Priestess as Shamanic Path – Part 1 by Molly Remer

It is late autumn, 2009. I am 30 years old and pregnant with my third baby. He dies during the early Mollyblessingway 045part of my second trimester and I give birth to him in my bathroom, on my own with only my husband as witness. The blood comes, welling up over my fingers and spilling from my body in clots the size of grapefruits. I feel myself losing consciousness and am unable to distinguish whether I am fainting or dying. As my mom drives me to the emergency room, I lie on the back seat, humming: “Woman am I. spirit am I. I am the infinite within my soul. I have no beginning and I have no end. All this I am,” so that my husband and mother will know I am still alive.

I do not die.

This crisis in my life and the complicated and dark walk through grief is a spiritual catalyst for me. A turning point in my understanding of myself, my purpose, my identity, and my spirituality.

It is my 31st birthday. May 3rd. My baby’s due date. I go to the labyrinth in my front yard alone and walk through my labor with him, remembering, releasing, letting go of the stored up body memory of his pregnancy. I am not pregnant with him anymore. I have given birth. This pregnancy is over. I walk the labyrinth singing and when I emerge, I make a formal pledge, a dedication of service and commitment to the Goddess. I do not yet identify myself verbally as a priestess, but this is where the vow of my heart begins.

I do not know at the time, but less than two weeks later, I discover I am in fact pregnant with my daughter, my precious treasure of a rainbow baby girl who is born into my own hands on my living room floor the next winter. As I greet her, I cry, “you’re alive! You’re alive! There’s nothing wrong with me!” and feel a wild, sweet relief and painful joy like I have never experienced before.

Continue reading “Priestess as Shamanic Path – Part 1 by Molly Remer”

Humpty Had A Mother by Barbara Ardinger

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

From her mouth to our ears.

Humpty1You see that kid sitting over there on the wall? The one wearing the Jester’s hand-me-down suit? The Jester also gave him that funny name. That kid is looking for his father. That kid is my son.

My father the King is a tyrant, and he has more bastards than any other king in our nations history except for one other King, a long time ago. (Maybe these Kings try to populate the land all by themselves.) I’m one of his bastards. My mama travels with the Players, and after I was born, she traveled on and left me here. Oh, the Players come back every year, and she always tells me about her adventures, like when they went to visit that Prince up north, the one who was pretending to be crazy and got killed in a duel. My father the King lets his sons take the name Fitzroy, but us girls? What do we get? We’re lucky we get to live in the palace. That’s thanks to the Queen, who is kind and protective of all the King’s children, legitimate or not. I’m part of her court. A minuscule part, but she knows who I am and has answered my prayers several times. I’ll never rise in society. But I’m making plans for my son. Continue reading “Humpty Had A Mother by Barbara Ardinger”

What Does Mother’s Day Mean in a Patriarchal and Matricidal Culture? by Carol P. Christ

Carol Molivos by Andrea Sarris 2When we seek immortality or spiritual “rebirth,” are we not saying that there is something wrong with the “birth” that was given to us through the body of our mothers? In She Who Changes and in “Reading Plato’s Allegory of the Cave as Matricide and Theacide,” I asserted that our culture is “matricidal” because it is based on the assumption that life in the body in this world “just isn’t good enough.”

What is so wrong with the life that our mothers gave us that we must reject it in the name of a “higher” spiritual life? The answer of course death.

Can we love life without accepting death?

Can we love our mothers if we do not accept a life that ends in death? Continue reading “What Does Mother’s Day Mean in a Patriarchal and Matricidal Culture? by Carol P. Christ”

Dear Mum by Jassy Watson

jassyMother’s Day is coming up on the 8th of May here in Australia and while I don’t agree with the commercialization of it all, I do believe that motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society should be recognized and celebrated. The essence of this day is so much more than just giving a gift or saying Happy Mother’s Day, it is about truly letting our mums, whether they be maternal or just a mother figure in our life, know how much they are appreciated.

While celebrations commemorating and honouring motherhood date back to ancient times, it was not until the early 1900’s, through the efforts of Anna Jarvis that it became an official day of honour. Anna herself however also became resentful of the commercialization of the day after Hallmark started selling Mother’s Day cards in the 1920’s. She stood by her belief that it was a day to express gratitude, not one for profitable exploits and went as far as publicly protesting and boycotting Mother’s day to show her disgust at the companies who were taking advantage. Anna believed that we should be hand writing letters and cards and displaying our gratitude through actions, not by purchasing pre-made sentiments. I agree, mind you I have to say I don’t object to receiving wine and chocolates. Continue reading “Dear Mum by Jassy Watson”

Everyday Inanna by Molly

The spirit of adventure March 2016 130
runs through my veins
with the rich color
of crushed raspberry

May it always run so free
may it be blessed
and may I be reminded
of the courage and love
shown in small, wild adventures…

via Earthprayer

A friend once laughed to hear me describe picking wild raspberries as a “holy task,” but it is. A task earthy, embodied, mundane, and miraculous at once. Each year, I sweat and struggle, am scratched and stung, but I return home once again with my bounty.

Several years ago I wrote about my “Inanna’s descent” as I picked wild raspberries with my children:

As I returned, red-faced, sweating, and after having yelled much more than I should and having said several things I instantly regretted, I was reminded of something that I manage to forget every year: one definition of insanity is picking wild berries with a toddler. In fact, the closest I ever came to spanking one of my kids was during one of these idyllic romps through the brambles when my second son was three. While still involving some suffering, this ramble was easier since I had a nine and a half year old as well as the toddler. This time, my oldest son took my toddler daughter back inside and gave her a bath and put her in new clothes while I was still outside crawling under the deck in an effort to retrieve the shoes and the tiny antique ceramic bluebird that my girl tossed over the railing and into the thorns “for mama.”

While under the deck, I successfully fished out the shoes (could not find the tiny bird) and I found one more small handful of raspberries. Since the kids were all safely indoors, I took my sweaty and scratched up and irritable self and ran down to my sacred sanctuary in the woods.  I was thinking about how I was hot, tired, sweaty, sore, scratched, bloody, worn, and stained from what “should” have been a simple, fun little outing with my children and the above prayer came to my lips. I felt inspired by the idea that parenting involves uncountable numbers of small, wild adventures. I was no longer “just” a mom trying to find raspberries with her kids, I was a raspberry warrior. I braved brambles, swallowed irritations, battled bugs, sweated, swore, argued, struggled, crawled into scary spaces and over rough terrain, lost possessions and let go of the need to find them, and served as a rescuer of others. I gave my blood and body over to the task.

Like Inanna, I faced thorny gates and descended into darkness, crawled on my knees, and gave up things that I cherished, and in the process discovering things about myself, and then returned with a renewed sense of purpose and an awareness of my own strengths.

Now this year, I set out to make homemade marshmallow fondant icing for our daughter’s fifth birthday party. My January 2016 030goal: to make little fondant pandas for her birthday cake. I began with my two pounds of powdered sugar, my melted marshmallows, and my all-natural $12 jar of black food pigment. As I kneaded and kneaded the stiff and difficult dough, my journey became more arduous. I ended up yelling at my lovely children who were leaning over my shoulders to watch the adventure unfold. I said, “just get out of the kitchen!” to the birthday girl herself and I hollered for my now 12 year old to come peel the one year old away from my legs as he attempted to scale my body and reach my arms while my hands were covered with black-icing cement. I ranted and raved briefly about how this is an example of my own life-long tendency to overdo and overperform. Making these pandas wasn’t necessary. I do it to myself. Why do this to myself, I lamented over and over. What is the point? What am I teaching my kids—the cost of having fun and doing something nice and neat for each other is yelling and feel strained and tense? What didn’t I just buy lard-frosting, I lamented (meaning slimy hydrogenated oil frosting from the store). Why aren’t we eating Chicken McNuggets and a cake from Wal-Mart right now? Wouldn’t that be better than yelling at my kids and forcing myself to spend hours kneading panda dough? Shouldn’t we just eat frozen taquitos and watch TV all day and never, ever invite anyone to come to a birthday party ever again?

Then, I fell into a rhythm with the fondant. The sugar started to incorporate. The black started to knead in. I could see it coming together. This is a Hero’s Journey, I thought, this is an Inanna’s Descent. I heard the call to adventure, or fondant, as it were, and I answered. I set forth with my tools and my optimism. I was challenged on my journey. I came face to face with my own shadows. My fingernails became stained with effort. I cast away expectations and judgments. And, then I started to emerge, coming back from my trek, bearing my prize, carrying my treasure, offering my sweet elixir to my people. When I realized it was actually going to work, I started to feel a sense of exhilaration and glee. It is empowering to make your own dang fondant. I called out to my husband with a slightly manic bark of laughter, this is another one of those small adventures! Parenting involves hero’s journeys and Inanna’s Descents every day. What if I’d given up when the fondant got tough? Doesn’t that teach my kids to quit, to not bother, to not learn, experiment, do, and try? I thought about giving birth to my children—how the going gets difficult, how you feel like giving up, and then you emerge, tender and strong, a new human in your arms. I did that! I can do anything! My parenting is stronger, richer, and deeper from knowing that I can face difficult tasks and do them anyway, from knowing that I can draw upon my own strength, my own body wisdom, my own power, and succeed. I am a better person, a better mother, for having hit my own limit and then, incredibly, realized I could go beyond it, that I actually still had the will and courage left in me to do it. Those pandas, while less earth-shaking and life-changing than giving birth to children, were birthed from my own love and effort into my black-icing hands, and my willingness to do it myself, for the ones I love.

January 2016 036

I’ve said before that I’d rather be the mom that does cool and fun stuff with her kids and sometimes yells while doing it than a mom who doesn’t yell, but who doesn’t do cool stuff because she’s afraid she might yell or worse yet, because she doesn’t have any fun ideas. (Of course, an awesomer option, would be to be the mom who does cool stuff and also doesn’t yell, but I’m not holding my breath on that one!) After I constructed the first tiny panda and seeing how cute it was and how excited my daughter was about her cake, I felt such a sense of thrill and triumph. I thought that if I hadn’t decided to do it and make it easier on myself, sure, I wouldn’t have yelled, but I also wouldn’t have felt the empowering sense of having done exactly what I imagined doing. When you do hard things and encounter shadows and keep going and come out the other side, you are strengthened. You learn something about yourself. You realize your own capacities and power. If you are unwilling to embark, you stay safer, and maybe even are a nicer person, but you do not experience the overwhelming satisfaction of accomplishment. The pairing—the difficulty with the triumph—is what makes the journey worth it. This is it, I told my husband, this is The Return. I have returned to my people and I come bearing bears. It feels good to be home.

January 2016 055
Each child at her party made a panda to add to the cake.


Molly 180Molly 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 and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing. She is a priestess who holds MSW and M.Div degrees and recently finished her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of Womanrunes, Earthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit. She writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at her Woodspriestess blog. 

