From the Archives: The Serpent and the Goddess by Judith Shaw

Moderator’s note: This marvelous FAR site has been running for 10 years and has had more than 3,600 posts in that time. There are so many treasures that have been posted in this decade that they tend to get lost in the archives. We have created this column so that we can all revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted January 26, 2020. You can visit the original post here to see the comments.

The otherworldly energy of Snake – it’s vitality, its uncanny ability to sense danger, and its ability to shed its skin and reappear as if reborn must have invoked feelings of awe in our ancestors. All across the pre-historic world one finds depictions of Snake and the spiral or meander as Snake’s symbols.

Creation, Primal Energy, Life Force
Snakes are mysterious, cold-blooded creatures –  slithering silently across the land, sleeping with open lidless eyes, hearing without ears but by feeling Earth’s vibrations, and using their forked tongues to smell in lieu of a nose.

Snake Spirit Animal-painting-by-judith-shaw

To the human imagination this enigmatic being is both chthonic and spiritual – tying together Heaven and Earth. Though no stories survive from the early Neolithic period of Old Europe, the preponderance of imagery leads us to the conclusion that the Snake Goddess, often appearing as one with the Bird Goddess, was felt everywhere – ruling earth, water and air – nurturing the world with the feminine principle – Mistress of life-giving cosmic forces.

Continue reading “From the Archives: The Serpent and the Goddess by Judith Shaw”

Behold! The Treasures of Eden by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

The place and purpose of the Garden of Eden is a topic of endless fascination and interpretation. This blogpost looks at two biblical passages and the word eden itself to see what we can learn about its meanings. At its most basic, Eden is a garden of treasure and delight.

As I’ve written before, the written form of Ancient Hebrew words comes from the hieroglyphic tradition of Egypt. The pictures of the letters form a picture puzzle or rebus. The word roots are generally two or three letters. I use script called Semitic Early for my baseline of study.

Continue reading “Behold! The Treasures of Eden by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”

The Celtic Cross and the Compassing of the Divine Womb, Part 1 by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir

No one knows why Celtic Crosses have a circle. Guesses include pragmatic utilitarianism (to hold the arms up),1 the sun, Greek laurel wreath, Egyptian ankh, circle of creation,2 the Chi-Ro Greek monogram for Christ,3 the divine light that imbues all creation,4 the “Celestial Sphere” found in earlier Eastern Christianity,5 and a range of fanciful inventions based on modern imagination and pseudo-scholarship about Celtic “paganism.” [Leading scholars of pagan history agree that almost nothing is known about pre-Christian beliefs in Britain and Ireland. The few, conflicting descriptions we have, all come from highly tendentious, frequently incorrect foreigners (such as Julius Caesar, who also claimed that German forests were full of unicorns) or from Christian writers of later periods with strong agendas of their own (such as creating a native pagan history and mythology to rival their snobby Greek and Roman “Classical” neighbors).6] The circles on Celtic crosses remain a mystery.

With that in mind, I do not suggest an historical hypothesis here; rather, I offer a theological insight from a modern Feminist Christian perspective. I ask the invitational question: “What happens when modern Christians allow Celtic Crosses to symbolize the Compassing of the Divine Womb?” 

Continue reading “The Celtic Cross and the Compassing of the Divine Womb, Part 1 by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir”

Biblical Poetry: Vibrational Essence by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

Today’s biblical poetry reflects on two passages in Exodus 15:2 and 15:3. Both deal with the vibrational essence that gives rise to the splendors of life.

KJV is the traditional King James Version. MPV is my own Mystic Pagan translation.See notes below for my translations of various words including LORD.

Exodus 15:2

The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation:
he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation;
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

YaaaHaaaVaaaHaaa, is the source of my vivacity and song
Unveiling pathways of liberation.
Rooted in the potentiality of my ancestors
Resplendent in beauty.

Continue reading “Biblical Poetry: Vibrational Essence by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”

Biblical Poetry by Janet MaiKa’i Rudolph

This blogpost is about biblical verses and uncovering the magic and spirit behind its words. Why, you might ask, is this a project that belongs on a blog dedicated to feminism?

I believe it does because it helps us to strip away the many layers of patriarchy with its attempts to hide and/or change original teachings. Remember; these stories were originally oral wisdom teachings of the “folk.” They weren’t written down until the Babylonian exile, hundreds if not thousands of years removed from their origins. And who was doing the writing? Priests, scribes, and prophets, all with their own agenda. Even the earliest writings we have, the Dead Sea Scrolls, were still written in patriarchal times.

