Saturday, December 31, 2011

REVIEW: Meditation Guide by Monaghan & Viereck

Meditation, the complete guide: Techniques from East and West to Calm the Mind, Heal the Body & Enrich the Spirit, Revised and Expanded Edition, by Patricia Monaghan & Eleanor G. Viereck (New World Library 2011), trade paperback, 372 pages (also available as e-book)

If you are interested in meditation, whether you've never meditated before or you're an experienced meditator curious about forms of meditation other than what you practice—or anywhere in between—you can do no better than than Meditation:the complete guide. This new edition has 10 more chapters than the 1999 edition, plus updates throughout. Patricia Monaghan is author of more than a dozen books, several of them Goddess-related, including The Goddess Faith, The Goddess Companion, Seasons of the Witch (poetry), The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog: the landscape of Celtic Myth & Spirit. She is also editor of anthologies including Goddess in World Culture and the Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. Eleanor G. Viereck is author of Yoga: Skillful Means and Alaska Wilderness Medicine. Together they bring us in Meditation more than 35 meditation practices, some of which are commonly known among Pagans, Goddessians, Wiccans and others familiar with meditation, and other practices which, if you are like me, you may have never thought of as meditation before.

In the Introduction, the authors explain what meditation is and is not, writing:
Meditation is not a religion. It is not a doctrine or something to to be acquired. Meditation is play rather than work. . . .
They consider three ways of approaching meditation: the medical approach, which includes healing, therapy, wellness, and health maintenance; the martial approach, which is performance-related and may be particularly useful to athletes, creative and performing artists, students, and people in the workplace; the spiritual approach, which "may include religion but is not limited to the world’s religious traditions," and whose goal is to create "a balance among the mind, the heart, and the body—or between the body and mind." The Introduction also gives help in choosing a meditation practice that may work best for you and includes FAQS and a self-test to help determine what type of meditator you are.

The book is divided into 10 parts, each describing a different category of meditation. Each part begins with an introduction that also serves a background to the source of the meditation category, so that the book can also be used as, for example, a way to obtain background on at least five different religions, as well as a great variety of meditative practices. Each part contains several chapters on various types of meditation. After exploring the history of and contemporary use of each type of meditation, each of the 43 chapters provides advice on "How to Begin" as well as a "Checklist for Practice" and a list of resources where you can find more information on the chapter's material.

Part 1: "Indigenous Traditions," includes chapters on trance dancing, drumming, and ritual body practices. Part 2: "Yoga," includes chapters on the asanas, breathing, meditation, mantra, and yantra or mandala, and tantra. Part 3: "Buddhism," one of the longer sections of the book, includes an excellent explanation of the various type of Buddhism in its introduction, and then goes on to explore several types of meditation springing from Buddhism including Vipassana (insight meditation), loving-kindness, zazen and other Zen forms, haiku and other meditative poetry, and brush painting. The introduction to Part 4, "Taoism," describes the ancient roots of the Way, including shamanic practice in which the shaman was female, and that the
Taoist emphasis on balancing yin (feminine) and yang (masculine) is a distant echo of the spiritual prestige of early Chinese women
It includes chapters on T’ai Chi and Qigong. Part 5: "Judaism," includes chapters on The Mussar Movement or Ethical Introspection, and Hitbodedut or Conversations with God. The latter, the authors explain, is a form of kabbalistic meditation developed by Hasidic Jews. Part 6, "Christianity," includes chapters on Contemplative Prayer, Hesychasm or the Jesus Prayer, Taisé Singing, and Quaker Worship. Part 7, Islam, includes Sufi breathing and dancing.

