FERTILE GROUND SUMMER, 2016, Issue #80: The Sacred Circle of Maidens, Mothers & Crones invites Recovering & Reclaiming women everywhere to join the dance of our sisterhood. By reclaiming the power of the Divine Feminine to recover from Patriarchy and the dysfunctional ways of the world we can collectively bring awareness, change, healing & empowerment to all who honor a path of reverence for Mother Nature and the Feminine Spirit. Let’s remember: WHEN THE WOMEN HEAL, EARTH HEALS!
Through All The World Below
The sun with all her rays Sings of her as she flies, The comet in her blaze Cries her name… The shining of her stars The moon as she appears, Her awesome name declares As they fly through the sky, And join her joyful sounds all around…
Through all the world below… She is seen all around, Through hills & valleys through, There she’s found… The growing of the corn, The lily and the thorn, The pleasant and forlorn, All declare she is there, In meadows dressed in green She is seen!
Colonial Hymn by Susan Rothbaum Sung by Ruth Barrett on her album The Year is a Dancing Woman. Vol. 2
Her streaming waters rise, Fountains flow, rivers run, Her mist that veils the sky Hides the sun… Then down her rain does pour, Her ocean loud does roar, While beating on the shore All give praise to her ways, She’s the one whose glory streams in our dreams….
Her Body, My Body My body is a windmill, the Air itself Her power She breathes the life force, oxygen through day and midnight hours, Cleansing and refreshing from each day’s early dawn, My body is a windmill and Air Her breezy song…. My body is a furnace, a Fire burns within food and air are fuel for Her creating combustion, Light beams out through every pore while passion boils and churns, My body is a furnace and Fire makes it burn…. My body is a river, of Water she’s comprised in every pulsing vein and cell in tears that flood my eyes, She is a living aquifer in waking and in sleep, My body is a river and Water still runs deep…. My body is a tree trunk, the Earth her stable home Her roots are thick and firm as rock Her branches lacy grown, Flexible as willow like cedar, strong from birth, My body is a tree trunk, a feature of the Earth… My body is a temple, the Goddess lives as Me She speaks through every breeze & stream, and sunlight through the trees… I feel Her stirring deep within I see Her in my smile, My body is a temple, Her channel for a while…. D. Smith -- FG 2002
RECOVERING & RECLAIMING A Personal Message from Mama J Greetings Sisters… The time has finally come to put FERTILE GROUND online. Seems like everything we’re doing nowadays has moved in that direction and so must we. I am also delighted that PASS THE RATTLE CIRCLES are now being held online as well. Many sisters have shared with me through the years that they wish they lived close by so they could attend Pass the Rattle Circles with us. Well, now we have the opportunity to bridge that gap. The Sisterhood of the Sacred Circle has provided Pass the Rattle Circles to recovering & reclaiming women for over 30 years, along with our first issue of Fertile Ground which came out in the Spring of 1994 and it’s a privilege to keep it going in this new way. It’s been 5 years since my beloved consort, Thomas, passed away and I’m finally moving on. I had no idea it would take this long but it has, and I’m learning that grief doesn’t have limitations or a set time period. Thankfully, new inspirations have been flooding my consciousness lately and frankly I’m relieved. I was beginning to doubt that this time would ever come again. I’m also ready to let go of things I don’t use or need any longer including many of T’s tools and belongings. Seems like the old is passing away and the new is flowing into my life. I’m very grateful. My book is still in progress. I’m slowly working my way through it while doing the editing. I would have completed it by now if Thomas were still alive, but instead of beating myself up for not getting it done I’m realizing just how supportive Thomas was in my life now that he’s gone. While he was alive he took care of the yards and trees, auto maintenance, plumbing, mending fences, painting, and everything else that needed fixing on the property. He also washed our clothes, sorted the mail, paid the bills and did the shopping while I sat in my office writing, holding circles, going to meetings, working with women and traipsing around the universe holding retreats. I couldn’t believe how much had to be done around here until he was gone and I thank his precious spirit constantly for all he added to my life. Now it’s up to me and since I’m limited financially at this time I have to do the work myself. That’s why it’s taking so long to finish the book. At least I’m not feeling guilty about it any longer. It just takes what it takes. In the last few months many changes have taken place in my life. As many of you know, THE SACRED CIRCLE has joined the Gather the Women Global Matrix. I am now a Regional Coordinator in Carson City and Donna is now a Regional Coordinator in Reno, along with our friends Tu Bears and Lorraine. Donna is also holding Pass the Rattle Circles once a month. Our Serenity Seekers Recovery Group is moving into its 5th year here in Carson City and I’m happy about that too. We have 6 meetings a week and cover topics not normally talked about in regular 12-Step meetings, topics of importance to women. I celebrated 33 years of sobriety in February and was invited to share my story of recovery in April at our annual AA Spring in Reno. It was the first time I spoke before a large crowd in AA and it was quite an experience. I hadn’t attended an AA conference in years so it was good for me to meet new people and mingle with others that I hadn’t seen in awhile. Change seems to be the order of the day and theme of my life in 2016 and I welcome it. We will not be going to Hutchinson Lodge this summer. I’m holding Women’s Studies; Moon Circles, Seasonal Gatherings, Pass the Rattle and Tarot Circles locally. I’m hoping to attend the Goddess Festival in September and Gather the Women Conference in Los Gatos in October. I’m also looking forward to our beautiful Winter Retreat on Lake Tahoe in 2017 and hope many of you will join me online for Pass the Rattle Circles so we can connect more often. I have a lot of good ideas flowing this season so I’m going to let the inspirations and actions flow while I continue taking care of myself. Meantime… I send my best wishes to each and every one of you for a fruitful and abundant summer. Blessed Be.
In love and sisterhood …. JoAnna
My Reflection I heard her voice in springtime's breeze near quiet ponds in wooded trees She beckoned me, "come look to see, reflections of my soul in thee!" I gazed in the water & saw her daughter a flowered Maiden of beauty rare and she was me when young & free as sunbeams danced upon my hair... In waters maze, I watched her change to a Mother filled with Life & Power Her arms embraced a lovers face and children born from wild desire... Then shifting like a sunset sky came a silver witch with laughing eyes a Queen of vision, Crone of wisdom, speaking truths of endless time... With joy I wept as musings came and ancient echoes spoke my name for I was blessed in sacred space awakening to Love's embrace... In Nature's glass 'twas plain to see a changing woman I would be that grace and beauty did reside to weave my life of shifting tides... At last I felt my Spirit rise to dance beneath the moonlit skies for as the mountain and the sea She is the Goddess, mirrored as Me! Silverwitch - 1986
The Sacred Circle of Maidens, Mothers & Crones
HOW THE GODDESS CHANGED MY LIFE JoAnna Silverwitch The Sacred Circle of Maidens, Mothers & Crones was born in the South Bay Area as the result of a profound spiritual experience that reunited me with our ancient mother, the Goddess. This extraordinary epiphany occurred on a Nature walk in the spring of 1985 and changed my life in ways I never dreamed possible.
Sometimes I'd spend hours in this beautiful rustic getaway basking in the beauty of the earth and fragrance of the wildflowers. I would walk on trails along the creek's edge feeling the warmth of the sun on my face or meditate peacefully in quiet groves listening to the wind, but it was always a delight that nurtured my soul. I also offered silent prayers of gratitude as I walked, giving thanks for my sobriety, for my recovery, for my healing and for my peace of mind. This is when the course of my life was changed forever.
At the time I was very active in a 12-Step program of recovery: attending meetings on a daily basis; raising kids, cleaning up the wreckage of my past; healing from years of dysfunctional living; mending relationships with my family, assisting others in recovery and working in the Chemical Dependency Field.
One particular morning near the Spring Equinox, on my day off from work, I strolled in my usual lackadaisical fashion along my favorite dirt path near the duck ponds, basking in whimsical enchantment and offering prayers of gratitude to Mother Nature for the beauty surrounding me, when I was abruptly stopped in my tracks by the voice of a feminine "spirit” whispering through my consciousness. She told me I was made in "her image and likeness" because I brought life into the world like she did. Then, in what seemed like a suspended moment of time, I had a powerful vision which revealed my oneness and sameness with Mother Earth while a tremendous force of cosmic energy swept through me, replacing all former ideologies with overwhelming feelings of selflove and sacredness never before experienced! My soul and sanity seemed restored in a matter of seconds, and I was stunned, but as if waking from a dream I knew exactly who SHE was! At that moment, from a very deep place within me, her ancient memory bubbled to the surface of my consciousness and I uttered... “Mother, is that you?”
In spite of my very busy life in Silicon Valley which included my weekly jaunts thru the Santa Cruz Mountains to the seashore in Capitola, I began developing an insatiable urge to spend more time in Nature. The urge was overwhelming not to mention distracting. I wanted to feel the dirt between my toes, to bask in Nature's beauty and wonder, to connect with my spirit again without the distractions of everyday life. With the divine guidance already experienced in my life I knew this urge was important, that it couldn't be denied. But, I struggled with this urge for awhile because my life was full. I had commitments to women in recovery, to my job and family and didn't think I could squeeze any more time out of my busy schedule. But the urge persisted and I knew it well, so I asked my higher powers for guidance. I soon heard about a lovely rural preserve just blocks away from my house in Campbell so I decided to check it out. This beautiful "park" turned out to be just what I needed. It had thick wooded trees, beautiful ponds and lakes, dirt trails, wildlife, and a wide flowing creek that ran for miles year round. It was perfect, and since I worked in the evenings I started going there in the morning before my noon meetings while my daughters were in school.
This powerful experience was so sudden and unexpected that it prompted me to seek immediate refuge under my favorite willow tree by the creek. I sat down on the cool moss and began weeping, blubbering apologies to my Ancient Mother for somehow forgetting her in a maze of hypnosis that seemed to be just wearing off!
I realized I had always been one with her, like her, separated only by the illusions and false beliefs I was taught to believe! I felt like Sleeping Beauty waking from a spell of slumbering exile, somewhat embarrassed that I fallen prey to such a thing! But this reconnection with the Goddess assuaged any lingering guilt, for as her symphonic sounds and haunting laughter echoed magically through my natural surroundings I was deeply reassured that the joke was on me!
The revelations came, one after another, and I could see why I resented being female; why I had problems with my self-image and sexuality; why I sacrificed my own needs and talents to gain love, attention and approval; why I suffered for years with sadness, grief and depression; why I felt odd and "different" no matter how hard I tried to fit in; why ventures pursued in sincerity became exercises in futility even with my best efforts to conform to the world around me; why I looked for love in all the wrong places; why I couldn’t adapt to the roles I was expected to play in marriage; why I sought various escapes from reality to survive; why man-made, monotheistic religions made me sick, why I felt something was terribly wrong with me and why I had a huge void inside I couldn't fill!
My weeping continued all afternoon but the cleansing brought healing, relief and release from a life of self-bondage. As I listened by the flowing creek a tremendous sense of clarity came over me. I knew at that moment why I became so dysfunctional and why I was REALLY in recovery. It was clear that I had become the victim of a male-dominated world since birth, captive in its oppressive grip along with millions of others.
Yes, it now made perfect sense. My years of shame, deterioration and disease were the result of my estrangement from the Goddess and my Deepest Self. I had been duped! I had unconsciously surrendered my feminine power, wisdom and beauty to the misogynist, lifesucking systems of Patriarchy… and I was absolutely appalled!
It was also clear that under this powerful influence I unconsciously gave my spirit away to the dysfunctional systems around me — to people, places and things outside myself — and by doing so developed an insidious soul sickness which severed me from my authentic nature: from my divinity as a living spirit; from my oneness with Mother Nature and my sacredness as a woman!
That day, sitting beside the flowing creek, my blindfold was removed and my inner sight restored. I knew with absolute certainty that I was a divine soul, created by woman and fashioned with the elements of Mother Nature, in her image, in her likeness, and one with it all! Yes, the joke really was on me!
It suddenly dawned on me that this soulfragmentation was the spiritual malady we talked about in our recovery programs, and the underlying cause of my shame, codependency, neurotic behaviors, compulsive disorders and life-shattering addictions that had made my life so unmanageable! "How could I have been so blind?" I cried. "How could I have done this to myself?"
The revelations of that day shifted my consciousness and perception of reality! I knew I was whole and complete in the framework of my design; that there was nothing to add and nothing to take away from my truest self except the false beliefs that had kept me in states of ignorance, self-hatred and bondage for a greater part of my life. I knew I had always been enough and would always have enough because I was one with Spirit, with Nature, and with the great web of life!
As I sat there by the flowing creek my life flashed in front of me along with the contempt and rage I had always felt for the world. I began understanding why I had such extreme emotional reactions to life; why I viewed the world with disgust; why I was defensive, rebellious, defiant and mistrusting; why I was continually fighting everyone and everything around me; why I left the Catholic Church in my teens; why I felt like a stranger in a strange land; and why I had to buffer the pain of my existence with food, sex, drugs, alcohol and other mind-altering substances!
I sat in the park until sunset that day, but before I left I vowed to serve my ancient Mother for the rest of my life and asked her to show me the way. Two weeks later I share my experience in the park with a pagan friend in recovery and he pointed the way to books I needed to read.
Within a month I was reading books like The Great Cosmic Mother, Chalice and the Blade, The Spiral Dance, Drawing Down the Moon, Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, The Women’s Spirituality Book, Beyond God the Father, The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries and more. I was even amazed to find these books on the market! That’s how out of touch with reality I was.
For the first time in my entire life I was happy to be on the Earth and happy to be a WOMAN! Along with my commitment to recovery, I was now embracing a spiritual path that mirrored who I was and who I had always been. Now that I was embracing Women’s Mystery Traditions, patriarchal images of Deity didn't work for me any longer. I was actually angered and outraged by these images because they were so false and misleading. My new awareness, particularly in 12-Step Recovery Meetings, made it obvious that WE, as individuals and as a culture, had forgotten our true source of life: MOTHER. I was deeply saddened by this. I knew if I had been taken to goddess circles as a young girl it would have spared me years of confusion, heartache and self-destruction, especially in the way I viewed myself as a female.
“Where had I been for the last 35 years?” I wondered. “What had I been doing with my life?” “Where were all these books when I needed them?” But I knew in my heart where I had been. I had gotten lost in the unconscious world of addiction and alcoholism, caught between the insane worlds of right and wrong… stuck in a web of patriarchal deceit and ridicule… and I had lost my spirit in the process. My soul was fragmented. I had given up on myself until there was nothing left and I knew I was very lucky to be alive!
During this time it was becoming obvious that our disconnection from the natural world— from the Goddess—went to the core of all the madness and insanity in the world. It was clear that the living systems of Mother Nature and man-made systems of Patriarchy were totally incompatible and the underlying cause of the dysfunctions and diseases I saw all around me, even in recovery: the codependency, violence, wars, racism, sexism, oppression, numerous addictions and needless obsessions for money, property, prestige, sex, security, people, places and things.
For the next two years I watched films about the Women’s Spirituality Movement and read everything I could get my hands on about the Goddess and my ancestral lineage in Old Europe. I also attended my first woman’s circle in Santa Cruz … and it was like coming home! My life began filling up with real meaning and simplicity at this time. I began living by the seasons of nature, by the waxing and waning cycles of sun and moon while creating solitary rituals to honor the cycles of my life as a woman. With the inspirational writings and experience of my sisters in the women’s movement I began remembering, recovering and reclaiming who I was and who I had always been, and my life changed in ways I never dreamed possible.
I spent many hours in Nature as a young girl, before I began my dance of death in the world of sleeping consciousness, and I knew the difference then. In the wilds of nature, away from worldly distractions, I felt incredible peace because I resonated with the vibrational frequencies of Mother Nature. In the Man-made world I was restless, irritable and discontent, which describes the spiritual malady we talk about in our recovery programs. So the answer was obvious. LET GO and LET GODDESS. Be in the world but not of it. Keep it simple. Be kind.
I never returned to a life of addiction like my family feared that I would, because I was now recognizing my sacredness after being buried for years under deceptive shit-piles of patriarchal brainwashing. My real education had begun. I was inspired like never before. I was coming full circle and I was grateful.
Our severance from Mother Nature along with our indoctrination into a world of false beliefs, misogyny, propaganda, greed, violence, war and fear had actually produced a soul fragmentation and separation from reality that led in time to diseases of the mind, body, heart and soul… and that’s what “recovery” was all about: returning to our true nature as children of the earth.
In all my years of spiritual questing I never experienced a feeling of satisfaction quite like this one. The Goddess filled a need in my soul that I didn't know I had. She was the missing link I was unconsciously searching for all my life! My long wait was over! I now felt genuine hope.
I spent the next two years studying and attending women’s circles in Santa Cruz while weaving Goddess Spirituality into my recovery program. I began changing the language of the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions to suit my consciousness of the Goddess and they turned into the 13 Steps and 13 Traditions of The Sacred Circle.
We cannot think our way into right living! We must ACT our way into right thinking and remember ourselves on a deeper level of consciousness, one rooted in a very old and ancient truth: We are living spirits, one with ALL things in the great web of life... and… WE ARE the SAVIORS we've been waiting for! For 33 years I’ve shared my experience, strength and hope in Rooms of Recovery, The Sacred Circle and Women’s Circles everywhere in hopes of creating a deeper awareness of our recovery from Patriarchy and the need to reclaim the Goddess in our lives. --- I pray we will all awaken from our stupor as children of the Earth: One with Nature, One in Spirit, One with all things in the great Web of Life, so balance can be restored to our planet here and now. Maybe then, and only then, will the light of our souls shine brightly enough on the Earth to unify every living creature that depends on her sustenance. --- Blessed Be
Before long, the women I sponsored in recovery noticed a change in my demeanor and started asking me questions. So, from that time on, especially when a woman expressed her discomfort with the patriarchal god of the program, I’d share about the Goddess, about Mother Nature, about Women's Spirituality and our unique mysteries as women. I’d share why I needed images of the Divine Feminine to recover from the belief systems of Patriarchy; from the shame, pain, oppression and soulfragmentation that led to our codependency, internalized oppression and the numerous addictions that affected our lives… and they listened with enthusiasm! Before I knew it a group of women began pouring into my home on a regular basis to talk about the Goddess, Women's Spirituality, Feminism and Recovery. In the summer of 1987, we held our first full-moon ritual, in December we held our first Winter Solstice ritual and on Candlemas we dedicated ourselves and the Circle to the Goddess. This is how THE SACRED CIRCLE was born and grew into a collective of many powerful women, each special, each unique, each a goddess in her own right, and it has continued welcoming hundreds of women ever since. The Sacred Circle is for women-bornwomen only but we do recognize that males as well as females need to reclaim the Goddess because she is our maternal connection to life, the living, breathing Earth-Mother of which we are all a part. Reclaiming our oneness with Mother Nature and each other is a vital key to our complete restoration. This awareness is being shared by thousands in the world today, but sadly it is still a vital element missing in our recovery programs.
JoAnna is the Founding Mother of The Sacred Circle. She’s a Dianic Priestess; UCM Minister; Regional Coordinator for Gather the Women Global Matrix and overseer of the Serenity Seekers Recovery Group in Carson City, Nevada. She’s been remembering, recovering, reclaiming, and bringing women together in circles for over 30 years.
Visit her websites at: www.TheSacredCircle.net or www.TheRecoveringGoddess.com
If we desire real freedom from bondage and long-term recovery it’s essential that we break through our insidious denial and relinquish the false belief systems that keep us separated from the Earth, ourselves and each other.
Our 13 Traditions In keeping with our utmost integrity & purpose these Traditions define & guide The Sacred Circle: 1. We acknowledge we are healing from unhealthy life styles brought about by the trauma of Patriarchy; Hierarchy; and our estrangement from the Natural World. 2. We embrace a 13-Step Path of Recovery & Reclaiming to bring personal transformation to our lives. 3. As Visible Spirits... our common desire is to live in harmony with Nature, Ourselves & Others.... doing as we will, while harming none 4. We see Spirit & Nature as one... & acknowledge Earth, Air, Fire and Water as our primal sources of life 5. We honor the Goddess in her many guises & embrace the Women’s Spirituality Path 6. We honor changing phases of the Moon & our life cycles as Maiden, Mother and Crone 7. We celebrate Days of Power on the Sacred Wheel; the Solstices, Equinoxes, and Cross-Quarter days in between. 8.