Continue reading “Biblical Poetry by Janet MaiKa’i Rudolph”

Musings on The Crown by Janet MaiKa’i Rudolph

Even though I was a late-comer to the Netflix series The Crown, when I did watch it, I was riveted. Lots of thoughts ran through my mind at this picture of royalty. The concept of royalty in human history is vast and multi-faceted, however in this blogpost I am only pulling on a few threads that tugged at me as I watched this show.

I laughed as people greeted the Queen and said, “your highness.” Does that make the rest of us lownesses? And where did all this pomp come from anyway? And why is the British monarch the head of the Church of England which is a bible-based Christian religion?

Monarchy, religion and war have always seemed so connected in our culture. Indeed, during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, she was handed “the sword of state” as if she would actually be using it. (I looked it up, true to the ceremony). Continue reading “Musings on The Crown by Janet MaiKa’i Rudolph”

Star Trek: Discovery Season Two: On Characters, Action, and Faith by Ivy Helman.

Season two of Star Trek: Discovery incorporates religion differently than season one.  While there are religious overarching themes running throughout, like how actions to shape the future and faith not as convictions but as empowerment, a more fitting and interesting way of addressing religion throughout this season is to look at the individual characters and what their stories have to stay about religion.  

Captain Pike knows and understands religion.  He also often believes.  Michael is the persistent skeptic.  The Red Angel plays many roles: an illogical mystery, a revelation, a savior or a intentional sign. Saru is the convert, physically transformed with a newfound confidence and power, while Hugh is the reincarnated, whose bodily existence begets loneliness and struggle.  Spock is the logic wrestler, who as Pike says asks “amazing questions.”  Finally, not a character per se, episode two, entitled “New Eden,” represents a typical Western understanding of organized religion, replete with sacred writings and a church.  

Like season one, religion is present in the opening scene of the season, this time in the form of mythology, as Michael tells a tale of an African girl who threw embers from a fire into the air creating the Milky Way.  Michael says that she left a message in the stars if one was willing and open to receiving it.  

Continue reading “Star Trek: Discovery Season Two: On Characters, Action, and Faith by Ivy Helman.”

Yes, there are Goddesses in the Bible, Part 4 by Janet MaiKa’i Rudolph

This is the 4th in a series of blog posts about finding goddesses in the bible who had been hidden away through translation or denigration or other means. In my last blog post I discussed Lilith as a Great Goddess symbolized by both tree and bird. You can see it here

Today I continue with the topic of trees along with an examination of reversals and how many of beautiful, female pagan symbols were changed or removed from the texts. Perhaps the most obvious and pernicious has been that Eve “caused the fall” of humankind through a sinful act. Thus, the logic goes, it was Her action that has created the “grand curse” that we have labored under ever since. As I wrote in my last blog post, Lilith is another example, being portrayed as a demon in order to denigrate her Great Goddess roots. Lilith originally embodied both bird and tree energies. In my last blog post I showed one image of the Goddess in the tree which was a common theme in ancient Levantine cultures. The image today shows the goddess breast in the tree, which is identified as Isis suckling the future pharaoh Tutmose III. These images show the “Goddess in the Tree” as freely bestowing Her gifts and nurturing (not cursing) humankind. Continue reading “Yes, there are Goddesses in the Bible, Part 4 by Janet MaiKa’i Rudolph”

Yes There are Goddesses in the Bible, Part 3

This blog post is the 3rd in a series of looking for female deities in the bible who have been translated out of easy reach or otherwise hidden within its words. In my last blog post I discussed bird imagery and the bible. It is available here

 You can’t complete a discussion about birds without also bringing up Lilith. She appears by name only in one place in the bible; Isaiah 34:14. Isaiah uses the word liyliyth as a feature in a hellish landscape. Although it is also a name, liyliyth is treated as a common noun. The most prevalent translation is “screech owl” although others have included such names as night creature, night monster, night hag, and she-vampire. Continue reading “Yes There are Goddesses in the Bible, Part 3”

Yes, There are Goddesses in the Bible – Part 2 by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

As I wrote in my last blog post, there are female deities and goddesses sprinkled all throughout the bible. They just aren’t obviously in plain sight.

