birth

Dogwood Song (#Earthprayer)

Standing on steep hillsides April 2016 016
Leaning from rocky patches of ground
Roots feeling deep in the dark
Searching for the nourishment
That is only possible in shadowed places
Raindrop blessing
Petal and leaf
Sunlight filtered through a canopy of oaks
Branches spreading graciously
A living love song
Strung through the woods like lace.

In my current Earthprayer class, I can’t stop talking about and sharing pictures of the dogwood trees, which are the current love song being sung by the Earth in my corner of the world.

April 2016 019We discovered one tree with pink tinged flowers for the first time near my tiny temple and then another in the woods by the driveway. I love how this same patch of land can continue to surprise me day after day, as long as I pay attention. I also love that the “grand show” goes on without me in countless ways, whether I notice it or not.

April 2016 008

 

Categories: art, birth, blessings, earthprayer, Flowers, nature, poems, sacred pause, seasons, theapoetics, woodspriestess | 1 Comment

Day 5: A Tarot Reading (#30DaysofHecate)

wheelThe wheel turns. Our youngest son is ONE today*. His pregnancy and birth was so closely aligned with the wheel of the year and my pregnancy with him was an incredibly generative time for our business (I wrote and published the Womanrunes book as well as sculpted more than twenty of our sculpture/pendant designs while pregnant with him!) I can hardly believe he is one now! Instead of leaping right into my to-do list when he was napping today, I sat with my cards and my Divination Practicum workbook. I’m really enjoying the many ways my own course dovetails with the prompts in the 30 Days of Hecate course. Today’s assignment was to do a tarot reading using Joanna’s “Elder of Fire” layout. I did it with the Gaian Tarot (of course!) and then with Womanrunes. I learned from both layouts and felt like doing this was just what I needed today. I’d been feeling scattered, drained, touched out, and stressed. The kids are all sick and we’ve been what feels like nonstop busy and I’ve been craving down time, solitude, and space to think. My list is a mile long, but I made space for this work first instead of saving it for the oft-elusive “later.” This Elder of Fire layout feels like a really, really powerful layout to do at this time of year and I encourage you to try it yourself this weekend! I was also very interested to see that the rune of the day for me today was The Cauldron and then The Cauldron was also the first card for my Elder spread. That is very Hecate-riffic.

1. Offering: What or who is dead or dying, that you need to honor?

2. Challenge: What task does the Elder of Fire ask of you?

3. Center: Where do you find your center of power?

4. Opening: What new sweetness is wafting in on the scent of burning herbs?

5. Wisdom: What secrets do the ancestors whisper to you this All Hallows Eve?

Source: Elder of Fire: A Tarot Spread for All Hallow’s Eve

The results of this layout for me were:

IMG_8818and combined with The Gaian Tarot:

IMG_8817

1. Offering: What or who is dead or dying, that you need to honor? The reversed Awakening tarot card indicates that what is “dying” is being controlling and rigid, unwilling to hear the call of spirit. The Cauldron reminds me that something is waiting to be stirred–to be brewed up–and that what is passing away is a time of confusion or not knowing.

2. Challenge: What task does the Elder of Fire ask of you? The Elder of Earth here asks me “to be deeply content within” while the Flying Woman serenades me with her call to action and transformation. Interestingly, I’d already inked her on my wrist this morning holding the Cauldron. Even more interesting is that the takeaway part of her message in the Womanrunes book is to spin, spin together in the dance of life. And…look what she is paired with…the Elder of Earth spinning on her wheel!

3. Center: Where do you find your center of power? This one was a little more confusing because The Canoe in the tarot is reversed, which doesn’t feel very center of power-y. However, I read the description and actually laughed because it says, “perhaps you are pushing too hard and have lost the pleasure of the project.” I have been complaining all week of feeling too pushy and like I’m “revving” too hard trying to keep up. So, The Canoe reminds me to paddle and float and steer with focus rather than drive, per se. I’m not surprised to see The Winged Circle show up here—I’ve been tight and closed in and need to remember to spread my wings and to shake things off, opening to possibility.

4. Opening: What new sweetness is wafting in on the scent of burning herbs? Justice showing up here makes sense too, reminding me of balance. So, what better pairing to balance out my sense of tight, driven pushiness than the Womanrunes card, The Yoni: Rune of Pleasure. This rune relates to creativity and joy. Yes, please.

