Calling the Circle: The Shadow

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

Studying the circle is an imperative aspect of circle work. We can’t keep shadow out of circles in business, or circles in church, or circles in the family; the Gifts for Sagewomen.shadow is not isolatable. When we come into circle and sit down in contained space, pretty soon we see the contents of our shadow reflected back to us around the rim. If we are in a circle that does not acknowledge, respect, and ritualize the existence of shadow in the group, the projections of our ‘not-I’ material accumulate and accumulate until everybody’s closet explodes.

What causes the collapse of circles full of well-intentioned human beings is not the presence of shadow but the repression and denial of shadow, the insistence that it is not among us. Denial of shadow eventually fills the interpersonal field with so much unrecognized and unresolved energy that it is released through explosion or through gradual erosion and undermining of healthy norms.

Most people do not enter the circle thinking about shadow. We enter the circle hoping for light, for shelter, for more efficiency, for a humane way to get things done. But if we do not look at shadow, we create a repeating scenario. Time after time, there is a circle of ‘good’ people who come together with the best intentions and dedication to accomplish a good thing. We are nice to each other. We are often polite and unconsciously conforming. Sometimes one or two people commandeer more leadership, attention, or time in the group than others want, but we don’t know what to do and so we let them. If we are irritated, our dissatisfaction goes underground, covered up with more niceness, or we begin withdrawing our hopes that this will be the circle that really nurtures and protects our fragility or accomplishes our goals. If we are invested in the group, we get angry in our disappointment and begin trying to make others behave. If we aren’t invested, we drift off, showing up less and less often, looking for another, better situation. Sometimes we end up talking with others about a ‘problem person,’ usually not feeling good about our behind-the-scenes behavior but not knowing what else to do.

Personalities polarize between those who seem oblivious to what ‘they’ are doing to the cohesion of the circle and those who are intensely responsive to this discomfort and keep trying to manage ‘the other(s)’ In many of these instances, the concept of the shadow is never introduced into the group, and people do not have the opportunity to live out healthier alternatives for dealing with conflicting energies…our perception needs to shift from polarities of innocence and guilt—‘Look what he/she/they did to me’—to consider what is happening to us, the collective, interconnected body of the circle, and how we continually learn from each other.

Later in the book, Baldwin address the fear involved with healthy participation in a circle and how people may unknowingly act to sabotage it:

  • Someone may obsessively blame the form, coming up with explanation after explanation for why the circle won’t work… [Note: in women’s circles, I see this expressed in a related form of, “women are so hard to work with” and complaints about backstabbing, etc., etc.]
  • Someone may declare that other members of the circles are not safe or trustworthy and refuse to contribute fully until a number of conditions are met. These terms, however, are highly subjective and constantly shifting. No group can prove itself ‘safe’ by the definition of one member; it can only prove itself healthy and responsive to the needs of different people over time.
  • Someone may consistently undermine the self-esteem of others—being hypercritical, reframing other people’s statements, competing verbally, or being overly helpful in a condescending manner.
  • Someone may demand emotional attention that doesn’t fit in the context of the circle; for example, crying until the entire group has stopped to comfort him/her, or raging until the entire group has stopped to placate him/her, or insisting on excessive processing interaction after interaction.
  • Someone may declare him/herself so ‘different’ that s/he can’t identify with the rest of the group–or s/he removes him/herself from peer collegiality through feeling superior or inferior.
  • The entire group may stay locked in the honeymoon phase for a year or more, avoiding the usual breakouts into differentiation. Nope…no shadow here…only incomplete engagement.

She goes on to explain that ALL of us are “guilty” of exhibiting some or many of these behaviors over the years…

“I believe that the thought that women together can change the world is emerging into the minds and hearts of many of us, and that the vessel for personal and planetary evolution is the circle with a spiritual center.” ~Jean Shinoda Bolen

Other posts in this series:

Categories: priestess, quotes, readings, resources, women, women's circle | 1 Comment

Group Blessing for Full Moon

20130722-213416.jpgTonight is the night of the full moon
The night of Selene–wise and knowing
Tonight we connect with her power and it is ours
Tonight we vibrate with the pulse of the moon
Knowing, sensing, and feeling our connections
We flow in many dimensions.
Our eyes are opened and we see with clarity in our visions
Our ears are opened and we hear the voices of our souls
Our mouths are opened and we are filled with love
Our wombs are opened and we are in touch with the source of our creativity
Our feet are opened and we walk on our own true path
Our hands are opened and our power is manifest.

–Diane Mariechild (MotherWit, page 30)

Taking a photo of the gorgeous full moon last night, yet again demonstrated to me the truth in this Facebook meme…


Categories: invocations, liturgy, moontime, prayers, quotes, ritual | 2 Comments

Sabbath: Moon Races

“Goddess ritual, insofar as it generates reverence for and celebrates that which is female…is fiercely empowering,…[with] possibilities as limitless as the sunshine and the wind.” –Sonia Johnson


“Moon races!
All the women running with hair unbound,
All the women running free
and full of laughter.” –Donna Wilshire (Virgin, Mother, Crone)

July 2013 030

You’re a song, a wished for song.

“The archetype of the witch is long overdue for celebration. Daughters, mothers, queens, virgins, wives, et al. derive meaning from their relation to another person. Witches, on the other hand, have power on their own terms. They have agency. They create. They praise. They commune with nature/ Spirit/God/dess/Choose-your-own-semantics, freely, and free of any mediator. But most importantly: they make things happen. The best definition of magic I’ve been able to come up with is “symbolic action with intent” — “action” being the operative word. Witches are midwives to metamorphosis. They are magical women, and they, quite literally, change the world…”  via The Year of the Witch | Pamela J. Grossman.

(This was an interesting article! I have trouble embracing the term “witch” myself because of the many years and layers of negative cultural associations…)

The Goddess made the world
with her needle. First
she embroidered the moon
and then, the shining stars
and then the fine sun and
the warm clouds beneath.
Then the wet pines in the forest,
the pines with wild animals beneath,
then the shining waves of the sea,
the shining waves with fishes beneath.
Thus the goddess embroidered
the world. The world flowered
from the swift needle of the Goddess.

Northern Russian folklore
via TheGypsyPriestess

“Shakti woman
I honor you
I carry you

looped loosely

like a belt around my hips
shining from my eyes
tasting your words on my tongue
and in my heart…”

“Prophet Woman 
she’s a warrior
speaking now
her voice is quiet
in this moment
but I hear
the distant thunder
and I feel
the breath of change
against my neck…”

via Carpriestess: Prophet Woman

Categories: feminist thealogy, Goddess, quotes, readings, sabbath, spirituality, womanspirit | Leave a comment

Sunday Sabbath: Tiny Desert Flowers

When I’m alone the flowers are really seen…They are felt as presence. They live and die in a few days; they keep me closely in touch with process, with growth, and also with dying.” –May Sarton

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” -Jack Kornfield

She who loves roses must be patient and
not cry out when she is pierced by thorns.
–Olga Broumas

(both in Open Mind by Diane Mariechild)

Mariechild goes on to observe that the joy and beauty of flowers may well rest in its fleetingness: “The ghost of death blows through each bloom.” I’ve previously shared my semi-religious experiences with tiny flowers:

Tiny flowers know April 2013 003
that hope blooms eternal
pushing the way
through cracked stone

rebirthing the Earth

What is a seed
but a miracle
right in front of me

What am I
but a miracle
to be seeing this right now…

via Woodspriestess: Tiny Flowers | Theapoetics.

On our recent trip to California we went tourmaline mining in the desert outside of Carlsbad and we also went to Pismo Beach. At both locations, the tiny flowers of those ecosystems caught my eye. Different than the tiny flowers of the “temperate forest biome,” that I call home, but perfection just the same:

Like flower growing from rock March 2013 139
the world is full of tiny, perfect mysteries.

Secrets of heart and soul and landscape
guarded tenderly
taking root in hard crevices
stretching forth
in impossible silence.


that all one needs
is a crack in stone
and a seed of possibility…

via Woodspriestess: Stoneflower | Theapoetics.

Categories: death, nature, poems, quotes, sabbath, theapoetics | 2 Comments

Sabbath: Wild Singing

“It is that holy poetry and singing we are after. We want powerful words and songs that can be heard underwater and over land. It is the wild singing we are after, our chance to use the wild language we are learning by heart under the sea. When a woman speaks her truth, fires up her intention and feeling, staying tight with the instinctive nature, she is singing, she is living in the wild breath-stream of the soul. To live this way is a cycle in itself, one meant to go on, go on, go on.”

– Clarissa Pinkola Estes

“I want to live darkly and richly in my femaleness.”

–Anais Nin


Categories: nature, quotes, sabbath, spirituality, theapoetics, womanspirit | Leave a comment

Woodspriestess: Stoneflower

March 2013 139

Like flower growing from rock
the world is full of tiny, perfect mysteries.
Secrets of heart and soul and landscape
guarded tenderly
taking root in hard crevices
stretching forth
in impossible silence.

that all one needs
is a crack in stone
and a seed of possibility…

On Friday evening, when I went for an unexpected walk through the woods with my husband and daughter, we discovered something that delighted and thrilled me and seemed like a perfect symbol of what I’ve learned from my time in the woods this March. It was rock with a small, perfect flower growing out of it. Difficult to take a picture of there in the leaves, I was so stunned by its beauty that I could hardly leave it…

March 2013 140

The rock also had this cool swirly pattern that looked like a galaxy or universe, but in the picture looks more like a face!

Over the last 31 days, I entered this woodspace in many different ways. Angry, disappointed, sad, joyful, satisfied, tired, hopeful, prayerful, celebratory, creative, grieving. And, I left each day with a sense of inner peace and stillness, of quieted mind, restful body, and connected soul, if only for a few moments. While I’ve been maintaining my daily practice since January, what I’ve learned from the last 31 days of this blogging-every-day-project—the commitment I made to write each day about the changing tapestry of the woods each and every day of March—is deeper and broader than when I was going to the woods without the accountability of writing. While at times I’ve felt like I needed a break from feeling “forced” to write and laughed at myself over the self-imposed to-dos I too often layer upon myself, I’ve learned a lot. During this month I’ve learned that it is okay to be spiky, that it is okay to have a lot to write about and not a lot to write about. I’ve learned to do it anyway. I have learned about the value of this woodspriestess time as a spiritual practice. I’ve learned to move it forward in my day, to spend longer at it, and to make it a top priority. I have learned to pay attention and that I can always see something new. I have challenged myself to always see something new, to learn something new. I have learned that lessons come from sometimes the most surprising and unwelcome of experiences. I have noticed what shares the earth with me, the things that fly, the things that crawl, the things that walk. I’ve bonded with the trees. I’ve recalled that rocks sit around developing powers and wisdom. I’ve composed words I’ve gone on to use more publicly and in ritual.

I’ve realized that the spoken poetry of the forest is its own gift, its own language, its own way of exploring the world around me and that sitting March 2013 031on a rock with a recorder instead of at a computer or with a notebook, unlocks something creative in me in a unique way. I have meditated on the crone, the maiden, and the mother. I have asked questions about hopelessness and despair. I have listened. I have received answers. I have discovered questions. I have come to a more full understanding of my own place in the tapestry of life. I have had clarity and much as everything changes, I have yet to leave the woods with less clarity than that with which I entered. I’ve discovered ways in which my children can come with me and I’ve discovered ways in which children scatter my attention. I have blessed many sculptures. I have prayed for strength, safety, and guidance. I’ve asked for blessings on my work, tasks, and rituals. I have been ragged and I have danced. I have been forlorn. I have been buoyant and exuberant. And, I have watched it all. I have seen winter drift towards spring and then back towards winter and then back towards spring again. I have planned. I have actively witnessed and engaged in that invisible web of incarnation; consciously touched my thread in Her weaving. I have listened to my breath, felt my pulse, watched my thoughts, and gazed at the sky. I have held space. I have held hopefulness. I have held children. I have created art. I have been moved to tears. I have laughed. In this microcosm of the planet, I have touched eternity. I have tasted truth. I’ve discovered a means of touching my soul. I’ve cultivated an authentic and rich spiritual home and identity. I have been sheltered. I have listened and been listened to. I have heard and been heard. I have seen and been seen. I have known and been known. I have been witnessed into being and I have witnessed so carefully. I am a woodspriestess.

Thank you for the many blessings of this time and space. Thank you for witnessing me, thank you for hearing me, thank you for seeing me, thank you for helping me.

“As long as the Earth can make a spring every year, I can. As long as the Earth can flower and produce nurturing fruit, I can, because I’m the Earth. I won’t give up until the Earth gives up.” ~ Alice Walker March 2013 033

“This little patch of earth and this little pile of stones; I can wash the dust off my face and skin, but this earth is in my bones” – Ralph McTell

“…A big rock is a good place to sit and worship, looking out at the world. That feeling you feel, when you see the woods, the ocean, a flower, is the first-fruits offering of worship. The natural world, not the [human]-made world, provides us the right proportions, the right perspective. By naming that for your children, you claim worship as a common human experience…” –Gina Bria (The Art of Family: Rituals, Imagination, and Everyday Spirituality, p. 73)

“The essence of the spiritual path lies only in the beauty of the ordinariness, in the mundane, and in the freedom of separation between the spiritual and the ordinary.” –Dr. Thynn Thynn

As I was speak-writing the above, I was suddenly jolted by seeing my dog chewing on one of my precious sculptures. I must have left her behind after taking pictures one day and not noticed. Luckily, she’s still okay!

March 2013 036I also paid special attention to the maple that grows there out of the priestess rocks, thinking of how it too was once a tiny seed that eventually split rock, strongly and intimately entwined with its landscape.

March 2013 027 And, connecting multiple experiences, today we found the tiniest and most delicate of small green plants growing in one of the drain pipes in our not-yet-fully-set-up aquaponics greenhouse.

March 2013 018

Felt like a sign that things will definitely grow here, whether we try or not!

March 2013 137

Tender green shoot in unlikely place
Tenacious tapestry of life
This weaving unfolding before my eyes
This is my religion.

Categories: nature, poems, quotes, spirituality, theapoetics, woodspriestess | 7 Comments

Saturday Sabbath: Song from the Mother


(c) Jaine Rose. Reprinted with permission.

Today, we were gone all day at one of our work parties with friends. While I didn’t actually take a full digital sabbatical, it made sense to me to switch my “sabbath” day post/thoughts around and share those today and then share my end-of-the-31-day woodspriestess blogging experience tomorrow. I’ve been saving this gorgeous picture and lovely Mother Song to post (reprinted with permission from the artist) and the time finally has arrived!

I also read these two fabulous quotes:

“Whoever you are
whatever you are
start with that,
whether salt of the earth
or only white sugar.”
–Alice Walker (in Open Mind)


“Let it be clear that when I say Goddess I am not talking about a being somewhere outside of this world, nor am I proposing a new belief system. I’m talking about choosing an attitude; choosing to take this living world, the people and creatures on it, as the ultimate meaning and purpose of life, to see the world, the Earth, and our lives as sacred.” –Starhawk (in Open Mind)

And, on my extremely brief visit to the woods this morning, I took a picture of the rock I think of as the “yoni stone.”


Categories: Goddess, nature, quotes, sabbath, woodspriestess | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Thursday Thealogy: Interconnection

The opening of your heart never ceases
It comes in on the tide
of breath
It goes out in the tide
of breath
The whispering of a lover
a chant, a song, a prayer
to your wholeness
to the sacred awakening of the heart.

–Marcelina Martin (in Open Mind)

I hoped to write more tonight for a Thursday Thealogy post about the web of life, but I’m just not going to get there. The post is almost finished, but I’m going to keep working on it and post it next Thursday instead. Instead, I have a variety of quotes from past posts that tie together with the theme of interconnectedness…

From a previous post here:

Carol Christ’s understanding of “profound connection of all beings in the web of life,” (p. 58) is integral to my own understanding of the world, ethics, feminism, and spirituality. I very often return to the idea from Naomi Wolf of the “great invisible web of incarnation of which we are all a part,” indeed it forms the very foundation of my personal thealogy. My introduction to Goddess spirituality as a viable spiritual path distinct from Wicca came from my involvement with the UU Church, which holds an awareness of the web of life as one of its six core principles: “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” UU’s also draw from “seven sources,” one of which is: “Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life” and another of which is: “Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.” (http://www.uua.org/beliefs/principles/) I find that direct experience for me comes most clearly and cleanly through nature and thus identified with Starhawk’s explanation in Reweaving the World that, “we must preserve the wilderness that’s left because that’s the place we go for renewal, where we can most strongly feel the immanence of the Goddess” (p. 82)…

via The Web of Life | Theapoetics.

And, from another past post here:

I have learned a lot about the fundamental truth of relatedness through my own experiences as a mother…Relationship is our first and deepest urge. The infant’s first instinct is to connect with others. Before an infant can verbalize or mobilize, she reaches out a hand to her mother. I have most definitely seen this with my own babies. Mothering is a profoundly physical experience. The mother’s body is the baby’s “habitat” in pregnancy and for many months following birth. Through the mother’s body is how the baby learns to interpret and to relate to the rest of the world and it is to mother’s body that she returns for safety, nurturance, and peace. Birth and breastfeeding exist on a continuum as well, with mother’s chest becoming baby’s new “home” after having lived in her womb for nine months. These thoroughly embodied experiences of the act of giving life and in creating someone else’s life and relationship to the world are profoundly meaningful. With my last baby, I actively introduced her to the world—taking her out one morning and touching her feet to the earth and introducing her to the planet.

The Central Value of Relationship

I mentioned that my most recent FAR post has been getting shared around on Facebook and one particular paragraph has been chosen as the quote that is passed around with the post:

I believe that gathering together as women and connecting over our belief in the value of women and of the value of the Goddess as a symbol is a radical and subversive act. To have the courage to come together in a circle that names women as holy and Goddess as “afoot” (whether literally or metaphorically), is a profound political, social, and cultural statement. And, it is how the personal becomes political. We gather in our homes, we celebrate our rituals and our rites of passage, we wear our Goddess jewelry, we write our articles and share our thoughts, we have the courage to link feminism with matters of the spirit, we speak up in public, we advocate and participate politically, we raise our children in female-affirming homes, and it is in this way that change is born and grows…

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

In my picture today it looks like it was a misty morning in the woods, but really grubby little fingers had smudged the lens…

20130321-231606.jpgAnd, in other nature happenings, in a first-days-of-spring surprise, it snowed again today!

Categories: parenting, quotes, spirituality, Thursday Thealogy | Leave a comment

Sunday Sabbath: Fire & Rain

How can we touch each other, my sisters? …
We keep our tenderness alive and the nourishment of the earth green.
The heat is central as lava.
We burn in each other. We burn and burn.
We shout in choruses of millions.
We appear armed as mothers, grandmothers, sisters, warriors.
We burn.

–Meridel Le Sueur (in Open Mind)

“The element of fire represents passion, veracity, authenticity, and vitality. If the chalice is the supporting structure of Unitarian Universalism, then we are the flame. We are the flame, fanned strong by our passion for freedom, our yearning for truth-telling, our daring to be authentic with one another, and the vitality we sustain in our meeting together. In all of this there is love.”
–Unitarian Universalist minister Sarah Lammert (Spirit in Practice)

I have a practice of keeping a digital sabbath in Sundays. I actually had quite a few thoughts for a post as well, but decided I’ll keep my digital stillness and share brief quote-based posts on Sundays during this daily writing experiment.

I do want to say that my presentation at the UU church today went wonderfully. I drove home smiling and with a nice, warm, satisfied feeling of connection and community. We did sing and we sounded great. And, I drove home still singing…

It rained today and everything was wet and drippy, which is funny because of the fiery quotes that initially caught my eye to use today.

Raindrop on a thick wild grapevine:


Tiny little puddle on my favorite rock. Reflected on how no rain can collect on the hillside and yet, it is due to the shaping influence of water that this terrain exists in the first place.


Stepped in a mole hole!


Approaching the overlook. The orange left in the dry leaves stood out to me today and I thought about how these photos still say “autumn,” but really spring is almost here. Before I know it, it will look like a gorgeous, deep green rainforest out there again.


Categories: community, quotes, readings, UU | Leave a comment

Thursday Thealogy: Darkness

“With lights, we drive the holiness and beauty of night back to the forests and the sea…Are modern folk, perhaps, afraid of night? Do they fear that vast serenity, the mystery of infinite space, the austerity of stars?” –Henry Beston

“True darkness is the…rebuilding process, by which the universe strengthens itself. It is a time when the hidden forces of nature are busy regrouping. When there is darkness, life force is regaining its integrity, so that at the proper season it will reemerge and produce growth and revival.” –Rabbi Steven Fisdel

These quotes both caught my eye in the most recent edition of UU World magazine (as did this super cool glass sculpture). I like the notion of Endarkenment.

I’ve had multiple lucid dreaming experiences that progressed to a point in which I became aware of, “being in the place between dreaming and awake”—i.e. I stopped dreaming and was not awake and yet, I was still conscious at some level and was “somewhere else” (not a dream place, nor a waking state). This place was completely dark. I am aware of my body on the bed and yet, my personal awareness is not dreaming, it just is, in this very, very dark “holding” place. Upon awakening from these experiences, I had to wonder if death is this place too. When I first wrote about these dark experiences, I had another dream. Beginning by being chased by some men through the woods, I became aware that I was dreaming and began to fly—I was then aware of my body in the air and saw a vision of a transparent Goddess figure spreading her arms and becoming absorbed into the larger sky. I felt dissolved and became aware of myself in that dark space again—the place between dreams and wakefulness, where I was both cognizant of my body in bed, but my consciousness was “somewhere else” that was not dreaming, that just was. Total darkness. It is not a scary place.

February 2013 050

Categories: endarkenment, quotes, spirituality, Thursday Thealogy | 2 Comments


We who bleed February 2013 014
we who pour libation to the earth each moon,
weave toward the sea.
These are the priestesses who carry me.
Each moon, each woman
nourishes this soil that suckles us.
We the bloodrich, we the generous.

–Sue Silvermarie in Open Mind

This quote is from a thought-a-day, women’s inspiration book by Diane Mariechild. In the section opened by this quote, Mariechild goes on to talk about the power of a monthly women’s circle as well as suggesting that each woman find, “some gesture that reminds us of the power of the bleeding time and begin to incorporate it into our lives.” She gives the example of placing a red flower on your desk or altar during this time. For myself, I like to wear something red. I also have two pendants that I wear during moontime (sometimes together, sometimes one or the other).

February 2013 027

“Honouring our menstrual cycle reminds us how sacred we are.” -Jane Hardwicke Collings in Becoming A Woman

“Childbearing is a form of power, one of the greatest powers in the world, and menstruation is a sign of that power.” -Valerie Tarico

I recently wrote more about moontime for the Pagan Families blog as well!

Categories: moontime, poems, priestess, quotes | 2 Comments


February 2013 148

New custom goddess sculptures

Stars give her strength
Sun turn her eyes
Moon guide her feet
Earth turning hold her
We pray for her
We sing for her
We drum for her
We pray.

Chrystos (in Open Mind)

Categories: blessings, poems, prayers, quotes, readings, ritual, spirituality, womanspirit, women, women's circle | Leave a comment

Born flaming…


A Little Planet
Every particle of every thing
rock, water, flower, human
has been in the same place flaming
in the heart of our ancient sun
before the earth
came flying out of it.
The irises in your eyes
the tissue of roses

the slow giant rocks in mountain hearts

were all born flaming
locked in the sun as it drifted
like a light on dark water.

–Lawrence Collins in The Earth Speaks

And, this:

“The Goddess Herself is not a belief or a dogma, she is a symbol for a transformative understanding of what is already here, what we know, what we can become. She is a real power, the name we give to the binding force that holds together the universe.”

–Starhawk (in The Politics of Women’s Spirituality)


Categories: Goddess, nature, quotes, spirituality, theapoetics | Leave a 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…


‎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:

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,

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

Desert Priestess Book


Desert Priestess: a memoir (Amazon affiliate link included)

I absolutely loved this book! Written by Anne Key, Desert Priestess: a memoir, is a memoir of her three years as the priestess at the Sekhmet Goddess Temple in Nevada. The memoir is beautifully written in a very honest manner with the narrative including her self-doubts and follies as well as her priestessly moments. After I finished it, I felt like my heart was yearning to take a pilgrimage to the desert, as well as to further deepen and refine my own priestess path! I highlighted several sections of the Kindle version of the text to share:

Writing about her role as a priestess, Anne explains:

…And I can only say that, as priestess, I worked so very hard to open my heart to each person who came, to meet each in perfect love and perfect trust of the structure and beauty of our desert wreath. To do this, I realized that I had to be not only sure of my purpose and strong in my stance but that I also had to see each person as an integral and necessary part of our circle. To do that, I had to be clear about myself and my intentions and I had to stay connected to the Divine…

I realized early in my tenure as priestess that I must stay connected to the Divine to allow things to come through me instead of from me. Everything depended on that: my ability to lead ritual, my ability to stay centered, my ability to understand those who came to the temple, my ability to see my way out of difficult issues. Striving to stay connected to the Divine made another point painfully apparent: I had to be clear, to the depths of my soul. I had to understand what I was, where my limits were, and accept totally who I was. I had to be able to be fully and totally present at each moment of ritual, wide open to everything, and firmly, firmly rooted. This was a real challenge…

Key, Anne (2011-03-29). Desert Priestess: a memoir (p. 45). Goddess Ink. Kindle Edition.

Another very good section of Desert Priestess was Key’s exploration of why it matters to call the Divine “Goddess”:

I lecture at various academic venues on Goddess Spirituality, and I continue to be amazed at the answer to my question: “Does your god have a gender?” While the wording would seem to make the question rhetorical, people almost always answer: “No, my god does not have a gender.” Given the statistic that over 75 percent of people living in the United States claim Christianity as their faith, when I lecture I assume that most of my audience is Christian. When I ask them to describe their god, to tell me what that god looks like in art, many times someone will mention a long white beard, which firmly answers the gender inquiry. But even if they don’t go as far as to mention a beard, when I ask them if their god is a woman, they are shocked and absolutely, defiantly sure that their genderless god is not a woman. We women who create life, the highest of all divine acts, cannot be considered a god.

Between my experiences at the temple and in academia, it has become clear to me that most women in twenty-first-century American culture never see themselves as divine. And it is no wonder. The most predominant images of women in the modern media are as accoutrements to products such as cars or purses. This to me is one of the greatest gifts of the goddess temples, because images of the Female Divine are important. They are important because they begin the process of consecrating women’s bodies as divine. When we as women begin to see our bodies as a reflection of the Divine, then our bodies are removed from the sole category of “object of the male gaze” to corporealized divinity, the embodiment of the Divine.

When women come into the temple, they see themselves, and they see themselves venerated. They see themselves in various shapes and colors, from the round and almond-eyed Madre del Mundo to the black and slim Sekhmet to the brown and regal Virgen de Guadalupe. We women have lived our lives trying to see ourselves in the image of the Christian God, living with the cognitive dissonance of the sound of Charlton Heston’s voice as God, in Michelangelo’s beefy finger, and in the picture tacked on the wall in Sunday school of a man’s aged and ageless face whose white beard melts into the clouds. We live in this culture of the image of God as white and male. As if this were not enough to get the point across, most of those who represent God in the Christian religion—the priests, preachers, and pastors—are men. And if women do represent the Christian God, there is almost always a controversy involved. Still, we women have persevered to find ourselves in the Divine and to see ourselves as divine, and even more courageously to represent the Divine. A sigh of relief automatically escapes me and the cognitive dissonance melts away when I am in the presence of an image of the Divine that is female. Images of the Female Divine are important because they embody the divine qualities of the feminine. The roles of mother, healer, guide, protector, lover, provider, and nurturer combine with the qualities of compassion, justice, truth, fertility, strength, and love to present women in multiple dimensions…

Key, Anne (2011-03-29). Desert Priestess: a memoir (pp. 50-52). Goddess Ink. Kindle Edition.

Sculptures hanging out in the sunshine!

Sculptures hanging out in the sunshine!

She goes on to make this important point: “It is of course no small wonder why graven images are so tightly controlled by religious traditions.” (p. 52) Sometimes I feel like this is what I’m tapping into when I make my own goddess sculptures—a resistance to tight control over graven images and over personalization of divinity as female in essence!

Later, Anne writes about creating a sisterhood of priestesses and she describes their vow to each other in a lovely way:

As sisters, we are one another’s truth tellers. We are one another’s loving and honest mirrors. We advise, even when we are not queried. And we let go so that each may fly on her own wings. Our sisters are our bonds with the deepest mysteries. As sisters, we are the ones who bleed, we are the ones who birth, we are the ones who nourish, we are the ones who weave the web, and we are the ones who cut the cord. As women, as sisters, as priestesses, we stand at the doorways of life and death, bonded by the cycles of our bodies and our lives.

Key, Anne (2011-03-29). Desert Priestess: a memoir (p. 57). Goddess Ink. Kindle Edition.

She also writes about creating ritual and liturgy in a desert climate:

At the beginning of each ceremony, we honored the four directions and an element associated with each: east and air; south and fire; west and water; north and earth. Many times when the directions are called, they are written with a wet, lush environment in mind: cool breeze, deep black earth, rushing rivers, dense forests. But these images did not reflect the desert land, a dry, thriving environment.

I wrote a call of directions specifically for this land, for this place, for this temple:

Winds of the mind, open free.

Breath of life, breathe in me.

Red flame of truth, burning pure.

Spark of life, ignite me.

Water of my soul, blood of earth.

Spring of life, wash me.

Bones of rock, sand, and earth.

Roots of life, ground me.

Key, Anne (2011-03-29). Desert Priestess: a memoir (pp. 90-91). Goddess Ink. Kindle Edition.

And, finally, another section I marked was in her description of feeding sweet little birds outside her window, only to see them snapped out of the air and eaten by a hawk. She says,  “Of course, I would have preferred that the hawks eat the mice. Much as I loved the cute little mice, the mess they left in our kitchen cupboards was disgusting and infuriating. But the birds! The little birds had done nothing but entertain us.” (Amen!) But, then she goes to make the best point ever about nature: “Obviously, this cycle was not about me, or what I thought was cute” (p. 116).

I really recommend this book! It is of particular interest to priestesses and to those interested in Goddess Temples and women’s spirituality in general, but I also think it would be interesting to people who like memoirs and stories about women’s lives and simple, yet profound, adventures.

Categories: books, nature, priestess, quotes, resources, reviews, spirituality, womanspirit, women | 2 Comments

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