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Tag Archives: Judith Laura
Judith Laura has been thinking and writing about Goddess religions for many years. Her publications include: Beyond All Desiring, Exploring Re-Visioned Kabbalah, Three Part Intervention, She Lives! The Return of Our Great Mother, and Goddess Spirituality for the Twenty-First Century. She recently wrote Goddess Matters: The Mystical, Practical, and Controversial. Goddess Matters is a fascinating look at where Goddess religions are and where they may be going. (And you’ve got to love the double entendre of the title.) Judith is also a serious student of Tarot. I recently had the opportunity to ask her some questions about her latest work.*
Hecate: In the section of Goddess Matters entitled Practical Thealogy and Applied Metaphysics, you take on the topic of Physical Disabilities and Goddess Events and point out some ways for event organizers and publicists to be thoughtful. Can you talk a little bit more about this topic? And are there ways that social media can help us be more thoughtful?
Judith Laura: My realization that this was an issue came first through my own experience of having what turned out to be chronic serious foot problems. Before I that, like many other temporarily-abled people, I gave little if any thought to the challenges people with various disabilities might face in trying to attend Goddess events — or really any other type of event. In terms of other events, there are now laws that make it somewhat easier to have access to buildings, etc., but these laws don’t solve all the problems and rarely apply to places where Goddess events are held — often outdoors or in private homes. The examples I give in the book of obstacles encountered by people trying to attend Goddess or Pagan events come from both online “mailing lists” aka discussion groups, and what people have told me in person. I’d like to see it to become routine for people having these events to give more specific information about these obstacles in the information they communicate about the events without putting the burden of finding out upon the people with disabilities. For example, I think the common request for people who need “accommodation” to contact the sponsor of the event should be replaced, or added to, with such basic information as how close can you park to the event? how much walking is involved once you reach the event? are there stairs to climb? is the ground uneven? hilly? flat? These are just a few bits of information, applying to only a few types of physical challenges. But it would be a start. People have also suggested to me that sponsors of events should state whether there will be a sign language interpreter or other help for the hearing-impaired. Others tell me they think a sign language interpreter should be provided at every event. So there are lots of stories and ideas out there, but I’m not sure how many are expressed directly to people holding the events. I’ve not seen a lot of this online. Certainly discussion groups, Facebook, Twitter and other social media give more of an opportunity than we had BC (Before Computers), including the possibility of asking for better accommodation behind the mask of a pseudonym. But I’m not sure how much cyberspace is being used for that purpose.
Hecate: I love that you address the topic of Goddess Beliefs and Sexual Risks. For all that we like to call ourselves sex-positive, we don’t talk much about these issues. You have some interesting things to say about masturbation as a way to become closer to the Goddess. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Judith Laura: In this chapter, my advocacy of masturbation not only as a route to pleasure but also to the sacred follows a discussion dispelling some misconceptions about the transmission of STDs, including HIV, and of the relative dangers and safety of various sex practices. Due mostly to cultural conditioning, many of us have narrow ideas about masturbation, (aka self-pleasuring), a relatively safe sex practice. When people ask if you’ve had sex lately, they usually don’t mean self-pleasuring. Why is that? To me, what counts as sex is arousal and orgasm. By this definition, self-pleasuring surely is sex, since for many women it is more likely to lead to orgasm than partnered sex, especially many forms of het sex. Yet our culture often ridicules self-pleasuring, making us — and by us, I mean especially women — feel ashamed of engaging in this type of sex. Why? Are we still buying into the idea that we are receptive vessels, not active participants? Are we still expecting our partners to “give us” an orgasm, rather than we ourselves participating in ways that make orgasm more inevitable? Women friends of mine have told me that they don’t feel right touching themselves in ways that arouse them. “Why,” I ask, “isn’t it your body?” I feel that our Goddess beliefs pave the way for our considering self-pleasuring to be of equal value to other forms of sex. A number of Goddess creation myths tell of the Goddess creating through an act of self-pleasuring. Also, we have the Maiden aspect of the Goddess as an example. We sometimes call this aspect, “Virgin,” but we don’t mean that she denies herself sex. Quite the contrary, what we mean is that the Maiden/Virgin is independent and that independence includes her sexual activities, which may be sex on her own terms with another with whom she is not in a binding relationship, or it may mean masturbation. Self-pleasuring increases our independence — and possibly also our good heath — by making it less likely that we will fall into bed with someone we neither love nor desire. Self-pleasuring can also improve our sex lives in partnered sex by revealing to us what turns us on. In addition to all this, in my experience, and in the experience of women who have told me about their experiences, self-pleasuring can also be a more direct path to Goddess. Orgasm is often accompanied by (or includes) a change in consciousness in which, as we become more focused on pleasure, we become less aware of our surroundings. This leads, at the moment(s) of most intense pleasure in orgasm, to a feeling of oneness with or merging with what some call “the universe” others call “the sacred,” and others call Goddess. That this feeling is brought about by physical activity and body response verifies its place in a spirituality that affirms embodiment of the sacred. Or sacred embodiment. If you are having sex with someone you love during this experience, you are likely to feel that the sensation of onesness, or merging, includes your partner and this strengthens your love bond. If you are having sex with someone with whom you are not in love, the experience may give you the momentary illusion of love for this person. If you are having sex by yourself, the experience is more obviously connected with the universal Source, with Goddess. For young women first finding themselves sexually, orgasm via self-pleasuring can help discover what to seek or ask for in partnered sex. For older women and others who may not easily find partners or who don’t want partners, it means being able to independently experience sexual pleasure and merging with Goddess.