One example is the Goddess and Her association with birds. Many ancient creation myths have stories about life emerging from a cosmic egg and the Goddess who carries and/or lays that primordial egg-of-life. Like the bird, women carry the eggs of life’s creation within our bodies. This has given rise to numerous cultural symbolisms that have come down to us associating the Goddess with birds. The dove is Venus’ hallmark. Mother Goose is the keeper of our cultural stories. It is the stork who brings us babies. As I will show below, divinity, or the biblical LORD is sometimes depicted as a bird, making this biblical description of god a female. Continue reading “Yes, There are Goddesses in the Bible – Part 2 by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”

An Outrageously Strange, Bizarrely Weird, Completely True Tale by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

The word apocalypse keeps coming up when I talk to friends about how our present times feel. We’ve all noted how cracks in our society are tearing open and fault-lines are rising to the surface. It is disorienting yet also potentially transforming. I realized I’ve felt this way before:

In January 1997, I became an apprentice to a husband and wife shaman team. They ran an old-style mystery school with regular weekend workshops in Maine and a 4-day in the summer. In August 1997, we met on forested private property that was far from any “civilization.”

Regular weekend meetings began after dinner which gave our small NYC area contingent plenty of time for a leisurely drive up the coast. In August, our teachers wanted us to arrive earlier. We arranged to take the Long Island Sound ferry to Connecticut to avoid the time-consuming drive around the city. About ½ way through our 1 ½ hour ferry ride, a shocking event happened. An elderly woman sitting near us dropped like a rock to the ground. Her daughter began screaming. No one could rouse her. The ferry returned to NY where an emergency crew tried and failed to revive her. She had literally died at our feet. By this time, I was not only thoroughly rattled, I was also deep into contemplating issues of life and death. Because of our delayed arrival in Conn, we began hitting evening rush hour along the major cities of our route. We did not arrive in Maine until well after dark. Continue reading “An Outrageously Strange, Bizarrely Weird, Completely True Tale by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”

The Serpent and the Goddess by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photoThe otherworldly energy of Snake – it’s vitality, its uncanny ability to sense danger, and its ability to shed its skin and reappear as if reborn must have invoked feelings of awe in our ancestors. All across the pre-historic world one finds depictions of Snake and the spiral or meander as Snake’s symbols.

Continue reading “The Serpent and the Goddess by Judith Shaw”

Hare Spirit Guide – Fertility and Renewal, by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photoHare, important to humans since our early days, is known everywhere as a symbol of fertility, balance, and transformation. Although rare, cave paintings of Hare have been found. With Hare comes the Spring promise of the eternal renewal of life. 


Continue reading “Hare Spirit Guide – Fertility and Renewal, by Judith Shaw”

Death is a Gift, and Christ is a Hag by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir

My father is dying, and I am haggard with grief and exhaustion. Over a month of frantically arranging child care, driving to the ICU in the middle of the night, fighting to protect my Dad from neglect and malpractice, chasing case managers, begging doctors, negotiating with nurses, sensitive, depleting, agonizing family debates about hospice and DNR, and hour after hour sitting and holding my Dad’s hand, singing, comforting, soothing, reassuring. Washing his face. Massaging salve into his feet and legs. Continually checking to see if he is too cold, too warm, in pain, breathing ok. Weeping as I drive home through snow and rain and dark, watching car accidents happen just one lane over, trying to soothe my frazzled and anxious little children, support my husband in his degree program, and not lose my own career entirely.

So when my daughter asked me, “Mummy, why does Grampy have to die?” I felt dizzy for a moment with my exhausted, overwhelmed, haggard inability to have an instant, perfectly formulated response to provide comfort and meaning for my child. Finally, I said, “Because, darling, if no one died, no one could live. All of us, our bodies are made from the food we eat, which is made from plants, which is made from dirt, which is made from everything that has died. Death is the only way for life to exist. Death allows life, births life, IS life. Death is our only path and connection to eternity.”  Continue reading “Death is a Gift, and Christ is a Hag by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir”

Elen of the Ways and the Antlered Goddess (Part 1 of 2) by Deanne Quarrie

Kingdom of the Deer Concept by Wang Rui

Why would a goddess have antlers when only male deer have antlers? These ancient goddesses come from a time when people were closely connected with reindeer.  They were hunter gatherers and followed the Deer trods of the reindeer in their migratory patterns. They depended on the reindeer for food, shelter, warm clothing. They survived because of the reindeer.

