Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Buzz Coil: August 2012

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

 My Village Witch: Byron Ballard wrote several posts this month leading up to and after the first ordination of priestesses as "Reverends"at the Mother Grove Goddess Temple in Asheville NC. Among them: on  Aug. 13  "Samhain? Is It Time To Talk About Ancestors Yet?, summarizes ordination preparations; on Aug. 19 "The Day After…and I’d like a nice nap," briefly recaps the ordination ceremony; on Aug. 20  "Ever-loving Sunday" describes the first all-clergy devotional after the ordination. Congratulations and blessings to all at Mother Grove!

A Crone Speaks Out: In her Aug. 11 post, Cathryn Platine announces that a "New York Court Rules Against Freedom of Religion" in a case that the Maetreum of Cybele has been fighting for some time in Palenville NY. Platine begins:
 "The Christian right is fond of spewing 'America is a Christian country' disregarding all facts of history and tonnes of statements from the founding fathers to the contrary. Apparently at least one Judge in Albany did not get the memo that freedom of religion means ALL religions."
She then goes on to give the history of the Maetreum and of the legal case.

The Wild Hunt: Jason Pitzl-Waters gives his analysis of the Maetrum of Cybele case, among the items in his Aug. 26 post "Updates: South Dakota Sacred Land Auction, Maetreum of Cybele Case, and COG’s Grand Council."

Broomstick Chronicles: An Aug. 3 post, "A Co-Founder Withdraws from Reclaiming Tradition" begins:
 "I, M. Macha NightMare, Priestess & Witch, aka Aline O’Brien, withdraw from the organization known as Reclaiming Tradition Witchcraft and hereby dissociate myself from further involvement with the tradition. I make this statement formally and publicly because I am a public figure known to be connected to Reclaiming."
Macha/Aline goes expands on this in this post, and in more recent posts gives more background for her decision.

Branches Up, Roots Down: Deborah Oak's several posts, some of them the Reclaiming elder's older writings originally published elsewhere, begin on Aug. 18 with "Reclaiming Feri," about the relationship and differences between these traditions. On Aug. 19, Oak republishes  "Dissent and Reclaiming " as part of her "personal reflection" on "Macha's very public leaving of Reclaiming."  In her April 20 post, "Why I am Excluded from all the Inclusion," Deborah writes of her experience at this year's Reclaiming Dandelion gathering, including a conversation with Macha about a confidentiality waiver participants were asked to sign; Oak publishes text of the waiver and explains her ultimate lack of full participation in this year's Dandelion. 

Ma Vie en Goddessia: This is a new blog,  which despite its French title, is in English. Blogger Goddess Centric Pagan explains in her first post on August 27, "The Lonely Goddessian," that she created the blog as
 "A way to get my views out as a Pagan Minority to the world in general.  An[d]  maybe a way to let any other Goddessians wandering alone out there know that they aren't the only ones."
There follows three other Aug. 27 posts, including,  "My thoughts of Goddessia*/Making Goddessian My Own", which begins:
"Goddessian is a term to describe a person who worships/honors only the feminine face of the Divine or otherwise follows a spiritual path that is heavily Goddess centered, also known as Goddess Worshippers. This term also serves as an attempt to unify those who practice Goddess Religion as well as to give a label to those who wish for an identity in addition to or instead of Pagan, Witch, or Wiccan. For now, Goddessian is the term I choose to label my path. I am a Goddessian Neopagan, meaning my path is Neo-paganism, the flavor is Goddessian."
She goes on to provide a list of what "Goddessia"and "Goddessian" mean to her, and refers to a post published previously on Medusa Coils.

HecateDemeter: In her Aug. 13 post, "Hail and Welcome, Hecate," blogger Hecate notes the celebration of the feast day of her matron Goddess Hecate and includes a video with a Hecate chant and images (I'm not sure who's chanting, but it's gorgeous!). She also includes several other images and shares how Goddess Hecate looks when she appears to her. In her Aug. 22 post, "Water Temples en Plein Air," she discusses various spiritual aspects of elemental water, including places she has performed magical acts related to water in her landbase, Washington DC.

Annelinde's World: Annelinde Metzner's Aug. 17 post, "Homage to Ereshkigal," presents her poem and explanation of the Sumerian Goddess. With photos.