Hecate: Goddess Matters has an interesting discussion of Carol Christ‘s work on process theology. As a serious student of Tarot, you have an interesting take on Christ’s rejection of divination. Please explain how you view the interplay between free will and divination.
Judith Laura: I don’t know that Carol Christ is rejecting divination; what I think she is doing in her book, She Who Changes, is explaining why process theologians reject divination. I greatly admire Carol Christ’s work in this book and in her other writings. The importance of her contribution to Goddess feminism cannot be overstated. I discuss her book, She Who Changes, which combines Goddess thealogy with process theology, in the last chapter of Goddess Matters, “The Cutting Edge,” which also includes a discussion of the work of 3 other authors (including me), who combine Goddess with other thought, mostly with various sciences. In She Who Changes, Christ points out that process theology, which is more science-friendly than most theologies and, imo, compatible with the Goddess understandings of many people in most ways, does not allow for the possibility of, for example, predicting the future. Christ explains that in process theologians’ view, predictions of future events are based on the assumption that the future is “already determined, already known, or has already happened.” Since in process theology people must have free will, if process theology were to be adopted whole cloth by Goddessians it seems that we would have to give up our use of divination.
But I feel that the assumption that divination involves denial of free will is a misconception which, btw, is not limited to process theologians. In the “Cutting Edge” chapter I write that the assumption that the future is already determined “is not the assumption made by most divining Goddess folks I know. In reading Tarot, I assume quite differently and tell people for whom I read that the future is not set in stone, that they retain free will, and that we are looking at possibilities or probabilities, not certainties. We shuffle the cards to achieve randomness, a quality of the universe according to quantum physics.” I have had a statement to this effect on my website page about tarot reading since at least 2003.
Prediction in Tarot is to me similar to predicting the weather. Do you think that process theologians would consider a meteorologist’s prediction that it was going to rain the next day infringing on their free will? Or do you think they would take along an umbrella? The meteorologists’ forecasts are not always 100 percent accurate, nor do they claim this. The same is true of Tarot. What both we and the meteorologists (and others who make predictions, such as stock market prognosticators) are predicting is probabilities, not certainties. The meteorologist’s probabilities are based on factors such as which way the wind is blowing, what has occurred in the past when atmospheric conditions have been similar, and how fast fronts are moving. Just so, the Tarot reader bases her predictions on what she learns through the cards about factors that are metaphorically, or sometimes even literally, similar to those used by weather forecasters (such as which way “the wind” is blowing). There is also a factor of interaction; for meteorologists the interaction is among various factors that affect the weather, some of which may not be known at the time the forecast is made because they haven’t emerged yet. For the tarot reader the interaction is among the readee’s actions and actions of other people (and sometimes institutions, companies, countries, etc.) affecting the question the readee asks , some of which may not be known at the time, mainly because those involved haven’t yet made choices (because they have free will) that they have before them.
As I point out in Goddess Matters, near the end of She Who Changes, Christ seems to come to a similar conclusion. She writes that “no method of divination can tell us with certainty what will happen. On the other hand, the future will be a synthesis of things that already exist. Methods of divination can be understood as other than rational ways of getting a perspective on what already exists and as ways of imagining what we and others can create out of what already exists.” I think that many aspects of process theology as Christ presents them could be a good addition to Goddess thought, and I wonder if we can adopt the parts that seem to fit and leave behind those parts with which we are not comfortable.
Hecate: What’s your take on on-line rituals? Will we see Goddess worship moving on-line even while, as you discuss, more and more actual Goddess temples are built?
Judith Laura: I’ve attended only two online rituals in chatrooms and that was many years ago — I think one was before the turn of the century. I don’t know if online rituals will become more common. I think they have at least two obstacles to overcome. One is people being in different time zones. Some are sleeping, some are at work, while others are at home and awake. The other is that we are a path to which embodiment is important, whereas the medium renders us disembodied. This could be overcome somewhat in the future if use of audio and video in online communications with more than one person becomes common. So, I guess the answer is, we’ll see…
Hecate: What are you writing now?
Judith Laura: I’m trying to gather together my poems, many of which have been published in print and online journals, into some coherent (or acceptably poetically incoherent) form which will hopefully become a book.
*Full disclosure: I consider Judith a friend and go to her for important Tarot readings. She gifted me with an inscribed copy of Goddess Matters, which I treasure.
Picture found here.
*Is it breezy in here, or is it just me? My, the veils seem to be thinning at an amazing rate this near-to-Samhein season. And the energy from the Occupy movement seems to be calling to a number of interesting Ancestors. In my personal practice, the thinning veils call for careful attention to grounding. With my Sun in permeable Pisces, it would be too, too easy (and too, too tempting) to let myself drift too far through those open veils, too far down that misty road, too deep into that fairy hall in the hill. And, so, I get enough sleep. I try to eat right. I get on the treadmill. I balance time alone with time out in the world. I dig in the dirt and leave myself little reminders — an acorn on my desk at work, a flower in a vase by my bed, a tiny polished stone in my purse — to remind me to do what Ram Dass said: Be Here Now.
*”Our labors are witnesses for the living mystery.” Carl Jung, quoted in Ego and Archetype by Edward F. Edinger. Had a great conversation recently w/ a dear friend about how we can’t live our lives entirely focused on our inner processes, nor can we live our lives entirely directed towards the outer world. And, at some point, the feedback loop of doing both inner and outer work is far more effective than either process in isolation. It’s outer work — running for office, and deciding what compromises are worth making (some are, although I know it’s fashionable these days to decry all of them) and which aren’t, or working with the incredibly slow and sometimes frustrating process of consensus decision-making in the Occupy Movement, or rocking cranky babies — that gives us a chance to practice the inner work we’ve been doing of breathing, centering, learning to apply our True Will. And it’s inner work — setting aside time for a daily practice, doing shadow work, stopping throughout the day to reconnect to our Higher Selves — that allows us to be more effective when we confront Fox News, stop logging of old growth forests, let a homeless person know that they’re valued. Before enlightenment: chop wood & carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood & carry water. Where do you find the balance? Are you at a phase when it’s time to shift your emphasis from one mode to the other?
*Had lunch several days ago with the brilliant and deep Judith Laura. I’m reading her new book, Goddess Matters: the Mystical, Practical, & Controversial, about which a formal review in a few days. She takes on the lie that Goddess religions, because they do not have a set of rules, such as the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments, lack ethics. Judith provides a list of her own Goddess guidelines:
Love one another.
And live in peace.
Sounds about right to me. I’m also down with:
Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.
Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.
And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the mouths of lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever in allegiance with gravity while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the scars of damage, to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say “Look!” and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.
In [Dominionist] worldview, democracy is sort of a surface phenomenon. It can be used as a kludge when not everyone accepts their god-given place in the power dynamics (especially unbelievers). It can be used as a compromise, or a temporary expedient. But it’s not a long-lasting solution. It’s not a fundamental idea, it’s not something to work for, and ultimately, it’s un-biblical.
With that in mind, read what Wagner has to say about the roles of self-proclaimed apostles and prophets in the NAR:
WAGNER: “The Bible teaches that apostles – related to prophets and also teachers – should form the basis of the government of the church. Now, up till now, recently, most churches in America functioned on a democratic system, so that the authority in the churches and the authority in the denominations resided in groups of people.
