The Ancestor Story by Sara Wright

During the last few years I have spent hours listening to the haunting cries of Sandhill cranes, awaiting them at the river, stunned each time as I glimpsed a flock float to the ground, great gray wings extended to break their fall as talons touched earth, attended to enthusiastic family greetings and muted conversations, felt a sense of devastating loss when these birds circled overhead to say goodbye each year before heading north to breed (while I lived in New Mexico), and then discovering to my joy that they live and breed here in Maine. I still experience the same hunger to glimpse families in Fryeburg each October and lose time watching their loving family dynamics. I continue to feel intense grief and loss at crane leave-taking remaining baffled by the intensity of my own responses. In the last week I think I have finally uncovered the roots of the story behind the cranes and me…

 These birds are prehistoric in origin and have the strongest family ties. The families never break up and when separated greet each other joyously even after a few hours as small groups fly to different feeding areas. Incredibly poignant. There is always one that stands watch at night, a protector, so the others can sleep in peace, one leg extended, usually in water. I am in love with these birds but until a few days ago did not understand the powerful pull their presence exerts over me.

Continue reading “The Ancestor Story by Sara Wright”

Considering “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

The multiverse as a metaphor for trauma is rather compelling to me. It speaks to the way in which different realities and experiences impose themselves on others as a matter of fact rather than malintent. These realities necessarily co-exist in interrelationship but may compound the weight and confusion of present experience.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!



All at Once.

I remember thinking, this is kind of a weird name for a movie, even if it is about the multiverse and shifting realities. But I’m a big sci fi fan, so of course, I jumped at the chance to see it when my friend said she wanted to see the movie, again, with me specifically. Mom’s day out for both of us. Check. A… m.o.v.i.e. I remember movies from a time pre-pandemic: there’s a big screen, right? And food? I like food. Sign me up. (j/k). I seem to remember movie theaters being more crowded though—my friend and I had almost a private viewing. And sitting practically on top of my friend by the end of the film, after laughing so hard I cried, crying because I was so sad, gaping in shock, horror, and even disgust, and wondering what I just saw, I reflected: this movie was perfectly named.

Continue reading “Considering “Everything Everywhere All at Once””

Carol P. Christ’s Legacy: Does Belief Matter?

Moderator’s Note: Carol Christ died from cancer in July, 2021. Her work continues through her non-profit foundation, the Ariadne Institute for the Study of Myth and Ritual and the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. This blog was originally posted December 10, 2012. You can read it long with its original comments here.

In recent days I have been pondering the fact that some people and some feminists seem to see the issues of religious faith and belonging to be rooted in birth, family, and community, while for others the question of belonging to a religious community hinges on belief and judgments about the power exerted by religious institutions.  What accounts for this difference in the way we view religious belonging?

Recently I watched The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics, a film featuring Roman Catholic feminists and ethicists who dissent from the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s views on contraception, abortion, and homosexuality.  At the beginning of the film those interviewed state almost univocally that for them being Catholic stems from having been born Catholic. These Catholic dissidents continue as Catholics, even though they disagree with major portions of Roman Catholic teaching.  It may have been because they were not asked, but most of them did not name reasons of belief for remaining Catholic.

Continue reading “Carol P. Christ’s Legacy: Does Belief Matter?”

Altars Everywhere, Part 2 by Carol P. Christ

This is a continuation of an earlier blog in which I discuss home altars as a way to bring beliefs about women’s spiritual power into the body and daily life.

In my bedroom, images of the Snake Goddesses of Knossos sit on a cabinet painted by a Greek woman with images of birds and flowers. Between them is a crystal ball, while before them are three shells, the smaller of which was given to me by a Maori woman from New Zealand. Above them is an image of the sea in Molivos, Lesbos, painted by my friend Judith Shaw in the year we were both living in the village.

Continue reading “Altars Everywhere, Part 2 by Carol P. Christ”

Feminist Parenting Part 3—Les Misérable Mothers, why is this so %$@# haaaaard?! by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir

Life has been challenging lately – I’m sure you can relate. Normal emotional and financial stress are worsened by COVID-19 and the election— and I’ve often said that there’s nothing like motherhood for making us feel like failures…  It’s as though our brains are incapable of seeing anything but the things we have left undone or done badly. And it is often excruciatingly hard to be a calm, patient parent when the kids start getting wild, or someone breaks something, or the <expletive> online form won’t <expletive> work on my <expletive> phone.

…Why is it so hard to feel “good enough?” Could it be because patriarchy benefits from making the female class feel constantly insecure and unworthy? Continue reading “Feminist Parenting Part 3—Les Misérable Mothers, why is this so %$@# haaaaard?! by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir”

Forgive Me My Ancestor(s) by Elizabeth Cunningham

Elizabeth Cunningham

When I was a child in the 1950s we often played cowboys and Indians. There is a photograph of my brother and me in no doubt inauthentic costume complete with feathered headdress. In kindergarten I named myself Morning Star. (I just googled and see that I must have gotten the name from the 50s television series Brave Eagle, the first with an indigenous main character. Morning Star is the female lead.)

