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