Despite halting attempts to live my life with hope, I’ve failed. My experience is not unique. We suffer. The recent pandemic, including its side effects of loss and displacement, is but one example. Suffering can leave a sense of hopelessness in its wake. One place I look for balm is in poetry.
As with most poetry, Emily Dickinson’s (1830-1886) work requires me to pause and ponder. What is being said? Not easy to tell, nonetheless, I often do find meaning in her poems. If I understand her thrust at all, much of the meaning I glean disorients me.
I’ve known of the existence of the Sabian symbols for a long time, but not much about the details or meanings – which is kind of surprising considering how much I love symbolism. Sabian symbols, which first emerged in 1925 from clairvoyant Elsie Wheeler are written symbolic meanings of each degree of the astrological zodiac. Recently I heard astrologer, Heather Ensworth, speaking about the new moon of March 21 at 1° Aries and the Sabian symbol attached to that lunation which is – “A woman rises out of the water, a seal rises and embraces her.”
Upon hearing that Sabian symbol recited, my inner eye exploded with an image to match the words and then buried itself deep in my heart. I fought the urge to paint it as I have other projects which need completion. But ultimately the woman and the seal would not leave me, so I began to visualize it resulting in this painting, which might or might not be finished.
But why did it strike me so deeply and what might it mean?
Preface: Yesterday someone asked me to contribute an academic article that had to be cited to be included in a book. I said no because my academic years are over. My life experience has taught me that education is simply not enough to shift perception, and that Story may be equally/ or more important because story taps into the creative side of us, moving us through our childhood senses which include our feelings. Although not specifically feminist in content, I believe the underlying messages belong to feminism. The first highlights the destructive greedy ‘head’ without a body. The second addresses the complicated situation we find ourselves in – offering us a way through. The second story also highlights the primary difference between an exchange economy and a gift giving one.
Speak the truth about conflict, pain, and suffering.
Take only what you need.
Think about the consequences of your actions for seven generations.
Approach the taking of life with great restraint.
Practice great generosity.
Repair the web
In Rebirth of the Goddess, I 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.
“We’ve all witnessed the power of a moment when an elder holds a newborn babe. There’s this unique bond that connects these seemingly disparate ages. However, there is nothing more profound than these two ages witnessing one another.” – Mary DeJong
On Palm Sunday, I held my son’s newborn babe for the first time. “Who are you?” I asked. I’d wrongly expected my grandson to be a carbon copy of my son newly born, but here he was, a whole new being, entirely himself. We were certainly witnessing one another as we gazed into each other’s eyes. Did he know me, my voice, my touch? Or did he also wonder, “Who are you?” I expect we will spend the next several months and years learning who we are to each other.
Yesterday I wrote about the priestess/scribe Enheduanna and her warrior/king father Sargon. I posited their connection to the codification of patriarchy. They did not invent it, as war and the diminution of women had been happening in some circles. I do wonder, however, if they furthered it along to a point of no return.
Another king of the time, Urukagina from circa 2350 bce codified laws under the guise of reformation. Some of his reforms were progressive in that they sought to protect the poorer classes against aristocracy and the priesthood. But they also were clear to let women “know their place.” Here are the translated words from his laws:
“If a woman to a male has spoken . . .[bad] words(?) which exceed (her rank?), onto the teeth of that woman a baked brick shall be smashed, and that brick will be hung at the main gate.”
To be in the presence of antiquities is powerful. They carry an energy which is palpable. I found this to be true at the recent exhibit at the Morgan Library in Manhattan that ran from October 14, 2022 through February 19, 2023.
Enheduanna is a fascinating woman who lived in the lands of Mesopotamia circa the 23rd century BCE. She was a priestess who was also a writer and chronicler of her times. She named herself in her writings making her the first known author of any written works in history. She was so influential that for centuries after her death, scribes learned their craft in scribal schools by reading and copying out her work. Scholars have referred to her as the Sumerian Shakespeare
Her main temple was in Ur, the very city that hundreds of years later gave rise to the biblical priestess Sarah and her husband, Abraham. We can only image how much they had been influenced by her.
“In the beginning…God was a woman. Do you remember?” Feminst foremother and author of these words Merlin Stone died in Feburary last year.
I can still remember reading the hardback copy of When God Was a Womanwhile lying on the bed in my bedroom overlooking the river in New York City early in 1977. The fact that I remember this viscerally underscores the impact that When God Was a Woman had on my mind and my body. Stone’s words had the quality of revelation: “In the beginning…God was a woman. Do you remember?” As I type this phrase more than thirty-five years after first reading it, my body again reacts with chills of recognition of a knowledge that was stolen from me, a knowledge that I remembered in my body, a knowledge that re-membered my body. My copy of When God was a Woman is copiously underlined in red and blue ink, testimony to many readings.
Fairy tales are intwined in our imagination and our spirituality. As Jane Yolan writes, one of the subtlest and yet most important functions of myth and fantasy is to “provide a framework or model for an individual’s belief system.” (1)
In the Reclaiming spiritual tradition, we often use fairy tales in healing and self development work. These stories act as warp and weft as we weave and spin complex ritual arcs and other events that take place at extended Witch Camp sessions. In Twelve Wild Swans, Starhawk points out that fairy stories are “more than just encouraging and inspiring. They are also templates for soul healing from Europe’s ancestral wise women and healers. When the ancient Earth-based cultures of Europe were destroyed, these stories remained.” (2)
A man in the group leaned forward and asked, “But how did the Goddess get overcome?” So I told him. Young “warrior heroes” came galloping out of the Russian steppes and the Caucasus Mountains, including Afghanistan, which no one (not even Alexander the so-called Great) has ever conquered. The boys were carrying their thunder-solar-sky gods with them.
In the bathroom at 4am in the morning, I hear the birds start to sing. Instantly, I am transported back to my tent at Midwest Herbal Conference in Wisconsin to the excitement of starting a new day with the feeling of being in nature with fellow conmadres, amazed at the knowledge and wisdom the women around me hold. Watching them go into the forest, bend down to see a plant, put it in their mouths and eat it.
There’s this thing that happens to advocates when the world around us burns with injustice and fury and we shift into what we know, the holding-fighting, fierce-eyed, tender-hearted caring that pours out compassion and links lives with survivors, shedding trails of sweetness as it goes. It’s a professional skillset and personal practice — a vocation, even? — that girds our own hearts with the structure of listening skills, crisis response, and open-ended questions. We wrap ourselves in the safety of our modalities while we float steadily alongside others, occasionally sharing an oar when someone is stuck.
It is an act of ministry when we exhale-blow out-breathe hard into darkness, trusting in the moment when the deep inhale comes to re-inflate our lungs and faith.
Introduction to MAYFLOWER MEMORIES (‘Blood – Root’)
For the past two weeks I have been obsessed by the thought of emerging bloodroot, a wildflower I have loved since childhood that grows just outside my door (among other places). This obsession, and I take each one seriously, always provokes the same question: what’s really going on here? Bloodroot does not bloom under four feet of snow, and my guess is that this year one of my favorite wildflowers won’t burst with white stars until June.
Today, I also remembered with astonishment that in the old ways, Mother’s Day occurred on March 25th, the time when ‘Becoming’ begins, long before the snow recedes. I’m struck by the difference between the two mothers’ days, this one seems so much more authentic, no room for sentimentality when we face this messy, muddy turning from winter to spring (at least in the Northeast).
When I first began to think about female language and images for God I imagined that changing God-He to God-She and speaking of God as Mother some of the time would be a widespread practice in churches and synagogues by now. I was more worried about whether or not images of God as a dominating Other would remain intact. Would God-She be imaged as a Queen or a Woman of War who at Her whim or will could wreak havoc on Her own people?
Forty years later, very little progress has been made on the question of female imagery for God. I suspect that most people in the pews today have never even had to confront prayers to Sophia, God the Mother, or God-She. Most people consider the issue of female language in the churches to have been resolved with inclusive language liturgies and translations of the Bible that use gender neutral rather than female inclusive language.
Author’s note: This post was originally published on April 19, 2019.
In “Time Telling in Feminist Theory,” Rita Felski suggests that there are four main ways feminists discuss and use time: redemption, regression, repetition and rupture. They are aptly named as they behave similar to their labels. Redemption is the linear march of time, hopefully progressing step by step towards a redeemed, or at least better, future even if sometimes things get momentarily worse. Regression is the want to go back in time or at least return to idyllic and/or imagined pasts: to matriarchy or to a time before patriarchy’s violent arrival. Repetition is a focus on the cyclical nature of time in bodies, in daily chores, in seasons and so on. Rupture posits a break in time in a way what was before no longer makes sense or doesn’t exist. Think utopia or dystopia.