Both male and female reindeer grow antlers. The antlers begin to grow on males in March or April, for females it is May or June. The male loses his antlers at the end of rutting season (late fall) and the females keep theirs until they calf in the spring.  They both grow new antlers every year and each year they grow in bigger. Continue reading “Elen of the Ways and the Antlered Goddess (Part 1 of 2) by Deanne Quarrie”

Jewish Folklore and Women’s Clothing: When Things are the Text by Jill Hammer

Two weekends ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Jewish Museum on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.  The Jewish Museum has long been a favorite museum for me.  My wife and I took our daughter to this particular exhibit because we knew she’d like it.  The exhibit is entitled “Veiled Meanings: Fashioning Jewish Dress from the Collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.”  It consists of many, many garments created and worn by Jews, from Moroccan wedding clothes to German prayer shawls to Yemenite amuletic (meant to protect the wearer) dresses.  Accompanying the garments were placards explaining the folk traditions giving rise to the various garments.  What I realized (again) after viewing the exhibition was how much I could learn about the culture of Jewish women, and Jewish culture in general, by looking at things, not texts.

The sacred texts and laws central to Jewish life, while they certainly discuss Jewish women, tend not to be created by or for Jewish women.  This means many aspects of how Jewish women thought or acted (before the present day) are obscured. However, these garments were created by and often for Jewish women, and their shapes and symbols tell a great deal.  For example, the Moroccan Jewish wedding clothes I mentioned were embroidered with spirals, representing (according to the accompanying written material) the spiral of life.  These spirals were also found on Jewish tombstones. The spirals resembled, to me, the spirals I’d seen carved on stone at Newgrange and Knowth in Ireland—the ancient symbols of life and journey.  I was amazed to see them in a Jewish context.  Another dress that mixed Sephardic and Moroccan style also had spirals featured prominently.

Continue reading “Jewish Folklore and Women’s Clothing: When Things are the Text by Jill Hammer”

On the Removal of the Confederate Statues by Stephanie Arel

In the wake of Charlottesville, and following Xochitl Alvizo’s recent post on the topic, I review the May 2017 speech from New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu who made a compelling case for the removal of confederate statues from public view in his southern city. In his argument, he poses a simple question related to how an African American mother or father explains to their 5th grade daughter the reason why a statue of Robert E. Lee holds a prominent visual position on the New Orleans landscape. He asks, pointing to the audience, “Can you do it? Can you do it? Can you look into her eyes and tell her why Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her?” The implication of course is, “No,” because Robert E. Lee is not placed upon high in this stronghold of southern history to inspire her.

Landrieu asserts in the speech that the wounds of slavery remain raw because they are wounds that have not only gone unrecognized but they are wounds that have never been allowed to heal. Instead, he says, American cities have committed “lies by omission” failing to honor memory through the confederate emblems, instead erecting statues to pay reverence to men and only parts of their legacies. If this were not the case, if the whole story were told, then memorials at lynching sites and monuments of slave ships would be present in the United States, but they are not.

The statues celebrate, he asserts a “fictional sanitized confederacy ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for” erected to send a message about who was still “in charge.”    Continue reading “On the Removal of the Confederate Statues by Stephanie Arel”

Holy Women Icons Online Retreats by Angela Yarber

I’ve shared before that the non-profit my wife and I created, the Holy Women Icons Project, is in the process of creating a small intersectionally ecofeminist retreat center on Hawai’i Island. The Holy Women Icons Project seeks to empower marginalized women by telling the stories of revolutionary holy women through art, writing, and special events.

Both the art and writing side of the project have been a monthly part of Feminism and Religion since 2012 as I feature the story of one of my holy women icons, along with the icon I’ve painted depicting them. As I paint revolutionary holy women from history, scripture, and myth, I also write about their lives; in addition to painting and writing, the bold witness of these women has inspired and grounded many of the retreats I lead in churches, seminaries, women’s and LGBTQ centers. Now the time has come for us to try and fulfill our dream of creating a home for this work, a little off-grid retreat center where people can come on retreat to create, sustain, and empower (by paying to attend or receiving scholarships from grants, but more on that later).

We were thrilled to film the first step of this process—building our family’s “tiny house”—with the television show Tiny House Nation. Since then, we’ve been working tirelessly to get our acre of land ready to build more housing for those on retreat, and to find funding sources to make it possible. Anyone who runs a non-profit or works in sustainable construction knows this is no easy (or affordable) task. We’re realizing that this far-flung dream may take longer than we’d envisioned due to lack of funding. We have some fabulous monthly patrons through Patreon, and we’d surely welcome more tax-deductible patronage or donations! Other than this, though, it’s the scrappy work of my wife and I to try and make this whole intersectionally-ecofeminist-off-grid-Hawai’i-retreat-thing a reality. Continue reading “Holy Women Icons Online Retreats by Angela Yarber”

The Dandelion Insurrection: A Must-Read for These Times by Kate Brunner

dandelioninsurrectionI don’t know about you, but I am fried. These last two years proved personally & professionally exhausting. And yet, another year looms ahead unavoidably — another incredibly demanding year which will require more than I can fathom I actually have to give at this moment. So, during these strange, liminal, hazy, waning days between my culture’s frenetic celebrations of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I decided I could not digest one more morsel of non-fiction. Not one more triple vetted, actually fact-checked, or at least mostly properly journalistic news article. Not one more diligently researched treatise on the world’s sorry state of affairs. Not one more book-length analysis of humanity’s determined spiral into self-destruction.

Instead, I set out a stack of backlogged novels I’d told myself I’d get around to later when things calmed down and decided that even if things were far from calm, humanity’s creativity was what I desperately needed a large dose of this week. I boiled the kettle, brewed a strong cup of tea, and in working my way through that stack of novels, I found and joined The Dandelion Insurrection. Continue reading “The Dandelion Insurrection: A Must-Read for These Times by Kate Brunner”

Moving Forward and into a New Season by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsIt’s only been a month and I am still reeling from the US presidential election.  I feel like I’m just beginning to emerge from the sense of loss and futility that has cloaked me.  But I am beginning to move forward.

I don’t feel better.  I’m still confused and discouraged about why people voted for Donald Trump.  I’m very concerned about his cabinet picks and his proposed policies.  But I am actively seeking a path forward and a path of resistance.  I’m finding support in my spiritual practices and communities.

In the Christian calendar, we are in the season of Advent.  Advent carries profound symbolism, and this year it is especially poignant for me.  The word advent bears meanings of arrival, birth, and emergence.  It’s the beginning of the Christian year, which is patterned on the life of Christ, but the year does not begin Jesus’ birth.  That celebration is observed at Christmas, four weeks into the church year.  The weeks preceding Christmas are a time of preparation and reflection on the need for the Incarnation.  The Incarnation of God in the Christ Child may be a distinctly Christian doctrine, but I believe the need for it–even the idea of it–is found in other spiritual and religious teachings.

Continue reading “Moving Forward and into a New Season by Elise M. Edwards”

#HillYes by John Erickson

I’m going to do something I’d never thought I’d do: fill your newsfeed with yet another article pertaining to the 2016 United States Presidential election and yes, I’m going to talk about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (hint: I’m emphatically supporting her and I’m unapologetic about it.)

John Erickson, sports, coming out.I’m going to do something I’d never thought I’d do: fill your newsfeed with yet another article pertaining to the 2016 United States Presidential election and yes, I’m going to talk about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (hint: I’m emphatically supporting her and I’m unapologetic about it.)

Let me start off with my central point: a vote for Hillary is a vote to change history and the world. No, not because she’ll hail in some type of new economic stimulus (although I’m sure she’ll do just fine with our economy #ThanksObama) or because she’ll save us all from the evils of the GOP (looking at you Trump/Cruz/and the “moderate” Kasich) but because she’ll do one thing that’s never been done before: become the first female President of the United States, ever.

While I have tried not to get into “it” (read: online trysts with my friends on social networks who are #FeelingtheBern) the question I beg to ask is: what’s so wrong with wanting the right woman to be the President? This is one, but not my only reason, I will cast my vote for her both in the Democratic Primary in California in June as well as in November (and, if you haven’t guessed, I do not believe or promulgate the reasoning or rhetoric that Bernie Sanders will come from behind and win the Democratic Party’s nomination because I passed 5th grade level Math.)

