Tyra Banks Talks to Witches

This Monday's Tyra Banks Show is called the "Mysterious Lives of Witches". Read the summary below for more information.

I'm counting on the show being a bunch of sensationalist crap. But who knows? Maybe this time will be different. Then again I may find myself writing a little letter to Ms. Banks by the end of the day.

Do you believe in magic? Tyra meets some of the 400,000 people in the United States who call themselves witches and explores their mysterious world of spells and rituals. Three women claim they are "white witches" or "good witches," but have been tormented due to their beliefs. Then the "good witches" agree to pull back the curtain for a first-hand look at a witches’ induction ceremony, and Tyra speaks with the woman who was welcomed into their coven. Tyra reveals the other side of witchcraft when she’s joined by three people who consider themselves "dark witches," and take you inside a ceremony where a blood-letting ritual is performed. Tyra also speaks with two members of one of the most controversial and feared groups in history, Satanists, including a man who claims he is the first child born in the "Church of Satan." Plus, a former witch who now believes witchcraft is evil.

- tyrashow.com

Women and the Goddess

Starhawk answers the recent "On Faith" question: Have women fared well or badly in the world's religions down through the ages? Why?

Read Starhawks comments on the subject below. What do you think of what she had to say?

I'll admit I was expecting a little bit more. While reading Starhawk's article I felt as though she were in a rush just to get it written. Which is not unlikely since she is a very busy woman. However, I am just plain completely thrilled and grateful that she is able to post subjects on the Goddess at all.

Women and the Goddess

Women have not faired well under most religions for the last five thousand years or so. But let’s take the long view: that’s just a blip on the timeline of human history. Before, and concurrently in many indigenous cultures, the divine was and is pictured in female as well as male form, as the Great Mother who was the creative, regenerative power in nature and life.

At the very beginnings of Western civilization, there were early cultures, egalitarian and peaceful, that honored the Goddess and whose arts and religious artifacts reflect their interest in the sacredness of nature and an orientation to life. These societies were long lasting—in places like Catal Huyuk they existed for thousands of years, and they originated agriculture, pottery, weaving, architecture—the arts and skills that were to be the basis of civilizations to come. But they changed when culture and religion became more and more focused on war. Myths changed—from celebrations of the sacred marriages and sacred images of food, plants—to the imagery of warfare, with Gods as conquerors and Lords of Battle. Law and religion changed as well—and the results are still with us.

I was raised Jewish and still feel deeply connected to those roots. But as a young woman deeply interested in questions of the spirit, and always at the top of my Hebrew school class, I saw nowhere to go in Judaism. At that time, there were no women rabbis, cantors, and few women scholars. Women could teach Hebrew school, or head up Hadassah, or marry a rabbi, but that was about it. Of course, all of that changed a decade later with challenges from the feminist movement, but in the meantime I had found a community of people practicing the Old Religion of the Goddess.

The Goddess is not just God-in-a-skirt, she represents a different spiritual orientation, one which locates the sacred in this world, in the cycles of nature, in the body and all its processes, that sees sexual communion, birth, maturation, healing, and even death and decay as sacred processes.

As a young woman, it was tremendously empowering for me to find a spiritual tradition that honored my body and that encouraged me to take on roles of responsibility and leadership.

In our tradition, we honor women without denigrating men, and there are also many wonderful, powerful and empowering men in our communities. But men do not have the automatic position of privilege—unearned, assumed authority—that they do in some other religions.

There isn’t space here to fully discuss this issue, but if you want to pursue this question further, I refer you to my own books, (see www.starhawk.org), especially The Spiral Dance and Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority and Mystery (HarperSanFrancisco, 1988) and our documentary on the work of archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, Signs Out of Time. (Available from www.belili.org). Marija’s own books, The Language of the Goddess, The Civilization of the Goddess, The Living Goddess (with Miriam Dexter Robbins) are also excellent resources, as is Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade.

Women's Spirituality?

*Slight Rant Warning*

I was thrilled to see that there was a Goddess Temple operating in Orange County, California. I couldn't wait to head over to the website and check it out, but when I got there I was more than disappointed. Please visit here and read through the site - specifically the beliefs page before reading my comments below.

Women's Spirituality? Where is the inclusiveness of the Goddess? The Goddess teaches connection not separation. Why is Goddess religion assumed to be for women only? The Goddess does not love her female children more than her male - or her four legged more than her two legged. Calling Goddess Religion Women's Spirituality or Feminist Spirituality is not only a misnomer, it also creates unneeded and unwanted separation.

We can not change the world by only exalting half of it. How can we create change throughout the entire human race by replacing male dominated religion with female dominated religion? The difference between Goddess Religion and those of Abrahamic descent are so vast that at some point the gender issues are no longer relevant. Just to sum up, one is based on fear and separation and the other is based on love and oneness. Huge difference!

I understand the need for women to come together and heal. I truly do. But men need that same opportunity under the Goddess. Men need to be able to find freedom from Christianity and Patriarchal institutions as well. If they don't, what we'll continue to have in this country is a bunch of idiots who do nothing but grow fatter and watch football (while calling each other gay for having emotions). There needs to be a new standard for the American male and the Goddess can create change for men too. Spiritual development should be more important than Super Bowl Sunday.

The Goddess is the center of the first religion of humankind. Period. Not womankind. Not mankind. Humankind. It's time we wake up.

Goddess Temples in Every Town

From the post Looking Back, Looking Forward at Medusa Coils:

"At the turn of the millennium, Abby Willowroot encouraged people to create Goddess statues and art in what she called "Goddess 2000 Project", whose aim was "A Goddess on Every Block!" Now that we are well into this millennium, I'd like to state another goal - a Goddess temple in every town!

I believe Goddess temples will bring us increased visibility and stability, lessen the perception of us as an unimportant or fringe group (or groups), and enable people to see contemporary Goddess religion(s) as a legitimate spiritual path. This, in turn, will help us reach other goals, such as having our research, scholarship, and writings published more easily, having our findings accepted in academic circles, and having Goddessian representatives included in "interfaith" programs and gatherings."

I have spoken on my desire to foster organization in Goddess Religion on a few occasions here at Panthea. It is no secret that I would build a temple in every town in a heart beat if the funds were available. But how can we meet this goal? How can we afford to build these temples if we can not yet organize ourselves? If I won the lottery the first thing I would do would be to purchase some land and build a nice neo-classic, round temple with the words "Temple of the Goddess" in bold letters on a sign out front. But, since the lotto isn't exactly a reliable source of income, where do you suppose we could come up with that kind of capital? Are there any rich philanthropist Goddessians out there? Anyone?

Review: The Myth of the Goddess

The Myth of the Goddess; Evolution of an Image details the cultural confirmation of Goddess worship since before the beginning of civilization to more recent times. The Goddess is revealed through time from Ancient Earth Mother to the Virgin Mary as an integral part of the human religious experience.

Detailed examinations of artifacts and sacred sites provide a compelling image of societies devoted to the Goddess as seen through Nature and the world around them. Themes in mythology and folklore are also explored as a means of further demonstrating the cultural and religious significance of Goddess to ancient people.

Epiphanies are hidden within the richness of the text, caught within the weaving patterns of the reality of the Great Goddess. Ideas and thoughts you once thought of as your own will suddenly be seen as intuitive realizations - reality forged through mystery.

This is a book that every Goddess-person should own - both clergy and lay person. The work contained in its pages will serve as a practical foundation for the (re)building of inherent human religious tradition and practice.

Have you read this book? Use the comments form to write your own review.

A Triple Goddess Debate

The essay, The Great and Sovereign Mother Goddess by Robin Artisson, had me nodding my head on many occasions. One specific point that I agreed upon was made with the statement:

"India makes a good place to look for traditions of Goddess Worship..."

Absolutely. Here we have a surviving tradition of the Goddess. It is however not found in its original form and has still been subjected, in part, to the "savage suppression" spoken of in the later part of the statement.

Another good point from the essay:

"Despite the very politically motivated over-simplifications that have been worked into the field of Goddess studies by radical feminists..."

I couldn't agree more. The Goddess is an equal opportunity mother. She doesn't love her female children more than her male ones or vice versa. Many aspects of her mysteries can be seen through the female body, but that does not automatically exalt women over men. It is about equality and respect and nothing more. I refuse to allow my religion to be a fading movement which serves someone else's political agendas.

"I do not believe in the so-called 'triple goddess' of modern mainstream neo-paganism."

"...I do not believe in the wiccan 'triple goddess'."

Robin feels strongly enough about the above statement to say it twice. It just so happens that it is probably the one point that I had the most conflict with. Within the essay itself are the following words.

"Alongside this virginal, pure and boundless condition..."

"...She has been approached as Earth Mother... and as a Goddess of the Underworld or a Fate-Weaver."

In the above statements the Goddess is demonstrated as being triplicate as in Maiden, Mother, and Crone which Robin says is a "modern construct" despite the "great religious truth that many of the Goddesses [he] worship[s] historically appear in triple form."

"...I do believe in the Goddess of Sovereignty, and in her triple force of power."

I'm confused. So I call the Goddess Maiden, Mother, Crone, and All Goddess and Robin calls her the Goddess of Sovereignty who has a triple power. What is the difference? I think we're talking about the same thing here.

Is it possible that Robert Graves coined the terms Maiden, Mother, Crone because it was a common way of seeing the Goddess: youthful, motherly, and aging? He didn't make up the myths of the Goddess which demonstrate these triplicate aspects. He simply classified her aspects into simple English. I'm not even sure Graves can take all the credit for it actually. These ideas have been around for millennia. It seems unlikely that one man could put into words what has always been. Or perhaps for him it was a moment of intuition and remembrance of the Great Goddess of ancient times. Either way, does it really matter? It appears that we believe in the same thing, but call it two (kind of) different things.

So, this leaves the Triple Goddess as a historical manifestation seen through the eyes of the myth writers and readers - the interpreters of the worship of our Ancient Mother. The Goddess in triplicate is not a new concept, nor is it solely a Wiccan one.

I admire Robin's writing ability and thoughtful approach. I hope to be given the opportunity to have conversations and debate with him in the future.

The Great and Sovereign Mother Goddess

I found the below statements at Robin Artisson's blog Cauldron Born: Shamanic Mysteries of Britain and Northern Europe. I plan to make some detailed comments on the entire post as soon as I get the chance to do it justice. There are many things I agree with within the article and some that I don't. It should make for an interesting post.

For now here is an excerpt. If you have a moment I certainly recommend stopped by Cauldron Born and giving this post a read.

"Despite the very politically motivated over-simplifications that have
been worked into the field of Goddess studies by radical feminists
and other re-writers of history, there was and is a Great Goddess,
known and experienced by men and women since pre-history, who stands
behind the primordial spiritual expressions of all mankind, and even
in the modern day shadows of her can be glimpsed within the strict
confines of Judaism and Christianity. She was there in Classical
times, in every culture in some form or in many forms, and she has
been in every other era of the historical journey of Homo Sapiens.

I believe in the "Great Mother", as she has come to be called, for
many reasons. First and foremost among those reasons is the fact that
I have experienced her presence in this world and in myself, not that
I consider "me" and "this world" to be two radically different
things. Her worship is far from dead; from Neolithic times to now,
her worshippers in India and many other parts of the "native" world
(such as Native America and Australia and the Pacific Islands) have
never lost their connection to primal traditions of her worship.

India makes a good place to look for traditions of Goddess Worship
that never were savaged and suppressed by Christianity; studies of
the Great Goddess, the Shakti or the Mahadevi in India today are
excellent inspiration for proponents of European Goddess studies and
modern day worship. We can look with awe on the Indian Subcontinent
and at the ages-old worship of Goddesses whose names share linguistic
relationship to our own ancestors' Goddesses- Kali is the best
example; her name is derived from the Proto-Indo European *KOL and
the constructed proto-name KOLYO, referring to the "Hidden" or
Concealed Goddess, the "Old Veiled One" who acts as a great mother/
earth mother behind more than one pantheon, and as Goddess of the
dead, the underworld, fierceness, and darkness. Cailleach would be
her equivalent in Irish Celtic Paganism.

It is not my purpose with this article to attack the claims of the
radical feminists and all of their personal, intellectual, and
political imbalances; suffice it to say that reacting against male-
dominated spiritual and religious politics by simply switching "God"
from a supreme male being to a supreme female one will never solve
the problems of gender imbalance in spirituality or in modern society."

More on Darkness

I've been thinking more on the concept of Darkness and the Goddess. In reading the comments I exchanged with Athana I get the impression that there are some people who can not reconcile anything dark or violent with the Goddess. The more I think about it the more it seems that it is often just easier to blame all of those uglier parts of life on patriarchal society. Now, don't get me wrong. Some of it we can blame on patriarchy, but certainly not all of it.

Nature is the guide. We don't have a bible to call holy writ. Instead we have Nature and our interpretations of its lessons. Violence and brutality are part of Nature. Little animals get abused and eaten by bigger ones. Life suffers in the harsh conditions of winter and creatures starve or freeze to death. This is all a part of life.

If animals contain the possibility for brutality without societal influence, why would human beings not carry this trait inherently as well?

If Nature shows us that harsh, brutal conditions for life are not only possible but consistent, why should we believe that the Goddess herself does not carry some kind of darker attributes being that she is Nature and all things are one?

I want to specify that I believe the Goddess does not punish or act out of anger. She simply is. Life must be taken for other lives to continue or for new lives to begin. This is just the way of things. Perhaps this is the way it began - the way it was intended - and with the influx of patriarchy, things became imbalanced and murder and war is where it has lead. I don't know for sure, but I know the Goddess is light/life and dark/death because Nature demonstrates this concept. And since we are the Goddess in the theory of Oneness then we have these traits as well. I think the task is to learn how to balance them out not abolish the darkness all together.

In fact, I believe "darkness" - again, for lack of a better term - is normal and healthy. Darkness can also bring clarity, where you actually learn to see the light. Darkness is the source of all things, the mystical realm of re-birth, and the vehicle through which wisdom comes to the surface.

Wouldn't it be easier if things we just black and white? Nah.

Warrior Goddess? Dark Goddess?

Athana at Radical Goddess Thealogy brought up the topic of Warrior Goddesses the other day and I, of course, had to post some comments.

Click here to read the original post then read below to see mine and Athana's comments. As always, I would love to know what you think.

Grian said...

I agree that we are not after female dominance. The Goddess does not want to create yet more separation. What I have a hard time with is the "there are no warrior goddesses" statement.

In my tradition the Goddess is revered as a three-fold deity. The Warrior is not one of those aspects because it is believed that the Warrior as well as the Lover are ever present throughout all other stages.

I don't think Warrior has to mean "war-mongering". It can mean destructive though. I think there is some balance lost when we forget that the Goddess is not only creating but also destroying. She is loving and also harsh - not out of animosity but out of necessity.

You can not know light without first knowing darkness and vice versa.

Just my two cents. I'd love to compare beliefs.

Athana said...

Grian, Hm. I agree with you that destruction, death and misfortune are all part of human life, and have been since the beginning. And I can't tell you that I've figured out exactly how this fits in with Goddess. I think though that "bad stuff" comes in part from the Mother, who feels an overwhelming need to protect Her children. At the moment I'm reading the book Nisa, about a Kung Bushwoman in the Kalahari Desert, southern Africa. This is a hunting and gathering society - or was when Nisa was a child. Anyway, if a Kung woman has a baby too soon after her previous baby, she doesn't have enough milk to feed both babies, and one is going to have to die. So the mother usually kills the newborn immediately after its birth. In a Goddess theaology, could we explain bad things as a result of a Mother trying to protect her children?