Body of Nature by Oxana Poberejnaia

oxanaIn the medieval European philosophy, woman’s body was seen as a vessel filled with sins, while man was regarded as a more spiritual being. This is one of the reasons why the concept of body is reassessed in feminist studies and why body is elevated in neo-paganism and Goddess spirituality. My fear is that nowadays body can be treated as an instrument for social advancement.


We still live in a society that is deeply hostile to women’s bodies. Alla Demidova, an actress I respect for her talent and her critical mind, did a programme of Christmas-related poetry. I could not listen to more than five minutes of it.

The poems have been all written by men. I am not saying that men do not have the right to write about birth. I am saying that our prevalent image of Christmas should not be based on male view alone. In this sense I much better like the Carol from “The Vicar of Dibley” (one of my favourite British comedy series, about a female Vicar), which describes the movement of baby Jesus through Mary’s birth canal.

Continue reading “Body of Nature by Oxana Poberejnaia”

Seeing Through My Nipples by Karen Moon

Karen 2006

This article is inspired from my Facebook group’s book study of Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, specifically Chapter 11: Retrieving a Sacred Sexuality.

I confess that I had never before heard of the term ‘seeing through your nipples.’ I continue to think on that. But I tell you what though; I do know the power of a nipple. And I can definitely say that it made me take one definitive path in life that has led me right here.

I’m going to take a moment and also ‘speak through my vulva’. I get that, too. It’s raw, and it’s honest. And I hope I don’t offend as it’s always so ‘touchy’ this talk of breastfeeding. But I am not meaning any of this in a judgmental way. I just wanted to speak of my experience personally. I wish I had had these stories before I became a mother so I could try them out, test them on my tongue and make a decision that worked for me without some of the trials I went through.

When I had my first child, way back in 2000, we were living in an apartment east of San Francisco in the rolling green hills. My mother-in-law came for the birth as my mom was on vacation somewhere in South America with my stepfather.

I had planned on breastfeeding, and my mother-in-law decided to ‘humor’ me. She is one of those tough New Jersey, Brooklyn born and raised women who have no idea how something like breastfeeding could actually work. She doubted the value of it. She wanted to see the can, the formula inside it, a nicely sanitized bottle and a chart with three hour intervals. And she was quite the persuasive lady. Continue reading “Seeing Through My Nipples by Karen Moon”

What Happens when Wonder Woman “Leans In” and Winds up in Traction? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

FreyhaufThey always say in writing – use a title and the first few sentences to grab attention and the reader will want to see what you have to say. By my title, you have probably ascertained that I have made reference to a couple things:  Wonder Woman, Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” and traction.  While lately, I have suffered from writer’s block and lack of time to work on my writing, I have also found myself in another place of suffering that has me in traction at least thrice weekly.

It is in that spirit that I reflect on my former status as the infallible wonder woman – the mom of 4, who works full time, teaches, writes, supports her family, is in the middle of writing a dissertation and who started this new year as my year to “Lean In” and really excel in my career  – to the current status of fallible woman, mom of 4 trying to stay afloat in all of her obligations, dealing with difficult sibling and teenage bantering as well as (thanks to a begging daughter spouting promises of responsibility) a Siberian Husky puppy and a resident 10 year-old Boston Terrier who now demonstrates the IMG_3984epitome of love-hate relationships, to prioritizing projects in order to keep everyone happy while I try to heal, attend physical therapy, and manage newfound pain and limitations.

In this post,  I offer my [brief] thoughts about aging and struggles when a body, probably abused through pushing too hard, but also enduring the normal wear and tear of aging, begins to betray you while trying to come to terms with to a new normal of limitation within your own being  –  “adapting” if you will – a skill that I believe women have come to master well.

Throughout life, we all face our shares of limitations and encounters with mortality.  Lately, it seems like I have encountered one thing after another.  However, as these events arise, life must inevitably move on – but, moving on does not mean ignoring what just occurred.  Rather, time needs to be taken to understand and appreciate each of these things – even if things do not go our way. Continue reading “What Happens when Wonder Woman “Leans In” and Winds up in Traction? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

The Palm of My Hand by Molly Remer

Molly 180“If there is one chant in the universe it is to create.”

–Chris Griscolm quoted in Nicole Christine, p. 25

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.

Source: Elizabeth Gilbert On Unlocking Creativity, Ideas As Viruses . News | OPB

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, 11890947_1658752111003671_3875428907499186114_ndismayed, 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 11209411_1658113891067493_624517776654095662_nthe 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 12309972_1684185268460355_7337326396732314515_owith 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 b2ap3_thumbnail_November-2015-031.JPGinches 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.

October 2015 034
(One of my all-time favorite fan photos–a rainy day traveling goddess picture, taken by my friend/SIL (this one is only an inch tall, but look how she calls in the waters of the world!)

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


Breastfeeding and the Abject? by Sara Frykenberg

The trappings of motherhood are all too powerful reminders that, as Catherine Keller reminds us in her book From a Broken Web, mother goddesses have to be continually slain for patriarchal heroes to be born. Indeed, she suggests that conceptions of Western selfhood are based upon this symbolic matricide—so it is no wonder that breast milk might be considered abject…

IMG_3269Once upon time formula companies and complicit medical experts launched a serious campaign to sell more formula, telling a generation of mothers that this product was both superior to breast milk and far better for baby and mother. Some were convinced, others found formula a good alternative to breast milk given their employment status, hormonal changes, their particular baby’s needs,personal choice, difficulty producing their own milk, or the like; and still others chose to breastfeed despite criticism, like my mother-in-law, who received scorn and derision from medical personnel as the only breastfeeding mother in the hospital in which she gave birth in 1970.

Despite this effort, science has finally “proven” that breast milk, when it is possible to give it, is better for your child than synthesized alternatives. Wow. Well, the politics of believability aside, women in the U.S. are now encouraged to trust their own bodies to feed their babies and give the breast a try. In fact, every new book, article, website and internet forum, birthing class teacher and hospital nurse will tell you that “breast is best,” repeatedly, for months, asking you about your breastfeeding plan, and urging you to keep trying until you and baby get it right. A counter-campaign, this vigorous encouragement is working to undo the attitudinal changes within popular culture that placed a stigma on the breastfeeding woman. Continue reading “Breastfeeding and the Abject? by Sara Frykenberg”

What If Jesus Had Gone to Daycare? by Katey Zeh

Screenshot 2015-12-08 09.47.34

As a maternal health advocate, I cherish the season of Advent as an opportunity to connect a beloved Christian story to the lives of women today who struggle to bring new life into the world under horrific circumstances. Every year I write something about Mary’s pregnancy and birth. In many ways she is no different from the “Marys” around the world who are young, poor, and unexpectedly pregnant, and who go on to give birth in unclean environments. I often pose the question to communities of faith, wasn’t the Christmas miracle equally that Mary survived the birth? How different would Jesus’s life have been if he’d never known his mother?

I continue asking these questions, but after my daughter was born last October, I have found my Advent reflections shifting to mirror my own parenting experiences. I began to think beyond Mary’s birth and into her early months of motherhood. One morning last December, after a particularly awful night’s sleep, I came downstairs to hear “Away in a Manger” playing on the radio. When it got to the line “But little Lord Jesus/No crying he makes,” I rolled my eyes dramatically and pictured Mary doing the same as she bounced a screaming baby Jesus in her arms. Continue reading “What If Jesus Had Gone to Daycare? by Katey Zeh”

Great Mother, Mercurial Child by Kate Brunner

Kate Brunner at Llyn MorwynionI am not a boy-mom. As much as I wish I was, I am just not. I gave birth to three wondrous little things; first, a girl and then later, boy-girl twins. I have a son, but even after years of shared life, he remains, in so many ways, a complete mystery to me.

With my eldest, I could feel she was a girl with absolute certainty from the moment we created her. Everything about a girl child guiding me across the initiatory threshold of motherhood felt perfect and holy to me. She was typical in her baby and toddler needs for the most part, but she also had a quiet independence about her that permeated our days together. She gave me the precious gift of simple confidence that comes sometimes much more hard-fought to first-time mothers. 

From early on in my second pregnancy though, my twins carried such a different energy with them as they grew, changing and stretching first my body and then my heart, mind and spirit past every preconceived limit I’d ever held. They were riotous, intense, restless, filled with joie de vive and an impatience to run free. They were, they are, in a word—wild. They shook down the tower of my confident motherhood, bursting into life, huge and hungry, literally clawing at my breasts for the sustenance they craved from me. They challenged me in labor, in infancy, in toddlerhood, and still.

But as they’ve grown older, the emphasis has become less on the survival of two small creatures the same age and more on nurturing the development of two separate beings. I’ve felt the bond with my younger daughter become more intimate, strengthened by our shared femininity. At the same time, a sense of helplessness sometimes steals over me as I witness the gulf that widens between me and my son. I am not a boy-mom. How, I find myself praying, does a girl-mom properly mother a boy?

Continue reading “Great Mother, Mercurial Child by Kate Brunner”

All We Need to Make Magic by Molly

November 2015 059
Photo taken by my 12 year old son this month.

“The tools are unimportant; we have all we need to make magic: our bodies, our breath, our voices, each other.”


As November drew to a rainy close, we had a small family full moon ritual on our back deck and incorporated a simple gratitude ritual into it. The sky was overcast so we couldn’t actually see the moon, but my four-year-old daughter wanted to get out glow sticks left over from Halloween. We had so much fun dancing around with them and making patterns together in the dark night. We sang a chant I recently made up:

Hallowed evening
Hallowed night
We dance in the shadows
We offer our light.

We did a simple gratitude practice by placing corn kernels in a jar, one for each thing we are grateful for from the past month. We started out slowly and taking turns and then we sped up and the gratitude offerings came tumbling out, over one another. Even the one-year-old added corn, rapidly yet with great concentration to make it actually go in the jar. We drummed and called out, “We are ALIVE! We are GRATEFUL! We are POWERFUL! We are CREATIVE!” When we finally decided to close our ritual and go back inside, the moon peeked out from behind the clouds to briefly say hello and it felt like a blessing on the magic we’d just created together.

As we went back inside, I felt relaxed, happy, and connected. For being something very simple, not particularly pre-planned, and semi-chaotic, it felt like one of our deepest and most connected personal family rituals. The quote above from Starhawk floated back into my mind and I reflected that when I try “too hard” to get things ready for a perfect ritual, I often end up feeling a disappointed. Sometimes I feel like giving up on holding ceremonies with my children entirely. Last year, as we prepared to walk our Winter Solstice Spiral, the baby had a poopy diaper that extended up his back. I often end up snapping critically at whomever isn’t doing it “right.” My boys make fart jokes. My husband gives long-suffering sighs. Our circle looks more like a lopsided peanut. Our humming together discordant and off-key. As we lie on the ground together on the Spring Equinox to do our “Earth Listening” practice together, the kids wiggle and fight, pushing one another off the blanket and exclaiming in loud voices so no one can hear what we’re listening for. We listen to a shamanic drumming CD, but the only one to reach a trance state is the baby as I pace back and forth with him in a baby carrier. The four year old ends up crying because she doesn’t see anything and she wanted to see something cool. Martyrpriestess emerges to complain that she doesn’t know why she even bothers trying to do nice things for anyone if this is how you’re all going to act.

I recently finished reading Under Her Wings: The Making of a Magdalene, by Nicole Christine. A theme running November 2015 007through the book was the concept of “As Above, So Below and As Within, So Without.” I read this book as part of my research for my dissertation about contemporary priestessing and as I read, I kept thinking, I want to hear from the Mamapriestesses, from the Hearth Priestesses! Where are the other practicing priestesses with children at home? I noticed in Christine’s book that the bulk of her work took place after her children were grown and, to my mind, she also had to distance or separate from her children and her relationships in order to fully embrace her priestess self. I notice in my reading and my research group that many women seem to come to priestess work when the intensive stage of motherhood has passed, or they do not have children. Is there a very good reason why temple priestesses were “virgins” and village wise women were crones? Where does the Mamapriestess fit?

As I read Christine’s book and witnessed her intensive self-exploration, discovery, and personal ceremonies and journeys, I realized that in many ways personal exploration feels like a luxury I don’t have at this point in my parenting life. How do we balance our inner journeys with our outer processes? Christine references having to step aside and be somewhat aloof or unavailable to let inner processes and understandings develop, since our inner journeys may become significantly bogged down in groups by interpersonal relationships, dramas, venting, chatting, and so forth. For me, this distance for inner process exploration isn’t possible in the immersive stage of life as a mother. And, yet, I also know in my bones that I’m not meant to give it up. How does the As Within and the So Without actually work?

I return to our Full Moon gratitude ritual. My oldest son, 12, whose height is rapidly extending into manhood, totes his tiny brother on one hip with practiced ease, offering his own glow stick and helping my little one hold his into the air. He expresses gratitude for the fun he’s been having this month with his new video game and, “I’m grateful for you for doing things like this with us, Mom.”

My second son, 9, my bravest child, crawls willingly into the darkness under the deck to retrieve lost glow sticks, poked purposefully down porch cracks by the one year old. He returns, triumphant, holding the bundle of sticks aloft.

My daughter, nearly five, tips her face back, looking up at me with eyes alight, “I’m glad to be a Goddess Girl!” she calls out…

November 2015 001

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 ordained priestess who holds MSW and M.Div degrees and she is currently writing 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. 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 jewelry, figurines, and goddess pendants at Brigid’s Grove.

Note: If you have children at home, I’d love to hear from you about the Mamapriestess topic! If you do not have children by choice, how does this play into your spiritual work? If you do not have children and that is not by choice, how does this play into your spiritual work?

Additional resources:

Story Woman by Molly

mollyatpark“Human connections are deeply nurtured in the field of shared story.” –Jean Houston

 “The universe of made of stories, not of atoms.”  –Muriel Rukeyser

This month I went searching for a quote for one of my Red Tent Initiation students. She had shared some powerful reflections about the vulnerability required to reveal our personal stories—there can be a lot of risk, sometimes shame, and more, bound up in our ability to uncover ourselves and speak our truth. What I wanted to communicate with her was the idea that in sharing our stories, including the painful pieces, we free other women to do the same. Our courage to be vulnerable, to be naked, to be flawed, to experiment with ideas, concepts, or ways of being gives permission for other people to do the same.

In 2012, I went to a dancing workshop at Gaea Goddess Gathering. The facilitator mentioned that when facilitating ritual, you have to be willing to look a little ridiculous yourself, have to be willing to risk going a little “over the top” yourself, because in so doing you liberate the other participants—“if she can take that risk and look a little goofy doing so, maybe it is okay for me to do it too.”

After a lot of digging around, I found the quote! I should have known it was from one of my favorite authors and sister FAR blogger, Carol Christ, who said:

“When one woman puts her experiences into words, another woman who has kept silent, afraid of what others will think, can find validation. And when the second woman says aloud, ‘yes, that was my experience too,’ the first woman loses some of her fear.”

This is part of what makes Red Tent Circles so powerful. When women are willing to dig into the questions, activities, and processes, to turn them over, to explore how they work in their own lives…they lose some of the fear and they encourage others to lose their fear too. Continue reading “Story Woman by Molly”

Restoring Ourselves to Ceremony: Red Tent Circles, by Molly

April 2015 103
At a Red Tent Circle this spring.

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 Heaven facilitator 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”

Um… Happy Mother’s Day? By Natalie Weaver

Natalie Weaver editedIn the Smithsonian Museum of American History, there is an exhibit on food and the way it has changed on the American table over the years.  It is an interesting exhibit for a number of reasons.  It shows, for example, a reproduction of Julia Child’s kitchen.  It shows the advent of T.V. trays and Swanson frozen dinners.  It shows when wine became a staple beverage.  And, there is one of the most entertaining images in all of Washington, D.C. …

