Full Moon Prayer by Sara Wright

Lupita  (Mary Guadalupe Tree of Life)

Your steel points of light

Your branches of Light (Asherah)

 glow in grave darkness.

Hecate’s second moon is Red.

The raven slices the sky into shards.

The river catches shivering stars.

We remember the First Mother…

Patiently, painfully,

we return the parts to the Whole.

See the Wolf who hides

 behind the Tree,

 the door?

Welcome him in.

Only then can we begin…


Your needled points of light

glow in grave darkness.

This kind of prayer is said during the dark months when shadows are feared and the nights are long. I use it at the solstice or the full moon before the winter solstice, a fire festival. But it can be used any time during the dark months. There are good reasons for this kind of prayer. It is so important to acknowledge our shadow and to invite him/her in as a friend, not as an enemy. Otherwise harmful projections occur as we place undesirable qualities that we can’t own onto others.

In Indigenous traditions there are always masked personages that act out these shadow qualities in sometimes very humorous or scary ways. The Tewa have a masked dancer who uses a whip to strike the ground. In central Europe masked dancers walk the streets creating havoc in rural areas even today. These figures are acting out the shadow in us all, keeping it present so this energy does not go underground where it can become quite deadly.

Sara is a naturalist, ethologist (a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Maine.

From the Archives:“Vaginas are Everywhere!”: The Power of the Female Reproductive System by John Erickson

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 19, 2012. You can visit it to see the original comments here.

I have a beautiful picture of vagina hanging on my wall.  However, for the longest time it was in the back of my closet, with a plastic bag covering it.  I wasn’t ashamed of it but my ex-boyfriend, like most gay men, refused to have it on the wall where he could see it.  He is now long gone; the vagina is now out and proud.

I bid on the picture one fall during a showing of the Vagina Monologues at Claremont School of Theology.  One of my best friends was in the show and I had always loved its powerful message.  I walked out of the theatre, waiting for my friend, and there it was: the picture of the vagina.  I found myself caught up in its beauty.  Its gaze had mesmerized me.  The outlying layers of red, the contours of its shape, they all began to mold into a figure before my eyes.  While I have never thought of myself as a religious person, I realized that at that moment I was no longer looking the old photo but rather I was staring at the outline of the Virgin Mary.  At that moment, I realized that I had to have the picture.

Continue reading “From the Archives:“Vaginas are Everywhere!”: The Power of the Female Reproductive System by John Erickson”

Gratitude and Hope: With a  Lot of Help from My Friends by Carol P. Christ

Last Friday my oncologist gave me the best birthday present I could have imagined. (My birthday was 7:30 pm last night December 20, California time.) Without going into details, my latest CT scan was so much more positive than the last one that it feels like a miracle. I have reason to hope.

Today I am full of gratitude. I am grateful to my doctor Dimitrios Mavroudis who is the head of Oncology at the University of Crete and at the Pagni Hospital in Heraklion. I am grateful to medical science for the chemotherapy that is healing my body.

I am grateful for the national health system of Greece that is covering the cost of my treatment because I am a Greek citizen even though I never contributed to the national health insurance.

I am grateful to the nurses at the Pagni hospital who are unfailingly kind as they take my blood and regulate my chemotherapy.

I am grateful to Vera Dervesi, my cleaning lady and now friend, who with her husband Eddie, took me to the hospital where I was diagnosed, and who has helped me finish unpacking and moving in to my new apartment, and for her sweet presence in my home that soothes my soul. Continue reading “Gratitude and Hope: With a  Lot of Help from My Friends by Carol P. Christ”

A Lonely Mystic by Molly Remer

I want to be a lonely mystic
dwelling in devotion,82419444_2537557396456467_4177258129500667904_o
constantly dialoging with divinity,
drenched in wonder,
and doused with delight
in knowing my place
in the family of things.
I want to weave spells
from wind and wildness,
soak in solitude,
and excavate  the depths
of my own soul.
I want great expanses of time
to be and to listen,
to feel and know,
each step a prayer,
ceaselessly walking with the goddess.
I crave the clarity of insight
dropping with a flash
into my open hands,
the clear space of listening
with no other voices in my head.
I want to pray with my eyes wide open83673511_2550947128450827_73123862618832896_o
from sunrise until sunset,
never missing an opportunity
to commune with the sacred,
to feel myself enrobed,
with divine wonder, curiosity,
awareness, and understanding.
I want to light candles
and speak spells,
weave magic from the ordinary
and listen,
always listen,
to the whispers of my heart.
I want a chamber of quietude
with only crows and owls
for companions,
the soft eyes of deer
in a wooded glade
my witnesses,
steam rising from my broths and brews,
weeds and roses twining together
into the medicine of my spirit.
I want to be quiet and contemplative,
waiting in the shadows to spot the magic,
to feel the power,
to see through to the threads of things.
I want to feel still and holy
grateful and graceful,
to be an enspirited beacon
embodying my prayers.

I am a mama mystic
I nestle children against my shoulder,
my nose resting in blonde hair and needs,
mediate disputes,
knead bread dough,
make dinner,
fold laundry,
read books,
find filaments of magic
wound around the smallest things,
claw solitude from scraps,
and weave small spells
and bits of enchantment
from moments of magic
that wander by my full hands and head.
I gently coax quiet poems
from full spaces,
let prayers wind up over days,
nosing patiently into the cracks
between my deeds.
And, with my hands in the dough,
or my nose in the hair,
or the hand in mine,
I am drenched in devotion,
dialoging with divinity,
each step a prayer,
and knowing my place
in the family of things.
This is where the goddess dwells
right through the middle of everything,
in the temple of the ordinary.
Here, she says,
this too,
is holy,
and it needs you,
not that bloodless,
perfect priestess,
of silent
secret praise.
This is the real work of living
and it shows you who

*“Family of things” phrasing from Mary Oliver.

