WLRN Edition 15 Transcript
Women’s Liberation Radio News Podcast Transcript
Episode 15: Women’s Spirituality
Transcribed by Natasha Y. B.
“Real Voice” by Thistle Pettersen:
But through the hallways of academia
And on the face of the moon
The footprints of conquest
Haven’t left us any room
To say what we think, or
To speak what we know
To hear different voices
At least a sound from below.
AMANDA: Greetings, and welcome to the fifteenth edition podcast of Women’s Liberation Radio News. The team at WLRN produces a monthly radio broadcast to break the sound barrier women are blocked by under the status quo rule of men. This blocking of women’s discourse we see in all sectors of society, be they conservative, liberal, mainstream, progressive, or radical. The thread that runs through all of American politics is male dominance and entitlement in all spheres. My name is Amanda. I just recently joined the team at WLRN and I am our youngest member. I am a college junior studying theatre and computer science. I am delighted to have joined the wonderful team at WLRN and I hope to continue to lend my efforts and support to even more radical feminist ventures in the future.
Today’s podcast is about women’s spirituality and alternatives to patriarchal religions. We will hear from Tizzy Hyatt, priestess of the Goddess ordained by the reformed congregation of the Goddess International, Terri Strange, feminist witch and YouTube vlogger.
Thistle PETTERSEN: And from Carol Christ, editor of Women’s Spirit Rising, a feminist reader in religion.
AMANDA: In addition, Sekhmet She Owl offers up our totally excellent radical feminist commentary for this month’s edition, roasting patriarchal religion with her words. But first, stay tuned for our WLRN headlines for this Thursday, July 6th 2017 as prepared and read by yours truly.
Three tone news chime
AMANDA: Summer is festival season, and WLRN is happy to report that women will be gathering July 21st through the 24th in the redwoods for WoLF festival near Crescent City California. Registration for this annual event is closed.
The Michigan Framily Reunion Mitch Fest Remembrance event will take place August 4th through the 7th on a farm near Wayland Michigan. Tickets are still available for this women-only event featuring BETTY, Kristen Ford, Mimi Gonzalez, and other beloved performers. For more information and to buy your ticket visit www.michiganframilyreunion.com.
Popular feminist YouTuber Magdalen Berns has just notified her fans via twitter that her brain tumor “couldn’t be completely resected and is an astrocytoma” which is a type of brain cancer that is incurable though not untreatable. It is still unclear what the exact prognosis is. To donate to Magdalen’s PayPal go to paypal.me/MagdalenBerns or become a patreon donor at patreon.com/magdalenberns
A controversial bill has recently been passed in Ontario Canada. The Supporting Children Youth and Families Act of 2017, or Bill 89, repeals and replaces the former Child and Family Services Act that governs child protection, adoption, and foster care services in the province. It adds gender identity and gender expression as factors to be considered by Child Protection Services in the best interests of the child. Bill 89 strips parents of the right to direct the child’s education and religious upbringing. Instead, parents must raise the children in accordance to the child’s creed, community identity, and cultural identity. Many parents are concerned that if they refuse to wholeheartedly support their child’s chosen gender identity, which may include providing medical transitioning procedures, it could be considered abuse and grounds for CPS to take the child away. Critics of the bill refer to it as “totalitarian” and have launched a petition calling for its repeal. The petition on the LifeSiteNews website states that “Christian parents cannot be forbidden from adopting children, and the liberal government has no right to seize our children over phony transgender ideology.” As of June 25th the petition has garnered over 14,000 signatures.
On Sunday June 25th hundreds of women occupied Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, to demand lawmakers approve a bill that reforms the country’s criminal code that places a total ban on abortion. The demonstration included a communique that argued that the criminalization of abortion is a violation of the nation’s constitution, as well as International agreements signed by the Dominican Republic as an attempt to safeguard women’s reproductive rights. Earlier this month the Senate of the Dominican Republic voted to maintain total criminal penalties on abortion. The vote goes against President Danila Medina’s request that abortion be decriminalized in three circumstances: in pregnancies which threaten the mother’s life, are the result of rape or incest, and where the fetus will not survive outside the womb.
The bill is now being debated in the Legislative Commission of Justice in the Lower Chamber, where a majority of the Commission does not favor any decriminalization attempts. According to estimates by Lawmaker Faride Raful currently women who have had an abortion in the Dominican Republic face imprisonment of two to three years, and any health professional who facilitates or assists in abortions may be punished with four to ten years of jail time. The Dominican Republic has one of the highest death rates for women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period with 106 fatalities per 100,000 births. About 12% to 13% of maternal deaths during birth occur during illegal abortions. As a result of these laws, in 2012 Rosaura Almonte, a teenager suffering from leukemia died from hypovolemic shock after she was denied lifesaving chemotherapy because it would have affected the seven week old fetus she was carrying.