Parts 8, 9 and 10 contain forms that are likely to be familiar to many Pagans, Goddessians, and Wiccans (although not limited to them) as well as some forms that meditators and people in general may not commonly think of as "meditation." Part 8, "Mixed and Modern Forms," discusses candle meditation (with a brief explanation and history of contemporary Paganism and Wicca), free-form meditation groups, labyrinth walking, use of prayer beads, inspirational reading, biofeedback, and the "Body Scan." In the introduction to Part 9, "Creative Meditations," after going into detail about the brain and its wave frequencies, the authors explain that what we usually call meditation and what we usually call artistic activity both occur in the alpha or, less commonly, theta frequencies of brain waves, while normal everyday functioning usually occurs in the higher beta wave frequencies. They continue:
Artistic creativity and traditional meditation practices both demand focus and they both rely on repeated physical actions. . . .Any activity that demands focus and involves some degree of repetitive activity lowers brain wave activity and produces the effects of meditation.
Included in Part 9 are Sketching from Nature, Needle Crafts, Journaling, Dialogues with Self, and Visualization. Among the types of meditations discussed in the chapter, "Dialogues with Self," are tarot card and tea leaf reading, which the authors consider a use of "active imagination" that differs from "guided imagery," because "there is no script to follow." Guided imagery, which is often used as part of ritual as well as in private meditation, is discussed in the chapter on Visualization. Affirmations are also included in this chapter. Part 10, "Active Meditations," includes sports, gardening, going on pilgrimage, awareness of and being in nature, remedying pain or grief, listening (for example to ambient sounds or music), and kinesthetic meditations such as unstructured dance forms and exercises that encourage body awareness,

This book certainly lives up to its title of being a "complete guide" to meditation. In fact, it's got to be one of the most useful, informative books on meditation in existence. Meditation takes a wide, or to put it in the vernacular, "big tent," view of its subject, making meditating more accessible and useful to a larger number and variety of people than many other books. It provides the basics, written in a practical, down-to-earth, and easily understandable yet thorough way.
Yet even most experienced meditators are likely to find in it information they didn’t previously know.

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Buzz Coil: December '11

A look at some posts of interest from our blogroll and sometimes beyond:

Association for the Study of Women and Mythology: In a Dec. 8 post, "Announcing the Kore Award for Best Dissertation," ASWM gives details on how to apply for this monetary award. Deadline for applications is Feb. 15.

Feminism and Religion: In a Dec. 22 post, Gina Messina-Dysert announces, "Hildegard of Bingen to be Canonized and Named Doctor of the Church." Messina-Dysert mentions that she and many others assumed Hildegard was previously canonized "since she has been called St. Hildegard and had a feast day since 1940." She goes on to explain the complexities involved. With links to other articles about Hildegard.

In a Dec. 19 post, "Women Are More Spiritual Than Men? The Mormon Conception," Caroline Kline discusses the problems that this characterization presents for "some Mormon feminists like myself."

Carol P. Christ writes a very moving account in her Dec. 16 post of what it’s like to attempt to go "Home For The Holidays" when you are devalued by and disaffected from your family.

Broomstick Chronicles and COG Interfaith Reports: Beginning Nov. 30 and continuing through Dec. 12, Macha NightMare reports in 4 posts on the recent meeting of the American Academy of Religion, especially its incorporation of Pagan Studies, including spiritual feminist speakers.

Hecatedemeter: Blogger Hecate’s Dec. 17 post, "All Politics Are Local" tells about a political house call made by an Iraq war veteran that turns in to a conversation about holiday differences and the importance of religious freedom.

The Village Witch: In her Dec. 21 post, "Becoming Winter Solstice," Byron Ballard writes about the significance of Solstice in nature and in our psyches.

The Wild Hunt: In his Dec. 21 post, "A Blessed Solstice," Jason Pitzl-Waters gives background on a variety of historical and current Solstice celebrations and shares quotes about Solstice from others.

ZBudapest Blog: Z Budapest begins her Dec. 20 post, "Rocking the Goddess in Topanga Canyon and a New Old Rule," about the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Susan B. Anthony Coven Number One, with this:
They had a throne for me to sit on. I didn’t want to. I am not a feudal lord, but I understood that this ritual was about the honoring me and themselves. About honoring the four decades of worshipping the Goddess; teaching new women and girls the Dianic Tradition. It is quite an achievement.
Z then gives a summary of the coven’s history and details of the celebration, in which the Circle of Aradia also participated and which included the ordination of 2 priesteses by Ruth Barrett.

