Written in Gratitude for Thanksgiving 2008
Reflections of a Priestess – Personal and Political
by Rev. Karen Tate
Just as Mother Nature swept in during Hurricane Katrina exposing the sins of the Bush Administration, irresponsible politicians and greedy developers, perhaps Sophia was now holding up her mirror, reflecting to the masses the policies and deeds perpetrated at the highest echelons of power – at a time when we might affect change. As I reflected on the period of about eight weeks during the months of October and November 2008, I wondered if we were witnessing the first fragile waves of that long-awaited paradigm shift toward a new consciousness some of us call a Feminine Consciousness or ideals of the Sacred Feminine.
Glimmers of a potential shift in consciousness might have been first exposed when a woman, Hillary Clinton and a black man, Barack Obama, broke out as front runners in the 2008 United States campaign for president, an arena once the sole domain of white men. But the warmth of that glimmer turned cold when Sarah Palin appeared on the stage at the Republican National Convention. While the RNC continued their bread and circuses routine, Palin cranked up the fervor, tossing out the red meat that would be the beginning of a number of weeks of divisive tactics that divided people who were once friends and allies. Divide and conquer, common methods of a patriarchy. Here we go again. No matter what the facts and issues, the Republican agenda was to win at any cost to retain power, even if it meant browbeating an electorate with a big stick of distortions. And while Palin’s particular homespun charisma energized many, even more were astonished, then petrified by the icy realization she could potentially be called on to lead the country. To many, McCain represented the past rule of the plutocrats, serving few in the middle class, while Palin set women back decades. On the campaign trail, both magnified the mediocrity, lies, dirty tricks, and fear mongering that had become the norm and hallmarks of a patriarchy desperate to control and feeling the pressure of a populace tired of settling for prosperity trickling down from the top. The GOP ticket was the antithesis of everything many Goddess advocates believed in and discussion in all corners was fierce and passionate. Like few have seen in their lifetime, an electorate was energized and rallying for their cause as if their very lives depended on it!
Still reeling from the thought of Sarah Palin one heart beat away from the Presidency, the country soon came to realize the magnitude of the looming economic meltdown on Wall Street. Even the most detached and apathetic voter could not be unaware and turn a blind eye as this disaster ensued. As if by divine providence, happening with perfect timing during the campaign, the catastrophe dominating the headlines.was identified by many as a symptom or metaphor for abuse of power, disregard for the masses, and a climate of greed that benefits the few rather than the many. This unraveling could have happened six months earlier or later, but it came at the perfect time to reach millions who might not otherwise have been paying attention, or were being successfully distracted by artificial social wedge issues. This catastrophe reached the masses in their hearts, guts and pocketbooks and outraged them, at just the time when they might fight back – with their vote.
The drama playing itself out in the political arena was in juxtaposition to the continuing efforts in communities everywhere to reawaken the essence of the Feminine Consciousness or Sacred Feminine. As patriarchy melted down in the outer world, our spiritual landscapes were rich with the bounty and promise offered by Goddess. In our local community, I had just presented at Gaia Fest, an annual event in Los Angeles, alongside Margaret Starbird, Joan Norton, Stephen Gerringer of the Joseph Campbell Foundation and many other lovely and beautiful people embracing the ideals of Mother Mysteries, this year’s theme. We were in Temescal Canyon, embraced on three sides by a Mother Mountain, with only one road in, reminding me of the birth canal of the Great She. Here we were in the safety of her metaphoric womb. The day was beautiful and sunny and the air was brisk. Hummingbirds and butterflies visited during parts of the opening ritual and rabbits could be seen running on the hillsides. An awesome tree casting it’s giant shadow towered over the lush green landscape providing cool shade. On everyone’s radar was the gentle energy that radiated from the Gaia Fest founder, Chris, and her beautiful new baby, Saraphina. They were our archetypal Mother and Child and we drank in their sweetness. The atmosphere was potent with so much talent, intent, and a sincere dedication by those involved to contribute to making the outer world a better place. The activities of the day encouraged those attending to absorb the essence of the Sacred Feminine as we immersed ourselves in art, dance, and ritual.