Bill Cosby now plans to hold town meetings to educate young men on how to handle and avoid sexual assault accusations. The announcement was made by Cosby spokespersons Andrew Wyatt and Ebonee Benson, who said that part of the motivation to hold these meetings was to educate young men about the dangers of false accusations. Bensen said “people need to be educated on a brush against the shoulder, anything at this point can be considered sexual assault.” She also said people need to be vigilant about the statue of limitation laws for sexual assault cases being extended. The town halls will take place in Birmingham Alabama in July. This comes after the judge in Cosby’s sexual assault case ruled a mistrial after two jurors created a deadlock. The District Attorney has vowed to retry the case. Cosby currently faces three counts of felony aggravated incident assault from a 2004 case involving an employee at Temple University, his Alma Mater. She was the first of more than fifty women who have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct.
Women in Saudi Arabia have recently been granted more freedom under male guardianship laws. King Salman has issued an order allowing women to benefit from government services such as education and healthcare without needing their male guardian’s consent. According to Maha Akeel, a women’s rights campaigner and director of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, this could mean women are able to study, access hospital treatments, work in the public and private sector, and even represent themselves in court without needing the consent of their guardian. This is the latest in a series of moves in Saudi Arabia to include more women in the workforce as the Kingdom moves to diversify its economy and cut its reliance on oil. Still, Saudi Arabia was ranked 141st of 144 countries in the 2016 Global Gender Gap, and Saudi women continue to fight for their most basic human rights.
In September 2016 around 2,500 women in the KSA directly bombarded the King’s office to demand an end to the guardianship system and activist Aziza Al Yousef delivered a petition with 14,000 signatures that called to an end for the highly restrictive laws.
The state of Missouri is considering a bill that would grant employers and landlords the right to discriminate against women on the basis of their reproductive health choices. Senate Bill 5 was first passed by the Senate on June 14th following ten hours of negotiations behind closed doors in a special session called by Governor Eric Greitens. Greitens called state legislators to the Capitol this summer specifically to overturn a previous ban on such discrimination which Greitens said had made St. Louis an abortion sanctuary city. This came two months after a federal judge struck down two Missouri laws that prevented clinics from offering women abortions. Senate Bill 5 would allow landlords to refuse housing to women who take birth control or who have had abortions. Similarly employees can fire female employees or refuse to hire women who have made those same reproductive choices.
The Missouri House met to vote on the bill on June 20th and were greeted with a silent protest in which eleven women were dressed in red robes and white bonnets, costumes from the TV show The Handmaid’s Tale. One protester carried a sign that read “The Handmaid’s Tale is not an instruction manual.” Nevertheless, an amended version of the bill was approved and included even more anti-abortion restrictions. Among other things, the amended bill requires abortion clinics to undergo unannounced annual inspections. It limits the regulation of so-called crisis pregnancy centers, anti-choice clinics that misinform pregnant women in the effort to trick them out of abortions, and it gives Missouri’s anti-choice Attorney General Josh Hawley the power to prosecute potential violations of Missouri’s targeted regulation of abortion providers laws. The House’s amended bill will be reviewed by the Senate, changed if necessary, and, if passed, will head to Governor Greitens’ desk where it will most likely be signed into law.
In more positive news, the city of Berlin may soon may sexist advertising a thing of the past. Under a measure proposed by the Social Democrat Left Party – Green Party coalition, sexist ads on all state-owned advertising spaces would be banned and a special committee of expert judges would be created to determine on a case to case basis of an advertisement should be banned under the new guidelines. These guidelines include depictions of women who are “weak, hysterical, dumb, insane, naive, or completely controlled by their emotions” and advertisements in which “a woman is barely dressed and smiling without reason while a man is completely and comfortably clothed.”
The center right Christian Democrats, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, oppose the ban because they believe it is an issue of politicians interfering in the free market. The centrist Free Democrats also claim that billboards are protected through laws on freedom of expression. Berlin’s district of Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain has already banned sexist advertising on 28 publicly owned billboards since 2014. The local council’s women and equality commissioner, Petra Koch-Knöbel, has said that no complaints have been filed against ads since then, which shows that advertisers have become sensitized. If the ban is passed Berlin would join Paris, France, as cities that do not tolerate sexist advertisement. Earlier this year Paris introduced a measure that bans advertising of a sexist or discriminatory nature on the municipal display network.
