of pornography, prostitution, degradation, and sexual objectification of females in media, predominantly male language in civic, business, and religious institutions, gender roles and stereotypes, misogynist humor, gaslighting, minimizing or denying any of these forms of violence.

Continue reading “I Was Brainwashed to Believe I Wasn’t Human. Now I’m on a Mission Against that Cult-Part 3”

Vengeance Is Mine, Saith the Holy: Fear, Faith, and Divine Wisdom by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

That seems to be the refrain these days, particularly in politics. The more you terrify people, the more likely they are to vote, protest, and otherwise engage in political activism.

Well, maybe not. Apparently, hammering people with more and more reasons to live in terror actually tends to demoralize and paralyze us.[1] A little bit of fear goes a very long way. A certain amount does indeed motivate people – like a deadline, for example; that nervous energy can make us highly productive, efficient, and focused. Moreover, Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear, argues that we need to listen carefully to our bodies’ fear response, because our society has trained people – particularly women – to suppress gut instincts that otherwise would have saved them from violent situations.

Interestingly, when we understand not only how to recognize warning signs but also how to trust our intuition to identify potential danger, we feel empowered and live with less anxiety and fear the rest of the time. Validating the ‘gift of fear’ makes us less fearful. Nonetheless, there must be something lucrative to the politics of fear, because studies have shown fear is at an all time high in America, particularly the use of fearmongering as a political strategy. It turns out, fear sells, big time, and it is a pretty great way to further ideas of us vs. them and to undermine a sense of community, of the “neighborhood.”

Continue reading “Vengeance Is Mine, Saith the Holy: Fear, Faith, and Divine Wisdom by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee”

On a Friend’s Departure by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente


On June 25th, I received the news that my friend Zubeida Shaikh had passed away in South Africa. This took me by surprise. The last time Zubeida and I exchanged communication, she was as always, strong, determined and full of life, ready to realize her dreams. Zubeida Shaikh was an avid reader of feminism and religion. I would like to remember her in this space, thanks to which she and I met in life. In 2015, a little before my trip to South Africa, Zubeida sent me an email. She had read my article “Enemy of Islam” and it “was speaking to her”.

So, few weeks after my arrival in Cape Town, we met in the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, her place of work until 2017, where I visited her in her office and we talked at length about feminism, violence against women and resilience, putting our own stories with patriarchy and abuse on the table. Then we spent the afternoon together. She was the first person from South Africa that I met. She was my first friend in South Africa. Continue reading “On a Friend’s Departure by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

Some Thoughts from Experience by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente


I am a woman, a feminist, a Muslim. These three things are me, they are things that I have become, in that order. One is born with feminine sex, but it is only a biological determinism. I was born female and I have chosen to continue living as a woman. I decided to be and live as a feminist. I felt called to be a Muslim and I chose to listen to that call.

I love to be a woman, even in a world that hates me. The woman that I am, with my way of thinking, acting and feeling, my way of seeing the world and myself, is not a product of my sex, but of the story that I have gone through since I left my mother’s womb. The same goes for all women. Even beings born in the same country, city, year, even those who are sisters of blood, do not have the exact same story.

Continue reading “Some Thoughts from Experience by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

Meeting my Disr by Deanne Quarrie

Deanne Quarrie, D.Min.Who are the Dsir?

Freyja, known as “Ancestor Spirit”, is viewed as the timeless, self-renewing energy in the universe. She witnesses and shapes the direction of creation and undoing. She is not the originating, creating Goddess, but rather a conduit for energy and life. Women who learn Seidr become like her, living conduits. Continue reading “Meeting my Disr by Deanne Quarrie”

My Many Grandmothers by Laura Shannon

Carol P. Christ has described spending meaningful time with her grandmother as a child and the unconditional love she received from her mother and grandmothers: ‘my relationships with my mother and grandmothers were full of love. This makes it easy for me to imagine the loving arms of Goddess embracing the world.’ She talks about this in her new book with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology.

I have always loved to hear these kinds of stories from Carol and other friends, since I lost my own grandmothers before I felt I really knew them. My mother’s mother passed away when I was a young child. My father’s mother lived until I was in my twenties, but Alzheimer’s stripped her of her ability to recognise her family many years before her physical death. How I wish I had known them as an adult and had been able to talk to them, even once, woman to woman. And how I wish I had received the advice, support and unconditional love which Carol describes, and which I have seen other grandmothers offer their grandchildren. This absence has left an aching heart, a raw wound, for my entire adult life.