When I was a teenager, my aunt came across a privately printed book The Gentleman on the Plains about second sons of English aristocracy hunting buffalo in western Iowa. My great grandfather accompanied them as their clergyman. I wish I could find that book now to see how this enterprise was presented. In my adolescent mind these “gentlemen” looked like the local foxhunters in full regalia. On opening morning of foxhunt season an Episcopal clergyman (like my father) was on hand in ecclesiastical dress to bless the hunt and then invited to a boozy breakfast. Continue reading “Forgive Me My Ancestor(s) by Elizabeth Cunningham”

Old Men Get Away with It: Why? by Carol P. Christ

A few days ago, a friend told me she had just learned that she had a 2x great-aunt who was a beloved and honored single white teacher in the US south in the first half of the twentieth century. The beloved teacher had a school named after her. My friend never heard anything about her distinguished relative while growing up. As a woman without children herself and a teacher, she wished she had. “There are many of us,” she commented.

I offered to do a little research for my friend. Perhaps thinking of my 2x great-aunt who was a single businesswoman, I expected to find that the beloved teacher lived with her mother. What I found was so shocking that it kept me up at night. Continue reading “Old Men Get Away with It: Why? by Carol P. Christ”

What I Learn from Women in Southern Morocco by Laura Shannon

I feel deeply fortunate to be able to travel regularly to southern Morocco. In Taroudant in the Souss Valley, and further south in the Anti-Atlas Mountains, my groups of students have the chance to discover women’s cultural traditions including music and dance, weaving and embroidery, household and healing rituals. In the seven years I have been leading these tours, women have joined me from a dozen different countries and as many different faiths, and most of them end up feeling at home here just the way I do.
What makes southern Morocco so special? Many threads come together to create the extraordinary ambience which permeates this part of the country. First of all, there is the Berber influence: a large percentage of Moroccans in the South are Berbers, and many elements of ancient North African Berber culture, with roots in Neolithic times, remain percepible beneath the relatively recent overlays of Arabic culture and Islam.

Continue reading “What I Learn from Women in Southern Morocco by Laura Shannon”

Autumn Equinox with the Ancestors, or after ecstasy indeed the laundry*) Eline Kieft

As I hang the laundry back home, I remember how just 24 hours earlier I arrived back on the beach after an incredible time at the ancestral burial mound where I spend the night in ceremony at the Autumn Equinox.

Ile Carn is a neolithic passage grave on a small tidal island in Finisterre, Brittany. I had visited there the summer before, and found that the other world was strongly accessible. When places become very touristy, like Stonehenge or Mont St. Michel, it sometimes appears as if the spirits retreat and the potency of the place thins. I asked them then if I could come back for ceremony, and when the answer was yes, I promised to return.

So here I was, on the Autumn Equinox, or Mabon. This is a time of balance, when the days and nights are equally long. A time in which the harvest has been gathered and we can start to prepare for a time of gestation and growing in the dark womb of winter, before the light is reborn again next year. My personal aim was three fold: I wanted to celebrate this year, especially to give thanks for my life, which had been on a precarious knife-edge earlier in May. I also wanted to ask for guidance for both my budding business and for my academic work in terms of re-discovering our own indigeneity in the west.

Continue reading “Autumn Equinox with the Ancestors, or after ecstasy indeed the laundry*) Eline Kieft”

The Room Where We Support Each Other, Part 2 by Carol P. Christ

Last week, In the Room of Undressing where women strip themselves to the bone, my great-great-grandmothers on my father’s side spoke in me. I had been afraid they would judge me for not being a wife and mother like they were, but they did not.

The story continues with my great-great-grandmothers on my mother’s side.

Ingrid Mattsdottor, born 1829, Överhogdal, Jämtlands Län, Sweden, died 1918, Kansas City, Missouri, proprietor of a boarding house, mother of five daughters:

I was the oldest of eight children. Our father died when I was eleven. At sixteen I was sent to work as a servant in a village far from home. I stayed for six years. After that, I worked for two years on a farm in our village. I was twenty-nine, and wondering if I would be an old maid, when Olof and I married. Our five daughters came quickly. I knew a lot more about work and children he did, so I took charge. When the crops failed all over Sweden for two years running, I said enough was enough. As soon as our last daughter was born, I sold the farm, and we left for America.

Iowa was worse than Sweden. Our little Carin died the first year. Olof gave Ingrid to a wealthy Swedish couple without so much as a word to me. He kept talking about going back to Sweden. One day he took the money I set aside and bought his ticket.

