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Conceiving the Goddess: Thealogy for a New Millenium by Kila
Imbolc 2003, Vol 2-2
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Dreaming the Goddess: Conceiving Thealogy for the 21st Century

When I was asked to write a regular column on thealogy for Matrifocus, I asked myself if I really knew what thealogy was.

Now I've studied religion for most of my life. I've had formal schooling in Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. I'm a practicing goddess woman/pagan and am about to begin a dissertation on thealogy. Moreover, much of my political science degree was spent excavating texts by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and other Christian thinkers before church and state had been separated.

But has all this prepared me in any sense for undertaking a public discussion on thealogy? Probably not. That is why I hope readers will engage me and offer their own thoughts about what thealogy is and how they "conceive" the Goddess.

Simplistically, thealogy might be defined as a study of Goddess -- we all know that. But it is much more than that. It is a study of being itself.

Thealogy is by nature speculative -- there is no proof in scientific terms of the nature of deity. And while many would consider this a major drawback, I consider it an opportunity for our communities to weave visions and spells that turn into realities. It is a moment in history with space in it for dreaming of what is and what might be.

The story at left (Escape from Eden) was written several weeks ago in a moment of frenetic inspiration. It was born of a lingering question in my mind: What did Eve think about all the happenings in the Garden? What might the Goddess have done? And it struck me that in a situation where God was muscling out the other gods and goddesses, that the Goddess would perhaps try to plant the seed of freedom in Eve so that her daughters might one day remember and return to her.

Those who read the story told me to read The Red Tent, which I did soon after. How strange is it that women are having similar dreams about the stories that they were told? How interesting that we don't have to throw away our histories [I don't use herstory because it doesn't make etymological sense to me] and our traditions -- yes, ours because our mothers have invested so much time in them. Rather, we can reshape them, retell them, change our myths to better suit us. This is thealogy.

Escape from Eden

dark red spiralBefore there was anyone, there was me. Before consciousness, before light, before dark, and before thought. In the silence, I began stirring the cauldron of the void and from movement came life. I pleasured in the movement and delighted in the spinning universe. In the blink of my eye, the worlds emerged with life and being and I watched them like a mother and set them free.

One world troubled me. In this world, I had been worshipped and revered as Life itself. The people saw themselves as part of my body and their acts were sown in the rich soil of connection, sacred and deep in the dark earth, in the deep ocean, the wide sky.

But eventually, the tide changed. Some used their freedom to take that of others. Soon some were sacred while others were profane and defiled. A powerful idea arose and took on life. God the Father was born. At first, I did not think much of this development. I was willing to let people believe what they wished. I thought perhaps this idea was a celebration of me in some way also. But soon, the idea spread like a plague and my temples were destroyed, my fields ravished and my priestesses reduced to handmaids of God.

But I had reason to be temperate in my actions. The whole world was not so taken with the idea of a male god to the exclusion of me. Cultures flourished where life was revered and a connection to me, the Earth, the cosmos remained. Women were women in all their glory and strength, men were men. Neither had to define themselves in relation to the other, they simply were. They coexisted, intertwined, men and men, men and women, women and women, in every combination and it was beautiful to me. But the power of God could not be denied…he cried out in the desert, and man flocked to him. The idea thrived and God became strong.

Soon, in the fields nourished by my waters a walled garden was grown in which God placed a man, Adam, and a woman, Eve. These two had been taken from my peoples and groomed to be king and queen of the new tribes who would choose God as their deity, forsaking me. Knowing nothing and cradled in the arms of those who were already forgetting me, these two were forbidden to leave the garden.

God spoke for the first time telling them that he had created them -- one from the other, both at the same time from clay. He showed them the beautiful garden and the fruits of all the trees and the animals that roamed there. He told Adam that all these were his. He was steward of the Earth (the garden). He told Eve that she too was earth and nature and therefore under Adam's dominion. Adam was not told that he was earth and nature also which, of course, he was. Thus, man was the first in this tribe to be cut away from me.

The wound in me still weeps.

Eve remained part of nature, looking to the cycles of the Earth, and understanding that she was a part of this. Yet she was unhappy because she saw that Adam, who was the same as she, was favored by God. Nature was subordinated to Thought, the physical flesh dominated by the unseen spirit.

Adam was called to counsel with God often. Eve was told that she would be incapable of understanding their talk. They expected that she would not be capable of boredom or frustration. Adam was told that Eve would be satisfied with her role within nature. She would be compliant because she was weak and mentally inferior to him. Some part of Adam liked this feeling of superiority and so he believed. Because God did not create either of them, he did not know the falsity of his belief and this would be my weapon.

apple core
Apple, Forbidden Fruit
Copyright © 2003 Terry L. H. Brumley.

I watched this state of affairs from over the wall. I waited. I heard God tell Adam and Eve about the Tree of Knowledge and not to eat from it. Yes, in that beautiful garden, there was a tree sacred to me that bore apples. And the fruit would give clarity of vision and courage of the heart. Not ordinary apples these. For centuries, these trees had stood in the courtyards of my temples and had been eaten by my priestesses and my oracles. God made this the forbidden fruit, never explaining the dangerous consequence of eating it. And for a time Adam and Eve obeyed.

One day, Adam was called to a council with God, to speak of hidden matters. Eve, restless wandered the garden. I decided to act then to perhaps reverse the tide I saw sweeping the land. Changing into a serpent, an ancient and revered symbol of my strength and wisdom, I came into the garden and wound my way into the tree. In its comfortable boughs I waited for Eve to find her way there. For I was certain that she would.

Eve approached the tree and stood under its golden leaves and sighed. A feeling of restlessness wrapped her like a shawl, as though there was something on the edge of consciousness that haunted her yet she could not discern it. I saw her in her beauty and her strength. I saw her struggle to be satisfied…and I saw that she was not and neither did she understand the cause of this melancholy.

I took the chance then to speak to my daughter.

"Come close" I bid her and she did. "I am the Goddess, the all encompassing. Yes. Yes. I am the One in whose image you are made. And there is power and beauty and strength and courage in you just as there is in me and all mine. Adam is mine too although now he listens to another."

"But we were told that there was no God but the One!" Eve gasped in disbelief.

"Yes, that is true, you were told that. Did you believe it? In your bones? I created all things and all things come from me. Even God eventually will return to me…In his own way, in his limited garden, he is right. But there are tribes outside these walls and there I am revered and women are all they were meant to be, just as men are. There life is a web and not a ladder."

"I do not understand my own position. I only feel something deep inside yearning for release from here" Eve said.

I pitied her then, "I know. You were raised without awareness of your subordination and even as I speak you do not comprehend. Eat this fruit. It is sacred to me and will give you the knowledge to see your captivity and give you the courage to act when you must." I came closer and whispered, "if you want your daughters to be free, eat this fruit."

eve rejoicing under the tree of knowledge
Eve Rejoices
Copyright © 2003 Terry L. H. Brumley.

Eve took the red-golden fruit from a low bough and bit into it. Her beautiful hair turned black as coal, and her eyes like obsidian pools opened and looked, and saw and understood. And she wept.

"I must free Adam, he must eat this fruit and see that we are enslaved. We must flee this garden." As she spoke, she saw Adam returning to her. She held out the fruit, and told him that he must eat.

As Adam put the fruit to his mouth, the earth shook and rumbled, the walls began to crack. And God gathered above like a black cloud.

Why do you disobey me? Adam, you shall cast the fruit from your mouth and lie down in submission.

But a trickle of the apple's juice had already wet Adams lips and as he licked them clean, a small flash of recognition illumined the darkness in his mind. He still obeyed and threw down the fruit and lay prostrate in submission. "Forgive me Lord, the woman gave me the fruit and I ate." Understanding momentarily the strength of woman, the equality of his "helpmate", Adam still chose to bow down and assume the yoke of slavery so that he could be superior, thus did he betray both himself and Eve. Allying himself with God, he calculated that woman could easily be suppressed here in the garden with God as his protector. If they fled the garden, Eve would not be so easy to conquer.

God said:

Woman, you have committed the greatest sin possible, you have eaten the forbidden fruit and for that you shall be punished. You shall go from this garden and make your way in the world within my tribes that despise you.

That which you held sacred shall be taken from you; nakedness shall be clothed, your unions shall be shame-laden, and you shall be yoked to man as chattel; dissension shall be sown between you and your sisters so that you are truly alone, childbearing and motherhood shall be seen as a punishment and weakness; strength of heart shall be overcome by the strength of a closed fist.

Thus did God send Eve and Adam out to his tribes who already had forsaken me. There they were treated as the first among people. But even in this, Eve's lot was painful and she was considered half of a man…and now with knowledge and understanding, that was the most painful of all punishments.

Man soon fulfilled God's prophesy and woman was oppressed in all manners. When she tried to rise, the closed fist beat her into submission. Seeds of self-doubt were sown into the minds of girl-children, and culture itself negated woman. All indicia of the sacred feminine were driven underground and re-created to suit the cult of God. But Eve, who had eaten the fruit of the Goddess, had the kernel of knowledge and courage that she needed and this Goddess wisdom she buried deep in her heart. She would pass this down through her daughters until such time as they could regain their rightful place and restore the Goddess both in themselves and in the world.

Eve's sin was rebellion against God that resulted in Knowledge -- Knowledge that woman has the strength to resist God the Father because she was not made in his image…and as her tribes reclaim their knowledge of the Goddess, Eve's sin is transformed into an act of salvation. It is this Goddess wisdom, the courage to rebel and resist, to have heart-strength, that is the birthright of Eve's tribes passed down through an ageless line of women. Through the daughters of rebellion shall Her tribes be reclaimed.

Graphic Credits
+ Eve Rejoices Copyright © 2003 Terry L. H. Brumley (staff artist). All rights reserved.
+ Apple, Forbidden Fruit Copyright © 2003 Terry L. H. Brumley (staff artist). All rights reserved.

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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