Spill that Tea: Catholic Nuns, Meghan Markle, and Theological Feminism by Anjeanette LeBoeuf

I wrote a piece in March 2021 regarding the British Royal Family and their horrendous treatment of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. On August 23, 2022, Meghan released her first podcast episode for her series titled “Archetypes”. The first episode had guest speaker, famed legendary tennis player Serena Williams. They talked about the misconceptions of ambition and the two-edged sword that women have to endure in society when striving to be their best in a male centric world. And for many of us within Religious and Theological spaces, the disparities that women, queer folk, and non-binary peoples have endured in society are also tied into the misconceptions and harmful archetypes found within religious spaces.

Continue reading “Spill that Tea: Catholic Nuns, Meghan Markle, and Theological Feminism by Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

Beauty in the Heart of the Beholder by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

In the past two years, I began a project which I call biblical poetry. I had been doing my own translations of biblical verse based on the hieroglyphic meanings of Hebrew words. Ancient Hebrew or Semitic Early writing grew out of the hieroglyphs of Egypt. Since hieroglyphs are pictures, we are able to use the rebuses or picture puzzles to glean the original or at least older meanings of words. I have begun to see these a route to interpreting meanings from before the dawn of patriarchy. This door to understanding appeals to my religious/spiritual/feminist sensibilities. At first, I attempted to stay somewhat true to the well-known meanings as they have come down through the ages. When I began my poetry project, I broke out of that structure to reveal the more mystical/shamanic/pagan meanings that I find beneath the words. At the bottom of this post, I have links to a few of my past biblical poetry posts.

The bible is quite large, so this is an encompassing project with lots of material to explore. This month, I wanted to take a look at how the concept of beauty is treated in the bible. The word for beauty is yaphah. Yaphah can also mean miracle and wonder as well as beauty. Let’s stop for a minute to unpack that. When we think of the word beauty in our culture, the thought is generally about how someone looks (unusually a female someone). But just the Hebrew word alone broadens the meaning. If beauty is someone or something that is wondrous and has miraculous qualities than it goes well beyond cultural standards of how someone looks. If you love someone, they would be beautiful to you because they would be wondrous. Biblical usages and translations tend to focus on beauty, mostly women, sometimes cows (yep cows) and a few handsome men in the mix. But I found that yaphah doesn’t have to be a vision that relies on one’s eyes.

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Legacy of Carol P. Christ: The Devil’s Bargain: “If You Can Convince a White Woman”

This was originally posted on August 12, 2019

This week’s news from America. Where to begin? When will it end?

The President of the United States is a racist who incites racist violence. Republicans have been slow to condemn the President and are not likely to pass a complete ban on assault weapons and to make those currently in circulation illegal.

After reading a speech condemning hate speech and gun violence that he obviously didn’t write, the President scheduled a round-up of brown people working in chicken-packing factories in Mississippi to coincide with his unsympathetic visits to the cities of Dayton and El Paso, where two recent mass killings by assault weapons occurred. The next morning, we were greeted by images of little children coming home from school in small towns in Mississippi to find their parents missing. We were told that none of the surviving victims of the El Paso shooting wanted to meet the President.

This is not the America I want. But it is the America that many Americans seem to want. I would like to think that women as a group reject the President and his agenda. Sadly, this is not true.

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Is the Divine the Unknowable Unknown? A Feminist Take by Ivy Helman

I attended a number of High Holy Days services (online) over the past couple of weeks. In one of them, one of the rabbis said that the divine is the unknowable unknown. I cannot remember what the Rabbi said to contextualize or explain their train of thought; I think I was too intrigued by the idea that I got lost in my own thoughts. In fact, I have been thinking about the unknowable unknown ever since.  

As I write this, I’ve come to this conclusion: if the divine is present among us and the world around us, then there is much we can intuit. In addition, there is much that we can experience the more we interact with other humans and nature.  On the other hand, if the divine is understood as a detached, distant being of a completely different essence than humanity, of course, what can we really know about such a divinity?  How would we even know if that divinity even existed? We probably wouldn’t.  Here is the difference between a  feminist understanding of the divine as this-worldly and empowering and a patriarchal conception of a distant divinity wielding power-over. Yet, interestingly, even the most patriarchal image of the divine has insisted on being relatable to human beings. Nonetheless, how we imagine the divine does matter.

In her book, Models of God: Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age, Sallie McFague argues that the words and ideas we use to describe the divine are important. She advocates for the use of metaphors to describe the divine, stating that we can only describe what the divine is like, not what divinity actually is. In fact, she warns the reader of long-lasting models for the divine as these can lead to idolatry, an understanding that limits divinity and, because of this, is essentially untrue. She writes on page 99 that, “[i]f we use only the male pronoun [for the divine], we fall into idolatry, forgetting that God is beyond male and female…” In other words, we are limiting the divine and furthermore speaking an untruth.  

This talk makes we wonder if she too is of the camp that we cannot understand divinity; that the divine is quite different from us. I mean if we cannot and should not have any long-standing model for the divine but only use shaky fleeting metaphors, our understanding of the divinity is genuinely limited and amorphous. Yet, there is a difference between some knowledge and experience of the divine and the idea of the divine as the unknowable unknown, isn’t there?

That being said, I find much of what she has to say extremely helpful when it comes to traditional understandings of divinity.  In her book, she implicates as problematic the long-standing models of divinity as Father and King, among others.  These out-dated models move us further and further away from the divine because they are thought to definitively explain who the divine is in relation to us.  

Let us look at Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, as an example of this in Judaism.  Here, we have a day in which we are highly vulnerable as we reflect on the ways in which we have not always treated ourselves, others, the world around us, and the divine as we should (had hoped to). Yet, we enter the synagogue and repeatedly address the divine as Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father, Our King).  Why is the understanding of divinity that we approach one of judge, strict parent, and ruler over us?  Does that not drive a wedge of sorts between divinity and humanity? Does that not make being inscribed in the book of life seemingly impossible unless we are non-human-like?

Contrary to what we often hear in shul, Judaism recognizes some 70 diverse understandings, or names for the divine. These names range from Hashem (the Name) and Shalom (Peace) to Shechinah (the in-dwelling) and Kadosh Israel (the Holy One of Israel). And there are many, many more.  

Returning to our example again, instead of the umpteen rounds of Avinu Malkeinu, what would it be like on Yom Kippur if we approached the divine as Shaddai (Comforter), Hamakon (the Present One, literally the Place), or YHWH-Rapha (The One Who Heals)? These understandings seem to offer the compassion we need on a most vulnerable day.  How much easier would it be to connect to divinity that understands us?  Perhaps we could learn a little more about divinity in that case, and we could in the process become much closer to the holy?  And, isn’t that the point of Judaism? To be holy like the divine is holy?  I think so. 

From a feminist perspective, how we understand the divine has real-life consequences which can shape how we understand ourselves and the world around us. Just imagine what Yom Kippur would feel like, if we called on the divine that day as the comforter, the present one, and the one who heals. It would feel totally different, and for very good reasons.

Who would have thought that some three weeks ago or so, I would have heard a phrase about the divine that still has me in a quandary? I mean, in the end, I suppose there are ways in which the divine is unknowable. Importantly, though, that does not make the divine wholly unknown. Rather, it is often the language we use about the divine that puts distance between us and divinity, that makes divinity less and less known.

Ivy Helman, Ph.D.: A feminist scholar and faculty member at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic where she teaches a variety of Jewish Studies, Feminist and Ecofeminist courses.  

Authenticity by Beth Bartlett

The leaves have finally begun to turn. I’ve been longing for the trees to reveal their true beauty in all their colorful array, and am glad for this beginning. Soon the woods will be filled with the golden, amber, scarlet, and orange glow of the maples, aspen, birch, and oaks of the northern forest.