Musical Interlude: “Elemental Circle” by Jana Runnals
Sekhmet She OWL: That was “Elemental Circle” by Jana Runnals. We now turn to an excerpt of an interview Thistle Pettersen did with Tizzy Hyatt, ordained priestess of the Reformed Congregation of the Goddess and proud new owner of the store and temple space called Goddess Within in Des Moines, Iowa. She holds a degree in Goddess Spirituality from the Women’s Theological Institute, a training branch of RCGI.
Thistle PETTERSEN: Welcome Tizzy
Tizzy HYATT: Hi Thistle
PETTERSEN: It’s great to have you on our show. If you could, just tell us a little bit about yourself, how you discovered the Reformed Congregation of the Goddess, what it is and what it was like to decide to go through their priestessing program.
HYATT: So it’s The Reformed Congregation of the Goddess International, and it is rcgi.org for those who are interested who want to find out more. I heard about RCG, because it’s awfully long to say the whole thing so we just call it RCG, I heard about it 19 years ago at a class, um, that Lidia Rule taught. She is a woman who has passed now, but she was a-a worldwide known Goddess scholar and artist, and she did a workshop in Des Moines Iowa where I’m from and I went to the workshop and met a woman there who was taking the, at that time it was called Cella priestess training program, it’s now called the Women’s Theological Institute, um, they’ve expanded it. And, I was sitting in a circle with a room full of strangers, we are holding hands and I’m holding hands with this woman and she’s introducing herself, um, and she says her name, and she said that she was in this program and I got goosebumps, from her hand all the way up the back of my neck and down the other way and I – I knew as soon as she spoke the words, I was like oh I came here to meet you. I came here to learn about that program.
And, uh, that was February of ‘98 and I moved to Madison Wisconsin in July of ‘98 to do the program where, uh, the group was founded. You-you can do the priestess training from anywhere, um, now the course is available online but there’s-there’s people who do it all over the country and outside the country as well, but, I wanted to [inaudible] where the heart of it was so we moved from Des Moines to Madison so I could do my training because for me, I already am looking for what I called witch school in my mind but as soon as I heard it I was like priestess training, yes, that’s what I want. Uh, I was all in the minute I heard it because I knew I-I had been looking for quite a long time and didn’t know it existed, and that was- It was just a perfect match for me. So, I, I-I went and, into one of their gatherings and, which is right next to you, and I loved it and I went to my first solo weekend with a group of women in Minnesota. And I was twenty-four when I started and I literally got out of the car and I had only met one woman before, the one I met at the [inaudible] in Des Moines, and she told all of her sisters that I was coming, and they were so excited that there-there was a new woman coming in. They were frankly really excited a young woman was coming.
I got out of the car after driving to Minnesota with her, and literally this group of middle-aged plus women greeted me with open arms and hugged me like I was their long lost niece or, soul sister, and it was just, amazing. They were so kind and warm and welcoming, and that was my introduction. And as you can imagine that was- I’m- I’m still here 19 years later.
PETTERSEN: How long was the process that you went through to be ordained?
HYATT: Um, it’s a six year training program. So, um, cycle one is one year, cycle two is two years, cycle three is three years. It’s a-a little bit like sort of being, if you think about it, like being a Sophomore, Junior, Senior in college. A little bit like that. Where you start off with the basics, and you get a good framework and then you, uh, you go more in depth about what it is you’re particularly interested in and then you really dive into cycle three, actually doing the things that you’re looking to do when you graduate. So, it’s very much of a self-directed program, it’s not like traditional school at all. Uh, RCG is all about self-determination.
So, there’s a framework, and if you read the framework and you’re interested in it then you join one of the Cella groups, or I should say WTI groups, you know um, before the- before the language changed. You join the Women’s Theological Institute circle that’s somewhere local to you, or you can do it online, and then- really, I would say that WTI is a personal growth program that has a humongous amazing spiritual component. As you learn more about Goddess Spirituality you learn more about yourself, and the deeper you understand yourself the more that you dive into becoming the next best version of who you want to be and then, all of a sudden you’re doing things you couldn’t imagine you’d do just a few years before.
I tell people if they want to start the program to order their work book and-and just read cycle one. Because if they order it and they read all the way through to cycle three, a lot of people will become intimidated, women will think I could never do what it’s asking me to do in cycle three. This is crazy, I can’t do this. And I’ve heard that so many times because part of what I do is I worked at the mother house, um, that’s what headquarters of RCG, I worked there while at school. So I used to do this all the time, I would explain WTI to people who called on the phone, and that was the number one thing I heard women say, was I couldn’t possibly ever do what they’re asking me to do in cycle three, how can I begin now. And so I just tell people, like don’t even read it, because by the time you get there, three years or plus in, you will have been so transformed you may not even recognize parts of yourself because things that you’ve been conditioned to think in patriarchy are true, you find out are not. And it gives you empowerment and freedom and you shed old layers of yourself, like, so quickly it’s amazing. And I’ve watched women transform themselves again and again and it’s truly amazing to watch. It’s a heck of a transformation.
