circle round and celebrate
circle round and sing
circle round and share stories
circle round and reach out a hand
Woodspriestess: Exploring the intersection between Nature, the Goddess, art, and poetry.
Listening to the woods, to the stones, to Gaia, and to women...
In the woods behind my house rest a collection of nine large flat rocks. Daily, I walk down to these “priestess rocks” for some sacred time alone to pray, meditate, consider, and be. Often, while in this space, I open my mouth and poetry comes out. I’ve come to see this experience as "theapoetics"—experiencing the Goddess through direct “revelation,” framed in language. As Stanley Hopper originally described in the 1970’s, it is possible to “…replace theology, the rationalistic interpretation of belief, with theopoetics, finding God[dess] through poetry and fiction, which neither wither before modern science nor conflict with the complexity of what we know now to be the self.” Theapoetics might also be described, “as a means of engaging language and perception in such a way that one enters into a radical relation with the divine, the other, and the creation in which all occurs.”
"...we also come to learn an important thealogical statement: the relationship of self to Goddess is a physical relationship--it is material. It is not a dislocated, distant experience of some far-off Deity 'out there,' but it is embedded within our very bodies and their own rhythms.” --Katie Batten, Goddess Wheel of the Year
When reading Z. Budapest's book, Grandmother Moon, I was surprised to connect very deeply with her Moontale, Moontide, Moonspell model. In the past, I haven’t felt much of an intuitive connection to Budapest’s work, but this concept is different for me.
"The priestess is worn within the soul, not donned for occasion or kept in a bowl." (http://schoolofsacredscience.com/Priestess_Training.html)
I rest on rock
Surrounded by trees
Carried by wind
Loved by Her
My body in contact
With the world around me
Restores my soul
This is my place
I belong here
Here I am held
I am surrounded
I am nurtured
I am free
I have come to be in this place
With my soul at the ready
My heart open
My hands wide
My mind prepared
Ready to priestess myself
To priestess my family
And to priestess those around me
I am committed to this path
With courage, may I walk
With patience, may I love
With strength, may I serve…
I tend towards a type of Goddess-oriented, panentheistic, spiritual naturalism. I've written a lot about my experiences with "theapoetics"--spontaneous, spoken aloud poetry that brings me into direct connection with that which I term Goddess. I previously explored the ontological existence of this Goddess in an essay for Feminism and Religion:
To me, Goddess is found in the act of specifically naming that ineffable sense of the sacred that we all, universally, experience or perceive at some point during our lives. Whether it be in gazing at the ocean or in climbing a mountain, in the births of our children or the hatching of a baby chick, almost all humans experience transcendent moments of mystery, meaning, wonder, and awe. We can call these experiences by different names and I feel that the Goddess arises when we have the courage and capacity to name Her as such, rather than stay hazy, generic, or afraid. In my own life, I call these numinous experiences Goddess and through this I know She exists in, of, around, and through the world that I live in. It is in these experiences that I touch Her directly...
“The journey to become a priestess…(even of the urban variety) remains a grueling task, not something capable of being conferred by a few weekend workshops or sweat lodges. The glibness with which such terms are used can be infuriating…” –Vivienne Vernon-Jones in Voices of the Goddess by Caitlin Matthews
“The Goddess is not only for the temple, she must be carried out into the world to wherever she is needed…” –Vivianne Crowley (in Voices of the Goddess edited by Caitlin Matthews)
I recently finished writing a paper for my The Role of the Priestess course at Ocean Seminary College. This course explores the three roles of a priestess in depth: counselor (mentor), ritualist, and teacher. The first paper was designed to explore the role of priestess as counselor and I found it very difficult to write. After some reflection, I realized the difficulty was due to three personal reasons: doubt that I “deserve” to call myself a priestess, doubt about my own ability to fulfill the counselor part of the role, and fear of not being “good enough” or “perfect” enough to fulfill this piece of the priestess role. I am fairly comfortable with the roles of ritualist-ceremonialist and of teacher and I also feel good about how well I already fulfill those roles. The Counselor though. She’s scary. Am I good enough? Can I really do this? Who do I think I am?
“Here is your sacrament
Take. Eat. this is my body
this is real milk, thin, sweet, bluish,
which I give for the life of the world…
Here is your bread of life.
Here is the blood by which you live in me.”--Robin Morgan (in Life Prayers, p. 148)
“All religion is about the mystery of creation. If the mystery of birth is the origin of religion, it is women that we must look for the phenomenon that first made her aware of the unseen power…Women’s awe at her capacity to create life is the basis of mystery. Earliest religious images show pregnancy, rather than birth and nurturing, as the numinous or magical state” (Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor, The Great Cosmic Mother, p. 71)
I am working on a thesis project about birth as a spiritual experience. As I collect my resources, the quotes above keep running through my head. Birth as the original sacrament. Breastfeeding as the original communion. Blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, women transmute blood into breath, into being, into life for others.
Abrahamic theology in its root mythology, sets up the male body as "normal" as well neatly includes the notion that there is a divine hierarchy in which men are above women in value, role, and power. It also twists reality, by asserting that women come from men’s bodies, rather than the other way around. This inversion didn’t begin with Christianity, it has roots in more ancient mythology as well. Connected to the conversion of women’s natural creative, divine-like powers of the womb into the originators of sin and corruption, we readily see the deliberate inversion of the womb of the Goddess into the head of the father in the gulping down of Metis by Zeus and the subsequent birth of Athena from his head. Patriarchal creation myths rely heavily on biologically non-normative masculine creation imagery. I really appreciated the brief note from Sjoo in The Great Cosmic Mother that, “In later Hindu mysticism the egg is identified as male generative energy. Whenever you come upon something like this, stop and ponder. If it is absurdly inorganic—male gods ‘brooding on the waters’ or ‘laying eggs’—then you know you are in the presence of an original Goddess cosmology stolen and displaced by later patriarchal scribes” (p. 56).
Hope before her
love behind her
empowerment around her
she is strong
she knows her own power
she is blessed...
Goddess grant me the courage, surrender, trust, and wisdom to do what needs to be done today. Let me serve my circle as priestess with great care, great attention, great trust, and great honor. Let me breathe deep and draw up what I need, let me open my arms and gather to me that which surrounds me. May I embody the gifts of the Goddess and share them with my circle sisters. Thank you. Blessed be.
On an email list I belong to, the question was recently posed as to why we need priestesses anyway. The concern was posed that the term is hierarchical and separates rather than unifies. As someone who identifies deeply as a priestess, this question soaked into my consciousness, demanding an answer, a reconciliation, a deeper understanding of what I understand my own role to be.
The Goddess Gaia is alive
In this time and in this space
She speaks in sunrises
And waves against the shore
She sings with the wind
She dances in moonlight
She holds you close
Your heart beats in time with hers
A great, grand hope and possibility
For this planet.
I maintain a daily spiritual practice of visiting the same sacred spot in the woods behind my house. I go to sit or stand on the large stones that rest there and I’ve found that when I open my mouth, poetry comes out. I’ve come to describe this experience as theapoetics: the direct experience of the Goddess through poetry in nature.
I explained my theory and experiences of theapoetics in one of my early posts for the Feminism and Religion project:...