From the front page of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, June 7, 1990 Is Goddess Worship Finally Go

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

0 From the front page of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, June 7, 1990 Is Goddess Worship Finally Going to Put Men in Their Place? * * * Spiritual Movement Reveres Mother Earth and Power Of the Female 'Energies' By SONIA L. NAZARIO Staff Reporter Of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL In the beginning, there was no God. There was the Goddess. She peered into the great void and created the Heaven and the Earth, and in this new domain women ruled. The world was peaceful and both sexes worshipped Her. But then, about 3,000 B.C., men decided they had a better idea. They installed male deities--among them the sun god Marduk, who did in Tiamat, the mother of all gods, by pumping air down her throat and blowing her to bits. Things, sadly, haven't been the same since. Or so say people like Ruth Barrett. Ms. Barrett, who lives in Los Angeles, is a Goddess worshiper, one of a growing number of revisionists who believe it's high time to give credit where credit is due: It was a woman who molded Earth, argues Ms. Barrett, and it is men--and their male gods--who messed it up. "We don't want men to wear dog collars and be on leashes," she says. "But patriarchy must be put in its place." DIVINE RITE So it is that Evie-Kaiulani Daufin, a lapsed Catholic, has found spiritual enlightenment not in church but in the Garden of the goddess in Costa Mesa, Calif. On a recent sun-splashed afternoon, Ms. Daufin, decked out in a grass skirt and bead necklace in the shape of fallopian tubes and ovaries, joins five others in th Garden (actually, someone's backyard) for a fertility rite. They giggle as they plunge a 12-foot pole into a hole they have dug in "Mother Earth." Then Ms. Daufin, a journalism professor, dances with the other women around the Maypole. The worshipers include a graying ex-nun who calls herself Changing Woman. They purify themselves with burnt sage, sing in a circle, clutch their wombs and beseech the Goddess to make their lives more fruitful. Their wails reach a feverish pitch and peak in a primal scream. Just another New Age fad? No way, says Judith D. Auerbach, who studies gender issues at the University of Southern California's Institute for the Study of Women and Men. "Women first wanted to apply feminism to political and economic realms, then to their families," she says. "Now they want it in their spiritual lives." Goddess worshipers believe that to recreate a harmonious world, traits they consider male (dominance, aggressiveness, competitiveness) must give way to female "energies" (intuition, nurturing and compassion). Women should be revered, they say, because they bear offspring, and are thus linked to nature's cycles. JOY OF SPELL CASTING "This isn't just God in drag," insists Susan Gitlin-Emmer, an artist and Goddess worshiper in Reseda, Calif. To her, the Goddess is earth-bound, represents harmony--not hierarchy--among all living things, and can take on many faces. Lunaea Weatherstone, who publishes a magazine on pagan rituals, has fashioned an altar to the Goddess. It bears a statue of Aphrodite, a crystal penis, purple candles, a chalice and a shell. It is here, she says, that she worships the Goddess on solstices, equinoxes and Groundhog Day. Goddess worship has been around for a long time, but a recent spate of academic works on Goddess religions, and growing debate in traditional faiths about male bias in theology, has brought in a new wave of believers. Worship groups--mostly, but not exclusively, female--have sprung up from California to Massachusetts. Now there are Goddess newsletters, Goddess books, a California Goddess hotline and a monthly cable-television Goddess show (with host Starr Goode). Ms. Barrett, a self-described witch, says she gets a steady stream of students for her yearlong course on the Goddess. One big draw: the introductory lesson in spell casting. In San Francisco and Los Angeles, the Circle of Aradia and Women Spirit Rising, both worship groups, now stage elaborate public rituals. During the equinox last fall, 200 women in Long Beach, some dressed in embroidered robes, others naked, streamed into a cavernous room lit by candles. One high priestess, sword in hand, walked in a circle, calling out the powers of earth, wind, fire, and air. "Blessed Be!" the crowd rejoined. Ms. Daufin attended that ceremony. "Women were singing, wailing, jumping, planting seeds, planting seeds in an urn full of earth," she says. As the chanting became frenzied, the priestess inveighed against rape and child abuse. Exhausted, everyone fell to the ground. Judith Piquet, a Los Angeles actress and masseuse, prefers a more private "mystery dance" when she prays. She demonstrates: Standing beside two altars in her bedroom, Ms. Piquet closes her eyes and sensuously slices the air with her hands. She begins to breathe heavily. A look of ecstacy comes over her face and, as her Rubenesque figure quivers, the dance ends abruptly. "I am trying to dance out the separate aspects of the Goddess in me," she explains. Ms. Piquet says she tried mainstream religions, but felt they patronized women. "You've got the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Three men. Not a woman in sight," she says. Three years ago, she moved into a communal house with four women who worship the Goddess. "Everything fell into place. I saw how devalued women had been," says Ms. Piquet. Some of the women, she says, pray for the time when science will make men unnecessary for procreation. Which isn't to say that all Goddess worhshipers are anti-male. Most worship groups say men merely need enlightenment, that once they embrace the Goddess they, too, can find greater glory. But some aren't so sure. To them, men are "PJ's"--short for patriarchal jerks, the font of the world's ills, a lost cause, beyond redemption. Tempers can quickly flare: When one Goddess magazine, Sage Woman, suggested men could join the movement, some of its 3,000 readers canceled their subscriptions in protest. Barbara Malcolm, a graduate student at the University of Southern California, videotaped a