5. Wisdom: What secrets do the ancestors whisper to you this All Hallows Eve? The Two of Air shows up here telling me to make time for silence and to listen to the whispers of my deep self. And, to “move at the pace of guidance.” In a funny, literal twist, something that I keep snapping about this work is that I need quiet. I crave silence, I have said multiple times over the last few days. The Rune of Prosperity shows up here, connecting beautifully to the tree imagery in the tarot card and whispering to me to rest and let sunlight kiss my branches.

After laying out the cards and journaling, I let myself page through the notes from my friends at my mother blessing last year as I prepared for my baby’s birth. It felt sweet and tender to allow myself that pleasure as I sit next to my napping now one year old boy, instead of immediately launching into my to-do’s, which is what nap time is usually reserved for (and indeed is usually the only sustained period of concentrated, creative energy I have in a day and even it is often fragmented by needing to pat his back or nurse him so he will continue napping).

My husband finished uploading Tanner’s birth video today in honor of his birthday. I know that not all of my followers here are interested in childbirth, but if you are, the video is here!

*Note: I keep saying “today” in this post because I started it on October 30th, which is the day it goes with. However, it isn’t actually publishing until the 31st, because it got really late before I could finish writing it!

Sign up for the Brigid’s Grove Newsletter for resources, monthly freebies, + art and workshop announcements.

Categories: #30daysofHecate, birth, blessings, divination, introversion, practices, readings, sacred pause, self-care, spirituality, Womanrunes, womanspirit | 1 Comment

Day 14: Forge (#30DaysofBrigid)

For me, the profound shaping event was the experience postpartum with my first baby. I have never had an experience that shaped me and impacted me and SHOOK me more profoundly than adjusting to life with my newborn son. That was my journey. That was my struggle. That was my challenge. That is what dissolved me and burned me into ashes and let me rise again as someone the same but also brand new—a mother. I was not “born” when my son was born, I was forged. Made, in the intense weeks that followed his birth.

The most important event shaping my life as a mother? | Talk Birth.

The above passage was written about the birth of my first child. Now, my fourth is three months old and I am still being forged. I find each new baby serves as a smith, prompting life changes in the crucible of parenthood. I am better aware now than I used to be about the swift passage of time and how quickly the baby-season of life passes and winds into something new. As such, I made some decisions today to postpone some of my ideas for 2015 into next year instead. I realized I need to underplan for this year and be pleasantly surprised by bonus pockets of time as they arise, rather than overplan as I chronically do and then be distressed and upset when my equilibrium and delicate balance of tasks for the day is thrown off by my little babysmith. In the sacred pause from 30 Days of Brigid today was a quote from a forthcoming book by Lunaea Weatherstone:

The blade is put through fire, hammered and shaped, then cooled in water. It is the repeated process of stressing and blessing — pushing to the next level of refinement — that creates an excellent blade, strong and flexible, able to withstand resistance.

I thought about it several times today as I thought about how I need to re-shape my life and my plans and expectations for this year. After some intense conversation with my husband today and a “Holy No” meditation in the woods, I realized that if I really tune and listen to what I want and need this year, I actually know exactly what to do.

Returning to the idea of being forged by motherhood as well as to today’s prompt, I share this photo of my brand new pendant cast by my husband after originally being sculpted in clay by me. In her belly is a placenta jewel made using one of the placenta capsules from my youngest baby’s birth.

IMG_0519May I continue to forge and be forged…

Categories: #30daysofBrigid, art, birth, family, parenting | Tags: | 2 Comments

Simple Full Moon Ceremony for a New Baby

IMG_8557On October 30th, I gave birth to a new baby boy. He was born at home in water, my fourth homebirth, but my first waterbirth (his birth story is available here). On the full moon of his one week “birthday,” we took him outside for the first time in his whole life–to meet the world, to feel the fresh, cool air, to be introduced to the moon and the Earth as a member of our family. Here is an outline of the very simple ceremony of welcome we held for him. While we did this with just our other children present, it could easily be expanded to include additional guests.

Each family member carries a candle outside into the full moon’s light.

Circle up, hands on each other’s backs, and hum in unison three times to cast the circle (this is our tradition in our local circle–the hum quite literally unifies and harmonizes our energy and centers us in time and space together. Very simple and effective).