This was originally posted on April 3, 2012and serves as a nice follow up to my recent posts, and to the Christian holy days being celebrated this week.
Being passive spectators of violence and injustice, even if mournfully so, is not just a thing of Panem, it is our everyday reality.
In The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins takes the reality of an unjust society and gives it an imaginative makeover. In Panem, most people are kept at such extreme levels of hunger that even when they do eat they cannot fill the hollowness that has settled in their stomachs, while others are deciding on the next cosmetic alteration they will undertake – whiskers, jewel implants, or green-tone skin color? The disparate conditions between the rich and the poor, the few and the many are absurdly and starkly portrayed but done so in a way that we can still recognize our world in theirs. And at the center of this world is the state imposed ritual of punishment and control, the yearly Hunger Games – a nationally televised competition that all the people of Panem are required to watch. The 12 districts watch mournfully as two kids from each of their districts compete to the death, and the wealthy watch gleefully, for the games are the height of their excesses and entertainment. The yearly Games conclude when one kid, the lone ‘victor’, is left standing. All while the nation watches.
Today is the day in the Christian church year that we remember Jesus’ last supper with his friends/chosen family before he was betrayed by some of those same friends/chosen family. He talked to his beloved circle that night about many things, including betrayal and their capacity to embody Divine Love in a broken world after his death. Just a few days later he was executed by the Roman government because his prophetic and compassionate life was a threat to the powers that be of his day–both governmental and religious. In honor of this day in my faith tradition, I share a poem I wrote about one of the women in Jesus’ life before he was executed by Empire. Since Jesus’ death, he was kidnapped again by multiple Empires who have used him to put an ecclesial and even divine seal of approval on systems of oppression and genocide. The woman at the well gives us a window into Jesus the liberator. May we have space to remember him today as another Easter Sunday approaches for Christians around the world.
In the last post about rethinking church communally, I ended with reference to the fact that those who do not identify with an organized religion – nearly 70% of the religiously unaffiliated – think that churches “focus too much on rules,” “are too concerned with money and power,” and “are too involved in politics.”
I found this to be the case also among participants of “Emerging Church” congregations, which I researched for my dissertation. Many participants of the congregations I visited had previous negative and damaging experiences of church – experiences that caused them to become unaffiliated from church and Christianity all together. But, when discovering or happening upon an “emerging” congregation, some were pleasantly surprised by the experience of an open, welcoming, and justice-oriented community of faith that was creative in form and ritual, and egalitarian in leadership.
Experts quiped you would not rise Too old they said Abandoned Pink and Rose No one imagined resilience, pattern birthing form to vine. Gray green veins swell, pulse, pump sugars skyward, powered by a single root. Bowed blade circles round to Beginning Buried deep. Spiral loosens, ascends seeking sun star heat.
On a trip to Ireland several years ago, I was fortunate to have been able to see the Sheela-na-gigs in the National Museum of Dublin. Two of these Sheelas including the one removed from the Seir Kieran Church of County Offaly, pictured below, are currently on display. They stand at the doorway of a room dedicated to items from the medieval period and easily missed. As there was little interest in them and they are not in cases, I was able to silently commune without interruption.
In this blog post, I would like to take the opportunity to promote my new book, entitled: Goddess Lost: How the Downfall of Female Deities Degraded Women’s Status in World Cultures. This book makes the assertion that women must be educated about the history of goddess worship around the world in order to adopt a comprehensive spirituality that fits what it means to be a woman.
In this article I reframe my understanding of feminism through the lens of Mona Chollet’s In Defence of Witches, and reflect on how my psyche as a woman today is still deeply influenced by the effects of the witch hunts in mediaeval times.
I suppose no one is all that surprised but it is still stunning how quickly certain politicians are rushing to pull back women’s rights. It’s become a race to regulate women’s bodies of with draconian and cruel laws.
Each law is more extreme than the next. In South Carolina it has even been proposed to make abortion a crime subject to the death penalty.