By the time he came back for us, Anna, Sarah, Belle, and I had moved to Kansas City. I was running a boarding house. I told Olof that we had no intention of going back to Sweden with him. When Anna married, instead of moving out, she brought her husband and his children to live with us. Belle became quite the business woman and took over my role as provider. Sarah and her family were always close by.

I worked as hard as any man and Belle did too. “Far better off on our own,” we would often say. We are proud to have another strong woman in our family. I am sorry you didn’t get to meet Belle. You would have liked her.

Continue reading “The Room Where We Support Each Other, Part 2 by Carol P. Christ”

The Room Where We Support Each Other, Part 1 by Carol P. Christ

Over the past year or so I have been reciting my mother line, seven generations back, as a mantra of gratitude that helps me sleep at night. Sometimes I also name my sixteen great-great-grandparents, though I often fall asleep before finishing.

I have gained courage from the strength of their lives, but I never wondered what my eight great-great grandmothers would think of me. My life feels so different from theirs. Perhaps I feared they would judge me and my life.

This weekend, while re-reading Woman and Nature, I followed the narrator through a Passage to the Room of Dressing:

Where the women are not close. Where the women keep themselves at a distance.  . . . where the women tell each other that they are happy.  . . . The room where the daughter denies she is anything like her mother. (156)

Continue reading “The Room Where We Support Each Other, Part 1 by Carol P. Christ”

Forgive Me, Mother, For I Have Sinned: Earth, Ancestors, and the Role of Confession by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee

Ah, confession. I admit I never really much understood the Catholic practice of confession to a priest; as a United Methodist growing up, the idea of confession – while challenging – nonetheless seemed to belong squarely between myself and the (supposedly male) God that (apparently) loves and forgives us while still calling us to live into a more perfect vision of our individual selves and of the kin-dom. But to confess things to a minister? In a little booth? The very idea gave me the heebie-jeebies. Probably even more so since my father and/or stepmother were usually said minister. Well, that wasn’t a common Catholic thing either, I suppose.

I took confession very seriously, however. I firmly believed that we have all sinned and fallen short, and that we can and must do better – for our own lives and wellbeing, for our loved ones, for humanity, and for the whole Creation. Confession was like the first step toward healing – like a diagnosis; without admitting what was going wrong – or what was inadequate – how could we take steps toward what was right?

Continue reading “Forgive Me, Mother, For I Have Sinned: Earth, Ancestors, and the Role of Confession by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee”

Meeting my Disr by Deanne Quarrie

Deanne Quarrie, D.Min.Who are the Dsir?

Freyja, known as “Ancestor Spirit”, is viewed as the timeless, self-renewing energy in the universe. She witnesses and shapes the direction of creation and undoing. She is not the originating, creating Goddess, but rather a conduit for energy and life. Women who learn Seidr become like her, living conduits. Continue reading “Meeting my Disr by Deanne Quarrie”

Crowding into the Spirit World: Reclaiming a Metaphysics of Multiplicity by Jill Hammer

A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to take a class with Chava Weissler, a scholar at Lehigh University who studies Jewish history, community, and sacred practices– particularly those practices related to women.  My fellow students in the class were other rabbis, taking a break from their work in order to do some learning.  Dr. Weissler was teaching about an Ashkenazi Jewish women’s practice known as “soul candles”—the making of candles during the High Holiday season to honor the dead of the community as well as the mythic ancestors.  Candles for Abraham and Sarah were made alongside candles for grandparents and other deceased relatives, using wicks that had been laid out along the graves to take the “measure” of the dead.  During the making of the candles, the candlemakers would ask that these ancestors would pray for the living, just as the living prayed for the dead.  As Dr. Weissler described this practice, a nervous giggle passed through the room.

I remember being shocked.  I understand that my colleagues have varying beliefs around life after death and around spirit in general.  And, hearing my colleagues laugh at such a ritual and its attendant beliefs surprised me.  Those same colleagues would never laugh at the idea that God wrote the Torah (even if not all of them believe that) or at the idea that God answers prayers (even though I’m sure many of them struggle with that idea too).  But the belief in ancestors who could intercede on behalf of their relatives was alien enough to be funny.  This caused me to notice that the contemporary spirit world, for some Jews, is rather empty.  It contains an abstract God, and no one else.

Continue reading “Crowding into the Spirit World: Reclaiming a Metaphysics of Multiplicity by Jill Hammer”

Michal the Priestess: Midrash, Multiplicity, and the Tales of King David by Jill Hammer

When I was in my late teens, I discovered midrash: the Jewish exegetical process by which commentators weave creative and additive interpretations into the sacred text.  Midrash comes from the word “to ask,” “to seek,” or “to divine.” For example, the tale in which a well follows the prophetess Miriam through the wilderness is an ancient midrash. The story in which God stops the angels from singing as the Egyptians drown in the Sea of Reeds is a midrash. Each of these stories derives from a particular close reading of text, whether a Torah text or a verse elsewhere in the Bible.  Each of them allows a new generation to add its own perspectives to the tradition.

