From the Archives: Answering the Call by Joyce Zonana

This was originally posted on April 30, 2020

Very early in Henri Bosco’s 1948 novel Malicroix, a young man, Martial de Mégremut, living placidly amid fruitful orchards in a tame Provençal village, receives a letter informing him he has inherited “some marshland, a few livestock, a ramshackle house” from a reclusive great-uncle, Cornélius de Malicroix. Against his family’s strenuous objections–with alarm they speak of “marshes, mosquitoes, miasmas”–Mégremut resolves to travel alone to the remote Camargue to claim his “wild” Malicroix inheritance. The house is on an island, and to reach it Mégremut must cross a rough river, at night, in a frail wooden boat piloted by a taciturn old man who meets him at dusk in the middle of a vast plain.

So begins a deeply internal quest narrative, an initiatory journey that forces Mégremut to come to terms with himself and with the elements–earth, water, wind, and fire–that are ever-present, sometimes terrifyingly so, on the island. For once he arrives, he learns that he must remain there alone for a full three months if he wishes to obtain the inheritance. Torn about whether to stay or leave, he finds that the decision to stay is made of its “own accord,” unconsciously.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Answering the Call by Joyce Zonana”

Chukat: Miriam, Feminists, and the Power of Water, by Ivy Helman.

This week’s Torah portion is Chukat.  It covers a lot of ground.  There are the mitzvot concerning purification with a red cow, the deaths of important individuals, and the continued wanderings in the desert, which are rife with complaining Israelites, plagues of snakes and destructions of enemies.  It would be impossible to cover all of these events well in the length of this post, so instead I will am going to concentrate on a theme: water.  I also want to explain some of the ways Jewish feminists have enriched our connection to water. 

Water is first associated with the prophetess Miriam.  Miriam is first called a prophetess in Exodus 15, when she takes the women of the community out to sing about their deliverance from Egypt by way of the Re(e)d Sea.  Her “Song of the Sea” is thought to be, by many scholars, one of the oldest written texts of the Torah.  Yet, the connection between Miriam and water starts earlier in the Torah.   Miriam is Moses’ and Aaron’s sister and the one who watches over Moses when his mother, Joheved, hides him in a reed basket on the edge of the Nile (Exodus 2:4).  She approaches the Pharaoh’s daughter to secure a milkmaid for her brother (Exodus 4:7).  

Continue reading “Chukat: Miriam, Feminists, and the Power of Water, by Ivy Helman.”

Answering the Call by Joyce Zonana

All along, I’ve believed that Malicroix had something important to offer English-speaking readers: an embrace of solitude, a profound connection with nature, a bold exploration of dream-states. And right now it seems to resonate with our current moment of introspection and reassessment of priorities.

202002_Zonana_JoyceVery early in Henri Bosco’s 1948 novel Malicroix, a young man, Martial de Mégremut, living placidly amid fruitful orchards in a tame Provençal village, receives a letter informing him he has inherited “some marshland, a few livestock, a ramshackle house” from a reclusive great-uncle, Cornélius de Malicroix. Against his family’s strenuous objections–with alarm they speak of “marshes, mosquitoes, miasmas”–Mégremut resolves to travel alone to the remote Camargue to claim his “wild” Malicroix inheritance. The house is on an island, and to reach it Mégremut must cross a rough river, at night, in a frail wooden boat piloted by a taciturn old man who meets him at dusk in the middle of a vast plain.

So begins a deeply internal quest narrative, an initiatory journey that forces Mégremut to come to terms with himself and with the elements–earth, water, wind, and fire–that are ever-present, sometimes terrifyingly so, on the island. For once he arrives, he learns that he must remain there alone for a full three months if he wishes to obtain the inheritance. Torn about whether to stay or leave, he finds that the decision to stay is made of its “own accord,” unconsciously.

Continue reading “Answering the Call by Joyce Zonana”

Designing with the Goddess in Mind: A Meditation on Greek Spring Fountains by Carol P. Christ

During the past week I have been thinking about Greek spring fountains while designing a water fountain for my new apartment in Heraklion, Crete. When the architect sent photos showing that the tiles had been removed from my balconies, I noticed an enclosed niche that could be used for stacking wood, turned into a closet, or as I began to imagine, would be the perfect place for a fountain to bring the soothing sound of running water to my balcony. Continue reading “Designing with the Goddess in Mind: A Meditation on Greek Spring Fountains by Carol P. Christ”

The Three Mothers: Feminine Elements and the Early Kabbalah by Jill Hammer

For over ten years, I’ve been teaching a work of early Jewish mysticism known as Sefer Yetzirah, or the Book of Creation.  There are widely differing opinions on the book’s origin and dating, but many scholars date it to the sixth century.  Its core concept can be described simply: the Divine used the Hebrew letters as metaphysical channels to create the different aspects of reality: the directions, the elements, the planets, the months of the year, and so forth.  Each letter is a channel by which God creates a unique form or entity, and meditating on the letters provides us with a connection to divine creative power. In its discussion of the letters, Sefer Yetzirah shows a strong connection to feminine imagery, and thus helps the later kabbalah develop its own link to the feminine.

Sefer Yetzirah shows influences from Aristotle to Gnosticism, and is often viewed as a work of Jewish philosophy.  However, it is also a work of meditation, giving the reader instruction on how to focus and connect to the divine. Scholars such as Richard Hayman and Marla Segol have noted that the book’s structure and content connect it to magical literature: for example, the book has a deep concern with “sealing” the space of the world: letters of the Divine Name are used to seal the six directions of the universe.  In a similar way, ceremonial magicians of the ancient world used sealing ritual, including the incantation bowls that were buried in the corners of a home to keep out evil forces.  The book, like much ceremonial magic of the region, also discusses the elements.  However, Sefer Yetzirah has a three-element system rather than a four or five-element system.  The three formative elements are air, water, and fire.

Continue reading “The Three Mothers: Feminine Elements and the Early Kabbalah by Jill Hammer”

Kissing the Earth by Molly Remer

 “Let the beauty we love 
Be what we do
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the Earth.”


Introductory note: At the end of 2016, my parents purchased a piece of land about one mile from where I already live (they live one mile further away than that). In addition to woodland and meadow, this land has two springs, three creeks, a cave, and ¼ mile of river access. While I have been deeply connected to the land of my birth, the Missouri Ozarks, for a long time, and have written about that connection in multiple past posts for FAR, this new-to-us land has offered a new opportunity: the chance to get to know another section of land “from scratch,” deeply, wildly and well, and to become wise stewards of it for the time in which it is in our care. It is also the first time I have been able to so closely and intimately observe the origin source of a body of water. Previously not giving it much thought, I now have the daily privilege of observing the source of the flow as I watch water emerge directly from the ground. First, there is simply none and then, suddenly, a deep blue pool constantly bubbling as water rises to the surface and flows away on its long, long journey to the sea. This essay is a series of three vignettes as I spend this year immersing myself in relationship with this land.

We walk along the nearly vertical hillside hanging onto small trees for support. Finally, though we almost miss it, we spy the opening to the cave nestled behind several mossy stones. The sun is still on the rise above the tree line and the rays filter through the trees so one ray is pointing directly at the cave entrance. We crawl inside, bumping our heads and scraping our backs as we wiggle into this womb in the earth. Once inside, the chamber enlarges so we can stand up. Unlike other caves we have experienced in this area, the only human signs we find are a single bottle cap, a glass bottle, and two sets of initials carved into a rock. In the dark silence we hear the sound of water dripping steadily. I make my way further into the cave, acutely aware that this is living cave and being careful not to step on the fresh, wet, cervix-shaped beginnings of new stalagmites on the floor. At the back of the cave, I find her. A Madonna-like stone column, glistening with water. In the silence of the cave, I quietly sing Ancient Mother to her, as tears well in my own eyes.

I am of this earth
for this earth
and by this earth.

We skirt carefully along the bank of the creek, making our way to the largest spring. Over three million gallons of water a day flow effortlessly from this small, deep pool nestled quietly in the middle of the woods. I am stunned by the magnitude of this flow as I stand there with my husband, my head resting on his shoulder, hawks wheeling overhead, redbud trees in full bloom. It has never seemed more clear to me how very “small” we are, but a blink of an eye to this spring and its countless years and countless gallons of water, not caring whether it is witnessed in its work or not, but simply, continually, creating and producing. I try to explain this feeling aloud, but words fail me. It is a humbling sensation, not a depressing one. The actual emergence of the water at this origin point of the river is nearly invisible, the continuous gentle, small popping of bubbles on its surface, the only sign that something significant is happening here that distinguishes this body of water from a pond or pool. Yet, those never-ending bubbles rapidly expand to a wide, swift-moving creek, which joins the river and another smaller spring-fed creek to continue to make their way southward across the state. We smell something sharp and see a dead armadillo by the roots of a giant sycamore. We hear a shrill cry and look up to see two bald eagles riding the currents of air high above us. We are so small. So many thousands of years of water have passed, but we are here right now.

Unfathomable eons
Glacier time
I am just a blink of an eye
But I can sit, and watch, and wonder.

We scramble along the uneven terrain on the rocky and wooded hillside, slipping, laughing, and looking. I am exhilarated by the simple thrill of exploring the world right here in front of me. We find tiny flowers. I kneel by the roots of fallen trees. We stop to admire moss on stones. We find gigantic black snake napping in the sun. A complete turtle shell. A shed antler. Each moment feels like a new opportunity to “kiss the earth.” I sing Reclaiming’s song-version of the Rumi quote over and over and as I kneel in each spot to see what it has to show me, in each, I kiss my fingers and press them to the earth. I see all the kissing going on around me…the sun filtering through branches, the fiddlehead ferns kneeling to kiss the earth, the roots wound through rocks, the trillium and bloodroot blooms pushing up between leaves, the water seeping out of the ground and flowing down the hill, the dogwood blossoms opening to the sun, the moss covering stones, the fallen trees stretched along the slope.

“And that is just the point…how the world, moist and beautiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. ‘Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?’” 

–Mary Oliver

We emerge from our walk to find morels growing alongside the path (morels are wild, edible mushrooms found for about two weeks in Missouri each spring and considered a delicacy by many). The afternoon suddenly becomes even more rewarding and we stoop and peer through fallen oak, sycamore, and elm leaves looking for the telltale conical form of these forest treats. We quickly discover that we must tune in and “listen” for the mushrooms, so to speak, or we’ll walk right by them, none the wiser. The moment I start thinking about anything else, I stop finding any. Once I settle into my body and the moment and really look at the world again, there another morel will be.

 “I think this is how we’re supposed to be in the world … present and in awe.”

–Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing. She is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and finished her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of Womanrunes, Earthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Brigid’s Grove

Miriam the Prophetess as Guardian and Healer by Jill Hammer

jill hammer cropped

The biblical traditions of Miriam the prophetess have captured the imaginations of Bible-readers throughout the ages.  Miriam, Moses’ sister, watches over Moses in his cradle (Exodus 2), and leads the Hebrew women in dance at the shore of the Sea of Reeds to celebrate redemption  (Exodus 15).  Rabbinic lore identifies Miriam with Puah, the midwife who saved Hebrew babies from Pharaoh, and depicts her as the herald of Moses’ birth (Exodus Rabbah 1:13; Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 12a). Contemporary Jewish feminists have established traditions of singing to Miriam the prophetess on Saturday night, parallel to the tradition of singing to Elijah the prophet at that time.   It has also become popular among some feminist/egalitarian Jews to place a cup of Miriam on the seder table at the time of Passover.  This cup is usually filled with water in order to recall the ancient legend that a well of water followed Miriam through the wilderness, quenching the thirst of the wandering people (cf: Babylonian Talmud, Taanit 9a).  It was even said that healing herbs grew near this well, so that Miriam’s prophetic power became a source of healing.

The veneration of Miriam is especially deep in Sephardic Jewish traditions—those Jewish traditions stemming from the Spanish Jewish diaspora, which may be found everywhere from North Africa to Holland to Greece and Bulgaria.  Sephardic women used incantations along with various rituals involving salt, herbs, and other substances, as healing for various ailments and troubles; women skilled in these practices were called precanteras or precantadoras.  Some of their healing incantations invoke Miriam as the ancestress of all women healers, as in the following prayer:

Continue reading “Miriam the Prophetess as Guardian and Healer by Jill Hammer”

The Women’s March on Washington: I’ll Be There in Spirit by Carol P. Christ

womens-march-logoThe Women’s March on Washington has released its statement of vision and principles, and what a stunning testimony to intersectional feminism and collaboration it is! The statement is woman-centered, while at the same time addressing a multitude of issues that affect women’s lives: from access to abortion for all, to an equal rights amendment to the constitution, to the rights of  women as domestic and farm workers, to police reform, and so much more.

I was thrilled to read the list of women honored as foremothers to the march:

Bella Abzug*Corazon Aquino*Ella Baker*Grace Lee Boggs*Berta Caceres*Rachel Carson*Shirley Chisholm*Angela Davis*Miss Major Griffin Gracy*LaDonna Harris*Dorothy I. Height *bell hooks*Dolores Huerta*Marsha P. Johnson*Barbara Jordan*Yuri Kochiyama*Winona LaDuke*Audre Lorde*Wilma Mankiller*Diane Nash*Sylvia Rivera*Barbara Smith*Gloria Steinem*Hannah G. Solomon*Harriet Tubman*Edith Windsor*Malala Yousafza

Many of these women have inspired me, particularly (but not only): Bella Abzug, Rachel Carson, Shirley Chisholm, Malala Yousafza. I have taught books by or about many of them, including: Rachel Carson, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Harriet Tubman, Barbara Smith.

I hope these names will be read at the beginning of the ceremonies, followed by an invitation to all present to speak, shout, or whisper—all at the same time–the names of all the women, known and unknown, who have inspired their own activism for women’s rights. In this way, no one’s name is left out. We have a similar ritual on the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete, and it is incredibly powerful.

I first heard the Women’s March on Washington discussed at the meeting of the Feminist Liberation Theology Network held in conjunction with the meetings American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature ten days after the (so-called) election of Donald Trump. At that time a number of women asked if this march would be a white women’s march. Would women of color feel called or able to come? In the interim, women of color have become leaders of the Women’s March on Washington and it is definitely not “for white women only.” It was suggested that women of color might feel safer at local marches. These have been organized as well: learn about Sister Marches here. At the time of this writing 370 Sister Marches had been organized—in all 50 states and in more than 40 countries.

If, like me, you are feeling weary and despondent these days, the statement of the Women’s March on Washington may help to re-inspire your commitment to all women’s rights:

The Women’s March on Washington is a women-led movement bringing together people of all genders, ages, races, cultures, political affiliations and backgrounds in our nation’s capital on January 21, 2017, to affirm our shared humanity and pronounce our bold message of resistance and self-determination

Recognizing that women have intersecting identities and are therefore impacted by a multitude of social justice and human rights issues, we have outlined a representative vision for a government that is based on the principles of liberty and justice for all. As Dr. King said, “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

Our liberation is bound in each other’s. The Women’s March on Washington includes leaders of organizations and communities that have been building the foundation for social progress for generations. We welcome vibrant collaboration and honor the legacy of the movements before us – the suffragists and abolitionists, the Civil Rights Movement, the feminist movement, the American Indian Movement, Occupy Wall Street, Marriage Equality, Black Lives Matter, and more – by employing a decentralized, leader-full structure and focusing on an ambitious, fundamental and comprehensive agenda. Read more.

Learn more about the march. Readers of FAR might want to participate in the march with WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual). I’ll be there in spirit from Molivos, Lesbos, Greece.


a-serpentine-path-amazon-coverBe among the first to order A Serpentine Path, Carol P. Christ’s moving memoir of transformation. Carol’s other new book written with Judith Plaskow is Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Carol also wrote the first Goddess feminist theology, Rebirth of the Goddess.

Join Carol on a Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete in 2017. Save $200.

Read two of the chapters in the book: Mysteries and Dionysian Rites.

Thanks to Judith Shaw for the cover art “Downward Serpent.”





Pesach, Toilets, and Clean, Local Water: Seemingly Mundane Yet Necessary Components of an Embodied Liberation by Ivy Helman

20151004_161012Despite all of the ways Western society has separated the spiritual pursuit from the material and deemed spirituality superior to physicality, the religious holiday of Pesach doesn’t.  In fact, it is the physical liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt that starts them on their path toward the covenant and an even deeper spiritual connection to the divine.  The Exodus story overflows with images, tales and situations in which: bodies are not ignored; nourishment, comfort and care is addressed spiritually as well as physically and the divine’s spiritual gift, so to speak, to the Israelites is not some other-worldly paradise but a this-worldly land flowing with milk and honey.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the story is perfect: it is replete with war, murder, militarism, forms of colonialism and other manifestations of patriarchal violence.  Patriarchal influences encourage androcentric tellings of events and sexism as well.  Three examples are the all-male priesthood, the tenth plague “death of the first-born” (of course the only first born that counts are boy children), and the over-the-top covenantal concern about women as menstruators, adulterers, untrustworthy and so on. These aspects are important to acknowledge and critique, but we cannot stop there.  We must cherish the story for its insights as well. Continue reading “Pesach, Toilets, and Clean, Local Water: Seemingly Mundane Yet Necessary Components of an Embodied Liberation by Ivy Helman”

Sequana and Blessed Water by Deanne Quarrie

deanne_2011_B_smWater is the daily necessity for earth’s creatures.

When the Continental Celts were looking for a new homeland, they ventured west from the known river valleys of the great landmass we call Eurasia. Just beyond the great mountains, the Alps, they discovered sweet and abundant water, fertile soil, expansive woodlands, and the plentiful fish, game, berries, grasses, fungi and broad-leafed plants necessary to support their tribe.

We know that Celtic spirituality was, in its roots, animistic (spirit was alive in every living thing), non-anthropomorphic (the source of life and death was water, land, plant and animal-life), tribe-specific (in France alone there is evidence of several hundred deities) and a spirituality of place, of the major landforms that defined the world (rivers, springs, forests, animals, heavenly bodies). To the extent that Celtic spirituality was theistic, the creator/sustainer/destroyer of life was typically a goddess. Continue reading “Sequana and Blessed Water by Deanne Quarrie”

Faith Doesn’t Need Walls: A Conversation with Kate Kelly by Kate Stoltzfus

Kate.Stoltzfus-1When Kate Kelly faced excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in June 2014, much of the world took notice. The D.C.-based human rights lawyer garnered wide-spread attention for founding Ordain Women, a movement to push for advocacy of female ordination in her Mormon faith. A ripple of press from The New York Times to The Huffington Post chronicled Kelly’s waves of activism and its subsequent consequences: excommunication in absentia on June 23 by her former church leaders in Virginia.

While the press has since died down, the momentum remains. Church leaders denied Kelly’s first appeal against the charge in October 2014, but Kelly remained hopeful of her plan to appeal a second time to the church’s First Presidency when she spoke to WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual) a month later. Continue reading “Faith Doesn’t Need Walls: A Conversation with Kate Kelly by Kate Stoltzfus”

A Beltane Story by Barbara Ardinger

Barbara ArdingerOnce upon a time there was a beautiful princess—NO, stop right there. Tales like this do not require princesses. Let’s try again. Once upon a time there was a sturdy young woman who lived in a small town in Mitteleuropa not too far from the castle of the Holy Roman Emperor.

The girl’s name is Madchen. Her parents are a Farmer and a Cunning Woman. She is proud to say that just last fall she actually saw the Emperor, who is a stiff, elderly man who always wears a fussed-up military uniform and a pince nez and has enormous sidewhiskers. The Emperor did not, of course, notice the girl as he sat in his carriage and waved stiffly to his subjects. But what Madchen doesn’t know is that Crown Prince Rufus, whose uniform and sidewhiskers are considerably more modest than his father’s and who was riding on a great red Royal coachstallion in the parade behind his father’s coach, noticed her immediately. That girl, he said to himself, is a girl I must have! Continue reading “A Beltane Story by Barbara Ardinger”

Let’s Build an Altar for Springtime by Barbara Ardinger

Barbara ArdingerWith spring springing up all over and warm days coming back in the colder climates, let’s build an altar to celebrate life. Now don’t worry—I’m not advising you to worship idols and do anything to insult your god. We’re not building a churchly altar, but one based on the concept of love respect for the earth we live on, the powers of Mother Nature, and the indisputable fact that we are all kin. This altar represents no disrespect for any religion, faith, sect, or denomination. Its purpose is to focus our awareness that the galaxy, the universe, the earth, the continent we live on, the town we live in, and spaces where we live and work are all sacred. The purpose of this altar is to remind us every day that every religion is sacred and that even the most humble among us have a place on the planet.

We start by considering the four elements—fire, air, water, and earth—which go back at least as far as classical Greek philosophy. Long ago, people believed that everything partook of these four elements. They looked around and saw the elements in action every day: ovens and lightning, soup and rivers, breezes and birds, gardens and hills. The four elements became the four humours, which came to the principles of medieval medicine that ruled our temperaments. The elements are also prominent in alchemy and astrology. Continue reading “Let’s Build an Altar for Springtime by Barbara Ardinger”

“Talking Taboo”: Register for WATER’s Feminist Conversations in Religion Teleconference

Talking-Taboo-Part-TwoWATER’s Feminist Conversations in Religion Series


“Talking Taboo”
Part Two

An hour long teleconference with

Grace Biskie
Gina Messina-Dysert
Tara Woodard-Lehman
Katey Zeh

Wednesday, February 5, 2014 1-2PM EST

The book, Talking Taboo: American Christian Get Frank About Faith edited by Erin Lane and Enuma Okoro, is creating lots of conversation. WATER is excited to feature two teleconferences to start 2014 by looking at the issues many people consider taboo. Join authors Grace Biskie, Gina Messina-Dysert, Tara Woodard-Lehman, Katey Zeh, and let’s “talk taboo.”

Grace Biskie is a passionate, big-dreaming, extroverted communicator. She holds a bachelor of arts in speech communications and is half way through a Masters of Divinity from Western Theological Seminary. She has served high school and college students in the nonprofit sector for over fifteen years. She blogs regularly at Currently, Grace is working on her first book entitled, Detroit’s Daughter, a memoir.

Gina Messina-Dysert, PhD, is Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at Ursuline College. Gina is also Co-founder and Co-director of Feminism and Religion, an international project that explores the “F-word” in religion and the intersection between scholarship, activism, and community. She is the author of the forthcoming book Rape Culture and Spiritual Violence, and coeditor (with Rosemary Radford Ruether) of the forthcoming anthology Feminism and Religion in the 21st Century.  Gina’s twitter is @FemTheologian and her website is

Tara Woodard-Lehman is an ordained Presbyterian minister. Since 1998 she has ministered to and with young adults and university students. Over the past four years Tara has served as the executive director of Westminster Foundation and Presbyterian Chaplain at Princeton University. Tara also serves on the pastoral staff of Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, New Jersey.

Katey Zeh is an advocate for reproductive justice in faith communities. She wrote her honors thesis on theology, ritual, and motherhood at Davidson College. In 2008, she graduated from Yale Divinity School with her Masters of Divinity. Currently, she directs a grassroots education and mobilization initiative focused on improving global maternal health for The United Methodist Church. Katey serves on the Board of Directors for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice in Washington, DC.

TalkingTabooA recommended resource is the book Talking Taboo, in particular the following chapters:

  •      “A Woman Undone,” by Grace Biskie, pp. 191-198
  •      “No Women Need Apply,” by Gina Messina-Dysert, pp. 93-97
  •      “Broken in Body, Slain in the Spirit,” by Tara Woodard-Lehman, pp. 74-79
  •      “A Pregnant Silence,” by Katey Zeh, pp. 186-190


Email “Register Me Teleconference” by Tuesday, February 4, 2014 in order to receive dial-in information.

WATER, The Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual
8121 Georgia Avenue, Suite 310 | Silver Spring, MD 20910
301.589.2509 | |

Please consider making a secure online donation to WATER. Thank you!

Extending Compassion and Vegetarianism by Xochitl Alvizo

“I did not know to recognize you as individuals when I bought you, but I know to recognize you as individuals now…”

I had been a vegetarian, and sometimes pescatarian, for more than 10 years before becoming vegan. Despite the length of my vegetarianism, in all that time I had not been inclined to go vegan. First, I really didn’t know too much about veganism and only began meeting a few vegans about five or six years ago here in Boston, none of whom had shared a compelling enough reason for their choice (at least not compelling to me). Further, I had no imagination for life without cheese or Cherry Garcia ice cream(!), and so I happily continued with my vegetarian ways. Then enters Carol Adams…

In a teleconference that WATER had with Carol Adams on March 14, 2012  (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual), the beauty of her veganism moved me to a new understanding of my food choices. I listened to the WATER audio recording some months after the actual event (these teleconference audio recordings are a great resource you should all access), and although I had been familiar with some of her work and had heard her speak before, I had not heard her talk about the compassion element of veganism. Her emphasis on increasing compassion, which I witnessed in action during her conversation with one of the listeners, was what moved me to my new practice. Continue reading “Extending Compassion and Vegetarianism by Xochitl Alvizo”

Sustaining Feminist Spiritualities in the Seeming Absence of Community by Elisabeth Schilling

LaChelle Schilling, Sustaining Feminist SpiritualitiesThe spirituality I cultivated during my teens through evangelistic Pentecostal Christianity was based on possession, hierarchy, and exclusivity, although I would not have said that at the time.

As I gradually moved away from that faith community in my mid-20s, no longer wanting to equate a rewarded closeness to God with being set apart from others, I began finding myself participating in quiet conversations with the readings of Thomas Merton, Elaine Pagels, and with poetry by writers such as Olga Broumas.  The words I was drawn to might not have been expressly or consistently religious, but they offered spiritual nourishment in their eroticism, earthiness, and sacred metaphor.

It was also around that time when I decided that feminist theologies were healing in their questions and re-visions of God and concepts of salvation and sin. To understand that being a spiritual and/or religious person could mean being aware of and pursuing my desires and connections to other people instead of being a gatekeeper was redemptive. Continue reading “Sustaining Feminist Spiritualities in the Seeming Absence of Community by Elisabeth Schilling”

And Thus God made a Covenant with Hagar in the Wilderness by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Freyhauf, Feminism, Religion, Durham, Old Testament, Blogger, BibleWe are familiar with the covenant God made with Abraham and Moses, but are you aware that God also made a covenant with Hagar?

In the wilderness Hagar encounters a deity at the well named Beer-lahai-roi (Genesis 16). Water and wells are important because they symbolize fertility and life. Wells for women are common places where they met their future spouses. Because wanderers in the desert need water to survive, water itself becomes a symbolic of life-giving or life.

In the seemingly barren dessert, the fertile Hagar finds out that she is pregnant and going to be the mother of many children. Hagar is promised progeny in a motherless state.  According to Pamela Tamarkin Reis, this is called the “after-me” descendants, which guarantees Hagar that her children will live for “immeasurable generations;” a pattern that fits within the scope of this promise. This same promise of progeny is also given to Eve in Genesis 3:20, providing and interesting parallelism between Eve and Hagar.

It is worth pointing out the irony exists in this promise.  Sarai uses Hagar to “build her up.” According to Nahum Sarna, to be built up in terms of the number of children that you have, implies that you are mother to a dynasty.  In this pericope, however, it is Hagar, not Sarai that is built up through this divine promise.

This patterns of promise exists within the birth narrative through the annunciation of Ishmael and the promise of progeny.  It is through this narrative that Hagar enters into a covenantal relationship with the deity.  According to J. H. Jarrell, birth narratives have six common elements that establish this relationship:  mother’s status, protest, offer, son’s future forecast, Yahweh naming, and acceptance of the contract. Hagar’s story contain these elements:

  1. Mother’s Status:  Hagar is without child because she is a virgin (16:1).
  2. Protest:  Hagar flees from her mistress (16:8).
  3. Offer:  Return to your mistress and submit to her authority (16:9).
  4. Son’s Future Forecast:  He will live at the east of all his brothers (16:12).
  5. Yahweh Naming:  You will bear a son Ishmael because the Lord has given heed to your affliction (16:11).
  6. Acceptance of the Contract:  She called the name of the Lord (16:13).

Continue reading “And Thus God made a Covenant with Hagar in the Wilderness by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

SPECIAL AAR SERIES Part I: Re-envisioning the Academy as ‘Open Source’ Community by Kate Ott with introduction and response by Mary Hunt

Kate OttMary HuntIntroduction:

This is one of four papers presented in Chicago at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, November 17, 2012, in a session entitled  “Feminism, Religion and Social Media: Expanding Borders in the Twenty-First Century,” organized by Gina Messina-Dysert and chaired by Rosemary Radford Ruether with Mary E. Hunt as the respondent. What follows is the general response followed by, after each of the contributions, Hunt’s appreciative analysis. Two of the papers will be posted here on Feminism and Religion and two will be posted on the Feminism in Religion Forum

General Remarks by Mary Hunt:

The stated purpose of the panel is to discuss “how digital projects are remapping the feminist theological terrain and creating opportunities for a wide range of voices to participate in ongoing and new conversations related to feminist issues in religion.” These writers have done that and more. Continue reading “SPECIAL AAR SERIES Part I: Re-envisioning the Academy as ‘Open Source’ Community by Kate Ott with introduction and response by Mary Hunt”

Monthly Highlight: Mary E. Hunt

As a Catholic feminist theologian, activist, teacher, and writer Mary Hunt has made a massive impact in the field of feminism and religion.  Following the completion of her graduate education (MA, Harvard Divinity School, M.Div., Jesuit School of Theology, Ph.D., Graduate Theological Union), Mary recognized a strong need for theological, liturgical, and ethical development by and for women and responded by co-founding WATER (The Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Water) in 1983.  Over the last 3+ decades, she has been instrumental in addressing social injustice and creating change in religion and community. Continue reading “Monthly Highlight: Mary E. Hunt”

Catholic Feminists Meet, Strategize by Rosemary Radford Ruether and Theresa Yugar

During July 8-11, 2012 twenty Catholic feminist leaders met in a retreat center near Baltimore to discuss their concerns and hopes in the light of the recent and ongoing attacks of Catholic bishops on women and especially on feminist work in the church. The group consisted of representatives from many sectors of Catholic institutions and movements.  There were the founders of a peace and justice movement of the Sisters of Charity and the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Action. There was a pastor and leadership trainer from an alternative parish and a writer for the National Catholic Reporter.

Many in the group were professors of theology or ethics at Catholic, Protestant or state schools. Among them were teachers at Whittier College, Claremont School of Theology, Santa Clara University and San Jose University in California, Loyola University in Chicago, St. Catherine in Minnesota, Drew University in New Jersey and Boston College. Catholic reform movements were well represented, with leaders from Dignity, the Women’s Ordination Conference, Call to Action and RomanCatholicWomenPriests. There was a teacher at Marymount School in New York City, the President of Marymount School in Los Angeles and a doctoral student in theology. Continue reading “Catholic Feminists Meet, Strategize by Rosemary Radford Ruether and Theresa Yugar”

Deepa Mehta’s “​Water” and Homegrown Indian Feminism by Amy Levin

In the first scene of the Deepa Mehta’s 2005 Indian film Water, a father tells his eight year old daughter, Chuyia, “Child. Do you remember getting married? Your husband is dead. You’re a widow now.”  These are some of the last words Chuyia hears from anyone familiar to her, as her condition abandons her in an ashram for Hindu widows to spend the rest of her life in renunciation. Chuyia, failing to realize her condition upon arrival, enters the ashram innocent and naive, as the elderly widows surround her and one proceeds shave her soft head.  Watching Chuyia begin to understand her circumstance as she terrifyingly runs for escape screaming for her family, one can only feel a tragic catharsis watching an eight year old being sentenced to life in prison for a “crime” she did not commit. The ideas and criticisms that come to one’s mind are undoubtedly what writer and director, Deepa Mehta, aimed to evoke – injustice, patriarchy, and oppression by way of religion.  Continue reading “Deepa Mehta’s “​Water” and Homegrown Indian Feminism by Amy Levin”

The Power of Feminist Rituals by Grace Yia-Hei Kao

“These were very simple rituals and yet they were so powerful.”

