feminism

Book Review: The Other Side of the River

13603729_1759471264265088_2502141005184380413_o“Braids, tapestries, and currents in the river show us the way again and again–it cannot be one clear way or another, it has got to be both ways and together.”

–Eila Carrico, The Other Side of the River

It has taken me many months to review this book and as I sit down to write about it, I find myself at a loss for words. Go. Read it. It is a powerful book.

The Other Side of the River is a lyrical personal narrative that runs in multiple streams and ripples of thought to one riverrushing river: Women’s lives matter. Women’s stories matter. Women’s bodies matter. Women’s voices matter. Women’s lives and the health of the planet are inextricably intertwined. It is gorgeous and also stunning in its complexity. As I read it, I kept thinking, “how did she do this?” How did she weave so many experiences and thoughts and insights into this one text that flows so powerfully together? In The Other Side of the River, author Eila Carrico’s personal experiences and stories of her life are interwoven with descriptions, thoughts, and experiences from the world’s waters and her travels to many different bodies of water. Eila has listened to the river, learned from the waters, and these many ripples blend together into a juicy, creative, thought-provoking, complex web of questions, thoughts, and lessons. As we journey with her from the Florida marshlands to New Orleans, to San Francisco, to Africa, to India, to London, and even some time in the Mojave Desert, we also meet many water goddesses from world culture and are treated to an evocative exploration of the Goddess, the sacred feminine, at work in women’s lives and in the world as a whole. We learn from Tara and Aphrodite and Ganga and Oshun and Cailleach and Kali, all swirling together in a labyrinthine journey of depth and profundity.

Published by Womancraft Publishing, The Other Side of the River is not only a personal memoir, but a treatise on ecofeminism, ecology, and environmentalism. I discovered ecofeminism during my doctoral studies and have often returned to a phrase womb ecology reflects world ecology, world ecology reflects womb ecology. In this book we come to see how the damming of the rivers, the polluting of the oceans, the re-routing of the streams, reflects the stifling of women’s voices, the control of women’s bodies, and the oppression of women’s lives.

“I imagine that women look outside for answers because they cannot feel the wisdom of their own bodies anymore. Years of creating an icy barrier to keep out the stares, the calls, the threat of rape and worse. Women take care of their friends and families, but they do not take care of themselves. Women have lost what sustains them, forgotten what brings them to live, pushed down their rage and denied their need for rest..

…I think of the time during and after the witch burnings in Europe as a time when once fluid women chose to turn themselves into ice for self-preservation. They decidedly slowed and suppressed their wisdom of ways sensitive to the natural landscape and began to lives much further beneath the surface of their skin. They learned to conceal, conserve and control themselves to survive.”

–Eila Carrico

I am reminded of a quote from Clarissa Pinkola-Estes: Be wild! That is how to clear the river.

It is hard for me to write as compellingly as I would like to about such a compelling book. Please read it and let its magic stream through you too.

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Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Crossposted at SageWoman and Brigid’s Grove.

Categories: books, embodiment, feminism, feminist thealogy, Goddess, resources, reviews, self-care, spirituality, women, writing | 2 Comments

International Women’s Day Resources

My body is my altar  10286915_1714565075422374_6164793523246448200_o
my body is my temple
my living presence on this earth
my prayer.

Thank you.

(Source: Earthprayer)

Today is International Women’s Day! In addition to my work online and face-to-face with women as well as with the products offered by our shop, I support two resources that help make every day “international women’s day.” I sponsor a woman through Women for Women International and I keep multiple microloans going at Kiva – Loans that change lives. We started making Kiva loans in 2012 when we covered economic freedom in the Cakes for the Queen of Heaven feminist spirituality class I was teaching at the time. We decided to put our money where our mouths were and make a collective loan, from our women’s circle to a women’s circle somewhere else in the world. We collected $50 from the members of the circle and I made two microloans to two different women’s groups, both in Senegal. A few more women contributed in later months, I contributed another $25 of my own and we got a $25 referral credit, and I’ve steadily kept microloans going there ever since, loaning a total of $650 to 26 different women’s groups in 19 countries since we began. The cool thing is that this did not cost me $650, instead it is the same, original money from that long-ago Cakes for the Queen of Heaven class that I keep relending as soon as my Kiva account builds up to $25 in repayments. There are 7 loans currently going, from what was originally only $50. Just a drop in the bucket. I encourage you to do this too!

I’m offering a new, free Earthprayer e-course beginning April 10.

My Red Tent Initiation and Practical Priestessing courses are coming up soon! There are a few spots left in each and we’ll accept new participants until March 10th.

More International Women’s Day Resources:

A collection of recent women’s circle-oriented blog posts and resources:

Categories: feminism, resources, womanspirit, women, women's circle | Leave a comment

Gathering the Women

May 2014 006 Gathering the women
gathering the women
gathering the women.

You are welcome here.
You are welcome here.

Come join the circle
come join the circle
come join the circle.

You are welcome here.
You are welcome here.

I’m in the middle of my Chrysalis Woman Circle Leader training program and enjoying it very much. As one of our assignments were were supposed to create a priestess collage as well as a new circle leader/priestess altar. As I prepared the altar, I found myself singing the little song above. I later googled it just in case, but it looks like I did actually make it up in that moment at my altar. That is what I do with my work: gather the women. And, I want them to feel welcome in the circle. Sometimes I feel discouraged though and I wonder if this work matters. I wonder if people really can work together “in perfect love and perfect trust,” I wonder if people like me and I them, and I struggle with wanting to reach “more” women, rather than being completely satisfied with the small group of beautiful souls who do regularly show up to do this work with me . So, I really appreciated Lucy Pearce’s recent blog post on the subject of, if what I do is women’s work, why aren’t women interested?

I had just done a book reading of my #1 Amazon Best Selling book, The Rainbow Way… to an audience of one.

I had just led a red tent circle with 14 women… most of whom had travelled 40 minutes or more to be there.

I am about to lead a workshop… a free women’s workshop… and am aware that numbers may well be small.

Where are all the women? If this truly is women’s work… then why are they at One Direction in their tens of thousands… and not here? Why are they reading 50 Shades… and not Moon Time?

I often apologise to people that my work is niche…

But how can something which is accessible to 50% of the population be “niche”?…

via Why Aren’t Women Interested? | The Happy Womb.

Once at an LLL meeting I mentioned wanting to start a group called “mothercraft” or “womancraft.” Another woman there said it sounded interesting, but if that is what it was called she would never come. I surmised because it sounded too much like “witchcraft.” I think many women retain a deep-seated, historically rooted fear of being labeled witches. Maybe that sounds silly, but I think it is real.

I am very, very carefully planning for my Red Tent even in August without including the word “Goddess” in any chants/rituals, because I want to make sure to speak to the womanspirit within all of us, rather than being associated with any one framework of belief. My observation is that Red Tent spaces have this ability to transcend any particular belief system and welcome women of many backgrounds, inclinations, and beliefs. They aren’t specifically “Goddess circles,” though they honor the divine feminine through their very being. I hope I am able to hold this space as well.

“A Women’s Circle helps you to find the river of your life and supports you in surrendering to its current.” –Marian Woodman

(quoted in Chrysalis Woman Circle Leader manual)

Someone commenting on Lucy’s post said maybe women don’t need her work because they don’t feel “oppressed.” I thought about this and realized that I haven’t ever felt particularly oppressed personally, but I still need womancraft for celebration AND because even though I haven’t been directly oppressed, that doesn’t mean countless women around the world are not—I take a stand and lend a voice in my work for a different, healthier world for women. Another observation I’ve made is that women have a lot of trouble viewing women’s circle activities as something other than an “indulgence” or something frivolous and so it is easy for them to talk themselves out of it or not be able to give themselves the time/space for it, even though they are deeply intrigued and interested.

In the article I wrote when I originally turned over the question of whether it matters, I included this poem:

May 2014 003

Finished priestess collage for CW training.

…Rise up
stand tall
say no
be counted
hug often
hold your babies
hold your friends

Circle often
stand together
refuse to give up
when defeated, rally once more.
Persist in a vision of the way things could be
and take action
to bring that vision into reality….

 via Do Women’s Circles Actually Matter? By Molly Meade

And, I saved this relevant quote:

“…But it is exactly the same thing. You cannot have male dominated spiritual practices and leadership without the subjugation of women. And the subjugation of women equals a rape culture. A rape culture equals women and children being used and seen as objects to possess. As former President Jimmy Carter put it: “The truth is that male religious leaders have had—and still have—an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.” –Jacqueline Hope Derby #YesAllWomen

The Girl God: ://thegirlgod.blogspot.com/…/yesallwomen-by-jacqueline…

And, I remembered some thoughts I’d shared from one of my posts last year in which I shared our summer women’s retreat ritual recipe:

…I’ve been feeling a little discouraged about my retreats lately, primarily because there are a lot more women on the email list than actually show up and so I always feel like I’m doing something “wrong” or am not planning interesting enough things to attract them. I also take it kind of personally—there is a vulnerability in preparing an offering such as this and each time I do it I actually feel like I’m preparing a gift for my friends. When they decline the invite, it feels, in part, like a rejection of the gift I’m offering. Cognitively, I know (or, I hope!), this isn’t true, but emotionally that is how it usually registers. This summer retreat was a beautiful experience that felt just as I wish for these retreats to feel—nurturing, affirming, and celebratory—like a blessingway for all of us with no one needing to be pregnant!

Things I was reminded of after this experience:

  • There is nothing like having friends who are willing to lie on your living room floor and listen to a shamanic drumming CD without laughing or saying you’re ridiculous.
  • Small IS good—I already know from my years as a breastfeeding support group leader that I’m a sucker for bigger-is-better thinking (I tell my own students: don’t let your self-esteem depend on the size of your group!!!!!). When the group is small or RSVPs are minimal, it starts to feel like a personal “failing” or failure to me somehow. However, the reality is that there is a quality of interaction in a small group that is not really possible in a larger group. At this retreat there were seven women. While there was an eighth friend I really wished would come and who we missed a lot, the size felt pretty perfect. I reflected that while some part of me envisions some kind of mythically marvelous “large” group, ten is probably the max that would fit comfortably in our space as well as still having each woman be able participate fully. Twelve would probably be all right and maybe we could handle fifteen. I also need to remember not to devalue the presence of the women who DO come. They matter and they care and by lamenting I want more, it can make them feel like they’re not “enough.”

via Ritual Recipe: Women’s Summer Retreat | WoodsPriestess.

At the center of my Chrysalis Woman priestess altar, I put this bowl that I made during one of our retreats and painted after another one. It felt like a symbol to me of gathering the women. Inside of it, I actually ended up putting some little gifts different friends have given me, but first I put in this tiny hummingbird feather as a reminder that these circles and relationships are delicate, surprising, and beautiful and need to be treated with care.

May 2014 009Earlier this month I received a lovely surprise birthday gift from a talented friend and it is perfect for all the Red Tent plans afoot for August! I’m working on collecting red fabric and cushions as well.

June 2014 001

A few weekends ago, we made prayer flags for a friend and I used different quotes from the Amazing Year workbook on mine (I also presented about this workbook at a conference last week).

May 2014 262After I got home from making the flags, I sat at my Chrysalis Woman altar space and drew a card from the Gaian Tarot deck and it felt incredibly perfect:

May 2014 271

In other good news, I received my M.Div thesis feedback at last and it was this: “It’s beautiful. I don’t see how you can improve it or change it. It’s wonderfully articulate, moving, and elegant.”

And, I found out just today that my Womanrunes workshop was approved for this year’s Gaea Goddess Gathering in Kansas!

Check out this Rise Up video from the Red Tent Movie:

Also, read Lucy’s follow-up blog post here:

Encouragement For Women’s Workers Everywhere: When You Are Feeling Downhearted, Alone and Misunderstood | The Happy Womb.

Gather the women. They are welcome here.

May 2014 083

Categories: art, community, feminism, friends, GGG, OSC, priestess, retreat, ritual, sculpture, spirituality, thealogy, theapoetics, thesis, womanspirit, women, women's circle | 9 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

Let’s Hear it for the Men!

A lot of my work focuses on women and has for many years. I don’t actually feel any particular need to rationalize, explain, or justify this—working with women is December 2013 011something that has held deep meaning, relevance, enjoyment, passion, and purpose for me ever since I started working in a battered women’s shelter as a volunteer when I was seventeen years old. My age has since doubled and the type of work I do with women has morphed, expanded, shifted, and changed texture over time, but it is a strong, defining, consistent thread that is tightly woven through my professional life, my academic work, my volunteer work, my teaching, and my spiritual path. I’ve noticed, however, that people occasionally misinterpret my focus on women and my enjoyment in creating rituals for women, for honoring “women’s mysteries,” and for exploring thealogy and the Goddess, as well as helping women with birth and breastfeeding, somehow indicates that I don’t value men. My enjoyment of priestessing women’s circles is not a statement about men, it is a statement about something I like to do with my time and life energy. I also value and appreciate my husband, my sons, my dad, and the other men in my life. I have family full moon rituals each month with my husband and our kids (two sons, one daughter). My dad, husband, and sons enjoy our annual family winter solstice ritual. My husband and I work together making our goddess jewelry and I love that this collaborative project represents a harmonizing of our energies, efforts, and time.

I agree with Melissa Raphael’s remark that, “Thealogy has no wish to simply reproduce the masculinist account of divine sovereignty and redemptive power in feminized form” (p. 201). To me this is one of the most beneficial and beautiful elements of Goddess feminism.” And, from Judith Laura’s book, Goddess Matters, she describes Goddess as “she who flows through all” and contrasts this with “God as manipulator.” Goddess is “She what connects us, not only like a link in a chain but also like an electrical current.”