Contemporary feminists, and many other contemporary artists, writers, and exegetes, have used a modern form of midrash to add liberatory perspectives to Jewish tradition and to biblical lore.  From Miriam to Vashti, female biblical characters shine in the creative interpretations of feminist midrashists.  Judith Plaskow’s “The Coming of Lilith” made a huge impact on the reading of the story of Eve and the legend of Lilith. Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent changed the conversation on Dinah forever. Alicia Ostriker, Norma Rosen, Veronica Golos, and many others have joined in this creative play which highlights marginalized voices within the text.  Wilda Gafney has made contributions to a Christian and womanist form of midrash.  Voices like Andrew Ramer and Joy Ladin have invited us to see queer and trans themes in the text. And of course many others, from poet Yehuda Amichai to bibliodramatist Peter Pitzele, have added to this rich tapestry.

Continue reading “Michal the Priestess: Midrash, Multiplicity, and the Tales of King David by Jill Hammer”

My Guardian Angel Is a Socialist by Carol P. Christ

When I began to research our family tree, my father told me that his grandfather George Christ emigrated from Germany because he was a socialist. I eventually learned that it was not George Christ but his parents, Thomas Christ and Anna Maria Hemmerlein, who emigrated from Bavaria. Thomas died in 1863 when George was an infant and George died in 1895 when my grandfather was an infant, which explains how their stories got confused.

Thomas and Anna Maria emigrated less than a month after negotiations for a new constitution following the uprisings of socialists and democrats the 1848 revolution ended in failure. Thomas and Anna Maria boarded the ship to America under different surnames and listing different villages of residence. This suggests that they had fallen victim to concords signed by the church and state that prevented poor men from marrying. Besides not being permitted to marry her beloved Thomas, Anna Maria was herself an illegitimate child, one of three born to sisters in the family of the poor teacher George Hemmerlein after he died.

It is easy to imagine Thomas and Anna Maria supporting the revolution of 1848 in hopes that they would be allowed to marry and be given land to farm. Nor is it difficult to understand that they were deeply disappointed and perhaps afraid of being persecuted for their beliefs when they decided to leave Bavaria in 1849. Anna Maria, who lived until 1907, would have been the one who told these stories to her son and grandsons. Continue reading “My Guardian Angel Is a Socialist by Carol P. Christ”

Gifts from My Father by Carol P. Christ

My father was a very intelligent man who tested “genius” in the army. Drafted into the army at a young age, he decided not to take advantage of the “GI Bill” that would have paid for his college education after the war, because he already had a family to support. My father was lucky not to have served in combat. Scheduled for the invasion of Japan, he served in its occupation. I once asked him if he saw the devastating effects of the atomic bombs that the United States dropped on Japan. Instead of answering directly, he said dismissively, “I suppose you think I was traumatized.” I imagine that on some level he was, because unlike many WW II veterans he never spoke about his time in the army, and most tellingly, he was the only member of his unit not to sign up for the “extra pay” to be earned in the reserves, and thus the only one not to be called up to serve in Korea. Although he never questioned the US government’s right to wage war, he always told me, “war is hell.” Though he was not at all pleased when I became active in the anti-war movement, I found some of the roots of my opposition to war in my father’s refusal to glorify it. Continue reading “Gifts from My Father by Carol P. Christ”

Honey: A Thousand Flowers by Mary Beth Moser

Today I am finishing the last bit of the honey I hand-carried home from my most recent trip to Trentino. Sun yellow in color, it is made from the nectar of mountain flowers. Its label tells its origin—di montagna, of the mountains, and its type — mille fiore, often translated as “wildflowers.” Literally, however, it means “a thousand flowers.”

The valley where my maternal grandmother was born, Val di Sole, is renowned for its honey. In Croviana, one of the villages in the valley, new honey is celebrated in July with a sagra, a communal food festival. There are more than a dozen different types of honey from Trentino, including apple, chestnut, and rhododendron. These are plants of place – nature’s gifts that appear in the folk stories and are present in everyday life. Continue reading “Honey: A Thousand Flowers by Mary Beth Moser”

Remembering My Saints by Katie M. Deaver

My mother and I have always been very interested in our personal connection to the spirit realm.  This connection, for us, is an important one.  We pay attention to the signs and messages that remind us of our continued connection to those we love who no longer occupy our own physical time and space.  Each cardinal, butterfly, and ceaselessly repetitive number (310 in our case) promises the continuation of relationship with the ones we miss so dearly.

