New Version of 'Cakes for the Queen of Heaven'
An updated version of the popular Unitarian Universalist adult education course, Cakes for the Queen of Heaven, is now available . Both the original and the updated courses are by the Rev. Shirley Ranck, Ph.D.
The original Cakes course was published in 1986 by the religious education section of the Unitarian Universalist Association , the main Unitarian Universalist organization. I believe it is no exaggeration to say that this course opened the eyes of thousands of people to misogyny in Abrahamic religions and opened their hearts to Goddess. I was fortunate to participate in one of the early Cakes courses and to be a facilitator for the course and for follow-up study groups in 2 different UU churches in the DC area.
The updated course is published by Women and Religion, an affiliate organization of UUA. And here we come to the subtext of this event:
From 1977 to 1996 the Women and Religion Committee was part of the UUA – you could say it was included in the top level of the UUA organizational hierarchy or in its inner sanctum, depending on your worldview. It was created in 1977 to find ways to achieve greater inclusiveness and gender equity in the denomination. In 1996 the UUA Board decided that the work of the committee was no longer needed (by whom, we wonder...) because all its goals had been achieved (?!). In 2002 Women and Religion became an independent affiliate organization of UUA. Here’s what they say on their website about the situation:
The religious roots of sexism continue to pervade the secular world and reinforce sexism and patriarchy throughout the world today. Clearly, we still have work to do.
At the about the same time, although there continued to be interest by members of UU congregations in the Cakes course, UUA didn’t update it, which it sorely needed because the original course was based the limited amount of material available at the time it was written (my guess: 1983-85). A few years after its initial 1986 publication, there was an explosion of books and other materials on both prehistoric Goddess archeology and feminism within Judaism and Christianity. If the groups were lucky, facilitators were familiar with at least some of these materials and were able to bring them into the discussions. If not, groups got a limited picture. Eventually UUA no longer offered the course.
Enter the now-demoted Women and Religion affiliate organization. Several years ago they decided to take on the publication of an updated Cakes course and they persisted until it was completed. Help, in terms of partial funding, came from the Fund for Unitarian Universalism and the UU Women’s Federation. While the original Cakes course was one unit containing 10 sessions, the updated version has two sections. Part I, "In Ancient Times," has 5 sessions and introduces participants to ancient Goddesses, weaving their stories together with major concerns of women today. It includes Ranck’s "Statement of Feminist Thealogy, Elinor Artman’s "Brief Herstory of Cakes" and Nancy Vedder-Shults’ Baking Cakes for the Queen of Heaven." Sessions are: The Sacred Female, In the Name of the Mother and the Daughter, Womanpower, The First Turning-From Goddess to God, and Reclaiming Women's Heritage of Peace. Part II, "On the Threshold," has 6 sessions. It focuses on reclaiming the stories of powerful women in ancient Judaism and early Christianity, looking at the global silencing and brutalization of women that accompanied the rise of patriarchal religion and society, celebrating the "exciting new world-view and thealogy that has emerged in our time," and exploring "the personal and social changes that may be suggested by that new world-view and thealogy." Sessions are: The Hebrew Goddess, Sarah the Priestess, The Apostle Mary, The Virgin Mary, Witchcraft, and Future Fantasies.
To see samples of the curriculum, go here. There is also a new Cakes website and a blog.
If you’re wondering where the course gets its name, it comes from the biblical book of Jeremiah,
where God speaks to Jeremiah, saying:
“Do you not see what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? the children gather wood and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead the dough to make cakes to the Queen of Heaven and to pour out libations to other gods, in order to anger me!” (Jer. 7:17-18)Some of us wonder if baking these cakes ever stopped. A number of people (including me both in the Cakes classes I led so long ago and here , have pointed out that the pastries still baked today for the Jewish holiday, Purim in early spring (this year, March 10) may be related to the biblical "Cakes." Triangular in shape and fruit-filled (poppy seeds were probably the earliest filling), today they are called hamentaschen and supposedly represent the three-cornered hat (though some sources say the ears–yuk!) of the villain Hamen in the Purim story. I say I doubt that men of that era wore 3-cornered hats and maybe my experience is limited but I have yet to see triangular ears. The cakes more closely represent that common triangular Goddess symbol, the yoni. Further, the heroine of the Purim story, Queen Esther, has a name that appears related to the goddesses Ishtar and Oestre.
In any event, many thanks and many blessings to UU Women and Religion, Shirley Ranck, the Fund for Unitarian Universalism, the UU Women’s Federation and all others who helped bring updated Cakes for the Queen of Heaven to fruition.
TAGS:news Unitarian Universalist Cakes for the Queen of Heaven women and religion Goddess feminist theology spiritual feminism