Thursday, September 07, 2006

Guest Blog: Part 2, Goddess Temple of Orange County

(This is the second of a two-part series. The first part, posted on August 21, told about the beginnings of the Goddess Temple of Orange County, current Sunday services and other events.)

by Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D, guest blogger

While most of the events at the Goddess Temple of Orange County are open to women only, men are occasionally invited. There have been numerous and fervent discussions about the space. Should it be held sacred and open only to women? Should men be allowed to come in? Mainstream metaphysicals don't seem to understand the need for sacred women-only space. They love the Temple so much they want to share it with their husbands and other men in their lives. They don't get it—yet—that most men carry vibes of entitlement that can corrupt woman-only space. In one such discussion, I explained that this Temple is like an incubator where women who have had no previous experience with sacred space of their own can learn to find themselves as well as a path to the Goddess. Policy has been hammered out: the Sunday services, full-moon drumming circles, and sabbat rituals are for women only. When men are permitted (new-moon drumming, many of the classes, other public events), the altars are covered so that the feminine energies and women's work are not disturbed. But there's also a purely practical reason for letting the men in. Well-known metaphysical teachers attract both men and women. They pay to attend. We can pay the rent and keep the lights on.

The Goddess Temple is a nonprofit organization (501(c)(3)) with a board of directors and a membership, though many of the women who attend are not members. Member meetings are held every other month to discuss issues that range from economic realities to adjustments to the liturgy to safety to dealing with petty pilferage (toilet paper and tea lights sometimes go missing). The Temple is supported by donations from women who join circles of giving at various levels (anything from $20/month to $1000), the proceeds from the various events, Sunday collections, and the occasional special donation. Even though she is the Temple's spiritual director, Ava can't be there every minute, of course, so there is now a staff of temple priestesses. A program of apprentices is also being set in place. And even though the Goddess Temple is a nonprofit organization, it needs to be run just like any business, with recognized accounting principles, accountability, and functionality. It is these volunteer priestesses and apprentices who do a lot of the invisible and boring but vital work. In addition, members are invited to the Temple on a Saturday before every change of seasons to redecorate the space and make minor repairs (yes, vases and candles holders and goddess figures do occasionally get dropped).

We are also organizing volunteer service circles. One, Diana's Daughters, consists of women who hold the energy, are trained in disaster preparedness and first aid, give practical assistance (like running the sound system), and generally keep an eye on things. Another, Lakshmi's Daughters, conducts the Sunday offering. Other circles will assist with programming and take on other tasks.

While there is currently no path to initiation or ordination at the Temple, Ava offers a priestess training class every Saturday afternoon that any woman can attend at no charge. Women study the books on the Temple's reading list (which includes The Great Cosmic Mother and other books that set forth our foundational myths) and learn to tend the Temple (which includes learning the energetics of putting up and closing down the sacred space).

It took about a year for the first Goddess Temple to outgrow itself. After proclaiming affirmations that we would find new, affordable space with more than one bathroom and other amenities, we began looking for that new space. It turned out to be about a block away. Early in 2005, the Temple moved into a larger office/warehouse space. Again most of the construction, electrical work, and decorating was done by crews of skilled women. Today, when you go into the Temple, you enter a foyer with a fountain dedicated to Brigit and original art on the golden walls. To the right is Cleopatra's library, stuffed to overflowing with books and shelves of goddesses not "in use" in the sanctuary. To the left is Ava's office. Step through the next door and you're in Oshun's lounge, decorated with an enormous pillowy couch on the floor, chairs for people like me who decline to sit on the floor, and a large glass table for potlucks and refreshments. Announcements of coming events and brochures (I've written four) hang in plastic holders on the wall. Nearby are Athena's craft room, Kuan Yin's meditation room, the kitchen, and three bathrooms (named for mermaids, angels, and fairies). To enter the sanctuary, you cross Lakshmi's bridge, under which flows a recirculating fountain fed by two elephants. The tiny lake is full of coins to attract additional wealth to the Temple. Against the southeastern wall of the sanctuary is a large altar dedicated to women's original wisdom and featuring a statue of Eve offering the apple of wisdom, seasonal flowers, and the altar candles. In the four corners of the room are the directional/elemental altars—east/Maiden, south/Mother, west/Queen, and north/Crone. This is the only temple I know that has a Queen altar. Donna Henes and I have both written that in the 21st century three stages of a woman's life are no longer enough; between Mother and Crone we become the Queen of ourselves. "We need a Queen altar," I told Ava (several times). "Besides, we've got four corners and four elements. We need this fourth altar for balance. To acknowledge mature women." Decorated trees also stand against the walls, making the temple a grove.

The Temple really is an incubator. Go to any event and you can find half a dozen women whose lives have been transformed by being part of the community, whether they first started coming when Ava and Marcy opened the door to Ava's condo in 2002 or attended their first event just one year ago. You'll meet women who were so soaked in patriarchal values that they'd never had close friends who are women before. Women who are learning that kindness and cooperation work lots better than power over and competition. Abused women who have found some safety. Elderly women who are not ignored. Six-year-old girls who are seeing that women don't have to bossed around by their husbands or boyfriends. Women of all ages who are finding the powers of the Goddess in themselves.

When the first Temple was dedicated, priestesses throughout Southern California brought blessings and gifts. Here is the poem I wrote for the dedication. A printed copy hangs on the wall outside Ava's office.

Come Into the Temple

Written for the Dedication of the Goddess Temple
Irvine, California, March 7, 2004

Welcome to the temple, Dearest Sister, Precious Friend.
No matter where you're coming from,
Come into the temple.
Here's a hug, a cup of tea. Relax before our altars, be at peace.
Yes, come into the temple.

Welcome to the temple, Darling Daughter.
You're our brightest, dearest treasure,
Come into the temple.
Here's a hug, some grown-up reassurance. Learn the herstory that no one's taught you.
Yes, come into the temple.

Welcome to the temple, Honored Crone.
Help us cast our sacred circle,
Come into the temple.
Here's a hug, a bit of chocolate. Tell us where you've been and what you've seen.
Yes, come into the temple.

Welcome to the temple, Blessed Goddess.
No matter where you're coming from,
Let this be your newest home.
Here we do you honor, here we know your strength. We call you to our busy city.
Yes, come into our temple.

I gladly come into this temple, Gentle Priestess.
I come from everywhere on earth.
Precious ones, come in and know that you are loved.
Here is inspiration, here you walk in beauty.
I will gladly be your compass.
I am pleased to bless this temple.

Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D (, is the author of Pagan Every Day: Finding the Extraordinary in Our Ordinary Lives (RedWheel/Weiser, 2006), a unique daybook of daily meditations, stories, and activities. Her earlier books are Finding New Goddesses, Quicksilver Moon, Goddess Meditations, and Practicing the Presence of the Goddess. Her day job is freelance editing for people who don't want to embarrass themselves in print. Barbara lives in southern California.

Technorati tags: Goddess Pagan Goddess Temple Women and Religion Goddess Feminism Spiritual Feminism



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