A few years ago my mother and I were able to see a live show at the Chicago Theater featuring Long Island Medium Teresa Caputo.  Even with hundreds of people in the audience, specific moments of Caputo’s readings spoke to images and memories that resonated and connected to our experiences.  The show allowed us to once again be reminded of the continued connection between us and those special ones who we love and miss. Continue reading “Remembering My Saints by Katie M. Deaver”

Down on the Farm by Carol P. Christ

iloff-grave-with-carolIn the past week I visited Cherry Ridge, Honesdale, Wayne, Pennsylvania in the Pokonos, where I was welcomed by my third cousin Marcia Perry Gager whose family never left the place where our ancestors settled.  Marcia and I have been corresponding about our family’s history since connected us about three years ago. During that time, together with another cousin, Debra Ball, we have managed to decipher the complicated history of Henry Iloff, his two wives, and their eighteen children.

My visit to Honesdale began at John’s Evangelical (formerly German) Lutheran Church.  Following a last-minute discovery that the baptism, marriage, and funeral  records of the church were not in the Wayne County Historical Musem archives as I had been led to believe, I made a call to the “emergency number” of Pastor Richard Mowery the day before our scheduled visit, not knowing how he would respond to this “not-really-emergency” invasion of his personal space. Continue reading “Down on the Farm by Carol P. Christ”

Planting Roses for Our Daughters: Creating a Community in Time by Carolyn Lee Boyd

carolynlboydOutside my childhood home grows a yellow rose bush descended from one planted by my great-grandmother, Jennie, a century ago.  That bush has given her descendants many gifts of spirit over the years— her love of beauty despite a life of tragedy and constant toil, her deep connection to nature persisting through four generations, her hope for the future inherent in planting anything that will take years to fully develop. When I contemplate my own fall garden and its plants sowing seeds for next year, I ponder the special responsibility we, as spiritual feminists, have for leaving to those who will come after us a legacy of inner resources that they will need to meet the challenges of the planet they will inherit and hopefully make into their own sustainable world of equality, peace and happiness.

In my mind I sit with a circle of spiritual feminists of the future. Around me might be a hairdresser or a President, a doctor, barista, poet, scientist, salesclerk, priestess, or elder.  They could be old or young or in-between, from anywhere on Earth, of any spiritual tradition or practice.  For one moment of time, I can speak directly to them of what I have distilled from my life that I would like them to know. I say to them: Continue reading “Planting Roses for Our Daughters: Creating a Community in Time by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

A Tale of Two Sisters and a Daughter and Niece by Carol P. Christ

This continues the story I began last week. Catherina is my 2x great-grandmother; Agnes is my 2x great-aunt; Johanetta is my first cousin, 3x removed, and my step-2x great-grandmother; Henry is my 2x great-grandfather. It is true that Henry had eighteen children with two wives. It is also true that Henry and Johanetta married and had a child soon after Catherina’s death. Some of the other details came in waking trance as I allowed the ancestors to tell their stories through me.

Agnes Lattauer Sweitzer: I thought the day Catherina left for America would be the worst day of my life. I did not know I would see Catherina again. I did not know I would outlive my two little sisters and both of my brothers. I did not know what my daughter would do. I read Catherina’s letters from America through my tears. How I wanted to be with her on her wedding day. How I wished she had been with us when we buried our sister Johanetta. My heart nearly burst when Catherina wrote that she longed to take my hand when she gave birth to her first child. My mind contorted itself trying to envision her living in a big city, in a big building, climbing up and down stairs, her feet never touching the earth, her hands never working the soil. What kind of life was that?

Catherina Lattauer Iloff
Catherina Lattauer Iloff

Catherina Lattauer Iloff: I left home a girl. Because I was not yet engaged, Mother and Agnes never told me about married life. What to expect. What to do. I loved Heinrich, or Henry, as he wanted to be called after he became a citizen of the United States. I was not prepared. Henry was so insistent. I was soon pregnant. First Henry, named for Henry’s father Heinrich, then Elisabeth, named for Mother. I had to care for them on my own. Henry was busy with his work during the days. In the evenings he went to the German beer garden to meet his friends. Growing up with my mother and sisters, I had never been alone. There were other women around, but they were busy with their own lives. Some of them were kind, some of them were not, but nobody cared about me the way Mother and Agnes did. One night Henry came home and told me he had been talking with his friends. There was land available in a place called Cherry Ridge, Pennsylvania, a  day’s journey from New York City. He said it was his dream come true. We would build our own house. There was plenty of land to farm—not like back home where there were never enough fields to go around. I held my tongue. I did not tell him that I suspected I was pregnant again.

The Iloff farm house
The Iloff farm house

Agnes Lattauer Sweitzer: Catherina and Henry have been to Cherry Ridge. Catherina says there is land for us there too. I don’t know what my Heinrich will say. Life is difficult for us here, but we have two young daughters, Elisabeth and Johanetta, and the baby, Peter. There is Mother to consider. Well, you could have blown me over with a feather. Heinrich said we should grab the opportunity before it is too late. Mother said she would come with us, because she wants to see Catherina and Rudolph again before she dies. She is an old lady. I wonder how she will manage the journey. But I couldn’t say no. The two of us cannot contain our joy. We will see our beloved Catherina again.

Catherina Lattauer Iloff: My life is complete. Mother and Agnes and the dear little children arrived. Mother immediately took Henry and Elisabeth in her arms. Agnes comforted me about the loss of Baby John. I could finally allow myself to cry, knowing that Mother and Agnes would be there to wipe away my tears.

Agnes Lattauer Sweitzer: Our first years in Cherry Ridge were difficult. There were houses to be built, fields to be plowed, cows to be bought and milked. I had two more children, Henry, who died as a boy, and John.  My little sister outdid me. She had nine children in all: Henry, Elisabeth, John who died, John who lived, George, Catherine, Mary, Frank, and Barbara. Giving birth to so many children took its toll on her. After the last one, she was never well. I think she may have been pregnant again several times, but she never spoke about it, not even to me. Finally, she took to her bed.

Catherina Lattauer Iloff: I had nine children. I never told anyone about the babies I lost before I began to show. Mother and Agnes worried that I was having too many children. But what could I do? I loved Henry, and I loved every one of my children. Mother died a few years after she came to Cherry Ridge. She always said she was so happy she had undertaken such a great adventure. She was pleased to know that Agnes and I were settled and happy. I miss her every day. Agnes is always by my side.  I was forty-two when Barbara, my last baby was born. I bled a lot. After that, I never carried another child to term. I was never myself again. Agnes is my rock. Johanetta helps with the little ones. Henry is still strong as an ox, busy in the fields or with the cattle. I see that Johanetta hangs on his every word. I dismiss such thoughts from my mind. I do not know how much longer I have.

Agnes Lattauer Sweitzer: Catherina died yesterday. She was only  forty-six (I am now fifty-six), and she had not been well for several years.  I told her to stay away from Henry, but she was powerless to do so. Sometimes I blame him for her death. I worry about Johanetta now. Wild horses will not keep her away from Henry. I see the way she looks at him, and I see the old goat looking right  back at her. She is twenty-six, a full grown woman.

hannah johanna nettie switzer
Johanetta displaying her engagement ring

Johanetta Sweitzer: I can’t believe it! Henry asked me to marry him. Mother is furious. Father says he should have whipped me a long time ago. But they can’t say no. I told them I am pregnant with Henry’s child. The older children are shocked that their cousin is marrying their father. The younger ones are thrilled. They have always viewed me as a second mother as well as an aunt. I have been looking after all of them these last years what with Aunt Catherina being so ill. I love those children.

Agnes Lattauer Sweitzer: I had to forgive Johanetta, but I will never forgive Henry. I smile when I see him to keep the peace, but my heart is cold. Peter was her first-born. After that she had Agnes and Emma, who died of some of those diseases children get. I could not help wondering if that was God’s punishment.

Johanetta Sweitzer Iloff: Henry and I were married  for twenty years. Except for losing Agnes and Emma, those were the happiest years of my life. In all, we had nine children: first Peter, Agnes, and Emma, and then, Anna, Lawrence, Charles, Robert, Otto, and Phillip. Henry was a good man. He worked hard all of his life to support his family. We lost the second John a few years ago, but there were fourteen living children to mourn Henry’s death. The little ones are still with me, some of the others are scattered to the winds, and quite a few are settled around here, raising families of their own. While he was still strong and able, Henry was elected Commissioner of Wayne County. He served his fellow countrymen proudly for years. I wish Mother had been alive to see that. Maybe then she would have understood what a wonderful man he was.

Henry and Johanetta, second row, center right, with some of Hnery's children and grandchildren
Henry and Johanetta, second row, center right with some of Henry’s children and grandchildren


Carol Molivos by Andrea Sarris 2Carol P. Christ is author or editor of eight books in Women and Religion and is one of the Foremothers of the Women’s Spirituality Movement. She leads the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete in Spring and Fall: Sign up now for spring tour and save $100. Follow Carol on Twitter @CarolP.Christ, Facebook Goddess Pilgrimage, and Facebook Carol P. Christ.  Carol speaks in depth about the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete in an illustrated interview with Kaalii Cargill. Photo of Carol by Andrea Sarris.

A Serpentine Path Cover with snakeskin backgroundA Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the GoddessGoddess and God in the World final cover design will be published by Far Press in 2016. A journey from despair to the joy of life.

Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology with Judith Plaskow will be published by Fortress Press in August 2016. Exploring the connections of theology and autobiography and alternatives to the transcendent, omnipotent male God.


Forest Heritage by Molly

editMollyNov 083


To my lips
a prayer comes
thank you,
I see.

When we decided to buy some land on which to build our home, one of the deciding factors was the wonderful big rocks on the hillside behind where we imagined building our house. Over the years, we would go out and walk through the woods and stand on the rocks, and I often said that I wanted to create a sacred space down there to visit regularly. As I realized later, there was no need to “create” the sacred space, it was already there.

Following two miscarriages, I would often go to the woods to sit on a chair-shaped rock and connect with nature and my body. During my subsequent pregnancy with my daughter, I would return to this place to sit and connect with my baby and prepare for her birth. After she was born, I brought her to these rocks and these woods to “introduce” her to the planet. At some point at the end of 2010, I suddenly “heard” the words priestess rocks when I was standing out on these large flat stones that look out over the horizon. It felt like their name, I suddenly knew it. So, in July of 2012 when I became ordained as a priestess, the priestess rocks felt like the absolutely perfect place to bear witness to my ceremony of ordination. They called me. They named me priestess first. Continue reading “Forest Heritage by Molly”

Six Degrees of Separation, Hungarian Royalty Chefs, & A Trip to Lens Crafters by Natalie Weaver

Natalie Weaver editedWe were playing six-degrees of separation, I think.  I don’t know if there are rules to follow.  It was after dinner, and we were talking about people we had encountered and their linkages to others.   Surprisingly quickly, we found ourselves connected to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Elvis, Winston Churchill, and the Queen of England, herself.   My mom had autographs from Jerry Lee Lewis, Duke Ellington, the Globe Trotters, and a gaggle of NFL players and professional golfers.  She once chatted up Tori Spelling in a bathroom in Canton, Ohio at a Football Hall of Fame Induction ceremony.  My husband worked in film in Los Angeles and Cleveland, meeting a crowd of stars and politicians over the years.  One time he had a chance, face-to-face encounter with Prince (the artist himself!) as one rode up and the other rode down an escalator at a Borders in Chicago.   As the distance between them closed, my husband quietly acknowledged him, saying, “Bravo!”  Prince, whose head was angled away so as to avoid having to say anything, apparently, after a moment of consideration, looked back over his shoulder as they passed and silently mouthed, “Thank you.”  I still give my husband kudos here… I mean, what else do you say to Prince?  This connection, moreover, gave us our links to Morris Day, Jerome, Apollonia, and Shelia E., so we were all excited at his impressive list.  I had a far less remarkable cast of characters to contribute, but I could offer a Vatican insider acquaintance, providing thereby a papal connection, which gave us our links to several world leaders.  I felt I had contributed my part, even without autographs and celebrities.

With the exception of a Robert Redford encounter while volunteering on a political campaign, the couple that was with us had fewer serendipitous meetings to report.  But, we did learn that there was a grandfather in their mix who had served as a royal cook in Hungary.  The game now shifted to linkages in history.  Who were our notable ancestors?  Who were our ancestors, period?  Continue reading “Six Degrees of Separation, Hungarian Royalty Chefs, & A Trip to Lens Crafters by Natalie Weaver”

Strong Female Role Models among Swedish Immigrant Ancestors in Kansas City by Carol P. Christ

carol p. christ photo michael bakasWhen I decided to become a career woman, I thought I had no role models in my family. My parents (who sometimes considered me the black sheep) would have agreed. Imagine my surprise to find a matriarchal family and three generations of businesswomen women among my Swedish family in Kansas City!

My great-aunt Edith who was a stenographer, secretary, and notary public was a fixture at family gatherings. When I knew her, she was living in California with her two brothers who also were not married. Until their father died, they had lived their whole lives in the family home in Kansas City. I sensed that though my family respected my uncles, they felt sorry for Aunt Edith. It certainly was never suggested to me that instead of getting married and being supported by a husband, I could become a self-supporting working woman like my aunt. Continue reading “Strong Female Role Models among Swedish Immigrant Ancestors in Kansas City by Carol P. Christ”

Death with Dignity by Carol P. Christ

Carol Christ in LesbosIn the summer of 1960 when I was 14 years old my much loved grandmother Mae Inglis Christ died of a cancer that affected her brain. The last time I saw my Nannie was shortly after her diagnosis in the early spring. While we were visiting, the cancer affected her back, and she took to her bed. In those days children were not allowed in hospitals. I never saw my grandmother alive again, but my mother told us that our grandmother was hooked up to tubes much longer than she should have been. Mother vowed, “This will never happen to me.” I was driven to the funeral in a limousine with my grandmother’s girlfriends. They spoke about my grandmother’s last days, describing how (because her mind was affected by cancer) my little grandmother had screamed and screamed at them for not visiting–even though they were with her every day. They found my grandmother’s outbursts so traumatic that they said they were relieved to see her looking so peaceful in her coffin. Continue reading “Death with Dignity by Carol P. Christ”

The Ancestors Live in Us by Carol P. Christ

Carol Christ in LesbosOn the recent Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete women had the option of riding up a winding road on a mountainside in the back of a farm truck singing “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain” or could choose to go with the guard in his closed automobile.

That evening one of the older women who had chosen to ride in the car said, “I saw how much fun you were all having, but I have done that before. This time I was happy to let the rest of you do it.”

“That’s exactly how I feel about death,” I responded. “Some people want to live on after death, but I don’t. I am happy to let others do it. The only thing that would upset me would be if life did not go on after me.” Continue reading “The Ancestors Live in Us by Carol P. Christ”

Ancestor Connection Revisited: Anna M. Christ of Little Germany, Brooklyn by Carol P. Christ

carol-christThese days I can’t get my 2x great-grandmother Anna Maria Christ off my mind.  She may be the independent female ancestor I have been looking for all these years.

My father’s father was transferred from New York to San Francisco during the depression. When I moved to New York City, I felt powerfully connected to its diverse immigrant culture, but I never thought of trying to figure out where and when my ancestors lived there.

Recently I found my Scottish and Irish 2x great-grandparents, James Inglis, the seaman, and Annie Corliss, mother of 9, living in the tenements on Cherry Street near the port of New York.  These were my father’s ancestors on his mother’s side.  I felt inspired by a photograph of Annie to take her Irish spirit of triumph over adversity into my soul.

Because it has become fashionable to be interested in things Irish, I began my ancestor research there.  In fact, I am more German (3/8) than I am Irish (3/16).  As I have delved into my German ancestry, I realized that being German became a cause for shame in both the First and Second World Wars.  German language newspapers were banned, Germans were interned, people hated Germans, and many Germans changed their names.

As a child I learned to create mock battles against “krauts,” Continue reading “Ancestor Connection Revisited: Anna M. Christ of Little Germany, Brooklyn by Carol P. Christ”

Connection to Ancestors in Earth-based Theology by Carol P. Christ

carol p. christ 2002 color“I am Carol Patrice Christ, daughter of Jane Claire Bergman, daughter of Lena Marie Searing, daughter of Dora Sofia Bahlke, daughter of Mary Hundt who came to Michigan from Mecklenburg, Germany in 1854.  I come from a long line of women, known and unknown, stretching back to Africa.”

Like many Americans, my ancestral history was lost and fragmented due to emigration, religious and ethnic intermarriage, and movement within the United States.  Though one of my grandmothers spoke proudly of her Irish Catholic heritage and one of my grandfathers acknowledged his Swedish ancestry, I was raised to think of myself simply as “American,” “Christian” and “middle class.”  Ethnic and religious differences were erased, and few stories were told. 

Over the past two years, I have begun to discover details of my ancestral journey, which began in Africa, continued in the clan of Tara, and was marked by the Indo-European invasions.  In more recent times, my roots are in France, Holland, England, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and Sweden.  In the United States, my family has lived in tenements in New York City and Brooklyn, in poverty in Kansas City, and on farms in Long Island, Connecticut, upstate New York, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.  My parents and grandparents settled in northern and southern California during the 1930s.  I have lived in southern and northern California, Italy, Connecticut, New York, Boston, and now Greece.

Learning details about family journeys has created a shift in my sense of who I am.  Continue reading “Connection to Ancestors in Earth-based Theology by Carol P. Christ”

Touching Roots: An Incredible Lightness Of Being by Carol P. Christ

carol p. christ 2002 colorA few days ago, a German-speaking friend spoke with an Eiloff relative of mine who lives in St. Nikolaus, Saarland.  My relative remembered hearing the story that Heinrich Eiloff, my 2x great-grandfather, emigrated to the United States in the mid-1800s.  Since we connected, I am experiencing an incredible lightness of being.

This is the first time my two years of genealogical research have led to a “Kunta Kinte” moment, a connection with a relative in “the old country.”  I have been unable to trace most of my ancestors back to the places of their birth. 

My relative in St. Nikolaus was perplexed by a call from Greece from a woman claiming to represent his American relative. But when she explained that I only want to find my roots and perhaps visit relatives in St. Nikolaus, he said, “that would be very nice.”  He promised to speak with other living relatives and said we should call in a month or two and he would tell us what he found.

According to my research, my 2x great-grandfather Heinrich Eiloff was born in 1820 in St. Nikolas, Saarland, in Prussia (now in Germany).

st nikolaus saarland

Continue reading “Touching Roots: An Incredible Lightness Of Being by Carol P. Christ”

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