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We've been doing the Ancestor Vigil here for about 20 years and every year it is a little different but the intention is always the same. It is not a Samhain ritual, it is not a celebration of Hallowe'en, it does not glom onto the trendy love of Dia de los Muertes. It is a ritual commemoration of the Recent Dead, the Beloved Long Dead and the Mighty Dead.
We set up a central altar, a candle-lighting station and a place to get more info on Mother Grove Goddess Temple and to leave your food donations for the food pantry. People are invited to place mementos on the altar and there is a place in the ritual where we speak the names of the dead that are closest to us....
I was recently interviewed on a radio program and the host asked me if I might name one way my mother influenced my life. I immediately knew the answer to her question. Evelyn, my mother, taught me to fight for the under-dog. She never verbalized it, but I think she felt like an under-dog. She grew up in Louisiana in the 1940's. It was a time when women had little choice about the direction their life would take. She had no protections like Roe v Wade. Her mother was a janitor and education for women was not a priority. Her world view consisted of getting married, keeping a roof over her head and her kids fed. I can still remember her and my step-father, too poor for a decent meal because selling vacuum cleaners door to door was not putting food on the table, eating corn chips with some cheese spread for dinner. Sometimes my breakfast cereal did not come with milk, but water to moisten it. Ham was out of the question and I came to love bologna sandwiches, especially if I had potato chips to slap between the slices of bread instead of lettuce.
Never having taken a class in Women’s Studies and a product of the conservative South, I don’t think Evelyn can name the cause for her circumstances. I can still hear her misplaced loyalty to her Southern roots as my step-father, a northerner from Iowa, would tell her of the rampant ignorance and racism in the South. Sexism never came up, however. Afterall, women just had their role in society. Evelyn’s life path was not in question - it was normal for the times, but I doubt she was happy. I wonder if she even felt happiness was something she could hope for. I got the feeling she was happy surviving. I wonder how her life would have been different if she had the option to finish high school and go on to college or if she could make enough money not to have to get married or fulfill society’s expectations that women have children. So, yes, Evelyn instilled in me to fight for the under-dog, probably because she felt there was no one fighting for her.
She encouraged me to reach out to the lonely kids on the playground who were rejected by the popular kids. We shared what little we had with neighbors who had less than us. She told me to go out and get what I wanted in life because it would not come “knocking on my door.” She tried her best with what she had to work with, which wasn’t much materially or education-wise, but she had compassion and empathy, which I believe, made her very rich.
So it’s no surprise, today I consider myself a social justice advocate. I fight for “THE OTHER” because today, so many more of us are THE OTHER. We are the ones with a boot on our neck. The boot of white, male, fundamentalist Christian men and their female counterparts who benefit from the oppression of others. Yes, this is the root of so much of the oppression and denigration and it’s not just oppression from the elites. Often it’s poor, white, male, fundamentalist Christian men and their female counterparts who play their part in this patriarchal scheme.
The beauty of the Goddess is often displayed by the luminous glow of her skin, the fluid movement of her body and attire, and by her nourishing and loving qualities that identifies so splendidly with the Feminine Divine. When we envision the Goddess, we visualize the mermaid, the fairy and the priestess; all very beautiful and soft representations of the Female aspect.
Admittedly, most of the time, when someone refers to me as a feminist, the word they follow it up with is not “Witch” (though the word they choose does rhyme with Witch). In fact, I find that people are somewhat confused when I refer to myself as a “Feminist Witch.” This confusion is probably best summed up in the question I got from a young woman in a college class I had been speaking to about Witchcraft and Paganism. Her voice full of sincerity and clear perplexity, she asked, “So you're a feminist? What's the difference between you and a man-hater?”
Well then. I guess that's better than the “What's the difference between you and a Satanist?” bit I usually get at these public lectures, I thought to myself. Then I took a deep breath and gave her my standard answer: “Feminism is the radical idea that women are people. Feminism is the idea that there is no such thing as a lesser person, and that all people deserve dignity and equality, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, class, or anything else.”...
It could be argued that there is no more famous Goddess in modern Paganism than Isis. Her figure -- often winged, with ankh in hand or perhaps an infant Horus, usually crowned by a sun and horns -- is immediately recognizable.
Such was the case in much of the ancient Western world, as well. Known as Au Set or Aset in Egypt, her myths and worship spread across northern Africa, deep into the Middle East, throughout Europe, and as far north as Roman Britain. The memory of her survived even into the Christian Middle Ages. With the (re)birth of Paganism, songs and hymns are once again being raised in her honor; Wiccans, solitary Pagans, Goddess Spiritualists, Kemetics and many others praise her as the Queen of Heaven, the Throne of Creation, the Great Magician, the Mother of Mothers, the Rose of Eternal Life....