Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Joys and Trials meme

Eirsinitiate from Birch Grove has tagged me for her meme.

"I really want to know what everyone loves about the religions they call their own, and what trials they face in adhereing to those beliefs. I think we might have more in common than we all think.

Here are the rules:

You have to use your own belief system for the meme. No fair using someone else’s to make a joke or satire. Being humorous about your own religion is encouraged!
You have to have at least one joy and one trial. More are encouraged. And no, they don’t have to be equal in length, but please be honest.
You have to tag at least one other person. More are appreciated!
Please post these rules!"

Many thanks, and just to quietly and gently say that I am happier with belief system than religion to describe my affinity to the Goddess Movement.

Joys in no particular order

Accepting that I don't have or need absolute truth - indeed that absolute truth is dangerous and illusory.

Belonging to an open accepting family that is open to all without any pre-conditions.

Touching a more loving, more caring way of living that acknowledges the rhythms of life and the universe.

Touching magic and mystery and wonder in every aspect of life.

Owning my own faith and practice - no professional clergy - oh yes and it is OK to be wild and ecstatic and dance and drum and feel free in my body at rituals.

Having a belief that upholds activism and supports things that really just should be - like justice, peace, equality, delight in the body and sexuality, acceptance and delight in difference, care for the environment ...

I could go on with a much longer list but just read the rest of the blog.

So what of the Trials

Living a six hour journey from the Goddess Temple I love. OK sacred space is everywhere and I am happy to drop into the nearest church and light a candle to a Goddess but there is something very special about a Temple that is not only dedicated to the Goddess but is filled with the beauty so many people have contributed.

Knowing that so much has been forgotten that should have been remembered and may never be fully recovered.

Having to be a little practical when burning candles and incense, which I do - a lot :)

And I now tag the folk over at Medusa Coils

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

BBC Coverage of Goddess Conference

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Goddess Conference postscript

I wanted to close these posts on the Goddess Conference with a note about two events connected with the Conference, Caroline Probyn's exhibition and Alessandra Belloni's drama on the Black Madonna.

Caroline was asked to paint a Goddess for each of the eight festivals of the wheel of the year to hang over the altar in the Goddess Temple. She writes, "The opportunity to paint them was brought to me by a friend and priestess of the Goddess temple and it was only in the process of painting that I began to experience a tangible presence beyond myself that then became my inspiration for the rest of the cycle. As such, these paintings were a gift to me from the ‘beyond’! "

The result of her inspiration are the paintings that were beautifully displayed in the Miracles Room in the Glastonbury Courtyard. To enter the sacred space she created was to be enfolded in the living presence of the Goddesses - a truly healing experience. She writes, "Perhaps these works will act as a mirror, bringing you closer to her aspects within yourself. That is my hope. So please don’t look for her in the paints on the canvas or in the beautiful cloths that shroud her different forms ... you won’t find her there, though Her name can be heard through all of those things. The truth of her living presence breathes in the Silence of your own heart. Listen for her there and honour her, because our world really needs her just now ..."

Alessandra's powerful singing to the sound of the tambourine and her dances are well known. It was a delight to spend a last evening in Glastonbury at a sacred drama at which the story of the Black Madonna was beautifully expounded through her song and through dance. The Black Madonna tradition includes black and enthroned representations of the mother and child. Most are from the 12th to 15th centuries. Stephen Benko says, "The Black Madonna is the ancient earth-goddess converted to Christianity." His argument begins by noting that many goddesses were pictured as black, among them Artemis of Ephesus, Isis, Ceres, and others. Ceres, the Roman goddess of agricultural fertility is particularly important. Her Greek equivalent, Demeter, derives from Ge-meter or Earth Mother. The best fertile soil is black in color and the blacker it is, the more suited it is for agriculture.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Goddess Conference Days 4 - 5

Saturday began with a superb illustrated presentation by Max Dashu on The Old Goddess of the Witches. Her research on the persistence of Goddess Paganism in mediaeval Europe is fascinating. She ranged over reverence to the Goddess in planting and harvesting, in spinning and in weaving; the Goddess as spinner and stone raiser, shamanic myths of flight and much more. I found her study of the etymology of Goddess names particularly interesting - Erda, Hulda, Holle, Holt, Perchta, Perhta, Habonde, Abundia...

This was followed by a celebration of Lady Olivia's 90th birthday. Sometimes pagan bloggers talk about the pretentious titles some people love. Well Lady Olivia really can claim that title and an ancestral home, Clonegal Castle in Ireland. She is, of course, the co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis and a quite remarkable lady! I am always amazed how easily she organises a whole hall full of people and gets them moving in beautiful ritual in no time at all.

Rose Flint led a short (too short but time was pressing) presentation on Ecology and encouraged everyone to weave very practical work to honour Mother Earth into their daily spiritual practice.

The morning ended with a beautiful ceremony to crown Queens and Crones and honour their lives, their wisdom and their work for the Goddess. Each woman spoke her own truth and received a beautiful crown. Two men were also crowned as Sages.

The afternoon is given over to an Abundance Fair where anyone at the Conference can sell their own beautiful hand crafted work. Goddess loving women seem to be especially talented and it is very easy to spend too much money on the most wonderful items.

Saturday evening by tradition is time for a masked ball. Amazing costumes, lots of fun, wonderful music provided by Julie Felix and the Daughters of Gaia. Lots and lots of Goddess Songs and the opportunity to dance and dance and dance.

On Sunday Morning everyone processes from the Town Hall up the High Street along to Chalice Well and then to the top of the Tor. It is always a colourful and noisy occasion with Lydia's Banners, colourful dress, drums and horns and voice. A treat for the tourists who all stop to take lots of photographs. This year it was also filmed and broadcast live by the BBC on their Sunday morning religious programme, Heaven and Earth. The BBC also included interviews with two Priestesses, Annabel and Katinka who gave clear and intelligent answers to the interviewers questions. Now in its twelfth year the Goddess Conference goes main stream on the BBC, the world is indeed beginning to change!

The procession stops at the Chalice Well for song and ritual and fun with the water ! It then wends its way up the Tor with the banners flying proud in the wind. The Goddess always seems to shine on the Conference and the climb up the Tor was made in the intense heat of the hottest day of the Summer so far! The Tor fruit fest provided welcome refreshment before we all danced the spiral dance around the summit.

Sunday afternoon and the Conference is almost over. A time to draw the raffle in support of the Goddess Temple, to exchange gifts and to thank all those wonderful people who work so hard to make it all a huge success. Then the closing ceremony, jubilant singing of, "The circle is open but unbroken. May the peace of the Goddess be ever in your heart" and lots of hugs and farewells and promises to meet again next year.

I hope to conclude tomorrow with a short piece on the Concert on the Monday evening after the Conference and a note about Caroline Probyn's beautiful exhibition in the Miracles Room during the Conference.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Goddess Conference Days 2 - 3

Well my good intentions to post everyday throughout the conference went totally awry due to the sheer energy of the event. Now the conference is over and I am staying in Glastonbury one more day to gently ground and write a little more.

Thursday morning was given over to some excellent speakers who wove a loving web of story around the crone. Sheila Rose Bright began the morning by linking our passage through life to the passage of Saturn around the sun. By the time we are in our 59th year Saturn has made two complete orbits and we are ready to become elders with an acquired wisdom to share. Sheila was followed by the author, Donna Henes, who gave a persuasive argument for a four fold staging of a woman's life. The Maiden, Mother, Crone paradigm was defined by a man. Yet there are four seasons, four elements, four directions so why not four stages of life - Maiden, Mother, Queen and Crone? This is becoming much more important as many of us live longer in energy and strength well into our later years.

Jane Meredith then gave a fascinating exposition of the Dark Queen who lurks in so many fairy tales and myths. It is this character who is so necessary for our growth to maturity and power. For she is the one who leads the young woman through a death experience to find her true strength. To find that strength is to stand against a society that does all it can to keep women young and weak and vulnerable.

Thursday afternoon is given over to a series of eleven workshops and you have to choose just one ! Mike Jones led one for men on "Embracing the Dark Goddess." In this we explored how the Dark Goddess pushes us into the present and how important it is to be present to ourselves and the world. We looked at ways to be present to our world and to bring focus to ritual tasks such as smudging and calling the quarters.

Thursday evening there was a procession to Chalice Hill for a hilltop ceremony followed by the Lammas bonfire. The conference can be very intensive so at this point I took a little time out to meet up with friends over a meal and a glass of good beer.

Friday proved to be a very special, powerful and emotive day. The morning's talks by Leslene Della-Madre and Janet Childs were woven around the theme of death, dying and grief. These were followed by a whole hour given over to singing with Carolyn Hillyer songs of ancient spirit, hidden memory and unseen power - utter magic !

The Friday afternoon was given over to a session, entitled Transforming Deep Wounds of the Feminine. By its very nature this was a very private, safe, deeply moving event. Precisely because of this it would be wrong to say more except just to add that personally I found it to be very very healing and releasing.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Goddess Conference Day 1

Registration at the Conference is a time to meet old friends, decorate the central Goddess and light a candle at the altar. It is also a time to take in all the wonderful work that has been put in to decorate the sacred space. Lydia Ruyle's banners always hang from the ceiling and this year the hall was bedecked with a myriad of crone banners representing the sheer breadth and depth of the human imagination of the crone. Lydia, herself began the afternoon with a visual journey through the crones on her banners. She reminded us all that, "Crones don't whine, they do!" They use their wisdom and their power to work for justice and peace. They make sure that women are heard and honoured.

As Lydia spoke I thought of Lindis Percy who has refused to accept the presence of US military bases, or indeed any military bases on the land of her grandmothers. Well into her sixties she has been detained over 150 times. During the conflict in Iraq, she was arrested after she breached security at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire and spent two hours underneath a US B-52 bomber being prepared for deployment to the Gulf. She was jailed for nine months for trespassing on on the US Spy Base at Menwith Hill and served nine days of a 14-day sentence for climbing over a perimeter fence and trespassing at RAF Alconbury. Just think how different our world might be if there were more crones like Lindis. A timely reminder to those in power from another crone at the Conference, "Remember you really get on the wrong side of the crone if you try and pull rank - she really really doesn't like that!"

Lydia was followed by another great crone, Julie Felix, a truly professional and inspiring singer who has been singing protest songs since the 1960's. She always receives a warm welcome at the Conference and gets us all on our feet dancing in the aisles.

The evening is given over to the Opening Ceremony. This year the nine clans of the Conference called in the nine grandmothers with powerful song to the accompaniment of drums and the rhythmic clacking of dozens of crone stones. The priestesses enacted a scared drama acting as oracles for the grandmothers' messages. Then there was lots and lots of dance and song and humour; poetry that moved to tears and finally a dance evoking the Descent of Innana into the underworld. It is always impossible to even begin to speak of the power and vigour of these special ceremonies.

Speaking of dance it was a delight to once again dance at the Conference with the amazing Alessandra Belloni the leading exponent of the erotic trance dance known as the Tarantella :

"The wild ecstatic dance known as the Tarantella was originally performed on both the summer and winter solstice. Dancers dressed as witches and devils gathered around the famous tree known as Benevento to celebrate the darkest night with a musical exorcism to expell the evil spirits and welcome the rebirth of the bright light for the new coming year.

This form of ecstatic dance originated in ancient Greece as a rite of devotion to the god Dionysus (god of ecstasy and wine). The participating women were called Baccanti, and later, in Italy, Tarantati, and they danced in a wild frenzy to free themselves of repressed sexual desires. By jumping like spiders, lying on their backs, spinning and stomping their feet to a fast 12/8 beat, the dancers symbolically expelled the poison from the imaginary spider bite and release themselves from their fears and repression."

The Goddess truly liberates, breaking all the chains of convention that bind us. She lifts us above our sense of self-doubt. She frees us to truly be, to do, to make things happen. She changes everything she touches.

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