I sometimes feel as though I live caught between feminism’s assorted waves. I am too young to have experienced the rise & crest of the Second Wave. I only just began to learn there was an actual -ism type name for this collection of thoughts, desires, feelings, & beliefs shaping themselves within me during my adolescent years as the Second Wave was decidedly ebbing.
Coming into my own as a very young adult, I found the rising Third Wave frustrating, though. Arguments over even using the word “feminist” to begin with exhausted me and it seemed like there was more debate raging about what was or was not feminism than there was meaningful change-agent action in the world around me. While I now recognize that was probably a necessary step in feminism’s evolution, at the time I was more concerned with confronting the immediate challenges of my work in a massively male-dominated career field under extremely stressful conditions than endlessly defending my conceptual feminist identity. This was the socio-political setting in which I came to Women’s Spirituality.
I came with little knowledge of the herstory behind the re-emergence of Goddess spirituality. I was too young to know the names of the Second Wave women who created the vessel anew. And too put off by my contact with the early Third Wave to study it formally. What I did know was that there was a thing called Women’s Spirituality and it spoke to me body, mind, heart, & soul. So, I eschewed study for direct experience, fumbling my way through creating a personal spiritual practice between myself & Goddess as a very private solitary. Years later, my penchant for autodidacticism & a huge, ugly feminist-on-feminist argument on a blog post I wrote led me on a quest to discover more about both my feminist and spiritual roots. Who had come before me? How did feminism & Women’s Spirituality get to where it was now- in theory & in practice? What was my herstory?
If you ever eavesdrop on a conversation between my husband and me around the clamor of our four children’s voices, you will probably hear me making a tired lament: “All I want is a broad swath of uninterrupted time.” In listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s newest book, Big Magic, on audio book I was interested by her mention that many creative people lament not having long stretches of uninterrupted time available in which to work. She quotes a letter from Herman Melville to Nathaniel Hawthorne, lamenting his lack of time and how he is always pulled “hither and thither by circumstances.” Melville said that he longed for a wide-open stretch of time in which to write. She says he called it, “the calm, the coolness, the silent grass-growing mood in which a man ought always to compose.”
…I do not know of any artist (successful or unsuccessful, amateur or pro) who does not long for that kind of time. I do not know of any creative soul who does not dream of calm, cool, grass-growing days in which to work with- out interruption. Somehow, though, nobody ever seems to achieve it. Or if they do achieve it (through a grant, for in- stance, or a friend’s generosity, or an artist’s residency), that idyll is just temporary—and then life will inevitably rush back in. Even the most successful creative people I know complain that they never seem to get all the hours they need in order to engage in dreamy, pressure-free, creative exploration. Reality’s demands are constantly pounding on the door and disturbing them. On some other planet, in some other lifetime, perhaps that sort of peaceful Edenic work environment does exist, but it rarely exists here on earth. Melville never got that kind of environment, for instance. But he still somehow managed to write Moby-Dick, anyhow.
When I create a new sculpture, I am most often creating something that I need to remember or want to learn. The original figures for my Centered Mama sculpture and my Meditation Goddess sculpture were both created while at a friend’s house for a weekend work exchange as my baby toddled around. While I love making figures of mothers and babies, I was feeling a strong urge to make a goddess representation complete unto herself. It felt like a reclaiming of my non-maternal identity and a declaration of self-sovereignty. She turned out a little bigger than some of my other figures, strong and secure and independent. Then, the baby crawled over and knocked off one of her breasts, knocked her over on the tray, smashing the side of her head. I came close to crying. I felt annoyed with my husband who’d “let” him come over and destroy my work rather than noticing him doing it and stopping him. I was frustrated, dismayed, and my feelings felt hurt in a sense. First I felt like, Argh! This is a metaphor for life! And, then I realized it was not just a metaphor for life, it is my actual life! I pouted a bit and said I was just going to smash her and give up and I made some bitter faces at my husband and some long-suffering huffs and signs, but then the baby fell asleep in the Ergo, held close against my chest. I kissed his soft hair and I took my clay and started again. I reclaimed her from the smashed parts and she sat stronger and taller than ever.
She reminds me not to give up and that beautiful work can come from struggle, but also of interdependence (not just the independence I was going for!), co-creation, and tenacity. When the finished version of her, cast from the original sculpt, sits by my bed at night or overlooks my dinner preparations, she reminds me that I am strong and that persistence is worthwhile. She also tries to remind me to be calm and steady, centered and Zen, even though I more often feel like a whirlwind.
That same Saturday at my friend’s house, as my baby tentatively toddled around the kitchen, chewed on a piece of watermelon, and snoozed on my chest, I felt moved to begin creating a new Centered Mama sculpture. I had been going through an emotional rough patch, feeling buffeted by variable emotions and erratic and unpredictable in my enthusiasm and confidence. I was also feeling impatient, snappy, and irritable.
“I will be gentle with myself. I will be tender with my heart. I will hold my heart like a newborn baby child.”