These things said, I’ve been meaning for several months now to give a shout-out to the male bloggers that I very much enjoy. I subscribe to a lot of blogs. I like a lot of writers, but there are only a handful from whom I read every post they write as soon as they post it. These three guys definitely make that list:

  • John Beckett writes Under the Ancient Oaks on Patheos. He initially appealed to me because he is associated with a UU church and we have that in common. I continued to read him though because he is very logical, solid, practical, and even-handed in his writing and interaction with others, with a nice dash of interesting polytheistic stuff thrown in. One of his recent posts about pagan unity is a good example of the practical style I find so appealing about his blog:

I prefer a Big Tent approach to Paganism – a big tent with four main posts. Some of us are right in the middle, some cling tightly to only one post, while others are in one of the corners. Some people are close enough for me to see them but not close enough for me to tell if they’re actually under the tent or if they’re standing outside. What about Green Christians? I think they’re outside, but their fundamentalist brethren over in the next camp think they’re standing right in the middle of us. What about the Kabbalists? I think they’re in, but many of them say they’re only in the Jewish tent. The Hindus are over in that corner – some of them are insistent they’re in our tent and others are just as insistent they’re not.

Complicated? Yep. Messy? Sure is. Living, growing, reproducing organisms are like that.

The problem with big tents is, well, they’re big. Try to embrace the whole tent and you can find yourself bouncing back and forth between pouring libations to Zeus, protesting fracking, organizing the Beltane picnic and meditating on The Fool. Those are all worthwhile things to do, but they can lead to a personal religion that is the proverbial mile wide and an inch deep. That’s a problem – if you’ve been reading Under the Ancient Oaks for any time at all you know one of my favorite soapboxes is the need for spiritual depth.

via Pagan Unity.

  • John Halstead writes The Allergic Pagan (as well as another blog at Witches and Pagans and for Humanistic Paganism). He’s willing to tackle somewhat controversial issues and engage in intelligent conversation and debate. He never fails to make me think and is just a really smart guy with a lot of interesting stuff to say. I recently shared this quote in a different post, but trust me that he has lots of posts that rank as thought-provoking favorites:

This is your Goddess,” my wife said to me smiling.

“It’s the slimy side of her,” I responded.

“This is life,” she replied.

It’s strange when a seemingly mundane moment is transformed into a sacred one. I looked at my Mormon wife standing in the ocean, holding a shell, and I heard her speak the words of a true priestess: “This is your Goddess. This is life.”

via My Goddess is gross.

  • Jason Mankey is the often light-hearted and funny, but not afraid to be serious and occasionally blunt, author of Raise the Horns at Patheos. I love the way he writes about ritual, modern paganism, personal practices, and the way he digs into holiday origins. One of his recent posts that really spoke to me was this one:

In our own practice becoming a High Priestess and Priest was not something we aspired to. It came about because people viewed the two of us that way. I’ll admit to even being uncomfortable with the title on occasion. I have a thirst for knowledge and history and write pretty good rituals, but there are many Witches and Pagans who know so much more than I ever will. That a few people think of me in such august company is flattering, but I often feel like I don’t belong. (I got weirded out when one of our coven members referred to me as “a spiritual leader,” I’m much more comfortable just being the guy who drinks cider and listens to 80′s hair metal.)

Even with my occasional reservations about the title I feel like I’ve earned it, and I know my wife has earned her title of High Priestess. How do you know you’ve earned the right to call yourself a High Priestess or High Priest? You’ve earned the title when someone asks you to officiate their handfasting or wedding. You’ve earned the title when every eye in the circle glances your way looking for instruction or guidance. You’ve earned the title when your High Priestess deems you ready for elevation. It’s an honor that finds you, and it finds you when you are ready.

via Becoming a High Priestess.

When I first began writing this post back in October, Teo Bishop would definitely have been on my list as well. I really enjoyed his contemplative, gentle, personal, enriching style of writing. If you follow pagan bloggers at all, you’ve probably surmised that something happened and it involved Teo Bishop. If you follow me and read my other blog, you also know that I, personally, spend virtually zero time talking about “current events” and/or controversies within either of my primary fields. I call this dissecting of current events a “putting out fires” mode of blogging and I just don’t like to do it myself. It seems reactive in a way that bothers me, and reminds me a bit too much of the dominating, semi-oppressive energy that can spread so fast in other areas/topics (dare I mention Miley Cyrus, for example?). So, I’ll just say that I read Teo’s blog Bishop in the Grove for at least two years. This month he decided to discontinue Bishop in the Grove as he moves in a different direction with his spiritual path. His new path doesn’t hold a lot of interest for me, though his same contemplative writing style is still engaging, he’s no longer speaking in a spiritual language that I find compelling. He should still get a shout-out though, because I’m pretty sure it was his blog that introduced me to interesting pagan men’s blogs I love to read and learn from.

In keeping with the collaborative energy with my husband that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we’ve been painstakingly finishing up our first ever free-standing pewter casting that is male! While I made a polymer clay “daddy goddess” sculpture before when requested by my toddler daughter, most of my artwork is Goddess/female-centric. After one night of full-moon drumming with my husband and boys, I knew the time had come to introduce some masculine energy into my art and the result was this little drumming team: December 2013 006

The casts are still on the rough side and we’re having a terrible time getting their hands to work correctly. Many, many, many of these little guys have been plopped back into the melting pot for another rebirth (my husband often turns them face down, so he doesn’t have to watch their little “faces” looking up at him as they dissolve). We’re keeping these two sets, but probably need to start over with another sculpt altogether as well as a fresh mold because we do anything more with this design idea. December 2013 005I felt like they were a symbol of our own work together, as well as the harmony possible between men and women in the rest of the world.

December 2013 009

They work together and I like them!

This morning when I went to the woods to take these pictures, the cinnamon sticks I offered up last night were sitting there on the rock in this arrangement evocative of an “equal” sign. I thought that was pretty cosmic.

December 2013 012

Categories: art, community, feminism, feminist thealogy, resources, spirituality, women | 6 Comments

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

Thursday Thealogy: Goddess as Symbol, Statement, and Experience

While in personal experience, I have an understanding of the Goddess both as a symbol and as a metaphysical, panentheistic presence in the world, I do not find that a “real” Goddess is July 2013 002required for thealogy to matter. Her importance and value as a symbol, a philosophy, and a politics are profound. As metaphor and archetype she empowers women to value themselves, their bodies, and their experiences. This is then real, whether or not the Goddess herself is real. As a sociopolitical construct, she powerfully challenges dominant philosophies about culture, society, politics, women, religion, and ecology. The Goddess as a symbol stands for a better world. A more integrated world. A world worth pursuing, preserving, and honoring. I recognize that some feminists do not feel the need for the Goddess, but I believe that feminism is richer when the Goddess is a part of it. Like it or not, religion is a part of politics in our culture. By only talking politics and ignoring religion, we leave out a powerful part of the human psyche and relationship. An embodied spirituality in which we daily walk on sacred soil and with sacred awareness can transform both politics and religion. This is why the Goddess still matters, whether as symbol or as literally existing.

The Goddess image is a profound cultural, religious, social, and political statement. She does not just personify the human feminine, she validates, celebrates, and honors the existence of the female—as normative , valuable, worthy, sacred. Thealogy must be situated in a larger feminist political context considering the role, value, and social treatment of women in order to reach its full potential. To me, thealogy must engage with matters of social justice, health care, and reproductive rights, contextualizing those issues in an ethical religious framework.

Nonrealist and Realist Conceptions of the Goddess

The political value of the Goddess as symbol and experience is touched upon by Judith Antonelli who states, “The female power is primary in nature. Woman possesses a power that no man can ever have: the capacity to give birth to new life…Patriarchy is based on the ‘phallacy’ that the male is creator. Man’s original awe and envy of woman becomes, under patriarchy, resentment and hostility. The only way man can possess female power is through woman, and so he colonizes her, suppressing her sexuality so that it serves him rather than being the source of her power” (p. 401, The Politics of Women’s Spirituality). In this conceptualization, a split occurs in which men becomes associated with the head and the mind (since men can only create with their minds/hands, not with their wombs/bodies) and women become associated exclusively with the body and with nature and devalued as below or lesser than, rather than as primary creatrix of the world. “Women today who are trying to bring back Goddess worship are not worshipping idols, escaping through mysticism, or revering an external god-substitute. The Goddess represents nothing less than female power and woman’s deification of her own essence. It is external only to the extent that this power is contained within the cycles of nature as well as within ourselves” (Antonelli, p. 403).I believe feminist spirituality can be further distinguished from a more broad “women’s spirituality” or a more specific “Goddess religion,” because of the inclusion of a sociopolitical orientation. 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 and worthy of protection, cherishment, and defense. Despite the persistent July 2013 015emphasis on reflexivity and relativism, Goddess advocates and those who identify with feminist spirituality do take an uncompromising, non-relativistic stance on violence against women and names as evil and wrong, …”the abuse and alienation of rights from women, subject men and non-human life forms by institutions sacralizing and privileging masculinity” (Melissa Raphael). Experience of the divine is personal, experience of oppression, domination, and exploitation is political and universal.

As Carol Christ explains, “the symbol of the Goddess has much to offer women who are struggling to be rid of the ‘powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations’ of devaluation of female power, denigration of the female body, distrust of female will, and denial of women’s bonds and heritage that have been engendered by patriarchal religions. As women struggle to create a new culture in which women’s power, bodies, will, and bonds are celebrated, it seems natural that Goddess would reemerge as a symbol of the newfound beauty, strength, and power of women” (quoted in Diane Stein’s anthology The Goddess Celebrates, p. 253)

I was a feminist first and a Goddess feminist much later. As Cynthia Eller observes in Living in the Lap of the Goddess, “…having become highly sensitized to any hint of sexism, it would not do to simply ignore gender; nothing would suffice but to glory in femaleness, to proclaim the spiritual potential inherent in womanhood, to take the ‘weak vessel’ of Christianity and make her the holy chalice of the great goddess. This is what these women found in feminist spirituality.” This is the essence of feminist religion to me—women are sacred, women are holy, women are wholly worthy, and we celebrate being female, including an acknowledgement and experience of the feminine divine, of the great goddess.

As Charlene Spretnak explains, “We would not have been interested in ‘Yahweh with a skirt,’ a distant, detached, domineering godhead who happened to be female. What was cosmologically wholesome and healing was the discovery of the Divine as immanent and around us. What was intriguing was the sacred link between the Goddess in her many guises and totemic animals and plants, sacred groves, and womb like caves, in the moon-rhythm blood of menses, the ecstatic dance–the experience of knowing Gaia, her voluptuous contours and fertile plains, her flowing waters that give life, her animal teachers…” (p. 5, The Politics of Women’s Spirituality)

A world that honors the Goddess, that honors feminine representations of divinity, is a world that values women, in body and in mind. Goddess spirituality transcends the limitations and boundaries placed on women’s bodies by other traditions (i.e. that women’s sexuality is fearsome/dangerous, that girls should be virginal, that bleeding is “unclean,” that older women are unattractive or have outlived their [breeding] usefulness. As Susan Griffin states, “In Goddess spirituality, women experience their bodies as sacred…” She is the whole Universe and she creates the entire world; a world in which, not incidentally, human females are of inherent value and worth.

I connect to Karen Tate’s descriptions of Goddess as “deity, archetype, and ideal.” I also like Starhawk’s description of what Goddess means to her: “It all depends on how I feel. When I feel weak, she is someone who can help and protect me. When I feel strong, she is the symbol of my own power. At other times I feel her as the natural energy in my body and the world.” While this sounds perfect to me, this fluid conceptualization of divinity is profoundly and dramatically challenging to traditional July 2013 010religious structures.

As Esra Free notes in her book Wicca 404:

“To view the reality of the Great Goddess of Wicca for ourselves, we need look no further than our own bodies, our own planet, our own universe. Our Goddess is not some distant, invisible, disembodied spirit, nor is she ‘supernatural’ in any way, shape or form. Our Goddess is Nature, in all its manifestations. From the inconceivable whole of the vast, living universe to that universe’s tiniest constituent particle, She is physically, spiritually, energetically and personally everywhere. All the time. The Great Goddess of Wicca is All That Is, past, present and future, here on Earth, in every distant corner of the physical cosmos, and in all the seen and unseen spaces in between. There is nothing you can look to that is not Her, that is not born of Her, that does not bear the imprint of Her essence…” Free also says, “Remember that what preserves the screen door is its openness, its ability to let the storm’s fury pass through. A closed door gets blasted to smithereens. If we think of our personal, intimate, experiential relationship with the Goddess as the doorframe, as that which maintains our ‘shape’ throughout the storm, solidly framing our identity and integrity as followers of the Goddess while the flood of life passes through our ‘screen,’ what do we have to fear from other Traditions?”

And, acknowledgment of these immense forces of life actually does not require theism at all:

Thus, one can be Pagan and polytheist; Pagan and humanist; or even Pagan and atheist. Because Paganism is not a theism – it is not a statement of religious doctrine on the existence of Gods per se. It is a broadly spiritual worldview in which the cosmos is alive with powers with which we can interact. Theisms involve the recognition of those forces specifically in the form of Gods.

via Polytheism: The Light in the Window | Banshee Arts.

The existence of an ontological Goddess

To me, Goddess is found in the act of specifically naming that ineffable sense of the sacred that we all, universally, experience or perceive at some point during our lives. Whether it be in gazing at the ocean or in climbing a mountain, in the births of our children or the hatching of a baby chick, almost all humans experience transcendent moments of mystery, meaning, wonder, and awe. We can call these experiences by different names and I feel that the Goddess arises when we have the courage and capacity to name Her as such, rather than stay hazy, generic, or afraid. In my own life, I call these numinous experiences Goddess and through this I know She exists in, of, around, and through the world that I live in. It is in these experiences that I touch Her directly.

I explored this idea in one of my first posts at Feminism and Religion:

A classic, though limited, ontological argument is that God(dess) is because we can conceptualize of that existence. Rather than frame my argument for the existence of Goddess this way, I would say that Goddess is because we feel or experience that She is. Additionally, I do not actually find it necessary for a deity to necessarily meet classic theological criteria of all good and all powerful. In one of my first classes at Ocean Seminary College, I wrote the following, inspired by Carol Christ’s writing: “I have a thealogical view of the world/universe as the body of the Goddess. Everything is interconnected in a great and ever-changing dance of life. Not as ‘all one,’ but as all interconnected and relating to one another, in an ever-present ground of relationship and relatedness…I imagine the divine as omnipresent (rather than omnipotent).” The Divine is located around and through each living thing as well as the great web of incarnation that holds the whole.

As an example of this divinity that permeates each living thing, I offer a newly hatched baby chick. Bright black eyes sparkling with life, fluffy down, perfect little three-toed feet. Minutes before there was an egg, delicately posed beneath a chicken, throbbing with something, ineffable, that unfurled in a steady sequence from two cells to many, until this moment when having used its little beak, stunning in its perfection, to crack out of its shell, now peers out onto the great, grand world. This life force so evident in the transition from egg to chick also beats all of our hearts and grows all of our fingernails. This force grows the trees and makes the flowers bloom. This force is both in and around me all of the time. I am embedded in it. When I tap into that feeling of spirit within, it is making a connection or being in relationship to, that larger Spirit that makes up the world and that we all participate in and belong to, separate but connected.

via Who is She? The Existence of an Ontological Goddess By Molly Remer | Feminism and Religion.

Experience is core and belief becomes unnecessary, as in this thoughtful exploration by T. Thorn Coyle:

…To paraphrase Joseph Campbell: I don’t need belief because I have experience. I can have profoundly moving experiences of deities, or swimming in a sea of light and connection, or have a deep intuitive insight into someone else. I might come up with theories based on these experiences over time, and test these against other people’s. I can hold all of this, and still recognize that tomorrow, some new information may come along to change my mind. I can hold all of this, and know that I am holding one drop in a great ocean. I can set my skeptic aside and feel the power of my experiences of the numinous without feeling the need to build a creed around them.

We humans are storytellers. Stories apply meaning to our experiences. This is a good thing. There is truth in our stories, as well as exploration, and a connection to the line of past and future. When story becomes concretized into an unshakable belief or faith, however, humans run into trouble. We forget that the cosmos is in process. We forget that we don’t hold the whole truth, but only one facet of it…

Our stories interlock, all trying to explain the mysterious, trying to understand what is just beyond our grasp. They are always incomplete, but pointing to some reality. Until germs became proven, we needed several stories to explain the phenomenon of germs. Not being a believer offers flexibility to my experience of Mystery. Not being a believer keeps the door of possibility open.

The most succinct way I have found to explain the lack of rationality in the midst of spiritual experiences is to remind myself: “Love is not only dopamine.” I don’t need to believe in love because I experience love. Love is partially a set of chemical responses that affect my emotions, but it is also something more. Love is ineffable. So is how I feel while staring at the night sky, or my experience in the midst of ritual when I call out, and something Other shows up and I am not the only one who experiences it.

My rational brain makes sense of all this by remembering that there are many things we cannot yet explain. The glory of the cosmos is a marvelous thing that causes me to feel a sense of awe. Music transports me when the musicians are in the groove with each other, the music and the audience, and something special just appears. This “something special” is what I name The Sacred. It is holy. None of this requires belief. The numinous arrives, and something in me changes. This can happen during ritual, during prayer or at any other moment…

via T. Thorn Coyle: Why I Am Not a Believer.

In Merlin Stone’s essay about the three faces of goddess spirituality in The Politics of Women’s Spirituality she states, “So far, and let us hope in the future as well, feminists concerned with Goddess spirituality have seldom offered absolute or pat answers to theological questions. What has been happening is the experiencing, and at times the reporting, of these personal or group experiences: how it feels to regard the ultimate life force in our own image—as females; how it feels to openly embrace and to share our own contemplations and intuitive knowledge about the role of women on this planet; how it feels to gain a sense of direction, a motivating energy, a strength, a courage—somehow intuited as coming from a cosmic female energy force that fuels and refuels us in our struggle against all human oppression and planetary destruction.” To me, this makes sense—Goddess as life’s “fuel” and as an energy that surrounds and holds us all, but that does not control our behavior and does not have the ability to stop specific events from happening—events are multicausal and there are a multiplicity of forces and natural laws in the world (gravity, for example), that act in and upon the lives of humans without divine cause or intervention. She goes on to articulate a thealogical perspective that holds a lot of truth for me:

“Some say they find this force within themselves; others regard it as external. Some feel it in the ocean, the moon, a tree, the flight of a bird, or in the constant stream of coincidences (or noncoincidences) that occur in our lives. Some find access to it in the lighting of a candle, chanting, meditating—alone or with other women. From what I have so far read, heard, or experienced myself, I think it is safe to say that all women who feel they have experience Goddess spirituality in one way or another also feel that they have gained an inner strength and direction that temporarily or permanently has helped them Goddessgarb 167to deal with life. Most women interested or involved in feminist concepts of spirituality do not regard this spirituality as an end in itself but as a means of gaining and giving strength and understanding that will help us to confront the many tangible and material issues of the blatant inequities of society as we know it today.” (p. 66-67)

Finally, as Brian Swimme describes in one of my favorite theapoetical passages of all time: “From a single fireball the galaxies and stars were all woven. Out of a single molten planet the hummingbirds and pterodactyls and gray whales were all woven. What could be more obvious than this all-pervasive fact of cosmic and terrestrial weaving? Out of a single group of microorganisms, the Krebs cycle was woven, the convoluted human brain was woven, the Pali Canon was woven, all part of the radiant tapestry of being. Show us this weaving? Why, it is impossible to point to anything that does not show it, for this creative, interlacing energy envelops us entirely. Our lives in truth are nothing less than a further unfurling of this primordial ordering activity…Women are beings who know from the inside out what it is like to weave the Earth into a new human being” (p. 21, Reweaving the World).

This is creation, science, fact, come alive. This is theapoetics. The presence of the Goddess, in a way that cannot be denied.