Our authority comes from Higher Powers & Ancient Wisdom that resides within each of us; therefore, we rely on experience and divine wisdom to guide the Circle 9. We respect diversity & individual expression... encouraging each sister to participate as her bright spirit dictates. 10. We take responsibility for paying our own way... & are self-supporting through our own contributions 11. All Sisters remain Clean & Sober when participating in our Circle
12. In essence... We rely on Attraction rather than Promotion 13. We value the welfare of our Circle as a whole. Love ~ Respect ~ Tolerance ~ Unity ~ Harmony ~ Sanctuary and Anonymity are keys to personal growth... healing... empowerment... transformation... and change! Let’s Remember:
WHEN THE WOMEN HEAL... THE EARTH HEALS! Blessed Be © JoAnna Silverwitch - The Sacred Circle, 1987
The 13 Step Path 1. We admitted we lost our power in Patriarchy; that our lives became dysfunctional as a result 2. Acknowledged we could be restored to wholeness through a natural healing process 3. Became willing to reclaim our power & authenticity with guidance from higher powers & like-minded sisters 4. Took an honest inventory of our resentment, fear, shame or guilt, to uncover the root causes of our unhealthy behaviors and to discover the truth about ourselves 5. Revealed it all to a trusted mentor 6. Became willing to let go of all dysfunctions... discard unhealthy behaviors… live in the present… & embrace ourselves with love & acceptance 7. Invited the spirits of change & transformation to banish all barriers to our healing... and restore us to wholeness, balance, harmony & empowerment 8. Looked at ways we had harmed ourselves and others & became willing to mend our lives 9. Made direct amends wherever & whenever possible 10. Continue to take personal inventory; make amends; claim our hearts desires & follow the dictates of our soul 11. Continue to deepen our connection with Divine Forces through spiritual and magical practices of our choice asking only for guidance, vision, wisdom & power to carry out what's best for all 12. Being graced with transformation & restoration... we share our experience, strength & hope with all who ask & try to be of maximum service to humanity 13. We honor Nature & Spirit as the Immanent Life Force and our oneness with all things in the great web of life; We Claim our divinity; Follow our path of heart; Doing as we will, with harm to none Blessed Be © JoAnna Silverwitch - The Sacred Circle, 1987
RECOVERING & RECLAIMING RECOVERY is a return to the authentic self; a transformational process that alters our consciousness and perception of reality; a deep healing journey that restores us to a natural state of health and wholeness on every level of being: Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual. RECLAIMING is restoring our oneness with Spirit and Nature, while embracing a way of life that honors our unique mysteries and magic as women, made in the image and likeness of the Goddess; a path that celebrates our beauty, power, wisdom, authority, and oneness with all things in the great web of life. Many diseases, whatever the symptoms, are caused by inner or outer disharmony rooted in delusions of the mind. These mind-sets are created by our conditioning in Patriarchy and by living in dysfunctional systems that sever our ability to flow with the natural forces and cycles of Life. To recover, mind, body and soul, we must go through a process of uncovering, discovering, discarding and amending everything that stands in the way of being whole, for only through a process of self-examination, amendment, change and transformation, of recovering and reclaiming, can we truly be empowered enough to live authentically and harmoniously in the world. In the Sisterhood of the Sacred Circle, we utilize the Steps of Recovery while embracing a spiritual path that honors the Divine Feminine to restore the fragmented pieces of the soul lost to us in Patriarchy. Many of us developed mindsets and grave emotional patterns leading to deterioration of the soul and dysfunctional living, but we are clear that healing, change and transformation is possible when we seek a way of living that reconnects us with the Earth, our Divine Spirit, and our unique mysteries as women. - Blessed Be -
ÂŠ JoAnna Silverwitch- The Sacred Circle, 1987
Recovering & Reclaiming
PATRIARCHY “If a woman isn’t reclaiming the Goddess in Recovery, she isn’t recovering!” ~ Silverwitch ~ Patriarchy is the insidious cultural force governing our world today; a hierarchal “power over” system supporting male domination and supremacy. The primary "Patriarchal Myth" teaches that MAN was fashioned in GOD'S image and WOMAN was fashioned from MAN'S rib. Therefore, MAN is made to be like GOD and WOMAN is made to serve MAN. This myth is deeply rooted in all religious/political/social/cultural systems which patronize a male god; give MAN dominion over the Earth; and appoint MAN head of household. Patriarchy enforces a belief-system that millions have unconsciously internalized for more than 3,500 years, creating illusions of the mind and deep soul separation that has literally affected every level of our lives on every level of our being. Patriarchy keeps the numerous powers of the female under its control. The Goddess as Mother Nature, Creatrix, Life-Giver and Regenerator has been deliberately suppressed and supplanted by patriarchal religion and political systems along with Her natural spiritual authority and power of choice which resulted in the sick and dysfunctional world we live in today. Patriarchy creates illusions of male supremacy, power and importance. Of course the idea of male supremacy is absurd, but when we uphold this delusion we are actually supporting and sustaining a hierarchal system that keeps us oppressed, sick, dependent, poor and powerless. We must also realize that by relinquishing our power to Patriarchy and its male dominated systems, unconsciously or not, we are actually justifying, condoning or rationalizing the condescending and abusive treatment of females, children, animals, nature and any other life form considered less valuable. Patriarchy stifles our true essence by creating a false sense of reality. It perpetuates shame and deterioration of the soul because it goes against the natural forces of life. The TRUTH IS: we are all spiritual beings, one with Nature, one in Spirit, valuable and complete in the framework of our design, and we must reclaim our divinity, unique mysteries and deep connection with the natural world in order to fully recover. The laws and forces that govern life, Yin and Yang, Dark and Light, are balanced, flowing harmoniously and equally between polarities. If we are not aligned with the natural forces and cycles of life we stay unbalanced, therefore unhealthy. Males as well as females are gravely affected by Patriarchy because it defines roles for us that are impossible to emulate without creating conflict or confusion in our basic natures and in our relationships with one another. Patriarchy creates wars within the SELF, and when there’s conflict and stress within there is always discord, dis-ease and dysfunction in our lives. In the Sacred Circle, we are reclaiming our unique mysteries and natural spiritual authority as women to free ourselves from the mental, emotional, and spiritual bondage of Patriarchy because it lies at the root of our soul fragmentation, codependency, internalized oppression, depression, compulsive disorders, numerous addictions and many other abuses we experience in our culture today… and true recovery is not possible until we are restored to sanity and wholeness as Living Spirits of the Earth.
THE EFFECTS OF PATRIARCHY Since Patriarchy is a misogynist (women hating) system, it instills in us the shame of being female so many of us go through our lives inwardly feeling there is something wrong with us. When we continue believing this lie, and living by it, we develop our own brand of self-hatred which leads in time to internalized oppression, fear, pain, rage, and destructive patterns that complicate our lives in various ways. Again, patriarchy creates a deterioration of the soul which leads to the disease of codependency and other deadly addictions. This soul sickness starts in early years of life when we are forced to adjust to the harsh realities and systems of Patriarchy. Then it progresses into neurotic disorders, dysfunctions and diseases if we keep tolerating or internalizing the pain that comes with it. This becomes a way of life for many of us, and once we are in this dilemma it becomes very difficult differentiating true from false because our awareness of being sacred or goddess-like, has been greatly diminished. As women, we lose our power and sense of self in Patriarchy because our unique mysteries, feminine values and divine images have been suppressed, hidden, and not reflected in the unbalanced world around us. Since images of the Goddess or Divine Feminine have been erased for centuriesâ€Ś it's easy to lose sight of our true identities when we lack real or mythic models that can mirror who we are. Even when sparks of sacredness emerge from within us at times, they can be quickly squashed by surrounding cultural forces or relationships that keep us in constant states of fear, oppression, rage, pain, denial and cripple our ability to express ourselves freely. In order to heal our minds, bodies, hearts and souls we must reclaim our sacred spaces along with a spiritual path that honors our unique mysteries as women, made in the image of the Goddess. This is what true recovery for women is all about.
ÂŠ JoAnna Silverwitch - The Sacred Circle, 1987
A TRIBUTE TO MY MOTHER Katherine T. The more a daughter knows the details of her mother’s life, without flinching or whining, the stronger the daughter. ~ The Red Tent by Anita Diamant ~
To My beloved Mother, Charlotte, on her 73rd Birthday: I know that you were one of eight children born into poverty, violence and neglect. I know you had a father who could be cruel and thoughtless when he drank and sometimes brought terror to his beautiful little girl Charlotte. I also know that you were a child born into love and imagination, that you were also raised by a father who loved intellect and education. It is possible to have both in one house. You were a child when you had to learn to take care of yourself. Got yourself to school, washed out the only dress that you owned to wear it the next day and were often lost in the shuffle as no one really noticed if you were gone or what time you came home. You were a middle girl in a large family that valued boys. I know that your mother was overwhelmed with how to feed all of you and keep a roof over your heads and that she suffered untold incidents of terror and oppression by your father too. I understand that it is possible that in that environment you never really felt safe or cared for. You were a child when you got pregnant at 16 years old and had to marry my father, also a teen ager. You had me, your second child at 18. You were unable to finish high school. You then had to figure out how to raise children when you yourself---were a child. The drunkenness and violence followed you into your next home due to my father having the disease of alcoholism. I would imagine that it must have seemed like one nightmare after the next when you realized that you had moved from one unpredictably terrorizing home to the next. When you were around 20 years old, you were at your wits end. Hopelessly depressed and on the verge of suicide, you had reached a very dark place in your life. You found an advertisement on a laundry mat wall across the street from our Section 8 Housing, which told you to call a number to Al Anon. That phone number saved your life. You called and got help. The ladies in Al Anon sponsored you out of hell to a life you had never imagined. It was stop and start for many years as dad went in and out of AA, but you always stayed and you grew up in Al Anon. God blessed you with many mothers during that time: Marylyn, Fran, Marian Clay, Estelle and I am sure countless others. You were guided to take it one day at a time and to stay focused on the fact that together women in recovery can do anything. Even raise children in a healthy home where the disease of alcoholism threatens at the door’s threshold every day. You had two more little girls in your mid-twenties and you kept going to meetings, working with others and staying present for your children. You did the best you could. You were a good mother, always wanting to keep the peace. You never spoke ill of others, you always got up early, showered and dressed impeccably and made sure that we had what we each needed to get by in the world. Whether that was a prom dress, money for lunch, a special treat for our field trips, therapy, cooked weight watcher meals or a secret urging behind my father’s back to go to law school and shake up the world. You parented me with all the knowledge and love that you had at the time.
Dad finally got sober for good when you were about 35 years old. After that, you both worked at creating a life of family stability and personal growth until the kids starting leaving the nest. Rudy Jr. joined the Coast Guard and left home at age 19, I left too that year to attend college and Karen and Christine followed. At about the age of 46 your husband, our father, was diagnosed with a terminal illness, stomach cancer. Things got very sad and difficult very quickly. His health failed and his body changed long before he died at the age of 51. You were only 49. Having been married for 33 years by that time, you lost the true love of your life. You took your Al Anon program and your faith and with much pain and grief, started again. And in many ways you just started. You started the life you were meant to have-- had times and circumstances been different and you had been urged to follow your dreams as a child. You went back to school full time and got your B.A. in Woman’s Studies from UC Davis. You were a nearly 4.0 student. After you graduated, you served our country by joining the Peace Corps at the age of 60. You lived in Ecuador for 24 months. You discovered your true strength and courage while living alone in a foreign country on what must have seemed like less than a dollar a day. You made good lifelong friends in Marian and Gerrod, and others I cannot name. Your world went from Yolo County to South America. You became an ambassador for peace in the world just as you had been an ambassador for peace in your own family. You were a community worker who educated the women on domestic violence and substance abuse resources. Yes, in God’s economy nothing is wasted. After you returned you had a brief bad marriage with a very confused man (an orthodontist) who to this day continues to be generous to our family. But, you thereafter regained your wits and went back to school where you earned your Master Degree in Social Work at San Jose State University. You also started mission work and became a founding board member of Faces of Tomorrow. You travel with doctors who go out of country to places where children who are born with cleft palates would never otherwise have surgery. You continued your ministry of love and compassion for families who are afraid and less fortunate than you and your family. You served these families by helping them prepare for surgery through counseling and prayer. You also became a lay minister for the Catholic Church and have continued to strengthen your personal faith without imposing it on others or even really seeing the differences that religions may have because you only focus on love and forgiveness. As if that wasn’t enough, you acquired the 3000 hours that you needed to qualify for your LCSW license, and have worked nearly full time for the last several years as a social worker for the most vulnerable populations in Yolo County. You are a bi-lingual, bi-cultural social worker who has the added feature of bringing love and compassion to everything you do. No wonder everyone loves you. On the job, I have met people in San Jose that always ask about you before we get down to business. Everyone that you touch sees the magic of your ways. The way you lead with humility and compassion. Love and forgiveness are two things that you have never faltered on. You have always been quick to forgive and eager to move on to focus on strengths and solutions. I got that from you. Margaret and Cece have gotten that from me and their children will get that from them. You have broken the cycles of domestic violence, addiction and poverty within your own family by following your intuition that day in the laundry mat on East 8 th Street and calling Al Anon. All of your children are clean, sober and safe. All of your children are humble and respectful. All of your children are tax-paying citizens. You led the way with your living example. All of your grandchildren will follow their dreams. Today I know that you took your LCSW exam. I want you to know that you will pass. If you did not pass today, you will pass next time. Each time we attempt a feat and do not make it, it is just another opportunity to grow and learn. You have taught me, that Failure is Impossible. Katherine T is a senior member of The Sacred Circle with over 30 years in Recovery.
