Current Update as of February 13, 2005
Inspired by The Edgar Cayce Institute for Intuitive Studies
Edited by HENRY REED, Ph.D.
Book Summary by Linda Brown
the early 1970's, dissatisfied with patriarchal monotheism and all it
encompassed, groups of women began arriving at an innovative spiritual
movement called feminist spirituality. This shift in religious consciousness
gave women a choice besides reforming patriarchal religions or giving
up on religion altogether.
who is a sociologist of religion, explains in her book who these spiritual
feminists are, what led them to this new form of spirituality and what
it is about. One first needs to understand that feminine spirituality
has five major characteristics: valuing women's empowerment, practicing
ritual and/or magic, revering nature using the feminine as a chief mode
of religious analysis, and advocating the revisionist version of western
history favored by the movement.
The average member of the movement is Caucasian, middle-class, educated beyond high school, in her 30's or 40's, and of Jewish or Christian background.
In order for a woman to convert to feminist spirituality she must be receptive to what it offers and it must look inviting to her. Usually this happens because these women, as girls, experienced a sense of their own spirituality and, as stated previously, they felt out of place in the traditional religions.
Although spiritual feminists are borrowing and refining old religions, they also go beyond those boundaries. Sometimes feminine spirituality makes use of 12 step programs and Jungianism. There also occurs some overlap between political feminism and feminist spirituality.
Ritual is at the core of spiritual femininity. Participants place more importance on how they feel when doing the rituals than they do upon interpreting the experiences. Through ritual they make contact with the sacred. Through ritual they worship, celebrate, achieve personal transformation, and manage both psychic and material reality. Ritual is often performed alone. When performed together, the women strengthen their bonds to each other. The main aspect of ritual is raising power.
Collective rituals consist of those that honor particular events in women's lives and also those that correlate with solar or lunar cycles. The two events in a women's life upon which most emphasis is placed in these rituals is the beginning of menstruation (menarche) and its end (menopause).
rituals may be either large or small, but are usually led by one person.
They can take place anywhere. The ritual space is first prepared, made
sacred by the inclusion of flowers, incense, a candle, or other ritual
objects. Often the group ritual includes meditation as a way of opening
oneself to the goddess within.
According to one of the women Eller interviewed for the book, ritual's purpose is "to remember who you are and what you're doing and where you are in relationship to the universe."
At the end of the ceremony, the energy is grounded and the circle is closed by visits once again to each of the four cardinal directions, plus a ritual which thanks and releases the spirits and powers associated with these four directions.
Many women employ spiritual feminist practices individually as a form of therapy in that it is a way of discerning an authentic self and finding harmony between themselves and the universe. They may engage in these practices by creating some kind of altar in the home, upon which they place gifts from family and friends, goddess images, or anything else that helps them achieve self-expression. The most important requirement for the altar is that it must be located in a place that is both sacred and safe.
Also important to spiritual feminists is dreamwork, for it is a potent source of information and opportunity for growth.
Feminine spirituality is often about healing, and a common way of doing this is by working with charkas, the seven energy centers in the body. Charkas can be cleansed by use of meditation, massage, chanting, and placement of crystals on the body. Other methods of healing are "bodywork", including reflexology and acupressure, and diet and herbs. Some feminine spiritualists also use tarot cards, astrology, past life regressions, and I Ching.
Spiritual feminists have made a place for themselves in the arts, as evidenced by ritual theatre, goddess architecture, etc. Self-expression through creativity is highly encouraged.
For some of the spiritual feminists, ritual is magic and magic is ritual. Magic deals with harnessing the power of the sacred, seen as divine power. Magic is comprised of the forces ones mind and energy put out into the world. This kind of magic is also viewed as a form of technology.
Feminine spiritualists believe that everything is connected, that everything is energy. When spiritual feminists use magic, they must decide (1) how to use it and (2) what to use it for. The most popular spells used by them are spells for protection. Most feel that if motivated by anger or greed, their energy is limited. Most spiritual feminists use positive magic or do not practice magic at all.
Some spiritual feminists believe in one goddess, some in more than one goddess. As to the goddess in nature, she doesn't just represent nature as she is, but the goddess IS nature. Most of these spiritualists view earth as a living being. Some believe that all women, in a sense, are the goddess. The image that predominates is that of the mother, the divine mother. Nothing is lost in the goddess - she is the symbol of spring, new life, regeneration and often, reincarnation.
Some of the other spiritual beings that factor into feminine spirituality are disembodied spirits, guides, power animals and an occasional evil deity.
Women make contact with these spiritual guides through meditation, visualization or auditory hallucination. Some believe a spirit guide is the most centered, wisest part of oneself; others believe the spirit guide is a separate entity.
Goddess worship is a logical progression in the rise and fall of women's power. Early civilizations were matriarchal ones which ended up being destroyed by men. All across history, respect for the female surges, then ebbs, then surges again, etc. In art and imagination, women return to the early times of the domain of the goddess because it offers them sustenance.
the goddess story is an oral one, passed down by women to
women, and it includes portrayal of a female as maiden, mother and crone.
The story of matriarchy and patriarchy is the central myth of feminist
spirituality. Some women believe matriarchy should exist due to women's
ability to bear children.
As to witchcraft, some feminists believe that the persecution of witches in older times was an attack upon the religion of the goddess and the social status of women. Some believed that the only "crime" of which the witches were guilty was being a woman.
Spiritual feminists believe that our planet is presently at a crossroads, with destruction and salvation equally likely, and that only women can save the planet from its death-throes. They maintain that men have exploited both women and nature, and that oppression of one is oppression of the other.
Around 2000 is when the majority of feminine spiritualists believe history will turn either for better or worse. They feel that both the earth and her people (as cells of her) are having a collective near-death experience. In order to save the planet and ourselves, their advice to us is to follow our spiritual guides. Two things they say about the future are that (1) it will not be patriarchal and (2) it will not simply return to the culture of the ancient matriarchies.
is some conflict between spiritual and political feminists, though this
is not as obvious today as in the past. Some women live in both worlds,
while some who are feminists do not consider other feminists to be so.
They would argue that the new movement has abandoned a feminist social
conscience in favor of a "mindless feel-good" spirituality.
The main points on which practically all spiritual feminists agree are environmentalism, feminism, nonviolence and community (not just "neighborhood" but the "human community.") The two issues they most often address are ecology and "pro-choice."
The goddess represents not only a female self-image, but also a "powerful" woman.
Feminine spirituality is about the empowerment of women. Spiritual feminists interviewed in the book say that some of the gifts they have received through their practices are a new sense of self, new strength in setting priorities, courage to live their lives the way they want to live them and a sense of personal destiny.
At the end of the book, Eller has listed each of the feminine spiritualists (by pseudonym) she interviewed. She gives their birth year, birthplace, religion of origin, education, occupation, sexual orientation and marital status. A sample of the interview questions she used is also included.
in the Lap of the Goddess introduces the reader to a variety of options
regarding the feminist spirituality movement. For anyone interested in
learning more about it, either out of curiosity or because they want to
be part of it, the book offers an informative and insightful overview.
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