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.)


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.


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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Wednesday, September 07, 2016

ASWM issues Call for Proposals for 2017 Symposium

The Association for the Study of Women and Mythology has issued a call for proposals for presentations at its symposium in Philadelphia on March 25, 2017.  The symposium theme is "Mythology, Women and Society: Growing the Groundswell." ASWM suggests that proposals aim at answering the question: How can the study of women and mythology contribute to our current conversations about women, justice, and society? The deadline for proposal submission is October 15. Full details, including a list of possible proposal topics, are on the ASWM site.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

REVIEW: Max Dashu's Witches and Pagans

Witches and Pagans: Women in European Folk Religion, 700-1100, by Max Dashú (Veleda Press, 2016) trade paperback, 6” x 9” 406 pages. Available now only from the Veleda Press website.

This is the long-anticipated first volume of a 12-book series, Secret History of the Witches, by Max Dashú, who has been working on the project for 40 years under the auspices of the Suppressed Histories Archives, which she founded in 1970. Many of us involved in women’s spirituality consider Dashú the most thorough, reliable, and authoritative contemporary historian of women’s history that includes Goddess history, witches and witchcraft, women in religion worldwide, and related subjects. When the complete series is published, this first volume will volume 7, about in the middle chronologically, with the series beginning centuries earlier with the volume Elder Kindreds & Indo-Europeans,” and ending centuries later with the volume Legacies and Resurgences.

Dashú is also known internationally for her slideshows — which she has presented at universities, conferences, and many grassroots venues. She created the shows from the more than 40,000 images in the Suppressed Histories collection. They bring to light female realities hidden from view from ancient iconography to leaders, medicine women and rebels. Dashú has also produced two videos: WomanShaman: the Ancients (2013) and Women’s Power in Global Perspective (2008), and a series of posters on female iconography. For more information about these see suppressedhistories.net. The Suppressed Histories page on Facebook is followed by about 148,000 people, and views of Dashu’s articles consistently rank in the top 1% of views on Academia.edu.

In her Preface to Witches and Pagans, Dashú notes that her approach to the material is “ethnohistorical: looking for traces of folk religions....by “going through archeology” and also through written material as well as oral traditions. She also writes that “Much of the book
turns on language, the names and meanings that are an important part of the cultural record, but which remain mostly hidden in obscure texts, unknown to all but a narrow slice of specialists.” She uses language — linguistics — to help us learn more about these. Just a few of the themes in Witches and Pagans that she has found emerge from this examination are weaving, fortune and fate, incantation, prophecy and divination, and what was called “weirding.” Her analysis and tracing of words and their cognates, as well as deities, through languages and cultures is not only illuminating but can also become breathtaking. One example is her explanation of how “wyrd” in a variety of European cultures is connected to the Fates and to the word weird, meaning destiny. Commenting on its history, which includes Goddess meaning, Dashú writes that Wyrd spun “names into the web of language. She tucked under their origins and hid their deepest meanings, before herself sinking out of sight. She concealed her signatures even in the language of religion.” The author also shows the evolution of some of the Wyrd derivatives in other languages and how the English words such as worship and worthy are related to Wyrd. She also explains how both the word and the concept of Wyrd as a female divinity continued “long after the pagan religion was officially abolished.” There follows a discussion of the English Three Weird Sisters including the use by Chaucer and later Shakespeare in Macbeth, and in Christianity “as a triad of saints, or as three ladies, three nuns, or three Marys.”

Dashú has also included a large number of black and white illustrations throughout the book, including originals from the volume’s time period, such as the picture of the carved whalebone art, “Three Wyrds” from the Franks Casket, c. 700 CE, from which the book’s cover art is taken. There is also a significant amount of original art by Dashú, including the “Word Tree of Wyrd,” which, on a tree, shows this word in various languages, cultures, and derivations. These are more fully discussed in the text. The discussion in Chapter 1 also includes the words for Earth in various languages, and their Goddess relevance. The book moves on in Chapter 2 to the connection between the Fates, Wyrd, weaving, and the development of witchcraft, the origins of the words witch and wicce — and the persecution of witches.

It became fascinating to me how, in Dashú's explanations, one word or subject or culture leads to another and another and another. Weaving plays a big part in this book in several ways, and it seems that one of those ways is how Dashú weaves words from one language to another and her similar weaving with the subjects and cultures.

In chapter 3, “Names of the Witch,” and throughout the book, Dashú also shows how words that began with positive meanings came to be understood as negative. For example, in a chapter 3 discussion about “healing witches” she shows how the words for “herb-woman” in Frankish, Spanish, and Latin came to mean “poisoner,” with similar occurrences with words for other types of healing by women in Anglo-Saxon, Welsh, Old English, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Germanic languages. One instance is the word, lyb (related through the Icelandic cognate lyf to the English “life”), which originally meant “vitality” and/or “medicinal.” The original Anglo-Saxon word for the women who did this work was lybwyrhtan. Dashú tells how this word disappeared after archbishop Wulfstan of York denounced the healers as the opposite, unlybwyrhtan (“un-life workers”), and goes on to describe a similar word change in German which carried over into the 1400’s to demonize witches. This chapter, which goes into much detail about different types of witches, ends with a 6-page list that includes “Ethnic Names for Witches: Attributes and Powers” of 11 types of witches plus one that cannot be categorized with any of these titled “Various.” The witch names are given (according to my count) in more than 25 languages. A later chapter on Runes and other forms of divination, begins with a full-page graphic of “The Names and Meanings of Runes.”
What I’ve written here gives you just a taste of what’s in the book. And I’ll stop, so that you can fully enjoy your own discovery of this feast. If you want to nibble a bit more, go to www.veleda.net for a full list of links to what’s available on line,  just some of which includes:  an annotated table of contents, the Preface, chapter excerpts, and preview of contents in other books in the Secret History series. Backmatter material in the book itself includes about 32 pages of Notes and a bibliography of about 24 pages. The index of the book will be posted online. When it is live, you'll be able to find it from the home page of www.veleda.net or (according to the copyright page in the book) here .

I am thrilled with the publication of Witches and Pagans. The Goddess community and others familiar with Dashú’s previous contributions have cause for celebration with the publication of this first book the Secret History of the Witches series. Hopefully still others – including historians, academics, librarians, and students in other fields, related and unrelated – will, through its publication, also become acquainted with her extremely valuable work.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Buzz Coil: August 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):

HecateDemeter: Blogger Hecate's brave (and helpful to many women) all-too-true August 3 post, "Telling a Story that Shames Me," is about an incident that occurred when she was in midst of a professional victory, and which, imo, brings shame not to blogger Hecate, but to the culture in which it occurs. Her August 19 post, "Into Inanna --Part I," is the first installment in a new work of fiction.

Starhawk's blog:  In an August 12 post, "Death and Mystery," Starhawk notes: "The Goddess doesn’t offer us easy comfort or consolation. We don’t have heaven to reward the good or a hell to punish the bad. We might believe, as Martin Luther King says, that the arc of the universe bends toward justice—but we observe that it has a long, long way to go." She goes on to ponder the death of "a lovely young woman" and its implications, ending with poetry dedicated to her.   
PaGaian Cosmology: Glenys D. Livingtone's August 7 post, "An Integral Universe: Conscious from the Beginning, in Conception," begins with quotes from Thomas Berry and  goes on to discuss the  idea  that "we are more than our biology," in terms of dualism and her own and others' writings. The post also announces a Cosmic Walk ceremony to be held Sept. 3 in Australia, where she lives.   

My Village Witch:  Byron Ballard's  August 1 post, "Lammastide  in My Moonstruck Soul," reflects on what has happened since she turned 60 a year ago, including this year's Lammas  ritual  at Mother Grove Temple, which she leads. The ritual description she shares includes a poem by the late Patricia Monaghan and the experience of the post-ritual Irish Stomp Dance in the rain.   

Alchemy of Clay:  Barbara Rogers' August 21  post, "Blessings on  water,"  is a report, in words and many wonderful photos, on "A beautiful production of Blessings on The River," in North Carolina near the Swannanoa River, with the Sahara Peace Choir and organized by Annelinde Metzner.

Annelinde's World: Annelinde Metzner's August 19 post, "Voices of Gaia III," contains poems in the voices of "Grey Wolf," and "Key Deer."

Hearth Moon Rising's blog: Among several posts about deer (with pics and an elk video), is Hearth Moon's August 12 post on "Diana and Deer."   

A Crone Speaks Out:   "TERF Wars  and Trans Terrorism" Rev. Cathryn Platine's August 7 post is subtitled: "How the most trans affirming Pagan tradition got labelled transphobic and why you should care."  In this post Rev. Platine, founder of the Cybeline Revival and Maetreum  of Cybele, seeks to correct this.

WoodsPriestess: Blogger Molly's August 18  post, "Where I am and what I’m doing!"  announces that she is  "'retiring' from my commitment to regularly maintaining this blog" and tells why.   

 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 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.

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


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Review: Jailbreaking the Goddess

Jailbreaking the Goddess: A Radical Revisioning of Feminist Spirituality by Lasara Firefox Allen (Llewellyn Publications, 2016), 7.4” x 9.1” trade paperback, 288 pages. Also available as an ebook.

 Wow! is my first reaction to this extraordinary book. As I settle down to try to contain my excitement, I will attempt to tell you the reasons for my reaction. For starters, Lasara Firefox Allen not only revisions Goddess “faces” (aka, aspects or archetypes), but she also brings into her analysis, the feminist theory of intersectionality . She deconstructs what has become the traditional Goddess archetype in modern Goddess religion and Paganism of Maiden/Mother/Crone, because, as she writes on the first page of the first chapter, “We are more than our biology.” She points out that the triple Goddess concept is rooted in patriarchy. (Most sources trace its origins not to antiquity, but to the 20th century writings of Sigmund Freud and Robert Graves.)

In the second chapter titled, “More Than Our Biology,” the author explains in depth the problems she sees with the Triple Goddess concept including its exclusion of factors outside of reproduction. This, she writes, leads to a woman’s “basic worth” being “based in utility....or usefulness, her body is a commodity”; this prevents her from having “full self-determination.” She also sees it as excluding women who can’t or don’t want to have children, women who cannot have menstrual periods, and women born without uteri. She suggests that women’s bodies have been “colonized” by the dominant culture, delves into the ways that various groups—including racial, ethnic, and “trans”—have been colonized more or differently from others, and suggests ways to counter the dominant culture’s definition of woman as biologically-determined. She also discusses non-binary gender identity and the role of women’s use of language in various cultures

Firefox Allen describes herself as “a white woman” who acknowledges her “position and privilege,” and is dedicated to “the concept and practice of intersectional feminism.” She writes that in this book she is “making it up” as she goes along, and invites readers to do the same and not to necessarily accept or follow what she proposes. The bio on the inner flap of the book’s back cover describes her as a “family traditions Witch and second generation ordained Pagan priestess.”

She notes that she will be using some words that readers may not be used to, such as “feminal” (which I like— she frequently uses it where others might use “feminine” and sometimes “female”). She apparently has resurrected this word, as the Oxford dictionary defines it as archaic. Also noting that she uses the word “archetypes,” but not in the usual Jungian way, she proposes that the Maiden/Mother/Crone trinity be replaced by five “faces” or aspects of the Goddess with Latin names. Taking the definitions from the inside flap of the front cover, these are :
 --Femella: “girl. . . .the primal child, the divine child
--Potens: “able, patent, might, strong, powerful…the woman of strength, full of potential and power, bursting forth.”
--Creatrix: “female creator….the mother, the maker, the author.”
--Sapientia: “wisdom, discernment, intellect, a science….Master of her craft, teacher, leader, woman of science & art.”
--Antiqua: “Ancient, aged, time honored, venerable, traditional, essential….the old woman, the dreamer, the storyteller, the witch at the gate.”

The author greatly expands on these inside the book, devoting a chapter to each new face. She suggests that these aspects are not necessarily connected to age, but can also be connected to the stage we find ourselves in our lives—and that we may inhabit more than one face at a time, depending on the circumstances.

The chapters for each of her five proposed new faces of the Goddess begin with the “sigil” (magical symbol) and beautifully written poetic prose description of that particular aspect. They end with a poem/invocation to that aspect. Some of the material within these chapters include descriptions of the aspect in her “Occult” and “Empowered” (words she uses because she dislikes the racial implications of “dark” and “light” [as do I]) appearances, sexuality, stages of womanhood not necessarily linked to biology, deities from a wide variety of cultures that may be related to this particular face, attributes, relationship to elements, animals, plants, weather, seasons in both global hemispheres, holidays whose sources may be religious/spiritual or secular, and suggestions for rites, rituals and observances.

And all this is just in Part 1 of the book, which ends with a short chapter, “ Rewilding: the Path from Here.’’ This chapter acts as a transition to Part 2, which discusses “relationality, liberation, collectivism, self-reflection, and magick.” Its first chapter (chapter 9 of the book) discusses philosophical and ethical concerns of “The Relational” including collective liberation and personal responsibility. This chapter also discusses why “Intention is Not Everything,” revolving around the question of whether we are able—or even would want to—create our own reality. In the section immediately following this, Foxfire Allen writes: “We cannot live in the ‘believe it, and it shall be so’ and ‘everything happens for a reason’ bubble without casting blame on those whose cultures are being constricted, starved, contaminated instead of looking at the real perpetrators of the desecration.” Among the topics also discussed in Part 2 are “decolonizing our magicks” and the shortcomings of “White Feminism’; “Decentralizing Your Working Group” including examining and changing group power structures; being drawn to specific deities and spirit possession; and information and advice on creating rites of passage and other rituals. The book also includes two Forewords, one by Ariel Gore and another by Rosa De Anda, and an appendix with “Magical and Ritual Considerations for a New Practitioner.”

It seems to me that Jailbreaking the Goddess can be considered part of a trend in the last decade or so of books and teachers presenting alternatives to what was/is assumed to be ancient Goddess practice but at least some of which, like the triple Goddess concept, can presently be traced only as far back as the early 20th century. Examples of relatively new ideas and alternatives include Carol Christ’s She Who Changes (2003), which seeks to combine Goddess religion with process theology; Glenys Livingstone’s PaGaian Cosmology (2005), which combines the Maiden/Mother/Crone “female metaphor” with current scientific theory; and The Queen of Myself (2o04) by Donna Henes, whose proposal that “Queen” be added between Mother and Crone has been adopted in the teachings of Rev. Ava of The Goddess Temple of Orange County. What can also be considered another part of this trend is people creating alternatives in other religions, such as the 13 priestess paths related to both the understanding of the female divine and human or legendary women in [Rabbi] Jill Hammer and Taya Shere's The Hebrew Priestess (2015) and drawn from their work as leaders of the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute.

Speaking of updating, I want to mention the use of the term “jailbreaking” in this book’s title, as well as another incident that I’ll get to shortly. When I first saw “Jailbreaking” in the title,I was a bit startled. I showed the book cover to two other people. One had a little familiarity with Goddess spirituality and the other had none. Both people had the similar reactions to mine (I didn’t tell them mine until after they told me theirs), which went something like “Why does the Goddess need to be broken out of jail?” “What did she do wrong that caused her to be imprisoned?” “If we help her break out of jail, aren’t we also doing something illegal?” Of course the Goddess hasn’t done anything wrong and neither have we. But that seems to be a gut response for some people. So I thought about it, knowing at that time only a bit about what was inside the book. I decided that what the title really meant was something like freeing the Goddess or liberating the Goddess. And I had another thought: Maybe there was another meaning for jailbreaking I think I favor this iPod/iPad/iPhone-related definition as a metaphor for breaking out of limitations in general because there is less confusion about meaning. The second incident also seems techie-related. In Chapter 14, “Ritual Elements and Templates,” in a section of templates for “Rituals of Invocation and Rituals of Initiation,”  there is discussion of guided visualizations. But sometimes (at least in the copy the publisher sent me) the word is spelled "vizualizations" in the heading and "visualizations" in the text (often directly under the heading spelling). What’s going on here, I wondered and headed over to Google again. And guess what! There is a spelling with the 2 z’s and it’s apparently related to technology,  possibly adopted from street slang, “Vizual.” So I have to wonder, was this a magickal manifestation of the contemporary Goddess Computa?

Before leaving this review I want to mention that throughout the book, as part of each section (yet set apart typographically), the author gives suggestions for journaling topics and subjects for action (voluntary, of course). This increases the book’s usefulness not only for individuals, but also for use in groups and classes.

I also want to note – as the author herself recognizes in several places – that not everyone will agree with some of the ideas nor want to adopt some of practices discussed in this book. (For example, I am not comfortable with the idea of me practicing spirit possession though I have observed it on a few occasions and understand and respect it as part of a number of cultures’ practices.) That we might not agree with everything in the book doesn’t detract from its value – in fact, may increase its value – as Firefox Allen offers a vast array of different ideas/practices and encourages readers to adopt or develop whichever they wish.

Jailbreaking the Goddess is a scholarly, spiritual, poetic book. Theoretical and practical and inspirational, it is beautifully structured and beautifully written – a welcome contribution to the growth of feminist/Goddess spirituality at this time of evolution and expansion in these living religions.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Buzz Coil: July 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):

Pagaian Cosmology: Glenys Livingstone's  July 17 post, "Imbolc/Lammas Moment August 2016 C.E"  provides background on the two holidays –  one in the southern hemisphere where Livingstone lives, the other in the northern hemisphere – including their  differences and similarities.  Her July 24 post, "No Eye But Hers," quotes a poem by Jami from 1414 CE. Livingstone begins her reflection on this poem by writing:
"this is Virgin – no matter what your sex on the spectrum, She is in all.
… this is parthenos, which is so much more than the patriarchal reduction to mean 'unbroken hymen': She is 'one-in-herself', 'unto Herself' – integral, complete, embodying the whole universe, as each and all being does."
With large pic by Livingstone.

Works of Literata:  On July 18, blogger Literata shared ritual work for then upcoming Republican Convention. She invited readers to participate in the ritual "To keep the peace in Cleveland." I guess it worked!

 HecateDemeter: Blogger Hecate's July 4 post, "Hail, Columbia!" is about the Goddess (aka "Freedom," "Libertas,") atop the U.S. Capitol  (and also located elsewhere).  The post includes a number of links, including those to longer posts she's written on the subject previously. 

Annelinde's World:  Annelinde Metzner's July 22 post  is a poem she wrote in 2012, "Thank You, Hillary."

 Hearth Moon Rising's blog:  Hearth Moon's July 22 post, " Really Big Deer," is about the Scottish Goddess Cailleach Bheur, as well as Hearth's personal experience with one particular deer.

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

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.