Tags: feminism

goddess and god

Women in Hinduism, Muriel Spark: The Biography, A spiritual community, sans dogma

Ask the Religion Experts How do the positions of men and women differ in your faith tradition? How are we to understand the seemingly subordinate position that many religions impose upon women?
By Radhika Sekar,Ottawa Citizen, August 22, 2010
"Ancient pagan religions worshipped goddesses and there is evidence suggesting women were highly regarded in these societies. But while goddess worship still flourishes in Hinduism, ironically, the equal status of women did not prevail.
Fortunately, Hindu reformers of the 19th-century recognized that the injustices heaped upon women are social rather than religious and campaigned vigorously against the oppression. In the past decades, the status of Hindu women has undergone three stages; first emancipation, then "equal but complementary" and finally equal in all spheres. But attitudes of several millennia are slow to erase and injustices still abound. However as more women claim their rights, the patriarchal system will give way to a society of parity."
Muriel Spark: The Biography by Martin Stannard

A brilliant, difficult woman in sharp focus
Biography of novelist Muriel Spark, known best for "The Prime of Miss Jean Brody."
Reviewed by Frank Wilson, Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 22, 2010
"She was born Muriel Sarah Camberg on Feb. 1, 1918, in the Morningside district of Edinburgh. Her father was a Scottish Jew. Her mother was English (from Watford) and (at least, nominally) Anglican. Stannard describes the household religion as "pagan Christian Judaism."
Then, in 1951, the Observer announced a contest for a Christmas story. The prize was 250 pounds. There were nearly 7,000 entries. Spark's "The Seraph and the Zambezi" won.

The story displayed all the characteristics of Spark's mature fiction: precision, concision, and her own brand of magical realism.
He certainly makes it clear that as a single woman, she had to fight for what she got. He also makes clear that, for Spark, writing fiction was a vocation in the religious sense. She was prepared to sacrifice anything and anyone on behalf of her art.

What Spark, who always considered herself a poet, wrote about John Masefield's work, of its "kinship with that primitive order of religious revelation," applies equally to her own:

That is the paradox of inspiration - the incredible and the impossible are felt to be present and therefore (for what is more actual than what we feel?) are credible and possible. . . . The poem will have an organic connection with its physical origin, and the pattern of events and their movement at the visionary instant will be translated symbolically until in the end the work itself becomes the real thing and the events the symbols of it."
A spiritual community, sans dogma
by Guy Kovner, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, August 21, 2010
"A stone statue of the elephant-headed Hindu deity Ganesh stands just inside the door to Santa Rosa's Center for Spiritual Living.

The senior minister, Edward Viljoen, a South African native and trained classical musician, is as likely to quote from the Bhagavad Gita as the Bible, and says neither one should be taken literally.

More than 1,000 people call the center, located in a warehouse-sized former roller skating rink on Occidental Road, their spiritual refuge, a place of prayer, study and communal warmth.

Just don't go in expecting pat answers to the elemental questions about the meaning of life, like who are we and why are we here."
goddess and god

Book Review: "Baba Yaga Laid an Egg"

Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugresic and Ellen Elias-Bursac
Which Witch? Reading Dubravka Ugresic's Baba Yaga Laid an Egg
Elizabeth Bachner, Bookslut, Feb 3, 2010
"Baba Yaga, repulsive hag, gatekeeper to a parallel world, half-woman, eater of children, is a frequent character in many folkloric traditions. There’s no better writer to take her on than the brilliantly relentless, sly Dubravka Ugresic -- a writer who bites. A writer who doesn’t have any warm-and-fuzzy side, other than the fact that the targets of her sharp teeth are always more than deserving, and maybe her shrewd sense of humor, although you’d never want to be on the wrong side of that kind of wit. Her study of Baba Yaga -- a triptych of studies, really -- takes on the darkest and most threatening aspects of old-lady fairy tales: the terror of female sexuality, the terror of death, what it means to be classified as a woman in human history. True to form, Ugresic considers contemporary pop culture (Kate Moss, Paris Hilton), rhinoplasty, recent genocides, exile, and dissidence alongside these ancient and timeless panics. She manages a swift, devastating skewer of academia along the way. The paperback came in the mail -- I planned to glance at it before I left -- instead I curled onto a corner of my loveseat and read the whole thing, without stopping for a snack break. There’s a fairy-tale lilt to even the title (I keep turning it into medleys in my head, like, “Baba Yaga wasn’t fuzzy, was she?”), and the study moves along with breathtaking clarity, somehow doing a lot of things at once, hiding everything it conceals and concealing everything it hides.
“I’m convinced that accounts are kept somewhere, that everything is entered on the record somewhere, a painfully huge book of complaints exists somewhere, and the bill will have to be paid. Sooner or later, the time will come.” Women (that “hardly negligible half of humankind, after all”), burka-clad women, madwomen, Indian brides and widows who have been burned alive, raped women, beaten women, slaves, will “finally stop bowing down to men with bloodshot eyes, men who are guilty of killing millions of people, and who still have not had enough. For they are the ones who leave a trail of human skulls behind them, yet people’s torpid imaginations stick those skulls on the fence of a solitary old woman who lives on the edge of the forest.”
I also think about the difference between a witches and women. In babayagology, pretty much any middle-aged or old woman could be a witch, with sagging breasts and whiskers. But, as Pierre de Lancre noted in 1622, around the time of a spate of demonic possessions and obsessions amongst the ladies of France, “’Tis a fairy tale to say all witches be old.” A witch is a woman who is old or young, who is a real, authentic woman or secretly not one (instead a hermaphrodite, or a demon), who is ugly or beautiful or both, who is invisible or who appears. The thing they all have in common is power -- the power of creation, and destruction. The power of metamorphosis. The power to exist, or die. Some of them (like Pupa, the gynecologist in Ugresic’s book) are herbalists, doctors, midwives, or healers. Others create beings out of their own bodies (see p. 31 for an unforgettable spin on this). Some of them must be artists or writers.
The key here is the acknowledgement that creation exists in a “psychic space.” This is where art becomes witchcraft. Whether artists practice a personal glamoury (ala Anais Nin: “What does the world need, the illusion I give in life, or the truth I give in writing”), or mysticism (ala Lispector’s Passion), or uprising (ala Ugresic’s Baba Yaga), they’re doing something that exists outside of their long confinement in categories and stereotypes. Baba Yaga-the-stereotype, unreclaimed, is “a loser… The chief reason for Baba Yaga’s heresy is her great age. Her dissidence only takes place within the system of life-values that we ourselves have made; in other words, we forced her into heresy. Baba Yaga does not live her life; she undergoes it. She is an old maid or a virgin, who serves as a screen for the projection of (castrating) male and (self-punishing) female fantasies. We have stripped away the mere possibility of accomplishment on any level and left her with nothing but a few tricks to scare little children with… Baba Yaga is a surrogate-woman, she is here to get old instead of us, to be old instead of us, to be punished instead of us. Hers is the drama of old age, hers the story of excommunication, forced expulsion, invisibility, brutal marginalization. On this point, our own fear acts like acid, which dissolves actual human dramas into grotesque clownishness.”

But what happens when the real Baba Yaga emerges, her true self reclaimed, acting on the psychic space of the world? That’s when the story begins. Not a lazy folktale, but the dazzlingly mean work of a great writer. “It seems, dear editor, that the moment has come for us to part,” writes Dr. Aba Bagay, her dangerous real name still hiding in its anagram. “I hope the sudden change of tone won’t confuse you: we have sped through several thousand signs together; we have pecked at the grains of language, side by side; they say that reading should be interactive, just like making love…You were given an overdose, I know… you felt cramped, and more cramped, until you almost couldn’t breathe. In a well-made text, the reader should feel like a mouse in cheese. And that’s not how you felt at all, is it?”"
goddess and god

Wiccan and Pagan Event, Christian Unity, Fundamentalist Polygamy

Lifetree Cafe to highlight Wicca, Pagans at event
The Fort Collins Coloradoan, January 29, 2010
"The appeal of Wicca and Paganism will be explored at 7 p.m. Sunday and noon and 7 p.m. Tuesday at Lifetree Cafe.

The program includes filmed interviews with Pagans and a Wicca woman who describes her journey into spell casting.

