Now where was I? I promised to tell you more about the mysterious female presence.
I’ll start with this: Methodist preacher’s daughters are not encouraged to believe in female deities. If anything, they’re strongly discouraged. I mean, it sounds so Pagan-ish, right? Apparently it’s a slippery slope from goddess worship to dancing naked by a bonfire in the moonlight and drinking bull’s blood. Or something. Protestants are not even instructed to pray directly to Mary, mother of Christ. That of course, would be way too (gasp) Catholic. These are the things I was taught, or picked up by osmosis.
But years ago during a particularly devout period, I attended a women’s retreat in which a woman I greatly admired whispered in confidence, “I think the Holy Spirit is a woman.” My eyes widened. I think I gasped. Not because it was outlandish and sacrilegious, but because it felt so right. I mean, why couldn’t the Holy Spirit—the “still small voice within”—be female? The triune God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Why not Father, Son, and Mother? (A meme I saw recently: “I believe in God. I just don’t believe he’s a single parent.”) But why does it feel so deviant to say that out loud?
I filed this under “stuff that doesn’t fit traditional doctrine but resonates with me on a visceral, gut-deep level,” and went about my business. That file is now bursting with meaningful info, but much of it I keep secret. There are people who would worry about me for roaming so far outside the box, concluding that my soul is vulnerable and therefore in danger. There are others who would arch a brow and say, “Girl, you’re drinking the woo-woo Kool-aid.” But it’s like this: I feel as though I’m delving into an innate, exciting, organic, inherently good Truth. One that is both ancient and evolving.
And some of it might be defined as (yeah, I’m going there) Pagan.
Quick fact: True pagans never called themselves pagans. They were country dwellers like my Celtic ancestors, just trying to survive and live off the land. For roughly 30,000 years, the deities humans worshipped were female, because country dwellers thought of the earth as Mother, source of all life.
Then—I won’t go into detail because there is plenty written about this elsewhere—but Christianity arrived, demonizing anything that wasn’t Christianity, and patriarchy in general demonized the worship of female deities. (Side note: I’m no theologian, but I don’t think this kind of strong-arming is what Jesus had in mind.)
I remember being told that Christians should see themselves as being “in the world, but not of the world.” Meaning that our eyes should always be on heaven. But I am proudly of this world, product of this mother. Made of nature stuff. Paganism seems to express a profound love of the earth, and I am all about this.
And so, I admit that in addition to celebrating the usual Christian holidays, I follow the Pagan circle of the year, savoring rituals that welcome spring and the new moon and the harvest and the longest/shortest days. I will admit to lighting candles and burning sage and contemplating colorful stones in cupped hands and looking for signs and feeling blessed once when I snatched a blue jay feather from the sky before it hit the ground. I will admit to imagining my feet sprouting roots that I dig into the ground to root myself in my mother planet, and imagining my arms sprouting branches that I spread toward the stars to access the energy of my father sky.
Here is where I invoke my favorite shape, the Venn diagram. Imagine one circle is “earth,” and the other circle “heaven.” Surely the almond-shaped intersection, a.k.a. the mandorla, of the two can be seen as the product of both: A creature cobbled together from the stuff of nature, with a soaring imagination capable of hungering for some kind of mystical God or Goddess or Parent or Creator. The mandorla in this scenario is me. It’s you.
And…here is something startling I also discovered when delving deeper into the significance of the Venn diagram: in the ancient, pre-Christian world, the mandorla was seen to represent (I am not making this up) the vagina of Venus. (Now that you see it, you can’t un-see it, can you?) And later in Christianity, the mandorla represented none other than Jesus Christ himself.
But now I’m getting ahead of myself…
…The journey continues