PETTERSEN: How many of the ordained priestesses go on to create a congregation and be, you know, be the priestess for their congregation?
HYATT: Hmm, that’s an interesting question. We- RCG believes there is more than one way to priestess by far. Not all the priestesses who get ordained are a kind of a priestess who would start a congregation. I’ll give you a for-instance. You could be a creatrix priestess, which basically means any kind of artist, including of like, so, your work might be that you write books. Your work might be that you create woven cloth. Perhaps you’re a statue maker. So, your calling may not be to start a circle, or a congregation locally.
Some people who are ritualists or organizers, those are some of the paths you can follow, they might be the kind of people who would start a group. Who would – who would convene a circle who would lead something. But not all priestesses do thing the same, we-we’re called to different paths and gifts and that’s something I really value in RCT, is that we honor that. Earth walkers, one of the paths you can follow, has, uh, in WTI, earth walkers are some of the activists, who are called to make change, um. And so that person might be very active in saving the local water from being polluted. That person might not start a congregation because they’re actively, you know, fighting their corporation that would throw poison in their local water. So it’s-it’s not the same for each woman. As the Goddess calls her to her service, therefore she answers.
RCG does not place expectations upon you about what that might be. For some women that is to start a circle, or a group, or congregation, or to build a temple. It’s-it’s really dependent upon each woman’s gift and, with all the ordained priestesses we have, I can tell you no two are alike. We are actually amazingly diverse even though we’re all ordained priestesses of RCG. And we-we do, we get called to our work in different ways.
Musical Interlude: “War and Peace” by Sexwitch
Jenna Di QUARTO: That was “War and Peace” by Sexwitch. WLRN was also able to speak with feminist witch and YouTube vlogger Terri Strange about her practice of witchcraft and how it is part of the wide world of women’s spirituality. Terri Strange is a radical lesbian feminist witch, dedicated to uplifting the status and lives of women and girls around the world. Her work blends feminist theory, women’s history and culture with spirituality and self-work. She yearns for all women to throw off their chains and to transform the world. Here are excerpts of the interview Sekhmet She Owl did with Ms. Strange for WLRN’s fifteenth edition.
Sekhmet SHE OWL: Why do you think so many feminist women gravitate toward witchcraft, Wicca, and goddess spirituality?
Terri STRANGE: Well, I mean, I think for one thing, a big part of witchcraft and different forms of occult and esoteric practice and philosophy has really been about getting human beings to live up to their full potential. So you know, you work through your problems, you work through your base nature and you try to improve yourself. That’s kind of the goal of most of everything I’ve studied, that’s basically the idea that you’re trying to improve yourself and-and become a more perfect being in the world and make a better impact on it. And not just be subjected to it.
I think, too, for women a big aspect of it is the fact that a lot of patriarchal philosophy is about splitting our minds from our bodies. I think that’s a big part of why women gravitate towards Goddess worship, specifically or witchcraft. They want to reconnect and be fully present, and I think for most women walking around and living in the world, um, I call it the state of possession, you know, um, I’m not the only one that calls it that though, but you know. I-I’ve talked about it in detail on my YouTube channel. You know, women are divorced from themselves and this is a tool to help them to be more present, to be more focused, and to be more alive. It helps you in a lot of ways reclaim certain aspects of your life, or not to feel that you’re always at the receiving end of things, that you can make an impact. It’s an empowering belief system, whatever path you go down.
I think really it’s about empowerment. And I say that in terms of taking power back and feeling powerful. It can give women a sense of really feeling that they are powerful. And I think that’s important, you can’t change the world if don’t feel that you can make an impact. You know, I think, too, another thing it’s about discovering yourself as a woman. I think that’s why a lot of women get into these paths, because we don’t know who we are as a people. What we know about ourselves is what men have taught us. So in order to figure out who you are you’ve gotta go well, who were we? What was our history? What were we doing throughout history? And we’ve always existed.
Women have been a big part of society and we’ve had our own lives, but we don’t have any context to really knowing much of what we were doing. And, I think any, like, Goddesses and Goddess cultures and also reliving that now and keeping those traditions alive is about really honoring females, for one. But also it’s, I think, about figuring out who we are and, like, what our power could look like if it was able to fully manifest in the world. What would it look like if we were powerful like, you know, the Goddesses that we look up to are, you know, or that we work with, or that we venerate or, ask for favors. I think it’s about too, looking at examples of female power, and drawing from that. That’s the thing as well with specifically Goddess worship, or-or [inaudible] practice. That-that’s what women are looking for and why they gravitate towards it even if it’s maybe considered-
I mean I’ve definitely gotten criticism from women that it’s just woo-woo or nonsense but as-it’s helped my life tremendously and every woman that I’ve known that has gone into this path and started doing it has really come alive again, wholly. So I think that’s important.
And I’m not saying that you have to do it to become totally alive but, for me it definitely was the case. This was the path to full awakening. The thing with witchcraft and any study of the occult is belief isn’t really required, always. You know, there’s permission to be agnostic too, with it. So you can dip your toes into it, and I think it’s a safe place for women to explore spiritual experiences as well without having to, like, subscribe to maybe things that they aren’t comfortable with. It’s a place where you can be more discerning and use your own judgement. So I think that’s what is attractive as well and why it’s something that women easily gravitate towards.
SHE OWL: Do you think that female only psychic space is a thing, and if so why is it important for women and feminists to create it for themselves?
STRANGE: I do think it is a thing, the thing about it is though it-it’s not an easy thing to ask that, really, because it requires a lot of undoing of our own programing to get there where we can [inaudible] consciousness that we can see that the thoughts that we’re having are not necessarily our own, they are coming from patriarchal imprinting and programing. That takes a lot of work, but I do think it exists. I feel that I’ve achieved it, not every single day obviously, but in my practice I-I do get there at times where I feel like I’m just- I don’t know- mentally free in that way as a female where I know what I am and what my own thoughts are, you know. Apart from all of that.
So, I think it’s a really important thing to get to and I’ve mentioned it earlier when we were talking about how women don’t really know who they are. And that’s just such an important thing to try and figure out and that’s kind of the message and the meaning of the practice. At least most of the magical practice and work that I do [inaudible] The whole point has always been to get to understand yourself better so that you can create the kind of reality that you want for yourself in this life with your energy and resources. So, that’s a very hard thing for women to get.
I feel that men are trained naturally and know, they’re taught these things through their socialization very early on, but women just don’t get or understand so we’re at a disadvantage when we have to compete for- compete with them for jobs and reality they’ve set up, patriarchy, and wage labor, and capitalism that we have to work in. Men are at such an advantage because of the psychic space that tells them that they are great and they are powerful and they deserve the things they want, and that their will matters, you know. Women-women [inaudible] have that beaten out of us literally. It’s a very brutal process. So it’s totally reclaimable, it’s still there. We just have to go through the mental layers of feeling like a lot of the pain and shame that we feel is implanted on us. And that can be from religion, it can be from messages in the media and society, but this process is about unlocking that. So, yeah. I think it exists and I think it’s really important to get to. You need to know who you are if you’re going to know what you need to be doing, in this life, as a woman, you know. Your purpose is a very important thing to figure out. So yeah, I totally believe this thing exists.
Poetic interlude – Poem by Nile Pierce
In the name of the father the son and the holy spirit
that is our erased and abused mother
a spirit because her body means nothing
because her womanness, her worth, her mind
her heart, her sacrifice, her blood
and her compassion is reviled
and resented by her male counterparts
a spirit because she was murdered in collusion and secrecy
like so many of her indigenous sisters and daughters
they seek our wombs, used as tools to bring forth
more filth for them, more war machines
but little do they know
that before they were dirty
before they were made beasts
they were pure, they were part of her
they were soft and slow to anger
our great abandoned and abused mother
her bond broken, her hard work misunderstood and taken for granted
fell in despair and into depression
left alone while the philandering husband went off in the night
wept in tears as her boys were given to violence
and her daughters sold to disease-ridden men twice their age
she glides across the face of the earth
searching for the virtue she once instilled in them
hovering over the beds of her lost children
left weeping in the dark of a world that hates them
in the names of the fathers and sons and thousands of years of patrilineal ancestry
to one of them has been wholly enough to match her
and so a spirit she stays
hovering amid the cool mists of the morning light
and the pink golden rays of sunset and places far away
on promontories and over hill tops
in open air sanctuaries and in graves
from the deep she rises
her cathonic power pulsing through our veins
always there, fierce and nurturing
always there, begging her sons to stop fighting
stop hurting and killing
robbed of her body
of her agency and role as teacher, as doctor, as scientist
as bringer forth of life and wise woman
she is made into a less comprehensible fog
toiling still for the sake of her male counterparts
who evidently cannot manifest without her
without her they are lost
without her they wither
and writhe in the wilderness of their own making
they shrivel and hide at the first sound of her voice
this nameless faceless sexless surrogate
but i find you in the tattered old wood reliefs
and under the foundation stones of ancient churches
you are there
through roman masonry and mosaic floors full of mythological scenes
your voice echoes and whispers in wide open ecclesiastical spaces
between the columns where we meet
I see you, under the warm light of the sun
the icon, a single mother standing on your own amidst all this
AMANDA: Next up we will hear an excerpt of an interview Nile Pierce recently did with feminist spirituality author Carol Christ. Carol Christ holds a PhD from Yale and is a leading feminist theologian and activist. She is coeditor of the path breaking anthologies, Women’s Spirit Rising and Weaving the Visions, and author of, among others, Diving Deep and Surfacing and Rebirth of the Goddess. Her new books are Goddess and God in the World with Judith Plaskow, and A Serpentine Path, her memoir of transformation on the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. Information about the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete can be found at www.goddessariadne.org. And you can find Carol’s blog at feminismandreligion.com
Nile PIERCE: Did feminism lead you to spirituality, to this idea of Goddess spirituality, or did your own spirituality and your life lead you to a new awakened feminism?
Carol CHRIST: Well I think I was always a spiritual child. I had a Christian Science grandmother who was raised on a farm, and she taught us that nature was wonderful and magical and the world was a beautiful place. My other grandmother was Roman Catholic and from her I learned that the Blessed Mother is always with us and also, again, a love for life and beauty. And I think that the other thing that’s really influenced me is that I had a large number of deaths when I was a young teenager.
My baby brother died when I was fourteen after only five days and the same year my grandmother died of a terrible cancer and my grandfather died after being ill for many years, and within the next few years my father’s sister who was only forty and his father died. And so I had a lot of spirituality in my upbringing and then I had a lot of questions about the meaning of life and death that I brought with me when I went to college. So I ended up majoring in religion and I was encouraged to go on to a PhD which was very unusual at the time for a woman to do. And also to go on in theology and religion which was even more unusual.
And so it was actually my experiences when I started my PhD program that made me a feminist. I was one of only two women in the PhD program of a hundred or so students. The other woman was a nun and she didn’t socialize with us, so I was essentially the only woman. And I was treated very badly, I was told that I probably wouldn’t finish my degree, I’d probably get married. I dated a bunch of the guys but they all dumped me probably because I was too threatening to them. Not only am I very smart, I’m also very very tall.
Anyway, I started looking into some of the theologians that we were assigned to read, some of the parts we weren’t assigned, which were about women. And I found out that from the Middle Ages um, Saint Thomas Aquinas following the great philosopher Aristotle, um believed that women were misbegotten males and that what was lacking in us was a rational capacity and therefore we were destined to obey our husbands who have a greater rational capacity and God, who obviously did as well. And then I found the same thing in-in the most important 20th century theologian, uh, at least according to my professors of the 20th century, Karl Barth, um, who said that man will always be A and women will always be B, and in relation to God, God is A and humanity is B, so man is made to obey God and woman is meant to obey man who will always have initiative, precedence, and authority.
And I was totally shocked to find that this is um, this is a theme running all throughout Christian theology. And of course it shook my faith to the core because I believed that I myself was a rational person, and I was being treated as if I wasn’t. And here was this theology that made it all made sense. Of course my boyfriends and my professors denied that they believed such things, but of course on some level they did.
PIERCE: Wow, so when you say that you went and you studied religion and you were doing a higher degree in religion, religious studies. This wasn’t at, you know, a Christian college, this was at like Yale.
CHRIST: Yes it was supposed to not be a Christian university although the program was very much influenced by the divinity school which was a Christian institution.
PIERCE: So how did you come into the-the Goddess spirituality that you’re now practicing
CHRIST: It would be an understatement to say that the way I was treated at Yale made me question theology, and when I found out that theology supported the way I was treated at Yale I had a lot of questions about Christianity. I was also very interested in the Holocaust, and I felt that a good God could not have let the Holocaust happen, and so I ended up writing my dissertation on Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust writer, before he became famous. And spent a number of years struggling with the problem of evil.
And, when I finished my dissertation I would say I was still a Christian but I was on very shaky ground because I didn’t really believe in the basic doctrines of Christianity. And I had my questions about whether God was good or if God was all powerful. And while I was finishing my dissertation I was up late, drinking a lot of diet coke- at that time it was called Tab- and smoking, and I started thinking about my own questions. I was writing about Wiesel asking God how he could have let the Holocaust happen and I started asking God how he could have let the oppression of women happen for so many thousands of years. Why didn’t he stop rape, why didn’t he stop wife and child beating, why didn’t he send us a prophet, um, why were all the prophets male, why was Jesus a male.
I went on and on and on, and then I lay down on my bed and it was dark, and, I just, um. Lay there quietly and, in the silence I heard um, what I felt was a voice. It was in my own mind, but it was a voice that didn’t sound like mine, said- in God it is a woman like yourself, she shares your suffering. And from that moment on I began to see that there was another way of imagining and thinking and knowing God. And I was looking for God as a woman. And I had no idea where to look. I had – in all of my PhD studies I never studied anything about the Goddess, I wasn’t a child who was taught Greek mythology.
And I looked into some of the Greek Goddesses and I found them lacking. Athena was a goddess of war, she was strong but I was very much opposed to war, so she didn’t resonate with me. I found Aphrodite but she was portrayed as weak, so Greek Goddesses just didn’t make a big impression on me. I looked into, um, some of the other Goddesses in India and I found also a lot of the Goddesses in India were involved with war, and I didn’t make a deep study but I-I just didn’t find anything I was looking for.
And then I found a book called The Hebrew Goddess by Raphael Patai and that tied back into at least something that was familiar to me, which was the Hebrew bible. And I discovered through his work that the Goddess was worshiped in Ancient Israel and Judah. And I became interested in reviving that idea. But none of my colleagues, neither Jewish nor Christian, um, felt that was a good idea, at the time. So I was very alone, I was struggling. And I got a sabbatical on my third year of -fourth year of teaching, and went out to California and by chance, when my friend Naomi Goldenberg was visiting me, she suggested that we take a free university class. This was, uh, part of the, uh, sort of seventies. And we ended up at the first, maybe the second class that Star Hock had ever taught. She as was a young woman and we were pretty young ourselves, and I was absolutely fascinated with her saying that there was this tradition when the Goddess was worshiped, she was understood to be part of nature. And she taught us some simple rituals that night, and from that moment on I knew that I had come home. I had found what I was looking for. But what I have discovered is that there was a very long time in human history when people worshipped the Goddess as the powers of birth, death, and regeneration, and all of life. And this is true of Ancient Crete where I lead the Goddess Pilgrimage tours.
And there was a long period of time when there was no war, no warrior Goddesses, and there was equality between men and women. And this is what I’m striving to inspire myself and others to create in our own time.
Jenna Di QUARTO: You are listening to WLRN brought to you by the totally excellent radical feminists at Women’s Liberation Radio News.
Thistle PETTERSEN: And now for WLRN’s totally excellent radical feminist commentary on the subject of patriarchal religion as written and presented by our in-house theorist and commentator, Sekhmet She Owl.
Sekhmet SHE OWL: Radical feminism is a movement for global female liberation form all forms of male oppression, and that’s why we have to talk about religion. Patriarchal religion, the most popular ones being Christianity and Islam, are belief systems that have supported and enforced male power for thousands of years and continue to instill male values in the female mind all toward the end of heterosexuality. So often, it is religion that makes women into members of the political right. Religion that fuels their lesbian hating. Religion that allows them to justify their own woman hating and male worshipping ways. Religion is inextricable from patriarchy, and if we want to set women everywhere free from male domination and give them feminist consciousness we have to understand what religion does to them and refute the lies that religious men tell.
Religion is used to colonize women’s minds to make them cooperative with male power. The indoctrination starts early in life for most of us. As girls we’re forced to go to church or temple or mosque. We’re taught to pray to an all-powerful all-knowing male God, to beg him for what we need and to feel guilty when we disobey him. We’re taught to kneel before him, submit to him, be grateful to him as the source of all goodness in our lives and life itself. There is no equivalent reverence of a female figure anywhere. There is no female in the individual or collective imagination with such power, knowledge, or creativity. Men designed it this way millennia ago, erasing the Goddesses that civilizations everywhere once worshipped.
Patriarchal religion places a male authority figure in the female psyche, leading women and girls to accept male power over them as unquestionable. Mary Daly said when the God is male, the male is God. Consider how much more submissive religious women are to the men in their lives compared to secular women. Consider how much farther away women on the religious right are from feminism than liberal and leftist women, and the corresponding religiosity versus secularism in these two groups. While patriarchal religion is not the source of misogyny in men or women, it does an excellent job of enhancing the misogyny already there and excusing political cultural and social expressions of misogyny.
Belief in an omnipotent male deity and his rules for proper living render women compliant with male authority, both in the home and in the community. This is why most religious women on the right go along with the brazen misogyny of their men. God told them to be obedient wives and daughters. Patriarchal religion is men’s fantasy of their own absolute power, control, domination, and immortality. Rather than some metaphysical truth about the universe or human beings, we should trust male religion to reveal the truth about the male psyche, male ego, and men’s deepest desires. So many of these religions are death cults, teaching followers of the non-physical afterlife is more important and rewarding than life on earth, and that suffering and martyrdom are admirable, even necessary. These male created belief systems have been used as justification for countless wars, terrorism, colonialism, genocide, and oppression. Conveniently masking the materialistic and political motives of powerful men as the so-called will of God.
