It never fails. I mention that I host a group of women on my farm, every month, around the full moon and someone will say in response, “So, do you guys dance naked around a fire or something?”
I know the comment is meant to be light and funny and I’m pretty sure it’s an unconscious reaction to mask fear. The truth is, reflexive comments like this one perpetuate the oppression of women. Not to mention how it trivializes why we gather and why we need to gather.
I know the intention behind such joking is more often than not innocent. But I think briefly exploring, why mentioning women, gathering in a group under the moon, immediately creates such imagery. I wonder how many people understand the origins of that reflexive thought. I wonder how many people would still speak it out loud if they knew it was from a history defined by the gruesome humiliation, persecution, and murder of an estimated 9 million so-called witches, 80 percent of them, women.
“With the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum, “The Hammer of the Witches,” by the Dominicans Kramer and Sprenger in 1486, the groundwork was laid for a reign of terror that was to hold all of Europe in its grip well into the seventeenth century…The terror was indescribable. Once denounced, by anyone from a spiteful neighbor to a fretful child, a suspected Witch (man or woman, but most were women) was arrested suddenly, without warning, and not allowed to return home again. She was considered guilty until proven innocent. Common practice was to strip the suspect naked, shave her completely in hopes of finding the Devil’s “marks,” which might be moles or freckles…Confessions earned a merciful death: strangulation before the stake. Recalcitrant suspects, who maintained their innocence, were burned alive.”
– Excerpts from The Spiral Dance by StarHawk.
This sobering description shows me that women didn’t dance naked around a fire. They writhed in agony. My hope is that now a few more people will understand the source of that image and stop asking such a stupid question.
Every month around the full moon, which symbolizes the full bodied-mother, women and girls gather in a circle around a garden I call The Fairy Garden, situated between two of the oldest trees on my property. For the past few months women have come to me saying things like, “I needed this. More women need this. I wish I had this when I was a girl. ”
I began to ask, “What did you find that you needed? What do you think women seek?”
Three answers have come repeatedly. Safety. Vulnerability. Acceptance.
Over and over women have told me, “I feel safe here. I have never been in a large group of people, especially other women, and felt so secure.”
This tells me that women live in a world where they still don’t feel safe. Persecution comes in many forms and women remain haunted by it. It’s essential to acknowledge that women experience deep spiritual and emotional harm not only from the harassment and misogynistic attitudes of men but from the superficial ways women compete and compare themselves to one another.
“I’ve always thought that being vulnerable meant that I was weak. But when so-and-so shared what she did…she was so brave to say that out loud. She gave me the courage to speak my truth, to not keep secrets, and to just let go of the stupid shit I keep telling myself.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard some variation of that story. Somehow we’ve accepted this idea that to be guarded is better. To hint at truth rather than to muster the courage to speak plainly is in better taste. To be revealing is to be open to added injury. Women are seeking a community where they can practice vulnerability without being humiliated and shamed. Women are experiencing the power of leniency, forgiveness, honesty, and humility.
So often women coming to Gathering for the first time will embrace me, in tears, saying, “I’ve never felt so completely accepted in all my life.”
My heart cracks and expands every single time I hear that. Women don’t feel accepted by society as a whole nor by themselves. They are learning the slow gentle process of acceptance by joining in a circle with others searching for the same thing.
We gather under the light of the Full Moon to identify and acknowledge those aspects of Life we fear. In doing so, we learn greater confidence, an increased sense of self and finally, security.
We gather under the light of the Full Moon to speak our truth out loud and practice authentic listening. In doing so, we learn that vulnerability has always been partnered with courage and strength.
We gather under the light of the Full Moon to see and be seen precisely as we are. In doing so, we come out of hiding—accepting and rejoicing in the Divine’s infinite expression.
We gather under the light of the Full Moon because we are women learning to walk The Way of the Goddess.
- Why God Not Goddess? Part 3 - April 6, 2015
- Why God? Why Not Goddess? Part 2 - March 27, 2015
- Why God? Why not Goddess? - January 20, 2015
- Celebrating the Divine Feminine Body - January 9, 2015
- A Goddess’ aspirations for 2015 - December 30, 2014
- Recognizing the beauty of the the pagan Mabon celebration - September 22, 2014
- Seeking wisdom - August 1, 2014
- Gathering under the full moon - June 16, 2014
- When Death Came Calling: a family’s encounter with Leukemia - January 30, 2014
- The power of ritual - January 17, 2014