Placing our hands on the new baby:

Welcome to the spinning world, baby boy!
(family repeats)

Welcome to the green Earth!
(family repeats)

We’re so glad you’re here!*
(family repeats)

Each family member chooses a piece of corn from a chalice and makes a wish aloud for the baby, tossing the corn into the moonlight. November 2014 066

(Our kids love tossing corn so we use this during many full moon rituals.)

Hold the baby out under the moonlight. (Our baby stared right at the moon with solemn, wide eyes.)

Join hands and say closing prayer:

May Goddess bless and keep us,
may wisdom dwell within us,
may we create peace.

November 2014 061
*Adapted from the children’s book On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier

Closing prayer adapted from unknown source.

Crossposted at SageWoman.

Categories: birth, blessings, family, night, parenting, priestess, ritual | 5 Comments

The Goddess of Willendorf and Does My Uterus Make Me Look Fat?

“Loving, knowing, and respecting our bodies is a powerful and invincible act of rebellion in this society.”
~ Inga Muscio

IMG_0222I do not remember the first time I ever saw her, but I do know that I have loved the Goddess (Venus) of Willendorf sculpture for many, many years now. I consider her almost a personal “totem.” I do not see her as a literal representation of a particular deity (though when someone uses the phrase, “Great Goddess” or “Great Mother,” she’s the figure I see!), I see her more as honoring the female form. I love that she is so full-figured and not “perfect” or beautiful. I like that she is not pregnant (there is some disagreement about this and many people do describe her as pregnant) and what I like best is that she is complete unto herself. She is a complete form–not just a headless pregnant belly–I just LOVE her. She represents this deep, ancient power to me.

In a past assignment for one of D.Min classes, I wrote:

I have a strong emotional connection to the Paleolithic and Neolithic figures. I do not find that I feel as personally connected to Egyptian and Greek and Roman Goddess imagery, but the ancient figures really speak to something powerful within me. I have a sculpture of the Goddess of Willendorf at a central point on my altar. Sometimes I hold her and wonder and muse about who carved the original. I almost feel a thread that reaches out and continues to connect us to that nearly lost past—all the culture and society and how very much we don’t know about early human history. There is such a solid power to these early figures and to me they speak of the numinous, non-personified, Great Goddess.

I know ancient goddess figures are commonly described as “fertility figures” or as pregnant, but most of the early sculptures do not actually appear pregnant to me, they appear simply full-figured. One of the things I love about the Willendorf Goddess is her air of self-possession. She is complete unto herself. She may be a fertile figure, but she is not clearly pregnant and she does not have a baby in her arms, which indicates that her value was not exclusively in the maternal role. Early goddess figurines are usually portrayed alone, it is only later that we see the addition of the son/baby figure at the mother’s breast or in arms. The earliest figures seem independent of specifically maternal imagery, it is later that we begin to see Goddess defined in relationship to children or as exclusively maternal. I think this reflects a shift that women continue to struggle with today (in Goddess religion as well as personal life) with the mother role see as exhaustive or exclusive. In contemporary society, the only mainstream representation of the Goddess that manages to survive under public recognition is the Madonna and Child and here, not only has Goddess been completely subsumed by her offspring, but she is no longer even recognized as truly divine.

This image has been a potent affirmation for me many times in my life. One Mother’s Day, my then four-year-old son found a IMG_0636little green aventurine Goddess of Willendorf at a local rock shop: “We have GOT to get this for Mom!” he told my husband and they surprised me with it that afternoon. It still makes me get a little teary to look at it, because it was such a beautiful moment of feeling seen by my little child.  When I found out I was pregnant for the third time, my husband surprised me with a beautiful, large Goddess of Willendorf pendant. I was holding onto that pendant during the ultrasound that told us that our third son no longer had a heartbeat and during my labor with my little non-living baby, I wore and held onto the pendant. It went with me to the emergency room and I could feel its solid, reassuring weight against my chest when dressed in just a hospital gown and receiving IV fluids as blood continued to come from me as my body said goodbye to my baby. I buried a goddess of willendorf bead with my baby’s body and put a matching one on his memorial necklace.

100_2269On Mother’s Day the following year, right after finding out I was pregnant with my rainbow baby girl, my husband gave me a beautiful new Goddess of Willendorf ring. I was little scared to wear it, because what if she too, became a sad reminder of a pregnancy lost (I have only worn the pendant again a tiny handful of times since the miscarriage-birth experience, even though I took a lot of comfort in it during that time), but wear it I did up to and through the moment when I caught my sweet little living girl in my own grateful, be-ringed hands.

