Do Women’s Circles Actually Matter?

“We need rituals of memory…because a political movement, the public policy and tactics of our movement, does not come from our ideas, but from the bloody and joyful substance of our lives. We need to be conscious about what our lives have been, to grieve and to honor our strength, in order to break out of the past into the future.”

–Minnie Bruce Pratt

Several years ago, I felt incredibly depressed and discouraged after reading some horrifying articles about incredible, unimaginable violence and brutality against women in Papua New Guinea who are accused of being witches. I read this article while also reading a book about human trafficking around the world. It brought me back to a conversation I had with a friend before one of our women’s circle gatherings…does it really matter that we do this or is it a self-indulgence? We concluded that it does matter. That actively creating the kind of woman-affirming world we want to live in is a worthy, and even holy, task. I’ve successfully created a women’s subculture for myself and those around me that comes from an ecofeminist worldview. However, is that actually creating change? Or, is that just operating within the confines of a damaging, restrictive, and oppressive social and political structure? Last time I facilitated a Cakes for the Queen of Heaven series, I made a mistake when I was talking and said, “in the land that I come from…” rather than saying, “in my perspective” or “in my worldview.” This is now a joke amongst my circle of friends, we will say, “in my land…that isn’t what happens,” or “let me tell you what it is like in my land.” I have to feel like that DOES make a difference. If we can share “our land” with others, isn’t change possible? Doesn’t “our land” have inherent value that is worth promoting, protecting, and populating?I went to the woods to restore my discouraged spirit.…Speak your truthwsgoddessclose
tell your story
stand up for the silenced
speak for the voiceless
believe that hope still has a place

Hold steady
hold strong
hold the vision
hold each other.


On that discouraging day, when I came back inside from my woods visit, I added another Kiva loan to the three I had going at the time (two of which represented pooled monies from women’s circle members). I chose a women’s cooperative in Pakistan with a craft business. I paid for the loan using my profits from selling my own goddess art. I also signed up to sponsor a woman in the Congo via Woman to Woman International. Maybe this isn’t “enough,” but it is something. I work hard to support women in my own community in a variety of ways and I have for many years.  I write all over the place…maybe that isn’t “real” help or maybe it is, but I can’t stop doing it.

With regard to my women’s circle and the questions my friend and I asked of ourselves, I returned to a quote from the anthology, The Politics of Women’s Spirituality, in which the writer Adrienne Rush observes, “…it does seem to me, though, that it may be possible…to use these spiritual groups as vital centers for creating radically different ways of living. Women’s spirituality groups can become birth centers for social change” (p. 384).

Diane Stein in The Goddess Celebrates, while not using the same language, definitely draws the same conclusion in her observations that women’s self-empowerment is central to the women’s spirituality movement and in women’s rituals and that these rituals, “…create a microcosm, a ‘little universe’ within which women try out what they want the macrocosm, the ‘big universe’ or real world to be. Within the safety and protected space of the cast circle, women create their idea of what the world would be like to live in under matriarchal/Goddess women’s values…The woman who in the safety of the cast circle designs the world as she would like it to be takes that memory of creation and success out into daily life…A woman who in ritual meditation heals herself and the wrongs of the world, who sees herself whole and the planet clean and free, leaves the circle with a greater idea of what is possible and what it would be like. She has a greater impetus to take that microcosm into daily life and accomplish it on the earth…By empowering women through the microcosm of the ritual’s cast circle, change becomes possible in the macrocosm real world.” (p. 2-3)

I believe that gathering together as women and connecting over our belief in the value of women and of the value of the Goddess as a symbol is a radical and subversive act. To have the courage to come together in a circle that names women as holy and Goddess as “afoot” (whether literally or metaphorically), is a profound political, social, and cultural statement. And, it is how the personal becomes political. We gather in our homes, we celebrate our rituals and our rites of passage, we wear our Goddess jewelry, we write our articles and share our thoughts, we have the courage to link feminism with matters of the spirit, we speak up in public, we advocate and participate politically, we raise our children in female-affirming homes, and it is in this way that change is born and grows.

It starts with these private ritual and personal connections and then, as Stein explains, “A group of five such like-minded women will then set out to clean up a stream bed or park in their neighborhood; a group of twenty-five will join a protest march for women’s reproductive rights; a group of a hundred will set up a peace encampment. The numbers grow, the women elect officials to government who speak for their values and concerns. Apartheid crumbles and totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe end, disarmament begins, and laws to control polluters are enforced. Homes, foods, and jobs are opened to the world’s homeless, and often begins in the microcosm of the Women’s Spirituality ritual circle” (p. 3).

12778875_1710835712461977_3502489514644254388_oIf you’d like to turn over the many reasons why and how women’s circles matter as well as dig into many aspects of the messy, beautiful real-life work of practical priestessing with me, I invite you to join me in our seven week Practical Priestessing or Red Tent Initiation courses.

_DSC0578fModified from a post originally published on Feminism and Religion.

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