Bristol Goddess Temple: birth and growth
The Bristol Goddess Temple opened its doors to the public for the first time on 5th August 2017. That day saw the birth into the world of a vision that had been cherished in the creative cauldron for several years – a birth that finally became possible when a room came up for rent in the Clocktower Association, a community space in Warmley on the eastern edge of Bristol. The Clocktower was already the home of a women's free-flow drumming circle and a monthly Moonlodge Red Tent held by Nikki Swann. Nikki gathered around her a small group of people who felt the call to help bring this vision into the light, and together we took a big leap of faith.
The next few months were... busy! The room had previously been used as an office and needed some work before it could be transformed into a sacred space. Ruth Cogan, Anna Jablonka and Frank Barkiewicz filled in holes and painted walls and woodwork. Old cables had to be taken out and new lighting fitted. We met in the half-finished room, which already vibrated with potential, to talk about fund-raising, cushions and spreading the word. Meanwhile Ruth and Anna were designing our logo, Nikki Haasz was setting up the Facebook page, and a mouth-watering array of stallholders, therapists and workshops was booked for the open day. Women (and their partners and children) from the Moonlodge and drumming groups offered their time and skills to run the kitchen, bake cakes and supervise the children's craft tables.
The temple was eventually ready to be beautifully dressed, under the skilful hand of Ruth Cogan, and consecrated as a sacred space. We knew from the outset that it would have an altar dedicated to the sacred masculine, as well as the main altar to Goddess. While we all passionately support the need for the divine feminine to be restored to the world, we also wish to honour and call in the positive qualities of the divine masculine, whether that be to offer an alternative to toxic masculinity, or to bring some healing to the wider world.
A powerful altar to the sacred waters of these lands was made by Nikki Haasz, who has a personal connection with local river goddess Sabrina. As a group, we all bring different strands to the temple. Nikki Swann is a priestess of Brigid and also works with the Celtic goddess Aine; both goddesses have a permanent place on our walls. Dawn Osborne-Tiller, our Treasurer and one of three members of our group who belong to the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, gifted to the temple a beautiful handmade glass Awen, which sits on the main altar through all the changes of the Wheel. Ruth Cogan has trained as a Priestess Healer in Glastonbury and is about to complete her Cerridwen training. My own dedication to Goddess is intuitive, enquiring and rooted in the sacredness of the Earth. In this way our small group expresses some of the diversity that we offer in the temple, which welcomes “women and men of all paths and none.”
Although, sadly, not all of us were able to be there on the open day to see the Bristol Goddess Temple emerge into the apparent world, it was a wonderful day which, just like a real birth, forged transformations all around it. A sacred space was brought into being through the connection to the divine made there by the many visitors who came with open hearts to pray, meditate, light candles, and sit with the Goddess and the God. Around that sacred space a new community sprang up, with many people expressing gratitude that a local Goddess temple had opened, and a commitment to supporting it. We gathered a list of names of women and men interested in becoming melissas, thus forming another circle around the temple – guided by our Melissa Mother, Ruth Cogan - which has become indispensable to what we do. It has been truly amazing to witness people coming forward with skills, knowledge, ideas and creative work of all kinds to contribute – and most of all, gifting their time and energy to the temple. This is our “village” and we are deeply proud of it, and deeply grateful.
Since that exciting beginning we have also had a Yule open day, and will be holding a Summer Pagan Market on the 9th of June. We invited our melissas to an Imbolc ceremony to spend time together and celebrate what they do. The Moonlodge and drumming groups continue and we now also hold a Purple Warriors circle, led by Dawn Osborne-Tiller, on the fourth Thursday of the month for women experiencing any aspect of the menopause. We offer New Moon Healing on the Wednesday closest to the new moon, and a Child-Friendly Hour with the storytelling talents of Gemma and Alex Hughes around each turn of the Wheel. We have begun a varied series of talks and workshops. Our newest group is a Men’s Drum Circle on the second Friday of the month, starting in May.
We open the temple to visitors on Wednesdays 10-12pm, Saturdays 2-6pm and Sundays 2-5pm, when people are welcome to drop in and spend some quiet time in this beautiful space, light a candle, write a prayer to be offered to Goddess, meditate with our oracle decks, talk to the melissa, ask for a smudge, or browse our reference library and shop.
At this season of Beltane, surrounded by the bounty of the sacred Earth, we celebrate the love of Goddess in all Her forms and on all the varied paths that bring people to Her. We celebrate our place in the worldwide circle of those who, in the words of Heloise Pilkington's beautiful song, “shine Her light into this world.”*
You will find opening hours, details of all our events and our email address on Facebook, and we will be developing our website over the next few months.
Ruth Parham and all at the Bristol Goddess Temple
* I am the Beauty of the Goddess, from Heloise’s new album, “Initiatrix”.