Friday, October 23, 2015

Feminism Friday: Spiritual Feminism

Previously, I mentioned how feminism can coexist within traditional and specifically Abrahamic religions, as they draw on the historical women of faith. As I understand Jewish and Muslim teachings where there is just one God, God is beyond gender.

This week I thought I would give an intro to some of the other spiritual paths that feminism has taken. In particular, the remembrance of the divine feminine. The rest of this article may be offensive to some Christians and non-Christian believers in the Biblical preachings against Canaanite goddess-worship.


The movement had many influences. In the 1950s, following the repeal of UK's witchcraft laws, a man named Gerald Gardner founded a religion called Wicca. It expanded, and grew.

Mythology (Greek, Roman, Norse, Babylonian, Canaanite, etc.) is full of stories of goddesses, not just gods. Gardner's Wicca was dualistic, honoring both a god and a goddess.

The concept of the divine feminine was warmly embraced by second wave feminism. People in general and women in particular returned to those stories, and developed practices (some old, some new).

Z. Budapest developed a variant of Wicca called Dianic Wicca, which is a religion by women, for women, focused on just the Goddess, and often associated with / connected to the Lesbian feminist movement.

There were other writers and other developments around the Goddess movement. In 1979, Starhawk published the first edition of The Spiral Dance. I recommend later editions (10th or 20th anniversary), as she learned many lessons after the initial publication, and has added commentary on those lessons.

This movement was picked up by women within Unitarian Universalism as they were developing their own spirituality. While the UU Pagan movement is specifically not of any one path (Wicca, Asatru, Druidry, etc.), much of the UU Pagan movement seems to build on this, feminist, women's spirituality tradition.

In 1986, the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans was formed, and in 1995 the Rev. Shirley Ranck published a curriculum, Cakes for the Queen of Heaven. These movements led to the adoption of the UUA's 6th Source and 7th Principle.

Now, not all Pagans are Wiccan. Not all Wiccans are women. Nor are all women Pagans, Dianic. But as the Wikipedia entry for Z. Budapest points out, this spiritual tradition has empowered women in their activism for decades.

Unfortunately, as we dig into the history, there are mis-statements. Some of the ideas have become popularized in The Da Vinci Code, but that work of fiction combines elements of truth with plausible, improbable, and purely made-up history.

Some Wiccans have claimed that the Medieval witch hunts claimed 9 million people (a claim you might see in some of Starhawk's other works), but scholars dispute that number.

Scott Cunningham's 1988 book, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner is another classic text. Scott's writings show a very grounded spirituality. One of his books suggests that divine revelation is most often of a personal, not universal nature.  Through his books, many more eclectic and self-taught practitioners began their own practices and traditions.