Charge of Tomorrow I dreamed I was the Creator And when I awoke I saw that it was true. Joy and sorrow flow from my footsteps… Reality is becoming… in each new moment. Walking into the future, every single step we take, Plants seeds that will grow into the reality we will live. You have control over the future, choose seeds wisely, One seed can grow respect, one seed grows vision, One seed grows beauty and grace And another seed grows hate. You are the sower… you are the Creator With each step, each word, you create a world You create reality in each moment, every moment Is it pain or joy that your steps are planting today? When you move on, what will trace the journey you walked in your lifetime, kindness or greed? Will it be the weeds of hatred, bitterness and sorrow? Or twisted vines of resentment, envy and meanness choking the ground and poisoning the future? If you walk with courage… your steps will glow with the flowers and blossoms of hope, joy, forgiveness and the abundant fruits of community, sharing, tolerance, generosity and compassion, radiant proof of the blessings from the Universe. How did you use Your Divinity today? Were you poisonous or healing? Were you kind or cruel? Were you a benevolent or vengeful Creator? Tomorrow awaits your choices. You have a World to Create. Abby Willowroot
REMAINING LOYAL TO YOURSELF AND YOUR DREAMS, REGARDLESS! Patricia Lynn Reilly A woman’s vow to herself is the first step to achieving balanced, rich, and reciprocal relationships with others. The wedding ceremony is a sacred drama that captures our imaginations, evokes our emotions, enlivens our senses, and transforms our reality, for an hour or for a lifetime. All of us have attended such a ceremony as part of a couple’s community of support, gathered together in sacred time and space to witness the public expression of their love and to hold them accountable to their truest intentions. While sitting there, we imagine our daughter’s wedding; we remember our own; we relish the pageantry of color, fragrance, and sound; and we hope against all hope that the noble words spoken, expressing humankind’s highest aspirations about love and faithfulness will come true. All of us have witnessed the hope-filled vows of couples, acknowledging the love that brought them together and expressing their intention to sustain that love over time. Many of us have written our own wedding vows and spoken them aloud to our beloved. Our spoken vow, witnessed by friends and family, reminds us to keep our promises one day at a time. Sadly, many of us did not keep the promises we spoke in hopeful and eager tones on our wedding day. Relationships are complex and require a great deal of skillfulness. Yet, lessons on how to cultivate healthy intimate relationships were not included in our official education. We learned what we know from observing our parents. Thus we often carry ineffective behaviors into our intimate relationships, behaviors that contribute to the break-up of one out of every two marriages. Even more fundamental than our lack of intimacy and training, we were not encouraged to cultivate a relationship with ourselves, which is the prerequisite for healthy relationships with others. During adolescence, a season of life when we needed daily encouragement to deepen our relationship to our natural vitality, resilience, and sense of self, we were encouraged to be other-focused, other-directed, and other-involved. We were taught, and sadly, we teach our daughters, ineffective behaviors that further alienate us from ourselves. --- Inspired by the stories of the women with whom I have worked, I developed “The Vow of Faithfulness” composition process by re-fashioning the wedding vow and wedding ceremony into transformational resources for women. Composing a vow to ourselves prepares us for healthy relationships with others in four essential ways: 1. Our capacity to love others is in direct proportion to how deeply we love ourselves. The vow composition process invites us to gaze upon our past and present, our body and its needs, our ideas and emotions, our resources and capacities, our injury and exquisite potential for loving kindness. In this way, our capacity to love will deepen. 2. Our capacity to live non-judgmental lives is in direct proportion to how deeply we have accepted ourselves. The vow composition process invites us to descend into our own richly textured humanity in all its trouble and beauty, gifts and challenges, awkwardness and grace, turning a merciful eye toward all that we discover. In this way, our capacity to live compassionately will deepen.
3. Our capacity to be available to others is in direct proportion to how substantially we are available to ourselves. The vow composition process invites us to turn toward ourselves with interest and attention; to acknowledge our own feelings, thoughts, and perceptions; and to offer ourselves support through life’s challenges and celebrations. In this way, our capacity to be available to others will deepen. 4. Our capacity to remain faithful to another is in direct proportion to the depth of our loyalty to ourselves. The vow composition process invites us to maintain loyalty to ourselves through all the seasons of life, to preserve allegiance to ourselves even in the face of opposition. In this way, our capacity to sustain interest in others and to remain faithful to them will deepen.
A vow of faithfulness is a sacred assertion, a positive declaration, affirmation, or statement, expressing a woman’s intention to remain loyal to herself and to preserve allegiance to herself even when challenged and opposed. Self-love is moody. Much like our love for the significant others in our lives, its intensity ebbs and flows. Writing a formal vow reminds us of the truth about ourselves when we forget. It recenters us when challenged by the ingrained habits of over-responsibility, peoplepleasing, and over-involvement. It reminds us of the way home when we wander away from what is truest and best for us, when we become distracted from our primary relationship to ourselves. There is no right way to compose a vow. Consider the following vows. Highlight the phrases that resonate with your own experience and begin to compose your own vow. 1. I vow to love my body all the days of my life, supporting it with strength; to listen to the deep wisdom of my body, meeting its needs with tenderness and grace; to embrace my sexuality and explore the edges of my sensuality; to honor the whole range of human emotion, allowing each feeling to pass through me as gracefully as a breath; to speak my truth, refusing to defer to the thoughts and perceptions of others; to sustain interest in myself, embracing my own life as teacher, healer, and challenge; to celebrate my unique vision and experience, refusing to color inside someone else’s lines; and to be full of myself, honoring my desire for acknowledgment and recognition. 2. Recognizing that my relationships with others mirror my relationship with myself: I vow to descend into my own richly textured humanity in all its trouble and beauty, gift and challenge, awkwardness and grace, turning a merciful eye toward all that I discover. I will cultivate compassion toward myself and without effort my capacity to live compassionately will deepen. I vow to turn toward myself with interest and attention, to acknowledge my own feelings, thoughts, and perceptions... and to offer myself support through all life’s challenges and celebrations. I will cultivate my availability to myself and without effort my capacity to be available to others will deepen. I vow to maintain loyalty to myself through all the seasons of my life and to preserve allegiance to myself even in the face of opposition. As I do, my capacity to sustain interest in others and to remain faithful to them will deepen. Patricia Lynn Reilly is a feminist theologian, retreat facilitator and author of several books including: Imagine a Woman in Love with Herself and I Promise Myself: Making a Commitment to yourself and your Dreams. You can visit her website at www.openwindows.org
Imagine a Mother Imagine a mother who believes she belongs in the world, A mother who celebrates her own life, Who is glad to be alive… Imagine a mother who celebrates the birth of her daughters, A mother who believes in the goodness of her daughters, Who nurtures their wisdom, Who cultivates their power…. Imagine a mother who celebrates the birth of her sons, A mother who believes in the goodness of her sons, Who nurtures their kindness, Who honors their tears… Imagine a mother who turns toward herself with interest, A mother who acknowledges her own feelings & thoughts, Whose capacity to be available to her family deepens as she is available to herself. Imagine a mother who is aware of her own needs & desires, A mother who meets them with tenderness & grace, Who enlists the support of respectful friends & chosen family… Imagine a mother who lives in harmony with her heart. A mother who trusts her impulses to expand & contract, Who knows that everything changes in the fullness of time… Imagine a mother who embodies her spirituality, A mother who honors her body as a sacred temple of the spirit of life, Who breathes deeply as a prayer of gratitude for life itself… Imagine a mother who values the women in her life, A mother who finds comfort in the company of women, Who sets aside time to replenish her woman-spirit….
Imagine yourself as this Mother! Patricia Lynn Reilly
MOTHERING IN RECOVERY By Eleanor R.
It took three days to give birth to my eldest daughter. She started coming on a Friday afternoon while my mother and I were at the movies watching Kalifornia. It was a bloody, violent movie and I really do not know how we ended up there watching it in the first place. But, about a third of the way into it, there was a vicious stabbing of one of the main characters. Suddenly, with the reflex of my emotion at exactly that moment when the knife went into the victim, my water broke. A gushing of water came out of me and landed on the theatre floor and all over my gold sandals. It was summer. My mother stood up from her theatre seat and shouted for someone to call 911. I pulled her to sit back down and made my apologies to those around us. I told my mother that we had 24 hours after my water had broken to get to the hospital. I did not need an ambulance. Knowledge is power. My husband met us at the hospital. I began to go into labor that evening the Friday before Labor Day weekend. I did not know then, that the birth would be a marathon of sorts. Of course I would not accept any mood altering drugs because I wanted a clean and sober baby. So I did what I could until the bitter end. She wouldn’t come. She would not leave me. She hung on for dear life, after three days, with a Csection and what looked like a crow bar for a car tire, they wedged her out of me. She was beautiful. She had the coloring of a Greek Princess and the sparkling eyes of a Buddha. She was perfect. A Goddess was born. I took her home and became her rock. As you may expect, she changed our lives forever. Going to 12 Step meetings and working the Steps was now even more critical. I was raising a human. I did not want to raise her in the shadows of the twisted and dysfunctional relationships that one finds in most alcoholic/addict homes. My husband and I promised never to squash her spirit. I needed lots of reinforcements there since I was basically raised in a home that required maximum invisibility and emotional contortion with my alcoholic father and my emotionally ill mother. I had to have help. Because of her I took parenting classes, learned to meditate, read every book I could find on helping a human come into being and worked the Steps with my Sponsor over and over again, remaining current especially on Step 10. I was terrified I would do it wrong, so I always made an effort to do it right. Mostly we kept our word. With both girls we did what we said and we said what we did. They never had to “guess” at the meaning of my words or emotions. I did not raise them with the “coded language” of my very dysfunctional family of origin. Or the subtext of fear, anger and disappointment that often permeated our home when I was a child. I raised them with intention and attention to their souls. The best proof that I was on track was that once while traveling in Israel after a particularly harrowing visit to the Holocaust Museum, the girls began to tell me and their father how difficult their lives had been (they were 12 and 15). I looked at them in shock realizing that all the sadness and trauma of the museum must have stirred up some pretty strong emotions for them. So, I asked them if I had done anything right? She looked at me with great love and innocence and she said, “Mom, you try… you really try.” Almost 18 years later to the day after her birth, I dropped her off at college. Coincidentally, that took a long weekend as well. We started out on a Friday morning with a cross country flight. She told me everything that was on her mind and answered some of my questions about relationships and substance experimentation. We had the time and space to have a long heart to heart conversation. I was not pained as I was at her birth, by any part of this experience. I thought I would be. I thought that the first time I learned that she had tried alcohol that I would combust or disappear out of fear. But, I did not. I thought I would weep at the thought of leaving her. However, my own years in recovery and working the 12 Steps helped me to see it for what it was and not to react out of proportion. I trust her. ---- She laid her head on my lap for the last 10 minutes of our journey on the plane dissension into JFK. I rubbed her head. I played with her spiky red hair. I loved her with my eyes: her gauges, her nose piercing and her lip piercing. I even loved the multiple ear piercings in the cartilage areas. No heartache? Where did it go? She laid on my lap and I just 100% loved her.
She is my beautiful woman Goddess now. She is my teacher and my heart’s great love. At that moment, like childbirth, I had no memory of the long nights caring for her while sick, waiting for her to come home as a teenager, wondering what she would pierce next, the angst of choosing the right schools, the right caretakers and the right parenting style. It was as if I was floating in heaven. We got there and promptly went to Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy college dorm room stuff. It was pandemonium because Hurricane Irene was afoot. People were buying up everythingwater, batteries, canned goods, milk. We just needed a trash can, a desk lamp and some bedding. It was surreal to see and feel the distress of the New Yorkers in what was being billed as a pending state of emergency with the parallel of my own inner trauma of losing my first born. We just did what we had to do as always in my own reliance on HP. I put one foot in front of the other and got it done. We weathered it together with the subtext of her just now also experiencing the biggest change of her life. We got to the hotel and went to bed exhausted. The next morning we got up and went to the college. She began to express some of her fears about making friends. We moved her in without fanfare or stress. Once we stepped onto the campus we entered another world, the world of private school academia. As we were walking towards the college she looked at me and she said, “Mom I am so glad that I do not have to worry about being embarrassed by my parent today. I am so nervous. It is not the way you look, but that you have so much integrity, I do not have to worry about being embarrassed by you.” I knew at that moment that all of my effort, personal discipline and sacrifice had been worth it. My daughter was proud of me and she could count on me. I had demonstrated a healthy mother in Recovery. I had not expected any of these gifts. Truly I was humbled. She did pay attention. I could see that she respected me as much as she respects herself. She has gone from my womb, to my home, to her dream college and to graduating with honors. We are now very lucky to have her home for a bit as she plans her next move, probably to Law School. This labor of love has been the most rewarding of my life. I imagined the full circle that had just been executed. I imagined the end to the family dysfunction that I had been raised with and how I supported her to make her dreams come true. She did not run screaming from our family home as soon as she was 18 and a high school graduate, vowing to never move back, as I had done. I took her across the country and made sure she had everything she needed and then I let her go. I am truly in awe of how much I have grown up and how the Universe has supported my dream of making her dreams come true. As a woman in Recovery I keep my word and I am there for my children. I can be depended upon. I am the last person my children and husband need to worry about. I am solid and I now have strong and powerful daughters in my life. Eleanor R. is author of The Disease of More and 12 Principles to Wellness which can be purchased on www.Amazon.com. She has over 30 years in recovery and is now working on her next book. To learn more about her, please visit her website at: www.DiseaseofMore.com
Through feminism, I gained a language I used to criticize the compromises my mother made in her relationship with my father. She responded that she had no interest in exploring questions that might lead her to leave him. -- I began to learn that the idea of the sisterhood of women has its limitations.