Molly Remer has been gathering the women to circle, sing, celebrate, 65317956_10219451397545616_5062860057855655936_nand share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri. She is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and wrote her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, mini goddesses, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of WomanrunesEarthprayer, the Goddess Devotional, She Lives Her Poems, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Patreon, Brigid’s Grove, and Sage Woman Magazine.

Where the Dance Is . . . On Cultivating a Daily Practice by Joyce Zonana

Although Goddess traditions invite us to embrace a world of immanence and change, rather than to seek to escape into transcendence—which some yoga teachings seem to point toward—I have come to believe that the “still point,” is, as Eliot writes, where “the dance is.” In other words, daily practice might grant us the capacity to always move through the world with grace and joy. The mind will be steady as it encounters and embraces the turning world. We will be whole.

jz-headshotWhen I was growing up, I was fascinated to see my father each day recite the morning blessings mandated for Jewish men. While the rest of the household bustled sleepily—my mother in the kitchen, my brother and I taking turns in the bathroom, my grandmother slowly getting dressed—my father, still in his pajamas, would stand in the center of our small living room, yarmulke on his head, tefillin wrapped around his arm and forehead, tallit draped over his shoulders. Using a tattered old siddur he had brought with him from Cairo, he would face the east and begin the ancient Hebrew prayers: “Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe . . .”

I never knew then the content of what my father intoned, but I knew how committed he was to his practice: he prayed every morning without fail, from the day of his bar mitvah at the age of eleven (the rabbi in Cairo had decided to initiate him early because he had lost his father as a young child) until he a few years before his death at 84, when he became debilitated by Parkinson’s Disease. Ours was not a traditionally Orthodox Jewish family—we did not observe the Sabbath or keep kosher—but my father’s faithful performance grounded him and all the rest of us, bringing us us to what T.S. Eliot called “the still point of the turning world.”

Continue reading “Where the Dance Is . . . On Cultivating a Daily Practice by Joyce Zonana”

Slippery Package: A prayer poem by Isabella Ides

She speaks a various language.


Bound in the bardo bereft

vaguely present, almost dead.

For fucking shining aloud

let me


back in. Come again, sweet terror

Carve my shadow on your cave walls

Render me a soul, source me

mystify, crush, obscure me

in that deep gorge

confine, stretch, reveal me

Let me wobble


  Continue reading “Slippery Package: A prayer poem by Isabella Ides”

The Finish Line by John Erickson

I see it…do you?

It’s just within reach and I’m almost there…the proverbial finish line to my Ph.D.

That’s right folks, I’m graduating.

To say that this has been an easy journey, one that many of you have read about and witnessed, would be an understatement.  For many of us, that finish line is far away or getting there seems more like a hope and dream rather than a reality.  Whether or not it is because of economic hardships, life in general, or the regular types of “isms” that so many of us face while trying to better ourselves via academic enrichment, the struggle is real. Continue reading “The Finish Line by John Erickson”

Holy Women Icons Bearing the Light of Advent by Angela Yarber

There’s nothing like the holiday season to bring out everyone’s least feminist self. In one of the courses that I teach—Gender, Food, and the Body in Popular Culture—students are assigned to examine gender roles throughout the holiday season through the lens intersectional ecofeminism. Inevitably, almost every student returns from holiday break with the same assessment: mom, grandma, and a kitchen full of women prepare, cook, and clean every family meal; women do the holiday shopping; men in the family watch sports. Of course, this isn’t true of everyone. There are plenty of families who subvert and dismantle stereotypical gender roles, but the holidays seem to heighten these roles, undergirding them with some kind of nostalgic and theological weight that claims that if mama doesn’t arduously prepare her famed casserole, the season will be ruined. Otherwise committed feminists find themselves singing carols filled with sexist language and participating in holiday rituals that they would critique any other time of the year. Subversion be damned because we want our traditional family holiday!

I’ve long struggled with creative ways to subversively approach the holidays as a queer clergywoman, parent, artist, and author. People like their nostalgic and heart-warming traditions, even when they sometimes smack of patriarchy, racism, and heteronormativity. I’ve confronted this as a preacher and worship planner, often to raised eyebrows or angry phone calls from congregants who just want to sing the carols without the preacher changing the words, or dismissing the notion of a virgin birth, or hanging enormous paintings of pregnant women all over the sanctuary.

Continue reading “Holy Women Icons Bearing the Light of Advent by Angela Yarber”

High Stakes for Women in Leadership: A Reflection and a Prayer by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsA few weeks ago, I was asked to give the invocation for a luncheon at my university.  Baylor University was celebrating our presidential inauguration and there were several events leading up to the installation of the university’s 15th president. The inauguration was historic because it ceremonially marks the beginning of a term for our first female president, Dr. Linda A. Livingstone.

As I write, it is a year after Hillary Rodham Clinton lost the election for President of the United States of America. Like many of us, I’m still coming to terms with the choice my nation made, and how we came to it.  I’m thinking about women in leadership, especially occasions such leadership marks a first, a departure for an institution or system marked by male privilege.

What does it mean when an institution is willing to deviate from its long-established patterns of leadership and entrust its governance to women?

Continue reading “High Stakes for Women in Leadership: A Reflection and a Prayer by Elise M. Edwards”

Self-Care is a Feminist Issue: Holy Women Icons Project’s 7-Day Online Self-Care Retreat by Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber

Several years ago, I was pastor of a welcoming and affirming church. As a queer clergywoman, I thought that such a place would be the perfect place to flourish and thrive as a pastor. And yet, because of heterosexist and sexist microaggressions, I found myself anxious, depressed, and in need of physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual care.

After a three-day retreat filled with self-care and soul-nourishment at a non-profit retreat center that catered to activists and artists , I felt as though a tremendous weight was lifted off my shoulders, that I could focus and find clarity in my vocation. Pausing to care for myself gave me the courage to leave my toxic job and live more fully into my calling. This experience taught me the vital importance of self-care.

