Spending two days on retreat with Gestare last week, a women’s art collective I co-founded 5 years ago. Gestare is an artful and nourishing part of my life. Though it has been an at times challenging over-commitment for me, amidst my time-pressured life of work and mothering young family. But I have hung onto and in our artistic collaborations, knowing I want to be there. And wow, have we been busy, in a steady-progress-kinda-way, when you see what we have been up to over these years. Continue reading
This morning I hiked up the mountain of St. Baume, through the beautiful, ancient Druid forest, to Mary Magdalene’s cave where she spent the last 30 years of her life as a contemplative. The hike was wonderful, good for my soul to be in such an old forest. The view from the cave was sublime. As was the sheer rock face that rises from where forest meets ancient stone stairs, winding up to the cave entrance.
Amazing, I am holed up (as in: a refuge, a cave) for three days in St. Maximin, an ancient little village holding the gothic basilica of Mary Magdalene. Her relics, especially her skull, are on display in the crypt, sheathed in gold, and held by golden angels. The small stone entrance to this crypt is inviting, a quiet place to dwell underground with her mysteries. Horseshoe carvings, all over the walls that go down into the crypt, are inscribed into the stone by pilgrims past.
This cathedral housing her mortal remains is run down, in need of repair. It is like a relic itself, with its crumbling stone facade. But there is the beauty of what is falling down, the ancient feeling of such a place.
A wonderful, magical weekend. Spent with sister-scholars, friends, mentors and elders from the Women’s Spirituality Masters of Arts program in the San Francisco Bay area, a trip I have made many times, down the great fault-line running through the mountainous, volcano-strewn landscape of the West Coast, from British Columbia to California. My very own pilgrimage route to be inspired/inspirited in the close conversations and practices I experience there, a weekend spent with colleagues I love and admire, who have supported the many years of my developing voice, scholarship, and art. A community Continue reading
I am a scholar, artist, and mother with a working background in midwifery and birth care. I have a life-long concern for women’s empowerment, in particular during pregnancy, birth, early mothering and beyond. I am inspired to re-weave human/ecology interconnections by awakening my own and others’ sense of the sacred. I have long associated with ecofeminist philosophies, and experience a devotional interconnection with the Earth as Mother. I am passionate about freeing creative expression through the arts and co-creating ritual practices. Continue reading
Mothering and healing spiral: I had robust health into my late-30s. My health carried me on many travels, including to San Francisco for graduate studies, and into my work of mothering a young family while pursuing scholarship. Yet as I neared the end of my PhD, something shifted. Symptoms began to take over and direct my life. I could no longer do it all. I lived through excruciating daily limits of fatigue, physical symptoms, and psychic pain. I could not walk for long, or barely even think, and had to surrender to my limitations. All my years of women’s spirituality came to bear in this new shape of my life through illness. I became newly aware of difficult inner and outer pressures. I had always been mindful of how my yearning towards a life-rooted spirituality of the Mother is closely linked to my need for healing, based in experiences of my own motherline. As part of my recovery, I had to further face and continue to heal trauma I experienced as a child and young adult. Thus, a small thread of gentleness, that I struggled to nurture, was how Goddess came to me in new ways. I had to take it very easy on myself through inner kindness. My home and family was my resting place and solace. Gratitude for my loved ones grew immensely.
Women’s spirituality spiral: Further reading and experience led me to pursue a Master of Arts degree in Women’s Spirituality in San Francisco, California. At the time, these unorthodox women- and Goddess- centred studies felt beyond me. I had young children and a low income. But, I was internally very pulled to go. Such intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually compelling studies answered a deep yearning within me. In San Francisco, goddess feminism, activism, and spirituality flowered and bloomed. This grew from a commitment to social gender justice and activism in the American women’s movement, transforming society through women’s spiritual leadership. Thus, I studied with “bona fide” foremothers of women’s and goddess spirituality. In this powerful women-centred curriculum, we read feminist scholarship as much as created rituals and art, all while conducting our own research. The scholars and activists included Vicki Noble, Chief Luisah Teish, Z. Budapest, Judy Grahn, Dianne Jenett, Elinor Gadon, and others. I needed and valued their wise mentorship, as they became my elders. And I met friends and colleagues who nourish me to this day.
I love this question: “How Goddess Feminism, Activism, and Spirituality?” These are continuing threads woven throughout my daily life. I weave these threads through midwifery, the arts, scholarship, and writing, and especially as the mother of two daughters. In spiral-movements, I yearn for integration of all aspects of my life, seeking connection of inner and outer worlds, body, mind, and spirit. I say “spiral movements” because I love spirals. They are such a dynamic, ancient Goddess symbol of the life force and awakening growth. Spirals express fluid transformations and regeneration of all through large and small cycles of life on Earth. Goddess spirituality is my way to live from the knowledge that there is no division between the sacred and the profane. In these still patriarchal times, with ignorance of our human depths and capabilities, and ongoing devastations of war, violence, and loss of ecology, “How Goddess” is my spiral journey of making-sacred. I follow my divine yearning through activism, sisterhood, healing, scholarship, and mothering. Continue reading
Alone in myself with my baby in the water tub, the water guided me into a deepening trance of ‘open and give over mamma,’ holding and relaxing me in its fluid substance. I was a babe held in the womb of some Great Goddess, even as I held a babe in the amniotic waters of my own womb. And open I did. Instinctively my hands were working with each sensation, palms up and open, hands out of the water and raised, like a salutation to the Goddess herself, ‘yes I feel your presence Mother as I am Mother now.’ These actions were what came to me in the tub as I did what is known as ‘active labour.’ I would more describe it as a multidimensional dance of the universe, a meditation beyond meditations. I found myself hissssss-ing as each sensation built low down and then up along the sides of my womb. There was no mistaking this ssssssnake-like ssssssound that guided my body into birth, my palms stretching into an ancient salutation of forces greater than myself yet no bigger than myself.
