30daysofdissertation

What is the difference between a ritual and a ceremony?

January 2016 035In the course of my dissertation research, the subject of the differences between ritual and ceremony arose as one of the spontaneous questions under consideration. There are many ways to use the words and people tend to gravitate towards one over the other. I realized in our conversation, that I perceive a distinction between the two words and use them in slightly different contexts, but it is difficult to pinpoint the exact difference. Is it just personal preference? Is it tradition or habit? How do you use the two words?

I find that for myself personally I have increasingly begun using the word “ceremony,” because to me it denotes something dynamic and alive. Ritual sometimes implies repetition or roteness. Ceremony implies living, changing, evolving, as well as celebration. I think ceremony is about a sacred approach to the world. However, both can be a collection of actions, a sacred container for experiencing and shared experience, and a process of honoring and celebrating. I also use the terms somewhat interchangeably–i.e. “a women’s ritual” or a “ceremony for my pregnant friend.” I’ve still been trying to puzzle out the distinction between when and how I use the words. We have “full moon rituals” and seasonal rituals and then I have “ceremonies” for specific occasions–like a maiden ceremony or a baby naming ceremony. I’ve also noticed that ceremony feels like a “safer” and more expansive word to me when describing what I do, because ritual might sometimes be associated with “ritualistic” which can have negative, “occult,” or abuse-associated connotations for some people.

I recently finished a book that has been waiting on my shelf for a long time, In the Shadow of the Shaman, by Amber Wolfe and she notes the same: “the very words ceremony and ritual have so many different interpretations that we may become confused and frustrated.”

She offers three basic approaches to the concepts:

Native American. Ritual has to do with acts of Nature energies, primarily shamanic. Ceremonies have to do with set forms of spiritual connections.

Western Occult. Ritual has to do with energies of soul or spiritual levels, set form. Ceremonies have to do with Nature or elemental energies, some set form.

Aquarian Format. Ritual is set form; specific words are used, although you may construct these beforehand from your own blend of traditions. Once ritual is begun, it follows a set format, regardless. This can be most important for acts of active magick when the energies become intensely focused and specific. Ceremony is free-flowing. Emerging energies are incorporated in the basic format. Some traditional ritual formats are used in ceremony to being and to end the events.”

In this context, Wolfe primarily identifies ritual as set or fixed and ceremony as free-flowing, spontaneous, or co-creative. Living ceremony.

The dictionary also seems to overlap the two without clear distinction, describing ceremony in terms of ritual:

  • a formal act or series of acts prescribed by ritual, protocol, or convention <the marriage ceremony>

And, ritual in terms of ceremony:

  • done as part of a ceremony or ritual

Both words get the mark of perhaps connoting meaninglessness or roteness:

  • For ceremony: 2 a :  a conventional act of politeness or etiquette <the ceremony of introduction> b :  an action performed only formally with no deep significance c :  a routine action performed with elaborate pomp. prescribed procedures :  usages <the ceremony attending an inauguration> b :  observance of an established code of civility or politeness

  • For ritual: always done in a particular situation and in the same way each time. Done in accordance with social custom or normal protocol <ritual handshakes> <ritual background checks>

In my research group, the women turned the question over, with one reversing my own use of the terms (ritual = more habitual, scripted, and formulaic and ceremony = living, evolving, active, and embodied) explaining that in her experience: Although ritual can involve ceremony to a lesser or greater degree – the ceremonial aspects are simply trappings. They are the outward visible signs of an inward reality – the embodiment of the ritual enactment within the participants.

On the one hand, “doing ceremony” can be seen as trivializing ritual, the ritual process, the ritual prayer. It is an outward sign. How many times have we experienced ritual – liturgy – perhaps in a traditional church setting, and known that the presider is simply going through the motions. The presider is “doing ceremony” or “saying the mass” — there is no determinable connection with those present. If one acknowledges such things, Spirit is lacking, although many in attendance will contest that observation. However, and I have experienced this myself, when the presider truly connects Higher Power and with those in attendance — truly becomes that vessel of connection — is embodied, then ritual is transformative.

In the book Sacred Ceremony by Steven Farmer, he differentiates the two based on how they change or not. Ritual, to him, is something that doesn’t change–it is always done the same way. Ceremony, to him, is alive and evolves, adapts, and changes.

Another participant pointed out that ritual is the way of enacting ceremony. The two cannot be separated—ceremony is used as a noun and ritual is used as an adjective (though this isn’t actually the case in common use, in which ritual is often used as a noun).

As I’ve typed, I realize that I may personally be more likely to use “ritual” in terms of holidays/calendar-associated events and ceremony with regard to life passages, rites of passage and celebration. I also notice I have a blog category for ritual, but not for ceremony, which indicates that my personal semantics have evolved since I began this blog.

