PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.
In ever-increasing numbers women and men are seeking spirituality beyond traditional religious institutions and more and more their new normal includes the deities, ideals and archetypes of the Sacred Feminine. They have a desire to get beyond the patriarchal dogma that often perpetuates sexism, homophobia and the domination of Gaia and all her inhabitants, including the body of Mother Earth. Women in particular are hearing and heeding their calling, stepping forth to take on their mantle of leadership as rabbis, ministers, priestesses, Nuns on the Bus and Womanpriests. They are exercising their spiritual authority in circles at their kitchen tables, in their living rooms and classrooms, in brick and mortar churches and temples, in political arenas and groves. They are flexing their spiritual wings and allowing themselves to be guided by their intuition, innate female wisdom and inner-knowing and they encourage their congregations to know and feel the essence of Goddess and understand what that new knowledge might mean for themselves personally and the world.
Often their shared message is one of female empowerment, social justice and environmental responsibility sometimes referred to as eco-feminist spirituality. The liturgy may contain social, cultural and political messages of liberation thealogy using Goddess mythology, archetypes and metaphors as benchmarks and templates for a more just and sustainable future. Gone altogether or tempered is the message of the strict authoritarian Father whose mythology gives license for a male-dominated society with women in a subordinate role. Nothing less than peace, partnership, justice, equality and care for the planet are at the heart of this Sacred Feminine wisdom.
In answer to this collective call to restore and re-write our values and find a new spiritual path women and men are blazing a trail using their pink handled machetes to find their way. It might manifest in progressive churches using gender neutral names for God in prayer and song. Others include liturgy embracing the Divine Mother in equal partnership alongside the Father. Altars might not be dominated only by male images. Still others give themselves permission to conduct women-only services and exhibit only female images of deity at their gatherings. Congregants worship together in circles rather than in hierarchal configurations with a male intermediary between them and deity. In fact, these groups and gatherings might be leaderless, egalitarian or organizers might share leadership. In case it’s not obvious, there is no one way and no absolute right way to facilitate these gatherings or to worship or interpret deity. These are just some of the new guidelines being tried across the globe as spiritual people come forward to see what works for themselves or their communities.
Yes, there has been a plethora of academic writings restoring knowledge of Goddess and women’s history that has been swept beneath the rug. Some, myself included, have used this knowledge to occasionally re-construct or adapt ancient rituals for a modern context. We have gleaned inspiration from inscriptions and ancient knowledge and turned it into the seasonal ritual. Psychologists have explored the significance of Goddess archetypes. Theologians have examined why Goddess disappeared and patriarchy began to dominate. Some statistics show that when all earth-based or goddess-oriented groups are combined, Pagan, or non-Abrahamic religions is one of the fastest growing groups in the country and books have come out in equal measure to support that growing interest.
Yes, thealogy, not theology. The meaning of Goddess, as deity, archetype and ideal and her relationship to humanity, the planet and its species helps us find a new normal. Going beyond the wheel of the year, examining Goddess mythology and ideals of the Sacred Feminine would reshape values, society and culture, from cradle to grave, from the boardroom to bedroom, to the voting booth. Goddess ideals actually do provide a template for a more just and sustainable future. We can directly connect the dots between losing our Mother, the Great She, to exploitation of the planet and the oppression of our patriarchal world. Watch this space!
May Goddess Embrace You in Her Golden Wings,
Dr. Rev. Karen Tate
Recently, I was, um, invited to participate in the ALS ice bucket challenge, the quirky and incredibly successful spontaneous viral outpouring of support to find a cure to a disease which has been well-known since 1939, but which still strikes down far too many people. As of this writing, the ALS Foundation is reporting that the challenge has raised $106 million this summer, a pretty big bump from the $3 million in annual donations the organization is more used to seeing.
What strikes me about this phenomenon is that this is the kind of magical work that money is intended for. Most of what I see discussed (and sold) in terms of money spells focus on, as one of my employers would put it, "Get that money, sucka." There's a flaw in that thinking, one that reminds me of a couple of friends of mine who tried to start an internet marketing business just before the Great Recession. The term internet marketing is (or maybe was) used to refer to a set of techniques used to find potential clients online (the "warm" market) and provide them with enough information that they would want to purchase your service. The problem my friends ran into is that their coach was flummoxed when he found out what they wanted to market: science lessons for curious children. Everyone else in the internet marketing field, you see, was building web sites that marketed internet marketing businesses....
As a storyteller, I tend to do much of my thinking through stories. In the ongoing discussion of cultural appropriation it seemed to me that abstract theorizing may well benefit from the wisdom of narrative. So I began casting about for a story that addressed the subject.
Theorist Cei Serith says, “When confronted with a new situation, first consult ancestral precedent.” The Received Tradition (or at least those portions of it with which I am personally conversant), has little to say on the topic of cultural appropriation directly, but in fact the practice has a surprising number of parallels with the grand old Keltic pastime (one could almost call it a sport) of the táin, the cattle-raid. The Kelts came by cattle-rustling honestly (so to speak): it would seem, in fact, to have been an ancient tradition of many Indo-European peoples (and, indeed, of pastoral cultures in general: compare the current problems with the self-same practice in South Sudan).
We have, to the best of our knowledge, no surviving mythology from the Dobunni, the Keltic tribe that inhabited the Severn basin and Cotswolds in what is now the south-west Midlands of England. (The “creation myth” that Stephen Yeates “recreates” in A Dreaming for the Witches cannot truly be called a story.) There seems to be good genetic and archaeological evidence to indicate that Dobunni population and culture survived into Anglo-Saxon times as the tribe known as the Hwicce. Maverick archaeologist Stephen Yeates would contend that the tribal religion of the Hwicce, with its strong continuities with the preceding Dobunni religion, is in fact what would become historic Witchcraft (and later, Wicca). Historical or not, it's a powerful story, for which I will admit a certain personal fondness, perhaps because some of my own ancestors hail from this same region.
We stroked his head and ran our hands along his body. He purred. We looked at him directly in the eyes and we sang songs. He purred. We told him of mice and birds and long summer days that would not end. He purred. We held him close, so very close, as the needle pierced his skin. The purring stopped.
The last few days have been filled with tears and with fond remembrances of our dear cat, Bear Claw. He lived for almost twenty years. I have children that have never known a time before Bear Claw. Simply put, he was part of our family.
I spent the last year of his life as a care giver of sorts. As his health failed, I cleaned up after him. I helped him up to his favourite perches around the house. I carried him out into the warm sun on my shoulders and made sure his "apartment" was warm and comfortable. He and I spoke about how and when his life would end. We had an agreement that when the good days were outnumbered by the bad days, we'd part ways mercifully and quickly.
Fiery Tuesday is here and the PaganNewsBeagle is back. Labor Day Blues (most Americans are too overworked to take time off); town of Greece is pretty clear which God they want civic prayers to address; the legend of Horatio Alger, the plight of the Yazidis, and Pagan consent culture.
Did you take Labor Day (U.S. holiday) off? If so, congratulations. This story at the HuffPo points out a troubling trend: an increasing number of us are too overworked, stressed-out, and downright scared of losing their job to take vacation time....