Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Goddess Temple of Ashland Priestess Convergence

Early registration for the 3rd annual Goddess Temple of Ashland (Oregon) Priestess Convergence ends April 1. The event is scheduled for Sept. 14-17 and plans include: Ritual Immersion in the Sacred Spring (Mikvah); Honoring Ceremony for the Trusted Men of the Temple; Priestess Arts; Serpent Initiation; Holy Bee Medicine; Oracular Attunement; and omni-faith, all-generations Sisterhood. For registration information, go to the Convergence page on the Temple's Website  and scroll down to the registration information under the photos of last year's convergence.

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Review: Sheela na gig, a book by Starr Goode

Sheela na gig: The Dark Goddess of Sacred Power by Starr Goode, Inner Traditions 2016, 8” x 10”, 2.4 lbs., 384 pages. Also available as an ebook.

Sheela na gig: The Dark Goddess of Sacred Power is a large, beautiful book in which the author, Starr Goode, delves into the art, history, and mystery of one of the most sexually assertive and explicit figures honored by those who revere Goddesses and a subject studied by researchers of ancient artifacts. As you might guess from its dimensions, the book is illustration-intensive with a total of 151 excellent black and white illustrations—mostly images—of Sheelas or related deities, such as Baubo. The images come from various time periods (most recently dated back to at least 9600-800 BCE) and various cultures, and can still be seen on churches in the UK, including Ireland. In exploring them Goode, who teaches writing and literature at Santa Monica College and produced and moderated the cable TV series “The Goddess in Art,” travels back to the Neolithic and forward to art in our own time. The latter features contemporary interpretations of Sheela. A number of the photos were taken by the author, others are from the work of Marija Gimbutas and from other well-known sources. The seven chapters of Part I, “History,” contain 73 illustrations; the two chapters of Part II “Journeys,” 30 illustrations; and the four chapters of Part III, “Image,” 48 illustrations.
 
This scholarly book about the “displaying” (holding apart vulva lips) female figure begins with a historical overview that includes agreements and disagreements about Sheelas’ origins and significance. Today, there is apparently no agreement on the meaning of Sheela na gig’s name, nor her significance at various times in history, nor even when She first appeared historically. Goode discusses various theories of origin, such as Neolithic, early Pagan, Romanesque, and even later. She includes the role that Romanesque architecture played in the popularization of Sheela representation and the relationship of the transfer of Irish and other goddesses to Christian saints, which resulted in the probable transfer of symbolism that occurred when displaying Sheelas were placed on churches and castles—where many remain today.
 
In her discussion of Sheela symbolism Goode considers several possibilities, including as “a regenerative symbol for the cycle of life, representing fecundity, decay, and renewal.” She writes, “Certainly, the mysteries of sex, death, and rebirth, have accrued around the image of the vulva. It is an open invitation to sex, a birth canal, and, paradoxically, a symbolic return to Mother Earth following death.” In Christianity, Goode writes, the displaying figures became “a warning against lust.” Later their symbolism became more protective and powerful. One of the strongest and longest associations with Sheelas is “apotropaic” power, in which the displaying female genitals have the power to avert negative influences or bad luck. For example, people used Sheelas to guard against the “evil eye.” Related are various titles that have been given to Sheelas by different cultures, such as “Evil Eye Stone” and “the Witch.” Citing the German writer Georg Kohl, Goode also discusses “human Sheelas,” living women who, in Ireland, were and are still called “Shila na Gigh” and who help people’s luck to change from bad to good by “lifting their skirts to display their female nakedness.” Goode also discusses why and when stone Sheelas become less prominent in Ireland, including through their mutilation. Goode explains that in medieval times, Christian clergy considered Sheelas “the devil” and ordered them to be “burned as witches even though they were made of stone, not flesh….in later centuries and to this day, many are being recovered from where they were sometimes tossed into rivers or buried deep beneath castles. Other carvings had their vulvas hacked away....”

 In sections on the Sheela’s “forebears,” the author discusses the relationship of other figures to Sheela , such as Baubo (as in the Demeter-Persephone myth/Eleusinian Mysteries); Medusa; and the Frog Goddess. One of the sections that was especially interesting to me (because I was involved in Eastern European folk dance groups for many years and came to feel that many of them had Pagan and/or Goddess roots), is Goode’s discussion of a Bulgarian women’s ritual with dances related to the Frog Goddess. The dance, which is still done today, is a spring rain dance called Peperouda, While the dance is related to power of frogs, its name is translated “Butterfly” on You Tube videos (butterflies of course also have a springtime association.) I have placed three videos of different (though similar) versions of this ritual dance the end of this review.
 
Part I of the book also includes a section on “Male Interpretive Bias.” Part II looks more deeply into what Goode learned from her travels to Sheela sites, especially in Ireland and England. Part III focuses on images of Sheelas and deities that resemble Sheela, such as some versions of Kali, and includes contemporary artists’ Sheela interpretations. The back matter includes both Footenotes and Endnotes, plus a Bibiography.

Both the large number of excellent illustrations and the details and depth of Goode’s discussion make Sheela na gig: The Dark Goddess of Sacred Power an extremely valuable book that many Goddess folks and students of the mythology — as well as others — will treasure.
 
 Peperouda Videos

Full ritual with dance in the village of Tsar Samuil, municipality of Tutrakan in northeastern Bulgaria. Features “frog girl” surrounded by older women (The word in the You Tube link  “German” refers to another dance on the same video group, not the location of the ritual of this Peperouda ritual, which appears at the very beginning of the video):

 

Children in Radost Folk Ensemble with some adult women:



More choreographed version, Bulgarian women’s group, you can see similarities in waving of hands, and headdresses of 2 of  the women:

 
 

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Buzz Coil: Jan. 2017

Here are some recent posts from blogs on our blogroll (please note, we don't knowingly list posts in Buzz Coil that have been published previously by the blogger elsewhere or on the same blog):
 
Shakti Warrior: In her January 17 post, “Spiritual Warrior Woman,” Susan Morgaine writes of the relationship of the U.S. election to her spiritual path, noting “These are the times that our faith in the Goddess comes to the fore.”

 My Village Witch: Byron Ballard, headlining her January 25 post, asks, “Now What?” and tells why our current approach should be:
“Stop.
“Ground.
“Listen.
“Sense.”
(alternating “Sense” with “Intuit.”)
And ends with a question for you.

HecateDemeter: In a January 10 post, “She Who Hears the Cries of the World Potpourri,”  blogger Hecate offers a video and a collection of links with of suggestions for our times.

Association for the Study of Women & Mythology: In a January 25 post, “Growing the Groundswell…” ASWM announces the opening of registration for its 2017 symposium in Philadelphia on March 25. Early-bird registration ends February 15; all registration cut-off in March 3. Presenters include Peggy Reeves Sanday, Annie Finch, Lucia Birnbaum & Cristina Biaggi, Lisa Levant, and the Anna Crusis Women’s Choir. The full symposium schedule is posted on January 25. In its December 27 post, ASWM announces its first publication, a conference and proceedings anthology, Myths Shattered and Restored.

Veleda: In her January 17 post, “Resources and publications,” Max Dashu tells why this is her first post in a long time. She then gives a history of the Suppressed Histories Archives, and information about the publication of her book, Witches and Pagans, her courses and more.

Hearth Moon Rising’s blog: In her January 6 post, “Five Year Anniversary Post,” blogger Hearth Moon tells of the changes she plans to make in her blog during 2017.

PaGaian Cosmology: Glenys Livingstone’s January 23 post, “Lammas/Imbolc @ EarthGaia Feb. 2017” is about celebrating Lammas in February in Australia, where she lives, and about its relationship to the celebration at the same time in the Northern hemisphere of “Imbolc/Early Spring.”

Broomstick Chronicles: In an unsigned December 29 post, which I assume is by Aline O’Brien (aka Macha NightMare) (and when I visited the blog was the only post on it—reflecting technical problems?) she writes about “Annual Thanksgiving Eve Service and Homeless Persons Memorial Day,” in which she participated as clergy.

Annelinde's World: Annelinde Metzner's January 28 post is her poem "I save the world by loving Her," a tribute to Gaia, with many pics.

The Goddess HouseOn January 5, Frances Billinghurst writes of celebrating the “Yemaya Blessing of the Water Event” in Australia and invites people to this year’s celebration, which took place. January 12.

Large 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

The Wild Hunt: Pagan, news-oriented blog that has grown from single blogger to many bloggers.

The Motherhouse of the Goddess: Blog affiliated with Motherhouse Podcasts and Mystery School.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Review: The Goddess in America

The Goddess in America: the Divine Feminine in Cultural Context, an anthology edited by Trevor Greenfield, Introduction by Jhenah Telyndru, (Moon Books, 2016) 192 pages, trade paperback 5.5” x 8.5”. Also available in e-book format.

The Goddess in America looks at the American Goddess movement, sometimes also called Goddess spirituality or, more recently, Goddess religion(s), from several different perspectives. The anthology includes discussions of the influence of Native American thought and practice; influences of religions that immigrants from three other continents brought with them; “relational” factors such as feminism, shamanism, Christianity, psychology, and Witchcraft; and ways the Goddess is viewed at the present time.

In her introduction, Jhenah Telyndru, founder of the Sisterhood of Avalon , which has groups in US, UK, and online, sets the stage for the rest of the book. Telyndru notes that “those of us who dwell in North America are both blessed and burdened by the spiritual legacies of the indigenous peoples...the spiritual traditions of the lands from which our ancestors may have immigrated, and the call to create new iterations of spirituality….” She takes a look at related difficulties some American Pagans may be having, and mentions the Statue of Liberty as a Goddess representation.
 
The book has four parts. Parts 1 and 2 each begin with an overall look at the part’s subject matter, followed by several chapters taking a closer look at some of the topics of that part. Part 1, “The Native Goddess,” opens with an essay by Hearth Moon Rising, an American with both European and Native American ancestry, who currently lives in New York state. In “The influence of Matriarchal Tribes on the Goddess Movement” she defines and discusses “the Goddess movement” in general, some terms that are used by those in the movement including Goddessian, and matriarchy, and delves into contributions of the Native American cultures as well as political feminism. She notes that “the Goddess movement is no longer an American, or even a Western phenomenon. It has spread around the world and gained a foothold in places, including India, Nigeria and South Korea.” Rising adds that “matriarchal cultures” are being studied in places outside of the Americas and criticizes some scholars in academia who deny the evidence that matriarchy existed and still exists in some cultures. The rest of the chapters take closer looks at three Nations: Cherokee, discussed by Michele Sauter Warch (identified as Michele L.Warch in the attribution with her bio at the end of the chapter), Hopi by Laurie Martin Gardner, and Maya by Heather Lee Marano. (Apparently an editorial decision was made not to put each author’s name at the beginning of each chapter or in the running heads which usually appear in books in a distinguishing font at the top of each page and in anthologies commonly contain the name of the author of each contribution [see for example, Weaving the Visions, Womanspirit Rising]. In The Goddess in America, authors’ names appear only in the table of contents and at the end of each essay, with a short bio. There are 19 contributing authors. To see names of all topics and contributors go to the book’s page on Amazon [linked to on its cover above], click on “Look Inside” and click on the Contents link [and yes, I looked for it on publisher’s website first but couldn’t find it there].


 In Part 2, “The Migrant Goddess,” an introductory chapter is written by Telyndru. She discusses what she considers “unique challenges” confronting American “Goddess Worshipers and Pagans” and introduces her four-part “Philosophy of Engagement” related to multicultural issues and divinities. Concluding, she writes, “One’s blood or DNA, in my opinion, is less important than how one actively engages with the culture, tradition, and societal mores of the nations from which one’s Goddesses arise…. one’s spiritual homeland is found nowhere but within one’s own heart….” Other chapters in this part focus on Irish, African and Creole, Greek (especially Cretan and Minoan), and Hebrew Goddesses. In her chapter on Irish Goddesses, Morgan Daimler explores “whether the Irish Gods travel with the people who worship them or whether they are…bound to specific places.” Sherrie Almes, in her essay, “African Goddesses and Creole Voodoo,” gives a clear distinction among the terms Voodoo, Voudou, and Hoodoo, and among their great variety of deities. In her chapter about the Goddess Ariadne, Laura Perry first includes information about her ancestry and journey with other European goddesses, then writes, “In my lifetime I’ve seen women break many societal bonds, but we still have a long way to go toward true equality. I’d like to think Ariadne and her tribe have our backs as we march forward.” In her chapter on the Hebrew Goddess, Elisheva Nester of AMHA (Primitive Hebrew Assembly USA), gives background on the difference between monotheistic rabbinic Judaism and the polytheistic “Hebrew earth tradition” whose roots are pre-rabbinic and probably also pre-biblical. Nester, a native Israeli who now lives in the United States, focuses on two Goddesses in her essay: Ashera and the considerably lesser known Rahmay.


Part 3, “The Relational Goddess,” has chapter headings that all begin with “The Goddess and the…,” the first chapter ends with the word “Feminist.” In it, Susan Harper writes, “The question of whether or not a Goddess-centered spirituality is inherently feminist is a fraught one.” In exploring this, she refers to the work of a number of Goddess and spiritual feminists, including Carol P. Christ, Z. Budapest, Starhawk, Anita Diamant, and Ruth Barrett. In the second chapter of this part, which ends with the word, “Shaman,” Dorothy Abrams focuses on her own shamanic journeys and tells of her relationship with Spider Woman and spiritual helpers and messengers. The author of the third chapter, which ends with the word, “Christianity,” is identified as Byron Ballard in the table of contents and H. Byron Ballard in the identification at the end that appears with her bio. Ballard is priestess and founder of Mother Grove Goddess Temple in Asheville, NC.  In this essay, she explores the relationship between her Goddess Temple and local Christian churches, Christianity and Goddess spirituality, as well as among Goddesses and Christian saints and other figures. She writes, “As we experience the escalation of Goddess worship and its growing cultures— especially in the West— there is a kind of cold comfort in the preservation of the Divine Feminine through the machinations of Christianity.” Expanding on the irony, she goes on to conclude:“… we come back to the notion of the unveiling of the Goddess and how she has been obscured in the belly of Christianity.” The fourth chapter in this part, written by Tiffany Lazic, ends with the word, “Psychologist,” and focuses on using Goddess archetypes as a therapeutic psychological tool. The last chapter in this part ends with the word, “Witch.” In it, modern Witchcraft in the US is explained and explored by Laurie Martin-Gardner (name given without hyphenation in table of contents, with hyphen in the ending identification) as beginning with Gardnerian Wicca and developing into a myriad of types: “a spectrum” with reconstructionism at one end and eclecticism at the other end. Their common threads, Martin-Gardner points out, are Goddess and connections to a great number of cultures.


Part 4, “The Contemporary Goddess,” begins with a chapter by Phoenix Love about the pros and cons of “pop goddesses” and the difference between these humans and Goddesses who are divinities. Among the women the author classifies as pop goddesses are Marilyn Monroe, Angelina Jolie, Sharon Stone, Melissa McCarthy, and Halle Berry. Love goes on to discuss Goddesses or Goddess-like characters in movies and TV shows as well as books advising women on “how to bring out their ‘inner goddess’.” On the pop trend in general, she comments, “Those who take what they want from bits of information…without truly understanding what it means to worship THE Goddess or even A goddess cheapen what is important: reverence and understanding, respect for the Goddess and what she represents….” The author of the second chapter of Part 4 is identified as Salem Margot Pierce in the table of contents but as Margo Wolfe with her bio at the chapter’s end (according to a personal communication, the latter is the name she now prefers). She is a member of the Sisters of Avalon. She begins the second chapter in Part 4, “Rewriting the Goddess,” with the claim, “Americans don’t really have their own Goddesses.” Wolfe goes on to discuss changes Americans have made in Goddess figures and practices. The third chapter delves into the practices, rituals, classes, activism community, and probable future of the well-known Witchcraft tradition, Reclaiming. It is by written by a Reclaiming Witch, Irisanya. The fourth chapter of this part, written by Kate Brunner, a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon, poses a number of questions in exploring the return of the “wise woman” tradition, which includes her roles as healer, protector, advocate, ritualist, and “conduit of a community.” In the next chapter, Michele Leigh Warch (name per attribution with bio at end, but identified in the table of contents as Michele Sauter Warch both for this chapter and for her essay in part 1) writes about “The Goth Goddess,” first discussing a number of “dark” Goddesses of various cultures and traditions and what they have in common. She then discusses the development of “Goth” in American culture. The last chapter of the book, by Vivienne Moss, relates the Goddess to “The Role of Women in America Today.” She chooses nine “ladies to grace this essay” and recommends ways to honor them. I’ll let you discover who Moss says they are yourself but will reveal the titles she gives them: Queen of Beauty, Lady Justice, Queen of Adventure, Lady Freedom, Our Lady of the Sacred Feminine, The Warrior Queen, Our Lady of Song, Earth Warrior, The First Lady.


In addition to the author name inconsistencies, an aspect of the book that disturbed me was the use, though scattered, of male generic language. For example, in one chapter the terms “man” and “mankind” are used when both male and female is meant and preferred words for some time have been “people,” “humans,” “humanity,” “humankind” and other non-gendered terms. In another chapter, the author begins using the term “Gods,” when it seems she is referring to both female and male deities. Later in the chapter she switches to “Goddesses and Gods.” It is not clear to me whether this was an editorial inconsistency, a compromise between the writer and editor, or an editorial decision to retain the way that the author wrote a term even if it differed among authors. Since this inconsistency continues through the book, I’d bet on the last. (There is a similar inconsistency in whether or not “Pagan” is given an initial cap.) In any case, I find referring to humanity as “mankind” and humans as “man,” as well as Goddesses and Gods as “Gods” to be a throwback to language objected to and rejected by second wave feminists at least 40 years ago but which now has begun to recur elsewhere as well as in this book. In my view, such outdated language is part of anti-feminist/anti-woman activities that “disappear” or erase women and female-ness. And yes, rather an oddity in a book about Goddess.

My editorial observations aside, The Goddess in America is a wide-ranging exploration of American Goddess spirituality that is likely to interest both those new to the subject as well as those who, like me, have been involved in it for decades. It provides a welcome variety of information and points of view. Many readers, both in America and elsewhere, will find it a relevant and valuable book.
 

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Buzz Coil: Dec. 2016

Here are some recent posts from blogs on our blogroll (please note, we don't knowingly list posts in Buzz Coil that have been published previously by the blogger elsewhere or on the same blog):

Starhawk's blog: In a long Dec. 2 post,"Thanksgiving at Standing Rock," Starhawk tells of her decision-making process, participation in, and thoughts about the Lakota action in North Dakota. With pics.

Annelinde's World: Annelinde Metzner's  Dec. 16 post. "La Reina de America," is a poem about the celebration in North Carolina of the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It begins:
"We honored our Great Mother,Queen of America,
filling the largest stadium in Charlotte with our joy."

With pics.

Hearth Moon Rising's blog: Hearth Moon writes about the Saami reindeer goddess in her Dec. 2 post, a poem titled, "The Antler Wagon," the last lines of the first (of 4 verses) reads:
"She crosses antler heaven holding her daughter,
defining a day in the wagon ride."
   


HecateDemeter: Blogger Hecate's Dec. 20 Solstice post is headlined by a quote from Wendell Berry, “The seed is in the ground. Now may we rest in hope, while darkness does its work.” It also shows, in a video to the music of Jethro Tull, Pagan observance activities.  

The Goddess House: In a Dec. 9 post, Frances Billinghurst of the Goddess House in Adelaide, Australia, announces the "Sister Moon Circles in 2017," she will lead at the Isian Centre of Metaphysics.  

Fellowship of Isis Central: FOI's Dec. 21 post, "The Elemental Goddess," announces an upcoming event in London this May.

Large 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.


Pagan Square: This blog of many mostly-Pagan paths is sponsored by BBI Media and includes SageWoman blog posts
The Motherhouse of the Goddess: Blog affiliated with Motherhouse Podcasts and Mystery School.
Feminism and Religion: Many bloggers from many different religions and paths.
The Wild Hunt: Pagan, news-oriented blog that has grown from single blogger to many bloggers.

 

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Buzz Coil: Nov. 2016

Here are some recent posts from blogs on our blogroll (please note, we don't knowingly list posts in Buzz Coil that have been published previously by the blogger elsewhere or on the same blog):

My Village Witch: In her Nov. 24 post, "Harvest Home. It's Complicated," Byron Ballard
 compares the marking of harvest time in the past with how it's celebrated in the U.S. today, what is "slipping away," what most Americans are disregarding, and ways to cope. 

Works of Literata: In her Nov. 24 post, Literata offers "Thanksgiving Grace 2016," in the form of a poem.  

Fellowship of Isis Central: FOI Central's November 14 post, "Honoring Olivia Robertson," announces that the Fellowship set up a new page with material never before published in honor of its late cofounder.

Hearth Moon Rising's Blog: In her November 18  post, "Medusa in Art,"  blogger Hearth Moon writes that she has  "been surprised at the amount and breadth of art that is available on this goddess" and that the art can be "divided into six categories."  With many large pics. Her November 11  post  is a review of  Ruth  Barrett's new book, Female Erasure.

HecateDemeter:  Blogger Hecate writes about  spiritual ways  to handle  the recent election results in her November 12 post, "If You Are Part of My Tribe." She also discusses people's individual reactions, including her own.

Starhawk's blog: Starhawk's November 9 post, "What Now?" explains how her view of the Goddess relates to how we might react to the elections results.

Annelinde's World: Annelinde Metzner's  November 15  post,  the poem,  "Tell a Woman," begins:
"Tell a woman that, deep inside,
deep in her heart, where no one can see,
she holds the flame that lights the world."

Large 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.


The Motherhouse of the Goddess: Blog affiliated with Motherhouse Podcasts and Mystery School.
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.
The Wild Hunt: Pagan, news-oriented blog that has grown from single blogger to many bloggers.
(We are no longer listing Return to Mago as it now lists itself as an e-magazine, not a blog.)

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Review of Book Co-Authored by Carol P. Christ & Judith Plaskow

Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology by Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow (Fortress Press, 2016) 364 pages, trade paperback, 6” x 9,” also available as an e-book.

Written by two of the most well-known authors in feminist spirituality, Goddess and God in the World is an extraordinary combination of autobiography and theological discourse. In this book, the authors continue a relationship that goes back to their days at Yale graduate school, a relationship that also includes collaboration as editors of two landmark books: Womanspirit Rising: a Feminist Reader in Religion (1979), the first anthology of essays on feminist theology, which included Goddess, Jewish, and Christian authors; and Weaving the Visions: New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality (1989) an anthology that included authors from these and many other religions and cultures. Carol P. Christ is also author of 6 other books; Judith Plaskow is author of 5 other books. Both also have innumerable journal essays and articles to their credit. (All of their publications are listed in the backmatter of this book.)

The authors identify each other by only their first names in the book, so I will do the same in this review. Goddess and God in the World is the first book that Carol and Judith have co-authored, with each writing individual chapters and collaborating on other chapters, including the Introduction. A footnote in the Introduction reveals that a coin toss determined the order of the chapters and whose full name would come first on the cover and title page. The first part of the book focuses on autobiography, with its pattern a separate chapter by each author, followed by a jointly written chapter giving a more scholarly view of the autobiographical material. This pattern in repeated twice in Part I, “Embodied Theologies,” and ends with last two of Part I’s 8 chapters individually written. The second part of the book alternates chapters between authors in a conversation about theological issues many of which they feel have roots in their life stories. The last chapter in Part II is jointly written.

At the end of the jointly-written Introduction, the authors present 8 questions that, they write, “lie at the heart of our book.” They encourage readers to answer the questions before reading the book and again after reading it. These questions are:
Is God or Goddess to be found outside the world, or within it?
“Are we called to a life beyond the body and nature, or is this world our home and our bodily life the only life we have?
“Is there someone listening to us when we worship, pray, or meditate or is addressing Goddess or God a metaphoric way of speaking?
“Is everything that happens in the world the will of Goddess or God, or is the world shaped by chance and a multiplicity of wills?
“Is Goddess or God good, or does divine power include both good and evil?
“Does the idea that divinity loves the world inspire us to promote flourishing of all, or does the notion that divine power includes both good and evil encourage greater human responsibility for the fate of the Earth?
“Should we speak of Goddess, God, neither, or both?
“Is what each of us believes about divine power a personal choice with only private meaning, or do our beliefs matter because they shape the world we share?
(italics theirs)

In Carol’s first chapter, titled after a Protestant hymn,“For the Beauty of the Earth,” (Chapter 1 – she apparently won the coin toss), she writes about her life, beginning with her birth “just before Christmas” near the end of World War II, and continues to discuss religious background and incidents of her childhood and youth, including deaths of relatives, undergraduate college at Stanford — including a sophomore year abroad reading Dante and Augustine — and studying other matters relevant to Christian history. In her last two years at Stanford she studied “Old Testament” in Hebrew and became “fascinated with a God who did not stay in heaven, but came down to earth to enter into a covenant with His own special people.” She also studied Roman Catholic theology and authors considered Existentialist. She came to the conclusion that her “view of God was in many ways as Jewish as it was Christian.” She was accepted into the “Old Testament” program at Yale graduate school, during which her views changed, she experienced disappointments, and began to develop feminist thoughts and actions.

Apparently neither author was thrilled with the situation at Yale. Judith’s first chapter (Chapter 2,“Stirrings,”) also begins at birth, with her statement, “I am certain that I was born a theologian.” She discusses her Jewish childhood, during which her family belonged to a Reform Temple though her mother grew up in a family participating in the Conservative branch of Judaism and her father’s in an Orthodox branch. Judith writes of attending Hebrew school for 12 years (my memory is that this was very unusual for a girl at that time, even in Reform Judaism). She recalls an incident when she was nine years old, when it suddenly occurred to her that “God might be a woman.” Though she didn’t think about this again for a number of years, it reappeared and influenced her later in life. In high school, she recalls learning about the civil rights movement at a time when she was already “obsessed with the Holocaust.” Of this, she writes, “For me, it was never a simple matter of us and them, the good guys and the bad guys. Rather...the Holocaust made me aware of what human beings are capable of.” She attended the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and entered Clark University, where, like Carol, she was impressed with the works of Elie Weisel and Albert Camus. Also like Carol, she spent a year abroad during undergraduate school. She also spent a month in Israel, just after the Six Day War. In a section called “Yale and Its Discontents,” she enumerates the various problems there. One positive outcome, imo, was that it was at Yale that she and Carol met, became friends, and together developed their interest in feminist theology.

In Chapter 3, the jointly written “God in the History of Theology,” the authors’ discussion includes the attempt to reconcile two concepts of God: the Biblical and the Philosophical. They discuss how feminist theory emerged from this and, in particular, the influence of 3 essays: Valerie Saiving’s “The Human Situation," Rosemary Radford Ruether’s “Earth and the Magamachine,” and Mary Daly’s “After the Death of God the Father: Women’s Liberation and The Transformation of Christian Consciousness.” They write that these essays raised questions still being pondered by today’s feminist theologians. They also begin to investigate possible explanations of how a “good” God could allow “evil” in the world, a topic brought to their attention by World Wars I and II.

In the next three chapters, the authors discuss their postgraduate work, Carol at Columbia University, San Jose State University, Harvard, and elsewhere, and Judith at New York University, Drew Theological School, and Wichita State University. At Columbia, Carol “…became part of the kind of open-minded religious and theological discussion I had hoped to find at Yale.” She discusses her introduction to and investigation of various theological authors and movements including feminist theology and liberation theology. She questions the relationship of deity to war and warriors. Her interests also included the changes that both Jewish and Christian women were attempting to make. She writes of the situation at that time: “… while Christian women have recovered Sophia, female Divine Wisdom, they have shown little interest in the Hebrew Goddess. Though some Jewish women have begun to reclaim the Hebrew Goddess [Asherah, as discussed in Raphael Patai’s The Hebrew Goddess], they are likely to speak of Her as Shekhinah, the female Divine Presence.” She writes that both the Jewish and Christian women seemed less than eager to face questions raised about the “triumph of Judaism and Christianity over paganism and idolatry.” The chapter continues as Carol leaves Christianity for Goddess religion, spends time in California, writes her extraordinary and still influential essay, “Why Women Need the Goddess,” collaborates with Judith on the anthology, Womanspirit Rising, and writes her first book, Diving Deep and Surfacing. She moves to Greece, where she still resides, has founded the Ariadne Institute and leads Goddess pilgrimages to Crete.

In this group of chapters, Judith continues to tell of the evolution of her belief system. She writes of the differences in language and theology of the services in the Reform Temple in which she was raised and those she attended in an Orthodox synagogue after she married. She also writes of her exploration of spiritual communities during her graduate studies at Harvard Divinity School. Of her post graduate work she writes, “When I finished my dissertation, I found myself in the extremely awkward position of having been trained to be something I could never be: a Protestant theologian….Yet how could I be a Jewish theologian when I had virtually no training in Jewish studies?” She writes about “turning points” including her mother’s death, the discovery of certain authors and articles and books, and her need to “resolve the matter of where I stood in relation to Judaism,” including whether she could fully move towards Goddess spirituality. She continues by describing the many challenges of a group she helped found called B’not Esh (Daughters of Fire) and describes the work she did on her first — and important — book, Standing Again at Sinai, in which, among other things, she resolves for herself “The enterprise of theodicy – the effort to justify God’s goodness and power to the existence of evil....” and becomes more interested in “the ways in which our language about God supports social, political, and religious inequalities of power.”

The next chapter, “Feminist Theology at the Center,” which is co-authored, traces its development, both from a theological point of view and its intersection with various social movements. Among the issues the authors explore are questions raised by the traditional interpretation of Jewish and Christian texts, the decision that many women made about whether to reform the religion they were born into (or reared in), or leave that tradition and join the Goddess movement, and the role of embodiment in both these options.

The last two chapters of Part I, which are individually written, are about what I would call the maturing of spiritual exploration into both action and wisdom. I will allow you to discover on your own what this means for each of the authors.

Part II, “Theological Conversations,” is the shorter of the two parts yet the part that contains some of the most revealing, moving, and contentious passages in the book. Its first four chapters alternate between the two authors (who write them in the first person) in discussing the issues raised in Part I, such as the nature of “divine power,” how people arrive at understandings about deity, whether Goddess (or God) is all love (or all good) or also includes evil, and reflections about what beliefs, experiences, and issues the two authors have in common and which are different. When it comes to areas in which they disagree, the discussions often include strongly stated arguments. In the last, Chapter 13 (a significant number in both Judaism and Goddess spirituality), both authors draw their conclusions about “Embodied Theology and the Flourishing of Life,” emphasizing agreements that allow them to work together despite their differences.

As far as I know, there is no other book like Goddess and God in the World in spiritual feminism. It contains details about the authors’ personal lives as well as the thea/theologies of two of our greatest and most influential thea/theologians. It is also unique in the way its structure and shared authorship supports the conclusion that there is a relationship between theology and personal experience. It takes a giant step forward in centering its focus on today’s development of thea/theology, rather than looking backwards on what may or may not have been ancient beliefs and mythology of specific goddesses. There are many more fascinating details in these chapters than what I have been able to share in this already-long review. I will just say that the authors’ discussions of their lives and evolution of their beliefs in this extremely valuable book are sure to fascinate and be treasured by anyone interested in feminism and religion and probably others as well.

In addition to continuing her work in Greece, Carol P. Christ now teaches at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Judith Plaskow is professor emerita of religious studies at Manhattan College and a founding editor of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Buzz Coil: Sept.-Oct. 2016

Some recent posts from blogs on our blogroll (please note, we don't knowingly list posts in Buzz Coil that have been published previously by the blogger elsewhere or on the same blog). There was no Buzz Coil in September because I was recuperating from unusually complex cataract surgery. Recuperated  from that (but still slowed by carpal tunnel syndrome), I have included some posts from September in this combined-months Buzz Coil:

Association for the Study of Women and Mythology: We join with the sentiments of ASWM's Sept. 13 post, "The Passing of Mary Kelly." She died last March and unfortunately the news of her passing was several months delayed in reaching the Goddess community. She was a fiber artist and ASWM advisory board member.


My Village Witch: Byron Ballard's Oct. 6 post, "The Tower Time Documents, Uncut," gathers together nine essays she has written on what she feels is the current "time of dramatic transition" related to "the Collapse of Patriarchy." The title is inspired by the Tarot Tower card. Her Oct. 25 post, "Preaching Justice," is a moving post about a recent "Moral Monday" rally in her NC hometown where she gave the benediction. She includes the benediction at the end of the post. Ballard is founding priestess of the Mother Grove Goddess Temple.  

Love of the Goddess: Tara Reynolds'  Oct. 12 post,  "When you fall out of practice with your practice,"  looks at reasons for and gives advice on how to handle this situation. With pic of Hecate altar. Her Oct.19 post, "Popular Samhain Posts and Celebrations!" is an annotated, linked list of her previous posts on this topic.  

Broomstick Chronicles: Aline O'Brien (aka Macha NightMare) reports in recent posts on several interfaith gatherings in California: Sept 22, "Religious Leaders Gathering"; Oct.6, "Table to Action..."; Oct. 11 "Interfaith Retreat" (Marin Interfath Council).

Pagaian Cosmology:  Glenys Livingstone's Oct. 17 post, "Beltaine/Samhain @ EarthGaia November 2016," discusses the relationship of Beltaine now in the Southern Hemisphere, and Samhain in the Northern Hemisphere. With an invitation to the Beltaine celebration at Livingstone's MoonCourt in Blue Mountains, Australia. 

Annelinde's World: Annelinde Metzner's Sept. 12 post, the poem "Love for the World," begins:
"I watch the dancer, one arm framing her face,one hip drawing upward in the belly’s rhythm.
The dance of mature women, Raqs Sharqi,
born of the sensuous music of the Middle East."


HecateDemeter: Blogger Hecate's Oct. 9 post, "There's a Goddess for Trump's Bullshit," is short but intentionally (I'm sure) not sweet. Her Sept 23 post, "Today, I Did Something No Other Woman in My Line Has Ever Done, Nor Ever Will Again," is about her activities as Autumn begins.

The Retiring Mind: Wendy Griffin's Oct. 5 post is about her 75th Birthday party, themed "Murder on the High Seas!" which involved "a slippage of time" to 1936 on the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary. With lots and lots and lots of pics.

Large 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.


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

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.

The Motherhouse of the Goddess: Blog affiliated with Motherhouse Podcasts and Mystery School.

The Wild Hunt: Pagan, news-oriented blog that has grown from single blogger to many bloggers.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Buzz Coil on Hiatus

There will be no Buzz Coil in September because I'm recuperating from unusually complex   cataract surgery. I'm okay but should not be using my eyes to the extent necessary to gather material for the monthly Buzz Coil. I will try to include some post summaries from September in an October Buzz Coil.

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Thursday, September 08, 2016

Review: My Name is Medusa

My Name Is Medusa, story by Glenys Livingstone, illustrations by Arna Baartz (The Girl God through CreateSpace, 2016), paperback, 8.5 x 11, 52 pages. Also available as an ebook. 

No, this book isn’t about me. Medusa is just my blogger name – but you already knew that, right? My Name Is Medusa is one of a number of children’s books recently brought out by The Girl God, a relatively new organization aiming to educate and inspire children (and sometimes also adults) about the divine imaged as female.

The art of Arna Baartz makes up the largest portion of the pages of this large formatted book with one large artwork on each page. Author Glenys Livingstone’s words (usually 1-6 sentences) are placed above the art. She writes the book in the first person of a mythical girl – perhaps a young Goddess – named Medusa. I would describe Baartz’s illustrations as Expressionist, sometimes verging into Abstract Expressionism. Their colors are intense; her style encourages the imagination.

One of my favorite pictures is about 7 pages into the book (pages are unnumbered) beneath these words by Livingstone who, earlier in the book has Medusa explain that she has “snakes for hair” and likes having them on her head because “They are very clever”(this comment is above a gorgeous Goddess picture). Above the bathtub picture, comparing the growth of humans to that of snakes, Livingstone writes poetically in Medusa’s voice:

Humans shed their skin too, but
not all at once. It comes off
slowly, so you might not notice;
but when you are in the bath,
scratch your skin a little
and see.

The art beneath these words shows a girl in a bathtub filled with blue water (with a touch of pink). Possibly originating on her head are green (with touches of orange, pink, and yellow) snakelike curlicues or spirals that flow all around her (and could be wallpaper or bubbles or…) The bathtub feet are in the form of snakes’ heads and partial bodies. The text then goes into biological and other aspects of human change. Another beautiful Goddess illustration is under Medusa’s statement that some people are afraid of her, because “I’m not scared of the dark.” 

In addition to learning about snakes, including their relationship to wisdom, and why Medusa is not mean and why the dark is good (for example, the positive role dark plays in ecology and astronomy), if you and/or your children’s knowledge of English is almost entirely American you may also learn at least one word that is used in British English but is relatively unknown in American English. It occurs in this phrase near the end of the book: “I like the way things quieten down at night;... If you’re like me, you may first think that “quieten” is a typo. But it’s no typo, it is a verb in British usage meaning quiet and usually used with the word “down.” 
 
Beautifully written and illustrated, My Name Is Medusa is a creative, inspiring book that is likely to please many children as well as adults, especially those who retain the wonder of child-like imagination. Its author, Glenys Livingstone is founder of MoonCourt, an outdoor Goddess temple in Blue Mountains NSW, Australia. She is also author of the book PaGaian Cosmology: Re-Inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion (2005), and has more recently produced a set of meditation CDs. The illustrator, Arna Baartz, who also lives in NSW Australia, is an artist, writer, educator, and mother of 8 children. She has written or illustrated a number of books and has received awards and honors for her work.

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