Sunday, June 08, 2008

Goddess Pages:Summer 2008

Thank you to Goddess Pages for the pleasant surprise of its naming Medusa Coils as the Featured Blog for its Summer 2008 issue.

This issue's online presentation begins with art, "Dusk" by Lisa Paizis and with "The Meaning of Goddess - Part 3: Essentialism or Essence? Out from the land of theory" by Max Dashu. This is a big article in length, depth, and scope, so I’ll spend a little more spacetime on it than I usually do in these reviews, and I'll start by quoting Dashu:

For at least twenty years the Goddess movement has been assailed as "essentialist" by post-modernist theorists. They mean that an innate female essence is being claimed, in a biological determinism and rigid gender categorization.
Dashu challenges the assumption that femaleness or gender is the source of the oppression of women. "The problem is domination, and absolutism," she writes, pointing out that all human societies are gendered, although how gender functions differs in various cultures. "It is the structuring of gender relations and culture norms that need to be looked at," she says, and points out that although predominant religions insist on "masculine deity, priesthood, and theology," they are not attacked for being essentialist, yet when spiritual feminists add the female/feminine to deity they are. She writes:
Goddess feminists are saying that the long-devalued female must be restored, recreated, and redefined in a liberatory way. ... We embrace positive female story and symbolism as empowering to women, as a potent force in reshaping cultural values and behaviors. We reaffirm embodiment as sacred, in the face of a long history of deprecating the body—especially the female body, whose sacred symbolism has been expropriated, colonized in myriad ways, and reconfigured as “obscene.” To confuse this transformative reclamation with “essentialism” misunderstands and distorts its meaning.
Drawing examples from many traditions worldwide, Dashu goes on to explain the difference between "Essence and "essentialism."

I could go on and on describing and quoting from this important article, and I will sneak in one more quote (please note excerpts...) from near the end:
The biggest challenge facing the Goddess movement now, as it expands and is popularized, is to avoid unconsciously reproducing the dominant culture’s biases and exclusions founded on ethnicity and class and colonization....Without clear, firm, conscious effort to overcome patterns of privilege, they replicate themselves. Our movement cannot allow itself to be defined by access to resources, whether ownership of land or media, or the ability to conference-hop around the world. Conferences, anthologies, events need to be inclusive and representative of the range of women who actually are creating this resurgence.I believe we will succeed only by
addressing injustice on all levels, including the colonial and imperial. And that requires becoming allies to indigenous women. Issues of appropriation must be addressed, the insults of New Age rip-offs that have been piled onto the weight of historical injuries....

I’m alarmed about New Age commodification in general, as Goddess culture gets popularized and marketed. ...In many people’s minds Goddess already means New Age, which means trouble. [Medusa's bolding] In more than a few cases, the rush toward “the divine feminine” literally does mean feminine in its most retrograde media form: recently I’ve seen a lot of art depicting thin, pretty, young, longhaired females, usually white, sticking their breasts out in unnatural positions....

Now do yourself a favor and go read this extraordinary piece. And if you haven’t read the first two articles in this series, there are links to them at the end of this installment.

The following will, I hope, give you an idea of the other free online reading in the Summer issue of Goddess Pages (which also publishes a print edition):

In "Baba Yaga Stories" Susun S. Weed responds to the question, "Who is Baba Yaga?" with many fascinating answers.

When beginning Rachel Mayatt’s "Bloody Women! A Magical Experience of the Menstrual Cycle", keep in mind that the author is British, so the word "bloody" in the title may be a double entendre. Mayatt tells how she moved from being revolted by menstruation to appreciating its potential for magic.

"Black Madonnas" by Mary Frankland explores the relationship between supposedly Christian Black Madonnas and Goddess(es), and speculates on the question: "which aspects of the Goddess were these images meant to represent?"

Reviews include Thirteen Moons (Conversations with the Goddess), a book by Peter Knight, reviewed by Jill Smith; The Goddess in Glastonbury at Samhain, a film directed by Kathy Jones, reviewed by Miriam Raven; "The Eleusinian Mysteries: A Modern Pilgrimage," a booklet by Sheila Rose Bright, reviewed by Geraldine Charles.

This issue’s poetry includes: "Aphrodite" by Anna McKerrow; "Beltane" by Annabell of the Old Ways, "Beltane Celebration" by Maria Duncalf-Barber, and two poems by Doreen Hopwood, "Revenge" and "The Prize - A Cautionary Tale."

And don't miss (like I almost did--though the link is boxed!) "She changes everything she touches," an explanation of the recent evolution of Goddess Pages by Geraldine Charles.

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At Tuesday, June 10, 2008 10:50:00 AM, Anonymous rhondda said...

Thank you for pointing me to Max Dashu's article. She so cleared up some of my confusion about Goddess.
I was in one of those "new age" groups who seemed to me were setting up a parallel universe to god and were deifying "femininity" as defined by masulinist linguistics. My questions became very threatening to the leader whom I could only label as a mother superior figure. Although it was a great introduction to Goddess culture, it remained a dead end for me and so I left and got into feminist theory. Essentialism was my stumbling block. This article has really exploded that block. I have to thank someone and so you are it. Thank you.

At Tuesday, June 10, 2008 12:32:00 PM, Blogger Medusa said...

You are very welcome. Thank you for letting us know about your experience. I think it will help others in the same or similar situations. You may want to read Max's other articles on her website,, where you will also find info on her new DVD with related material.

Goddess bless!


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Judith Laura

More blogs about /goddess/feminist theology/spiritual feminism/pagan/feminist spirituality/.