Goddess in a Teapot: In her Dec. 18 post, "Find Yourself By Getting Lost," Carolyn L. Boyd writes on several different levels about being lost and wandering lost. Included are a nun’s visit, goddesses who "wander lost" after tremendous losses, and departure from the constant pressure on women to be "doing."

American Witch is moving to, Annie Finch announced on her Dec. 2 post on the former blog location, whose posts of the last 2 years will remain there. Her Dec. 2 post at her new blog home, "How to Create Poetic Tradition, Redux," about the situation among female poets, could also apply to women who write in other genres, create art, and who are scholars, including those who write about religion.

Chess, Goddess and Everything: In a Dec. 18 post, "Don’t Think It Can't Happen Here," blogger Jan writes about current persecution of people in minority religions around the globe. She then quotes a Der Spiegel article about the "rehabilitation" of Witches in Germany.

Hail Columbia: In a Dec. 13 post, "NAR tries to build a big tent," blogger Literata begins to explore the motivations of the New Apostolic Reformation’s claim that they have no official doctrine.

Walking On Fire: In a Dec. 17 post, "Sacred Magic - Awen and the Seal of Solomon," Myfanwy (Liorah Lieucu) finds similarities in a Celtic Druid symbol and the Seal of Solomon, and explores evidence that Solomon’s Temple was a Goddess shrine.

Onion Work: In her Dec. 1 post, "Winter Quarters Hibernation," Ruby Sara writes of beginning and then apparently abandoning projects, and explores magic as a theologic principle, its relationship to "Beauty," as a "force" and a "movement," as "illusion," and as "miraculous." She implies she will be exploring magic more instead of blogging. But in a blog post of Dec. 15, "Then Again, Silence," she writes, "what I have decided is to take a major break from making any kind of declaration about blogging."

Did we miss an item you think is important? We’d like to know about it, so please leave it as a comment.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Events Coil: Dec. 15 - Feb. 1

As far as we know, all events we list are open functions; but some may be limited to women or to adults and some may require that you notify them that you plan to attend. Please check the websites for group policies. If no country is given, the event is in USA. All times local. Times for computer/Internet/Web events are given for the place of origin. Events lasting more than 1 day are bolded. When listing events for the same date we have tried to list those that occur first, taking into account time zone differences. If there is a difference between our listings and the listings on the link, assume their web page is correct as details may have changed since we listed from it. Ongoing events are listed after the dated events. The next Events Coil is planned for mid January and will include events listed here that haven't yet happened, plus new events through late February. If you have an event you want listed, please leave info as a comment. See the end of this Coil for what info we need for listings.

Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m.
Ruth Barrett in Concert, Goddess Temple of Orange County, Irvine CA

Dec. 16, 2 p.m. Temple Dressing for Winter Solstice, Glastonbury Goddess Temple, Glastonbury ENGLAND

Dec. 16, 7 p.m.
Interfaith, Multicultural Winter Solstice Pageant, Circle Sanctuary with First Unitarian Society, Madison WI

Dec. 17-18, Yule Celebration, Maetreum of Cybele, RSVP, Palenville NY

Dec. 17, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Community Yule Festival, Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve, near Barneveld WI

Dec. 17, 6:30 p.m.,
40th Anniversary of Dianic Tradition, Winter Solstice Event, Topango CA

Dec. 17, 7 p.m.
Winter Solstice Ritual, Temple of Isis Los Angeles, Long Beach CA

Dec. 18, 19.00 uur,
Winter Zonnewende Ceremonie, Nederlandse Godinnen Tempel, Hillegom, NEDERLAND