The website that he bought the ring from went down shortly after and I’d not ever seen another ring like it for sale. However, I signed up to become a retailer for Wellstone Jewelry in 2011. While on the phone making an order, I requested one of their Venus of Lespugue pendants. The woman on the phone told me, “we don’t sell very many of those. She seems to make people uncomfortable. In fact, we used to make a ring too. A venus of willendorf ring, but no one ever wanted her. I think because 1057she is ‘too fat’ and she makes people feel weird.” Oh my goodness, I replied, I think I have one of your rings! I emailed her a picture of my hand and sure enough, though discontinued now, I’d coincidentally gotten one of the last ones ever made. She said they could get the mold out of storage and make some more custom rings just for me. Since I’m a business genius (what? You said they never sold? Sign me up for a dozen!), I immediately said yes and she shipped me several beautiful Goddess of Willendorf rings, which I then sold to several friends. (I still have two left if anyone wants to buy one! I would wear them all if I had enough fingers. My favorite ring ever!)

What does this have to do with my uterus making me look fat? Well, I’ve had the experience of wearing this ring and having another woman, a wonderful, peaceful, healer of a woman, laugh at it, like it was a joke ring. My mom sold a pottery sculpture version of the Willendorf to a man at our craft workshop and he laughed at her too saying, “this is hilarious.” Hilarious? Because she is fat, I guess? Several years ago, I read a post online titled Does My Uterus Make Me Look Fat? and I thought of my beloved Goddess of Willendorf, She of the Ample Uterus. While I can no longer locate the article itself and the post I had linked to in my drafts folder takes me to a re-direct site, I remember the article talking about how even pre-teen girls have a slight swell to their bellies. The author of the post was like, “duh, a flat belly IS NEVER POSSIBLE. THERE IS A UTERUS IN THERE.” When I read it, I thought about the jewelry woman’s comments about women not liking the goddess of willendorf ring because she is too fat. And, I saved a couple of quotes, the first two from the Our Bodies edition of Sage Woman magazine (Spring, 1996):

“…so it has been: women’s power has declined as woman’s belly has been violated and shamed…5,000 years of patriarchal culture has degraded belly, body, woman, the sacred feminine, the soul, the feminine sensibility in both women and men, native peoples, and nature–all in a single process of devaluation. Because our belly is the bodily site of feminine sensibility, our patriarchal culture marks the belly as a target of assault, through rape, unnecessary hysterectomies and Cesarians [sic], reproductive technology, legal restrictions on women’s authority in pregnancy and childbirth, and belly-belittling fashions, exercise regimens, and diet schemes…a culture that literally hates women’s guts…” –Lisa Sarasohn, The Goddess Ungirdled

“Our bodies are vessels of the sacred, not the homes of sinful urges. Our bodies create and sustain the sacred. And that sacredness does not equate with any artificial notion of bodily perfection. All of us are fit habitations for the divine, no matter what the diet doctors, fitness gurus, health good fanatics, New Age healers, and the fashion police try to force on us. If we don’t take our bodies into account in our expression of [our religion], then it becomes a mere shadow of itself. When we are fully present in our bodies [women’s religion] becomes a three-dimensional, vibrant, fully fleshed-out expression of the divine…” –DeAnna Alba in How to Flesh Our Your Magick

And, perhaps from the original Does My Uterus Make Me Look Fat article, I had this quote saved as well that addresses the “love your body,” rhetoric so often expressed, including, I suppose, in even the quote I chose to open this post:

“the fact that “love your body” rhetoric shifts the responsibility for body acceptance over to the individual, and away from communities, institutions, and power, is also problematic. individuals who do not love their bodies, who find their bodies difficult to love, are seen as being part of the problem. the underlying assumption is that if we all loved our bodies just as they are, our fat-shaming, beauty-policing culture would be different. if we don’t love our bodies, we are, in effect, perpetuating normative (read: impossible) beauty standards. if we don’t love our individual bodies, we are at fault for collectively continuing the oppressive and misogynistic culture. if you don’t love your body, you’re not trying hard enough to love it. in this framework, your body is still the paramount focus, and one way or another, you’re failing. it’s too close to the usual body-shaming, self-policing crap, albeit with a few quasi-feminist twists, for comfort.”

–saved from this post

March 2014 023
Even though I am a goddess sculptor myself, I have never been able to make my own version of the Goddess of Willendorf that satisfied me. I tried polymer clay, I tried pottery clay, I tried making my husband make one for me. None of them were right. Finally, just this month, my husband said, why don’t you make one, but using your own style? This was an ah ha moment for me and guess what, it worked! I successfully used the same technique and structure I use for all of my sculptures, but with a Willendorf-style-twist and I finally made my own sculpture that I’m really proud of. My husband made a mold and cast her in pewter and I’m wearing her right now. Her uterus might make her look fat, but to me, she is one of the most powerfully affirming images of womanhood I have ever encountered and there is nothing funny about her.

        “Your body is your own. This may seem obvious. But to inhabit your physical self fully, with no apology, is a true act of power.”

–Camille Maurine (Meditation Secrets for Women)

March 2014 022  March 2014 038

Crossposted at Talk Birth

Categories: art, birth, Goddess, pregnancy loss, sculpture, spirituality, womanspirit | 19 Comments

Birth mama, birth goddess

Earlier this month, I finished a new sculpt for a medium-sized version of our classic birth goddess pendant and my husband cast and finished some of them this week. On Tuesday, I woke up with a phrase from a past piece of poetry floating through my mind over and over:

Soft belly January 2014 088
no longer bearing children
I am pregnant with myself
ripe with potential,
possibility, power
I incubate my dreams
and give birth to my vision…

I also thought about what I hope to communicate to others through my sculptures and when I took the new pendant down to the woods with me, a little song emerged to go with her:

Birth mama
birth goddess

reaching out
to join the circle of mothers

feeling her way
finding her place
in the web of women

Birth mama January 2014 050
birth goddess

hold strong
hold steady

make way for baby
make way for baby

Body opens
heart opens
hands open to receive

Birth mama
birth goddess

she’s finding her way
she’s finding her way…

Categories: art, birth, blessings, poems, sculpture, theapoetics, woodspriestess | 3 Comments

Self-Improvement

So, two days ago I wrote about giving up the idea of personal perfection and yesterday I mentioned enjoying how the internet “smallens” the world. One of those smallening experiences is the opportunity to be Facebook friends with authors I admire and one of those authors is Jennifer Louden. She is one of my all-time favorite writers and I have her books—The Pregnant Woman’s Comfort Book, The Women’s Comfort Book, The Couples’ Comfort Book, The Women’s Retreat Book, and The Life Organizer (new paperbook edition and digital support kit is available now). I’ve read her books for years and return to them often—she has a unique ability to not be a self-help author, while still being helpful and about working with the self. I’m planning to work through The Life Organizer again beginning in January (I did it in 2008 and actually kept it up the entire year). Jen has always seemed real to me. Approachable. Authentic. Not fake or gimmicky at all. I don’t get the “sales” feeling from her, nor do I get a glitzed-up perfection image. And, though she writes about spiritual topics, I detect no touch of what I would semi-meanly call “shaman chic,” which is a surefire way to rub me the wrong way. Anyway, we’re Facebook friends and I comment at various times on her status updates, a recent one being:

“Be willing to look at your own life and want more for yourself without beating yourself up or making it about another self-improvement plan.”

Ooh! Such a good tip and yet one I wasn’t sure I could actually figure out. So, I commented to that effect: “I joke that I’m tired of my life being one long self-improvement project. However, I also want to reach my own potential!” She said she’d write a blog post for me and today, she did. See. World, smallened. So cool. While I perhaps didn’t explain myself in full—what I think I really meant when I used the word “potential” in my comment was that, “I worry about whether ‘self-acceptance’ can be a sort of a screen for hiding behind or an excuse for ‘giving up’ and not fully developing yourself”—I still loved and learned from the insights she offered in this post, especially this:

Your potential isn’t something to be reached, it’s something to be trusted. 

After I read her post with a couple of tears prickling in my eyes, I shared my done-with-perfection spontaneous woodsvision with her. I didn’t write about it here on the December 2013 040day it happened because I didn’t feel like I had enough time and besides it was kind of…weird.

I saw that this perfection thing was a white worm that was wrapped around my heart and also curved into the grooves of my brain. Sitting there on the rock in the woods, I unwound it. Pulled it out. It was long and ropy and invasive. I held it out in open hands and it floated off down the hill, dissolving into a million sparkles in the sunshine until I couldn’t see it any longer.

