A friend and colleague has been asked to teach a class on Feminist Spirituality. I also had a great conversation with Bobcat and she shared some thoughts about the gods that got my mind going. I have been pondering deity and gender. Out of these sharings, this missive was born. I hope it is good food for thought.
I think isn’t helpful is for people to get caught up in gender language when talking about spiritual matters. For example, why can’t “god” be without gender reference? “God” is like a four letter word, like “Lust”, “Fuck”, “Food”, “Stop”, “Back! -off”. It burst out of us because it is a verb, not a noun. It is guttural, bursting out like a yell, a great expression, exhalation, exaltation. We are speaking of movement and emergence when we speak of “God”. This isn’t a thing. It is an event, a powerful force of Nature moving. And that is where so many people encounter issues and conflict when speaking of deity. We take things that are experiences and verbs and make them nouns. In the druid community, we now have people saying ‘druidess’. What is the point? Druid to me is a word like “God”. It is guttural, emerging from some place deep inside of us. Druid should be left without gender reference. I think the same about deity. For me, the gods are the forces of Nature that hold the power of life and death. These energies for the most part are not sexed or gendered. As to the named gods, they all have their root in a force of Nature and we built a mythology around that power. One aspect of pagan language that I really like is that we can just say the gods and people recognize we are speaking of divine forces of nature that may appear to be male, female, neither or both, or shifting depending on the relationship. That is something I hope we can enhance and not tear down.
Feminist Spirituality is important though if it is taken as part of a whole. We have to recognize exclusion isn’t helpful in the long run (although it may be very helpful in the short run). Honoring, revering, respecting the divine feminine is essential. Women building their spiritual practices on honoring the forces of nature that flow through them is simply wise. Simply switching the gender of what we call “God” isn’t helpful though. One simply trades one type of monotheism for another. To me, a term like “Feminist Spirituality” is like a new fence being built inside the prison walls of Patriarchy. Is this helpful? Ultimately, I think not. For people to find a safe haven to open to relationship to the forces of nature that are distinctly feminine, that is important, vital, essential. But creating another ism or ist or ity, is a barrier as compared to an invitation. And what we need in the world is more open invitation. “Please come sit next to her waters, her hearth, her beauty, her fierce destruction and open to her power. There is Awen as you never imagined to be drenched in.” Now that isn’t something to put into a box. It isn’t a book, a doctrine or a system. It is something to experience, to reach for, to live. There isn’t a title for this. It is an expression of life, a current, a force of Nature, and invitation and invocation. Perhaps the word best for this is “Come” (as in, come to me) or “Open” (as in open your heart). But I prefer to not reach for words. I prefer to listen and hopefully hear the invitation.
What I love about the word Druidry, is the ry on the end (I really don’t like the word Druidism). As compared to a ism or an ist, it alludes to being something one does. Where an ism is a system or set doctrine, communism, capitalism, fundamentalism, environmentalism, blah, blah, blah, are all human constructs where we draw lines and put up fences, walls, barriers, prisons. Nature doesn’t do this. And being pagan, I don’t want to make constructs that oppose the forces of Nature. “ry” words are different. Husbandry, carpentry, midwifery, druidry, are all things one does. They aren’t limited to a fixed amount of knowledge or skills in a box. They are paths to explore, wisdom to ingest, and they aren’t removed from life. They are not gender specific (even midwifery. There have been billions of deliveries facilitated by men, and if the men are knowledgeable, kind, open-hearted, present and listening, these deliveries can be powerful and beautiful experiences.). Our spiritual paths need to be “ry”. This is the crux of the problem we see with religious conflict. There are rules set and those rules create a barrier and a prison. Anyone on the other side of the barrier is wrong.
There are forces of Nature that when I experience them seem female, others male. Examples are war and camaraderie (think of the English singing at a football match), that feels male to me. The gods of birth, home and hearth, the Earth as a whole, feel feminine to me. But what is obvious is most gods appear gendered to us dependent on the our relationship to them. For example, the ocean sometimes feels male to me, then female, then lacking any sense of gender, just a powerful force or potential and mystery that is beyond any sense of gender. Most gods feel this way to me. The Saco River, which is very sacred to me, there is even devotion there, revealed itself as deity to me. It feels male and female to me depending on how I am relating to it. Watching it flow in the spring, a torrent winding through the landscape can seem male to me, like a wise powerful grandfather. Yet when I swim in it, I am entering a holy well, a place of the divine feminine. Some springs it feels like a woman raging, breaking down barriers that no longer serve the land, cleansing the landscape of all that has become lazy. And then in summer I dive into the cool depths and play and it feels like an old male buddy I am playing some sports game with. My soul opening to its soul allows for my perception. Depending on the moment, my understanding of that other soul shifts. And it is important to recognize the other soul itself is shifting, changing, living.
Which leads me to another thought, at any one time, we live within the soul of many deities. Yesterday I had a mantra moving through my mind as meditation in the morning. “I am inside of the soul of the sun. I am inside of the soul of the Earth. I am inside the soul of the wind. I am inside of the soul of this river valley.” All four elements around me, inside of me, moving through my entire soul, timeless. And all of these elements a god, humming with emergence, creativity, power, wisdom, and sanctity. None felt gendered, only a play between nothingness and emergence, potentiality and manifestation. The gods of time, standing at the doorway between those two states. They are intense currents of Nature, divine energies moving me and changing me. So at any one moment, we are immersed in the soul of many gods. And that is why I think pursuing a mindset, creating a practice, a system, a doctrine that closes off our honoring all the gods, all the forces of Nature, is dangerous. Indeed it is that mindset that is destroying the planet. Progress, Growth, Trade, Life, are gods which we are honoring to the exclusion of all others. We have a cult of life here in the USA (keeping dead people on life-support, outlawing abortion, restricting birth-control, fertility clinics, etc, all fighting against decay and death and all infused with deep fear). We are excluding the gods of death, decay, chaos, equality, sharing, kindness, etc and it is killing us, wiping out millions of species and killing the fecundity of the Earth. We have to honor the whole of it, not just the forces we find easy or beautiful. To not do so, is to dishonor some gods to our own demise.
So exclusion is dangerous. Focused attention is essential though as we are limited by our human consciousness. Stopping to honor the gods that are feminine is part of what it is to live with honor I think. What my spiritual path is becoming though is that of letting go of the self, of all sense of “Kevin”, returning to the oneness that is the darkness from which all things come from and which they return. So I am working with trance more and more – trance that begins rooted into the Earth and ancestors. It is not an exercise in removal. The work is that of letting all the edges dissipate, tearing down all my barriers, merging with the landscape, part of a whole, dancing with all the currents and divine energies. It is in this state where there is Peace. From my experience, there is no gender in this place.
These are some things that have been running through my head and I thought I would share them. I hope it doesn’t come across as anti-feminine in any way. That is as far from the intent as possible. In fact if I had to put a name to that place from which all the universe/s come from, that place of darkness from which emergence happens, it would be a dark goddess I simply know as “Her” (funny contradiction to the whole rant above :>).
Blessings of Her,