Hillary Clinton

Continue reading “#HillYes by John Erickson”

Why Is Pizza Round? The Black Goddess of Rome by Stuart Dean

The remains of an ancient Roman bread pie from Pompeii, carbonized in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE
The remains of an ancient Roman bread pie from Pompeii,
carbonized in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE

The poem Moretum (discussed in my last post) narrates the preparation of a meal that can be characterized in modern English as ‘pizza.’  Round flatbread is baked; to go on it, a cheese spread is mixed.  The details of the narration are such as to create a recipe of its ingredients and related cooking instructions.  

The most important ingredient, however, is not an ‘ingredient’ as such, but a shape.  The bread, the cheese, and the cheese spread are all round.  That by itself might not seem remarkable, but the Latin terminology (words from which ‘orbit’ and ‘globe’ derive) is identical to then contemporary astrological terminology.  The bread is even scored into quadrants, symbolizing, among other things, the four elements and the quadrants of an astrological observer’s circle. 

The ancient audience of Moretum would have recognized in all this the world view of the Italian poet from southern Campania, Parmenides.  Though the only poem he is known to have composed is in Greek, the combination of the fact that he likely wrote it while in Italy and that it had over the centuries since its composition become one of the most influential philosophical works of pre-Christian antiquity meant Parmenides had special importance to Romans.  It is not surprising Moretum has the same meter and many of the poetic images as are found in the poem of Parmenides. Continue reading “Why Is Pizza Round? The Black Goddess of Rome by Stuart Dean”

Who Sits at the Center of this Story? By Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsHave you ever heard of the Vitruvian Man? It’s an image from 1490 inked by Leonardo da Vinci that came to symbolize the centrality of the individual in the Renaissance. It is quite clearly a depiction of a muscular, European male. His body is perfectly proportionate and thus simultaneously represents ideal humanity and a microcosm of the universe. The Vitruvian Man is so named after the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius who describes the proportions and symmetry of a temple as being analogous to the proportions of a man.

As an architect and scholar in the humanities, I’ve been acquainted with the Vitruvian Man for many years now. I even had a da Vinci theme on my PC’s Windows software about 15 years ago, meaning that the image of the Vitruvian Man appeared regularly on my desktop and screen saver. There was nothing problematic to me about his presence until a few days ago, when I took part in a discussion about teaching philosophies with some new friends and academic colleagues.

I was listening to Tamara Lewis, an assistant professor in religion whose research and teaching addresses the medieval and Renaissance periods. When she described a metaphor for her teaching philosophy, she discussed replacing the symbol of Vitruvian Man with the “woman at the well.” The woman at the well is a figure in Christian stories about Jesus and his teachings. Her narrative in the Bible is placed in chapter 4 of the Gospel according to John. Int eh story, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at a well. He asks her for a drink, which begins a meaningful exchange about spiritual teachings. Jesus’ male disciples and surprised to witness this exchange, presumably because she is a woman and a Samaritan, as the text tells us that Jews do not associate with Samaritans. The woman goes back to her town, tells people about her encounter with Jesus, whom she believes is the Messiah, which prompts many of them to come to him and also believe.

Dr. Lewis described how her presence in the historical study of medieval or Renaissance periods is sometimes questioned and how the woman at the well represents this presumed misplacement. Her metaphor caught my attention not just because of its profound coherence within her own career trajectory and narrative, but its coherence within mine. As a black feminist, religion scholar, and practicing Christian, I often wrestle with questions of belonging and being in or out of place.

This summer, I’m taking the time to think about broad questions and do some vision casting. This past December, Grace Kao wrote about using sabbatical time differently, and I’ve connected this to my own practice of Sabbath keeping as a ritual. I dedicate specific times to cease work.  I am engaging in some productive activity this summer, but I’m also honoring one of the truest blessings and privileges of full-time employment in my profession, which is break time to rest, reflect, and plan for the seasons ahead.  The metaphor of woman at the well who intentionally replaces the Vitruvian Man provokes these questions in my reflection:

Who is the default person around which the places we inhabit are constructed? Who sits at the center of our stories about the places we will go? 

As the little bio that follows my posts says, in my professional career I examine issues of civic engagement and how beliefs and commitments are expressed publicly through aesthetic and artistic practices. I’m currently writing a book-length project about theological ethics and architectural design. So these days I’m thinking a lot about the way public spaces and built environments communicate the values of those who build them and inhabit them. One of the questions I’m wrestling with is the way “common” spaces are defined by the narratives of only some people in the community. What does it mean to be literally “out of place”? What exists as a “safe space” in a public park for a man may not feel safe at all for me as a black woman. A public bench upon which I can rest in the middle of an afternoon jog may not be so uncontested for a homeless man at night.

As I think about my future, I have to ask who sits at the center of my story.   I’m approaching a milestone birthday, and I don’t want to fall victim to someone else’s vision of what a 40 year old woman should be. What does the story look like with me at the center? What happens when I replace an idealized image of perfection, vitality, and beauty with an imperfect but gloriously alive and wonderfully formed vision of who I already am?

As I plan for a new academic year, who do I imagine in my classes? As I engage students in discourse about the history of Christianity, the development of its theology, and the ethical issues of today’s world, who do I place at the center? As the US becomes enmeshed in presidential election politics and ongoing racial tensions, what image to we present as the archetypal American?

I’m so grateful that I was brought to see the woman at the well as a metaphor of intentional displacement. Even in a religion that places a male Savior (Jesus) at its center, there are women who sit with him. Although they confound some of Jesus’ other followers by their presence, they remain meaningful conversation partners and witnesses to their faith.

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

Does God have Cleavage? The Avengers and Why the Sheroe We Need is Goddess by Trista Hendren

trista_bkgr_greenMost days I am not certain that anyone really cares about what happens to girls. As a mother of a soon-9-year-old daughter, this burns me.

Because I also have a 12-year-old son, I often end up watching movies I wouldn’t chose on my own. Last Friday, we went to see The Avengers sequel, and I left feeling angry. There were two sheroes shadowed by testosterone; both were highly sexualized. After all the hype over Joss Whedon and his “strong female characters” I began to wonder if the Sheroe we really need is Goddess.

Saturday night we had a lively discussion after dinner with my son’s best friend. I shared my observations on the movie and asked for feedback. They told me the only girl heroes they could think of had “huge boobs.” I asked them why they thought there was not equal amounts of sheroes in movies like this and whether they could think of any movies that were comparable in budget to the Superman, Batman, and Spiderman movies that continue to come out year after year. Continue reading “Does God have Cleavage? The Avengers and Why the Sheroe We Need is Goddess by Trista Hendren”

The Importance of Rituals (Part 2) by Elise M. Edwards


In my previous post, I wrote about the importance of rituals. The rituals of the Easter season helped me process some difficult emotions. The way that rituals mark time and demonstrate consistency has been a comfort for me when facing new challenges and settings. But I am quite aware that rituals can become empty.   In one of the comments to that post, a woman named Barbara responded, “There came a time for me when familiar and meaningful ritual no longer made sense. I had changed in understanding of what the ritual symbolized and celebrated. And haven’t found new rituals that make sense for me now…or at least I’m not aware of any.” Barbara’s remarks capture not only the loss from no longer being able to relate to existing rituals after life changes, but also the difficulty in finding or creating new rituals to take their place. I thanked Barbara for her honesty and decided that this post would continue the discussion, focusing more on discovery and creation of new rituals.

As I was preparing that post, I watched an episode of Call the Midwife that prompted me to reflect on the need to create rituals when existing ones just don’t work. Call the Midwife is a BBC-PBS show about nurses and midwives living in a convent in London’s East End at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s. The show is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, and it does a better job than most primetime dramas of showing female characters’ experiences the joys and challenges of their professional lives and personal lives. As it is set in a convent with several characters who are both nuns and midwives, the show also explores the theme of vocation. What does it mean to be called to the religious life? Called to nursing? What does motherhood demand? Continue reading “The Importance of Rituals (Part 2) by Elise M. Edwards”

The Importance of Rituals by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsMy sister once said about me, “One thing you have to understand about Elise—she takes the ritual of whole thing very seriously.” My sister was right and her words helped me see this quality about myself. What ritual was she talking about me taking so seriously? Happy hour on Fridays.

It was a different season of my life when she said this. I don’t have Friday happy hours regularly anymore, although I did gather with my friends nearly every week for food and drinks for many years throughout my 20s and 30s. It was often on Fridays, but at one point it was Wednesdays and then, for about a year, it was Thursday nights after a late shift at work.

More recently, I would meet a friend for crepes at the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings. Although the day and the time and specifics of these gatherings would vary, the act of setting aside a weekly time to connect with people dear to me and relax as we indulged in good food or drink was a ritual to me.

