Issue 7, Summer 2008
Dusk, by Liza Paizis
Articles & Fiction
Essentialism or Essence? Out from the land of theory
by Max Dashú
I am the incomprehensible silence
And the memory that will not be forgotten
I am the voice whose sound is everywhere
And the speech that appears in many forms
I am the utterance of my own name
—Thunder, Perfect Mind, Nag Hammadi
Scriptures, circa 200 CE
They have lost sight of the Mystery.
For at least twenty years the Goddess movement has been assailed as “essentialist” by post-modernist theorists. They mean that an innate female essence is being claimed, in a biological determinism and rigid gender categorization. Alison Stone is not alone in noting that “within academic writing the charge of essentialism is used in a very adversarial way, as an allegation of the worst crime.” [“What is essentialism?” Online: http://www.lancs.ac.uk/staff/twine/ecofem/essentialism.html (Link no longer available November 2015] Some theorists even equate talking about “women” with gender “essentialism,” although it is not biology but historical, cultural, political, social developments and patterns that are being discussed.
by Alex Chaloner
There have always been Priestesses. A Priestess is one who serves. In Goddess Spirituality, very simply put, a Priestess is one who serves the Goddess.
In ancient times Priestesses had roles to fill. They were temple keepers, they dressed the deities within those temples; an act of dressing the Goddess herself. They were healers, seers and oracles, passing on inspiration and insight from the deity they served and acting as their earthly representatives. The most famous of these Oracles was the Pythia, the name given to the Delphic Oracle at the temple of Apollo in Greece.
Today’s Priestesses aren't so different. We still fulfil all of the roles mentioned above and much more. Today we are also mothers, teachers, partners, bread-winners, political activists and champions of women’s rights. As chameleon mistresses of change and adaptation the modern Priestess, like the Goddess, has many names and many faces.
by Susun S Weed
Who is Baba Yaga? She is the Goddess, she is the Witch, she is the Wise Woman, she is the Crone, she is aged Artemis.
Baba is Grandmother. In Tibet, fierce demons are Yagas. So she is the Grandmother Demon, Grandmother Dragon, the fearsome, the fierce.
Baba Yaga is the subject of many Russian folk tales or fairy tales. She is very very old.
How do we know? We are told her nose curves down and her chin curves up and they nearly meet. Since the cartilage in our noses, chins and ears continues to grow throughout our lives, only someone a hundred or more would have such a remarkable face. Her fingernails, it is said, are as thick and ridged as roof tiles. My, what a mineral-rich diet she must have! And they are stained brown. Any herbalists here who have noticed such a staining on their hands after a summer of harvesting? I have. In one of the first profiles of me ever published, the interviewer remarks on my brown-stained fingernails.
By Rachel Mayatt
For many years I have been interested in the connection between women’s menstrual cycles and the phases of the Moon.
Being a Priestess of the Goddess I have found myself working with both - and exploring the mysteries and magic of this time in a woman’s yearly cycle. I have researched ideas and activities and looked at the attitude towards menstruation generally.
Our society tends to prefer that discussions about this kind of subject are kept out of ‘polite conversation’ and I can remember as a child being told it was not a subject to discuss in mixed company! Supplies for coping with periods were kept hidden away and quietly discussed. In fact I remember my own first experience of bleeding occurred after I had been exploring my own body at about 10 years old. The next day I had my first period and was absolutely terrified I had caused myself to bleed with my clumsy childish fumbling. No one had ever talked to me with regard to learning about my own body or masturbation. When I went to talk to my mother about what was happening to me she showed me some awful elastic belts and large sanitary towels to fasten to them. Between the legs of a little girl it felt alien and uncomfortable. I was told ‘not to mention it to my brothers, and keep my supplies hidden away’. My feelings of being ‘unclean’ had begun.
by Jocelyn Chaplin
Rhea (the flow) is a little known Greek Goddess in spite of being described as mother of them all. Most famously she is the mother of Zeus, the boss God of Classical Greece. She was supposed to have hidden him from his father Cronos who wanted to eat him up like his other children. The hiding place was the Idean cave on Crete which gives us a clue as to her origins.
It is likely that Rhea is one name given by the later Greeks to the most sacred and mysterious flow of life itself revered by earlier peoples. She is described as one of the 14 Titans who were more ancient than Zeus and co. Rhea clearly belonged to a very ancient pre-Olympian time, yet I believe that out of all the Goddesses she has particular relevance for today.
by Liz Perkins
Maiden, mother, crone – it used to make a simple framework for women’s lives. We learned to tweak it to recognise and respect the place of women whose mothering phase was not occupied by childbearing, but by other forms of creativity.
As the Goddess community matures and more of us are in our 40s, 50s, and 60s, we are finding another problem with the basic triple Goddess; many of us know from bitter experience that there is no smooth shift from mother to crone, but instead, a long period of confusion.
Menopause, like puberty, gives many of us a bumpy ride. And, unlike puberty, there is no clear physical event around which we can organise our experience. Most of us only recognise our last menstrual period in retrospect, which makes it difficult to celebrate. And it takes about ten years for our hormones to settle down to their new, less dramatic, pattern. So it isn’t surprising that many of us are looking for a key image around which to crystallise this period of our lives. We are made in the image of the Goddess, so there ought to be an identifiable aspect which reflects the menopausal years, something to which we could aspire, which will guide our development… ‘The Queen’ can sound really positive – coming into our power, being in charge of our lives… but, in my experience, only on a good day.
by Mary Frankland
These statues or paintings are usually described by the Roman Catholic authorities as images of the Blessed Virgin Mary depicted with a dark or black skin.
St Bernard of Clairvaux was a great devotee of the Mother of Jesus, and he wrote numerous hymns and sermons which he dedicated to her. He also wrote several sermons on the theme of the Song of Songs in which the Bride sings “I am black but beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem." It is also possible that several Black Madonnas were originally images of the Goddess.
In his book, Cult of the Black Virgin, Ean Begg notes that in the early 1980s, “a pagan Black Virgin made according to ancient rites was venerated in the course of Druidic ceremonies at St Georges Nigremont.” I hope to present more evidence for the transition of these figures to Christian veneration during the course of this article.