Sunday, September 24, 2006


Carolina wants to know what to look for in choosing a Goddess group. This is an excellent question, and if any of you can chime in with ideas, please do. Morgaine’s already weighed in with some very sage advice (see her comments at the end of the Sept. 22 post).

Here are a few of my ideas on the ideal group (not always possible, but nice to shoot for):

I think it’s helpful if your group has some foundation in the past. That’s why I like Druidism, Wicca, the Minoan Goddess, Native American spirituality, or the Temple of Isis as bases. This way there’s always the chance that some of the lost wisdom of the past will find its way into your group.

The ideal would be a group begun by respected community leaders. The founders of my Druid group were active members of the Quaker church who’d worked with groups and social activism over their lifetimes -- and were good at it.

Ideally the entire group would consist of women who’ve had successful experience working in small groups. We had a counselor in our group trained in conflict resolution and mediation (she was one of the founders). She’s always coming up with solid ways of making group decisions (by taking however much time it takes to make certain everyone in the group has been heard on any and every issue, and by ensuring that the group comes to consensus).

The ideal group has leaders who are so strong, serious and fearless in their love of Goddess that you can’t help but be the same when you’re around them.

My view is that there should be no men in the group. Unless you are a very unusual woman and can lend a hand helping men form their own Goddess groups (which they need to do, of course) without any negative fallback onto you yourself, join a women-only group. Personally I feel that most women aren’t capable yet of getting what they need out of a spiritual group with men in it. At this point most women are too damaged to be in a group with men without wilting or spending energy being consciously or unconsciously angry, aggressive, or passive aggressive.

In the same vein, I think at this point we need to be in homogeneous groups. If you’re a right-wing Rep, don’t join up with left-wing Dems. If you’re married with children, join a group of marrieds with children. Etcetera. Don’t waste energy trying to do spiritual work with people you don’t understand. I know this isn’t PC, but let’s worry about understanding and working with differences later on, after we’ve gotten on our feet a little. You’re in this group to find Goddess. You want to use all your energy for that. The one exception: being in a group with wise older women is a good thing. They’ve been around longer. Chances are they know things you don’t. In my experience, they shine like diamonds.

I personally think that ten to twelve to thirteen people is an ideal group size. Both Christ and the covens knew/know this!

My former group was begun by a group of four women who’d had a long-term interest in the Goddess, and who’d invested much energy and time in Her. This group traveled to England to study OBOD (the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids) and came back with tons of knowledge, wisdom, and materials. We tweaked the materials here and there to suit our needs. Two of the women built a labyrinth at least ¼ an acre large. Later, at another member’s home, we built a ritual circle out of sand with upright logs as seats, and a fire pit.

I left this group because I couldn’t get along with one member. Although I loved the group, I think this other woman needs it more than I do. I think no matter how wonderful any group is, there’s always the chance that someone with deep issues is going to enter at some point, or that people are just going to have personality clashes. Ordinarily I would have asked the group to work with me and the woman, but I couldn’t have done that without violating her privacy. So instead, I dropped out quietly, but informed one of the group initiators of the problem I was having. I don’t think the woman I had the problems with is a Goddess honorer, but she is deeply in need of friends and a group that will love and support her. So I’m giving her my group, and I’m going to have to work harder to find a new one.

As some of you may have noticed, however, I’m not even blogging as much as I used to. I’ve been working on a book about the Goddess, and that’s been taking much of my spare time and energy.

If I knew how to find a good Goddess group, I’d be in one today. Let’s see. Hm. Here’s what you might do, Carolina: tack a notice on the local Quaker and Unitarian Universalist Church bulletin boards. “Looking for women over [age] to start a Goddess Spirituality group.” Add more info about what you want the group to be and do (eight ceremonies a year? Up to ten women? Based on ancient Druid or Wiccan spirituality? Meeting at members' homes?)

Might try that myself.

Good luck and Goddess Blessings to you, too.
The pic above is thought by archaeologists to be an ancient Minoan priestess. She was found on the wall outside the doorway of a room on an upper floor in a building at the archaelogical site of Akrotiri on the island of Santorini.
ADDENDUM: I've just discovered that this picture is not the original, but a reworking done by Sage Starwalker, publisher of Matrifocus eZine. [Athana, 10/8/06]


Medusa said...

You might want to check out, which is involved in organizing groups world-wide. I think they also have a yahoogroup

Morgaine said...

Other good places to start are with the two Dianic leaders who have Yahoo groups - Z Budapest and Shekhinah Mountainwater. Shekhinah's group is called Moonspells, while Z's group is eponymous. Z pretty much defined Dianic Wicce. I studied with Shekhinah many years ago and I'm so pleased she is sharing her work on line. I'm on the globalgoddess mailing list, too, but I haven't connected with anyone on it yet - that doesn't mean you won't, though.

I like Athana's point about homogeneity of the group. Even the most enlightened group members may have unresolved issues that can distract from your goals. Very progressive straight women can be uncomfortable around gay women, for example, or women in relationships may condescend to women who are single or who have no children.

I agree strongly with Athana that you should look for a woman-only group. There are notable exceptions, but for the most part the men I've met in Goddess groups have an agenda that has nothing to do with the Goddess. I know of one guy who was offering a service to women in the group by opening their lower chakras. The worst part is that some of the women honestly thought he was helping them out. Nice little scam, eh? They made the mistake of assuming that anyone in a Goddess group was trustworthy.

Another reason, and this is the same thing that got Mary Daly fired from Boston University, is that women can't be themselves around men. Men will tend to dominate the conversation, and they'll often become very defensive and even aggressive if males are criticized. The mere presence of a man will cause most women to defer to him, and to suppress their own ideas and feelings. It's particularly important if any of the women have experienced any form of sexual abuse - and 2 out of 3 women do at some point in their lives.

Women-only space is very important for the world right now, and we need to consciously build as much of it as possible. I'm praying that women will start to build women-only communities to live in - a whole building, for example, or small neighborhoods or settlements that consist only of women and their kids, where repetitive work and childcare can be shared the way it is in tribal groups. Goddess groups are the ideal place to start building a new gyno-centric reality.

Anne Johnson said...

Disagree about women-only groups. LlynHydd Grove has both men and women. Two of the men have the most OBOD knowledge (one is a third generation Druid, the other lost his job because of his faith). Our circles are very egalitarian. Yesterday our leader was a woman.

I don't think you're gonna persuade many men to worship the Goddess in circles consisting of only men.

Our group also doesn't have the opportunity to get too involved in personal issues. We're far-flung, one family drives 50 miles and it takes me an hour to get there. Once we have a ritual and a picnic, we've got to scoot. Yesterday the picnic consisted of just me and my daughter, even though 12 people attended the ritual. They all had to run right after.

Athana said...

Medusa and Morgaine, thanks for the leads. I'll check them out for ideas re: group formation. In the meantime, I think I'm going to try to start a group from scratch. I'll try to post on it in a day or two.

Athana said...

Morgaine, as you probably know, many of the “simpler” cultures (read: non-patriarchal cultures) have women-only space galore – along with their men-only space. One of my friend’s daughters worked in the Peace Corps in Mali, and the women there spent almost all their daytime with other women.

I love your idea that “Goddess groups are the ideal place to start building a new gyno-centric reality.”

Athana said...

anne, I forgot that you’re in a Druid group that includes men (which, of course, most do). I think Carolina was asking about groups that focused on Goddess alone, no gods – a step beyond what the majority of men seem to be looking for at the moment, although I know there are a few men out there who are interested in a spirituality focused primarily on female deity.
In my OBOD group we reworked the rituals to include primarily female divinity.
I agree with Morgaine that many women find their behavior altered in the presence of men. For them, all-women groups are important stepping stones in a healing or strengthening process the aim of which is to allow them eventually to work with men in healthier ways.
At one point we invited a guy to join our OBOD group. He asked several times to join; he was a friend of two women in the group and a former employee of one of the women. I myself loved this guy and still do (I’d known him previously too, on a social level). However, I could feel *myself* changing when he came to our ritual -- in ways I didn’t like. Not his fault, my issue. But some of us need ritual space at least – for the time being – that is women-only space.
Pete only came to one of our rituals. I’m not sure why he didn’t come back. Maybe he sensed something (we’d all agreed to have him join, but one woman had to be talked into it).

Anonymous said...

This is great, thank you for this blog i wrealy needed a advice on this thing. I am werry happy that there are some people who knows about this things and is willing to give advices for us, those who are not so well informed about these groups. Many thanks for the blogger.

Medusa said...

I forgot to mention before--Re-Formed Congregation of the Goddess, International, an all-women's group which has been in existence for decades. They are "motherhoused" in Wisconsin but they have local groups all over. More info on their website

Sage said...

Hey Athana, that's my art! Happen to remember where you found it?

I haven't been hanging out in the blogosphere much for a season or more. Perhaps that will change come winter.



Athana said...

Sage, it's gorgeous! I thought it was a copy of the original (and threfore safe to use without anyone to give credit to). But checking in my copy of Art and Religion in Thera, I see that the original priestess (?) had blue hair (shaved head?) and a dark yellow robe and earring.

I've hunted around but can't find or remember where I got your work of art. If I can find it again, I'll let you know. I love your use of texture and color; you've gotten the same strong color combination and quality that the Therans used -- but with different hues than the original.

Athana said...

Sage, I feel I should ask: do I have your permission to use your art here? Let me know; I can always substitute the original if you say no.

Sage said...

Permission? Sure. I appreciate the credit. I had to guess on the head piece, it wasn't clear in the original. It looked closer to a snake than anything, so that's what I went with.

If you remember where you found it, I'd appreciate knowing....