“Our Lady of the Shards”: Icons for the Buried and Rising by Lauren Raine MFA

Our Lady of the Midwives (2019)

When I became a feminist, I realized that somebody had to write all about this women’s art that was out there being totally ignored, and it was going to be me. And of course the ideas and the discoveries about what women’s art was……. I look at it for the information it gives me about women’s imagery, women’s psyches, women’s lives, and women’s experience.” 

 Lucy Lippard in Talking about Art Since 1976

I have been making art, masks, and theatre about “surfacing” for a very long time. As a child I was always digging at the roots of trees, fascinated by their interwoven strength, wondering how far down they went. That fascination never really left me. Sometimes it occurs to me that I and most of my colleagues are “spiritual archeologists”, sorting through artifacts and the mythic overlay of the past to re-discover and re-vitalize the present. I joined many of those colleagues for over 20 years:  un-earthing, re-inventing, and animating stories of the Great Goddess throughout world culture with the Masks of the Goddess Project (1999-2019), among other collaborations.  I am not religious, so much as I am a mythologist, following archetypal trails of myth back and back, seeking the sacred source they often reveal.

Continue reading ““Our Lady of the Shards”: Icons for the Buried and Rising by Lauren Raine MFA”

The Legacy of Carol P. Christ: What if Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine Are Not Oppositional Categories?

Moderator’s Note: The blog was originally posted May 18, 2015

A friend who is a spiritual teacher speaks often “bringing back the values associated with the Divine Feminine.” For her this has to do with helping women to understand the beauty of our bodies and the importance of ways of being such as giving and caring for others that have been associated with the undervalued so-called “feminine” side of the masculine-feminine polarity. Though she also speaks about the Goddess, I think she prefers the term “the Divine Feminine” because of the implication that men too have their “Divine Masculine.”

This friend has a wonderful husband who is a teacher in his own right and who often ends up spending a lot of his time among powerful women who enjoy talking about the Goddess. In these conversations he sometimes speaks of the need for men to “recover the Divine Masculine” if they are to become whole.

Continue reading “The Legacy of Carol P. Christ: What if Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine Are Not Oppositional Categories?”

Fireless Altars and Crone Encounters By Barbara Ardinger

We’ve just entered November, the beginning of winter, the season of darkness. Twenty-odd years ago, I led a group of students through the Wheel of the Year in a class I called Practicing the Presence of the Goddess. (I also wrote a book with the same title.

Continue reading “Fireless Altars and Crone Encounters By Barbara Ardinger”

Rainbow Goddess by Sara Wright

Winged Iris flew over earth and sea.

Rainbows luminesced in her wake.

Messenger from the clouds,

she gathered up the rain,

Continue reading “Rainbow Goddess by Sara Wright”

Shofetim: The Divine Feminine, Magic, and the Role of Gender by Ivy Helman.

This post is dedicated to Carol P. Christ. I knew her first as my professor and then my friend for over 15 years. May her memory be a blessing.

This week’s Torah portion is Shofetim (also spelt Shoftim), or Deutoronomy 16:18-21:9.  I have written about this parshah before.   In that post from August of 2018, I reflect on how the patriarchal elements of the portion should not detract from its larger concern for justice, compassion, and peace. Yet, there is more to the parshah.  In fact, I have recently begun exploring Judaism’s connection to all things magical, and interestingly enough, this parshah fits right into my recent inquiries.   Let me share with you some of what I have learned as it relates to this parshah.  

Where Shofetim and magic meet is idolatry.  There are three instances in Shofetim where idolatry is condemned, punished by stoning to death.  All three of these prohibitions involve polytheism, either directly worshiping other deities or participating in practices associated with the worship of those deities.  What are they?

Continue reading “Shofetim: The Divine Feminine, Magic, and the Role of Gender by Ivy Helman.”

Reclaiming Sacred Music by Mary Sharratt

Women Singing Earth by Mary Southard

Here is a hymn of praise, a beautiful and intimate piece meant to be sung. Reader, I invite you to guess the author of this text and the sacred figure to whom this work is addressed.

Hail, O greenest branch,
sprung forth on the breeze of prayers.

. . . . a beautiful flower sprang from you
which gave all parched perfumes
their aroma.
And they have flourished anew
in full abundance.

The heavens bestowed dew upon the meadows,
and the entire earth rejoiced,
because her flesh
brought forth grain,
and because the birds of heaven
built their nests in her.