Nané Jordan, Birthdance, Earthdance, 2002, p.
‘Thinking’ about birth: Some critical signposts along the thea-logical way
“Birth was at one time important in a symbolic way to theological visions, mostly with a view to depreciating women’s part, and rendering it passive and even virginal, while paternity took on divine trappings.”
(Mary O’Brien, 1981, p. 20)
Thealogian Carol Christ identifies how the Western philosophical and theological focus on mortality/immortality ultimately rejects and ignores birth giving (2003, p. 207). Gestation and birth is the metaphorical ‘blind spot’ of textual inquiries that focus on a singular figure of a male/paternal God. Thealogian Naomi Goldenberg calls this the “patriarchal lie… the denial of the womb that gives birth” (in Christ, 1997, p. 67). This lie, denial or ignorance of birth within the Western historical trajectory is rooted, “replayed, reenacted… and taught” (Christ, 1997, p. 67) in complex historical, socio-cultural and spiritual terrains of the human dialectic of male/female embodiment. Birth-giving capacities of women have been regulated and simultaneously denigrated in patriarchal family systems and accompanying religious traditions. Asserting the necessary physical materiality of life as having sacred dimensions, eco-feminist writers recognize the denigration of female, birth-giving bodies by pointing towards a dualistic and hierarchical equation of women with body-nature-Earth, and men with mind-culture-Spirit (Diamond & Orenstein 1990; Mellor, 1997).
Drawing from philosopher Luce Irigaray’s Elemental Passions to reclaim a fluid logic beyond such binaries, Hanneke Canters and Grace Jantzen (2005) call for a “feminist revival of birth for a life of flourishing” (Anderson, 2007, p. 2). Birth, as an activity and experience, is inseparable from human culture and consciousness (O’Brien, 1981). In the words of womanist midwife and scholar, Arisika Razak, “birth is the primary numinous event. It is our major metaphor for life and coming to being” (1990, p. 168).
I am a scholar, artist, and mother with a working background in midwifery and birth care. I have a life-long concern for women’s empowerment, in particular during pregnancy, birth, early mothering and beyond. I am inspired to re-weave human/ecology interconnections by awakening my own and others’ sense of the sacred. I have long associated with ecofeminist philosophies, and experience a devotional interconnection with the Earth as Mother. I am passionate about freeing creative expression through the arts and co-creating ritual practices.
My doctoral studies were in the field of Education at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. I completed a Master’s degree in Women’s Spirituality at New College of California in San Francisco. Going back and forth from Vancouver to California over a period of years was an ongoing ‘pilgrimage’ for me, into studies of the divine feminine, and S/he of so many names and places. These travels, as well as attending scholarly conferences, fed wonderful connections with women’s spirituality and goddess studies folk in the Bay area and beyond, and opened and confirmed my own Goddess and earth-based spiritual yearnings.
[Author’s Note: I seek to reclaim a wider understanding of birth in society-at-large and in human spirituality. Birth mysteries have been invariably silenced, lost, or co-opted towards metaphors that disconnect our birth-y origins from actual mothers and women. As a foundational experience of human life, re-visioning birth can provide socially transformative values. I want to open a birth-based dialogue into the deep Goddess energies of S/he, from Her powers of creation and renewal through female generated being. Understanding Goddess—and goddessing—as a verb and a process, is enriched by honouring the inherently female-originated condition, wisdom, and value of the human process of gestation and birth.]
Birth invites mystery into our lives if we can, or want to, receive that. Wound up into that mystery is personal and societal fear of death, which birth…stands at the doorway of. So much of medical birth practice is about diverting this mystery into knowable forms with time-tables, charts, clocks and interventions. Yet birth is older and wiser than our clocks and technological tricks. Every birth unfolds in its own way in its own time. Birth inherently asks a mystery of us, women in particular. This is a true gift of listening to its calling, allowing the mystery to be present and unfold in our lives as the new being emerges into our arms. (Nané Jordan, Birthdance, Earthdance, 2002, p. 116)
I have a life-long passion to wander in the field of “birth” and birth-giving through women- and love-centred practices and philosophies. I have variously pursued my birth-calling as a midwifery student and lay midwife, a birth advocate/activist and post-partum caregiver, as a ritualist, and through writing and scholarship that highlights women’s voices and experiences. Continue reading