Dec. 18, gather 11:30 a.m., Ritual Noon, Winter Solstice, Connect DC, Washington DC

Dec. 18, 1 p.m.
Yule/Winter Solstice, Goddess Temple Inc, Lakewood OH

Dec. 18, 10:30 a.m. Christ-Sophia Mass, Ebenezer/HerChurch Lutheran, San Francisco CA

Dec. 18, 11 a.m.
Goddess Service honoring Mother Mary, Goddess Temple of Orange County, Irvine CA

Dec. 18, 4 p.m.
Yule Gathering, The Sacred Circle of Maidens, Mothers, & Crones, Carson City NV

Dec. 18, gather 6 p.m., ritual 7 p.m.,
Yule, North Bay Reclaiming, Sebastopol CA

Dec. 21, 6:30 p.m. Summer Solstice Celebration, Gaia's Garden, Kew East, Victoria AUSTRALIA

Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m.
Winter Solstice Ceremony, Glastonbury Goddess Temple, Glastonbury ENGLAND

Dec. 21, 7 p.m.
Winter Solstice Celebration in the Red Tent, Women's Well, Concord MA

Dec. 21, 6 p.m. Winter Solstice, Sisterhood of the Sacred Circle, San Jose CA

Dec. 21, doors open 6:30 p.m., event begins 7 p.m.,
Winter Solstice , Goddess Temple of Orange County Irvine CA

Dec. 21, time tba,
Celebrate Winter Solstice, Daughters of the Goddess, San Francisco CA

Dec. 23, 6 p.m.
Summer Solstice/Litha Ritual, PaGaian Moon Court, Blue Mountains NSW AUSTRALIA

Dec. 24, 2 p.m.
New Moon Healing, Glastonbury Goddess Temple, Glastonbury ENGLAND

Dec. 25, 11 a.m.,
Goddess Service honoring Rainbow Serpent, Goddess Temple of Orange County, Irvine CA

[updated Dec. 28]

Dec. 31, 9 p.m.-1 p.m., PAGAN COMMUNITY CENTER LAUNCH/New Year's Eve Party, Open Hearth Foundation, Washington DC

Jan. 7, Noon,
Ceremonial Healing Day, Glastonbury Goddess Temple, Glastonbury ENGLAND

Jan. 8, time tba,
Celebrate Whole Buffalo Calf Woman in a Peace Ceremony, Daughters of the Goddess, San Francisco CA

Jan. 23, 2 p.m.
New Moon Healing, Glastonbury Goddess Temple, Glastonbury ENGLAND

Jan. 29, time tba,
Imbolc Ceremonie, Nederlandse Godinnen Tempel, Hillegom NEDERLAND

Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m.
Imbolc Ceremony, Glastonbury Goddess Temple,
Glastonbury ENGLAND


Adelaide, 2nd Tuesday of month, 7:30 p.m. Goddess Devotional Service, The Goddess House.

Glastonbury: Most days except Mondays, Noon-4, Temple Open for personal Prayers; Tuesdays, 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays, 6:30 p.m. Belly Dancing; Thursdays, 7 p.m. Temple Ritual Dance Class, Priestess/Priest of Avalon Training Program, both in Glastonbury (Avalon) and by correspondence. Glastonbury Goddess Temple.


Solderhamm, weekdays, Noon-6 p.m,Godinne Templet Open; Mondays p.m. meditation, prayer, conversation.

Annapolis MD, Friday of each month closest to full moon, 7 p.m.
Women's Full Moon Circle, UUCA
Asheville NC, Sundays 10 a.m. drumming, 10:30 a.m. Service, Morning Devotionals, Mother Grove Goddess Temple.
Berkeley CA, last Sunday of month, 5 p.m. East Bay Goddess Rosary, University Lutheran Chapel.