Behold, a rich harvest for the people
and great rejoicing at the banquet.
O sweet Maiden,
no joy is lacking in you . . . .
Now again be praised in the highest.

Continue reading “Reclaiming Sacred Music by Mary Sharratt”

The Feminine in God by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente


An expert traveler knows that the best part of leaving is coming back. I am happy to open another year writing here again, after a necessary break, since writing is the way I maintain my strong ties with my critical spirit and this community that I cherish and has become through the years, my safe space.

Let me start with this. At the end of last year I was teaching a course on Gender, Women and Islam for social science students at a College in Mexico. One of the question I was often asked was: Madam, Is God a She? Continue reading “The Feminine in God by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

Finding Heavenly Mother with Rachel Hunt Steenblik by Caryn D. Riswold

Feminist theologies are filled with queries and questions about the divine feminine. Whether women need the Goddess. If She really is. Where herchurch might flourish. I have my own complicated views about the subject, and continue to be enriched by those who seek and find. Rachel Hunt Steenblik is the newest voice calling to and from the divine feminine, singing in a distinctively Mormon key.

If you read Mother’s Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother from front to back, you encounter what seem like scratches of verse and fragments of wisdom from a young mother catching time to write in the midst of her graced obligation to feed and sustain tiny bodies. If you read it back to front, you encounter a wealth and depth of engagement with Christian sacraments, feminist theology, sacred texts, Mormon history, modern philosophy, and children’s books and movies. This cacophony of source material and influence is distilled into sparse poems whose brevity bely decades of the author’s feminist engagement with vast religious history, philosophy, and theology.

In my review of Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, edited by Steenblik along with Joanna Brooks and Hannah Wheelwright, I noted that feminists in many religious traditions “have had to document their history, make their theological case, and engage their scriptures as robustly as any conservative traditionalist would.” In Mother’s Milk, Steenblik offers us her contribution to the reconstruction of religious tradition. The words of her introduction state plainly: “These are the poems that I could write with my questions, my hurt, my hope, and my reading. Others could write other poems with theirs. I hope they will. We need them all.”

Continue reading “Finding Heavenly Mother with Rachel Hunt Steenblik by Caryn D. Riswold”

Join the Rebellion by Jessica Bowman

Like many other thousands of Americans, I watched the newest offering from the Star Wars legacy last autumn and was re-inspired to be an active part of the rebellion against oppression. Viewing the movie through my feminist lens I was cheered on by the choice of actors and actresses in lead roles and was reminded of Margaret Mead’s famous quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

It may be easy to compare the new president to Lord Vader because he is an easy target who encourages mockery and ridicule. However, tyranny, violence, and power trips have long been a part of world societies, for centuries.  It is as evident as ever that we must continue to stand against such debilitating realities. We must stand together.

And, like millions of other people across the world, I had the privilege to participate in a Sister March to the Women’s March on Washington; shoulder to shoulder with passionate and caring people determined to make a difference. The experience generated feelings of elation, hope, and unity. I was most impressed by the kindness radiating from every person I came in contact with.  Even though spaces were packed with people the overall atmosphere was conscientious, polite, and caring. Peaceful activism is critical to progress.  

I also listened intently to the speeches made at the marches; especially by the women well known in popular culture. Gloria Steinem, a cornerstone of the modern feminist movement, spoke words that I believe reflect the change in values that I visualize in the form of a river current. “God may be in the details, but the Goddess is in connections. We are at one with each other, we are looking at each other, not up.” Women’s work is the creation of the web; the tapestry of connections between us all and the building of momentum in the stream bed. Continue reading “Join the Rebellion by Jessica Bowman”

Nominating Holy Women Icons by Angela Yarber

Who is your Holy Woman Icon?

When I began the academic study of religion in 1999, I was struck by the pantheon of male saints, venerated, honored, painted, adored, perhaps even worshipped. From virtually every tradition, men reigned supreme—in leadership, iconography, decision-making, worship—which is one of the myriad reasons groups like Feminism and Religion must exist. To combat this oppressive supremacy.

