Archives For The Goddess

On this Mother’s Day let’s not forget the mother(s) of us all.

Tellus Mater, from the Ara Pacis Augustae.

Tellus Mater, from the Ara Pacis Augustae.

“Celebrations of mothers and motherhood occur throughout the world. Many of these trace back to ancient festivals, like the Greek cult to Cybele, the Roman festival of Hilaria, or the Christian Mothering Sunday celebration. However, the modern holiday is an Americaninvention and not directly descended from these celebrations. Despite this, in some countries Mother’s Day has become synonymous with these older traditions.”Wikipedia

Here in the United States, Mother’s Day was conceived by poet and social activist Julia Ward Howe. Her “Mother’s Day Proclamation” was a pacifist reaction to the Civil and Franco-Prussian wars. In it, Howe urges all women from around the world to meet and settle the differences of the world.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

For me, I think both themes are worthy to be celebrated this day. Have a happy and joy-filled Mother’s Day. Honor the mothers in your life, divine and mundane. Perhaps we can start working on that worldwide congress of women too.

My latest response at the Washington Post’s On Faith site is now up.

Here’s this week’s panel question:

“The discrimination against women on a global basis is very often attributable to the declaration by religious leaders in Christianity, Islam and other religions that women are inferior in the eyes of God,” former President Jimmy Carter said last week. Many traditions teach that while both men and women are equal in value, God has ordained specific roles for men and women. Those distinct duties often keep women out of leadership positions in their religious communities. What is religion’s role in gender discrimination?

Here’s an excerpt from my response:

If the goddesses are suppressed, if they are erased from history, reduced to lesser roles, or turned into demons, then there is no divinity that reflects the female experience. Instead of being the originators of life, subduers of injustice, and the source of all sovereignty, women are instead bearers of the “original sin.” No sane philosopher or theologian can claim this doesn’t change the very nature of a culture, or the way we perceive gender. Imagine for a moment how different the ever-raging debate over legal access to abortion, or even contraception, whether for or against, would be if women were seen as the final holy arbiters in the matter of creating life. I can only guess we’d see something very different from the parade of old white male politicians exclaiming about “moral” issues and threatening basic health care for women in the process. Once you open your mind to that first exercise in a world with goddesses it’s hard not to think of dozens, hundreds, more. Female priests and feminine divine pronouns would hardly skim the surface.

I hope you’ll head over to the site and read my full response, and the other panelist responses, and share your thoughts.

“We will not listen to the things you’ve said to us in the name of YHWH. On the contrary, we will certainly do all that we’ve vowed. We will make offerings to the Queen of Heaven, and pour libations to her as we used to do – we and our ancestors, our kings and princes in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem – because then we had plenty of bread and we were satisfied, and suffered no misfortune. But since we ceased making offerings to the Queen of Heaven and pouring libations to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by sword and famine. And when we make offerings to the Queen of Heaven and pour libations to her, is it without our husbands’ approval that we make cakes in her likeness and pour libations to her?”Jeremiah 44:15-19, translation by Graham Harvey, from the Hebrew text of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, excerpted from “The Paganism Reader”.

I suppose it is somewhat appropriate that I mentioned a Christian sect obsessed with battling the “Queen of Heaven” yesterday, because today I’m looking at a new flurry of press about Her, or as they phrase it, “God’s wife.” The notion that the God of the Jews, and later the Christian God, was once part of a polytheistic landscape is fairly uncontroversial among scholars. Several books have been published on the subject, “The Hebrew Goddess”, “Did God Have a Wife?”,  “Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan”, and “The Early History of God”, among several others. NOVA on PBS even mentioned it back in 2008 for their “The Bible’s Buried Secrets” program. But modern journalism has a short memory, and the story has a new hook via Exeter University’s Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who’s presenting a new BBC production (coincidentally) entitled “The Bible’s Buried Secrets”. Stavrakopoulou and her BBC series have been making the rounds at The Daily Mail (sorry, I still don’t link to them), The Guardian, and The Telegraph.

“Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou has been given a primetime BBC Two series, The Bible’s Buried Secrets, in which she makes a number of startling suggestions. [...]  The idea that God had a wife is based on Biblical texts that refer to “asherah”. According to Dr Stavrakopoulou, Asherah was the name of a fertility goddess in lands now covered by modern-day Syria, and was half of a “divine pair” with God. Dr Stavrakopoulou is a senior lecturer in the Hebrew Bible at the University of Exeter, and gained a doctorate in theology from Oxford.”

Her suggestions are so startling that the story got picked up in America by Discovery News.

“In 1967, Raphael Patai was the first historian to mention that the ancient Israelites worshiped both Yahweh and Asherah. The theory has gained new prominence due to the research of Francesca Stavrakopoulou [...] “After years of research specializing in the history and religion of Israel, however, I have come to a colorful and what could seem, to some, uncomfortable conclusion that God had a wife,” she added. Stavrakopoulou bases her theory on ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed primarily in the ancient Canaanite coastal city called Ugarit, now modern-day Syria. All of these artifacts reveal that Asherah was a powerful fertility goddess.”

Her conclusions may indeed be “colorful,” but they are hardly new, as I pointed out above. Discovery News actually does a decent job in taking what were mostly warmed over press releases in the UK and giving the story some depth. Showing that Stavrakopoulou’s research is part of a long continuum of thought and study on this topic, interviewing other scholars to emphasize the points being made in her new show.

The ancient Israelites were polytheists, [Aaron] Brody [director of the Bade Museum and an associate professor of Bible and archaeology at the Pacific School of Religion] told Discovery News, “with only a small minority worshiping Yahweh alone before the historic events of 586 B.C.” In that year, an elite community within Judea was exiled to Babylon and the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. This, Brody said, led to “a more universal vision of strict monotheism: one god not only for Judah, but for all of the nations.”

The Discovery News report is also refreshing in that it avoids discussing her “fragrant air” and “good carriage” as John Preston at The Telegraph does. There’s a certain bitter irony in discussing the looks of a presenter on a program that touches on how the power of women was willfully erased from history. In any case, while the subject of God’s wife may not be new, reminding the world that monotheism didn’t spring forth whole-cloth, that it was artificially constructed and forcefully maintained by its early adopters is still quite needful. Especially in an age where the mere hint of a resurgent Western polytheism, and the endurance of polytheism around the world, seems to bring out irrational anger, fear, and hatred in certain corners.

On Sunday I had very briefly mentioned a story regarding a Lilith ritual at PantheaCon in which transgendered women were turned away, and a subsequent discussion between Dianic Goddess worshipers and transgender advocates over the exclusion. I initially linked to a run-down of the issues, discussions, and conflicts from the perspective of Artifex Mentis (Sarah Thompson) a Witch and Ceremonial Magician who identifies as a transsexual woman. This resulted in quite a bit of intense discussion on my blog (which is now collected in a PDF file until I can get those comments properly restored) from a variety of perspectives. Initially, I was going to wait for the the Bay Area PNC bureau‘s forthcoming coverage before adding my own, but since my post on Sunday the discussion has spread throughout the Internet, and has included some incendiary commentary from a prominent Pagan elder.

First, let’s run down some of the essays, discussions, and opinions that are currently taking place around this issue.

It is in the comments for the post by Anya Kless where someone purporting to be Dianic elder  Z. Budapest offered the following.

“This struggle has been going since the Women’s Mysteries first appeared. These individuals selfishly never think about the following: if women allow men to be incorporated into Dianic Mysteries,What will women own on their own? Nothing! Again! Transies who attack us only care about themselves. We women need our own culture, our own resourcing, our own traditions. You can tell these are men, They don’t care if women loose the Only tradition reclaimed after much research and practice ,the Dianic Tradition. Men simply want in. its their will. How dare us women not let them in and give away the ONLY spiritual home we have! Men want to worship the Goddess? Why not put in the WORK and create your own trads. The order of ATTIS for example,(dormant since the 4rth century) used to be for trans gendered people, also the castrata, men who castrated themselves to be more like the Goddess. Why are we the ONLY tradition they want? Go Gardnerian!Go Druid! Go Ecclectic! Filled with women, and men. They would fit fine. But if you claim to be one of us, you have to have sometimes in your life a womb, and overies and MOON bleed and not die. Women are born not made by men on operating tables.

This response has only further inflamed the controversy, as Erynn Rowan Laurie says: “Her response denies that transwomen are women at all, and treats them as male infiltrators attempting to usurp women’s mysteries in language that is actively offensive. What respect I had for her in the past has vanished in the face of this; it angers me and it makes me very sad, because it hurts so many people.” However, it is important to note, as Kenaz Filan does, that Z. Budapest’s commentary does not reflect the ongoing discussions currently going on between different parties over this issue.

“I have spoken with people who are close to both CAYA Coven and Pantheacon organizers.  Based on what I have heard so far, it appears that this all started out as a misunderstanding and miscommunication. While there is a lot of public ranting going on, there is a lot of discussion between the parties. Serious efforts are being made on all sides to discuss these issues respectfully and avoid similar incidents. Alas, things have now taken on a life of their own, and outside parties have come in to offer their opinions on the subject.”

Some comments from this discussion seem tailor-made to inflame and entrench both sides, throwing more heat than light. Despite this, I do think progress and real sharing can still happen. I still plan on following up with this issue, and speaking to individuals engaged on this discussion from as many perspectives as is feasible. I hope that as we move forward, we can avoid lashing out, or being hurtful, and find a workable way forward. More soon.

“For people raised and programmed on the patriarchal religions of today, religions that affect even the most secular aspects of our society, perhaps there remains a lingering, almost innate memory of sacred shrines and temples tended by priestesses who served in the religion of the original supreme deity. In the beginning, people prayed to the Creatress of Life, the Mistress of Heaven. At the very dawn of religion, God was a woman. Do you remember?” – Merlin Stone, “When God Was A Woman”

Word has come to us that sculptor and art historian Merlin Stone passed away this week after a prolonged illness. Stone is perhaps best know for her groundbreaking 1976 book “When God Was A Woman”, a work that was very influential on feminist theology, and, as the book’s blurb puts it, “made the concept of a female deity accessible.”

Merlin Stone

Merlin Stone

“The Goddess is not just the female version of God. She represents a different concept.”Merlin Stone, Time Magazine, 1991

While Stone and other Goddess-oriented writers of her time eventually came under increased scrutiny for some of their historical assertions, her work became a touchstone that paved the way for many to embrace Goddess religion, modern Paganism, or to simply broaden their own conceptions of deity.

“I think we should have a huge global memorial to Merlin. She was the first one who gave us back our historical heritage as women. Her research was diligent, “When God was a Woman” changed my life.”Zsuzsanna Budapest

“As a Woman of the Goddess, and Devotee of Higher Learning, Merlin Stone’s work sparked a Depth of Integrity that spoke volumes of a Rich, untapped goldmine of Herstorical perspectives within Conventional University environments early on in my studies; her work marked a trail-blazing path toward a place where intellect and mysticism found a comfortable home within the *Thea* logical Realms of Scholarly imagination.”Rosmarinus Stehlik

“It was a revelation to me, the idea that the Bible still contained the remnants of the goddess. I felt that cool water was rushing over me. For the first time in my life, I felt that there was an open door for me to approach a “god” who looked like me, whose accessibility wasn’t confined to the men in the congregation. [...] Thanks, Merlin Stone, for breaking me out of my American Christian blinders.”Anonymous respondent, The Daily Dish, December, 2010

My condolences go out to Merlin Stone’s friends and family, may she rest in the arms of the Goddess.

Yesterday was the beginning of Navaratri (“nine nights”), an important Hindu festival that concentrates on the worship of Shakti (the divine feminine), devoting each of the nine nights to a different form of Shakti/Devi. While getting little attention from the mainstream press in the West, in India festival coverage, ruminations, and meditations, are everywhere. The Economic Times connects the festival to the recently-released Forbes 100 most powerful women in the world list, the Times of India explores the regional differences of the festival, and the Press Trust of India explores Kolkata’s effort to “go green” this year by encouraging eco-friendly statuary and employing the goddess Durga in the effort.

Durga Puja organisers have been encouraged to use solar power and LED lights to illuminate their pandals while eco-friendly paints worth more than Rs. 3 lakhs have been doled out free of cost to hundreds of artisans making Durga idols in the city. ”Possibly we are the first state in the country to have been successful in controlling the usage of lead paints in idols during festivals. Almost two-thirds of all idols made in the state this season are from eco-friendly paints,” Biswajit Mukherjee, chief law officer of the state’s environment department, told PTI … over 50,000 idols are immersed into various water bodies each year in the state, it leads to contamination in water making it unfit for the survival of aquatic life and drinking purposes.”

Similar efforts were also made involving the god Ganesha as well (in a related note, be sure to also check out the NYT piece on the environmentally focused Bishnoi tribe in India). Here in the West, there is one prominent Navaratri-related effort. The Hindu American Seva Charities is initiating the ShaktiSeva campaign to highlight the strength in the woman and bring in the forefront the energy within oneself”. The Washington Post’s On Faith site has a guest essay from Saumya Arya Haas, a Hindu Pujarin, Unitarian Minister and Manbo Asogwe (Priestess of Vodou), on the initiative.

“This month of October, this season of autumn and Navratri, Hindu American Seva Charities is encouraging women to take the time to find, explore and express Shakti. You don’t have to be Hindu to take part inShaktiSeva service to the feminine principle, whatever that means to you. Talk the talk. Walk the walk. Reach out. Create. Heal. Celebrate in a way that is meaningful to you. Nine nights in a row, observe a ritual: it may be traditional, invented or a combination of the two. Call a friend. Light a candle. Help someone…or, ask for help. Just as you already know what Shakti is, you know, deep inside, who you are. This autumn, tend the light that glows within.”

This sounds like it could be an excellent initiative for Pagan and Goddess-oriented groups to participate in. As Saumya Arya Haas points out, October is also Domestic Violence Awareness month and National Breast Cancer Awareness month, not to mention the lead-up to Samhain for many Western Pagans. Perhaps a Navaratri ethos could grow here, making the entire month of October the “Month of Goddesses”? A time of interfaith outreach, cooperation between different polytheistic and divine feminine-honoring faiths, activism, good works, and a joint re-framing of the October “silly season” into something more robust and serious-minded? Just a thought.

A joyous Navratri to my Hindu and Indo-Pagan readers! Hail to Devi/Shakti in all her forms! May the nine nights be full of blessings.

Top Story: The BBC reports that Athanassios Lerounis, a Greek national who was kidnapped by the Taliban  in Pakistan several months ago, has been freed. Lerounis’ kidnapping was thought to be a consequence of the Taliban increasingly targeting the Kalash in Pakistan, Indo-European pagans believed by some to be descended from a commingling of Alexander the Great’s army and local peoples, who have survived in predominantly Muslim areas thanks to living in remote valleys.

“His captors demanded the release of militants held by Pakistan in exchange for his freedom but officials say no militant exchange was made. “He has been released by the successful efforts of Pakistani security agencies,” Rahmatullah Wazir, the top administrative official in Chitral, told the BBC. The curator was living in the Kalash valley to pursue his interest in an ancient “lost tribe” when he was kidnapped by armed men on 7 September 2009.”

