books

Cave (prayer and meditation)

“Only in the deepest silence of night

the stars smile and whisper among themselves.”

–Rabindranath Tagore (quoted in Dear Heart, Come Home page 52)

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Nearly full-moon over model Stonehenge last night.

I know it is summertime and that we’ve just passed the summer solstice. It is also the full moon—bright, full of promise, energy, and enthusiasm. The time for descent, and retreat, and rest, and cocooning is not yet upon us. Regardless, I remain in the mood to wrap up, wind down, finish up. I’m having a new baby in October and I feel a powerful, powerful call to finish all kinds of things so I can fully greet him. One of my projects is evaluating and reducing my book collection. As I do so, I find odds and ends I’d marked to write about or remember. Rather than storing the whole book, it makes sense to me to save the one or two pages I’d marked instead. So, despite the incongruency with the time of year, I’d like to share this prayer and meditation exercise I saved from the book Dear Heart, Come Home: The Path of Midlife Spirituality by Joyce Rupp (now up for grabs in my giveaway box if anyone local wants it for free!). I think it would be a perfect reading and brief meditation to use during a late fall or winter ceremony…

A Prayer for the Cave Time

Guardian of my soul, thank you,

for guiding me in the dark places,

for reaching me through the people of my life,

for drawing near to love me when I feel unlovable,

for teaching me how to tend my wounds,

for guarding me with words of truth

and moments of empowerment,

for allowing my pain and struggle

so that I can come to greater wholeness.

Guardian of my soul,

you are my Coach in the Cave,

my Voice in the Fog

my Midwife of Wisdom.

I place my trust in you

as I give myself to the process

of learning from my darkness.

–Joyce Rupp (page 53, Dear Heart, Come Home)

Because I’m feeling on the lazy side, I did not transcribe the meditation, I took a picture of the page instead (page 183).

cave meditation

There are some associated journaling and discussion questions about the cave of darkness in your own life as well (slightly modified/edited from page 51-52):

  1. Have you experienced a significant time of darkness? What was it like for you?
  2. What do you most resist about the cave of darkness?
  3. Do you care for yourself when you are in darkness? (If so, how?)
  4. What gives you the courage to go on?
  5. How has darkness been a teacher for you?

For more about endarkenment see my previous essay here:

…In fact, what if the Goddess Herself is found in the dark? Judith Laura writing about dark matter in the cosmos writes, “might we call this ‘unseen force’ Goddess? Dark matter could be identified with the womb of the Mother, continually gestating particles, suns, galaxies, which flow from her in a continual stream…Dark matter might also be represented as the Crone aspect of the Goddess—dark and powerful…”

via Endarkenment

Remember to listen to the night wind woman and her talkative silence: June 2014 017

Listen to what is walking here
tiptoeing through your dreams
knocking at the door of your unconscious mind
whispering from shadows
calling from the full moon
twinkling in the stars
carried by the night wind woman
rising at sunset
peeking out
in tentative
yet persistent purpose.

Listen to the call
trust the talkative silence…

via Womanrunes: The Crescent Moon | WoodsPriestess.

 

Categories: books, endarkenment, GGG, nature, night, prayers, readings, resources, retreat, ritual, seasons, spirituality, thealogy, theapoetics, womanspirit | Leave a comment

100 Things List!

As part of Leonie Dawson’s Amazing Year workbook, I wrote a list of 100 things to do in 2014.  My blog has been quiet lately, but that doesn’t actually mean I have been! A lot of the energy previously used for blogging has been diverted into other exciting projects on my 100 Things list. 🙂 I finished my second free gift offering for newsletter subscribers at Brigid’s Grove (if you aren’t signed up yet, fill in your email on the right hand side of the screen at the BG website and you will receive the free book within 24 hours). This freebie is a 56 page book of earth-based poetry. Most of the poems were originally published on this blog, but there are several released only in this book (so far) including a re-write of Psalm 23 (which somehow felt too “risky” for me to put online before now, even though I wrote it almost two years ago!)