In 2010, I decided to put my wonder and this patriarchal dis-ease on canvas. I painted a triptych of Sophia, the feminine Greek word for wisdom often understood as the feminine face of Jesus, for a group triptych exhibition. Inspired stylistically by the art of Shiloh Sophia McCloud and He Qi, I endeavored to give traditional iconography a folk twist in an attempt to make it more accessible, perhaps a bit less brooding and intimidating. Emboldened by the works of womanist and feminist scholars in religion, my icons aim to subvert traditional—and often patriarchal—depictions of a virtually all-male sainthood. Though there are surely some women depicted Catholic and Orthodox iconography, and a robust number of women and goddesses in Hindu iconography, I found myself at a loss when it came to positive, affirming, and empowering icons of women across the vast spectrum of religious and spiritual traditions. Continue reading “Nominating Holy Women Icons by Angela Yarber”

Four Reasons We Need To Reclaim The Power of the Divine Feminine Now by Mary Petiet

Mary Petiet photo(Spoiler alert:  She’s already here)

The power of the divine feminine taps into the power of life. The power is accessible to everyone as the equal opportunity energy surrounding and connecting all living things. The power is ancient, and meditative practices such as yoga, which in Sanskrit means linking to the divine, can connect us to this power. When we make the connection, we find the balance we need to realize our highest selves, and through that balance we can realize the highest self of the larger society.  To reclaim the divine feminine, we need only remember, and as more and more of us remember, we heal first ourselves, and ultimately the planet.

1. She is the route back to the self.

In her mother aspect the divine feminine offers a route back to the self and She is all-inclusive. She embraces all of creation, men, women and nature, and we find Her when we reach back far enough into history and our own consciousness. She was there from our very beginning, through the Paleolithic and the Neolithic, when we celebrated her in carved figurines. She was there when we made the shift to agriculture, clear as the full moon, the goddess with her circular all encompassing worldview, birth, life, death and birth again. The goddess as mother, the goddess whose body is the earth which nurtures us all. She is there now in your deepest consciousness, you need only remember, and when you do, She will guide you back to yourself.

Continue reading “Four Reasons We Need To Reclaim The Power of the Divine Feminine Now by Mary Petiet”

Gather the Women and Heal What Ails Us by Karen Moon

Karen 2006I wrote this piece in response to an e-mail from a friend that said: “Yes, women’s circles may help you with your headaches that you have every 3 to 7 days (or whatever else ails you.)”

I think women (and men as well, but I think women feel this more deeply in general) are missing a genuine connection to others, a safe place to be heard and accepted, a chance to step outside of their roles and responsibilities in life (if only to see how very similar our challenges are), and a chance to honor beauty whether that be by reading a poem, singing a song or listening to music.

When the minister at the church turned you off towards Christianity by his fear and misdirected anger, you were searching for Divinity within someone else. But Divinity resides within yourself. Continue reading “Gather the Women and Heal What Ails Us by Karen Moon”

The Wonder that is Being Born: How to Live Out Loud? Sacrilegious or Evolution? by Karen Moon

Karen 2006Yesterday, I went to a Women’s Circle, the description follows:

Our next circle will honor this journey of Venus or Innana as she was known by the ancient Sumerians. We will gather on Sunday, July 26th at 3 PM at my house. We will celebrate the divine feminine energy of Innana/Venus through meditation, song and dance. I encourage you to dress as your inner goddess, embracing your personal divine feminine energy. We will have our usual potluck munchies afterward.

I had spoken to the host on the phone previously and know her via Social Media.  My husband gave his helpful advice to be sure that it was not a “cult,” and yes, I do think any time you find things via social media, a big dose of common sense is needed.  Continue reading “The Wonder that is Being Born: How to Live Out Loud? Sacrilegious or Evolution? by Karen Moon”

What if Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine Are Not Oppositional Categories? by Carol P. Christ

Carol in Crete croppedA friend who is a spiritual teacher speaks often “bringing back the values associated with the Divine Feminine.” For her this has to do with helping women to understand the beauty of our bodies and the importance of ways of being such as giving and caring for others that have been associated with the undervalued so-called “feminine” side of the masculine-feminine polarity. Though she also speaks about the Goddess, I think she prefers the term “the Divine Feminine” because of the implication that men too have their “Divine Masculine.”

This friend has a wonderful husband who is a teacher in his own right and who often ends up spending a lot of his time among powerful women who enjoy talking about the Goddess. In these conversations he sometimes speaks of the need for men to “recover the Divine Masculine” if they are to become whole.

