Sunday, April 27, 2014

Buzz Coil: April 2014

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

Glenys's Blog: In her April 18 post, "Samhain Ritual and Cosmogenesis," Glenys Livingstone writes about celebrating Samhain/Deep Autumn in Australia.

Radical Goddess Thealogy: In her April 24 post, "Heard It Thru the Grapevine," blogger Athana writes: "recently I heard it is super uncool now for Pagans to say things like 'Mother Goddess',  'Holy Goddess' -- or 'goddess' at all." She goes on to reveal what else she's heard and to suggest what she feels is a logical approach to the issue. 

The Wild Hunt: Jason Pitzl-Water's April 22 post, "Earth Day and the Pagan Spirit," discusses present issues surrounding Earth Day, the history of Paganism in relation to environmentalism, hedonism and the terms "earth religion" and "nature religion," and his personal experience living in the Pacific Northwest. About the attitude "That the problems we face are too immense, that we can simply face forward with stoic composure, or engage in 'collapse' scenario preparations, and hope for the best," he writes: ".... I don’t think that’s true, there is something we all can do, rich or poor, connected or isolated, and that is to stop being polite about the devastation." He compares the individuals' and groups' actions during the early AIDS epidemic in the U.S., which played a significant part in bringing life-saving change to HIV treatment, to what we might do and accomplish regarding mounting ecological crises. 

Works of Literata: In her April 21 post, "Earth Day – Romancing the Landbase," blogger Literata writes about emotional and intellectual ways to deepen your relationship with the land in the area where you live.

HecateDemeter: In her April 22 post, "Earth Day," blogger Hecate suggests to ways "to come into right relationship  with your landbase." One of them involves an item from Starbucks.

Annelinde's World: Annelinde Metzner's April 19 post is a poem, "As Spring unfolds," written in and about the mountains of North Carolina.

Living A Spiral Path: In an April 18 post, "She Shall Come Bearing Gifts," blogger Stormy Seaside tells about a surprise gift he received, including what he did after he opened it (with pics, and I'd tell you of what but that would spoil the surprise.)

 Broomstick Chronicles: In her April 16 post, My Perspective on “Wiccanate Privilege”  Aline O'Brien (aka Macha NightMare) writes about why she dislikes the term and discusses her participation in interfaith activities, as well as the relevance of the definitions of Witchcraft/Wicca and Paganism. In her April 2 post, "My Take on the Kenny Klein Affair," she explains what she thinks is the worst and best to come out of this situation.  

My Village Witch: In her April 5 post, "Safe Words, Safe Spaces (Part Four of not too many more, I hope)" , after reviewing "Mother Grove’s policies as well as our Ethics statement," and in light of what she views as a continuing problem, Byron Ballard asks, "How do we make our circles safe for those who seek to join this oddball collection of spiritualities?"

Contemplation - Yeshe Rabbit: In her March 31 post, "Paganism Loses Its Innocence," Rabbit shares her thoughts on recent discussions of involvement of some Pagans in predatory sexual activity. An excerpt from what she writes:
"There is a miasma of deep discomfort that frequently derails otherwise solemn discussions of sexual misconduct everywhere in our society....But what makes this more difficult is that so much of modern Neo-Paganism is rooted in an imaginary world that is a mishmosh of slippery mythic tropes. Festivals are supposed to feel like a sort of cinematic riot of colorful fairy folk with body modifications having sex with nymphs and fauns in a forest-like RenFaire setting where everyone is glamorously beautiful and smells good, even when they don't, right?" 
With links to posts by others on the subject.

Musings of a Quaker Witch
: In her April 17 post, "Some Experiences with a Culture of Consent and Radical Inclusion,"Staśa Morgan-Appel  writes:
 "In the midst of the renewed coverage of sexual predators in religious and spiritual communities, I want to talk about what it's like to experience a culture of consent...." She goes on to  share her ideas about asking for consent not only before touching someone with sexual intent, but also before non-sexual touch.

The Goddess House: In her April 13 post, Dancing in the Luna Light Again, blogger As't Moon, writes about this April's Blood Moon and announces the return of the winter months' full moon gatherings in Adelaide Australia's Botanic Park.

Large Group Blogs

Because of the large number and variety of bloggers and posts on these blogs, we are now suggesting that you visit them and select the posts that interest you most.

Return to Mago:
 A Goddess-centered blog whose administrator/owner is Helen Hye-Sook Hwang.
Feminism and Religion: Many bloggers from many different religions and paths.

Pagan Square: This blog of many mostly-Pagan paths is sponsored by BBI Media and includes SageWoman blog posts.



Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: Book on Asherah by Darlene Kosnik

History’s Vanquished Goddess Asherah by Darlene Kosnik (Emergent Press 2014) 316 pages, 6 x 9, trade paperback (also available in hardback).

