Saturday, December 25, 2010

Buzz Coil: December '10

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

Veleda, the prophetic female voice: In this new blog’s first post on Dec. 17, titled with the name of the blog, Max Dashu gives a thorough and fascinating historical and linguistic account of Veleda. Involved are European prophecies, priestesses, and witches and more. Welcome Veleda! We look forward to reading future posts.

Glaux’s Nest: Blogger Glaux writes of the indirect associations between Winter Solstice and Athena in her Dec. 21 post, "Athena and Winter Solstice." She also presents us with 2 carols whose words she adapted to be consistent with Pagan views: "O Solstice Night," posted Dec. 2, and "A Joyful Winter" (God Rest Ye Merry...), posted Dec. 23.

American Witch: On Dec. 24 Annie Finch offers "A Poets's Carols: Songs for Yule," some of which are "neopagan adaptations." In her Dec. 21 post, "Eclipse, Solstice, Yule, Blogaversary, Carols..." she tells how she and her daughter—in rooms at opposite ends of their house—both awoke around 2:40 a.m. Solstice night with a happy feeling. She describes watching the total lunar eclipse and quotes an astrologer friend’s instructions to stand up in order to feel—and be part of—the alignment. She then compares this year’s solstice experience with last year’s, when she started her blog. Happy Blogaversary, Annie!

Hecate: In her Dec. 20 post. "Now That’s Not Something You See Every Day," blogger Hecate compares the rare coinciding of the lunar eclipse with Winter Solstice to her concurrence with a certain blogger’s comments on Christianity. Her Dec. 22 post, "Welcome Returning Light" begins with a very slightly changed quote from Gerard Manly Hopkins' poem, "God’s Grandeur," and then attempts to express the inexpressible.

The Village Witch: In the Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times, Byron Ballard describes a full moon gathering and Winter Soltice fire vigil with lunar eclipse in the hills of North Carolina—complete with odd sounds from the woods—in her Dec. 21 post, "The Night was long and cold."

Read This and Weep: In her Dec. 21 post, "Winter Solstice~From a Goddess-Centric Perspective" Carol Lovekin writes that she is "underwhelmed at the prospect of an eclipse. It has no bearing on my life..."

Broomstick Chronicles: In her Dec. 19 post, "Midwinter Reflections: Light in the Dark," M. Macha NightMare (aka Aline O’Brien) tells what transpired when the director of her local interfaith group asked her to share a Pagan "teaching" about this time of year. She also posted this to COG Interfaith Reports on Dec. 21.

Pagan Godspell: In richly poetic prose, Ruby Sara’s Dec. 21 post, "The Light Returning-Midwinter Blessings" reports on winter solstice in the midwestern United States.

Witch, please! In her Dec. 22 post, "So It Ends. So It Begins," blogger Kate writes that she sometimes gets grumpy about nature because
...nature is not all happiness and yay and light and love and blessings and abundance and flowers farting hearts. Nature has some really wicked, evil, nasty, downright sadistic traits. Those traits are as essential to the balance of life as the bright sun and the green grass. But in (some) modern Pagan traditions, there's this little blip of "Oh shit, son- it's gettin' dark" and then we're chanting for more light and more yay and more good and more happy. We barely blink at winter before we're bitching about the cold and getting ready to summon longer days and warmer temperatures....
She goes on to tell how experiencing childbirth labor has helped her to understand "what ‘giving birth’ really means."

Queen of Heaven: In her Dec. 16 post, "Star of the Sea," blogger Carisa writes about many goddesses, beginning with Aphrodite who
was born out of the penis of the sky when it fell into the sea. The penis in question belonged to Ouranos...
She relates Aphrodite to ANE goddesses including Astarte, Asherah, and Tiamat and continues with "the Christian Mother of God," the Hindu Lakshmi, and Eqyptian Nut and Hathor, most of whom, she points out, are both sea goddesses and star goddesses.

The Wild Hunt: In a Dec. 15 post, "Hindu Temple Desecrated in a Time of Growth," Jason Pitzl-Waters also reports on the planned opening this spring of a (not specifically Hindu) Goddess Temple in Ashland, Oregon.

