From: White Raven
Subject: The Goddess Movement
I was sitting in the breakroom at work this morning (you know, the
place where bible quotations greet us in the mornings :) and I dis-
covered the following article in the 'Colorado Living' section of "The
Denver Post." Enjoy
"The Goddess Movement: Woman-based Spirituality gains followers"
by Leslie Petrovski
In mid-September in a sparsely furnished Washington Park home, about
12 women, mostly in their 30s and 40s, will gather to celebrate Mabon
-- or fall equinox (sept 23). After a vegetarian potluck dinner, the
group will sit in a circle around a basket filled with apples, tiny
pumpkins and acorns -- fruits from the harvest.
One woman, who started this feminist spirituality group two years
ago, will start the ceremony by casting the circle -- creating sacred
space by invoking the elements (eart, fire, water and air) and Goddes-
ses associated with each element. During the ritual, the women will
ask for individual healing, then pass around a globe while asking for
planetary healing. One might request the universe to heal the suffer-
ing of the world's women; another will seek healing of the oceans; yet
another asks for healing in Bosnia. More and more, all over the
country, women (and some men) are gathering together to practice a
woman-based spirituality. They give themselves many names, and their
rituals vary from group to group.
"Feminist spirituality combines different movements," explains
Starhawk, author of "The Spiral Dance," an introductory text to
witchcraft. "Some are working within Jewish and Christian traditions
to ressurrect female images; others are outside any organized tradit-
ional; others participate in the Wicca tradition. There is a lot of
diversity in the movement. What feminist spirituality does is put our
experience, as individuals and as woman, at the center of our spirit-
There are no estimates of the number of people worshipping this way,
although journalist Margo Adler, in her book "Drawing Down the Moon,"
estimates there are 100,000 American pagans, people who call themsel-
ves witches, Druids or Goddess worshippers -- people who "look to the
old pre-Christian nature religions of Europe."
There are many clues of the prevalence of the Goddess. A young
scholar completing her Ph.D. at the University of Colorado said, "I
know a number of women who are big into the Goddess." Bookstores are
filled with books dedicated to women's spirituality. Even driving the
highway, you'll notice discreet bumper-stickers like "Goddess Bless."
In Goddess spirituality, the cycles of nature are worshipped and
celebrated -- winter, spring, summer and autumn -- and are viewed as
metaphors for birth, growth, fading and death. Attributes tradition-
ally viewed as femine (i.e., intuition and nurturing) are revered.
Defining the Goddess religion, however, is about as easy as catching
fish with bare hands. But there is a rich and ancient history as-
sociated with it. Old Europe, with its woman-focused religions, was
settled prior to 4000 B.C. Similar earth-based, female cultures
existed in Crete, Greece, Catal Huyuk and elsewhere.
"A lot of this occurred in rural centers," exlains University of
Denver a art Historian M.E. Warlick. "In agrarian societies, they
think of the earth as the mother and typically the earth is a God-
dess." Eventually, the Goddess-based religions were displaced by
warrior gods like Zeus and Yahweh. Some scholars suggest that Goddess
worshippers went underground, and that the religion survive in secret.
In the '60s, that began to change. The feminist movement, which
brought a new ethic of control to women, also allowed women (and men)
to look toward feminine images for religious sustenance. Women and
men began to practice openly in the Wiccan traditions or create their
own feminist spirituality.
To oversimplify the Goddess: There are no rules, except freedom; there
is no bible, no major doctrine; what has survived of ancient Goddess
religions has come down in fragments. Most Goddess worshippers do
share the goal of living in harmony with nature.
"As a witch," explains Elisa Robyn, a Denver-based spiritual coun-
selor, "I have an intimate relationship with the deity, that is the
Goddess and the God. I believe in reincarnation. And I believe in
karma -- whatever I create inside of me are the energies the world
hands back to me." "A couple of years ago, I was at Sunday school at
the church we were attending," she remembers. "We were talking about
virgin birth. I raised my hand, trambling, and I said, 'I think I'm
not a Christian anymore. I don't think Jesus intended us to worship
Confused and troubled by this realization, Rebecca held a birthday
party for herself, inviting all of her female friends to talk about
God. Not satisfied with this intellectual approach, Rebecca, 43, began
organizing rituals in accordance with the eight Sabbats of the Wiccan
year: Yule to acknowledge the winter solstice; Brigid, or Candlemas,
dedicated to the Goddess of fire and inspiration; the Ecostar Ritual
to celebrate the spring equinox; Beltane, or May Eve; Litha, or the
summer solstice; Lughnasad to mourn the dying Sun King; Mabon, or the
fall equinox; Samhain, or Halloween, that marks the end and the
beginning of a new year. Due to Rebecca's urgings, a small group of
women has evolved to conduct rituals and tentatively celebrate the
seasons. Rebecca's mailing list is now up to 30 women.
The Goddess movement is "attracting a wide range of people," explains
Starhawk, who was raised Jewish, "from a middle-aged women who have
lived very conventional lives to young, punk anarchists."
Lois Yackley, 49, a Denver elementary-school teacher and member of
Rebecca's Goddess group, sees her involvement as an outgrowth of her
mental health. Like many women who are seeking a woman-based spirit-
uality, Lois, a former Catholic, always felt the absence of women in
the church. As she grew in therapy, women's issues became increas-
ingly important to her. "The next step in the feminist movement," Lois
says, "is spiritual. Some feminists are saying that there will be nore
mor progress (in the movement) unless it's spiritual."
Lois became involved in Rebecca's group through a growing friendship
with Darcie, the mother of a child in Lois' class. As their friend-
ship matured, they shared books on feminist spirituality and attended
Rebecca's rituals and parties. "Women are getting together to see how
we feel about things. We validate out feelings and thoughts. This
Darcie, 43, is an artist and homemaker, who struggles with her
conflicting feelings for her church (she is a Methodist and a church
trustee) and her blossoming interest in feminist spirituality. "I no
longer have a strong belief (in Christianity), but I'm interested in
the structure of my family," she explains. "It's a difficult situat-
ion for me, emotionally and psychologically. I feel very strongly
about the family worshipping together, so I'm not ready to give (the
church) up until I have something to replace it with."
Rebecca's group gives Darcie a place to explore her new ideas about
spirituality with women who feel the same way. "I'm trying to move
toward believing not in one power over all, but a multiple power
within," Darcie explains.
"This matches the political climates of the times," explains Robyn.
"Women are looking for something about themselves that's special. So
the Goddess is becoming more prevalent." Robyn, who also was raised
Jewish and now practices in the Wiccan tradition, adds that, "Women
are looking for their power. This is right in line with the ecology
movement, the women's movement, the personal growth movement."
"When women get into witchcraft, it is a blossoming experience. There
are role models -- women of power, Goddesses -- it's a totally dif-
ferent energy and perception."
... "Never did Nature say one thing and Wisdom say another." -- Burke
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