Crawl Across the Sacred Circle and Take My Hand by Caryn MacGrandle

On Winter Solstice, I hosted a Return of the Sun event at the local healing arts center where I do my Circles. We had offerings and presentations all night long. It was the first time I have ever done anything that large or public, so it was a stretch for me.

At the end of the night, a friend said, ‘Oh my, I needed this. Let’s do it once a month.’

And I thought, ‘yea, right.’

And then I thought, ‘Yea. Right.’

I’ve already started thinking about ways we could do it better and things we could change.

I feel a bit like when I first started hosting Circles nine years ago. I’m tired and judging whether or not it was worth the stress and effort.

But this time around I know it’s worth the stress and effort.

Continue reading “Crawl Across the Sacred Circle and Take My Hand by Caryn MacGrandle”

Building Community:  Starting a Local Sacred Circle K & Letting It Go by Caryn MacGrandle

In January of this year, I put out the call for a Sacred Circle at a local Healing Arts Center. Over 150 people responded interested from a Facebook invite. Thirteen showed up.

From strangers, we have become friends and a community.

One was on the verge of checking herself in to a rehab. 

She celebrated six months sobriety the other month in Circle.

We’ve had our share of potential drama. Egos and self-esteem issues and the potential pitfalls of being human. But we’ve made it through. Returning again and again to love to hope to dreams.

We’ve watched each other change and grow and open up.

Continue reading “Building Community:  Starting a Local Sacred Circle K & Letting It Go by Caryn MacGrandle”

Women’s Circles Need Well-Established Structures to Ensure that Everyone’s Voice Is Heard by Carol P. Christ

In a recent blog on Feminism and Religion, “Insights on Sisterhood,” Eirini Delaki opened a dialogue about problems that arise in women’s circles. According to her, many of us are reacting against the poisonous pedagogy of control which is all too familiar in patriarchal families and patriarchal cultural, religious, and economic institutions. Desiring to be free of hierarchical structures that inhibit our growth and happiness, we often react against all structures.

We imagine that groups without structure will provide a space where we can learn and grow together. We begin with a vision of sisterhood in which everyone’s voice will be heard. In practice, however, groups without structure usually end up being dominated by those with the loudest voices and the biggest egos. The quieter and less sure members of the group find themselves dominated again. When the vision of sisterhood is not realized, the group is likely to dissolve. Continue reading “Women’s Circles Need Well-Established Structures to Ensure that Everyone’s Voice Is Heard by Carol P. Christ”

The Sanctuary of One Another by Molly Remer

53850207_2292227257656150_5800641319395131392_o“Please prepare me
to be a sanctuary.
Pure and holy
tried and true.
With thanksgiving
I’ll be a living
for you.”*

Beautiful Chorus (Hymns of Spirit)

In March, my husband drove our daughter into town to work at her Girl Scout cookie booth and released me to prepare for an all-day Red Tent retreat for my local women’s circle. After I packed my supplies for ritual, I set off on a walk in the deepening, rain-dark twilight. As I walked, I sang a song of sanctuary over and over, until I felt transported into a different type of consciousness, my feet steady on muddy gravel, the leafless branches stark against grey sky, moss and stones gleaming with sharp color against the roadside. A fallen tree absolutely carpeted with enchanting mushrooms caught my eye and invited me off the road and into its arms. As I stood there, feeling as if I had stepped out of ordinary reality and into a “backyard journey,” the spring peepers in the ephemeral pool in our field began their evening chorus. It has been so cold out with below freezing temperatures, snow, and ice for days since first hearing them in early March that I actually wondered if they would survive to continue their song.

Mercifully, though, it is not a silent spring. Continue reading “The Sanctuary of One Another by Molly Remer”

Ritual Theory: Sharing Stories by Molly Remer

“Ritual that is alive encourages each person to touch what is sacred in their own way, in their own time, through their own unique experience. So there evolves a dynamic dance between guiding and shaping the group’s experience and encouraging and supporting the individual’s experience, so there is a smooth and cohesive flow to the ritual.” –Suzanne Reitz and Sandy Hoyt (Celebrating, Honoring, Healing)

As a practicing priestess, one of the dynamic dances that I engage in is with the power of story. I both find that women’s stories are the vital lifeblood of conscious engagement and power-building with one another and that they can be one of the elements that bogs down a ritual and makes it lose power and magic. This is partially because the dominant culture may teach us to bond using stories in a way that actually drain our energy through “venting,” swapping complaints, trading to-do lists, and through describing behavior, motives, and character of other people. In women’s ritual space, I encourage people to dig deep, but also to share a here-and-now connection of shared experience rather than a ­there-and-then­ rendition of past experiences.

Chameli Ardagh in her Create Your Own Women’s Temple manual from Awakening Women explains:

To hold the group and space as sacred is one of the most important guidelines, and the guideline that may bring up the most questions or protests. It goes against our habits as women and against our identification with the small self; we are quite used to creating intimacy through sharing our wounds and problems. The Temple Group is not a place for processing wounds, analyzing ourselves, solving problems, complaining about our lovers, healing our addictions or sharing the stories of the personality. Many women’s circles (and support groups or sharing circles) are focused mostly on the personality. The Temple Group is, in a way, impersonal because it focuses on the larger vast nature of our true self. In the Temple Group we focus not so much on our identity as separate women, but on the whole group as one feminine divine body and expression. The impersonal guideline may sound uncaring at first, but as you explore new ways of being intimate and nourish each other as women, beyond the words, you discover that those are infinitely more fulfilling and caring than the personality talking and processing (p. 61).