This song by Karen Drucker replayed in my mind as I sculpted. The baby woke, the watermelon got dragged along the floor collecting dust, and it was time for our collaborative dinner, so I had to put her away unfinished. When we got back to our own home, I was compelled to finish her, working feverishly as the baby pulled on my legs and I said, “just a few more minutes!” to the older kids who were trying to play with him to let me work. Again and again I re-rolled the clay baby’s head, trying to make it “perfect,” and worked to lay down the strands of her hair, against of the backdrop of this often-chaotic, noisy, home-based life we’ve consciously and intentionally created together. She was created to represent holding my own center in the midst of motherhood. I will be tender with my heart. I don’t create sculptures like this because I AM so “Zen” and have life all figured out, I make them to remind me what is possible if I listen to my soul.
As I do extensive rearranging, construction, and reconstruction on my slowly ongoing dissertation project, I typed out a quote from the book Priestess: Woman as Sacred Celebrant by Pamela Eakins about her past life memories of making clay goddess figures as a temple priestess:
…to me it brought a continuation of the energy of the sacred objects of the grandmothers. I contained this energy in a new form in the dolls that would be placed upon the altars and in the graves of the daughters living now and the daughters to come…
I felt this process made my own clay stronger, too. Some of the pieces cracked in the fire because of the added ‘impurities’…but, in this case, I felt the impurities were the purest of pure and I worshipped each crack knowing the crack contained the wisdom of the priestesses who had occupied the doll-making table for more moons than I could even imagine. It contained too, the devotional energy of every grandmother who had held it in her hands or placed it on her altar. Sometimes ‘impurities’ sanctify further that which is holy to begin with.
While I tend to have a knee-jerk skepticism about past-life memories, there is something in Eakins’ words that I know at a bone-deep level as I do my own work with goddesscraft:
…Each goddess was imprinted with the sound of sacred life coursing through the Universe. I changed with the priestesses as the figures came through my hands. Each doll received the sacred vibration of life…For seventy-seven moons I made the dolls at the long table with the young Sisters of Nun. My hands were so fast. I made thousands of figures: beautiful little faces, etched collars of gold plates, pubic hair swirled into tiny rows of connecting spirals. They were so precious. At the end of the day, my baked clay shelves were covered with little women.
The clay goddesses healed…
This is how I apprenticed. I learned, in this manner, the art of healing. I learned that to heal means to make whole, and that becoming whole involves learning many levels of purification, balance, and reformation” (p. 32-33).
In Anne Key’s marvelous priestess memoir, Desert Priestess, she makes this important point: “It is of course no small wonder why graven images are so tightly controlled by religious traditions.” (p. 52) Sometimes I feel like this is what I’m tapping into when I make my own goddess sculptures—a resistance to tight control over graven images and over personalization of divinity as male.
I occasionally get requests to make bigger goddesses–-people ask about figures that are large altar pieces 12-18 inches tall or taller. The goddesses I make are all about three inches tall and there’s a reason for that: they fit in the palm of my hand. When I create them, I feel as if I’m part of an unbroken lineage stretching back 30,000 years to the person who carved the Goddess of Willendorf. I feel connected to the priestesses of the Mesopotamian temples who sculpted hundreds upon hundreds of tiny clay goddesses. Someone commented on my sculptures once saying, “echoes of Mesopotamia.” And, I said, “exactly.” I feel the connection between the clay in my hand and the clay in their hands, running through the ripples and eddies of time.
I’ve been inspired recently to re-read Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance, finding new bits of wisdom from it that speak to something different in me than they did the first time I read it. She writes of the attempts to discredit Goddess religion by invalidating the historical narratives or archaeological evidence: “The idea seems to be that if they can disprove our origin story, they can invalidate our spirituality…Is Buddhism invalid if we cannot find archaeological evidence of Buddha’s existence? Are Christ’s teachings unimportant if we cannot find his birth certificate or death warrant?…the truth of our experience is valid whether it has roots thousands of years old or thirty minutes old…a mythic truth whose proof is shown not through references and footnotes but in the way it engages strong emotions, mobilizes deep life energies, and gives us a sense of history, purpose, and place in the world. What gives the Goddess tradition validity is how it works for us now, in the moment, not whether or not someone else worshipped this particular image in the past” (p. 4).
The ancestry of my goddess sculptures may not be the same energy that raised temples and built monuments (or walls), it is the energy that carried a baby on one hip and a basket of supplies on the other and needed a goddess just the right size to tuck down the front of a shirt…
Sometimes I describe my life in the woods as being held in the hand of the goddess. And, I make goddesses that I hold in my hand. Am I in the palm of her hand or is she in the palm of mine? The answer is both.
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 priestess who holds MSW and M.Div degrees and she is finishing 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, as well as three social service oriented booklets and a miscarriage memoir. 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, goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, and pendants at Brigid’s Grove.
I am mad. So very mad. No, that doesn’t begin to describe it. I am pissed. I am angry. I am irate. I am incensed. I am outraged. I am enraged. I am livid. I am GODDESS DAMN FURIOUS.