Categories: feminism, feminist thealogy, OSC, spirituality, thealogy, theapoetics, Thursday Thealogy | 2 Comments

Calling the Circle: Context

sil12

Does standing on the wall at Pismo Beach at dusk make sense? Yes, if the context is one of trying to get some silhouette pictures! 😉

This post is the second in a series, prompted by the book Calling the Circle by Christina Baldwin:

Context is the social, political, cultural, and spiritual force that shapes the life of a person. Every person lives within society’s context–whether we live comfortably in the middle of this collective force or straining at the edge. In every society there are seekers whose role is to push the borders of accepted experience and whose thoughts and actions expand the cultural context. Ideas and social norms pass through a culture, coming first from the edge and, as they are accepted, moving to center and becoming the ‘norm.’ …

Context is the collective atmosphere inside which something is seen and understood

Context is amazingly important. Pushing the context is how a culture changes, both in expansion and in reaction against expansion. As groups of ethnic and racial minorities, women, homosexuals, the physically challenged, and others have struggled for social rights, each group has expanded the contextual edge, insisting that the culture make room, rewrite laws, and get used to living with these changes. (p. 21)

One of the college classes I teach in human services is called, “working with groups.” However, in all of my classes we talk about systems theory and our core person-in-environment outlook. Every person is inextricably embedded it a network of larger systems and we cannot full understand people without understanding their systemic context. Essentially, behavior is logical to context and human behavior is very often group behavior, no matter how much Western culture likes to point fingers at individuals and individual responsibility. When considering the issue of past social atrocities like those committed by the Nazis, I think about the concept of fundamental attribution error–people’s tendency to ascribe the behavior of others to personal flaws rather than context/environment. We all like to think that we wouldn’t have been a Nazi, or that we wouldn’t drink the Kool-Aid, or that we wouldn’t be the person in the experiment who keeps increasing the electric shock…but, in reality, these situations all involved regular people, who were powerfully influenced by group dynamics. Those dynamics continue to be afoot in the modern world.

As I’ve written before, the sociocultural value of a divine presence that validates women’s bodies cannot be overestimated. Indeed, I believe that patriarchal religion in its most destructive way grew out of the devaluation and rejection of female bodies. A religious context that rejects the female body, that places the male and its association with “the mind” and the soul rather than the earthy relational connection of body, is a religion that easily moves into domination and control of women. Reclaiming Goddess, reclaims women’s bodies—names them not only as “normal,” but as “divine,” and this is profoundly threatening to traditional Judeo-Christian belief systems. In Carol Christ’s classic essay, Why Women Need the Goddess, she quotes feminist theologian Mary Daly (Beyond God the Father):

If God in ‘his’ heaven is a father ruling his people, then it is the ‘nature’ of things and according to divine plan and the order of the universe that society be male dominated. Within this context, a mystification of roles takes place: The husband dominating his wife represents God ‘himself.’ The images and values of a given society have been projected into the realm of dogmas and “Articles of Faith,” and these in turn justify the social structures which have given rise to them and which sustain their plausibility.

As I wrote in a prior post for Feminism and Religion:

…as Rush describes in Politics on page 384: “It stands to reason after so many centuries of brutal religious persecution, that women today should have a deep fear of conceptualizing our own spirituality. Women who try are severely penalized…Because of all this, it is essential that we do create our own spiritual practices. Our spiritual beliefs define what we respect, what we love—and what we ultimately perceive as our highest values. For a feminist, or for any woman, to perpetuate a patriarchal religion and to worship a male god is for her to deify her oppression” [emphasis mine]. This is powerful stuff, the impact of which cannot be denied or ignored. The symbolic value of ritual is extremely important as well. To many women traditional religious rituals and symbols have lost meaning and feel hollow or emotionless. I feel that women’s spirituality rituals bring heart, soul, and passion back to what has become rote in modern practice. Women’s rituals usually honor women’s bodies and women’s feelings and the phases of a woman’s life. They also typically use feminine images of divinity and Goddess language and imagery, which is a powerful antidote to the patriarchal culture in which we live. While on the surface or from afar, a woman’s ritual may seem like an innocently simple affair, in the context of patriarchy it is a radical and subversive act and statement for change.

via Do Women’s Circles Actually Matter? By Molly Remer | Feminism and Religion.

Categories: feminism, feminist thealogy, spirituality, thealogy, womanspirit, women's circle | 2 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:

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Categories: books, feminism, feminist thealogy, Goddess, resources, spirituality, thealogy, womanspirit | 71 Comments

Woodspriestess: Saving the World?

Today marks the beginning of a 30 day experiment in daily writings/photos about my sacred space in the woods. I made a New Year’s resolution of sorts to visit the same spot every day for a year and to take at least one photo and to explore through that process my relationship to the environment around me and its seasonal evolution.

First a picture…

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It started snowing again today and one of our cats, Big Mama, followed me down to the priestess rocks. I noticed her delicate little footprints in the snow on top of one of the rocks. Another thing I noticed and have remarked on before to my husband, is how there is a little trail of naturally occurring “stepping stones” that make a path through the woods to the rocks. When we first moved here, one of the things I wrote on my to-do list was, “make a sacred spot in the woods” and I imagined putting stepping stones down to said place. Well, come to find out, no “making” of a sacred space necessary…it was already there…AND, no need to put down my own stepping stones either. They, too, were already there. Metaphor for life? Or, just life.

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The path naturally appears/is uncovered as the stones there keep the light snowfall from sticking to them.

Some posts may be very brief, or photo-only, but I’m actually kicking off my experiment with some heavy thinking today…

I’ve been feeling depressed and discouraged lately after reading some really horrifying articles about incredible, unimaginable violence and brutality against women in Paupa New Guinea who are accused of being witches as well as a book about human trafficking around the world (I wrote about this in a post for Pagan Families last week). Then, I finished listening to David Hillman on Voices of the Sacred Feminine recently, in which he issues a strong call to action to the pagan community and to “witches” in the U.S. to do something about this violence, essentially stating that it is “your fault” and that instead of wasting energy on having rituals to improve one’s love life (for example), modern witches should be taking to the streets and bringing these abusers to justice. And, he asserts, the fact that they don’t, shows that they don’t really “believe”—believe in their own powers or in their own Goddess(es). This brought me back to a conversation I had with a friend before our last women’s circle gathering…does this really matter that we do this or is it a self-indulgence? We concluded that it does matter. That actively creating the kind of woman-affirming world we want to live in is a worthy, and even holy, task. I don’t have time to fully go into it all right now, but I also think the legacy of the sixteenth century “witchcraze” is powerful and the attitudes that drove it are alive and well in the world today. There is a lot of fear still bound up in that word and perhaps that is why people fail to respond to Hillman’s challenge to take to the streets.

I asked the woods today and they responded…

What can I do to save the world?

Saving the world is a Christ complex
an illusion of superiority
a delusion of grandeur.
Or is it?

Is it instead
a description
of what it is like to care?

Be awake
Be sensitive
Be present

Keep reading
Keep reading
Keep reaching
Keep laughing

Raise sons and daughters
who love themselves
and each other
and the earth

Say no to violence
in home
in thought
in act
in deed.