Continue reading “My Many Grandmothers by Laura Shannon”

An Open Letter to Mom by Natalie Weaver

Dear Mom,

I want to take this opportunity to tell you I have learned so much from you over these years that I have been privileged to call you “mom.” I watch you, as you get older, as I also get older, and I continue to learn from you.  You are always telling me that a person cannot know something truly until they get there; that every decade of life is different; and that life becomes, in the end-game, a process of letting go.  I see you, and I know by watching you that this is true.

I remembered you today, from when I was just a child, getting ready to go out for the evening with Dad.  You were spraying your hair into an impressive beehive, pulling on stockings, and fragrancing your wrists with Fabergé cologne.  You were beautiful then, and you taught me that life should be beautiful, our home should be a place of refuge, and every day was worth celebrating.  You used to sing about loving your home, and you maintained it so elegantly.  It was lovely to be your child in that home.  Thank you. Continue reading “An Open Letter to Mom by Natalie Weaver”

Another Gay Bar Closes – Paradise Lost by Marie Cartier

It’s where I went when I wanted to be around other gay people when John Kerry debated George Bush in 2004 for the presidency. I had just moved to Long Beach from Los Angeles and I was still figuring out the city. I didn’t have access to the debate on my TV at home, and I needed to see it. The bartender turned it on for me and we all gathered around and watched. By we all, I mean the gay men and lesbians who frequented that corner café and bar.

I remember laughing so hard that day when someone in the bar said what I still love as a quote, “John Kerry: Bring complete sentences back to the White House.”

Later when I met my girlfriend, who would become my wife, we were living a few blocks apart and in the middle of those few blocks was The Paradise Café. We didn’t have access to the lesbian TV series smash The L-Word. We often went to the Paradise and guilted them into turning it on. We’d sit at the bar with French fries, which to this day I think are the best fries in Long Beach, and watch The L-Word, chiding a lot of gay men around us that they needed to watch to and catch up on this “amazing show!!”

It was where I went, where tons of us went after gay marriage was declared legal in California. I went in with a friend of mine, Carolyn Weathers, who is the cover girl on my book, Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall (BYAMR).

Continue reading “Another Gay Bar Closes – Paradise Lost by Marie Cartier”

When Disappointment Stings by Katey Zeh

shane-colella-37-unsplash (1)

Disappointment seemed like the theme of 2017–and not just because of the results of the U.S. Presidential election. It was more personal than that. At least that was how it felt. Over and over again I got this close to an opportunity before it was awarded to someone else. It happened so much that it almost become comical. Almost.

“Always a finalist, never an offer.” It’s a painful, soul-crushing position to find yourself in, but one that’s inevitable if we are ever to go after anything in life: a new job, a new relationship, a new faith community. There’s always the possibility that disappointment awaits us.

I have trouble managing my expectations. If I’ve mustered up the courage to try for something, I’ve surely convinced myself that I might actually achieve it. And if it’s in the realm of possibility, then I’ve certainly gone down the path of imagining it working out the way I’d hoped. Then it begins to feel inevitable that things will go my way. Continue reading “When Disappointment Stings by Katey Zeh”

A Rescue Remedy, Part 2 by Barbara Ardinger

The handsome but uncharming prince having been magicked, the witch and her coconspirators know it’s time to focus on finding Ella. The witch looks around the table.

“Mrs. Janedoe and Mrs. Worthington,” she says, “you are two of our most highly experienced sauceresses…I mean sorceresses. Mrs. Bezukhov, you are also a woman of great, if temporarily diminished, power. Let us work together and see what we can do. Surely when people of good will work together they can raise energy that leads to positive results. Yes?” She looks around. “Please come up to my study.” The ravens of course know they are members of this ad hoc coven, and Mrs. Bezukhov goes out to her little room (actually a stall) in the barn to fetch her old scrying stone.