I felt lighter after this and like I really was, truly done. I don’t need that wormy thing any more. I had the same sense of certainty about being done with apologizing for things as well. Hope it really lasts!

Today, my woodstask was actually taking new pictures for our updated listings on etsy. See, sometimes there are visions, sometimes there are poems, and sometimes there is business. I love how the same space has born witness to it all over the course of the year.  I feel like I both bear witness and am witnessed there in that same space. Earlier in the day I’d been thinking, again, about my dissertation. In shifting my thesis topic to my woodspriestess experiment, I feel more confident that I have something original to offer. It is an offering of myself and my own experiences—and a personal process of spiritual inquiry that I hope can be of some benefit to others. With birth as the focus of my dissertation, while I might have 200+ pages of notes and over ten years worth of reading, writing, and thinking, I’m not sure I have anything new to offer. However, looking at my sculptures, I felt a renewed sense of confidence that this is actually what I have to say that is new. These figures are my language and my lessons, the symbols of what I’ve learned, how I’ve grown, and what matters to me. I’d already decided to “frame” my thesis in the context of my sculptures and I feel somewhat confident that I can draw that over to my dissertation and use a sculptural framework for my narrative as well… etsyheader

P.S. I also decided that I’m not going to waste my energy fretting over literally getting my daily post published by midnight. When I say “today,” I’m not talking about the day we’ve technically just slipped over into. I’m talking about what happened before I stayed up past midnight and finished this post!
Categories: art, birth, books, self-care, woodspriestess | Leave a comment

Thesis Project

Here is your sacrament MR_089
Take. Eat. this is my body
this is real milk, thin, sweet, bluish,
which I give for the life of the world…
Here is your bread of life.
Here is the blood by which you live in me.”
–Robin Morgan (in Life Prayers, p. 148)

“…When I say painless, please understand, I don’t mean you will not feel anything. What you will feel is a lot of pressure; you will feel the might of creation move through you…” – Giuditta Tornetta in Painless Childbirth

“I am the holy mother; . . . She is not so far from me. And perhaps She is not so very distinct from me, either. I am her child, born in Her, living and moving in Her, perhaps at death to be birthed into yet some other new life, still living and having my being in Her. But while on this earth She and I share the act of creation, of being, and Motherhood.”Niki Whiting, “On Being a Holy Mother” in Whedon

“Woman-to-woman help through the rites of passage that are important in every birth has significance not only for the individuals directly involved, but for the whole community. The task in which the women are engaged is political. It forms the warp and weft of society.” –Sheila Kitzinger

In 2011, I started working on my doctoral degree in thealogy (Goddess studies). Before I even began my first class, I chose my dissertation subject: birth as a spiritual experience. I’ve been steadily plugging away on my coursework and somehow in the midst of everything else that I am responsible for, I’ve successfully completed 13 of my classes. I already have a (not related) master’s degree and this is why I was admitted straight into the doctoral program, even though I have to complete a lot of M.Div (master’s of divinity) level coursework as prerequisites to the actual doctoral classes. After I finished my most recent class and got my updated transcript, I finally actually noticed how many M.Div classes I’ve completed thus far on my journey and it occurred to me to email to inquire what it would take to finish an M.Div degree first. I had this sudden feeling of what a nice stepping stone or milestone experience it would be to finish something, since I know that I have a minimum of three more years remaining before I complete the D.Min! They wrote back quickly and let me know that with the completion of three courses in matriarchal myth (I’m halfway through the first right now), my almost-completed year-long class in Compassion (I’m in month 11), and The Role of the Priestess course (involving three ten-page papers), all of which are also part of my doctoral program, the only other thing required for successful completion of my M.Div would be a thesis (minimum of 70 pages).

As I’ve been working through my classes, I’ve felt a gradual shift in what I want to focus on for my dissertation, and I already decided to switch to writing about theapoetics and ecopsychology now, rather than strictly about birth. I was planning to mash my previous ideas about birth and a “thealogy of the body” into this new topic somehow, perhaps: theapoetics, ecopsychology, and embodied thealogy. Then, when I got the news about the option of writing a thesis and finishing my M.Div, it became clear to me: my thesis subject is birth as a spiritual experience! This allows me to use the ideas and information I’d already been collecting as dissertation “seeds” as a thesis instead and frees me up to explore and develop my more original ideas about theapoetics for my dissertation! So…why post about this now? Well, one because I’m super excited about all this and just wanted to share and two, because I’d love to hear from readers about their experiences with birth as a spiritual experience! While I don’t have to do the kind of independent research for a thesis that I will be doing for my dissertation and while my focus is unabashedly situated within a feminist context and a thealogical orientation, I would love to be informed by a diverse chorus of voices regarding this topic so that the project becomes an interfaith dialog. Luckily for me I’ve already reviewed a series of relevant titles.

