Notes for My Talk on Goddesses and Today’s Woman

Welcome, Friends. This is officially a Unitarian meeting, and I welcome you who are here for whatever reasons you came, but I suspect it is because of the occasion, and not because of the organization that spawned it today. With that thought in mind, I decided the program will precede the business meeting, and anyone who wishes may feel free to leave when the chalice light is extinguished. This group will celebrate the completion of its eleventh year next month, and we have a few business items to discuss.

The symbol of a Unitarian/Universalist meeting is the lighted chalice. Today is a special day for our Jewish friends and Miriam has offered to acknowledge their celebration as she lights our chalice.

To quote Dr. Robert Odin, the purpose of religion is to answer the questions: Where did we come from? Where are we going? and Why are we here?

Some peoples, including the early Mesopotamians, say we appear at conception, we grow, we die, and that’s it. The Egyptians refused to accept that. They reasoned the sun rises, shines for a day, and then sets. But it is not dead. It rises the next morning to shine another day—and another; therefore, people, also, can rise and live another life. The Christians also have an elaborate construct of what happens to people after death. The Moslems and the Hindus also have their versions, as do many other religions throughout the ages. The Unitarian/Universalist position is that you can believe what you want about:

— where we come from,

— what happens to us after death, and

— whether there is a God,

but what is important is why we are here, and what we do with our lives.

Just as we each have our own belief systems and our own personalities for how we run our lives, we also find that we exhibit different personality traits, depending on our situation. At home we may take a dominant role, but in the work place a subservient position. When we are at a party at someone else’s home we may be vivacious, and relaxed, but in our own home be anxious and controlling.

This behavior also obtains when we are in different groups within our society. Most of you know one of the most important facets of my life is the study and activities related to ethnic music and dance. This passion has caused me to undertake a lot of foreign travel and maintain a network of friends throughout the world and well as throughout this country.

Mother Goddess from Çatal Hüyük, Turkey,  neolithic age, about 5500-6000 BCE
Mother Goddess from Çatal Hüyük, Turkey,
neolithic age, about 5500-6000 BCE

Ten years ago I decided to take a thirty-day music and dance tour of Turkey. My friends, Lew and Melissa, whom many of you have met, also signed on for the trip. It was marvelous. The reason I’m including this part of the picture is so that you can better understand why I went on the “In Search of the Goddess” tour recently.

Lew and Melissa had been on another tour of Turkey three years previously and were enthralled with the country and the folklore. The following year, 1987, a book was published: The Chalice and the Blade, by Riane Eisler.

This book was hailed as a highly significant view of human evolution. In essence it tells a new story of our cultural origins. It claims that wars and the “war of the sexes” are neither divinely nor biologically ordained. It provides verification that a better future is possible—and that better future is in fact firmly rooted in the drama of what actually happened in our past.

Melissa had read this book in the interim between the two trips. She felt it offered dramatically significant ideas, and was taken by its stories of the Neolithic sites in the plains of Anatolia, now modern Turkey; especially exciting was the discovery and excavation of the town of Çatal Hüyük. The knowledge unearthed at this site showed a stability and continuity of growth over many thousands of years for progressively more advanced Goddess-worshiping cultures.

This was also a time at the height of the Womens’ Movement in the United States. Hundreds of thousands women read this book and used Eisler’s ideas as a foundation of their new belief systems.

I wish to add here that our own Ed Hibler published his book The Mortification of the American Woman a few years later, using Eisler’s book as a resource. Ed starts his book “In the beginning God was a woman,” and asks why we don’t start the Lord’s Prayer with “Our Mother, who art in heaven”?

What happened on that 1989 music and dance tour of Turkey was that Melissa had met the leader of her tour three years earlier and suggested to him that he emphasize the ideas of the Anatolian Goddesses as a special tour, and there would be people who would really appreciate that part of their experiences. Resit told her that if she would collect the people for the tour, they could co-lead the tour. She was excited and delighted.

The upshot was that she did that annually for the ensuing nine years. Was I interested in going on a tour with a bunch of women trying to prove their worth by establishing there were Goddesses in the Neolithic period? No way! But here came 1999. Melissa said that this would be her last Goddess trip, that we would see the eclipse of the sun, her physicist husband Lew would provide all the information and equipment for that experience. Three others of her family members were going, all of whom I knew and had spent Thanksgivings with for several years. With Lew and the Eclipse several others of our friends signed on, and I decided to treat it as a party, and go and have a good time. And I did!

The first day out a woman sat next to me to get acquainted and told me that I was a crone! That felt a little uncomfortable. She explained that women have three phases of their lives: Maiden, Mother, and Crone. To be a crone was to be revered and respected, and looked up to for wisdom. In my dictionary crone is defined as a hag, and crony is described as a friend, especially of long standing. Is this one other instance of the same word used to be derogatory when applied to women, and positive when applied to men?

Back to the Goddesses. Riane Eisler discusses the findings in Çatal Hüyük and that was the archaeological site that we visited. It was hours from nowhere.

Our question for today, if you want to pursue it, is “Why does this make a difference in today’s world?” I do believe there is a group of women who pursue these ideas, and are based at the Serendipity store in downtown Mariposa. How would acknowledging our God to be a Goddess make a difference to each of us? Who would be willing to make the experiment?

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