Cretan Musings: Inspired by Goddess Pilgrimages

Musings inspired by the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete on ancient Crete, the Goddesses of Crete, Societies of Peace, and the rebirth of the Goddess in contemporary culture, by Carol P. Christ, author of Rebirth of the Goddess.

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Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ is a founding mother in the Goddess movement and author or editor of the much-loved books Rebirth of the Goddess, She Who Changes, Weaving the Visions, and Womanspirit Rising. She invites you to join her on the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete this spring or fall for what could be the most amazing journey of your life. Carol contributes on Mondays to the Feminism and Religion blog.

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EASTER AND THE GODDESS

This is my body, given for you,

This is my blood, given for you.

While these words are the center of a Christian liturgy celebrating the sacrifice of Jesus as the Christ, they are more appropriately spoken of our own mothers. Your mother and my mother and all mothers, human and other than human, mammalian, avian, and reptilian, give their bodies and blood so their offspring might have life. True, mothers do not always make conscious choices to get pregnant, but almost all mothers affirm life in their willingness to nurture the young who emerge from their bodies and from their nests. Had mothers—human and other than human–not been giving their bodies and their blood from time immemorial, you and I would not be here.

The Easter liturgy fails to acknowledge that the original offering of body and blood is the mother’s offering. Christianity “stole” the imagery associated with birth and attributed it to a male savior.

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  • Paola Suarez
    Paola Suarez says #
    Thank you Carol. You eloquently explain what continues to bother me about Christianity-- it's denial of the mother and the divinit

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My Path to the Goddess, Part 1

I believe this earth is a beautiful, magical place and that this world is our true home.  I believe life in the body is good. I feel connected to all beings in the web of life. I feel the Blessed Mother always with us, and I know the love of God the Mother or Goddess to be like the love of my mother and grandmothers for me. Though I was brought up Christian, I learned all of these things as a child.

  

I was brought home from Huntington Hospital just before Christmas in to my grandmother’s home on Old Ranch Road in Arcadia, California.  Peacocks from the adjacent Los Angeles County Arboretum screeched on the roof. There was another baby in the house, my cousin Dee, born a few months earlier.  My mother and her sister were living with their mother. The war was over, and they were anticipating the return of their husbands from the Pacific Front.  My earliest memory, recovered during a healing energy session, is visual and visceral. I am lying crossways in a crib next to the other baby. There is a soft breeze. The other baby is kicking its legs, and I am trying to do the same.  I look up and see three faces looking down at us.  Although the faces are blurry in the vision I see, I feel them as female and loving.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Interesting than a pea cock rather than a pea hen was chosen to represent your path to the Goddess.

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The Turtle Goddess of Myrtos

This strange little Goddess found on an altar in the early Minoan village of Myrtos Fournou-Korifi, which was inhabited in the third millennium BCE.  She is a pitcher Goddess holding a pitcher. Liquid can be poured on an altar from the jug she holds in her snakelike arms.  

 

The long neck of the Goddess puzzled me until I saw turtles stretching their necks in the pools at the archaeological site of Kato Zakros in Crete.  When one of the women on the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete suggested that the Goddess of Myrtos could be a Turtle Goddess, I immediately nodded my head.

b2ap3_thumbnail_european-terrapin.jpg

The little turtles that are found in Greece in ponds and spring sources are incredibly curious: they swim over to “greet” visitors with their heads out of the water, pause to stare, and then as if to say “I’m scared now,” duck quickly back down into the water, only to emerge again.

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The Gods made only one creature like them—man.  Greek TV documentary

The sight of a reptile or an amphibian usually provokes, at the very least, a feeling of repulsion in most people. Natural History of Lesbos

In the past days and weeks the two tortoises with whom I share my garden have woken up from a long winter’s sleep.  Henry, testudo marginata, has been up for a while now.  More than a month ago when I was cutting back and weeding in the area of the garden where he had been sleeping, Henry roused himself to sit in the sun near me for a few hours each day before creeping back under a shrub.  At first I thought I had disturbed him, but when he came back out day after day while I worked, I began to wonder if he was coming out to say hello.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAScotty, testudo graeca, was nowhere to be found.  As I moved my work around the garden, I did not find him in the corner where he had slept the previous winter.  This worried me slightly, but I figured he must be under the rue in the one area of the garden still to be trimmed back.  Imagine my surprise when I almost tripped on him on my way down the stairs to the cellar.  Clever boy, he must have found the garden entrance to the cellar open one day in early winter and slipped in.  The fact that I found him at the foot of the stairs and not in a dark corner was evidence that he too had heard the call of spring.

What we love we protect and what we know we love.  Natural History of Lesbos

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  • Brea Saunders
    Brea Saunders says #
    ...I look forward to your posts here at W&P ever since you did that one entry about the spirit of dolls. Now I find you have tort

I wrote this blog as a contribution to recent discussions of polytheism vs. monotheism on PaganSquare when I noticed several people asserting that "most pagans" are "polytheists."  I do not call myself a polytheist because while I affirm a multiplicity of images, for me they all point to a single divine presence in the world.  I offer the below musings in a spirit of dialogue.  I am interested to hear from those who call themselves "polytheists" whether they are speaking of a plurality of images and stories pointing to a "unity of being" or whether they are also saying that there are a "plurality of (sometimes) conflicting forces" that they would call "divinities."

In Rebirth of the Goddess I noted that monotheists were the ones who defined the term polytheism and wondered if in fact there really were any polytheists in the history of the world. I posed this question because monotheists assert that polytheists not only worship or honor a "diversity of images," but also insist that polytheists believe that there are a "diversity of conflicting and competing powers" in the world.  Monotheists might even go so far as to say that polytheists deny that there is a "unity of being" underlying all of the diversity and difference in the world.

For me the notion that "the world is the body of Goddess" (or divinity) is more primary than multiply elaborated images, names, and stories about divine beings. I am less moved by myths of Goddesses and Gods than I am by images of the Goddess that incorporate plant and animal as well as human qualities. In one sense I am closer to animism than polytheism.  It is the beauty of the world that moves me to reverence.

In recent years monotheism has been attacked as a “totalizing discourse” that justifies the domination of others in the name of a universal truth. In addition, from the Bible to the present day some have used their own definitions of “exclusive monotheism” to disparage the religions of others. Moreover, feminists have come to recognize that monotheism as we know it has been a “male monotheism” that for the most part excludes female symbols and metaphors for God.  With all of this going against monotheism, who would want to affirm it?

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  • Katy Bailey
    Katy Bailey says #
    I believe every religion is right in some way, as people tend to get "results" from each one, if that makes any sense. So it's lik
  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Thanks for the essay and the dialog it engendered. Forgive me if my experiences and thoughts are tangential to the discourse here
  • Natalie Reed
    Natalie Reed says #
    I must admit that I am a bit on the fence over the whole definition of Polytheist issue. I don't purport to know the answer as to

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_bull-leaping-ring-before-2000-bc-phourni.jpg

 

Sometimes we think of Greek myth as a pre-patriarchal or less patriarchal alternative to the stories of the Bible. After all, Goddesses appear in Greek myths while they are nearly absent from the Bible. Right?

So far so good, but when we look more closely we can see that Greek myth enshrines patriarchal ideology just as surely as the Bible does.  We are so dazzled by the stories told by the Greeks that we designate them “the origin” of culture. We also have been taught that Greek myths contain “eternal archetypes” of the psyche. I hope the brief “deconstruction” of the myth of Ariadne which follows will begin to “deconstruct” these views as well. 

Ariadne is a pre-Greek word. The “ne” ending is not found in Greek. As the name is attributed to a princess in Greek myth, we might speculate that Ariadne could have been one of the names of the Goddess in ancient Crete. But in Greek myth Ariadne is cast in a drama in which she is a decidedly unattractive heroine. 

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    What is interesting to me is that myths that are so clearly anti-female as the ones about Pasiphae are not recognized as such, but
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    You have many good things to say, Carol. It would be nice sometimes if you could learn to say them without the inevitable misand
  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis says #
    I don't read any misandry in "sometimes we think of Greek myth as a pre-patriarchal or less patriarchal alternative to the stories

How do we make sense of loss, great loss, and everyday disappointment? Some would tell us that “everything has a purpose” or that whatever happens ”must be the will of God.”  I have found that these answers to questions raised by life as we know it often do more harm than good.  Yet they have a sticking power–we hear them all the time, sometimes even from other feminist seekers.

From the beginning feminists in religion rejected “the God out there” who rules the world from a throne in heaven. Most of us have insisted that “God” is more “in” the world than “beyond” or “outside it.” However we have not always been consistent in our convictions. When feminists are confronted with untimely death or great evil or just not getting what we think we want, we can sometimes be overheard to wonder, “Why did God (or Goddess) let that happen?” This question is based in the assumption that God or Goddess is omnipotent and rules the world from outside it. This is the theological idea I intend to question today.

The “zero fallacy” is a term philosopher Charles Hartshorne used to explain the “theological mistake” known as divine omnipotence.  Hartshorne pointed out that if God is omnipotent, then God has “all” or “100%” of the power. If this is so, then human beings and all other beings have “zero” power.  But if we have zero power, then do we even exist?  It is hard to imagine what “existence” means if it is a quality attributed to beings with zero power to affect the world. In fact, if God has 100% of the power, then no being other than the divine being can be said to exist. This is what Hindus may mean when they say that the world is “maya” or illusion.

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  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    From a scientific perspective, as Neil deGrasse Tyson said; “We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chem

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MATRIARCHY: DARING TO USE THE “M” WORD

For me the word “matriarchy” expresses the certainty that “another world” can exist—a world not based in domination and hierarchy or violence and war. 

The word “matriarchy” makes people’s hair stand on end as they imagine the mirror-image of patriarchy: societies in which women dominate men, beat men, rape men, hold men as slaves, and demand obedience from men.  Some who do not protest very loudly or at all against patriarchy are horrified by the very idea of matriarchy. To be fair, most feminists have also been schooled not to use the “m” word.

Early in my academic career, I read “The Myth of Matriarchy” by Joan Bamberger and learned that the idea of matriarchy gone wrong has been used by men to justify patriarchy. From other academics I learned that in matrilineal societies, uncles have a great deal of power—so therefore there never was a matriarchy.  I was also aware that Jungian and other proponents of a “matriarchal stage” in the development of culture have argued that matriarchy had to be succeeded by patriarchy in order for societies to evolve to a “higher” stage. Unlike many of my colleagues I stubbornly held onto the belief that there must have been “a better way” prior to patriarchy.

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    There are powerful Goddesses in India, but India is so far from being a matriarchy that your comment does not make sense. Gang rap
  • Constance Tippett Chandler
    Constance Tippett Chandler says #
    So glad you said this. Women, and men need to be educated on this term and understanding what it means. Martriarchy does NOT mean
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    For examples of Matriarchies where women dominate men some would point to Sweden or India. Some would include numerous other plac
What I Learned on the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete

In Crete we are always being given things—fresh cherries, ice cold bottles of raki, yogurt swimming in honey, and so much more. Over the years it finally hit me—duh—that this spirit of great generosity is a living remnant of the much-earlier Ariadnian ancient Cretan matriarchal tradition of gift-giving.

In matriarchal cultures gift-giving is not something reserved for birthdays and holidays. It is a way of life rooted in the primary understanding that life is a gift that is meant to be shared.

Our lives are a gift from our mothers. Our individual lives have are not something we create or created for ourselves. We all emerged from the body of a mother. We were all given the gift of care and feeding by a mother or mothers. Our mothers did not create themselves. They emerged from the bodies of their mothers and were cared for and fed by mothers. And so on back to the original mother of the human race, known as the African Eve.

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Exactly what I am doing now. Maybe you will write one too.
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    There is such a narrow view of that word in the modern Pagan culture. I was at Glastonbury this year and Kathy Jones and others sp
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Someone emailed me about my use of the word "matriarchal." I am using it to mean a society guided by the honoring of mothers and t

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