writing

Dissertation Research: Priestess Path

February 2015 193

My revised research shelf!

I’m getting ready to embark on my dissertation project for Ocean Seminary College. This has been a long time coming (I began my work in 2011!) and I have switched topics from the birth/motherhood related subject I originally proposed to a new project: contemporary priestessing. As part of my project, I will be doing some informal and discussion-based research with women who are currently practicing as priestesses or have done so in the past. Rather than start a completely new Facebook group for these discussions, I’m going to use the Facebook group I already have: Priestess Path. If you join this group, there is no requirement to participate in the research questions. However, I hope the questions and discussion will be interesting and that you will enjoy lending your voice to this project with me! 

Purpose of the research

To contribute a new or enhanced understanding about the theory, practice, and potential of priestess work as a contemporary vocation.

My research will examine the priestess path from a personal and experiential perspective, including examining the question of “who does she think she is” in taking up the mantle of a modern-day priestess. It will also explore female religious leadership and the potential for social change.

If you agree to be in this study, you will be asked to: respond to online survey questions, comment in response to blog posts, or participate in discussions, questions, or comments in a private Facebook group. Participation is informal and there is to expectation or requirement to respond to all questions or in all venues. Time commitment ranges from 5 minutes to multiple hours according to your personal choice, interest, and availability.

Inclusion criteria

Present or past work as a practicing priestess and a willingness to respond to questions about this work.

Your participation in this study is entirely voluntary. This means that I will respect your decision of whether or not you want to be in the study and how much or little you wish to participate.

I have begun the questions in the group and will continue to post them periodically over the next several months. I am really loving the responses I’ve had so far, but I definitely welcome further input!

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Categories: dissertation, OSC, priestess, writing | Tags: , | 4 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 31: Reflections on 30 Days of Brigid

IMG_2966Today, the snow has finally been melting. I walked out at sunset and took a quick picture thinking about how I will miss taking and sharing a daily picture now that 30 Days of Brigid is over. The most powerful part of this experience was the practice. It felt like showing up for myself. It became a discipline. There was no requirement to write a blog post every day, but I made a commitment to doing so and I did it. 30 posts in 30 days! None of my posts were particularly stunning, though I liked my Hands post a lot and fell in love with the snowflakes from “lovely desire,” but it was powerful to commit to doing something and then doing it! I wanted to work through the course with my husband, but while I read a lot of the daily prompts out loud to him, we didn’t sync up and take the daily “sacred pause” together that I had envisioned. It became kind of my thing, rather than a shared experience. I read the daily emails first thing each morning and often reflected on the content for the remainder of the day.

Anyway, my closing thoughts on the ecourse in general are these…

30 Days of Brigid absolutely delivered on the promise of a sacred pause for each day with art, readings, blessings, meditations and inspiring prompts. The course was well-organized and thematically consistent as well as beautifully gentle in tone and thought-provoking in question. I got out of it what I was willing to put in and it was an investment in myself and my spirituality. It created a container for me that was very valuable, both for personal reflection, spiritual development, and for a daily writing practice. I loved challenging myself to really respond to the message of each day and enjoyed how I spent the day looking for the right moment to capture the spirit of that day’s theme. Great fun, great practice, great connection! Also, the personal interaction with Joanna Colbert via Instagram and Facebook was fun. I love her Gaian Tarot so much and I love how the Internet “smallens” the world and allows direct interactions with artists and authors I admire. At the beginning of the year when I did my annual oracle using the Gaian Tarot I had no idea the gifted woman behind it would be commenting on pictures of my cute baby on Instagram just a few weeks later. 🙂

If I was doing it again, I’d stretch myself to dig even deeper and to do art journaling for each prompt as well as move it up in my daily priority list so I could share it with my husband the way I originally planned. 

If you missed 30 Days of Brigid (or even if you didn’t!) you can move into 30 Days of Welcoming Spring and working with Persephone with Joanna’s next ecourse offering:

It’s for those who want to align themselves with the rhythms of nature as we leap into the time of greening and blossoming, and dance with the Maidens of Spring. By the end of the 30 days, you’ll be reconnected to your own creative core, with a daily practice in place for taking in beauty and responding to it in your journal or with your camera or paintbrush. Best of all, you will have taken a divine pause each day to mindfully experience the shift in the seasons as Persephone emerges from the Underworld, and Winter gives way to Spring. 

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

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Categories: #30daysofBrigid, Goddess, sacred pause, spirituality, woodspriestess, writing | 2 Comments

Day 29: Paying Attention (#30DaysofBrigid)

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One of my favorite verses in my life as a mother, writer, artist and as a conscious observer of the rhythms and flow of life comes from this poem by Mary Oliver:

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

I consider this one of my life mottoes and in fact got it stamped on a pendant with my children’s names on it. It also forms the foundation of what I do with my sculptures and jewelry. Coincidentally, early last week I added it to the section of our website where we describe our pendants and why we create them:

These pendants are born from paying attention, being astonished, and telling about it. We hope they remind you of your own astonishment and help you tell about it!

via Pewter Pendants – Brigid’s Grove.

So, it was lovely to see it then pop up for 30 Days of Brigid today,

I also used in on my birth blog, explaining why I blog in the first place:

To me, it sums up the reason why I continue to write this blog. I have so many things going on in my life and I often wonder why I bother to continue writing blog posts. Does it matter at all? Aren’t I just adding to the general cacophony of voices and wild, information overloaded chaos of the internet (and even of the birth activist sphere in general). I feel almost compelled to do so though. And, really, the reason why is to tell about it. There is a lot to be astonished by in one’s everyday life. While I can get distracted and frantic and lose my present moment orientation, I do pay attention a lot. To a lot of things. A friend told me at my blessingway that I live my life with more intention than most people she knows. I considered that to be a great compliment—and, I also think I live my life with a lot of attention. Sometimes that attention may seem like excessive navel-gazing and very often it is excessively self-critical (and, isn’t that being self-centered, she says critically and self-evaluatively?), but I feel like I am a generally observant person, paying attention to my place in the world and the manner in which I walk through my day. And, the paying attention is intimately involved with then wanting to tell about it—here, on my blog 🙂

Additionally, it forms part of my theory of theapoetics, a model I coined to describe the spontaneous poetry I compose in the woods and which was the former name of this blog:

If we really stopped to think about this—to sense how we are carried by the great wind, I think the whole world would change, how people relate to each other and to the environment would be transformed. Stop, look, listen, breathe, and feel how we spin. Together.

via Theapoetics | WoodsPriestess which later evolved into my first post on Feminism and Religion: Theapoetics

Ironically, today I was so busy working I didn’t spend much time paying attention OR telling about it. With the snow, followed by ice and cold temperatures, I haven’t gone anywhere for eleven days and counting! I’ve actually enjoyed this period of “cave time”—it fact, in many ways, it has felt like exactly what I needed. We’ve made fun foods (as well as used up some of the many items languishing in our freezers), caught up on some projects and household tasks, played games, made art, played music, written, and read books. Today, however, I had a lot of work to do on my current classes (one of which I am not enjoying), it took me lots longer than I hoped, the baby napped extremely poorly, and I felt “fuzzy” and almost resentful of having to get back to “real life.” I slipped out to the mailbox in the afternoon, crunching and sliding on the ice. I paid attention to the patterns the grass stems made coming out of the icy field and the crunching sound of my boots. Ahead, in the cold air, I saw our old kite, remnant of a summer’s afternoon past, bright against the cold sky, spread out and fluttering again from the tree in which it was stranded, too high to retrieve. There! That’s my picture for today! Only, as I broke through the icy ground in the field to get close enough to snap the pic, my cell phone’s battery died. I waited in the house for a while then and then went to the woods with my drum. I didn’t see anything there of particular interest to tell about either and kept thinking of that kite. The sun was starting to set and I knew the kite would be a good picture with the sunset backdrop. I left the woods and slogged back up the driveway and crunched across the field to the kite, raised the camera, trying to get some of the sunset in the background and the screen went dark. iPhones shut themselves off in freezing temperatures…Alas! As I trudged back to the house trying not to slip and fall, I thought of how ironic it was that in trying to “tell about” that dang kite, I’d likely missed paying attention to so many other possible things! Way to miss the point today, Molly! 😉

Categories: #30daysofBrigid, writing | 5 Comments

Womanrunes Second Printing!

IMG_1361We received the second printing of our Womanrunes book last week! They arrived a week ahead of schedule and look beautiful! I’m thrilled to move forward with promotion and distribution of the book. It was a true labor of love and it feels really powerful to share this work with others.

The book has been available via Amazon domestically and internationally since August, but this week we added a separate listing for book and card sets on Amazon. We sell the sets in our etsy shop, but the books sold on Amazon ship directly from Amazon itself which means only books have been available there, since the cards are printed by a different company. However, for those shoppers who prefer to use Amazon, we now have a fresh Amazon listing that is for book and card sets.

You also still have time to get our free digital “Womanrunes Starter Kit” by signing up for our newsletter at Brigid’s Grove. We are also hard at work on a new freebie for our February newsletter, so make sure you’ve signed up and you will automatically get our free “How to Draw a Calamoondala” handout when the newsletter is finished.

I’ve been really delighted to get some great messages about women using Womanrunes in their Red Tent circles. The Red Tent in Lawrence, KS sent me a picture of the Womanrunes there:

January 2015 002And, speaking of Red Tents, I registered with Red Tents in Every Neighborhood as a sisterhood tent in preparation for our first Red Tent Circle in February. So, now we have an official member badge 😉

RedTent Member Badge

If you are local and would like to join the Red Tent Circle, you can find us on Facebook here: Rolla Red Tent.

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“…the business is just a vehicle for sending out my stuff into the world. The real thing, the real magic… is in the creating.”

–Leonie Dawson

“The only domain where the divine is visible is that of art, whatever name we choose to call it.”

–Andre Malreaux (quoted in The Art of Ritual)

Categories: art, community, priestess, Womanrunes, writing | 1 Comment

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

Womanrunes Book and Card Sets!

What are you unearthing? What are you digging up? What are you uncovering? What is causing sweat to drip from your brow, your cheeks to flush, and your August 2014 011heart to beat faster? This work can be dirty. It can be long, it can be hard. But, you can do it. You ARE doing it. Keep digging.

Remember too that others are doing their own hard work, unearthing their own riches, discovering their own treasures. What might you be missing in other people and how can you work side by side, turning over your deepness together?

via Womanrunes: The Tool | WoodsPriestess.

Slightly ahead of schedule, our Womanrunes book and cards sets are now available! The sets are available directly from us via our etsy shop. The book alone is also available via Amazon, Amazon UK, CreateSpace, and Etsy (print and digital).

While it was intense and challenging, this work was an incredibly fulfilling co-creative process between my husband and me and it used both of our strengths to the fullest. When the decks of cards first arrived, I drew one and it was The Tool: Rune of Labor. How extremely appropriate! While I’ve been a writer for many years and have published a number of journal articles, magazine articles, countless blog posts, and even three short social service booklets and a miscarriage memoir, I completely underestimated the expenditure of energy required for a book project like Womanrunes. I am still in disbelief that I did it. It feels like a fulfillment of a promise to myself as well as a carrying on of Shekhinah’s powerful legacy.

I took the cards and book with me to the woods and thanked them for giving this to me. This book was conceived of and “written” in the woods, on the priestess rocks. I say “written” in quotes because it many ways it feels like something I received instead of wrote. Each interpretation was first spoken and then later transcribed. And yet, the result was still a book!

Thank you.

Categories: books, divination, family, resources, theapoetics, Womanrunes, woodspriestess, writing | 7 Comments

Womanrunes Book!

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

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

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

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

From an idea by Shekhinah Mountainwater smAugust 2014 006

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

Discover and explore…

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

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

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

In gratitude.
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Growing more than one new creation at once! 🙂

 

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

Ocean Seminary College

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

(quoted in The Mother’s Wisdom Deck)

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

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

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

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

02.01.004 Stigmatization of the Witch in History Spring 2012

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

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

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

02.02.003 Historical Roots of Goddess Worship Fall 2012

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

02.02.004 Introduction to Thealogy Spring 2012

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

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

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

02.02.012 Birth, Death, Regeneration Fall 2012

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

02.02.015 Thealogy & Deasophy Spring 2013

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

02.02.013 Goddess Wheel of the Year Spring 2012

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

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

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

02.01.007 Ritual & Liturgy Summer 2012

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

02.01.017 The Role of the Priest/Priestess Winter 2013

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

03.01.033 Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life Summer 2013

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

04.01.001 Ecology & the Sacred Fall 2011

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

E: 04.04.002 Ecofeminism I Spring 2013

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

Doctoral classes completed:

02.02.016 Goddess Ritual Theory Winter 2014

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

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

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

02.01.008 Crisis of Faith & Inspiration Winter 2014

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

02.01.014 Crafting Rites for Npg Clergy Spring 2014

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

Classes remaining to complete D.Min:

02.01.009 Empowering Members
02.02.019 High Priestess
02.01.015 Death & Dying

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

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

Currently registered for elective courses:

02.02.009 Goddess Mothers: Shekhinah Mountainwater

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

01.02.001 Shamanism, Creativity, & the Arts I

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

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

Who/what inspires you? June 2014 045

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 2014 097

 

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

The Women’s Hearth

“A peaceful revolution is going on, a women’s spirituality movement, hidden in plain sight. Through circles of women, healing women, might the culture come around? . . . When a critical mass—the hundredth monkey, or the millionth circle—tips the scales, a new era will be ushered in and patriarchy will be over.”

– Jean Shinoda Bolen

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

July 2014 038

Nature mandala from our summer solstice ritual this year.

I forget if I ever posted that I did officially finish my M.Div degree this year! July first was my “priestessaversary.” It is also my husband’s birthday AND his “quitzaversary”—the anniversary of his entrance into self-employment and a home-based life. When I got my M.Div diploma via email (physical copy coming later), I was completely surprised to see that the date on it is….July 1st.

While I wait for the remainder of my doctoral courses to begin in the fall, I’m working on one of my elective courses: Women Engaged in Sacred Writing. A recent lesson was to: Discuss the concept of the hearth as it refers to creativity. Our texts for this class are Sisters Singing, an anthology edited by Carolyn Brigit Flynn, and Women, Writing, and Soul-Making: Creativity and the Sacred Feminine by Peggy Tabor Millin. The following post is some excerpts and quotes from one of my lessons for this course

Chapter 2 of Women, Writing, and Soul-Making struck me with its exploration of the role and power of a circle. While I do not participate in a writer’s circle, I’ve been involved in my women’s circle for about four years now. I have a tendency to be other-directed and service-oriented and have to remind myself often to, “tend my own hearth first,” rather than caretaking for others at the expense of myself or my family. With the women’s circle, it is intensely important to me that I plan and facilitate things for it that I want to do myself. Often, the safe container of the circle allows me to do or explore things that I otherwise do not afford myself the time to do. The circle is about both nurturing myself and the women around me, rather than be exclusively other-centered as has been a lot of my previously volunteer efforts and group experiences.

For the authors of the class texts, the new “hearth” for women IS the women’s circle.

Millin writes:

“It is true that the loss of the hearth is linked to a change in the roles of women, and it follows that women can also provide a hearth from which the new June 2014 001model will evolve..

We are forming circles in which to listen, speak our truth, lead, and follow. In the safety of circles, we learn to respect silence, create safety, build trust, set boundaries, resolve conflict, and laugh—at ourselves and at the vagaries of life. Circles include and have no hierarchy. They allow us to see one another face-to-face. Circles of women support, uplift, encourage, protect, and inspire. They also share, instruct, and guide through example. Through circles, we find the courage to fulfill our potential to teach peace and justice. Through circles, we can hold sway over the table of the earth without “waging a war on poverty” or “fighting for peace.”

She goes on to further explore the process of discovering and co-creating a new hearth…

I believe this “hearth” to be sacred and to be present in circles of women who gather for a common purpose. Because the purpose in writing groups is writing, defining the sacred nature of the circle too specifically by aligning with any specific spiritual practice can discourage diversity among participants. The formation of a circle of women automatically includes the sacred if the leader invites this energy and holds the space for it. Even a short silence within which members focus on the breath will center the group. When a circle is centered, its purpose is clear, and the energy of the circle radiates out to attract members who will be most served by it. The result is a circle of women with diverse personalities, backgrounds, spiritual practices, and belief systems who are able to unite for the purpose of writing and the sharing of stories.

I posted a couple of weeks ago about “gathering the women”:

I’m in the middle of my Chrysalis Woman Circle Leader training program and enjoying it very much. As one of our assignments we 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 that follows. 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.

Gathering the women July 2014 140
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…

“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)

“The ripples from a women’s circle are not only magical, they are miraculous.” –Peggy Tabor Millin

At the center of my Chrysalis Woman priestess altar, I put a pottery bowl that I made during one of our retreats and painted during 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 a tiny hummingbird feather as a reminder that these circles and relationships are delicate, surprising, and beautiful and need to be treated with care.

Come to the hearth. Join in the circle. Hug. Love. Dance. Laugh. Cry. Stomp. Drum. Howl. See and be seen. You are welcome here.

July 2014 060

Our summer solstice ritual welcomed husbands and children to come join the circle as well!

Categories: community, friends, OSC, priestess, spirituality, women's circle, writing | 2 Comments

100 Things List!

As part of Leonie Dawson’s Amazing Year workbook, I wrote a list of 100 things to do in 2014.  My blog has been quiet lately, but that doesn’t actually mean I have been! A lot of the energy previously used for blogging has been diverted into other exciting projects on my 100 Things list. 🙂 I finished my second free gift offering for newsletter subscribers at Brigid’s Grove (if you aren’t signed up yet, fill in your email on the right hand side of the screen at the BG website and you will receive the free book within 24 hours). This freebie is a 56 page book of earth-based poetry. Most of the poems were originally published on this blog, but there are several released only in this book (so far) including a re-write of Psalm 23 (which somehow felt too “risky” for me to put online before now, even though I wrote it almost two years ago!)

May 2014 078We’re also offering a spring giveaway of one of our new healing hands pendants AND also a 10% off discount code for our etsy shop (2014SPRING10OFF).

May 2014 062

“…Medicine Woman reminds you

to sleep when you’re tired

to eat when you’re hungry

to drink when you’re thirsty

and to dance

just because.

Medicine Woman

let her bind up your wounds

apply balm to your soul

and hold you

against her shoulder

when you need to cry.

Medicine Woman

Earth healer

she’s ready to embrace you…”

via Woodspriestess: Medicine Woman

Even more exciting from a personal perspective is that I actually finished writing my thesis. Yes, after all my many days of joking, “Oops! I didn’t write my thesis today!” I suddenly really did write it. I had more done than I thought and all I needed was some class-free, focused writing time (my spring school session ended this past Saturday) to get it to a finished position. It might be a first draft if significant revisions are requested/needed (the format is somewhat non-traditional), but I’m hopeful it might be a last draft too! I’ve been working on my D.Min since 2011. I realized last year that I had almost the right credits to do an M.Div first (since my existing master’s degree is in social work instead, I had to take a LOT of M.Div classes as part of the D.Min program), I just had to add a thesis and a couple of classes to the work I’d already done. So, I call it a “pitstop,” because I don’t really need to do it and I’m actually working on something else, but…here I go! I also found out recently that I really only have three D.Min classes and my dissertation left. I’m giving it at least another year on the dissertation though. When I started the thesis idea, I had more like eight classes left, so it seemed like further away and “might as well.” After two partial starts and two different prospectuses submitted, I switched gears again and I actually used my Earthprayer book above as the basic frame or structure for the thesis. I’d been attempting to work with a 400-page Woodspriestess document and then I realized it was way too much. The Earthprayer book had ended up being a distillation of some basic themes from my year in the woods and I thought, “ah ha! I’ve accidentally been working on my thesis without knowing it!” I developed it with articles and essays and my theory and process of theapoesis and magically I produced 84 pages and 26,000 words! (My thesis handbook says it should be 80 pages and 25,000 words. Go, me!)

I also booked an official screening of the Red Tent Movie: Things We Don’t Talk About. It will be held in Rolla on August 2nd and it is the first ever screening of this film in Missouri! Before I booked it, a friend surprised me with this lovely little Red Moon painting and said it was for me to use in my eventual Red Tent. I felt motivated after getting it and booked the screening the next morning.

May 2014 005After doing this and apparently feeling the freedom of being off for the next two weeks, I took advantage of her full moon special and somewhat impulsively decided to sign up for the Chrysalis Woman circle leader program! This was on my Leonie Dawson 100 Things list with a question mark. Now, it is a question mark no more because I signed up and paid…hope it was a good idea! I’ve only downloaded the manuals and listened to the first week’s materials so far, but I really like it. It feels very thorough and comprehensive and feels like a good value for the discounted price it was being offered for. I’m still a little surprised at myself that I did it though!

Categories: books, OSC, poems, theapoetics, thesis, writing | 1 Comment

Womanrunes: The Sun and Moon

Womanrunes: The Sun and Moon. Rune of Laughter. Joy. Ease. Oil. Poise. Hilarity. Belly Laughter. Pure Fun. Healing Laughter. Baubo’s Rune.March 2014 006

When you draw this stone, take a minute to put down anything else you are carrying, doing, or thinking about. Let your shoulders relax and release. Let the breath move easy down into your belly. Then smile. Smile from your roots up through your branches. Feel joy suffuse you, filling you, bathing you, and laugh. Laugh from your belly. Laugh from your heart. Laugh with the wild abandon of freedom and release.

This is a stone of letting go. This is a stone of release and freedom. This is a stone of trusting oneself and what makes you smile. Are you afraid to laugh? Are you scared to let go? Do you fear the loss of control that comes with hilarity? It is time to shake that off. Don’t be afraid. Laugh, sister, laugh. It is time to have some fun!

Know that you are as free as you allow yourself to be.

This month I’ve been steadily working on the final handful of Womanrunes that I had left to interpret. I’m actually working on a little book to hopefully unveil during a workshop I plan to offer at the Gaea Goddess Gathering in September. The remaining 18 interpretations that I wrote over the last two months are probably going to be saved for first publication in that booklet! However, this one was the very last stone remaining in the bag and it felt significant for a couple of reasons. One, because it was actually the stone I drew to place on our New Year altar when my husband and I started our biz and life planning work with Leonie Dawson’s Amazing Year Workbook. When I drew it then, I knew it was a message that I needed to have more fun this year. Two, when I drew it this second time in order to do the interpretation for my book, I found myself experiencing a huge amount of reluctance and resistance about actually doing the interpretation. I drew it an entire day before I actually took it down to the woods with me. I found myself making excuses about not going and worrying about somehow not being able to “do” this one. And then I heard: Are you afraid to laugh? Am I…?

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’ve been engaging in a year-long 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, Womanrunes, woodspriestess, writing | 5 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

Invocation to the forces of nature

East, power of air, we welcome you. First breath of the morning. Sweet breath of the baby. Deep breath of the soul. Welcome to our circle. January 2014 103Sweet breeze. Brave wind. Swirling. Stirring. Sweeping away and through. Breathing with us. Welcome air, welcome east.

South, power of fire, we welcome you. Fire of the sun. Fire of the heart. Fire of the spirit. Fire of connection and love. Welcome to our circle. Heat of transformation. Forging strength. Crucible of change. Burning in our hearts. Welcome fire, welcome south.

West, power of water, we welcome you. Sweet life’s ocean. Waves of change. Crests of power. Flowing. Growing. Changing. Healing. Welcome to our circle. Rivers. Oceans. Streams and lakes. Cool, comfort, soothing space. Blood flowing within us. Welcome water, welcome west.

North, power of earth, we welcome you. Solidness of body. Strength of bone. Height of mountains. Reach of trees. Heartbeat of Gaia. Welcome to our circle. Strengthening us. Holding our bodies. Stability. Rooted around and within us. We are people of the earth. Welcome, earth, welcome north.

I’m in the final phases of creating the Ritual Recipe Kit that we are going to be giving away with the official launch of Brigid’s Grove on February 1st (sign up for our newsletter and you’ll get the kit too!). As I’ve contacted authors to ask for permission to use several different pieces in the book, I had the sudden realization that almost everything I was asking permission to use was an invocation. The kit contains rituals for maiden, mother, and crone as well as some bonus rituals. For each ritual, I’d used an invocation written by someone else. My husband said, “instead of trying to get permission to use these, why don’t you just write one?” I thought about all the things I’ve written over the past year and while some are invocations of sorts (like my body prayer and this body blessing), I’ve never actually written a “traditional” invocation. I also thought about all the rituals I’ve done and all the coursework I’ve completed and realized I’ve never used an invocation of my own during any ritual or class. Ever. My first thought was, “no. I can’t do it, we’ll just wait to hear back about the permission.” Then…I thought…maybe I can do it?! Yesterday was a beautiful day and so I took my big old drum and headed to the woods. And, surprise! I had an invocation in me after all.  At first, it ended up being a little song again—weird because of my notable non-skills in singing—and I sang it out and then came back in to type it up like I do all of my poems. After looking at it for a while, I re-formed it out of the poetry and into the format you now see above. It isn’t perfect, but hey, it is my first time! 🙂

Categories: invocations, liturgy, prayers, priestess, readings, spirituality, theapoetics, woodspriestess, writing | 1 Comment

Priestess Year in Review (2013)

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“Women united in close circles can awaken the wisdom in each other’s hearts.” ~The 13 Indigenous Grandmothers (via The Girl God)

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. 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. To continue this commitment, I also kept a list during 2013 and here it is!

January: facilitated winter women’s retreat and first session of the Rise Up curriculum. Simple family full moon ritual.

February: One Billion Rising event hostess/speaker, second Rise Up class, family full moon ritual, personal week-long retreat with private creativity ritual.

March: Spirit in Practice presentation at UU church. Ovary ritual for pregnant friend. Third Rise Up class.

May: Spring women’s retreat/healing ceremony/maiden ceremony. Family memorial ceremony for my grandma on Mother’s Day.

June: Officiant at my grandma’s committal service and one speaker at her celebration luncheon (this was actually at the close of May, but for some reason it was on my June list). Miscarriage presentation and Moontime presentation at LLL conference (June 15th). Rise Up class times two on June 28.

July: summer retreat (7/12). Mini new baby ritual by river (7/18/13). Family full moon simple ritual (7/22/13)

August: spontaneous family full moon ritual (kid directed. 8/18), poem reading at Day of Hope ceremony. (8/19), Sixth Rise Up class (8/30). Ordained by American Priestess Council.

September: Gaea Goddess Gathering. Walked as one of the Mothers in main ritual. Volunteer as temple priestess. Booth in marketplace (9/21).

October: candlelight vigil for pregnancy loss (10/12), family harvest full moon ritual (10/16), officiant at wedding (10/27)

November: fall retreat (double ritual. 11/9), full moon family ritual, 11/17)

December: mini-date-night full moon ritual, family winter solstice ritual (12/21). Mini-New-Year-Greeting ritual planned for evening of 12/31.

Throughout the year I kept my commitment to contribute something for each of the eight issues of The Oracle (publication of Global Goddess). I also wrote one post a 20131201-232125.jpgmonth for my SageWoman blog as well as one post every other month for the Feminism and Religion project. And, I wrote 39 posts for Pagan Families on my own somewhat haphazard schedule. This was in addition to the 188 posts published on this blog. (And, not theme-of-this-post related, but writing-related, I also wrote 160 posts on my birth blog!) I finished five classes at Ocean Seminary College and am extremely close to completing two more. I decided to finish my M.Div degree and completed my thesis prospectus twice as I settled on my topic. I also refined my dissertation topic for my D.Min degree. I created a priestess work study group on Facebook. And, I created art whenever I got the chance!

My Woodspriestess experiment was a deep personal success for me that created a lot of change, opportunity, reflection, and healing. I didn’t keep an exact count of the days I was “off” because of travel, but I estimate that I visited the woods on 334 days, as I’d committed to do on a daily basis during 2013.

As I read this over, some things are coming up for me—-does this look “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? Cue minimal cognitive dissonance and do-I-post-it-like-this-or-not conundrum…but, the intention with which my list was created was simply as an accountability thing—both in terms of the vows I made to my community as well as to myself. And, so that I can see, collected in one place, what I’ve offered as a priestess this year. I am also reminded of some things I originally planned to do and then didn’t and I also note the obliteration of April on my “service” list (that was the month my grandma was sick). However, this post isn’t about what I didn’t get done, it is accounting of what I did actually offer.

Last year I included a list of plans for the coming year. Part of me would like to just remain open to what comes in 2014, but I do have a couple of relevant goals (many of which are similar to last year’s):

  • Finish thesis project
  • Finish 5-6 more classes at OSC and make good progress on dissertation project
  • Finish Rise Up class curriculum and perhaps do some other classes/workshops
  • Continue to plan and priestess quarterly women’s retreats
  • Family full moon ritual each month
  • Host public Red Tent event
  • Present about Womanrunes at next GGG (also create little booklet)
  • Go to Goddess Weekend in St. Louis
  • Booth with goddess jewelry and pewter figurines at least three events
  • Embark on new Mamapriestess daily experiment (more about this later)
  • Listen to myself, check in with my heart, and rest when I need to.

Happy New Year!

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Categories: community, friends, OSC, priestess, ritual, spirituality, womanspirit, women's circle, woodspriestess, writing | 5 Comments

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