Womanist Audre Lorde once proclaimed, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Because caring for the self violates the patriarchal norms that traditionally dictate that you should be the one caring for everyone else. Yes, everyone needs to pause to care for the self. But oppressed minorities have a particular need for self-care, not simply as a way of refreshing oneself in order to do the work of justice, but as a vital part of the work of social justice. Because caring for yourself in a society—and a church—that wishes for you to do otherwise is an act of political warfare. When feminists care for themselves, it is a radical act of soul redemption, spirit rejuvenation, and a political and spiritual act of acknowledging your holy and innate self-worth. In case anyone has told you that you are not worthy, let me reassure you. You are worthy. And you deserve to care for yourself.

Continue reading “Self-Care is a Feminist Issue: Holy Women Icons Project’s 7-Day Online Self-Care Retreat by Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber”

A Letter to Those I’ve Lost by John Erickson

Out of all of these things, the one thing that has kept coming to my mind is G-d. What is he (or she) thinking? I feel like I’m back in one of my Old Testament classes discussing the harsh and cruel G-d that thrust so many horrible things onto their believers. Maybe, the worst part about the election isn’t Donald Trump, but it is the realization that G-d may be dead after all.

Dear [Insert Name Here],

Something died on November 8, 2016, and I do not think I’ll ever be able to get it back. I sat there, walking back to my house, in disbelief and utter shock and scared about the next 4 years of my life.

For weeks leading up to the election, I had found myself praying in the copy room at my work almost daily. I would sit there, silent and alone, having just read some misleading article or alt-right post from a family member that called Hillary Clinton the devil, and wonder: when did everything go so off the rails?

Although we’ll spend years trying to figure the answer to my above question out, for me, it is a question I have been asking myself ever since election night and specifically knowing how certain members of my family would, and ultimately did, vote. Continue reading “A Letter to Those I’ve Lost by John Erickson”

Chants of Help and Self-Compassion to Heal the World by Lache S.

green path
Recently I have cultivated a meditation practice. I only meditate for about 20 minutes, usually taking a comfortable position on a sunlit patch of carpet near an open window in the late afternoon when no one is home. My meditation is simple. It just consists of being aware of my breath, feeling my body, and a chant. The chant for this week is what I would like to share. It is a chant of help and self-compassion that may nourish you as it has me.

Camakam is a Vedic chant that comes from one of the four Vedas, Yajurveda, meaning prose mantra (yajus) and knowledge (veda). I have come to knowledge of a portion of it through Nicolai Bachman’s audio Chants Asking for Help. It is a prayer for the fulfillment of wishes, the description to this one says. Below is a sample with the translated lyrics in italics:


[. . .] śam ca me [. . .] and peace to me,

mayaśca me and delight to me,

priyam ca me and love to me,

‘nukamaśca me and proper desire to me,

kamaśca me and desire to me,

saumanasaśca me and positive thoughts to me,

bhadram ca me and a blessing to me,

śreyaśca me and the best for me,

vasyaśca me and better (things) for me,

It may seem arrogant or selfish to express these thoughts. But this is not a situation of wanting power-over or to boost the ego. I don’t feel individualistic or prideful when I pray these wishes in meditation. It is more of a feeling of healing, being courageous enough to speak good into the universe for myself, being a supportive mother to myself. Continue reading “Chants of Help and Self-Compassion to Heal the World by Lache S.”

Earth’s Mystery School by Molly Remer

“Earth is a mystery school complete with initiations and discoveries that you only experience by september-2015-123living with your feelings, touching the earth, and embracing the fullness of your humanity.”

–Queen Guenivere


On Samhain morning, I wake early and mist is rising out of the forest and dancing through the field and out of the trees. I have a moment of sheer awe to see it…the veil was literally thin.

Over the weekend, I visit the nearby river to connect in personal ceremony in appreciation before the park closes for the year and also symbolically to those at Standing Rock. This river eventually meets the Missouri River. I run my hands through the water. I anoint my brow, neck, and hands. I whisper my prayers into the ripples. I sing: “I am water. I am water…I am flowing like the water, like the water I am flowing, like the water.”october-2016-065

I am hurrying outside to get some work done. I feel tight and hurried with the length of my to-do list and my superhuman plans for the day. The bright red flame of a bloom on my pineapple sage plant catches my eye and then…the perfection of a bright yellow butterfly alighting on one slender stamen. My breath catches and I stop in wonder. I smell the flower and it smells of pineapple, just as the leaves do. I can hardly believe this treasure and the tightness melts into nothing. The rest of the day is full of joy.

I am once again healed by flowers.

About twenty feet outside my house, there is a small building with a little porch and a peaked roof. Inside, there is red carpet and a purple wall, goddess tapestries draped from floor to ceiling, and goddess sculptures in abundance. march-2016-002In this building I write, work, create, and hold small rituals with a circle of friends. I call it my Tiny Temple and it is the proverbial, “room of one’s own” described by Virginia Woolf in 1929. Having a dedicated work and ceremony space in the midst of a home-based life, which includes a home business shared with my husband, and four homeschooled children, has changed my life profoundly. In the tiny temple, I feel most wholly myself: connected, powerful, free, authentic, and completely alive.

One morning, as I walk to the temple, this beautiful rose makes me drop to my knees with delight. Yes. This right here. This is a beautiful moment. As I kneel beside the rose, the Body Prayer song* wells out of me until I have tears in my eyes.

september-2016-077  “We may need to be cured by flowers. 

We may need to strip naked and let the petals fall on our shoulders, down our bellies, against our thighs. We may need to lie naked in fields of wildflowers. We may need to walk naked through beauty. We may need to walk naked through color. We may need to walk naked through scent. We may need to walk naked through sex and death. We may need to feel beauty on our skin. We may need to walk the pollen path, among the flowers that are everywhere. 

