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Goddess and Scholar
by Dawn Work-MaKinne
Imbolc 2003, Vol 2-2
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MatriFocus, a Cross-Quarterly Web Zine for Goddess Women Near & Far

Goddess scholarsThe Magic is a Scholar and The Goddess is Afoot

In quiet academic hallways, pounding up stone library steps, dancing between disciplines, loudly in classrooms, weak with laughter, the women are studying, thinking, learning. Goddess. This is no secret, since the names roll out before us: Harrison, Christ, Plaskow, Monaghan, Daly, Stone, Condren, Green, Gimbutas, Dexter, Davidson, Raphael, Meador, Allen. Every Goddess woman sings this litany of names differently, and to her own tune: names of her foresisters in thinking about the Goddess.

This column, Goddess and Scholar, provides a forum for hearing new voices, and beloved voices singing new songs. Recently, Vicki Noble described her gaining knowledge through her body from physical, especially sacred, places around the world.(1) Barbara Ardinger told of her love of the English language, and the importance of acknowledging the history and etymology of words, while being open to the creation of new words when the old ones just will not do.(2) In this, my first column as editor, I'd like to share a few of the voices I've recently heard, setting the stage for future exploration.

This year, at the Women and Spirituality Conference (Minnesota State University, Mankato) Carol Christ (author, thealogian and director of the Ariadne Institute) read a chapter from her next book, She Who Changes.(3) Dr. Christ is building on the work of Charles Hartshorne, using the ideas of process philosophy to envision "a changing, exploring, and deeply relational world supported and sustained by a sympathetic divine power that I call Goddess/God."(4) In the many things I love about Carol Christ's work are her fearlessness and boldness, as well as her restless seeking on her intellectual and spiritual path.

Archaeomythology -- an interdisciplinary synthesis of archaeology, linguistics, mythology, comparative religions and the study of historical records

Scholars continue to build on the work of famed archaeologist, Marija Gimbutas, who died in 1994. Dr. Gimbutas in her later years was working toward an interdisciplinary synthesis that she called "archaeomythology." Dr. Gimbutas suggested a broader conversation of archaeology with linguistics, mythology, comparative religions and the study of historical records.

At the Mankato conference this year, artist, author and researcher Cristina Biaggi read from a draft paper on the Kurgan populations (described by Dr. Marija Gimbutas) and the effects of the Black Sea Flood upon these peoples, possibly turning them toward displacement and war. The paper was first presented at an international conference on Archaeomythology in Villa dei Pini, Italy, in the summer of 2002. Dr. Biaggi is building not only on the work of Dr. Gimbutas, but also the work of William Ryan and Walter Pitman and their book, Noah's Flood.(5) Dr. Biaggi theorizes that the Kurgan peoples were not always warlike, but that the catastrophic flood of 7,500 years ago displaced a lakeside-dwelling people to the arid steppes, drastically changing their lives, livelihood, psychology and religion. Watch for the publication of this paper later this year.

The Red-Haired Girl on the Bog: A Celtic Spiritual Geography (Patricia Monaghan, forthcoming); Read an excerpt from Chapter Three

Author, poet and teacher Patricia Monaghan has a new book in pre-publication, with the working title, The Red-Haired Girl on the Bog: A Celtic Spiritual Geography.(6) This is a lyrical, spiritual exploration of the landscape of Ireland, adroitly linking landscape with the eight holy festivals of the Irish-Celtic wheel of the year. Drawing on years of travel to Ireland's sacred places, combined with a keen folkloric ear and a radical openness to the sacred, Dr. Monaghan has written perhaps her most powerful work yet. Wry, too. In a sample chapter on the fairies (the Sidhe, or Red-Haired Girl herself) Dr. Monaghan writes about the relentless intertwining of old belief and new reality alive in modern Ireland:

Old pishroguery, long gone from modern Ireland? No. Just ask in Ulster about the American company that selected a field with a fairy thorn for their factory site. Locals strongly urged reconsideration, but the company shrugged off the warnings. Bulldozers arrived, the fairy tree was torn limb from limb, the foundation was poured, the walls went up. As the production line groaned into action, forward-thinking capitalism seemed to sing a paean of victory over backward superstition. But-and here I see Ulster folklorist Bob Curran, who first told me this tale, lean back, adopt a deep Antrim accent, and wink just slightly-nothing ever really went well after that for the DeLorean Automobile Company, now did it?(7)

photo of woman and children arriving at Auschwitz (1944)
A group of people arriving at Auschwitz (1944).
Courtesy The Holocaust History Project

Another thea- / theo- logian that I admire is Dr. Melissa Raphael, a scholar and Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education, in England. Recent books were Introducing Thealogy(8) and Thealogy and Embodiment.(9) Like Dr. Carol Christ, Dr. Raphael comes out of the academic study of theology and religion, and is deeply grounded in the history and philosophy of the disciplines. Both scholars, for example, are active in the Women and Religion Section of the American Academy of Religion. Dr. Raphael's most recent work promises to be both pivotal and painful: The Female Face of God in Auschwitz: A Jewish Feminist Theology of the Holocaust.(10) She probes the meaning of the Shekinah, and how Her restorative power might be seen in the lives of women in the camps.

New voices are arising, joining with our more established sisters. Miri Hunter Haruach (Ph.D., Women's Spirituality, California Institute of Integral Studies, 1999) is doing exciting work on the Queen of Sheba. Dr. Cecilia Corcoran (Ph.D., Women's Religious Studies, The Union Institute and University) is a Franciscan Sister and expert on the Goddesses of the Central Mexican Highlands. Dr. Corcoran leads women on tours and spiritual exploration through the Goddess GATE to Mexico. My own journey leads me this year to begin my Ph.D. studies at The Union Institute and University, in Feminist Religious Studies. I am interested in (re) creating the Northern Goddessways, following my foremothers in continental, insular, and Scandinavian Germanic cultures. Ahead in the future, I hope to develop a thealogy speaking to and about European-American women as Daughters of the Conquerors.

All of the above scholars, and their work, will provide fertile ground for upcoming Goddess and Scholar columns. In addition, Goddess scholarship has experienced more than her share of critique in the last several years, from archaeologists, anthropologists, folklorists, sociologists, and scholars of religion. This critique will be interesting to watch and to explore. Most vociferous in criticism, perhaps, has been Dr. Cynthia Eller, a sociologist of religion.(11) Scholars Wendy Griffin and Laurel Holmstrom have written significant and fascinating reviews of this work in the neo-pagan studies journal, The Pomegranate.(12)

The path ahead is bright with possibility. I am honored to walk it with you.

Citations

  1. Noble, Vicki. "Tuning Into Earth Energies," Matrifocus, v. 2-1 (Samhain 2002).
  2. Ardinger, Barbara. "An Alchemy of Words," Matrifocus, v. 1-4 (Lammas 2002).
  3. Christ, Carol P. She Who Changes: Re-Imagining the Divine in the World. To be published in 2003 by Palgrave/St. Martin's Press.
  4. Christ, Carol. P. "A Serpentine Path," SageWoman, no. 58 (Summer 2002).
  5. Ryan, William and Walter C. Pitman, Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event that Changed History. Simon and Schuster, 1999.
  6. Monaghan, Patricia. The Red-Haired Girl on the Bog: A Celtic Spiritual Geography. New World Library, to be published in March 2003.
  7. Monaghan, Patricia. http://www.altogether.com/patricia/works/redhead.html, Accessed Dec. 15, 2002.
  8. Raphael, Melissa. Introducing Thealogy: Discourse on the Goddess. Pilgrim Press, 2000.
  9. Raphael, Melissa. Thealogy and Embodiment: The Post-Patriarchal Reconstruction of Female Sacrality. Sheffield Academic Press, 1999.
  10. Raphael, Melissa. The Female Face of God in Auschwitz: A Jewish Feminist Theology of the Holocaust. Routledge, to be published June, 2003.
  11. Eller, Cynthia J. The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won't Give Women a Future. Beacon Press, 2000.
  12. "Book Reviews," The Pomegranate, issue 13 (August 2000).

Graphics Credits
+ Goddess Scholars , Copyright © 2003 Sage Starwalker. All rights reserved.
+
A group of people arriving at Auschwitz (1944). Courtesy of The Holocaust History Project.

Contributors retain the copyright to their work; please do not take art or words without permission. All other graphics and reference materials are used and attributed as per the Fair Use Provision of The Copyright Act and individual terms of use.
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