Third Wave Witch: Feminist Spirituality, Spiritual Feminism

Third Wave Witchcraft explores the intersection of feminism, Witchcraft, Goddess Spirituality, and feminist activism. A place to explore how to make our spirituality more feminist, our feminism more spiritual, and our world more just.

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Susan Harper

Susan Harper

Susan Harper is an eclectic solitary Feminist Witch from Irving, Texas. She is a professor of Anthropology, Sociology, and Women's Studies, with a focus on gender, religion, and sexuality. She is also an activist, community educator, and writer. When she's not making magick or fomenting social change, Susan is the head soapmaker, herbalist, and aromatherapist for Dreaming Priestess Creations. She shares her life with her partner, Stephanie, five cats, and two guinea pigs.
Weekly Goddess Inspiration: Rati

Spring is the season of passion, of stirring life, of creation. In my younger years, this season was all about Beltaine, and Beltaine was allll about passion and sex. One of the things I love best about my path is the celebration of sexuality as something sacred, as a gift from Goddess. As I've gotten older, sex has become less central to my Spring celebrations -- not because sex is no longer an important part of my life, or because I think it unseemly to be openly sexual and sensual now that I'm no longer in my 20s, but because I've begun to think about passion and creation in a wider sense. My Beltaine ritual this year involved working on my home, spending time with my partner, and honoring all the things I am creating, gestating, and getting ready to birth -- my women's circle, my priestess sisterhood, my creative projects. All the things that awaken passion in me, and all the passions I feel in addition to sexual passion. 

In my New Moon circle this past week, I drew oracle cards that encouraged me to step into my Authentic Self, to find my true passions and follow my calling. In some ways, this whole past year has been about accepting that I even have a calling -- something I've resisted for most of my Pagan life -- and learning what it might mean to step into it. So I've been spending the past week thinking about authenticity, about passion, about the role my politics around gender and sexuality and justice play in following my calling. I've also been reflecting a lot on the role that healing around my sexuality has played in my spiritual path, and about the ways in which I can help to create safe, brave, healing spaces for survivors of sexual violence in my spiritual community; about how I can help to facilitate the much-needed conversation about consent that's happening (or needing to happen) in Pagan spaces; and about what it means to be part of a sex-positive spiritual community in an overwhelmingly sex-negative culture.

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Weekly Goddess Inspiration: Glispa

As I've often said before, one of the things I appreciate most about The Goddess Inspiration Oracle by Kris Waldherr -- and one of the reasons its a key tool in my practice -- is how multicultural it is. I appreciate the inclusion of indigenous Goddesses from around the world alongside the more familiar European Goddesses. And I also appreciate that these Goddesses are never drawn in a stereotypical or fetishized way, and their stories are treated with the appropriate respect and reverence. I have learned so much about Goddesses from traditions with which I was largely or wholly unfamiliar. And while I realize that the cultures these figures hail from might see them as Goddesses in the same sense of the word that I use, I appreciate that they are included alongside all these other powerful female figures.

This week's Goddess is one such Goddess -- Glispa, the Navajo/Dine Goddess of Healing and Transformation. It is said that Glispa undertook a dangerous journey to the land of the Snake People, who taught her the sacred Hozoni healing chant, which she brought back to the Dine. (One lovely version of her story can be found here.) In undertaking her journey and in learning these healing songs with the Snake (or Serpent) People, she represents not only healing but transformation. Just as snakes are constantly shedding their skin and transforming, Glispa reminds us that we can grow, heal, and transform into something new. That when we have outgrown old patterns, old hurts, old beliefs, we can shed them -- not painlessly and not easily, but shed them we can.

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Weekly Goddess Inspiration: Tara

Tara, Goddess of Inspiration, sometimes known as The Liberator, brings her message that we are not alone. She encourages us to remember that we can always ask for help, and it is through asking for help that our wishes can be granted and our troubles surmounted. Tara's message is especially powerful for women -- our culture encourages us to see ourselves as weak if we need to ask for help or if we are unable to handle all of our various tasks, obligations, and burdens alone. I know I have certainly fallen prey to the Superwoman syndrome throughout my own life, and have been struggling with feeling like my life was unmanageable on a practical level of late. And yet I have been afraid to ask for help -- even as I find myself resentful of the fact that no one's helping!. Tara comes dancing into my life right now to remind me that I have help available, human as well as Divine, if only I will ask for it. 

Tara appears in many forms in Buddhist cosmology -- White Tara is the sacred star, the liberator and wish granter; Green Tara, the Buddha of enlightened activity; Blue Tara, the transmuter of anger; Red Tara, whose power magnetizes all good things; Black Tara, who helps us access our power; and Yellow Tara, who brings prosperity and wealth. While the card depicts White Tara -- and my sense is that I myself will be walking with White Tara this week -- you may find that another one of these Taras calls to you. In the Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr, Tara takes the place of The Fool in the Major Arcana and is called Beginnings. I love this idea, that when Tara comes dancing into our lives, she is inviting us on a journey towards enlightenment, towards joy, towards our power -- and also reminding us that we do not walk alone. She is always with us.

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Why I Still Need "Why Women Need the Goddess"

When I was a young woman in my early 20s, newly on a Pagan path, someone -- I no longer remember who -- put in my hands a copy of WomanSpirit Rising, edited by Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow. I had discovered Goddess-centered Craft a year or so before, when I attended a Spring Equinox celebration and was slightly confused (and then elated) when no male Godhead was invoked. The idea of an explicitly feminist, overtly political, Goddess-centered spirituality excited me -- a young activist who was really coming into her own political consciousness and who had begun to heal the deep wounds left by a childhood spent in the Church of Christ, with its punishing Father God. 

Each essay in WomanSpirit Rising stirred me, but thenI got to Carol P. Christ's "Why Women Need the Goddess," and I read the words

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Thanks Susan. It is amazing how many people's lives have been changed by that little essay.
Weekly Goddess Inspiration: Ajysit

Among the Yakut people of Siberia, Ajysit is known as the Comforting Mother Goddess of Childbirth and Fate. It is she who guides children into the world through the process of birth, who comforts and assists with labor and birth, and who writes down the name of each newly born child in her Golden Book of Fate. It is said that calling out to Ajysit helps to ease the pain of labor contractions. She is also said to bless breastmilk so that it will be nourishing to the newly born.

While I have never had children of my own body and do not plan to, I spend a good deal of my time surrounded by midwives, doulas, and other birth professionals. (I joke that I spend a lot of time with a lot of people who spend a lot of time looking at other people's vaginas in a professional context, but I digress.) In working with, worshiping with, and simply knowing and loving people whose primary job it is to support labor and birth, I've come to believe that there are many times in our lives when we need a midwife -- not just when we are birthing a human child. In fact, one of my dear midwife friends calls me a "storycatcher" -- as she said once, "You know how I catch babies? You catch stories. You stay with people while they labor to get their stories out, and make it safe for them to birth them into the world." And so I do my own type of midwifery as a priestess, helping people, especially women, birth themselves into being. 

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Full Moon in Scorpio: Great! Another F*cking Opportunity for Personal Growth!

It's been an intense week as the Scorpio Moon approaches, Beltaine is in the air, and seemingly all the planets (well, ok, just four, but Mercury's warming up to do his own tap dance next week) doing the backwards boogie of retrograde. Saturn, the King of Karma, has been dancing backwards for a few weeks, bringing to light all sorts of things that we thought were long ago dead and buried. Mars retrograde has many of us feeling extra combative and raw. The Scorpio Moon asks to us focus unwaveringly on our target, our object of desire, and through that focus, draw our desires to us. And the Sun moving into steady Taurus means we may be torn between the known, the status quo, and all that which we truly desire even it obtaining it means shaking our world to its foundations.

As a former therapist of mine once said, Oh great. Another fucking opportunity for personal growth. Or, to put perhaps a more positive spin on it, What an opportunity to really heal some old shit.

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  • Susan Harper
    Susan Harper says #
    Thanks for stopping by! I'm so glad I add a little laughter and magick to your Full Moon!
  • Natalie Zaman
    Natalie Zaman says #
    Brilliant. And you made me laugh too which was much needed today. I'm printing this out so I can write out my answers... thanks an
Weekly Goddess Inspiration: Kali Ma

Sex and Death! Sex and Death! 

That's the running joke whenever anyone in my circle pulls Kali Ma from one of my Goddess Oracle decks. Kali evokes a sense of simultaneous awe and revulsion, devotion and recoiling, from many people. The Hindu Dark Mother embodies so much that seems paradoxical -- endings and beginnings, creation and destruction, nurturing and punishment, love and hate, and -- yes -- Sex and Death. Her fearsome visage, her girdle of severed arms, her necklace of skulls all draw on our darkest fears. And yet the ultimate lesson of Kali Ma, it so often seems, is for us to be willing to find beauty in the horrific, to find the love in the dark nights of the soul, to find the new beginning in the fiery ending. 

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