When you think of Asherah, if you think only of a Goddess with a curly cap of hair, offering her breasts in a nurturing gesture, with her body below the waist resembling a tree trunk, then think again. Though this image is correct and is shown in History’s Vanquished Goddess Asherah, it is only one of many representations of this Goddess that Darlene Kosnik has gathered into an unusual and useful book. Kosnik brings together evidence about the worship of this Ancient Near Eastern (aka Levant and, more recently, Western Asian) female deity, whose existence has been denied and suppressed since biblical times. The
author accomplishes this in both prose and pictures, beginning before 1550 BCE (pre-late Bronze Age) and continuing through the 6th century BCE (Babylonian period and beyond).

Perhaps words from the back cover are the best introductory description:

“Long buried in the sands of time, the feminine component of history is emerging as archaeology peels back the layers of time. This book chronicles Asherah’s history with: 555 original drawings, 1,183 references, 183 mini-maps and 274 Similar Iconographic/Historic Associations.”

Yes, that’s a lot of material! Many of the original drawings are based on ancient artifacts or previous drawings by others. Kosnik gives the source of each of these next to her version of the art. The book’s front matter contains an explanation of the content formats and “artifact imagery attributes,” which are two of the unusual aspects of the book. It also explains the formatting of the descriptions with double and single lines and boxes. This an aspect of the book I found hard to get used to visually because of the multiplicity of dividing lines on the page, but others may not be bothered by it and only perceive it as being imaginative and thorough. The primary content, which is about the Hebrew Goddess Asherah and Canaanite Goddesses such as Astarte and Athirat (who were either the same Goddess called by different names, or closely related Goddesses), is placed in unboxed areas on pages with single lines at the top and bottom of the page and double lines at the beginning and end of each description. The “macroscopic content,” which relates Asherah to representations of other Goddesses, is placed in double-lined boxes. The front matter also contains two pages that show icons with labels for “Artifact Imagery Attributes” that are used throughout the book to indicate what category of Goddess or figure is represented by the drawing. Some of these icons/categories include: Snake/Serpent Goddess, Tree Goddess, Water of Life Goddess, Breast Emphasis, Pillar Figurine, Trinity, etc. There are more than 50 of these and they are displayed on left side of the pages, outside the content boxes or unboxed copy block, with a summary line of icons sometimes placed at the bottom of the page. Some of the images in the primary content can be seen here. Some of the references, including links to web pages, can been seen here.

This ambitious book that presents material from many sources is a fine addition to the growing scholarly information on Asherah. When there are conflicts in opinions, Kosnik does not always draw conclusions about which is correct. For example, on a page in the section on the Iron Age, after discussing “Temple of Ashtoroth/Asherah,” she adds a note containing two sources asserting that Ashtoroth (also spelled as Ashtoreth) is a “deliberately corrupted” Goddess name and repeats this assertion in the material on “Babylonian Period & Beyond,” referring again to one of the sources (archeologist William G.Dever ). Nevertheless, she uses Ashtoroth/Ashtoreth as an alternative Goddess name throughout the book when the sources she is quoting have used them as legitimate. (Many Goddess scholars agree with Dever et al that Ashtoroth/Ashtoreth was not a name used in antiquity for a Goddess, but rather was devised in biblical times or later to contain linguistic meanings intended to degrade the Goddess.) In any event, the approach of the author to present conflicting material without taking sides allows readers to follow the leads the book presents and make their own conclusions. This may be a valuable approach in a field in which all the information is not yet available, and will probably be especially useful to students and scholars using this book.

Some of the most interesting parts of this book for me were:
—in the section, “Late Bronze Age I & II, the extensive discussion of the work of Ruth Hestrin, who, while she was a curator at the Israel Museum, was first to interpret the iconography on archeological finds showing that both the sacred tree and the pubic triangle on the objects were representations of Asherah. (Kosnik adds significantly to the material on this given in Dever’s book.)
—the material immediately following, in a section called “Late Bronze Age Considerations” about the epithet Kosnik initially transliterates as “Qds” and for which she gives a number of other transliterations, perhaps the best know being Qadesh and Kadesh, Kosnik emphatically does take sides. She points out that the epithet has been (mis)interpreted to mean “sacred prostitute,” but is more accurately translated as “sacred” or “holy” or “holiness.” Kosnik writes that  “The ‘sacred prostitute’ label has been rendered a discredited notion by scholarship….A concept whose time has gone…the ‘sacred prostitute’ label is more reflective of myopic tunnel vision than intellectual advancement.” She then goes on to give more than 40 pages of examples showing this term had nothing to do with prostitution.
—the page in the section, “Iron Age I, IIA & IIB,” that shows the similarity between the Kabbalah Tree and the Tree representing Asherah and possibly other Goddesses. (This page has a stylized version of the Tree, shown on the back of the “cosmetic palette,” which is similar to the Kabbalah tree, and adds to other examples I refer to in “Preface to Second Enlarged Edition” of my book, Goddess Spirituality for the 21st Century: From Kabbalah to Quantum Physics.)

The front cover of the book has art that is explained in the book’s Conclusion as a depiction on a coin whose date the author gives as 225-44 CE. It shows guardian snakes/serpents attempting to protect Asherah as “figures with upraised axes prepare to destroy her” and the tree in which she is shown. In discussing the front cover, I feel I must comment on its subtitle: “God’s Wife: the Goddess Asherah, Wife of Yahweh.” My objections are similar to those I’ve expressed previously in my review of Dever’s book, Did God Have a Wife? whose title, it seems, has started a meme of calling Asherah “God’s wife.” As can be inferred from material in History’s Vanquished Goddess Asherah, veneration of Asherah apparently preceded that of Yahweh by at least several hundred years, and in the Late Bronze Age two of Asherah’s epithets were “Mother of Gods” and “Creatrix of Gods.” We can conclude that Yahweh came after Asherah, both mythologically and historically. Indeed, most sources date veneration of Yahweh to the Iron Age. To me, to call her his “wife” in a generality on the book’s cover implies that this was her main role—a role secondary to Yahweh. More accurately, at most she can be called his consort in a certain time period, and Yahweh can be called her consort. The front cover’s sub-subtitle, “I. Primary Evidence. Archeological & Historical Aspects of Syro-Palestinian Pre-Biblical Religious Traditions, Macrocosmically Examined” to me indicates with its roman numeral “I” that it may be the first book in an intended series, and I would be very interested in seeing what additional books in this series add to this already extensive presentation.

The back matter of this book contains two appendixes: “Pre-Late Bronze Age, Additional Syro-Palestinian Considerations,” which has additional pictures and information related to this time period, and “Textual Asherah Evidence, Biblical Emendations and Allusions,” a list referring to biblical and other references in the book, and including dates of those references. There is also 14-page bibliography and a comprehensive index that, even in smaller type than the rest of the book, runs 10 pages.

In History’s Vanquished Goddess Asherah, Darlene Kosnik gives us an excellent summary of and thorough look at today’s knowledge about this Goddess. The book will be useful to the increasing number of people interested in this subject, and especially valuable to those doing research on Asherah and other Goddesses, particularly in the Levant/Ancient Near East/Western Asia.


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Friday, April 11, 2014

Session of Hebrew Priestess Institute This Summer

The Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Training Institute is accepting applications for the session of its two-level training program that starts July 28 and runs through August 3, Rabbi Jill Hammer, Institute co-director with Taya Shere,  announced this week. The program will take place at the Isabella Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Connecticut.

"The Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute revives and re-embodies Judaism through the gifts of women spiritual leaders and through experience of the sacred feminine, Rabbi Hammer said. "Kohenet facilitates the creation of transformative Jewish ritual that is embodied, earth-based, feminist and inspired by traditions of women’s spiritual leadership. Kohenet draws on ancient Israelite sources, Jewish texts and folklore, kabbalah and contemporary creativity."

This webpage has more about the curriculum, and this page has more about the 13 priestess paths. An application form is here.  

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Saturday, April 05, 2014

Review of Anthology on Priestessing

Stepping into Ourselves: An Anthology of Writings on Priestesses, edited by Anne Key and Candace Kant, (Goddess Ink 2014) trade paperback, 592 pages.

This is a BIG book, not only in pages, but also in concept and design, in inclusiveness of many paths and cultures, in the number of contributors, and in the quality of the prose, poetry, and art.

The cover art by Betty LaDuke is gorgeous and the art of the book's title page and section title pages by Katlyn Breene are wonderful as well. Soujanya Rao's design of both the cover and the interior is excellent.

In their preface to the anthology, editors Anne Key and Candace Kant write:
"The colorful tapestry of voices in this anthology displays the diversity and roles of priestesses and different ways of priestessing, and how they weave together to create the beautiful fabric of women’s spiritual authority. Differing opinions exist without crushing each other."
 And so it is: 

Each of the four sections of the book has a brief introduction by the editors, followed by a poem or invocation, and then several essays and poems. I really like the inclusion of both poetry and essay not only because of their high quality but also because it gives the reader the opportunity to experience the book on both intellectual and emotional levels. To get an idea of the scope and the book, you might want to take a look at the contents with titles and authors, as well as links to “snippets” from some of the contributions.

The opening poem of the first section, “Lineage of the Priestess,” is Patricia Monaghan’s “Calypso’s Island,” a fitting tribute to this important poet and Goddess scholar who died Nov. 11, 2012. This is followed by various authors and poets writing about the Mesopotamian poet and priestess, Enheduanna, and the Goddess Inanna; a discussion of the controversial topic of whether there was “sacred prostitution” in the Ancient Near East; roles of priestesses in the ANE; the mythology of the Goddess Hathor; several essays and one poem about Israelite priestesses, goddesses and later Jewish traditions (including one that also discusses the possible priestess role of Mary, eventual mother of Jesus); Indian yoginis; and the role of Mesoamerican women in creating “figurines” used in ritual.  This section closes with essays and poems containing personal stories about contemporary priestess lineages in various cultures and traditions, including Mexican, Hawaiian, and Dianic.

In their introduction to the second section, “Roles of the Priestess,” the editors point out:  "A lament for what has been lost with the disappearance of the lineage of priestesses opens this section." The poems and essays in this section present a variety of views of priestess roles, which the editors describe as including those that clash with “modern feminism, geopolitics, religious heritage, gender roles....” Included are a description of a firewalk ceremony; reflections on what it means to be a priestess in patriarchal times; three essays related to Indian traditions, including Tantric temple dance; becoming a priestess after being an ordained minister in an interfaith church. Also, priestessing and: community service, marriage officiation, trees, Dianic Wicca, Queer spirituality, Paganism in Israel, Brigid, and initiation via snakebite. 

The third section is a “Toolkit,” of poetry and prose that focuses on methods, skills, and tools including designing and leading rituals, considering group dynamics and other psychologically-based factors, being aware of rhythms of body and cosmos, approaching the mystical, the relationship of leading and serving as a priestess in community, priestessing styles including solitary priestessing, and the relationship of ritual and theater. Also, use of altars, incense, dance, energy, acting skills, and music including chanting, droning, and drumming.

The last section, “Stepping Into Ourselves,” has two pieces: a poem by Jill Hammer and a short story, (the only one in the anthology) by Tamis Hoover Renteria.

The back matter includes acknowledgements, bios of the editors and contributors, a bibliography of more than 9 pages, “ A Guide to Incense Botanicals” by Katlyn Greene, and a Group Reading Guide.

Stepping Into Ourselves has more than 50 contributors. Some are ordained ministers and rabbis, some are ordained priestesses in various Pagan paths, and others are scholars who have researched priestessing at various times in history (and more than a few are both clergy and scholars). Contributors with more than one poem in this anthology are: Janine Canan, Andrea Goodman, Patricia Monaghan, Geela Rayzel Raphael, and Lorraine Schein. Those with more than one essay in this book are: Ruth Barrett, Jalaja Bonheim, Jill Hammer, Anne Key, Shauna Aura Knight, and Kathryn Ravenwood. Those with both poetry and prose are Jill Hammer, Le’ema Kathleen Graham, and Normandi Ellis.

I enthusiastically recommend Stepping Into Ourselves to you and anyone interested in the subject matter (and to some who don’t think they’re interested—yet). For a more complete idea of the authors and topics in this extraordinary anthology see the contents list on the publisher’s website.
Contributors for whom I am aware that the publication of their work in this book is posthumous are Shekhinah Mountainwater, Patricia Monaghan, and Layne Redmond. The memories of their lives bless us as we bless their memory.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Brighid Festival in May in Canada

"Brighid for All Seasons: Fire in the Soul," a festival for women, will be held May 2-4 in London, Ontario, Canada. It is sponsored by the Women's Centre for Spirituality, Activism and the Earth and will be guest facilitated by Mary Condren, national director of the Institute for Feminism and Religion in Dublin, Ireland, with additional facilitation by Mary Hamilton, pioneer in dance and theater education, and Ann Skinner, voice specialist and creator with Marion Woodman and Mary Hamilton of BodySoul Rhythms. The festival will include lectures, rituals, music and dance, and labyrinth walk.

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Conference on Gimbutas' Work in Italy Next Month

"Marija Gimbutas: Twenty Years of Goddess Studies" will be held May 9-10 at Casa Internazionale delle Donne in Rome. The Conference opens on May 9 with an exhibit containing the work of 11 artists and introduced by Lydia Ruyle. This will be followed by meditative movement and ritual performance.  Saturday's program will be introduced by Luciana Percovich and Morena Luciani. Presenters are to include Joan Marler, Harald Haarmann, Sirka Capone, Filomena Tufara, Laura Leone, Sara Perini, Giovanni Feo, Adele Campanelli, Valerie Aliberti, and Sandra Schiassi. For more information (in Italian), see

Thanks to Lydia Ruyle for the assistance in translating the Conference information from Italian.

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