May 2014 078We’re also offering a spring giveaway of one of our new healing hands pendants AND also a 10% off discount code for our etsy shop (2014SPRING10OFF).

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“…Medicine Woman reminds you

to sleep when you’re tired

to eat when you’re hungry

to drink when you’re thirsty

and to dance

just because.

Medicine Woman

let her bind up your wounds

apply balm to your soul

and hold you

against her shoulder

when you need to cry.

Medicine Woman

Earth healer

she’s ready to embrace you…”

via Woodspriestess: Medicine Woman

Even more exciting from a personal perspective is that I actually finished writing my thesis. Yes, after all my many days of joking, “Oops! I didn’t write my thesis today!” I suddenly really did write it. I had more done than I thought and all I needed was some class-free, focused writing time (my spring school session ended this past Saturday) to get it to a finished position. It might be a first draft if significant revisions are requested/needed (the format is somewhat non-traditional), but I’m hopeful it might be a last draft too! I’ve been working on my D.Min since 2011. I realized last year that I had almost the right credits to do an M.Div first (since my existing master’s degree is in social work instead, I had to take a LOT of M.Div classes as part of the D.Min program), I just had to add a thesis and a couple of classes to the work I’d already done. So, I call it a “pitstop,” because I don’t really need to do it and I’m actually working on something else, but…here I go! I also found out recently that I really only have three D.Min classes and my dissertation left. I’m giving it at least another year on the dissertation though. When I started the thesis idea, I had more like eight classes left, so it seemed like further away and “might as well.” After two partial starts and two different prospectuses submitted, I switched gears again and I actually used my Earthprayer book above as the basic frame or structure for the thesis. I’d been attempting to work with a 400-page Woodspriestess document and then I realized it was way too much. The Earthprayer book had ended up being a distillation of some basic themes from my year in the woods and I thought, “ah ha! I’ve accidentally been working on my thesis without knowing it!” I developed it with articles and essays and my theory and process of theapoesis and magically I produced 84 pages and 26,000 words! (My thesis handbook says it should be 80 pages and 25,000 words. Go, me!)

I also booked an official screening of the Red Tent Movie: Things We Don’t Talk About. It will be held in Rolla on August 2nd and it is the first ever screening of this film in Missouri! Before I booked it, a friend surprised me with this lovely little Red Moon painting and said it was for me to use in my eventual Red Tent. I felt motivated after getting it and booked the screening the next morning.

May 2014 005After doing this and apparently feeling the freedom of being off for the next two weeks, I took advantage of her full moon special and somewhat impulsively decided to sign up for the Chrysalis Woman circle leader program! This was on my Leonie Dawson 100 Things list with a question mark. Now, it is a question mark no more because I signed up and paid…hope it was a good idea! I’ve only downloaded the manuals and listened to the first week’s materials so far, but I really like it. It feels very thorough and comprehensive and feels like a good value for the discounted price it was being offered for. I’m still a little surprised at myself that I did it though!

Categories: books, OSC, poems, theapoetics, thesis, writing | 1 Comment

Book Review: Goddess Calling

 goddesscalling“Any woman who has birthed or raised a child, had a book published, started an organization, manifested a temple – they all know the strength, courage and determination women possess…”

–Karen Tate, Goddess Calling

I’ve been a huge fan of Karen Tate’s radio show Voices of the Sacred Feminine for several years. The voice of Karen and her versatile, diverse, talented, inspirational guests keep me company every week on my commute to teach at a military base.

Goddess Calling sounds just like Karen. I could hear her voice in my head throughout the many essays compiled in this book. Readers familiar with her radio show will recognize content, themes, and quotes as they appear sprinkled through the text.

There are two features that set this book apart from many of its other modern counterparts: first, the explicit recognition and discussion of the connection between the personal and political. Goddess is more than a nice idea or a friendly, beautiful archetype, she can transform the world. Second, the third section of the book contains a nice selection of guided meditation exercises, perfect for use with groups. So, Goddess Calling is beneficial both to the solitary Goddess woman, helping to contextualize their personal, private experiences with cultural, political, and social realities, and for the ritual priestess as she seeks to plan services, retreats, or programs for members of the community.