ceremony near Los Angeles that was equally impassioned. The Ocean Amazons were meeting that day, and the Amazons were meeting that day, and the women were sharing war stories about PJ's they once knew and loved. "Be with us now!" they beseeched the Goddess. "Help us emerge from our dark traps of self-doubt." They dug a hole in the groud andstuffed it full of pictures of fashion models torn from magazines--more male objectification of women, the Ocean Amazons felt. "I am incensed by Madison Avenue," seethed one. "Death to the patriarchy!" she shouted, jamming an ad for liposuction into the hole. Afterward, the women gazed at themselves in hand-held mirrors. "I am Goddess," each intoned. But men who might feel alienated by all of this can take heart: A new spiritual movement--a sort of sexual counterpoint to Goddess worship--is gaining favor. This one is called the "mythopoetic men's movement" and considers itself a refuge from male-bashing, a place where men can go to explore their own "gender-spirituality." When mythopoetic groups meet, the conversation tends toward how women exploit men and objectify them as work objects. The groups explore a masculinity of yore, one they see as steeped in courage, compassion, fathering and chivalry. Shepherd Bliss, a San Francisco psychologist, guides mythopoetic groups into the woods, where they sing songs, read poetry, revere warrior figures and beat drums. "We want to recreate the wild man--someone vital and fresh," he declares. In one recent outing, he says, the men crawled on all fours, pretending to be animals. They had mud fights, engaged in bragging contests and urinated together on trees. They made masks "to allow the primitive side to develop." They cradled each other and meditated. "We cook for ourselves. We tell stories. We spend a lot of time weeping," Mr. Bliss says. Sometimes, on the hillsides around Los Angeles, the spiritual movements meet. On a recent afternoon, a mythopoetic group beat its drums above Malibu. The 200 men were searching for lost masculinity and a link to Father Earth. Their efforts were briefly interrupted, however, when a group of Goddess worshipers, holding a ritual for Mother Earth nearby, let go with their primal screams. Some of the men were enraged, but not Rick Welt. "There was a sense of communication, of being whole with the women, even if it just happened on a psychic level," he says. "It was the epitome of sacredness in the 1990s." * * * Letters to the Editor The Wall Street Journal July 19, 1990 Goddesses: Misunderstood of Misled? I am a Goddess worshiper who read your June 7 page-one article "Is Goddess Worship Finally Going to Put Men in Their Place?" As you say, Goddess worship is NOT anti-men or anti-male. But your overall emphasis and tone contradict that statement. Many (if not most) branches of Goddess worship include a male deity and stress love and understanding between the sexes. My personal experience is of a roughly equal number of men and women who participate; the men are not wimps and the women are not bitches. Some rituals and services in Goddess worship are designed to let go of things that hold us back from our full human potential and they may seem peculiar to those not familiar with Goddess worship. You made almost no mention of the reverence for nature, the acknowledgement of both female and male energies in life, and the fulfillment for human potential that truly make up Goddess worship as we know it today. LAURA VON BOSAU Boston * * * Your article reflected the patronization of women by the establishment that we are trying to combat. The women portrayed (all of whom took some other name, as if playing make-believe) are shown as "giggling," primal screaming man-haters. I do not use an alias, and I take my religion seriously. This includes laughing and dancing and a sense of humor not portrayed in your article. I do not worship on Groundhog Day, but on Imbolc, the eve of February. ERICA FRIEDMAN Morristown, N.J. * * * Shame on you for your patronizing and superficial article about Goddess worshipers. I suppose if you went to a Christian church, you would tell of a cannibalistic death cult (referring to its practice of communion and the crucifixes adorning church walls and worhipers' necks). Although you did touch on one of our basic beliefs--that all life is interconnected and that we strive for harmony between all life on earth--you failed to report how this is related to our rituals, thus trivializing them. You also buy into mainstream culture's "war between the sexes" when you attempt to pit the men's spirituality movement against the women's. Most of us are working for a new kind of partnership between women and men in which each is honored and respected. Honor and respect are the last things present when women treat men as success objects and men treat women as sex objects. A lot of healing and relearning will have to happen to overcome thousands of years of dominator/manipulator culture. CALLISTA LEE Long Beach Woman Spirit Lakewood, Calif. * * * A prehistoric, Goddess-centered culture has now been described, marked by egalitarianism (not woman-dominance), nurturing and focus on life-giving rather than life-taking. The overthrow and subsequent attempts at revival of that nonviolent culture are a valuable part of this Goddess scholarship. Dynamics between dominating forces vs. equalizing/nurturing forces are presented as a useful tool for the study of history and current events. I must confess that the religion and ritual of Goddess culture do little for me; but the scholarship associated with an ancient history too long obscured from our view may shed a valuable, hope-rekindling light on the human condition. We could use it. DAVID SCHOENBACH Seattle * * * The laws and national social philosophy of this country are based on the Judeo-Christian tradition. In that religious tradition, the First Commandment refers to one true God: "I am the Lord, thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before Me." The Bible is full of terrible, historical events, which resulted in the collective spiritual judgments on the Jewish and Christian peoples because of their worship of false gods. CAROLYN HINTON Washington


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank