Maiden, Mother, Crone: Ancient Tradition or New Creative Synthesis? by Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ by Michael Bakas high resoultionThe image of the Goddess as Maiden, Mother, Crone is widespread in contemporary Goddess Spirituality. The Triple Goddess honors three ages of women, in contrast to the wider culture that: affirms young women as sex objects while shaming them as sluts; celebrates mothers on Mother’s Day, while providing few legal and economic protections for mothers; and ignores older women.

Though Goddess feminists have created rituals for menstruation and birth, I suspect that a greater number of rituals have celebrated “croning.” The reasons for this are twofold. One is that women have time and space to reflect on the meaning of life in middle age. The other is that aging women are not honored and respected in the wider culture–creating a need for rituals that do just that. Many women I know have spoken of the empowerment they felt in their croning rituals.

On the other hand, many women I know have not been particularly interested in a croning ritual. Continue reading “Maiden, Mother, Crone: Ancient Tradition or New Creative Synthesis? by Carol P. Christ”

Scholars of Mythology by Barbara Ardinger 

Barbara ArdingerHere’s how my mind leaps around. I was mooning about and trying to figure out what I wanted to write for this blog when I picked up one of the books in the stack at the other end of the couch. I bought The Mythology of Eden by Arthur George and Elena George because I’d read the thoughtful review by Judith Laura, a Goddess scholar I know and respect.

In their introduction, the Georges present a paragraph by biblical scholar Millar Burrows that explains that myth is:

a symbolic, approximate expression of truth which the human mind cannot perceive sharply and completely, but can only glimpse vaguely, and therefore cannot adequately or accurately express. … It implies not falsehood, but truth; not primitive, naïve misunderstanding, but insight more profound than scientific description and logical analysis can ever achieve. The language of myth in this sense is consciously inadequate, being simply the nearest we can come to a formulation of what we can see very darkly. … The procedure is quite legitimate if [we] understand what is being done (p. xii). (Burrows’ book is An Outline of Biblical Theology, published in 1946.)

Mind leap: Wow, I said to myself, does this describe the revisionist fairy tales I write? I try to see through that dark glass more clearly and recast old ideas in new ways. (I hope this doesn’t sound too pretentious. I don’t mean it to.)

Mind leap: And, I further said to myself, we scholars who write for Feminism and Religion often write about myth, though we don’t always acknowledge that our religious stories are indeed myths. It’s like the old joke—“If I believe it, it’s religion. If you (or they) believe it, it’s myth.” Even though we sometimes call our myths the inerrant word of this god or that goddess, the stories in all of our holy books are our instructive myths. Read Burrows’ definition again. Continue reading “Scholars of Mythology by Barbara Ardinger “

Gender in Kabbalah by Judith Laura

Judith LauraI first started delving into both Jewish Kabbalah and Hermetic Qabalah in the 1990s, after friends told me these forms of mysticism included both female and male representations of divinity and therefore were gender equitable. They were right about the first part: Kabbalah/Qabalah contain both divine masculine and feminine imaging and male and female images.  But as far as gender equity goes, to use today’s slang, not so much!

tree of life kabbalah

Though they are both transliterations of the same Hebrew word, as is common I use “Kabbalah” for the Jewish versions, and “Qabalah” for the Hermetic version, best known through its association with the British Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which began in the 19th Century. The word means “that which is received,” with the understanding that it was “received” from ancient times. Though there is one tradition that says Adam was given Kabbalah in the Garden of Eden, the first written material for Kabbalah, Sefir Yetsirah (Book of Creation), is dated to between 200 and 500 C.E. Kabbalistic concepts changed over the centuries, with writings becoming more significant in the 13th century and even more popular in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Beginning with the Sefir Bahir (Bright Book) in late 12th century France, Kabbalah is represented by the Tree of Life, which has round areas transliterated sefirot (Heb. pl.; sing. sefirah) that I think of as fruit and others call “spheres,” but which in the Bahir, are more accurately translated “sapphires.”*  These “divine emanations,” as they are often called in English, are gendered. How equal is the gender representation? Continue reading “Gender in Kabbalah by Judith Laura”

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”

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