But I’m not just talking about politics. I’m talking about stretching ourselves, challenging ourselves, trying to accomplish things we might feel are a bit beyond us. It is a journey of becoming and of growing we all must take, and we cannot be afraid of the journey. It’s the journey that steels us. It is the trying,the praying, the stumbling and picking yourself back up, the seeking, the very act of doing that staves off fear and fills us with hope. The destination doesn’t necessarily hold the reward. The reward comes from that which has been gleaned from the journey. The destination is just where you take a deep breath,reflect and relax after the journey has molded you. It’s where we take a respite before beginning again to meet the next challenge or climb the next mountain.

–Karen Tate (Goddess Calling, p. 109)

Goddess Calling is available from Karen’s website, from Changemakers Books, by request from your local bookstore, and from Amazon.

Related posts:

Top Thirteen Most Influential People in Goddess Spirituality

She did what she could….

Do Women’s Circles Actually Matter?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary pdf version of the book for review purposes.

 

Categories: books, feminist thealogy, Goddess, readings, reviews, spirituality, thealogy | 2 Comments

International Women’s Day: Re-storying the world

I remain firmly convinced of the power of story. Story shapes our world. And, reality is socially constructed in an active process of storying and re-storying.

 “The universe of made of stories, not of atoms.” –Muriel Rukeyser

“Power consists to a large extent in deciding what stories will be told.” –Carolyn Heilbrun

Last spring, I wrote a poem called Body Prayer and was very pleased when Trista Hendren, author of the children’s book The Girl God, wrote to ask permission to reprint it in her new book: Mother Earth. I received my copy of the book last month and wanted to offer a mini-review of it today, International Women’s Day, because as Trista says, it is “a beautiful tribute to the world’s first ‘woman.’” Mother Earth is theoretically a children’s book, but it offers an important message and call to action to all world citizens. Along the top of the pages is a story, written as a narrative experience between Trista and her daughter Helani, about the (human) mother’s need to rest. The story evolves into a message about the Earth and the care and rest she is crying out for. Each page features a large illustration and below the illustration is a relevant spiritual quote, poem, prayer, or message.

…Breathing deep
stretching out
opening wide.
My body is my altar
my body is my temple
my living presence on this earth my prayer.
Thank you. –Woodspriestess: Body Prayer

International Women’s Day is a political event, not just another Hallmark holiday.

International Women’s Day is not about Hallmark. It’s not about chocolate. (Thought I know many women who won’t turn those down.) It’s about politics, institutions, economics, racism…. As is the case with Mother’s Day and many other holidays, today we are presented with a sanitized, deodorized, nationalized, commoditized version of what were initially radical holidays to emphasize social justice. Initially, International Women’s Day was called International Working Women’s Day. Yes, every woman is a working woman. Yes, there is no task harder perhaps than raising a child, for a father and a mother. But let us remember that the initial impetus of this International Working Women’s Day was to address the institutional, systematic, political, and economic obstacles that women faced in society. via How we miss the point of International Women’s Day–and how to get it right. | What Would Muhammad Do?.

Now is the time to focus on a new story for women.

While the matriarchal myth has been critiqued and attacked from an anthropological and sociological perspective, I think it has important value—it doesn’t have to be true or verifiable to have a potent impact on society. The very fact that people feel that the matriarchal story is a myth that needs to be “debunked” to me is proof of the mythic power of our old, patriarchal story on current culture. Earlier this year I finished reading Reid-Bown’s book Goddess as Nature and he says this: “What is significant, however, is that the matriarchy thesis has considerable mythopoetic value for the Goddess movement: it affirms that the world was not always distorted by patriarchy, it contributes moral meaning to the state of the world today, and it aids in an imaginative revisioning of a better goddess-centred future” (p. 18). The power of the matriarchal story—myth or fact—is in the assertion that the world CAN be different. Patriarchy and war are not the “just way its always been,” or a “more evolved” society, or the only possibility for the future. The matriarchal myth opens up the door for a new FUTURE story, not just a revisionist look at the past. via Thursday Thealogy: Matriarchal Myth or a New Story? | WoodsPriestess.

As I’ve previously written, the primary function of value of a matriarchal myth is that patriarchy is no longer the only story we’ve known. An alternate past gives hope for an alternate future.

“Stories are medicine…They have such power; they do not require that we do, be, act anything—we need only listen. The remedies for repair or reclamation of any lost psychic drive are contained in stories.” –Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Stories ARE power and that is why a feminist, matristic, Goddess-oriented narrative has value, regardless of whether it is myth or fact. As we know too well, the victors write the history books—they get to tell the stories and those stories, logically, may involve significant distortion of the facts of the past.

In a quote from iconic author and physician Christiane Northrup, she addresses the subjugation of female power through body control: “…if you want to know where a woman’s true power lies, look to those primal experiences we’ve been taught to fear…the very same experiences the culture has taught us to distance ourselves from as much as possible, often by medicalizing them so that we are barely conscious of them anymore. Labor and birth rank right up there as experiences that put women in touch with their feminine power…” And, from Glenys Livingstone: “It is not female biology that has betrayed the female…it is the stories and myths we have come to believe about ourselves.” We also find a connection in Carol Christ’s explanation that: Women’s stories have not been told. And without stories there is no articulation of experience. Without stories a woman is lost when she comes to make the important decisions of her life. She does not learn to value her struggles, to celebrate her strengths, to comprehend her pain. Without stories she cannot understand herself. Without stories she is alienated from those deeper experiences of self and world that have been called spiritual or religious. She is closed in silence. The expression of women’s spiritual quest is integrally related to the telling of women’s stories. If women’s stories are not told, the depth of women’s souls will not be known” (p. 341. Emphasis mine).

“Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth–penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.” ― Joseph Campbell

In The Chalice and the Blade Eisler explains, essentially, the re-storying of culture, society, and world and feminist spirituality and seeks to “re-story” dominant, patriarchal narratives into that which is woman-honoring and affirming. According to Eisler, the triumph of the dominator culture involved “fundamental changes in replicative information” (p. 83). In short, a complete cultural overhaul and literal “reprogramming” of culture and the human minds within it. This reprogramming involved coercion, destruction, forcefulness, and fear.

“The priests who now spread what they said was the divine Word—the Word of God that had magically been communicated to them—were backed up by armies, courts of law, and executioners. But their ultimate backup was not temporal, but spiritual. Their most powerful weapons were the ‘sacred’ stories, rituals, and priestly edicts through which they systematically inculcated in peoples’ minds the fear of terrible, remote, and ‘inscrutable’ deities. For people had to be taught to obey the deities…who now arbitrarily exercised powers of life and death in the most cruel, unjust, and capricious ways, to this day still often explained as ‘the will of God.’ Even today people still learn from ‘sacred’ stories what is good or evil, what should be imitated or abhorred, and what should be accepted as divinely ordained, not only by oneself but by all others. Through ceremonies and rituals, people also partake in these stories. As a result, the values there expressed penetrate into the deepest recesses of the mind, where, even in our time, they are guarded as hallowed and immutable truths” (p. 84).

For me, Goddess religion and spirituality is as much about sociocultural valuation (or devaluation) of women and making a feminist political statement, as it is about lived experience. Both are very valuable to me. We need to hear women’s stories. We need to hear each other into speech. We need to witness and be witnessed. We need to be heard.

“…If all the women of the world February 2014 039 recorded their dreams for a single week and laid them all end to end, we would recover the last million years of women’s hymns and chants and dances, all of women’s art and stories, and medicines, all of women’s lost histories… ~ Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

“The one who tells the stories rules the world.” –Hopi Indian Proverb

“We feel nameless and empty when we forget our stories, leave our heroes unsung, and ignore the rites of our passage from one stage of life to another.” –Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox

 “As long as women are isolated one from the other, not allowed to offer other women the most personal accounts of their lives, they will not be part of any narratives of their own…women will be staving off destiny and not inviting or inventing or controlling it.” –Carolyn Heilbrun quoted in Sacred Circles

Telling our stories is one way we become more aware of just what ‘the river’ of our lives is. Listening to ourselves speak, without interruption, correction, or even flattering comments, we may truly hear, perhaps for the first time, some new meaning in a once painful, confusing situation. We may, quite suddenly, see how this even or relationship we are in relates to many others in our past. We may receive a flash of insight, a lesson long unlearned, a glimpse of understanding. And, as the quiet, focused compassion for us pervades the room, perhaps our own hearts open, even slightly, towards ourselves.

–Robin Deen Carnes & Sally Craig in Sacred Circles

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Categories: books, feminism, feminist thealogy, Goddess, poems, prayers, quotes, readings, spirituality, thealogy, womanspirit, women, writing | 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

Calling the Circle: Circles

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My sister at Moonstone Beach in California

Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle.

The sky is round, and I have heard that the

earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars.

The wind, in its greatest power, whirls.

Birds make their nests in circles,

for theirs is the same religion as ours.

The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle.

The moon does the same, and both are round.

Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing,

and always come back again to where they were

The life of a [person] is a circle from childhood to childhood

and so it is in everything where power moves.

–Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks  (quoted in Calling the Circle)

One of the books I got for my birthday this year was Calling the Circle by Christina Baldwin. A lot of the concepts from this book were very familiar, not only from the group dynamics material in my clergy classes, but also from the classes that I teach in working with groups and working with communities. That said, sometimes it is hard to actually remember and use the principles of working effectively with people in real life, no matter how familiar I am with the concepts and principles in the academic sense. Rather than type a bunch of quotes up together into one post, I decided to run a series of posts over the next couples of weeks, each highlighting something I enjoyed from this book. The first was early in the book and caught my eye because after my grandmother’s death, one of my friends received a message to pass on to my mom that was, “remember the circles.” So, reading this passage felt like a continuation of that message. 🙂

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Beach rocks at Moonstone Beach in California.

Categories: books, spirituality, women's circle | 4 Comments

Top Thirteen Most Influential People in Goddess Spirituality

Earlier this month I was very interested to see a series of posts on Raise the Horns about the top 25 most influential people in the birth of paganism. When I read Mankey’s post, it reinforced my own conception of Goddess spirituality as having a distinctly different lineage and flavor than much of contemporary paganism. His list, while extensive, useful, and accurate, involves a distinct lack of Goddess scholars, highlighting to me that Goddess spirituality IS a different movement and isn’t actually just a Goddess-oriented branch of contemporary paganism. Indeed, almost everyone on his list I’d either never heard of, not read, or don’t enjoy their writing. I immediately started to draft a list of my own and came up with 13 women, which seemed delightfully appropriate. We in the Goddess feminist community have our own path, herstory, and lineage, one that really only began in the 1970’s in direct connection to the feminist movement, rather than the pagan movement.

Not necessarily in a particular order, here is my own list of the top thirteen most influential people in the development and articulation of Goddess Spirituality as its own distinct path. (I’ve been scrambling to finish collecting my thoughts in time to post this list while it is still Women’s History Month!) Only one of my own picks also appears on Mankey’s list. December 2012 097