Say no to microaggressions
and to micro-spending decisions that support oppression
Say yes to micro-acts on the side of love
Say yes to not giving up on macro vision
and big picture thinking

Always be willing to dig deep
to think hard
to feel strongly

Rise up
stand tall
say no
be counted
hug often
hold your babies
hold your friends

Circle often
stand together
refuse to give up
when defeated, rally once more.
Persist in a vision of the way things could be
and take action
to bring that vision into reality.

Hug well
laugh often
live much

Speak your truth
tell your story
stand up for the silenced
speak for the voiceless
believe that hope still has a place

Hold steady
hold strong
hold the vision
hold each other.

When I came back inside, I added another Kiva loan to the three I already have going. I chose a women’s cooperative in Pakistan with a craft business. I paid for the loan using my profits from selling my own goddess art. I also signed up to sponsor a woman in the Congo via Woman to Woman International. Maybe this isn’t “enough,” but it is something. I work hard to support women in my own community in a variety of ways.  I write all over the place…maybe that isn’t “real” help, or maybe it is, but I can’t stop doing it.

Categories: feminism, feminist thealogy, Goddess, nature, spirituality, thealogy, women, women's circle, woodspriestess, writing | 4 Comments

Never Again?

This post is modified from my final essay in a Stigmatization of the Witch class at OSC:

Recent "mamapriestess" polymer clay figure.

Recent “mamapriestess” polymer clay sculpture.

In her book, Witchcraze, Anne Barstow concludes with the following sobering statement:  “This book has been an effort to remember the names of those who died across Europe. So far, few have said, ‘Yes, these things really happened.’ And no one has yet said, ‘They will never dare to happen again.’” (p. 167).

My first response upon reading this statement was, I’ll say it! They will never dare happen again! But, then I more somberly thought about the things I currently see in society that to me still carry living threads of the witchcraze legacy and I realized that I truly think that globally as well as in the U.S. we teeter on the edge of having history repeat itself. When I read about the histrionics of the extremely conservative and fundamentalist movements in the U.S. and their increasing and frightening political influence, it is not so farfetched to me to think that women in the U.S. could potentially end up living in the American version of Iraq in this current political decade! Some of the things conservative religious movements promote and advocate are very scary. And, they are increasingly gaining political influence in subtle but powerful ways. While I don’t think we would literally experience a resurgence of the “burning times,” I think the type of misogyny that produced them remains alive and well.

As a breastfeeding counselor and breastfeeding mother, I’d marked the following quote in the preceding chapter to share: “Be not-a-woman yourself; be as invisible about your sexuality and your motherhood as you possibly can. In a century in which men wore codpieces to emphasize and flaunt their genitals, women were being told, It is dangerous to show your breasts; don’t even nurse your babies in public” (p. 150). Facebook routinely deletes images of breastfeeding mothers and suspends people’s accounts for posting them. Last year, my friend shared a picture of a placenta and her account was put on a 24-hour hold for having shared an “obscene” image. Yet, pro-rape photos are acceptable.

Throughout this course, I was amazed at the sociocultural and political legacy of the witch hunts. I see many remnants in modern culture as well as active efforts to continue to dominate and religiously/culturally sanction that domination.

So, what I will say is, they will not happen again while there are those who are willing to speak, write, read, consider and theorize about these ideas and concepts. Where there are those who are willing to name the atrocities of the past and to squarely examine their modern legacy. And, while there are those still standing for women, social justice, liberty, and humanism.

Categories: feminism, OSC, women | 1 Comment

How the UU Church Introduced Me to the Goddess

Two blogs that I enjoy reading—Bishop in the Grove and Love, Joy, Feminism—both recently wrote about their personal experiences attending Unitarian Universalist Churches and the sense of community/value they found there. It made me think about the role of the UU Church in my own life and I decided it was time to give a shout-out to the UU Church and how it introduced me to the Goddess and to religion in a form that I not only could find palatable, but also deliciously meaningful and enriching. My first cause in life was feminism—a sense honed by my experiences as an agnostic homeschooled teenager amidst mostly fundamentalist Christians. I could not help but stand up for women’s rights and challenge the rhetoric my peers often shared about a “woman’s [lesser] place” in life and society. Because my developing sense of feminism burgeoned in response to patriarchal religious beliefs about women—the only religious beliefs I had yet encountered—I also developed a sense that feminism was not compatible with religion, period.

In college in the 1990’s as a psychology major, I always chose “women’s issues” as my main area of focus and I went on to graduate school in clinical social work, doing my internship at a battered women’s shelter (I also volunteered in one during my undergraduate years). My sense of the Goddess that later emerged is very intertwined with my deep beliefs about the inherent value and worth of women. After finishing graduate school in 2000, I started to have lots of “searching/seeking” conversations in the car with my husband–trying to find something to “plug into” and saying, “maybe I need to get religious?” But, there was no religion I could find that fit me/matched me and I decided it probably didn’t exist. As time passed, I continued to seek/discuss/ponder and a different friend mentioned her UU church and it being a “perfect spiritual home for her”–I dismissed it because of the word “church,” but in 2005, I took the infamous Beliefnet quiz and got a 100% match for Unitarian Universalism. Lo and behold–my beliefs about social justice and about the inherent dignity and worth of each human being, as well as about the deep mystery and wonder of the natural world were “pluggable” after all! By this time, we had moved and so I started attending my very, very tiny local UU fellowship.

Cakes “Gaia” logo

In 2003, my good friend had taken a women’s studies class in college and lent me the books When God was a Woman and The Chalice and the Blade and we began to have discussions about the Goddess and to explore our feelings about religion and meaning. She was the first person I was ever able to speak to deeply about spirituality. I was raised as a fourth generation “non-religious” person—my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents all had/have no religious or church affiliation. My friend and I talked a lot about Wicca and paganism and as I read more books, I realized something was missing for me in most pagan literature. I eventually discovered the “missing” element, for me, was the Goddess emphasis of feminist spirituality.

After beginning to attend the small local UU church that I jokingly refer to as the Church of Democracy and Evolution, I discovered the fabulous Women and Religion subgroup within the larger UU world and started to realize that my strong draw towards Goddess actually had a place and a home under the UU “umbrella” and that I didn’t have to self-identify as pagan or Wiccan in order to explore a relationship with Goddess. I trained as a Cakes for the Queen of Heaven facilitator in 2008 and discovered something every powerful in these resources. At the conclusion of the training, I had profound sense of THIS is what else there is for me! It was a pivotal moment.

After the empowering and transformative births of my sons in 2003 and 2006, I became deeply enmeshed in birthwork—expanding my senses of women’s issues and social justice into birth activism and birth education. Then, in 2009, my third son died during my second trimester of pregnancy. My birth-miscarriage experience with him was a powerful and transforming experience as well and I was left with a sense of openness to change. A receptivity to larger forces and powers in the world.  Indeed, it felt like a spiritual experience of sorts. After his birth and in my journey through grief, I experienced a sense of myself as inherently worthy and valuable—that I didn’t need to do anything special to be a worthwhile human being. I also had the revelation shortly after his birth that the power of women that is so present in birth, is present in women, period. I realized that this sense of “birth power” could be found in women’s spirituality and I found myself irresistibly drawn to more and more reading and study of feminist spirituality and Goddess thealogy. However, reading wasn’t enough. I felt the thread of Goddess that had danced at the edges of my life for so long, had finally become a distinct and extremely important presence in my life and I felt a call to more formally dedicate myself to a Goddess path.

