Monday, August 20, 2007



When I think of "Goddess" I see Her in the same role as "God." She includes all things and really the gender is only a useful metaphor that allows me to conceptualize divinity,( in which all humans share), as feminine. In Abrahamic religion, human qualities are understood in terms of duality.
On the one side we have transcendence, light, goodness, purity, intellect, soul: masculine
On the other side we have immanence, dark, evil, impurity, emotion, body/sex: feminine.
Of course when one side of the duality is considered more holy than the other and one gender is more frequently associated with that holy side, it begins to "make sense" to insist upon a secondary, inhibited and even abused and diminished life for those who do not fit into the appropriate side of the duality. In short, women have been treated like crap for a good long time because our very obvious physical connections to the earth and our bodies have reminded men of their "sinful" connection to sexuality and the earth.
I would challenge that any of the above-mentioned qualities are intrinsically "masculine" or "feminine" but that they are all important human qualities manifested differently according to various biological and cultural conditions.
Reclamation feminist spirituality seeks to both "RECLAIM" those qualities such as sexuality, earth-centeredness, compassion, and immanence as holy qualities with which women have long been associated AND to insist that women who possess qualities of heightened intellect, courage, etc. are not acting "Masculine" but are simply behaving like intelligent, brave people. Likewise, we also assume that men who behave emotionally and compassionately are not behaving in a "feminine" way but are acting like compassionate, emotionally secure men.
The Goddess is understood as the totality of Potential. She includes all human qualities and potentials. She is Zoe, Life Eternal who gives birth to Bios, Life Temporal in a great cycle of life, death and rebirth.
Now, there is a problem with the use of term "Goddess" in my thinking since it is, in English, a derivative word. The "ess" suffix is dismissive...Waitress, authoress, actress...You get the picture. We may borrow and say TheAlogy as opposed to TheOlogy or we might say Creatrix instead of Creator. English doesn't give us the ability to easily differentiate between gendered nouns without using a derivative suffix to denote the feminine...Therefore, "God" becomes normative and masculine both grammatically and culturally while "Goddess" looks a good deal like God in drag. A linguistic bother I'm not sure how to handle. Generally, I refer to a genderless "Divine" and cut my losses. I'm not real thrilled with the use of either "God" or "Goddess" since they are so anthropomorphized as metaphors to begin with...very limiting.
On the other hand, to remain gender neutral is not necessarily preferable since the mostly unconscious and DEEP patriarchal tradition of associating holy qualities with masculinity is so strong that if we continue to refer only to "God" we women may not internalize the essential lesson that God is like women as much as God is like men. It will be like the humorous statement made by one of my fellow seminarians way back in the day who said "God has no gender. HE is neither male nor female." Ha!


Kate said...

He is neither male nor female.

Lol. Hilarious.

I read in an article some time ago in Utne magazine that early understandings of God in early Judaism was that God was without gender but the language was heavily gengered, as well as the culture, so a male sexual identity became assigned through language usage and patriarchial feelings of superiority.

I dunno, it just made a kind of sense to me. English is not like that but we still feel some kind of need to say God is our father, rather than our father and mother. Heard a prayer in a clip online from a more enlightened church and they pray our mother and father. That was from a service from the offshoot church of Catholicism that ordains women priests.


Hystery said...

Thanks, Kate. I think you've nailed it.

The English language and associated culture actually is very phallocentric (feminist semiotics is helpful here) but we are just not aware of it. Maleness is read as normative whereas femaleness is read as sexualized. References to the Divine as feminine generally also reference reproduction, sexual congress, or lactation. Notice how in our language in most cases we assume maleness unless the female is specifically indicated (except in cases of roles or qualities associated with sexuality and nurturing.)

There's also lots of evidence that our material culture (art, architecture, technology, etc.) is biased toward the male body and male social patterns. It really is no wonder that despite our best intentions, we end up with a male God.

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