- Term Papers and Free Essays

Women & Spirituality

Essay by   •  September 11, 2010  •  1,943 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,287 Views

Essay Preview: Women & Spirituality

Report this essay
Page 1 of 8

Feminist Spirituality & Goddess Religion: Then & Now in The United States

Thousands of years ago, the Goddess was viewed as an autonomous entity worthy of respect from men and women alike. Because of societal changes caused by Eastern influence, a patriarchial system conquered all aspects of life including religion. "Furthermore, most feminists interested in goddesses are women who strongly reject western patriarchal theology"(Culpepper 51). Thus, there was this very strong feminist idea of women being the prime in the early part of the 17th and the 18th century.

Today, the loss of a strong female presence in Judeo-Christian beliefs has prompted believers to look to other sources that celebrate the role of women. Men and women have increasingly embraced goddess religion and feminist spirituality as an alternative to the patriarchy found in traditional biblical religion of the past and the present. In this paper, I would like to discuss this whole issue of the uprising of women spirituality in the United States and also the formation of these so called Goddess Religions, and the ways in which these religions are changing the face of American societal believes. My argument will be supporting the central theme of the movie 'Women & Spirituality: A Full Circle', the one that was featured in the lecture. I would like to discuss the main ideas on which this religion is based, the way in which it has come back a full circle and also its adjusting to this modern American society full of many other religions having different ideologies.

Within a few thousand years the first recognizable human society developed worship of the 'Great Goddess' or 'Great Mother'. For these people, deity was female. The importance of fertility in crops, domesticated animals, wild animals and in the tribe itself was of paramount importance to their survival. Thus, the Female life-giving principle was considered divine and an enigma. This culture lasted for tens of thousands of years, generally living in peace. Males and females were treated equally. Their society was matrilineal--children took their mothers' names, but not a matriarchy (Christ 58-59). Life and time was experienced as a repetitive cycle, not linearly as is accepted today. Even the movie we saw in the lecture reflected this basic idea of women being the soul of every living thing on this earth and the gist of life was women.

However, Easterners soon brought modern civilization to this culture, including war, belief in male Gods, exploitation of nature, and knowledge of the male role in procreation. Some of these so called religions would be Christianity including the Roman Catholic Church, Protestants, European Religions and also Judaism who thought of as god being male i.e. Jesus. Goddess worship was gradually combined with worship of male Gods to produce a variety of Pagan religions, thus losing some of its singular focus on the female as a deity. Goddess Worship during the Christian era was molded by more dominant outside forces. As Judaism, Christianity & eventually Islam evolved, the Pagan religions were suppressed and the female principle was gradually driven out of religion. Consequently women were reduced to a level inferior to men. The God, King, Priest & Father replaced the Goddess, Queen, Priestess & Mother (Miles 24). A woman's testimony was not considered significant in courts, women were not allowed to speak in churches, and positions of authority in the church were (almost without exception) limited to men. A feminine presence was added to Christianity when the Virgin Mary was named Theotokos (Mother of God). However, her role was heavily restricted and included none of the fertility components present in Pagan religions.

A low point in the life of women was reached during the Renaissance, when hundreds of thousands of suspected female witches were exterminated being burned and hanged. At the turn of the century, scholars began writing about a "Mother Goddess". By the 1950s, Gerald Gardner claimed initiation into a coven of English witches in England. He began publicizing this "Old Religion" of Wicca. Gardnerian Witchcraft recognized a Goddess of Earth-Moon-Sea as well as the Horned-hunt-sun God (Corbett, 290).

Meanwhile, women in the US and elsewhere were beginning the feminist movement. Defining 'patriarchy' as the oppressive force they were battling, they began reexamining all aspects of their lives, including religion. In the 1970s, women began using the concept of "Goddess" as part of the feminist movement. A women-only version of Wicca religion was created. A religion, which eliminated the God and all male aspects, as well as many 'traditional' Wiccan elements such as hierarchies, secrecy, and formality and brought back the same old 17th and 18th century ideas of women being the primary force in every living thing.

During the 1980s, while the name Wicca remained, many groups began using the term "neo-Pagan" which retains the God as well as the Goddess, but incorporates the increased status given to the Goddess and women. The Goddess is often identified with the Earth and elements in nature explicitly. It has been referred to as "eco-feminism" to reflect this increased emphasis. This stems from the Wiccan ideology that people have a unique responsibility toward the environment because of our ability to make conscious choices (Corbett 292). Goddess worship broadened to include African, Asian, and Native American ideals beyond the classic Wiccan deities.

Now considered the fastest growing religion in America by some scholars, neo-Pagans were represented at the World Council of Religions in 1993. Specially, San-Francisco is the most popular place for these rapidly growing religions to form their base of worship. Modern Goddess worship today can best be described as a renaissance of Paganism. Its worship of Goddesses and Gods occurred in the middle of this century with the re-emergence of Wicca. With the rise of feminism, new traditions within Wicca were created in which the Goddess grew in importance and the role of the God shrank. The Goddess in both Goddess Worship and Neo-Paganism is often visualized in three aspects: Maiden, Mother and Crone (Corbett 290). The Maiden represents youth, emerging sexuality, and the independence from men found in virginity. The Mother symbolizes feminine power, fertility, and nurturing. The Crone is the wisdom and compassion, which evolves from experience, and the one who guides women through the death experience. Although not all followers of the goddess are Wiccan, virtually all Wicca's are worshipers of the goddess (Corbett 291).

This newly risen feminist spirituality acknowledges that female power is independent from all



Download as:   txt (12 Kb)   pdf (112.6 Kb)   docx (9.9 Kb)  
Continue for 7 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2010, 09). Women & Spirituality. Retrieved 09, 2010, from

"Women & Spirituality" 09 2010. 2010. 09 2010 <>.

"Women & Spirituality.", 09 2010. Web. 09 2010. <>.

"Women & Spirituality." 09, 2010. Accessed 09, 2010.