The Motomami Theology: “Segundo chingarte, lo primero Dios.”* Part I

*“God comes first. Fuc*king you, a close second.”

I went to Rosalía’s promotional concert for the Motomami album in Boston a month ago. I knew some songs from her 2018 album El Mal Querer (Bad Love), a musical masterpiece. That album made Rosalía a visible star in the constellation of musicians and composers in Hispano-American mainstream music. The album has a particular story that Wikipedia explains very well:

The album was written by Rosalía and co-produced with El Guincho on an initial low budget as an independent artist. Presented as experimental and conceptual, revolving around a toxic relationship, the album was inspired by the anonymous 13th-century Occitan novel Flamenca. Therefore, every song on the album is conceived as a chapter of the book. It served as the singer’s baccalaureate project, graduating from Catalonia College of Music with honors. [Read more here]

In El Mal Querer, Rosalía mixed electronics, contemporary dances and rhythms, and traditional flamenco sounds and movements in a beautiful musical and visual collage. Some musically conservative audiences characterized the album as the “profanation” of traditional flamenco music, but there’s no doubt that Rosalía brought the genre back to life and made it mainstream again.

Continue reading “The Motomami Theology: “Segundo chingarte, lo primero Dios.”* Part I”

From the Archives: Lessons from Candide by Barbara Ardinger

Moderator’s note: This marvelous FAR site has been running for 10 years and has had more than 3,600 posts in that time. There are so many treasures that have been posted in this decade that they tend to get lost in the archives. We have created this column so that we can all revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted August 5, 2018. You can visit the original post here to see the comments.

Candide, ou l’Optimisme (in English, Candide, or Optimism) is a satirical, picaresque novel published in 1759 by François-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire, who was possibly the smartest author of the Age of Enlightenment…but he annoyed so many courtiers and public officials that he was forever traveling around Europe to get away from their threats of arrest and bodily harm. A picaresque novel is an adventure novel with a clever, tricky hero who somehow survives and makes us like him. Voltaire wrote his novel primarily to criticize the optimism of the German writer Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who said that because God is always benevolent, everything that happens is always for the best. This presumably includes the bloody Seven Years War (Protestant vs. Catholic, fought mostly in Germany and France) and the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which occurs both in Lisbon and in the novel. Even though Voltaire was accused of blasphemy and heresy, among his other sins and crimes, Candide was enormously popular throughout Europe, a popularity that continues to this day.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Lessons from Candide by Barbara Ardinger”

Sappho in a Locrian Mode by Carolyn Lee Boyd


The world Sappho envisions in her poetry is one with many lessons for us in the 21st century about how to live. While ancient Greek society, especially in later eras, was deeply misogynistic and women had few rights, Sappho’s words evoke a perspective in which goddesses, especially Aphrodite, are revered and the connection of worshippers to goddesses is intimate, art created by women is celebrated, women’s relationships are central to one’s well being, and love and sensuality are enjoyed.

But words only tell part of the story. Sappho’s poetry was meant to be sung, and while we can’t hear the songs she wrote, I think it is interesting to note that Anne Carson, in her 2003 translation “If Not, Winter” says that Sappho is credited with inventing the Locrian musical mode.  A mode is a scale in which the progression of notes follows a set pattern of whole and half notes. We are all familiar with the major mode that makes music sound happy (Happy Birthday song) and the natural minor mode that we use for sad music (House of the Rising Sun). But there are many other modes, and the Locrian mode is one of them. (just a note: the Locrian mode is the same as the Greek Mixolydian mode and completely different from the modern Mixolydian mode, just to be confusing.)

Continue reading “Sappho in a Locrian Mode by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

Looking Again at The Magic Flute by Barbara Ardinger

I have just spent a week watching four productions of Mozart and Schikaneder’s 1791 opera. Four in a row! Now we all know that I adore musical theater more than almost anything else in the world. Operetta. Nelson and Jeanette. Fred and Ginger. Broadway musicals (but not the movies made from them that rewrote them completely). But opera?? Certainly not Italian opera seria. It’s just too loud. Besides, why isn’t La Boheme sung in French? Carmen in Spanish? Madame Butterfly in Japanese? Aida in Egyptian? Turandot in Chinese?

All right—yes, these are ridiculous questions. I’ve seen La Boheme and Turandot live. I’ve seen The Magic Flute live two or three times. Mozart is my favorite classical composer. Born in Salzburg (which was then part of the Holy Roman Empire and now is the site of an annual Mozart festival), he began composing at age five, and he and his sister Nannerl toured the courts of 18th-century Europe and performed before Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. (BTW, while much of his story is told in the play and film Amadeus, Mozart was not murdered by Salieri. He died from a highly contagious miliary fever.)

