Saturday, February 07, 2009

Matrifocus: Imbolc '09 Issue

The opening art for this issue of Matrifocus is "Transformation" by Susan Mills, composed of mixed media and copper.

Johanna Stuckey's article, "The Goddess Meenakshi and her Temple at Maduri" tells how Stuckey, traveling with a tour group, visited the Meenakshi Temple is south India. It is a huge Temple with 12 towers. The article has great written description and pictures. One tradition at the temple is throwing butterballs at Meenakshi and sometimes her consort to cool them down. Yes there are pictures of this too. Stuckey writes that this is "One of the few major Hindu Temples devoted primarily to a goddess and a pre-eminent pilgrimage site."

"The Auspiciousness of Being a Woman" by Vicki Noble is a beautiful, inspiring article mainly about the vulva as a symbol of both Woman and Goddess, especially in Tibetan Buddhism. Noble contrasts the status of Goddesses with the 2nd class status of women in Tibet today. Noble discusses Yeshe Tosogal, a northern Tibetan princess who with guru Padmasambhava founded Tibetan Buddhism. Noble writes that Tosgyal's practices and sexual teachings have not come down to us like the male guru's have. She then tells the story of Tosgyal's healing through a vision in which she drank menstrual blood of "the red Goddess" Vajrayogini. Noble writes:

The essence of the narrative is the innate teaching (transmission) contained within the menstrual blood itself. I wish to reaffirm what women's spirituality has investigated, confirmed, and encouraged for thirty years of research, practice, and teaching: Contemporary women need to regain positive contact and psychic alignment with the sacred cycle of their menstruation and ovulation....

During much of our adulthood, women are initiated into the lineage of the "red boddhicitta" every month through our menstruation, which in tantric scriptures is stated to be the "red time," the time of sexual initiation — not, as we have falsely come to believe, a time when women are "unclean" and to be avoided sexually.

In "Goddess of the Garbage Dump," Mary Swander recalls the garbage of her childhood and a certain shack where "one thing could magically become something else."

Exploring divination, Nancy Vedder-Shults writes about "Seeds" in the Psyche and Eros myth and how to sort seeds and grain "to access your own inner wisdom."

"Observe and Interact" by Madelon Wise is about permaculture, sustainability and a hot tub named Sheela-na-gig.

In "Chicomecoatl: Goddess of Sustenance," Anne Key discusses a Mesoamerican agrarian Goddess of maize and all nourishment, who was the first to make tortillas and is sometimes associated with ball games like soccer. Chicomecoatl and her priestesses wear a headress called amacalli, a paper house whose name is a combination of "7" and "snakes."

Giselle Vincett's article "Goddess Femnist Ritual Practices and Thealogy," is informative, and thought-provoking. But I felt it could give the wrong impression to people not familiar with Goddess feminist rituals because, imo, Vincett overgeneralizes her own experience in the UK when she emphasizes the embodiment aspect of Goddess feminist rituals which, in the group she participated in, was a central element of all rituals and involved one participant at each ritual being chosen to embody the (or a) Goddess. She states this in a way that the reader comes away thinking that this practice must be a part of the ritual in order for it to be considered Goddess feminist. I don't know if this is true of all Goddess feminist rituals in the UK, but in my experience it is not true of all Goddess feminist rituals in the US. I myself have been to many rituals of Goddess feminist groups in which there was NO embodiment (or "carrying") of a Goddess by an individual woman. OTOH, I have been to Wiccan rituals--that were not necessary feminist--where this practice was done. So to me, although I agree that spiritual embodiment (and the sacredness of our bodies) is important in Goddess feminism, embodiment of Goddess by a one person cannot be said to be a defining element of Goddess feminist ritual. Some groups do it, some groups don't is all you can say. After you read the article, I would be interested in hearing from people in the comments section of this post about what your experience is with embodying or carrying the Goddess in Goddess feminist groups. Does your group do this? Maybe I'm the one whose experience is not typical.....Vincett goes on to discuss gender identity and whether or not Goddess feminists are "essentialists." A lot of this article is written in academic language, some of which I had trouble understanding. But maybe you won't have that problem.

Nane Jordan, a nurse-midwife, compares the parts of a large over-turned tree to the human placenta in her article, "Roots of Life," with fascinating photos of tree roots and placenta. She goes on to discuss the harmony and interaction between humans and trees.

In "Grandmother, Gazing" Shay Harris discusses something I wasn't aware of: That the gazing between mother (or other caretaker) and infant helps bond them on psychological and physical levels. And eyes are not the only thing involved in the gaze.

"Fibromyalgia" by Susun Weed is an excerpt from her book on menopause. Weed describes symptoms of fibromyalgia and suggests steps for relief.

This issue's poetry: "A Text of Broken Texts" and "My Mothers" by Eloise Klein Healy," from her book, Poems for Sappho; and "Dear Mother" and Spring Time" by Merry Gangemi.

There are two photo essays in this issue: "Studying Light: Morning and Sun and Trees at -1 Degree Fahreinheit" by Gwyn Padden-Lechthen, and "Natural Ice Sculptures at Sunset" by Kate Clapper. Photos in both essays were taken in Wisconsin.

A new feature is introduced in this issue by editors Feral and Sage: Matrifocus Review, a book blog that publishes continually, not just at issue time, and where you can both read and contribute reviews as well as comment on other people's reviews. Read the rating system and reviewer's guidelines if interested. Sounds like fun.

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Judith Laura

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