The theme of each Goddess festival held the gathering together as a whole, and from there, it flowered into a wild diversity of lectures, ceremonies, workshops, dancing, sharing groups.
For example, in one of the programs we were introduced to Goddess Yoga, to the Sewing and the Dancing of our Hands, and to Birth-giving as a self-experienced Initiation to Motherhood. In the meadow, we danced Oriental Dance on Roses, and walked the Flower Labyrinth of Self Discovery. We learned of better alternatives to democracy, realizing that democracy will always allow the majority to over-rule the dreams of minority groups or individuals; instead, we (and society) might engage in giving support to and finding ways for everybody’s dreams to become physical. We heard about the Ancient Women Culture in Crete that has never died out, but lives on, to this day, underground. We stepped into our Divine Feminine Power though our Womb-Flower; and we learned about practical Green Economy; we used our Powerful Voices; and we manifested our sisterhood symbolized by Tortoise and Snake; we experienced Shamanic Communication with Plants; we learned about the dramatic change following the Minoan and Mycenae cultures colliding; we let our Dancing Feet Bless the Earth and we made Fire Ceremonies.
The variety was immense, the meetings intense, and the contact-making and networking became life-important—long-lasting friendships were born. What each person’s heart burned for became visible, and exquisite gifts were interchanged.
As for the keystone inclusiveness, we held a strong wish that everyone who regarded herself or himself as being engaged in goddess work, whatever it meant to them, should feel both at ease and included in whatever activity they might want to participate in during the festival. That meant that any monopoly of the majority or any pre-established groups (of whatever kind), for once, would not set the agenda for any part of the festival. We wanted no pre-set dogmas for intellectual performances, or for bodily expression or spiritually approach; we wanted no inner and outer circles, no professionals and lay-people, no consumers and serving and practical working people, no hierarchy. We wanted each participant to feel at ease giving their contribution, and not have to adjust to any group standards.
KEYSTONE: PRACTICAL WORK
We asked everybody to volunteer, choosing from a list a few practical things they could do during the festival. This allowed us to also share the practical work. Carrying out practical work together is a wonderful way of making friends, too! After many previous years of organizing 10-day International Pilgrimages for 300 people, using this concept, I had good reasons to believe it would work with 50 people at the Goddess Festivals. It worked fine.
To be able to truly share with others, and give one another support and appreciation for the work everybody saw themselves engaged in, our work for the life-giving feminine in the world today, there was a call for a wide understanding of the term, goddess—and, at the same time, there was no specific need for a commonly agreed upon definition. Instead, the fruits and experiences harvested by each person, while carrying out their mission of life, became the core focus. All of us gradually came to realize how we all, in a hundred ways, were engaged in the healing of Mother Earth.
For me as an organizer, I was blessed to see Feminist Activists, Green World Women, Women for Peace, Goddess Worshiping Women, Belly Dancers, Storytellers, university-skilled Archeologists, Historians and Religious Professors, Shaman Practitioners, Musicians, Singers and Actors joining hands, tying knots in the net, and making friends—while dancing or engaging in deep conversations on a bench in the sun or by the late-night fire.
DIGGING: ANOTHER PASSION
On a personal note, from my fundamental understanding of theological studies, the epithet goddess has inspired me to reach further back, investigating the pre-Viking culture of Scandinavian, hoping to come closer to the earlier concept.
My journey began when I almost tripped over the oldest, but then unknown, runes in Scandinavia, dating 200-400CE, carved into the holy, rock-art-covered Bronze-Age mountain at Himmelstalund, bearing the ancient female name: Braido.
Presumably, these rock-carved runes provide a very early testimony to the existence of a Scandinavian Bride of Spring, paralleling the Celtic Bridgit.
The work on Braido gradually revealed that she is part of the ancient trinity: Maiden, Mother, Crone. Stating this, I started to find numerous traces to the Scandinavian Källing (Old Cailleach) and to the Mother/Omma. The gift, in the initial phase, of being able to aligned and parallel my findings with what has survived, particularly in the Celtic tradition in the British Isles, but also in the German tradition, was the only way for me to make the fragments, bits, and pieces comprehensible and to get an idea of the bigger picture they were part of.
This path led me further and deeper into the culture of the Vanirs, before that culture was syncretized into the later Asir-belief of the Vikings (from 500 CE onwards). The early Vanir belief indicates a matrilineal culture, seemingly encompassing a mythical reality, a term I will explain below. The culture seems to have honored the elements: water, fire, earth, and air. Archeological findings, high on mountain sites, show deep layers of ashes from centuries of huge bonfires; in water areas, the most exquisite gold works ever manufactured are found; not dealing with writing their air bore wisdom (visdom) was orally transmitted through songs (vise) and legends, some retold to this day; and most of all, Mother Earth, the giver of all life, was honored!
THE WISH BEHIND IT ALL
The dream and the motor behind the organizing of meetings, networking, and sharing among people doing goddess work that we have engaged in over the years, as well as my further studies concerning the early Scandinavian non-patriarchal culture, naturally includes both a social aspect and a private aspect for me.
The social aspect is in my heart a deep-felt wish to contribute to the goddess world now growing—or maybe I would rather call it the re-claiming of the Mother World. Being a Westerner, having been imbued with patriarchal thinking, it has been vital for me that a Mother World did not copy or follow hierarchical patterns and values—the dualistic idea holding above and below, right and wrong, favorited and unwanted, somebodies and nobodies. The intention of the festivals was to mirror another concept.
Concerning the private aspect, through practical experience, I came to realize that the Western concept of god cannot be changed just by endowing him with a female face. For my own part, goddess needed to differ in an absolute way from a reversed, but traditional concept of an “invisible mother in a parallel universe, intervening in the physical world when we pray for help,” etc. I felt a need to disentangle myself from the Christian and patriarchal perceptions of god, gods, and goddesses—a construction of ideas only some 5000 years old, neither fundamental nor universal. Humans have not always believed in gods intervening in the physical world.
I set off on a quest to find out what goddess could mean outside Western concepts.
Some indispensable guides helped me finally understand the physical world as natural, all the way through.
Michael Harner’s book, The Way of the Shaman, helped clarify the distinction between other “worlds”, or maybe rather other states of consciousness. He claims that, in addition to our ordinary state of consciousness (OSC), we experience other states of consciousness as dreams, mythology, meditation, and shamanic work (SSC)—all of which are “real” on their own terms. We keep them separate and do not inter-mix them. That means that we do not talk about a dream, a shamanic journey, or a myth as if they were an everyday event in the physical world—and visa-versa.
I also feel deeply indebted to my friend, Louise Bäckman, Professor Emeritus of Samí culture, who is also Samí. When discussing the Samí world of believing, she repeatedly states for a fact that the Samí have no gods.
She states that Samí figures like Madrakka, Sarakka, Oksakka, and Juksakka, belong to the mythological reality, a term coined by Bäckman, and these figures are not goddesses, as Westerners will most often label them.
The Samí do not worship any invisible gods, or idols in the physical world, or the sun or moon; they do not give offerings.
They do not give in order to manipulate “gods” giving them something in return—not even help.
Instead, they relate to all the living entities as friends—to trees, mountains, reindeers, and birds. They honor the physical world and live on a friendly basis with all the living, relating and communicating— sharing what they have and giving thanks.
The Samí worldview excludes an objectifying of the physical world.
The Samí worldview also excludes hierarchical thinking and any “parallel, invisible, and superior divine reality overlapping the physical world”—ideas so well-known and well-integrated in Western patriarchal religions.
They acknowledge “the other worlds”—the dream-world, the mythological world, the shamanistic world, etc.—each on its own terms. But they keep them separate. When in trouble, they rely on physical friends (humans, birds, animals), incorporating practical and mythological teachings and joiks, shamanic journeys, etc.
People in the wilds are self-reliant and autonomic, not subordinated and dependent on invisible divinities to take action.
A worldview comparable to the Samí could be true also for other indigenous cultures, including the ancient Vanir-belief in Scandinavia. The two cultures lived peacefully as neighbors on the Scandinavian Peninsula for millennia; the Samí inhabiting mostly woods and mountains and the Vanir-believers living along water areas, shores, and rivers.
Realizing this was a great relief, leading to my present understanding of goddess within sharing and honoring concepts. Next, it opened my eyes to the many orally transmitted legends and myths in Scandinavia, intimately familiar to all Swedish people as vivid cultural goods, telling about the guardians of the forests, lakes, mountains, and meadows; and the many nature beings, keepers of harmony and balance—in the physical reality and in the mythical reality. The late elitist Asir world does not embrace the nature beings. And whereas most Western people will regard civilized areas as their home, the Swedish still consider forests and nature to be their true home, to where one may always return if driven into a corner and in trouble! The Vanir influence never left.
At Christmas, our sharing of rice pudding with the little people will mirror this, as will our shout-of-warning when pouring hot water on the ground. Children, if lost, have been taught to choose a tree and hug it, and stay there talking to it until found by grown-ups. In the woods, many will ask permission and give thanks in a mumbling, and most will leave the biggest berries or mushrooms, as they may be the kings and queens of their people. Everybody is brought up observing simple rules concerning never to hurt rocks, trees, or plants with knives or fire. This last part is well-integrated into Swedish legislation, the Allemansrätten—a gesture of profound love for nature.
I feel convinced that goddess and the Mother World we long for is about sharing life on a horizontal level. And with help from both ancient cultures, the world’s indigenous cultures still surviving, and with the help from one another, we will re-learn to communicate, share, and sing with all the living on this beautiful, abundant, and amazing Mother Earth.
This is my most holy dream to which I dedicate my goddess work.
(See Prose Part 1)