Woodspriestess: Exploring the intersection between Nature, the Goddess, art, and poetry.

Listening to the woods, to the stones, to Gaia, and to women...

In the woods behind my house rest a collection of nine large flat rocks. Daily, I walk down to these “priestess rocks” for some sacred time alone to pray, meditate, consider, and be. Often, while in this space, I open my mouth and poetry comes out. I’ve come to see this experience as "theapoetics"—experiencing the Goddess through direct “revelation,” framed in language. As Stanley Hopper originally described in the 1970’s, it is possible to “…replace theology, the rationalistic interpretation of belief, with theopoetics, finding God[dess] through poetry and fiction, which neither wither before modern science nor conflict with the complexity of what we know now to be the self.” Theapoetics might also be described, “as a means of engaging language and perception in such a way that one enters into a radical relation with the divine, the other, and the creation in which all occurs.”

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Molly

Molly

Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, Red Tents, seasonal retreats and rituals, Pink Tent mother-daughter circles, and family ceremonies from her tiny temple space in rural Missouri and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing.

Molly is a priestess who holds MSW and M.Div degrees and recently finished her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. She is the author of Womanrunes, Earthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit. Molly and and her husband Mark co-create original goddess sculptures, pendants, and ceremony kits at Brigid’s Grove (http://brigidsgrove.com), where they also publish Womanrunes book and deck sets.

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“When all is said and done I think every Witch should, at some time, face the moon alone, feet planted on the ground, with only his or her voice chanting in the starry night.”

–Laurie Cabot, Power of the Witch

 I will never forget the first time I heard someone recite the Charge of the Goddess from memory. Bare-breasted, she strode around the fire in sacred circle at a large goddess festival in Kansas, delivering the words with power, grace, and confident resonance. I thought: I will do that someday.

In February of this year, we took a family trip to Dauphin Island. While there, the afternoon of the full moon, I decided that the time had come: I was going to memorize the Charge of the Goddess. First, I b2ap3_thumbnail_February-2016-153.JPGthought I would only memorize it a piece at a time. It seemed “too big” to do in a single sitting. I had it printed out on a piece of paper that rapidly became damp with the salty sea air. I drew a labyrinth in the sand with my toes, set one of my goddess sculptures at its entrance, and drew a Womanrunes card.

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My specialty is small group rituals and retreats for women. However, a primary reason behind having women-only rituals at this point in my life is purely logistical. I find it nearly impossible to have a complete “retreat” experience with kids also present! Someone has to take care of the kids during said retreats…hence, single-sex rituals/ceremonies often make the most sense for my local community. However, shorter and simpler rituals are possible with kids, though they have a completely different feel and even function and so that energetic output needs to be balanced with the renewal and restoration we often need as parents, mothers, and women.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Love this post - just makes my heart happy thinking of your family and families all over the world doing this...
  • Molly
    Molly says #
    Thank you! Me too.

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Cynthia Eller in Living in the Lap of the Goddess notes that, “some spiritual feminists say that having a divine mother is a way of compensating for the frailties of human mothers, giving women a more perfect mother…” This is not actually true for me; I’m fortunate enough to have an excellent human mother. I am more liable to see myself as a mother reflected in the empowering imagery of the Goddess as mother than I am to feel “mothered” by Her—I feel like she affirms my worth and value in my own maternal role. She gives me strength and inspiration to be a better mother to my children. In this way, I then agree with the hope of spiritual feminists that, “this great mother goddess will have a transformative effect upon the social valuation of motherhood.” (Eller, p. 143)

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“What do you know of the negative associations with the word Witch? How do you feel about the fact b2ap3_thumbnail_January-2016-153.JPGthat so many witches were persecuted and burned in medieval times? Would you like to see witches and Goddess-religion made acceptable in today’s society?”

–Shekhinah Mountainwater, Ariadne’s Thread

While perhaps the answers to these questions seem very obvious when posted to a blog on a forum called Witches and Pagans, to many women interested in women's circles and Red Tents they are significant ones. And, they are very relevant to priestesses like me who work with the general public, rather than specifically pagan-identified groups, for Red Tent Circles and other gatherings. It is important to turn over and acknowledge the ways in which the word "witch" can be used to oppress people or to stifle their curiosity and personal expression as well as even prevent involvement with the work you offer.

This year I began a small study group using the book Ariadne’s Thread. I’ve wanted to work through this book with a group of women for years and it finally is working out to do so. One of the topics of our first meeting is the fear many women have of the word “witch.” This comes up in the Red Tent and Practical Priestessing classes I teach also. Indeed, when I plan Red Tent events, though I do use goddess imagery and I am extremely goddess-oriented in my personal spirituality, I am careful not to include the word “goddess” in the chants or rituals, because I want to make sure to speak to the womanspirit within all of us, rather than being associated with any one framework of belief. Red Tent spaces have the ability to transcend any particular belief system and welcome women of many backgrounds, inclinations, and beliefs. They aren’t specifically “Goddess circles,” though they honor the divine feminine through their very being.

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Arise! March 2016 029
Let us greet this morning with smiling faces
Hair unbound
Hearts full of glee
Birdsong in one hand
Roses in the other
Let us dance to River’s music
And Earth’s heartbeat
Under quickening leaves
We are full with the promise of spring.

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I offer what I offer fire
I give what I give
I share what I share
I am who I am…

via The Warrior-Priestess

When planning a ritual involving children, I always have to remind myself to keep it short and simple! Just in time for Spring Equinox, I’d like to share the simple ritual of spring welcome that is perfect for family or a small group of friends. This ritual is designed to be done at night around a campfire and to be followed by a drum circle, but can easily be adapted to day time (perhaps with a fresh flower mandala to gather around instead of a fire). It can take place anytime between March 21 and May 1 and still feel seasonally appropriate.

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We’ve already explored why we pass the rattle during a women’s circle, but what about how to make your own rattle…

Why use a gourd?

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Gourds are natural musical instruments that have more than 10,000 years of history, spanning multiple continents and uncountable cultures. Evidence from the Smithsonian is that gourds were the first domesticated crop ever grown in the Americas, probably cultivated by women as water containers. The origination of the gourds still grown today is in Africa, where seeds were then transported to Asia and then from Asia to the Americas by Paleoindian peoples who crossed the Bering Strait and originally colonized the Americas. I was curious to know if gourds have any specific association with ancient goddess traditions in addition to their association with modern-day women’s spirituality, but I have not been able to find specific information on the subject. However, I was inspired to read this small paragraph, suggesting that gourds represent the womb of the Earth Mother herself and that using them to create rattles, creates “intentional womb prayer vessels.”

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