February is “Heart Month.” Presumably the American Heart Association chose February as the month to raise awareness about cardiovascular health because in February we celebrate Valentine’s Day which we observe by the giving and receiving of hearts of all kinds — heart-shaped Valentines, candy, jewelry – symbolic declarations of love, of giving our hearts to one another. Hearts have long been associated with love. When bringing our emotions to the surface, we “wear our hearts on our sleeve.” When speaking our deepest feelings, we “pour our hearts out.” Feelings of tenderness “warm our heart,” and compassion “pulls at our heartstrings.” When grieving, we feel “heartache,” and loss of love renders us “heartbroken.” The French word for heart, coeur, associates hearts with courage. We “take heart;” we “lose heart;” we “hearten.” We can engage in a task “wholeheartedly,” “halfheartedly,” or our “heart’s not in it” at all. We can be “bravehearted,” “lighthearted,” “tenderhearted,” “hardhearted,” or totally “heartless.” That’s a lot for the heart to carry.Continue reading ““A new heart I will give you . . .” : Part One by Beth Bartlett”
Tag: women’s stories
Woman’s Sacred Hand – and Handkerchief by Laura Shannon
In my recent post ‘Forty Days After Childbirth, Mary Returns to the World,’ I wrote that ‘the woman’s power to bless and protect, as well as to create, is shown in the symbol of her hand.’ We see expressions of this power in the Orthodox Christian icon of the Three-Handed Madonna, whose third hand is over her womb, and the Hamsa, the hand-shaped talisman common to Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. Also known as the Hand of Fatima, Miriam, or Mary, the Hamsa often incorporates eye or vulva motifs, which also offer protection.
Hand, womb, and eye all signify female creative power, personified in the image of Goddess and revered in Neolithic Old Europe. This life-giving principle is expressed in many ways apart from childbearing: as Carol Christ affirms, early technologies of spinning, weaving, pottery, and agriculture, along with Neolithic religion, were most likely invented by women.Continue reading “Woman’s Sacred Hand – and Handkerchief by Laura Shannon”
Return to the Grandmothers and 2 Other Poems by Annelinde Metzner
This past summer, my family and I lovingly carried my brother’s ashes to a favorite spot of his, in the woods at our grandparents’ Catskill farm. My mind was on the simple, beautiful ritual, each of us stating memories and scattering some of the ashes around the tree, and singing a few songs. It had slipped my mind that this tree grew at the entrance of the very meadow where, at age 11, I felt urgently compelled to create a ritual for myself, just at puberty, where I connected with the Grandmothers of the four directions. No one had taught me this, and I am still in wonder at what we carry with us, undoubtedly from prior lives. I feel that this poem was my self initiating myself into the world of the Goddess, and preparing for my own future.
In this poem, the Grandmothers are speaking to me, with a bit of disdain and fond teasing.Continue reading “Return to the Grandmothers and 2 Other Poems by Annelinde Metzner”
Willful Women, Feminist Killjoys, and Jesus: Reflections on Sara Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life by Liz Cooledge Jenkins
I’ve been thinking about willful women and feminist killjoys—two main guiding images in feminist scholar Sara Ahmed’s book Living a Feminist Life (Duke University Press 2017).
The idea of the willful woman (or willful girl, or willful person) is something I can easily get behind. The way I understand it, it has to do with women getting in touch with our own wills and being willing to speak and act and live out of our wills. Particularly if these wills turn out to exist in opposition to the things other people might will for us.
It’s about learning to stand up for ourselves, learning to affirm our full humanity in a world that often expects…less. It’s a way of consciously, intentionally being willing to be called “willful” as a negative thing—as in, stubborn, selfish, antagonistic, difficult—because the affirmation of our own wills is worth it.
I like all of this and find it helpful. Be willful. Expect pushback and penalties for it. Be willful anyway.Continue reading “Willful Women, Feminist Killjoys, and Jesus: Reflections on Sara Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life by Liz Cooledge Jenkins”
Unsung Heroines: Pamela Coleman Smith by Mary Gelfand
If you’ve ever had a Tarot reading or played with reading cards yourself, you’re probably familiar with the work of Pamela Coleman Smith, illustrator of the great-grandmother of all contemporary Tarot decks—The Rider Waite Smith Deck. First published in 1909, the illustrations in most contemporary decks are direct descendants of Smith’s work. Yet most people who engage with Tarot are unaware of Smith’s significant contribution to the world of Tarot. In my eyes, Pamela Coleman Smith is an Unsung Heroine.
For Mahsa by Lori Stewart
On Friday, September 16, 2022 Mahsa Amini died in a Tehran hospital having been arrested by Iranian morality police on September 13 for wearing “inappropriate attire”. She was 22. Mahsa’s family claims she had bruises to her head and limbs from being beaten. The Iranian police dispute that claim saying Mahsa died from a pre-existing health condition.
Mahsa’s death sparked major protests against the Islamic Republic in Iran and protests of support are occurring around the world. Women are burning their hijabs, which they are mandated by Iranian law to wear, chanting, “Women, life, freedom”. They are cutting their hair which is a longstanding symbol of protest and loss in Iran’s history. This action harkens back to the epic Persian poem “Shahnameh” by Ferdowsi in which hair is a theme and the cutting of hair a symbol of mourning. Around the world, people have followed suit by cutting their hair in solidarity with the protesters in Iran. A recent chant by the protesters is “it’s the beginning of the end” as they challenge their theocratic government.Continue reading “For Mahsa by Lori Stewart”
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”
From Footbinding to Abortion and Beyond – This Has to Stop! by Janet Maika’i Rudolph
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.Continue reading “From Footbinding to Abortion and Beyond – This Has to Stop! by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”
All these sexist movies turn me red by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir
*Warning* – contains spoilers about the movie “Turning Red” as well as “Brave,” “inside Out,” and “Encanto.”
Imagine something with me for a moment. Imagine there is a movie about an adolescent boy who discovers that he has magic shapeshifting powers to become a fierce, powerful animal. The males in his family have had this power for generations because a deity granted the power to a male ancestor in order to help him protect his family from enemy invaders. The boy has to learn to control the amazing power and potential of this fierce warrior alter-ego. What’s the next part of the story?
Would he save his family from an evil ruler trying to harm them?
Would he save his town from an earthquake that almost destroys a stadium full of people?
Would he save his city from an evil power that wants to enslave the population?
Or… would he get in an argument with his dad about going out with his friends and end up doing intense emotional labor to heal intergenerational dysfunction in his wider family?
Do you think boys and men would ever, in a million years tolerate that last option? This boy superhero uses his superpower to… do emotional labor for his family. The end.Continue reading “All these sexist movies turn me red by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir”
An ode to the old me: An ode to Roe v. Wade by Chasity Jones, M. Div
Greetings Feminism and Religion family! It has been soooo long and I have missed you so much!!
I have been working on a few projects that were rudely interrupted by a heartbreaking divorce, decisions of survival, and the subsequent recovery that followed this period. I have spent the past at least 6 months healing from the shame, guilt, pain, and blame that was placed in my lap for the collapse of the marriage. Needless to say, that shit is heavy and it kept me in an endless and perpetual night- not the beautiful mysterious, infinite, expansive darkness that I have come to know but the night that I was afraid of when I was young. No one could save me from the ways that I tormented myself or questioned my womanhood, motherhood in particular. Even more, no one could save me from being an emotional punching bag from my ex-spouse, who also torments himself.
That being said, I am on the mend and am settled in my own apartment furnished with peace, wholeness, and healing for myself and my daughter. As an earth sign, stable ground and a comfortable home in which I can be myself means the world to me. I am a spiritual advisor at a recovery center in Massachusetts and therefore have studied the art of recovery in many ways. Recovery from loss and recovery of self are two procedures that I address in my upcoming book, Black Gold: The Road to Black Infinity!!Continue reading “An ode to the old me: An ode to Roe v. Wade by Chasity Jones, M. Div “
photo essay, part 1: bans off our bodies rally by Marie Cartier
photos from bans off our bodies rally, long beach ca may 14, 2022
all photos by: marie cartier
BIO: Marie Cartier is a teacher, poet, writer, healer, artist, and scholar. She holds a BA in Communications from the University of New Hampshire; an MA in English/Poetry from Colorado State University; an MFA in Theatre Arts (Playwriting) from UCLA; an MFA in Film and TV (Screenwriting) from UCLA; an MFA in Visual Art (Painting/Sculpture) from Claremont Graduate University; and a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University.
moderator’s note: There are so many powerful photos that they will be posted in two parts, today and tomorrow.
Women’s Autonomy and Well-Being v. the Patriarchy by Elizabeth Ann Bartlett
A recently leaked draft of the US Supreme Court’s opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization suggests that the court is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade. Most people know the legal consequence of Roe, but few know the grounds for the decision. The focus was on the “important and legitimate interest” the state has in preserving and protecting the health of the pregnant woman. Defining “health” broadly, Justice Blackmun wrote:
The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent. Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved. Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, . . . the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved. (410 U.S. 113, 1973)
Psychological, physical, familial, social, present and future health of the woman are all to be taken into consideration. I would add to this the spiritual well-being of the woman, for this is a deeply personal spiritual decision as well.Continue reading “Women’s Autonomy and Well-Being v. the Patriarchy by Elizabeth Ann Bartlett”
Hear Me by Winifred Nathan
I found the confirmation hearings of now Justice Kavanaugh deeply disturbing. I have ideas for preventing a replay.
First, secret keeping doesn’t work. For too long girls/women have suffered in silence with their secret while boys/men move along often without any sense of guilt about their “fun”. When the victim/survivor keeps her secret, the perpetrator remains in control. An important step for the victim to regain control is to tell her story. Then the next step … she needs to be heard. Dr. Blasey Ford spoke, but her distracters did not hear her. They questioned her credibility. She was criticized for her years of silence, and her lack of memory of details. What I learned from this is that the victim/survivor must be prepared to speak, and that this preparation must start well before it occurs.
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 storying 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 weird. 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.
Note: 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 Womanrunes, Earthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Patreon and at Brigid’s Grove.
Toil and Trouble (Part 1) by Barbara Ardinger
…and Ella can’t remember the last real meal she had. After supper with the refugees in the witch’s house, she and the witch put their heads together to begin making significant plans. She’s also been meeting all the refugees who now live on the witch’s farm. She knows first-hand why these people fled the capital and the other cities. “Oh, lordy, yes,” she says. “I used to know all the important people. My dear sisters and I went to all the big events, ate the finest cuisine—” suddenly remembering where she is, she looks down at the table “—oh, dear, but I don’t mean to criticize your cuisine.”
The ravens, all perched on the backs of chairs look straight at her. “Good food, this,” says Kahlil, “except these girls don’t serve eyeballs.” “Stop that,” Domina whispers (if ravens can be said to whisper). “Don’t be so picky. Everybody here gets enough to eat.”
Ella, who is more used to cats and dogs and the occasional parakeet than to ravens, blinks and continues. “I wish I knew where my sisters are now. Thanks to our ‘relationships’ with the princes, we were High Society and—”
Continue reading “Toil and Trouble (Part 1) by Barbara Ardinger”
A Rescue Remedy, Part 2 by Barbara Ardinger
The handsome but uncharming prince having been magicked, the witch and her coconspirators know it’s time to focus on finding Ella. The witch looks around the table.
“Mrs. Janedoe and Mrs. Worthington,” she says, “you are two of our most highly experienced sauceresses…I mean sorceresses. Mrs. Bezukhov, you are also a woman of great, if temporarily diminished, power. Let us work together and see what we can do. Surely when people of good will work together they can raise energy that leads to positive results. Yes?” She looks around. “Please come up to my study.” The ravens of course know they are members of this ad hoc coven, and Mrs. Bezukhov goes out to her little room (actually a stall) in the barn to fetch her old scrying stone.
“Now,” says the witch, “we need to find out where Ella is and—”
“Before that,” says Kahlil, the prophetic raven, “we gotta fly that…er…sausage to the city ’n’ drop it on that lousy prince and hit ’im where it’ll do the most good. Make sure he got the message, doncha know. I got a new buddy who’ll fly with us.” He waves a wing at the window and another raven flies in. “This’s Icarus.” The new raven bows. “Despite his name, he’s a good flyer ’n’ he knows the safest routes to the capital and the bestest ways to get around the city.” Kahlil shows the bagged sausage to Icarus, who studies it and shakes his head like he’s just been attacked by a million fleas. “Okay,” says Kahlil, “youse girls just keep an eye on us in that there scrying stone.” He starts to rise from the table, but Mrs. Worthington stops him.
Continue reading “A Rescue Remedy, Part 2 by Barbara Ardinger”
Turning One by Sara Frykenberg
This month I turn one as a mother. My daughter, consequently, is also turning one—a first birthday I am excitedly planning. Specifically, I want to make Hazel a rainbow cake with lots of colored layers and white frosting. I’m not even sure she’ll be able to eat the cake (avoiding lots of sugar for a one-year-old and all), but among those family pictures I treasure, my mother held a cake for her little ones. I want to be like my mother. I am going to make a cake.
But planning my daughter’s party, I realized that I am also going to have a kind of birth-day anniversary. Other moms have told me that it takes a year to really process the experience of giving birth. While I did consider the significance of my “birthing community,” in a blog last fall, I realized a couple of weeks ago that I wasn’t done understanding what I, what mothers, and what life givers of all kinds go through to bring life into the world. Continue reading “Turning One by Sara Frykenberg”
Breaking the Stained Glass Ceiling? Conflict in Religious Histories by Meagen Farrell
In attempting to research and write about the process and arguments in the development of women’s ordination in the Anglican Church of Ireland (which I first wrote about here on Feminism and Religion), I am frustrated by the polarization of language. While “objectivity” is fruitless, I strive for what Warren Nord calls philosophical fairness: when teaching about contested religious territory, to characterize each position in the terms they would choose for themselves.
How do I fairly label an historical debate on whether or not to admit women to the diaconate and priesthood? Using the phrase “women’s ordination” in my current Kickstarter campaign already puts me in a particular camp. The constraints of the medium require brevity. I have to make a choice. Continue reading “Breaking the Stained Glass Ceiling? Conflict in Religious Histories by Meagen Farrell”
What Happens When Women Are Not Ordained? by Meagen Farrell
What is a vocation to the Christian clergy? A woman or man feels a calling from God, and that spirit is tested in the community of believers. After discernment through study, prayer, and service that person submits herself for ordination. Simple, right?
Of course, as readers of the F-word blog, you know it is not that simple. Though women’s ordination is a common practice in many Christian denominations, it is far from universal. The issue has caused division within the Anglican Communion and dissension in the Roman Catholic Church. Despite the controversy, the number of women in discernment (contemplating or preparing for ordination) and the denominations ordaining them continue to grow. Continue reading “What Happens When Women Are Not Ordained? by Meagen Farrell”
Every Woman has a Story by Gina Messina-Dysert
Recently, Carol Christ wrote about her experience of being interviewed for the Women’s Living History project at Claremont Graduate University. It is a project I have co-founded and am continuing to develop; I am grateful that Carol and others have offered their “herstories” to be archived. While I am not a historian, I do have a strong interest in women’s stories and with important reason…if we do not tell our stories, who will?
I first became interested in oral history during my doctoral program when I took a course with Claudia Bushman focused on women’s autobiography. It was a difficult time; my mother had passed away unexpectedly and I was consumed with grief. Because her death was premature – she was only 56 years old – I hadn’t prepared to lose her. I thought I had years to figure out all the things I would want to remember and pass on about my mom. Yet, she was gone and I could no longer ask her the many things I wanted to know, needed to know about her. Parts of her story would be lost forever and I did not know how to cope with that. Continue reading “Every Woman has a Story by Gina Messina-Dysert”