Guest Blog: Starting a Goddess Temple in Australia
[Update from Medusa, Feb 25, 2007: The links in this post to the Australian Goddess Temple (herwill.net) have been redirected by Anique to her personal site while the site with the information about the Temple is being updated.]
by Anique Radiant Heart, guest blogger
Since time out of mind, women have been gathering.
Gathering together at the river bank to wash, often singing while they work; gathering together to make food - often singing as they work; gathering together to look after sick children or elders - often chanting prayers as they worked; gathering together to make art - always singing as they worked; and gathering in the Temple, to create ritual, officiate at special ceremonies linked to special sacred days in the year, and to celebrate and honour the feminine Divine in all Her many manifestations. And always there was singing and chanting.
In very early times, the Temple was a grove of trees, natural caves, or a group of rocks, or a body of water, named and recognised as a sacred place and returned to over hundreds of years by the same tribe. As the ancients began to understand the power of "energy" as we know it today, and the ability of invoking the presence of ancestor spirits, they began to build or create permanent shelter/buildings for their place of worship and magic - the Temple. These buildings, over time, held the energy of many ceremonies, prayers and chants, making them "awesome" places to enter.
The Temple became the spiritual and cultural heart of tribal community. The priestesses, who were multi-skilled in sacred rites (shamanism), healing and divination, also were responsible for the training of girls and young women into the arts of shamanism and prophecy, ensuring that the people were well supported both in their everyday lives and also in the continuance of the herstory and well being of the tribe. The Temple was the place of government as well, the place where the Circle of Grandmothers held council and heard petitions from the people. Because women bled each month without dying and because life came from their bodies, women were seen as numinous, having powers in their bodies that men did not. The original "sacrifice" was the offering of menstrual blood at the altars to the Goddess, as a means of expressing gratitude for abundance. Women’s menstrual blood was also mixed with water and poured over crops to make them more abundant.
Associated with the Temple, was the Artists and Crafts House, the original "guilds" as we know them today. Also associated with the Temple was the home of the dark Goddess, the House of Death or mortuary.
When I’ve travelled overseas, I’ve had the opportunity to visit many places of worship, some of them thousands of years old. On recent trips I’ve also been able to visit modern Temples dedicated to Goddess worship.
When I was in Glastonbury, I had the opportunity to visit the Goddess temple there, created and voluntarily maintained by a group of men and women led by Kathy Jones. It was a blessing to walk into a space which was so obviously dedicated to the Goddess. The main altar, which had a large painting of a very abundant Goddess as the backdrop, was beautiful. On the altar, were many lovely artifacts and candles and incense….but what struck me most was the hundreds of little pieces of paper which held the prayers of people who had visited the Temple that week. I was told that each week, the Priestesses of the Temple collect the peoples' prayers and in ceremony, offer the prayers to the Goddess in spoken word. I walked around the space, seeing the four altars to the Four Directions. Large wicker statues had been lovingly made for each Element, creating an eerie feeling that they were actually alive. Each altar had been decorated with appropriate items and I felt a deep sense of "Yes..this is so good" deep in my heart. On the floor, here and there, were statues and objects donated by lovers of the Goddess to the Temple. It was obvious to me that many people appreciated this sacred space where they could embody fully their spirituality of choice.
When I was in Nevada, I was fortunate to be taken to experience the Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet, donated to the people of Nevada by Genevieve Vaughn. This little Temple took my breath away. Totally open to the elements and the people and creatures of that place, the Temple was built of straw bale construction and had openings on all sides and an open roof. A beautiful wrought iron artwork of a half sphere created of crescent moons "covered" the roof and a smaller wrought iron circular artwork of Goddesses holding hands protected the central fire pit. A large black stone statue of Sekhmet adorned the Western wall and a stone statue of a typical abundant Goddess sat facing Her.
Everywhere, people had left offerings….pictures, jewelry, feathers bones and stones, all kinds of objects. The space was sacred in a wild and untamed way. I was affected at a visceral level as I stood at the entrance and looked in. It took me quite a while to actually enter and then I had to chant to ground myself. It was such a powerful place, resonating deeply in my being. I felt my faith deepening and my dedication to the goddess "sharpening" or focusing in some way. It was an indefinable feeling, but I knew deep in my bones that something wonderful had happened.
I had an epiphany in that moment, as I understood how powerful Temples are. How palpably they hold the energy of sacredness and worship. How imprinted in the very walls, floor and objects are the intentions of those who came there to deepen their connection to the Divine. I imagined how healing it would be to come here and just sit in times of crisis or grief - as I experienced when my canine companion died last year. I imagined how wonderful it would have been to have my Croning Ceremony here. I thought about all the rituals I had created for hand fastings, baby namings, ceremonies of gratitude for prayers answered, rituals for the bringing in of abundance, so many…so many….and each time I had to set up the Temple space and then dismantle it again when the work was finished. All that wonderful energy, enjoyed in the monument and then lost for ever, to live on only in memory.
In that moment, I decided that I needed to create a permanent Temple on my land. I had to begin. There had to be one Temple at least in Australia, totally dedicated to the worship of the Goddess. A Temple open to all who wished to connect with the Divine. And not only a Temple, a place of teaching and learning. A place where regular ceremonies could be held and rituals enacted for Full Moons, Solstices and Equinoxes and so on. A Temple which could begin to accumulate the sacred energy which all Temples resonate with. A Temple where people could gather from all over Australia for annual worship and celebration of the Goddess, where people could come and get "married", where babies could be named in the sanctity of the Goddess, where young girls could celebrate their menarche, where all milestones and initiations could be witnessed and celebrated, where Priestesses could train in the skills and arts of that profession with a variety of teachers of many disciplines.
It is possible. All we need is a large shed, just like the very nice shed I live in.
To see the progress being made on the Goddess Temple in Willawarrin, New South Wales, Australia, go to http://www.herwill.net
Anique Radiant Heart has dedicated her life in service to the Feminine Divine. Through original song/chant, retreats and workshops in the Temple, she shares her wisdom and love of the Goddess. Check out her web site www.herwill.net
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