“Now,” says the witch, “we need to find out where Ella is and—”

“Before that,” says Kahlil, the prophetic raven, “we gotta fly that…er…sausage to the city ’n’ drop it on that lousy prince and hit ’im where it’ll do the most good. Make sure he got the message, doncha know. I got a new buddy who’ll fly with us.” He waves a wing at the window and another raven flies in. “This’s Icarus.” The new raven bows. “Despite his name, he’s a good flyer ’n’ he knows the safest routes to the capital and the bestest ways to get around the city.” Kahlil shows the bagged sausage to Icarus, who studies it and shakes his head like he’s just been attacked by a million fleas. “Okay,” says Kahlil, “youse girls just keep an eye on us in that there scrying stone.” He starts to rise from the table, but Mrs. Worthington stops him.

Continue reading “A Rescue Remedy, Part 2 by Barbara Ardinger”

A Rescue Remedy, Part I by Barbara Ardinger

A year, now. It has been a full year since the phony election that put El Presidente in the Golden Office. A year since people began leaving the capital and the nation’s other large cities. While some of the refugees emigrated to quasi-democratic nations, most of them settled in the small towns and on the farms across the countryside, where they began building new, rural lives. A year ago, it was a flood of refugees. Now fewer people are able to escape.

A year, now, and even though she has studied and practiced, the wicked witch is no wickeder than she ever was. Nowadays she even forgets to put on the wicked-witch mask that she used to think scared people. But it’s easy for everyone to see that, masked or not, she’s just an ordinary woman practicing an old-time religion. She’s never fooled anyone, not the sixty or so refugees who now live on her farm, especially not the various ravens who drop by regularly for snacks in exchange for gossip.

Continue reading “A Rescue Remedy, Part I by Barbara Ardinger”

30 Years of Activism by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente

Diseño sin título

My first memory as an activist is of attending my first political public meeting to listen leaders of the resistance talking against the  Dictatorship, marching holding a sign that read “Democracy Now,” and taking my first dose of tear gas. It was 1988. I was 13 years old. My first menstrual period had come six weeks before. At that time, I didn’t know what feminism was; there were many books forbidden. Social Sciences such as Anthropology, Philosophy, and Sociology were banned in most universities.

But lack of theories could never prevent experience from happening and leaving its imprint. In 1990, at 15, I was gender conscious without recognizing my actions as feminism.

Continue reading “30 Years of Activism by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

Thanksgiving, Pies and Remaking Tradition by Marie Cartier

Dear FAR readers—you will be reading this blog the day after Thanksgiving, which is one of my favorite holidays. It didn’t used to be—but it is now.

Over twenty years ago, I remade this holiday for myself. At that time I was in my late thirties and was just coming out of almost a decade of healing from a very rough childhood. I spent a lot of time in those early recovery years yearning for some kind of magical “family” I thought “everyone” had. Once I really opened up about my story, however, I realized everyone doesn’t have any one thing.  We all have something different—and everyone has a story.

I decided to create a ritual—I didn’t intend for it to turn into a tradition, but it did. Continue reading “Thanksgiving, Pies and Remaking Tradition by Marie Cartier”

Sisterhood, Service, Sovereignty: The Living Spirit of Avalon by Elizabeth Cunningham

Like so many women, I read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon and got caught up in her vision of the Holy Isle and the priestesses who knew how to navigate those mists and travel between the worlds. Like so many women, I wished Avalon existed still.

In fact, Avalon does exist, because Jhenah Telyndru did more than wish. In 1995 she founded The Sisterhood of Avalon. Twenty-two years later, the Sisterhood is going strong and growing, attracting members from all over the world. I urge you to explore their website where the Sisters speak eloquently about their vision, structure, and purpose.

Continue reading “Sisterhood, Service, Sovereignty: The Living Spirit of Avalon by Elizabeth Cunningham”

Discerning is the Journey by Katie M. Deaver

This past weekend I had the privilege of officiating for the wedding of a dear friend.  Despite having undertaken all of my graduate and doctoral degrees at a seminary, I had not seriously considered ordination since the beginning of my master’s program when I discerned that my calling was to the academic side of theology rather than to leadership of word and sacrament. When my friend called me nearly two years ago to ask that I officiate her wedding, it never occurred to me that something as simple as an online ordination process would push me toward further vocational discernment… and yet, I think, just maybe, it has.

As a long time church musician I am accustomed to being a part of people’s special days.  I have certainly played or sang for more than a few weddings, as well as other services that mark some  of the various stages of  life – baptisms, confirmations, funerals.  I’m no stranger to carefully (and prayerfully) crafting these types of services to fit the families and individuals involved, but I imagine I do leave a certain amount of professional space between myself and these events in most cases.

Continue reading “Discerning is the Journey by Katie M. Deaver”

Healing from beyond the Grave by Carol P. Christ

Despite having thought that I had resolved my issues with my father, shortly after his death I fell into a lethargy accompanied by stomach flu and a cold. After about two weeks, the only symptom was a lingering cough. But I had no energy. I knew there were a number of essays to write or edit in the pending file on my computer, but didn’t have the will to do anything.

During this time, I came across the Greek Orthodox prayer rope (komboskini) that had been spontaneously removed from her person and given to me by the Mother Superior of the Paliani Convent in Crete a few years previously. Made of black wool yarn with one hundred intricately woven knots and a cross, it was not something I could easily wear in my everyday life. But as I was still lounging around in a black jersey nightgown, I put it on. I felt it on my skin and cradled between my breasts. Continue reading “Healing from beyond the Grave by Carol P. Christ”

Sacred Water by Molly Remer

“Drinking the water, I thought how earth and sky are generous with their gifts and how good it is to receive them. Most of us are taught, somehow, about giving and accepting human gifts, but not about opening ourselves and our bodies to welcome the sun, the land, the visions of sky and dreaming, not about standing in the rain ecstatic with what is offered.”

–Linda Hogan in Sisters of the Earth

The women have gathered in a large open living room, under high ceilings and banisters draped with goddess tapestries, their faces are turned towards me, waiting expectantly. We are here for our first overnight Red Tent Retreat, our women’s circle’s second only overnight ceremony in ten years. We are preparing to go on a pilgrimage. I tell them a synopsis version of Inanna’s descent into the underworld, her passage through seven gates and the requirement that at each gate she lie down something of herself, to give up or sacrifice something she holds dear, until she arrives naked and shaking in the depths of the underworld, with nothing left to offer, but her life.

In our own lives, I explain, we face Innana’s descents of our own. They may be as difficult as the death of an adult child, the loss of a baby, the diagnosis of significant illness, or a destroyed relationship. They may be as beautiful and yet soul-wrenchingly difficult as journeying through childbirth and walking through the underworld of postpartum with our newborns. They may be as seemingly every day as returning to school after a long absence. There is value in seeing our lives through this mythopoetic lens. When we story our realities, we find a connection to the experiences and courage of others, we find a pattern of our own lives, and we find a strength of purpose to go on. Continue reading “Sacred Water by Molly Remer”

Family, Interdependence, and Mutual Support by Chris Ash

Christy CroftOver the past few months, a precious person has come closer into my family’s life in such a way that their presence in my home, among my loved ones, has come to feel natural and easy. This is someone I love, someone who adores my children and appreciates my partner of 18 years and whose sweet spirit and vibrant laughter have added joy and mirth to our family home.

Yesterday, they rode with me to drop my freshly-mohawked teenager off at a farm to help with preparations for an upcoming arts camp. I introduced them by name to the camp assistant and walked over to chat with the camp director for a bit. Later, as we got back into the car to head to lunch, I asked what they thought of the farm.

“It was nice,” they said. “I’m glad your children have a place like that. Also, while I was chatting with the camp assistant, she asked if I was family.”

“What did you say?”

“I said yes.”

They weren’t wrong.

The meaning the word “family” holds for me is something I’ve given much consideration over the years. For generations, many of us have been expected to turn a blind eye to the ways patriarchal domination of women’s and children’s bodies perpetuates abuse in our own family systems. My inability to sweep these abuses under the carpet, to keep silence and pretend all is well, has led to my estrangement from one entire side of my family. It’s an estrangement I feel will be permanent, and while I grieve the loss of an ideal I never had, I welcome the opportunity to live authentically and boldly, confident in my dedication to my ideals, which include honesty, justice, and the unconditional protection of children and vulnerable populations.

For a while, I sat with the gap this estrangement created in my life, unwilling to fill it with harmful relationships with those to whom I am blood-related, yet hesitant to broadly redefine it in a way that negates the importance of those who have chosen to love and raise up a child, however imperfectly. Continue reading “Family, Interdependence, and Mutual Support by Chris Ash”

With Women by Kate Brunner

Someone told me the other day that Death Doulas are one of the fastest growing career fields out there right now. As a (currently not practicing) Birth Doula, this does not surprise me. The term Doula came into its modern – predominately American – usage in the early 1970s, in reference to a woman who provided non-medical care for a birthing woman. The word is Greek in origin and depending on who you ask, means “with woman” or “servant woman.”

While I suspect the earlier “servant woman” version is the correct etymology, the romantic in me appreciates the “with woman” version, even in its technical inaccuracy. This is because at its core, the role of the Birth/Postpartum Doula is the formalized return of what I believe in my bones to be an ancient cultural practice of women being with each other as a woman passes through an intense life transition.

Whereas before, when a woman gave birth, the older, multiparous women of the local culture would gather around her to see her through her passage from expectant to postpartum motherhood; now some of us approaching that same rite of passage use the Internet to reach out into the culture to hire a Doula to do that very same thing. How we bring it about has changed, but what we desire has not. We desire to be supported, cared for, & loved by someone who has gone through what we are about to — we desire to be with women.

The number of Birth Doulas in the U.S. and abroad, at this point, has increased dramatically over the last ten years and now it would seem that the Conscious Birth movement has birthed a Conscious Death movement, complete with Death Doulas. Again, how we secure the care we want at birth or at death has changed, but what we desire in those powerful moments of passage has not.

The fundamental physical, emotional, and spiritual craving to be with women at life’s major rites of passage runs incredibly deep within us. It is also something denied to us by the patriarchal structures of most major religious systems, but over the last sixty years or so, we’ve worked hard at taking that back. Continue reading “With Women by Kate Brunner”

Contemplative Resistance by Esther Nelson

I recently arrived in Las Cruces, New Mexico, after driving across much of the country from Richmond, Virginia. It’s the second summer I’ve driven this distance (2,000 miles) so I varied my route a bit from last year, stopping at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky, for a short visit. This is the place the popular and prolific monk, Thomas Merton, also known as Brother Louis, called home for twenty-seven years (1941-1968) . (Merton was accidentally electrocuted by an electric fan in Bangkok while attending a conference—December 1968.)

The grounds are verdant, well-kept, and peaceful. Visitors are free to wend their way along various paths on the property, attend any (and all) of the services held in the church, and watch a film on (male) monastic life (running continuously) in the visitors’ center. The gift shop sells books (many authored by Merton), fruit cake and fudge made by the monks at the Abbey, and an array of “stuff.” Accommodations for retreat are available by reservation.

Some time ago, I audited a class that included readings by Thomas Merton. During the semester, the professor mentioned a book titled, At Home in the World The Letters of Thomas Merton & Rosemary Radford Ruether, Edited by Mary Tardiff, OP (1995). Ruether (b. 1936) is a feminist scholar and Catholic theologian. She is also a prolific author and popular speaker. Continue reading “Contemplative Resistance by Esther Nelson”

Interreligious Friends after Nostra Aetate (Book Review) by Janice Poss

JaniceBook Title: Interreligious Friendship after Nostra Aetate
Editors: J. Fredericks and T. Tiemeier
Series Title: Interreligious Studies in Theory and Practice
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan US, 2015

“… the Jew prayed words of blessing … over his Roman Catholic friend. …Willebrands could not find … words to say to Tanenbaum at that moment. Of course, as is usually the case in friendships, words are not really necessary to express one’s deepest emotions.” – James L. Fredericks, p. 5


In 1965, at fifteen, I strategized to become a top women’s fashion designer.  I felt it accessible to me!  The Second Vatican Council’s documents had been published. Nostra Aetate was among them, I was clueless, I could have cared less about anything coming out of the Vatican –especially with a Latin title having no meaning for me — except a bejeweled embroidery that might have inspired a contemporary dress or jacket.  Nothing theological or churchy was in my purview as I exerted my independence from parental authority and had one foot out the door from being a practicing Catholic.  I had had enough of the disciplinary, androcentric, ‘Father’ God who was mean, hypercritical and presupposed that anyone practicing any religion other than Roman Catholicism was doomed forever to hell.  Salvation was not for everyone. Continue reading “Interreligious Friends after Nostra Aetate (Book Review) by Janice Poss”