I would love to continue to expand this section. What are the differences in the words to you? Which do you prefer using? Do you use both, but in different contexts or purposes? Is one an inner experience and one an outer one? Is one solitary and one communal? Does your choice of word depend on your “audience”?

IMG_0172Speaking of ritual and ceremony, I’m almost finished with our free Brigid’s Day ceremony kit! And, for a very reasonable price, we’ve also developed a digital version of our Mother Blessing Facilitator Kit.

motherblessing

 

Categories: 30daysofdissertation, ceremony, practices, priestess, ritual, spirituality, women's circle | Leave a comment

Day 21: Time out of time (#30daysofyule + #30daysofdissertation)


I have trouble expressing how significant it has been for me to claim this “room of my own” in which to work, dream, contemplate, and enjoy solitude. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d converted my kids’ former clubhouse into a tiny goddess temple. I’ve been working on my dissertation project in there and it feels so peaceful and quiet. Like it brings out my own best self. It is hard to separate out from my family to go out to the temple on my own, lots of demands pull at me, but it benefits everyone when I take the time to do so. Yesterday, I spent almost two hours working only on my dissertation–devoting time is the only way to bring this into being and it is amazing how much more “flow” developed with focused energy spent on it. I never even opened a single other computer window as I worked and the single-tasking allowed for big steps! I feel it being born…

Yesterday afternoon, I also started working on our Shining Year workbooks for 2016. These liminal days between years feel perfect for it.

In the photo with the candle above, I see my first augur/omen for a “12 days of Christmas” divination exercise that Joanna shared with our class: Soundings: The Omen Days: The Twelve Days of Christmas. In the knot in the wood next to the candle, I see The Flying Woman (rune of transformation) in the center–a little figure with arms raised. ❤️

On Christmas evening, I used my new camera to take some pictures of the beautiful full moon. We also drummed and danced on the deck.

I’m getting ready for the next Womanrunes Immersion ecourse and I’m looking forward to connecting and centering in the energy of the new year. This 41 day ecourse explores each one of the runes in depth, allowing you time to practice with and learn from that rune in your own life. The course includes journal and photo prompts, journal pages, full and new moon ritual outlines, and a private facebook for interaction, support, and shared learning.

You can register for the course here: Womanrunes Immersion – Brigid’s Grove

 

Categories: #30daysofyule, 30daysofdissertation, divination, holidays, introversion, moon wisdom, nature, practices, sacred pause, seasons, writing | Leave a comment

Claypriestess (#30daysofdissertation)

12362679_1685790088299873_4037715236141904055_o“If there is one chant in the universe it is to create.”

–Chris Griscolm quoted in Nicole Christine, p. 25

If you have ever eavesdropped on a conversation between my husband and me around the clamor of our children’s voices, you will hear me making a tired lament: “All I want is a broad swath of uninterrupted time.” I am listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic, on audio book from the library right now and she mentions that many creative people lament not having long stretches of uninterrupted time available in which to work. She quotes a letter from Herman Melville to Nathaniel Hawthorne, lamenting his lack of time and how he is always pulled “hither and thither by circumstances.” Melville said that he longed for a wide-open stretch of time in which to write. She says he called it, “the calm, the coolness, the silent grass-growing mood in which a man ought always to compose.”

…I do not know of any artist (successful or unsuccessful, amateur or pro) who does not long for that kind of time. I do not know of any creative soul who does not dream of calm, cool, grass-growing days in which to work with- out interruption. Somehow, though, nobody ever seems to achieve it. Or if they do achieve it (through a grant, for in- stance, or a friend’s generosity, or an artist’s residency), that idyll is just temporary—and then life will inevitably rush back in. Even the most successful creative people I know complain that they never seem to get all the hours they need in order to engage in dreamy, pressure-free, creative exploration. Reality’s demands are constantly pounding on the door and disturbing them. On some other planet, in some other lifetime, perhaps that sort of peaceful Edenic work environment does exist, but it rarely exists here on earth. Melville never got that kind of environment, for instance. But he still somehow managed to write Moby-Dick, anyhow.

Source: Elizabeth Gilbert On Unlocking Creativity, Ideas As Viruses . News | OPB

My little temple space in which to create in uninterrupted time...