Canton CT, Sundays, 10:30 p.m. Services, Women's Temple: In Her Name.
Carson City, NV, Mondays 6 p.m., Women's Spirituality Studies with Mama J, Sisters of the Sacred Circle.
Concord MA, 1st Monday 7-9 p.m.Women's Circles' other ongoing groups include Demeter & Persephone's Circles for mothers and daughters, Council of Mother Dears; Menopause as Spiritual Journey; Menarche for mothers and daughters; Goddess Groove Drum Circle, at Women's Well.

Geyserville CA, Sunday Services 2-4 p.m.
Temple of Isis.
Irvine CA,
Sunday Services, 1st service at 9:30 a.m., inward meditation; 2nd service at 11 a.m.; see dates for guest speakers, Goddess Temple of Orange County.

Palenville NY, Sundays 5 sessions; Sundays 7 p.m. Pagan Circles,
Maetreum of Cybele.
San Francisco CA, Sundays 10:30 a.m. Liturgy of the Divine Feminine; Wednesdays 7 p.m. Goddess Rosary Meditation
Ebenezer/HerChurch Lutheran .
Seattle WA, 2nd Sunday, doors open 10 a.m., Goddess Service 10:30 a.m.,
Gaia's Temple.

Alternate Fridays,
"Celebrating Cosmogenesis," for people in both Southern and Northern Hemispheres, with Australian author Glenys Livingstone, originates in NSW, Australia.
Podcasts:times tba,
"Talking to Goddess," interviews, music, and more from Gaia's Garden, originates in Melbourne, Australia.
Podcasts: Wednesdays 6 p.m. PT,
"Voices of the Sacred Feminine," interviews with well-known Goddessians and Pagans hosted by Karen Tate, Blog Talk Radio. Originates in California.
Podcasts: Sundays 11 a.m. PT,
"Creatrix-Media-Live" roundtable discussions include guests and phone-in audience participation, co-hosted by Jayne DeMent and Anniitra Ravenmoon. Blog Talk Radio.

We'd be happy to add your Goddess and spiritual feminist events (and those you know about that are open to th
e public) no matter where in the world they are. Please leave a comment giving: Name of event, sponsoring organization (if any), town, state (if in US), country (if outside of US) time (if known) , and required: url of website where person can get more info ( no pdf pages, no password-protected pages). Do NOT give street addresses, phone numbers or eamil addresses. People should go to the website for that info.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

More Than One Way To Honor Goddess

Below is a video of the Christ-Sophia Mass from 2009 at Ebenezer/HerChurch Lutheran in San Francisco. Note : The minister, Rev. Stacy Boorn, refers to the celebration of the incarnation of "She who is all Wisdom"; in singing "Silent Night" congregation substitutes "Christ-Sophia" for "Christ the Savior"; the congregation then calls in the "Grandmother" of each direction; a children's choir sings of "Christ-Sophia." Herchurch is perhaps best known for its weekly Goddess Rosary Meditations. They will be having another Christ-Sophia Mass on Dec. 18. More details on our monthly Events Coil in a few days. Or you can go to see on

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

REVIEW: Desert Priestess by Anne Key

Desert Priestess: a memoir by Anne Key (Goddess Ink 2011), trade paperback, 192 pages

Anne Key, priestess of the Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet from 2004 to 2007, has written a candid and intriguing book about her 3 years at this temple in the Nevada desert. The book also gives insight into the history of the temple. Founded and funded by Genevieve Vaughan, founder also of The Gift Economy , this Temple is probably one of the few today able to provide salary and housing to a full-time priestess.

