Goddess Consciousness


When it’s cold I put on a long, wool cape and take my drum to my deck where I dance, my head sandwiched by headphones blaring Celtic songs. I hope my neighbors hear me drumming and dancing, twirling the hem of my cape up to the crisp night and the moon’s edge, out of focus in my crone’s eye. I pant hard, and hear the breath expelling itself into the darkness, or onto the moonbeam.

Something in me wants them to see and hear this spectacle, to shock them, to declare the “good news,” a fresh, hopeful vision that will pull their lives from despair. I want them to know that the world isn’t boring after all, but that all their old religious assumptions are boring. I’m an evangelist of goddess consciousness.

I’ve been brought to this by books, epiphanies, speeches, moon dances, and conferences. My epiphanies were vivid and undeniable — my first experience with the goddess occurred in 1965 — but it was many years later that I found St. Paul’s Hungry Mind bookstore, where I first encountered the gospel according to Stone, Eisler, and Adler.

I read dozens of books. Eventually I was writing to the University of Chicago for source books, or searching the British Museum for anything about goddesses or women in prehistory. Now I receive hundreds of catalogs in the mail, from the Jung Institute, to Lady Slipper, to esoteric philosophical societies. I’ve been found and listed.

Soon I was bearing witness to the events of my youth when the goddess came to me in a cornfield, or in a dream of witches with fire and a copper Negro bell. I wrote poems about that sound for years — and tried to find it again.

I built a place where I could have a fire in the wild, and there I now beat my drum. I know I am only a spiritual immigrant to this forest, because my own roots are Celtic, and these are the lands of the Native Americans. I don’t pretend to be Indian, but I would respect and learn from them, in order to examine my own roots, my culture that was indigenous and more like the Indians, before the Romans, Christians, nations. My people were conquered through westward expansion, just like theirs.

These are Native American woodlands, near White Earth, where Frances Dinsmore did her study of Indian herbal knowledge in the 1920s so it wouldn’t be lost. We study her journals to recapture some deep, gnawing memory of our own great-grandmothers and their magical gardens. We know, in our collective unconscious, our past lives, our ancient memories, that they once prevailed — those women of the moon and night.

We know they were persecuted, since they held the sacred knowledge of the older Pagan religion that Christianity defeated. I’ve wondered why that was necessary — why the two different belief systems couldn’t co-exist. There was a time when the Pagans persecuted the Christians and a time when it went the other way. Ultimately, the Christians prevailed and all but eliminated Paganism from Europe. I find fault in both groups for the conflict.

I find the root of their conflict in the concept of totalitarian, patriarchal, hierarchal systems with their need to believe in “the one way,” or the all-powerful true god Yahweh, Zeus, Allah, or the Fuehrer, or the Christ, or the Ayatollah Both Christianity and Paganism were totalitarian during the times of their persecution of each other. (Earlier pre-Greek southern Europeans and northwestern European Pagans had periods when they were not totalitarian! patriarchal, but the Greco-Roman cultures were polluted with it.)

This fundamentalist, male-god-dominated fascism has deep roots in prehistory in primarily hunting, male-bond cultures, which later became nomadic, with their economic systems based on the animal herd, just as the goddess and her sacred sexuality had roots in primarily food gathering societies, which later became agricultural, sedentary cultures with provision-based economic systems.

The nomads, in times of scarcity, plundered the provisional cultures, sacked their storehouses, raped the women, killed their children – they were brutal, as life was harsh in the north, their place of origin. About 68,000 years ago, they came down and took over- stayed. The patriarchal revolution of Abraham’s time was a cultural blending and obliteration, as the two types of economies gave birth to “civilization,” and life became more complex and conflicting. During the past 5,000 years, perhaps the gentler people of the earth were simply defenseless against their plundering, murderous oppression. Well, the times, they are a’changin’.

Riane Eisler, in her monumentally researched book, The Chalice and the Blade, writes that we are experiencing a “paradigm shift,” in which we are noticing dramatic, worldwide changes in our beliefs of “how things are.” Our most basic assumptions are being challenged. An example of this is in our understanding of hierarchy.

In my 1960 sociology class we examined the Catholic Church as a pyramid, with the single most powerful Catholic at the top and the least powerful, most numerous Catholics at the bottom, and several ranks in the middle which became more powerful and less numerous as they rose toward the top. Our teacher made the statement that all organizations follow this hierarchy, and it’s always been that way. For many years I carried this along as a basic assumption — hierarchy, for all its faults, was the only way we could organize ourselves.

Recently, the network as an organizational system has begun to challenge this 5,000-year-old, male-hunter-bond-group structure, and it’s likely to prevail in the future. I no longer believe that hierarchy is the only way, although it is still with us in deadly force.

Futurist Hazel Henderson has corned the term, “heterarchy.” The best I can describe its meaning is to consider the human hand, which works because it has five fingers, each with a different job to do. In a heterarchy, as in a computer network, specialists interact on equal terms, interdependent, individually empowered, all necessary. The concept of “power over” (as examined by Starhawk in many of her writings) is obsolete. “Power within” is prevalent.

All that considered, we now have an alternate in the way power is distributed. This is only one example of the paradigm shift.

In every area we can see that there are new ways in which to perceive our existence. In many places, not only in organizational systems, but in religion, medicine, psychology, ecology, and business, “The Goddess” is returning. There’s not enough space here to illustrate how far-reaching this phenomenon is. Some would call this the religious component of feminism rather feminist movement is one element in the return of the divine feminine.

Is she the Whore of Babylon described in the Book of Revelation? Exactly. John had the prejudices of his ancient herdsman heritage. If he saw the end of the world, he saw it as a return of the Queen of Heaven with her sacred sexuality, whom his society had worked so hard to obliterate. He looked for the return of Christ in all his glory. He didn’t realize at the time that Jesus was a Pagan and probably got a lot of his ideas about love and kindness from the gentle goddess-worshipping people he knew growing up in Glastonbury.

Goddess consciousness allows me to have these thoughts. I’ve been freed from the fundamentalist Christian traps, and now I can truly embrace Jesus in the Goddess, from whence he came.

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Sandra Barnhouse
Sandra Barnhouse who lives in St. Cloud, Minnesota, periodically opens the Goddess' Reading Room in her home for alternative religious meetings characterized by elements of Wicca, Jungian psychology, Gnosis, art history, and ancient Celtic beliefs. She currently is working on a book about goddess archetypes for adolescents.


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