Witches and Pagans, Women in European Folk Religion
So I drove four hours yesterday to listen to Max Dashu speak of her new book Witches and Pagans: Women in European Folk Religion, 700–1100 (2016) which is the first volume of a planned 16-volume series called Secret History of the Witches. It’s nothing short of revolutionary. She’s been rewriting ‘his’tory giving a fuller picture of not just one side of the story.
There’s very little written about women in European folk religion. She’s been ‘excavating’ the knowledge through reading penitential writing done by the monks in monasteries: the very people who were trying to eradicate the heathen ways of these women and pagans in general so she does a lot of reading in between the lines which I find fascinating.
I’m also finding it really difficult to write this blog, because I’m in awe of the amount of knowledge. I feel like I’ve just been given this peek into ‘you matter’. Women were strong and capable and wise and valued and needed throughout history not just as a rib accoutrement to Adam and accused of being predisposed to evil.
I keep coming back to that word ‘witch’. I let it sit on my tongue, roll around and feel into it. With my Catholic upbringing, I am having to overcome so much fear related to that word.
I feel so betrayed that I have inherited this feeling towards a word when a fuller picture is that my ancestors honored springs, stones, forests and trees and that ‘witches’ were healers. In my European ancestral heritage, there were sweat houses, smudging, chanting and herbal lore. What a thrill that is to really let it sink in that I’m not ‘appropriating’ Native American or other indigenous cultures, but rediscovering my own.
Okay, I’ve been hearing this as I’ve been listening these past few years, but to be presented with so much ‘proof’ … chapters about the powerful Nordic women buried with shamanic distaffs, about ‘outsitting’ – going outside and sitting in nature in order to connect with divinity, (hey, I do this, too!) and more …
I feel the witch in me coming to life. There’s still a lot of Christian in me, too. It’s ironic in that as I leave ‘traditional Christianity’, I actually feel closer to Jesus. But I feel my edges rounding out and my spirit lifting. I grew up with this ‘flat’ picture of Catholic feminine views – Mother Mary and Whore Mary to be ‘honored’, but for what?? They were such lifeless holograms. Where were their ‘stories’??
I’m learning their stories!
And do you know what shocked me the most from last night? How many people were there to listen to Max. Perhaps a dozen. This wealth of knowledge. This peek into these world changing perspectives. Where were you????
If you did not know about the event, that is the purpose of my computer app: The Divine Feminine App – to spread knowledge about these types of events. Check it out, post them and spread them!! It is a fantastic way to organize these empowering events.
But go! Listen! Keep your mind open and listening and learning. Do you know what scares me the most about the political election? The ‘fear’ surrounding it and the way people have retreated. It has become very difficult to even have a conversation about it as people have become so emotional. Fear immobilizes people and/or makes them do looney things.
But take your’SELF’ and your EGO out of the equation and see the bigger picture. We have come so far, so very far. Learn your stories. Tell your stories. If only to grow beyond them.
From a modern monk George Fowler and his book Dance of a Fallen Monk:
What is the basic insight and experience at the core of all religious traditions? What lies beyond religious stories, beneath diverse doctrines, at the heart of all myths? It is what mystics and poets have tried to share from their highest moments: the simplest fact that everything is a facet of an ultimate One. Things are many, but they are all expressions – outpressings – of One Being, One Existence, One Life. Logic can play with this realization, but it cannot demonstrate it. The only way it can be known is by being experienced. That is why most theologians, who deal with words and logic, and the managers of institutionalized religions, who have made their primary task the guarding of familiar myths and formulas, deny that the underlying basis of all religion is humankind’s effort to recall and touch the One. They disown such a realization because it comes only from an inner experience, one that they have not taken time to search for and find. This experience, nevertheless, awaits everyone and will one day be the universal realization of a grown-up human race.
*Bringing back Nordic folk traditions such as yoiking … Mari Boine, the title track of ‘Gula Gula’ asks the listener to remember ‘that the earth is our mother’.
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