On my son’s due date on May 3, 2010, which was also my 31st birthday, I did a small, private ceremony in the little stone labyrinth in my front yard in which I formally declared to myself and to the nature around me that I was now committed to practicing the presence of the Goddess in my everyday life. In May of 2011 and May of 2012, I renewed that commitment in another private ritual. Also in May of 2010, I went to a healer for “somatic re-patterning” (or, as I call it, “reprogramming my brain!”) and let go of the remaining neural pathways doubting my own worth and value. During our session, she told me that my healing gift is in words (not in physical touch or treatment) and that I live my spirituality, I don’t have to explain it. She also told me that something big was shifting inside of me and that I was opening up it a new direction. She asked if I perceived that shift in my life and I said, YES, knowing that it was this new sense of connection to the feminine divine.

In November of 2010, I attended at women’s spirituality retreat at a UU church in St. Louis and we did an exercise in which we each wrote a “gift” on a piece of paper (following a guided meditation) and then put them into a communal bowl and each drew out another’s woman’s gift–she was sharing it with us. I drew out “sacred words.” My friend told me she thought it was perfect for me because talking to me about her own experience of spirituality had been deeply meaningful to her. When I got home, I started looking for study programs/schools online because I knew in my heart that the time had come to deepen my personal study/experiences. After this retreat, I also started planning and facilitating quarterly women’s spirituality retreats locally. And, in January 2011, I gave birth to my own baby girl. She was born at home into my own hands, alone, under my own power and with my heart full of hope and joy and the promise of new beginnings.

In March of 2011 I started working on my D. Min degree in Thealogy/Goddess Studies at Ocean Seminary College and in July of 2012 I became ordained as a priestess with Global Goddess. Without my tentative steps into the UU church, I do not know that I’d be where I am right now. As is kind of the tagline of the program, I can honestly say that, “Cakes changed my life!”  😉

Categories: feminism, feminist thealogy, Goddess, spirituality, UU, women | 3 Comments

Ecofeminism

20120615-182229.jpgI consider myself to be a generally well-educated person as well as informed about feminism, social justice, and ecological issues. However, I had never actually heard the word “ecofeminism” until it was referenced in one of my courses at Ocean Seminary College. As such, when enrollment for the spring session of courses opened, I immediately signed up for an ecofeminism class as one of my electives.

In short, the foundation of ecofeminism is the perspective that the basic issues of ecological concern around the globe—water, wood, food, health care, climate change, environmental justice—are intimately intertwined with the status of women, their value and treatment. Many of the issues of domination, control, degradation, and oppression that affect women on this planet, also impact the health of the planet itself.

Ecofeminism is a diverse field of study with varying philosophies and approaches, all sharing the concept that there is a connection between, “unjustified domination of women and nature.” From a religious and spiritual perspective, I’ve always been interested by how women are associated with nature, the earthy, the mundane, the body; matters of the flesh and soil. Matter and mother are intimately connected. One of the ways in which patriarchal religion controls women is by asserting that women are connected to the body and the flesh, rather than to the (superior) realm of the mind and the spirit. As Carol Christ notes in her book, She Who Changes, “Feminist theologians have long recognized that women have been viewed as secondary or subordinate in dualistic anti-body traditions that follow Plato in making a sharp distinction between God and the unchanging soul on the one hand, and the changing body and nature on the other. In dualistic philosophies created by men, the rational soul of man is associated with the unchanging immortal realm of (a male) God, while woman is identified with the body, nature, and death.” [and sin!]…one set of qualities—the unchanging, the rational, the soul, the male—is valued more highly than the other—the changing, the natural, the body, the female. In such traditions God must be imaged as male because maleness is associated with the unchangeable realm of soul and spirit. God cannot be imaged as female because femaleness is associated with the changing body, nature, and death.”

In Karen Warren’s book Ecofeminist Philosophy she explains, “just as women’s bodies and labor are colonized by a combination of capitalism and patriarchy (or capitalist patriarchy), so is nature” (p. 26). I have previously written that patriarchy is built and maintained on the bodies of women. It is also built and maintained on the control of nature and natural resources. As someone with a special interest in the power of language and story to shape our world, I was most fascinated by the exploration of the connection between sexist-naturist language, emphasizing that, “Animalizing women in a patriarchal culture where animals are seen as inferior to human, thereby reinforces and authorizes women’s inferior status…similarly language that feminizes nature in a patriarchal culture, where women are viewed as subordinate and inferior, reinforces and authorizes the domination of nature” (p. 27). Language is used as a tool of social control and to reinforce patriarchal messages about ownership of body and resources. Exploitation of nature is justified by feminization of natural places and things and exploitation of women is justified by naturalizing their characteristics, roles, or value.

I also appreciate the observation that the root issue is, “’a social system in which the power of the Blade is idealized—in which both men and women are taught to equate true masculinity with violence and dominance…” (p. 21). These are primarily cultural and social structures, not biological imperatives. When domination of the earth, its resources, and its women is equated with a holy responsibility or sacred mandate, positions that uphold the rights of women and the sanctity of the earth have difficulty gaining ground.

Goddess worship and the symbol of the Goddess plays an important role in re-conceptualizing and restructuring the role of women, the value of nature, and the social order. “Many spiritual ecofeminists invoke the notion of ‘the Goddess’ to capture the sacredness of both nonhuman nature and the human body…the symbol of the Goddess ‘aids the process of naming and reclaiming the female body and its cycles and processes.” Rather than something to dominate and control, the earth becomes the body of the Goddess and is acknowledged as both literal and spiritual home and is something inseparably linked to personal well-being—planetary health and personal health become synonymous—and both treated with reverence and respect.

In another book about ecofeminism, Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism, Charlene Spretnak notes that there are two paths to ecofeminism the first originating in the study of politics and history (patriarchy and dominance of women) and the second path is “exposure to nature-based religion, usually that of the Goddess” (p. 5). I identify with both of these paths.

Spretnak also observes that ecofeminists ask, “…surely you’ve noticed that Western conquest and degradation of nature are based on fear and resentment; we can demonstrate that that dynamic is linked closely to patriarchal fear and resentment of of the elemental power of the female” (p. 11).

Ecofeminism also draws on an ethic of care, finding philosophical issue analysis to be, “…sterile and inadequate, a veiled attempt, yet again, to distance oneself from wonder and awe, from the emotional involvement and caring that the natural world calls forth” (p. 12).

In reflecting on this material I recalled a quote I used for post recently about menstruation: womb ecology reflects world ecology.

Categories: feminism, feminist thealogy, Goddess, thealogy, women | 3 Comments

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