Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Guest Blog: The Importance of Goddess Temples

by Anne Key, Ph.D., guest blogger
Priestess to the Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet

I had a dream a number of years ago. I was going to buy a house in downtown Hood River, Oregon, where I lived and worked, and convert the first floor into a temple while I lived upstairs. The temple would be open during the day and some evenings. The central focus of the temple would be a statue of a Goddess, and I would refresh her flowers and light incense for Her daily. I imagined people coming in and spending some time in silent meditation, giving their minds the space to rest and their hearts a place to open.

This odd little dream swam around, nudging itself into the folds of my brain and taking up residence in the chambers of my heart. Then I received an email advertising an open position as the priestess at the Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet in Nevada. I am now completing my second year here, and my conviction of the benefit of Goddess Temples is now grounded in factual observations, though still held aloft by my dreams.

The Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet is designed to be open to the elements. Four doors open to the four directions, and the domed roof opens to the sky. The Temple welcomes visitors from sunrise to sunset every day. And every day people arrive. When I go in the evening to light candles and incense, I find roses, pictures, stones, jewelry, notes, candles – an infinitely individual array of items – left at the feet of the Goddesses.

Space. Consecrated, sacred space is vital. First we need space to do our own work. Space for us to know ourselves and meet the Divine. People come to the Goddess Temple to re-center themselves, to be in silence, to hear their hearts, to feel their place in the cosmos, to find guidance, to pray for the sick, to ask for help.

One afternoon I went up to the Temple and found two women there. They had built a small fire in the fire pit. One was crying and burning letters, the other was sitting with her in support, arm around her shoulders. They had never been to the Temple before, they were not Wiccans or Goddess devotees – they were two women who knew that this was a place they could come and be in peace as they did what they knew, somehow naturally, they needed to do.

Images are the second important component for the Goddess Temple.

I lecture at various venues on Goddess Spirituality, and I continue to be amazed at the answer to my question: “Does your God have a gender?” Of course, the wording of the question would seem to make it rhetorical, but people almost always answer “No, my God does not have a gender.” Then, when I ask them to describe God, the beard is a dead giveaway. When I ask them if God is a woman, they are shocked and absolutely, defiantly sure that their genderless God is not a woman.

What has occurred to me during these lectures is the fact that most women in 21st century American culture never see themselves as divine. Images of the Feminine Divine are important. They are important because they begin the process of consecrating our bodies as Divine. Our bodies – just as they are, pre-surgical and natural – are divine. These images remove our bodies from the sole category of object-of-the-male-gaze to corporealized divinity.

Images of the Feminine Divine are important because they embody the divine qualities of the feminine. The roles of mother, healer, guide, protector, lover, provider, nurturer combine with the qualities of compassion, justice, truth, fertility, strength, love in the images of the Feminine Divine to present woman in 3+ dimensions. The most predominant images of women in the modern media are as accoutrements to products, such as cars or purses. Images of the Feminine Divine show women as their highest beings. It is of course no small wonder why graven images are so tightly controlled by the dominant religious traditions.

When I sit in front of the statue of Sekhmet in the Temple, I see the solar disc on her head, aligning her with the sun, the source of nurturance for our earth. The uraeus coils above her head in front of the sun, the cobra full of the earth and the cosmos combined. She has the head of a lioness, which stirs this cord inside of me that remembers when humans and animals were sisters, when we were one. Her body is of a full woman, breasts with rosette nipples. Marsha Gomez, the sculptor for the statue of Sekhmet in the Temple, formed one of Her breasts larger than the other, emphasizing Her humanity. Sekhmet grasps the ankh in Her left hand, and Her feet are firmly planted on the earth. She is divine; She is human; She is animal; She is woman; She is power; She is love.

Yes, I am most definitely a confirmed idolater.

Here on the precipice of winter, as the wheel slows at Samhain to stop for a moment at Winter Solstice, I see and feel Her presence. I breathe Her that is dark and light, that is moon and sun, that is death and life, that is all. Yes, more spaces and more idols of the Feminine Divine. That is where so many, myself included, have found what is attained at the end of desire.

Deepest Blessings of the Dark to you as we enter the Winter – Anne Key, Samhain 2006

For information about the Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet, please visit: http://www.sekhmettemple.com/

Dr. Anne Key is the third priestess to the Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet. She received her Ph.D. in Women’s Spirituality from California Institute of Integral Studies. Along with her duties as priestess, Anne teaches Composition and Women’s Studies at the Community College of Southern Nevada (CCSN) and University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).


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