“All men are created equal,” states the Declaration of Independence. From the very beginning, women were denied equality in this country. It has taken over two centuries for women to win the right to vote, to have alleged protection under the law, to earn as much as 68 and 77 cents on the dollar (depending on our skin color) that men are paid, and to gain control over our own bodies and destinies.
And now, nearly 250 years later, we are seeing our rights, our freedoms, our health care being stripped away, one by one, by mean spirited, misogynistic, right wing religious uber-conservatives. In 2015 there is still no Equal Rights Amendment. Women are still not equal under the law. Continue reading “I am mad by Mama Donna Henes”
Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky
On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion’s Dog they call it, brightest
Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat
And fevers to suffering humanity. –Homer, The Iliad
The dog days of summer are associated with the reappearance of the brightest star in the sky, the “dog star,” also known as Sirius, just before dawn from July 23 until August 23. This star heralds the days of the most intense summer heat. Though this is the time of the summer harvest in Mediterranean cultures, it a time of death. Energy wanes. The grasses have dried out on the hillsides, plants in gardens will die too unless they are watered. The healthy “sit out” the heat of the day with closed shutters, while those who are old or very ill often give up the ghost. They say that this is also a time when babies are conceived during long and languid afternoon naps.
The Greater Mysteries of Demeter and Persephone were celebrated at the end of this period, and the Greek Orthodox festival of the Dormition (Death) and Assumption (Rebirth) of the Panagia (the Virgin Mary) echoes an ancient rhythm.
This year I have spent most of the dog days in air-conditioned rooms, feeling little inclination to brave the heat of the day even for a refreshing swim in the sea. During this time, Judith Plaskow and I completed the final draft of the manuscript of Goddess and God in the World and submitted it to our publisher: a midsummer harvest!
To be truthful, I also spent many of the dog days days glued to my computer watching reruns of D.C. Banks and Blue Murder. These days of rest were good for the knee I had injured earlier in the summer, which now is almost healed. They must have been good for my spirit as well, for a friend who had not seen me since late spring told me that I looked refreshed and renewed.
In nature, the death days of late summer are followed by rebirth. At the very time when the sun is at its most intense, the days become shorter—first imperceptibly, and then quickly. While sun “stands still” for several months, setting at more or less the same time before and after the Summer Solstice, all of a sudden (or so it seems), the sun sets half an hour earlier. From then on, it sets several minutes earlier each day: a clear indication that fall is on its way. Before long, the rains come and the hillsides become green again.
For me, August 14, celebrated in Greece as the day of the Dormition of the Panagia, marks the beginning of the end of the intense heat of midsummer. Yesterday, on this day, with some trepidation, I packed my dogs into a hot car and headed for the sea. Our favorite tavern was empty and a light breeze coming from the sea tempered the heat. A friend arrived unexpectedly, and—joined by my intrepid miniature schnauzer—we enjoyed a swim so refreshing we didn’t come out of the water until our fingers became wrinkled. Just before sunset my friend and I met again to ascend the stairs to the shrine Church of the Panagia on the Rock to light candles for Rebirth and Renewal, ending our day with dinner by the sea.
As I write the next morning, I feel poised on the edge of rebirth and regeneration. I don’t yet have new ideas in my mind, nor do I have the fullness of energy I know will continue to return as the heat wanes. I look forward to the coming of fall and await new green shoots of inspiration in my life and my work.
“I believe that these circles of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we’re weak and sing with us when we’re strong.”
–SARK, Succulent Wild Woman
Seven years ago, a small postcard at the local Unitarian Universalist church caught my eye. It was for a Cakes for the Queen of Heavenfacilitator training at Eliot Chapel in St. Louis. I registered for the training and went, driving alone into an unknown neighborhood. There, I circled in ceremony and sisterhood with women I’d never met, exploring an area that was new for me, and yet that felt so right and so familiar.
I’d left my two young sons home for the day with my husband and it was the first time in what felt like a long time that I’d been on my own, as a woman and not someone’s mother. At the end of the day, each of us draped in beautiful fabric and sitting in a circle around a lovely altar covered with goddess art and symbols of personal empowerment, I looked around at the circle of women and I knew: THIS is what else there is for me. Continue reading “Restoring Ourselves to Ceremony: Red Tent Circles, by Molly”
This week Judith Plaskow and I submitted the final version of our new book Goddess and God in the Worldto our publisher at Fortress Press. Just before completion, I added a shorter version of the following passage to my final chapter. In it I tried to describe the odd feeling of not being moved any longer by a religion that once moved me profoundly. Our book, which explores an embodied theological method, will be out in the summer of 2016.
I have never regretted my decision to leave Christianity. Although I have a sentimental attachment to Christmas trees, Christmas dinners, Christmas carols, and some hymns, I miss little else about Christianity. At a distance of several decades, I find that I quite simply have no feeling for the Christian edifice of doctrines and rituals based on the life and death of a single individual. Jesus was a visionary, but there have been many others like him—including Martin Luther King, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Gandhi, all of them flawed, as Jesus must have been as well.