The fact that different male serving religious groups come into violent conflict with each other, yet share similar attitudes toward women, reminds us that misogyny is universal to men and proves that religion is a tool they use to keep women under control. Why should feminists engage in a political critique and condemnation of patriarchal religion? Because patriarchal religion is a continuous internalizing of misogyny, male supremacy, and female submission to the male. Religions communities are their own patriarchal societies where men rule over women, a way for males to have institutional power in the private sector. Religion also serves to reinforce male power in the domestic and public spheres, especially in countries that have a strong Christian heritage and in Islamic theocracies where religion is literally law. The father rules the family, the husband rules the wife, and a male god rules the Universe. That’s patriarchy in a nutshell. Rule of the father, whether we’re talking about the human father or God the Father.
As long as women are ruled by a male figure in their own minds, they cannot be free from male power in the material world, nor can they replace male values with female values. Goddess spirituality and witchcraft are ways that women take back their minds and reclaim their own consciousness. It’s no coincidence the feminist movement of the 1970’s prompted an explosion of Goddess spirituality and the development of witchcraft as a more organized, mainstream, accessible practice throughout North America and Europe.
Feminist consciousness raising naturally lead to a mass exodus of women from their family’s patriarchal religions to spiritual exploration, experimentation and creation rooted in the idea of centering the female. The first step to becoming a feminist is taking back your mind, and for most women that means purging one’s consciousness of the male God and everything he represents. Women in the late 20th century awakened by feminism turn to witchcraft hundreds of years after Christian patriarchs tortured and murdered millions of innocent women on grounds of their alleged witchcraft. Those feminists turned witches believe for the first time they can possess spiritual power instead of living at the mercy of a male God. The legitimacy of witchcraft or Goddess centered spirituality matters far less than the spiritual and psychological liberation women achieve by replacing the patriarchal male God with a Goddess, or with nature, or themselves.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that even in the neopagan scene there is aggressive resistance to female only spirituality that men insist women continue to include male gods in their belief systems, that both men and women do everything they can to stop even a small group of Dianic Wiccans from creating female-only space to practice their magic and Goddess-only rituals, including rituals focusing on female biological processes. Even the men who leave patriarchal religion for paganism demand that women worship their image and give men unconditional access to them. Patriarchal paganism is not much different from patriarchal religions even if some patriarchal pagans recognize Goddesses in addition to Gods. Ultimately patriarchal paganism is still about male domination that takes root in the psyche of followers. And paganism in particular, with its long history of being grounded in the body, makes it easy for men to use spirituality as a means to gain sexual access to women.
The desire men have to control women’s spirituality and center themselves in it is ultimately about preventing women from developing feminist consciousness. Religion frees men up from having to constantly actively control women’s thoughts. They teach women and girls to brainwash themselves and each other. Kicking males out of your mind often leads to kicking them out of your body and your heart. Men have always known this, which is why they fight so hard to maintain control of female spirituality. As radical feminists it’s important that we acknowledge religion as a powerful tool of male supremacy and one of the most popular methods of passing misogyny down from generation to generation. Feminist consciousness raising seeks to set women free from male belief systems and this consciousness raising achieved through feminist discussion and education is the best way to facilitate women’s natural rejection of patriarchal religion.
Music starts playing
Thistle PETTERSEN: That concludes WLRN’s fifteenth edition podcast for July 6th 2017. Thanks for tuning in. This is Thistle Pettersen signing off. If you’d like to get in touch with us, please send us an email to email@example.com
Sekhmet SHE OWL: WLRN would like to add new members to our volunteer-powered media collective. If you’d like to join our team, please visit our WordPress site and click on “volunteer for WLRN” This is Sekhmet She Owl. Thanks for tuning in.
Jenna DI QUARTO: And I’m Jenna Di Quarto. Thanks to your donations we were able to get a stock of WLRN tee shirts for our staff, volunteers, and listener sponsors. We only have six shirts left. If you’d like a WLRN tee shirt click on our tee shirts tab on our WordPress site and let us know.
AMANDA: Thanks for tuning in to WLRN. This is Amanda, signing off for now. Next month’s edition will focus on the money behind the transgender movement, and the harms of including the T with the LGB. We will hear from two of the four panelists from the discussion canceled by the Left Forum in May. We always release our hand-crafted podcasts the first Thursday of every month, so stay tuned for our August 3rd release.
Nile PIERCE: Thanks for staying tuned to collectively produced feminist radio here at WLRN. This is Nile Pierce, until next time. Stay strong.
Musical Interlude: “Michigan” by Thistle Pettersen:
But how will we find our way out of this?
What is the antidote for the patriarchal kiss?
How will we find what needs to be shown?
And then after that
Where is home, tell me
Where is my home?
Cos gender hurts….