Tuesday, February 17, 2009

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.


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At Friday, February 20, 2009 9:23:00 PM, Anonymous Byron said...

Did I tell you all that I'm co-fascilitating a Cakes class at a local UU church? We finish up the first 5 session section next week and are going on to the next part. We'll probably do "Rise Up and Call Her Name" in the fall and have sceduled Sunday afternoons to watch the Donna Read films, and some other Gimbutas and Dashu dvds. The group is very excited about the material. I would personally like to tweak the curriculum a bit more, but I ain't a UU. It's powerful stuff.

And because of this, I'm including a weekly session of baking cakes as a devotional practice.

At Friday, February 20, 2009 10:24:00 PM, Blogger Medusa said...

Yes, I think we had a brief email exchange after I posted links to your your blog posts about it in this blog's Buzz Coil: Jan'09. At that point, I didn't understand that this was an official extensive update of the course. Coincidentally (?), a few days later, a friend of mine who is NOT involved in Goddess spirituality but somehow(?!) in his surfing ended up on cakesforthequeenofheaven.org mentioned the site to me. That Cakes had its own site was news to me. Hummm, I thought, perhaps I'm supposed to be looking into this?!

Baking cakes wasn't part of the course when I was involved with it-- is this something you added or is it now an official part of the curriculum?

You know you don't have to be a UU to tweak the course;-), at least in your own venue.

Re: Rise Up, I thought that also had been dropped by UUA. Is there a new birth of this course too, or are you using old materials (which actually weren't as out of date as the Cakes materials)?

At Saturday, February 21, 2009 9:21:00 PM, Anonymous Byron said...

We haven't ordered the Rise Up curriculum yet but I understand it has been updated. What we're working on is a Goddess-focused curriculum for a mixed gender group. Ranck has been quoted as saying men can take the Cakes course but it changes the experience for the women involved. I think it requires a new curriculum.

At Saturday, February 21, 2009 10:06:00 PM, Blogger Medusa said...

A new curriculum would be great. Have you looked at Rise Up, though? My memory is that it's it's more amenable to mixed gender than Cakes.

At Tuesday, February 24, 2009 11:52:00 AM, Anonymous Nico said...

Just FYI, Rise Up and Call Her Name has been updated and the materials are availble on DVD, as well as VHS, etc. They also have a website:


I was part of the Central Midwest District Cakes T3 (Train-the-Trainers), a group formed of the CMwD Women & Religion and the UU Women's Connection to train facilitators for the Cakes curriculum to take it back to their home congregations. I'm so glad to see it being discussed far and wide!

At our CMwD District Assembly in April, we are actually preparing a workshop on how to offer Cakes to a mixed co-ed group, using Shirley's suggestions and led by some women who have actually facilitated Co-ed Cakes sessions. It would be worth checking out :)


At Tuesday, February 24, 2009 2:09:00 PM, Blogger Medusa said...

Thank you for this info! I'm hoping you come back and read my reply, because I have 2 questions:
1)The first Rise Up course was, like the original Cakes, an official adult RE course of UUA. What is the status of the updated Rise Up course? Is it offered directly by UUA, or is it like updated Cakes a project of Women & Religion UU affiliate, or...something else?

2)Would you be interested in writing something for this blog about the meeting re: co-ed Cakes after it happens. We have guest bloggers from time to time and would be happy to have you as one.
If you don't want to publicly respond,you can go do my website page judithlaura.com/contact.html and contact me through one of the ways listed there.

At Saturday, May 30, 2009 8:44:00 PM, Blogger Molly said...

I just finished facilitating a Cakes series at the very small local fellowship. It was a wonderful experience and I'm wondering about buying the second part and doing it as well. However, I'm having trouble finding much information about it or anyone who has used it! We're debating between buying it or the Rise Up curriculum. Any thoughts on which is the "better" one to get?


At Saturday, May 30, 2009 11:12:00 PM, Blogger Medusa said...

Information on both Part I and Part II of Cakes is on http://www.uuwr.org/cakes.htm
Information about Rise Up is on http://riseupandcallhername.com If it were me and my group liked the first part of the new Cakes curriculum, I would continue with the second part and then, after that, do Rise Up. Hopefully, people with first-hand experience with both new courses (which I don't have) will come by and see your comment and give their opinions. (But you may be one of the first groups to do the new Part I!) However, my experience of the first version of Cakes is that after it's over many people don't want to stop. They want to keep the group going and they want more info, particularly on Goddess religions and cultures,so Rise Up, after Cakes Parts I and II would still fill that need. If you still have questions you might want to contact someone through the UU Women and Religion website at http://www.uuwr.org/

Blessings :-)

At Tuesday, June 02, 2009 10:38:00 AM, Blogger Molly said...

Thanks for your response! I've read the description on the UUWR several times (and the Rise Up stuff too) :) The session titles of the second half of Cakes makes me wonder how "religious" it is (one of the members of my Cakes 1 group expressed concern that the titles were things like, "Mary"--she was worried it will be too "Bible-y"). Since we were such a small group, I'm not sure I want to invest in both Cakes 2 and Rise Up, because I think it is going to be a one-time use thing for me!

I'm really glad I was "brave" enough to do Cakes 1--it was a good experience for all of us (we live in rural, Bible Belt Missouri) and all of us do want to keep going! (my UU fellowship has about 15 members total. Four women + me participated in Cakes, but only one of them was actually from the fellowship)

Any experiences with the Meetings at the Moon curriculum for pre-teen girls? It looks cool! (but, again, hardly any info available online about it!)


At Saturday, May 11, 2013 11:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When wish replaces thought.


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Judith Laura

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