OSC

Thursday Thealogy: The Distant Other

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Pismo Beach picture taken by a distant other!

This month in my Compassion class at OSC we’re looking at concern for the distant other—those not immediately part of our lives. The assignment was to share how we show concern for the distant other and its impact in your life in your awareness and sense of compassion. Since I was on vacation this month, I thought it would be the perfect time to notice opportunities and experiences with the “distant other.” Instead, what I continued to experience was compassion FROM the “distant other” to me and my family—or, rather, had the experience of being the distant other in someone else’s life. I read an article recently about taking the time to “see” others—to look at nametags and to call people by name, etc. Many, many times on this two-week trip, rather than being the one doing the seeing, I saw myself being “seen” by others, rather than me specifically doing the seeing…

The man on the airplane who saw me struggling with my suitcase, laptop bag, and toddler daughter in a carrier and offered to carry my bags to my seat. The other man on the airplane who switched seats so another family could sit with their kids and then shared his M & Ms with my boys. The airline worker who found my sons’ lost ipod and tablet two days after they lost them on the airplane and who tracked me down via phone to return them to me. The Disneyland worker who saw us looking tired and discouraged at a long line for the only ride we hadn’t yet gone on and who offered us a free secret pass to come back in an hour and go straight onto the ride. The shuttle driver who made a stop for us at our hotel, even though it wasn’t technically on her route rather than making us walk from the hotel up the street that was on her route. The flight attendant who saw me sitting with my tired toddler and gave me hot tea, before taking the cart up the aisle to the rest of the plane (I was in the back row and should have been last). The hotel worker who stopped what she was doing and helped me figure out how to print my grandma’s memorial service from the hotel computer. The hotel guest who saw me waiting to print boarding passes and even though she was doing some work of her own, stopped to let me use the computer instead and then sat and waited while I printed my stuff and then went back to her own printing. The couple walking past on the beach who offered to take a group family photo instead of having one person left out as the picture taker. The rental car guy who took the time to give us a map and give verbal directions when we were leaving. The lady at the lunch counter who asked questions about where I was from and what I was doing while I was waiting for my food to be finished and then offered condolences about the death of my grandmother. The man at the airport who moved our carseat through the security line when we were out of hands to move it ourselves. The man checking ID’s at the security checkpoint who told me happy birthday when he noticed my birthday had been earlier in the month. The man in line at Indiana Jones at Disneyland who told me to never lose my smile because it was so great to see. The teenage girl on the Grizzly River Run ride who offered to let me put my hat under her sweater so it wouldn’t get wet and who then saw me later while I was on the walkway and she was on another ride and waved with a big smile and an, “oh, hi!” like we were old pals.

I know there were many more, but these are the ones that come to mind as I’m typing right now. There is something about traveling with children that puts you into a vulnerable position and rather than being the one who helps the distant other, I found it was much more likely to become the one in the position of needing help or compassion or understanding. These experiences left me with a powerful sense of the inherent goodness of my fellow human beings and a feeling that most people are helpful, nice, compassionate, and want to do the right thing for others, even if they’ll never see each other again.

(**I did later think of one example of my own concern for the distant other that was expressed as I replied to desperate text messages from a breastfeeding mother while in line at Disneyland with my family—that is pretty committed, Molly 🙂 )

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Woodspriestess: Body Prayer

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My big rosebush is almost blooming!

I roam
sacred ground
my body is my altar
my temple.

I cast a circle
with my breath
I touch the earth
with my fingers
I answer
to the fire of my spirit.

My blood
pulses in time
with larger rhythms
past, present, future
connected
rooted
breathing.

The reach of my fingers
my ritual
the song of my blood
my blessing
my electric mind
my offering.

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.

I’m getting ready to start my Thealogy and Deasophy class at OSC and the text for the class is Melissa Raphael’s Thealogy and Embodiment. For the last two years, I’ve been planning to write my dissertation on a similar theme—focusing on Women’s Mysteries and a thealogy of embodiment, with a heavy emphasis on birth as a spiritual experience. After my woodspriestess experiment though, I my focus feels like it is shifting to writing about something to do with Ecopsychology and Theapoetics. This seems to make sense. However, I am still looking forward to digging into Raphael’s book!

(Later note: This poem became a part of my earth-based poetry book, Earthprayer.)

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Categories: nature, OSC, poems, prayers, theapoetics, woodspriestess | 8 Comments

Altars, Energy, and Travel

I’m finishing up my Ritual and Liturgy class at OSC and the final assignment was to create an altar for a specific purpose. First, I had the idea of re-doing my existing living room altar to reflect new focus and intention for the remainder of the year, but I couldn’t really get going on it. I am preparing to leave on a trip though and feeling nervous and stressed about leaving home (and my woods!). Suddenly, yesterday afternoon, the purpose of the re-visioned altar came to me cleanly—I decided to create a safety, protection, and connection altar to ground me in my home space and companion travel altar to bring that connection and grounding with me on my travels. I felt a focusing of energy and intention as I engaged in this process. It was a very powerful experience.

I chose items for the main altar that represented travel, the purpose of travel, protection, connection, each family member, and several reminders to carry my own priestess spirit out into the world. In the travel altar, I placed corresponding items connected to the items on my home altar (for example–a shell from the beach we will be visiting is on each, as well as an item created by or representing each family member). The items and purposes are described in the captions in the following photo gallery (to enlarge any photo just click on it and a slideshow of all the pictures will open up from there).

Today, I took my travel box altar and my two candles down to the woods. I lit both candles in the woodspace and then took one back up to the home altar, symbolically forging the link, the circle, between the two altars and the sacred woods. I returned to the woods, where I offered this blessing/prayer upon the travel altar:

These two altars are now blessed and consecrated by this holy woodspace. Witnessed by the air, the earth, the fire, the stones. The breath of my life, the water of my blood. They are energetically linked to each other and to the woods of my home. May they be strong. May they be connected. May they be protective. May they be joyous. May the draw rich gifts, long life, deep love, and great peace to us all. The link is made, it is energetically unbroken. Safe travels, protection, love, harmony, wisdom, guidance.

Remembering that we carry sacred space within, remembering that we carry holy truth within, remembering that our bodies themselves are an altar on this earth, and remembering that our lives each day are an offering. Remembering that we can cast a circle with the physical stuff of our own being.

Let this physical altar serve as a tangible reminder of that which we already carry within.

It is blessed and consecrated, it is witnessed, it is known. May it be so. Thank you. Blessed be.

Ritual and Liturgy is the twelfth class I’ve finished at OSC! I can hardly believe I actually manage to do this along with everything else. It has been a rich and deepening experience so far. I now have about fourteen classes and my dissertation remaining! It is doable after all 🙂

Categories: family, nature, OSC, prayers, ritual, spirituality, woodspriestess | 5 Comments

Thursday Thealogy: Ritual Guidelines

Why Rituals Work | Scientific American  May 2013 009

“There are real benefits to rituals, religious or otherwise.Recent research suggests that rituals may be more rational than they appear. Why? Because even simple rituals can be extremely effective.

Rituals performed after experiencing losses – from loved ones to lotteries – do alleviate grief, and rituals performed before high-pressure tasks – like singing in public – do in fact reduce anxiety and increase people’s confidence.

What’s more, rituals appear to benefit even people who claim not to believe that rituals work.

While anthropologists have documented rituals across cultures, this earlier research has been primarily observational. Recently, a series of investigations by psychologists have revealed intriguing new results demonstrating that rituals can have a causal impact on people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.”

~ excerpt from “Why Rituals Work” by Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton for Scientific American magazine

Shared by ☾ Katharine Krueger ~ Occupy Menstruation
Girls’ Empowerment and Coming of Age http://JoYW.org/

In my Ritual and Liturgy class at OSC, we discussed some simple guidelines for effective ritual. The guidelines from a handout by Deanne Quarrie, and my brief thoughts on each, are as follows:

1. Remember the intention

This is of vital importance. You have to have a purpose and passion, otherwise it becomes hollow, meaningless or rote (many women’s experience of ritual from their childhood fall into the hollow category!

2. Let the myth inspire you.

I am probably less skilled with this guideline than I could be. I do not find that I personally connect with many myths/archetypes, and so I don’t use them very much when planning rituals.  In our fall ritual which involved a Sagewoman ceremony, I drew on the story of Innana’s descent with the woman each passing through several Gates of Initiation and leaving behind items from their pasts that no longer served them.

3. Use your intuition.

Another vital element, I draw on intuition a lot when leading rituals—perhaps I’ve planned something that is taking longer than I thought and so I may rearrange or eliminate another element without ever mentioning it to the group (if you mention it, they feel like they’ve “missed out” on something or feel pressured to “hurry up”). I make additions or subtractions from guided meditations as I go, depending on intuition to guide me. I let intuition lead at the beginning of the meditations as we begin, spontaneously leading the participants through conscious muscle relaxation and breath work before launching into the actually scripted meditation.

4. A ritual should benefit all and harm none.

Of course! I think it is also important to remember though that we can come into circle with and hold sacred space with people who are not necessarily our best friends. Perhaps we have been hurt in the past by someone, in ritual together we can birth new relationship and leave that hurt behind us. Also, the purpose of a ritual should always hold positive intent and be focused on positive change and not revenge or anything like that.

5. Keep it simple.

I have a tendency to overplan and sometimes that can make a ritual drag on/lose energy. By only included what is necessary and essential to the intention, we reduce the chances of energy leaking/flagging or of people getting tired or bored.

6. Stay balanced.

While it is important to balance the energies of the ritual, I also find it important to balance the activities of the ritual—some energy raising with singing and drumming and some time for inner work and reflection through visualization and meditation. Some scripted words and readings and some spontaneous sharing of here-and-now experiencing.

7. Keep in touch with your feelings and with the other people. May 2013 014

This one connects to Intuition above. It is important to feel the climate of the group, the energy of the group, and the responses of other people. I constantly keep my intuitive “radar” tuned to whether the ritual is “working” or not—how are people feeling in this circle and at this time. Also, I try to remember to encourage people to share feelings rather than intellectualizations.

8. Honor the power of words.

In a recent past post, I already excerpted my thoughts on this one…from one of the articles for class: “While it is fine for some rituals to provide space for participants to speak from their hearts, for the most part there should be little extemporaneous speaking. Select poems or write words that mean exactly what you wish to convey, and practice delivering them for the best possible effect.” Reading this made SUCH a difference to me.  I’ve always felt bad about “needing” written material to read from during rituals. I kept thinking that as I “evolve” as a priestess I will “grow up” and not need pre-selected words and readings, but will be able to spontaneously speak and guide the ritual. As I read this, I realized that my process of carefully choosing and selecting opening and closing readings for my rituals as well as poems and quotes during the circles is actually legitimate and possibly very helpful!

9. Keep the imagination alive and 10. Attend to detail.

In attending a large Goddess festival last fall, one of the things I learned is about the importance of creating ambiance, which includes environmental factors/settings that contribute to the sense of magic and timelessness or otherworldliness/altered consciousness. I’ve been holding rituals in my own living room for a long time. After attending the festival, we held our late fall ritual outside in a tipi at night. There is something so magical about a firelit, nighttime ceremony. It really matters! We set up our Gates with candles and then entered the tipi where my large drum was located with (electric) candles all around it. Choosing elements specifically with ambiance in mind makes a huge difference in the feeling and function of a ritual.

Categories: OSC, priestess, ritual, Thursday Thealogy, women's circle | Leave a comment

Thursday Thealogy: Rituals–to read, or not to read…

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Altar during fall retreat

This Friday is our quarterly women’s retreat and, because we have multiple reasons to be coming together, it is composed of several interlocking rituals. As I prepare the ceremony outline and choose the readings and structure, two perspectives are on my mind. The first, from Ruth Barrett in her classic Women’s Rites, Women’s Mysteries:

When you are speaking an invocation in a group ritual, remember that you are the conduit between the elemental energies and the will of the women in the ritual circle. You will need to project your voice, speaking out so that everyone present can hear and feel the invocation. This is particularly critical if you are outside, where sound can easily be lost. Personal ritual invocations need not be spoken with such projection, but it is still best to speak them aloud. Speaking aloud gives the elemental forces within you an opportunity to come fully forward. It is a form of self-witnessing. How and what you hear within ritual space may be different than how and what you hear in a state of ordinary consciousness. Try invocation both ways, aloud and silent, to hear, see, and feel the differences for yourself. As you become more sensitive to ritual energy, you will feel the energy in the room shift or drop, depending on what is happening at the time. In some Wiccan traditions, invocations are passed out and read from a printed page. This can have a profound and unpleasant effect on the energy of the ritual, and the invocations can sound and feel flat. Whether you are preoccupied with memorizing exact words or speaking them from a page, there are energetic consequences. If you rely on the left, linear side of your brain completely for delivering your invocation, there won’t be much change in the energy of the ritual space. However, when you be-speak your invocation and you truly embody the essence of the Goddess and the elements, the energy builds rather than drops.

Ruth Barrett. Women’s Rites, Women’s Mysteries: Intuitive Ritual Creation (Kindle Locations 2204-2212). Kindle Edition.

I do tend to pass out readings on a printing page, just as she describes and for a while I’ve felt kind of bad about that—like if I was “better” at this, I’d remember everything, OR be able to spontaneous compose fabulous perfection on the spot. However, in the course of my Ritual and Liturgy class at OSC, I read this section in one of our lessons:

“While it is fine for some rituals to provide space for participants to speak from their hearts, for the most part there should be little extemporaneous speaking. Select poems or write words that mean exactly what you wish to convey, and practice delivering them for the best possible effect.”

Reading this made SUCH a difference to me.  Like I said, I’ve felt bad about “needing” written material to read from during rituals. I kept thinking that as I “evolve” as a priestess I will “grow up” and not need pre-selected words and readings, but will be able to spontaneously speak and guide the ritual. As I read the above quote, I realized that my process of carefully choosing and selecting opening and closing readings for my rituals as well as poems and quotes during the circles is actually legitimate and possibly very helpful.

I do appreciate that over-reading can contribute to a lack of life in the ritual and I’m gradually finding a good balance there. I know that in my personal experience of them, our women’s rituals have improved in the feeling like they are working as we’ve continued to refine our approach and choose our words and activities. We moved away from including a time for general talking and discussion and into more structure, which helps “hold” the energy and momentum of ritual, rather than letting it leak out in the form of side conversations or long personal stories. (Conversation.discussion then happens after we end the ritual and have potluck snacks and make a project together.) In another book I just finished reading, Jane Meredith explains the layers of ritual:

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Outdoors during overnight sagewoman ceremony.

Firstly there’s the outer layer; which is composed of the actions you take. What matters here is what you actually, physically do. It might include making altars, offerings or dedications; dancing or going out into nature. It might include cleansing in the form of a ritual bath, a fast or a time of meditation and prayer. It is the form of the ritual and functions as a container for the other aspects of ritual. When this outer layer exists on its own, it is sometimes called an empty ritual. Then there’s a second layer. This consists of what is happening within you, and it is encouraged and supported by what’s happening in the outer layer. Being willing, being true, carrying out not just the actions but the intent of your ritual or journey make up this second layer. You may find it helpful to whisper a mantra under your breath, to focus on an image or to chant or drum for a while to take you further inwards. When these first two layers are in concert, the ritual will feel satisfying and alive. There is yet a further layer. This is the mystical one, and may be different every time. It is the moment when the ritual takes off, when you slip across from one realm into another, into the sacred; into the realm of the Dark Goddess herself. In this layer you will feel the divine all around you and within you, and you will sense yourself as being in an altered, perhaps luminous space. This does not happen every time you do a ritual, no matter how well you are managing the other two layers. It is enough to work with the first two layers and invite this third one to manifest. A ritual will still be meaningful without entering the third layer; though it may be more memorable and feel more powerful when you do slip across the boundary into this realm.

Meredith, Jane (2012-05-25). Journey to the Dark Goddess: How to Return to Your Soul (pp. 42-43). NBN_Mobi_Kindle. Kindle Edition.

People have sometimes been “scarred” by past experiences with hollow, meaningless, and rote rituals they may associate with religion and have trouble understanding that a good ritual is evocative of something very different from that experienced in mainstream religion. As I explained in a previous post:

Notice that what is NOT included is any mention of a specific religion, deity, or “should do” list of what color of candle to include! I’ve observed that many people are starved for ritual, but they may so too be deeply scarred from rituals of their pasts. I come from a family history of “non-religious” people and I feel like I seem to have less baggage about ritual and ceremony than other people do. An example from the recent planning for a mother blessing ceremony: we were talking about one of the blessingway songs that we customarily sing–Call Down Blessing–we weren’t sure if we should include it for fear that it would seem too “spiritual” or metaphysical for the honoree (i.e. blessings from where?!) and I remembered another friend asking during a body blessing ritual we did at a women’s retreat, “but WHO’s doing the blessing?” As someone who does not come a religious framework in which blessings are traditionally bestowed from outside sources–i.e. a priest/priestess or an Abrahamic God–the answer felt simple, well, WE are. We’re blessing each other. When we “call down a blessing” we’re invoking the connection of the women around us, the women of all past times and places, and of the beautiful world that surrounds us. We might each personally add something more to that calling down, but at the root, to me, it is an affirmation of connection to the rhythms and cycles of relationship, time, and place. Blessings come from within and around us all the time, there’s nothing supernatural about it.

I also think, though I could be wrong, that it is possible to plan and facilitate women’s rituals that speak to the “womanspirit” in all of us and do not require a specifically shared spiritual framework or belief system in order to gain something special from the connection with other women.

via Blessingways and the role of ritual | Theapoetics.

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Rise Up and Call Her Name class in February.

Barrett explores this concept as well:

Sadly, many women describe their previous experience of religious ritual as meaningless. This response is usually derived from experiences of religious traditions that are male-focused, with little to no attention paid to the realities of women’s lives and experiences. When women empower themselves to ritualize passages that they deem as significant and to which they can ascribe their own meaning, like a snake they shed their old skins and emerge into a new reality, a new conscious awareness. The mundane world of the previous moment becomes transformed and they are brought closer to greater understanding of the sacred. Women who create and participate in their own life-cycle rituals are saying that their lives are important, that their stories matter, and that every human life is a gift to present and future generations.

Ruth Barrett. Women’s Rites, Women’s Mysteries: Intuitive Ritual Creation (Kindle Locations 308-312). Kindle Edition.

As I’ve also written before, in keeping with Carol Christ’s work, for me, thealogy absolutely does begin in experience. I do not think that everyone needs to share my personal experience that the Goddess path and the Pagan path are different ones and I do not think the two paths need necessarily diverge to different ends, just that they do exist separately (and, yes, there are scores of different pagan paths as well). It is important to my own mind and experience that a Wiccan path to Goddess is not the only path and I believe that an overemphasis on the Wiccan path can cause some women to turn away from explorations of feminist spirituality.

After I trained as a Cakes for the Queen of Heaven facilitator in 2007, I discovered something every powerful in the resources of the Unitarian Universalist Women and Religion organization. At the conclusion of the training, I had profound sense of THIS is what else there is for me! It was a pivotal moment. I started to realize that my strong draw towards Goddess actually had a place and a home under the UU “umbrella” and that I didn’t have to self-identify as pagan or Wiccan in order to explore a relationship with Goddess. Before, I felt like it was “Wicca or nothing” and Wicca was not a personal match for me for a variety of reasons. Cynthia Eller notes that feminists coming to neopaganism, “often had little patience for the measured pageantry and role-playing that characterized some neopagan rituals…” (page 38, emphasis mine) and this was true from my own experiences too. My brief encounters with Wicca felt “hokey” and inauthentic, my experiences with Goddess felt deeply meaningful and true in my bones. It took a long time for me to realize that it was both acceptable and possible for there to be multiple paths to Goddess. On a related side note, in an article from Brain, Child magazine, the author describes her overall experience at a Beltane ritual and says that she, “can’t deny a sense of detachment as well; the theatrical component makes me feel like I’ve been involved in some kind of interactive Medieval play rather than a genuine spiritual experience. Maybe group ritual isn’t for me.” This immediately made me think of a great series of posts by the Allergic Pagan on the subject of pagan embarrassment. Some of these embarrassing elements are part of why I’ve never embraced the pagan label and instead moved towards Goddess spirituality instead [a move for which I have UU’s to thank]. In my own experience, “measured pageantry” is the best description I’ve read of why I fail to click with it, otherwise known in my personal vernacular as: hokeylicious.

So, to read or not to read during ritual, that is the question. What do you think?

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Fall retreat space

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Categories: OSC, priestess, retreat, ritual, spirituality, thealogy, Thursday Thealogy, womanspirit, women, women's circle | 4 Comments

Thursday Thealogy: Death & Suffering

This post is excerpted from an OSC assignment written last year. The subject is so close to the things in my life recently that I felt compelled to dig out these previous writings.

How does thealogy envision death? How does thealogy address the problem of suffering?

The Abrahamic religions tend to associate death with that which is evil and wrong. Dominant religions traditions also often emphasize transcendence over the physical form and in these traditions the spiritual and the physical are seen as separate (with women associated with the “lower” body-based realm and men associated with the transcendent and divine)—the body and the earth is seen as a prison, rather than of value or as holding wisdom. In thealogy, on the other hand, death is another part of the endless “wheel” of life.

As the refrain of a Goddess song goes, in the womb of the mother…we find rest. daCosta notes that, “This darkness she equates with the  darkness of innate, instinctive knowing, where we are within the womb of the Goddess” (p. 115). I find a comforting feeling in the notion of coming to rest in the womb of the Goddess–whether that is very literal in terms of my body returning to the earth and being absorbed back into it, or it is more metaphysical (i.e. drop returning to the “ocean”). I also do not completely rule out the possibility of some form of personal continuation of spirit/energy/consciousness after physical death–just as the physical body doesn’t “disappear” after the body physically shuts down and dies, it seems semi-logical that our soul/our life spark/life energy, also does not disappear, but does or become something else/somewhere else.

Some time ago I had a “vision” during the day in my post-yoga routine meditation time. I “heard”—the moments of your life are beads on a April 2013 024necklace. Death is one of those beads. Why be preoccupied with one single bead of many, many beads? I recognize this as related to something I previously read in a Zen book I think—your consciousness being the string that holds the beads and each bead passing into the next bead, no need to cling to any of them or to become attached to one point. But, this yoga experience was the first in which I had conceived of death as just one more bead on the string—and, just like I wouldn’t spend a whole lot of my life energy thinking about the bead from my sixth birthday, say, why would I spend a lot of time thinking about the bead of my eventual, guaranteed death. That said, I do find it very relevant and appropriate to consider my own life choices and path in the context of my eventual death–i.e. I probably think at least once per day, “If I died tomorrow, would this matter?” Or, “what would choose to be doing now, if I knew that I was about to die?” etc., etc. I make a lot of life decisions based on not wanting to have regrets when I come to die, on wanting to live fully, vibrantly, authentically, and consciously.

In this same timeframe, I also had an epiphany—no matter WHAT happens after my own death, it still represents the end of life as I know it (there are actually many of these points in the course of an average life—our life as a twenty year old also “ends,” as does our life as the parent of a toddler, and so on). BUT, regardless, I still have to be at peace with THAT—this life as I know it coming to an end, whether or not there is any continuity of self or soul post-death.

I previously spent a significant number of years feeling very preoccupied with existential questions about death and life purpose (essentially of the, “if you’re just going to die anyway, what’s the point?” variety) and after having these two realizations, I was no longer preoccupied by the topic. I made my peace with having no concrete answers. You must come to terms with your life, making meaning, and reconciling your life’s path and purpose regardless of what, if anything, happens “next.” You must still live well and wisely your one wild and precious life on this earth at this time and in this place, because your time here in this way will definitely come to an end.

Returning to the question of “why suffering?” Carol Christ presents a primarily panentheistic representation of Goddess. But, if Goddess is essentially earth and is all around us, then how do we justify evil and suffering in this world? Should She not be able to protect us from harm and suffering?

Personally, I have never turned to religion to provide explanations of evil or suffering. Perhaps if I had a past tradition of conventional theology, I would then find thealogy lacking in this way. However, I came to Goddess traditions from a history of basically…nothing…and had made my peace with the existence of suffering and inhumane treatment of others as a feature of the “human condition” rather than ever conceiving of it as something under divine influence or power.April 2013 036

However, to scholars like Melissa Raphael, “[b]ecause Goddess religions ascribes little or no moral transcendence to the Goddess, it becomes difficult to use the Goddess as the religious justification for a struggle against evil, or to construct meaning in the face of it” (p. 208). Personally, I look to humanism or feminism (as philosophy and theory), as well as my own inner sense of “rightness” and morality, rather than religion to provides this justification. I have never needed religion for morality. I think that is an “old fashioned” seeming reason to need religion and something that I’ve always found puzzling when Christians bring it up—i.e. “well, without Christ, how can you be a moral person? How can you know right from wrong?” I just can. It doesn’t need to come from an external authority or power and needing to have some “higher authority” impose the rules upon you, basically has always seemed to me like having a less mature brain somehow. In a similar manner this is how I’ve also always accepted the existence of “bad stuff” in the world—it just is. No overarching power causes it, or controls it, it is just part of the ebb and flow of life, of nature, itself. I also do not find New Agey concepts of “everything happening for a reason” or “attracting the lessons your soul needs” relevant or appropriate most of the time. Sometimes there just are tornadoes or earthquakes or people get cancer. Those things feel awful and are bad to experience, but they are not punishments or under the control of any divine authority or power. Perhaps this is depressing or nihilistic, but that is the past belief from which I have come to Goddess thought, so the “failure” of Goddess feminism to offer explanations for these phenomena is almost a non-issue for me—a Goddess outlook on the world is more than I’ve ever had before, it is not a replacement for or a substitute for a previous (religious) system of belief. To me, Goddess religion has filled a void left by an agnostic, default worldview, if I was trying to use it to replace a more traditional Judeo-Christian system of belief, perhaps I would also find it lacking.

I am a sucker for things growing out of rocks. Check out this delicate little rue anemone making its life here on a big stone!Raphael also states, “…many of the things theology has associated with evil or suffering (impermanence, disease and natural disasters) are not problematic for thealogy. It would be unreasonable to attribute moral responsibility to the divine for suffering when (natural) evil is an ecological and thealogical given” (p. 208). She goes on to further explain, “It may be that if the reality of human wrong-doing and suffering does not count against the existence or worth of a reality called ‘the Goddess,’ then thealogy cannot ultimately do some of the most important work of a popular religious theory, namely, to reconcile people to existential pain and to construct meaning in the face of it” (p. 210).

As I’ve indicated, personally, I don’t feel as if I need Goddess or religion to explain these things for me, but I understand that the failure of thealogy to provide answers on these issues means that it may never attract large amounts of followers who were formerly committed to more traditional religious views of the world. What I find helpful is Carol Christ’s process philosophy outlook on thealogy that asserts divine sympathy. Goddess/God cannot prevent suffering, but suffers with those who suffer, omnipresent, while not omnipotent. It is true that thealogy doesn’t completely fill the void left by theological understandings of divinity and suffering, but I believe that may well be because traditional religious interpretations have significant issues and theological mistakes that unravel under critical thought.

In Merlin Stone’s essay about the three faces of goddess spirituality in the collection, The Politics of Women’s Spirituality (p. 66), she writes “So far, and let us hope in the future as well, feminists concerned with Goddess spirituality have seldom offered absolute or pat answers to theological questions. What has been happening is the experiencing, and at times the reporting, of these personal or group experiences: how it feels to regard the ultimate life force in our own image—as females; how it feels to openly embrace and to share our own contemplations and intuitive knowledge about the role of women on this planet; how it feels to gain a sense of direction, a motivating energy, a strength, a courage—somehow intuited as coming from  a cosmic female energy force that fuels and refuels us in our struggle against all human oppression and planetary destruction.” As I’ve written before, this makes sense to me—Goddess as life’s “fuel” and as an energy that surrounds and holds us all, but that does not “control” our behavior and does not have the ability to stop specific events from happening—events are multicausal and there are a multiplicity of forces and natural laws in the world (gravity, for example, lightning for another), that act in and upon the lives of humans without divine cause or intervention, but still as part of an overall tapestry of being (that as a whole, might be called Divinity).

Personally, I actually found Goddess most meaningfully during a time of personal suffering. While I previously connected with Goddess imagery and was interested in Goddesses and women’s spirituality from a feminist perspective that valued the symbolism in a socio-political context, I did not feel a truly personal experience of Goddess “energy” until, as I’ve also written about several times previously, I experienced pregnancy loss. That is when I felt She actually existed and when I realized that I was in relation to her as well as recognized that I wasn’t “areligious” after all, but did have a set of spiritual beliefs, perspectives, and “tools” to draw on for personal support. I was amazed to discover at this time (after an “a-religious” self-definition of the past) that I did in fact have a spiritual language and conceptualization of my own and that these were the deep resources I gathered to draw upon during a time of significant distress, fear, and challenge.

Culpepper reflects on the reframing of redemption:

“Reframing redemption necessitates renewed reflection upon the meaning of death. Rosemary Ruether is at pains to distance the notion of redemption from its eschatological interpretations. Instead, she focuses on its political implications, and rejects any formulation of the concept of salvation which views it as ‘an escape from the body and the world into eternal life’.  She offers an ecological account of immortality, which suggests the cosmic recycling of matter, not the survival of the individual in some otherworldly realm. At the heart of this rejection is a serious reappraisal of the effect that longings for immortality have had upon human self-consciousness. Our true home, this idea seems to say, lies beyond the stars. McFague is highly critical of such a view, arguing that there is no need for some postmortem existence to maintain the divine-human relationship: ‘We are with God whether we live or die, for whether our bodies are alive or return to the other form of embodiment from which they came, they are within the body of God.’  Redefining death finds a ready resonance with key aspects of thealogy. Starhawk argues that what we perceive as destruction should not be feared but acknowledged as a necessary part of the whole lifeprocess.” (Culpepper, p. 36)

According to Starhawk, paraphrased in Clack, “In thealogy, the Goddess is generally understood as the generative power of ‘all that lives and loves life…’ Therefore, when women or natural things recover their naturalness or return to the aliveness of the wild state, they are recovering their divinity in the goddess: and as the goddess is female energy, women who situate themselves inside nature, in the body of the goddess, will recover divine/natural energies and powers that will, like nature/the goddess, overcome patriarchy. For to repeat, nature/the goddess is stronger and older than patriarchy.” (Clack, p. 56)

Related past post:

The role of death in the circle of life

Rocks look at dogwoods.

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

Sunday Sabbath: Sacred Words

woodspriestess

In November of 2010, I attended at women’s spirituality retreat in St. Louis and we did an exercise in which we each wrote a “gift” on a piece of paper (following a guided meditation) and then put them into a communal bowl and each drew out another’s woman’s gift—like she had passed it to us. I drew out “sacred words.” My friend told me she thought it was perfect for me because talking to me about her own experience of spirituality had been deeply meaningful to her. When I got home, I started looking for study programs/schools online because I knew in my heart that the time had come to deepen my personal study and experiences. I ended up applying to Ocean Seminary College and being accepted into the doctoral program in Thealogy/Goddess studies. This weekend, I finished my eleventh OSC class. I’m almost finished with two more and currently enrolled in another two. After those classes, another 11 classes remain, plus a priestess practicum and my dissertation. I really feel grateful for my experiences and classes at OSC. They have helped me clarify my own vision, purpose, and direction as well as helped me develop skills, rituals, broader understandings, and personal practices. I’ve also branched out as a writer as a direct result of my coursework there. While anchored for several years in being a birth and motherhood writer, my woodspriestess project has its roots in my Ecology and the Sacred class at OSC. Writing this blog, as well as writing for Feminism and Religion and Pagan Families, is a direct result of my work with OSC and the opportunity it has offered me to deepen my own practices and understandings. The decision to apply and then to begin classes represents one of those pivotal life moments for me. It is also entwined with my priestess path, since it was from Global Goddess members that I learned about OSC in the first place and then in doing my work at OSC I gained the confidence to see that I was already functioning in a priestess role in my community and wanted to step more fully into that place, which led me to apply for ordination as a priestess with Global Goddess…it is like a lovely big circle 🙂

I had fun times at Tagxedo making the word cloud above out of my blog and also word clouds for my mom and grandma. And, I learned that this year is the 70th anniversary of the classic Myers-Briggs Type Inventory. I have my online students take this test every session and we compare our results and the overall class dynamic. In celebration of the MBTI birthday, they have cool little wordcloud heads available with your type. Here’s mine!20130412-105737.jpg

And, I saw this quote on Facebook and liked it!
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And, speaking of words and wordweaving, I enjoyed this article about poetry in the schools:

Poetry builds resilience in kids and adults; it fosters Social and Emotional Learning. A well-crafted phrase or two in a poem can help us see an experience in an entirely new way. We can gain insight that had evaded us many times, that gives us new understanding and strength. William Butler Yeats said this about poetry: “It is blood, imagination, intellect running together…It bids us to touch and taste and hear and see the world, and shrink from all that is of the brain only.” Our schools are places of too much “brain only;” we must find ways to surface other ways of being, other modes of learning. And we must find ways to talk about the difficult and unexplainable things in life — death and suffering and even profound joy and transformation.

via Five Reasons Why We Need Poetry in Schools | Edutopia.

I still don’t think of myself as writing poetry and yet there it somehow is on almost every page of my blog… 😉

The trees are coming back to life!

The trees are coming back to life!

Beauty surrounds me
I am immersed in beauty
Tasting it
Hearing it
Feeling it fully
Through me
Around me
Within me…

(4/12/13)

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Categories: introversion, nature, OSC, priestess, sabbath, spirituality | 1 Comment

Triple Goddess

Triple Goddess February 2013 062

Is she enough?

Seed moves to bud

Bud moves to blossom

Blossom moves to flower

Flower moves to fruit

Fruit moves to seed…

An ongoing generative process of birth and re-birth, of legacy, and of love, the lives of women are multigenerational, complex, and multilayered, and yet within them perhaps the Triple Goddess archetype stands. Steady. Maiden, Mother, Crone. Maiden, Mother, Crone. Perhaps each layer there is subdivided into deeper experience, but the overall broad, blood mysteries are encompassed cleanly…

My hope rests

in the potential of women

To be all they can be

To listen to daughters

To hug friends

To care for mothers

To hold space for each other

Within the Triple Goddess is a trinity. A trinity of female power, of female experience, and of female story–honoring, and holding, and blessing April 2013 004the mysteries of women with the mysteries of the Goddess, providing a framework for our bodies’ language, our womb-deep stories and memories. Perhaps another Trinity that makes sense is the Mother, Father, and Daughter Trinity. The Daughter carrying the potential of new generations within her, the Father providing the spark to ignite the unfolding of life within, the Mother fashioning the Daughter from the very stuff of her own blood.

Is it enough?

It doesn’t have to be

Because the potential of women

Is written in the earth and stars

And it is boundless

As I walked in the woods with my daughter and thought about this concept and about my mother and my grandmother too, suddenly a fourfold Goddess also floated to mind. There must be something between—Donna Henes has already figured out and other writers have explored—the Mother stage and the Crone. But then, I reflected that my own mother—I guarantee—still strongly identifies with the Mother archetype. Once you’ve gone Mother, you can never go back. I am absolutely certain that she still identifies deeply with the Mother. And, then I thought about my grandma and I thought, heck, she probably identifies deeply with the Mother as well. My little daughter, my little Maiden, she identifies with the Mother also. While it may seem gender-essentialist, gender binary, and biologically reductionist of me, it thrills my little heart to see this in her–a heart that is deeply invested with being a mother and considers being a mother central to my being. Pregnancy, birth, lactation, are core life processes and working with women in these areas is deeply part of me, so when my little two-year-old points at her own belly and says, “baby…belly…me…grow…up,” telling me that she will grow up to have a baby of her own and then points to herself and says “Mama…ME! Babies…grow UP! Mama…ME!” I realize that she already carries that Mother image within her and sees that potential within herself now. Looking at her and looking at my mother, I see how I still identify as the Daughter. I am still the Maiden too. And, I see my mother and her mother and know that my mom still feels Daughter in this face of impending loss. And, she is both Grandmother and Daughter and Mother all at the same time. So, then I conclude that the Triple Goddess does work, because we each hold them. We contain them. So while they might not be enough for the human woman or even for biology, we may certainly contain and embody them all, sometimes all at once. And, that’s okay. There’s power in the triple image. There’s purpose in the triple image. And, there’s a genetic circularity of being in that triple image that I see reflected in my own days, my own relationships, my own roles. I am the Triple Goddess. She is the Triple Goddess. They are the Triple Goddess. We are the Triple Goddess.

Ipad Pix 090

Together at my brother’s wedding this past October.

When I recorded these thoughts as part of my final assignment for my Triple Goddess class at OSC, I was in the woods with my little girl and in the background of the recording she is saying, “Mama” and making other remarks and it seems perfectly fitting.

April 2013 008

She brought her little (nonworking) cell phone to the woods too and stood talking into and repeating part of everything I said: “Triddle…Doddess.”

April 2013 006 April 2013 007 April 2013 012

Categories: family, OSC, parenting, spirituality, thealogy, womanspirit, women | 4 Comments

Woodspriestess: The Language of Spring

A blush of green begins April 2013 013

Delicate lace of wild plums
Graces gray forestscapes

Heartbeat in the forest sings
The passion of life untapped.
The soul of the world
is speaking the language of spring.

This morning I went outside and swooned to see that the wild plum trees bloomed in the night! (Or at some other recent date and I didn’t notice until this morning?!) There are two small ones right near the house and more dotted throughout the woods and I love them. I also stepped over by the woodpile and right onto the wild violets that grow as a wonderful little carpet over there—they’re my very favorite tiny flower of spring and I actually gave a little shout of happiness to see them! An old-new friend coming back to visit. While I like seeing things that other people have planted or that I’ve planted myself, there’s really nothing like seeing what the ecosystem has planted on its own.

April 2013 017

I went ahead and headed to the woods then with two of my kids (the third kid was inside making pies!) I had a bit of deja-vu-ish moment, because I remember delighting in the violets and taking pictures of them at this time last year when I went on a 300 Things walk with my daughter (which in hindsight was my first ever “woodspriestess” post).

April 2013 028

Couldn’t resist a picture of these delicious curls too (Hey! They’re “springy” in their own right 😉 )

April 2013 033
While I couldn’t get a very good picture of it because of the breeze, I  also checked on the progress of the memorial tulip tree we planted for my third baby. I have been a little worried about it, because the buds don’t seem to be changing much, but we’ve got color!April 2013 022

And, at my parents’ house where the matching tree resides, they’ve got a whole bunch of flowers already!

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When I wrote my final reflection for my Ecology and the Sacred class, I included this reflection on those things we plant…

…on the same road on which we live, there are several former homesites, with a variety of introduced plant life that continues to bloom each year. Around the corner from us is a ramshackle house that has not been inhabited for about 50 years. It has a gorgeous flowering quince that blooms each spring and dozens and dozens of iris bloom as well, making bright spots of color barely visible through the trees that have grown up to nearly cover the house. The home in which my parents live (one mile away) is a restored log cabin originally built in 1899 and moved to the current location from a spot out by the gravel road. Jonquils had been planted along the front of the house and in the yard area (so, sometime during the early 1900’s, I would imagine) and those jonquils continue to bloom each year in the now-woods and by my parents’ house, where my mom transplanted some originals along with the house itself. When driving down the gravel road in the springtime, there is another location of a previous home that is only identifiable visually when the jonquils bloom and as their yellow glow catches your eye through the trees, you can also see a small footer of a crumbled foundation nearby, indicating they were once planted in front of a home. I am struck by the fact that this rosebush and tulip tree that I’ve introduced to my own home landscape may well outlast us and our entire home and may indeed be our most lasting “legacy” on this patch of earth.

Step out onto the Planet

Draw a circle a hundred feet round

Inside the circle are

300 things nobody understands, and, maybe

nobody’s ever really seen.

How many can you find?

–Lew Welch

April 2013 016

Categories: family, nature, OSC, parenting, woodspriestess | 2 Comments

Woodspriestess: Echoes of Mesopotamia

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Custom sculpture for a Facebook follower 🙂

 

Echoes of Mesopotamia
small figures from ancient places
ancient times
and ancient faces
ancient words
and ancient wisdom
still flowing in my veins

Clay in my hands
clay in her hands
running on the rivers of time
spiraling in the mysteries of being
spinning in the eddies and ripples of eternity

I have a strong emotional connection to Paleolithic and Neolithic Goddess sculptures. 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.

What were they thinking? Those ancient woman who transformed stone into potent and enduring images of the Goddess. Who crafted with their hands, something that persisted for 5,000, 10,000, 15, 000, 20,000, 30,000 years. Images so compelling that they reach across time, space, and understanding to say hello. Who made them and what was she thinking? Who am I and what am I thinking? Perhaps it is encoded in the layers of our being. Carrying on a legacy. The next link in a chain that spans the centuries and that is beyond the reach of history.

During our last women’s circle meeting we talked about our personal cultural histories and we began work on “sacred bundles” that we will continue to add to throughout the year-long course. I added photos of my ancestors, a fossilized stone shell, (because the Earth itself represents the shared cultural history of us all!), and one of my own Goddess sculptures and I tied the bundle with a Goddess of Willendorf necklace. I surprised myself by bursting into tears when I tried to explain the significance of my items, feeling the swift swirl of time and how those grandmothers in my pictures are now gone, but they were people, just like me. I also shared about the deep connection I feel to the land I live on and how my parents moved here in the 1970’s, so maybe this isn’t really where I “come from,” but that this is where my blood and roots belong. I continued crying as I described how when I sculpt my little figures, I feel like I’m part of an unbroken chain that stretches back at least 35,000 years, from the person who carved the Willendorf Goddess, all the way down to me with my rocks and clay. Later that week, my dad said he needed to talk to me and he shared that in our family history it is really only HIM who “broke the chain” of being “from” this exact patch of the Earth, here in Missouri. He was actually the only member of his side of the family in a long time who wasn’t born here and that, in truth, six generations of my family were born, lived, and died within a 25 mile radius of this very hillside that I find so meaningful. He said that he feels like his blood called him back here and he returned to this land as a young man and raised his own children here because it called so powerfully (I was born one mile from where I now live). So, he said, no wonder you feel like this is your cultural heritage and where you belong. Your lineage is right here, right where you like to be.

When I was taking a Goddess history class at OSC, I wrote the following about the common use of red ochre on Goddess figures:

As I saw the slideshow and reflected on goddess figures I have known and loved, I was suddenly struck by the realization that the walls of my home are, in a sense, colored with red ochre. We live in a straw bale house and the walls are plastered with an earthen plaster that include the red Missouri “clay dirt” that is a feature of the Ozarks region in which I live. The clay is red because of iron oxide, which is what red ochre is defined as. I looked at the Goddess of Willendorf on my altar and at her rich reddish color that exactly matches the shade of the earth on my bedroom walls. No wonder I feel such a deep, personal connection to these ancient figures—quite literally, some part of me identifies Her with home!

Last month when I shared a photo of some of my Goddess sculptures on Facebook, someone left a comment saying simply: Echoes of Mesopotamia. And, I really liked that.

Goddesscraft. 20130311-153757.jpg
Womancraft.
Lifecraft.
Who molds who?
Who sculpts who?
Is it just one beautiful dance
of exuberant co-creation?

Expansive memory,
silent witness,
inner wisdom,
embodied connection
solid space
all twisted together
in an incredible tapestry
of time
culture
power
and life.

Today, in the woods, I carried some of the sculptures I’ve made recently and am getting ready to ship to their new homes and I offered this prayer for them:

In this place of elemental peace 20130311-153846.jpg
with the earth, stone, trees, sky
as my witnesses
I bless, dedicate, and consecrate
these sculptures.

May they go forth
in wisdom
love
grace
and peace

May they bring a message
may they carry with them
the loving intention
with which they were birthed
and may they go forward
to speak to those who need to hear from
to enter the hands and homes of other women
with love, joy, power, and connection

May they recall deep wisdom of deep places
bright kindness
of bright spaces
and may they be just
what another woman needs

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Categories: art, blessings, Goddess, nature, OSC, prayers, sculpture, spirituality, theapoetics, womanspirit, women's circle, woodspriestess | 6 Comments

Never Again?

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

Recent "mamapriestess" polymer clay figure.

Recent “mamapriestess” polymer clay sculpture.

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: feminism, OSC, women | 1 Comment

Women’s Voices

December 2012 115The voices of women are rising again
we are mothers, daughters,
lovers, leaders, teachers
authors, priestesses, even warriors
and we will not be silenced.
we will speak for the vulnerable
we will speak for the oppressed
and we will speak for ourselves.
The world will be saved,
not by a dying man,
but by women’s stories…

(1/10/13)

‎I listened to David Hillman speak on a recent episode of Voices of the Sacred Feminine and he mentioned that when political and religious tides were turning in the ancient world, those who wanted to dominate and control didn’t go for the leaders of countries, for political heads of states, or for those in powerful jobs, they went for the priestesses. They went for women who held the cultural stories and ritual language of the people. They went for the healers and nurturers and those who took care of others. They destroyed temples and sacred images and books. They almost succeeded in total eradication of the role of priestess from the world and worked really hard to take midwives and wisewomen out completely as well.

I addressed a similar topic in my Stigmatization of the Witch class at OSC with regard to the question of why sexuality and the woman as healer became such a threat to European Medieval society:

Allan-statue(sacredsource)
Many women accused as “witches” were past their childbearing years—thus, had used up their usefulness as a sexual commodity and because many of them were widowed/not controlled by a man, they threatened the very fabric of the patriarchal community. Women in general were associated with the “evils” of sexuality, sex in itself being viewed as sinful rather than sacred. Many of the women accused were midwives and healers. Birth was purposefully denigrated and made “unclean” as a means of subjugating women and dominant religious traditions sought “purification” and “rebirth” in patriarchal traditions—transcending the body and the “unclean” birth from a lowly female body, to a spiritual birth from a father figure. No mother/woman required! Midwives/witches’ association with the “dirty” and original-sinful act of birth, made them natural suspects for other mysterious and powerful events (such as infant death or personal disfigurement). It would seem much more logical that the power to give life, to express the might of creation, should really have been viewed as one of the holiest and most profoundly meaningful acts in society—it seems much more logical and natural to celebrate women as life-givers and sustainers of society, but this was actually purposefully inverted and fear rather than celebration came to surround the mysteries and potent powers of a woman’s reproductive life.  In some ways, perhaps “womb envy” was one of the driving forces behind the witch hunt phenomenon…

Likewise with the healing abilities of the accused—the ability to heal was a special power that gave women authority and influence over the community members. I was interested by the Barstow’s remarks that the women accused were, “…uppity women—women given to speaking out, to a bold tongue and independent spirit….spirit, quarrelsomeness, a refusal to be put down. They talked back to their neighbors, their ministers, even to their judges and executioners.” (p. 27) What if other women, who saw these women as important figures, felt like they could also be independent and speak their minds? Society would fall apart!

I am reminded of a poem I received once in a card from the National Association of Mother’s Centers:

One Woman Awake
Awakens another,
The second awakens her next door neighbor.
And three awake can rouse the town,
And turn the whole place upside down.
And many awake
Can raise such a fuss
That it finally awakens the rest of us.
One woman up,
With dawn in her eyes,
Multiplies.

It is not uncommon for a society not to want to risk the threat of awakened women turning the whole place upside down.

“We’re volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. New mountains form.”

– Ursula Le Guin

‎”I hear the singing of the lives of women. The clear mystery, the offering, and the pride.”

– Muriel Rukeyser

Categories: feminist thealogy, OSC, priestess, quotes, women | 4 Comments

Waning Moon Ritual

This is part of an assignment for a class in Ritual and Liturgy at OSC…November 2012 188

For this ritual, we are outdoors by the fire circle. There are four guardians established for each of the four directions—each one has a symbol with it, a dancing Pele incense burner for fire, a smooth stone egg for earth, a chalice for water, and a spiral goddess for air. Other than the fire in the center of the ring, there is no central altar.

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). They are smudged with sage by the guardian of air as they enter. A heartbeat rhythm with the community drum is begun at this time.

For this ritual, we will use Quarter Calls for Transformation or Initiation from SageWoman Magazine. Each guardian reads one section aloud:

From the East, the wind comes
Air twirls around the circle,
Crisp and cool…
Knowledge and mystery
Blow from beyond the veil.
Welcome, East, Air, Mystery!
Blessed Be!

Southern energy guides our way,
With Fire’s entrancing light
Burning, beckoning…
Flame’s focused intensity
Brings spirit-filled rapture.
Welcome, South, Fire, Intensity!
Blessed be!

From the West, the old ones call
Water transcends the journey.
Shimmering, transforming…
Memories carried in the flow
Pour forth into the night.
Welcome, West, Water, Flow!
Blessed be!

The North holds the land at midnight
Into the Earth, we descend
Dark and quiet
The land of initiation
Holds us deep in her embrace.
Welcome, North, Earth, Initiation!
Blessed be!

Group sings: Air My Breath, Fire My Spirit, Earth My Body, Water My Blood at least three times.

 Opening words:

Priestess reads aloud a passage from the 2012 We’Moon datebook:

Song of the End (by Christine Fortuin, 2011)

Mother of twilight
lead us away
from the
destiny of time.
Initiate us
into the ever,
the all,
the breath
of the infinite.
Baptize us with starlight.
wrap our souls
in the shroud
of rapture
and sound.
Create in us
everything which
has been lost
and all
which is unknowable.
Let us speak
in the tongue
of grace,
in which all
vibrations are
one
eternal
song.

Priestess briefly acknowledges that this is a time for letting go. She asks each participant to write down some things they’d like to release…

After a pause for reflection, each person casts the old into the flames, calling out the release if they feel so moved.

Then, the group joins hands and do a reading from Leonie Dawson:

We breathe and give thanks for all that has passed…
We let go and breathe releasing all that is old and no longer serves us…
We open up to the beautiful possibilities blossoming before us…
We radiate in light and joy…all is beautiful and all is well.

Group sings Let All Go As I Will

Let the path be clear before me, let all go as I will
And the past be clean behind me, let all go as I will
And the ones I love beside me, let all go as I will
And the Goddess light above me, let all go as I will
And the Mother Earth beneath me, let all go as I will
And my own true self within me, let all go as I will
let all go as I will
let all go as I will

 Open 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.

Family drum circle time!
October 2012 038

Categories: family, liturgy, OSC, readings, ritual, spirituality, women's circle | 3 Comments

Connecting to the Maiden

This post is part of an assignment for my Triple Goddess class at OSC.

As I consider the Maiden, I realize I feel extremely disconnected from the Maiden in my own life.  I haven’t actually spent much time giving her any thought. I connect deeply to the Mother and am maybe even too embedded in that archetype. I can even look forward to the Crone with some degree of understanding or anticipation. I have women around me in that stage of life and I feel I learn from watching their experiences and hearing their voices and opinions. The Maiden, however, she’s distant past. If the signature event of the Maiden stage is menarche, I do feel as if I’m starting to reclaim menstruation in my life as a “shamanic event” and as an important biological and even spiritual occurrence, rather than as a nuisance. But, the Maiden goes beyond just menarche (or being virgin), she is a feeling too. A freespiritedness. I’ve been serious for a long time. I’ve been on break from teaching during the past month and a couple of weeks ago I was laughing in the kitchen and being totally silly with my family and I said to my husband, “I forgot that I’m really funny.” I think the Maiden reminds me of this!

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I make goddess art in the form of little sculptures of polymer clay. I have only tried to include the Maiden a handful of times in Triple Goddess sculptures and she never turns out quite right. Recently, I branched out into using regular clay for some sculptures and only three from my first batch of seven survived. One of them lost her breasts pre-firing, and when I first looked at the three of them after the glazing firing, I realized I had accidentally created a Maiden Mother Crone triad—the breastless maiden is tall, straight, and unencumbered, the middle sculpture has a slightly rounded belly, full breasts, and open hands indicating receptivity, and the final one is again self-contained… 20130106-101214.jpg

As I considered this lesson, I went down to the woods and asked a question:

What do I need to know about the Maiden?

She is still within you

She is the one who laughs in the night

Who gets punchy and silly

Who runs to the car

She is the one who loves dolls

And creating art

And being hugged

She is that part of you

That wants to wallow in books

To lay on the floor and take a nap

She is the part that still feels like an awkward nine-year-old

The dawning of a time when you wonder what others think of you

She is the one who skips

She is the one who dances in the kitchen

She is the one who eats chocolate chips by the handful

She is you.

1/5/2012

When I came back, I had the realization that what the Maiden is ready to remind me of is to have fun and to play, to remember to bring those things to the fore and not always be working/getting things done/being productive (though, those things are also often fun for me!). I came into the house all ready to type up my thoughts and observations. My little almost-two-year old daughter, however, was getting out candles and setting up a ritual. She spread out a cloth and set up little goddesses and stones and candles and was tugging at me and calling to me to the light the candles. I was kind of shrugging her off and saying, “not now, honey, I need to do something first,” and suddenly I was like oh my goddess, DUH, this IS THE MAIDEN RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF ME and she has a plan! And, I’d come very, very close to missing it, and also, flat-out missing the whole point of what I was trying to learn from this lesson.So, my husband and I both sat with our daughter on the floor in the little altar space she had created and we all held our lit candles and spent some sacred, Maiden time together:

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After getting her little ritual space set up. I’m really interested by how she sets it all up and arranges things…

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This picture was taken last month. Earlier in Dec. I participated in an online winter solstice ritual offered by Global Goddess and Alaina was fascinated by lighting the candle and sitting on the floor with me. Ever since then, she keeps wanting to get out candles and lay out little altars on the floor. So, this picture is from one of those times. Look how pleased she is with herself 🙂

Categories: family, Goddess, OSC, ritual, spirituality | 5 Comments

2013 Moon Calamandala

This post is part of an assignment for my Birth-Death-Regeneration: Triple Goddess class at Ocean Seminary College.

First, I considered the relevance of the triple goddess concept and maiden, mother, crone archetypes/stages in my own life. I appreciate the expanded concept of the Women’s Wheel of Life elucidated by Elizabeth Davis and Carol Leonard and find there is more room within their construct for women to identify with the Wheel. The expanded wheel includes:

The Women’s Wheel of Life
(Amazon affiliate link included)


The Daughter
The Maiden
The Blood Sister
The Lover
The Mother
The Midwife
The Amazon
The Matriarch
The Priestess
The Sorceress
The Crone
The Dark Mother
The Transformer

However, I also find the original Triple Goddess concept is still useful. Why? Simply because in very, very broad ways, they encompass the three blood mysteries of womanhood and serve as clearly recognizable transition points in my own life. My life IS in fact divided into three distinct stages. Before menarche and after menarche are distinctly recognizable in my memory. A couple of months ago I finished working through a Women’s Rites of Passage workbook and in it we were asked to explore our relationship with menstruation. I was surprised to discover and write the following:

I was shocked to discover during the first menstruation meditation that there is a clear division in my bodymind between before menstruation and after and that after involves less happiness and more confusion and angst and altered relationship to my body. In the meditation I saw/experienced myself as carefree and happy prior to menstruation and also eagerly awaiting her arrival. Post-menstruation I recalled the intensely painful cycles I experienced, the feeling as if I was “sick” when I had my period, and no longer feeling in blissful harmony with my body. Giving birth in power and joy helped me reclaim my body joy, but it is only in the last year that I’ve begun to consider that moontime itself might hold sacred wisdom and opportunity for connection…

As referenced, giving birth is also a distinct, transformative and intiatory rite in my own life. As with menstruation, I also observe a definite distinction between before motherhood and after motherhood. And, in many ways, I am not the same person I was before going through this rite of transformation.

Finally, while I’m not to the Crone stage yet, I can sense that this will be similar only it will likely represent the division between life as a mother with children at home and life as a mother with adult children.

I wish to acknowledge that I know that many women do not become mothers for a variety of reasons, so they may in fact feel excluded from the very transitions and distinctions I describe above. That is why I prefer Davis and Leonard’s exploration of 13 archetypes. And, it is not my intention to make any reader feel excluded or overlooked by the Triple Goddess image, just to explain how I am able to see her represented in my own life’s trajectory.

As I have described previously, within my circle of friends, we have been wonderful for some time at celebrating the Blood/Women’s Mysteries. We have Mother Blessing ceremonies for each pregnant woman as well as maiden ceremonies for our girls who are coming of age. My mother and her friends had a coming of age ceremony for all of their daughters when I was 13 (and my sister 11) and it was very meaningful for us. Two years ago, I facilitated a blessingway ceremony for all of my friends’ 10-12 year old daughters follow a series of Meetings at the Moon classes. We also had a new SageWoman ceremony just this month to honor the wise women among us. One of my goals is to have a regular monthly Moon Circle–to bring some of that sense of celebration and power from our Mother Blessing ceremonies more fully into our lives and to celebrate the fullness and completeness of women-in-themselves, not just of value while pregnant. (In January 2011 some friends and I did begin holding quarterly women’s retreats loosely based on the seasonal cycles, with the intention of perhaps having this become a monthly circle, and with the intention of celebrating our lives, whatever the stage or experience.)

As I read the material for this lesson, I was thinking about the wheel of the year and about the woman’s wheel of life and I decided it was time to make my 2013 Moon Calamandala drawing! It seemed like the perfect time! The Moon Calamandala (TM* 😉 ) includes the dates of each full moon in 2013. It also includes a variety of “womanrune” symbols to pictorially explore what our family would like to bring into our lives during each quarter. In the classes I teach, sometimes I encourage my students to think in circles rather than in lines. To me, this is what the Moon Calamandala represents as well. Here, we see the year as a cycle, a circle, another turn around the sun, rather than as a series of linear boxes as a graph, implying a distinct beginning and ending. The four goddess images represent the seasons and the four quarters of the year. Within each quarter are that quarter’s moons and the womanrunes symbols I chose to indicate family hopes, dreams, or plans for that part of the year. The waxing and waning moons are also indicated symbolically.

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My 2012 Moon Calamandala (above) and the 2013 drawing ready to go into the frame. You can see a larger image and description of my 2012 calendar in this post, which was part of an assignment for a different class at OSC.

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On the wall!

Seemingly appropriate for the Mother turn of the wheel, I received much assistance from my littlest one as I was completing the calamandala:

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Womanrunes

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*I think I may have just invented this new word 😉

Categories: art, family, Goddess, OSC, spirituality, womanspirit, writing | 2 Comments

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