I was reminded of these conversations when a two other friends, in different contexts, recently voiced their concern that Goddess imagery is problematic if it repeats sex role stereotypes. My response to them was that in the West, the feminist association of femaleness with power and value in Goddess symbolism automatically shatters the most important sex role stereotype: the notion that women are less powerful and less valuable than men. But, I said, after that, problems may arise.

I added that (for me) the categories of Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine are problematic because (it seems to me) that at their core these concepts are rooted in the notion that males and females are fundamentally different, and that the so-called “feminine” is relational, loving, giving, while the so-called “masculine” is independent, rational, aggressive, and sometimes violent and warlike. Those who speak of the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine as oppositional categories usually try to avoid categorizing men and women by stating that “we all have our masculine and feminine sides.” Still it is hard to avoid the implication that men are more masculine and women are more feminine.

Though I agree that men need new images of what it means to be men as much as women need new images of what it means to be women, I hesitate to speak of these as new images of the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine for two reasons. Although I recognize that others are inspired by images of the Sacred Marriage, for me it has been more important–and more possible–to find power within myself and in a wide variety of relationships, than to find it in a male-female heterosexual couple relationship in which the opposites are “joined.”

More importantly, I find that images of Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine often do justify patriarchal sex-role stereotypes. An internet search for “Divine Masculine” validated this fear. The first (and therefore most popular) website defined the Divine Masculine through six archetypes: God, King, Priest, Warrior, Lover, Sage.

The site’s author seems to want to help men learn new ways to interact with powerful women—as neither dominant over them nor submissive to them. The author writes: “The Divine Masculine represents an archetypal ideal, the best and most inspiring, elevating, and restorative aspects of masculine expression and manifestation in the universe. For those seeking an expanded understanding of the Self, the Divine Masculine is not a distant, detached, jealous and vengeful male deity. The Divine Masculine (along with the Divine Feminine) acts as a shining mirror of the Self, revealing aspects that need compassionate attention and support to become one’s highest potential.”

Following this insight, he redefines the God archetype as “unconditionally loving, inclusive, open, welcoming, heart-centered, spiritually focused, supportive and inspirational.” For him, the King archetype is “benevolent, evenhanded, calm, caring and thoughtfully present.” And the Warrior “finds his place in collaborative projects, being fulfilled and contented with the collaboration and not by ambition or competition.”

While I appreciate the ways in which this man redefines masculinity and male strength in terms that in the past have been associated with “the feminine,” I am concerned that he continues to view the six “archetypes” that include the King and Warrior as universal. He does not explicitly name patriarchy as a system of male dominance enforced through violence as the reason for redefining the meaning of the “archetypes.” I also worry that a good king is still a king, and that a warrior who fights for the good of others is still a warrior. From a feminist perspective, these archetypes are not universal, but rather are the product of patriarchy. Perhaps instead of redefining them, we should discard them.

peak shrine figurines 3
Male and female figures from ancient Crete are not strongly differentiated.

New research suggests that in matriarchies, there is no divine masculine per se, because though men have their own important roles, both males and females are encouraged to embody the values associated with mothers and mothering—in other words to be loving, giving, caring, and generous. In this context there is no opposition or sharp contrast between the divine masculine, the divine feminine, and any other divine gender or transgender.

I believe that that we need a multiplicity of images for divine power that express the diversity and differences of our bodies and all bodies in the web of life. We also need new images of how to be strong and powerful, yet loving and caring above all, in male, female, and other bodies.

However, if the “highest” values are the same for both—and all–genders, then perhaps it is time to retire the oppositional binary of Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine and to speak instead of images of divinity in male, female, and other bodies.

Carol leads the life-transforming Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete (facebook and twitter).  Carol’s books include She Who Changes and and Rebirth of the Goddess; with Judith Plaskow, the widely-used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions and forthcoming next year, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Explore Carol’s writing. Photo of Carol by Maureen Murdock.

Give Me That “New” Time Religion! by Susan Gifford

Susan GiffordI want a new religion. I have changed to the point that I cannot be a part of a patriarchal religion and I feel that all of the major organized religions fall into that category. It has taken me a long time, but I can now see that these organized religions were created largely to support the patriarchal culture that most humans have lived in for at least the past 5,000 years.

I started reading Mary Daly, Riane Eisler, Merlin Stone, Carol Christ, Marija Gimbutus and other similar authors in recent years. I was amazed at how much I did not know about life before patriarchy. I was never taught in school that there were cultures – civilized cultures – for tens of thousands of years prior to patriarchy. These pre-historical civilizations were largely matrilineal although not matriarchal.