Return to Mago: Recent posts by bloggers other than Helen Hye-Sook Hwang, whose blog this is: On Aug. 25," ‘Ereshkigal Pronounces a Verdict’ by Hearth Moon Rising," tells of ghostly experiences and Hearth Moon Rising's call to the Sumerian Goddess for help; on Aug. 24, "‘Xi Wangmu, the shamanic great goddess of China,’ part 1 by Max Dashu," which gives background on one of the oldest Chinese deities, including a more accurate translation of her name in to English, her thousand-year "disappearance," and descriptions from various historical sources. Both posts are well illustrated.

The Goddess House: Blogger As't Moon's post, "Arise, Goddess of Spring," tells of looking forward to the arrival of spring in Australia, and gives background on goddesses associated with spring worldwide. 

Hearth Moon Rising: In her continuing series on goddesses associated with trees, Hearth Moon Rising's Aug. 3 post, "The Cedar Forest," discusses the mythology surrounding Ishtar. With several pics.

At Brigid's Forge: In her Aug. 3 post, "Devotions," Lunaea Weatherstone writes of the experience of daily devotions, why they are important to her, and her recent experience with one.

Goddess In A Teapot: In her Aug. 3 post, "The Cosmos as the Most Magnificent Masterpiece of All," Carolyn L. Boyd writes of walking along a northern Michigan beach and being moved by the composition of various elements she saw, as well as one unseen. She then expands this thought to the entire universe and gives links to websites that may inspire you, too.

Musings of a Quaker Witch: In her Aug. 23 post, "Balaam's ass kicked mine,"  Stasa Morgan-Appel writes that after listening to an interpretation of a biblical passage by a Jewish Friend, she was motivated to take a look at the interplay and possible conflict between her Goddess devotion and the Quaker community.

Pagan Square: This new blog is an offshot of Witches and Pagans magazine. In an August 19 post, "You Are Not the Boss of Me," Byron Ballard notes a new trend among people in various Pagan traditions.  She writes:
 "No longer content to go our separate ways and merely gossip about those goofy (fill in the blank), we seem to expend rather a lot of electronic air in actually trying to convert each other."
 One example that she gives:
 "Far too many times have I been confronted by someone who is filled with righteous indignation because I experience the Divines as exclusively female. But, but, they sputter, what about nature? What about the 'balance of male and female energy'? Pish tosh. I did not study all the world’s religions and then pick the one that was most logical. I didn’t choose my spirituality based on politics. I see the spiritual world as I see it. I experience the Divines as I experience them. That is my right, as it is yours."  

Feminism and Religion: Just some of the posts from many bloggers about many traditions and cultures:
In an Aug. 27 guest post, "Theapoetics," Molly Remer writes about "experiencing the Goddess through direct 'revelation,' framed in language." That is, when she opens her mouth, "poetry comes out."
In an Aug. 26 guest post, Mary Saracino offers "Sacred Outcry: A Poetic Trilogy," three poems about difficult subjects.
In her Aug.23 post, "Rape is Not a Political Platform – Rape is a Violent Crime!" Michele Stopera Freyhauf sums up the recent misogynist garbage from Akin et al. and gives a review of similar statements/actions from the past that show a trend (or tradition?).
In an Aug. 22 guest post, "Angrboða, Her Children, and Our Shadow Selves," Deanne Quarrie discusses several Northern European goddesses and spirit forms.
Rita M. Gross begins her Aug. 18 post, "What Do Women Bring to the Interfaith Table,"  with this: "The most important thing that women bring to the interfaith table is our sheer presence."
Near the beginning of her Aug. 13 post, "Shadows of the Goddess in Greek Orthodox Tradition: Easter and the Dormition of the Virgin," Carol P. Christ writes:  "...when I speak of the need for the “rebirth of the Goddess” in Greece, I am often told, “the Panagia is our Goddess.” This may not be theological orthodoxy, but it expresses a truth of practice." She goes on to describe the practices associated with two Greek Orthodox spring and summer holy days.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

What I Read This Summer

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman (hardcover, e-book Oct. 2011; paper, April 2012; Scribner, 528 pages.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (e-book and hardcover Oct. 2011, Farrar Straus and Giroux; paperback Sept. 2012, Picador, 416 pages. Also available as e-book in Greek.) 

This is not intended a formal review. I just thought I’d share some thoughts with you on two books I read this summer, both of them gifts. I read them on a Kindle, because when I began the first one, I had not yet had cataract surgery and my sight had deteriorated to the point where I couldn’t read the type in paper books. With Kindle (and I assume other e-readers) you can make the type big and bigger. Happily now after surgery I can also go back to reading print books (and looking at a computer screen without agony.)

Anyway, both these novels have achieved bestseller status and are widely reviewed. Both are by well-known authors who, in these books, depart from their previous work.

I have read several of Alice Hoffman’s previous novels, but none of them prepared me for the depth and high literary quality of The Dovekeepers. As I was reading it I imagined that Hoffman had for years wanted to write a book like this, maybe specifically this book, but held back until she had established herself sufficiently that she could do this book the way she wanted and get it published. But then, I have a vivid imagination.

Other novels I've ready by Hoffman are set in today's world and written in the genre known as magic (or magical) realism. This means that experiences usually considered beyond ordinary (what some might call paranormal) are integrated with ordinary experience and written about in the same way as everyday experiences. The Dovekeepers is historical fiction with magic realism. It can also be considered literary fiction. It takes place c. 70-74 C.E.  Jewish sacarri (militants) have overtaken a Roman fortress at Masada. After the  destruction of the second Temple,  Jews fled Jerusalem and some of them took refuge at Masada. In the novel a group of Essenes also take refuge there. Before long,  the Romans lay siege to the fortress.

The point-of-view characters are four women, Yael, Revka, Aziza, and Shirah, who come from various parts of the Jewish community in the Ancient Near East. Some of the women are Witches. Some have other spiritual titles. They are all dovekeepers at Masada, helped by a slave called "The Man from the North." In a variety of ways, there is plenty of magic worked by the women in this book. Like the other Jews, they worship a male deity they call "Adonai,"(a term still used in Judaism today but—at least up until long ago when I was growing up—rarely written or spoken except in prayer) but they also have their own rituals and somewhat secretly continue to worship a Goddess referred to in this book as Ashtoreth. And this brings me to my biggest quibble with this book. As far as I know, and other Goddess scholars I asked about this concur, the name "Ashtoreth" is a Goddess name only in the Bible and is probably used there as a way to avoid paying homage to the Goddesses Asherah and Astarte, or as a way of dissing them. As far as we can tell, the goddess name "Ashtoreth" is not historical. So why did Hoffman use it in this book? Possibly this comes from the sources and advisors she used, listed in the Acknowlegements at the end of the book. Her primary source is Josephus, who wrote the only account of the seige written at the time it occurred. Also, her contemporary advisors/expert consultants were, as far as I can tell, people whose views are likely to not part with the traditional/usual interpretations. Apparently, she did not consult any Goddess feminists.

A page on her website provides a glossary of terms she uses in the book. In addition to "Ashtoreth," note, for example, that her definition of "Shekhina" doesn't include its use as a term for the feminine/female divine. Actually, if she is using the term in the context of how it was used c. 72 CE, this may be correct; from what I’ve read "Shekhina" didn't become personified until later, as part of Kabbalah. Yet as I was reading The Dovekeepers, it seemed to me that Hoffman gave the term feminine/female qualities—but maybe I was reading that into it.

Since this is a historical novel, it will not be spoiling it to tell you, in case you don’t know, that the Jews at Masada committed mass suicide  as a preferable alternative to being killed or enslaved by the approaching Romans.

At the end of the book, Hoffman has included discussion questions. One of them asks how her previous books’ "mystical elements" compare with the use of magic in The Dovekeepers. As I read the book (before seeing the discussion questions) it occurred to me that the use of magical realism—or its effect—was different in this book than in her previous books, and I wondered why—or how. What I’ve come up with is that magical realism used in contemporary settings is more of a "break" from what we are used to reading in realistic novels. But The Dovekeepers is set in a time when magical perceptions and actions were not so separate from the everyday, making the integration of magical qualities easier for the reader (and possible the author as well). If you’ve read the book, I’d be interested in your comment on this.