"People are intrigued with Wicca and witchcraft," said Craig Cable, Lifetree Cafe representative. "But there's a lot of misinformation floating around. We'll hear from people who know the facts - and discover what the appeal is of Wicca and Paganism. Might you have a witch living next door? We'll find out."

Admission to the hour-long event is free. Snacks and beverages are available.

Lifetree Cafe is at 1515 Cascade Ave. in the Group Publishing building.

For more information, call (970) 292-4697."
Full Text of Archbishop Hepworths Letter
Catholic Online, 1/29/2010
"Europe, and the world that Europe colonized, has been shaped in its languages, its politics, its law, as well as its religion, in large part by those animosities. The identity and culture of people and nations have been significantly shaped by religious conflict and division.
The healing of religious division has been one of the most welcome features of 20th century Christianity.
At the same time, Christians in Europe and in the Third World began to experience the challenges of a militant and fundamentalist Islam. Confrontation and persecution began afresh. In Europe and the developed world, a renewed interest in pagan and humanist philosophy, combined with a diminished sense of identity of Christians with their churches led to a dramatic diminishing of religious practice and belief."
Hey! Don't go mixing up my neo-paganism with your fundamentalist monotheism! This "mental burqa" problem is all yours.
The Mental Burqa: National Geographic and Every Woman's Right to Be a Slave
by Jeanette Pryor, David Horowitz's NewsReal Blog (blog), 2010 January 29 ‎
"Today, the radicalized branches of most organized religions promote the “Mental Burqa,” an extremist, neo-pagan concept of the woman and her social significance. This vision considers women, not as an individuals with autonomous significance or unique potential for contribution to society due to their specific talents and aptitudes. They are seen, rather, as contingent, interchangeable, biological functionaries, mindless generatives. They are feared as potential intruders in the “domain of men,” as sexual distractions and, in cases of “aberration,” as superior intellects threatening man’s right to governance.

The Evangelical patriarchy movement, many Traditionalist Catholics, the radicalized Muslims, the Ultra Orthodox Jews, and the Fundamentalist Mormons are all weaving the “Mental Burqa.” Pretending to counter Feminism, it is this error’s mirror version of the Marxist construct of gender struggle."

Pryor is upset about this National Geographic article, which she quotes out of context. I found the article very balanced.
The Polygamists
By Scott Anderson, February 2010
"Yet Melinda's defense of Jeffs underscores one of the most curious aspects of the polygamous faith: the central role of women in defending it. This is not new. In Brigham Young's day a charity rushed to Utah to establish a safe house for polygamous women seeking to escape this "white slavery"; that house sat virtually empty. Today FLDS women in the Hildale–Colorado City area have ample opportunity to "escape"—they have cell phones, they drive cars, there are no armed guards keeping them in—yet they don't.

Undoubtedly one reason is that, having been raised in this culture, they know little else. Walking away means leaving behind everything: the community, one's sense of security, even one's own family. Carolyn Jessop, the plural wife of Merril Jessop who did leave the FLDS, likens entering the outside world to "stepping out onto another planet. I was completely unprepared, because I had absolutely no life skills. Most women in the FLDS don't even know how to balance a checkbook, let alone apply for a job, so contemplating how you're going to navigate in the outside world is extremely daunting."

It would seem there's another lure for women to stay: power. The FLDS women I spoke with tended to be far more articulate and confident than the men, most of whom seemed paralyzed by bashfulness. It makes sense when one begins to grasp that women are coveted to "multiply and replenish the earth," while men are in extraordinary competition to be deemed worthy of marriage by the prophet. One way to be deemed worthy, of course, is to not rock the boat, to keep a low profile. As a result, what has all the trappings of a patriarchal culture, actually has many elements of a matriarchal one.

There are limits to that power, of course, for it is subject to the dictates of the prophet. After hearing Melinda's stout defense of Jeffs, I ask what she would do if she were reassigned.

"I'm confident that wouldn't happen," she replies uneasily.

"But what if it did?" I ask. "Would you obey?"

For the only time during our interview, Melinda grows wary. Sitting back in her chair, she gives her head a quarter turn to stare at me out of the corner of one eye."