I believe that we live in a storied reality and that we are constantly in the process of 22338975_2058326864379525_7570131764764457268_ostorying and re-storying our lives and that seeing our lives, and the lives of others, through a mythopoetic lens, can have a radically transformative impact on our experiences and our relationships. I have written about this for FAR in the past and noted that my personal lived experience is that stories have had more power in my own life as a woman than most other single influences. The sharing of story in an appropriate way is, indeed, intimately intertwined with good listening and warm connection. As the authors of the book Sacred Circles remind us “…in listening you become an opening for that other person…Indeed, nothing comes close to an evening spent spellbound by the stories of women’s inner lives.”

So, what is special about story as a medium and what can it offer to women that traditional forms of education cannot?

Stories are validating. They can communicate that you are not alone, not crazy, and not 23319504_1994649147413964_2818983018590835346_nweird. Stories are instructive without being directive or prescriptive. It is very easy to take what works from stories and leave the rest because stories communicate personal experiences and lessons learned, rather than expert direction, recommendations, or advice. Stories can also provide a point of identification and clarification as a way of sharing information that is open to possibility, rather than advice-giving.

Cautions in sharing stories while also listening to another’s experience include:

  • Are you so busy in your own story that you can’t see the person in front of you?
  • Does the story contain bad, inaccurate, or misleading information?
  • Is the story so long and involved that it is distracting from the other person’s point?
  • Does the story communicate that you are the only right person and that everyone else should do things exactly like you?
  • Is the story really advice or a “to do” disguised as a story?
  • Does the story redirect attention to you and away from the person in need of help/listening?
  • Does the story keep the focus in the past rather than the here and now present moment?
  • Is there a subtext of “you should…”?

Several of these self-awareness questions are much bigger concerns during a person-to-person direct dialogue such as at a women’s retreat rather than in written form such as blog. In reading stories, the reader has the power to engage or disengage with the story, while in person there is a possibility of becoming stuck in an unwelcome story. Some things to keep in mind while sharing stories in person are:

  • Sensitivity to whether your story is welcome, helpful, or contributing to the other person’s process.
  • Being mindful of personal motives—are you telling a story to bolster your own self-image, as a means of pointing out others’ flaws and failings, or to secretly give advice?
  • Asking yourself whether the story is one that will move us forward (returning to the here and now question above).

This work is beautiful. It is complex. It is multilayered. It is simple. It is hard. It is easy. It is rich and rewarding. It is dynamic and evolving and flowing. It is never the same.

May you be blessed with many stories together.

mollyatparkNote: there is a detailed audio exploration of the themes of this post available here.

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 wrote 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 WomanrunesEarthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Patreon and at Brigid’s Grove.

Centering Women’s Circles with Altars and Ritual by Anne Yeomans and the Women’s Well

 From 1994 until 2012, the Women’s Well, based in Concord, Massachusetts, offered thousands of women the opportunity to participate in women’s circles of all kinds. Here, in their own words in the second of this three-part series, Anne Yeomans, a co-founder of the Women’s Well, and others who co-created the Women’s Well, share with you how altars and ritual furthered the sacred inner and outer work of the circle.  The first part of the series discussed the power of women’s circles. This post is adapted from the Women’s Well website at  

At the Women’s Well there was always an altar at the center of the circle. It became a place of great creativity, and meaning. Some women were uncomfortable with the use of the word altar. The Deep River groups, created by Abby Seixas, came up with the word “hearth” as an alternative. By whatever name it was called, a beautiful and conscious creation at the center became essential to informing the sacred space of the circle. Continue reading “Centering Women’s Circles with Altars and Ritual by Anne Yeomans and the Women’s Well”

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

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

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

Gather the Women and Heal What Ails Us by Karen Moon

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

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

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

Witch’s Night In by Kate Brunner

Kate BrunnerThere is doctrine. There is tradition, liturgy, scripture, & exegesis.

And then sometimes, there is simply real life.

There is the precious gift of spending time engaged in deep communication with everyday women living spiritual lives the best they can while also caring for families, pursuing careers, celebrating victories, mourning sorrows, and some days, just doing the best they can to remember to breathe in and out from the first buzz of the alarm clock till the moment their heads hit the pillow at the end of a very long day. Continue reading “Witch’s Night In by Kate Brunner”

Do Women’s Circles Actually Matter? By Molly

“We need rituals of memory…because a political movement, the public policy and tactics of our movement, does not come from our ideas, but from the bloody and joyful substance of our lives. We need to be conscious about what our lives have been, to grieve and to honor our strength, in order to break out of the past into the future.” –Minnie Bruce Pratt

I’ve been feeling depressed and discouraged lately after reading some really horrifying articles about incredible, unimaginable violence and brutality against women in Papua New Guinea who are accused of being witches as well as a book about human trafficking around the world (I wrote about this book in a recent post for Pagan Families). Then, I finished listening to David Hillman on Voices of the Sacred Feminine, in which he issued a strong call to action to the pagan community and to “witches” in the U.S. to do something about this violence, essentially stating that it is “your fault” and that rather than spending energy on having rituals to improve one’s love life (for example), modern witches should be taking to the streets and bringing abusers to justice. And, he asserts, the fact that they don’t, shows that they don’t really “believe”—believe in their own powers or in their own Goddess(es). Continue reading “Do Women’s Circles Actually Matter? By Molly”

%d bloggers like this: