Finally 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.
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!