Third Wave Witch: Feminist Spirituality, Spiritual Feminism

Third Wave Witchcraft explores the intersection of feminism, Witchcraft, Goddess Spirituality, and feminist activism. A place to explore how to make our spirituality more feminist, our feminism more spiritual, and our world more just.

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Susan Harper

Susan Harper

Susan Harper is an eclectic solitary Feminist Witch from Irving, Texas. She is a professor of Anthropology, Sociology, and Women's Studies, with a focus on gender, religion, and sexuality. She is also an activist, community educator, and writer. When she's not making magick or fomenting social change, Susan is the head soapmaker, herbalist, and aromatherapist for Dreaming Priestess Creations. She shares her life with her partner, Stephanie, five cats, and two guinea pigs.

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Orlando, Rise In Power

I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

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Not My Goddess, Not My Feminism, Not My Priestesses

I've started and deleted this blog entry half a dozen times, both in my head and on the screen, over the last several days. It's hard to know what to say when your heroines fall, when your leaders betray you, when your inspirations prove to be hypocrites of the worst sort. And even if it's not the first time -- and it's not the first time -- it doesn't get any easier. What do you say when the place that you came to for healing and liberation is exposed as a site of pain and oppression for others, especially for others you care about? How do you stand up and say, "Not in my name"? 

Then again, how do you not?

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Emmialle Heron
    Emmialle Heron says #
    One of the things I love about being a Pagan was the ability to find and follow my own path. I am saddened that some groups choos
  • Susan Harper
    Susan Harper says #
    Thank you so much, Dani. I know that sometimes it feels like those of us in the Goddess community who support inclusion are but fe
  • Dani
    Dani says #
    Dear Susan, thank you for this post, which does my heart (and more hearts than mine) so much good. I left Temple of Diana in 2010,
  • Lizabeth Kay Kleintop
    Lizabeth Kay Kleintop says #
    Thank you, Susan, for you. I am a transgender woman who found the Goddess after years of searching for meaning in purpose. She f
  • Susan Harper
    Susan Harper says #
    Welcome to the circle, Sister. Thank you for being your brave, beautiful Goddess self.
Weekly Goddess Inspiration: Rati

Spring is the season of passion, of stirring life, of creation. In my younger years, this season was all about Beltaine, and Beltaine was allll about passion and sex. One of the things I love best about my path is the celebration of sexuality as something sacred, as a gift from Goddess. As I've gotten older, sex has become less central to my Spring celebrations -- not because sex is no longer an important part of my life, or because I think it unseemly to be openly sexual and sensual now that I'm no longer in my 20s, but because I've begun to think about passion and creation in a wider sense. My Beltaine ritual this year involved working on my home, spending time with my partner, and honoring all the things I am creating, gestating, and getting ready to birth -- my women's circle, my priestess sisterhood, my creative projects. All the things that awaken passion in me, and all the passions I feel in addition to sexual passion. 

In my New Moon circle this past week, I drew oracle cards that encouraged me to step into my Authentic Self, to find my true passions and follow my calling. In some ways, this whole past year has been about accepting that I even have a calling -- something I've resisted for most of my Pagan life -- and learning what it might mean to step into it. So I've been spending the past week thinking about authenticity, about passion, about the role my politics around gender and sexuality and justice play in following my calling. I've also been reflecting a lot on the role that healing around my sexuality has played in my spiritual path, and about the ways in which I can help to create safe, brave, healing spaces for survivors of sexual violence in my spiritual community; about how I can help to facilitate the much-needed conversation about consent that's happening (or needing to happen) in Pagan spaces; and about what it means to be part of a sex-positive spiritual community in an overwhelmingly sex-negative culture.

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Weekly Goddess Inspiration: Glispa

As I've often said before, one of the things I appreciate most about The Goddess Inspiration Oracle by Kris Waldherr -- and one of the reasons its a key tool in my practice -- is how multicultural it is. I appreciate the inclusion of indigenous Goddesses from around the world alongside the more familiar European Goddesses. And I also appreciate that these Goddesses are never drawn in a stereotypical or fetishized way, and their stories are treated with the appropriate respect and reverence. I have learned so much about Goddesses from traditions with which I was largely or wholly unfamiliar. And while I realize that the cultures these figures hail from might see them as Goddesses in the same sense of the word that I use, I appreciate that they are included alongside all these other powerful female figures.

This week's Goddess is one such Goddess -- Glispa, the Navajo/Dine Goddess of Healing and Transformation. It is said that Glispa undertook a dangerous journey to the land of the Snake People, who taught her the sacred Hozoni healing chant, which she brought back to the Dine. (One lovely version of her story can be found here.) In undertaking her journey and in learning these healing songs with the Snake (or Serpent) People, she represents not only healing but transformation. Just as snakes are constantly shedding their skin and transforming, Glispa reminds us that we can grow, heal, and transform into something new. That when we have outgrown old patterns, old hurts, old beliefs, we can shed them -- not painlessly and not easily, but shed them we can.

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Weekly Goddess Inspiration: Tara

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.

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Why I Still Need "Why Women Need the Goddess"

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

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Thanks Susan. It is amazing how many people's lives have been changed by that little essay.
Weekly Goddess Inspiration: Ajysit

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. 

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