SISTERHOOD is… well …. Complicated – Carol P. Christ
Just last week a Greek woman friend and I were discussing the break-up of three marriages in our village between foreign women and Greek men. I commented that I had been shocked that the men—who had been left by their wives—told their sons that their mothers were “putanas” (whores) and encouraged their sons to cut off all communication with their mothers. When I was a girl, the women in the neighborhood looked out for each other, and my mother had a wide circle of women friends. My grandmother lived nearby, and she and my mother spoke on the telephone nearly every day. My mother and I had a close relationship cemented by caring together for my baby brother.
I was even more shocked when my friend responded that these women (who had waited until their sons finished high school before they left their marriages) never should have abandoned their families. My attempts to suggest that these women must have had good reasons to leave their marriages fell on deaf ears.
In graduate school when I was one of a few women in a male-dominated field in a hostile environment, I discovered that “sisterhood is powerful” when I joined a group of women who came together to share experiences and change our lives. Having grown up in a community in which women supported each other, I found it relatively easy to support and seek support from women in a feminist environment.
Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente’s recent blog “Feministing Sarah and Hagar” caused me to think again about the ways women’s bonds with each other are distorted by patriarchy. Vanessa tells us that the story of Sarah and Hagar (The Biblical Story of Abraham’s wife and mistress) epitomizes the relationships of women under patriarchy, showing: how their lives intertwine in accordance with the wishes of male authority; the way in which their identities, potential and agencies are put to trial against each other to meet a man’s need is the universal and original performance of women in the history of patriarchal domination over us.
At the same time, my newfound feminist identity deepened a rift that had opened in my relationship with my mother when I decided to go to graduate school. Though she was proud of my accomplishments, my mother feared that if I pursued a career, I would never get married.
Reflecting on Vanessa’s blog I noted that: Sarah was given (for sex) by her husband to a more powerful man, and then she was the one who gave (for sex) Hagar to her husband.
Muriel Rukeyser wrote: What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open. Rukeyser forgot to add that for the world to split open women must also listen. In order to listen, women must be willing to ask questions about their own lives. Until and unless women as a group take this risk, we will continue to pit ourselves and allow ourselves to be pitted against each other.
Sadly, under the conditions of patriarchy women who have been abused “normally” participate in the system. Rather than identifying with abused women (including themselves), they all too often jump at the opportunity to abuse another woman. In Greece and India, where marriages are arranged, the new bride is often abused by her mother-inlaw, who herself was abused by her mother-in-law and the system continues.
I sometimes ask myself why I often feel isolated (despite being for the most part a kind and interesting person). Perhaps I have my answer. I ask questions and speak truths that make other people feel uncomfortable. And that is so.
Women can bond with each other under the conditions of patriarchy as my mother’s experience demonstrates. Indeed the world would probably not have survived if women had not listened to each other’s stories and bound up each other’s wounds.
Carol P Christ is a Foremother of the Women’s Spirituality Movement and author of eight books on Women and Religion. She now lives in Greece and leads Goddess Pilgrimages in Crete. Her new books, A SERPENTINE PATH: Mysteries of the Goddess, a journey from despair to the joy of life – and– GODDESS AND GOD: Conversations in Embodied Theology which explores the connections to theology and alternatives to the transcendent, omnipotent God along with Judith Plaskow, will be published by Fortress Press in August, 2016.
Nonetheless, women’s bonding under the conditions of patriarchy is distorted when it is based on deception and self-deception, abuse and self-abuse. Moreover, traditional women’s bonding does not usually extend to women who challenge patriarchal norms and only rarely crosses class and race lines. My Greek friend, like my mother, assumes that women should always put their husbands and families first. This means that certain questions cannot be asked. And as my conversation with her revealed, women who ask them will receive no support or sympathy from women who are unwilling to do so.
Christine Thunder Runner
Sometimes one must be very creative to meet the demands of nurturance. Sometimes one must be very curious to find a way to nurture the needs of the creative. Meeting these needs internally or externally requires the clarity of mind for strategy, the fourth medicine of adventure.
The spirit of adventure lies in the passion of the heart. Gathering close to the summer ceremonial fire, a Wild Woman’s eyes mirror the dancing orange and gold flames. Omnipresent is a simple drum beat very powerfully holding the integrity of this community; stirring a sense of wild abandon to the adventure of life itself.
Random acts of kindness will have a random effect on nurturing. Clearly identifying and taking action toward the places in oneself where there is a need for more nurturing consciously weaves together the medicine of creativity, curiosity, nurturing and strategy. A powerful warrioress holds a strong medicine shield finely crafted from these four attributes.
These Wild Women gather as female warriors. Each one balances the strong medicine of creativity, curiosity, nurturing and strategy. Life experience to a true Wild Woman is an honest adventure within the circle of these medicines. A Warrioress hears her calling in every drum beat, in every heart beat, feeling her passion for adventure on this planet.
And here, around the center fire, these women share their stories. They share their strengths, their vulnerabilities, and their medicine. These women are a bright as the fire itself. Their feet move to the beat of the drum. Spirit connects them. They are adventure. They are the passion. They are women.
FOUR MEDICINES OF ADVENTURE
Oh Great Spirit… may all my sisters and brothers on this planet live from the heart. May each and every one of them have their internal fire burn passionately so that all creation is illuminated. May the spirit of living be so strong that all peoples experience the true passion of adventure within their day-to-day lives. Maybe this, oh Great Spirit, would bring more smiling faces and peace of mind to the dinner table. O Mitakuye Oyasin.
Spiritual passion or a passionate spirit is the fuel for creativity, the first medicine of adventure. It matters not whether this creative force is being utilized as a new view to a current challenge, an art project, or the mending of socks. Creative force initiates. Beginnings come from the heart of passion. Curiosity, the second medicine of adventure, is ignited by the creative. Curiosity will not live without the imagination of a creative mind. The curious will explore anything from an attitude to the wilderness of Alaska. A balanced relationship between creativity and curiosity fosters adventure in all aspects of living. But alas, the secret ingredient to a passionately creative, curious spirit is a well nurtured soul. Nurturing is the third medicine of adventure. Sustenance on all levels: Food, exercise, shelter, family, community, rest, warmth, aspects of nurtured, creative, curious being are very interdependent.
Stepping Through to Recovery A Pagan Approach to Twelve Step Programs by Anodea Judith The problems of addiction and dysfunctional behavior patterns have become epidemic. In a culture out of balance with Nature, and with the sexes, races and religions which employ barbaric child-rearing practices, it is no surprise that we encounter a constant barrage of human problems. Therapists are often expensive and friends undertrained or overwhelmed. As a result, many have found solace and healing through the use of "12-Step" groups that are available nearly free of charge across the nation. Originally created in the 1930's for Alcoholics Anonymous, 12-Step Programs proved to be far more successful than any other therapeutic methods for keeping alcoholics out of relapse and restoring a sense of satisfaction to their lives. When it was found that partners and family members of alcoholics also had dysfunctional patterns, the 12-Step Program was expanded to include them as well. At first called "co-alcoholic", the concept has been expanded to include drugs, sex, food, gambling and other behaviors. The term is now "co-dependent", meaning one who is a part of another's addictive process or who is so focused on the other or others that she neglects her own needs. This, too, has come to be seen as an addiction. Today there are 12-Step groups for almost any problem, with the understanding that we are all "adult children". This is a term popularized by John Bradshaw, a leading figure in the recovery field, meaning adults carry with them programming and wounding from various dysfunctional childhood environments which were once taken as "normal" in our society and still rampant. The 12-Step programs provide a structure and a human support system for treating additions and other disorders. Working through the 12 steps one at a time and attending regular meetings, one has the chance to share personal stories with others who are struggling with similar issues. Additional support is obtained by choosing a sponsor (someone who has been in the program a little longer) to call upon or report to when needed. 12-step programs incorporate both practicality and spirituality, and in many cases have been a great success. However, the spirituality of the 12-Steps is steeped in Christian theology. As a Pagan priestess and therapist, I have a hard time arguing with a client who refuses my recommendation to attend such meetings on the grounds that they cannot stomach the concepts or wording in some of the steps. I have not found affinity with 12-step groups for the same reason. Some have suggested simply changing a word or two, such as "...turned our will over to God as we understood Him or Her." While this change can be muttered under the breath at a meeting it does not address other more inherent discrepancies with Pagan theology which are built into the conceptual framework. Notable are implications that divine forces exist solely outside of ourselves, the injunction to abandon our will, and the concepts of sin and guilt. Also, many people object to the labeling used in 12-step programs, wherein every person introduces himself by saying something like "My name is Bill, and I am an alcoholic," even if Bill has maintained sobriety for five or ten years. Admittedly, there are some good reasons for this practice.
Since Bill can never drink alcohol again, the label is a reminder that his relationship to the substance is forever tainted by his misuse of it and his allergy to it. Yet, in magic we know that names have power and can invoke the concepts they imply. Perhaps "My name is Bill, and I am recovering from alcoholism," speaks more to the truth we are trying to create. There are ways of approaching some of the steps that are more fitting for Pagans and still do not force religious dogma on anyone. The adapted steps listed below are my own, except where noted, but the thinking behind them has been stimulated by each person I have talked to or who has sent me their material. Where possible, I give credit at the end. I am open to feedback and suggestions for those steps and encourage each person to make any adaptation they need in order to have the steps serve them in the best way possible. Standard steps are listed in blue italics, adapted steps are in underlined black italics, and commentaries in regular type.
Stepping thru the Steps By Anodea Judith Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over (alcohol, food, others, etc.) -that our lives had become unmanageable.
We admitted we had a problem and that we were squandering our power. This could be shortened to: Admitted we had a problem. The purpose of the first step is to counteract the denial that says "I can quit anytime, I just haven't tried hard enough yet." Admitting powerlessness can enable us to be more open, to give up on holding on to a certain behavior, and to let go of the part of our ego that interferes with receiving help from others. Seeing that our lives have become unmanageable is a good way of admitting the severity of our problem. But, many people have addictions precisely because they feel powerless so this step can block them from all that follows. Tell a person who has been gang-raped to stand in front of a crowd of strangers and admit powerlessness and you'll find a lot of resistance. Also, if people whose lives have not yet become unmanageable, but who still have a problem with a substance or behavior, can get help sooner rather than later they may avoid "bottoming outâ€? and can nip the problem in the bud. Having to admit your life is unmanageable can deter such people from connecting with the program. It is more empowering to say we have mismanaged our lives than to say they are unmanageable, and this can apply to a broader range of conditions. Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Came to believe we could realign the power within and the power without so that each could serve to enhance the other. This could also read: Came to believe there was hope for recovery. This step is about becoming an open system. In order to become open we need a sense of hope to reach out, to ignite the enthusiasm necessary to get through the difficult parts of recovery. The power within and the power without are interconnected and our pain results from their severance. An open system has greater power than a closed system.
Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Made a decision to connect the powers within and without and to see them as One. Addictive processes are the result of already having turned our will over to something else -- the challenge is to reclaim our will. If it is "turned over" -- even to something "better" -- we do not necessarily change the addictive process. Those who have been sexually abused or suffered the religious abuse of an angry God will not want to turn their will over to Him or perhaps to anything else. When we consciously choose to connect the powers within and without, however we define them, we are making a decision of empowerment of which we are a part and which gives us a sense of pride. Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Took an intelligent look at our behavior to examine our relationship to others; to our family patterns and to dysfunctional culture. The importance of this Step is to understand the chain of cause and effect that has influenced us, to step beyond judgment, to see our behavior as an attempt to cope with a cultural situation that is off-balance and to empower ourselves by creating productive strategies for coping. Not all of the ways we were shaped by our family were our fault and the shame that results from taking on the blame is often the fuel for addiction. Much of recovery rests on learning self-acceptance: not acceptance of damaging behaviors but rather a fundamental acceptance and understanding of ourselves that gives us the strength to let go of damaging behaviors. Let us not set ourselves up against a moral standard to see if we are worthy enough to continue, but instead look at ourselves as part of a process we once had no control over, then learn the causes and effects so that we can change them. We must understand in order to make permanent change. Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
We shared our truth with another person and remained open to feedback. We need the reflection of a friend, a coworker, partner or therapist to accurately get the intelligent perspective sought in the previous step. We are by nature blind to our own programming, so another perspective is necessary to help us â€œsee.â€? For Pagans who want to use ritual in their recovery, putting what we understand about ourselves into a ritual form and sending it to a god or goddess or spirit can be helpful. For example, I once did a ritual in which I stripped off my clothes in a circle of friends while invoking Erishkigal. Then, I lay on the ground and admitted aloud all the things I was aware of that had gotten me to this terrible time in life: my pride, my carelessness, etc. I asked for Her to see that I had learned my lessons and to let me out of the Underworld. Two days later I got a new job and all the other circumstances unwound themselves gracefully in the weeks that followed. Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Made myself ready and willing to let go of old patterns. No other, mortal or immortal, can do the work for us. The willingness to change is an essential prerequisite. This may sound too obvious: if we weren't willing to change, why would we be in recovery?
Yet this is one of the most difficult steps of all. Old patterns were put there for a reason. They are part of an outmoded survival strategy. Being ready to let go of what we once truly needed is as scary as jumping off a cliff, and very similar in that there is a period of time where we are in free-fall, when we have to let go of something old before we can get something new, before we even know what we are replacing it with. The alcoholic who uses alcohol to be able to socialize, or the marijuana smoker who uses it to stimulate creativity, may go through a period of being socially dull or uninspired until the natural juices begin to kick in. Old patterns also have secondary rewards: the Codependent gets ego gratification out of caretaking; the addict gets attention or simply the high that enables her to endure. Letting go of our old patterns also means we must let go of their rewards as well. Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
We learned to ask for help. Those from dysfunctional situations often have a hard time with this important step in the process of connecting our inner power with the power around us. Outside forces don't do it for us, but there is much help in the form of the divine as well as people, programs, experiences, books, and self-initiated activities such as meditation or vision quests. By asking for help we become open to power flowing through us. This implies being receptive to omens, prayers, miracles, coincidences and support around our changes. The Goddess is in everything! Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
We made a list of all harms done and searched for ways to restore balance. When we are unconscious we hurt ourselves and others. It is important to come to terms with this and make an effort to reconstitute what has been lost, with persons as well as other things that may have been harmed such as environment, animals, institutions, creative projects, our own aspirations and other parts of ourselves. It is sometimes equally important, in the process of recovery, to confront those who have harmed us and ask for acknowledgement and compensation. If it cannot be given, as is often the case with parents or old relationships, then we must commit ourselves to finding a way to take the restoration into our own hands. Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Carried out rectification and balancing wherever possible. This step could also be stated as: Cleaned up my karma. This is carrying out the willingness from the previous step. It can take a lot of time and be very difficult. It is important as it allows a thorough understanding of the effects of our patterns and allows everyone a chance to grow. It may involve hearing anger from children or former friends or lovers; it may even cost you money, but it brings real freedom. Step 10: Continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
We made a commitment to continue the process of recovery, knowing that change takes time.
Changing life patterns of behavior takes longer than any of us would like to spend with it, so we must be gentle with ourselves. Even after we understand, we still repeat, we are still blind, and we still need to monitor ourselves. Thinking we've "done it already," is a mistake, as is giving in to the temptation to stop the process once we have gotten a few "big" insights. What we resist persists and admitting our blind spots helps defuse them. An important added step, contributed by Charlotte Kasl, Ph.D., from her forthcoming book can be inserted here: Continued to trust my awareness and when I knew what was right I promptly acknowledged it and refused to back down. We need to overcome the tendency towards collusion with oppressive forces that invalidate our truth. In this patriarchal society, this is especially true for women and minorities. Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Pursued the strengthening of our connection with the web of life through appropriate activity and spiritual practice. Our sense of connection may come through meditation, ritual, dreams, political action, therapy groups, community service, writing in a journal, walking in the wilderness or standing on our head. We may even search for omens, but in the end it is we who choose our path and employ our will to walk upon it. If we haven't severed our will, we are more able to find the strength to walk that path. The pursuit of wisdom takes conscious effort and is an ongoing process. Deity is imminent and our understanding comes through personal effort and exploration in combination with openness and trust. Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Having experienced a stabilized change from our awakening, we sought to help others along the path. Central to the 12 steps is the concept of a spiritual awakening. How we define that awakening is personal and varies in content and intensity, but there is always some fundamental change in our view of self, the world, and the connection between the two. They say a teacher teaches something until she finally learns it. Helping others completes the karmic cycle that helped us, and can also solidify what we've learned. When we have been through struggles with a particular problem we are in touch with the process and our spark of understanding can sometimes help another on the path. Anodea Judith is a therapist and public speaker on the chakra system of body/mind integration, somatic therapy and yoga. She is the author of Wheels of Life: A User's Guide to the Chakra System. Sheâ€™s maintained a private practice for over twenty years and presents workshops nationally and internationally at holistic retreat centers and yoga studios, along with Neo-Pagan and New Age events and training institutes. She is also the past president of the Church of all Worlds.
The Words of Artemis Hear the words of the Divine Virgin, Artemis, Maiden Huntress & Lady of the Beasts: You are enough! Wholeness is your birthright, your natural state of being. Obey your instincts, and your true knowledge will lead you back to your wildness, your essential sacred self. Be not afraid to remove your harness and step out of your cage. The cage door has never been locked, only untried. Taste and drink the freedom that is known to all creatures, that which you have lost. Run with me and my nymphs through the forest, knowing the night as your lover, moving in and out of shadows, aglow with silver light. Feel the wind on your bare body and breathe in the ecstasy of a free woman. To know me is to fully embrace your wild-woman selfâ€Ś and from wildness comes all possibilities. Let my spirit move in you like the running deer... without fear.
FROM: A HIDDEN STREAM
The Natural Spiritual Authority of Woman A Primer for the Future of Humanity
by Vajra Ma Hidden just beneath the surface of our experience flows a living stream untainted by the poisons of fear, ignorance and greed. Though deliberately erased from view for the few millennia called history, this stream cannot really be eradicated because it is the source of everything, also named the animating force of the cosmos. To those who let themselves feel it, this hidden stream is a visceral reality, and to those who shed the blinders of materialistic indoctrination it is visible in everything. In the ancient Indian traditions of the Divine Mother it is called Shakti, the Feminine principle. It is the oldest spiritual linage on Earth, humanity's more than 200,000 years of universal reverence for the source of life: The Great Cosmic Mother. Though forgotten and deliberately erased from our memories and our history from generation to generation, this stream exists. Though hidden, it cannot be removed because it is reality. Though hidden, it is not far. We have only to turn our gaze inward, to focus and release ourselves into this stream. This primer is an invitation to enter this hidden stream, to let it flow through us and eventually from us. We can drink from this source directly, receive the wisdom directly, wisdom untainted and uncodified, wisdom natural and alive. It is the living stream of female wisdom. The same cosmic power and wisdom that empowers women’s bodies to gestate, birth and nurture life. I was 35 years old before the idea of a Mother Creator was introduced to me, a concept which seemed strange to me at first. But once I was over the inertia of my conditioning, it made much more sense than its widespread and accepted reversal. And, once given the Rosetta Stone by Mary Daly and many other feminist authors, to decipher the reversal which had demonized the Great Mother, I proceeded to reverse the reversal in my own consciousness. I opened Pandora's Box! True to Mary Daly's term, the Great Reversal, this box was not filled with curses, dangers or evils as threatened in the patriarchal distortion of Pandora's original story, but abundant with the rich and varied gifts of a loving Mother Creator. Pandora literally means giver of all gifts and Pandora's Box is rich with the legacy of Women's Natural Spiritual Authority. “With Woman’s… what!?” If that's what you are thinking, then you, as I once did -- along with a majority of the human race -- do not know that Woman once held spiritual authority in the world, let alone that we came by it naturally. Like most average Westerners, I grew up in a world where the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden was forbidden. The ancient symbols of the Great Mother's serpentine life force rising thru the human body, the Tree of Life, had been reversed into symbols of evil. Especially the female body which is the Tree of Life par excellence, which is literally “carnal knowledge”, was equated with the source of everything that ails humanity. However, this demonization or, at best, misogyny of Woman extends far beyond western Judeo-Christian cultures into Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist and most other cultures and globally into all systems based on them and supported by them. I had been walking the path of modern Goddess spirituality, a movement that began in the late 1960’s, for nearly twenty years before this particular string of words came to my mind: “woman’s natural spiritual authority.” Though women’s spiritual authority is a reclaiming that is central to the modern Goddess and women’s spirituality movement, I had never read or heard this exact string of words before. It came to me as I was preparing a lecture for The Goddess Temple of Orange County, founded by Ava Park.
Years earlier, I had encountered feminist author Vicki Noble’s term, “female spiritual authority” and probably tucked it away in a corner of my mind But the word “natural” had not been connected to the context of spiritual authority, and it suddenly catalyzed a cascade of connections and realizations that reverberated in my body and has continued to multiply and expand even as I write this book. We are embedded in a world view constructed largely on the premise of overcoming reality, a world view that inverts the preceding more than 200,000 years of Women’s natural spiritual authority. This reversed world view declares man as head of the female and the female as the bringer of death and sin into the world. And it uses myths to prove and enforce its point.
THE BASIS OF WOMAN’S NATURAL SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY Though my personal spiritual path is Goddess orientated, Women's Natural Spiritual Authority can operate and has operated both within patriarchal religion and outside a religious context altogether. Some of the women's stories shared in this primer will illustrate this. The dynamics of Women's Natural Spiritual Authority are based in nature, in reality, and they are universal to Woman regardless of belief systems and societal constructs. Thus the word “natural” and herein lies its tremendous power to “save the world.” The reader can rest assured that seeing validity in the information presented here does not require a conversion to any particular spiritual path or viewpoint. We do not need to construct new governments, institutions, bureaucracies, non-profit organization, belief systems, cultures or religious dogma, nor do we need to destroy the old. We merely need to WAKE UP TO REALITY! The rest will follow. Right action arises with stunning alacrity and accuracy when reality is the inspiration.
