The altar was not for particular spirits, but honored all the ‘spirits’ we brought with us to share: the spirits of the women and men in our stories, the memories imbedded in the items we gathered together and the spirit of every person present in the class that day.

Last week my students and I created a non-religious altar to conclude our class, Women, Religion and Spirituality.  We read about different feminist spiritual traditions in which women created altars to honor their ancestors, spirits or deities; and I thought it might be fun to practice our own form of literal physical creation.  I asked students to bring in inspiring items, pictures of people who’d helped them to grow or anything that honored what they considered sacred in their lives.  I also asked them to bring food to share, as no altar seems complete without food of some kind.  However, asking my students to participate in a course ritual, I also felt it was important to respect their very different beliefs… which resultantly, left me wondering how we would create an altar without God.

My religious experience taught me that altars were a place to surrender gifts in return for a greater gift of God’s blessing or love.  The church I attended as a child did have a literal, physical altar; but this raised table was only used monthly to present the communion bread and grape juice before it was passed through the pews.  Otherwise, I came to understand, one’s heart was the altar and we needed to present our sacrifices there.  Financial gifts needed to come from the heart, then put into the offering plate.  Gifts of time or action had to start in the heart, even when required by the youth group or spiritual authority; and resistance to giving these gifts also required sacrifice.  My resistance or lack of desire to sacrifice required that I leave my unwillingness at the altar so that I might become appropriately grateful.

At some point I started leaving too much at the altar; and like Abraham’s Daughter I said enough is enough.  I recognized myself in the sisters and brothers lying under the sacrificial sword, and I took back my heart.  My heart, I realized, hadn’t been the altar; it had been the offering and sacrifice. Continue reading “AN ALTAR WITHOUT GOD? A “PLACE” FOR THE SACRED by Sara Frykenberg”

The Singer’s Lost Love by Daniel Cohen

This is based on the story of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Once there was a singer. Some said he was the finest singer that ever lived. And indeed his tunes were marvellous. Once he had escaped from wild beasts by playing and singing to them a quiet tune until they drifted to sleep. He had dispelled a snowstorm by singing of his delight in the hot days of summer. It was even said that once the rhythms of the dance he was playing were so lively that the trees themselves lifted up their roots to join in.

In time he met a maiden and they fell in love. Together they wandered, and all his songs were songs of joy and in praise of her. As he played and she danced, flowers sprung up behind them, and it seemed as if all the world shared in their joy. The skies were blue, the sun was hot, and from time to time they were refreshed by showers.

All went well until one day they saw an empty snakeskin on the path. The singer shuddered, for he was reminded of poison and death. But his love was delighted by the snakeskin, picked it up and showed him how it reflected the light and took on many colours, and how the snake had grown and left its unwanted skin behind to give others pleasure. He would not listen, and closed his eyes and put his hands over his ears trying to shut out what he could not understand.

That night they went to sleep as usual, but when he awoke in the morning she was not there. He looked for her, thinking she was teasing him and was not far away. Continue reading “The Singer’s Lost Love by Daniel Cohen”

The First Casualty Of War by Daniel Cohen

This is the tale of the first death in the Trojan War.

The Greek army was gathered in Aulis. Its men had come from many towns and islands. Some were there with dreams of glory, some with dreams of gold. Others were there because their chief had demanded their presence, and either loyalty to the chief or fear of him had brought them.

The fleet was waiting and the soldiers were ready to embark. But for weeks now the wind had been blowing from the wrong direction, and the men were getting restless at waiting so long. They were beginning to think of the harvest – they had expected that the war would be won long before harvest time – but that was now so close that many men were making ready to go home, and some had already gone.

Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek army, was fearful that the conquest and glory he sought would escape him if the winds continued contrary. And so he consulted the seer Calchas. After much searching the seer replied, “The goddess Artemis sends you a warning. If you wish to make war against Troy, you will have to kill your daughter.”

So Agamemnon sent for his daughter Iphigenia, pretending to her and her mother that he planned to marry her to the hero Achilles. Continue reading “The First Casualty Of War by Daniel Cohen”

Residing in a Liminal Space: Finding a scholarly home at the Institute for Thealogy and Deasophy by Patricia ‘Iolana

For years I was outside of traditional academia.  I can no longer count the times I have heard that my research and my theories were highly radical and would never find a home or a place of acceptance.  Early in my career, while still in the States, a number of my colleagues tried to convince me to take a traditional theological stance, and join the world of orthodox faith tradition.  What my well-meaning colleagues never considered was that in asking me to alter my way of being, they were asking me to deny myself, my understanding of the Numinous, and negating that there were other people in the world who think and feel as I do.  I would rather cut off my nose to spite my face. Needless to say, I continued on, even though it often meant blazing my own trail off the safe and ‘beaten path.’ I trusted that I was on the right path and that the Divine would lead my way.  In other words, I had faith—loads of it, and in the end it paid off.

For a while, I had been part of the community (if you aren’t familiar with it, it is like a Facebook for scholars where academics can share and follow research).  I joined in the hopes that I would reach like-minded people and find an academic home.  One day in the summer of 2010, I received a message asking me if I wanted to contribute a chapter on a new book about Thealogy.  The message from Angela Hope said she wanted to claim and expand the field, and I was eager to speak with her.  Our conversations lasted for hours, days, and weeks.  We found a kindred sisterhood, and she shared with me her idea to create an institute for other like-minded scholars and practitioners – a place that was supportive of liminal theories and research – a place that dared to push boundaries.  And as we wished, so we gathered.   Continue reading “Residing in a Liminal Space: Finding a scholarly home at the Institute for Thealogy and Deasophy by Patricia ‘Iolana”

The Heart of the Labyrinth by Daniel Cohen

This is how they tell the story.

They tell that the Minotaur was a monster, half man, half bull, who dwelt in the labyrinth. They tell that Theseus was a brave youth who determined to kill the Minotaur. They tell that Ariadne was a princess who fell in love with Theseus and gave him a thread to guide him. They tell that Theseus marched unfearingly into the labyrinth, braving the bellowing monster at its heart, and that he met the Minotaur and slew it. They tell that he emerged a great man who in later years won the love of many women and gloriously conquered many lands.

This is what they do not tell us. Continue reading “The Heart of the Labyrinth by Daniel Cohen”

Songs We Sing By Barbara Ardinger

Even though I’m a spiritual feminist—and a pretty cranky one—I like the old familiar Christmas carols. I’m listening to a CD of Christmas songs in my car. One of the songs on the CD has the line, “God is watching us from a distance.”

There’s a reason Plato banned music from the Republic. Music gets into our heads and it stays there. Not only the tune and the rhythm, but the lyrics, too. So what idea does this song plant in our heads? God is out there. Watching us like we’re being baby-sat From a distance. So if we should happen to fall down, maybe he’s only watching and he doesn’t have long-enough arms to reach down and pick us up.

Passive watching is a key difference, of course, between the standard-brand religions (also called the religions of the book) and the Goddess religion. They’ve got a transcendent god somewhere up in heaven, up in outer space, up on the mountain, sitting up in the judge’s throne. Keeping an eye on us so if we misbehave, he can slam some thunderbolts down at us. Continue reading “Songs We Sing By Barbara Ardinger”

KARAI KASANG: Rebirthing the Non-Patriarchal Image of God in Kachin Culture by Zau Sam

This  post is written in conjunction with the Feminist Ethics Course Dialogue project sponsored by Claremont School of Theology in the Claremont Lincoln University Consortium,  Claremont Graduate University, and directed by Grace Yia-Hei Kao.

Zau Sam is a first year MA student in Feminist Studies with interests in process theology, ecotheology, feminist and ecofeminist theologies.  He is ethnically Kachin (Jinghpaw) and from Myanmar (Burma). Zau is a minister at Yangon Kachin Baptist Church (in Myanmar) and Academic Dean of the Church-based Bible School there.  

Throughout our Feminist Ethics class, I have been thinking about Mary Daly’s concept of “Goddess” in her Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism.  I don’t believe that there is any sound theological argument that the term “God” itself represents patriarchy. Theologically speaking, if we study the Bible systematically, particularly Genesis 1:27, it is unquestionable that God is associated with both feminine and masculine imagery.  God is imaged as both mother and father. In contrast to this nature, Mary Daly does not merely seek to erase masculine imagery from the term “God,” but the word “God” itself.  However, “Goddess” without the masculine imagery can no longer be the Perfect Goddess, just as “God” without the image of the feminine also remains imperfect.

Continue reading “KARAI KASANG: Rebirthing the Non-Patriarchal Image of God in Kachin Culture by Zau Sam”

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling By Carol P. Christ

A founding mother of the study of women and religion and feminist thealogy, Carol has been active in social justice, anti-war, feminist, anti-nuclear, and environmental causes for many years.  Her books include  She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely used anthologiesWomanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions.

In my last blog I wrote that the image of God as a dominating other who enforces his will through violence–found in the Bible and in the Christian tradition up to the present day–is one of the reasons I do not choose to work within the Christian tradition.  To be fair, there is another image of God in Christian tradition that I continue to embrace.  “Love divine, all loves excelling” is the opening line of a well-known hymn by Charles WesleyCharles Hartshorne invoked these words and by implication the melody with which they are sung as expressing the feelings at the heart of the understanding of God that he wrote about in The Divine Relativity.

Love divine, all loves excelling also expresses my understanding of Goddess or as I sometimes write Goddess/God.  Though I am no longer a Christian, but rather an earth-based Goddess feminist, I freely admit that I learned about the love of God while singing in Christian churches.  Hartshorne wrote that he knew the love of God best through the love of his own mother, and I can say that this is true for me as well.  My mother was not perfect, and she did not understand why I wanted to go to graduate school, my feminism, or my adult political views, but I never doubted her love or my grandmothers’ love for me.  (I count myself lucky.  I know others did not have this experience.)  Like Hartshorne, I also learned about the love of God through the world that I always understood to be God’s body.  Running in fields and hills, swimming in the sea, standing under redwood trees, and encountering peacocks in my grandmother’s garden, I felt connected to a power greater than myself.   Continue reading “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling By Carol P. Christ”

Do White Feminists Have Ancestors? By Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ is a founding mother in the study of women and religion, feminist theology, women’s spirituality, and the Goddess movement.  She teaches in the Women’s Spirituality program at CIIS and through Ariadne Institute offers Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete. Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions.

Some years ago when I was speaking on ecofeminism, womanist theologian Karen Baker-Fletcher posed a question that went something like this:  What I am missing in your presentation is reference to ancestors.  For black women, this issue is critical.

Baker-Fletcher’s question provoked a process of thinking that continues to this day.  For example, I began to notice that when black women spoke at the American Academy of Religion, they often began by thanking their foremothers Delores Williams and Katie Cannon for beginning the womanist dialogue.  It is far rarer to hear a white woman thank Valerie Saiving, Mary Daly, Rosemary Radford Ruether, or Marija Gimbutas before her talk.

To the contrary, many white women take great pains to distance themselves from feminist foresisters.  I once heard a white woman Biblical scholar tell women students to do work on women in the Bible or other areas of religion without using the word feminist or placing their work in a female or feminist train of thought– if they wanted to get it published.  She was very proud that she had used this method and succeeded.  In other words, she was following in the footsteps of Mary Daly, Phyllis Trible, and Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza but acting as if she had invented the study of women and the Bible herself.  The reason for this, she freely admitted, was that male scholars who held power in her field would not respect her work if she used the “f” word. Continue reading “Do White Feminists Have Ancestors? By Carol P. Christ”

Exciting New Research on Matriarchal Societies By Carol P. Christ

The following is a guest post written by Carol Christ, Ph.D., a pioneer and founding mother of the Goddess, women’s spirituality, and feminist theology movements, and director of the Ariadne Institute.  She is also the author of multiple books including Rebirth of the Goddess.

Although there are some of us who disagree, the “party line” in the fields of Religious Studies and Archaeology—even among feminists– is that there never were any matriarchies and that claims about peaceful, matrifocal, sedentary, agricultural, Goddess-worshipping societies in Old Europe or elsewhere have been manufactured out of utopian longing.

I myself and most other English-speaking scholars defending Marija Gimbutas’s theories about Old Europe have studiously avoided the word “matriarchy” (speaking rather of “matrifocal, matrilineal, and matrilocal” societies) because the very word “matriarchy” conjures up the image of female-dominated societies where women ruled, waged wars, held men as slaves, and raped and abused men and boys. In fact, this fantasy tells us far more about patriarchy than about it does about matriarchy. Continue reading “Exciting New Research on Matriarchal Societies By Carol P. Christ”

Why am I a witch? By Zsuzsanna E. Budapest

Zsuzsanna E. Budapest is the founder of the Dianic tradition and the Women’s Spirituality Movement and is the author of seven books including Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries.

I was born to a witch mother, who happened to be an artist of sacred art, creating simple home altars that the peasants used in their “clean” room; used only on special occasions. We made our living from selling these Madonna’s with child, Triple Goddess altars. Goddess loving, primitive city folk and country folks bought them to pray in front of. Her art re-inspired an ancient pagan faith. Mother’s sacred art was legendary. Nobody ever bought an image of a male saint or even St. Joseph to pray in front of. When the hardships were upon Hungarians, they turned to the great Mother. Our pre-Christian Boldogassznony (Glad Woman).

All this happened during the so called Communists occupation, which lasted many decades. I grew up in a city that was filled with statues of the Goddesses and Dianads. With all the churches we have in Hungary, not one of them is dedicated to Jesus Christ, but they are dedicated to his mother Goddess, Mary and her relatives; St. Ann, St. Kathryn, St. Elizabeth (a homegrown saint), along with St. Margaret.

During the bombing, much of this art was destroyed, but enough of them remained to pass on to the new generation the message: We stand proud on our past, we knew once  beauty and civilization. Continue reading “Why am I a witch? By Zsuzsanna E. Budapest”

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