Jeanette Stokes’ 25 Years in the Garden is on my bedside table. It’s a book I read several years ago with a small group of feminist Christians when I was living in Blacksburg, Virginia. The following passage from one of her essays got me to thinking back to the 2012 PANAAWTM conference (Pacific, Asian, and North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry) I had attended just two weeks ago:

“Rituals are part of everyday lives: reading the newspaper, checking the weather, waiting for the mail to come, or talking with a family member at the end of the day. Rituals can also mark the extraordinary events in our lives: the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, a birthday, marriage, anniversary, or divorce” (Stokes, 2002, p. 37).

Continue reading “The Power of Feminist Rituals by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

This information was originally distributed by WATER:

January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Human trafficking, referred to as modern-day slavery, is the fastest growing and second most profitable criminal industry in the world. More than 27 million women, men, and children have become victims of human trafficking for labor and sexual exploitation. Trafficking can and does occur in all parts of the world, including the U.S. Large sporting events like the Super Bowl attract human trafficking, especially for sexual exploitation of women. Read Mary E. Hunt’s new article on human trafficking entitled “Women and Children First.”

Stories of Trafficking
Excerpted from

Amanda learned that her cousin was with a pimp who was advertising her for commercial sex on various websites.

A teacher became concerned about one of her students, a 14 year-old girl, and spoke with classmates who directed the teacher to multiple postings advertising the young girl for commercial sex on Continue reading “January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day”

Catholic Church Targets Proponent of Women’s Ordination; Feminist Theologian By Mary E. Hunt

The following is a guest post written by Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D., co-founder and co-director of WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual).

As a senior official for Pope John Paul II, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger envisioned a leaner, meaner church, with conservative doctrine and compliant faithful. Now that he is Pope Benedict XVI, his dream is coming true. Other senior churchmen, apparently unaware of the scandal that pedophilia and episcopal cover-ups have wrought, go blithely about their business of disciplining priests, nuns, and theologians. What used to be a large tent of a church is now a tepee—soon to be a pup tent—if these gentlemen have their way. Catholics wonder where it will end.

Click here to read the full article by Mary E. Hunt. It appears in the online magazine Religion Dispatches.

Cross posted at WATER Voices –

Mary Daly: Radical Elemental Feminist and Sinner By Gina Messina-Dysert

While some argue that Mary Daly was too radical, I have been greatly influenced by her contributions to the field of feminism and religion.  I can still remember the first time I read a piece of her work.  It was during my undergraduate career at Cleveland State University in a course entitled “Women and Religion.”  I was immediately impacted and wanted to know more about this bold, strong and courageous woman, and although I had already considered myself a feminist, it was in that moment I recognized the existence of patriarchy in religion.  Shortly thereafter I applied to a graduate program in religious studies and became better acquainted with Daly’s work and the intersection of feminism and religion.

While I must admit that I am troubled by some of Daly’s claims and disagree with some of her contentions, I have also been significantly influenced by her foundational work in feminist theology, her demand for women’s liberation and Spinning of new tales and new ideas.  Daly called for women to have the courage to be, to experience a new fall out of patriarchal systems and into a new being that allows women to discover their capabilities, the dynamic power women possess within themselves.

According to Mary E. Hunt, co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), “Her contributions to feminist theology, philosophy, and theory were many, unique, and if I may say so, world-changing. She created intellectual space; she set the bar high. Even those who disagreed with her are in her debt for the challenges she offered…She always advised women to throw our lives as far as they would go. I can say without fear of exaggeration that she lived that way herself.”[1]

While I never had the opportunity to meet Mary Daly, I have no doubt been inspired by her brilliance, courage, wit, and spirit.  My feminist and theological views have been shaped through her influence. I have been able to spiral into freedom and rename and reclaim my own experiences; I have found my own creative power.  Thank you for having the courage to sin big Mary Daly.

“There are and will be those who think I have gone overboard. Let them rest assured that this assessment is correct, probably beyond their wildest imagination, and that I will continue to do so.” – Mary Daly

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