While the overall spirit of Gaia Fest filled us with hope, this was in stark contrast to the campaign trail where we were fearful of an aging McCain who admitted he knew nothing about economics and a Vice President whose church was at war with the Queen of Heaven and her much revered pastor was a known witch hunter. Palin condoned banning books, exploiting the environment, shooting exhausted wildlife from planes, while rejecting science, teaching sex education and the rights of women to choose. Yet, we were cautiously optimistic we would overcome, no matter the results of the presidential election. In a collective voice, we cited the precious Goddess ideals and aspects we all held so close and dear to our hearts and minds as the guidance and tools we needed to sustain ourselves and thrive. Moving beyond Gaia Fest, many of us there committed to working beyond our home altars and out in the world. We volunteered at local Obama headquarters, while others manned the phones, wrote letters, traveled to swing states and offered what insight we could to those we reached to discuss the issues with some clarity.
The final Presidential Debate was scheduled for the day after I arrived in Turkey to lead a pilgrimage to sacred sites of Goddess in what was once called Anatolia, land of the mothers. Needless to say, my mind was immersed in the personal and the political, the spiritual and the mundane. Between visiting sacred temples and shrines, doing ritual and sharing knowledge of Goddess, we discussed the outcome of the debate and Obama’s apparent victory. We shared high-fives as the high-ranking Republican, Colin Powell, came out and publicly endorsed the Democratic ticket. We offered prayers at Hecate’s only known standing temple in Lagina. During a waning moon we burned prayer papers representative of that which no longer should exist or personally served us; poverty, lack of education and healthcare, war, patriarchy, injustice and inequality. At Catal Hoyuk, believed to be home of a Neolithic egalitarian society, prayers were made for the equality of women and for a partnership society based on collaboration and negotiation rather than power over and war. At Temples of Artemis in Selcuk, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and again in Troy, at the Temple of Athena, we offered prayers to the Lady of Magick, and the Bringer of Victories, that Obama be victorious in the election which was less than two weeks away. After traveling over 2400 miles visiting the many sacred sites of the Great Mother in her many aspects, we departed for home with a renewed sense of commitment to the Sacred Feminine and a genuine confidence we might prevail in the political arena on November 4th. In hindsight, this seemed to be the perfect time to be making this personal pilgrimage.
Within days of arriving home I discovered wonderful news awaited among the hundreds of emails that piled up during my submergence in another time and place between the worlds. The wonderful news was three-fold. First, it seemed there were plans by a Turkish developer to design and build a complex near Ephesus in Turkey that would be a reproduction of the compound and Temple of Artemis from antiquity. Wow! A Goddess temple being built on a grand scale in contemporary times. Awesome! Secondly, I was being offered to do a radio show on a CBS affiliate about sacred places and could reach a larger and more mainstream audience with news of her sacred places of journeys to Goddess. Third, as if the previous promises were not validation enough of her emergence and acceptance in the world, my newest book, Walking An Ancient Path: Rebirthing Goddess on Planet Earth, was a finalist in the general spirituality category of the National Best Books of 2008 awards. In my particular frame of mind, from the perch in my little corner of the world, the news certainly bode well that Goddess might be slowly lifting her veil and showing herself within society at this point in time.
Still reveling in what had come to pass in the previous few weeks, I had to turn my attentions once again forward for only days away was the holy day of All Hallows Eve, when the veil between the worlds is believed to be the thinnest, when we might connect with our ancestors and beloved dead. I was invited to participate with the women of the Abbey of Avalon in their sacred .rite at the Goddess Temple of Orange County in Irvine, in Southern California. It was my great honor to embody the Babylonian Goddess Inanna in this ritual with a theme designed to alleviate the fear of death within our Western psyches. The ritual expounded on the mysteries of the cycle of life and the promise of our return to the Mother, only to be reborn again. As I sat in the darkness of our makeshift cave alongside a sister-priestess embodying Erishkigal, awaiting our signal to emerge and address those attending, my mind turned back to our trip to Turkey where only days before I could reach out and touch the reliefs of the Sumerian Queen/Goddess, Kubaba in the Anatolian Antiquities Museum. Ancient writings say Kubaba gave bread to the fisherman and gave water….Her reign was one of peace and prosperity. She was often depicted holding a mirror. Was she and her holy mirror showing us a new way? The theme seemed to keep repeating itself – or was it just me?.
Finally, it was November 4th, 2008. Election Day. As the evening hours drew near I found myself anxious. Would this election go the way of the last two presidential elections with some voting snafu or political intrigue stealing away the voice of the people? As the returns came in, I dozed off in front of the television. At about 9pm I was awakened to the sounds of a celebration. My husband, Roy, was blowing a party horn and had popped a champagne cork – Obama had won the election by what was deemed a Democratic landslide! The people had prevailed. We danced around like kids at a soc-hop, tears streaming down our faces. The collective energy and will of the masses at the bottom of the heap would now have their representative in the White House. Goddess and Nature taught us growth, hence prosperity, comes from the bottom up, not the top down, and now we would witness the fruits of this promise. Soon we learned people the world over were rejoicing along with us. The United States could once again be a beacon of hope and promise.
