The Goddess movement is an overall trend in religious or spiritual beliefs or practices which emerged out of second-wave feminism, predominantly in North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand in the 1970s. Spurred by centuries of male dominated organized religion (or a supreme deity referred to by masculine pronouns i.e. “he”), some women embraced the idea of a female deity that was more in keeping with feminist beliefs and the inherent value of women. A unifying theme of the movement was that the gender of deity characterizes the political gender-bias of the religion, so a Goddess Worshipping religion is held to be matriarchal and a “God” worshipping religion is held to be patriarchal.
Goddess beliefs can take many forms; some people in the Goddess movement recognize multiple goddesses. Some also include gods. While others honor what they refer to as “the Goddess”, which is not necessarily seen as monotheistic, but is often understood to be an inclusive, encompassing term incorporating many goddesses in many different cultures. The term “the Goddess” may also be understood to include a multiplicity of ways to view deity personified as female, or as a metaphor, or as a process. (Christ 1997, 2003)
Capitalization of terms such as “Goddess” and “Goddesses” usually vary with author or with the style guides of publications or publishers. Within the Goddess community, members generally consider it proper to capitalize the word “Goddess”, but not necessary when generic references are made, as in the word “goddesses”.
Goddesses refers to a local or specific deities linked clearly to a particular culture and often to particular aspects, attributes and powers (for example: the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar; Athena; or Hindu goddesses like Sarasvati, the goddess of learning, poetry, music, inspiration and wisdom; and Lakshmi goddess of wealth and sovereignty).
One can regard a goddess (in this sense) as an aspect of the Great Goddess as well as a specific goddess with a particular role within a pantheon. The Hindu goddess, Durga, is a case in point. The name Durga can refer to a specific aspect of the Goddess but in the Shakti forms of Hinduism generally refers to the Great Goddess as AdyaShakti: the primoridal Shakti who incorporates all aspects. Anthropologists in their studies of goddesses have noted that adherents of goddesses often view their own goddess as a personal guardian or teacher.
The Goddess or the Great Goddess is a female deity that is regarded as primary. Such a religious system existed historically in many cultures, though not under the same names and not necessarily with the same traits. If there is a male god, his powers may be seen as deriving from her. (Gottner-Abendroth 1987). These terms are not usually understood to refer a single deity that is identical across cultures but rather a concept common in many ancient cultures, which those in the Goddess movement want to restore. (Christ 1997). When Goddess is spoken of as a personal guardian, as in ‘my Goddess’ it means ‘my worldview in Goddess spirituality.’
Goddess Spirituality is sometimes used as a synonym for Goddess Movement and sometimes as the spiritual practice that is part of the Goddess movement. Goddessing is a recent contribution to Goddess vocabulary, possibly derived from the British journal of the same name, following from Mary Daly’s linguistically suspect suggestion that deity is too dynamic, too much in process and changing continually, to be a noun, and should better be spoken as a verb (Daly 1973). Goddessing may also mean Goddess culture, Goddess way of life, Goddess practice, or ‘my goddessing’ as in my individual interpretation and experience of Goddess.
Priestess refers to women who dedicate themselves to one or more goddesses. It may or may not include leadership of a group, and it may or may not include legal ordination. The analogous term for men is “priest.” However, not everyone who dedicates themselves to the Goddess or goddesses calls themselves a priestess (or priest).Thealogy is a term whose first use in the context of feminist analysis of religion and discussion of Goddess is usually credited to Naomi Goldenberg, who used the term in her book Changing of the Gods, published in 1979. It substitutes the Greek feminine prefix “thea-” for the supposedly generic use of the Greek masculine prefix “theo-“. Frequently used to mean analysis of Goddess thought and mysticism, it can also be used more liberally to mean any kind of divine, not just deity divine, as in meditation, ethics, ritual pragmatics.
In the 19th century, some first-wave feminists such as Matilda Joslyn Gage and Elizabeth Cady Stanton published their ideas describing a female Deity, whilst anthropologists such as Johann Jakob Bachofen examined the ideas of prehistoric matriarchal Goddess cultures. However these ideas were largely ignored in the North America and much of Europe until second-wave feminism. In addition to Bachofen, second-wave feminists who became interested in the history of religion also refer to the work of Helen Diner (1965) and M. Esther Harding (1935) Elizabeth Gould Davis (1971) and Merlin Stone (1976).
Since the 1970s Goddess Spirituality has emerged as a recognizable international cultural movement. From 1974 to 1984, WomanSpirit, a journal edited in Oregon by Jean and Ruth Mountaingrove, published articles, poetry, and rituals by women, exploring ideas and feelings about female deity. needed] The journal The Beltane Papers, which started publication at about the same time, has been publishing continuously for more than 30 years, making it the longest still-published Goddess publication in the U.S. In 1983, Jade River and Lynnie Levy founded the Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess, International(RCG-I) in Madison, Wisconsin, RCG-I continues today with groups called “Circles” in many U. S. localities, as well as an educational program, priestess training, and ordination. The Goddess movement has found voice in various films and self-published media, such as the Women and Spirituality trilogy made by Donna Read for the National Film Board of Canada.
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