A few years ago, I decided to participate in the Greek Orthodox Easter week services, because they are attended by so many of my neighbors. But while enjoying the company of the women who decorated the epitaphios (tomb for Jesus), the procession through the streets of our town on Friday night, and the lighting of candles at midnight on Saturday, I came to a clear understanding that the Easter drama is no longer my drama. During the Thursday night services, I realized that many of the women were openly grieving the death of Jesus. Though intellectually I could understand that the Easter drama allowed my friends to release pent-up and repressed feelings, I found their deeply emotional response to the re-enactment of the death of Jesus bizarre.
In leaving Christianity, I had gained the freedom to name the sacred in my own experience, confirmed my deep inner knowing about the human connection to nature, and found the power to create and participate in rituals that have meaning in my life. For me now, the rituals on the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete are at the center of my spiritual life. To listen to Alice Walker’s words, “We have a beautiful/mother/Her green lap/immense/Her brown embrace/eternal/Her blue body/everything we know”* on a mountaintop or to repeat Ntozake Shange’s cry, “we need a god who bleeds now/whose wounds are not the end of anything”** at the mouth of a cave, moves me more than any passage from the Bible.
Singing “Light and Darkness” in the depths of caves is an embodied act of reclaiming the womb as a symbol of creation and the darkness as a place of transformation. I still enjoy singing the Doxology (Hymn of Praise)—and doing so connects me to my history. But I now sing it in front of altars laden with summer fruits or winter vegetables and with words that express my spirituality: “Praise Her from whom all blessings flow/Praise Her all creatures here below/Praise Her above in wings of flight/Praise Her in darkness and in light.”***
*Alice Walker, “We Have a Beautiful Mother,” Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems 1965-1990 (New York City and Orlando, FL: Harcourt Books, 1991), 459-460.
**Ntozake Shange, “we need a god who bleeds now,” A Daughter’s Geography (New York: St. Martin’s, 1983), 51.
***See Carol P. Christ, She Who Changes: Re-imagining God in the World (New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2003), 238, for a discussion of the meaning of the new words.
“All hail- the new priestess!” they all shouted at the end. I was recently ordained near Midsummer Eve (June 20, 2015) as a priestess with the Temple of Isis, Los Angeles and Fellowship of Isis. As befits feminism and religion — I felt it important to share the document read by my scribe – the person who did a lengthy interview and wrote up a summary of why I should be accepted into ordination. I am sharing this with her permission with the Feminism and Religion community. Why do we choose the paths we choose? Why did I choose this Goddess path? The document that explores those reasons follows:
June 20th 2015 – 4:00 p.m. Ordination of Dr. Marie Cartier into the Fellowship of Isis,
Temple of Isis Los Angeles and the Temple of Isis Long Beach.
Our dear sister has reached a point in her life that our ancient mothers of old have been preparing for her and she is ready to be dedicated to and be an emissary of the Goddesses. She is ready to take on the responsibilities of Priestess and is very honored and proud to be accepted by her Priestess Sisters who she dearly loves and admires.
Dr. Marie Cartier is a scholar, visual/performance artist, queer activist, writer and theologian. She has been active in many movements for social change. Marie teaches at UC Irvine in the Film & Media Studies Department and CSU Northridge in Gender and Women’s Studies and Queer Studies. She received her Ph.D. in Religion from Claremont Graduate University, 2010, in Women Studies in Religion, with an emphasis on theology, ethics, and culture. She published in 2013 through Routledge the book Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars and Theology Before Stonewall and created the concept of “theelogy” a religion of friendship for people in exile, particularly lesbians prior to 1975. Continue reading “All Hail a New Priestess! by Marie Cartier”
“Loving, knowing, and respecting our bodies is a powerful and invincible act of rebellion in this society.”
~ Inga Muscio
I do not remember the first time I ever saw her, but I do know that I have loved the Goddess of Willendorf sculpture for many years. When someone uses the phrase, “Great Goddess” or “Great Mother,” she’s the figure I see. To me, she honors the female form. I love her full-figure and the fact that she is not “perfect” or beautiful. I love that she is not pregnant* and what I like best is that she is complete unto herself. She is a complete form, not just a headless pregnant belly. She represents a deep, ancient power to me.
In a past post for FAR, I wrote:
I have a strong emotional connection to ancient Paleolithic and Neolithic goddess sculptures. I do not find that I feel as personally connected to later goddess imagery, but very ancient figures call to something deep and powerful within me. I have a sculpture of the Goddess of Willendorf at a central point on my altar. Sometimes I hold her and wonder and muse about who carved the original. I almost feel a thread that reaches out and continues to connect us to that nearly lost past—all the culture and society and how very much we don’t know about early human history. There is such a solid power to these early figures and to me they speak of the numinous, non-personified, Great Goddess weaving her way throughout time and space.
Water is the daily necessity for earth’s creatures.
When the Continental Celts were looking for a new homeland, they ventured west from the known river valleys of the great landmass we call Eurasia. Just beyond the great mountains, the Alps, they discovered sweet and abundant water, fertile soil, expansive woodlands, and the plentiful fish, game, berries, grasses, fungi and broad-leafed plants necessary to support their tribe.