We can still smell our grandmother’s garden. Our grandmother is still alive.”

–Sharman Apt Russell, in Sisters of the Earth

I create personal ritual almost every day in my tiny temple, sometimes simple, sometimes elaborate, sometimes tearful, sometimes joyful, sometimes hurried, sometimes leisurely, sometimes distracted, sometimes astonished at the wonder of it all. The week of my rose worship experience, I smudge the temple with sage I grew in the flowerboxes by my front porch. I ring my bell 13 times. I sing “I Am Fire.” I lay out cards and tiny goddesses and create a mandala out of fallen leaves. I leave an offering of flowers from the herbs and let rose petals drop from my fingers. Ritual captivates all the senses…in this sacred space, I invoke my own senses of smell, touch, sight, sound, and wonder and the result is magic.

“Through ceremony we learn how to give back. When we sing, we give energy through our voice; when we drum, we allow the earth’s heartbeat to join with our own; when we dance, we bring the energy of earth and sky together in our bodies and give it out; when we pray, we give energy through our hearts; when we look upon our relations, we give blessings through our eyes. When we put all these activities together, we have a ceremony, one of the most powerful forms of gift-giving we humans possess.”

–Sun Bear and Wabun Wind

May we each be healed by flowers, time to ourselves to sit on the earth and sing, and the simple, every day beauties and miracles that surround us each day.




Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing. She is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and finished her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of Womanrunes, Earthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Brigid’s Grove

Be Still by Natalie Weaver

Natalie Weaver editedBe still, and know that I am God.

During this season of Advent, I have found great comfort in one biblical passage, Psalm 46:10, which translates as “Be still, and know that I am God.”  

I take comfort here, when the rest fails me.  I find myself, especially during this season, often unable to pray in the way I think prayer is supposed to be offered.  Even though I know quiet, non-cognitive prayer that thrums like one’s heartbeat is as legitimate as a dozen rosaries or impassioned petitions, I sometimes struggle to affirm myself in this.  Like many academic theologians, I get lost in my mind that knows too many critiques, deconstructions, and rational responses.  I teach on the theology of suffering, and I spend hours every week with spiritual caregivers, healthcare providers, funeral directors, and chaplains, who discuss hospice, childhood cancers, car accidents, and stunning grief.   I teach on pastoral care, spirituality, and addiction, where we explore the complicated nature of hope in the face of largely hopeless circumstances.  I am not sure I ever believed in miracles or lucky rabbit feet.  I am in equal parts terrified and dumbfounded by humanity’s divine pleas that go unanswered. I am, in addition to a dozen other descriptors, depending on the time of day, a critical realist, an empiricist, a stoic, perhaps an epicurean, definitely an existentialist, and, Lord, have mercy, a feminist.   Prayer in both traditional ecclesial and fiery personal senses often struggles in this company. Continue reading “Be Still by Natalie Weaver”

Blessed Are They by Barbara Ardinger

Barbara ArdingerThere has been so much hate on display in the world so far in the 21st century that it’s easy to fall into despair. Not only are there wars in the Middle East, beginning with the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq, passing through the general failure of the Arab Spring, and continuing into the work of sociopathic terrorists of the so-called Islamic State, but we have also seen a multitude of murders in the U.S. I’m almost afraid to turn on the news! We have insane, mostly young, men who buy guns and ammunition and invade movie theaters, churches, hair salons, regional centers, and schools. We have murders of black men by (usually) white police, then the murder of police by an angry black man, and then more murders. As some protesters are now saying, “All lives matter.” Right on!

PeacemakersLet’s turn off the news for a little while. Let’s set aside our devices and all those pesky social media. Instead, let’s consider one of the best known (and, alas, probably most ignored) teachings of Jesus—the Sermon on the Mount as given in the Gospel of Matthew. I especially like the Beatitudes (verses 3-12): Continue reading “Blessed Are They by Barbara Ardinger”

Remember by John Erickson

Remember the loss, because we’re going to need it for the tomorrows to come and for those that need our protection the most: the next generation. Remember, we are Orlando; now, tomorrow, and always.

WEHO CA (June 7, 2015)©2015 Rebecca Dru Photography All Rights Reserved http://www.rebeccadru.com

I want to tell you a short story about the small town of Ripon, WI. On May 19, the local newspaper, The Ripon Commonwealth, which has served as the town’s paper since 1864, published a story regarding the political right’s uproar concerning President Barack Obama’s executive order that all public schools must allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom which matches that of their gender identity. Angry and upset, the paper’s education reporter wrote an article expressing his clear disdain for the President and also expressing a clear lack of empathy, understanding and sheer bigotry towards the transgender community.

Growing up in Ripon, I always read the paper when it came out on Wednesday evenings. Those of you who grew up in a small town can attest to the luxury of seeing friends, family members, and even the smallest ongoings in one’s town in print for the entire town to see and talk about. However, one thing I never saw in the paper was the clear hate I read in Mr. Becker’s article (the author of said piece). Enraged, I immediately asked myself: what can I do? Having connections back in Wisconsin, I immediately turned to friends who owned businesses, a friend who is the Director of a vocal and important group in the town, and community organizations and friends to begin to write letters. Continue reading “Remember by John Erickson”

Facing the Moon Alone by Molly Remer

February 2016 030

“When all is said and done I think every Witch should, at some time, face the moon alone, feet planted on the ground, with only his or her voice chanting in the starry night.”

–Laurie Cabot, Power of the Witch

I will never forget the first time I heard someone recite the Charge of the Goddess from memory. Bare-breasted, she strode around the fire in sacred circle at a large goddess festival in Kansas, delivering the words with power, grace, and confident resonance. I thought: I will do that someday.

In February of this year, we took a family trip to Dauphin Island. While there, the afternoon of the full moon, I February 2016 148
decided that the time had come. I was going to memorize the Charge of the Goddess. First, I thought I would only memorize it a piece at a time. It seemed “too big” to do in a single sitting. I had it printed out on a piece of paper that rapidly became damp with the salty sea air. I drew a labyrinth in the sand with my toes, set one of my goddess sculptures at its entrance, and drew a Womanrunes card.