Now, I’d like to hear from you. What are your experiences with the spirituality of birth? Do you consider birth to be a spiritual experience? Did you have any spiritual revelations or encounters during your births or any other events along your reproductive timeline? (miscarriage, menstruation, lactation…) Did you draw upon spiritual coping measures or resources as you labored and gave birth? Did giving birth deepen, expand, or otherwise impact your sense of spirituality or your sense of yourself as a spiritual or religious person? Did any of your reproductive experiences open your understanding of spirituality in a way that you had not previously experienced or reveal beliefs or understandings not previously uncovered?

When I use the word “spiritual,” I mean a range of experiences from a humanistic sensation of being linked to women around the world from all times and spaces while giving birth, to a “generic” sense of feeling the “might of creation” move through you, to a sense of non-specifically-labeled powers of Life and Universe being spun into being through your body, to feeling like a “birth goddess” as you pushed out your baby, to more traditional religious expressions of praying during labor, or drawing upon scripture as a coping measure, or feeling that giving birth brought you closer to the God of your understanding/religion, or, indeed, meeting God/dess or Divinity during labor and birth).  I’m particularly interested in women’s embodied experiences of creation and whether or not your previous religious beliefs or spiritual understandings in life affirmed, acknowledged, or encouraged your body and bodily experience of giving birth as sacred and valuable as well as your own sense of yourself as spiritually connected or supported while giving birth. I would appreciate links to birth stories or articles that you found helpful, books you enjoyed or connected with, and comments relating to your own personal experiences with any of the comments or questions I have raised above. I would love to hear about your thoughts as they relate to:

  • Pregnancy IMG_0225
  • Labor
  • Birthing
  • Lactation
  • Miscarriage
  • Infertility
  • Menstruation
  • Reproductive Rights
  • Birth as a feminist or social justice issue…

 Thank you!

With these things said, I also want to mention that I’m planning to redirect a lot of my writing energy/time into this thesis project rather than to blog posts. I’m trying to come up with a blog posting schedule for myself, but in order to actually do this thing, I must acknowledge that I have to re-prioritize some things and that means writing for my blogs probably needs to slip down a couple of notches in terms of priority of focus.

Oh, and I also hope this thesis project will turn into a book of some kind as well! 🙂

“It is hard to find a female-based concept such as Shakti alive within Western spiritual traditions. Shakti could be viewed as an expression of goddess in the female body at the time of birth. I would say its flow / expression and outcome of love is hindered by unnecessary interventions at birth which divert such energy towards fear- based, masculine forms. The use of masculine, rescue-based healing forms such as cutting (Grahn, 1993) can be necessary and useful, yet such procedures are currently used at the cost of women’s autonomy in the birthing process (see Jordan on C-section, 2007), and define the parameters of what feminist thinker Mary Daly called patriarchal medicine (1978). Modern women are largely lost when it comes to giving birth, turning to medical authority figures to be told what to do. Daly pointed to the dangers of this appropriation for women’s personal and collective autonomy.

Birthing bodies resist, disrupt and threaten standard North American modernist investments in linear time, rationality, order, and objectivity. Birth disrupts the Judeo-Christian male image of God, even as He hides the reality of female creation and creativity. I hold that women giving birth act from a focal point of power within their respective cultures and locations, the power to generate and renew human life itself from within the female body. This power is more absolute in its human reality then any other culturally sanctioned act of replication and material production, or social construction. I speculate that how this female power is expressed, denied, or acknowledged by women and within the society around a birthing woman reflects the degree to which women can and may express themselves at large. As each soul makes the journey through her/his mother, re-centring human consciousness within the female-based reality of human birth causes transformation of patriarchal consciousness as a whole…” –Nane Jordan, Towards an Ontology of Women Giving Birth

This post is crossposted at Talk Birth

Categories: birth, embodiment, feminism, feminist thealogy, Goddess, OSC, spirituality, thealogy, thesis, womanspirit, writing | 8 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.