One problem I see with the warrior as a symbol of "bad stuff" is that war is an aberration that's been with us humans for only the past 6000 years out of the 100,000 we've existed on this planet. I'm not sure we want to use it as a symbol in the healthy religion we want to have for our species.

Grian said...


Perhaps I immediately equate the Warrior aspect with Darkness - as in the Dark aspects of the Goddess.

Yes, I do think that destruction can come from the desire to protect. I don't know if you have children, but the thought of someone causing harm to my daughter can make me contemplate violent actions.

I think the "darkness" - for lack of a better term - is not only necessary and natural, but can be a positive force if it is understood and integrated into self. This is a very common theme in many forms of spirituality - stemming directly from the earliest Shamanic Goddess societies.

Should or Would Pagans Proselytize?

In the most recent issue of PanGaia Magazine (#45) the question of Pagans proselytizing was raised.

Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. had this to say:

"Why on Earth should Pagans proselytize? Let the Witnesses who have experience do it. If you want other religions to leave us alone, we should return the favor. Let us all live in peace together."

Well Barbara, my response to that is simple. If people think that Christianity is the only option, and believe the things they are told, our society will only continue to crumble under our feet and the Earth will have no option but to swallow the entire human race whole.

Think I'm being dramatic? Consider the idea of "Original Sin" or the "All People Are Sinners in the Eyes of God" model.

If you tell a child they are evil enough times they will begin to believe it and may even begin to use it as an excuse for their actions. When they behave badly or hurt another person the response might be "What did you expect? I am inherently evil after all." Or maybe the pious person will see the "inherent evil" in another person and use that as an excuse to punish or destroy them. (Re: Original sin, Way of the Master, Tim LaHaye.)

And that's just one issue. Throw in the concepts of:

- justified war in the name of god
- women being submissive to their men
- people being better than all other living creatures
- people being seperate from divinity
- people lording over nature

All of these ideas have a way of infesting the human psyche on a damaging level and thus contributing poorly to our society as a whole.

proselytize: to attempt to convert another person to your beliefs.

Okay, so we've established that proselytizing is the practice of trying to convert another to your way of thinking. Evangelical Christians do this through way of curb-side sermons and preaching about hellfire and brimstone. Is that the way Pagans would handle it? I think we need to realize that when Pagans do something they do it the Pagan way not the Christian way.

I understand that there are a lot of people out there who are concerned that Paganism is going to go the way of more mainstream beliefs - insomuch in the way that Paganism may begin to contain corruption and power struggles based on greed. That's a scary prospect, but again, we do things the Pagan way - a different way, and I dare say a better way. Our ways are based on ancient beliefs from a time of peace; a time before war was commonplace and a time when all things were realized as one.

Just because we form a church (and call it a church) does not mean that it will be a place where people feel they have to go out of fear of damnation. No one will stand on the pulpit every Sunday and tell you how evil you are. That is not the Pagan way. We must begin to re-imagine a new way of organization, of sharing what we have learned with others freely without fear.

So, if Pagans shared their beliefs with other people it wouldn't have to be hard-core evangelical proselytizing. It could simply be a sharing of beliefs - an advertising of faith without shame.

Before too many hairs stand up on the backs of reader's necks, let me specify that I do not feel there should be roving gangs of Pagans setting up shop on street corners, holding sandwich signs, and preaching about the End Times. When I say advertising I mean sharing events, classes, temples/churches on community bulletin boards, fliers, websites, etc.

Did the Buddha proselytize when he shared the intuitive lessons he had learned to those who chose to sit and listen to him? Do you even equate the concept of evangelism to Buddhism? I don't think so. So, why would Pagans - whom are intrinsically mystical like Buddhists - be any different?

Do you honestly believe Pagans would come anywhere near Christians in this area? Instead of "All sinners will burn in the fire pits of Hell" what would we yell? "Your Karma will suck if you're mean?" Seriously. There is no comparison. We're talking apples and oranges here folks.

I believe being able to share our knowledge without crossing the threshold of the "scary" brand of proselytizing is a step on the road to finding solutions to the questions of organization and standards for legal Pagan clergy. What do you think?


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