women

Wisdom from Moon Time for Red Tents

May 2015 047“At her first bleeding a woman meets her power.
During her bleeding years she practices it.
At menopause she becomes it.”

(Traditional Native American saying)

One of my favorite books to have available on the resource table of our local Red Tent Circle is Moon Time, by Lucy moontime2Pearce. I reviewed it in this post, but didn’t have room for all the juicy quotes I wanted to share! One of the ideas I include in my own Red Tent Resource Kit book is to use womanspirit wisdom quotes to stimulate a discussion in the circle. Here are some quotes from Moon Time that would make great launching points for a sharing circle at the Red Tent:

“It is my guess that no one ever initiated you into the path of womanhood. Instead, just like me, you were left to find out by yourself. Little by little you pieced a working understanding of your body and soul together. But still you have gaps.”

Questions for circle: Were you initiated into the “path of womanhood”? What gaps do you feel?

“You yearn for a greater knowledge of your woman’s body, a comprehensive understanding of who you are, why you are that way. Perhaps you have searched long and hard, seeking advice from your mother, sister, aunts and friends, tired of suffering and struggling alone. You may have visited doctors, healers or therapists, but still you feel at sea and your woman’s body is a mystery to you. Or maybe you have never given your cycles a second thought … until now.”

Questions for circle: What do you feel like you need to know about your body? What mysteries are you uncovering?

“Through knowledge we gain power over our lives. With options we have possibility. With acceptance we find a new freedom.

Menstruation matters.”

Question for circle: How does menstruation matter?

Additional information about why menstruation matters on a physical, emotional, and relational level:

We start bleeding earlier today than ever before, with girls’ first periods occurring at 12.8 years old now, compared with 14.5 years at the beginning of the last century. Coupled with lower breastfeeding rates, better nutrition and fewer pregnancies, women now menstruate more in their adult lives than at any time in our history.

From the age of 12 to 51, unless you are pregnant or on the pill, every single day of your life as a woman is situated somewhere on the menstrual cycle. Whether ovulating or bleeding, struggling with PMS or conception, our bodies, our energy levels, our sense of self, even our abilities are constantly shifting each and every day. And yet nobody talks about it…

via Moon Time: Harness the ever-changing energy of your menstrual cycle

As I noted in my review, one of the things this book was helpful for to me personally, was in acknowledging myself as a cyclical being and that these influences are physical and real: IMG_5194-0

Each month our bodies go through a series of changes, many of which we may be unconscious of. These include: shifts in levels of hormones, vitamins and minerals, vaginal temperature and secretions, the structure of the womb lining and cervix, body weight, water retention, heart rate, breast size and texture, attention span, pain
threshold . . .

The changes are biological. Measurable. They are most definitely not ‘all in your head’ as many would have us believe. This is why it is so crucial to honour these changes by adapting our lives to them as much as possible.

We cannot just will these changes not to happen as they are an integral part of our fertility.

From there, another relevant quote:

“There is little understanding and allowance for the realities of being a cycling woman—let alone celebration.”

Questions for circle: What allowances do you make for yourself as a cycling woman? Are you able to celebrate the experience?

In my own life, I’ve had to reframe my understanding of the impact of the monthly moontime experience by looking April 2015 103at it through the lens of healthy postpartum care following birth—it is crucial that we care for our bodies with love, attention, respect, and time. Our local Red Tent Circle definitely doesn’t focus exclusively on menstruation or on currently menstruating women (all phases of a woman’s lifecycle and her many diverse experiences and feelings are “held” in that circle)–in fact menstruation sometimes barely comes up as a topic—however, one of the core purposes of our circling is in celebration. We gather together each month to celebrate being women in this time and in this place, together. I started out my work with women focused on birth, breastfeeding, and postpartum. While those are formative and central and important life experiences, it became very important to me to broaden my scope to include the totality of women’s lives, not just pregnant women. I want to honor and celebrate our whole lives, not just pregnancy and birth. Having a mother blessing ceremony during pregnancy is beautiful and important and special, but I feel like that care, attention, value, and ceremony can be brought into the rest of our non-pregnant lives The_Red_Tent_Resourc_Cover_for_Kindlethrough gathering together in a Red Tent Circle. This is one reason why I’m so excited to offer an online Red Tent Initiation Program this summer. This program is designed to be both a powerful, personal experience AND a training in facilitating transformative women’s circles.

Back to Moon Time quotes!

“There is no shame in tears. There is a need for anger. Blood will flow. Speak your truth. Follow your intuition. Nurture your body. But above all … Let yourself rest.”

Questions for circle: Do you allow yourself anger and tears? Do you feel shame? How do you speak your truth? How do you give yourself time to rest?

To be clear, I wouldn’t use all these quotes at one Red Tent Circle! I would use them individually at different gatherings. This one blog post has enough potential circle discussion prompts to last for more than six months of Circles! 🙂 This month I also bought a bundle of copies of Moon Time to have available for women at our local Red Tent.

More good discussion quotes here: Talk Books: Cycle to the Moon | Talk Birth.

And, there are others in my Red Tent Resource Kit.

Please consider joining us this summer for the Red Tent Initiation Program!

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Categories: books, community, friends, moontime, priestess, quotes, readings, red tent, resources, retreat, ritual, self-care, womanspirit, women, women's circle | Leave a comment

The beauty that is You (#30DaysofMay)

showheaderToday, my stomach bottomed out a little when I saw this pop up in my Facebook feed. Who does she think SHE is, anyway?! I was originally thrilled to be asked to participate in A Gathering of Priestesses, a live show which I really enjoy, but now that the date rapidly approaches, I find myself feeling incredibly nervous and a little sick. (And, I actually have another interview the very next day for a different program. What was I thinking?!) Gloria posted on my wall and asked me to share the link with my friends and my first reaction was, “I don’t think I will.” 😉

Coincidentally, the question I most recently posed to my dissertation study group was about politics and the priestess…

The last section of my dissertation will look at the sociopolitical value of the priestess–priestess as political statement and social change agent, basically. I’m not talking about small group politics anymore, instead I’m looking at wide cultural politics and perception. Here is a great quote:

“On a very primal level, seeing women hold power in the public spiritual sphere stimulates people’s belief and trust that women can therefore be an authority in other places, as in political office, or corporations. The impact of the symbolic role of the priestess in public ritual reaches into our psyche; this is why it’s important that priestesses be seen performing public rituals and openly invoking the Goddess.”

(From “The Priestess as Wedding Ceremonialist” by Josephine MacMillan, in Stepping into Ourselves)

I went on to ask:

Thoughts, opinions, personal experiences? How do you see yourself as a change agent? Do you think your priestess work has a political component? Are you consciously/intentionally making a specific “statement” with your work or is it a byproduct? (Or a personal experience rather than a cultural one.)

My sick-to-my-stomach feeling about the upcoming interview involves some of these nasty little thought-worms: Too visible. Be smaller. What right do you have? Who do you think you are? What if someone hates you? How does this relate to the 30 Days of May prompt for today about, “the beauty that is You”? Well, because it reminds me of my own strength and gift in feeling fear and doing it anyway. That takes courage and guts and, really, confidence, that I may not recognize immediately in myself, but it is there. A long time ago, I participated in a self-renewal group conference call in which the facilitator asked how comfortable we are with risk-taking.  My initial response was “not at all. I am completely risk averse.” But, in the journaling that followed, I realized that I am only risk averse when talking about physical risks, like bungee jumping or hang-gliding. In my personal life, in “putting myself out there” with my work and ideas, in teaching and writing and facilitating and speaking, actually makes me one of the risk-takingest people I know!

In an interconnected coincidence, I also watched a video from a member of my Priestess Path group, Patricia Ballentine, and seeing her speak with confidence about her experiences, helps me prepare to share mine!

Now, who wants to hold my hand and “doula” me through this interview? 😉

Related past post:

Thursday Thealogy: Interconnectivity, Witches, and Fear | WoodsPriestess.

And, here’s just one example (of many) of why this sense of fear and riskiness is not entirely misplaced: there is a place where women are dying to be heard | Pagan Devotionals.

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Categories: #30Daysof May, dissertation, priestess, womanspirit, women | Leave a comment

Red Tent Wisdom

“Moontime opens up our intuition.
By allowing ourselves to honour this time,
we can eliminate premenstrual tendencies…
Moontime is a sacred passage leading
to a greater awareness of self.”

–Veronika Robinson, Cycle to the Moon (p. 142)

In April, on the evening of our local Red Tent Circle, a package arrived for me from the UK. In it was the beautiful book by Veronika Robinson, Cycle to the Moon, that I won in the Red Tent fundraising auction for Moontimes. March 2015 183

Cycle to the Moon is a quick read and an inspiring one. The line illustrations are beautiful and the combination of journal pages/prompts and text is nice. I marked some good quotes to share. The first, was about womancraft, something I touched on in my new Red Tent Resource Kit book. In that book, I shared the story of how, at a meeting for breastfeeding women, I suggested having a women’s circle and calling it “Mothercraft.” Another woman at the meeting said it sounded interesting, but, “if it was called that, I’d never go.” All I could surmise is that it was because the word sounded too much like “witchcraft.”

“The early Christian Church considered the blood of menstruation to be ‘wasted babies,’ hence the mass killing of witches for ‘killing babies…women were burnt for knowing their woman-craft. That is to say, they understood their dreams, used herbs, and celebrated the process of menstruation. Witch means woman. Their craft, woman-craft, was, quite simply, understanding the mysteries of life” (p. 19).

Cycle to the Moon also suggests a neat idea of creating a “Red Box” for a pre-teen daughter. Either together with yourc2m3D daughter or on your own for a surprise, collect special items in a box to be given to her upon menarche. It can have jewelry, garnet gemstones, books, cloth pads, tea, and so forth. She makes the potent observations that how we welcome young girls into womanhood, sets the stage for how they will view themselves and their life cycles and transitions for a lifetime:

“As we hold the hands of our young sisters when they cross the menstrual threshold, we would be wise to remember that their experience of this cycle will affect them throughout their childbearing years and into menopause. There’s a red thread which weaves through these major themes of our life. Every moment is connected. Whatever we have learned and integrated benefits not only us, but the culture” (p. 41).

Robinson also writes about the idea how you treat yourself during menstruation as a “mirror of your life”:

“The simple truth is that menstruation is a mirror of your life. If you’re not honouring your body through healthy food choices; ample hydration; rest; playtime; calmly managing stressful events; positive thoughts; creativity and sleep; then it will show up in your menstrual cycle…your hormones will come to call; and they will demand that you rest. You might try and quiet them down with headache tablets or something pharmaceutical for cramps, but they will keep talking to you (even if it takes twenty years), until you get the message. If you don’t honour your body during the menstrual years, you are highly likely to suffer when you reach menopause…

What we do in our own local Red Tent Circle varies each month, but we start with introductions using our maternal May 2015 047line and a red thread to represent our connection to the women who came before us and who will go after us, we sing, we have a sharing circle where we “pass the rattle” and talk about our lives and have what we say witnessed and held in safe space. We do a guided meditation and journaling and then a project. In April we had a salt bowl ceremony and then did footbaths and in May we made moon necklaces. We close with a poetry reading and a song. There is tea and a “reflection” table with guidance cards, art supplies, and books to look at. At our May Circle, I shared these two quotes:

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

–Nina Simons in We’Moon 2012

“A woman’s best medicine is quite simply herself, the powerful resources of her own deep consciousness, giving her deep awareness of her own physiology as it changes from day to day.”

–Veronica Butler and Melanie Brown

I asked the women to share their revolutions and their medicine. As they spoke, I realized that my “revolution” and my “medicine” were in the planning and facilitation of these Circles, as well as in the online Red Tent Initiation Program I will be offering this summer. I’m so glad I decided to go this direction this year.

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Categories: books, community, moontime, resources, reviews, ritual, womanspirit, women, women's circle | Leave a comment

Womanrunes Immersion eCourse

cropwomanruneslogo

I’m excited to take my work into some new areas over the summer. We’ve launched a new branch for our offerings: the Creative Ceremony Academy. A Womanrunes Immersion is the first e-course!

Womanrunes Immersion 41 Day e-Course Experience

Begins June 21, 2015*

Do you want to create a sacred “time out” in your day to listen to yourself and to explore a deeper relationship with the womanrunes course messages of the world around you? Are you looking for a means of experiencing your inner wisdom as well as accessing the flow of womanspirit truths around you? Do you want to tap into Goddess guidance and Earth-based wisdom? Are you hungering for a pathway to your own “truth-sense”? This immersive experience is designed for you! This 41 day e-course will take you on a deep personal journey, uncovering your inner wisdom and deep guidance using Womanrunes, a powerful system of divination and intuitive guidance for personal growth. Used as a dynamic, hands-on, participatory system, Womanrunes become part of your own language of the Divine, the Goddess, your inner wisdom, and womanspirit truths.

Womanrunes are a unique and powerful divination system that use simple, woman-identified symbols to connect deeply with your own inner wisdom as well as the flow of womanspirit knowledge that surrounds you. Used as a personal oracle, they offer spiritual insight, understanding, and guidance as well as calls to action and discovery. Women who use them are amazed to discover how the symbols and interpretations reach out with exactly what you need in that moment. Women’s experiences with Womanrunes are powerful, magical, inspirational, potent, and mystical. The wisdom within them can be drawn upon again and again, often uncovering new information, understanding, and truth with each reading.

Many women are amazed by how these symbols speak to something deep within them. You may have the experience of feeling heard and answered when you choose a card and read its interpretation. Womanrunes provide a pathway to your own “truth-sense.” They open you up to your own internal guidance or to messages and inspiration from the Goddess, the Earth, or your spiritual guides.

There are two registration options for this course.

Immersion Experience Option 1, $62

Includes:

  • Womanrunes book and card set May 2015 033
  • Bonus tree pendant gift
  • Digital starter kit with how to create your own runes + printable rune set
  • Printable journal pages for each rune
  • 41 days of guided rune exploration through art, photo, and journal prompts
  • Full moon and new moon ritual outlines
  • Access to a private Facebook group for sisterhood, sharing, guidance, and support
  • $40 discount on our upcoming Listening to the Deep Self professional divination practicum launching in October.

Immersion Experience Option 2, $40 (includes all digital resources above, no book):

  • Digital starter kit with how to create your own runes + printable rune set
  • Printable journal pages for each rune
  • 41 days of guided rune exploration through art, photo, and journal prompts
  • Full moon and new moon ritual outlines
  • Access to a private Facebook group for sisterhood, sharing, guidance, and support
  • $40 discount on our upcoming Listening to the Deep Self professional divination practicum launching in October.

To register, visit the course page here: Womanrunes Immersion – Brigid’s Grove.

(*Why June 21st? Because it was on the Summer Solstice in 1987 that Shekhinah Mountainwater experienced her “goddess-lightning strike” of inspiration and the Womanrunes were born!)

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Categories: divination, Goddess, priestess, sacred pause, spirituality, Womanrunes, womanspirit, women, women's circle | 4 Comments

Restoring Women to Ceremony: The Red Tent Resource Kit

 “… Every day, we witness the positive, transformative effects of, ‘restoring women to ceremony’…another reason it is vital that we continue our work…”

–D’vorah Grenn (Stepping into Ourselves, p. 56)

We’ve been hard at work over the last three months giving birth to a new project!

Introducing…The Red Tent Resource Kit

redtentkit

I actually ended up sort of accidentally writing a whole new book to go with this kit. It was originally going to be a collection of handouts as a pdf. However, as I put the handouts together, I realized I was actually writing a short book or manual instead. I also reflected on how I am tired of only getting pdf manuals and ebooks when I sign up for different programs, rather than an actual, printed book. One of my mottoes this year is to follow the inspiration, so I went with it, and at the end of last month our new books arrived and they’re beautiful and I’m so excited about them!

Our unique, signature Red Tent Kit includes ALL of the following resources:

  • Womanrunes Book and Card set: ideal for personal guidance and self-development, or for the inspiration and renewal corner at your Red Tent Circle.
  • Red Tent Goddess Sculpture: symbolic of self-care and of both receiving and giving.
  • Carnelian Pendulum (kit exclusive!)
  • Brand new 58 page book: Restoring Women to Ceremony, The Red Tent Resource Kit, written exclusively for this kit. In this collection of essays and ritual resources, you will find a complete Red Tent “recipe,” circle leadership basics, moontime musings, and readings, quotes, and poems to help you facilitate a rich, inviting, welcoming, creative space for the women of your community.
  • Moontime pendant with silver-tone, solid crescent moon charm
  • Red altar cloth
  • Red organza bag to store your resources
  • Coupon for $100 off the companion Red Tent Initiation online training to be held in July-August
  • Extra surprise bonus goodies intuitively chosen for you!

The contents of this Kit are valued at $100 when sold separately!

When I was taking pictures for the Kit, I randomly drew three Womanrunes cards to include in the pictures. The ones I drew were absolutely perfect for sharing the message of what this collection has to offer to others and what we hope to create in restoring women to ceremony:

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Categories: blessings, books, moontime, priestess, resources, retreat, ritual, womanspirit, women, women's circle, writing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Womanrunes 101

front-coverWhat are Womanrunes and why use them?

Womanrunes are a unique and powerful divination system that use simple, woman-identified symbols to connect deeply with your own inner wisdom as well as the flow of womanspirit knowledge that surrounds you. Used as a personal oracle, they offer spiritual insight, understanding, and guidance as well as calls to action and discovery. Women who use them are amazed to discover how the symbols and interpretations reach out with exactly what you need in that moment. Women’s experiences with Womanrunes are powerful, magical, inspirational, potent, and mystical. The wisdom within them can be drawn upon again and again, often uncovering new information, understanding, and truth with each reading. They amaze me every day!

il_570xN.739519116_otniHerstory

On the Summer Solstice of 1987 after having worked with traditional runes, but sensing “something more” behind them, Shekhinah Mountainwater “fell into a state of enchantment” and in a single day created a 41 symbol woman-identified rune system to be used for divination, self-understanding, guidance, and personal growth.

In 2012, I was reading a back issue of SageWoman magazine from 1988 and stumbled across an article about Womanrunes. I instantly fell in love with them. They issued a powerful call to me. I scoured the internet for more information, where I eventually found a handout and pronunciation guide on an old website. I purchased Shekhinah’s classic book of women’s spirituality, Ariadne’s Thread, and began making Womanrunes sets at women’s spirituality retreats with my friends. After working with the symbols for some time, I began to sense more detailed interpretations for them. I began randomly choosing one each day, going to a sacred place in the woods with it and discovering what it had to tell me. Over the course of 18 months, this powerful practice developed in a complete guidebook to interpreting and using Womanrunes.

il_570xN.739519120_2cycHow to Use

The simplest and most common use for Womanrunes is to draw a card daily or when you feel an intuitive need for guidance. Draw the card and feel into it. What is it sharing with you? Read the companion interpretation and let it soak in. Many women are amazed by how these symbols speak to something deep within them. You may have the experience of feeling heard and answered when you choose a card and read its interpretation. Womanrunes provide a pathway to your own “truth-sense.” They open you up to your own internal guidance or to messages and inspiration from the Goddess, the Earth, or your spiritual guides.

smAugust 2014 055Some introductory layouts are included in the free download “Womanrunes Starter Kit” available via e-newsletter subscription at Brigid’s Grove (see sign-up box on right hand side). Womanrunes may also be used to do guidance readings for friends or clients. Messages from Womanrunes are not prescriptive or directive, instead they serve as a rich conduit to exactly what you need to hear and receive in that moment.

Many women have found that Womanrunes make an excellent addition to their Red Tent work. For Red Tent Circles with others, the Womanrunes book and cards can be available in a divination, guidance, or inspiration corner. Create a quiet, nurturing nook in your Red Tent space where the women can sit with the cards, drop into their own heartspace, and receive the message they need.

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Womanrunes in use in the Red Tent, in Lawrence, KS

There are many additional uses for Womanrunes, including creating bindrunes, runewriting, runespells. Many women also find them satisfying to draw or carve onto art, calendars, sculptures and more. Used in this way, the Womanrunes can attract their messages deeply into your life or can serve as potent declarations of intention.

Why Such Simple Images?

Many divination and oracle systems include beautiful artwork on the cards. Womanrunes are simple symbols and are, in fact, a type of symbol “writing” that speaks to a deep part of the soul. The clean focus and simplicity of the Womanrunes symbols evoke rich messages and soul guidance in their own special way that differs from the image-rich paintings of other systems. They are also very easy to use directly yourself—including them in your own art, drawing or etching them onto objects, and thereby writing them into your consciousness in a living manner. Used as a dynamic, hands-on, participatory system, Womanrunes become part of your own language of the Divine, the Goddess, your inner wisdom, and womanspirit truths.

What People Are Saying…

“I have never had a deck be so right from the first draw – in tune and intuitive. Molly’s insight and interpretations only add to the experience. Using my Womanrunes deck makes me excited for my daily centering.”

–B

“Great item for gatherings of women!”

–B.F.

“This set is great, high quality and user friendly.”

–E.R.

“Powerful, beautiful, inspiring! I am so looking forward to diving deeper into this, but am already seeing benefits from the wisdom in these pages, and I appreciate everything about this set.”

–S.B.

“Wonderful deck and guidebook, and so easy to use but with great depth. Thank you kindly for manifesting this vision into reality!”

–H.V.

“The cards & books are high quality & the descriptions are very easy to understand while leaving room for your intuition. I also appreciated the tree pendant gift – total & very pleasant surprise!”

–A.A.

“Excellent product! This deck and guide book are fantastic.”

–S.C.

“Beautiful and insightful. Enjoying adding them to my morning practice!”

–L.B.

How to Buy

The book alone is available via Amazon, Amazon UK, CreateSpace, and Etsy. A set including both the book and box of professionally printed Womanrunes cards is available directly from us via our etsy shop and via Amazon.

Book Description front-cover

Womanrunes: A guide to their use and interpretation

From the system by Shekhinah Mountainwater

In 1987, women’s spirituality foremother and wayshower, Shekhinah Mountainwater, experienced a “goddess-lightning” strike of inspiration and created a set of 41 woman-identified rune symbols for divination and personal growth. Twenty-five years later, I discovered Womanrunes and created an expanded means of interpreting, using, and exploring these powerful, magical symbols.Discover and explore…

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

Legacy

Our Womanrunes book was produced in cooperation with Shekhinah Mountainwater’s estate, ShekhinahWorks. Many memorial projects are in the works currently, including the digital publication of Shekhinah’s amazing book, Aridane’s Thread. You can keep up with all the projects and memories via the following sites:

Facebook

Shekhinah Mountainwater Memorial Fund (website)

YouTube

Website (with a planned expansion to http://www.ShekhinahMountainwater.com)

Shekhinah Mountainwater

Categories: books, divination, feminist thealogy, Goddess, readings, resources, reviews, Womanrunes, womanspirit, women, women's circle, writing | 3 Comments

Day 11: Hands (#30DaysofBrigid)

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Mother blessing ceremony, Sept. 2014.

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

Ritual Recipe Kit for Women’s Ceremonies digital by BrigidsGrove.

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Salt bowl ceremony at my mother blessing.

Recently I have noticed a lot of offerings for sacred circles and sacred temples and councils of women that are all online or virtual. The websites advertising such programs often have beautiful photos of firesides and dancing and I find myself thinking, where is the REAL fire? If we spend all of our time at computers enjoying virtual sisterhoods and looking at pictures of fires, where are our real opportunities to dance by the fire hand in hand? Today, against all odds, I managed to have a meaningful conversation with friends at the skating rink. We talked about the difference between online and face-to-face connection and why online connections can feel “cleaner” and less messy or complicated than face-to-face. It reminds me of my experiences in creating rituals for my family. In the books it looks so easy and fun. In real life, babies have poopy diapers and my sons make fart jokes and my papers blow away and I speak in a snappy tone of voice and things take longer than I expect. It is same with women’s circles. Online, we can look at pretty pictures of flower crowns and crystal grids and flower mandalas and daydream how wonderful it would be to have a real women’s circle, but in real life people don’t always like each other, we interrupt each other, we talk too much or not enough or about the “wrong” things. As the facilitator of a ceremony in real life, portions might lag, people laugh at the wrong times, guided meditations might bring up painful experiences, people stop listening to each other, or they might forget something they were asked to bring. I might lose my place, sing off-key, or get distracted when someone is sharing something important.

As a priestess, I have to engage in what is called a process of “self-facing” that can be uncomfortable and sometimes stressful—the looking at my own shadows and shortcomings and then doing it anyway. Because it matters. Because it is real. I’m not saying that online connections aren’t real or valuable, they can be tremendously so. And, I love that in writing I can carry my thoughts all the way through and develop an idea completely.* What I am saying is that there is simply no substitute for standing hand in hand with flesh and blood women in a sacred circle. (Even if someone makes a fart joke.) Our hands matter. Real hands. Reaching out to one another. Our fingers may be too long, too short, too wrinkly, too skinny, too fat. Our hands may be too cold or too sweaty. We may be too loud, too quiet, too anxious, too confident, too self-conscious, too distracted, too intense. But…we can show up.  We can offer what we offer and give what we give. Our whole, actual selves. Separated from the screens and other shields. Touching each other’s actual hands and offering actual hugs rather than (((hugs))).

My plans for a Red Tent Circle later this month have been on my mind lately and I’ve been feeling a little insecure about my plans for our first event, primarily because I’m hoping to attract a broader group of women than the women who regularly circle with me. As I explained to a friend, I want it to be nurturing, and celebratory, and fun and contemplative…somehow all at once! Oh, and not alienate anyone. And, not have it be lightweight chatty OR heavy and tearful. Serious, but not too serious. No pressure!

What I forgot until I got home is that I’m pretty good at doing this. I’ve been working with women and priestessing women’s circles for a long time, not to mention having trained and studied and read and written and studied and trained.  However, I’m also real. And, in the end, that is what I have to offer. There is a vulnerability and risk there as well as a courage.

Here’s my hand.

—-

(*All this said, our hands can also reach out virtually via typing blog posts or sending supportive Facebook messages too. I’m not discounting the role and value of using our hands for that connection. I love that a post that I wrote 3 years ago can still reach 300 people a day, that my other blog can speak in some way to 700 people a day, and that my book can essentially last “forever.” That feels like a magical power of my hands and words!)

Related past post: Do Women’s Circles Actually Matter?

Categories: #30daysofBrigid, community, friends, priestess, ritual, spirituality, womanspirit, women, women's circle | Tags: | 3 Comments

Priestess Year in Review (2014)

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“Lifelong priesthoods were typically held by married women leading ‘normal’ lives, complete with husbands and children. Greek religious offices were enormously practical, enabling women to serve at each stage of life without sacrificing the full experience of marriage and motherhood.”

–Joan Connelly, Portrait of a Priestess, p. 18

“When words are inadequate, ceremony and ritual help us express our profound thoughts and feelings….rituals are symbolic activities that help us, together with our families and friends, express our deepest thoughts and feelings about life’s most important events.”

–Dr. Alan Wolfelt (quoted in The Art of Ritual)

When I became ordained as a priestess with Global Goddess in July of 2012, one of the commitments I made as part of ordination was to be of service in some way to the organization and to document my service to my community through the year. So, in keeping with that commitment, I made a year-end summary post at the end of 2012 and another at the end of 2013. It was helpful to me personally to see everything grouped together in one post and see that I’m truly doing this work. I enjoy sharing my post with the rest of the GG community in hopes of encouraging others to keep a record of their own. In 2014, this was my service in the capacity as ritualist/ceremonialist:

January: winter women’s retreat, spontaneous family morning ritual, family full moon ritual.

July 2014 036

Nature mandala at summer ritual.

February: family Brigid ceremony and Imbolc ritual, seventh Rise Up class, birthday blessing, help planning house cleansing, mini family full moon ritual.

March: invocation to the north during opening ritual at Goddess Weekend in St. Louis, Spring family ritual.

April: spontaneous family gratitude ritual, spring women’s retreat.

June: helped with sister-in-law’s blessingway, Rise Up class.

July:  summer ritual for the members of my women’s circle and their families.

August: Red Tent event, tenth Rise Up class.

September: temple priestess at GGG, Womanrunes presentation.

October: Gave birth to new baby!

November: family full moon ritual for baby, Sealing ceremony for self.

December: full moon ritual, Rise Up finish and ceremony, family solstice ritual, mother blessing ceremony.

I took an online training program in circle leadership from Chrysalis Woman and I wrote this post about why Gathering the Women matters to me: Gathering the Women | WoodsPriestess. (I also finally finished reading Women Who Run with the Wolves!) I wrote 47 posts for this blog in 2014, which was a dramatic reduction from previous years, primarily because I diverted a lot of my attention to finishing my M.Div, writing a book, and working on art, sculpture, and jewelry for our co-creative business, Brigid’s Grove (and we had booths selling goddess sculptures and jewelry at five events sprinkled through the year).front-cover

We published a book about Womanrunes! This was an incredibly huge project. We also published a digital Ritual Recipe Kit and a book of earth-based poetry. I sculpted more than 27 new designs for pewter pendants and 7 for resin goddess sculptures (and we fulfilled more than 540 orders for these items!)

I completed 7 more classes at OSC, finished my thesis project, and completed my M.Div degree! I only have two classes remaining for my D.Min. In the last days of 2014, a new idea for my dissertation was born and I completed and submitted my prospectus for my dissertation project (and it was approved).

I continued to host a (not very active) Priestess Path group on Facebook and started one for women interested in a Red Tent in our community as well. I also maintain my Woodspriestess Facebook page and one for Brigid’s Grove.

In keeping with the commitment I made upon my ordination, I contributed articles to 5 issues of The Oracle, the online journal of Global Goddess: Winter Solstice, Samhaim, Beltane, Spring Equinox, Imbolc

I wrote 6 posts for Feminism and Religion: Mollyblessingway 116

I also wrote 23 posts for my blog at SageWoman magazine.

And, finally, I wrote 15 posts for Pagan Families earlier in the year before decided I was spread too thin with blogging commitments and needed to let something go.

(I also wrote 100 posts at my birth/motherhood blog, but that doesn’t directly connect to my priestess year in review theme!)

I have several relevant goals for 2015:

  • Finish last two D.Min classes!
  • Finish dissertation (and therefore finish D.Min degree)
  • Begin facilitating regular New Moon Red Tent Circles in the local community
  • Continue holding monthly full moon rituals with my own family and broaden that to include a couple of friends as well
  • Present at Goddess Weekend and Gaea Goddess Gathering
  • Expand our Ritual Recipe Kit into a longer printed book
  • Promote and distribute Womanrunes more widely, especially to the Red Tent community, since it is a perfect oracle for use in Red Tent events.
  • Work on several new book and online class ideas!

As also occurred last year when I wrote my year-in-review post, when I read this over, it comes up for me to wonder if writing a post like this looks “smug” and self-congratulatory in some way. Am I too focused on numbers and hours and quantifying something instead of presence? Too much do-ing and not enough be-ing? But, in truth, the intention with which each year’s list is created is simply as an accountability thing—both in terms of the vows I made to my community as well as to myself. It is so I can see, collected in one place, what I’ve offered as a priestess this year. It is to allow me a moment of pause, reflection, review, and a sensation of a job well done, rather than immediately rushing off to the next thing, as I tend to do. I continue to struggle with issues of “who does she think she IS?” with regard to priestess work (this forms an element of my dissertation project, actually!) and in reviewing my year, I am able to see that yes, I am doing this work. I am not just talking about it or imagining it, I am walking the path.

Happy New Year!

 

Categories: art, community, OSC, priestess, spirituality, womanspirit, women, women's circle, woodspriestess, writing | 1 Comment

Rise Up Completion

In 2010, I bought the Rise Up and Call Her Name curriculum and imagined working through it with a group of women. At the beginning of 2013, I started the program in what was intended to be a monthly class. Well, here we are almost two years later and today we finally finished the curriculum! As we read the final poem (We Hold Hands) and sang our final rendition of “Listen, Sisters, Listen,” I felt a real sense of exhilaration and triumph. I made the commitment to do this for these women and they made the commitment to work together in this way and we DID IT.

Earth-based/winter solstice altar space.

Earth-based/winter solstice altar space.

Mask-making project.

Mask-making project.

Closing ceremony--after having created a web-weaving, we "birthed" our mask project into the sacred circle.

Closing ceremony–after having created a web-weaving, we “birthed” our mask project into the sacred circle.

Yesterday afternoon, my M.Div diploma finally came in the mail (I actually finished the degree on July 1) and so I feel a sense of completion and fulfillment there as well. I asked my husband to take a picture of me with some of my finished projects of 2014 (yes, the baby counts too!) and I feel very satisfied and proud right now.
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(I typed this post on my iPad and couldn’t easily include links the way I usually do and I’m just going to be okay with that!)

Categories: community, friends, OSC, priestess, retreat, ritual, spirituality, womanspirit, women, women's circle | 4 Comments

Dance in a circle of women…

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

Marie Summerwood

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

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

photo(23)

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

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

Make sacred space
Remember who you are

–Shawna Carol

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

Oh woman
Oh sister
She is me

Holding me
That I may hold you

Forever goddess

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

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

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

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

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

via Be Still | WoodsPriestess.

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

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

[from 2013 post on my other blog]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

via Co-Circling & The Priestess Path | WoodsPriestess.

Continuing my jotted notes:

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

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

Related past posts:

Gaea Goddess Gathering: Listen to the wise woman….

I make the effort

The Warrior-Priestess

Co-Circling & The Priestess Path

Be Still

Moonpriestess

Woodspriestess: Brigid

 

 

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

Red Tent Mini-Ritual Recipe

In 2012, when we held our first Mamafest event in my local community, my eye was caught by this room within the beautiful setting of Tara Day Spa:

August 2014 013I wanted to have a Red Tent in this room! I could just feel it calling to me. The next year, when the time came to plan the event, I was dealing with a lot of different things and I knew I did not have the energy to also pull off a Red Tent event and so I tabled it again, but still, I saw that room that year and I wanted it.

The following year,  we started planning even earlier for Mamafest and I had been seeing posts and updates from the Red Tent Movie (Things We Don’t Talk About) and I decided I wanted to host a screening and a Red Tent event during our Mamafest this year. While there are things I would do differently in the future, notably that having a screening at the same time as another event was simply too much, I still feel so happy and pleased that I did it. I scheduled the film based on past experience in which the final half of Mamafest slows down in terms of traffic and so it seemed like the film screening would be a good way to keep people involved with the entire duration of the event. However, this year was so busy and vibrant and successful and energetic, it felt like it was actually disruptive to the flow to try to pull people away for the screening and the “calm” and contemplative energy of the film ended up not matching the celebratory, exciting atmosphere of the rest of the event. If I had it to do over again, I would absolutely do the screening separately and then offer the Red Tent space and mini-ritual during Mamafest itself.

Anyway, back to set up. We arrived at Tara Day Spa almost three full hours before the event was scheduled to begin and we needed every single minute of it, plus some. I am so grateful to my husband and my friend Amy who took over most of the actual hanging of the red fabric in the Red Tent space. When I saw the finished entrance, I knew I’d fulfilled my dream!

August 2014 023We set up the inside in an inviting manner with several little stations: a refreshment station with chocolate, tea, and bindis, a henna tattoo area, and a free jewelry making station. Due to size constraints, we actually had to make an “emergency” decision to move the screening of the film itself to the upstairs room at Tara. It was a little stressful to make this transition, but I think it was the right call. We did a mini ritual to open the film (had some technical difficulties getting the film equipment set up and I was extremely flustered to have to make this last minute switch, so that was not ideal for the mood I had wanted to create), we watched the film and then closed by circling up and singing a song together. We ended right on time and then it took more than another hour to dismantle and repack everything. This type of event is not for the faint of heart! Nor is it for pregnant women unless they have husbands and good friends to pack up most of their stuff for them!

IMG_5659Some additional commentary and more pictures are available at Talk Birth.

Rather than repeat all of that post’s content as a crosspost, I decided that on this blog I’d like to share the simple mini-ritual I created for the Red Tent event.

  • Women receive bindis as they arrive
  • Welcome and purpose of screening, as well as some background on the documentary.
  • Water self-blessing bowl—I explaining this is a symbolic cleansing and opportunity to settle into sacred space. We also rang a table chime as each woman entered and took her seat.
  • Group hum—this is our tradition within our ongoing women’s circle and it felt important to carry it over into this experience. The women stand in a circle with hands on each other’s back or hand-in-hand and we hum in unison three times. This “casts the circle” so to speak with just our bodies and presence and it is a very centering experience that literally pulls us into harmony with each other and into the present moment.
  • Sing modified version of May All Mother Know song (see below)
  • Screen film.
  • Scarf dance (with film and Sacred Blood Song) to close (we ended up running out of time for this part).
  • Circle up and sing Woman Am I
  • Welcome them to sign up for future Red Tent events and to receive a red stone and goddess charm as they leave.

May all mothers know that they are loved. June 2014 022

May all sisters know that they are strong.

May all daughters know that they are powerful.

That the circle of women may live on.

That the circle of women may live on.

Circle of Women | Nalini.

~~~~

Woman am I

Spirit am I

I am the infinite within my soul

I have no beginning

And I have no end

All this I am


 

 

Categories: community, friends, priestess, retreat, ritual, spirituality, womanspirit, women, women's circle | 1 Comment

Seed Corn

I dream of a sacred fire where 20140809-191111-69071118.jpg
a family circles
arms linked
as one.

Shared dream
shared harvest
shared blessing
of family, spirit, hearth, and home.

Light the fire
with your children.
Sing with your partner.
Create a temple
of your hearts
hands
and bodies.

This afternoon we had our tenth session of Rise Up and Call Her Name. The focus was on Mesoamerica and we looked at the Virgin of Guadalupe and at the Sacred Corn Mother.

As the year has progressed, I’ve gotten much better at the process of intentional altar creation. I used to always include basically the same items and the process of laying out the altar items was often somewhat rushed and also rote. I’d put the altar items out as one of the last tasks before people arrived. Now, I make the altar creation process a priority much earlier in the day. I center and focus and choose items specifically and intentionally to reflect the theme or focus of the class or ceremony. I let the items “tell” me what wants to be included, rather than including what I think should be there.

 

 

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Our group was small today, but our discussion was robust! At the close of the class, we did a seed corn ritual in which we considered what we would like to save from this year’s “harvest” to plant in the new year. We also closed our eyes and let the seed corn share a “dream” with us. The above lines are what my seed corn (actually, popcorn) had to share with me. Ever since our summer ritual, I’ve been thinking of ways for the upcoming year to include my family more in my rituals and events and how to welcome/include the families of the women I circle with. A lot of the reason behind having women-only rituals at this point in my life is purely logistical. It is difficult to impossible to have a full “retreat” with kids also present. Someone has to take care of the kids during said retreats…hence, single-sex rituals/ceremonies make the most sense! However, shorter and simpler rituals are possible with kids, though they have a completely different feel and even function and so that energetic output needs to be balanced with the renewal and restoration we often need as mothers and women. In our conversation today we talked about how to “change the world” for women and my mom mentioned that perhaps one of the biggest impacts is how we raise our sons. So, I’m not surprised my seed corn dream opened with a fire and a family surrounding it.

Categories: community, family, feminist thealogy, friends, parenting, poems, priestess, retreat, ritual, spirituality, womanspirit, women, women's circle | 2 Comments

Gathering the Women

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

You are welcome here.
You are welcome here.

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

You are welcome here.
You are welcome here.

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

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

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

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

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

I often apologise to people that my work is niche…

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

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

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

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

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

(quoted in Chrysalis Woman Circle Leader manual)

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

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

May 2014 003

Finished priestess collage for CW training.

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

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

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

And, I saved this relevant quote:

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

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

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

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

Things I was reminded of after this experience:

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

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

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

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

June 2014 001

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

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

May 2014 271

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

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

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

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

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

Gather the women. They are welcome here.

May 2014 083

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

International Women’s Day: Re-storying the world

I remain firmly convinced of the power of story. Story shapes our world. And, reality is socially constructed in an active process of storying and re-storying.

 “The universe of made of stories, not of atoms.” –Muriel Rukeyser

“Power consists to a large extent in deciding what stories will be told.” –Carolyn Heilbrun

Last spring, I wrote a poem called Body Prayer and was very pleased when Trista Hendren, author of the children’s book The Girl God, wrote to ask permission to reprint it in her new book: Mother Earth. I received my copy of the book last month and wanted to offer a mini-review of it today, International Women’s Day, because as Trista says, it is “a beautiful tribute to the world’s first ‘woman.’” Mother Earth is theoretically a children’s book, but it offers an important message and call to action to all world citizens. Along the top of the pages is a story, written as a narrative experience between Trista and her daughter Helani, about the (human) mother’s need to rest. The story evolves into a message about the Earth and the care and rest she is crying out for. Each page features a large illustration and below the illustration is a relevant spiritual quote, poem, prayer, or message.

…Breathing deep
stretching out
opening wide.
My body is my altar
my body is my temple
my living presence on this earth my prayer.
Thank you. –Woodspriestess: Body Prayer

International Women’s Day is a political event, not just another Hallmark holiday.

International Women’s Day is not about Hallmark. It’s not about chocolate. (Thought I know many women who won’t turn those down.) It’s about politics, institutions, economics, racism…. As is the case with Mother’s Day and many other holidays, today we are presented with a sanitized, deodorized, nationalized, commoditized version of what were initially radical holidays to emphasize social justice. Initially, International Women’s Day was called International Working Women’s Day. Yes, every woman is a working woman. Yes, there is no task harder perhaps than raising a child, for a father and a mother. But let us remember that the initial impetus of this International Working Women’s Day was to address the institutional, systematic, political, and economic obstacles that women faced in society. via How we miss the point of International Women’s Day–and how to get it right. | What Would Muhammad Do?.

Now is the time to focus on a new story for women.

While the matriarchal myth has been critiqued and attacked from an anthropological and sociological perspective, I think it has important value—it doesn’t have to be true or verifiable to have a potent impact on society. The very fact that people feel that the matriarchal story is a myth that needs to be “debunked” to me is proof of the mythic power of our old, patriarchal story on current culture. Earlier this year I finished reading Reid-Bown’s book Goddess as Nature and he says this: “What is significant, however, is that the matriarchy thesis has considerable mythopoetic value for the Goddess movement: it affirms that the world was not always distorted by patriarchy, it contributes moral meaning to the state of the world today, and it aids in an imaginative revisioning of a better goddess-centred future” (p. 18). The power of the matriarchal story—myth or fact—is in the assertion that the world CAN be different. Patriarchy and war are not the “just way its always been,” or a “more evolved” society, or the only possibility for the future. The matriarchal myth opens up the door for a new FUTURE story, not just a revisionist look at the past. via Thursday Thealogy: Matriarchal Myth or a New Story? | WoodsPriestess.

As I’ve previously written, the primary function of value of a matriarchal myth is that patriarchy is no longer the only story we’ve known. An alternate past gives hope for an alternate future.

“Stories are medicine…They have such power; they do not require that we do, be, act anything—we need only listen. The remedies for repair or reclamation of any lost psychic drive are contained in stories.” –Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Stories ARE power and that is why a feminist, matristic, Goddess-oriented narrative has value, regardless of whether it is myth or fact. As we know too well, the victors write the history books—they get to tell the stories and those stories, logically, may involve significant distortion of the facts of the past.

In a quote from iconic author and physician Christiane Northrup, she addresses the subjugation of female power through body control: “…if you want to know where a woman’s true power lies, look to those primal experiences we’ve been taught to fear…the very same experiences the culture has taught us to distance ourselves from as much as possible, often by medicalizing them so that we are barely conscious of them anymore. Labor and birth rank right up there as experiences that put women in touch with their feminine power…” And, from Glenys Livingstone: “It is not female biology that has betrayed the female…it is the stories and myths we have come to believe about ourselves.” We also find a connection in Carol Christ’s explanation that: Women’s stories have not been told. And without stories there is no articulation of experience. Without stories a woman is lost when she comes to make the important decisions of her life. She does not learn to value her struggles, to celebrate her strengths, to comprehend her pain. Without stories she cannot understand herself. Without stories she is alienated from those deeper experiences of self and world that have been called spiritual or religious. She is closed in silence. The expression of women’s spiritual quest is integrally related to the telling of women’s stories. If women’s stories are not told, the depth of women’s souls will not be known” (p. 341. Emphasis mine).

“Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth–penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.” ― Joseph Campbell

In The Chalice and the Blade Eisler explains, essentially, the re-storying of culture, society, and world and feminist spirituality and seeks to “re-story” dominant, patriarchal narratives into that which is woman-honoring and affirming. According to Eisler, the triumph of the dominator culture involved “fundamental changes in replicative information” (p. 83). In short, a complete cultural overhaul and literal “reprogramming” of culture and the human minds within it. This reprogramming involved coercion, destruction, forcefulness, and fear.

“The priests who now spread what they said was the divine Word—the Word of God that had magically been communicated to them—were backed up by armies, courts of law, and executioners. But their ultimate backup was not temporal, but spiritual. Their most powerful weapons were the ‘sacred’ stories, rituals, and priestly edicts through which they systematically inculcated in peoples’ minds the fear of terrible, remote, and ‘inscrutable’ deities. For people had to be taught to obey the deities…who now arbitrarily exercised powers of life and death in the most cruel, unjust, and capricious ways, to this day still often explained as ‘the will of God.’ Even today people still learn from ‘sacred’ stories what is good or evil, what should be imitated or abhorred, and what should be accepted as divinely ordained, not only by oneself but by all others. Through ceremonies and rituals, people also partake in these stories. As a result, the values there expressed penetrate into the deepest recesses of the mind, where, even in our time, they are guarded as hallowed and immutable truths” (p. 84).

For me, Goddess religion and spirituality is as much about sociocultural valuation (or devaluation) of women and making a feminist political statement, as it is about lived experience. Both are very valuable to me. We need to hear women’s stories. We need to hear each other into speech. We need to witness and be witnessed. We need to be heard.

“…If all the women of the world February 2014 039 recorded their dreams for a single week and laid them all end to end, we would recover the last million years of women’s hymns and chants and dances, all of women’s art and stories, and medicines, all of women’s lost histories… ~ Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

“The one who tells the stories rules the world.” –Hopi Indian Proverb

“We feel nameless and empty when we forget our stories, leave our heroes unsung, and ignore the rites of our passage from one stage of life to another.” –Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox

 “As long as women are isolated one from the other, not allowed to offer other women the most personal accounts of their lives, they will not be part of any narratives of their own…women will be staving off destiny and not inviting or inventing or controlling it.” –Carolyn Heilbrun quoted in Sacred Circles

Telling our stories is one way we become more aware of just what ‘the river’ of our lives is. Listening to ourselves speak, without interruption, correction, or even flattering comments, we may truly hear, perhaps for the first time, some new meaning in a once painful, confusing situation. We may, quite suddenly, see how this even or relationship we are in relates to many others in our past. We may receive a flash of insight, a lesson long unlearned, a glimpse of understanding. And, as the quiet, focused compassion for us pervades the room, perhaps our own hearts open, even slightly, towards ourselves.

–Robin Deen Carnes & Sally Craig in Sacred Circles

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Categories: books, feminism, feminist thealogy, Goddess, poems, prayers, quotes, readings, spirituality, thealogy, womanspirit, women, writing | 3 Comments

Womanrunes: The Yoni

Womanrunes: The Yoni. Rune of Making. Creativity, Fertility, Wealth, Pleasure, and Birth. December 2013 012

This is a stone of creation. The womb of all possibility and all changes. The cauldron of life. Doorway, initiation, birth, and re-birth. Receptive, open, embracing. Fertile in her power and her purpose. What waits within to be given birth and what wants to enter to incubate? What nestles in fertile ground?

This is a hopeful stone, a joyful stone. One that reminds us to dance in the moonlight, to enjoy being naked, to delight in our bodies, and to celebrate the bodies, capacities and creations of others. This is stone of form. Of being formed. Of forming. This is a rune of fertile possibility.

Put your hand on your belly. What is waiting there in your pelvic bowl? What is waiting in quiet wombspace? What is hidden away, but growing bigger and bigger and waiting to be born? What do you need and what needs you? Take it to the body, bring it down into your pelvis. Sweep around the curve of the bowl and listen. What does she want to tell you?

There is a time to nurture and a time to be nurtured. A time to make, create. A time to receive and wait. Take pleasure in being alive at this moment. Take pleasure in the works of your hands and the sweetness of kisses upon your lips. Enjoy, stroke, touch, feel, engage. Honor feeling. Scoop it all up. Run wild with life, breathe deep, and smile.

When this stone is drawn, something is building to a climax, and ecstasy awaits.

January 2014 063Yoni is a Sanskrit word that can be translated as meaning: origin, source, womb, female genitals. It’s root is “to unite.” The companion word for males is lingam. “The yoni is the crucible where things are combined (male and female, mother and fetus), where creation and re-creation takes place. Where the unseen (not perceptible to the senses) world takes material form. (Did You Know :: Matrika)

In our house, we’ve used the word “yoni” for a long time. I find it much more descriptive and appropriate than the often-incorrectly used “vagina” and the often-awkward-sounding “vulva.” I actually drew this stone and wrote the description in December, but then didn’t get around to posting it. However, in just a few minutes, I’m leaving  to go see the local production of The Vagina Monologues in town, so I knew that the time for The Yoni stone has finally arrived!
Update: this project evolved into a real book!
The first post in my Womanrunes series is available here and all others here. The runes and the names of them come from Shekhinah Mountainwater’s Womanrunes system for which there are no written interpretations available other than the name and one word meanings. I’m engaging in a semi-daily practice of drawing one and then going down to the woods with it to see what it “tells” me–basically, creating what I wish I had, which is a more developed interpretation of the meaning of each womanrunestone.
Categories: divination, embodiment, Womanrunes, women, woodspriestess | 2 Comments

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