Women had power in such cultures, but not “power over” others. These cultures were organized as partnership societies, not hierarchical societies. The Divine Presence worshiped was feminine which, of course, makes perfect sense since the female sex is the one that gives birth. As far as I can tell, there is little known about the specific religious beliefs and rituals of these civilizations. However, from the art work that has been discovered, there appears to be a theme of a Great Mother Goddess who gave birth to the world and all that is in it. Although we can’t go backwards to this ancient goddess religion, knowing more about it may open our eyes to other ways of conceiving a Divine Presence. Continue reading “Give Me That “New” Time Religion! by Susan Gifford”

Can You Kill the Spirit? What Happened to Female Imagery for God in Christian Worship? by Carol P. Christ

carol at green party 2014 croppedWhen I first began to think about female language and images for God I imagined that changing God-He to God-She and speaking of God as Mother some of the time would be a widespread practice in churches and synagogues by now. I was more worried about whether or not images of God as a dominating Other would remain intact. Would God-She be imaged as a Queen or a Woman of War who at Her whim or will could wreak havoc on Her own people?

Forty years later, very little progress has been made on the question of female imagery for God. I suspect that most people in the pews today have never even had to confront prayers to Sophia, God the Mother, or God-She. Most people consider the issue of female language in the churches to have been resolved with inclusive language liturgies and translations of the Bible that use gender neutral rather than female inclusive language.

In her new book, Women, Ritual, and Power: Placing Female Imagery of God in Christian Worship, Elizabeth Ursic states that one of the reasons that the issue of female language seems less pressing than it once did is because those for whom the issue was important have for the most part left the church. But the question is why. Continue reading “Can You Kill the Spirit? What Happened to Female Imagery for God in Christian Worship? by Carol P. Christ”

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”

Essentialism Reconsidered by Carol P. Christ

carol mitzi sarahIn my Ecofeminism class we have been discussing essentialism because some feminists have alleged that other feminists, particularly ecofeminists and Goddess feminists, are “essentialists.” They argue that essentialist views reinforce traditional stereotypes including those that designate men as rational and women as emotional. I too find essentialism problematic, but I do not agree that Goddess feminism and ecofeminism are intrinsically essentialist.

Goddess feminists and ecofeminists criticize classical dualism: the traditions of  thinking that value reason over emotion and feeling, male over female, man over nature. We argued that the western rational tradition sowed the seeds of the environmental crisis when it separated “man” from “nature.”

Goddess feminists and ecofeminists affirm the connections between women and nature in an environmental worldview that acknowledges the interconnection of all beings in the web of life.

This view has been criticized as essentialist. Is it? Continue reading “Essentialism Reconsidered by Carol P. Christ”

Why Not ‘Feminine Divine’? by Judith Laura

It twists my gut like an intestinal bug when people use the term “feminine divine” or “divine feminine” when what is meant is female deity. I keep thinking that like many gut bugs, it might just go away on its own—but no such luck.

Here’s how I see the history, the herstory, of this linguistic corruption. From what I remember, “divine feminine” (or “feminine divine” or “sacred feminine”) came into usage sometime in the 1980s by people, some of them authors, who wanted to refer to a female deity (or female deities, or female aspects of the divine) but didn’t want to use the word Goddess or wanted to talk about the subject in a non-religious, even not specifically spiritual, context. Often they also didn’t want their views to be construed as feminist. Sometimes these were participants in the New Age movement or people approaching the newly emerging Goddess movement from a psychological standpoint (“it helps women feel better” or “it helps women find themselves”). It was not unusual for them to speak of the “feminine within” for women and the “inner feminine” for men. For women, what was usually meant was that they had an outer feminine and an inner feminine, and that the inner feminine was spiritual. For men, there was the implied constraint that their feminine part was of course tucked away “within” where only they would be aware of it. These ideas seem to be rooted in the Jungian anima-animus concept.

Though I think that helping women “feel better” or “find themselves” may be a worthy goal and is part of the picture for some interested in Goddess, it is not by any means the full picture and it diminishes the power (and empowerment) of Goddess by making the role of the divine less than in other religions or spiritual paths. Continue reading “Why Not ‘Feminine Divine’? by Judith Laura”

%d bloggers like this: