Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Buzz Coil

Here's the buzz from some blogs we visited recently:

Screaming Into the Void: Blogger Amananta writes about her feelings at a peace rally during a Muslim prayer, shares her thoughts about whether Goddess is one or many, and ponders the value of "electicism" and "cultural appropriation" in a July 21 post, "Feminism, Racism, Religion, Ethnocentrism, War & Peace."

The-Goddess: In her July 20 post, blogger Morgaine comments on an article in the online journal Matrifocus , using the title of the Matrifocus article, "The Goddess is a Verb, the Isness of Goddess, Goddessing." Among Morgaine's provocative statements:

"You do not have to have male to have female. Female comes first. Female can reproduce alone. Male is derived from the Female, and therefore included in it.
The "50-50" proportion doesn't occur in Nature. There is always more female than male and maleness is newer because it is derived from femaleness.That's simple biology.
Duality is dangerous...."

Radical Goddess Thealogy: Three striking July 12 posts by blogger Athana: "The Goddess is a Verb,"about the same Matrifocus article; "How About A Co-wife (OR 2)?" about polygamy in the bible; and "The Wrong Mouse Hole," in answer to a reader who asked, "Do you believe there's something inextricably dangerous about Christianity?"

The Countess: Two thought-provoking posts on July 21: "The Judeo-Christian God's Jealousy," about the First Commandment, and "Asshat Design," about "Intelligent Design," Creationism, and a deity's need for control.

Fetch me my axe: In a July 20 post, blogger belledame222 asks, "What happened to the word ‘sexism', " among other things and thoughts.

Broomstick Chronicles : A post on July 16, "Women, Spirituality, and Politics," discusses scholar Max Dashu's presentation, Female Shamans In Indigenous Resistance Movements.

The Gaian Mysteries : In a July 15 post, blogger ganymetheus, gives us his thoughts on "Balance," which he says is represented by the "pendulum swing" between Goddess and God the Father.

The Living Goddess of Glastonbury : In a July 10 post, "Initiation at Evening," blogger Christina describes initiation of priestesses at the contemporary Temple at Glastonbury, England.

Roots Down: Blogger and San Franciscan Deborah Oak tells of her experiences teaching at a Spiralheart (Reclaiming) camp on the U.S. East Coast in the July 20 post, "We go to camp" and the July 21 post, "Early Rising." In her June 28 post, "Illumination, " she ponders making love on the Summer Solstice.

Goddessing: In a June 9 post, "Vestalia, Vesta, Vestal Virgins," blogger Sage explores what and who were Rome's "vestal virgins."

Daily Kos: A progressive blog usually focused on Democratic politics (but also sometimes carrying spiritual-related diaries such as those from "Pastor Dan"), had a diary on July 20 by blogger hrh, "Planet of the Savage Dkos Feminist SuperVixens, Episode 5: Mystical Revelations" about a seminar hrh attended that included experiencing "feminine ‘Sophia' energy." The SuperVixens series was started for "discussion of feminism, women's issues, and anything even tangentially related." In "Episode 5," hrh writes:
"When I placed my hands on the ground and tuned into the energy, I went into a trance. I found myself in a temple made of polished white marble. Bright light blasted in from the right side, illuminating exquisitely smooth surfaces, with a hallway spiraling up to the left. It was like the inside of a seashell. Or a huge minaret, but there were no steps. I was just gliding upwards.There were a couple of nunlike presences, dimly seen, and I heard the words "Hildegard von Bingen". More on that later.The spiral kept going upward and it was made clear that the destination would never be reached - nor was it supposed to be....
The reactions of the others were quite different. One woman said she nursed at the breast of the Goddess - that the energy was nurturing. Another made a mythic allusion to Persephone and Demeter, again having to do with motherhood. Others, including the teacher, spoke of sensing that it went deep into the earth, was dark, kind of chaotic, etc. Everything was stereotypically ‘female'.
That's how the buzz coils for now. If we missed an item you think is important. Please leave the info as a "comment.


Monday, July 17, 2006

A Feast for Mary Magdalene

The Christian Feast of St. Mary Magdalene is celebrated on July 22. Though many of us may have concepts of Mary Magdalene that differ from the official Christian version, I think we can take this opportunity to take a look at the large-scale recognition that finally is being given to this female religious leader.

Personally, I have mixed emotions about how the boost to the changed perception of MM occurred after the release of Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code. My first response to the brouhaha over the novel's views of Magdalene was – where has everybody been? Spiritual feminist scholars have been writing about this for years – some for decades – and they got little attention! Certainly nothing on the scale of attention received by Brown's novel, and now film, incorporating some of the same theories. It reminded me of what sometimes happens in office meetings: a woman presents an idea and it is ignored, or even shot down. Then a half hour later, or maybe not until the next meeting, a man restates the same idea and he is praised. Maybe he even gets a raise. Sound familiar?

I think that's part of what happened. Another part may be that the material was set in a thriller/murder mystery, a type of novel whose appeal is usually greater to men than to women. (Case in point: The Da Vinci Code is included in an Amazon.com Listmania list called "Manly Fiction.") Earlier books on Mary Magdalene by feminists were either scholarly works, such as Elaine Pagels 1979 book, The Gnostic Gospels, or novels written in a way that appeal more to women than men, such as Clysta Kinstler's 1989 novel, The Moon Under Her Feet, whose footnotes showed the thorough research she did. Sad to say, the more recent appearance of the MM material as "man stuff" gave it a legitimacy in the eyes of the general public that it didn't have when coming from women, especially feminists.

But the other mix in my emotions is: If what it takes is a male-oriented thriller to get people to think about MM in a more empowering way, so be it! Maybe now, people will go back and read some of the previous material. Two great places to find annotated lists of earlier books are Deborah Rose's site, Magdalineage and Lisa Bellevie's site, Magdalene.org. Among the other books by women published before or at about the same time as the Da Vinci Code (2003) are: Venus in Sackcloth by Marjorie M. Malvern (1975), Mary Magdalen, Myth and Metaphor by Susan Haskins (1993), The Woman with the Alabastar Jar (1993) by Margaret Starbird, The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene by Jane Schaberg (2002), Mary Magdalene, The First Apostle by Ann Graham Block (2003), The Gospel of Mary of Magdala by Karen King (2003).

Alternative views of MM have also been expressed for some time by contemporary Gnostics and Essenes. The Order of the Nazorean Essenes calls her by her Aramaic name, Mirya, and worships her as the female messiah. The Gnostic Church of St. Mary Magdalene has MM prayer services and information about "How to Organize a St. Mary of Magdala Celebration." And the Church of Gnosis incorporates the Order of Mary Magdalene.

Still up for discussion among scholars is whether MM was married to (or sexually/romantically involved with) Jesus, whether they had children, and whether to view her as a historical person or as part of Ancient Near East mythology. In her discussion of the Newsweek article, "An Inconvenient Woman", Lesa Bellevie , in her blogpost "The Feminine Mistake" comments on Karen King's and other Christian feminist scholars' position on "...Mary Magdalene's newly-appreciated role as wife and mother. For feminist scholars everywhere, this seems to be anathema. Not only because it lacks historical merit, however, but also because it is sexual."

I want to believe that Bellevie slipped when she wrote, "feminist scholars everywhere." Maybe she meant Christian feminist scholars, or some feminist scholars in some places. Because further in the article, Bellevie refers to "more conservative feminists." She writes:

"While I agree fully with their assertion that there is no compelling evidence that Mary Magdalene was married, to Jesus or anyone else, much less that she bore any children, I have to step back when people are criticized for holding such thoughts because they are demeaning....

The source of female power appears to be acceptable only when it springs from the same sources as male power: authority, leadership, witness. When the source of a woman's power is her body, it is somehow viewed as illegitimate.Mary Magdalene, in her role as apostle and leader, is acceptable to more conservative feminists because it places her on equal footing with the male disciples. Mary Magdalene, in her legendary role of wife and mother (and prostitute), is problematic because she is being remembered as a woman."

I agree with this, yet I can see both sides of the question. On the one hand, I can understand why Christian feminists would want to avoid the appearance that Jesus was interested in MM because she was his lover or his wife since this might imply that she was just a "sex object" or wife of the boss. OTOH, I can understand Bellevie's argument that being a wife and mother are important roles, and that the body can also be a source of power. Many of us on Goddess and other embodied spiritual paths believe sexuality and spirituality aren't mutually exclusive – that they are connected in a very positive way. We also believe that just because you have a vagina and a womb doesn't mean you don't have a brain and a soul. Since we lack conclusive historical evidence of exactly what the relationship was between MM and Jesus, we are in an area of mythology. As myth, wouldn't it be better if MM could be seen as sexual and intellectual and spiritual: a full being?

Or, as Bellevie writes: "If viewing Mary Magdalene as a woman who could teach, lead, witness at the same time as being loving and nurturing, where is the harm? How is this demeaning?"

My quibble with Bellevie is that she sees her statement as being in opposition to the feminist position. I disagree. To me, the assertion that women be seen as whole persons is a feminist response. The fallacy that Bellevie seems to be laboring under is that there is only one view that can be called feminist, and that this view is disembodied and anti-sexual. This is simply not true. In actuality, this is a view held by only some – I'd like to say a few, but I haven't take a survey – feminists. Most Goddess feminists, for example, have no problem combining sexuality and spirituality; they also honor the various possibilities of women in relation to child-bearing and intellectual functioning in such mythologies as the triune Goddess of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. And many secular feminists today are just as concerned with the importance of mothering and empowered sexuality as they are with issue of equity in the workplace. In fact, a number of feminists call themselves "sex-positive feminists." It is because of this variety in feminist views that the masthead of Medusa Coils uses the plural term "feminisms" rather than the singular, "feminism."

Continuing our exploration of views of MM , Metahistory.org's The Magdalene Connection gives three "levels" of considering MM: (1) alternative story of Jesus' life, (2) backstory that includes Pagan and other non-Christian elements, and (3) a love story. And Miriam, the Magdalen, and the Mother, a 2005 book of essays edited by Deidre Good, explores, among other things, the mythological similarities between the prophetess Miriam (Moses was her brother) and MM.

I hope this gives you some idea of the variety and extent – the feast – of MM views and material. Whichever appeals to you, may you have a blessed Mary Magdalene Feast Day, and may her name be forever blessed.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Upcoming Event Coil

As far as we know, all of the following are "open" functions; however, some of them may be limited to women. Please check the websites links for specific group policies. Please see the end of this post to see how to add your events.

July 13, 2-5 p.m. Sirens' Sanctuary Celebrates Sekhmet, women's group, NYC

July 21-23,
Rites of Summer , Darlington MD

July 22, 7-9 p.m.
Isis Birthday Bash, Irvine CA

July 22, 6 p.m.
Feast Day of Mary Magdalene , worship followed by reception and lecture, Houston TX

July 23, 2:30-5:30 p.m.
Isis Birthday Tea, Long Beach CA

July 24, 7 p.m. Sekhmet Mysteries (Women's Mysteries), guest house, The Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet, Indian Springs NV

July 25, 2-4 p.m.
New Moon Healing; 7 p.m. Noon Moon Guided Meditation, Healing & Singing,
Glastonbury Goddess Temple, Glastonbury, England

July 25, 7:30 p.m.
Ritual Celebrating Quechua , Daughters of the Goddess (Dianic), SF Bay area

July 28-30,
Celtic Lughnassed Celebration, Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve near Mt. Horeb, WI

July 29, 2-5 p.m.,
11th Annual Open Lughnassah Event , Central Park, enter Central Park West & 72nd St. NYC

July 29, 6:45 p.m.,
Lammas Celebration, Unicorn books, Cambridge MA

July 29, 7 p.m.
Mid Summer First Harvest Sun Celebration, Moon Path Chapter of CUUPS, UU Church of Ft. Lauderdale FL

July 29, 7:30 meet, 8:30 ritual,
Lughnasadh Sabbat, Religious Order of Isis Rising, UU Church of Miami FL

July 30, 3-6 p.m.
Lammas Celebration, Central Park between Greywacke Arch and Cleopatra's Needle, nearest entrance: 79th St. & 5th Ave. NYC

August 1, 7:30 p.m.
Ker's Lammas Festival, courtyard, Glastonbury Goddess Temple, Glastonbury, England

August 1-6
Goddess Conference, Small Town Hall, Glastonbury UK; Temple open during conference, Glastonbury, England

August 5 sunset-6 sunrise, The Heart of the Sun: Ceremony Honoring Sekhmet, The Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet, Indian Springs NV

August 9, 7 p.m. Full Moon Ritual, The Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet, Indian Springs NV

August 10, 7: 30 p.m.,
Ritual Celebrating Sekhmet, Daughters of the Goddess (Dianic), SF Bay area

August 14-20,
Sisters of the Red Tent, Women's Retreat and priestess training in Jewish earth-centered tradition, Accord, NY

August 23, 7 p.m. Scrying and Water Magic at the Cactus Spring, The Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet, Indian Springs NV

August 24, 7:30 p.m.
Ritual Celebrating Mazu, Daughters of the Goddess (Dianic), SF Bay area

September 3, 11 a.m. Annual Outdoor Beach Ritual celebrating Yemaya (Dianic), Daughters of the Goddess (Dianic), SF Bay area


Houston, TX: The Monday Group, Noon. Christian feminist theology study group.

NYC: Sirens' Sanctuary Open Monthly Women's Circle

Portland OR: Full Circle Temple , Tuesdays-Sundays 10 a.m.-10 p.m. "Open to all self-identified women and girls." Rituals at new and full Moons, quarters and cross-quarters.

We'd like to add your Goddess and spiritual feminist events (and those you know about that are open to the public) no matter where in the world they are. Leave a comment with your event, giving: Name of event, sponsoring organization (if any), town, date, time, and, REQUIRED: url of website where person can get more info. (Do NOT give street addresses, phone numbers or email addresses. People should go to the website to get that info.) We plan to publish an Upcoming Events Coil every month. If events you leave in a comment to this post takes place after the date of the next Events Coil post, we will also include it in the main section of that post.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Why Are We Here?

As Medusa Coils, we hope to counter a trend many of us have noticed in the last few years: A tendency to downplay the contributions of spiritual feminist scholars, including Goddess authors. We are also here to provide information about other concerns of people involved in modern feminist Goddess religions and spiritual paths, including the various permutations now snaking through some Jewish and Christian circles.

Goddess authors, philosophers, researchers, and practitioners have spent a good deal of time and effort over the last several decades researching the history of the suppression of the divine embodied as female. Unlike the adherents of most other religions, who are rarely challenged when they base their beliefs on faith, Goddess people have used anthropology, archeology, and history to substantiate their claims. Yet we are still criticized for lack of evidence, a criticism that few would level at mainstream religions.

It seems to some of us that when we aren't being criticized with unfounded and distorted statements, we are being ignored. By ignored, I mean that concepts, ideas, historical findings, that originated with Goddess thinkers and writers are now being un-Goddessed: the thoughts and ideas are used pointedly without reference to Goddess spirituality and sometimes at the same time as the writer or speaker is putting down "that Goddess stuff" or feminist theology. As the Goddess is being disappeared from discourse, so are women's contributions to 20th and 21st century religious and spiritual thinking being erased. Sound familiar?

Medusa Coils is going to try to give you the real story on writings and other statements that are critical of Goddess claims, concepts, practices, particularly when it's done in a way that distorts them. Some writers have already been doing this. Two examples are
Max Dashu's "Knocking Down Straw Dolls" and Starhawk's "Response to Charlotte Allen's Article" . These were written a few years ago and are terrific. We plan to do more! And we hope you will help by leaving suggestions in the comment area about examples of these we should cover.

We also plan to point out writing that takes concepts from Goddess or feminist theological writings but fails to credit them as such. Although a certain amount of "borrowing" from one spiritual path to another is common, it seems to us that much of what is going on today is an intentional slight of Goddess scholars and of women. We will be particularly critical of writing that ignores the Goddess or feminist sources of ideas it espouses while at the same time putting down modern Goddess religion or spiritual feminism. Look for a diary here on such an article in the near future. And if any instances of this devious practice comes to mind, please leave a comment for us to follow up.

We also plan to help readers find articles and information on Goddess websites and blogs, tell you about opportunities to publish papers and articles, and give you information about Goddess groups in various geographical locations. We are particularly interested in groups that have incorporated as religious non-profits and/or who have a building dedicated to Goddess use.

This blog is named after Medusa, a protective goddess sometimes associated with righteous anger. Her hair has, or is, coiling snakes, a symbol of regeneration. For more about her, go

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