Amazons have long fascinated me. As a little girl, the idea of living in an all-female society (free of bullying boys) was highly appealing. I spent many summer afternoons running around my backyard or curled up on the couch, fighting minotaurs and going on grand adventures with my sister Amazons. And you can be darn sure I preferred Wonder Woman* to that silly Superman -- I mean, she was from a super secret island and worshipped the Old Goddesses! How cool was that?
That fascination remained with me as I grew up. I gravitated towards the powerful women of history (like Hatshepsut and Elizabeth I) and those women who challenged the restrictive mores of their society (Harriet Tubman and Matilda Joscelyn Gage, to name two). When I wanted to escape into a fictional world, I chose those which featured women warriors and generals and starship captains.
As a result, my personal library is filled with books about and featuring Amazons -- the Amazons of classical myth, real world women warriors and leaders, and powerful women of fantasy and science fiction....
The question is, what are those roots? So many of us live in cultural exile as women, an exile imposed by the dominant religions, and we have been delving into our more distant heritages in search of a meaningful past. This process is a journey, along which our definitions and identifications shift as we go deeper.
I was part of the early feminist wave that reclaimed the witches, scooping that ancient word wycce up out of near-oblivion, and linking it back to women’s ceremony in an era before demonization. I found out, too, that wicca meant “male witch,” rather than being an archaic Saxon word for pagan tradition as a whole. So I opted out of using that name. But I loved learning about the Dutch cognate wickenrode, “witch’s rod,” meaning a divinatory wand, and finding an entire web of related words with animistic import. Over time I discovered other witch-names from various ethnic cultures, including veleda which belongs to a long and rich web of related Indo-European words. I reclaim its forms in both my Irish and Frisian heritages.
I’ve spent more than four decades trying to understand what was done to female spheres of power, spiritual leadership, the Divine in female form. How did we end up in a world so totally controlled by white men, by industrial, earth-raping corporations of a now-global empire? In college we were taught that male domination was a historical universal; there were no other options, and dissent on this point would not be brooked. Don’t forget, you’re being graded. Plus there are the other prestige hierarchies to think of. This situation has not improved, though exceptions exist....