Continue reading “Looking Again at The Magic Flute by Barbara Ardinger”

Singing Is a Sacred Power by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Carolyn Lee Boyd

A moss-soft ballad sung from a mountain top to the sunrise.  A parent’s lullaby to soothe a newborn to sleep. Thousands of voices rising together to banish injustice from our planet. A single wavering melody infusing inspiration into a moment of despair. Whenever we open our mouths to sing, no matter how tuneful or discordant our song, we have instant access to a well of power to transform ourselves and others.

Over the years, I’ve been amazed at how often singing denotes spiritual power in myths and stories about goddesses and holy women from across the globe and throughout time. These are just a few examples from around the world. You may know others.

Continue reading “Singing Is a Sacred Power by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

The Healing Spirit of Sacred Play by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Many years ago I participated in seasonal, Goddess-focused celebrations featuring handmade decorations, including some by enormously talented artists who attended.  One year, our spring fete was graced with gorgeous paintings, intricately woven and colorful fabric art, sensuous sculptures, and exquisitely painted eggs. I brought a Peeps diorama depicting the reunion of Demeter and Persephone.  (For anyone wondering, Peeps are brightly colored marshmallows in the shape of bunnies, chicks and other shapes and are sometimes made into dioramas for contests in schools and libraries.) The reason I brought the diorama was partly because, though my own artistic talent is somewhere between extremely questionable and non-existent, I thought people might enjoy a little bit of whimsy to honor spring’s exuberance. In addition, however, I was  also going through a time of great personal and professional stress and my soul deeply needed to be creative with just a little outrageous fun. 

Demeter and Persephone diorama

To recap the story, Persephone had been abducted by Hades and taken to the Underworld. Her mother, Demeter, made the Earth barren until the gods agreed to Persephone’s release. Demeter is the purple Peep and Persephone is yellow, and they are about to be reunited. Hades is pinkly enraged as he stands at the gateway to Hades. Gummi bears are romping while green humans dance in a circle. Snow is on the trees to show that winter is giving way to spring as Demeter returns abundance to the world.

Continue reading “The Healing Spirit of Sacred Play by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

Dancing for Forgiveness and Reconciliation – Part Two By Laura Shannon

In Part One of this article, I described dancing Jewish, Romani, and Armenian dances for forgiveness and reconciliation with groups in Germany and all over the world. I also offered danced rituals of remembrance at former concentration camps and other places scarred by the atrocities of war.
I went to camps including Dachau and Auschwitz, to genocide memorials and sites of massacre throughout Eastern Europe, in Australia, and the Americas. At first, my prayers were private: I brought flowers, lit candles, danced my grief, and spent time in meditation. I tried to visualise the prisoners in those places, sending them my deep sorrow and regret back through time. I wanted to let them know that they are remembered and mourned by people from their future. My prayers contained a fervent apology as well as a soul commitment to do my part in this lifetime to overcome prejudice and stand for peace.
In time I invited others to dance with me for healing and peace. We danced at former camps in Germany, including Bad Gandersheim, a subcamp of Buchenwald, and on many occasions in Steyerberg, a former prison camp and forced-labour munitions factory which is now the site of an intentional community called Lebensgarten (‘Garden of Life’), a centre for permaculture, non-violent communication, and other ecologically and spiritually oriented ways of living.

Continue reading “Dancing for Forgiveness and Reconciliation – Part Two By Laura Shannon”

The Sacred HU by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

Sing to the LORD, all you godly ones! Praise his holy name.
Psalm 30:4 (New Living Translation)

Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and I will sing praises unto thy name.
2 Sam 22:50

Let them praise the name of the LORD: for this name alone is excellent.
Psalm 148:13

The wording of these passages is very odd. After all, why is God’s name always being praised? It’s like saying to someone, “you must be a wonderful person because you have a lovely name,” or “the LORD must be great because ‘he’ {sigh} has such a great name.” Actually though, as I began to go deeper into my own personal practices of spirit work and chanting, I found that there is a profound truth to this use of praise. Most, if not all, of the ancient names of deities are made up of power syllables. By this I mean certain sounds that have a vibrational essence which not only resonate within our bodies but connect us with all the vibrations that surround us. Sounds made by these syllables are a bridge between worlds created by our breath.

Mystically speaking we could say that the breath of creation and our own breath interfuse. We can experience this through the vibration of power syllables. The most common syllables in the west are familiar ones – AL LA HA AH YA LO WAH and the mighty HU. Think of all the names of divinity that can be created by experimenting with these syllables. Continue reading “The Sacred HU by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”

Say it with Music by Esther Nelson

Daniel Deitrich, a worship leader in South Bend City Church, a “Jesus-centered community” in South Bend, Indiana, isn’t the first evangelical Christian to go up against fellow evangelical Christians who support the current U.S. president.  Perhaps, though, he’s the first to author a hymn as a scathing rebuke to those 81% of white evangelicals who voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election and those who continue to uphold him.

Here are the lyrics to Deitrich’s hymn: Continue reading “Say it with Music by Esther Nelson”

Finding God in Music by Gina Messina

We cannot force a connection with God through a faulty conduit. What is important is that we affirm ourselves when we find it — when we feel it. Embrace those experiences, name them for what they are and recognize that you are sacred and the divine – whatever that means to you – is present.

When I’m in a funk, I generally feed into it and make it worse. Once we are in a rut it is easy to continue the spiral downward. I’m good at admonishing myself for lacking gratitude when I feel this way. It might be a Catholic guilt thing.

A few days ago, I was in a dark place; but this time I tried to own my sadness, acknowledge it, and let it go. The only thing I could think to do in hopes of shifting my emotions was to put on music – something up beat that would allow me to transcend the moment.  

I listened to a live version of “Stay” by The Dave Matthews Band, a song about embracing the beauty of our lives and the idea that those moments where it feels like we are just wasting time are often our most precious; the ones that allow us to connect with each other and ourselves. It was the sermon I needed — and an important lesson my uncle taught me — but more on that shortly.

I often say that I think music is the sound of my spirit — our spirits. As I started writing this, I struggled with finding the words to articulate the feeling music provokes within me. There is little else that creates such an indescribable experience and that is why I think that music is where I find my connection to the divine. 

Traditional religious services have always felt challenging to me.  I don’t connect to much of anything and generally find myself feeling angry and rejected by the Church and the community where I am supposed to find God. My grappling with Catholicism aside, we are told that our spiritual lives must take place within particular dimensions, and for many of us God is not there. Continue reading “Finding God in Music by Gina Messina”

If Holly Near’s Simply Love Album Were a Musical by Elisabeth Schilling

For many of us, listening to women-loving-women songs is a spiritual experience. That is because somehow it makes us feel seen, puts a sense of hope into our world as well as daydreams of romance. We can understand the challenges and the regret or guilt that comes with disappointing others and ourselves, them for not being who they wanted us to be and for us, not being who we are for far too long. Holly Near’s Simply Love album narrates a story that I might envision as a musical theatre production, and I really wish someone would ask me to write it and then hold the casting call (yeah, I’d want to be in it too, so save me a part). I offer some of my thoughts on two central songs in the would-be musical in hopes of sacred liturgy on a potential stage.

Simply Love has 28 songs and was released (according to Spotify) in 2000. I think the synopsis would be surrounding Cassandra, in a loving relationship with her partner, reflecting on her journey to this place of authenticity. I can imagine how it might be living one’s live in an exploratory way and coming to new revelations later in life.

Continue reading “If Holly Near’s Simply Love Album Were a Musical by Elisabeth Schilling”

Reclaiming Sacred Music by Mary Sharratt

Women Singing Earth by Mary Southard

Here is a hymn of praise, a beautiful and intimate piece meant to be sung. Reader, I invite you to guess the author of this text and the sacred figure to whom this work is addressed.

Hail, O greenest branch,
sprung forth on the breeze of prayers.

. . . . a beautiful flower sprang from you
which gave all parched perfumes
their aroma.
And they have flourished anew
in full abundance.

The heavens bestowed dew upon the meadows,
and the entire earth rejoiced,
because her flesh
brought forth grain,
and because the birds of heaven
built their nests in her.

Behold, a rich harvest for the people
and great rejoicing at the banquet.
O sweet Maiden,
no joy is lacking in you . . . .
Now again be praised in the highest.

Continue reading “Reclaiming Sacred Music by Mary Sharratt”

Love a Good Fail, and Fiona Apple is my Liturgy this Morning by Elisabeth Schilling

I am falling in love with failure. At least I’m trying. It is time I have to.

We shouldn’t, lovely womyn, be short on our accomplishments. It doesn’t matter how slow going we’ve been, what we haven’t done yet, or what we haven’t quite obtained. We have to focus on the great strides we’ve made despite all the seeming nothings. If we fail, that means we put ourselves out there. Many times I submit a request or offer myself, the answer is silence, but other times the answer has been “yes.” I just haven’t heard many yesses because I don’t really try all that often. I’m timid, beat myself up, get down on myself, give up. Failure feels most like failure, though, the bad kind, when I’m indecisive and I don’t or can’t act. Not committing to something or deciding feels like a weight or blades inside. How can I love this failure? Or, at least, how can we be compassionate toward ourselves when we are in this situation?

I get Esther in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, at least from what I can gather from this quote: “I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, [. . .] and another fig was Europe [. . .]. I saw myself sitting at the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose.”     Continue reading “Love a Good Fail, and Fiona Apple is my Liturgy this Morning by Elisabeth Schilling”

Lessons from Candide by Barbara Ardinger

Candide, ou l’Optimisme (in English, Candide, or Optimism) is a satirical, picaresque novel published in 1759 by François-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire, who was possibly the smartest author of the Age of Enlightenment…but he annoyed so many courtiers and public officials that he was forever traveling around Europe to get away from their threats of arrest and bodily harm. A picaresque novel is an adventure novel with a clever, tricky hero who somehow survives and makes us like him. Voltaire wrote his novel primarily to criticize the optimism of the German writer Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who said that because God is always benevolent, everything that happens is always for the best. This presumably includes the bloody Seven Years War (Protestant vs. Catholic, fought mostly in Germany and France) and the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which occurs both in Lisbon and in the novel. Even though Voltaire was accused of blasphemy and heresy, among his other sins and crimes, Candide was enormously popular throughout Europe, a popularity that continues to this day.