While Chitral officials claim that no ransom was paid, this assertion has been challenged by other media sources. Lerounis is much beloved by the Kalash people, whom he helped build a local heritage museum and medical facilities, while encouraging education opportunities. Inhabitants of the Kalasha valleys undertook rare mass demonstrations to secure his release. This international incident forced the government of Pakistan to pay more attention to the Kalash people, who are normally ignored, their relatively peaceful lifestyle increasing threatened by Taliban-Pakistan clashes in the nearby Swat valley.

The War on Herbs: While Americans are increasingly shifting their opinions concerning marijuana, especially for medical purposes, that hasn’t stopped some lawmakers in the Louisiana House of Representatives from attempting to regulate any plant that might get a kid (briefly) high. House Bill 173 will outlaw a number of herbs from being blended, smoked, or inhaled.

“HB173 would prohibit a number of plants from being blended and smoked or inhaled. The plants in question include mugwort, honeyweed, sacred lotus and dwarf skullcap.  Many of these plants are listed as ingredients in herbal incense products.”

Lawmakers will no doubt seek to prohibit spinning around really, really fast, masturbating, or any other activity that might alter a young person’s consciousness. One wonders if the St. John’s Wort-popping natural health community will rush to oppose the passage of this new law, or if they’ll lay low because it’s targeting head shops instead of Whole Foods. Not to engage in too much slippery-slope prognostication, but if we allow the government to ban the mixing and selling of some herbs, what’s to stop them from expanding further?

Handfasting on (Reality) Television: After the somewhat bizarre media uproar about two Pagan teenagers getting handfasted (with parental consent) in Australia last month, the couple, and the girl’s mother, have agreed to an exclusive deal with a local television station for coverage of the nuptials.

“A teenage couple set to wed this weekend in an ancient pagan ceremony have signed a deal with Channel 9’s A Current Affair program … Under the contract signed by Alex Stewart-Pole, 19, and Jenni Birch, 16, A Current Affair have exclusive rights to cover the handfasting ceremony.  Mum Sue Birch, a pagan high priestess, will perform the ceremony, and said on Tuesday that any media coverage of the wedding would have to be discussed with A Current Affair. She said the family would not receive payment under the contract. However, Mr Stewart-Pole said Nine had promised to give the couple ‘a wedding present’.”

A Current Affair tackles hard-hitting issues like diet pizza, bargain shopping, and kids who stab dogs, so this deal could really go either way for the couple. I’m hoping for sweet and innocuous, but you never know what will happen when mainstream media decides to cover Pagans. It’s part of the reason why I counsel against Pagans appearing on reality television, exploitative talk-shows, and man-bites-dog sensationalist “news magazines”. Always remember to read the fine print on any contract, and study the show you’re going on before hand.

Chuck Colson Continues to Hate on Pagans: I know this isn’t really going to  be”news” to anyone who’s familiar with the Watergate-criminal-turned-Christian crusader Chuck Colson, but he’s bad-mouthing Hinduism and modern Paganism in a recent editorial that making the rounds of various Christian publications. Using the isolated and tragic case of a Hindu priest in India sacrificing his family and himself as proof of a larger deficit in pagan belief systems.

“I want to emphasize that Hindus are among the most peace-loving people in the world. The actions of these people are by no means representative. What is representative, however, is their belief that worship largely consists in appeasing the deity. In order to obtain favor, the worshipper must offer the proper sacrifice. Get it wrong and your prayers aren’t answered. Or worse. This worldview is very similar to that of the ancient world into which Jesus became incarnate. The pagan gods were a fickle and demanding lot who demanded blood and abasement from their worshipers-and even then “answered” prayers only on a whim. This is why so many classical philosophers, like many of their Indian counterparts throughout history, were put off by popular religious practices. So they substituted an “unknown” god and an unknowable god … How ironic that we in the post-Christian West are exchanging belief in the “personal, benevolent God” of Christianity for a sanitized paganism. Whether it’s “new age” mumbo jumbo or Wicca for Dummies, we have forgotten the dread these beliefs caused our ancestors and the awful things it made them do.”

I’ll leave it to my ever-astute readers to bother with dismantling his anti-pagan arguments. Though no longer in favor at The White House now that Bush is out of office, Colson’s been busy in his ongoing hate-a-palooza by supporting anti-same-sex marriage initiatives and signing on to the Manhattan Declaration.

Goddess of the North Construction Starting: In a final note, work is beginning on the massive land sculpture entitled “Northumberlandia”, dubbed “The Goddess of the North” by the media.

“Work is to start on a giant sculpture of a naked woman which is to be carved into the Northumberland landscape. The “Goddess of the North” will be made from 1.5 million tonnes of earth from the Shotton mine, near Cramlington. It will stand 34 metres – 10 metres higher than the Angel of the North – and will be 400 metres long … designed by artist Charles Jencks, who is best known in the North East for his sculpture outside the Centre for Life in Newcastle. Mark Dowdall, environment and communities director of The Banks Group, said it was hoped the sculpture would attract an additional 200,000 visitors a year to Northumberland.”

Though I don’t like to repeat myself, I wonder if this new addition to Britain’s landscape will, in a few hundred years, be considered an “ancient” pre-Christian survival by the locals. It will also be interesting to see if the site will become a pilgrimage place for modern Pagans and Goddess-worshipers.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

The conservative-minded Anglican site VirtueOnline has got its knickers in a twist over a recent story concerning Spring Equinox celebrations held by the Mother Grove Goddess Temple in North Carolina. Why would the heretic-hunters at VirtueOnline care about what a bunch of Pagans are doing in North Carolina? Because of where they held the ritual.

“Members of Mother Grove Goddess Temple will celebrate at 7 p.m. Saturday with A Breath of Appalachian Spring: A Ritual in Celebration of the Spring Equinox, in the parish hall of the Episcopal Cathedral of All Souls in Biltmore Village.

Que outrage:

“All Souls’ Cathedral is supposed to be God’s House, and it is disgusting that the Chapter should allow this pagan cult to meet anywhere on the premises! But of course, like all failing Episcopal congregations, they need the money, don’t they?”

It’s true that VirtueOnline is obsessed with heretics and pagans within the global Anglican communion, but this is hardly seems like a new case of “Episcopaganism”. I doubt the parish hall is consecrated ground, and I highly doubt the local clergy participated in anything “pagan”, so no real blasphemy (from a Christian perspective) was committed, and Mother Grove Goddess Temple describes itself as interfaith (united in honoring the divine feminine), so the real problem here is that these Episcopalians dared to tolerate other faiths meeting on/renting their grounds.

So the larger question is should Christian-owned halls and buildings refuse to rent out to non-Christian faiths and events? Should Pagan/Pagan-friendly organizations even approach a Christian hall, lest they cause problems for their hosts? In some towns is it even possible to rent a hall that isn’t owned by the local church? What do you think?

The Columbia Daily Tribune covers a just-opened University of Missouri’s Museum of Art and Archeology exhibit entitled “The Sacred Feminine: Prehistory to Post-Modernity”. The show not only looks at art that reflects women’s role in religion, but curator Benton Kidd has also organized a national symposium centered on themes from the exhibition.

“To fully explore both tensions and universalities, Kidd has collaborated with other parts of the university to move observers past a simply visceral, visual experience and stimulate community conversation. The most ambitious and prominent of these efforts will come at a national symposium on Oct. 16 and 17. Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, author and Georgetown University professor, will be the keynote speaker. Apostolos-Cappadona has been interviewed on television and in documentaries, discussing her take on the books of “The DaVinci Code” author Dan Brown. The event will incorporate both distinguished local scholars — MU Professors Robert Baum and Kristin Schwain — and experts from other major universities, speaking on topics almost as wide-ranging as the exhibit itself — everything from African female prophets to the cult of virgin martyrs, Cleopatra’s divinity to the role of females in Tantric sex rituals.”

Perhaps inspired by Kidd’s efforts to build such a far-reaching conversation concerning the sacred feminine, the Columbia Daily Tribune sent out questionnaires concerning gender and religion to area women. The first two respondents were artist Gennie Pfannenstiel, who is giving talks at the exhibit and holding a showing of her own work exploring the sacred feminine at a local gallery, and Taz Chance, a member of the local Wiccan church and nature preserve Ozark Avalon. The contrasting answers between an artist who feels the “sacred feminine is a divine source of knowing the feminine aspect of creation and existence”, and an explicitly Pagan goddess-worshipper are fascinating.

Pfannenstiel: Knowing that we are all children of our Earthmother makes me more compassionate and allows me to see more clearly the importance of my path for serving others, especially children — a Madonna role. My spirituality grounds me by revealing to me my true self so that I can stand tall and strong as a pillar, Isis-like. I am Grandmother Spider spinning my web of life.

Chance: Because I worship an Earth-centered religion I find that I am more connected to the ideals of the sacred feminine than those women who are in the more traditional spiritual roles. I am allowed to openly recognize my connection to the Goddess without and the Goddess within.

I assume that these respondents are merely the first to be profiled in the paper, and that more will be run as questionnaires trickle in during the exhibition’s run. Kudos to the Columbia Daily Tribune for going the extra mile in seeking out community voices for this piece, and including a Pagan perspective right off the bat. As for the exhibition and forthcoming symposium, they both sound fascinating, and will no doubt be a special treat for those living in or near Columbia, Missouri.

Mandy Van Deven at Religion Dispatches interviews academic Chris Klassen about her new anthology “Feminist Spirituality: The Next Generation”, an exploration of  spiritual/religious expressions among feminism’s “third wave”. In the interview Klassen expresses some surprise at how the majority of submissions came not from within the traditional monotheisms, but from the spheres of Goddess spirituality, Wicca, and modern Paganism.

“Actually I did not intend this. It is simply how it turned out based on the response to my call for papers. In hindsight though I think it makes sense. The term ‘feminist spirituality’ does, for some, mean ‘alternatives’ to mainstream religion. Thus people working on third wave feminism within Christianity or Islam or Buddhism may not have initially thought the call relevant. (Well, assuming there are folks out there working on third wave feminism within traditional religions, and I really hope there are.) But, as I said before, much feminist spirituality in the new millennium tends toward blurry borders between religions, so it could be that those most interested in third wave feminist spirituality are not focusing on traditional religions.”

I find it hard to believe that feminist scholars working within a Jewish, Christian, or Muslim context wouldn’t jump at the chance of being published in an even faintly relevant academic anthology. Unless the old “publish or perish” truism has degraded greatly in recent times. Assuming that this anthology is a somewhat accurate mirror of religious expression among modern-day feminists, are we witnessing a triumph of the Goddess? Maybe, though Klassen is quick to point out that feminist spirituality in our current age is an increasingly syncretic and pluralistic phenomena.

“…there is also a lot more religious pluralism within the individual. You have Christian feminists participating in Wiccan rituals and Goddess worshipers honoring Jesus. Like much spirituality in general, in the new millennium, feminist spirituality is a bit of a smorgasbord, and it is important for the individual to create a spirituality which fits her own experience and needs.”

Perhaps these new-millenium feminists are the polar opposites of ultra-patriarchal Christian groups like The Family. Instead of “Jesus plus nothing”, it’s “The Goddess plus everything”. After all, doesn’t the old chant go “we all come from the Goddess and to Her we shall return”? In other words, maybe the Vatican is cracking down on American nuns for a particular reason. As for “Feminist Spirituality: The Next Generation”, you can find a list of chapters and contributors, here.