Paleothea has moved. Its new url is, blogger Ailia announced in a Dec. 5 post.

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


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Slightly Re-written Carols

For those of you who may find yourselves at celebrations where Christmas carols are being sung and would like to slip in some words which you think are more appropriate to your present beliefs, here are some re-written carols from my book She Lives! The Return of Our Great Mother by Judith Laura. I wrote the adaptations in 1988. If your beliefs/tradition so inclines you, feel free to substitute "child" or "sun" for "son" and substitute "her" for "him" or delete "him" and extend the previous word.

Silent Night
Silent night, holy night, all is dark, yet it's bright
'Round Our Great Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in Our Mother's peace
Sleep in Our Mother's peace.

Joy to the World
Joy to the world
Her son is born
Let Earth welcome her child
Let every heart
Prepare him room
And all of nature sing
And all of nature sing
And all, and all of nature sing.

O Come All Ye Faithful
O come all ye faithful, joyful and enduring
Come ye, O come ye to this holy place.
Come and behold him,
born of Our Great Mother
O come let us admire him (repeat twice)
Our Mother's Son.

~From "Winter Solstice Ritual" in She Lives! The Return of Our Great Mother, copyright 1989, 1999, 2010. Used with permission.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Events Coil: Dec. 15 - Feb. 3

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, Deadline for proposals for ASWM East Coast Symposium, Association for the Study of Women & Mythology, Philadelphia PA

Dec. 16, 7 p.m.
Women's Ritual Group, WATER, Silver Spring MD

Dec. 17. doors open 7:30 p.m., ritual 8 p.m. Yule/Winter Solstice, North East Pagan Fellowship, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne ENGLAND

Dec. 17, 7 p.m.
Winter Solstice Pageant, Circle Sanctuary and First Unitarian Society, Madison WI

Dec. 17, doors open 7 p.m., presentation, 7:30 p.m. Annual Yule Celebration led by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart & Lilith De'Anu, Sonoma County Pagan Network, Santa Rosa CA

Dec. 18, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Community Yule Festival, Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve, near Mt. Horeb WI

Dec. 18, gather 4 p.m., observance 6 p.m., Mothernight, UU Pagans & Sunna, Charleston WV

Dec. 18, doors open 2:30 p.m., ritual 3 p.m., Winter Solstice Gathering for Women, The Sacred Circle of Mothers, Maidens, Crones, Carson City NV

Dec. 18, 7 p.m., Winter Solstice Sun Celebration, Moon Path CUUPS, Ft. Lauderdale FL

Dec. 18, doors open 6:30 p.m., ritual 7 p.m.
Winter Solstice, Circle of Aradia, Topanga CA

Dec. 18, doors open 6:30 p.m., ritual 7 p.m. doors close 7:15 p.m., Holy Day Ritual for Women: Peace for Animals, Goddess Temple of Orange County, Irvine CA

Dec. 18, doors open 6:30 p.m., ritual 7 p.m.
Winter Solstice/Yule for Women with Carolyn Hunt, Oakland CA

Dec. 19, 6 p.m.
Summer Solstice Ritual, PaGaian Moon Court. Blue Mountains, NSW, AUSTRALIA

Dec. 19, doors open 13.00 uur, ceremony begins 14.00 uur,
Winter Solstice Ceremony, Nederlandse Godinnen Tempel, Hillegom NEDERLAND

Dec. 19, gather 6:20 a.m., ritual 7 a.m.,
Sing Up the Sun, Earth Spirit & Eastern Mass/RI Pagans, Revere Beach, Revere MA

Dec. 19, gather 11:30 a.m., ritual Noon,
Winter Solstice, Connect DC, Washington DC

Dec. 19, 1 p.m.
Yule/Winter Solstice, Goddess Temple Inc., Lakewood OH

Dec. 19, 10:30 a.m.
Christ-Sophia-Mass, Herchurch, San Francisco, CA

Dec. 19, 11 a.m.
Goddess Service honoring Mother Mary, Goddess Temple of Orange County, Irvine CA

Dec. 19,3-5 p.m.,
Yule Family Circle; 7 p.m. Yule ritual, Wiccan Church of Canada, Toronto Temple, Toronto CANADA

Dec. 19, 6 p.m.
Yule Goddess Circle for Women, The Sacred Circle of Mothers, Maidens, Crones, San Jose CA

Dec. 19, gather 6:30 p.m., ritual 7 p.m.
Yule, North Bay Reclaiming, Sebastopol CA

Dec. 20, 10:30 a.m.,
Winter Solstice and Nativity of Light Celebration, Church of Gnosis, Mountain View CA

Dec. 20, 7 p.m.
Winter Solstice Celebration, Women's Well, Concord MA

Dec. 20, gather 3:30 p.m., ritual 4 p.m.
Yule with bonfire, San Francisco Reclaiming, SF CA

Dec. 21, gather 6:40 a.m.,
Yule "Sing Up the Sun," East Bay Reclaiming, San Francisco CA

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

Dec. 21, 7 p.m.
Full Moon Circle with Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve, near Barneveld WI

Dec. 21, time tba,
Yule and Full Moon celebrations honoring Hestra and Lucia (RSVP), Maetreum of Cybele, Palenville NY

Dec. 21, time tba,
Celebrate Winter Solstice & Mayan Moon Goddess Ixchel (total lunar eclipse), Daughters of the Goddess, San Francisco CA

Dec. 21, 7 p.m.
Full Moon Drumming, Goddess Temple of Orange County, Irvine CA

Dec. 26, 11 a.m.
Goddess Service honoring Tashmit, Goddess Temple of Orange County, Irvine CA

Jan. 2, 11 a.m.
Goddess Service honoring Oya, Goddess Temple of Orange County, Irvine CA

Jan. 3, doors open, 13.00 uur, ceremony begins 14.00 uur,
DonKere Maanviering (Dark Moon) ceremony, Nederlandse Godinnen Tempel, Hillegom NEDERLAND

Jan. 4, 2 p.m.
New Moon Healing, Glastonbury Goddess Temple, Glastonbury ENGLAND

Jan. 4. time tba,
Celebrate Themis, Daughters of the Goddess, San Francisco CA

Jan. 4, 7:30 p.m.,
Circle of Craft, Goddess Temple of Orange County, Irvine CA

Jan. 8, 11 a.m.,
Prophesies & New Year's Goddess Social with Z Budapest, Goddess Temple of Orange County, Irvine CA

Jan. 15, time tba,
Naiads Graduation Ceremony, Goddess Temple of Orange County, Irvine CA

Jan. 16, 11 a.m.,
Goddess Service, Goddess Temple of Orange County, Irvine CA

Jan. 19, time tba,
Special Full Moon Circle, Red Tent Women's Circles, Canberra AUSTRALIA

Jan. 19, 7 p.m.,
Full Moon Ceremony of the Presence of the Lady of Avalon, Glastonbury Goddess Temple, Glastonbury ENGLAND

Jan. 22, Noon,
Temple Decoration for Brigit, Goddess Temple of Orange County, Irvine CA

Conference on Current Pagan Studies 2011, Selena Fox and Patrick McCollum keynoting, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont CA

Jan. 28, 4 p.m.
Temple Dressing for Imbolc, Glastonbury Goddess Temple, Glastonbury ENGLAND

Jan. 29, gather 6:30 p.m., ritual 7 p.m. , doors lock 7:15 p.m.,
Temple Holy Day: Brigit, Goddess Temple of Orange County, Irvine CA

Jan. 29, gather 7 p.m., ritual 7:30 p.m.,
Brigid, Reclaiming, San Francisco CA

Jan. 30, doors open 13.00 uur, ceremony begins 14.00 uur,
Imbolc Ceremonie, Nederlandse Godinnen Tempel, Hillegom NEDERLAND

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

Feb. 1,
Deadline for proposals for ASWM Midwest Symposium, Association for the Study of Women & Mythology, Madison WI

Feb. 2, 7 p.m.,
Circle of Selene, Red Tent Women's Circles, Canberra AUSTRALIA

Feb. 3, 7 p.m.
Circle of Diana, Red Tent Women's Circles, Canberra AUSTRALIA

Feb. 3, doors open 13.00 uur, ceremony begins 14.00 uur,
DonKere Maanviering (Dark Moon) ceremony, Nederlandse Godinnen Tempel, Hillegom NEDERLAND

Feb. 3, time tba,
Temple Dedication Ceremony, Bridgette, Chinese New Year, Daughters of the Goddess, San Francisco CA



(White Gum Valley): Mondays, 17:30,
Chalice Ceremony, Daughters of Ishtar.

most days 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Goddess Temple open for personal prayers.

Hamilton: Saturdays, 4 p.m.
Open Classes ; gather 7 p.m. Open Circles , Hamilton Temple, Wiccan Church of Canada.

Great Britain

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

Soderhamn, Gudinne Temple Open weekdays Noon
-6 p.m. Mondays, 7-9 p.m., meditation prayer, conversation.

Arlington VA: 3rd Sunday of month, time tba, ritual Moonfire.
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 a.m. Services, Women's Temple: In Her Name

Carson City NV: Mondays 6 p.m. Women's Spirituality Studies with Mama J, The Sacred Circle of Mothers, Maidens, Crones.
Charleston SC:
1st Tuesday of month, Women's Circle with Carolyn Rivers, The Sophia Institute
Geyersville CA:
Sunday Services 2-4 p.m.
Temple of Isis
Grants Pass OR: Sunday Services; doors open 10:45 a.m., service starts 11 a.m., doors lock 11:10 a.m. Southern Oregon Temple of the Goddess
Houston TX:
Sundays, 10 a.m.
Magdalene Community, Rothko Chapel; 1st &3rd Fridays at Noon, Group studying Gospel of Mary, Brigid's Place, Christ Church Cathedral.
Irvine CA: Sunday Services, 1st Service at 10 a.m. inward, meditative; 2nd service at 11 a.m., dancing, drumming, singing; see dates for guest speakers,
Goddess Temple of Orange County
Palenville NY: Saturdays, 5 p.m. training sessions; Sundays 4-6 p.m, open classes, 7 p.m. Pagan Circles, Maetreum of Cybele.
San Francisco CA
: Wednesdays,
Christian Goddess Rosary, Ebenezer Lutheran Church; Fridays evenings at various locations, Woman's Spirituality group.
St. Sandy UT: second Saturday of each month, 4:30 p.m., Isis Devotionals, Iseum of Muth/Lyceum of Auset and Heru em Aakhuti
Washington DC: 2nd Sunday of month; gather Noon, ritual 12:15 p.m., National Arboretum, Becoming DC.
West Concord MA:
1st Monday, 7-9 p.m.
Women's Circles; other ongoing groups include Demeter & Persephone's Circle for mothers and daughters; Council of Mother Bears; Menopause As Spiritual Journey; Menarche, for mothers and Daughter, at Women's Well.

World Wide Web
Online, "Celebrating Cosmogenesis" a course for people in both Southern and Northern Hemispheres, with Australian author Glenys Livingstone

Online, Wednesdays, 6 p.m. PT "Voices of the Sacred Feminine" interviews with well-known Goddessians and Pagans, hosted by Karen Tate, Blog Talk Radio.
Online, 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'll be happy to add your Goddess and spiritual feminist events (and those you know about that are open to the public) no matter where in the world they are. Leave a comment giving: Name of event, sponsoring organization (if any), town, date, 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 email addresses. People should go to the website to get that info.) We plan to publish an Events Coil every month.