One stanza at a time, slowly I began to repeat the poem* aloud:

hear ye, the words of the star goddess
the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven..

Over and over, I said the words, letting them twine around my tongue and in the air, experimenting with cadence and rhythm. After I could reliably repeat one section, I’d move to the next, letting it build in my memory until I could put the two together confidently and then moving to the next.

I am the beauty of the green earth
the white moon amongst the stars..

I stared into the waves, listening to them rise and fall along with my words. My three older children dug in the sand. February 2016 073
My husband fished. My toddler toddled around and then came to sit on my lap and nursed to sleep for nap time:

before my face
beloved of all…

I whispered into his damp hair. I felt in an altered state of consciousness. The words began to wind their way through me, becoming a part of me, embedded in me. I danced with them as I have never danced with another piece of writing. I felt them merging with me. I sang them aloud. I stated them fast and slow and I built, adding the next line and then the next…

for behold, all acts of love and pleasure
all my rituals.

I turned over hard thealogical questions as the words spun their magic through the air. What does it really mean that “all your learning and seeking shall avail you not, lest your know the mystery.” Do I really feel the goddess within? Do I find her within myself or is she only outside and if she is only outside, does she really exist at all? Tears came to my eyes: do I even like myself?

Two hours passed. My baby awoke and returned to digging in the sand. My husband packed up his fishing gear. The sky began to darken and spit rain. I stood and danced the words into the sand with my feet.

let your divine innermost self
be enfolded
in the rapture
of the infinite

I felt rapturous. I felt triumphant. I had done it. Faster and faster my feet stamped the sand as I called the words into the waves. I spun in circles with my toddler chanting and laughing and offering my devotion before the sea, beneath the moon.

the mystery of the waters
the desire in human hearts…

February 2016 179

*I used Shekhinah Mountainwater’s adaptation of the Charge, originally by Doreen Valiente, as included in the book Ariadne’s ThreadMolly 180

Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing. She is a priestess who holds MSW and M.Div degrees and recently finished her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of Womanrunes, Earthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit. She writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at her Woodspriestess blog. 

Hail Mary: The Rosary and Why I Keep Praying by Marie Cartier

MarieCartierforKCETa-thumb-300x448-72405My mother-in-law is currently in hospice and expected to cross over any time now. My wife is with her. Those two sentences alone—since I am a woman writing this blog—signify historic/herstoric change. I am a woman and I am writing about my mother in law and I am writing that my wife is with her. We are in a sea change regarding gay marriage. I will be allowed bereavement to go with my wife, when the time comes, for the services.

What has not changed in my life is my dependence on traditional prayer. Although I am a witch/Wiccan, have done all kinds of meditation from Transcendental Meditation, and Buddhist chanting, to visualization, spell work, and New Age affirmation—when push comes to shove as they say, I get out the Rosary.

Why? Continue reading “Hail Mary: The Rosary and Why I Keep Praying by Marie Cartier”

Thealogy of the Ordinary by Molly


The Goddess Gaia is alive
In this time and in this space
She speaks in sunrises
And waves against the shore
She sings with the wind
She dances in moonlight
She holds you close
Your heart beats in time with hers
A great, grand hope and possibility
For this planet…

Over the last two months, I have been listening to a wonderful telesummit about priestesses. I am also a huge fan of the radio show, Voices of the Sacred Feminine. However, as I listen to both, I sometimes find myself wondering if walking a Goddess path is also viewed as synonymous with, “believe everything, question nothing.” Crystal essences, gemstone healing, soul contracts, past lives, spirit guides, astrology, the many realms and dimensions of the occult, mystical, New Age and metaphysical. Is wholesale suspension of logic required to join hands with the Goddess? Is deft management of the tarot essential to the priestess path?  Is excavating my “inner masculine” relevant or appropriate? Must I ascribe to “enlightened” tenets like, “you are not your body,” “I am a spiritual being having a spiritual experience” and “we made an agreement to do this work before we showed up in this body at this time and place” in order to move forward? Continue reading “Thealogy of the Ordinary by Molly”

A Prayer for our Broken World by Grace Yia-Hei Kao

The news of late has been terrible. I read about the following headlines yesterday (July 17, 2014):

1. A Malaysian Airlines passenger plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile in Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers aboard. Both the Ukrainian government and the pro-Russia separatists have denied responsibility and it is still (at the time of this post) too early to assess blame. I feel for the families and loved ones of those lost, the people in the war-torn region of eastern Ukraine, and Malaysian Airlines for the tragic year they have already undergone.
Continue reading “A Prayer for our Broken World by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

Sleeping: Thinking about Bodily Practices, Pt. 2 by Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsAs I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been reflecting on bodily practices–especially those that are not typically associated with feminism and religion. Our lives as embodied persons are so multi-dimensional! There is so much we perceive and experience through our senses, through our movements, and through the places we locate ourselves. So I have decided to use this blog to think through some ideas and learn from you in this community of readers, contributors, and commenters. Over the next few months, I will continue to discuss the ways I am becoming more intentional about connecting habits surrounding the body to feminist and religious concerns. Once again, I’ve glossed on only a few of the many connections we could make about women, religion, and bodily practices. Today I write about sleep. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Do feminism and religion have anything to do with sleep?

Sleeping is as vital to human survival as food and water. But lamentably, getting the proper amounts of sleep is not one of those healthy goals that is fiercely defended. It is much more common to hear someone brag about how productive she can be on a few hours of sleep than to boast about her productivity after a full night’s rest. I have to admit, I am always a little suspicious of those people who proudly proclaim they only need 4 or 5 hours of sleep, and I’m a little antagonistic to those who want to recruit the rest of us into their sleepless world: “There is so much else you could be doing with your time than sleeping!” They say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” I have even heard “Sleep kills dreams!” Um, actually, dreams come when you sleep. Sleep breeds dreams, you could say. More on that below.

As you might be able to tell, I am the type of woman who loves sleep. I love climbing into my bed at night. I enjoy the feeling of waking up with a rested body and a renewed spirit and a groggy-but-fresh mind. I especially love naps for that reason. The most enjoyable and perhaps “productive” seasons of my life have been those when I could take a nap after class, after work, or after the gym.

Sleep is vital because it allows the body to rest. In the Christian tradition, we claim that rest is part of the creation of the world. That God marveled at the wonderful world God created, and when the work was done, God rested. This rest inspires the Sabbath. Sabbath is a day set aside for rest, worship, and contemplation of the holy. It is regrettably observed less and less in contemporary American Christianity. Since we have let go of the need for the Sabbath, it certainly no surprise we have also lost sight of the importance of daily rest, too.

Although my thoughts are little uncharitable towards those who preach the gospel of little sleep, I am very sympathetic to those who feel they do not have enough time to sleep. To those who feel like sleep is a luxury they cannot afford. Certainly many women tasked with numerous responsibilities often feel this frustration. They make do with less sleep because they have to complete more tasks in their waking hours. Yet it has been my experience that even those who are overworked and overscheduled appreciate the uncommon times when they can sleep a little longer than usual.

For me, times of sleep are very much connected to gratitude. In the past year or so, I have retrieved the practice of nightly prayer, which sadly got left behind in my childhood years. In all honesty, it was not a renewal of spiritual piety that led me to resume these bedtime prayers. It was insomnia. As much as I love sleep, I am often kept from it by anxieties and thoughts of the coming day. I started using bedtime prayers as a way of turning my cares over to God. These silent prayers become conversations about what is important to me and what concerns me. I talk to God about what I am grateful for. I talk to God about my family and my friends, about their lives and concerns that weigh on me. And then I let it go–at least for the night–and trust my soul to the divine power who cares for me while I sleep.

These nightly prayers have not only promoted peaceful sleep (for most nights, at least) but also the experience of vivid dreams. Dreams, like other visions, are honored in many religions as a place where the divine communicates with humanity. But this too, seems absent from contemporary American Christianity. Perhaps it is because dreams are associated with the intuitive senses, and therefore the feminine, that they are overlooked. Dreams are less clear and presumably more open to speculative interpretations than the texts we read during the day. I cannot say whether I meet God or whether I meet my deeper self in dreams, but I do know I am connected to powerful ways of being in my sleep, and that this is important for my spiritual life.

My final reflection about sleep is an acknowledgment that we often do not sleep alone. While sleep itself takes us to a solitary place, we often share our beds with lovers, children, and other family members and friends. Like those bedtime prayers, the words we speak under the covers in those moments before sleep connect us to our bed-mates. Whether they are ghost stories or secrets or incoherent ramblings about the day to come, these nighttime words prepare our minds for the sleep that will soon overtake us. Unless, of course, we are next to someone who snores or kicks.

Elise M. Edwards, PhD is a Lecturer in Christian Ethics at Baylor University and a graduate of Claremont Graduate University. She is also a registered architect in the State of Florida. Her interdisciplinary work examines issues of civic engagement and how beliefs and commitments are expressed publicly. As a black feminist, she primarily focuses on cultural expressions by, for, and about women and marginalized communities. Follow her on twitter, google+ or academia.edu.

The Mosaic Language of God by Andreea Nica

Andreea Nica, pentecostalismThroughout my “bible-thumping, smitten with God” years, I scribbled countless thoughts and prayers in four devotional journals. Recently I came across these journals, wiping away the years of dust accumulated. As I have been detaching from the Pentecostal god, it was a painful, downright mortifying experience to read through my past communication with god. This god seemed so foreign now given my liberated, enlightened, evolved self. I remember writing to and about Him, but I couldn’t help thinking how dysfunctional and convoluted the language I used really was.

I love you Father. Take me…surrender me to your will…your ways. Let me not lean on my own understanding and foolishness.

Mary Daly in Beyond God the Father advocates, “Time to go beyond God the Father. Don’t you see? If God is male, then the male is God. Reclaim the right to name your self, your world, your God. The liberation of language is rooted in the liberation of ourselves. Be a wild woman…God is not A Being. God is Be-ing.”

Many social scientists contend that language is the foundation of our socially constructed realities. We use language as a creative tool and guide to frame our perceptions of the world around us. We also use language to create our own unique creative expressions. That even though we share and appropriate from the accessible pool of creative expressions, each individual designs and discovers their own true form. Continue reading “The Mosaic Language of God by Andreea Nica”

Eating: Thinking about Bodily Practices, Pt. 1 by Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsI am currently preparing to teach a course on bioethics in the fall. I plan on combining some common, secular materials on biomedical ethics with some theological material and some feminist readings. After all, in a course that centers around practices related to the body, birth, and death, there seems ample opportunity to introduce feminist themes. Some feminist perspective, of course, is typical, like when we will discuss abortion and contraception. (Or at least it is common in my courses where try to present multiple sides of an issue.) Anything related to conception, pregnancy, and birth is easily understood as a “women’s issue” and therefore something that feminists address. I’ve discussed abortion and contraception in previous posts on this forum.

However, I realized in going through readings for this course that I have not focused much on other practices related to the body in my scholarship or personal reflection. Specifically, I have not connected them to theological principles or feminist convictions. Perhaps not everything concerning the body is directly relevant to feminism. But I am sure if I thought about it, I would be able to make the connections. We are physical creatures and the feminist movement generally affirms recognizing our embodiment.

