There is a way that the desert breaks me down to my essential self
a way the desert wind tears away that which is no longer necessary...
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When I first returned from my ancestor quest in Germany, I fell ill with a bad cold and cough and had little physical energy. For two weeks I lived in the dreamtime, communicating with the ancestors and trying to make sense of the information about their lives I had discovered. After I got better, I had difficulty returning to daily life. The ancestors wanted to speak through me. Their stories, based on facts, come to me in waking trance.
Agnes Lattauer Sweitzer : I was born in Ober-Floerscheim (Hessen Darmstadt) on July 9, 1812. I was the first in a family of five children. Four years after me came Jakob, named after Father, and three years later, Rudolph. It was nice to have brothers, but my dream of a sister came true when Catherina was born a month and a day after my tenth birthday. My mother was busy with Jakob and Rudolph, so I became a second mother to Catherina. I could not nurse her, but I could sing to her and rock her to sleep. I changed her diapers and gave her a bath. It was so wonderful to have a baby to take care of. Three years later little Johanetta was born two days after my thirteenth birthday. Another baby for me and Mother bring up together. I was in heaven. I was both mother and sister to the little girls. When they got older, I took my little sisters to play by the stream, where they giggled and cooed as we fed the ducks and the geese. In the summer, Mother and I brought them with us to the fields where we hoed and planted, weeded and harvested. They tried to pull weeds with their little fingers. It was my job to keep them from pulling up the plants too.
Tara, Goddess of Inspiration, sometimes known as The Liberator, brings her message that we are not alone. She encourages us to remember that we can always ask for help, and it is through asking for help that our wishes can be granted and our troubles surmounted. Tara's message is especially powerful for women -- our culture encourages us to see ourselves as weak if we need to ask for help or if we are unable to handle all of our various tasks, obligations, and burdens alone. I know I have certainly fallen prey to the Superwoman syndrome throughout my own life, and have been struggling with feeling like my life was unmanageable on a practical level of late. And yet I have been afraid to ask for help -- even as I find myself resentful of the fact that no one's helping!. Tara comes dancing into my life right now to remind me that I have help available, human as well as Divine, if only I will ask for it.
Tara appears in many forms in Buddhist cosmology -- White Tara is the sacred star, the liberator and wish granter; Green Tara, the Buddha of enlightened activity; Blue Tara, the transmuter of anger; Red Tara, whose power magnetizes all good things; Black Tara, who helps us access our power; and Yellow Tara, who brings prosperity and wealth. While the card depicts White Tara -- and my sense is that I myself will be walking with White Tara this week -- you may find that another one of these Taras calls to you. In the Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr, Tara takes the place of The Fool in the Major Arcana and is called Beginnings. I love this idea, that when Tara comes dancing into our lives, she is inviting us on a journey towards enlightenment, towards joy, towards our power -- and also reminding us that we do not walk alone. She is always with us....
When I was a young woman in my early 20s, newly on a Pagan path, someone -- I no longer remember who -- put in my hands a copy of WomanSpirit Rising, edited by Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow. I had discovered Goddess-centered Craft a year or so before, when I attended a Spring Equinox celebration and was slightly confused (and then elated) when no male Godhead was invoked. The idea of an explicitly feminist, overtly political, Goddess-centered spirituality excited me -- a young activist who was really coming into her own political consciousness and who had begun to heal the deep wounds left by a childhood spent in the Church of Christ, with its punishing Father God.
Each essay in WomanSpirit Rising stirred me, but thenI got to Carol P. Christ's "Why Women Need the Goddess," and I read the words...
Among the Yakut people of Siberia, Ajysit is known as the Comforting Mother Goddess of Childbirth and Fate. It is she who guides children into the world through the process of birth, who comforts and assists with labor and birth, and who writes down the name of each newly born child in her Golden Book of Fate. It is said that calling out to Ajysit helps to ease the pain of labor contractions. She is also said to bless breastmilk so that it will be nourishing to the newly born.
While I have never had children of my own body and do not plan to, I spend a good deal of my time surrounded by midwives, doulas, and other birth professionals. (I joke that I spend a lot of time with a lot of people who spend a lot of time looking at other people's vaginas in a professional context, but I digress.) In working with, worshiping with, and simply knowing and loving people whose primary job it is to support labor and birth, I've come to believe that there are many times in our lives when we need a midwife -- not just when we are birthing a human child. In fact, one of my dear midwife friends calls me a "storycatcher" -- as she said once, "You know how I catch babies? You catch stories. You stay with people while they labor to get their stories out, and make it safe for them to birth them into the world." And so I do my own type of midwifery as a priestess, helping people, especially women, birth themselves into being....
“What do you know of the negative associations with the word Witch? How do you feel about the fact that so many witches were persecuted and burned in medieval times? Would you like to see witches and Goddess-religion made acceptable in today’s society?”
–Shekhinah Mountainwater, Ariadne’s Thread
While perhaps the answers to these questions seem very obvious when posted to a blog on a forum called Witches and Pagans, to many women interested in women's circles and Red Tents they are significant ones. And, they are very relevant to priestesses like me who work with the general public, rather than specifically pagan-identified groups, for Red Tent Circles and other gatherings. It is important to turn over and acknowledge the ways in which the word "witch" can be used to oppress people or to stifle their curiosity and personal expression as well as even prevent involvement with the work you offer.
This year I began a small study group using the book Ariadne’s Thread. I’ve wanted to work through this book with a group of women for years and it finally is working out to do so. One of the topics of our first meeting is the fear many women have of the word “witch.” This comes up in the Red Tent and Practical Priestessing classes I teach also. Indeed, when I plan Red Tent events, though I do use goddess imagery and I am extremely goddess-oriented in my personal spirituality, I am careful not to include the word “goddess” in the chants or rituals, because I want to make sure to speak to the womanspirit within all of us, rather than being associated with any one framework of belief. Red Tent spaces have the ability to transcend any particular belief system and welcome women of many backgrounds, inclinations, and beliefs. They aren’t specifically “Goddess circles,” though they honor the divine feminine through their very being.
by Kate Brunner
I sometimes feel as though I live caught between feminism's assorted waves. I am too young to have experienced the rise & crest of the Second Wave. I only just began to learn there was an actual -ism type name for this collection of thoughts, desires, feelings, & beliefs shaping themselves within me during my adolescent years as the Second Wave was decidedly ebbing.
Coming into my own as a very young adult, I found the rising Third Wave frustrating, though. Arguments over even using the word "feminist" to begin with exhausted me and it seemed like there was more debate raging about what was or was not feminism than there was meaningful change-agent action in the world around me.