We know that Celtic spirituality was, in its roots, animistic (spirit was alive in every living thing), non-anthropomorphic (the source of life and death was water, land, plant and animal-life), tribe-specific (in France alone there is evidence of several hundred deities) and a spirituality of place, of the major landforms that defined the world (rivers, springs, forests, animals, heavenly bodies). To the extent that Celtic spirituality was theistic, the creator/sustainer/destroyer of life was typically a goddess. Continue reading “Sequana and Blessed Water by Deanne Quarrie”
First of all a Crone is a woman. She has lived most of her life already and has accumulated many life experiences and therefore, can relate to those younger than her with greater understanding. She has acquired the wisdom associated with having had those life experiences. She has reached a place in her life when she may be slowing down. She may have retired from her career. She may want to devote more time to herself, serving more as an advisor rather than as the doer. We can read the poem, Warning by Jenny Joseph to get an idea, or watch her read it here or below…
“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.”
In her comment following my last post which was about mythology, my friend, Carol Christ, expands on my paragraph about how the so-called “ancient triple goddess” was really invented in 1948 by Robert Graves in his book, The White Goddess. (Thanks, Carol.)
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, when the Goddess movement was just getting up on its feet and our ovular books were being published, the idea arose that if “they” have a holy trinity, “we” have one, too. And ours is older and holier. We see it in the three phases of the moon, new (Virgin), full (Mother), and dark (Crone). Here’s a tiny sample of these books that changed the lives of so many women and men:
Woman’s Mysteries Ancient and Modern by M. Esther Harding (1971, but first published in 1933)
The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe (1974) by Marija Gimbutas
When God Was a Woman (1976) by Merlin Stone
Lost Goddesses of Early Greece: A Collection of Pre-Hellenic Myths (1978) by Charlene Spretnak
The first edition of The Spiral Dance (1979) by Starhawk
The Chalice and the Blade (1987) by Riane Eisler
Laughter of Aphrodite (1987) by Carol P. Christ
The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries (1989) by Z. Budapest
The Reflowering of the Goddess (1990) by Gloria Feman Orenstein
Whence the Goddesses: A Source Book (1990) by Miriam Robbins Dexter
Triple goddess? ’Tain’t so. Our beloved triple goddess is one of our foundational myths. It’s nice and it’s perhaps inspiring, but it’s only a myth. Anyone who looks at a calendar or almanac—or up into the sky every night for a month—can easily see that the moon doesn’t have three phases. It has four: waxing, full, waning, and dark. And since the late 20th century, women have lived long enough to go through more than three stages of life. Continue reading “An Archaic Trinity of Goddesses? Not Necessarily. by Barbara Ardinger”
I had the honour of hosting Max Dashu, Feminist Scholar, Historian and Artist here at Goddesses Studio this weekend past. Max is currently on her second Australian tour and we were blessed for her to come on quite the journey to present to an intimate group of Wide bay Goddesses, “Rebel Woman Shamans: Women Confront Empire” and “Deasophy: Goddess Wisdom” with a little “Female Iconography” thrown in.
Max’s knowledge and gift of story-telling is inspirational. “Rebel Woman Shamans: Woman Confront Empire” looked at holy women and female prophets who led many rebellions to resist conquest, slavery, and colonization. These women visionaries, priestesses, diviners and medicine women challenged systems of domination on multiple levels and drew on their cultural traditions to resist empire. It was their direct access to transformative power that these women had, that makes the spiritual political, as they act to lead, defend, and protect their peoples. Continue reading “Max Dashu: Feminist Scholar, Author, Historian, Artist by Jassy Watson”
I concluded my last post by suggesting that “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence (DI) should have been ‘Creatrix.’ Though ‘Creator’ imbues the DI with a bit of quasi-scriptural authority, the possessive pronoun “their” before it effectively limits the full benefits of creation to men. That alone should have precluded even the suggestion that the DI effectively endorses Christianity or that it constitutes the basis for a civil religion.
