Goddess

Day 3: This is My News (#30DaysofBrigid)

I have news for you. IMG_0160
The sun sets every day
The hollow tree is beginning to tip over
Wind chimes sing
Bushy tailed squirrels sit on rocks
Deer have walked in the driveway
There are bluebirds in the vineyard.
I step from stone to stone
To keep my baby happy.
His head smells like vanilla.
The woods are brown and skeletal
There is a sound in the branches,
And a taste in the air
That dreams of spring.
Babies can drum with the forest.
This is my news.

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Categories: #30daysofBrigid, drums, family, Goddess, nature, poems, spirituality, woodspriestess | Tags: | Leave a comment

Day 2: Bud (#30DaysofBrigid)

January 2015 125Lilac buds await spring.

Categories: #30daysofBrigid, Goddess, sacred pause, spirituality, woodspriestess | Tags: | Leave a comment

30 Days of Brigid

I love Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Tarot deck. It is one of my top favorites for morning inspiration and intuitive guidance. It is also the deck we used to do our annual oracle this year. So, when I got an email about her simple ecourse, 30 Days of Brigid, I was intrigued! This is the description:

30 Days of Brigid is an ecourse for those who want a daily inspirational touchstone during Brigid’s season of the Prelude-to-Spring (known as Imbolc or Candlemas).

On the surface, it’s about beautiful photos, art, quotes, and journal/photo prompts landing in your inbox every day for 30 days.

But really? It’s about connecting more deeply with the creative fire of the Celtic Goddess Brigid as she begins to awaken the land from its winter sleep.

The course is designed for people who don’t have much time, but still want to take a sacred pause each day to find a fresh breeze of nature, art, and poetry wafting into their inboxes.

via 30 Days of Brigid ~ A Daily Sacred Pause of Creative Inspiration.

I signed up for multiple reasons. The first is because Brigid is our business namesake. We celebrate the anniversary of Brigid’s Grove in February and doing this course felt like a wonderful way to honor that connection. The second is because of the “don’t have much time, but want to take a sacred pause,” part. With adding a new baby to our family and the increase in our business activity, I feel like some of my spiritual practices and sacred pauses have fallen away. In 2015, we would like to take more sacred pauses and spend more focused energy on spiritual development and connection. So, taking this course felt like a great way to begin the year–building intentional pauses and sacred connection into the daily round, rather than only on “special occasions.” After doing the first two days of the course, I realized that this course could also neatly tie back into my (near) daily Woodspriestess time, since most of the pictures I take for the ecourse are taken in the woods. So, I plan to share a quick post here every day, usually photo only, as we move through 30 Days of Brigid. I really like the integrated feeling I have with this plan!

Sept 2013 043

Brigid altar (GGG 2013)

Edited to add: This is my 300th blog post on this blog! So, that also feels like an auspicious connection/beginning to this new sacred pause project.

Categories: #30daysofBrigid, Goddess, retreat, ritual, spirituality, woodspriestess | Tags: | 1 Comment

Book Review: Naming the Goddess

namingthegoddess

“On any spiritual path, and most especially on one that is simultaneously a path of magical practice, our real progress and growth is measurable largely in the capacity to pass the challenges that are set before us. The easy parts of the journey are not the most important.”

–Philip Kane (in his essay on Laverna, Naming the Goddess, p. 232)

Naming the Goddess, published by Moon Books, is a collaborative work bringing together essays written by over eighty scholars and practitioners of Goddess Spirituality, including contributions from Selena Fox, Kathy Jones, Caroline Wise and Rachel Patterson. A unique aspect of this book is that it is a two-part project with the first part of the book containing a series of contemplative and scholarly essays and the second part serving as a “gazetteer” of different goddesses, making it useful both as a reference book and as well as one that encourages reflective spiritual thought.

The perspectives and thealogies explored in the first section are pleasantly diverse and engaging. I do wish this section was longer, because I felt like it was still getting going when the focus then shifted to the second, larger section of the book.

I confess I didn’t expect to particularly enjoy the gazetteer portion because I have a variety of goddess “dictionary” type books already and I expected much of the second part of the book to be a repeat of information I already have. However, the approach in Naming the Goddess was decidedly different. First, because many of the seventy goddesses included were uncommon deities with whom I was not familiar. Second, because the entries were written with a personal flair, often by women or men who directly work with the goddesses profiled, rather than solely being a generic overview of the mythology or cultural lore associated with the goddess. Having so many voices represented in one book also means that I found a number of other books to add to my wish list as well as diverse authors and bloggers to follow online!

Another enjoyable element of this volume of essays was the “bite-sized” nature of each piece. Most of the essays are 2-5 pages long, meaning the book can readily be digested in a stop-and-start manner that is very compatible with a busy life that includes four small children!

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

November 2014 136

Categories: books, feminist thealogy, Goddess, readings, resources, reviews, thealogy | 1 Comment

Dance in a circle of women…

Dance in a circle of women
Make a web of life
Hold me as I spiral and spin
Make a web of my life…

Marie Summerwood

Apparently, it takes me a complete year to finish “processing” my annual Gaea Goddess Gathering experience and finally writing a blog post about it! At the moment, I’m embroiled in packing and preparations to go to this year’s event beginning later in this week and don’t really have time for in-depth posts…but, here I am. I’m traveling this year with two friends and meeting my mom, sister-in-law, and another friend there (as well as friends made at past events too). One of the things I realized last year was how much I appreciated the sense of connection and community with a larger circle of women than just our own small local group.