Hawk Ridge

It is the time of year I would take my Women and Spirituality students to a sacred spot on a ridge high above Lake Superior to explore their spiritual connections with the earth. They would share a particular way they felt a connection to the natural world – often a lake, or a place from their childhood, a tree they loved to climb, their dog, or a stone they carried.   We would circle the large pine and invoke Starhawk’s “Open-Eyed Grounding” practice.[i] They would read and comment on their favorite passages from the readings – selections from Susan Griffin’s Woman and Nature and Carol Christ’s “Rethinking Theology and Nature.”[ii] Then they would disperse across the ridge for their solo encounters with nature, before gathering together again, each returning with something they had discovered during that time.  Then we would talk about the changing colors of the leaves surrounding us and talk about how these were the true colors of the leaves, finally emerging now that the chlorophyll that had disguised them in green was beginning to wane. Taking our cue from the leaves, we would talk about authenticity – about their coming into their own true colors. For that is the work of spiritual growth and transformation — to emerge as our own true selves. Yet, how often our unique and precious beings are taught to mask our true color, blend in — be “green” like everyone else.  What a vivid and beautiful world when we come into our own and share our unique gifts and being with the world.

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Legacy of Carol P. Christ: “Calling All Women” to Save the Earth, signed and shared by Carol P. Christ

This was originally posted on April 1, 2019

I contend therefore that we have allowed these chemicals to be used with little or no advanced investigation of their effect on soil, water, wildlife and man himself. Future generations are unlikely to condone our lack of prudent concern for the integrity of the natural world that supports all life. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own – indeed to embrace the whole of creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. Wangari Maathai

I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. Greta Thunberg

We are calling all women and our allies to come together to save the earth that sustains us all. Is it any wonder that from Rachel Carson to Wangari Maathai to the emerging young leader Greta Thunberg, women have been in the forefront of environmental movements for a century? As daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, and aunts, we have long cared and advocated for the most vulnerable among us, the very young, the very old, the disabled, those who are the first to suffer the consequences of climate catastrophe and the many kinds of pollution that are poisoning the earth we share.

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The Norns, Spiritual Mystery and Me, Part 2 by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

Part 1 was posted yesterday. You can read it here. The Norns were explaining the mess they had made when they got drunk at a Valhalla party.

The Norns looked at me with sadness. “We knocked over one of our looms/templates/arrangements” 

Their tone changed, they looked at each other and I thought I could see emotion churning. They were arguing and then they stopped. They turned toward me and looked sheepish, that is if divinities can look sheepish. “It was a disaster/calamity/debacle.”

“Tell me then,” I was growing impatient.

Verdandi: “Well you see the loom we knocked over was . . .”

“What?” I almost shouted at them.

Urd: “It was the loom holding the pattern from Salim/Jerusalem.”

Continue reading “The Norns, Spiritual Mystery and Me, Part 2 by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”

The Norns, Spiritual Mystery and Me, Part 1 by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

In 2020, I began writing my biography because some weird things were happening in my life including some which were time-bending. To help make sense of it, I wrote up “conversations” with the mythical characters of Persephone, Inanna and the Norns of the Norse. Throughout my bio, I speak to the Norns as an out loud meditation on the nature of time, fate and energy.

The three Norn sisters are Urd, Verdandi and Skuld. Their names come from Old Norse which is not a spoken language. The actual translation of their names is open to speculation. In general, here are their common meanings.

  • Urd – past
  • Verdandi – happening or present
  • Skuld – future or debt.

By mythological tradition, they show up at a child’s birth and then weave their “fateful” decisions about that child’s life into a tapestry. They are considered more powerful and fearsome than the gods because even the gods are ruled by the hands of fate (or Norns in this case). They were also treated as oracles where kings and warriors went to consult them much as was done in Delphi Greece.[1]

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From Footbinding to Abortion and Beyond – This Has to Stop! by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

My husband, Marty, is a retired podiatrist.  He worked in pockets of New York City that were poor and largely immigrant. When he first started his practice, he treated women from China whose feet had been bound. Despite being officially outlawed 1912, footbinding was still being practiced well into modern times. He saw these patients in the 1970s and 80s.

For those who don’t know what it is, young girls, as young as 3-5 would have the bones in their feet broken and then the feet bound with cloth strips. Every few years, the feet would be broken again until the desired result was created. To create that affect, the toes would be flattened against the bottom of the foot and arch would be so broken and damaged that the heel would curl back to the front of the foot. At each of the breakings the girl would need to learn to walk again.  One can only imagine that pain of walking on foot bones that had been repeatedly broken. And here is an especially chilling part. The mothers would do it to their own daughters. I won’t go into further gruesome details because they can be easily looked up on the internet.  It left the girls crippled for life.

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Moses and the Rambo Problem by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

Moses is an interesting character is in the pantheon of religious leaders. He is such a major personage, considered the founder of Judaism and yet there are no extra-biblical accounts of his life and his deeds. He only exists in the bible. You’d have thought that such a major event as leading a whole class of people away from Egyptian slavers, would have shown up on the radar of other written or mythical accounts from the time. Nothing!

Even his name is interesting. When the Egyptian princess gathered Moses out of the waters she said:

She named him Moses, explaining,

“I drew him out of the water.”

Exodus 2:10

This is one meaning of his name. But there are others. In Egypt, the land where he was born and raised, the M-SH (variations: m-s or m-ss) root simply means “son.” Or it can mean “child” in a non-patriarchal sense. We see this in other Egyptian names Ramses is the child of the sun god Ra. Tutmose is the child of Tut. 

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Remembering Rosemary Part 2 by Janice L. Poss and Theresa A. Yugar

Editor’s Note: A more formal memorial to Catholic Feminist Theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether was posted here at Feminism and Religion at the time of her passing. Now we are delighted to share these memories of her by two scholars, Theresa A Yugar and Janice L. Poss, who knew her well, especially in her last months. Therese’s reflection is below and Janice’s will appear tomorrow. As Janice notes in her post, “More than any deep theological concept, doctrinal exegesis, or other hyper-scholarly thought, she taught me simply by being who she was – a woman – and she gave me the ultimate gift, the gift of herself.” Through these posts, Theresa and Janice pass on some of Rosemary’s wise and caring gifts to our FAR readers. Part 1 was posted yesterday. You can read it here.

Janice, Theresa with Rosemary

Almost five years ago, Rosemary Radford Ruether suffered a devastating stroke that left her partially paralyzed and no longer able to speak or write, activities that were integral to her life as a writer, teacher, activist, and scholar. During her difficult last years Janice and I learned new ways of engaging her that were academically stimulating and fulfilling for her. We became advocates for her during her disability as she had been an advocate for us. Thus, out of pain grew blessings.

Janice and I dedicate and share with you these two short reflections that reflect our struggle to find our way without her. We know there will be many more reflections composed and shared by others whom she mentored, influenced and touched. Now—in the midst of our grief and sadness at her loss—we offer our personal memories of how she enriched our lives every day until she passed from our midst at 2pm, on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

Continue reading “Remembering Rosemary Part 2 by Janice L. Poss and Theresa A. Yugar”

Remembering Rosemary Part 1 by Janice L. Poss and Theresa A. Yugar

Editor’s Note: A more formal memorial to Catholic Feminist Theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether was posted here at Feminism and Religion at the time of her passing. Now we are delighted to share these memories of her by two scholars, Theresa A Yugar and Janice L. Poss, who knew her well, especially in her last months. Therese’s reflection was posted yesterday and Janice’s is below. As Janice notes in her post, “More than any deep theological concept, doctrinal exegesis, or other hyper-scholarly thought, she taught me simply by being who she was – a woman – and she gave me the ultimate gift, the gift of herself.” Through these posts, Theresa and Janice pass on some of Rosemary’s wise and caring gifts to our FAR readers.

Janice L. Poss, Rosemary and Theresa A. Yuger

She’s gone, but not forgotten. She is there, presence felt. The Spirit, as they say, works in mysterious ways. I knew about Rosemary for several years after attending two presentations  on feminist topics that she gave at Loyola Marymount University in 2005 and 2008. In 2006, I also recall hearing about her while organizing the first Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP) Mass in Los Angeles. Once I entered Claremont Graduate University as a Ph.D. student I heard quite a bit about her because my colleague and friend, Theresa Yugar, mentored me through orientation until she graduated. Occasionally I would see Theresa and Rosemary at Pilgrim Place when I attended Women Church Services. Although Rosemary was still teaching one class a semester, I could never attend because I was working full-time.

Continue reading “Remembering Rosemary Part 1 by Janice L. Poss and Theresa A. Yugar”

The Magic of the Labyrinth by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

Labyrinths are magical. I’ve always been drawn to them. About two years ago, a local Episcopalian Church rebuilt their beautiful outdoor labyrinth and opened it to the public. In concert with them, I have been delighted and honored to offer guided walks there. Doing these walks, both in leading them and in walking myself, have given me the opportunity to reflect deeply on what they mean from many perspectives: historical, personal, spiritual, philosophical, experiential.

