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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Carol P. Christ
What Does Mother's Day Mean in a Patriarchal and Matricidal Culture?

When we seek immortality or spiritual “rebirth,” are we not saying that there is something wrong with the “birth” that was given to us through the body of our mothers? In She Who Changes and in "Reading Plato's Allegory of the Cave as Matricide and Theacide," I asserted that our culture is "matricidal" because it is based on the assumption that life in the body in this world "just isn’t good enough."

What is so wrong with the life that our mothers gave us that we must reject it in the name of a “higher” spiritual life? The answer of course death.

Can we love life without accepting death?

Can we love our mothers if we do not accept a life that ends in death?

Jesus was said to have encouraged his disciples to leave their wives and families in order to follow him.  When he was told that his mother and brothers were outside and waiting to speak to him, he is said to have said:

“Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother. (Matt. 12:48-50)

Buddha left his wife and new-born son in order to pursue enlightenment.

Some feminists, including Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and Rita Gross, view these incidents positively, stating that their meaning is that no person should be trapped in the conventional biological roles.

I have always experienced these stories as dismissive of women’s bodies, of women’s lives, of women’s work. When I went to college, I learned that all of the knowledge and insight about the meaning of life I had gained through the experience of raising a child with my mother was irrelevant to the university education I had embarked upon.

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A Tale of Two Sisters, a Daughter and a Niece

This continues the story I began last week. Catherina is my 2x great-grandmother; Agnes is my 2x great-aunt; Johanetta is my first cousin, 3x removed, and my step-2x great-grandmother; Henry is my 2x great-grandfather. It is true that Henry had eighteen children with two wives. It is also true that Henry and Johanetta married and had a child soon after Catherina's death. Some of the other details came in waking trance as I allowed the ancestors to tell their stories through me.

Agnes Lattauer Sweitzer: I thought the day Catherina left for America would be the worst day of my life. I did not know I would see Catherina again. I did not know I would outlive my two little sisters and both of my brothers. I did not know what my daughter would do. I read Catherina’s letters from America through my tears. How I wanted to be with her on her wedding day. How I wished she had been with us when we buried our sister Johanetta. My heart nearly burst when Catherina wrote that she longed to take my hand when she gave birth to her first child. My mind contorted itself trying to envision her living in a big city, in a big building, climbing up and down stairs, her feet never touching the earth, her hands never working the soil. What kind of life was that?

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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.

Reading the recently released papal letter “The Joy of Love,” I was surprised to see that it opens a “new” discussion of marriage and the family with a very old patriarchal trope from Psalm 128:

Blessed is every one who fears the Lord,

who walks in his ways!

You shall eat the fruit of the labour of your hands;

you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine

within your house . . . (see ch. 1, pp. 7-8)

Notwithstanding the “inclusive language” translating the male generic in Hebrew as “one,” there is no way around the fact that this psalm is addressed by a male God to men. It compares women to property owned and tended by men. Nor does it provide any opening to consider the blessings of same sex marriage.

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Sacred Feminine or Goddess Feminism?

In recent years “the Sacred Feminine” has become interchangeable with (for some) and preferable to (for others) “Goddess” and “Goddess feminism.” The terms Goddess and feminism, it is sometimes argued, raise hackles: Is Goddess to replace God? And if so why? Does feminism imply an aggressive stance? And if so, against whom or what?

In contrast, the term “sacred feminine” (with or without caps) feels warm and fuzzy, implying love, care, and concern without invoking the G word or even the M(other) word--about which some people have mixed feelings. Advocates of the sacred feminine stand against no one, for men have their “sacred feminine” sides, while women have their “sacred masculine” sides as well.

Nothing lost, and much to be gained. Right? Wrong.

Perseus with the Head of Medusa: Sacred Masculine?
Perseus with the Head of Medusa: Sacred Masculine and Sacred Feminine?

When Goddess feminism emerged onto the scene, it had a political edge. It was about women affirming, as Meg Christian crooned in “Ode to a Gym Teacher,” that “being female means you still can be strong.” Goddess feminism arose in clear opposition to patriarchy and patriarchal religions. It was born of an explicit critique of societies organized around male domination, violence, and war; and of the male God or Gods of patriarchal religions as justifying domination, violence, and war. In this context, “the sacred masculine” was not understood to be a neutral or positive concept. To the contrary, the male Gods of patriarchy were understood to be at the center of symbol systems that justify domination.

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  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Carol, thanks for encouraging the idea that making readers comfortable is not necessarily the honorable thing for a wordsmith to d
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Thanks Lisa.
  • Lisa Sarasohn
    Lisa Sarasohn says #
    Thanks again for your elucidation, Carol. In the past, I've titled my workshops "Embodying the Goddess" and "The Goddess In Our Mi
  • Lisa Sarasohn
    Lisa Sarasohn says #
    And for a stirring performance of the song, see https://youtu.be/MQrC2pEalJ8
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Thank you, Lisa. I'm glad that young people are still singing it, in all the languages of the world. And thank you, John.

No matter how carefully developed they are, theories of female power in pre-patriarchal societies are dismissed in academic circles as “romantic fantasies” of a “golden age” based in “emotional longings” with “no basis in fact.” I was reminded of this while reviewing three books about the Goddess last week.

In one of the books, the co-authors, who define themselves as feminists, summarily dismiss theories about the origins of Goddess worship in pre-patriarchal prehistory. In another, the author traces the origin of certain Goddess stories and symbols found in recent folklore back to the beginnings of agriculture. Inexplicably, she stops there, not even mentioning the theory that women invented agriculture. Considering that possibility might have suggested that the symbols and stories the she was investigating were developed by women as part of rituals connected to the agricultural cycle. To ask these questions would have raised a further one: the question of female power in prehistory. And this it seems is a question that cannot be asked. This question was addressed in the third (very scholarly) book, which I fear will simply be ignored.

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Excellent discussion, Carol. I've believed Marija Gimbutas discovered the truth, ever since seeing that wonderful video, Signs Ou
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    It's not about them. It's about how to create a more egalitarian, peaceful, and harmonious world! Well said! Of course it is about
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Goddesses in Context, Dancing Goddesses, Matriarchal Societies.
  • lanette miller
    lanette miller says #
    Would you mind sharing the three books you were reviewing?
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Thanks Meredith. Unfortunately, women as well as men summarily dismiss the research on female power in prehistory. I think there a

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

A few days ago I received a message out of the blue on Facebook:

Thank you for your accepting my friend request. I am fighting to find my way out of depression during a life transition as I move into retirement from my years of work as an educator. I look forward to your book this spring. I have long called myself a Goddess feminist having struggled with patriarchal Christianity since my youth, but have felt abandoned by the Goddess for many years now. I'm not sure how I found you today. I stumbled onto a blog from you on your book while googling something else. Your words gave me a spark of hope. Laurel

In my blog I said that when I began to write A Serpentine Path, I felt abandoned by the Goddess. I wrote back, hoping that sharing what I had learned on my journey would be helpful.

The short answer is that the Goddess has never abandoned any of us. However, She does not have the power to make everything turn out as it could be or should be or we wish it would be. Hers is the power to inspire but not to control. If you have been unhappy, She is with you, She understands your pain, and She will be with you as you seek to find your way. I hope this doesn't sound too preachy. It is from the heart of my experience. Take care of yourself.

I immediately received an answer back.

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thank you Carol - clearly and beautifully written. Omnipotence is such a toxic theological trap.

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