In the Introduction, Key describes how she learned of the position opening while writing her dissertation for a PhD in Philosophy and Religion with an emphasis on Women’s Spirituality from the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). Although confident that she had the stated requirements for the priestess position, later in the book she describes her nervousness about the interview in Las Vegas with the then current priestess, Patricia Pearlman, who had served at the Temple for 10 years. Key’s description of why she felt nervous is just one of the places in the book where she is excruciatingly honest about her feelings of inadequacy, especially in relation to the spiritual aspects of the position; she sometimes characterizes this as feeling like "fraud." In the chapter on "Initiation and Personal Evolution, Key writes:

I had to rid my mind of the continual message that I was a fraud
This "message" was coming from within herself, from her own thoughts and her interpretation of other’s attitudes and questions. She continues:

I began wondering why I kept thinking I was a fraud. I had never thought of myself as a fraud when I was a college faculty member or administrator....But there is no universally recognized governing body that designates priestesses....I could not depend on outside help and strength with respect to this role. My convictions and assurance had to come from within
Of course she wasn’t and isn’t a fraud. Rather, her self-examination and honesty in describing her feelings show her to be authentic. This honesty and openness are unusual and valuable hallmarks of this book. Also valuable is Key’s description of the steps she took to overcome her negative feelings, including the body modification she decided should be part of her initiation.

Key also writes of moving to the desert from the moister climate of her Oregon home, and of the unusual surroundings of the temple, located about 50 miles from Las Vegas. To the north of the Temple is Creech Air Force Base and its test bombing range, where, Key writes,

The planes actually use the temple to line up their approach to the runway.
Because the desert is similar to the land in Afghanistan, it has been used to train troops before deployment there. Also to the north are the Yucca Mountains, a proposed nuclear waste dumping site. To the west is the Nevada Test site, best known for its use in above-ground testing of the atom bomb. Key notes the irony:

A Temple dedicated to peace sits in a place were one can never forget war.
To the east is a large prison complex. She notes that the location of the temple, together with its dedication to Sekhmet, a Goddess associated with both creation and destruction, emphasizes the tension between aggression and protection. The temple is also sits on land of the Newe (aka Western Shoshone), whose ancestors are buried on Snake Mountain (aka Yucca Mountain) and who consider the water in the area, including the water of Cactus Springs near the Temple, sacred. Key explains that after Vaughan purchased 20 acres of land there, she realized she would not need all of it for the Temple and ceded back a substantial portion to the Newe. The open-air Temple was built in 1993, with permission from the Newe. Today the Temple and the Newe enjoy a good relationship, with the Newe sometimes using the Temple for their activities.

In a chapter on "The Folk" who frequent the Temple, Key defines "Pagan" as including "anyone who is not Jewish, Christian, or Muslim." While this may be consistent with the use of the term "pagan" or "heathen" or similar terms in the Bible or even in some forms of Abrahamic religions today, I wonder if Buddhists, Taoists, Sikhs, followers of Confucius, for instance, consider themselves Pagan. Do the Newe and other indigenous peoples consider themselves Pagan? And what about agnostics and atheists? While you are thinking about that, let me return to my main point: Key’s fascinating description of the various Temple visitors. In addition to Goddess folk, they include include peace activists involved with the Temple because it is close to places they protest. Some of these peace activists are critical of Sekhmet because of she is associated with war. Other visitors include "a variety of atheistic and theistic grassroots groups" advocating for social justice, such as the Nevada Desert Experience and the Catholic Workers; feminists who are not necessarily Goddess feminists; Pagans who don’t like combining the political and spiritual; Kemetic Reconstructionists drawn to the temple’s dedication to Sekhmet, some Wiccans who are not shy about trying to foist their opinion that having a Temple dedicated to a Goddess (as well as having altars to other goddesses) without any accompanying gods is "absurd," or even "sacrilegious"; the individuals and groups, fortunately rare, whose intent is to disrupt rituals; the merely curious, and some who are in a class by themselves.

Key also describes the role her husband played in her years at the Temple, the relationship she and the Temple have with the land on which it is built, and the flora and fauna that exist there. . Woven into this book are passages describing Key’s trance journeys and a variety of rituals held at the Temple, and the myths and mysteries of Sekhmet, including their relevance to her, the Temple location, and its visitors.

Desert Priestess is a very valuable book about priestessing at a contemporary Goddess Temple, both from the standpoint of its openness in revealing a personal story and in its place as part of our shared herstory.

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