When I walk a labyrinth, it feels like I am mirroring the universe while expanding my internal journey. Teresa of Avila agrees with me (or, more accurately, I with her). She wrote, “If we learn to love the earth, we will find labyrinths, gardens, fountains and precious jewels! A whole new world will open itself to us. We will discover what it means to be truly alive.”     


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Inspired by Carol P. Christ: Patriarchy Rules the Supreme Court by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

Along with the words of Justices Sotomayer, Breyer and Kagan.

The Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe was expected, but there was nothing that could prepare me (nor likely anyone else) for the devastation of the actual decision. My gut is reeling. I thought it would be useful to survey the landscape through the lens of patriarchy. Thanks to Carol Christ for having always written insightful comments about the roles of patriarchy. This is inspired by her work.

The dissenting judges were quite eloquent, so I will work off their words.

  • “Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.”
  • “After today, young women will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers had. The majority accomplishes that result without so much as considering how women have relied on the right to choose or what it means to take that right away. The majority’s refusal even to consider the life-altering consequences of reversing Roe and Casey is a stunning indictment of its decision.”

My Commentary: Through the eyes of patriarchy here is no need to consider life-altering consequences because it only recognizes two roles for women: madonna or whore. We are never seen as full humans with civil and independent rights. Patriarchy doesn’t just hate the sexual freedom of women, it has spent millennia trying to quash it, make it into something dirty, control it. It’s a love/hate relationship with sex. Rape is really OK (look how hard it is to prosecute). Pedophilia OK too (look at the church). But a woman making her own sexual, reproductive choices . . . a bridge too far. Patriarchy will always force us to pay a price for having sex, for being alluring, for being female.

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In Memoriam: Rosemary Radford Ruether by Elizabeth Ann Bartlett

Yet another of my great feminist and spiritual teachers has died.  Rosemary Radford Ruether, ecofeminist Catholic theologian, died on May 21st.  Her work challenged my thinking and gave me new understandings and perspectives. She was a prolific writer, authoring hundreds of articles and 36 books, and was the quintessential scholar and historian of world religions and ecofeminist thought and theologies. A scholar of the scholastics, she examined the three strains of Western thought: the Hebraic tradition; Platonic-Gnostic; and Pauline-Augustinian in all their complexities to develop an understanding of the nature of Western thought and its implications for the domination of women, nature, and colonized others. As she described her own approach, she drew out the contradictions and complexities in these theologies, careful “to see both negative and positive aspects . . . and to be skeptical of exclusivist views on either side.”[i] Her thought and writing was ever-expanding, and always striving “to see the dominant system of patriarchy, including its racism, classism, and colonialism, in critical perspective,” and to put herself “in places where in solidarity with its victims, I can see it from its underside.”[ii]To this end, she brought together the ecofeminist theologies of women from around the globe, particularly the global south.[iii] Her thought also grew to include critiques of militarism and corporate globalization.  Needless to say, I cannot begin to encompass all of her contributions here. So I will focus on the ways her thought has most deeply influenced and inspired my own, as well as my students’.

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From the Archives: Abortion–the topic that won’t go away–or even morph

This was originally posted on March 12, 2014. It was Esther’s first FAR post.

Recently, I got involved in a conversation about abortion.  It happened on Facebook when a relative posted that her heart hurts when she considers her “sweet baby girl” and how the law (Roe v. Wade, 1973) in the United States gave her the choice as to “whether [or not] I would have her killed.”  She’s sincere.  Many of her friends “liked” her post and, with few exceptions, commented in agreement.  I was one of the exceptions.

March celebrates Women’s History Month–a month to remember the accomplishments of our foremothers, noting their work helping to secure for us (their progeny) certain rights, most notably the right to vote (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1815-1902) and reproductive rights (Margaret Sanger, 1879-1966).  Support for abortion nowadays almost always falls under the rubric of “women’s reproductive rights.”  So when we hear, “It’s my body and I’ll decide what I’ll do with my own body,” the speaker is giving voice to what many consider to be a fundamental right–the right to be autonomous and exercise free agency over one’s own person.

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Patriarchy and the Supreme Court by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

I am pissed! I wrote this blogpost the day after Beltane when the leaked draft of the Supreme Court majority opinion regarding Roe v. Wade was leaked to the public. I was up anyway feeling the effects of PTSD. Lessons that Carol P. Christ wrote about and brought to my own consciousness were rattling around my head. The first is her definition of patriarchy: “patriarchy is a system of male domination in which men dominate women through the control of female sexuality with the intent of passing property to male heirs.” This definition was part of a 3-part series she wrote (and we recently re-posed in her legacy posts) beginning here.

They are all well worth reading.

I was raped in 1977 when I was 22 years old. This after being abused by my father. I never got pregnant, but I was suicidal after the rape. Had I been pregnant without recourse to ending it, I would without a doubt have stabbed myself in the stomach or reached for that metal coat hanger. (I was too young to face pregnancy when my father abused me.) Had the result been my own death, that would have been warmly welcomed on my part. To this day, I still self-mutilate at times when stress becomes too much.    

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My Accidental Baptism into the River by Caryn MacGrandle

Yesterday I fell into the river. I had had a long afternoon and had gone to escape for a bit sitting on a bench by the river I live by. I had just gotten done with reading about Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Neptune all being in Pisces. ‘Drip, drip, drip or maybe a huge wave.’ Elsaelsa – The Astrology Blog I had also just gotten done with a Yemaya Mother of the Ocean meditation that I had done for Circle a while back. And as I got back up to go home, I slip-slided all the way down the steep incline in front of the bench.

Plop. Into the river.

I was holding my wallet, my phone, my keys, my glasses and a water bottle. I instantly lost the water bottle but managed to hold the rest above water. I tried to start back up the river bank. And could not. ‘Woman Accidentally Falls Into Raging River and Dies’. My heart rate went up. Okay, it wasn’t raging. I reminded myself that I most likely would not die as I can swim, and I could just go down river to a less steep bank.

But it was most disconcerting.

I forced myself to take a deep breath, threw all my stuff up the significantly steep bank and tried again. My shoe fell off. I was in panic mode. ‘Just get out of the river, Caryn’

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Carol P. Christ’s Legacy: Great Goddess, Mother Goddess, Creatrix, Source of Life

This post was originally posted on February 5, 2018

The symbol of the Goddess is as old as human history. The most ancient images of the Goddesses from the Paleolithic era are neither pregnant nor holding a child. In Neolithic Old Europe the Goddess was most commonly linked with birds or snakes and only rarely portrayed as mother. Yet we tend to equate the Goddess with the Mother Goddess. I suspect that images of the Virgin Mary with Jesus on her lap and prayers to God as Father have fused in our minds, leading us to think that the Goddess must be a Mother Goddess and primarily a Mother.

In a recent blog, Christy Croft reminded us that in our culture, women’s experiences of mothering and motherhood are not always positive:

[The mother] doesn’t always appear in our stories in simple or easy ways. Some of us mother children we did not or could not grow in our bodies; some of us birth babies who are now mothered by others. Some of us are not mothers at all. Some of us had mothers who could not love us unconditionally, or did not have mothers in our lives, or had mothers who brought us more pain and humiliation than comfort, from whose effects we are still recovering, are still healing.

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The Egg by Annelinde Metzner

Art by Deb Pollard Materials: Watercolor, markers, and vintage pearl button on paper.

In 1989 I was 37 years old. My body’s sacred work, centered around eggs, hormones and fertility, strongly governed my everyday existence.  I’m sure that influence is strong for all women of that age, mothers or not, body conscious or not.   I was directing a large women’s choir in Asheville, Womansong, composing and arranging for the women’s voices, as well as leading ritual-like rehearsals in a seated circle on the floor (pretty sure I can’t do that any more!) where I would often read my latest poems.

     Now I know that the egg of our own existence was carried in our mother’s wombs while in our grandmother’s bodies. I can see how my imagination in 1989 would go further and further afield, to women’s relations with all the egg-bearers, flora and fauna, of our amazing Earth. Quite a family we are!

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The Gendered Temptation of Jesus by Liz Cooledge Jenkins

As Luke’s Gospel tells it, at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, the devil comes to him in the wilderness and tempts him.[1] First, the devil latches onto Jesus’ hunger after forty days of fasting: “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”[2]  Then, he shows Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world.” He says, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.If you worship me, it will all be yours.”[3] 

I’ve been thinking about this second temptation: all the authority and splendor of the kingdoms of the world. All can be yours. You just have to worship me. Did Jesus find this appealing? Personally, I find it a little hard to relate to. I have zero interest in ruling the kingdoms of the world, however splendid they might be. The whole proposition sounds like too much limelight and far too much stress. Thank you, devil, but I’m good.

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Carol P. Christ’s Legacy: Please Keep It in Your Pants by Carol P. Christ

This blog was originally posted on November 6. 2017. You can read the original comments here.

Trigger warning: this post describes sexual abuse

Last week while responding to a comment on my blog, I suddenly remembered a series of incidents in which men I did not know exposed themselves to me in public places. The first time occurred at a park around dusk during an outing with a group of girls. I was about 11, I may have wandered away from the group, or I may have been with others. What I remember is seeing a man with his pants down sitting on a park bench, possibly the first time I ever saw an adult man’s penis. I told or we told, but the man was not reported by the adults. Fast forward to the beautiful gardens of the Palace Schoenbrunn in Vienna where I was confronted by a penis while lost in thought when I was 19. I ran, but said nothing. In my 20s at the early showing of movies in New York City men would sit next to me and jerk off into paper bags. I learned to move whenever a man was near me in the theater, but I never told the ticket seller. A few years later, I crossed paths with a man who had his penis out on my favorite walk in the hills of Alum Rock Park in San Jose. I never walked carefree in that park again. When I was looking for the cave of the Furies on the Acropolis Hill in Athens, a man followed me waving his penis. I told the guard, but when the police came, he was gone. I arrived home in distress. My boyfriend said I was over-reacting. I learned to stay clear of men in cars on the streets of Athens at night after seeing things I did not want to see more than once in their hands. I coded this behavior as part of the background of my life. There was a man who from the basement apartment a few doors up from the Cycladic Museum pressed his erect penis against the window. I told the guard at the museum who said, “We have called the police more than once, but he always cries, and they let him go.” On a trail I had walked many times with my dogs near Lafionas in Lesbos, coming around a bend, I encountered a young farmer, who as soon as he saw me, pulled out his penis and urinated against a fence. That was the last time I walked the trail. We are supposed to learn to consider this behavior as well, if not normal, anyway, not such a big deal. After all, I wasn’t hurt, or was I?

Continue reading “Carol P. Christ’s Legacy: Please Keep It in Your Pants by Carol P. Christ”

white femininity: whitemalegod’s secret weapon By Christena Cleveland, PhD

For the first several weeks of my walking pilgrimage, I debated whether to visit the famous Black Madonna of Orcival. It wasn’t the walking distance that deterred me; She lived in a gorgeous Romanesque cathedral nestled in a charming medieval mountain town only fifteen miles away. Rather, I was hesitant to visit Her because I knew that, after a thousand years of being Black, She had undergone a mid-twentieth-century “renovation and restoration” process that whitened Her skin. I knew from photos that Her once gorgeous melanated skin was now a ghastly beige-ish pink. The incredible Black Madonna of Orcival now appears to be a white woman.

Continue reading “white femininity: whitemalegod’s secret weapon By Christena Cleveland, PhD”

Scars Of The Body by Mary Gelfand

Despite the distances involved, throughout my adulthood, I regularly visited my parents.  As their home was small, I often found myself seated at the kitchen table with my mother while my father watched TV in the adjacent living room. During those visits, it was not unusual for my mother to come and stand behind me and begin working her fingers into my thick dark hair. 

I knew why she did this—she was looking for my scars, hidden under the abundance of my hair but still visible to those with patience. Two scars are hidden by my hair.  When I was three, I received a glancing blow from a horse’s hoof which cut my scalp causing it to bleed profusely. When I was six, I fell out of a tree in our back yard and cut my scalp again. Maternal fingers remembered where those scars should be, and Mom would weave her fingers through my hair until she found each scar.  Then she would lovingly stroke each spot several times and return to her seat.  Even at the time it seemed like she was offering a blessings to my wounds.

Continue reading “Scars Of The Body by Mary Gelfand”

Calling All Biblical Wise Women by Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD

The meeting of David and Abigail by Peter Paul Rubens circa 1630

In these days when so many are afraid and aching for the people of Ukraine, and concerned about the lasting impacts of this war around the world, I cannot help thinking of the wise women of ancient Israel. These wise women, unafraid of confronting dangerous men, used their intelligence and storytelling skill to defuse violent situations between powerful adversaries and restore peace. May their wisdom be felt in the world now. 

The institution of “wise woman” appears several times in the Bible. In the Book of Samuel, a wise woman (chachamah in Hebrew, from chochmah, wisdom) steps in when there is a war, or political conflict, to promote peace. In II Samuel 14, after King David’s son Amnon rapes David’s daughter, Tamar, the king does nothing. Tamar’s full brother Absalom takes matters into his own hands and kills Amnon, then flees to another country.  David grieves for Absalom but won’t send for him. The wise woman of Tekoa appears before King David, pretending to be a woman whose sons fought, and one killed the other. The story she tells helps to reconcile King David with his son Absalom, at least temporarily.  

Continue reading “Calling All Biblical Wise Women by Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD”

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?”

Let’s Talk about Consent and Hulu’s “Pam and Tommy” Series by Anjeanette LeBoeuf

The internet and social media has been eagerly anticipating the release of Hulu’s fictional/non-fictional docuseries based around events in the lives of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. For many of us who lived through the 1990s, the scandals surrounding the love and fall out of Baywatch actress Pamela Anderson and rockstar Tommy Lee was a huge turning point in conversations of how media is never truly private nor is it ever truly gone.

Continue reading “Let’s Talk about Consent and Hulu’s “Pam and Tommy” Series by Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

Abortion Rights (?) by Esther Nelson

Slowly, yet systematically, women, men, and everybody else along the gender continuum, are losing access to a timely, legal, and safe abortion. This is not breaking news. Pushback in the United States against abortion “rights” has been happening in various state legislatures for decades.  These days we find ourselves more and more constricted as laws across the country reflect a tightening of accessibility to what some people refer to as a “scourge” in the land.

My first-ever blog post on FAR (March 2014) wrestled with the subject of abortion.  In that essay (one that’s still relevant), I suggest we broaden our thinking about a subject that has polarized Americans. Is abortion (a) right?  Is it wrong? The two sides have become entrenched.


Continue reading “Abortion Rights (?) by Esther Nelson”

From the Archives: Women’s Bodies and the Bible by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

Moderator’s note: This marvelous FAR site has been running for 10 years and has had more than 3,600 posts in that time. There are so many treasures that have been posted in this decade that they tend to get lost in the archives. We are beginning this column so that we can all revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted May 20, 2019. You can click here to see the original comments.

Trigger Alert:  The bible on its face is quite violent to women.

Amidst the ugliness that is American politics in general and abortion politics specifically, I began to look for guidance to understand what is happening. I ended up pulling out two books that I read long ago. The first is Woe to the Women-The Bible Tells Me So by Annie Laurie Gaylor. Gaylor, in turn, was inspired by the work of Elizabeth Cady Stanton in her The Women’s Bible which was originally published in two parts (1895 and 1898).

I had forgotten how inspired I have been by both books. Together, they motivated me to begin looking at how the bible is a foundational paradigm of our culture. I started researching how translations have been altered from original meanings. I have already written a few blogs about how the representations of Eve have been changed to strip Her of the roots of Her original power. Take a look here and here.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Women’s Bodies and the Bible by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”

Honoring My Academic Mothers: Carol Christ and bell hooks by Anjeanette LeBoeuf

I started writing this post a day after news broke that beloved activist, poet, feminist, and academic, bell hooks had passed away. This news comes months after our FAR community lost Carol Christ; another academic, feminist, writer, and maker of history. This post was finished as almost three weeks into a new year has gone by. The advent of 2022 is filled with the last two years’ heavy, unbelievable, heartbreaking, and extraordinary experiences and events.  

Continue reading “Honoring My Academic Mothers: Carol Christ and bell hooks by Anjeanette LeBoeuf”
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