THE PHYSICAL AND THE SPIRITUAL ARE NOT SEPARATE In reality we do not experience a split between the physical and the spiritual, between natural vs. divine. Neither reality nor human experience provide for such a dichotomy. It arises only with the advent of patriarchal religions which are based on the artificial doctrine of separation. In fact, far from being separate, it is from the nature of the female body which encompasses Woman's power to create life that a cascade of inseparable emotional, physical, mental and spiritual dynamics unfold, naturally and spherically. This is the basis of Woman's Natural Spiritual Authority.
THE MATRIX OF WOMEN’S NATURAL SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY This primer will provide insights into the reality that, evolutionarily and historically, women are the creators of humanity. This goes beyond the mere physical but encompasses the cultural, artistic, and most of all, the spiritual. For millennia, Woman was the spiritual authority of humanity. This is historical fact. It is only in the past 6,000 or so years of recent humanity, that myth and propaganda has attempted to turn this upside down and backwards. We will also see that the scope of riches that evolved from Woman as the Creator of humanity is a natural extension of Woman’s relational power in birthing, protecting, sustaining, teaching and guiding her children, humanity. Humanity is Her child and as she holds her child in her arms she is the creator and first teacher of humanity. This includes women who do not have physical children. As there is no true separation between the spiritual, the cultural and the artistic, that teaching embraces all. We will see the historic reality of Woman’s natural spiritual authority. We will recognize women as the original shamans, as priestesses, midwives, healers, curanderos, devadasis, the Mothers, wise women (witches), holy women tantrikas, tribal queens and leaders. ---- As the image unfolds of Natural Spiritual Authority, we will discover how it differs from the imposed and enforced dogmas and doctrines of the patriarchal paradigm. Because what grows naturally based in Woman’s natural spiritual authority is love, protection, nurturance and guidance of the life she has created, not only for the physical children she has created in her body, but for all life, for her own Motherhood is embedded in a vaster Motherhood of Earth and the cosmic womb.
MOTHER MIND Men too can participate in this Motherhood by opening and connecting to all around them in a direct, sensate way, unfiltered by dogma or conditioning, by recognizing that this connection is more easily accessed by women, and by revering the respecting women in their spherical, holistic sensual awareness. This leads to a recognition and realization that this is not other than spirituality but central to it. As men do this they, too, open to what Zulu healer, Credo Mutwa calls Mother Mind, “that part of human consciousness that feels what is happening in the world.” When we look at reality, the world around us, we see that what author’s life has authority in relation to that life and this authority is inseparable from responsibility. Authority exists in relation to, not by might or force over. We will see how relationship is the determining factor in natural, that is, authentic authority. This authorship emerges from power, not force, from relationship and responsibility, the “power with” and not from violence and domination, the “power over.” [Feminist author, ritualist, activist Starhawk coined the terms “power over” and “power with.”
By now, Motherhood must be obvious as the central and permeating dynamic in Women’s natural spiritual authority. Natural authority is inseparable from reverence for life, from love. The quintessential embodiment of this reality is motherhood. This is Motherhood with a capital M, encompassing both the highly personal experience of being a mother and the transpersonal experience of the supreme spiritual principle of love intrinsic to Motherhood. By now, Motherhood must be obvious as the central and permeating dynamic in Women’s natural spiritual authority. Natural authority is inseparable from reverence for life, from love. The quintessential embodiment of this reality is motherhood. This is Motherhood with a capital M, encompassing both the highly personal experience of being a mother and the transpersonal experience of the supreme spiritual principle of love intrinsic to Motherhood. Ammachi, the “hugging saint of India” who is recognized as an embodiment of the Divine Mother describes the universal essence of Motherhood:
Ammachi on Universal Motherhood “Anyone, woman or man who has the courage to overcome the limitations of the mind can attain the state of universal motherhood. The principle of motherhood is as vast and powerful as the universe. With the power of motherhood within her, a woman can influence the entire world. The love of awakened motherhood is a love and compassion felt not only towards one’s own children, but toward all people, animals and plants, rocks and rivers, a love extended to all of nature, all beings. Indeed, to a woman in whom the state of true motherhood has awakened, all creatures are her children. This love, this motherhood, is Divine Love and that is God.” Nothing embodies and exemplifies the interweaving of power and responsibility more aptly and completely than the icon of Mother and Child. By exploring this timeless sacred symbol, we will retrieve its meaning, the power of Motherhood, and go about restoring it from the ravages of dismemberment. This dismemberment severed motherhood from female sexuality, as in the Catholic Church’s version of Mary giving birth as a physical virgin, and excluded values of Motherhood from cultural and political leadership. As we view what has unfolded from the reality of the female body, we will also discover this is by far no limiting essentialism or biological determinism but rather places Woman in an expansive context of natural and therefore undeniable powers. The fear of these undeniable powers is the reason why patriarchy has vilified and demonized the female body and flesh in general. ----- On the other hand, to further usurp natural motherly authority, the male is glorified. This creates a contrived male authority, which is a reversal of reality and can only be kept in place through the mythology of male motherhood. This mythology often includes the recurring theme of dismemberment of the original Creatrix by the god-hero who then boasts about “his” creation. We will see how this pervasive dynamic of dismemberment plays out in the world today. Thus, our investigation will expose just how profoundly the spiritual is political.
The view through the lens of “reversing the reversal” will reveal how the iconography of woman’s natural spiritual authority has been co-opted and distorted and how we can decipher the original meaning through the distorted vestiges. Recognizing the original meaning and intent of familiar images—New York harbor’s Statue of Liberty, for instance—gives us a sense of how woman’s natural spiritual authority is not “other” to us but often closer than we may have imagined.
THE RELEVANCE OF ‘REVERSING THE REVERSAL’ This series of discoveries and their consequences matter because the dismemberment of Woman from her natural spiritual authority has played out over the centuries in a cascade of violence, greed and suffering, and has brought humanity to the abyss of self-destruction. The issue of restoring woman’s natural spiritual authority goes to the very root of what ails the world, quite the opposite of the dogma that blames her for it, and of the dominant myth that drives us apart from each other and justifies violence, destruction, greed, pollution, rape, and the privilege of some at the expense of most. We will see how woman’s natural spiritual authority is not peripheral or marginal to the crucial issue of the age, but central to solving the ills and reliving the suffering in our world. Woman’s Natural Spiritual Authority is reemerging as The Key to Planetary Peace. It is the key to bringing humanity back into right relationship with Earth and each other. The stories of modern women, acting in extraordinary ways “out-of-the-box” will indisputably illustrate this.
Actions by Contemporary Women and by Modern Women from the Past These stories will show how one woman’s “silly dream” was the beginning of the end of a brutal civil war; how one woman of the lowest “untouchable” caste in India donned a hot pink sari and carried a big stick demanding that men stop beating their wives and now leads tens of thousands of Indian women in a successful crusade for justice; and how one woman followed the simple wisdom “if you start with your relations, then everything will unfold naturally” and now thirteen indigenous grandmothers fulfill a centuries old prophecy travelling the globe in behalf of peace. Each of these Grandmothers acts from her natural spiritual authority, whether she would call it that or not, for “Woman’s natural spiritual authority” is not an invention, it is a phrase that names an actual phenomenon arising from a matrix of factors. We will discover the common elements of woman’s natural spiritual authority that are operating in all these women’s actions, the instinctual protection by mothers of their children, their self-referenced trust in their deepest feelings, motherly common sense action in service to life. No bureaucratic “red tape.” We will also take a look at a few women from the past, such as the Catholic nun who chastised princes and popes and got away with it, or the author who decried the misogynist underpinnings of the 14th century European society in which she lived. We can draw inspiration from women past and present to step outside the box of patriarchal confinement. We can drink and nourish ourselves from the hidden stream of inner feminine wisdom. Each of us can refer to our own experiences and allow ourselves to remember, to feel what we, personally, once wanted to do, what we can do now, what impulses and desires are rooted in natural spiritual authority. Once Women’s natural spiritual authority is named, a foundation is set from which to act.
Woman’s Body as Evolutionary and Calibrator of Reality We will investigate how the following fundamental dynamics of Women’s body and psyche unfold naturally into a comprehensive and therefore spiritual authority:
the womb as physical creator the womb as spiritual source the female body in totality as evolutionary and ‘calibrator of reality:’ Women’s spherical, holistic sensual awareness, Her female body and psyche as calibrator of reality.
The womb as physical creator, the conduit of our descendants, makes it the portal of the future. It is a spiritual creator in that it is the dreaming and visioning source as during menses.
Women’s perception naturally extends beyond the apparent boundaries of time and space as confined by our rudimentary five senses. The womb is therefore a portal of both the past and the future, of Ancestral wisdom and of inspired vision for the future, both of which are more easily accessed when Woman is bleeding. This access to wisdom and inspiration, related to hormonal and chemical changes, then continues on a more steady, continual basis after women complete their many years of blood cycles and become “grand” mothers. The womb maintains what I call the Ancient Future Sisterhood. In its totality, Woman’s body with its spherical, holistic, sensual awareness and integrated sexuality represents a matrix that is a supremely subtle and sophisticated calibrator of reality. It operates in alignment with the reality that the physical is not separate from the spiritual and has led the evolutionary way for humanity.
THE MATRIX AND THE ONLY ONE There is no such word at “patrix” and that is for good reason. Woman, womb, life, and the cosmos are the only plausible and legitimate references for using the word “matrix.” Matrix is defined as: a situation or surrounding substance within which something originates, develops, or is contained; the womb; and as a binding substance.
Woman’s natural spiritual authority is based in reality. There almost arises the question if that authority should indeed be referred to as being derived from (based in) rather than intrinsic. After all, the nature of woman, including her body, her womb, her psyche, female modes of functioning, and the entirety of these facts is interrelated in a matrix. Even though the apparent lack of definition and precision in the notion of a matrix seems to contradict what is generally perceived as the nature of authority, it is this very non-linear nature, the lineage from within, the hidden stream, which is at the core of Natural Spiritual Authority.
AUTHORITY VS. APPROVAL Woman does not need approval or to get anyone to understand or agree, does not need to convince anyone, all of which are traps that tend to stop women from claiming their natural spiritual authority. Natural spiritual authority does not need that. And in a framework of natural spiritual authority, a woman is not deterred when approval or “understanding” is withheld. A poignant example of this is found in an article by Krista Bremer in the February 2008 issue of The Sun, where she describes the process that led to her allowing her son to be circumcised. She had tried to convince her husband, with was Muslim culturally, but not religiously (he even argued with his family for the rights of his sisters), why it was wrong to do it. She tried to have him approve of her feeling again circumcision. After a long and painful struggle, she finally ran out of plausible arguments. - The one thing that she did not do is say “no.” If she had said something to the effect “This child came out of my body and his body will remain as it is created” she would have acted from natural spiritual authority. Natural spiritual authority trusts and relies upon the knowing about life and about protecting life that is often denigrated as “mere instinct” rather than acknowledged in its true scope. Woman must step back into that natural spiritual authority—take that responsibility and take that risk—because, ultimately, there is no survivable alternative. Humanity needs this from women in order to survive! The good news is that women can wake up to that comprehension of themselves in an instant because the natural spiritual authority is there, just under the surface in a hidden stream. And it must be there: IT IS REALITY!