Continue reading “Eating: Thinking about Bodily Practices, Pt. 1 by Elise M. Edwards”

Songs for the Soul by Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsDuring the Christian season of Lent, many Christians focus on spiritual practices or disciplines that bring them closer to God. This year, I did not really engage in this type of reflection until the end of Lent. I have been wrapping up my first year teaching college students full-time, I’ve been focused on several writing projects, and I’ve been traveling. I did not intentionally think about spiritual practices until I participated in a silent retreat before Holy Week and traveled first to spend the holiday with my family and then again to mourn and remember the life of my aunt.  I reflected on them when I most needed them.

Continue reading “Songs for the Soul by Elise M. Edwards”

The Soul is Symphonic: Reclaiming Sacred Music


Here is a hymn of praise, a beautiful and intimate piece meant to be sung.

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.

When I posted this sacred text on my blog back in 2008, I asked my friends who come from a diverse range of spiritual backgrounds to guess the author and the divine figure to whom the text is addressed. Some thought it might be an ancient hymn to Persephone. In fact, it is one of Hildegard von Bingen’s ecstatic odes to the Virgin Mary. This song, O viridissima virga, can be found on a number of CDs of Hildegard’s music.

Born in the rich green hills of the German Rhineland, Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) entered the religious life at the age of eight. A Benedictine abbess, she composed an entire body of sacred music, including seventy-seven songs and a musical morality play which can be regarded as our first surviving opera. A polymath well versed in science and the healing arts, she developed her own form of natural medicine that is still practiced in Germany today. During her own lifetime, she was most famous for her prophecies which earned her the title Sybil of the Rhine.

Since earliest childhood, Hildegard experienced profound visions which directly influenced her music, theology, and healing practices. Her visions revealed the feminine face of the divine, which is mirrored in her music. Many of her songs are addressed to Mary or female saints, such as Ursula. Even the Godhead itself appeared to her in feminine form. In Scivias, her first book of visionary theology, she writes, “She is with everyone and in everyone, and so beautiful is her secret that no person can know the sweetness with which she sustains people, and spares them with inscrutable mercy.”

Hildegard’s sacred songs are filled with a deep sensuality and reverence for the natural world. In her hymn O viridissima virga, she transforms the Latin word virgo, or virgin, into virga, or branch, addressing Mary as the most verdant and lushly abundant branch on Jesse’s tree. Hildegard was Christian, yet her music and visions have profound resonance for people from all spiritual backgrounds. The more I study mystics and visionaries, the more I am convinced that they draw on the true heart of divinity. They tap into the ineffable.

Sacred music was the bedrock of Hildegard’s spirituality. For her, song was the highest form of prayer, sacred harmonies rising like incense in a perfect offering to heaven. Hildegard believed that the soul is symphonic. Such is the sweetness of music that it banishes human weakness and fear, and draws us back into our original state of grace, reuniting humans to their divine Source.

Benedictine monastic life was structured around the Divine Office: eight times a day, from the dawn office of Lauds to the night vigil of Matins, the choir nuns gathered to sing the Psalms of David and other sacred songs. Near the end of her long life, Hildegard and her nuns at Rupertsberg Abbey were subject to an interdict, or collective excommunication. A supposed apostate lay buried in their churchyard and they refused to allow the ecclesiastical authorities to exhume this man and desecrate his grave. As a result of the interdict, Hildegard and her nuns were denied the Mass and the sacraments—a very old woman, Hildegard herself might have died without the final sacraments or Christian burial. Yet what infuriated her most was that she and her sisters were forbidden to sing the Divine Office. Sacred song was absolutely central to her identity as a religious woman. The interdict was lifted only shortly before her death. I imagine her singing until her dying day.

What relevance does this have for us today? When I listen to recordings of Hildegard’s music, I am struck by its ethereal beauty. Nowadays, for people across the spiritual spectrum, there seems to be a dearth of good music. Much of what is sold as meditation music or inspirational music seems shallow and insipid to me. A regular church-going Catholic is more likely to experience the guitar mass than the mysterious beauty of Hildegard’s music.

As contemporary spiritual people, are we to live our lives severed from the kind of music that can truly feed our souls?

What can we do to reclaim the power of sacred song? Few of us are gifted composers. Many of us cringe to even hear ourselves sing. How do we integrate sacred music into our spiritual practice? Most of us lead busy lives and the stillness of a monastic lifestyle remains an impossible dream. Yet we might find sung devotions at morning and twilight to be deeply enriching. We might start by listening to recorded music that inspires us. From my own practice, I’ve discovered that Hildegard’s music definitely works as a backdrop to meditation and contemplation. It soothes the soul and draws the heart and mind to a higher place. Over time we might gain the courage and will to take the leap to sing for ourselves. It’s not necessary to play an instrument. The voice  God gave us is enough. The next logical step is creating our own new music.

If we can’t find the music to nourish our soul, we must create it. Hildegard took the established tradition of plainchant and wedded it to her own vision to create hymns of incomparable beauty that still move us today. Most of us aren’t visionaries like Hildegard, but we can write our own heartfelt lyrics in praise of the Divine as we see Her. We can write songs to celebrate the sacred cycles of the year and the days we hold sacred. We can take ancient sacred texts and find a melody to carry the words. Medieval plainchant is beautiful in its simplicity. Or perhaps a haunting old folk air will inspire you.

When you offer your songs as prayers, sing like you mean it. It’s not a performance to impress other humans but a pure act of devotion. Meet together with friends in an informal devotional gathering. Share your songs. Inspire each other. Our modern sacred music will inevitably keep evolving as people compose new songs and add to the canon. We each have the opportunity to be part of this evolution.

Mary Sharratt is the author of Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen (Houghton Mifflin 2012, Mariner 2013), winner of the Nautilus Gold Award: Better Books for a Better World. Visit her website.


Sacred Music Discography:

Hildegard von Bingen:
11,000 Virgins: Chants for the Feast of St. Ursula, Anonymous Four, Harmonia Mundi, USA.
The Dendermonde Codex, Dous Mal/Katelijne Van Laethem, Etcetera.
A Feather on the Breath of God, Gothic Voices, Hyperion.
Canticles of Ecstasy, Sequentia, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi.
Voice of the Blood, Sequentia, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi.