Continue reading “The Importance of Rituals by Elise M. Edwards”

Strength by Kate Brunner

Kate close up at Llyn MorwynionThe turning of a new year of some kind is and was often considered a portal time; perfect for rites of divination. In honor of the dawning of 2015, I spent the first few days of this month doing New Year’s divination readings for friends & Sisters. While the specific contents of those readings are of course confidential, I did see one card over and over and over again no matter what deck I used and how I laid out the cards. Strength.

strength1-342x600For anyone with some basic numerology knowledge, this isn’t incredibly shocking once you consider that this is an 8 Year—2 + 0 + 1 + 5 = 8. Strength (VII) would seem an appropriate card to appear in divinations focused on the calendar year ahead. But the more I worked with this Major Arcana card in readings for one woman after another, the more I wanted to really dive into the concept of Strength this card brings to light. Continue reading “Strength by Kate Brunner”

Revolution Through Rituals by Jann Aldredge-Clanton

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

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

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

Painting Martha Graham by Angela Yarber


Joining Virginia Woolf , the Shulamite, Mary Daly, Baby Suggs, Pachamama and Gaia, Frida Kahlo, Salome, Guadalupe and Mary, Fatima, Sojourner Truth, Saraswati, Jarena Lee, Isadora Duncan, Miriam, Lilith, Georgia O’Keeffe, Guanyin, Dorothy Day, Sappho, Jephthah’s daughter, Anna Julia Cooper, the Holy Woman Icon archetype, Maya Angelou, and all my other Holy Women Icons with a folk feminist twist  is the dancing revolutionary Martha Graham. So, as the contemporary and modern dancers on So You Think You Can Dance continue to amaze us this summer, let us remember from whence they came.

Martha Graham’s contribution to the world of dance cannot be overestimated. She is regaled as the Picasso of the dance world, revolutionizing it by introducing an entirely new quality of movement known as modern dance. Not only did Graham revolutionize the dance world, like Isadora Duncan before her, she also made great contributions to feminist spirituality. One of her most famous statements may well have been “wherever a dancer stands is holy ground.” Like most dancers who are so in tune with their bodies, Graham new the holiness therein, the ways in which the body can express the ineffable when words alone simply cannot. “The body never lies,” she famously reminds us.

Martha Graham Continue reading “Painting Martha Graham by Angela Yarber”

Writing Holy Women Icons by Angela Yarber

angelaFor two years I have had the great privilege of writing a monthly article about one of my Holy Women Icons with a folk feminist twist for Feminism and Religion. Virginia Woolf , the Shulamite, Mary Daly, Baby Suggs, Pachamama and Gaia, Frida Kahlo, Salome, Guadalupe and Mary, Fatima, Sojourner Truth, Saraswati, Jarena Lee, Isadora Duncan, Miriam, Lilith, Georgia O’Keeffe, Guanyin, Dorothy Day, Sappho, Jephthah’s daughter, Anna Julia Cooper, the Holy Woman Icon archetype, Maya Angelou, and many others that will follow in the months and years ahead have guided, empowered, and inspired me as an artist, activist, feminist, scholar, and preacher.

I knew from that outset that writing about them would deepen my relationship with each of these amazing women. I also knew that their power and efficacy monumentally increases when they join together. This colorful cloud of witnesses has filled myriad galleries, reminding viewers of the powerful women who have paved the way for us today. Many have left the group, finding a resting place in the homes, offices, and galleries of friends, colleagues, and strangers who have purchased or commissioned an icon along the way. And those that remain erupt the hallways of my home with a cavalcade of color, daily reminders of who I am called to be and become.

Between researching their stories, painting them, hanging them in galleries, and selling them, I knew that one day I would bind their stories together in a book. So, it is with tremendous joy that this dream has become a reality. Parson’s Porch Publishing, a non-profit publishing house whose mission is to “turn books to bread” by giving their profits to feed the poor, has lifted up the stories and images of nearly fifty of my beloved Holy Women Icons in a book. So, along with originals, commissions, and prints, Holy Women Icons are now available as a book and as individual greeting cards. It is my sincere hope that by binding the stories of these holy women together, they may provide inspiration and empowerment for all readers, binding all our diverse stories together in a collective cry for beautiful, unabashed, prophetic justice for all. Continue reading “Writing Holy Women Icons by Angela Yarber”

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