But our victory was bitter sweet. About 11 pm we learned that Proposition 8, outlawing the previously granted rights to gays to legally marry, had been rescinded by the electorate, by a narrow margin, financed in large part by the Mormon Church. This sent a message that gay Americans are not equal. The patriarchy reared it’s ugly head and claimed a victory on November 4th afterall. Considering churches are not allowed to take political positions, the Mormon Church should be challenged by those knights who do battle for civil rights, and no doubt will be held accountable, not just in court, but in the courts of public opinion. Perhaps the silver lining in this cloud will be that this right will not only be restored in California, but across the country as the proponents for change, hope and equality ban together and fight the Beast. The trumpets of the rallying cry were already being heard. across the country!
Almost full circle now, with Goddess, as deity, archetype and ideal, personal and political, living very close to the surface of my awareness, I found myself in San Francisco, California where I’d been invited to be a speaker at HerChurch, at their annual Methodist Faith and Feminist Conference. What a contrast to where these reflections started – roughly when Sarah Palin entered the scene with her anti-feminist ideas and her anti-Goddess church. Yet here it was my great privilege to meet and come to admire many Christian women who were diligently working to raise awareness of the Sacred Feminine from within the Church. Rather than threaten the fabric of communities and families they were staying within the ranks of their religion and with courage, tenacity, humor and savvy they are fighting for equality for women and for the restoration of Sophia against the powerful patriarchal institution that is the Church.
I met women pastors and bishops, artists, composers and other lay persons dedicated to the task at hand. Many took their free time during the conference to protest in the streets in front of the Mormon Church for their role in taking away marriage rights of gay Americans. One of the female ministers was known for spending one week during the year out on the street sleeping with the homeless while the other fifty-one she fights for their civil rights. There was much beauty here, including one of the signatures of HerChurch – their lovely, hand-made Goddess rosary, each with a Goddess symbol where there would normally be a cross. Readers can purchase these rosaries from their website, HerChurch.org. They can also can hear my interviews (live or from archives) with the pastor of HerChurch, Stacy Boorn, as well as the interview with Carol Christ (keynote speaker at the conference) during the months of December and January on my Wednesday evening radio show, Voices of the Sacred Feminine, 6pm PST/9pm EST.
In reflecting over the last eight weeks, a period of time some are calling the first waves of our long awaited paradigm shift in consciousness, comes the last entry. It is the story of Fr. Roy Bourgeois, a Catholic Maryknoll priest for 36 years who was threatened with excommunication by the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith for his support of women’s ordination.
Fr. Bourgeois will be excommunicated by mid-December 2008 if he does not recant his public statements that support the ordination of women in the Catholic Church. In an interview, Fr. Bourgeois states, “Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard or how long we may try to justify discrimination, in the end, it is always immoral.” People from all walks of life are coming out to sign petitions and to support Fr. Bourgeois and his heroic stand, just as they found their voice to come out and support gay Americans, and themselves as they cast their vote for Barack Obama. It has only been months ago that the Pope was so disturbed by the rising tide of favor for Feminist Theology that he made a public statement warning clergy they risk their services will not be recognized by the Church if they do not use approved liturgy. I guess the Pope is feeling the rising tide as Goddess dips her toe into the waters of the world once again. Goddess, and by association, women, will prevail. It is just a matter of time because we the people of love and inclusion are tired of the politics of oppression, inequality and injustice. We the people are demanding the dawning of a new day. Perhaps the events of these last eight weeks is what this paradigm shift looks like in the light of day – both personally and politically.
Rev. Karen Tate is an ordained minister, independent scholar of the sacred feminine, speaker, sacred tour leader and author. Her books, Sacred Places of Goddess: 108 Destinations and Walking An Ancient Path: Rebirthing Goddess on Planet Earth, have both been endorsed by the Joseph Campbell Foundation, and the latter is a finalist in the National USA Best Books of 2008 Awards. Her weekly radio show, Voices of the Sacred Feminine airs live on Wednesday evenings or listeners can heard past guests from the archives. For more information, see www.karentate.com