Even though it has been hidden, deliberately erased from history, there remains in many people’s consciousness the memory and the imprint of an original awe for Woman, and with it comes a sense of how Woman’s natural spiritual authority was usurped and replaced with an imposed, ultimately world negating religious authority. This religious authority, based in fear, has had a devastating effect on the course of civilization, from daily life to governments to the treatment of Earth, body, women and her children, humanity. Natural spiritual authority is not derived from a book. It is not codified, has not rules but rather comes from deep feeling, from a totality, from a relationship, from a surrender to the wholeness of life. The only book it is written in is the body, mind and heart. Wisdom, instinct, caring, love, relationship, responsibility, all these factors in the matrix of women’s natural spiritual authority cannot be reduced to a college course, a step-by-step instruction manual or a list of commandments. Woman’s natural spiritual authority is written in the body, mind and hear of men as well. When they stop the mantra of separation and really listen and feel, they will recognize it. “Mother Mind” aligns the male with what comes naturally to the female. To catalyze a paradigm shift from male domination to egalitarian partnership will take a critical mass of women who come to fully recognize their natural spiritual authority. Recognizing authority as coming from within rather than being contrived and imposed from without will change our understanding of the nature of authority itself. When authority grows from a relationship to the whole, love and authority are twin sisters. Vajra Ma is a Tantric Priestess and lives with her husband in Oregon. She has facilitated women’s rituals since 1986 and integrates Goddess knowledge and feminist spirituality with experiential body wisdom to forge Woman Mysteries of the Ancient Future Sisterhood, a modern mystery school and Priestess lineage based in the Tantric Dance of Feminine Power.
To purchase Vajra’s book:
FROM A HIDDEN STREAM – The Natural Spiritual Authority of Woman Please go to her website at:
Queen of Your Realm Ruling your life in Peace, Power & Prosperity Life as it was always meant to be
Rev. Ava Parks
Why is life such a struggle for so many women? Because our greatest Female Power has been denied by patriarchal society… and this denial has resulted in the mess that is our world today. For the good of humanity, it is time for a woman to step forward… to push patriarchy firmly and compassionately aside… and to once again take Her rightful place as the natural spiritual authority on earth. Woman is primary. She holds an eternal, magical and mysterious powe r… a power original to the female… a power that brings forth what was once natural to Woman: security, confidence, respect, abundance, strength, clarity, order and reward. This Aspect of Woman has been deliberately suppressed by those who desire dominance rather than “shared good”… but it is there, we can feel it waiting to
be called forth… to be a blessing… first, to each individual woman.. and then… yes… to men… to children… to animals… to all the world! When a woman awakens the ancient power of the QUEEN… when she crowns and seats herself on her proper throne, she automatically and easily expands from poor to abundant — from fearful to confident — from victim to authority — from struggle to grace — from pain to beauty — from confusion to certainty!
It’s Simple, Easy and Graceful! You Just need the right Woman for the Job—the Queen! Call her forth now. Let her work for you. Let her bring your realm into greater power and serenity. This is what the Queen in Woman can do, what the Queen will do. And when women of all ages, all over the world, bring the Queen up from the dungeon of their consciousness, Life will be as it was always meant to be! The Queen Teachings for Women are being presented by Rev. Ava Parks at the Goddess Temple of Orange County. Learn more by going to: www.goddesstempleoc.org
VAGINA WARRIORS Eve Ensler There is a new emerging species; a new paradigm. Vagina warriors are everywhere. In a time of escalating and evolving violence—in the most dangerous time that we have ever lived in this country—these warriors are fostering a new planet and a new mindset. Although they are highly original, there are certain characteristics about them. They are Fierce. They are Obsessed. They can’t be stopped. They are driven! They are no longer beholding to social custom or inhibited by taboos. They are NOT afraid to be alone. They are not afraid to be ridiculed or attacked. They are often willing to face anything for the safety and freedom of others. They love to dance. They’re directed by vision, not ruled by ideology. They are citizens of the world. They cherish humanity over nationhood. They have a wicked sense of humor. Vagina Warriors know that compassion is the deepest form of memory. They know that punishment does not make abusive people behave better. They are done being victims. They know that no one is coming to rescue them. They would not want to be rescued. They have experienced their rage, their depression, and their desire for revenge and they have transformed it through grieving and service. They have confronted the depth of their darkness. They live in their bodies. They are community makers. They bring everyone in. Vagina Warriors have a keen ability to live with two existing and opposite thoughts at the same time… unlike our current administration. For native people, a warrior is one whose basic responsibility is to protect and to preserve life. The struggle to end violence on this planet is a battle; make no mistake about it… emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. It requires every bit of our strength… our courage… our fierceness. It means speaking out when everyone says to be quiet. It means going the distance to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. It means honoring the truth even if it means losing family, country and friends. It means developing the spiritual muscle to enter and grieve the violence; and in that dangerous space of “stunned unknowing” inviting the deeper wisdom. Like vaginas… Vagina Warriors are central to human existence… but they still remain largely invisible and unvalued. I believe our teen-age-self held the warrior within, until the world told us we were being too bold, too outrageous, too sexual or too fierce, and we shut down. This year, this day, this night, in this time, all of us are going to value Vagina Warriors. We’re going to acknowledge their worth because in every community they are the humble activists… working every day… beat by beat… to undo the suffering. They sit by hospital beds… they pass new laws… they chant taboo words… they write boring proposals… they beg for money… they demonstrate in the street! They are our mothers, our sisters, our grandmothers, our aunts, our best friends. Every woman and every man has a warrior inside waiting to be born. In order to guarantee a time when the violence will end. I urge you to LET YOUR WARRIOR BE BORN.
Remembering Shekhinah Mountainwater JoAnna Silverwitch Shekhinah Mountainwater took her last breath at 2:30 pm on August 11, 2007, in her Santa Cruz home. She was 67 years old. Moraigh, her trusted friend, was by her side, along with Shekhinah’s daughter and her beloved Goddess sisters that lovingly cared for her until the end, including Bobbie G. and Z Budapest, who lovingly performed her last rites. I was told that the women were all singing too Shekhinah in the last moments of her life, songs that she herself composed, and that she died peacefully without pain after her long struggle with cancer. After her passing, the women bathed and anointed her body with sacred waters from around the world and with special oils and scents. They dressed her in her favorite dress and sequined hat, and then laid her out on her bed surrounded with special petals and tree magic from her most cherished garden. She was buried under a large tree by the creek in a cemetery nearby. I met Shekhinah at a Crone’s Circle in Santa Cruz in the early 90’s. She was asked to sing a song that night by the circle leader, Judy Reynolds, and her Goddess presence and echoing voice was so beautiful that I had an overwhelming desire to speak to her after the Circle. After introducing myself, Shekhinah and I conversed briefly and exchanged phone numbers. From that time on our friendship as Scorpio sisters began. Through the years Shekhinah and I had many meaningful conversations about our personal lives, the Goddess and Women’s Spirituality in the comfortable surroundings of our homes. I cherished our times together, both inside and outside of circle. When she expressed herself, the deep power and inner wisdom of her Scorpio nature shined through, but it was always wrapped in the delicate and gentle spirit of her Pisces moon and ascendant, which mirrored her kind and compassionate nature. She was an educated woman with many talents and skills. I remember the first time she came to my Moon Lodge for a visit and sang the “Charge of the Goddess” for me. She moved me to tears. I also learned that she was born as Ellen Faust in a Jewish family in New York, that she took the name Shekhinah to mirror the Goddess of her Hebrew roots and Mountainwater because she love the Santa Cruz Mountains with its trickling streams and flowing creeks so near the ocean coast when she resided for the last years of her life. Although Shekhinah was a forerunner in the Women’s Spirituality Movement, priestess of the Goddess, author of Ariadne’s Thread, composer, musician and creator of her own divination systems of the Tarot and Runes, she struggled financially for many years and never gained the kind of recognition she longed for deep in her heart. Yet, through her many disappointments, with money and with love, she was a loyal friend and offered her support in The Sacred Circle. Often calling herself a Priestess of Aphrodite, Shekhinah longed for an intimate and lasting relationship with someone special, a relationship that never really manifested to the degree that she desired, so there was a certain sadness about her, one that she carried until the end of her life, so she remained content with the relationships and friendships she developed through the years with the women who loved and admired her most. When I heard that Z Budapest showed up to give Shekhinah her last rites, I could feel the joy she felt deep in her heart and I knew that it meant the world to her to be recognized in that way.
Shekhinah loved the Goddess with her whole heart and soul. She was always glad to offer her love, time and energy to The Sacred Circle whenever she was asked to do so. She always showed up with her Tarot Deck and her trusty guitar when she attended Moon Circles in Campbell, gatherings at the Mansion, Sacred Earth Retreat in Ben Lomand and Gaia’s Grove in the Mother Lode. Many of us still remember sitting in Shekhinah’s indigo star-studded tent that she camped in at our gatherings. It had a special welcome mat that invited us in for special tarot divinations. We also remember the special rituals and skits she led at our sabbat gatherings, her unique priestessing, the many songs she composed that were freely shared and her many articles and poems written in the Fertile Ground. Yes, Shekhinah was a cherished sister in The Sacred Circle and she will always be remembered by many of us. Shekhinah Mountainwater inspired many sisters and brothers with her unique style of priestessing and composing. Her music was described as “gothic jazz” and “faery rock” by some but it actually defied description. Kris Aaron, former reviewer for Circle Network News called her the Bob Dylan of the Women’s Spirituality Movement. Shekhinah was part of the early wave of folksinger that bloomed out of Greenwich Village in the 1950’s around Washington Square Park in New York City, where she spent her early years before settling in the Santa Cruz area. Her first songs were magical ballads from the British Isles and truly the beginning of her spiritual education. “Music is the soul of my Craft” she would say, as she accepted the title of “Bard” that some had given her. Since those early days in New York, she developed her own style and wrote many songs, prayers and chants, some of which are sung today in many pagan communities around the world. Her most famous…We are the flow, We are the ebb…will live on for many years to come just as her loving spirit will live on in the hearts of many of us. I am very grateful that I came to know her and will always cherish the fond memories I have of her. Blessed Be
Blue Lady You stand alone…. Inside the door Your light is gone…. Your god denied Cry… “Come to me, O Blue Lady Guide me to the other side…” Don’t fear the Dark Lady, She’ll bring you to yourself… For yonder stands the cruel king All circled ‘round with burning flame Sing, “There is no hope, there is no god, No up and down, you have no name…” Don’t fear the Dark Lady She’ll bring you to yourself… She comes to you…. She takes your hand She leads you to the temple green, Do you know her now… as she knows you and all your demons yet unseen? Don’t fear the Dark Lady She’ll bring you to yourself… For silver moons adorn her brow And golden snakes adorn her feet, The veil she lifts… you reach her now You meet her eyes so wise and deep Don’t fear the Dark Lady, She’ll bring you to yourself…. Shekhinah Mountainwater
Upcoming Events for Women
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WINTER DREAMS RETREAT
GATHER THE WOMEN
On the shores of Lake Tahoe
2016 Annual Gathering
February 2-3-4-5, 2017
October 21-24, 2016
for Recovering& Reclaiming Women For more, go to: http://www.thesacredcircle.net/RetreatPage.html
Presentation Center in Los Gatos, California
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THE SACRED CIRCLE The Sacred Circle is a self-supporting sisterhood of recovering & reclaiming women, dedicated to ways of the Goddess & committed to the healing of our lives. Founded in 1987, in the South Bay Area, by Rev. JoAnna “Silverwitch” Medina, the Circle brings women-born-women together in love & trust to pass the rattle; share experience, strength and hope; honor women’s mysteries and rites of passage; and celebrate the power of the feminine spirit in various circles throughout the year. Our vision is to provide a safe sanctuary for all women who want to heal from Patriarchy and the dysfunctional ways of the world in a Recovering & Reclaiming process that blends the principles of recovery with the ancient ways of the Divine Feminine. We also provide the FERTILE GROUND, our quarterly publication, to stay in touch, inspired and informed; to provide articles of interest and to share words of wisdom with like-minded sisters seeking healing and empowerment.
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Published on Aug 7, 2016
The Sacred Circle invites recovering & reclaiming women everywhere to join the dance of our sisterhood. By reclaiming the power of the Divin...