The Marriage Plot is Jeffrey Eugenides’ third novel. It has already won or been nominated for several awards. Several years ago I read his Pulitzer Prize-winning, Middlesex. I liked The Marriage Plot at least as much as Middlesex. The first part of The Marriage Plot describes student life at Brown University and includes drily humorous references to intellects and intellectual matters of the early 1980s. Eugenides’ focus is on three students graduating from Brown c. 1982: Madeleine, Leonard, and Mitchell. Eugenides may be one of the few male authors who can convincingly write large portions from the point of view of a woman, as he does when writing from Madeleine’s pov. The book gets its title from the literary theory popular at the time that all novels written up to that point were dependent on a plot about women and marriage, which was outmoded by the changes in marriage in the late 20th century. Literary theorists therefore proposed that because the traditional "marriage plot" could no longer be used credibly, the novel itself was outmoded and would cease to exist as a literary form. Part (and only part) of what Eugenides does in this novel is to disprove this theory. Madeleine’s father teaches at a fictional university that Eugenides calls "Baxter" (but which seems to me to be based on Princeton University) and her family lives in a town called "Prettybrook," which I think may be based on the town of Princeton (which has a major scenic road called Prettybrook, as well as Prettybrook Tennis Club) possibly combined with nearby Hopewell (can you tell I grew up in this NJ area?). Madeleine's most intense scholarly interest is Victorian novels. She and Leonard, a popular and I would say egotistical, Brown student, become romantically involved. (As far as I can tell, only "Prettybrook" and "Baxter" are made-up names of places and institutions. For example, Brown is called by name and located where it’s located: Providence RI.) Madeleine is supposedly a graduate of a real-life private school people call "Lawrenceville," whose official name is The Lawrenceville School, located 5 miles from Princeton in Lawrenceville, NJ.) However, IRL this school didn’t accept girls until 1987. So perhaps this is Eugenides saying, "if only." OTOH, Pembroke (Brown’s women college) merged with the previously all-male Brown U in 1971. By graduation, Leonard has been diagnosed with manic-depressive illness. Mitchell is also romantically interested in Madeleine, but, being sensitive, is not aggressive or even assertive in showing his interest.

After Brown graduation, Madeleine and Leonard continue on together at Leonard’s post-grad research stint on Cape Cod in Provincetown. On a post-graduation trip first to Europe and then to India, Mitchell, whose Detroit family is described as being less affluent than Madeleine's or Leonard's, travels first to Europe with his friend Larry and then to India on his own, exploring his growing interest in religion, at this point traditional Christianity. While in Europe, Mitchell meets Larry’s girlfriend, Claire, an American student in Paris who quotes feminist Luce Irigary to him. Then Claire, whose family is Orthodox Jewish, gives Mitchell her opinion on religion: "The whole thing about Judaism and Christianity...and just about every monotheistic religion, is that they’re all patriarchal. Men made these religions up. So guess who God is? A man." Mitchell counters that in "any decent theology...God is beyond any human concept or category." Claire challenges:"Then why is he a man with a long white beard on the Sistine Chapel?" To which Mitchell replies, "Because that’s what the masses like...." and then goes on to refer to God with masculine pronouns. Their discussion continues, with Mitchell getting increasingly irritated by Claire’s explanations, which include: "Before the patriarchal religions were created, people worshipped the Goddess....The religion of the Goddess was organic and environmental—it was about the cycle of nature—as opposed to Judaism and Christianity, which are just about imposing the law and raping the land." Mitchell notices Larry, who comes from a Jewish background more secular than Claire’s, nodding in agreement, but Mitchell isn’t convinced. In India, he volunteers at Mother Teresa’s Kalighat hospice, an abandoned temple originally dedicated to the Goddess Kali, located next to Kalighat Kali Temple, which continues to house Kali worship.

That’s all of the plot you’re getting from me, except to say that no, Mitchell doesn’t end up becoming a Goddess follower, though his spiritual beliefs and practices do change in other ways.

I will comment on this novel’s structure, though. We feminists who write fiction sometimes talk about attempting to write a plot in "spiral" form rather than straightforward chronological order. This usually includes flashback, but is more involved than conventional flashback formulas. (I myself had a go at this in my novel, Beyond All Desiring and to a lesser extent in my novel, Three Part Invention.) Eugenides does this beautifully in The Marriage Plot, flashing back and forward, almost seamlessly. To some readers not used to literary fiction, because he sometimes doesn’t give the clear transitions when switching time-frames, it may be a bit confusing. But I think it well worth the small effort to understand a relatively new way of perceiving.

Eugenides is originally from Detroit, developed an interest in religion when young, received his undergrad degree from Brown, and now is a professor of Creative Writing at Princeton University, you know, near Prettybrook.  Did I mention that, at least in the Kindle version, although referring to "Prettybrook" as Madeleine’s family’s home in the rest of the novel,   on Location 5087 (page 264), Eugenides writes that "Madeleine drove down to Princeton to see her parents and get some things from home." Anyone know if this possible slip survived into the print edition? Or was this an intentional tip-off?

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Goddess Pages Summer/Autumn 2012

Issue 21 of Goddess Pages, Summer/Autumn 2012 is now available. In her intro ("she changes everything she touches...") to this issue, Editor Geraldine Charles announces that she will be producing only two issues a year in the near future and explains why.

This issue's cover art is "Sea Myst Siren" by Sanddi Art.