My little temple space in which to create in uninterrupted time…

Today I spent almost two hours working on my dissertation (does this take the place of the next several days of 15
minutes, I wonder?!). I decided to take a dramatic step and I opened a fresh document and started over. Well, not started over, exactly, but approached my material in a new way. I had been working within a 300+ page document that was very cumbersome to navigate. I also discovered a huge amount of repetition in the material, thanks to having copied and pasted the same sections into the document multiples times. This morning, while doing yoga, I suddenly realized that rather than try to mine through the 300 pages and delete repetition, I needed to start with a blank document and move relevant pieces from the 300 pages into it, therefore leaving behind that which is not needed, rather than trying to excavate it. So, after my two hours, I now have four documents: 108 pages of research results from my study group (originally 154), 21 pages of additional typed research notes from books I’ve read that haven’t been placed correctly within my dissertation, and 69 pages of “leftover” content from my original 300. That now leaves 113 pages in my “starter” dissertation. This was a difficult process. I got scared that I wasn’t going to have enough. I started to feel panicky that I don’t know what I’m doing and I have nothing good to say. I started to worry that I can’t do this. It became exceedingly clear that it is going to take me a long time to finish and I’m not sure how to put it all together. And, then…glimmers of something coming together. Section titles and opening stories to frame the sections started to come to me and I sense the shape of it emerging. Something worthwhile and valuable is there. I know it. Now, for that broad swath of uninterrupted time…

One of the things that caught my eye again today as I did all this rearranging was a section I typed from Priestess: Woman as Sacred Celebrant by Pamela Eakins about her past life memories of making clay goddess figures as a temple priestess

“…to me it brought a continuation of the energy of the sacred objects of the grandmothers. I contained 12310054_1685134281698787_1950735518948681440_othis energy in a new form in the dolls that would be placed upon the altars and in the graves of the daughters living now and the daughters to come…

I felt this process made my own clay stronger, too. Some of the pieces cracked in the fire because of the added ‘impurities’…but, in this case, I felt the impurities were the purest of pure and I worshipped each crack knowing the crack contained the wisdom of the priestesses who had occupied the doll-making table for more moons than I could even imagine. It contained too, the devotional energy of every grandmother who had held it in her hands or placed it on her altar. Sometimes ‘impurities’ sanctify further that which is holy to begin with.

My hands knew the mind of the clay before they touched it. My designs were fine. My fingers were nimble. I made the same figures over and over. I knew from the start, no matter what shell her outer form took, whether it was black or brown, gray or red, depending on the mix, that her essence was the same…

While I tend to have a knee-jerk skepticism about past-life memories, there is something in Eakins’ words that I know at a bone-deep level as I do my own work with goddesscraft: 12309972_1684185268460355_7337326396732314515_o

…Each goddess was imprinted with the sound of sacred life coursing through the Universe. I changed with the priestesses as the figures came through my hands. Each doll received the sacred vibration of life…For seventy-seven moons I made the dolls at the long table with the young Sisters of Nun. My hands were so fast. I made thousands of figures: beautiful little faces, etched collars of gold plates, pubic hair swirled into tiny rows of connecting spirals. They were so precious. At the end of the day, my baked clay shelves were covered with little women.

The clay goddesses healed…

This is how I apprenticed. I learned, in this manner, the art of healing. I learned that to heal means to make whole, and that becoming whole involves learning many levels of purification, balance, and reformation” (p. 32-33).

In Anne Key’s marvelous priestess memoir, Desert Priestess, she makes this important point: “It is of course no small wonder why graven images are so tightly controlled by religious traditions.” (p. 52) Sometimes I feel like this is what I’m tapping into when I make my own goddess sculptures—a resistance to tight control over graven images and over personalization of divinity as male.

And, I return to Gilbert’s thoughts on creative living as a life path:

Is this the ideal environment in which to create — having to make art out of “things residual” in stolen time? Not really. Or maybe it’s fine. Maybe it doesn’t matter, because that’s how things have always been made. Most individuals have never had enough time, and they’ve never had enough resources, and they’ve never had enough support or patronage or reward … and yet still they persist in creating. They persist because they care. They persist because they are called to be makers, by any means necessary…Which does not mean that creative living is always easy; it merely means that creative living is always possible.

Source: Elizabeth Gilbert On Unlocking Creativity, Ideas As Viruses . News | OPB

In my spare minutes of hither-and-thither creating, I did put together a mini-book of Seasonal Meditations as a solstice gift for newsletter subscribers. If you already subscribe to the Brigid’s Grove newsletter, make sure you’ve checked your email for your mini book. If you don’t you can do so now and it will be sent out again tonight. 🙂

December 2015 066

Categories: 30daysofdissertation, art, creativity, dissertation, Goddess, priestess, quotes, readings, sacred pause, sculpture, self-care, spirituality, woodspriestess, writing | Leave a comment

Resources for Writing Rituals (#30daysofdissertation)

IMG_9805Today, I finally got down to the nitty-gritty and tackled something that I’ve been having a lot of trouble with on this dissertation: cutting out content. I’ve noticed that my first response with my fifteen minutes each day is to add content and so far, that’s what I’ve done almost every day this month. However, since my 320 pages is mainly a compilation of all kinds of past writing, papers, and articles, there is quite a bit of repetition in it–quotes I’ve used in multiple articles, long sections of text from articles that either isn’t relevant or is simply too long of a quote, etc. So, today, I set my timer for fifteen minutes and cut out twenty pages of content. I then kept working and ended up posing a new demographic question in my research group (I suddenly realized I’d completely left out race) as well as making some edits and about five pages of deletions from my document of raw research results (the date/time stamps and disclaimer that carried over when I copied and pasted. Boring and tedious to do, but necessary. I finally had to stop myself, because I’m certain I’ll need something to do with my fifteen minutes tomorrow…)

In the course of my cutting down, my attention was drawn to several useful resources for creating rituals. The first is a very comprehensive look at the structure of creating a ritual. It has a lot of sub-pages and lots of detail: RITUAL: Purpose & Format of Ritual

The same website also has an index of ceremony outlines (they follow a more typically Wiccan outline than I personally connect with, but a useful resource nonetheless!): RITUAL: Index

I chopped out a bunch of saved stuff from a really wonderful article about using chants during rituals: Chants & Enchantment | M. Macha NightMare, Priestess & Witch. I’m saving this information for our personal study group rather than trying to include it in a dissertation format.

I followed a link from the two ritual pages to this interesting sounding book: The Ritual Magic Workbook: A Practical Course of Self-Initiation. I then ordered a copy, but I vow not to try to add anything from it into the dissertation. 😉

I also added some links to my own resources page: Ceremony Resources – Brigid’s Grove

Categories: 30daysofdissertation, chants, dissertation, priestess, resources, ritual, writing | 4 Comments

Day 5: Children of Wonder (#30daysofYule + #30daysofdissertation) 

IMG_9809She who cannot be contained.
She who knows no end.
She who holds all things.

Behold that which is new and ever-changing.
Behold that which is ancient and unyielding.
Behold that which is meant for you and that which is meant from you. Behold the tapestry of life being woven before you.
Receive her kiss.
Feel her embrace.
And walk in peace and prayer.

I’ve had a realization recently as I continue to add notes from books, transcribe recordings, and ask questions in my research group, that if I truly want to finish this dissertation soon, I have to stop adding content and start what feels like the hardest and most overwhelming part: deleting repetitive sections, editing, moving, rearranging, creating a cohesive flow and structure, wrestling (or massaging) the many parts into something complete and complex. I also realized that it is okay to not be done yet. This is a rich area for exploration, personally, professionally, spiritually, and academically. It continues to evolve and deepen and grow and it feels almost scary it is so big.

We’ve been doing some experiments with color lately to communicate ideas. This quartet is about the winter season–the wisdom of shadow, the promise of light.

December 2015 024I also realized as I’ve been reading Joanna’s 30 Days of Yule messages that our Centered Mama sculpture would make a perfect Black Madonna for this time of year, so my husband cast her in black for me. She now sits by my computer as I type in my new temple space, reminding me of restoration, peace, and contemplation.

IMG_9789Two inspiring works based on the Black Madonnas scattered throughout the world:

Cantos 20: Pouring out my heart to the Black Madonna | | Shiloh Sophia Studios

New Art: Dark Madonna & Daughter

<exhale>

Categories: #30daysofyule, 30daysofdissertation | Leave a comment

Day 4: Guardian of the Flame (#30daysofYule + #30daysofdissertation)

12341332_10208003037534503_6220261572783427640_nI recognize that I am feeling a little sad and wistful that this month feels so “sped up” to me. I welcome the hibernation and incubation of winter, but the to-dos keep on coming. On Wednesday night, I stayed up late “catching up.” Last night, I honored my need for rest and decided to just go to bed instead of starting the “second shift,” that the push-y part of myself always urges me to do. I remembered that fifteen minutes of dissertation work doesn’t have to be sitting at my computer, but instead I read part of Drawing Down the Moon, by Margot Adler (a book I’ve never read. <gasp> Surely I “should” have read it before now?!) and decided that would count for the day.

A little earlier that evening, we got the beautiful picture above from one of the first women to buy one of our priestess initiation robe blessing bundles. I looked at it and realized that it is was lovely match for Day 4’s photo prompt. I “pass the torch” and light the flame in many ways through my work and it is gratifying and humbling and beautiful and powerful. I am honored to bear witness.

I also recognized that my most recent Feminism and Religion post about family ritual is also about passing the flame and lighting the torch (especially if the torch in question is actually a leftover glow stick from Halloween!): All We Need to Make Magic

As a side note about the hibernation urge–I recall from many past turns of the wheel that this is my usual feeling in December: anticipatory of hibernation and “slowing down.” Longing for rest, contemplation, and restoration. But, then really, more to do than ever before. But, then in January and February is when the hibernation actually comes. I usually do a personal renewal retreat in the first week of February. The beginning of January feels open and full of promise. It usually snows and we quite literally can’t go anywhere and so the hibernation I keep craving is then an enforced-by-Nature one. In fact, I think I’m going to “officially” release the idea that I should be resting and reflecting right now and trust the memory of restoration and the promise of winter’s incubation which is still to come.

Categories: #30daysofyule, 30daysofdissertation, art, collaboration, dissertation, family, practices, priestess, retreat, sacred pause, seasons, self-care | Leave a comment

Day 3: Seeds of light in darkness. (#30daysofyule, #30daysofdissertation)

December 2015 003I have learned that there may be nothing more powerful than sitting on a rock and looking at the sky in terms of creating change and opening up locked down places.

Tonight, I transcribed some words from the very beginning of last year, after my woodspriestess experiment drew to its close. I wrestled with myself over the twin urges I felt—the first to cut myself some slack and just go to bed and the second the desire to honor my promise to myself and do my fifteen minutes. The accountability me won out and I transcribed the recording. Putting a time limit on it, however arbitrary of a limit and however self-imposed it is, gives me a container. It causes me to reach and stretch for something that I can do to keep my promise and to be accountable to myself for what I have said I will do. Tonight, I brought out information from nearly two years ago—thoughts and insights that have faded from memory, but that came back vividly as I listened to my own voice on the recording, accompanied by the distant sounds of roosters crowing in the background.

The prompt for 30 Days of Yule today included a Winter Solstice oracle/tarot card layout. I did this reading just now, in the wee hours of the morning, with two little children nestled against me in the dim bedroom.

1. How do I endure this darkness? 12339367_1686230881589127_779656505861282759_o
2. What is the potential here?
3. What is the light that is coming?
4. How can I help the light grow?

Ellen Lorenzi-Prince

I used the Gaian Tarot and Womanrunes. Interestingly, all my tarot cards were reversed. The image of the sun shows up twice, once from each deck, bookending the reading appropriately.

I have more I could say, but the other twin–the “go to bed” one–is ready for her turn…;)

Categories: #30daysofyule, 30daysofdissertation, dissertation, divination, practices, Womanrunes | Leave a comment

Day 2: Winter Withdrawal (#30daysofyule + #30daysofdissertation)

12362679_1685790088299873_4037715236141904055_oFinally comes the time of withdrawal, the hidden time.

It is as though the world sleeps under a gray cloak. Everything is still and silent. It is as though the world sleeps under a gray veil. . .

Life has moved to the center, to its hidden darkness. Bulbs rest, roots sleep, trees go dormant. Stillness settles over the world.

— Patricia Monaghan, “Winter,” Seasons of the Witch

The sculpture above was created in black by special request for someone who is in a Cerridwen priestess program. I find her to be a powerful evocation of the mood of this time of year as well.

As I noted yesterday, the twin pulls of withdrawal and community are strong for me at this time of year. I crave silence and time alone to work and think and be. I also am filled with ideas for celebrations and events and activities with friends and families. Creating my workspace in my clubhouse-turned-goddess-temple is one step that honors both needs: time apart and away to withdraw into myself and work, while at the same time holding the potential of being a gathering space for a (small) group.

IMG_9686

Inside my tiny temple space. Ahhh! Such peaceful quiet.

Today, I left the door open so that I could hear the birds and the breeze while I typed at my little desk. I had to prepare a final exam for my class and so the bulk of my alone time was spent on that project. But, I also managed to pull in some notes from a review of the book Portrait of a Priestess by Joan Connelly (reviewed in the Journal of Law and Religion). I didn’t really enjoy her book myself, it was dry and ponderous, and it was kind of nice to read about it through someone else’s perception–I feel like I may have gotten more useful nuggets from the review than from the book itself! I noticed throughout my coursework at OSC that the classes that focus on history were the least enjoyable to me. I don’t find that I personally need historical validation to “legitimize” my own life/path. Connelly’s book focuses in exhaustive, painstaking detail on the lives of priestesses in Greece. The subtext being, to me, that if we can prove that there were priestesses in Greece who were respected and had authority, independence, and agency then this justifies the existence of present day priestesses. I don’t find the justification particularly necessary, especially since data is slim and contextual and cultural factors have such an influence. (It isn’t that it isn’t valuable or relevant or good information to have, it is just that my personal need for this information as a form of justification, validation, affirmation, or legitimization feels low and I therefore have trouble feeling passionate about it!)

From the review:

The religious activities of priestesses listed in Chapter Six, for example, are organized in the following categories: procession (167), prayer (173), libation (176), sacrifice (179), ritual feasting (190) and benefactions (192).

These are interesting and relevant, but do not dictate present-day behaviors or roles, to my mind. I need to do some work and “unpacking” of how I will weave some priestess herstory into my dissertation (I do, in fact, usually specify that my research is on contemporary priestessing in the US. However, this doesn’t mean that I want to ignore looking at the ancient thread of lineage and purpose that connects us to priestesses of other times and places…).

Have I mentioned what a big project this is? Luckily, my 30 days and fifteen minutes plans both make it feel doable again instead of impossible!

Categories: #30daysofyule, 30daysofdissertation, art, dissertation, endarkenment, feminist thealogy, priestess, seasons | Leave a comment

Day 1: Stillness, Quiet (#30daysofyule, #30daysofdissertation)

IMG_968430 Days of Yule began today. I deeply connect with Joanna’s description of the twin moods of this season: “The deepest gifts of the midwinter holiday season are the twin companions of Solitude and Community. We need both.”

I feel these twin companion keenly at this time of year. My picture for today is also part of my 30 Days of Dissertation, because I’ve decided I’m raising a Goddess Temple here in the woods. For real! I’ve commandeered my children’s unused clubhouse (with their blessing/permission) and it is becoming beautiful, sacred space. I spent way more than 15 minutes yesterday working on the inside of it and I had such a wonderful time. I will write more about it soon.

Today, the day was actually anything but still and quiet. We went to St. Louis for a homeschool field trip to the history museum and were gone all day (I did manage to move some quotes from three different saved pdfs into my dissertation document). We were in need of a small adventure for our family after all of the busy-ness November held and so I have no regrets about being in the hustle and bustle of the city rather than the peace of the woods. However, I now seek the quiet of my bed, my thoughts, and the restoration of sleep…

IMG_9701

Carriage ride at the museum (with merry jingle bells on the large draft horses).

Categories: #30daysofyule, 30daysofdissertation, community, family, parenting, priestess, retreat, sacred pause, self-care, spirituality, woodspriestess | Leave a comment

Priestess Semantics (#30DaysofDissertation)

IMG_9643-1I revisited one of my first posts at SageWoman yesterday as I continued to type notes from Under Her Wings.

“The journey to become a priestess…(even of the urban variety) remains a grueling task, not something capable of being conferred by a few weekend workshops or sweat lodges. The glibness with which such terms are used can be infuriating…” –Vivienne Vernon-Jones in Voices of the Goddess by Caitlin Matthews

Source: Practical Priestessing: Who Does She Think SHE is?! – PaganSquare – PaganSquare – Join the conversation!

Nicole Christine also addresses the fear, the chastisement, of “who does she think she is?” as she describes working with her first group of initiates:

“This is when the priestess within came to life! Many wanted me to tell them how to be a priestess. Now, through direct communion with the Goddess and the priestess within, we were, each in our own time and own way, discovering what it means to be a priestess in these times.

Facilitating, rather than directing, I was in continual awe over what was seeking expression through us.”(p. 69)

She reached a conclusion with her group: “And we concurred that to be a priestess in these times was about inner mediation between the Goddess Within and our woman self, rather than serving as an intermediary between the Divine and humankind” (p . 68). But, she also acknowledges a shared fear that I find reassuring in my own work:  “A split in consciousness regarding use of the term priestess existed in the first circle of initiates. Most fear ridicule and/or misunderstanding if they openly identified as priestesses, and also felt somehow unworthy of such identification. But when time came for their ordinations, these women radiantly reclaimed their worthiness and courageously broke ground for new priestesses” (p. 81).

I marked one more quote on the topic of self-worth, since I struggle here a lot as well: “[a priestess in the initiation process] shared her inner pilgrimage process. ‘I kept trying to be a priestess and feeling more and more worthless because I wasn’t being what I thought a priestess should be. Finally, I realized that a priestess, more than anything, needs to be honest with her feelings—that is where the power and self-worth are” (p. 96).

Switching gears, I realized that in all of my 311 pages of typing so far (plus 154 pages of research participation questions, I’ve almost totally overlooked an entire element of The Priestess (as archetype) and that is the sexual priestess. I think my knee-jerk reaction is to completely dismiss “temple prostitute” type of verbiage in literature as an artifact of patriarchal conditioning/interpretation. i.e. I don’t know that I believe that the role of ancient temple priestesses actually had anything to do with sex per se, instead I think that later historians/archaeologists have trouble understanding that female religious leadership could be in a capacity other than sexual and so they dismiss priestess evidence as “temple prostitute” (much like dismissing all sculptures as “fertility icons” instead of goddesses). But, in that rejection of what I see as the temple prostitute “myth,” I am missing out on a whole category of responses or interpretations.

Nicole Christine actually addresses this subject in some depth in Under Her Wings:

“The author [of The Sacred Prostitute] affirmed my knowing that it is the sacred prostitute/sexual priestess who actively brings goddess love into the human realm” (p. 93).

(Though, I kind of scratch my head here. I recognize that I’m probably layering on some of my own culturally ingrained judgements/stereotypes/conceptions here, but to me, I see and experience many ways of bringing goddess love into the human realm that have nothing to do with being a sacred prostitute/sexual priestess…)

Actually, as I type now, I realize I didn’t completely overlook it, because I did read Aphrodite’s Priestess by Laurelei Black. I listened to several Voices of the Sacred Feminine shows that related to “sacred courtesanship” and I participate in enough women’s empowerment focused Facebook groups to know that some women embrace themselves as “dakini” or priestesses of the sexual arts. Though, it has also only very recently caught my attention that some people, other than those patriarchally blinded archaeologist types, actually perceive Priestess as a synonym for Prostitute! I mean more that I overlooked it as a serious area for further exploration and discussion. I also just found out about this book, but I don’t know that I have time to add another book to my pile!

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Categories: 30daysofdissertation, dissertation, feminist thealogy, practices, priestess, quotes, readings, resources, spirituality, women, woodspriestess | 2 Comments

Under Her Wings (#30daysofdissertation)

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“If there is one chant in the universe it is to create.”

–Chris Griscolm quoted in Christine, p. 25

Typing notes from Nicole Christine’s book Under Her Wings: The Making of a Magdalene was my 30 Days of Dissertation work today. Mark made this special clear Embrace Possibilities goddess for me as a reminder and encourager.

Christine touches on the “everyday priestess” topic of Day 1:

Priestess to the World. Now I understand that to be a priestess in these times was to uphold the sacred in daily life…in the world…with everyone, everywhere. The times of priestessing behind temple walls were past. The living Earth is the temple and everywhere is holy ground. (p. 31)

She also makes note of what I was just talking about yesterday (“feeling it” alone rather than in group contexts), while writing about attending a workshop by Riane Eisler:

“But my real priestessing took place apart from the conference structure. Each night, I climbed a back stairway to the hotel rooftop where, amidst treetops and beneath the stars, I invoked the Goddess and did the Dance of Creation that I had learned at the Earth Song Human Rainbow Celebration. The dance had become an integral part of my spiritual practice. As I prayerfully did the movements, I felt my mind, boy, and spirit unifying with all of creation and I knew I could energetically do more to close the gap when I focused inward than when I engaged in externally focused activities” (p. 55).

And, I appreciated her observations here:

“Journaling, alone or with others, was my most consistent means of accessing the vast pool of eternal wisdom. But, alone in Nature, where woman knows herself best, I attuned to subtler and subtler frequencies. I heard the Voice of the Goddess in the wind. Felt the Presence of the Grandmothers in the rocks. Touched the Mystery of Mother Earth in her rivers and streams. And, on moonlit nights, I knew the wonder of being woman with the rhythms of the Universe in her body…I took daily delight in being made in the Image and Likeness of the re-emerging Goddess” (p. 66).

My little one woke up from his nap almost immediately after falling asleep, so this was all the progress I made today (I did finish my FAR post this morning based on my earlier, “all we need to make magic,” post. It will be published on Wednesday).

Categories: 30daysofdissertation, dissertation, Goddess, practices, priestess, quotes, resources, woodspriestess | Leave a comment

Ritual energy (#30daysofdissertation)

November 2015 059“Personally, what I have noticed most often about the level of energy in the many rituals I have experienced has far more to do with my mood and personal energy level in solitary rites, and the personalities and personal connections of the people involved in the group rites I’ve experienced than with any external factor, from clothing or lack thereof, to male-female alternation around the circle, to tradition or jewelry or hairstyle, or whatever. Are the people happy to be there? Do they genuinely like each other? Do they believe in the work they’re doing? These are the things I’ve noticing affecting magic’s potency for me.” (Thuri Calafia, Dedicant, p. 159)

I didn’t feel like I had a lot of generative, creative energy for dissertation work today, so I decided to spend my fifteen minutes finishing typing up some quotes from the book Dedicant, by Thuri Calafia. It was a smart way to spend my time, made me think of a new question to pose in my Priestess Path study group, and “decluttered” my research desk by moving the book from the stack on the desk to back on the bookshelf!

This quote caught my eye because I’ve written before that I find it easier to have spiritual experiences on my own rather than in a group, even though I deeply value and enjoy working with groups. Working with groups of people has a lot of power by their own right, but for divine connection, give me solitude in the woods!

That reflection brought me to a quote I’d used in a past blog post:

Ritual Priestessing is not for the faint of heart. If you fear chaos, the unexpected, or the unforeseen, choose another vocation. A ritual facilitator regularly finds herself in challenging situations that are not at all what she originally planned. In order to facilitate others, you first need to know how to be a good participant. I don’t believe that it is possible for a woman to priestess/facilitate a ritual effectively until she first knows how to truly participate in one…

Source: Dance in a circle of women… | WoodsPriestess

And, considering the why of doing this 30 Days project now. Why expect this daily dissertation work during the holiday season, when business is booming, my kids need me, etc.? Can’t I just wait to work on the dissertation until January? Well…first of all, I said I’d do it this year and I feel like I’d like to honor myself by giving it the best effort I can during what is left of the year!  Second though, I realized with the “fifteen minutes” tip from my friend that I routinely spend way more than fifteen minutes scrolling through my instagram or facebook feeds, so it really isn’t too much to expect of myself to redirect that energy into #30daysofdissertation. So, appropriately, this afternoon I also typed this quote I’d marked down months ago from Dedicant: As it is with our gardens, so it is with life. We sometimes can have too many choices, too many things that pull us in too many directions. There comes a time when we must decide what we will keep putting our energy into, and what we will let go of, even if only for a while…Be gentle with yourself, as you need to nurture your own growth…” (Calafia, p. 202-203)

I don’t know that I’ll actually make a companion blog post each day, but so far I am enjoying the accountability factor in doing so.

Now to turn my attention back to my Feminism and Religion blog post!

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Categories: 30daysofdissertation, books, community, dissertation, Goddess, introversion, practices, priestess, quotes, resources, spirituality, woodspriestess, writing | Leave a comment

Everyday Priestess (#30daysofdissertation)

12309972_1684185268460355_7337326396732314515_oI am a priestess nursing my baby. I am a priestess molding my clay. I am a priestess crying over unhung up dresses in my closet and how I didn’t get my own way about how the day would unfold today. It is hard this work of self-facing. It is hard to be confronted with one’s lack of serenity, empathetic failures, relationship rushes, mothering moments of impatience and snappishness, meltdowns, and minutia, bogged down in the molasses of the daily round. Where is my fluttering robe, my twinkling eyes, my beatific smile spreading graciously across my face as I serenely embrace each moment as it unfolds?

Today, I used my fifteen dissertation moments to transcribe a recording about the “everyday priestess” as well as one about initiation and growth. I also re-read this old post of mine:

In the book, West County Wicca, the shared responsibility for the Circle is identified as well: “The Circle belongs to all who are in it. I have heard people in recent times say, ‘I wouldn’t have such and such in MY circle.’ But it is not THEIR circle. It is the circle of the coven. We had no permanent leaders when I was taught” (p. 17). Ryall also explains that, “The Priestess actively involved in the ceremony is merely the key that unlocks the door, and the Goddess Power brought down into the Circle is for the benefit of all…(p. 27, emphasis mine).

Source: Co-Circling & The Priestess Path | WoodsPriestess

I started working on my post for Feminism and Religion this month. I am unsure which direction I am going with it…perhaps addressing my mamapriestess musings, perhaps doing more development of the “palm of my hand” post from earlier this month.

Categories: 30daysofdissertation, dissertation, practices, priestess, spirituality, writing | 2 Comments

Setting forth (#30DaysofDissertation)

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Setting forth she claims her magic, guided by faith and ritual.

This is the year I planned to finish my dissertation. I submitted my prospectus early this year, have done hundreds of pages of reading, and have collected 286 pages of my own writings for it. I also gradually built up 154 pages of original research thanks to the generous voices of sister priestesses in my Priestess Path study group on Facebook. And, now…nothing. I’ve just been waiting, hoping it was going to finish writing itself. Surely there is a dissertation in there somewhere amongst all those pages, right? RIGHT?!?!?!

I picturing nurturing my masterpiece into completion during the restful, dark, incubatory, gestational winter months. I imagined curling up into the cocoon of winter and then bursting forth with completed dissertation in hand. I didn’t count on fulfilling 360 orders on etsy during the month of November!

I posted on my personal facebook about my slim hope of still somehow finishing it before the end of the year and one of my friends, who finished her PhD quite a few years ago, suggested working on it for 15 minutes a day. This seems like a tiny and obvious suggestion, but it released something in me. I realized that this year I have participated in four 30 Days courses in which I made a blog post every single day (save Hecate, for which I still made more than 20 individual posts). Why wasn’t I steadily working on my dissertation during all of those days? I think if I spend a minimum of 15 minutes for the next 30 days working on my dissertation in some capacity, I can finish it. So, #30DaysofDissertation is born. I’m making a commitment to spend at least 15 minutes a day working on my dissertation for the next 30 days. That means it has to come first or at the very least, it can’t be left until last. Something else will have to slide underneath it in priority, because I can no longer continue to wait for the mythical perfect time that involves long stretches of uninterrupted, contemplative hours. Today, during the baby’s naptime I added 30 pages of text from my ritual kit books plus transcribed 2.5 past recordings from the woods, bringing my pages up to 308. Clearly, my most significant challenge is not going to be in not having enough information, it is going to be about wading through what I do have and shaping it into a coherent final form.

I can do this!

November 2015 079Side note: I’ve also been having fun making bookmarks out of our goddess greeting card bundle. If I can find time for bookmarks, I can find for daily dissertation work, amirite? You can get your goddess greeting card free bundle here: Come Join the Circle! – Brigid’s Grove

Categories: 30daysofdissertation, dissertation, practices, priestess, self-care, writing | 5 Comments

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