Woodspriestess: Women’s Circles

“I see a chain of women, each listening to each, being present to her as she waits
for her Self to be born, for her feeling values to come to form and to birth…
Woman after woman, being present, as each finds her voice”
Judith Duerk: Journey to Herself

“The calling a woman feels to gather in Sacred Space with other Sisters starts first as a low and slow warmth that begins to burn. If left unfed, it rises quickly to a raging fire of desire. It will not be denied and can only be quenched by the nourishment of Truth, Candlelight,
Song And Sisterhood”
Ayla Mellani ~ Founder of Chrysalis Woman

“You will be teachers for each other. You will come together in circles and speak your truth to each other. The time has come for women to accept their spiritual responsibility for the planet”
Sherry Anderson & Patricia Hopkins ~ The Feminine Face of God

quotes via Chrysalis Woman

In February 2010, I bought the Rise Up and Call Her Name curriculum from the UU Women and Religion store. I listened to the CD that came with the curriculum over and over during one of my darkest personal experiences, the experience of my second miscarriage, and it spoke to me deeply at a time when I needed it and when I was not able to be “heard” in any other manner. It was at this time that the shift in my life’s focus became apparent to me, from birthwork to women’s life cycle work, and priestess work. I dreamed of facilitating the series of classes, but it took me until this year to actually make that dream a reality. We’ve been having quarterly women’s retreats locally since the end of 2010 and I’ve facilitated the Cakes for the Queen of Heaven series a couple of times as well as Meetings at the Moon for mother-daughter pairs, but Rise Up kept waiting in my closet. This year, I decided to offer it as a year-long once-a-month class, rather than as a 13 week series. I thought this made sense in terms of people’s busy schedules and ability to commit. As it turns out, committing to something once a month for a year may also be asking too much of many women and only a small handful of women made the commitment. We now have just a little circle of six, but we’re doing it and it actually feels like the perfect group after all (I’m easily seduced into bigger-is-better ways of thinking about groupwork, even though smaller groups can be much more rewarding experiences!). This afternoon was our March class and it really felt like it “healed” me from my disconnect, separation, can’t listen/reach out the way I wish to, feelings from my “making a place for others” post on Wednesday. My post from Wednesday was very much an artifact of not having any time alone to regroup from several stressful, too-busy days in a row. This afternoon before the Rise Up class, my parents had my kids over and I spent some time first down in the woods visiting the rocks further down the hill, including these that form a lovely circle…

March 2013 069

On my way back to the house, just look at what popped out at me from the ground…

March 2013 071

This is one of the “stepping stones” on the way to the priestess rocks. I can’t believe I’ve never noticed her before! When I came in, I put on the Rise Up CD and worked setting up a springtime altar. When I lay out an altar, I often kind of force myself to include the “right” objects representing the four directions. This time, I decided to just put on the altar what wanted to be there and what communicated something about the purpose of the day. I loved the result! It was one of my favorite circle altars so far.

March 2013 086

Altar with addition of springtime daffodil from my mom, rearrangement of many things by toddler daughter, and eating of fig cookies as part of the “ingathering” ritual…

March 2013 077

Circle round
circle round and celebrate
circle round and sing
circle round and share stories
circle round and reach out a hand


no beginning
no end

In my college classes, I often tell my students that in working with people, we need to learn to think in circles, rather than in lines. Circles are strong. Circles are steady. Circles hold the space, circles make a place for others. Circles can expand or contract as needed. Circles can be permeable and yet have a strong boundary. Linked arms in a circle can keep things out and show solidarity. Linked energy in a circle can transform the ordinary into sacred space. Hands at each other’s backs, facing each other, eye level.

In the woods, I offered this prayer for our circle:

May our circle be strong
may our circle be harmonious
may our circle be steady
and may our circle grow and change

please guide me as I priestess this circle today
please help me to see, hear, and honor those within the circle
help me to act with love in my heart, hands, and mind
help me to guard the energy of this space
help me to facilitate sacred connection

let us all act as sisters
as companions and friends
hold hands
hold the space
hold each other…

I also chose the following reading to use following the “ingathering” ritual at the opening of the Rise Up class. We did it as a responsive reading (i.e. I read each line and then the group repeated it). It felt perfect!

I am a woman,
a human being of extraordinary strength, wisdom, and grace.
My woman’s body was created in the body of a woman.
I am daughter, sister, mother
in thousands of generations of women…
I am a woman,
part of and the whole of the first circle,
the circle that transcended space and time,
the circle of women joined.
–Ann Valliant and Kathleen Klimek (in Open Mind by Diane Mariechild)

I had such a positive, happy feeling after the close of our class. I did not feel drained or as if I’d been doing too much or giving away too much of my energy. I felt nourished, healed, connected, and satisfied. In February, when I took my annual computer-off retreat, I had the realization that a lot of the scattered and distracted feelings I experience are more often related to children and parenting than to technology (I’d been blaming technology, but with the technology off, I realized it was actually the kids!). And, today I had a similar realization—that perhaps I often feel drained by people contact as well as scattered, distracted, and unable to fully connect, because I’m usually trying to do that and mother at the same time. While mothering is fulfilling too and my kids are certainly extremely important to me, oh my goodness it was just a delight to spend time with these friends today just us, with no kids asking us for anything. It was much easier to see and be seen, to hear and be heard, when there were no other needs to fulfill but our own!

Right as everyone was leaving, I remembered I’d wanted to offer aura photographs via a little app I’d gotten for my phone quite a few months ago… March 2013 091 I would not really place a lot of stock into its authenticness, but it was really fun and actually surprisingly on target!

After everyone left, I headed back down to the woods with my husband and daughter. We went on a spontaneous ramble through the woods and made many cool discoveries that I will have to write about in a later post…

March 2013 094

stepping out on an adventure…

Categories: community, friends, nature, prayers, priestess, ritual, spirituality, womanspirit, women, women's circle, woodspriestess | Leave a comment

Thursday Thealogy: Making a Place for Others


I went to the woods intending to take a picture of the setting sun, but I’d accidentally hit the reverse-image button, so my own face was looking at me instead. So, I thought…that’s most real!

 “…in listening you become an opening for that other person…Indeed, nothing comes close to an evening spent spellbound by the stories of women’s inner lives.”–Sacred Circles

This morning my attention was caught by this blog post’s exploration of becoming most real:

Becoming most real means becoming aware of what we are doing and feeling all the time. It means noticing not only our imagined or desired reality —the one we’re cooking up in our mind to soothe our discomforts and fears — but also the reality that actually exists, the one that is most real…

[during a stressful experience]…But then I asked, “What is most real?”

I noticed that I was feeling tense and stressed. That I knew already. But I also noticed that I was struggling to change things, trying to force myself to feel relaxed. And that was the key. Because then I went from being lost in the struggle to being aware of the struggle. I went from identifying with the struggling to identifying with my deeper self that sees the struggle. For a moment I was grounded in the unflickering flame of my true self. For a moment I achieved the very aim of yoga.

You can practice being most real by asking yourself, “What am I trying to feel right now, and what am I actually feeling right now?” These two are related: What you are trying to feel right now, or more specifically, the fact that you are trying, is what you are actually doing; it is most real. Most real is not the state you are trying to achieve but the state you are in. That’s where you’ll find the greatest vitality, peace, and happiness.

via Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi (book review).

I’m three quarters of the way through a year-long OSC class based on the book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. We’re examining and practicing compassion to ourselves and in personal relationships, community relationships, and to non-humans. The subject of the sixth month  was, “making a place for others.” What does this mean? The author explains…

I began to notice how seldom we “make place for the other” in social interaction. All too often people impose their own experience and beliefs on acquaintances and events, making hurtful, inaccurate, and dismissive snap judgments, not only about individuals but about whole cultures. It often becomes clear, when questioned more closely, that their actual knowledge of the topic under discussion could comfortably be contained on a small postcard. Western society is highly opinionated. Our airwaves are clogged with talk shows, phone-ins, and debates in which people are encouraged to express their views on a wide variety of subjects. This freedom of speech is precious, of course, but do we always know what we are talking about?

Armstrong, Karen (2010-12-28). Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (Kindle Locations 1476-1481). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Previously used in: Plucking out the heart of mystery

I spent all month working with this idea and very often, I suck at it. One of the roles of a priestess is to hold the space for others, and I do find I am able to do that in a ceremony environment and also in a support group setting, but it pretty much ends there. This isn’t really new for me, when I worked in battered women’s shelters, I remember coming home and being aware I was monopolizing the airspace with my husband and saying, “I spend so much time listening to other people and their pain, that then when I get home I just need a space too and I no longer feel like I can give it to anyone else.” So, I feel as if my closest family members rarely get to experience my ability to hold a space for others, because they’re sort of forced into that role for me instead.

I’m really feeling exhausted this week. Worn out and beaten down. Incapable of keeping up. Dropping balls. Forgetting things. Having to leave things undone, unreplied to, unfinished, let go. Bad mother, bad wife, bad friend, bad person. I know from past experience that this isn’t a permanent feeling. It is directly related to not enough time at home alone and too much outward directed energy with no time to refuel and recollect my energy. Next week looks much the same. Some of it is self-imposed. A lot of it is related to other people’s expectations of me (or perceived expectations). I keep feeling as if I’m making the wrong choices, doing the wrong things, letting myself get scattered and fragmented and overwhelmed and panicky. And, as I write it all out, I then feel like I can see how my thinking is disordered and I feel judged.

What’s been on my mind today is listening to other people; making a place for others. I’ve been thinking about seeing and being seen, hearing and being heard, knowing and being known. About witnessing each other. But, is there really any way to see and to truly be seen or is it all so filtered through our own lenses and our own interpretations of experience that we all just bump around into each other’s “ice cubes” rather than actually connecting? (See Charlotte Joko Beck for the “ice cube” thing.) I’m such a self-monitor, the watching of myself becomes painful, and I feel inauthentic or critical of my own responses and being. I want to be able to connect authentically, to reach out and engage with others deeply, to have the same sense of understanding of other people as I have of myself and this patch of earth I live on. Today, in the woods I thought: this is just all so relentless. And, then I thought: yes, it IS relentless. Life is relentless. That is what makes it beautiful. I sometimes feel as if I’m becoming more and more distant and disconnected from people even as “connection” takes a prominent position in my thealogy and my values, and yet it feels so hard, and I feel so tired. And I want for everyone to get along and I want for everyone to be friends and I want for everyone to understand each other, I want for everyone to be seen and to be heard and to be known. I want this for myself and for others and yet, I can’t do it. Sometimes I feel separated from others by glass. The way I share my own feelings and taste my own experiences is through the written word. Companionship lately ends up making me want to run away (again, I know logically that this isn’t actually true, it is symptom of not having the two hours to myself that I need. Once I have some two hours I’ll be back and not at the verge of tears all of the time anymore). I want to separate right now. Separate so that I can write about connection…

What is real?


Sun on its way down.
I had a weird moment here in which I laid my head on my knee, where my phone was resting–both my eyes were open and because one of them was looking at the reflection of the trees/sky in the shiny front of the phone and the other was actually looking at the ground, it was like I could see the trees and sky superimposed on the leaves/rocks and it was very surreal. Since I was writing about perception and thinking, again, about subjective experience, it seemed like a fitting moment–one I wished it was possible to photograph too!

Feel your breath
feel your pulse
notice the butterfly
watch the hawk
hear the spring peepers
witness the sunset
listen for howling
give thanks for that relentless, hot, hunger
that fuels you
celebrate your own passion
and your refusal to stop trying
feel tears prick your eyes
feel tiredness sweep your body.
wind in your hair
life at your back and at your shoulders
hope on your lips
love is in your hands…

I can’t make a place for others unless I’m willing to make a place for myself.

Categories: family, friends, introversion, nature, Thursday Thealogy, women's circle, woodspriestess | 3 Comments

International Women’s Day: Prayer for Mothers

March 2013 018

The world needs you.
Sing your strengths
dance your passions
smile your successes
hug yourself with compassion
for your painful moments
take a second to drink it up
and to rest in powerful certainty
that you are enough

Breathe out
breathe in
soft shoulders
soft belly
strong legs
strong woman

A mother who is seen
who is heard
who is appreciated
who is valued.

In and out
Mama, you’re amazing


Today, on International Women’s Day, when I went down to the woods I spoke (wrote?!) a Prayer for Mothers that I then published on my other blog. After a pause, I added the above words as well.

My children have a “thing” about losing their shoes. Every time we leave the house, it feels like mass chaos of shoe locating, even though we have a specific place where shoes are supposed to be kept. Recently, after scouring the house for ages, giving up, and finally digging out some different, older shoes for my toddler, we then eventually located her shoes in the cupboard with the bread machine. This week, one of those same favorite blue shoes went missing and we haven’t been able to find it anywhere, so she’s been wearing her pink shoes instead. Today, when I stepped out to go down to the woods, the missing shoe was waiting for me at the bottom of the deck stairs.

March 2013 017
When I’d headed out to the woods today I’d been thinking, again, about the balance between mothering and “personing” and how difficult it feels a lot of the time to meet everyone in the house’s needs. I persist in thinking it is possible to actually live our family affirmation: our family works in harmony to meet each member’s needs. However, last night and this morning it felt like anything but! So, finding the shoe seemed like a little message. I’d brought out a pendant that my husband made for me using several items of meaning to me. I think of it as one of my priestess necklaces. The moon goddess pendant in the middle is one of a set of matching pendants that I gave to my mom and my friend when we went to the Gaea Goddess Gathering together last fall (I’ve bought some more of them recently to give to the other members of our circle so eventually we can all have matching necklaces). While at the GGG, a lot of issues came up for me about family harmony and I bought matching stone “doughnut” pendants from one of the vendors for my husband, kids, and myself. We wear them during our family full moon rituals each month. My friend and my mom each gave me one of the stone points during a “mother” ceremony at the GGG and during that time I felt very acknowledged and “seen” by my friend in the priestess role I’m growing into with our women’s circle. So, today, it felt like an integrative experience to take a picture of the shoe and pendant together.

March 2013 019

Then, when I went to pick my kids back up from my dad’s house, we couldn’t find my daughter’s pink shoes anywhere and had to come home without them!

For past International Women’s Day thoughts about birth activism and feminism see this post.

Categories: blessings, family, friends, poems, prayers, priestess, woodspriestess | 1 Comment

Body Blessing to and from the Mother


Feet planted solidly on Mother Earth
Drawing up
Gaia energy
Rich life
Pulsing planet
Power of being

Shoulders back
Chest open
I breathe in the Breath of Life
Breathing me

Spreading my arms
Hands open
I feel the pulse of my heart
Blood flowing
Life giving
Throughout my body
The blood of my womb
Matching the tides of the ocean
And the pull of the moon
Linked in watery wonder

Breathing deep
and clearing my mind
I feel the spark of life within
Passion blooming
Vibrantly alive
And dancing
Twisting through my spirit
With energetic ecstasy

Breathe in
Breathe out
Draw it up
Draw it in

Resting now,
In the hand of Mother Goddess
Breathing with her
Standing with her
Resting with her
Knowing her

Blessed be.

I composed the above as my first post as a regular contributor to the Pagan Families blog on Patheos!


This month I was also planning our winter women’s retreat and I decided to modify the blessing somewhat to use as our opening invocation. This was the first time I’d used something that I written entirely on my own and it felt vulnerable—I had to ask, “how was that? Was that okay? Did that work?” 😉

The purpose of the invocation is to ground us in our bodies, while also connecting us to the larger swirl of energies that surround us—as I composed it, I envisioned sort of a circle, in which we are embedded and moving within. I feel as if this invocation itself creates a circle and brings the immanent and transcendent together into shared space, as it both invokes the elements and awakens your body.

In this version, the words included in parentheses are optional replacements or additions, according to your specific group’s needs.

January 2013 051

Little herbal goddess doll we made during the retreat also.

Feet planted solidly on Mother Earth
Drawing up
Gaia energy
Rich life
Pulsing planet
Power of being

Shoulders back
Chest open
Breathe in the Breath of Life
Breathing you

Spreading your arms
Hands open
Feel the pulse of your heart
Blood flowing
Life giving
Throughout your body
The blood of your womb (veins)
Matching the tides of the ocean
And the pull of the moon
Linked in watery wonder

Breathing deep
and clearing your mind
Feel the spark of life within
Passion blooming
Vibrantly alive
And dancing
Twisting through your spirit
With energetic ecstasy

Breathe in
Breathe out
Draw it up
Draw it in

Resting now,
on the Earth
And in this circle (of women)
(In the hand of the Goddess)

Breathing with her
Standing with her
Knowing her

Blessed be.

Categories: blessings, friends, invocations, poems, prayers, priestess, readings, ritual, spirituality, theapoetics, womanspirit, women, women's circle, writing | 1 Comment

New Moon Ritual

This is part of an assignment for a class in Ritual and Liturgy at OSC.

Sept 2012 3 050The altar is laid outdoors in sight of the new moon. It contains one candle for each direction as well as a central candle. Symbols are present for each direction as well: a stone and a glass globe for Earth, a feather for air, a bowl and a shell for water, a chalice for fire. Also on the altar is a Goddess of Willendorf and a handmade “Moontime” Goddess sculpture. The altar cloth is a deep green. There is also a candle for each participant.

Participants circle up and place hands on each other’s backs and do a group hum of, “Om” and then toning with a bell.

Using the bell, each person names themselves and is called into the ritual circle (name repeated three times and then bell chimes)

The invocation chosen acknowledges the power of the various phases of the moon as the candles are lit in the appropriate directions (modified by a sun invocation by Luisah Teish in Jump Up):

East: In the East we call upon the power of the New Moon, the bright sliver of renewal. Here we ask for new beginnings and we commit to renewing ourselves.

South: In the South, we call upon the power of the Full Moon, the steady, energetic light that illuminates the world. Here we ask for strength to be with us, and we commit to using our strength for the good of the community.

West: In the West, we call upon the power of the Waning Moon, the deep light that calms the mind at the end of the day. Here we ask for a sense of satisfaction, and we pledge to take care of ourselves.

North: In the North we call upon the power of the Dark Moon and Night Sky, the time of incubation that permits us to rest. Here we ask for the vision of dreams, and we agree to meet our inner wisdom in that place.
Each participant takes a turn lighting their personal candle and sharing something they’re thankful for from the past cycle and then naming something they’d like to bring into this energy of new beginnings.

We will start a CD of flute music (Womanspirit) and engage in a dancing gratefulness prayer described in SageWoman magazine (number 64, page 10).

After the dance, we will join hands again and say a closing prayer to open up the circle:

Open up the circle of healing and trust.

To the South, innocence and joy,

To the East, new beginnings,

To the North, cool winds of reason,

To the West, nighttime for dreaming,

Up above, the source of light, the Sky,

Beneath our feet, the womb of life, Mother Earth,

Open up the circle of healing and trust.

Then, we’ll have time for a family drum circle!

September 2012 3 055

Categories: family, friends, invocations, liturgy, readings, resources, ritual, spirituality, womanspirit, women's circle | 1 Comment

Priestess Year in Review

“May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder”

–J. Donohue

“The revolution must have dancing; women know this. The music will light our hearts with fire,
The stories will bathe our dreams in honey and fill our bellies with stars…”

–Nina Simons in We’Moon 2012

Happy New Year!

Two things I’d like to note as 2012 closes out and I welcome 2013: When I became ordained as a priestess with Global Goddess in July of last year, one of the commitments I made as part of ordination was to be of service in some way to the organization and to document my service to my community through the year. And second, after the ordination ceremony and I was all excited and saying to my boys, “I’m officially a priestess now!” they said, “what’s a priestess?” and I explained that a priestess was someone who does a variety of things including planning ceremonies and holding rituals. And, they said, “oh, you already were a priestess.” This might sound casual, but it was really meaningful to me because it affirmed that not only was I on the right path, but that I also wasn’t “pretending” or taking on a new identity or role I wasn’t ready for, I was already doing it–my kids saw it and some important friends in my life saw it also.

So, in keeping with these two things, this is my priestess year in review… 🙂

  • Wrote articles for each one of the four issues of The Oracle (Global Goddess online publication) following my ordination in July. This was the commitment of service to the organization I made. I already have a couple of articles planned for the upcoming issues as well.
  • Moderated at my UU church (only once in 2012. I’m on the schedule again for the spring).
  • Planned at least six family full moon rituals (my own family only).
  • Hosted winter women’s retreat
  • Planned, hosted, and facilitated summer women’s retreat
  • Facilitated a full series of Cakes for the Queen of Heaven classes (five weeks)
  • Planned and facilitated what we termed a “journeyway” ceremony for a close friend—the ceremony was like our “traditional” mother blessing ceremonies, but had a threefold purpose and involved acknowledging miscarriage, celebrating the friend’s birthday, and holding a house blessing ceremony.
  • Planned and facilitated a mother blessing ceremony for a new friend.
  • Officiated at a wedding ceremony and handfasting in October.
  • Planned and facilitated an overnight women’s retreat and SageWoman ceremony in November. This, for me, was the highlight of my service to my local women’s circle this year 🙂
  • Officiated at a wedding ceremony and handfasting in December.
  • Held a small winter solstice ritual for my immediate family and my parents.
  • Planned and facilitated our first fireside ritual/ceremony and drum circle involving whole families (instead of either just women or just my own family) for New Year’s Eve last night.
  • Not so much in service or in priestess work, I also had three guest posts published on the Feminism and Religion blog. And, I went to the Gaea Goddess Gathering in Kansas and brought back various ideas and resources for my local community (including the inspiration to purchase a big community/powwow drum).



    Handfasting with a lovely bride and handsome groom!

    2013 Full Moon Calamandala

    2013 Full Moon Calamandala

Plans for 2013:

    • Family full moon ritual each month. We meant to do one during every full moon in 2012, but there were various reasons why we didn’t actually achieve this every month. I would like 2013 to include all 13 moons. I am considering inviting other people to participate instead of only my own family.
    • Facilitate the whole series of Rise Up and Call Her Name classes. I bought this program in 2010, it is high time I use it! I’m envisioning this as a once a month class, spread out over the whole year.
    • Continue to hold quarterly women’s spirituality retreats, one during each season.
    • Plan and host four seasonal rituals for whole families (not just women, not just my own family)
    • Hold a house blessing/blessingway ceremony for a friend who is building her own house.
    • Continue writing all over the place and taking classes at Ocean Seminary College.

I feel blessed by connection to others, my sense of community experience, a wonderful group of friends, and a supportive family! Welcome, 2013!

“I know myself linked by chains of fires,
to every woman who has kept a hearth.
In the resinous smoke
I smell hut, castle, cave,
mansion and hovel,
See in the shifting flame
my mother and grandmothers
out over the world.”
-–Elsa Gidlow (quoted in The Politics of Women’s Spirituality)

Ipad Pix 117


Categories: family, friends, priestess, ritual, spirituality, womanspirit, women's circle | 10 Comments

Stand, Sisters…

Stand together, dear sisters,

arm in arm, thigh to thigh, heart to heart–

Great CD for women’s circles! Circle of Women
(Amazon affiliate link)

stand strong, sturdy, flexible.

Stand on the seesaw

and know–

it’s always moving, never still,

forever moving up and down

always rises up again.

Stand flexibly, dear sisters.

stand together, arm in arm,

and whether you’re up or down–


–Barbara Ardinger in SageWoman Magazine #78

Categories: friends, poems, readings, womanspirit, women, women's circle | Leave a comment

Blog at