 Articles include Rohase Piercy's fascinating "In Praise of Tanit," which begins:
"Tanit, chief deity of the Phoenician colony of Carthage, is a Goddess surrounded by speculation and controversy. For one thing, there are widely differing theories as to the meaning of her name: is it of Berber or Semitic origin? If the latter, does it arise from the root for ‘serpent’, ‘lament’, or ‘count/assign’? Is it merely co-incidental that Ta-nit means ‘Land of Neith’ in Egyptian?"
 Before exploring the myriad possibilities, Piercy gives a "general overview" of Tanit's associations, including those associated with the Bronze Age city-states of Phoenicia.

In his eye-opening "Rape, Murder and Misogyny - The Real Revelations of the Kama Sutra,"Andre Zsigmond says that careful reading of the text will show that it "will never be mistaken for a feminist manifesto". He goes on to contrast it with the more female-centered Song of Songs.

Other articles include: Tara L. Reynolds'"The Story of the Vestal Virgins," who were devoted to Vesta, a fire Goddess;   "Be Your Own Herbal Expert: Part 2" by Susun S Weed, which discusses tea and other herbal remedies and suggests some experiments to see what suits you; "Finding New Goddesses," by Barbara Ardinger, a humorous piece exploring the possibilities of "goddesses" such as "Fixorrhea, Goddess of Duct Tape"; and "The Chronicles of Baubo Biggins: I am waiting" as told to Katara Moon, which starts with a quote from the work of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and goes on to explore aspects of the current U.S. political campaign season.

Poetry includes: "Lifting the Veil" and "When the Azaleas Bloom," by Annelinde Metzner; "Madonna" by Dora Wright;  and "Two Poems," on the light side and Tarot-inspired I'm told, by Judith Laura (who, rumor has it, blogs as Medusa).

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Anonymous Comments Policy

I have just rejected a comment from "Anonymous" because it made a negative statement about an individual without offering any substantiating data and possibly (I'm not sure) be considered libelous. I will continue to accept Anonymous comments, as I feel they give people a chance to say valuable things they may not, for a variety of reasons, want to post under their real or screen names. However, I will reject any strongly negative anonymous comments about individuals that appear to be unsubstantiated and potentially libelous. Please note: "Anonymous" when applied to comments left here applies not only to comments whose commenters label themselves "Anonymous" but also commenters who do not provide a link to email or website that verifiably identifies them. Screen names by which mask, rather than identify the person, are not considered verifiable identification. Bottom line: If you want to leave a strongly negative comment about an individual, or you want to engaged in "flaming," identify yourself.
[updated Aug. 2014]


Thursday, August 09, 2012

Circle Sanctuary Urges Aid for Wisconsin Sikh Community

From the Circle Times & Circle Community News emailed today and published by Circle Sanctuary in Wisconsin. (I have slightly edited and excerpted the material, mostly to be consistent with our policy of not giving email addresses, phone numbers, but rather referring readers to the originating website) :

Help the Sikh community of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and others impacted by the shootings at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin this past Sunday, August 5, 2012.

Here are some ways to help:
(1) ATTUNE: On Friday, August 10, from 9-11 am central time at Oak Creek High School near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, there will be a public visitation and remembrance of the six Sikhs killed on Sunday. Circle Sanctuary is among the religious communities in Wisconsin with representation at this event. Wherever you are, please attune and send blessings of condolence, healing, strength, protection, and support during this time. We also invite you to kindle a candle of remembrance, healing, and renewal this Saturday, August 11 at Noon central time. Circle Sanctuary minister Bob Paxton will be facilitating a community meditation then as part of this month's Sanctuary Day.Sanctuary Day is free and open to the public. If you wish to attend some or all of the day, please contact the Circle office for more details

(2) DONATE: Circle Sanctuary is among those taking part in an interfaith effort to raise funds for those directly affected by the shootings, including the families of the slain, those injured, and the police office who was shot multiple times in the line of service and his family. We will be raising funds at our website through August 31, 2012 and then sending the money we collected to the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee. . . . We also are accepting donations for this special fund by postal mailAll donations are tax deductible in the USA.

(3) NETWORK: Support interfaith endeavors. Speak out in support of religious freedom. Express condolences and support to the Sikh community of Oak Creek, Wisconsin and elsewhere. Share this email with others. Circle Sanctuary's expressions of support:

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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Procession from Glastonbury Goddess Conference 2012

August 5 procession from Town Hall to Chalice Hill on last day of this year's Glastonbury Goddess Conference. Banners being carried are by Lydia Ruyle.

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