Commentators say the bill isn’t going anywhere. But it was still proposed. It is now in the eco-system of abortion politics. It is being imagined and that opens up all possibilities of where it can go from here. We never thought, after all, that Roe would be overturned.
Much has been written about the last breath, but not much about the first. Recently, I happened to listen to a re-broadcast of an episode of NPR’s Radiolab on “Breath.” It began with an explanation of the ingenious, miraculous first breath in which we transition from water-dwelling beings in the watery womb to air-dwelling beings outside in the world. In the water-dwelling fetus, the lungs have no function. Instead, the fetus gets its oxygen from its mother through the placenta and umbilical cord, the oxygenated blood flowing directly from the right to the left chambers of the heart through a hole — the patent foramen ovale — bypassing the lungs that in fetuses are filled with water. But in the split second of that first breath, the umbilical cord shuts down the flow of oxygenated blood and the patent foramen ovale closes, requiring that the once water-filled lungs now be filled with air. The right and left sides now forever closed off from each other, from now on, the oxygen-deprived blood that flows into the right side of the heart must be pumped out of the heart into the lungs where it is enriched with oxygen, and then returns to the left chambers of the heart where it is then pumped to every tissue in our bodies. That first breath enables the continual flow of in-breath and out-breath, for most of us, about 500 million times in our lifetimes. I will never forget that first breath of my own child as he came in to the air-breathing world. That first cry remains, and always will, the sweetest sound I have ever heard. Aware now of all that happens with that first breath, I am filled with an even deeper awe.
By breath, by blood, by body, by spirit, we are all one.
The air that is my breath . . .is the air that you are breathing. And the air that is your breath . . . is the air that I am breathing. The wind rising in my breast . . .is the wind, from the east, from the west, From the north . . . from the south; Breathing in, breathing out.
So begins singer-songwriter Sara Thomsen’s song, “By Breath,” bringing together many elements I’ve been pondering in the last several days – breath, air, wind, spirit.
The following poems were written after making a decision to move into an apartment for the winter, and then struggling to understand what went wrong. Instead of community I met with hostility, and as we know one breeds the other, and for a time I got caught by my shadow too.
Called home out of necessity and need, the longer I stayed the harder it was to leave even when 16 feet of snow crashed down from the roof blocking the entire front of my house. ‘The Peace of the Wild Things’ is in my blood and as hard as I try, I can’t seem to make an adjustment to living in a town where crows and men rule, and birdsong is absent though migration is under way.
In the 1960s and 1970s, American-born Genevieve Vaughan was living in Rome with her husband, philosopher Ferruccio Rossi-Landi, and their three daughters. When Rossi-Landi, using Marxist models, began to write about language as a form of “exchange,” Vaughan was inspired to articulate her alternative theory based on the idea that language was developed and is learned through the gifts of the mother to the child. From that beginning, Vaughn developed an alternative theory of culture based on what she calls the “gift economy.”
One day, during a holiday at the home of Italian friends in the province of Lazio, some forty-five minutes by train from the centre of Rome, I experienced a powerful impression of the Sacred Feminine. She came to me in the Vatican of all places, centuries old male stronghold, and power centre of the Roman Catholic Church.
Even more surprisingly, her presence was more prominent in the Sistine Chapel, the Pope’s own place of prayer, where Cardinals sit in all male conclave. But there she was, shining through the restored colour on that famous ceiling through the brushstrokes of Michelangelo. I was picking up loud echoes immortalised for centuries through his art, tuning into the soul of the artist, seeing his inspiration in terms of angels speaking in colour and light. But then he was called after an Archangel whose name means Who is like God. God is creative, He created heaven and earth according to the scriptures, but now it was looking like She might have created it with him. Somehow over the years in Christianity, the real Sacred Feminine has been hidden away, negated, turned into a virginal statue with little visible life energy from earth.
My movie SCAVENGE FOR YOUR LIFE. I’m so thrilled to be nominated and to WIN! Thank you!
In the year 2050—and here we are, right? Am I right? Right!
SCAVENGE FOR YOUR LIFE. In the year 2050 when we are lucky to have this beautiful theater in downtown Los Angeles.
Here we are! I mean…we are eating and drinking in the gorgeous ambient light of street lights! And first, I want to make sure to thank and appreciate all the efforts made here to create this stage on the site of the former Dolby Theater!