Let’s Build an Altar for Springtime by Barbara Ardinger

Barbara ArdingerWith spring springing up all over and warm days coming back in the colder climates, let’s build an altar to celebrate life. Now don’t worry—I’m not advising you to worship idols and do anything to insult your god. We’re not building a churchly altar, but one based on the concept of love respect for the earth we live on, the powers of Mother Nature, and the indisputable fact that we are all kin. This altar represents no disrespect for any religion, faith, sect, or denomination. Its purpose is to focus our awareness that the galaxy, the universe, the earth, the continent we live on, the town we live in, and spaces where we live and work are all sacred. The purpose of this altar is to remind us every day that every religion is sacred and that even the most humble among us have a place on the planet.

We start by considering the four elements—fire, air, water, and earth—which go back at least as far as classical Greek philosophy. Long ago, people believed that everything partook of these four elements. They looked around and saw the elements in action every day: ovens and lightning, soup and rivers, breezes and birds, gardens and hills. The four elements became the four humours, which came to the principles of medieval medicine that ruled our temperaments. The elements are also prominent in alchemy and astrology. Continue reading “Let’s Build an Altar for Springtime by Barbara Ardinger”

Yes, You’re a Homophobe by John Erickson

Jesus loved sinners and Jesus would rather be dancing with me in West Hollywood on a Friday night than lugging through a swamp luring ducks into a trap with a duck caller made by a clan who think that my sexual actions are similar to that of an individual having sex with an animal.

John Erickson, sports, coming out.

To be able to walk down the street holding the hand of the one you love is a great feeling and an action that some of us aren’t able to perform without fear.

A line has been drawn in the sand between those who support gay rights and those who do not.  While some call it being on the “right side of history,” I simply now refer to it as not sounding and looking like a bigot in the halls of history and in the various books, Facebook posts, and Tweets that our children will one day read. Continue reading “Yes, You’re a Homophobe by John Erickson”

Ar-Rahman, Ar-Rahim and Ar-Rahm by Jameelah X. Medina

 [The Most Compassionate, Beneficent, Ever-Merciful and the Womb]

In the Islamic tradition, there are numerous Names of Allah of which 99 are said to be known. Of these 99 Names or Attributes of Allah, two open the Qur’an in the very first line in the first chapter: ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim. The Qur’an begins with, “Bi ismiAllahi ar-Rahmani ar-Rahim [in the Name of God, The Beneficent, The Merciful]…” These two names are also ubiquitously repeated by Muslims when reciting from the Qur’an, initiating prayers, commencing events and gatherings, and more.

Although I am not particularly interested in etymology, I have long been fascinated by these two Names or Attributes of Allah coming from the same root as the word for “womb” and “mercy”—ar-rahm and ar-rahma respectively. Since all of human creation is brought into physical being through a womb I had so many questions: 1) Of all the root words that could have been used to establish the meaning of these opening words of the Qur’an to describe the Creator, why were words that relate to the womb, wom(b)anhood, female anatomy, and motherhood chosen instead of some phallic symbol of power and creation?; 2) How is mercy, beneficence, compassion, and graciousness related to the womb in Arabic?; 3) Was this Allah’s way of elevating the status of women at that time in that time and among the people to whom the Qur’an was originally revealed?; 4) If the female attribute of a womb  is related to these two Attributes of Allah, is the womb godly? Is the wom(b)man divine?; and lastly, 5) Could we have all been created from the figurative or even literal Womb of Allah making Allah The Great Mother of all creation? Continue reading “Ar-Rahman, Ar-Rahim and Ar-Rahm by Jameelah X. Medina”

Size Islam: Where do I fit in? by Jameelah X. Medina

Size Islam: Where do I fit in?

Reading Laury Silvers’ recent post caused me to reflect upon not only how my body is gendered in worship as a Muslim woman, but how my body is displaced, inconvenient, and often seen as an assault on thinner women’s, and even Islamic, sensibilities. This is a phenomenon in the prayer line, on prayer mats, in socio-religious gatherings, and even in online discussions with Muslims and other major religions.

I am usually the tallest (or among the tallest) women in mosques I have frequented. I am also obese and among the largest women in the mosque. I enjoy lifting weights, which also causes me to have very large thighs and arms and broad shoulders. Additionally, I have long feet, as well as wide hips and a large backside that no amount of fabric can hide. Among girlfriends, I’ve often referred to my shape as a “three-hour glass.” Needless to say, some shorter and smaller people find my frame imposing. Continue reading “Size Islam: Where do I fit in? by Jameelah X. Medina”


carol-christOne of the inspirations for the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete was the spiritual power and energy I felt at the monastery of Paliani with its Sacred Myrtle Tree.  The Panagia, She Who Is All Holy, is said to live in the tree, and the nuns who tend the tree follow customs far older than Christianity.  When I first visited Paliani, I asked Her to heal my broken heart and help me find my true love.

panagia palianiOver the years, I have offered many other prayers:  for my books and tours, for health, for citizenship that would enable me to stay in Greece.   I tell other pilgrims that the Panagia of Paliani has performed many miracles and repeat the story of the doctors who desperately wanted to have a child, who had tried everything, and who had a son a year to the day after making a prayer at Paliani. I point to the many “tamas,” including gifts of precious jewelry, crutches and body braces that have been given in honor of the power of the Panagia of Paliani.

In the fall of 2012 one of our members prayed that a heavy flow of menstrual blood that often lasted for more than half of every month be stopped so that she would have the strength to participate fully in the pilgrimage. She had been bleeding for 5 weeks when she came on the tour, and her bleeding stopped the moment she touched the tree.  Continue reading “GIVING BACK TO THE MOTHER by Carol P. Christ”

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