Quite obviously that has not been the case, but that should not be taken to validate the misogyny the DI manifests. ‘Creator,’ the masculine form of the Latin noun derived from the verb ‘to create’ (‘Creatrix’ is the feminine), is unambiguously masculine in a way that ‘God’ simply is not. Its appearance in the DI raises the suspicion that it was selected to underscore the masculinity of “Nature’s God,” the phase used in the DI’s opening paragraph. Surely some of the signatories of the DI knew their Latin authors well enough to know how peculiar it is to speak of Nature as having or needing a God. Perhaps they wanted to clarify things. Continue reading “She Alone Was There In The Beginning: Nature Creatrix by Stuart Dean”
The Goddess Gaia is alive In this time and in this space She speaks in sunrises And waves against the shore She sings with the wind She dances in moonlight She holds you close Your heart beats in time with hers A great, grand hope and possibility For this planet…
Over the last two months, I have been listening to a wonderful telesummit about priestesses. I am also a huge fan of the radio show, Voices of the Sacred Feminine. However, as I listen to both, I sometimes find myself wondering if walking a Goddess path is also viewed as synonymous with, “believe everything, question nothing.” Crystal essences, gemstone healing, soul contracts, past lives, spirit guides, astrology, the many realms and dimensions of the occult, mystical, New Age and metaphysical. Is wholesale suspension of logic required to join hands with the Goddess? Is deft management of the tarot essential to the priestess path? Is excavating my “inner masculine” relevant or appropriate? Must I ascribe to “enlightened” tenets like, “you are not your body,” “I am a spiritual being having a spiritual experience” and “we made an agreement to do this work before we showed up in this body at this time and place” in order to move forward? Continue reading “Thealogy of the Ordinary by Molly”
In my recent blog “The Flourishing of Life and Feminist Theology” I discussed Grace Jantzen’s view that theology should focus on “natality” or birth and life, rather than life after death or life apart from this world. This week Tikkun magazine published its summer issue with a feature called “Thinking Anew about God.” In it two male thinkers, one Buddhist and one Christian, argue for a similar turn toward the world in their traditions. Their calls for religions to focus on this world were published the same week scientists warned that the world stands on the brink of the sixth great extinction.
I have come to believe that any religion espousing cosmological dualism (devaluing this world in favor of a superior reality such as heaven) and individual salvation (the idea that what ultimately happens to me is disconnected from what ultimately happens to you) is contributing to our world’s problems rather than offering a solution. … [Religions should] stop emphasizing the hereafter and focus instead on how to overcome the illusion that we are separate from this precious, endangered earth. –David Loy, Buddhist, writing in Tikkun Summer 2014
My aim in this regard is to reawaken in each of us an emotionally felt and primordial sense of spiritual belonging within the wider natural world. In turn, my hope is that this deep sense of belonging to the earth — to God’s body, as it were — will en-flame our hearts and empower our wills to commit us to healing and saving the earth.—Mark I. Wallace, Christian, writing in Tikkun Summer 2014 Continue reading “Transcendence, Immanence, and the Sixth Great Extinction by Carol P. Christ”
Is Goddess feminism an old religion or a new creative synthesis? Can it be both? Goddess feminism draws on the feminist affirmation of women’s experiences, women’s bodies, and women’s connection to nature; the feminist critique of transcendent male monotheism as the symbolic expression of male domination of women and nature; and 19th and early 20th century discussions of Goddesses and matriarchy.
Most Goddess and other spiritual feminists have experienced Wiccan rituals, which are often simply called Goddess rituals. For many of us, elements of Wiccan practice strike a chord of knowing, while other aspects seem odd or strange or even just plain weird. What are the roots of Wiccan ritual?
“The error of anthropomorphism” is defined as the fallacy of attributing human or human-like qualities to divinity. Recent conversations with friends have provoked me to ask in what sense anthropomorphism is an error.
The Greek philosophers may have been the first to name anthropomorphism as a philosophical error in thinking about God. Embarrassed by stories of the exploits of Zeus and other Gods and Goddesses, they drew a distinction between myth, which they considered to be fanciful and false, and the true understanding of divinity provided by rational contemplation or philosophical thought. For Plato “God” was the self-sufficient transcendent One who had no body and was not constituted by relationship to anything. For Aristotle, God was the unmoved mover.
Jewish and Christian theologians adopted the distinction between mythical and philosophical thinking in order to explain or explain away the contradictions they perceived between the portrayal of God in the Bible and their own philosophical understandings of divine power. While some philosophers would have preferred to abolish myth, Jewish and Christian thinkers could not do away with the Bible nor did they wish to prohibit its use in liturgy. Continue reading “TWO MEANINGS OF ANTHROPOMORPHISM by Carol P. Christ”
My friend whom I teach frame drumming teaches us shamanic journeying. There was an episode in one of my journeys, when, unable to see the way forward, I put the palm of my hand on the ground and went down a hole I was creating to the core of the earth. Since then, this scene came into my mind several times when I was talking to friends about inner truth. Also, the posture itself bears uncanny resemblance to the iconic Buddha posture of touching earth with his right hand.
According to a Buddhist legend, on the night of Enlightenment Prince Siddhartha encountered Mara, the Lord of Death, who threw various hindrances the Buddha’s way to prevent him from attaining Supreme Enlightenment. The final challenge was Mara’s claim that the Buddha had no right to be in the seat of Enlightenment. The Buddha then touched the earth with his right hand to call Her as a witness of his past spiritual achievements and his right to gain Enlightenment.
When I mentioned to a friend that I was looking for someone to design our new website, she responded, “If you want it to represent your vision, you need to do it yourself.” Later, when one of my colleagues suggested an idea for the website that was definitely not part of my vision, I realized that I could not give the job to anyone else. Still, I didn’t think I had the skills to create a website myself. Continue reading “Yes me! Creating a Website for the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete by Carol P. Christ”
I have a problem. Some women push my buttons. Some men anger me, but in the context of feminism it is different. I usually dismiss men’s offensive actions and words as expressions of patriarchy. I take action, when I can – for instance recently I complained about the BBC radio 2 broadcasting misogynist statement when discussing a proposed Paternity bill. Complaining about the BBC to the BBC is like trying to stop a tide single-handedly. However, if no one does anything, nothing changes, as we know. In addition, I hope that statements such as “women of child-bearing age should only be employed by striptease bars” broadcast completely unopposed on the national radio service (for which we the listeners pay annual subscription) will raise more than one objection.
But coming back to women. I have noticed recently that very often I end up in deadlocks with women over silly issues. Once I was engaged in a debate about capitalism with a woman to the point when I completely forgot that I was supposed to be doing something completely different for work. The mysterious aspect of these “quarrels” is that more often than not the women have more in common with me than not: they are intellectual, independent and strong-willed. I suppose it is slight differences that unnerve me.
Last fall I undertook the Ariadne Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete and saw many wonders. Foremost for me was our descent into the Skoteino Cave, following in the footsteps of ancient Cretans who understood the cave to be the Source of Life, the womb of the Goddess, and a place of transformation. I ventured down tentatively taking very wary steps, protecting my two new hip replacements, determined to join our sacred ritual in the cave with my sisters. My hips called a stop to my descent half-way down. I perched perilously on a small rock ledge and there I confronted inner and outer darkness. It was indeed a profound transformation. Continue reading “Inner and Outer Darkness in the Skoteino Cave by Coleen Clare”
The charge of “essentialism” has become equivalent to the “kiss of death” in recent feminist discussions. In this context it is taboo to speak of Mother Earth. Yet, I would argue there are good reasons for speaking of Mother Earth that do not add up to essentialism. What if the values associated with motherhood are viewed as the highest values? What if the image of Mother Earth encourages all of us to recognize the gift of life and to share the gifts we have been given with others?
For those not familiar with the “essentialism” debate in feminist theory, it might be useful to define “essentialism.” In philosophy, essentialism is the idea that every “thing” has an “essence” which defines it. In its pure form, essentialism is a by-product of Platonic “idealism” which states, for example, that the “idea” of table is prior to every actual table and that every actual table is an embodiment of the idea of table.
Aristotle disagreed with the Platonic view “way back then,” arguing that the idea of what a table is can be inferred from actual tables, and so on for every “thing.” There is no need for an idea to exist prior to the existence of anything. Rather ideas help us to name and categorize existing things. In the 20th century “existentialism” again challenged “essentialism,” asserting that “existence precedes essence.” Existentialism argued that free individuals are defined by what they do, not by what they “are” prior to or apart from their actions.
When Whitehead said that all western philosophy can be understood as a footnote to Plato, he was referring in part to disagreements among philosophers about the relationship of ideas to things and existence to essence.
When I said in my response to Carol P. Christ’s comment that on one level Goddess spirituality and Buddhism are about the same thing, I am afraid it could have sounded shallow. What I wanted to express is that for a Goddess adherent, the primary goal is not to go through death and be reborn. Neither is the primary goal for a Buddhist to go through death and not be reborn. I believe they both seek the same thing: to be happy in this lifetime, to be comfortable with themselves and the world, to be OK with the reality of their own death. Carol says: “For me, regeneration applies to the community, to nature, to the whole, not to the individual”.
The two faiths just lead to this result by using different theology and practices. One of the ways Buddhism installs this peace of mind is by dissolving the very notion of an “individual” and thus, their impending death becomes less of a problem. From the Goddess side of things, listen to an episode of Karen Tate’s Sex, Religion, Politics podcast Enlightenment for the Rest of Us/Shamanism with Polly Campbell, author of Imperfect Spirituality: Extraordinary Enlightenment for Ordinary People. Karen is a Goddess advocate, and what Polly was teaching could be called secular Buddhism: the same breathing techniques, being in the moment and being grateful.
Miriam of Nazareth, the fiery and courageous Jewish prophet who single-handedly enabled the incarnation of God/dess, is a profoundly ambivalent figure for Catholic feminists. Her racist and patriarchal deformation as a sexless European Barbie has often been used to club and control other women. Yet she refuses to be silenced or appropriated by oppressors, carrying the lost image of God/dess through the centuries and empowering women to know the sacredness of their own physical and spiritual life–giving labors in Her image. I composed this hymn to celebrate the feast of the brown and pregnant Guadalupe/Tonantzin, and to mark the Marian feastdays of the Assumption (Aug. 15) and Queenship of Mary (August 22). It reflects a long journey of exorcising the false misogynist Mary from my own mind and heart and claiming her as role model and mentor in my own call as thealogian, mother of four, and spiritual director. It may be used in ritual or republished with the inclusion of author and copyright information (Laura M. Grimes, copyright 2010).
My original inspiration, after the birth of my younger daughter, was the traditional Litany of Loreto. I came to love its eloquent images when I was studying in Rome and prayed it daily with the old Italian women who had the last liturgical word by leading it, in Latin and from memory, after each day’s mass. It also includes key scriptural passages about Mary and many of the traditional mysteries of the rosary. But the work’s gestation was incomplete until I became involved in an interfaith women’s spirituality church, the Goddess Temple of Orange County, and encountered the fourfold Goddess for the first time. Rev. Ava Park, Presiding Priestess, has been a leader in the recent movement to add the missing image of the wise and loving Queen to the traditional Maiden, Mother, and Crone as a celebration of midlife and a model for women’s leadership. The second through fifth verses of the hymn highlight Mary’s experience in each stage of women’s life and affirm every woman’s power and beauty as an icon of these four aspects of the Divine. The title will be recognized by many as a reference to Elizabeth Johnson’s groundbreaking book on Mary—criticized by traditionalists for a cover depicting her scripturally as the mother of a large family! Continue reading “Truly Our Sister by Laura Grimes”
We are in the season of the Autumn Equinox. The Autumn Equinox occurs on a specific day each year, as does the Spring Equinox. While it may be a precise moment in time, it is also a season. Nothing happens quickly in time and space. Without getting scientific as an explanation of what happens at both, here is a quick one – the name ‘equinox’ comes from the Latin aequus, meaning equal and nox, meaning night. Earth’s two hemispheres are receiving the sun’s rays equally at the equinoxes. This causes night and day to be approximately equal in length. Continue reading “Balance and the Autumn Equinox by Deanne Quarrie”
“In this culture…a woman can be made to feel foolish for emphasizing the centrality of giving birth to her identity or her personal religiousness, her ‘womanspirit…’” –Stephanie Demetrakopoulos (Listening to Our Bodies)
After the birth of my daughter in 2011, I received a small package from a Birthing from Within mentor friend. In it was a sweet little t-shirt imprinted with the words, My Mama is a Birth Warrior. The words on the shirt surrounded a labyrinth image, which I love as a metaphor for birth and life.
Written on the enclosed card was the following:
Imagine a tribe in which a woman is prepared for childbirth in the same way warriors are prepared for battle. Imagine a Ceremony for this woman before she gives birth, a grand send-off with holy songs and fire. Imagine a feast, prepared just for her.
Her tribe tells her, they say to her “Go to your journey, you have prepared. We have prepared you. If you fall from your horse once or a hundred times, it does not matter. All that matters is that you come back to us, that you come home.
Throughout your journey–your labyrinth of Great Love, Great Determination, Great Faith and Great Doubt—you rode on!
The Great Tribe of Mothers welcomes you back from your birth journey with honor.
Imagine, indeed. After I read this note I reflected that I did feel I embarked on a mighty journey during my last pregnancy, I did pass through those Gates, and I did ride on. I AM a birth warrior! Continue reading “Birth Warrior by Molly”
We are approaching the season of Lughnasadh, also known as Lammas. This is the first of three harvest festivals. This one focuses on what we call the “first fruits”, those fruits, vegetables and grains ripening early in the season. The other two are Mabon and Samhain, one celebrating the harvest of the last crops and the next that of the herd animals sacrificed to feed the tribes. Continue reading “Tailtiu, Primal Earth Goddess for this Season by Deanne Quarrie”
Kathleen and Marie are friends who met at the event in Canada that inspired this post. Marie has given her monthly spot on Feminism and Religion to Kathleen so she can share her reflection with you.
Emergence: the universe flares forth out of darkness, creating, over billions of years, through trial and error and trying again, astounding newness: carbon for life in the middle of a star…. the birth of planets, our earth holding what is required for life to emerge…. the creation of water from hydrogen and oxygen….the emergence of a cell with a nucleus.
Each of these seemingly impossible happenings did happen, offering us humans the hope that the impossible tasks confronting us in our time can be creatively addressed, showing us, as Brian Swimme expressed it, a domain of the possible beyond imagination. Our human endeavour has been powered by non-renewable energy resources. Our task now is to reinvent the major forms of human presence on the planet in agriculture, architecture, education, economics…. We need to align ourselves with the powers of the universe, consciously assisting, amplifying, accelerating the process of creative endeavour. Continue reading “Emergence and the Spirituality of the Sacred Feminine by Anne Kathleen McLaughlin”
In Celtic Tradition our world is composed of Three Realms, those of Land, Sea, and Sky. In the midst of these Realms we find the Sacred Grove, the place of flowing together. There the Sacred Fire burns, by the Well of Wisdom, beneath the World Tree. Sacred Fire is that which weaves itself throughout the Three Realms. It connects us and all of life to the Realms as well as to our gods and goddesses. Fire is Sacred Spirit, Sacred Inspiration, without which life would have no meaning.
Fire is the spark, the flame, the heat of passion. It is what ignites our creativity, fuels our passion and fires our hearts to love. It is the Dance of Life, the joy found in movement, sexual energy and the warmth that germinates new life in seeds. It is the warmth of sunlight on our skin and the ecstatic pleasure of orgasm. Continue reading “Fire, Her Bright Spirit by Deanne Quarrie”
Not all, but many women menstruate. The menstrual cycle is a contentious areas for feminists. Even men who aspire to be a feminist tend to find it difficult to deal with it. Inappropriate jokes ensue, and completely ignoring the issue is also a popular option.