And, of course, that’s what we’re used to politically in America, so that fits in very well with our culture. But in terms of the role of the apostle, one of the biggest changes from traditional churches to the New Apostolic Reformation is the amount of spiritual authority delegated by the Holy Spirit to individuals. And the two key words are authority and individuals, and individuals as contrasted to groups. So now, apostles have been raised up by God who have a tremendous authority in the churches of the New Apostolic Reformation. And I think this is the most radical difference between the old and the new.”
When he says, “that’s what we’re used to politically in America,” I hear the unspoken statement, “but that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.” When he talks about how the NAR’s authority structure is a “radical difference,” I connect that to the kind of “transformation” that he wants to see in American culture and American politics.
Wagner also made a point of saying that the NAR is “working with whatever political system there is” in each country it’s engaging. But he strictly disavows any mention that they want a “theocracy,” which he specifically links to states like Iran or like Constantine’s Rome. He is telling the truth there, but it’s a specific kind of truth based on his ideas about authority.
I believe him that he doesn’t want a “theocracy” where there’s an institutionalized church that runs the institutionalized state. He wants to meld the two, indistinguishably, because his religious ideas about authority and power are so all-encompassing that they would make a separate institutionalized government redundant.
She’s spot on, is a student of history, and always does her homework.
Anne Johnson has been interviewing a different “Bored God” every day, with a focus on the state under attack that day by NAR. If you haven’t yet read her interview with the Spirit of Ayahuasca, used by, primarily, Native Americans in their religious ceremonies, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Anne: Welcome, Ayahuasca! I’d offer you a cup of tea … but that’s what you are.
Ayahuasca: I’m not your cup of tea, though. You haven’t been initiated into the Mysteries.
Anne: So true. About the most adventurous I get is a vodka gimlet. But this isn’t about my religious experiences, it’s about America’s religious experiences. And You, o Sacred Ayahuasca, have been foully and cruelly treated! Everyone has heard the tale of the DEA agents bursting in on a ceremony of the Unaio do Vegetal praise and worship team in New Mexico. The agents pulled You right out of the priest’s kitchen and carted You off to the slammer. (Or in this case, the refrigerator.)
Ayahuasca: We took them to court. To the Supreme Court. And we won.
Anne: Damn right, you won! It’s called the First Amendment, and there’s a long and well-documented use of Ayahuasca tea in numerous religious paths originating in the Western Hemisphere. I was rooting for Unaio do Vegetal every step of the way.
Ayahuasca: Thank you. Here is how I look at it. You never see DEA agents bursting into a First Communion, confiscating the wine, and arresting the priests for serving alcoholic beverages to minors.
*The Occupy Movement has been training lots of people in the use of consensus decision making. That’s difficult work, both to teach and to learn. In honor of all of those teachers, learners, and users, I offer the following picture by Robert Bissell, entitled, The Decision:
*I had a delightful houseful (I have a tiny cottage, so it doesn’t take too many to make a houseful) of people over for brunch yesterday. Some were long-time friends, in town for OccupyDC, some were family, some were Witches and their spouses, some ( 😉 ) were Landscape Guy. Gemini Rising, there’s not much that I enjoy more than bringing interesting people together, feeding them, and listening to them talk. Consequently, I’d saved a long list of chores to be done today, but, in the end, I slept late, spent extra time on the treadmill, and drove up to Benkhe’s nursery, which I really did not need to do. But, as I said a few months ago: OPG. I bought some begonias for inside the kitchen windowsill, a tiny pot of succulents to keep on my desk all Winter when the sunlight comes as strong as can be through my Northern window, and a big blue pot for my office jade tree, which has needed repotting for some time.
*If I am related (by blood or experience) to you and you are beyond the Veils, this is a gentle reminder that you do NOT have a standing invitation to visit me every night in my dreams. Some of you, I didn’t even really like very much while you were alive, and I’m certain that I never wanted to sleep (in the prosaic (or other) sense) with all ya’ll. It’s going to be a long month. Go bother someone else. And, if you do show up, please remember to tell me where the money is buried, how much you really did love me even though you couldn’t say it, and to give me the recipes for stuffing and sweet pickles. The “you were not a very nice little girl” stuff you can save for L.L. She may care. And she really wasn’t.
+First published in Judith’s book: She Lives! The Return of Our Great Mother.