On Goddess Talk?

Sarah Morrigan leader of the Celestial Stream branch of the Independent Filianic movement has recently announced in some of her blog articles and by her information page on her churches website that she has rejected the long term Aristasian now the Daughters of Shining Harmony based animosity to the use of the word “Goddess.” She herself now embraces the word “Goddess” both in her blog and within her churches website. Within Orthodox Filianism the religious vision of the Shining Daughter community the use of the word “Goddess” when referring to the full Deity is not used. This is because much goddess language both historically and today in general has not been used to describe the Divine Source / Creatrix of all being. Within religions of ancient polytheism the word “goddess” instead was generally used to refer to either begotten or created female spiritual beings that ruled over only certain aspects of reality. Very seldom was the word “Goddess” used to point to the One Divine Source, Origin, and Creatress of the universe. In fact the goddesses and gods of the ancient pre-Christian world were in several ways more similar to the angels of the later Monotheistic traditions.

Another criticism made by the Shining Daughters is that the word “Goddess” has as its root the word “God” which they believe implies that Goddess is dependent and derivative of God. Thus the female is derivative of the male. A final objection made in objection to Goddess talk is that in popular culture the word Goddess is used in a multiple of ways to which they object. For example the word “Goddess” in modern society is often connotative of fertility and sexuality. Within this society males in particular tend to think along this line when the word Goddess is heard. The word “Goddess” is also often used in a purely metaphorical / phychological sense to express the inner power and “divinity” of women. Thus women are often exhorted awaken the ” inner goddess” within. In contrast the word “God” is seldom used in the same way in relation to men. How often are men told to realize the “God” within? One reason for this contrast lays in the fact that the word “God” (even if much of modern culture rejects the concept) is still used primarily to refer to the fullness of the Deity. The word has not been trivialized to the same degree as has the word “Goddess.”

The solution to the perceived Goddess problem for the Aristasian community was in general to replace the word “Goddess” with the word “Dea” its Latin equivalent. Within the Filianic scriptures the word “Dea” is often used, thus a precedent existed for this. Another strategy is to simply refer to the ultimate as our Mother God or God the Mother. Of course to many members of the modern Neopagan community the term “God” itself has enviable connotations of maleness and the embrace of the words ” Mother God” as opposed to “Goddess” is seen to be a failure by many as to embrace full female Divinity.

What Sarah Morrigan has suggested is that the Independent Filianic community or at least the Celestial Stream Church that she leads should reject the traditional animosity to goddess language. She is suggesting that while much goddess language has problems, the fact is that many modern women particularly many of those within the modern Pagan movement do embrace the word “Goddess” as meaning the full manifestation of the Deity. Therefore she argues that the Filianic movement should meet women where they are, and embrace the use of Goddess language. I for one relate very well to old Aristasain languge of Dea. I much prefer the use of the word “Dea” or “Thea” to that of “Goddes.” On the other hand I think that Sarah Morrigan is right in what she is trying to do. There is no reason why issues of simple linguistic usage should be allowed to halt a communication between persons within the modern Filianic movement and those within the modern Pagan movement. Others should follow Sarah’s example.

2 thoughts on “On Goddess Talk?

  1. I enjoyed reading this article.
    I do find myself agreeing more with the position of the Shining Daughters, though. While personally, I’m not opposed to using the term Goddess, unfortunately, experience has shown that many people do understand the term to be within a sexual context of one kind or another and most usually, they see the term as denoting a male consort, as you have mentioned. I and other clergy have run into this misunderstanding of ‘goddess’ implying sexuality, quite often and it is very difficult to disabuse people of this misguided notion.
    One of the most important Wiccan/neo-Pagan feast days is Beltane. On that day, the God and Goddess are said to have a sexual encounter to promote the fertility of the fields. A tradition that is practiced by some and which has come down from Celtic times is that a man represents the Sacrificial King and a woman represents the Goddess and they have ritual sex in order to promote the fertility of the crops.
    Within the Wiccan and many neo-Pagan rites, there is a part of the monthly ritual where the blade is inserted into the chalice signifying the sexual union of the God and the Goddess.
    Wicca and many neo-Pagan religions are fertility religions. The Goddess and sexuality are very much combined in many traditions of Wicca and neo-Paganism.
    Also, while God has been used to denote our Creator and the ‘one true God’ and is understood by the mainstream in that way, ‘Goddess’ has never been used in this exact same way and so, it would not be readily understood as such by those outside our community.
    Even when, as a Wiccan, I spoke of the Great Goddess of whom all other goddesses were but aspects, and though I understood the Great Goddess to be the cosmic goddess of creation, I still did not see her in the same way that I see Dea. She was not the true Mother God for Whom I was searching. I speak from personal experience when I say there is a difference.
    When the many and varied other communities use the word Goddess, they are not speaking of Dea in the way that we understand Her and I think that is part of the problem. Goddess already has a definition in the minds of most people and I don’t know if it’s possible to strip the title Goddess of its many and varied sexual connotations.
    Even when Wicca and neo-Paganism refer to a goddess or the Great Goddess as ‘virgin’, they are only implying that the Goddess had no formal consort or that the Goddess was not dependent upon the male. But, that did not mean that the Goddess was not sexual in nature.
    Perhaps 40 or 50 years ago, we could have ‘re-claimed’ the term Goddess for Dea. But, in the 21st century, after decades of the proliferation of all the modern Wiccan and neo-Pagan traditions who clearly see the Goddess as sexual or as a fertility goddess and who do practice sympathetic sexual rituals either in person or through the blade and the chalice, the Goddess is seen as a sexual being.

  2. Pamela, your observations regarding much within modern Neopaganism from your long time spent within that faith, are similar to my own observations from the outside. Beside from the very short period of time in which I actually thought about incorporating pagan practices into my own faith after reading Starhawk’s book the Spiral Circle in the 1980’s I have really never been able to be comfortable with most aspects of contemporary, particularly Wiccan Paganism. You are certainly stating some of the reasons here.

    However my assumption is that the broader Pagan community, like most other religious communities, is very diverse and there are various degrees of commitment among its members to its various paths. My suspicion is that those Pagans who tend to be outside of Wicca or perhaps the solitary “kitchen witches” particularly those who for example who seek to combine both elements of Paganism and another faith such as Christianity or Judaism would be much more likely have conceptions of Goddess which are much closer to the ideals in Filianism or Deanism then those who committed to the forms of Paganism which you describe.

    Any way I do believe that many of the persons who come to the Filianic / Deanic faiths in the future will come out of various forms of Paganism. I think that Sarah Morrigan’s current work to reach out to those communities by embracing the use of Goddess language is a worthwhile effort. Thanks for your observations, you help to confirm that many of my own observations over the years are not simply the misinterpretations of an outsider.

    Glenn

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