  1. Carol Christ–this feminist scholar is the most skillful and intelligent thealogian of the present day. Christ’s influence on my own ideas and concepts has been profound. Her work is academic, focused, and deep, and she wrestles with heavy questions. I particularly enjoy her books Rebirth of the Goddess and She Who Changes. A brilliant, thoughtful, amazing writer, Christ’s essay Why Women Need the Goddess remains, in my opinion, one of the most important and influential articles of our time.
  2. Merlin Stone–author of the classic When God was a Woman, this professor of art history changed the landscape and understanding of ancient cultures and their relationship to the Goddess (and, yes she drew on the work of Murray and Graves, but moved into feminist thealogy rather than pagan practice).
  3. Riane Eisler—author of The Chalice and the Blade, she made a significant contribution to the understanding of the history and development of patriarchy as well as offering a solution in the form of a partnership model of society.
  4. Marija Gimbutas—scholar and archaeologist and author of several books chronicling Goddess figurines from around the world, including The Language of the Goddess, her work has come under scrutiny and criticism, but remains a potent contribution to the lineage of the Goddess movement.
  5. Starhawkthe first of two on my list who bridge the gap between more “classic” paganism and feminist spirituality, Starhawk had a huge impact on the development of a female-oriented spiritual tradition. Her book The Spiral Dance was the first introduction to the Goddess for many women. In keeping with what I find to be a personal lack of click with a lot of pagan authors, I did not particularly enjoy The Spiral Dance and actually read it much later than most of the other books about feminist spirituality that I reference in this post, but regardless of personal taste, her influence on the Goddess movement is profound.
  6. Z. Budapest—considered by many to be one of the first mothers of the feminist spirituality movement in the U.S., like Starhawk, Z’s writings are not my personal favorite resources because of their heavy Wiccan orientation, but they are undeniably classics in Goddess circles. Z has taken heat from many pagans for her position on transgender people.
  7. Patricia Mongahan–recently departed author of Goddess-specific resource books like The Goddess Path and Wild Girls, Patricia’s writing is more practical and less scholarly/thealogy-oriented than some of my other favorite authors. March 2013 086
  8. Monica Sjoo—radical artist, ecofeminist, and Goddess scholar, Sjoo wrote The Great Cosmic Mother and one of my other favorites, a critique of New Age spiritual paths called New Age Armageddon. Her classic and awesome painting God Giving Birth narrowly avoided ended up in Court on the charge of “obscenity and blasphemy.”
  9. Hallie Iglehart—while less well-known and influential than some of the other women on my list, Hallie was personally very impactful to my own Goddess path, since her books were some of the first, personal and experientially-oriented Goddess-specific books that I read. She is the author of Womanspirit, a synthesis of feminism and religion, and of The Heart of the Goddess, a visually stunning collection of Goddess images and meditations/reflections.
  10. Cynthia Eller—while Eller’s book focused on debunking the “myth of matriarchal prehistory” made her lose popularity among many in the Goddess community (see her clarifying comments here), her scholarly engagement with the complexities of articulating the concepts of feminist spirituality and of thealogy is challenging, illuminating, and offers the opportunity to dig deeply into one’s own perspectives. Her book Living in the Lap of the Goddess is a thorough exploration of women’s spirituality and the Goddess movement.
  11. Charlene Spretnak–another rocking writer with a thorough grasp of the sociopolitical and cultural context, value, and purpose of Goddess spirituality, her classic anthology The Politics of Women’s Spirituality is one of the best and deepest explorations of the concepts, personal experiences, philosophies, and thealogies of why Goddess.
  12. Karen Tatethrough her weekly radio show, Voices of the Sacred Feminine, I would venture to say that Tate is one of the most influential and dedicated “Goddess advocates” of the present day.
  13. Elizabeth Fisher and Shirley Ranck—authors of germinal religious education curriculums focused on feminist spirituality and woman-honoring traditions, originally published by the UU Women and Religion program, their work with Rise Up and Call Her Name andCakes for the Queen of Heaven continues to change the lives of women around the country by introducing them to a vision of what the world could be like if the divine was imaged as female.

Also deserving of mention are:

  • SageWoman Magazine (and her editors)—this specifically Goddess-women oriented publication is a treasure and a delight.
  • Feminism and Religion blog–daring to explore the intersection of religion, scholarship, activism, and community, FAR is not specifically Goddess-oriented, but includes Goddess scholars amongst their contributors and weaves a beautiful, living, organic tapestry of the multifaceted web of feminist spirituality in the present day.

I find that feminist spirituality can be distinguished from paganism because of the inclusion of a core sociopolitical orientation and distinct sociocultural critique. Feminist spirituality to me is the intersection of religion and politics. It is religious feminism. It may or may not include literal experience of or perception of the Goddess, but it names the female and the female body as sacred, worthy, and in need of defense and uses Goddess symbols, metaphors, stories, and experiences as primary expressions of divinity and the sacred.