One of the songs we sang, danced, and drummed to around the fire at GGG in 2013 was Dance in a Circle of Women. I’ve been humming to myself as I pack for this year’s event. I created the pewter pendant design shown above based on the song and also this one, which we’ve had trouble casting properly and thus only a very small quantity exist (traveling with me, not available online yet!):

photo(23)

At this year’s festival, I am vending as well as giving a workshop on Womanrunes. I’m also going to be 8 months pregnant, but I won’t be bringing any kids with me this year (other than the one inside!), which hopefully means my attention will be less fragmented than in years past. I’m a little worried that the twin demands of my merchant booth and wanting to go to the various good happenings will create a similar sense of fragmentation though.

One of the things I enjoy about the GGG is collecting resources to bring home to my own community. I jotted down lyrics to these songs from the 2013 festival and have used some of them locally:

Make sacred space
Remember who you are

–Shawna Carol

(we sang this one during the main ritual on Saturday night and it was lovely in the darkness, surrounded by candles and be-robed women!)

Oh woman
Oh sister
She is me

Holding me
That I may hold you

Forever goddess

(we sang this one in the rain during the dedication of the 2013 temple to Brigid)

I am alive
I am beautiful
I am creative
I am…
I can do anything
I put my heart and mind into.

(this one is a raucous and delightful experience when shouted out in call-and-response format by the fireside. I’ve used it several times since experiencing it at GGG with Priestess Kim.)

So, as I described in a past post, the morning after our 2013 return, I’d typed up a list of fabulous insights gleaned from the experience and my ipad “notes” feature experienced a bizarre glitch never experienced before or since and deleted my entire list. I was able to remember some of them and re-type them, but after that moment they never made it into another post of their own:

…After my unbinding ritual, I walked slowly back to the house feeling light and contemplative. Inside, before anyone else woke up, I typed up all of my reflections and insights from this year’s [2013] GGG. I felt integrated, settled, whole, and at peace. I went to do laundry and when I was in the room, I thought of something else to include in my list which was going to be a later blog post. I returned to my screen where the insightful note had been waiting for me and it was gone. Never to be recovered. I could NOT believe it. All my insights! All my wisdom! Gone! I have to start over…But, then I really just had to laugh and cry a little, because here was another insight, another lesson, another hiccup in my story. And, not everything has to be a blog post after all….

via Be Still | WoodsPriestess.

Since it is time for 2014’s event already, I decided to just put up my unfinished, unformatted, incomplete, re-created list from last year and here it is…

  • I find it is hard for me to have “spiritual experiences” in a group, vs. alone. I do not necessarily know how to create that atmosphere for others. I know how to create a “retreat” atmosphere, but not really a “spiritual experience” atmosphere.
  • I was way too attached to past experience and therefore had difficult appreciating the experience in front of me.
  • I had to stare right in the face that I’d come primarily to collect, rather than share. I found myself feeling disappointed by certain elements on multiple occasions and realized that part of it was my own fault for wanting to collect rather than share.
  • I had a disquieting sensation of the women there not knowing who I am—and, I didn’t show them. I felt like I kept what I am capable of and good at hidden. I realized I feel taken for granted a little in own community. I came wanting to “receive” again, but could have/should have given. I unbound my 2012 medicine bundle when I got home and I absolutely should have done so before (literally and metaphorically). Released ties that bind…
  • Context matters and brings compassion
  • Unlike the preceding year, I had several experiences in which I felt encouraged to be less—to dim my shine…

[from 2013 post on my other blog]

…When I attended the GGG this year, one of the realizations I came home with is that sometimes I feel like people are trying to get me to be less (more about this some other time). And, I remembered a session I had with a healer who did a somatic repatterning process with me—one of the beliefs she tested on me was, “I am not enough.” It got a marginal response, but then she tested, “I am TOO MUCH.” And, THAT is the one that tested as true. I wonder how much about myself that I try to change or that I struggle with actually comes from the fear of being, too much. Too intense. Too active. Too talkative. Too much thinking, too much writing, too many ideas, too many projects, too much waving of my hands and pacing when I talk. Too, too, too, too much.

via Blogging, Busyness, and Life: Part 1 | Talk Birth.

Previously quoted here: via The Warrior-Priestess | WoodsPriestess.

  • As referenced above, not everything a story or blog post.
  • Also as referenced earlier, my attention felt very split by having my toddler daughter with me. I very much look forward to the experience of going alone this year, while I also look forward to eventually taking her with me again when she is a little bit older.
  • I still lack confidence/standing in personal power in a variety of settings/contexts.
  • The experiences that were the most potent were those unanticipated or planned for, like a misty morning walk around the lake with my sister-in-law, or watching the full moon rise over the ritual circle.
  • It is possible to forge a connection with the land somewhere other than where I live.
  • I like new experiences—fresh surprises. Unexpected experiences hold most power. What I was looking forward to/expecting was a letdown, what I did not have preconceived notions about was rewarding.
  • I very much appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to spend quality time with my sister-in-law and before this experience had never spent time with her one on one without my brother or my mom also around.
  • Another unlooked for and unexpected experience was when I was volunteering as as temple priestess in Brigid’s temple and the main altar caught fire. I beat the flaming vines and tablecloth and candles out with my sandal while wearing my toddler daughter in a baby carrier asleep on my chest. It was a fiery initiation into service to Brigid and I think was actually the beginning “spark” of our business dedicated to her (I heard in the woods during a woodspriestess experience last year that Brigid does not need/want me as a priestess [that service is to Gaia], but she wants us as “dedicants.”)
  • Being a merchant was really fun. It was also a significant expenditure of energy.
  • I had several experiences and conversations that told me I might be overlooking the capacities of those around me.
  • I noticed that while being an excellent bonding and sisterhood experience there might also be an inhibiting factor to be present with existing friends and relatives (both in the sense of me possibly inhibiting them and them me), because we have such history and past, established means of interacting with each other/what we expect from each other, etc., so perhaps we were embarrassed to “let it all hang out” (emotionally and literally!), because we have an existing friendship rather than a festival only relationship/friendship. However, at the same time, it was also an opportunity to deepen, grow, and know each other better and I’d much rather have that than a once-a-year-festival-based friendship, that is likely less whole and authentic, though also perhaps less complicated too.

I also made a lot of observations about the role of non-facilitating members during rituals as well, previously explored in part in this past post:

…I witnessed how easily a ritual can lose power when the co-circlers do not take the ritual seriously. It is easy and simplistic to point to the Priestess as the one who “failed” to hold the energy of the circle, but the responsibility for the circle belongs to all its members. Ruth Barrett in Women’s Rites, Women’s Mysteries explains the responsibilities of circle participants as such: “Ritual Priestessing is not for the faint of heart. If you fear chaos, the unexpected, or the unforeseen, choose another vocation. A ritual facilitator regularly finds herself in challenging situations that are not at all what she originally planned. In order to facilitate others, you first need to know how to be a good participant. I don’t believe that it is possible for a woman to priestess/facilitate a ritual effectively until she first knows how to truly participate in one…

I would also add “avoid heckling.” What does this mean? In my observations at the GGG, I noticed a trend for circle participants to call out different comments in a joking way, either across the circle or to the woman facilitating the ceremony. While it seemed to be done in a light-hearted way and perhaps was the local custom of this group of women, the effect on the group as a whole was striking. The “heckling”—at least to me—led to palpable energy “leaks” in the ritual container and resulted in a commensurate drop in the power and focus of the circle.

via Co-Circling & The Priestess Path | WoodsPriestess.

Continuing my jotted notes:

  • No heckling
  • The middle of ritual matters—a successful ritual has to have a working phase
  • It is easy to be critical and when you’re just watching.
  • Low energy? How do we contribute to that? Group members hold powerful responsibility too!
  • Leadership matters and is big responsibility and sacred duty.
  • Letting go of self-pressure, perhaps in the name of “self-care,” can have a definite negative impact on others (this is more a judgement by me of others, though I want to take heed of what I noticed so I don’t do the same thing to other people—I noticed that phrases like, “cut yourself slack” or “be flexible” or “go with the flow,” or, “don’t put too much pressure on yourself,” can be used as excuses for doing a bad job, letting other people down, and failing, basically).

And, some pictures (captions will show if you click to enlarge):

Related past posts:

Gaea Goddess Gathering: Listen to the wise woman….

I make the effort

The Warrior-Priestess

Co-Circling & The Priestess Path

Be Still

Moonpriestess

Woodspriestess: Brigid

 

 

Categories: community, friends, GGG, Goddess, night, priestess, retreat, reviews, ritual, self-care, spirituality, thealogy, womanspirit, women, women's circle | 3 Comments

Womanrunes Book!

We did it! After an 18 months process of working with Womanrunes and developing my interpretations of them, we’ve published our book! It took much longer and was a much more significant birthing process than I imagined, but it feels so good to have completed it.

I’m interested to now witness the fear that has come up for me in the last two  days though as we’ve approved the final proof and ordered the first copies—what if no one likes it? What if it is too much? What if in “stepping out” like this, I open myself up for “attack” of some kind? Anyway, regardless, it is here!

This book is a collaborative effort between my husband and me. I wrote the text and my husband did all the illustrations, layout, and formatting. At present the book is available in two formats: in paperback from CreateSpace and in digital pdf version from Etsy. A version that includes a professionally printed set of Womanrunes cards is forthcoming by September 1st.

We are extremely pleased with our work on this project and are so glad to offer it to the world! Womanrunes_Cover_for_KindleWomanrunes: A guide to their use and interpretation

From an idea by Shekhinah Mountainwater smAugust 2014 006

In 1988, women’s spirituality foremother and wayshower, Shekhinah Mountainwater, experienced a “goddess-lightning” strike of inspiration and created a set of 41 woman-identified rune symbols for divination and personal growth. Twenty-four years later, I discovered Womanrunes and created an expanded means of interpreting, using, and exploring these powerful, magical symbols.

Discover and explore…

*the herstory and development of Womanrunes
*how to interpret Womanrunes
*how to make your own Womanrunes
*how to lay out and read Womanrunes

Publication Date:
Aug 19 2014
ISBN/EAN13: smAugust 2014 008
1500761214 / 9781500761219
Page Count:
124
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
5.5″ x 8.5″
Language:
English
Color:
Black and White
Related Categories:
Body, Mind & Spirit / Divination / General

smAugust 2014 014August 2014 011

I took the book down to the woods with me, of course, because that is where it was conceived of, gestated, and birthed.

In gratitude.
August 2014 041

Growing more than one new creation at once! 🙂

 

Categories: books, divination, Goddess, pregnancy, priestess, resources, spirituality, theapoetics, Womanrunes, womanspirit, woodspriestess, writing | 5 Comments

Ocean Seminary College

“The time will come when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the other’s welcome, and say, sit here. Eat. Sit. Feast on your life.” –Derek Walcott

(quoted in The Mother’s Wisdom Deck)

“Human connections are deeply nurtured in the field of shared story.” –Jean Houston

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m working on the Thealogy/Goddess Studies D.Min at Ocean Seminary College and took a little pitstop for an M.Div, completed in July. I get occasional questions on my Facebook page or via email about how I feel about the program and I’ve been promising for a long time that I would write a blog post about it. In general, I love it! You do have to be extremely self-motivated to succeed with the programs though. There is not a lot of feedback and can be long delays in communication. So, lots of self-discipline, self-motivation, and self-starting is very key to actually making progress. Luckily, I’ve always been very self-motivated, so the self-organized structure works for me.

After finishing the M.Div, I am slowly picking back up my D.Min work too and expect to finish my dissertation next year. I very much enjoy my work with OSC and have grown exponentially personally, professionally, and thealogically as a direct result of diving into the work there and really doing it, but there are two things to go into the experience with—be prepared to be VERY self-directed and self-motivated and be prepared to be patient. The staff is small and somewhat overtaxed and so it can take a LONG time to get any feedback or response on your classwork. I learned to just move forward at my own pace and appreciate the feedback when it came. And, no one will hold your hand or push you to get started and to do the work, that drive and motivation has to come from within and is self-directed. The classes themselves are extraordinarily well-organized and comprehensive and my mind boggles at all the work that went into creating and planning them. But again, though, your progress through them is going to have to come from within!

These are the classes I completed as my Ministerial/M.Div courses and D.Min foundation work:

02.01.004 Stigmatization of the Witch in History Spring 2012

This class was emotionally difficult due to the intense violence experienced by women during the “witchcraze” years, but amazing in terms of what I learned and the connections I made. As I’ve referenced in prior posts, I really made the sociological connection between current political climates and past events and they are not as far away from each other as we may like to believe.

02.02.001 Goddess Traditions in Contemp. Society I Fall 2011
02.02.002 Goddess Traditions in Contemp. Society II Spring 2012

These classes were both helpful in refining my personal thealogy, developing a framework for my beliefs, and in providing me with material that later became blog posts or essays for other publications!

02.02.003 Historical Roots of Goddess Worship Fall 2012

In this course, I realized that Goddess herstory is simply not my area of interest. I don’t need to be convinced of the role and presence of goddesses throughout human history and so I had to really kind of force myself through this class which felt repetitive after all the reading and writing I’ve already done on this subject.

02.02.004 Introduction to Thealogy Spring 2012

This class was a tremendous academic challenge that really pushed me to grow, expand, and refine my own thealogy and my own conceptual understanding of this field. It was hard, mentally exhausting work. This class took me a year to finish and it twisted my brain in many ways and really made me dig more deeply.

02.02.005 Matriarchal Myth I Spring 2013
02.02.006 Matriarchal Myth II Fall 2013
02.02.007 Matriarchal Myth III Winter 2014

See my notes on Goddess History above. These classes got repetitive and I felt like, I got this already. I kept returning to the same themes, topics, quotes, and references because I really have already built my “case” and understanding in this area. However, the final class in which we had to read and respond to several books that attempt to debunk or challenge goddess-centered narratives was very valuable at, again, pushing the boundaries of my own understanding and my ability to articulate it and make a case for my own understanding or interpretation.

02.02.012 Birth, Death, Regeneration Fall 2012

This was a fun and experiential class, exploring the classic Maiden, Mother, Crone archetypes in one’s own life. I did some art projects for this one.

02.02.015 Thealogy & Deasophy Spring 2013

Ouch! Another major brain stretcher. I feel really good about my work in these classes, but they were hard work.

02.02.013 Goddess Wheel of the Year Spring 2012

Another fun and experiential class.  It is a very personal class about your own experiences and creating ritual and ceremony within your own life and kind of dancing with the Goddess throughout the year.

02.01.005 Sacred Groves: Covens & Npg Groups Spring 2012
02.01.006 Ethics & Professional Practice Summer 2012

Closely related, these two classes were really important in forming a clear vision for organizing, facilitating, and maintaining a spiritual group as well as practicing in a professional manner. July 2014 048

02.01.007 Ritual & Liturgy Summer 2012

Very enjoyable and practical class in creating meaningful rituals for specific occasions. I did a lot of work in this class that I went on to use for other purposes.

02.01.017 The Role of the Priest/Priestess Winter 2013

While there was some overlap here with the other professional practice courses I already mentioned, this was a personally very valuable class that really encouraged me to dig into the heart of priestess work and my own relationship to it. Lots of deep stuff as well as fears and insecurities came up for me in this class. I explored themes related to this class in a series several posts about practical priestessing on my SageWoman blog.

03.01.033 Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life Summer 2013

This course was a required year-long course. I found it helpful, relevant, and valuable, though perhaps I need to revisit it on an annual basis to get it to soak in completely!

04.01.001 Ecology & the Sacred Fall 2011

This course was my first course and I loved it. It was the first time I’ve spent any time with formal ecological concepts and I really loved digging into something that was a new subject for me, but that could be easily and intimately tied to my own spiritual understanding. It was in this course that I joked about writing a Thealogy of Chickens and it was in this course that the seeds of my Woodspriestess experiment, as well as identity as such, were planted.

E: 04.04.002 Ecofeminism I Spring 2013

This class was an elective and I really loved it.The connection between the exploitation of the earth and the exploitation of women comes into sharp focus as well as the connections between the human body and the world body. It helped inform the later class in breastfeeding and ecofeminism that I taught for an independent study student at another college.

Doctoral classes completed:

02.02.016 Goddess Ritual Theory Winter 2014

I really enjoyed this class. The orientation was theoretical and conceptual rather than practical—as in we were writing about and exploring the whys of ritual, rather than creating rituals.

02.02.017 Adv Thealogical Praxis I Spring 2014
02.02.018 Adv Thealogical Praxis II Spring 2014

Brain. Stretched. It is both funny and fitting that the classes that were the most intense and difficult to slog through were those with titles close to “Thealogy,” the very subject of my degree. These classes helped inform my M.Div thesis project and dissertation, however.

02.01.008 Crisis of Faith & Inspiration Winter 2014

This course uses a very helpful, highly recommended book by Judy Harrow called Spiritual Mentoring. This was another one of the practical, helpful, nuts-and-bolts of direct practice types of courses that are so important to have along with the academic, theoretical coursework. Ritual Recipe Kit for Women's Ceremonies (digital kit, mother blessings, maiden ceremony, menarche, crone, sagewoman)

02.01.014 Crafting Rites for Npg Clergy Spring 2014

This class I “tested out of” in a sense, by submitting my work for my Ritual Recipe Kit. Good stuff here!

Classes remaining to complete D.Min:

02.01.009 Empowering Members
02.02.019 High Priestess
02.01.015 Death & Dying

02.02.020 Goddess Priestess Practicum (10 Credits)—requiring a 40 hour priestess internship, this is almost complete as I just need to finish getting reviews/evaluations from women’s group members.

02.02.022 Goddess Thealogy Dissertation (20 Credits)—working on it! I have a 300+ page word document of possible content, but need to focus and center in on this now that my thesis and M.Div are complete.

Currently registered for elective courses:

02.02.009 Goddess Mothers: Shekhinah Mountainwater

Couldn’t resist this one after all my Womanrunes work!

01.02.001 Shamanism, Creativity, & the Arts I

Mask-making! How could I refuse?! This class is an experiential course in which you explore many concepts through art as well as through a culminating final project. I was packed with ideas for this class when I enrolled in it, but I became so focused on my required coursework (and other projects) as well that I let this course become inactive and will have to resume it later.

I’d like to close this post with two excerpts from my original application to OSC in 2011. It has been a wonderful, deep, complex journey so far and I look forward to continuing my work…

Who/what inspires you? June 2014 045

I long to speak out the intense inspiration that comes to me from the lives of strong women.” –Ruth Benedict

I believe that these circles of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we’re weak and sing with us when we’re strong.” –SARK, Succulent Wild Woman

I am most inspired by the everyday women surrounding me in this world. Brave, strong, vibrant, wild, intelligent, complicated women. Women who are also sometimes frightened, depressed, discouraged, hurt, angry, petty, or jealous. Real, multifaceted, dynamic women. Women who keep putting one foot in the front of the other and continue picking themselves back up again when the need arises.

I am also inspired by women from the past who worked for social justice and women’s rights—women who lived consciously and deliberately and with devoted intention to making the world a better place. Jane Addams, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton. Women who have studied and written about feminist spirituality—such as Carol Christ, Hallie Ingleheart, Patricia Mongahan, and Barbara Ardinger–are also a source of inspiration. As a mother, I find additional inspiration in the self-care encouraging writings of Jennifer Louden and Renée Trudeau.

My children have provided a powerful source of inspiration and motivation. I wish to model for them a life lived as a complete, fully developed human being. After birthing three sons, I gave birth to a daughter in January, 2011. I always envisioned having daughters and felt well-prepared to raise a “kick-ass” girl. Having sons first presented me with a different type of inspiration (and, to me, a deeper challenge)—to raise healthy men. Men who treat women well and who are balanced, confident, loving, compassionate people. I came to think of myself as a mother of sons exclusively and was very surprised to actually have a girl as my last child [updated note: not really my last child as I am now pregnant again!]. When I found out she was a girl, my sense of “like carries like/like creates like” was very potent and my current need to participate in the creation of a world in which she can bloom to her fullest is very strong.

My own inner fire inspires me—my drive to make a difference and to live well and wisely my one wild and precious life. Good conversations, time alone with my journal, time alone outdoors sitting on a big rock, and simple time in the shower provides additional fuel for this inner fire…

Reasons for applying to your specific program of study and how this fits into your personal and spiritual goals for yourself.

I have been “dancing” with Goddess ideas and imagery for about seven years now and I feel deeply called to pursue my study on a more committed level. To me, this program with Ocean Seminary College represents an integration of something I feel with my mind, heart, and spirit. My whole being. In women’s spirituality, I glimpse the multifaceted totality of women’s lives and I long to reach out and serve the whole woman. I wish to extend my range of passion to include the full woman’s life cycle, rather than focus on the maternal aspect of the wheel of life as I have done for some time. I want to create rituals that nourish, to plan ceremonies that honor, to facilitate workshops that uncover, to write articles that inform, and to teach classes that inspire the women in my personal life, my community, and the world. I am currently the vice-president of my Unitarian Universalist church and I facilitate women’s spirituality classes and retreats. In these capacities, I plan programs, give presentations, and facilitate ceremonies (including the occasional wedding). I feel I have already contributed a lot to my community based on my own self-study and exploration and now I feel ready to take that further—to go beyond what I’ve been able to learn, discover, and share under my own power, by studying with a formal program.

I have both a scholar’s heart and a heart for service and at the root, this is what makes me feel like I am a good match for Ocean Seminary College’s program in Goddess Thealogy. I wish to live so that my life becomes a living, embodied prayer for social change and to do work that is both spiritually-based and woman affirming…

July 2014 097

 

Categories: feminist thealogy, Goddess, liturgy, OSC, resources, reviews, ritual, spirituality, thealogy, thesis, writing | 4 Comments

Goddess in plain sight

Several years ago when I was taking one of my Goddess History classes at OSC, I drove through my town as I often do and past the “Millenium Arch,” a commemorativeOctober 2012 054 sculpture that was created and installed on the local university’s campus in 2000 (this is also my alma mater for my BA —it is an engineering school, known for its programs in science and technology. I was a psychology major, but it was still an awesome program). I’ve thought it before, but I was struck again that this is, to me, a Goddess sculpture, right in the middle of town, right in the middle of campus. Indeed, it is on one of the main, most-traveled roads in town, meaning that many people every day are in the presence of a Goddess figure, whether they recognize it as such or not. We explored in that class how there are “hidden” Goddess/Goddess imagery in many places and I think this is an awesome example. The theater on campus uses a sketch of this sculpture as their logo also.

Here is a link to some more photos that were taken of it as part of a photo contest.

If you can’t see very well in the picture, there are stylized cutouts of a woman and man in the arch and then the figures themselves stand beyond the arch. I looked up the artist and she has done other large art pieces including, Christa, a female Christ on the cross figure, and also an Eve and the apple installation. So, I think she knew what she was doing! As a side note, this campus also has a half-scale model of Stonehenge on campus carved of granite by engineering students. At the time of its construction it was accurate as clock to within 15 seconds. It sits next to a major highway and anyone can stop and walk through it if they wish. I didn’t know until I was writing this and checked the school’s website, but the “megalith was dedicated on June 20, 1984, on the summer solstice, by a Druid Priest.” Looks like I chose the right school for my undergraduate work!

As Podos says on page 309 (this is excerpted from my lesson and I’m not actually sure to which page 309 it is referring), “…goddess figures have been found dating as far back as 25,000 years [further now] before the birth of Christ. We know that throughout the ancient world cultures were built and sustained on a belief in the Great Goddess in Her many and various aspects. We know that remnants of Her worship exist throughout the world today despite the many recurrent efforts made to destroy Her power…We know that the memory of Her and the memory of women as free and powerful being lives on, even though it is often buried so deeply that it no longer reaches out to us.” I think She reaches out to all of the people and students in my town from this university campus sculpture!

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My boys by the figures before seeing a show on campus.

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A smaller, related version is on the grounds of another campus building on another highly traveled road.

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In the lobby of the theater.

This past week I took my kids on a field trip to City Museum in St. Louis where I was pleased as can be to discover some awesome goddesses in plain sight there as well (well, actually down in a cool cave-type structure). City Museum is basically a huge indoor playground for kids. This carved wall is in the “cave” section and really surprised me when we came across it! I took pictures of at least four different goddess-type sculptures/art while there (and there were more—like big mermaids on the floor of the main hall, but my phone ran out of battery and I couldn’t take pictures of them all). This is not typical museum with displays and artifacts or anything, it is an explore-and-play kids museum, so I wasn’t expecting cool goddess art!

May 2014 054This carving was at the entrance greeting us as we arrived too (the back had a kind of Isis-like wing flavor to it):

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I haven’t mentioned on this blog yet, but I’m pregnant! We had an appointment for an ultrasound while we were in St. Louis and new baby is BOY! (due in October)

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Categories: art, community, Goddess, spirituality | 6 Comments

Book Review: Goddess Calling

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

–Karen Tate, Goddess Calling

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

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

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

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

–Karen Tate (Goddess Calling, p. 109)

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

Related posts:

Top Thirteen Most Influential People in Goddess Spirituality

She did what she could….

Do Women’s Circles Actually Matter?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–saved from this post

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

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

–Camille Maurine (Meditation Secrets for Women)

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Crossposted at Talk Birth

Categories: art, birth, Goddess, pregnancy loss, sculpture, spirituality, womanspirit | 21 Comments

Spell for Family Balance

Cross-posted at Pagan Families.

For a number of years we’ve had a family mantra: our family works in harmony to meet each member’s needs. At times, I’ve felt like I’m repeating it through clenched teeth. At times, I have felt that none of our needs are being met well and at times I’ve felt like harmony is a distant, unattainable treasure. However, we keep using it and sometimes, sometimes it feels like we’re there. I do not subscribe to the ideal of the self-sacrificing parent. I refuse to repeat the cliche that “everyone has to make sacrifices” and I refuse to see my work in parenting as a sacrificial endeavor. Our family works in harmony to meet each member’s needs. Each member of the family is important. Each person, including both parents, has needs and our family unit is responsible for working together to help each other and to contribute our best to a healthy, well-functioning, happy, harmonious family.

I am a professor who works mainly from home and teaches outside of the home once a week. My husband and I have a shared goddess art business. We homeschool our kids. We know we are lucky to have two parents in the home almost full-time and to be able to live on the income produced by only one out-of-the-home day per week for one parent (though this arrangement was also only possible beginning July of last year after careful planning, hard work, and a leap of faith). I teach on an eight-week session schedule. The final week of the session involves piles of papers to grade and final exams to give. While we know it is coming and I’ve been keeping this schedule since 2009, it throws our family out of balance every time. Our family works in harmony to meet each family’s needs. Hahahahahahahahahahaha! ::::sob:::: I begin to feel as if no one is getting what they need from me and I’m not getting what I need from myself. I’m snappy at my husband and feel beleaguered and put upon and unappreciated and unsupported. I start casting around for things to quit because somehow, I must STOP doing everything. I must reclaim myself and some sensation of harmony. Then, magically, the session ends. I did manage to do it all…again. I am often left with a lingering sense of frustration and dissatisfaction and am often heard to make the vow, “next session will be different,” and typically attempt to enact sweeping family changes that will Change Our Lives ™.

Recently, I reviewed a jazzy little book called Goddess Spells for Busy Girls. Written by Patheos writer Jen McConnel, this book is a collection of 80 simple spells using readily accessible materials and focused on 25 different goddesses. Each goddess is carefully chosen for relevant spells and appropriate cautions are issued about not calling upon a goddess like Sekhmet lightly or on a goddess like Aphrodite with an irrelevant issue. The book is somewhat like a “recipe book” of suggested spells for busy women, with each mini-ritual requiring as little as five minutes (or one hour. It is up to you!).

Written in a casual and conversational tone that feels intended primarily for single or non-parent women in their 20’s-30’s, the book’s lightweight attitude towards magic and the “sparkle” added by goddesses may feel either accessible and friendly or insufficiently serious, depending on your own spiritual path. However, as a parent who always has her eyes open for material to add to my own family’s full moon rituals, I found the brief length of several of the spells to be very appropriate for working with my children. Related to our family mantra, this Spell for Family Balance immediately caught my eye:

No matter who constitutes your family, sometimes it can be hard to please everyone. Use this spell to help you find balance in tricky situations.

You will need:

  • About six inches each of red, black, and white thread (I use embroidery floss, but yarn works, too.)

1. This spell is best done outside, or at least in a well-lit room. Take the three strands of thread. Tie a knot using all three threads at once, and try to position your knot as close to the center as possible.

2. Say, “I am bound by ties of love.” Starting at the knot first, begin to braid the three threads. Tie off the end. Now, begin to braid the threads beneath the knot. Tie off the threads.

3. Put this charm in your kitchen (the junk drawer is an ideal place). Whenever you are feeling stretched or stressed about your family, take out the charm and look at it…

(p. 48)

While I may need to repeat this every eight weeks, I found it a simple and soothing affirmation of the ties that bind, and that bond, our family.

Our family works in harmony to meet each family’s needs.

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

 

Categories: family, Goddess, parenting, reviews, self-care, spirituality | 3 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

Runes of the Goddess

Some time ago I wrote a post in which I described reading the book Runes of the Goddess while on vacation in California. While there, I picked up smooth beach rocks and brought them home to create my own set of runes based on this book.

To the set, I followed my intuition and incorporated one additional stone from Lady of the Nothern Light: A Feminist Guide to the Runes by Susan Gitlin-Emmer: Ansuz: Mouth. (This book was recommended to me in the comments section of my previous runes post and it is a good resource as well.)

July 2013 024Ansuz, or mouth, is the Goddess as source of all speech: song, history, poetry and the magic in naming and words. She is the source of inspiration, the ways in which Her daughters partake in Her divinity. This is an especially important rune for artists, writers and storytellers, because it means that they are able to hear Her voice clearly. If you are using your creativity in some project, this rune is telling you your vision is true, that it comes from your deepest source. What you are working on is important and it is your job to bring it into being. If Ansuz comes to you in a reading, listen carefully for the voice of the Goddess; She has something to say to you. Listen for Her voice within you. Use Ansuz in your spellwork when you need to hear Her voice and when you need Her to hear you. Ansuz is the power of all naming. Think of the many thousands of names for the Goddess. Speak your own names of power. Remember that She is the source of all being, and honor Her with all you say. Know that all history is fluid, including your own. You can rewrite the stories you tell yourself about yourself, reshape your personal mythology. Call on Her and the power of Ansuz to shape the words of your spells and incantations. Know that speech can call things into being. We cannot conceive of that which we lack the words to describe. Words can limit what we see as possible. Invent new language. Remind others of its power. Sing Her songs in your rituals. Honor and invoke her with poetry.

While it seemed a little simplistic, all I did was draw the runes onto the beach rocks with sharpies and they turned out very nicely
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What I do with my Womanrunes is a type of divination too, but it is pretty simplistic compared to the artform described in Runes of the Goddess. Author PMH Atwater uses a set of 16 runes based on the ancient Elder Futhark runes and she calls them Goddess runes. Each time they are used, the whole set is cast and interpreted. Rather than relying on a single stone for guidance, the whole cast is interpreted based on the pattern and relationships to each other as well as their relationship to the questioner and the question asked. (There are two question stones, one for a male questioner and one for a female questioner. The questioner holds the appropriate stone while thinking/asking their question and then casts them all. The rest of the runes are considered, in part, based on their relationship to where the question stone falls in the spread. In my set of beach rock runes, pictured above, the red stone with no symbol in the upper right is the female stone and the one next to it is the male stone.)

These are two of my first castings in July, one for my husband and one for me). It definitely takes practice to figure out how to interpret them as a whole. July 2013 021 July 2013 018

Categories: divination, Goddess, resources | 1 Comment

The Full Circle

“Goddess is Magic, the subtle forces of planets, moons and stars, and the Powers of our own Deep Minds. And She is Our Ability to Call forth that which we have need December 2013 012of, and to banish that which we no longer need. And therefore let us gather together in our communities, and join with the forces within and without…”

–Shekhinah in Open Mind (9/25)

Diane Mariechild, the editor of Open Mind, then goes on to explain the following: 

Goddess is the full circle. She is birth, life, death, and rebirth. [People] need the Goddess. The planet needs the Goddess. We need to celebrate and embrace the full circle of life; to know that all of life is contained within this circle. There is nothing that is outside the circle…Goddess is energy, a way of balanced relationship, an openness of the heart that allows us to have a full experience of life, with all its pain and all its joy.

Find a quiet time during the day or the night when you can sit alone and feel the energy of the world around you. Tune into the natural world—the water, the air, the light of the sun or the moon, the trees, the Earth. Can you sense this energy? No need to call it by any name. Sense. Breathe. Allow

Last night and today, it snowed a lot. I was interested to see the juncos–snowbirds–show up several days before the snow, when the temperature was still in the 60’s. They hopped around in the driveway and I told my husband that I guessed the forecast was actually going to be right, even though the air didn’t feel like it! I used up most of my writing energy/time today by writing blog posts about our winter family fun on other December 2013 030blogs. And, today my blog post about my grandmother’s memorial service (which I planned and served as the priestess for) was published on Feminism and Religion:

It was deeply important to me to have multiple voices represented during the small, family-only, service and I enlisted all the grandchildren present, as well as her step-grandchildren, in an adapted responsive reading based on Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road”. I chose it precisely because it spoke to the irrepressible, adventuresome spirit of my grandmother. It was a lot of pressure to be responsible for the family ceremony for the interment of her ashes. I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted it to be what she deserved. I wanted it to “speak” to every person there. I wanted it to be worthy of her. I hope it was enough.

via An Epic Woman: A Feminist Eulogy by Molly | Feminism and Religion.

I also found out that my revised thesis prospectus was accepted and I can officially use my Woodspriestess project as the subject of my thesis!

And, I decided I simply must pre-order this amazing-sounding anthology of writings by modern priestesses:

From “Priestessing with Integrity” by Sylvia Braillier:

“Priestess . . . favored by the Goddess, wise woman, sage and a guide to others on the path. Being a December 2013 026priestess is a vocation that honors the sacredness we embody as women. We are fortunate to live in a time when the Goddess is returning and we can represent and support her work here in this world as priestesses. It’s easy to make up romantic notions about what it is to be a priestess. Not to say that some of them aren’t true, but it’s a package deal that includes real challenges and great blessings. When the rubber meets the road, what does being a priestess really entail?

Whether initiated as a priestess within a tradition or by the challenges and blessings of life, certain responsibilities are part and parcel of the vocation. The job of priestess doesn’t stop when you leave the circle. It is a life commitment to accountability and integrity, not only by performing your duties to the best of your ability but by walking in life as a living representative of enlightened behavior and speech. As a priestess, your behavior sets the bar. One of the greatest gifts you can give is to teach by example and live the teachings as fully as you can.”

http://www.goddess-ink.com/priestessanthology.html

May we all live well and wisely and take any opportunity to play in the snow 🙂

    December 2013 048

Categories: family, feminist thealogy, Goddess, nature, priestess, spirituality, woodspriestess | 3 Comments

Sacred Relationship to the Land

I recently read an article about creating a sacred relationship with the land. As soon as I read it, I knew exactly who I think of as the guardian spirit of my own place in the woods. It is this tree. I’m thankful for the opportunity to get to know it.

November 2013 054

“This generation is serving as the midwife for the rebirth of the Shechinah…This Goddess who shines on us as we study sacred texts is found in redwood groves and apple orchards. She is coming to us in the wind and the water, in the ocean and the mountains.” –Rabbi Leah Novick (quoted in Open Mind, 9/8)

This weekend as I sat on a rock looking through the “doorway” created by two more tree trunks at the Guardian Tree beyond and having the sensation that it was both a doorway to and a doorway from, I had a sudden crystal clear moment of revelation about my M.Div thesis project. This is IT. This woodspriestess practice and experiment I embarked on throughout the course of 2013—I’ve been working on my thesis this entire year, I just didn’t know it. I spent some time this afternoon writing a new thesis prospectus and it came flowing out. A Year of Lessons from the Forest. I’ve got this.

[My prospective content for my birth-as-a-spiritual-experience thesis plan is over 200 pages long, which also tells me that my thesis needs to re-become my dissertation plan (it actually WAS my original dissertation plan until I decided to take a detour and complete the M.Div).]

I also remembered spending a lot of time as a child with a big sycamore tree in the valley by my house. It was the guardian spirit of that place. There was a little sort of brambly grove by it with a rock pile (from past settler field-clearing) that I used to play in/on/by. I pretended that the tree had a keyhole in it and my magic key (that I used to wear around my neck), would open the trunk and that there was another world behind the tree. I called it Idlewild. (googled this and apparently it is a series of books that began being published in 2003. I was a kid in the 1980’s though, so I didn’t read them)

Here are some excerpts from that article I mentioned…

How To Create a Sacred Relationship with the Land

Here are some tips for establishing a bond with the land near where you live:

Start with your own backyard, and apply the suggestions below. Hua reminds us that “every place is sacred.”

By foot, explore new mountains, hills, forests, lakes, ocean sides, or other earth areas near where you live. Feel which places call to you. When you find a place you like, keep returning. Make a commitment to visit it at least once a month.

Ask permission to enter any given place from what you feel is the “guardian” spirit of the place –– you’ll instinctively sense where it resides. What’s important is your respectful intention.

State your intention for being there –– to love the place, say prayers, hear what it has to say, be of service, heal the land, honor the local ancestors, make amends for transgressions to the First Peoples, etc…

Sit and feel your love for the place. That’s it. Just feel the appreciation you have for the beauty of the landscape, the trees, the plants and animals. Let Earth Mother and the visible and invisible elements feel your affection.

Listen for messages. Get quiet and see if you can receive information –– and healing –– for yourself, others, Mama Earth, etc…

Seven Sisters Mystery School Marguerite Rigoglioso

20131129-122751.jpgYep. 🙂

Categories: Goddess, nature, quotes, spirituality, thesis, woodspriestess | 4 Comments

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