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Carol P. Christ writes about the rebirth of the Goddess, feminism, ecofeminism, feminist theology, societies of peace, and the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete.

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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.

Our lives are a gift from the original African Mother. Our individual lives can be traced to an African Mother who gave birth to Daughters whose mitochondrial DNA has been passed on to every human being living today. But even the African Mother did not create herself. Her birth is the product of the evolution of mammals, which is part of the evolution of life, during four and a half billion years of evolution on planet earth.

Our lives are a gift from Life Itself. Our individual lives on planet earth are rooted in an evolutionary process began four and a half billion years ago on planet earth. But even that is not the beginning. The atoms and particles of atoms that swirled together to become our planet were born in a great pang of birth that scientists unimaginatively call “the big bang.” And even that was probably not “the” beginning, but only the beginning of this universe.

Matriarchal peoples honor the mothers who have given us the “gift of life.” They imagine the Source of Life as a Great and Giving Mother. If you are interested, you can read more about matriarchal cultures in Heide Goettner-Abendroth’s Societies of Peace and you can savor images of the Source of Life as female in Marija Gimbutas’s The Language of the Goddess.

Rituals in matriarchal cultures focus on gift-giving. The seeds to be planted are blessed on the altar of the Source of Life with prayers that life will sprout up again in the fields which are Her Body. First fruits of every harvest are given back to the Source of Life on altars dedicated to Her Great Generosity. At the end of the rituals, these gifts are shared in community feasts.

I have to admit it. When I began leading the Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete 20 years ago, I was not particularly grateful for what I had been given. I was angry and frustrated that I had not been given “my true love.”

On the first pilgrimage, I lost my voice. Back home but still not able to speak, I realized that “I” could not control everything and that this meant that I could not “make things happen” exactly as I wanted them to happen in my life.

When I returned to Crete the next spring, I was overwhelmed by expressions of love for me from our helpers along the way—especially from Christina who cooks for our group and from Mr. Nikos who guided us for many years into the depths of the Skoteino Cave.

Through the process of the pilgrimage my heart was opened to the love I do receive and it is everywhere.

This small opening in my heart now overflows with gratitude for the gifts of life I am given by others every day and for the Gift of Life of which my individual life is one small part.

When we recognize that life is a gift, we realize that nothing is “ours” and everything we have been given is meant to be shared. Blessed be.

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Carol P. Christ is a author of the much-loved books Rebirth of the Goddess, She Who Changes, Weaving the Visions, and Womanspirit Rising, and forthcoming in 2016. Goddess and God in the World and A Serpentine Path. She leads the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete in spring and fall.


  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard Thursday, 13 February 2014

    So beautiful, Carol. Thank you for this remembrance.

  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ Thursday, 13 February 2014

    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 the "mother principles" which are care and generosity of spirit. Matriarchy is not the opposite of patriarchy and it has nothing to do with dominance.

  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard Friday, 14 February 2014

    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 spoke so beautifully and compellingly about the coming matriarchal cultures. I wonder if it would be helpful for several of us to write a blog post here about what we mean when we speak of matriarchy?

  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ Friday, 14 February 2014

    Exactly what I am doing now. Maybe you will write one too.

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