After originally writing this list, I thought of many more women I should have included and I kept meaning to do a part two follow-up article. I’ve yet to finish that, but this is who I would add…

Six More Influential Women: 1

  1. Shekhinah Mountainwater (pictured at right): tremendous personal influence on my life and work.Original creator of Womanrunes and author of one of my all-time favorite goddess spirituality books, Ariadne’s Thread.
  2. Diane Stein–I particularly enjoy her anthology The Goddess Celebrates and also her book, Casting the Circle.
  3. Vicki Noble–her book Shakti Woman is a powerful and important read.
  4. Barbara Ardinger–if I had to choose a favorite book for ritual resources and goddess spirituality, her book A Woman’s Book of Rituals and Celebrations would be one of those at the top! I also enjoy interacting with her as a sister blogger at Feminism and Religion.
  5. Barbara Walker–author of several goddess-oriented sourcebooks, The Essential Handbook of Women’s Spirituality is another of my favorite resources.
  6. Nancy Vedder-Shults–I first “met” Nancy through hearing her music at a Cakes for the Queen of Heaven training. Her CD, Chants for the Queen of Heaven, was my first-ever purchase of goddess-specific music (I didn’t even know there was such a thing until hearing her songs!). Later, I continued to enjoy her contributions to SageWoman magazine and now through direct interaction on the Feminism and Religion blog.

 Other cool books/honorable mentions:

March 2013 058

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Categories: books, feminism, feminist thealogy, Goddess, resources, spirituality, thealogy, womanspirit | 74 Comments

Desert Priestess Book

desertpriestess

Desert Priestess: a memoir (Amazon affiliate link included)

I absolutely loved this book! Written by Anne Key, Desert Priestess: a memoir, is a memoir of her three years as the priestess at the Sekhmet Goddess Temple in Nevada. The memoir is beautifully written in a very honest manner with the narrative including her self-doubts and follies as well as her priestessly moments. After I finished it, I felt like my heart was yearning to take a pilgrimage to the desert, as well as to further deepen and refine my own priestess path! I highlighted several sections of the Kindle version of the text to share:

Writing about her role as a priestess, Anne explains:

…And I can only say that, as priestess, I worked so very hard to open my heart to each person who came, to meet each in perfect love and perfect trust of the structure and beauty of our desert wreath. To do this, I realized that I had to be not only sure of my purpose and strong in my stance but that I also had to see each person as an integral and necessary part of our circle. To do that, I had to be clear about myself and my intentions and I had to stay connected to the Divine…

I realized early in my tenure as priestess that I must stay connected to the Divine to allow things to come through me instead of from me. Everything depended on that: my ability to lead ritual, my ability to stay centered, my ability to understand those who came to the temple, my ability to see my way out of difficult issues. Striving to stay connected to the Divine made another point painfully apparent: I had to be clear, to the depths of my soul. I had to understand what I was, where my limits were, and accept totally who I was. I had to be able to be fully and totally present at each moment of ritual, wide open to everything, and firmly, firmly rooted. This was a real challenge…

Key, Anne (2011-03-29). Desert Priestess: a memoir (p. 45). Goddess Ink. Kindle Edition.

Another very good section of Desert Priestess was Key’s exploration of why it matters to call the Divine “Goddess”:

I lecture at various academic venues on Goddess Spirituality, and I continue to be amazed at the answer to my question: “Does your god have a gender?” While the wording would seem to make the question rhetorical, people almost always answer: “No, my god does not have a gender.” Given the statistic that over 75 percent of people living in the United States claim Christianity as their faith, when I lecture I assume that most of my audience is Christian. When I ask them to describe their god, to tell me what that god looks like in art, many times someone will mention a long white beard, which firmly answers the gender inquiry. But even if they don’t go as far as to mention a beard, when I ask them if their god is a woman, they are shocked and absolutely, defiantly sure that their genderless god is not a woman. We women who create life, the highest of all divine acts, cannot be considered a god.

