From the Wasteland Rises Hope by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Carolyn Lee BoydFor millennia, humans have told stories of goddesses who have decreed that, because terrible crimes have been committed against their female loved ones or those under their protection, our world would become a desolate wasteland. They withdrew their spiritual power that made life possible so that no fruits or vegetables would grow to nourish us or no sunlight would warm our bodies. Only when justice was done did these goddesses heal the wasteland so human life could continue.

In ancient Greece, the youthful daughter Persephone was kidnapped from her idyllic wildflower meadow to the Underworld by Hades. Her mother, the great Earth goddess Demeter, wandered the world in great despair seeking her daughter while the crops withered and the people starved. Only when Persephone was returned to live on the Earth was it again abundant. Amaterasu, the Shinto Sun Goddess, hid her life-giving light when she was angered by her brother’s desecration of her queendom that resulted in a friend’s death. Finally, when her brother was banished from heaven and she was lured from her cave and saw her sacredness and beauty in a mirror, the sun’s rays nourished the Earth once more. You may know of more stories from your own tradition.

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Through the Eyes of the 21st Century Bird Goddess by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Carolyn Lee BoydWhen I raise my eyes to a bird soaring over me in flight, I am no longer bound to the Earth by gravity. I stop my round of daily tasks and widen my vision to view myself and our world from above through birds’ eyes. For just a moment, as I observe beyond my usual narrow horizon, I perceive truths about myself and others that have been hidden and grasp wisdom that has previously eluded me.

From Neolithic times onwards in cultures stretching across the globe, as described by Judith Shaw, bird-shaped goddesses have embodied life, death, rebirth, and more. More recently, as noted by Miriam Robbins Dexter, these beautiful winged beings were perceived of as monsters and flying through the air was one of the accusations made against the women persecuted as witches in the Burning Times. What greater demonstration could there be of the intense terror this powerful relationship between women and birds creates in those who demand dominion over women’s bodies and souls?

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

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

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

Boldly and Outrageously Envisioning Our Way Through the Maelstrom by Carolyn Lee Boyd

carolynlboydAs we wander together through the maelstrom of our world today, trying to keep our eyes open, our voices firm and truthful, our feet bravely taking one step and then another, may we reclaim our gift of future-envisioning boldly, outrageously, and together as a global community. In perilous times we may think that envisioning a future that may never be is a waste of time and energy. When we look into the future and see only uncertainty, we may no longer be sure that the kind of world we have been working towards for decades could ever exist.

However, it is precisely when we think we are too weary or that all attempts at progress are futile that our visions are the most important because the stakes are highest. If we have no guide towards where we want to go and do not even start on the journey, we are guaranteed to never get there. Continue reading “Boldly and Outrageously Envisioning Our Way Through the Maelstrom by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

Welcoming Asylum Seekers Who Are Running for Their Lives into Our Communities by Carolyn Lee Boyd

carolynlboydImagine that you live in a society where people like the bloggers and readers of FAR —  activists, academic, writers, and others who speak up for human rights — are persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, and killed. You have finally escaped with nothing but your life to the US, only to be thrown again into prison or end up sleeping on the street homeless. Behind the endless tirades in the media and around dinner tables about America’s system of vetting and settling, or rejecting, refugees and asylum seekers, are real women and men who had the courage, wisdom and commitment to stand up for human rights as protestors, lawyers, health educators or journalists only to find themselves treated as criminals or unworthy of having basic needs met here also.

The process in the US for settling those who come because they fear for their lives is cumbersome and complex. Those called “refugees” have already been given refugee status by the US government before they arrive. They may be coming to the US to find work, to escape war, or other reasons. Refugees can work and live in public housing. Those in the most desperate straits, who arrive here without documentation because they have escaped in the middle of the night due to fear of death or persecution are “asylum seekers.” Even if they pass a “credible fear” interview at the airport, they cannot work or apply for public housing or other benefits until they obtain official asylum status or work authorization, a process that can take two years. If they do not have a local address, they can be sent to prison or may end up living in homeless shelters or on the street. Even if they can find a community of those from their country, people may not take them in out of fear of retribution by the governments back home against family members still there. Continue reading “Welcoming Asylum Seekers Who Are Running for Their Lives into Our Communities by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

Inanna’s Autumn Gift: Fearless Spirituality by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Carolyn Lee BoydFall, the time of the Day of the Dead and All Souls Day, is a perfect season for us to contemplate “fearless spirituality” as we face our most essential fear, that of death. Though humans have celebrated these days for millennia, fear with a religious veneer pervades our culture, whether in hate towards women and the LGBTQ community, lies that demonize followers of other religions, terror of eternal punishment and spiritual unworthiness, and more.