Muslims: The 5:00 P.M. Workers by Esther Nelson

esther-nelsonRecently (September 2016), the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Catholic Studies Symposium took place in the university where I teach.  The main speaker (a Roman Catholic priest) addressed the topic, “How Pope Francis is Creating a Culture of Encounter.”  There were three other participants. One delivered “A Protestant Perspective;” another “A Jewish Perspective;” and the third “A Muslim Perspective.” All of them, including the moderator (chair of the Catholic Studies program), are white men.

The central theme from the men: “Let’s all get together and talk.”  The speakers bantered about phrases such as “engagement based on dialogue” and “we do not agree with modern-day relativism, but rather an encounter of commitments.”  It all sounded familiar. It then dawned on me.  This is language that Diana Eck (b. 1945), religious studies scholar and Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard University, uses as she developed and continues to oversee the Pluralism Project.  See: Continue reading “Muslims: The 5:00 P.M. Workers by Esther Nelson”

Cohousing as Modern Matriarchy? by Kate Brunner

Kate Brunner profile picI attended the 2016 Matriarchal Studies Day that preceded the biannual Association for the Study of Women and Mythology conference only two weeks before my family and I arrived at our new home in an established cohousing community. It was a bit of a crazy time, traveling cross-country this way and that. Packing, flying, presenting, learning, growing, flying back, unpacking & packing again, driving, moving in, more unpacking, more learning, more growing. The dust is really just beginning to settle. And so I’ve finally had a chance to think; to integrate the experiences and opportunities of the first half of this year.

Reviewing my notes from the conference brought me back around to my experience of Dr. Heide Göttner-Abendroth’s video lecture on Modern Matriarchal Studies. The first challenge one seems to face when opening any discussion of Matriarchal Studies is clearly defining what Dr. Göttner-Abendroth means by matriarchy. The first assumption to deconstruct is the erroneous belief that matriarchy is merely the opposite of patriarchy, and therefore a culture that simply oppresses the men instead of the women.

smash the patriarchyAt one of our new cohousing community’s weekly common meals, I showed up in my “Smash the Patriarchy” t-shirt and was jokingly ribbed by a neighbor who instinctively made this assumption. Ironically, I believe this knee-jerk assumption is actually a direct result of the binary thinking inherent in the patriarchal paradigm- left/right, right/wrong, etc. We’ve got to oppress somebody, the patriarchy tells us. So if it’s not the one group, it must be the other, right? What was even more amusing to me than the trigger of the brief conversation was the fact that it was taking place between neighbors at a cohousing community meal. That’s because I believe cohousing, itself, shares numerous structures with matriarchy.

So, what is matriarchy?

What is cohousing?

And what do they have in common? Continue reading “Cohousing as Modern Matriarchy? by Kate Brunner”

On Being Halfway To …Not Seeing You In August (or the Loss of Michfest) by Marie Cartier

michfest2Normally—and I mean normally as in the past thirty-seven years of my life, this is the time of year when I start thinking about the upcoming Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and the fact that I will be seeing friends of mine from around the world for our one ten-day excursion deep into “womyn’s land.” Where I will howl at the moon with thousands of women. Where I will stay up late around my favorite campfire –the DART fire pit—where the physically challenged folks camp and where I am unofficial DART support. One of my best friends at Fest is a fabulous moonshine maker from Appalachia. Every year we have a date in the back of night stage—where literally this past year 7,000 women were dancing and singing and listening to a world class concert/rock n’ roll show under the moonlight. Way in the back my friend H. and I toasted on our annual “date” with her latest brew…that she trucked in by wagon next to her chair and her service dog. “So raise a glass,” we toasted with red cups high in the air, singing along with the woman way down front on the stage, performing in synchronicity with our toast.

This post “raises a glass” to Michigan. I have no idea whether or not this post can bring to life what it is, unfortunately now was, like there for the legions of women who trucked themselves “to the land” for forty years—but here goes. Continue reading “On Being Halfway To …Not Seeing You In August (or the Loss of Michfest) by Marie Cartier”

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