To say that my life has been defined by a spiritual quest is an understatement. As a child growing up in Ohio, my options for expression were fairly limited. I was raised in the Episcopal Church, an institution I admire for its forward thinking to this day. However, its cool restraint did not satisfy a deeper urging. I experimented with a variety of studies, from the intellectual intrigue of Buddhism to the emotional charge of Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity.
The latter gave way to reason during my college years when a curriculum heavily laden with rhetoric and logic studies forced my brain to recognize certain incongruencies. Through it all an indefinable longing went unsatisfied.
I was well into my college years, which were more numerous than the average, when a friend of mine invited me to an unusual theater experience. She had been enlisted to run the lights and said that though the production was odd, she thought I would really get something out of it. The production was indeed odd, even off-putting, and I was aware of a number of audience members nodding off to sleep or drifting towards the door. I, on the hand, was spellbound. The poor performance not withstanding, this show was manna from heaven. The topic: "The Mother Goddess Myth."
In all my years of religious study, I had never learned the fundamental truth -- that long before the establishment of the "world's great religions" it was not a male deity who was worshipped but a female one. All over the planet, people honored the great creatrix, the Mother Goddess. Even now, vestiges of the original religion remain in images of the Virgin Mary, references to Mother Nature (who made occasional appearances in margarine ads), and deep within our cellular memory.
I was a sheltered Midwestern girl, and only recently transplanted to Northeastern New Jersey with its overwhelming proximity to Manhattan. Every day was a new and illuminating experience, but nothing could have prepared me for the magnitude of this information. It was like waking up from a dream. I knew I had found the key that opened the door to my truest spiritual expression.
Suddenly, I was seeing things in an entirely new context that explained my fascination with symbols like spirals and stars and even clarified poetry I'd already written. This was not new information. It was the reawakening of ancient memory.
Like many college students, I shared an apartment which housed a constantly changing cast of characters. One of the most intriguing was an artist who, I can see in retrospect, knew all about the Goddess but kept the knowledge to herself. She had moved out by this point but had left a couple of unusual items which I'd coveted and now claimed for myself. There were heavy ceramic spirals that served no practical use and a dress form that served as a vase for dried pussy willows.
The meaning of these items was now clear to me and my fascination with them explained. Spirals, a symbol found in many paleolithic artifacts, symbolizes the void of creation and represents the womb on many Goddess statues. The dress form, to me, illustrated one-ness of women and earth.
As time went by, I found that any religious system that diminished the feminine principle felt limited and untruthful. A brief stint with a Buddhist practice was like an uncomfortable shoe. I dismantled the Buddhist altar and started to use the small table as a catch-all. The dress form found its way there, then assorted crystals and other shiny objects that caught my eye. One evening, after cleaning and reorganizing my small room, I noticed that without even realizing it, I had built a new altar -- an altar dedicated to the Goddess.
Until that moment it hadn't occurred to me that this ancient mythology could be an active living spiritual practice, but its truth was awakening in every cell of my body. I resolved to research the ancient practices and learn to formally worship the Goddess.
The very next day, I visited Samuel Weiser Books, which was then on 24th St. in New York. To my amazement there was an entire book case devoted to Goddess religions. My eye was immediately drawn to bright yellow book called White Goddess by Robert Graves. I felt something like an electric charge as I began to read the jacket copy. After perusing some heavy impenetrable prose, I decided it was a little over my head grabbed a practical looking book on ritual practice.
Standing in the checkout line, I felt an indescribable urging in my gut. It was like a magnet in my abdomen was pulling me back to the shelves and back to White Goddess. I exchanged the two books and hastily paid the clerk before I could think too much about my decision. Reading that book was an amazing experience. I didn't understand 75% of it and didn't care. I was captivated and digested the contents of the book on another level of awareness.
This was how I learned to shop with my womb. I discovered that a deep sensation in my belly told me when a book, tape, crystal, or piece of jewelry was the next crucial step in my journey. I learned to trust my "women's intuition" and to reclaim the gifts of healing and magick that had been driven underground during the burning times in Medieval Europe when the witches were persecuted and their ancient Earth religion all but drummed out of existence.
Today Earth religions are experiencing a renaissance. All over the world people are rediscovering ancient teachings in the form of shamanism, witchcraft, paganism and more. The Goddess in all her forms is reawakening and reclaiming a planet on what appears to be the brink of destruction.
I knew society had made a major leap forward when I discovered that an Episcopal church in my area offered a labyrinth walk once a month. Walking the labyrinth, like the spiral dance, has its roots in ancient pagan culture. It did my soul good to attend a discussion group at that church where a female priest told the story of our ancient Celtic and Greek ancestors who worshipped the Earth itself in the form of a Mother Goddess.