In 1956, playwright and screenwriter Lillian Hellman (who had been persecuted by Sen. Joseph McCarthy and HUAC) proposed to composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein that they turn Voltaire’s novel into a Broadway musical. Bernstein composed some of the most beautiful music ever written for this show, which has been produced as an opera, an operetta, and a musical comedy. Hellman’s libretto turned out to be weak, so Bernstein turned to the poet Richard Wilbur and Stephen Sondheim, among others for new libretto and lyrics. It’s been through numerous revisions, and every time it’s staged, it’s different. I have four or five versions on DVD. My favorite is the New York Philharmonic staged concert written and directed by Lonny Price and broadcast on PBS in 2004. Continue reading “Lessons from Candide by Barbara Ardinger”

Protecting the Children, Jesus Christ Superstar Style by Marisa Goudy

“Where is my mother? I am thirsty.”

My four year old is crooning quietly to her dolls. She is making sense of the crucifixion through play, asking her Disney princesses to stand in for Jesus, the Marys, and “the bad guys.”

Whatever she’s working through has more to do with the voice of John Legend and the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar In Concert than it does with a reading of the gospels. My children were raised with an eclectic mix of goddess spirituality, “all gods are one god” thinking, and occasionally attending a holiday mass. Thanks to this soundtrack, however, they’re suddenly saying things like, “Mama, I really love Jesus!” and “can I be Mary Magdalene for Halloween?” Continue reading “Protecting the Children, Jesus Christ Superstar Style by Marisa Goudy”

My Heroine’s Journey: Writing Women Back in History by Mary Sharratt

Alma Maria Schindler

We have been lost to each other for so long. My name means nothing to you. My memory is dust.             

This is not your fault or mine. The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken and the word passed into the keeping of men, who had no way of knowing. That is why I became a footnote, my story a brief detour between the well-known history of my father and the celebrated chronicle of my brother.

Anita Diamant, The Red Tent

I am an expat author. My home is everywhere and nowhere. A wanderer, I have lived in many different places, from Minnesota, my birthplace, with its rustling marshes haunted by the cries of redwing blackbirds, to Bavaria with its dark forests and dazzling meadows and pure streams where otter still live, to my present home in the haunted moorlands of Pendle Witch country in Lancashire, England. My entire adult life has been a literal journey of finding myself in the great world.

For as long as I remember, I longed to be a writer. As a novelist I am on a mission to write women back into history. To tell the neglected, unwritten stories of women like my pioneering foremothers who emigrated from Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in the 1860s to break the prairie soil of southern Minnesota.

To a large extent, women have been written out of history. Their lives and deeds have become lost to us. To uncover their buried truths, we must act as detectives, studying the sparse clues that have been handed down to us. We must learn to read between the lines and fill in the blanks. My heroine’s journey, in other words, is about reclaiming the lost heroines of history. My quest is to give voice to ancestral memory of that lost motherline.

Continue reading “My Heroine’s Journey: Writing Women Back in History by Mary Sharratt”

Let’s Keep Dancing by Esther Nelson

My children remember when they were in elementary school, I played Simon and Garfunkel’s popular song, “I am a Rock” (written by Paul Simon), several times daily.  I loved it.  Stark and sad, yet brutally honest, the song reflected an aspect of myself I did not realize anybody else knew about.

The narrator, early on, sings “I’ve built walls.” We soon learn that the “deep and mighty” walled fortress’ job is to keep pain—understood to be a direct result of friendship—at bay.  Even more poignant is the narrator’s assertion that love is the culprit of shed tears so they refuse to “disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.”

The fourth stanza follows: Continue reading “Let’s Keep Dancing by Esther Nelson”

Rest and Renewal: Gifts of Women’s Ritual Dance by Laura Shannon

 Samhain is past, and we in the northern hemisphere are once again entering the final outbreath of the solar year. At the winter solstice, light will be reborn. Until then, it is important to embrace the time of rest and renewal which is the great gift of this season. Like the falling leaves and the drying seeds, we too can relax and release old burdens. This is the best way, perhaps the only way, to draw new strength for the next active phase in the ever-changing cycles of our lives.
Many of us no longer follow the rhythms of the year and consequently subsist in an ongoing state of near-exhaustion. But rather than letting our energies get too depleted, we can learn to thrive within the limits of our available resources. As well as vastly improving the quality of our lives, this may lead to solutions for sustainable living in the long term – perhaps the most important skill humanity needs to develop now.  Continue reading “Rest and Renewal: Gifts of Women’s Ritual Dance by Laura Shannon”

Drumming to the Universal Pulse in an Out of Sync World by Carolyn Lee Boyd

carolynlboydBeneath all being is a universal rhythm that is as deep as natural law and as easy to find as the beat of a drum.  After giving up an early interest in percussion 50 years ago when a school music teacher told me “girls don’t play drums, ” I discovered this in a World Rhythms  hand drumming class at a local music conservatory. The other students, our uber-patient teacher, and I were pounding away, practicing rhythms and counter-rhythms,  when we were suddenly all embraced by the flow of a single central pulse and, freed from the constant task of trying to stay on beat, created, for that moment, an entity of sound that was unique, beautiful and complex, and living.

Later I learned that “entrainment” is a well-researched phenomenon that happens when two or more entities in proximity naturally synchronize their rhythms. Entrainment causes roommates to menstruate on the same schedule, or clock pendulums to begin to swing at the same pace when placed near one another, or drummers to play perfectly on the same beat seemingly effortlessly. Continue reading “Drumming to the Universal Pulse in an Out of Sync World by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

A Movement Needs A Song by Esther Nelson

esther-nelsonI’m back in Las Cruces, New Mexico, spending the break between semesters in the spot where I plan to eventually retire.  When I was here last summer (2016), I visited the Unitarian Universalist Church so decided to join the people gathered there on Christmas Day.  Not many showed up—about twenty or so.  The service was abbreviated. The emphasis was on singing Christmas carols from the hymnal.  Unitarian Universalists, it appears, love to sing.

Inside the bulletin on a separate sheet of paper, Catherine Massey, the Director of Music, wrote an essay titled “Sunday Music Notes.”  She asks, “How can music help us respond to the needs around us?” She listed several ways we can benefit from singing and chanting. One way is calming the self, enabling us to better cope with life’s struggles. Singing can also bring comfort to the sick and/or dying as well as to their families. She used her final paragraph to write about the necessity of music in social action movements.

…[S]inging has been an integral part of many social action movements, from the American Civil rights movement of the 1950s-60s to the anti-apartheid movement of South Africa.  Ysaye Barnwell, member of the African American women’s a cappella group “Sweet Honey in the Rock,” has said that for a social justice movement to gain and maintain momentum, it needs songs to be sung by the people.  She believes recent movements, such as Occupy Wallstreet, have had limited success because the people on the streets haven’t found their songs.

I am still grieving about the choices many American citizens made during the recent U.S. election. Although disheartened, I know I am not alone in my grief and outrage. I hope that decent people will push back against the misogyny, heteronormativity, racism, xenophobia, and just plain hatred that this new administration stands for and will, no doubt, perpetuate. We need music and songs to carry the “resistance” forward. Continue reading “A Movement Needs A Song by Esther Nelson”

“Tricolor Mary: Encountering Three Faces of the Divine Feminine” by Simone Grace Seol

simone-graceI always felt curiously distant from the figure of Mary. I always sensed that there is so much there and yet, I could never connect to it emotionally.

The foil to Eve, vessel of Love, suffering mother. I wanted to love her, I wanted to feel her, I wanted to feel drawn to the mystery of Marian devotion. But I felt alienated by the vision of the feminine that she seemed to project: the pure, immaculate, virginal, submissive, obedient, quietly suffering.

Most days, I feel like the opposite of every single one of those qualities.

It’s exactly the kind of feminine archetype I don’t really relate to — the kind of person about whom people say, “oh, she’s really nice” as if yielding compliance and non-offensiveness are her primary attributes. The kind of woman who fades into the background, whose worth lies only in her utility to the patriarchal narrative. Continue reading ““Tricolor Mary: Encountering Three Faces of the Divine Feminine” by Simone Grace Seol”

It is Over, It is Just Beginning by Kate Brunner

katebrunnerqueenanneslace“In this nation of thinkers and philosophers, poets and artists, idealists and enthusiasts, the world will recognize nothing but a people of conquerors and destroyers. …we are neither loved nor respected, but only feared. We are deemed capable of every wickedness, and the distrust felt for us grows ever more pronounced….”

These are the private musings of German prince, Friedrich Wilhelm Nikolaus Karl, — Friedrich III (or apparently “Fritz” to his friends) — on the disturbing nature of the Second Reich under his father, Wilhelm I & the “Iron Chancellor”, Otto von Bismarck. Friedrich wrote these words in his diary roughly a century and a half ago.

It is somewhat disheartening and downright eerie how the words of history echo so familiarly into the present moment sometimes. My children & I read this primary source excerpt together during our homeschooling studies last week and it struck me in the heart.

This week, I began writing my monthly piece in the days leading up to Election Day 2016; a piece that would publish shortly after my state and my nation made a slew of very crucial decisions about our future as a people.

When I thought about those decisions, I didn’t actually mean the official returns. Continue reading “It is Over, It is Just Beginning by Kate Brunner”

#NastyWomen Not Ready to Play Nice by Marie Cartier

Author with friends at Dixie Chicks concert

I have blogged on this site about Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and my support of her for president of the United States, in several FAR posts this past year: here, here and here. So—this is my last post regarding her campaign before the election November 8th.

We all, by this point, have seen or heard about Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, being videotaped while he said that grabbing “pussy” is OK and women “let” him do it—because he’s a star. We’ve heard him call Hillary “a nasty woman” during the 3rd Presidential debate. We’ve heard him interrupt her, patronize her and other women, and also unleash a floodgate of sexism and racism in the process. Remember according to polls, 40% of the populace, despite all of the above is still voting for him. Why? Because they are voting in support of sexism and racism STAYING IN PLACE. Most of them are not voting for Trump because they feel he is the more qualified candidate to be president. They are voting to keep in place a race and sex status quo that has kept women and people of color out of the power structure since the founding of the United States. That status quo is crumbling. However, as it crumbles, rocks are being overturned and – stuff is crawling out. Continue reading “#NastyWomen Not Ready to Play Nice by Marie Cartier”

I Am A Woman’s Poet by Marie Cartier

MarieCartierforKCETa-thumb-300x448-72405This is the first poem I ever wrote and had published.

I wrote it in the early 80s at the height of the second wave of Women’s Liberation.

Having just returned from the final Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, I publish it here with FAR today as an homage to that time period, to those women (myself among them), to many “womyn with a ‘y,’” and what we accomplished—battered women’s shelters, rape crisis centers, health clinics, women’s studies programs, bookstores, festivals, music and culture etc. etc.

Much of what we accomplished is because we learned to listen to each other’s repetition until, as Nelle Morton said, we “heard each other into speech.” Continue reading “I Am A Woman’s Poet by Marie Cartier”

Gretchen Before and After by Natalie Weaver

Natalie Weaver editedIn May, I attended the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra’s presentation of Berlioz’ Damnation of Faust.  This work, featuring four soloists, a full choir and orchestra, and a children’s choir, was first performed in Hungary in 1846.  Its composition was inspired by a French translation of Goethe’s Faust, following the basic storyline of Faust in four acts: Faust’s disillusionment; Faust’s encounter with Mephistopheles and the allure of happiness; Faust’s seduction of Marguerite; and Faust’s damnation/ Marguerite’s redemption.  With such limited space, the opera/cantata plays more as a précis of Faust than a full telling of the story, which is perhaps why the dramatis personae seem rather more like caricatures of themselves than richly developed characters.  There were beautiful moments in the music, and the performances were brilliant, but the whole left me feeling apathetic… that is, until I went to the bathroom.

While waiting beneath the gorgeous mosaics of Cleveland’s Severence Hall for use of one of three (or four?) petite little stalls in the ladies’ room on the atrium level, I chatted with one of the regular elders I have come to know in line over the years.  She complained to me, “I don’t know why Marguerite gets saved and Faust is damned.  After all, Marguerite is the one who poisons her mother.  Marguerite is really at fault here, don’t you think?”  Ah, I thought, here it is.  The woman is blamed, but for what?  For murder (occasioned by Marguerite’s carrying out Faust’s directive); or for her beauty (Faust cedes to Mephisto’s power to seduce because he is, in his own way, seduced first by Marguerite’s appearance); or for having sex with someone outside of marriage (Marguerite carries the burden of responsibility for shaming her family and for her own destruction).  My bathroom friend would have been happy to see Marguerite pay for these crimes and found it dissatisfying that she was delivered from them. Continue reading “Gretchen Before and After by Natalie Weaver”

Miley Cyrus and the Happy Hippie Foundation by Deanne Quarrie

Deanne Quarrie, D.Min.I almost got in a big fight with my son on Facebook yesterday. I posted a link to an article talking about the work that Miley Cyrus is doing for homeless teenagers. He immediately responded to my post by calling her a “skanky-ho.” Whoa!

I feel I need to do some qualifying here for a moment. I am not always a comfortable when I watch her performances. I am sure it is my age (73) and coming up in a far different time and mindset from what we have now. I feel a bit embarrassed watching some of her movements that have been labeled lewd by many and clearly so by my son on Facebook. I try very hard to not be judgmental or to place negative labels on anyone just because I may not always enjoy what they do. I do recognize that our perceptions are driven by our religious beliefs, our cultural backgrounds and our own inhibitions. I have to confess, I am even a bit jealous that she can be so open with her own sexuality in such a public way. I can tell you, however, I really like her voice and see her as an amazing performer! Continue reading “Miley Cyrus and the Happy Hippie Foundation by Deanne Quarrie”

Gretchen at Her Spinning Wheel by Natalie Weaver

Natalie Weaver editedIn my continuing music education, I was recently introduced to Schubert’s Gretchen am Spinnrade (hear, for example, Renee Flemming’s performance of this work). The song is a setting of Goethe’s poem “Gretchens Stube,” in which Gretchen, a poor but upright maiden, sits alone in her room at the wheel, thinking longingly of Faust. Gretchen spins her mind and her threads on the cusp of ruin.

Faust desires Gretchen and with the help of his demonic wingman Mephistopheles (to whom he has bartered his soul in exchange for worldly favors), Faust has laid a trap to seduce Gretchen. Faust eventually gives Gretchen a sleeping potion to administer to her mother so he can come to Gretchen at night undisturbed. Contrary to the assurances of Faust, the potion kills Gretchen’s mother, even as Gretchen is conceiving a child from the illicit union, with the voyeur-devil panting in the wings. Gretchen’s enraged soldier-brother is subsequently fatally wounded in a brawl over the sordid matter, living just long enough to tell Gretchen exactly what he thinks of her. Destitute, Gretchen drowns her illegitimate child, is imprisoned, and dies burdened with grief. In Goethe’s Faust, Gretchen is ultimately saved because she was once so stainless a figure and in her failings became so sufficiently penitential. Stripped of her name and transformed as una poenitentium, her soul re-appears in the final scene of the second act of the tragedy among the choir of angels receiving Faust in his own redemption, who, by those same angels, is himself bewilderingly whisked away from the clutches of a very confused Mephistopheles.

Leaving off for the time being the interesting and important question of men writing women’s stories, the whole of Faust, and specifically Gretchen’s song within it, engaged me in a feminist religious critique in ways I found counter-intuitive. On one level, I could not help but read Faust as a Promethean sort of hero. Here you have an accomplished scholar who is simply exhausted by the futility of his work, and especially the shortcomings of theology. He is seeking empirical knowledge from any place that it can at last be found. Minus his grandiose local stature, he kind of reminds me of myself (and lots of other academicians in theology who have glimpsed religious faith and myth in their most tiresome and dangerous social distortions). I incline to commend Faust for entertaining the background, the darkness, the animal, the bodily, the elemental, the unspeakable – for, that is also classically the “feminine,” yes? Continue reading “Gretchen at Her Spinning Wheel by Natalie Weaver”

Revolution Through Rituals by Jann Aldredge-Clanton

Jann's pictureA revolution is happening through Divine Feminine rituals! More and more faith communities are reclaiming the power of the Divine Feminine in sacred rituals.

Rituals move feminist theory and theology/thealogy from the head to the heart. Words and visual symbols in rituals shape our deepest beliefs and values, which drive our actions. Multicultural female divine images in our sacred rituals affirm the sacred value of females throughout the world who continue to suffer from violence, abuse, and discrimination. For feminism to transform our culture, we need Divine Feminine rituals in faith communities. In Women-Church: Theology and Practice, Rosemary Radford Ruether writes: “One needs communities of nurture to guide one through death to the old symbolic order of patriarchy to rebirth into a new community of being and living. One needs not only to engage in rational theoretical discourse about this journey; one also needs deep symbols and symbolic actions to guide and interpret the actual experience of the journey from sexism to liberated humanity” (p. 3).

As I was growing up in the Baptist tradition, hymns were my favorite part of our rituals. One of the hymns I loved singing was “He Lives,” increasing in volume along with the congregation as we came to the refrain which repeated over and over the words “He lives.” Not until many years later could I even imagine singing or saying, “She lives.” I had learned to worship a God who was named and imaged as male. But while studying in a conservative seminary, I was surprised to find Her. I discovered female names and images of Deity in scripture and in Christian history. As an ordained minister, my call has included writing, preaching, and teaching to persuade people that we need multicultural female divine names and images in rituals if we are to have social justice, peace, and equality. My call expanded to writing Divine Feminine rituals, including lyrics to familiar hymn tunes. Continue reading “Revolution Through Rituals by Jann Aldredge-Clanton”

We Are Music by Natalie Weaver

Natalie Weaver editedWhen I was about eight years old, I dreamed one night that I stood inside the workings of an immense instrument, so big it filled the sky. It was crafted of wood and gold, and although there was no obvious source of light, it was brightly illuminated. I could have confused it for the inner workings of a clock except that I could hear the sweet music it produced resonating throughout its cavernous hollows. It was curious to me that there seemed to be no atmosphere there either to breathe or to carry sound. Within it, I did not perceive any movement. And, there was no actual melody that it produced, which could be sung or repeated. There was only an enveloping harmonic thrumming. The sound was multiplicative and voluminous although not piercing. I understood it in the dream to be cosmic, structural, primordial, and generative. When I awoke, I had the feeling that I had seen something divine. It was not heaven. It was not God. It was more like the instrument of the universe, or the universal instrument, created as a first work among creation

It was puzzling to me that I had such a dream because I was not then a musician. I felt that I understood its meaning, but I was surprised by its discontinuity with things in my normal frame of reference. My mother played piano, but she had no music theory in her background. She surely did not have any training in musical cosmologies, such as those produced in antiquity by the philosophers and theologians. I occasionally mentioned the dream over the years when context seemed to warrant it, but, more or less, I filed it away. Continue reading “We Are Music by Natalie Weaver”

Hildegard: A Saint Eight Centuries in the Making

hildegard & volmar

The visionary abbess Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) has long been regarded as a saint, with her feast day of September 17, yet she was only officially canonized in May 2012. Why did it take the Vatican over eight centuries to canonize this great polymath, composer, and theologian?

The first attempt to canonize Hildegard began in 1233, but failed as over fifty years had passed since her death and most of the witnesses and beneficiaries of her reported miracles were deceased. Her theological writings were deemed too dense and difficult for subsequent generations to understand and soon fell into obscurity, as did her music. According to Barbara Newman, Hildegard was remembered mainly as an apocalyptic prophet. But in the age of Enlightenment, prophets and mystics went out of fashion. Hildegard was dismissed as a hysteric. Even the authorship of her own work was disputed as pundits began to suggest her books had been written by a man.

Newman states that Hildegard’s contemporary rehabilitation and resurgence was due mainly to the tireless efforts of the nuns at Saint Hildegard Abbey in Eibingen, Germany. In 1956 Marianna Schrader and Adelgundis Führkötter, OSB, published a carefully documented study that proved the authenticity of Hildegard’s authorship. Their research provides the foundation of all subsequent Hildegard scholarship.

In the 1980s, in the wake of a wider women’s spirituality movement, Hildegard’s star rose as seekers from diverse faith backgrounds embraced her as a foremother and role model. The artist Judy Chicago showcased Hildegard at her iconic feminist Dinner Party installation.

hildegard judy chicago dinner party setting

Medievalists and theologians rediscovered Hildegard’s writings. New recordings of her sacred music hit the popular charts. The radical theologian Matthew Fox adopted Hildegard as the figurehead of his creation-centered spirituality. Fox’s book Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen remains one of the most accessible and popular books on the 12th-century visionary. In 2009, German director Margarethe von Trotta made Hildegard the subject of her luminous film, Vision. And all the while, the sisters at Saint Hildegard Abbey were exerting their quiet pressure on Rome to get Hildegard the official endorsement they believed she deserved.

Pope John Paul II, who had canonized more saints than any previous pontiff, steadfastly ignored Hildegard’s burgeoning cult, possibly because he was repelled by her status as a feminist icon. Ironically it was his successor, Benedict XVI, one of the most conservative popes in recent history—who, as Cardinal Ratzinger, expelled Matthew Fox from the Dominican Order where Fox had served for thirty-four years—finally gave Hildegard her due. Reportedly Joseph Ratzinger, a German, had long admired Hildegard. He not only canonized her but elevated her to Doctor of the Church, a rare and solemn title given to only the most distinguished theologians.

But I believe the true credit for Hildegard’s triumph is due to the Benedictine Sisters at Saint Hildegard Abbey for keeping Hildegard’s flame burning.


This is drawn from Ann K. Gebuhr’s book, Hildegard!

Take some time to listen to and contemplate Hildegard’s beautiful musical meditation on the Holy Spirit, O ignis spiritus paracliti:

O spirit of fire, bringer of comfort,

Life of the life of every creature,

You are holy, anointing those perilously broken;

You are holy, cleansing festering wounds.

O breath of loveliness,

O fire of love,

O sweet savour in our breasts,

Infusing heart with the scent of virtue.

O clearest fountain,

In which we see

How God gathers the alienated

And finds the lost.

O breastplate of life

And hope of the whole human body,

O belt of honour, save the fortunate.

Guard those imprisoned by the enemy

And free those who are bound,

Whom the divine power wishes to save.

O mightiest course

That has penetrated all things

In the heavens and on earth

And in every abyss–

You reconcile and draw all humanity together.

From you clouds flow, wind flies,

Stones produce moisture,

Water flows in streams,

And the earth exudes living greenness.

You are always teaching the learned,

Who, through wisdom’s inspiration,

Are made joyful.

Thence praise be to you who are the sound of praise,

And joy of life,

And hope and greatest honour,

Granting the gift of light.

(This is Susan Hellauer’s translation from the insert booklet of Anonymous 4’s CD, The Origin of Fire: Music and Visions of Hildegard von Bingen.)

Read Hildegard’s poem slowly as a prayer, contemplating how the Sacred Flame, however you envision it in your own spiritual tradition, relates to your life.

Mary Sharratt’s Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen won the Nautilus Gold Award and was a 2012 Kirkus Book of the Year. Visit her website:

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