Between my experiences at the temple and in academia, it has become clear to me that most women in twenty-first-century American culture never see themselves as divine. And it is no wonder. The most predominant images of women in the modern media are as accoutrements to products such as cars or purses. This to me is one of the greatest gifts of the goddess temples, because images of the Female Divine are important. They are important because they begin the process of consecrating women’s bodies as divine. When we as women begin to see our bodies as a reflection of the Divine, then our bodies are removed from the sole category of “object of the male gaze” to corporealized divinity, the embodiment of the Divine.

When women come into the temple, they see themselves, and they see themselves venerated. They see themselves in various shapes and colors, from the round and almond-eyed Madre del Mundo to the black and slim Sekhmet to the brown and regal Virgen de Guadalupe. We women have lived our lives trying to see ourselves in the image of the Christian God, living with the cognitive dissonance of the sound of Charlton Heston’s voice as God, in Michelangelo’s beefy finger, and in the picture tacked on the wall in Sunday school of a man’s aged and ageless face whose white beard melts into the clouds. We live in this culture of the image of God as white and male. As if this were not enough to get the point across, most of those who represent God in the Christian religion—the priests, preachers, and pastors—are men. And if women do represent the Christian God, there is almost always a controversy involved. Still, we women have persevered to find ourselves in the Divine and to see ourselves as divine, and even more courageously to represent the Divine. A sigh of relief automatically escapes me and the cognitive dissonance melts away when I am in the presence of an image of the Divine that is female. Images of the Female Divine are important because they embody the divine qualities of the feminine. The roles of mother, healer, guide, protector, lover, provider, and nurturer combine with the qualities of compassion, justice, truth, fertility, strength, and love to present women in multiple dimensions…

Key, Anne (2011-03-29). Desert Priestess: a memoir (pp. 50-52). Goddess Ink. Kindle Edition.

Sculptures hanging out in the sunshine!

Sculptures hanging out in the sunshine!

She goes on to make 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 female in essence!

Later, Anne writes about creating a sisterhood of priestesses and she describes their vow to each other in a lovely way:

As sisters, we are one another’s truth tellers. We are one another’s loving and honest mirrors. We advise, even when we are not queried. And we let go so that each may fly on her own wings. Our sisters are our bonds with the deepest mysteries. As sisters, we are the ones who bleed, we are the ones who birth, we are the ones who nourish, we are the ones who weave the web, and we are the ones who cut the cord. As women, as sisters, as priestesses, we stand at the doorways of life and death, bonded by the cycles of our bodies and our lives.

Key, Anne (2011-03-29). Desert Priestess: a memoir (p. 57). Goddess Ink. Kindle Edition.

She also writes about creating ritual and liturgy in a desert climate:

At the beginning of each ceremony, we honored the four directions and an element associated with each: east and air; south and fire; west and water; north and earth. Many times when the directions are called, they are written with a wet, lush environment in mind: cool breeze, deep black earth, rushing rivers, dense forests. But these images did not reflect the desert land, a dry, thriving environment.

I wrote a call of directions specifically for this land, for this place, for this temple:

Winds of the mind, open free.

Breath of life, breathe in me.

Red flame of truth, burning pure.

Spark of life, ignite me.

Water of my soul, blood of earth.

Spring of life, wash me.

Bones of rock, sand, and earth.

Roots of life, ground me.

Key, Anne (2011-03-29). Desert Priestess: a memoir (pp. 90-91). Goddess Ink. Kindle Edition.

And, finally, another section I marked was in her description of feeding sweet little birds outside her window, only to see them snapped out of the air and eaten by a hawk. She says,  “Of course, I would have preferred that the hawks eat the mice. Much as I loved the cute little mice, the mess they left in our kitchen cupboards was disgusting and infuriating. But the birds! The little birds had done nothing but entertain us.” (Amen!) But, then she goes to make the best point ever about nature: “Obviously, this cycle was not about me, or what I thought was cute” (p. 116).

I really recommend this book! It is of particular interest to priestesses and to those interested in Goddess Temples and women’s spirituality in general, but I also think it would be interesting to people who like memoirs and stories about women’s lives and simple, yet profound, adventures.

Categories: books, nature, priestess, quotes, resources, reviews, spirituality, womanspirit, women | 2 Comments

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