In what I believe was a 70s era campaign to popularize frozen food, there is a magazine article featuring a woman on the floor, cleaning up a milky cereal mess. The caption above her reads, “My favorite part of breakfast is when it is over.”  At first, I thought the woman had vomited her food, emphasizing (if not also explaining) the point that she hates breakfast.  Then, I noticed the dejected-looking child in a highchair, scowling at her mother, down on the ground, managing what was in fact a spill.  In the center panel, a mother looks on at her frowning child, who is this time refusing to eat lunch.   In the third and final panel, a miserable child now rejects dinner, but mom, still working the situation, observes, “Dinner isn’t so bad because it is almost over.”  One understands that soon the unhappy little darling will be in bed, and mom won’t have to do this again until tomorrow. Continue reading “Um… Happy Mother’s Day? By Natalie Weaver”

Winter Solstice Meditation by Molly

December 2014 022When the wheel of the year turns towards fall, I always feel the call to retreat, to cocoon, to pull away. I also feel the urge for fall de-cluttering—my eyes cast about the house for things to unload, get rid of, to cast away. I also search my calendar for those things which can be eliminated, trimmed down, cut back on. I think it is the inexorable approach of the winter holiday season that prompts this desire to withdraw, as well as the natural rhythm of the earth which so clearly says: let things go, it is almost time to hibernate.

Late autumn and the shift toward winter is a time of discernment. A time to choose. A time to notice that which has not made it through the summer’s heat and thus needs to be pruned away. In this time of the year, we both recognize the harvest of our labors and that which needs to be released or even sacrificed as we sense the promise of the new year to come. Continue reading “Winter Solstice Meditation by Molly”

Mother Blessings and the Power of Ritual by Molly

Mollyblessingway 116You are the
most powerful


Close to my heart.

You continue to
exponentially more amazing.

Always giving
others the step UP.

Force of the cosmos
connecting the Web

You are.

Thank you.



Last week, my friend sat on the floor during my mother blessing ceremony and wrote the above poem for me. When she gave it to me she said, “I’m not like you, I don’t write things and share them on the internet.” It was very powerful to receive the gift of written word from someone who does not often write, but who knows how deeply writing speaks to me.  Continue reading “Mother Blessings and the Power of Ritual by Molly”

One Year After Giving Birth- My Story by Valentina Khan

valantina I sat at the bottom of my stairs exhausted, lost, not knowing what day it was or rather not really caring what day it was. I was the overtired mother, who was still getting the knack of breastfeeding around the clock. Panicking each and every time I heard the baby cry. As soon as I heard his cries, I would think to myself, hurry and grab the boppy, the burb cloth, the iPhone so I could click on the breastfeeding app! Hurry, hurry, hurry….!

My first child was born in March 2013. I thought I prepared myself for his birth. The diapers were stacked, the crib was pristine, his clothes were neatly arranged, the stroller was the best on the market, what else could being a mom be about? This was my naïveté as I entered motherhood at probably not the best time in my life (but when is?). I was in my last year of grad school at the Claremont School of Theology, I also had on my to-do list to take the bar exam and become a licensed attorney should I ever decide to practice, and because my fitness hobby turned into a “job” over the last 4 years, the same year my son was born, my husband and I opened my first brick and motor business- UpLift- body, life, community. Too much too soon? Yes, indeed. Crazy? Absolutely.

Continue reading “One Year After Giving Birth- My Story by Valentina Khan”

A Mother Not Feeling Guilty by Natalie Weaver

Natalie editedLast Tuesday marked my fourth day home in over two months. I was researching over the summer in Europe. When I was not working, I was climbing up castle ruins or carrying groceries or creatively managing my children’s laundry with very modest facilities at my disposal. Unlike all of my other summer colleagues, I had elected to bring my children with me, so my summer was work intensive in both the professional and parental capacities.

Arriving home from our journey late in the evening Friday, we went straight to bed. But, the following day, I began again the task of laundering and grocery-ing, now made more mundane by the absence of castles to climb. It was a good thing that the jet lag woke me around 4am. For, I needed to buy juice boxes, sandwich bags, cookie treats, fruit, and so on for lunch the following week. I ran out in between loads, remembering also that we still needed to eat over the weekend. I bought Stouffers. Then, still between loads, I began the tedious task of labeling individual crayons, markers, glue sticks, safety scissors, tape roles, pencil packs, and the like. Somewhere in all that, I read an addendum to the supply list that said the kids needed headphones for their computer work. So, I threw another load in the washer and ran back to the store. About 5 pm, I began to feel really tired, but that is also when I discovered that the uniform pants I had purchased didn’t fit. I began scouring last year’s batch for a temporary fix. Then, I labeled the gym shirts, got the lasagna out of the oven, fed everyone, cleaned up, and readied the lot for bed. That was a Saturday. Continue reading “A Mother Not Feeling Guilty by Natalie Weaver”

Family Ties by amina wadud

amina 2014 - croppedSome of you may be familiar with the time honored curse: “May you grow up to have a child exactly like you…”? I know, no one is exactly alike, but the point is, some of what we put our parents through will likely be revisited upon us if/when we become parents. And so it is, I have joked with my children time and again, “I wonder where you got THAT from?”

Of my five children the one most like me is my middle daughter. Of course from my perspective her version is multiplied exponentially. Take her vegetarian beginnings. When she was 10 years and 10 months old she made the pronouncement that she would no longer eat slaughtered animals. As she was too young to have any kitchen responsibilities besides a weekly dish-washing assignment along with her siblings, I begged her father to intervene on my behalf. He managed to get her to agree to wait until she was older. 2 months later, she had a birthday. Now she was older. She has been a vegetarian ever since! Continue reading “Family Ties by amina wadud”

Women are like countries: both need to fight hard for independence by Oxana Poberejnaia

oxanaRita M. Gross in her book Buddhism After Patriarchy presents portraits of prominent women from Buddhist history. Some stories are extraordinary for the brutal details they contain. For example, Yeshe Tsogyel was raped, kidnapped and beaten by her suitors to the point that her back was a bloody pulp. She subsequently escaped to meditate in a cave.

In a patriarchal society, religious fervour is not recommended for women. Submission and obedience – yes. The life of an ascetic, a wanderer or a hermit – no. A son is relatively free to pursue religious activities (especially if he is one of the younger children and the issue of inheritance is sorted out). However, all daughters are better off tucked into a marriage. Supporting your husband and sons on their spiritual path – yes. Independent striving away from family life – no. Continue reading “Women are like countries: both need to fight hard for independence by Oxana Poberejnaia”

Love Facing by Safa Plenty

aqua and red

This piece titled, ‘Love Facing’ is a meditation on the intergenerational dynamics of family violence and our need to move beyond labels in order to understand the complexities of American violence. It begins with a narrative critic of spanking as a corrective measure and its propensity to escalate into other forms of violence. The poem continues with reflection on how male privilege and power impact the disempowerment of women and girls. It signals forgiveness as a possible means of understanding intergenerational trauma and stress, however.  The piece advocates an understanding of male privilege and dynamics of power and control, as a means of empowering women and children, affected by family violence. Furthermore, it examines our societies failure to raise healthy men and boys, who are comfortable openly expressing their emotions. In the end, the poem signals our human need for unconditional love, respect, and honor and need for religious and spiritual practice imbued with compassion, mercy, and kindness, or feminine attributes of the Divine.

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” ― Jimi Hendrix

Continue reading “Love Facing by Safa Plenty”

Mother’s Day Wish: “Don’t take me backwards or on a detour” by Dawn Morais Webster

Dawn Morais Webster, the Pope off to his summer palace, Castel Gandolfo. He tells the world he will now become just a “humble pilgrim.”

Mother’s Day schmaltz in the media and in our malls makes me wonder if others struggle with some of the mixture of deep gratitude—and impatience I feel.

So I asked a few friends if they would tell me what they wished for most as mothers.   Not surprisingly, all wanted their children to know how much they would always be loved, no matter how their lives unfolded. A few went a little further.

Mika K. is the mother of four beautiful children. Over the last couple of years, in addition to caring for her older children, she has nursed the youngest through a near catastrophic health crisis. That crisis left him with multiple disabilities. She continues to keep abreast of the latest in neuroplasticity and neuromuscular therapies that might help further her child’s potential to lead an independent life.

Mika and kids
Mika and kids

Mika says: “My wish, these past few Mother’s Days, has been to NOT be Mom for a day. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE my kids, LOVE my family, but some days, I am so wrapped up in being Mom that I lose sight of the woman I was before I was Mom. And I don’t just want a “day off.” Here’s how I feel: I feel like I’m running a race and I don’t know how long it is – 5K? 10K? Or is the finish line around the corner?  So I don’t know how to pace myself. And I’m carrying a backpack filled with rocks. I appreciate the people on the sidelines cheering me on, and I appreciate the people who tell me to stop and rest. But what I don’t have – and would like – is for someone to carry that backpack for a couple of miles. Or carry ME for a couple miles! Right now, I can take a day off, but that just means I have more to do tomorrow.  And I have to be confident that if someone does carry my backpack (or me) that they stay on the course. If they show me a better path – awesome! But don’t take me backwards or on a detour. Does that make sense?” Continue reading “Mother’s Day Wish: “Don’t take me backwards or on a detour” by Dawn Morais Webster”

Feminist Musings on Mother’s Day.

photo1Happy Mother’s Day!

Yes, I said it, but Mother’s Day invokes within me a certain hesitancy. Now before you say, “Well that’s because you don’t have children of your own so you don’t understand what it is like to be a mother or because your relationship with your own mother is awful, you hate the day.” I would respond that that is an unfair assessment of the situation. First, Mother’s Day doesn’t bother me because I don’t have children. (By the way, I find the idea that I don’t truly understand love or commitment and/or motherhood because I don’t have kids unbelievably condescending. Yes, motherhood can give one gifts and insights but those can also come from other areas of one’s life and/or other experiences.) I am also not hesitant about Mother’s Day because my mother and I have an awful relationship.  We don’t. In fact, it is quite good.

Rather, Mother’s Day bothers me for three reasons. First, it often seems fake. People seem to go through the motions because it is expected and not because they sincerely want to honor their mothers. Second, I often wonder if Mother’s Day isn’t just some consumer-driven, capitalist, patriarchal creation asking us to buy expensive cards and “remember” all our mothers have done for us this one very special day of year.

Third, what are we celebrating about mothers?  Most of the cards at the store and advertisements on television (if we would take them as research on what the general sentiments on Mother’s Day are) honor a mother’s love, support, guidance and acknowledge the child’s needs.  They thank mothers for all they do.  Continue reading “Feminist Musings on Mother’s Day.”

A Family Conceived, Lost, and Resurrected by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina and SarahGood Friday marks the second anniversary of one of the most significant dates in my life – the adoption of my daughter, Baby S – who by the way is no longer a baby (she will be turning 5 this May).  On Easter Sunday, 2012 I wrote about the resurrection of my family.  In the last few years that I have been blogging, this is by far my favorite post and I have been so grateful for the many wonderful responses I have received from it.  With today being Good Friday, it seems an appropriate time to revisit this incredible experience and once again, give thanks for the blessings in my life.  Continue reading “A Family Conceived, Lost, and Resurrected by Gina Messina-Dysert”

Sanctuary of Echoes by Natalie Weaver

Natalie WeaverTomorrow I will have the unique opportunity to hear my son recite a poem I wrote before his class. The students were invited to select a poem to memorize and perform along with props or costumes as suited the material. The only conditions were that the poem be a minimum of twelve lines, published in a book, and in good taste. A poorly chosen poem, he said, would result in perpetual detention.

I was excited when he expressed enthusiasm for the assignment. I asked him what kind of poem he would like to learn. Something humorous? Something dramatic? Something tragic? Something about love? War? I read to him first those famous opening words of Virgil’s Aeneid: Arma virumque cano (I sing of arms and a man…). I thought surely he would be intrigued by the rhythm and the promise of such a tale. He asked for some other options, so I presented favorites from the Medieval Hebrew canon. I taught him Adon Olam, since he was curious about learning poetry in a foreign language. He liked it quite a bit and learned how to pronounce the Hebrew, but this was not his choice. I pulled out selections from Catullus’ eulogies for his brother. I searched Sappho for something playful. We read more contemporary options from the usual suspects in an anthology of poetry that I had used in a college course: Frost, Dickinson, Poe. I even introduced him to the seductive “duende” of the great early 20th century Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca in his Poet in New York.

Continue reading “Sanctuary of Echoes by Natalie Weaver”

“Inheriting Our Mother’s Gardens”: Trans/lating, Trans/planting and Trans/forming Life by Sara Frykenberg

Sara FrykenbergThis Friday, March 7, 2014, the Women’s Caucus (WC) of the American Academy of Religion, Western Region will be hosting its annual “Professional Development Panel and Workshop” in Los Angeles, CA.  During the workshop panelists and attendees will consider what ‘gardens’ we have grown in, who our ‘mothers’ are and how this impacts what we bring to the table or what ‘gifts’ we bring to the table when dialoging with and across differences.  Our title and praxis at this event is also meant to honor our feminist mothers.  Specifically I would like to recognize and honor Letty Russel, Katie Geneva Cannon, Kwok Pui Lan and Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz.  Among many other accomplishments, these women edited the 1988 volume entitled: Inheriting Our Mothers’ Gardens: Feminist Theology in Third World Perspective.  This book helps to give voice to women marginalized within feminist theological discourses and is the inspiration for our panel’s title this year. 

Preparing for this panel, I reflected that many of those who contribute to this blog have written about their mothers (biological or non-biological) and mothering.  (Most recently I found myself inspired by Marie Cartier’s meditation on aging, health, her mother and religion.)  I realized that I have said very little about my own mom; my mom, who I am so like, who I look like, and who is both my mother and my friend.  I have definitely ‘inherited her garden,’ so to speak: flowers, herbs, weeds, rocks and all.  So, momma, this blog is for you.

Continue reading ““Inheriting Our Mother’s Gardens”: Trans/lating, Trans/planting and Trans/forming Life by Sara Frykenberg”

Encountering “the Change” as a Personal Exodus and Liberation by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Freyhauf, Durham, Gender, John Carroll, Menopause, Celebration, ExodusThe story of Exodus, through a liberation lens, has different meanings depending on the person’s experience in life.  I recently experienced my own kind of liberation, a freedom from decades old enslavement.  Through this realization, I celebrated with many other women with the reminder – you are not alone!

The story of the Exodus is a familiar one. It is a text of oppression, journey, and freedom – a freedom that finds us in new surroundings, a place of revelation and transformation.  Many have written about the Exodus text found in the Hebrew Scriptures from different ideological lenses and social locations.  For me, I propose to apply this to menopause (also known as the “change”).

It is not too far fetched to look at menopause as a transformative event in a woman’s life.  For a woman like me, who struggled with the disease Endometriosis since my teen years, menopause it is not only transformative, but liberative.  The only effective treatment for this disease (for me) was the injections of Lupron Depot that put my body in “medical menopause.” Because of that experience,  I felt like my  body was being liberated from disease – this disease that debilitated me monthly or, at the very least, caused me tremendous pain.

A few weeks ago, I had the experience of attending a musical with a group of friends. I am not in the habit of blogging about my personal life, but I cannot help but wonder if my story and experience might help another.  The problem about “the change” is that we joke about it and usually face it with unbelievable dread.  I propose to look at the “change” as a positive – a new beginning, with a reminder to all women out there – you are not alone!

I received this revelation several months after my surgery at a musical named – you guessed it – Menopause!  What started out as a much needed get together of friends turned into an awakening and celebration. Something that has me celebrating the change – even as I fan myself through the hot flashes (I prefer “personal summers”), tear-up during emotional commercials for no reason (something I haven’t experienced since pregnancy), clinching my teeth due to a quick-igniting temper that causes me to exercise remarkable restrain (and you thought patience was a gift to children and teens), to searching every cabinet for that holy grail of comfort food – chocolate.  As I reflected on that evening, it occurred to me that I was living my own exodus story and the very thing that enslaved me can no longer hurt me – I am now free – renewed and emerged, but still in a strange wilderness that holds different challenges. Continue reading “Encountering “the Change” as a Personal Exodus and Liberation by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”


carol-christThe 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.

In the context of feminist theory, the charge of “essentialism” is used to criticize theories which speak of woman as opposed to man or feminine as opposed to masculine. Continue reading “IS IT ESSENTIALIST TO SPEAK OF EARTH AS OUR MOTHER? by Carol P. Christ”

%d bloggers like this: