This was originally posted on August 5, 2013

Most archaeologists and visitors to museums assume that when they see a horned bovine, they are faced with the image of the male God or the image of the bull sacrifice.  In the minds of many, these two are one, as we have been taught that the male God who was the consort or son-lover of the Goddess was sacrificed. Yet horned Goddesses are not infrequent in the history of religions and Hindus still revere the sacred cow.  

Cattle have played an important role in human life from the beginning of agriculture.  Cows provide milk which is also turned into butter, cheese, and yogurt.  Most of the young males and some of the females are killed for meat or leather, while a few males are kept to impregnate the females.  Though the “raging bull” is the lens through which most of us think about mature male bovines, I have been told by a friend who raised cattle that in fact bulls are for the most part gentle and even sweet–though of course they are also potentially dangerous.


From the Archives: That Which Is Sacred by Max Dashu

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 are beginning this column so that we can all revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted June 30, 2012. You can visit it here to see the original comments.

We are going through a huge cultural shift toward restoring the female to her full radiance. However you want to define that, it is rising now, through us.

That which is Sacred, what should we call it? We’ve been told to name it he, him, his. That it was blasphemy to do otherwise, to say she, even as they desecrated the Divine with comparisons to mortal overlords, those cruel masters, despoliators, persecutors. No. Reconsider. That fearful address to an authoritarian punisher takes us far from true reverence. Rather revere the roots of Being, manifesting in all Nature around us, within us. The profound silence, and the Deep calling to the Deep.

Deeply I go down into myself. My god is Dark and like a webbing made of a hundred roots that drink in silence. ― Rainer Maria Rilke

Continue reading “From the Archives: That Which Is Sacred by Max Dashu”

Reshaping Our World with Words by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Holy well of Saint Scoheen

Pagasasthai, kernos, thiosos, sloinneadh, taibhsear.  These are centuries-old words that help describe and create a world in which the Earth is sacred and receives gratitude, people revere the wisdom of their ancestors, and those who see beyond our everyday reality are honored. 

Every day we build the world around us with words. Their tone and subtle meaning tell us who we are, what our place in society is, and how we should live. Which objects and concepts become common words indicate what is “real” and important or not. When an object or concept has its own word it gains clarity and power. Here at FAR, for example, we have had many wonderful posts about rewriting religious texts and liturgy to re-invigorate them with the sacred female spirit and be resonant with female presence. 

Continue reading “Reshaping Our World with Words by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

Monotheism and the Shema: Lessons on Oneness and Unity by Ivy Helman

ivy tree huggingIn my last blog post, I explained what we lost when the Israelites became monotheists.  That post looked at the move to monotheism from a more historical, feminist perspective.  In this post, I want to understand monotheism from a more modern, feminist lens.  Using the Shema as a starting point for modern Jewish monotheistic thinking, my question is: how do we honor the deity based on who we understand that deity to be?  In my opinion, Jewish monotheism requires we honor G-d by moving away from one-sided gendered depictions of the deity and think about how we act in light of the interconnectedness of life.

Judaism highlights the Shema as the description of the divine.  It reads, “Hear, O Israel! The L-rd is Our G-d, The L-rd is One!,” (Deut. 6:4).  The key aspect of this verse is twofold. First, we have a relationship with the deity hence the description of the deity as “our,” and, second, this deity is one. 

Oneness used to imply that no other deities count, and perhaps also that no other deities literally exist.  For example, if one were to read the Torah, one would understand the deity differently.  On the one hand, the deity is one of many possible deities one could worship. On the other, it is quite clear that no matter what the deity is called, there is one specific deity that chose to help the Israelites.  In the Torah, the divine is always referred to as he, using only masculine pronouns for the deity. In addition, he is often called king, lord, and master. G-d is depicted as powerful, wrathful, jealous, and even scary.   Continue reading “Monotheism and the Shema: Lessons on Oneness and Unity by Ivy Helman”

The Lady Be With You – A Closer Look at Liturgical Idolatry by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee

Even though I realized at least 17 years ago that it makes no theological sense to limit our symbols of the Divine to male symbols – Lord, God, Father – it took several years for this idea to embed itself into my subconscious. Over time, male language moved from ‘unnoticed’ to ‘noticed’ to ‘distracting’ to, eventually, ‘oppressively violent when used exclusively, without female images to balance out millennia of the idolatry of maleness.’

One of my favorite ways to dislodge this subconscious, internalized patriarchy has involved rewriting favorite old hymns. I usually try to incorporate a combination of images, to represent the incarnate divinity of all genders and all Creation. But let’s be honest: female terms for the Divine remain startling in many religious and secular, cultural contexts. In my own Methodist tradition, even though progressive Methodists sign up on paper to the idea that “God” (there we go again with the male terms) is bigger than any symbol or gender, I’ve as yet only ever been to one Christian church that used balanced gender images of the Divine, and that was a queer welcoming Methodist ministry with intentionally inclusive theology and liturgy.

I think that church saved my life. Some days, I also think it ruined my life. It showed us all what Methodism can be; and then, its time ended, and we alums drifted into the diaspora to try to take the hope and healing we experienced there into our own journeys. Some of us remain within Methodism and continue to work for the vision of welcome, of the kin-dom, that we sought together there. Personally, I love being Methodist. Grace, the journey, grace, the quadrilateral, grace.

Continue reading “The Lady Be With You – A Closer Look at Liturgical Idolatry by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee”

What Gender is God Anyway? by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

Adult Daughter (“AD”): Hi Mom, Alex said to tell you “hi.”

Me: That’s nice. How is she?

AD: How are “they?” Alex uses “they,” mom.

Me: Oh right, sorry. I am having some trouble wrapping my head around using “they” and “them.”

AD: Well mom, that is something you’re going to just have to get over.

Using “they” to refer to one person short circuits my long life of grammar training. I found my mind resisting the plural no matter how many times I reminded myself that Alex uses plural pronouns. As I considered my brain’s resistance to “they/them,” I realized that singular gendered pronouns are truly a cultural construct. I went on to muse that maybe Alex was on to something bigger than themselves. I began to think about the Bible, arguably the foundational document of our patriarchal society, and how it uses a plural form while referring to a singular or one God.

Continue reading “What Gender is God Anyway? by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”

Honoring the Completion of the Year, by Molly Remer

“Beginnings and endings are so very sacred, to give honor to all that has transpired, every experience, every joy, every pain, is a doorway to the magical. Hold your entire year between your hands, every day, every thought, every breath. Now bless it with gratitude, love and humility. You have done more to transform this new year than a thousand resolutions.” 

 –K. Allen Kay

Two years ago, at the end of the year, I was supposed to hold a closing ceremony for a year-long Ariadne’s Thread study group I had been guiding throughout the year. Every member of the circle ended up backing out of the closing circle at the last minute, but I held the ceremony in full anyway, alone in my front yard, just for myself, and expanding it to include acknowledging and appreciating all the work I had completed in 2016, including my D.Min degree. People’s reasons for backing out of the ceremony were very valid and while on a cognitive level I understood why they couldn’t come, on an emotional level I still felt let down and disappointed at being “abandoned” by them. Holding the closing ceremony for myself anyway and acknowledging that I kept my own commitment to doing a full year of this work in circle, felt like a powerful declaration and affirmation of my own worth. In fact, it was such a validating and powerful experience that I continued the practice with a personal year-end closing ceremony for 2017 as well and I will do the same for myself this year too. Continue reading “Honoring the Completion of the Year, by Molly Remer”

Small Victories by Sara Frykenberg

Last year was a hard year. I wrote about this difficulty—vaguely eluding to challenges of environment, home, and work—in my last post. In this blog, which was a copy of my reflection for our last faculty meeting of the year, I asked my colleagues and myself: should I take the year apart or find thoughts that will help us put ourselves back together again in the fall? I am pretty good at taking things apart. But returning to school in less than a week, I find myself most concerned with the latter question: have I put myself back together again? Have I found these thoughts?

I have slept more, but am I rested?

I have taken space, but am I ready to be close again?

I don’t know. But I am beginning to find the answers, the fragments of thought, in my small victories.

Bringing my panic to ‘get it together’ before school starts to my brother, he said to me: “You have a stubborn Taurus heart.” He’s right. My Taurus moon, which tends towards obstinacy, perfectly suits my Libra (in)decisiveness. I might have a lot of trouble coming to a decision, but once I have, you better believe that I am going to hold onto that decision—particularly in matters of the heart. I tend to hold onto anger too, problematically. I once lived an entire year in perpetual rage. But, I eventually had to let it go to learn how to breathe again (literally and figuratively). This summer has also been a practice in breathing; and the process feels at best, incomplete. Continue reading “Small Victories by Sara Frykenberg”

The Blessing of Spiritual Direction by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsFive years ago, I moved to Texas from California. In that time, my spiritual practice and my feminist and womanist worldview has grown through contemplative practices.  It’s ironic. “Everything’s bigger in Texas!” the saying goes, but in the presence of big, sweeping landscapes and open skies, big storms, and big egos, I’ve found the sacred in the small things.  I have deepened my connection to God through a small group of women who practice group spiritual direction.

This past Sunday evening, I gathered with these women at my church for our spiritual direction group.  We sat comfortably in  a circle, relaxing on a couch and chairs around a coffee table, as the evening sun streamed in from a large picture window and lit the room.  As we read a passage from the Bible (Mark 3:34-35) in which Jesus looks at the people sitting around him and says, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother,” I saw my companions more clearly.  Although my eyes were closed, I had a vision of these women sitting around me, halos made of sunbeams shimmering over their heads.  I thought, “Here are my sisters!”

Continue reading “The Blessing of Spiritual Direction by Elise M. Edwards”

Sacred Water by Molly Remer

“Drinking the water, I thought how earth and sky are generous with their gifts and how good it is to receive them. Most of us are taught, somehow, about giving and accepting human gifts, but not about opening ourselves and our bodies to welcome the sun, the land, the visions of sky and dreaming, not about standing in the rain ecstatic with what is offered.”

–Linda Hogan in Sisters of the Earth

The women have gathered in a large open living room, under high ceilings and banisters draped with goddess tapestries, their faces are turned towards me, waiting expectantly. We are here for our first overnight Red Tent Retreat, our women’s circle’s second only overnight ceremony in ten years. We are preparing to go on a pilgrimage. I tell them a synopsis version of Inanna’s descent into the underworld, her passage through seven gates and the requirement that at each gate she lie down something of herself, to give up or sacrifice something she holds dear, until she arrives naked and shaking in the depths of the underworld, with nothing left to offer, but her life.

In our own lives, I explain, we face Innana’s descents of our own. They may be as difficult as the death of an adult child, the loss of a baby, the diagnosis of significant illness, or a destroyed relationship. They may be as beautiful and yet soul-wrenchingly difficult as journeying through childbirth and walking through the underworld of postpartum with our newborns. They may be as seemingly every day as returning to school after a long absence. There is value in seeing our lives through this mythopoetic lens. When we story our realities, we find a connection to the experiences and courage of others, we find a pattern of our own lives, and we find a strength of purpose to go on. Continue reading “Sacred Water by Molly Remer”

Learning Compassion from Inmate Number 74799 by Cynthia Garrity-Bond

Technically I was employed as a lab assistant at our community hospital. This position entailed multiple responsibilities, from receptionist to actual bench work within the laboratory. The task I dreaded most was my assistance at autopsies. Beyond a strong constitution, it required no measurable skill set. This job was not the high-tech, immaculate setting of any of the CSI programs of today; instead the morgue was a stark, condensed room with two pullout refrigerators for the deceased, a stainless steel table the autopsy was performed on, and the necessary instruments and accouterments, some suspended from what appeared thin air. These tools of the trade ranged from the expected scalpels and retractors to saws and garden-like shears.

Fast-forward fifteen years. It is the morning of July 11, 1991. Prisoner number 74799 has just been transferred from the Department of Corrections, Arizona State Prison in Florence to Tucson County General Hospital in critical condition. Eight months prior to his admittance to the prison hospital, Prisoner 74799 was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. While considered inoperable, he was administered the customary chemotherapy treatments until four months later when the cancer spread to his brain, taking most if not all of his cognitive abilities away. Within one hour of his transport, Prisoner 74799, my brother, Michael Paul, died at the age of thirty-nine.

Continue reading “Learning Compassion from Inmate Number 74799 by Cynthia Garrity-Bond”

Sirens, Thunderstorms, and Bowling: The Divine on this Mother’s Day by Ivy Helman

untitledLet’s see if the following course of events makes sense.  A few Wednesdays ago, I was thinking about possible topics for this post considering it would be Mother’s Day.  In the midst of thought, the warning sirens in Prague began.  They were only being tested but, nontheless, I immediately thought of tornados.  You see tornados, as awful and devastating as they are, make me think of thunderstorms and lightning.  I love a good thunderstorm, the louder the better.

A Wisconsin childhood supplies plenty of thunderstorms.  I cannot tell you the number of times as I was growing up that I stood outside watching the sky turn into that distinctive greenish-purple and smelling the storm on the breeze.  Nor could I count the umpteen times we gathered in the basement as the tornado sirens blared and the radio advised its listeners in no uncertain terms to seek shelter.  Nor could I recall how many times I sat with my mom during more recent summers watching the storms come in or the lightning blaze across the sky like a spider’s web.  We’ve been lucky.  Never once did a tornado hit our neighborhood although a house or two has been hit by lightning. Continue reading “Sirens, Thunderstorms, and Bowling: The Divine on this Mother’s Day by Ivy Helman”

The Nature of Communal Pondering by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsLast week, I listened to an episode of Krista Tippett’s series On Being that featured an interview with poet Marilyn Nelson.  I am not very knowledgeable about the world of modern poetry, but I am familiar with Nelson’s work.  A couple years ago, I wrote about Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem, Nelson’s poetic composition about Fortune, an enslaved man whose owner rendered his body into a skeleton for medical training.  Fortune’s identity and history had been erased across centuries as his remains were displayed.  Community concerns eventually led to a multi-disciplinary academic, artistic, and community effort to honor the man and, in 2013, put his bones to rest.  Isaye M. Barnwell, a musician formerly of Sweet Honey in the Rock, developed a cantata and choral work for Fortune’s Bones. These developed into a series of artistic performances and community events that demonstrate the power of art to speak through and for those who are marginalized—even in death.  Disparate communities joined together to ponder Fortune’s life, and it was powerful.

In the On Being interview, Nelson spoke about “communal pondering,” and I’ve been repeating this phrase to myself since then.  It identifies a form of creative activity and a spiritual way of being that I am deeply committed to, and have not been able to name.  Communal pondering occurs when a group of people are listening together and are opening up new paths for discourse and action by the engaged reflection that takes place within that listening.

Continue reading “The Nature of Communal Pondering by Elise M. Edwards”

Garden of Eden Retold by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir

Trelawney bio picture

Today, I came up with a less patriarchal Garden of Eden story:

Endelyn (age 7): “When I think of my soul, in my name “fire-soul,” I think of a powerful wind.”

Me: “That makes sense, since one of the names in the Bible for God/ess is Ruach, which means “breath” or “wind”, but we call it the Holy Spirit. God/ess is also symbolized by the other elements: fire, air, and earth – like when she shaped Eve and Adam out of clay.”

Endelyn, “What? I don’t remember that story.”

Me: “Oh, ok, I’ll tell you.” ……

Here’s the part where I froze momentarily, thinking “how can I tell my children that misogynist failed mentor story? how? how?” <deep breath>
Continue reading “Garden of Eden Retold by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir”

Novel Excerpt III: That Christmas Morning Feeling by Marie Cartier


MarieCartierforKCETa-thumb-300x448-72405I have posted selections from my novel in progress before here and here and here…I am again. My last post here at FAR was about women and silence. Silencing women—from the powerful (Hillary Clinton) to the obscure (this girl that in this novel excerpt is now a teenager) women are silenced.

In this novel, as you can read from the previous excerpts a journal is found by a brother who is twin to his sister. The journals he finds are addressed to him after his parents’ house sells. Upon reading them he begins to discover that they are written by his sister when she was younger and in all likelihood she does not now as an adult remember having written them. She does not remember what it looks like happened to her. Incest. What must he do? This grown up person that he now is finding this information out? She has been silenced and he is holding the key to the only voice she had at the time. I have been working on this novel for over ten years and am currently immersed in trying to pull together all of the pieces I have written over the years. What I have posted so far is excerpts from the journals he, Chris, finds. This excerpt continues that story line. Continue reading “Novel Excerpt III: That Christmas Morning Feeling by Marie Cartier”

A Renewed Vision of Being by Katey Zeh

Last Friday I spent the day at a re:New retreat led by author, speaker, and teacher Rosie Molinary. This year brought some big professional changes in my life and since I’ve never been one to make resolutions, I decided that I needed a different way to mark the transition into 2016. Instead of forming new habits, what new intentions would I be setting for this next chapter?

One of the biggest takeaways for me from the re:New retreat was something Molinary articulated at the very beginning of our time together. She said that as a culture we often use this formula:

doing–> having–> being

We start with the belief that if we do something, we’ll have something and then we’ll be something. An appropriate example for this time of year of resolutions: if I lose ten pounds, then I will have the self-acceptance I need to be more confident in my life.

Molinary said what we need to do is reverse the formula:

being–> having –> doing

If we focus on achieving the feeling that we want, then we have what we need to do the things we want to do. For a productivity junkie like me, this was a major shift in thinking.

Molinary led us through several journal and small-group exercises that helped us land on a single word that captured the feeling we wanted more of this year. One woman chose light. Another chose enjoy. I landed on resolve. The irony isn’t lost on me. I signed up for this retreat because I resisted the idea of resolutions, and yet I ended up selecting “resolve” as my 2016 world.

When I picture having more resolve in my life, I think of determination, focus, and decision. As a young leader I’m tempted to spend a significant amount of time fixated on how others perceive the job I am doing and when I sense dissatisfaction from anyone, I question myself. Not only is this detrimental to my own well-being, but it is also a distraction from the work.

Resolve also means that I will be careful in my decision making around opportunities that arise. Molinary shared with us a metric she uses when deciding when to say yes (and no). She calls it the whole-hearted continuum. From beginning to ending, will this opportunity bring her joy? If it will, she says yes, and if not, she lets it go with the faith that it will become an opportunity for someone else’s whole-hearted yes.

Surprisingly the most enjoyable part of the day for me was putting together my vision board for 2016. At first I felt a little like the way Brené Brown describes in this On Being interview with Krista Tippett:

I was one of those people who, if someone said, you know, “Hey, do you want to take this painting class with me, or do you want to scrapbook or do you want to …” you know, I was like, aw, that’s really cute. You know, “You do your A-R-T, I’ve got a J-O-B.”

As I sat on the floor and flipped through magazines, I pulled images and words that resonated with me, some of them for reasons I could not articulate until they came together on the board itself.  It now sits by my desk as a constant reminder of my goal to have more resolve in my life this year.

If you’re interested in learning more about Rosie’s retreats and coaching or if you’re looking for some ideas on renewal for this year (or anytime), please check out her website at rosiemolinary.com.

Katey Zeh, M.Div is a strategist, writer, and educator who inspires intentionalKatey Headshotcommunities to create a more just, compassionate world through building connection, sacred truth telling, and striving for the common good.  She has written for outlets including Huffington Post, Sojourners, Religion Dispatches, Response magazine, the Good Mother Project, the Journal for Feminist Studies in Religion, and the United Methodist News Service.  Find her on Twitter at @ktzeh or on her website www.kateyzeh.com.


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”

Translating the Self by Vibha Shetiya

VibaOne of my favourite tasks is translating works from various Indian languages into English. I developed a love for this while enrolled in a graduate seminar on translation theory. The challenge of it all was mind-boggling – how do I reduce the jaggedness of despair running within the depths of someone’s soul into two-dimensional, Times New Roman, 12-point font? How do I convey an intangible phenomenon such as a believer’s union with god without losing the intensity of his or her experience? I loved the exercises, but it is only now I realize how much the concept of translation had also been intertwined with my own fiber of being.

When I lived in India and for many years afterwards, I went by Vib-ha, the usual pronunciation of my Indian name. I didn’t realize then that I didn’t identify with Vibha. A few years ago, I reverted to the Vee-bah of my childhood, the Anglicized pronunciation. It wasn’t so much as being picky, as it was about getting involved in the search for who I really was.

Growing up in an English environment since not quite the age of two, I automatically internalized the label of Vee-bah that my teachers and friends addressed me by, along with developing a “foreign” set of ideals and sense of self. “I’m Veebah,” would be a natural extension of myself; without thinking I had adjusted the complexities of being a little brown girl into one neat word: Veebah.

But by the sixth grade something wonderful was happening. I began to literally feel more comfortable in my skin – I no longer felt like I had to hide my Indian snacks from the rest of the class. I no longer felt I had to apologize for looking different or having a weird sounding, albeit Anglicized, name. And by the time I turned twelve, my changing mind and body soon began to embrace Veebah. It was like I had finally begun to own Veebah.

A year later, however, I moved to India, the land of my birth. My parents had come back “home,” but I had just acquired newly found status of “alien.” Could years of growing up abroad simply be undone by a one-way ticket and an unsigned contract between my father and Zamefa Pvt Ltd.? It got worse as time progressed. There were too many things to deal with. I sounded different; my ideas about music and movies were different; I was too outspoken; I looked much older than I was, and worst of all, I had a certain precociousness about me when it came to the birds and the bees. By the time I was fifteen, however, I managed to figure it all out. With a bit of help from others, I smoothened myself, rough edges, “over-smartness” and all into a two-dimensional being who, in turn, was soon transformed into an echo of everyone around her. An echo called Vib-ha. I was now in India, and had to go by Vib-ha, was what I told myself. With that label, I found myself pushing Veebah more and more into the background; I smothered her with my Indian sounding name and all the Indianness I thought ought to go with it. Continue reading “Translating the Self by Vibha Shetiya”

Remaining Teachable: A Vital Component of Spiritual Leadership by Kate Brunner

Kate Brunner profile pic

A long time ago, at a young age, I became aware of a calling to leadership. Over time this calling continues to undergo expansion and evolution. In its current state, this calling- which I have come to experience as a living entity and life -long companion- insists on commitments to engage in various forms of teaching, mentorship, ministry, healing, writing, service, and ritual as manifested aspects of my leadership and priestesshood in the world.

I love my calling. I am good at what I do and I am confident in the knowledge base that supports my leadership. But, I do my best to remember that I do not -by any means- know everything about everything. I don’t even know everything about my areas of expertise. No one ever knows everything. Human omniscience just isn’t practically feasible.

So, as I move through the practice of my priestesshood, it is vital that while I am teaching, leading ritual, mentoring, writing, healing, and serving, I remain teachable, myself—that I never assume I already know all there is to know in any given situation during the practice of spiritual leadership. When I stay open, when I consciously remain teachable, I hold space for Divine Lessons to reach me. When I remember this, I bear witness to Goddess’ presence and leadership in others, as well as myself. When I receive these new lessons with gratitude, connections are deepened, knowledge bases expanded, and perspectives widened for everyone involved. Those moments are holy, precious. In those moments the Divine blossoms within us and between us. And we are all renewed. Continue reading “Remaining Teachable: A Vital Component of Spiritual Leadership by Kate Brunner”

Normativity, Naming, and the Divine Image by Natalie Weaver

Natalie Weaver editedOver the past two days, I have been considering the challenges and competing perspectives on Carol Christ’s post, “Who is Gender Queer?”  I’d like to weigh in with some thoughts on normativity, naming, and the divine image.

I do not identify as genderqueer.  But, like Carol describes in her post, I have often felt misfit or misnamed.  As we all do, I internalized categories of masculine and feminine in childhood and somehow felt myself to be “masculine” in my physicality, my dark eyebrows (which people – frequently strangers – felt regularly inclined to describe, critique, and even molest in bathrooms, checkout lines, and salons), my hairy legs (which seemed hairier than my girlfriends’ legs in grade school), my interests, even the way I thought.  My sense of my sexual self felt somehow masculine because I never experienced my body passively.  I climbed and jumped and ran more than my female classmates, and I had much smaller breasts than the women in my family.  The real proof for me, though, was that I never had a period on a 28-day cycle.  I grew up thinking I was defective and generally not a very good female.  All of this, of course, I now know merely reflects the onslaught of normative messages I unwittingly accepted in my formation about the experience, presentation, and performance of physical sex and gender.   Continue reading “Normativity, Naming, and the Divine Image by Natalie Weaver”

An Archaic Trinity of Goddesses? Not Necessarily. by Barbara Ardinger

Barbara ArdingerIn her comment following my last post which was about mythology, my friend, Carol Christ, expands on my paragraph about how the so-called “ancient triple goddess” was really invented in 1948 by Robert Graves in his book, The White Goddess. (Thanks, Carol.)

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, when the Goddess movement was just getting up on its feet and our ovular books were being published, the idea arose that if “they” have a holy trinity, “we” have one, too. And ours is older and holier. We see it in the three phases of the moon, new (Virgin), full (Mother), and dark (Crone). Here’s a tiny sample of these books that changed the lives of so many women and men:

  • Woman’s Mysteries Ancient and Modern by M. Esther Harding (1971, but first published in 1933)
  • The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe (1974) by Marija Gimbutas
  • When God Was a Woman (1976) by Merlin Stone
  • Lost Goddesses of Early Greece: A Collection of Pre-Hellenic Myths (1978) by Charlene Spretnak
  • The first edition of The Spiral Dance (1979) by Starhawk
  • The Chalice and the Blade (1987) by Riane Eisler
  • Laughter of Aphrodite (1987) by Carol P. Christ
  • The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries (1989) by Z. Budapest
  • The Reflowering of the Goddess (1990) by Gloria Feman Orenstein
  • Whence the Goddesses: A Source Book (1990) by Miriam Robbins Dexter

Triple goddess? ’Tain’t so. Our beloved triple goddess is one of our foundational myths. It’s nice and it’s perhaps inspiring, but it’s only a myth. Anyone who looks at a calendar or almanac—or up into the sky every night for a month—can easily see that the moon doesn’t have three phases. It has four: waxing, full, waning, and dark. And since the late 20th century, women have lived long enough to go through more than three stages of life. Continue reading “An Archaic Trinity of Goddesses? Not Necessarily. by Barbara Ardinger”

Are We Living in a Rape Culture? by Carol P. Christ


rape in the military rape in war rape in sports rape in the university rape in fraternities rape at parties rape on the way home rape in the car rape on the street rape in the park rape in the home rape on the couch rape on the bed rape on the floor rape in a closed room rape in the dark rape in the light rape in marriage rape on the job rape in the bible rape on tv rape in great works of art rape by a friend rape by a neighbor rape by a friend of the family rape by a member of the family rape by men with power rape by men without power rape by someone you know rape by someone you do not know rape as power rape as domination rape as humiliation rape as violation




silence Continue reading “Are We Living in a Rape Culture? by Carol P. Christ”

A letter to feminists…from a 70-year-old white guy by Peter Wilkes

Peter Wilkes - CopyHello everyone —

I’m new at this, so be gentle…  I’m also aware that some might believe this letter to be “mansplaining” (a term I just learned).  I trust it won’t be.

First, I’m not a theologian, and definitely not an academic.  I’m just a guy, like any guy you might see on the street.

But I believe that feminism – defined as true and honest equality – is the only thing that’s going to save this messed-up world.  I’m also convinced the biggest obstacle to this happening is organized religion.  However, most importantly, I’m distressed that other guys don’t get this.  So, before I leave this life, I’m determined to do something about that.

I didn’t always think this way but, in my fifties, as I was kicking and screaming and going down for the third time, I reached for Merlin Stone’s book, When God was a Woman.  Only then did things start to make sense.  I’ve always been told I’m a late bloomer.  I never realized how late “late” would be.

But really, it’s just logical that early man watching a child grow inside the body of a woman – then seeing it emerge from that same body – must have found something amazing, wondrous, and worthy of great praise and adoration.  And also worship, for something like that to happen was, and always will be, a true miracle.  Continue reading “A letter to feminists…from a 70-year-old white guy by Peter Wilkes”

What’s Good About Good Friday? by Barbara Ardinger

Barbara ArdingerI grew up Calvinist and Republican in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. My parents belonged to—but rarely attended—Immanuel Evangelical & Reformed Church in Ferguson, Missouri. When children reached the age of twelve, they were “confirmed” in the church, which meant taking a Bible class taught by the minister, Rev. Press, and then going through a ceremony that made them eligible to take communion, which in that church was grape juice and tasteless crackers. Transubstantiation? I learned what the word meant, but I had (and still have) no idea if it really happens.

Ascension by John Singleton Copley (1775)
Ascension by John Singleton Copley (1775)

I’ve always been one to ask untidy questions, so of course I asked a lot of questions in confirmation class. God tells us half a dozen times in the Old Testament, for example, that he is a “jealous god.” How, I asked Rev. Press, can a jealous god be a loving god? What’s good about a jealous god? (A couple decades later, when I was studying the Aramaic Bible as translated by George M. Lamsa from the Pshitta manuscripts, I learned that the correct word is “zealous.” That was no help. I still don’t see much good in either jealousy or zealotry.) A week or two later, I asked Rev. Press, “What’s good about Good Friday?” Shortly thereafter, my mother advised me to stop asking questions in confirmation class. (Can we assume she’d received a pastoral phone call?) Continue reading “What’s Good About Good Friday? by Barbara Ardinger”


carol-christStatue_of_Egyptian_Goddess_Hathor_from_Luxur_Museum_EgyptMost archaeologists and visitors to museums assume that when they see a horned bovine, they are faced with the image of the male God or the image of the bull sacrifice.  In the minds of many, these two are one, as we have been taught that the male God who was the consort or son-lover of the Goddess was sacrificed. Yet horned Goddesses are not infrequent in the history of religions and Hindus still revere the sacred cow.  

Cattle have played an important role in human life from the beginning of agriculture.  Cows provide milk which is also turned into butter, cheese, and yogurt.  Most of the young males and some of the females are killed for meat or leather, while a few males are kept to impregnate the females.  Though the “raging bull” is the lens through which most of us think about mature male bovines, I have been told by a friend who raised cattle that in fact bulls are for the most part gentle and even sweet–though of course they are also potentially dangerous.

Before the industrial revolution, there was also a third category of bovines, the castrated males, known as oxen, who were used as “beasts of burden”–to pull plows, litters, and after the invention of the wheel, wheeled vehicles. Many people assume that only bulls have horns. This is not the case.  Recently a friend who was raised on a dairy farm described to me the pain experienced by young female cows when their horns are burned out. So let us think again about the images of the horned bovines found in museums.  Given that cows and oxen were long-term companions of early “man” and early “woman,” why should we assume that all horned bovines are bulls?  Continue reading “GODDESS AND SACRED COW: A RE-EXAMINATION OF THE MYTHOLOGY OF THE SACRED BULL by Carol P. Christ”

Dialogues With Our Children by Kelly Brown Douglas

Son: My friends and I were stopped for going 61 mph in a 55 mph zone, frisked and had our car searched. We thought the police were going after the car of white boys in front of us going at least 70, but they stopped us instead.

Mother: It’s not the first time.

Intergenerational dialogues are key to Alice Walker’s womanist definition. This definition includes a dialogue between a mother and a daughter in which the daughter announces that she is going to Canada and taking others with her. The mother replies that she would not be the first one to make such a journey.  During this Women’s History Month, I as a womanist am reminded of the dialogues that haven take place between black women and their children. These inter-generational dialogues have been fundamental to helping black children to “survive and be whole” in a world that looks down on their blackness and attempts to limit their ambitions. Continue reading “Dialogues With Our Children by Kelly Brown Douglas”

Knowledge is Power by Kelly Brown Douglas

If knowledge is power, not knowing is privilege.

It has long since been understood that knowledge is power. Women and other subjugated voices have recognized that those who control the world are those who define the world— and define not simply what counts as knowledge—that is the content of knowledge, but they also define the production of knowledge—that is what sources and means are considered resources for knowing. Just as Michael Foucault has made this clear in his deconstruction of discursive power, so have womanists and black feminists like Patricia Hill Collins who have called for an “epistemology of knowledge, where the meaning of knowledge itself, in terms of content and production, is re-examined and re-defined. For it is undeniable that the what and ways of knowing peculiar to marginalized groups and classes of people are rarely considered knowledge—perhaps “wisdom,” “folkways,” “customs,” “superstitions,” or “women’s intuition,” but not knowledge, not something worth knowing and thus not something worth teaching. Why am I talking about all of this today? Continue reading “Knowledge is Power by Kelly Brown Douglas”

On Pronouns and Liberation in the Classroom by Ivy Helman

photoIn my introduction to Christianity class, almost every one of my students (who come from diverse religious backgrounds – primarily Roman Catholic, Protestant and Muslim), continues to believe that the best image if not the only appropriate image for G-d is male.  When probed they may speak generically about G-d as genderless, an entity or spiritual presence of some kind, yet conclude by affirming their belief that G-d is male often by adding something along the lines that G-d is best described as Father.  Some go so far in these affirmations that they articulate G-d’s maleness as fact.  It never fails that every semester I struggle with how to address this basic feminist issue within the classroom.

At least as early as 1973, Mary Daly, in Beyond G-d the Father: Towards a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation, articulated the problematic basis of the relationship between gender and divine imagery.  She argues that “If G-d in ‘his’ heaven is a father ruling ‘his’ people, then it is in the ‘nature’ of things and according to divine plan and the order of the universe that society be male-dominated.”  In other words, if maleness is associated with divinity, then the power, domination and running of society by men seems to be divinely ordained. Continue reading “On Pronouns and Liberation in the Classroom by Ivy Helman”

And Thus God made a Covenant with Hagar in the Wilderness by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Freyhauf, Feminism, Religion, Durham, Old Testament, Blogger, BibleWe are familiar with the covenant God made with Abraham and Moses, but are you aware that God also made a covenant with Hagar?

In the wilderness Hagar encounters a deity at the well named Beer-lahai-roi (Genesis 16). Water and wells are important because they symbolize fertility and life. Wells for women are common places where they met their future spouses. Because wanderers in the desert need water to survive, water itself becomes a symbolic of life-giving or life.

In the seemingly barren dessert, the fertile Hagar finds out that she is pregnant and going to be the mother of many children. Hagar is promised progeny in a motherless state.  According to Pamela Tamarkin Reis, this is called the “after-me” descendants, which guarantees Hagar that her children will live for “immeasurable generations;” a pattern that fits within the scope of this promise. This same promise of progeny is also given to Eve in Genesis 3:20, providing and interesting parallelism between Eve and Hagar.

It is worth pointing out the irony exists in this promise.  Sarai uses Hagar to “build her up.” According to Nahum Sarna, to be built up in terms of the number of children that you have, implies that you are mother to a dynasty.  In this pericope, however, it is Hagar, not Sarai that is built up through this divine promise.

This patterns of promise exists within the birth narrative through the annunciation of Ishmael and the promise of progeny.  It is through this narrative that Hagar enters into a covenantal relationship with the deity.  According to J. H. Jarrell, birth narratives have six common elements that establish this relationship:  mother’s status, protest, offer, son’s future forecast, Yahweh naming, and acceptance of the contract. Hagar’s story contain these elements:

  1. Mother’s Status:  Hagar is without child because she is a virgin (16:1).
  2. Protest:  Hagar flees from her mistress (16:8).
  3. Offer:  Return to your mistress and submit to her authority (16:9).
  4. Son’s Future Forecast:  He will live at the east of all his brothers (16:12).
  5. Yahweh Naming:  You will bear a son Ishmael because the Lord has given heed to your affliction (16:11).
  6. Acceptance of the Contract:  She called the name of the Lord (16:13).

Continue reading “And Thus God made a Covenant with Hagar in the Wilderness by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

SPECIAL AAR SERIES Part 2: Gamer-Player/ Gamer-Avatar: The Potential of a Video-Gaming Body by Sara Frykenberg with introduction and response by Mary Hunt

Sara Frykenberg Mary HuntIntroduction:

This is one of four papers presented in Chicago at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, November 17, 2012, in a session entitled  “Feminism, Religion and Social Media: Expanding Borders in the Twenty-First Century,” organized by Gina Messina-Dysert and chaired by Rosemary Radford Ruether with Mary E. Hunt as the respondent. What follows is the general response followed by, after each of the contributions, Hunt’s appreciative analysis. The first paper was posted here on Feminism and Religion, and the other two papers are posted here and here on the Feminism in Religion Forum

General Remarks by Mary Hunt:

The stated purpose of the panel is to discuss “how digital projects are remapping the feminist theological terrain and creating opportunities for a wide range of voices to participate in ongoing and new conversations related to feminist issues in religion.” These writers have done that and more. Continue reading “SPECIAL AAR SERIES Part 2: Gamer-Player/ Gamer-Avatar: The Potential of a Video-Gaming Body by Sara Frykenberg with introduction and response by Mary Hunt”

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