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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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


"The affirmation of female power contained in the Goddess symbol has both psychological and political consequences. Psychologically, it means the defeat of the view engendered by patriarchy that women's power is inferior and dangerous. This new "mood" of affirmation of female power also leads to new "motivations" it supports and undergirds women's trust in their own power and the power of other women in family and society."

Something deep inside me clicked, broke loose. It was one of those moments when you know you are hearing Truth. Christ had just put words to something I was feeling, in a far more nascent form. It was like coming home. 

"Why Women Need the Goddess" did more than affirm for me that the path I was on had real-world, material consequences, that it was one of my arsenal of tools for creating the better world that my activism was striving for. It introduced me to the systemic, scholarly study of Goddess religion, and of Goddess religion in its own right and not just as a variation on Wicca. It introduced me to the idea that we can, and should, think deeply about our spirituality even as we find joy in the numinous and also listen to our intuition and soft, small inner voices. 

A few weeks ago, I found myself re-reading "Why Women Need the Goddess" for perhaps the twentieth time, this time when I founded it included in She Rises: Why Goddess Feminism, Activism, and Spirituality? a fabulous collection edited by Helen Hwang. Christ's words hit me with all the force of the first time, and I found myself with tears welling up in my eyes as I read them again, transported for a moment from a train seat in Dallas to the long-ago day when I first found those words in my well-used copy of WomanSpirit Rising

The moment was especially poignant because I had just the day before been having a conversation with a friend and circle-sister of mine, a woman in her 20s, about my fear that the Goddess Spirituality I knew and which had given so much meaning to my life was ossifying, was dying away, both in the face of a culture-wide backlash against feminism and by the refusal of many in the movement to recognize that the feminism which underpinned so much of early Goddess Spirituality was, at its heart, gender-essentialist, transphobic, and generally out of step with feminism in the 21st century. I had expressed my worry that those of us who are working to birth a new generation of Goddess Spirituality are fighting a battle against cultural forces which threaten to make us irrelevant, including forces from within the larger Pagan community that consider a Goddess-centered Paganism to be a fossil, something to be mocked as quaint but ridiculous, as I have so often heard younger Pagan women say. ("I don't want to live all up in my vagina, so I don't do that Goddess stuff," one woman told me in all seriousness when I mentioned that I practiced feminist craft.) 

And yet I consistently find women, of all ages but especially young women in their 20s and 30s, who want to step out of what they see as an increasingly depoliticized Paganism and into a spirituality which feeds their feminist principles and activism. Women who are tired of what they see, especially here in Texas, as the "dude-ification" of Pagan festivals, where they are expected to perform a hypersexualized version of femininity in the name of "honoring the Goddess." Women who simply want to connect with other women -- cis, trans, or otherwise -- in a space that is brave and safe for sharing. 

When they come to me, one of the first things I give them is "Why Women Need the Goddess."

Because 40 years later, we still need this article. We still need the Goddess. We still need each other.

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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.


  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ Saturday, 23 April 2016

    Thanks Susan. It is amazing how many people's lives have been changed by that little essay.

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