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

REVIEW: Book on Dianic Wicca by Kristy Coleman

Re-riting Woman: Dianic Wicca and the Feminine Divine by Kristy S. Coleman, Alta Mira Press/Rowman & Littlefield, 2010, trade paperback, 254 pages

What a fascinating book! As the author, Kristy S. Coleman explains in her Introduction, it is the "first in-depth ethnographic study of Dianic Wicca." It focuses on the form practiced by the Circle of Aradia (COA) in Los Angeles, mostly in the years that Ruth Barrett was high priestess (1988-2000). Coleman was initiated into COA during her 4-year study (1998-2002) of the group, which she undertook for her doctoral dissertation. At the time the dissertation was written, Coleman had been "investigating" what she calls "the feminine Divine" for 10 years. In defining her approach as "ethnographic," Coleman is considering Dianic Witchcraft as separate culture.

Though part of a scholarly series and thus having a scholarly approach, the book is written so that it can be understood by non-academics as well, with Coleman taking special care to define terms that might be obscure to non-academics and to explain Dianic and more general Pagan practices and views for those who unfamiliar with them. She even explains why she is capitalizing or not capitalizing certain words. For example, in the endnotes ("Notes") to the Introduction she explains that she capitalizes Goddess when referring to the "contemporary worship of the Divine in female form," while using the noncapitalized goddess or goddesses when referring to female deities throughout history worshiped in many cultures. She follows the standard for the publisher’s Pagan Studies Series, of which this book is a part, which capitalizes Witch, Witchcraft and Pagan when referring to today’s followers of these religious paths, but does not capitalize them when they refer to terms used, especially pre-20th century, for the purpose of persecution or denoting a negative connotation. The book also contains a glossary.

The undergirding thesis of Re-riting Woman is Coleman’s comparison of Dianic Witchcraft to the theories of French feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray . Coleman finds that Irigaray presents theoretical concepts that support the Dianic approach: Irigaray theorizes that women should meet separately from men and create woman-identified space; Dianics do this. Irigaray suggests women image the divine in their own form; Dianics do this. In her Introduction Coleman mentions several other instances where what Irigaray proposes in theory Dianics do in fact. Coleman proposes that "Dianics create an alternative symbolic structure in their rituals" that causes a shift in the perception of reality, "and in particular re(w)rites the valuation and meaning of woman." (italics Coleman’s) She comments that she had wanted to use the term "re(w)riting" in the book title, but it was decided to use "re-riting" instead because some Internet search engines didn’t recognize parentheses.

Before going further, I need to tell you that I am not a Dianic Witch, nor do I identify as any kind of Witch or Wiccan. I have, however, attended Witch/Wiccan rituals of several types (but not in California) including Dianic, which I liked more than some of the others.

In the first chapter of Re-riting Woman, Coleman tells of her first experience attending a Dianic ritual and of the herstory and basic teachings of Dianic Witchcraft. In particular she gives portraits, in both words and wonderful big b&w pictures of Z Budapest and Ruth Barrett. She describes the beginning of the all-women form of Dianic Witchcraft in the United States as it was founded by Z Budapest, who, when she left Los Angeles in 1980, ordained Ruth Barrett high priestess charged with continuing the tradition in the LA area. She goes on to describe the formation, structure and teachings of the Circle of Aradia, incorporated as a 501(c)not-for-profit religious organization in 1993.

The second chapter is devoted to explaining "The Dianic Religion" including "what a Witch is and is not," ethics, hexing, and understanding of the Goddess. Coleman writes that Ruth Barrett rejects the idea of Goddess as archetype and quotes Barrett as saying that for Dianics, "the Goddess encompasses all: She contains the male." The chapter also has an introductory discussion of ritual and magic (but not how to do it). In this chapter and throughout the book, Z Budapest and Ruth Barrett are the only Dianic Witches whose "real" names are given. Others are identified by first name pseudonyms only. In various parts of the book, but perhaps most pointedly in Chapters 2 and 3, Coleman takes issue with Cynthia Eller, who has written controversial books that attempt to analyze Goddess spirituality groups. In chapter 3, under the subhead, "Religion," Coleman writes:

In Living in the Lap of the Goddess, Cynthia Eller offers an example of the dismissive view. She draws on "deprivation theory" to explain (away) the empowering effects of ritual within Goddess spirituality.... Kimberly Patton criticizes this scholarly phenomenon of "methodological condescension".... [Eller] views feminist spiritualists as angry because they have not received the social and political advances they have thought would result from the feminist movement. Thus...they resort to magic and ritual.
Coleman gives examples of women in COA whose demeanor and reasons for being Dianic do not support Eller’s views and concludes:

The tradition and the feminist milieu that the [COA] tradition creates appear a far more convincing explanation for the attraction of this tradition or feminist spirituality at large, than Eller’s proposal that women are seeking the power the feminist movement failed to provide.
The fourth chapter discusses COA seasonal rituals, of which there are 8. Coleman agreed to give details of only the 7 public rituals. The 8th, Brigid, is held for members of COA only and is their initiatory ritual. These are the solar rituals celebrated widely in the Pagan community, but the Dianic symbolism and some of the practices associated with them differ from groups that include male deity(ies)—and even from some other groups in which female deity is primary. Coleman goes into a good deal of detail in her descriptions, and many readers will find this one of the more compelling chapters of the book.

The fifth chapter is an in-depth look at the Irigaray’s views and how they relate to Dianic Witchcraft. Coleman points out that the philosopher and Dianics have in common the goals of: "(1) exposing the system of oppression (2) acknowledging its effects, and (3) creating a new imaginary...."(Imaginary in this use refers to images and fantasy-like stories—we might say mything or re-mything). She finds, however, that Dianic practices effect change better than Irigaray’s writing because
an alternative symbolic is not merely imagined, nor do they [Dianics] so much ponder or theorize what it would or would not be, but on a number of levels they perform it.
In making Irigaray an integral part of this book, Coleman has adopted her use of the noun "the feminine" translated from the French,"le féminin". (Yes, I am now going to get all grammary on you.) In English, Coleman not only uses the term as a noun but also as an adjective modifying, for example, "Divine" (as in "feminine Divine"). She says that we are not to understand this English word "feminine" as meaning "femininity." OK, I can accept that the noun "the feminine," the noun "femininity," and the adjective "feminine" don’t have identical meaning. But I still am uncomfortable with the word "feminine" modifying divine for reasons previously posted here . Coleman says that many COA members are not fond of it either. I think that at least part of the problem is that the term, translated from French, shares the difficulties of translating from any language to another. In addition, Coleman is using Irigaray’s "le féminin" with Irigaray’s re-defining to mean that whatever the real (unsocialized, unrepressed) traits of women may be, women and women’s traits are devalued in Western (and I would add many Eastern) cultures, and that there is something missing, lost, unremembered in le féminin. Although Coleman doesn’t mention it, there may be a "hint" of this meaning in French grammar since the gender of this noun in French is masculine! Could this be interpreted as the language itself telling us that "le féminin" is seen through a masculine (male?) lens? No such "hint" is present in English, which doesn't gender nouns. Also, even before Irigaray's re-definition, le féminin does not translate exactly into the English "the feminine." For example, while the English,"the feminine" connotes socially contrived gender traits, the French "le féminin" includes most of what "female" means in English, that is biological traits. To go a little further, les femmes (n. pl) in French means both women and female; la femme (n. sing.) means woman; les hommes translates to both men and male, l’homme means man. (btw book editors: the French word for man, homme, is misspelled as "home" on p. 136 in a discussion of Irigary’s wordplay on hom[m]osexual.) My point is that one needs to be careful when taking a term from one language and translating it into another. Complicating matters further, Coleman appears to be taking a noun which Irigaray has given an alternative meaning, and then attaching it as an adjective to, for example, "divine" and assuming it can be understood by English-speakers as something other than it’s usual meaning . I question whether this is appropriate especially when speaking of Dianic understanding of the divine since Dianics, as Coleman explains in this book, integrate women’s physiology and biology into their understanding of Goddess and other parts of their religion. It's important to note, however, that that "feminine Divine" is not the only term Coleman uses to describe Goddess. Examples of some of the other terms she uses are quoted in this review.

In the fifth chapter, Coleman discusses the relevance to Irigaray of Hegel’s and Heidigger’s philosophies, Freudian theory, and the views of Jacques Lucan, Mary Daly, Margaret Miles, Grace Jantzen, Drucilla Cornell, and others. She concludes that both Irigaray and the Dianics:

First, recognize that the dominant patriarchal system of representation is perilously limited and inaccurate. Second, realize that this system is founded upon the erasure—repression and devaluation—of the maternal/feminine....Third, return to the maternal origin, clearly inexpressible or unknowable at this stage....Dianics took consciousness-raising and feminist politics of the 1970s into the realm of the spiritual. Irigaray...lugged an intellectual history...into the realm of mystery.
In the sixth chapter, Coleman uses a number of "theoretical tools" to take a further look at the significance of Dianic rituals. She finds the rituals highly effective, and explains why rituals "can be a powerful choice...for the achievement of the Dianics' goal: to eradicate patriarchy ‘within and without’." In analyzing rituals through semiotics (study of the arbitrary relationship between words and their meanings), Coleman writes:

[Dianic] practice is not just an affront to patriarchy, but arguably destabilizes Western metaphysics....This potential is, in my view, the impetus behind the vicious attacks on both scholarship and practices that seriously consider a historical or contemporary conceptualization of the Divine as female.
In chapter 7, Coleman takes a look at the "problems and potentials" within COA. The most troubling to her is the disconnect between the COA’s rejection of hierarchy in theory and the presence of hierarchy within COA—at least at the time of her study. There have been changes since then. After Ruth Barrett ordained the next high priestess before she leaving for Wisconsin where, with her life partner she established the Temple of Diana, and after the appointed COA high priestess resigned, COA decided by consensus to not ordain or appoint another high priestess but rather embark on a shared leadership model. Circle of Aradia is now an affiliate of the Temple of Diana, also incorporated as a 501(c)3.

The discussion of COA’s coping with hierarchical tendencies may be instructive to other groups struggling between a desire for equality within its membership and the need for leadership, between the desire to give everyone equal opportunity to participate in significant roles and the feeling that excellence should be rewarded and spotlighted. Other issues explored in chapters 7 and 8 include power, control, and perceived favoritism. The material in chapter 8 includes additional interviews with COA participants on these subjects. Such issues will be familiar to many of you who have established or are attempting to establish a consensus, or partnership , or sharing model—whether it be in a religious/spiritual organization, at work, at play, or at home—and establishing it in a society in which most of us were raised in the hierarchical competitive model and which still supports that model. As Coleman observes:

CoA is not unique in failing to uphold this egalitarian ideal. However the very presence of a critical awareness of the tendency for power to be used hierarchically seems to be progressive.
In her "Conclusion," Coleman takes a look back at her dissertation research several years after its completion. Among her observations is that

a thealogical move to Goddess does not of itself dispel an active...system of power-over....
Re-riting Woman is a wonderfully useful text for college-level courses, especially in women’s studies, philosophy, religion, and probably some other areas I haven’t thought of. It is also likely to be valuable to groups and individuals outside the academy who, like me, find the subject matter and the approach taken by Coleman absorbing, intriguing, and yes, fascinating.

A hardcover edition of Re-riting Woman was published about a year ago at a much higher price, as is common with academic texts. I want to commend the author, series editors, and publisher for making it available in this more affordable trade paperback edition, which emerged last month. It is part of Alta Mira’s Pagan Studies Series, whose editors are Wendy Griffin and Chas S. Clifton. Kristy S. Coleman received her Ph.D in Religion and Culture from Claremont Graduate University and is now an adjunct professor at San Jose State University.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Discount Code for Ebook, Goddess Spirituality at the Crossroads

As a small holiday gift to my dear readers, here is a "coupon" code that will give you 1/3 off the already low $4.95 price of my ebook, Goddess Spirituality at the Crossroads, a compilation of my columns for The Beltane Papers in the last five years of its existence as a widely circulated journal. The code is XL49V and it is good now through Dec. 31. The ebook is available in just about all ebook formats at, where you can preview it. (It is also sold at many sites that sell ebooks, but you only get the discount by buying directly from Smashwords.) Key in the code when you check out.

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