Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Just Published: Merlin Stone Remembered

Last April I was asked to write what is known in the book trade as a “blurb,” or “endorsement” of a work-in-progress planned to be published as a remembrance of Merlin Stone and centered around the remembrances of Merlin’s life partner of 34 years, Lenny Schneir. A few months later the book was acquired by Llewellyn Worldwide. It has now been published with the authors listed as David B. Axelrod, Carol F. Thomas, and Lenny Schneir. A quote from my blurb is included among the many endorsements printed in the beginning and on the back cover of this book. As is common when a publisher has received many endorsements, they used only one line from most blurbs, including mine. I’d like to share with you here my entire blurb for the book, Merlin Stone Remembered, and also give you a little more of an idea of what the book contains.

“This book is a lovely and loving tribute to the late Merlin Stone, a foremother of Goddess feminism, author, sculptor, and professor of art history. Remembering Merlin Stone includes a beautiful and revealing memoir by her life partner, poet and poker player Lenny Shneir, along with his poetry, previously unpublished material by Stone, pictures, and other treasures by a number of contributors. What a gift to those of us familiar with Stone’s work, as well as those who want to know more about her life, both personal and professional.”
--Judith Laura, author of Goddess Spirituality for the 21st Century: From Kabbalah to Quantum Physics
 
The book also includes a preface, essay, and epilogue by Carol Thomas; an editor’s note, poem, and several essays by David Axelrod; a long introduction by Gloria Orenstein, placing Stone’s work in the context of work that came before and was contemporaneous with hers; excerpts from Stone’s writing--published and unpublished--including chapter 10 of When God was a Woman, “Unraveling the Myth of Adam and Eve”; letters from admirers (mostly unattributed) including one (attributed) from Robert Kennedy in a section on Stone’s sculpture; and an essay by Cynthia Stone Davis. The book also has many illustrations.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Full review to come

I have started reading Martha Shelley's latest novel, The Stars in their Course. I hope to have a full review in a month or so after I have recovered from carpal tunnel syndrome. But I wanted to let you know that if what I've read so far is any indication it's at least as good as the previous novel in this trilogy, Throne in the Heart of the Sea, which I reviewed here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Correction on ASWM Symposium Link

The previous announcement for the 2015 Symposium for the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology contained a broken link due to ASWM's redoing its site. This link has now been corrected on the original post of Sept. 1 and is also given in the paragraph below.  Sid Reger of ASWM asks that you please share this corrected announcement:
 
“Tales and Totems:  Myth and Lineage in Goddess Studies,” April 11, 2015 in Portland OR.  Proposals accepted until Nov. 15, 2015.  Keynote speaker:  Susan Griffin
Call for Proposals and registration and program information at www.womenandmyth.org

Thursday, October 30, 2014

No Buzz Coil This Month...

...due to my having carpel tunnel syndrome. Best wishes for a Splendid and Blessed Samhain/Hallows.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Global Goddess Oracle: Fall Equinox Issue

The Fall Equinox issue of the Global Goddess Oracle is now online. This issue's introductory article by Dawn tells about the arrival of autumn in Florida and has a photo of a rainbow in a yellow sky.

Feature articles include: "Hear Me Roar," by Katy Ravensong,  about her Pagan approach to religion; "Hestia: A Goddess for the Equinox," Goddess background and a ritual by Dawn "Belladona Thomas; "Just Be," advice for this time of year along with a poem, by Heather Geileis Kohser; "Persephone: The Mysteries of the Deep Earth," both the original myth and a retelling by Shauna Aura Knight.

Regular features include: "Ask Your Mama," by Mama Donna Henes; "Moon Schedule" (Fall Equinox to Samhain) and "Solitary Autumn Equinox Ritual," both by Dawn “Belladonna” Thomas; two installments of "Pagan Every Day," one about Miss Piggy and the other about Tara, by Barbara Ardinger.

 
Poems include: "Harvest Seed – Manifestation" by Sondra Slade.


Dawn Thomas reviews two books: Dark Moon, a romance novel involving a Witch, by Leisl Leighton, and  Crafting & Use of Magickal Scents by Carl F. Neal.

    
On the Oracle's homepage  Bendis announces that submissions are being accepted and gives an explanation of the Oracle's submission policy.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Buzz Coil: September 2014

A look at some posts of interest from our blogroll and sometimes beyond:

My Village Witch: Byron Ballard of Asheville NC's Mother Grove Goddess Temple posted two parts (at this writing) of a series on what she terms "Tower Time." Her Sept. 2 post, "Tower Time Document One– A Knowing, Cassandra-like" defines and describes what she means by the term. Near the beginning of this post she writes:
"This early knowing pointed obliquely to the old dream of every old feminist—the Collapse of the Patriarchy ™. Since our fiercer days in the long-ago 1970s, many of us have modified our speech—often because people refuse to understand that Patriarchy ™ is a system or a set of systems and is not merely angry women being mad at and blaming men."
Later in the post she writes:
"Religion as empire, state as empire, education as empire, healing as empire—all are recalibrating in their individual descents. Each of us is in our personal place as the Tower erupts and crumbles. Some of us stand on the top, blissfully unaware that anything long-term is occurring below our feet. Some are trapped amongst the turrets, calculating a way off. Some have flown away and are gone to wherever and whatever comes after this life, after Matter has become Spirit."
Her Sept. 6 post, "Tower Time, Document Two: Going to Ground" begins by describing a ritual in "a small Temple" in response to the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. She goes on to write:
"Sometimes when we pray, we forget that prayer is not simply sending our best intention into the Universe. For those of us who see the Ancestral Goddesses as non-corporeal beings who have some authority and ability in the world of the world, the prayers and the singing honor Beloved Ones who are near us, but are not us. The invocations in which we implore them to fix our lives or clean up our messes or show us a way through are requests and bargainings. We understand that we have a part in this relationship but we do not have control."
She then goes on to advise how to protect and renew yourself during the Tower Time.

A Crone Speaks Out:  Rev. Cathryn Platine of the Maetreum of Cybele posted several strong-worded posts this month, including "Open Letter to the Greater Pagan Communities on Transphobia," on Sept. 3;  "Tired of Waiting for that Next Witch Hunt," on Sept 4, in which she discusses current Pagan issues, with  the backdrop of her ancestors, women tried for witchcraft in Salem MA; and a series "Ageism and Pagan Elder Abuse Part 1," on Sept 17 and Part 2 on on Sept. 18.

Hearth Moon Rising's blog: In her Sept. 12 post, "Like a Vague Malodorous Stain Seeping into the Theological Discourse," Hearth Moon Rising discusses
 " the parallels between fascism and political movements that view themselves as rooted in postmodern philosophy, especially Postmodern Feminism and Queer Theory."
Among her points:
"The postmodern cult finally got a toehold in Paganism several years ago with the demand that Dianic priestesses admit trans women into our rituals on the grounds that biological sex has been theorized out of existence, or at least relevance, in favor of self-identified gender....Gender itself is not defined because nothing in postmodern politics is defined. Definitions are passe, especially when they create boundaries you want to crash. Demands to admit males into female spiritual space have been present since the seventies, but now they are based on the argument that the old women, 'on the wrong side of history,' need to step aside for the new generation with the new ideas, an argument that drips with ageism."
In her Sept. 5 post, Hearth Moon Rising shares her "Reflections on Recent Events in the Dianic Community."

Radical Goddess Thealogy: In her Sept. 12 post, "Pouring Gas on ISIS," blogger Athana addresses President Obama, writing, in part:
"Listen to the goddess Isis.  It’s no accident that she gave her name to a group as similar to her as honey is to bug-infested rump roast.
She’s trying to get your attention.  We need to turn ISIS back into Isis, a peaceful way of life centered around a Goddess who used to rule over large parts of the same land skanky ISIS is now riding over roughshod." 

Broomstick Chronicles: Macha NightMare (Aline O'Brien)'s Sept. 9 post asks "When Is Consensus Process Not Consensual?"  and answers the question by sharing some of her experiences with the process, her opinion on what factors can make the consensus process difficult, and what quality is necessary to make it successful.

Living a Spiral Path: In a Sept. 20 post, "What's In A Name?" blogger Stormy Seaside contemplates the many names and representations of the Mother Goddess, beginning:
 "I believe there is one Mother God, and she has thousands and thousands of names upon which her children might call...." With pics.
  
Annelinde's World: Annelinde Metzner's Sept. 19 post of her poem, "What She Is,"" includes, at the end of the post, an audio of the poem (which I can't seem to get to work today, but maybe it's my computer...). 

Musings of a Quaker Witch: In her Sept. 10 post, "Thanking the Goddess for Tea," Stasa Morgan-Appel asks if the title of this post is appropriate for her, and discusses the difference between believing in the Goddess and experiencing her.

The Motherhouse of the Goddess: In her Sept. 19 post, Tracey Paradiso writes about "Exploring “Alternative” Spirituality: Telling you what I wish someone had told me," including combining various forms of spirituality and religion. Kimberly Moore's Sept. 2 post responds to the question,  "What Is Women's Ritual and Why Do We Need It?" Answering the question, "What about men?" Kimberly writes:
"I have to be true to the facet of service to which I am called. I have to honor the joy in my soul in facilitating Goddess connection with and for women. It does not mean that I have no consideration of men. It just means that my primary focus is on the counter-swing to patriarchy and working with women who are seeking the connection to Goddess."
She then explores what "women's ritual" is and how it differs from mixed-gender rituals.

WoodsPriestess: In her Sept. 15 post, "Dance in a Circle of Women," blogger talkbirth writes of being pregnant and preparing for this year's Gaea Goddess Gathering. She shares her memories and notes from the 2013 Gathering, including songs and insights, both positive and negative. With lots of pics. 

HecateDemeter: In her Sept. 5 post, "And Round and Round," blogger Hecate shares her thoughts about "the middle of the end of summer."

GlenYs's Blog:  In her Sept. 11 post, "Eostar - Persephone Returns," Glenys Livingstone of MoonCourt in Australia, shares her thoughts about spring's return to the Southern Hemisphere.

The Wild Hunt: Heather Greene's Sept 7 post, "World Goddess Day," gives background and quotes from participants in the first celebration of this holiday, which we posted about previously.

Love of the Goddess: Blogger Tara's Sept. 10  post is about "Pachamama, Inca Goddess of the Earth" and tells about her sacred month, and her many associations, titles and festivities.

Casa della Dea: A Sept. 9 post in Italian by Eilantha Redpring, "Rituali sulle rive del Belice" quotes a news article about the initiation of priestesses on the bank of the Belice river, and then goes on the share an interview with the priestess, Alessandra Di Gesù . With pics.   


Large Group Goddess/Spiritual Feminist Blogs

Because of the large number and variety of bloggers and posts on these blogs, we are now suggesting that you visit them and select the posts that interest you most.


Feminism and Religion: Many bloggers from many different religions and paths.
Pagan Square: This blog of many mostly-Pagan paths is sponsored by BBI Media and includes SageWoman blog posts.

Return to Mago: A Goddess-centered blog whose administrator/owner is Helen Hye-Sook Hwang.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

AAR Extends CFP Deadline for 2015 Regional Conference

The American Academy of Religion, Western Region, has extended to Oct. 5 the deadline of its Call for Papers.  The regional conference will be held in  Santa Clara CA on March 20-22. 2015. Among the many religions and traditions included in the Call is Goddess Studies, for which the Call includes:
"Whatever your methodology (archetypal, cultural studies, feminist, postcolonial theory, queer theory, race and ethnicity) or academic field (anthropology, archeology, literature, mythology, philosophy, psychology, religious studies), this panel seeks contributions to the importance of Goddess Studies within academia. From Egyptian goddesses to Catholic saints to the Haitian Vodou pantheon, we welcome a wide array of perspectives."

Among the other topics included in the CFP are Buddhism and Magick; Ecology and Religion; Ethics; Indigenous Religions; Pagan Studies; Philosophy of Religion; Queer Studies; Religion and Arts; Religion, Literature, and Film; Womanist/Pan African; and Women and Religion. 

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Monday, September 22, 2014

REVIEW: The Mythology of Eden

The Mythology of Eden by Arthur George and Elena George, Hamilton Books 2014, trade paperback, 458 pages. Also available as an e-book.

What a fascinating book! Though it starts with and returns to an analysis of the second creation story in Genesis, The Mythology of Eden is about far more than that particular myth. It includes material on the backgrounds of the likely authors of the two Genesis creation stories and two other likely authors of the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures, the history of the Ancient Near East (ANE) before and during biblical times as well as information that has been gathered in recent years from archeology and anthropology. And yes, there is material on the role of polytheism, including Goddess worship, especially of Asherah and Astarte. 

The book places the development of religion, religious beliefs, and practices in the context of the sociopolitical development of the ANE, including Egypt, Canaan, Palestine, and other cultures, and gives a clear history of Judah, whose religion centered around Yahweh, and the Israelites, whose religion was more eclectic and, according to the Georges and others, polytheistic. The authors also see the Israelites and the Canaanites as geographically and culturally identical.

Often books with two authors specify which chapters or ideas belong to which author, or have an introduction or preface by the individual authors. But since this book does not, I conclude that all the chapters were written collaboratively and the authors agree on all ideas. Therefore, I will refer to the authorship in this book as “the Georges” or “the authors.”

The Preface states that with this book, the authors are attempting to look at the Eden story “using an interdisciplinary approach that synthesizes the work of specialists in various fields…” and explains the material “in a readable way that is accessible to any educated reader.” The Introduction explains various approaches to myths, including psychology, functionalism, the “ritual school,” etiology, and structuralism, and goes on to explain the approach that the authors take.

The first chapter explains what is known about the authorship of the Hebrew Scriptures and describes the biblical authors now known as J (which stands for Yahwist —the initial letter in the Hebrew word for the God’s name can be transliterated as either J or Y as in Jahweh or Yahweh—or other variations), “P” (stand for priestly ) “E” (Elohist), “D” (Deuteronomist), and another group known as “R” (redactors). The authors attribute the first Genesis  creation story to P and the second Genesis creation story (Eden) to J. They state that the Eden story by J was written before P’s creation story (which startled me, but as they go on to explain the history, makes sense). The Georges describe the differences in the styles and approaches—and even supposed facts in the stories—0f these biblical authors, all of whom they assume to be men.

The second chapter explains “How the World of Palestine Led to Eden.” The authors note that archeological finds have changed the way biblical scholars understand the histories of Judah and Israel. Using the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, they give as an example, the biblical story that immediately prefaces the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses in Exodus. The Georges say that “Yahweh’s first and paramount commandment to Moses and the Hebrews is to occupy Canaan and destroy the Canaanites and their religion.” This commandment, however, needs to be understood in light of what the Georges understand to be historical fact: that “the Exodus story does not hold up under the evidence” because, in spite of the Egyptians being “meticulous record keepers…there is no evidence of any group of Hebrews having been present in Egypt, leaving Egypt, or of anyone named Moses having existed.” Further, the authors say that archeologists have been unable to find any evidence of a “significant group” of people encamping on what is supposed to be the Exodus route. The authors then conclude, “And if there was no Exodus, then there was no one to undertake the Conquest of Canaan.” They then offer evidence that the group called the Israelites (another name for “Hebrews”) were the same as the Canaanites, and go on to conclude that “the real history is the reverse of the Bible’s account: The Israelites were the result rather than the cause of the collapse of the Canaanite city-states.” Then how did this story get into the Bible? The Georges believe it was the work of the J, a Yahwist and Judean, whose aim it was to discredit Canaan and its religion, just as J did in the Eden story with symbols that enable a similar discrediting.

The Georges go on to give additional information about both the Canaanites/Israelites and the Judeans, including differences in their religions. They find evidence that the kings of Judah, David and Solomon were historical persons, that David founded the royal line, and that Solomon’s religious practices included Goddess worship, mostly through his wives. However, they don’t find evidence for large empires for either David or Solomon.

The authors discuss use of the Hebrew word “elohim,” in the Bible  (there are no capital letters in Hebrew, but the English transliterations sometimes put them in). The –im ending is masculine plural in Hebrew, yet in the Bible, it is usually translated to be the singular “God.” The Georges explanation, in their discussion in chapter 1 of the differences between J and P, is:“P uses Elohim (a generic term for the male deity, like 'God' in English). Elohim is grammatically plural, but it can be either singular or plural depending on the context, and translators into English chose accordingly.” The word “elohim” has been a topic for discussion among spiritual feminists for some time, and many may feel the Georges’ explanation does not go far enough. For example, does the use of the plural indicate that the biblical authors who used this term intended the plural, and therefore were indicating polytheism? To take it a step further, some Goddess feminists, (see, for example, last paragraph of this page ) have observed that the first half of the word, “elo,” could be seen as derivative of the feminine noun eloah (-ah is a Hebrew feminine noun ending, the plural feminine noun ending is–ot) and therefore, at the very least “elohim” should be translated gods and goddesses or deities, and at the most, may have originally been a combination form in which the ending was changed from the feminine plural, -ot, to -im. A similar issue occurs with the biblical term “asherim,” which appears to be applied in the Bible to trees and poles which, as the Georges point out, we now know represented or were understood to be the same as the Goddess Asherah (for this latter point, see Ruth Hestrin,"The Lachish Ewer and the Asherah," Israel Exploration Journal, 37, 1987; also included in William Dever, Did God Have a Wife? Eerdmans 2005.) Although the Georges don’t discuss this, I will because I feel it is relevant to their other points: the name of the Goddess ends in the Hebrew feminine suffix –ah; therefore, its plural should grammatically be asherot (with a capital A, if you like). Why did the biblical writers, or redactors, or translators end it with a masculine ending? Were they trying to disguise the Goddess? Or (less likely) does it represent a change in the Hebrew language—that is, at one time, were –im endings put on all nouns whether masculine or feminine? The fact that –im endings were put on feminine nouns, both of which represent deity(ies) is, at the very least, suspicious.

In Chapter 3, the authors delve further into the polytheism of the ANE, including the Goddesses Asherah and Astarte. They describe the difference between monotheistic and polytheistic world views and cosmologies, how archeology, art history, and mythology have helped scholars understand the development of the veneration of the “Great Mother Goddess” between  40,000 and 10,000 BCE. They discuss the status of women in Goddess cultures as “carriers of the power of life…deemed to have mana; men had nothing comparable to offer.” In view of this, I am mystified by their statement as part of this discussion that “Some commentators have gone further to posit an original matriarchy in a dominating political and overall social sense, but there is little evidence to support this.” YES, there is little evidence to support that the “matriarchy” was dominating—that is, that it was a reversal of patriarchy (or that patriarchy was a reversal of earlier female domination). The possibility of people drawing this conclusion is one reason that many Goddess feminists prefer the terms “matrist” or “matrifocal” to “matriarchy.” But NO to the contention that there is little evidence to support the reality of Goddess-venerating cultures that included the sociopolitical features of egalitarianism and peace. The Georges use as their reference for their apparent claim to the contrary, Cynthia Eller’s book, The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory, which has been refuted by Goddess scholars, including Max Dashu, Joan Marler, and Starhawk. The Georges' additional source for this claim is source an essay by Joan Westerholz in the book, Ancient Goddesses: The Myths and Evidence, edited by Lucy Goodison and Christine Morris. Why they ignored the work of Marija Gimbutas (whom they source elsewhere), and Riane Eisler, for starters, is beyond me. Continuing with our look at this chapter, the authors discuss the addition of the son-god, and factors that led to what they term “The Downfall of the Goddess,” in the ANE. These, they write, included: society as a whole being overtaken by patriarchy, that “the mentality of humans was undergoing an important evolutionary change into a higher level of consciousness,” and the rise in power of sky-gods, including new creation myths. The authors go on to discuss specifically the rise of Yahweh, Baal, El, and other gods, and, in much detail, “The Hebrew Goddess,” Asherah and other related Goddesses.

 Later chapters look into the creation stories in more detail, sacred trees, Adam, Eve (including as Goddess), “The Serpent Whose Power Yahweh Usurped,” and the relevance of the book’s findings to people today.

The book has about 23 pages of black and white drawings and photographs (these pages are unnumbered, between numbered pages 124 and 125) that include images of tree goddesses emerging from waters; a number of different portrayals of Asherah; the Egyptian “Winchester plaque,” separately identifying Anat, Astarte, and "Qudshu" (thought to also be Asherah); the Lachish ewer, which identifies the Tree as Goddess by the Hebrew word “Elat” above it; a Lachish goblet with a pubic triangle representing Asherah; a number of other trees as Goddesses and tree Goddesses; portrayals of Gods, including Yahweh with serpent legs; Goddesses with serpents; Mesopotamian and Sumerian cylinder seals with deities, serpents, and trees—and more.

 The back matter of the book, comprising more than 100 pages, includes as separate sections: Abbreviations Used in Citations, Notes, Cited Works and Bibliography, General Index, Index of Authors, Index of Biblical Citations, Index of Citations to Apocrypha and Qumran Material, Index of Classical Sources.

Despite my criticism of some specifics, I consider The Mythology of Eden to be overall a very valuable book and expect it to be especially useful to people researching or teaching the Bible, the history of the Ancient Near East, Goddess history, and to the intellectually curious and many others.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

RCG-I's Hallows Gathering

The Re-Formed Congregation of the Goddess, International, will hold its annual Hallows Gathering October 17-19 at Wisconsin Dells, WI. The event will include rituals, workshops, and a Women's Market for the display and sale of arts and crafts. RCG-I defines itself as a multi-tradition women's religion whose members are committed to positive spiritual practice, and are on a variety of spiritual paths that  have in common a belief in a female deity.  

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Monday, September 08, 2014

Max Dashú, Australian Goddess Conference

Max Dashú, founder of the Suppressed History Archives in the U.S., will be one of presenters at the 2014 Australian Goddess Conference Oct. 24-26 in Sydney. Dashú will also be presenting lectures and workshops through November in Blue Mountains, Brisbane, Grange, Bundaberg, Melbourne (including an event with author Susan Hawthorne), and Tasmania.

With the theme, "The Wellspring," the Conference will include about 24 presenters including, in addition to Dashú, Jane Elworthy, shamanic musician; Glenys Livingstone, author and founder of MoonCourt in Blue Mountains; Anique Radiant Heart, author, musician, and founder of the Temple of the Global Goddess near Maitland. Also, Maree Lipschitz, Lindy Spanger, Asha Maria, Mardi Terrasson, Jennifer McCormack, Jacqui Bushell, Jane Hardwicke Collings, Kristen Lee Read, Sharon Freeman, Yia Alias, Elizabeth Brandis, Karen Oakley, Rena Hoffman, Chris Sitka, Frances Billinghurst, Kaalii Cargill, Tracy (Ariana) McFie & Larissa O'Neill, Sara Catherine Motta, Jess Krop, Kristan Lee Read, and Kerri Ryan.

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