Carol Christ 1945-2021

July 23, 2021

Early women’s spirituality thealogian Carol Christ passed away last week. Carol Christ critiqued Western philosophy, particularly Platonic philosophy, as going wayward from a primary mistake: denial of the primacy of the body, “the locus of changing life.”

From She Who Changes:

…Plato draws a sharp contrast between the time-bound world we inhabit and the eternal. Change is what separates our world from the eternal. In our world, things come into being or pass away. In our world, things are born, grow, and die. In the phase of growth, things increase or become more than they were. That which is perfect cannot change; otherwise it could become than less of itself, but this was thought to be impossible, as that which is perfect cannot become more perfect or less perfect. Plato asserts that in order to be free from change, the eternal must exist alone with itself, because relationships inevitably involve change and dependence. The highest Good or, as theologians understood Plato, God, therefore must be free of change, and therefore he must exist alone–that is, free of relationships that could cause him to become more or less perfect than he already is. For this God there is no change and no touch.

Carol Christ’s essay, Reading Plato’s Allegory of the Cave as Matricide and Theacide got to the heart of the misogyny embedded in Platonic philosophy.

In light of this, it seems certain that Plato did not “just happen” to choose a cave as the location of his “prison.”  Like the Genesis story in the Bible, his was  a “tale with a point of view.”  The point of view Plato was challenging was the view that this world is our true home, that we should enjoy life in the body, and that we should honor the mothers and the Mother who have have given us life. 

A lover of Greek culture and herstory, Carol Christ spent many years on the islands of Lesbos and Crete, conducting guided tours for spiritual feminists.

A biography of Carol Christ’s life can be found here, along with information about a virtual memorial service to be held December 20, 2021.

Alix Dobkin 1940-2021

May 19, 2021

Lesbian feminist folksinger Alix Dobkin died this past Wednesday May 19th. Alix was an instrumental leader of the second wave feminist movement. A talented songwriter with a strong clear voice, Alix began her career in Greenwich Village with other influential legends of the sixties but left that road to concentrate on inspiring the new generation of lesbian feminists. Her solo album Lavender Jane Loves Women broke new ground in politics and music.

I have seen Alix in concert probably more than any other musician. Not because I made a point of following her around like a wimmin’s music Deadhead, but because she made herself available to the women’s community, playing in places like Columbus, Ohio, where I grew up. She was actually responsible for my living on wimmin’s land, in a way. I was traveling alone and wound up in Tucson with little money left and no friends in the area. I saw that Alix was appearing that night at a local church and figured I’d meet some like-minded women there. That’s how I ended up at a women’s intentional community in the Sonora Desert.

Alix contributed significantly to feminist politics and music. I attended a slideshow she gave at a local women’s coffeehouse in the early 80s analyzing sexism in music. I still think about that slideshow; it ruined popular music for me forever.

Going to a concert with Alix was in some ways like being in a cocoon. She was so personable that I felt like I knew her, but come to think of it I probably never spoke to her. I saw her in concert in almost every place I’ve lived, and some places I was only visiting. I always met some great women at an Alix concert. We had a loving tight-knit yet accessible women’s community once, and Alix was one of the women who made it happen.

Call for Contributions

March 5, 2021

I thought I’d pass this along to women who are interested. It looks like it will be an interesting anthology.

I decided to rework my online series about women’s intentional communities into an essay for the forthcoming She Summons, also by Mago Books, the first volume of which will be out late this year or early next. That’s what I’ve been working on this week.

What It’s Like to Live on Wimmin’s Land

This essay discusses the pros and cons, joys and pitfalls, of women’s intentional communities, also known as “wimmin’s land.” There has been more talk in recent years about re-establishing all-woman living collectives in rural areas, a phenomenon that began in the 1970s and faded somewhat by the turn of the century (though some women’s communities are still around). For women dreaming about this alternative, I wanted to share some of my experience and perspective.

The Dianic Tradition: Who is it for?

February 12, 2021

A question arises frequently on social media regarding who is eligible to become a Dianic priestess. I wrote a longish essay on Dianic Witchcraft in Witchcraft Today: 60 years on. Here is a short answer to that question.

In the feminist Dianic Tradition founded by Z Budapest, who belongs in a particular coven/ritual is the prerogative of the Dianic coven and its High Priestess. That used to be the way of all Witchcraft traditions, until 1970s feminism threatened male domination. The Dianic Tradition as a whole is for all women (defined by biology, not feelings or sex stereotypes). Some covens are lesbian only. If that’s what the coven wants, we’re fine with that; we respect women’s boundaries. Sometimes an odd Dianic ritual will include men or transwomen, though I doubt any coven from Z’s line would initiate someone who wasn’t born-female. (Strange term that, but trans activists have muddied the language so that these convoluted terms have become necessary.) Dianics from Z’s line who have found themselves more inclusive of trans women have broken off from the tradition and given themselves new names (with our blessing).

There are some who have formed their own “Dianic” traditions which are completely in line with transgender ideology regarding who prescribes (those born with a penis) and who obeys (now known, in the parlance of gender ideology, as uterites, menstruators, vagina havers, people with a cervix). The practitioners of these new traditions deliberately try to confuse outsiders, to the point of naming their covens after older Dianic covens. The problem here is the deliberate attempt to sow confusion, not the deities or practices of the new groups per se. Being a priestess in the Dianic Tradition is not necessarily the same as being a worshipper of the goddess Diana. Veneration of Diana, and her Greek counterpart Artemis, goes back a long long way, and she has always had males among her acolytes. None of us own our gods. Legend in the Greco-Roman canon cautions, however, that a man who crashes a women-only ritual may incur the wrath of the goddess.

I don’t know much about the McFarland Dianics. Their founder, Morgan McFarland, did not court attention beyond her close-knit community. The McFarland Dianics, as they came to be called, received widespread publicity as a foil to Z Budapest’s overtly feminist Dianic tradition. Patriarchy always needs “good” women to oppose the uppity women they frame as “bad,” and McFarland, being neither lesbian nor emphatically feminist, fit the bill. McFarland is now in the Summerland, and her tradition has undergone many changes, as we all have, but their unsought role of “good Dianics,” as opposed to the bad ones, remains their popular distinction. No doubt, if Z’s lineage were to fade away (extremely unlikely), the Pagan “community” would go after the McFarlands, creating invidious comparisons among those women.

[Comments for this post are closed. If you have further questions, please read the essay in Witchcraft Today.]

On Sex Roles and Matriarchy

September 18, 2020

This post is an excerpt from a conversation I had earlier this week, where I take issue with the idea that sex roles are necessarily a sign of subjugation.

Some eastern Native American tribes were/are matriarchal. These tribes had less extensive sex roles than European cultures and were less rigid in enforcing these roles, but they did exist. The Delaware were one matriarchal culture with flexible but hardly non-existent sex roles.

Delaware called themselves “A Nation of Women” meaning “we follow the women’s way.” Women owned all the land, even the land men hunted on. Decisions were made by the clan mothers, who were old women, and chiefs carried out their decisions. It was hierarchical, certainly, but not patriarchal.

When European men refused to negotiate treaties with women, only men, the chiefs dressed in women’s ceremonial regalia to participate in the negotiations and called themselves “queens,” because only women could cede land. The whole band would wait on the outskirts of the place where negotiation was occurring. The chiefs would take frequent recesses to confer with the women elders during the negotiations, because they could not make binding commitments without them.

The concept of “chief” itself is a Euro-centric one, that had even stronger male connotations in the 17th century. I doubt that a European man would have bestowed that title on any woman, no matter how powerful.

Delaware women fed everyone, which was another conventional women’s role. The men did not cook or clean the game, usually. The women also distributed the food, all the food, no small thing in a time where food was the most precious material good. Women conducted trade, because women controlled possessions and their distribution. Women’s control over food was an expression not of subjugation but power.

Because young women were often pregnant or breastfeeding, and because women have less upper-body strength, some division of labor by sex would have been natural. Such divisions make less sense today than in the past. For example, when moving from winter to summer habitations, Delaware women would carry all the possessions while men kept their hands free. That was so if the band was attacked, the men, trained in warfare, could fight back immediately. European men saw the amount of heavy lifting Delaware women did and concluded they were severely oppressed.

The modern concept of “gender” is a highly individualistic one, about expressing one’s “true self.” Many, if not most, indigenous American cultures did not see what we call “gender” as an expression of personality. Rather, what we call sex roles were taken as a way of giving to the greater community, based on needs of the whole, not the individual. If Delaware chiefs had to become “queens” to negotiate a treaty for the good of the tribe, they would undertake that sex role. It wasn’t about how they felt about themselves.

American pioneer communities also saw a breakdown in sex roles, with men and women both taking on activities that were highly coded as opposite sex in the cultures they came from. This was done for the survival of the larger family unit. This idea of gender as soul expression is not the way it has always been, even for White Americans.

I wrote about Gunlog Fur’s book, A Nation of Women, on my blog. https://hearthmoonrising.com/a-nation-of-women-part-ii/

American Indian cultures do challenge core ideas about matriarchy: that is is always peaceful or always non-hierarchical or always non-gendered. No culture fits the feminist ideal of what a “matriarchy” is, though it’s a fine ideal to strive for.

A book about matriarchies that I love is Matriarchal Societies by Heide Gottner-Abendroth. She only spends part of her focus on the Americas.

https://books.google.com/books/about/Matriarchal_Societies.html?id=awXIXwAACAAJ

She doesn’t fall into the trap of assuming all American Indian cultures fit a certain mold, though she doesn’t seem to have been aware of the Delaware when she wrote her book.

Perhaps the idea of what a matriarchy is cannot be fathomed at this point in history. Right now we seem to define it as an absence: an absence of sex roles or war or inequality or hierarchy. We can’t seem to define it in any positive way, even when studying cultures where women have power. In the 19th century, people defined matriarchy as anything better for women. The ancient Celts were called matriarchal then, though they aren’t today. We probably need to scuttle our current definition of matriarchy (or liberation) and find a better one.

The Woman Without a Voice

July 24, 2020

I’ve stayed out of the Rowling row, pretty much, as it has unfolded over the past month or two, despite my long term commitment on this blog to championing free speech. For one thing, I’m not a Harry Potter fan. As a real Witch, I’ve been less than impressed with the series. If you like it, fine, I don’t ridicule fans, but it’s not for me. Another reason to stay out of the controversy is that I’ve posted so much on this issue of censorship that I’m tired of it. I’m really really tired of it.

But I decided to weigh in, to celebrate one media outlet’s decision to listen to JK Rowling’s lawyers (or maybe their own?) and print an apology for libel. That’s the place we’re at, where an unimaginably wealthy woman hitting back over false accusations designed to silence her is a milestone.

When I shared with a friend my interest in the backlash to Rowling’s essay clarifying her positions, my friend dismissed the backlash by saying, “Well, JR Rowling is rich. She can’t really be hurt much.” Rich people might beg to differ on that, but I understand my friend’s point: rich people don’t have to worry about basic economic survival, which is always a calculus in what ordinary people say or write.

The ”these people are rich and famous so they can’t really be cancelled” argument exploded after the Harper’s Letter (as it is now called) earlier this month. That letter argued, in a vague, general way, for more tolerance of honest discussion. Many were offended by this (rather mild) letter, saying instead of listening to these famous writers talking about something that isn’t happening (to them or anybody else) we should listen to MARGINALIZED people, who don’t have platforms, and highlight their struggles, which have nothing to do with the Harper’s Letter.

But here’s the thing. When a woman fights back against cancellation, she’s always too rich or too White or too educated or too straight or too socially/politically connected for her stand against injustice to be justified. The only legitimate woman to give pushback, say the detractors who watch bullying from sidelines, is the WOMAN WITHOUT A VOICE. The very poor, dark skinned, immigrant, non-English speaking woman with ten children, two them disabled – THAT woman is entitled to criticize an online culture limiting free discussion and debate. If only she could.

Because the point of pointing to the WOMAN WITHOUT A VOICE is that she has no voice and can’t speak. If she could speak, she would tell the woman with a voice speaking in a way disagreeable to somebody to SHUT UP. The woman without a voice is the ultimate straw woman. I follow Black women on social media who have been subjected to cancel culture – booted off the birdsite or threatened with violence or disciplined at their job for speaking up. Ditto for disabled women, working class women, lesbians, Latinas who don’t like the X. Where are these people saying cancel culture isn’t an issue for marginalized people, when women with multiple oppressions (sexism alone doesn’t seem to count) are subjected to its bullying tactics?

Little known fact: Rowling ran afoul of cancel culture originally for supporting a working class lesbian student struggling with a life threatening disability. A marginalized woman. This woman, Magdalen Berns, faced a brutal cancellation campaign. You always know when you’ve found your voice: there are people telling you to shut up. The cancelers will justify their attempts to censor women by bringing up the woman without a voice, a woman who might even be have been you, once upon a time. The woman without a voice is the beloved woman of the left-liberal patriarchy because she isn’t speaking. Listen to the voices of women who are speaking. Or at least, don’t join the mob to cancel them.

Back in the Saddle

July 3, 2020

Well, I got my car back on Thursday. Cost me almost $900. Next week will be busy with stuff I couldn’t get done without a car. Sunday is the final lunar eclipse until November, then Mercury goes direct on July 12. Things should be getting back to normal by the last week of July. I’ve always thought that transits, for me, happen before they happen, though. I think that’s because I’m an Aries, and we always have to be first, but it might be my four planets in Pisces making me more sensitive to vibrations.

In other news, this was quite a week in censorship. Reddit deleted it’s radical feminist accounts as offensive, but left up all the rape porn.

A legal crowdfunding site in the UK deleted, then rewrote, a campaign for a discrimination lawsuit by a lesbian, then told the public they had to because she did something wrong, but they couldn’t say what. Can’t make this stuff up, or keep track of it, or understand exactly what’s going on. EXCEPT that there’s a double standard in censorship for women and men. If a man takes offense at something a woman says, his offense proves that it’s “hate speech.” If a man types something that’s objectively sexist, racist, homophobic, or transphobic–well, he’s a man.

I personally let the stupid mean things people say go, unless they cross the line into violence or threats of violence. Unfortunately, with so much censorship going on, violence still isn’t addressed. Filming a woman’s rape is violence.

The take-away this week–and I’ve said it before–is that social media sites need to be regulated. That includes crowdfunding sites. They’re a vehicle for powerful unelected men to assert their control of the masses. What is the point of women having the vote, when men silence us through corporations?