When I seek guidance for cultivating spiritual fearlessness, I look to ancient Sumer’s Inanna and her willing descent into death. Her story cycle begins in fear of the Sky and Air gods and her desire to destroy her huluppu-tree, Earth’s first life. Gilgamesh hacks it apart to rid it of a serpent, a bird, and Lilith. The tree’s remains are made into Inanna’s throne and bed. In the next story she takes all the divine powers of her father, Enki, the God of Wisdom, and then joyfully celebrates her body and sexuality in her marriage to Dumuzi. Continue reading “Inanna’s Autumn Gift: Fearless Spirituality by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

Time for Change: What Do the Goddesses Say? by Carolyn Lee Boyd

cb2015From our very beginnings, women have danced with time. Our bodies’ moon cycles have always been a human calendar. As the first agriculturists, we partnered with the seasons to feed our families and communities. When we served as midwives and carers for the dead, we ushered our species into and out of their Earthly lives.

Time is also embedded in the stories of goddesses worldwide. Like human gatekeepers of birth and death, goddesses are often the stewards of fate. The Greek Moirai spun the thread of life and cut it at death’s proper time. The Balkan Laima , the ancient Arabian Menat, and the Etruscan Nortia are other among many fate goddesses. Some goddesses oversee change, the physical manifestation of time, including Anna Perenna, goddess of the circle of the year as well as all the seasonal goddesses. Kali, Rhea Kronia, and other Creator/Destroyer goddesses rule over time itself.*

Now, however, time is often a weapon of oppression against women. Women overburdened with an unfair share of daily life’s tasks were never able to create millions of paintings, symphonies, and inventions, make scientific discoveries, or engage in other endeavors at great loss to themselves and the world. After just a few years of maturity, we are cast aside as being “old.” How many lives have been cut short by violence, human-made disease, poverty, and war? For how many centuries have we been told to wait for equality and freedom until another war or crisis is over or we die and go to heaven? Continue reading “Time for Change: What Do the Goddesses Say? by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

Moving the World Forward on the Spiral of Life by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Carolyn Lee BoydThe wasp nest dwells at the edge of my vision waiting for me to notice what it has to show me. In my mind, I have come to this beloved circle of earth beneath the embracing branches of this tree to ponder because the need is urgent for all the world’s women to have lives of peace, safety, equality, opportunity, and enough prosperity to guarantee necessities, and to save our planet from ecological disaster. I seek new ways of thinking about my life and actions and those of the global community of women to inspire more effective means of progress.

wasps nestI finally spy the wasp nest. I follow its spiral shape, beginning at one point and then expanding in circles ever-outward and upward. I wonder, what if, in addition to perceiving my life as the more traditional journey or age-defined stages, I imagined it as a spiral like the galaxy, flowers, ancient sea creatures caught forever in fossils, swirling water, and so much else of nature? What if at my birth I was like a spiral’s central point, perhaps me at my most essential or as an infinite potential, and then, over time, I spiraled endlessly into the cosmos? Continue reading “Moving the World Forward on the Spiral of Life by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

Great Hera! Wonder Woman and Taking Women’s Power Back from the Mainstream Media by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Carolyns new lookWhen I was a teen in the 1970s, Wonder Woman was everywhere. A feminist cheerfully determined to right the world’s wrongs, especially against women, she boldly sprinted onto the cover of Ms. Magazine’s 1972 inaugural issue. Her tv series spun off toys, t-shirts, action figures, lunch boxes, and more. Now she’s back. Jill Lepore’s new book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, tells of her bizarre 1940s creation and subsequent history. In 2016, a revamped Wonder Woman will be sword-fighting her way into movie theaters worldwide in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

ms coverWonder Woman is just one of many currently popular women warriors or superheras, including the X-Men series’ female super-mutants, the Hunger Games’ lead character, the women warriors in the Avatar tv series, and many more, whose power comes from the ability to fight.  Even Snow White became a martial arts expert in 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsmen. Like Wonder Woman’s recent regeneration, however, these characters seem grimmer, and more deadly, violent, and dystopian than the earlier Wonder Woman with her optimistic, colorful comic book style, and an innocence that would now seem naive. Continue reading “Great Hera! Wonder Woman and Taking Women’s Power Back from the Mainstream Media by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

Survivorship to Thrivorship in Sedna’s Ocean by Carolyn Lee Boyd

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 These past three months I have learned the wonderful, important word “survivorship.” At the cancer center where I receive care, “survivorship” means life’s physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, economic, social, and political aspects affecting the quality and quantity of life after treatment.

“Survivorship” also perfectly describes what I have seen over and over working with older women, especially those who have made their lives masterpieces of this art. The deaths of loved ones, the loss of home and country, devastating illness and lifelong disability, violence from family and discrimination and hate from strangers – through it all they have found a strength and power that they have used to make their lives and that of others more meaningful and impactful. In fact, almost all older, and many younger, women I know have been transformed by their own kind of survivorship into someone beyond who she imagined she would ever be.

Survivorship also describes the courage, persistence, strength, wits, guts, intelligence, and wisdom of the global community of women necessary to overcome the trauma, violence, violation and repression of at least the past several thousand years. It is what has brought women through to where we are now.  Women’s spirituality as a force and a movement is also a heroine of survivorship. Through millennia of being repressed and dressed up in the garments of patriarchal practices to suit their needs, the traditions and spirit of the Female Divine have survived and we now see Her reclaiming Her place in our spiritual lives, theology, and world history.

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The Ocean Refuses No River: Building Our Spiritual Home by Carolyn Lee Boyd

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 Every day when I drive past one of New England’s ubiquitous small white wooden churches, I am reminded of how in the 17th and 18th century, these simple buildings were the first to be constructed in the center of a new town. They were the focal point of the community, the people’s “spiritual home.” Over the years I have also yearned for and found spiritual homes in the Congregational church I grew up in, the Unitarian Universalist church I attended in my 20s, and the space holding women’s spirituality circles I attended for a decade.

These are all places where I and my spiritual life have been nurtured and affirmed, where I have been both comfortable and challenged. Each has been unique, and perhaps one benefit of being a “wanderer” among spiritual places is gleaning the lessons and virtues of many “homes.”  Yet, each of these is only a reflection of the one truest “home” not yet discovered, but yet still perceived, that is a deep well connecting the infinity of universal spirit to who I most essentially am as I live my everyday life.

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Asking Sacred Questions by Carolyn Lee Boyd

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If you could travel over space and time to an ancient holy oracle, a manifestation of the voice of Goddess, what questions would you ask? Imagine you are there, at the gateway to where the oracle sits, and consider which questions are closest to your heart, near your soul, the ones you have been trying to answer your whole life. Humanity has a long history of ostracizing, marginalizing, prosecuting, and sometimes executing those who question, especially those who question established authority and doctrine. However, you need have no fear at this place of the oracle where questioning is celebrated. Here you are at home because you are a feminist.

Feminists have long known the power of questioning to liberate, to enliven and enrich, to enact positive change, to expose injustice: “Should not women live free from violence? Have the nourishment, shelter, and health care they need? Vote? Hold property? Have their labor fairly compensated? What would a world in which all women are respected and celebrated as individuals with infinite dignity and worth be like, and how do we bring it about?” Continue reading “Asking Sacred Questions by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

Tending the Fire of Our Circle of Older Women by Carolyn Lee Boyd

carolyn portraitIn some cultures, late autumn and winter are the seasons associated with the Goddess as an old woman. As the ice, snow, and long nights curl Her chilling fingers around us, it is fitting that we honor the older women in our midst.  Yet, the older I become, the more aware I am of how obsessively American culture has belittled and marginalized older women.  Bringing a powerful, vital, and wise image of the  older woman back into our  consciousness — whether by calling older women “Crones” or using other words — is, to me, a tremendous achievement of feminism and feminist spirituality So, too, is the recognition of the vigor and achievements of middle-aged women inherent in names for this time of life like “Queen”  and others. Continue reading “Tending the Fire of Our Circle of Older Women by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

Feminism: A 21st Century Goddess of Healing by Carolyn Lee Boyd

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The healing face of Feminism hovers just out of sight behind your shoulder, but is still always there for you, whispering encouragement and guidance whenever you doubt your own sacredness. Or maybe She has always faced you, bold and strong, with the features of an ancestress or hera pushing you to act on your unique gifts. Have you seen Her?

From the time I was five, in the early 1960s, when an inner voice told me that it was good to question the constrictions on the lives of the women around me, through all the years of making my way through the exhausting morass of life as a contemporary woman, Feminism has been a deep and ever-flowing well of strength and power to which I could always go in times of despair or indecision. Still, it has been by witnessing the trauma of other’s women’s lives that I first truly understood the importance of Feminism’s healing aspect.

Honoring the Older Women of December’s Darkness by Carolyn Lee Boyd

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Winter’s hungry hand has taken another powerful and precious older woman. No one knew Ellen beyond her family and friends, her church and her neighbors. She was 90, a nurse, faithful to her church and of service to her community, and quiet in manner and tone. In my work in elder services over 25 years, I have come to know many Ellens, older women who have labored relentlessly in their homes or in the outside world for little recognition or financial recompense but who have made a tremendous difference in the lives of other.  For reasons that may have to do with the harshness of New England winters, or maybe just coincidence, or maybe only perception, winter  seems to be the time when they leave the Earth and we are bereft.

Ellen and the many older women I have known like her do not fit into any standard or feminist image of a powerful woman.  They do not generally challenge the status quo, except with occasional complaints about unfairness to women in comments to friends.  They may not feel comfortable labeling themselves as “feminist.”

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