Here is my paper for my Ancient Goddesses course. It is simply discussing an article that was one of our assigned readings for class, but not providing any value judgments on it. Remember the standard blah blah, this is my work, you are more than welcome to quote with credit but please ask first, this is a paper for school so don’t expect something you’d think a professor would right. This in no way reflects my personal values and is simply an academic discussion on the current debates with the article mentioned.
Within religious feminist criticism, it is possible to find many different arguments and positions on ‘finding the goddess’-what this means, how it should be pursued and whether or not this feminist religious experience can thrive off of a biblical nature. In the article “Understandings of “The Goddess” in Contemporary Feminist Scholarship,” by Dawne McCance, three of the major arguments dealing with biblical influence on religious feminism are briefly explored, ranging from the androgynous view of the biblical God, the complete separation from the Bible and creation of the “Mother Goddess” movement, and finally the argument for the reconstruction of biblical texts in searching for the divine feminine. Each of the positions has their own challenges and criticisms of the other and all provide interesting examinations into the religious feminist movements that are gaining increasing popularity in both academic and public spheres.
The first position mentioned by McCance is that of biblical androgyny. These scholars often look for the ‘lost voices’ or ‘hidden clues’ within biblical texts in order to find the feminine. Here, God is not male but completely androgynous (or bisexual, depending on the respective authors) and it is believed that it is not necessary to view God as solely the masculine Father that he appears. Several examples are given, including those that address the presence of God as that of a midwife/mother figure (with the presence of breasts and womb mentioned) but also that of a mother bird sheltering her young. It is important within the context of this position to fully attribute female characteristics to the Godhead, and not just that of the masculine. Distinction is made between reading the current biblical texts as they first appear, as the members of this position do not deny the influence of the historical-patriarchal nature of previous biblical teachings; however, the movement does not necessarily advocate rewriting much of the Bible, as they still believe that the feminine is present all along in this androgynous nature.
The second movement aligns itself at the opposite end of the spectrum of the biblical androgyny argument, and that is the thealogy/witchcraft movement. Here, we see multiple different individual approaches categorized under this movement, but all alike in that they favor a complete rejection of the Bible and the masculine God as Father within, as they see the implantation of the patriarchal influence too great for any sort of rewriting of the texts to remedy. Some of these movements, like the “Mother Goddess” movement favored by the modern pagan/witchcraft/wiccan traditions, specifically deal with a history and mythos of ‘her story’, where paleolithic humans lived within a matriarchal organization of peace until the domination of war-like man overcame them, causing the Goddess to fragment, marry male deities as these fragments and ultimately become suppressed by Western influence. Other instances of ‘thealogy’ are that of a psychoanalytic nature based in Jungian influence, where the Mother Goddess is feminine archetypalism and therefore makes the Mother Goddess a central figure throughout time and cultures, so that the uniting factor is not a historical one but one of the psyche. The final of the three subsets of thealogy explored in the article are that of the contemporary feminist movement, where the goddess represents a return of the repressed women to the forefront of the world. This part of the movement advocates the creation of new goddess traditions and that the importance of this is actually the experience of women, feminine power and existence. Essentially, it is a movement that relies less on deity and more on the experiences of women themselves.
The final of the three overarching movements is that of the reformation of biblical texts to include the divine feminine. This position strongly criticizes both opposing movements on different grounds. For the supporters of biblical androgyny, the reformation movement finds the closeness of androgyny to male too great, and find that this closeness allows for the subordination of the feminine to the masculine qualities within the current texts, which have been shaped too much by the male experience. In response to the Mother Goddess movements, the entire rejection of the biblical texts is viewed as unnecessary and in fact harmful, as the reformation movement sees creating/perpetuating/pursuing nonliving traditions as simply succumbing to the patriarchal influences they are trying to escape. This reformation movement has advocated three main avenues that they hope to lead to the reinterpretation and rewriting of biblical texts to show a strong feminine presence- the reinterpretation of the current texts (within the information given, reading in between the lines for possible feminine references), the increased importance of historically marginalized and heretical feminist texts where women were more prevalent/participated more in the writing process of said texts, and finally the increased importance of new texts written by feminists that can still be considered to be within the Christian tradition. The movement ultimately seeks to find the feminine divine influences not within hierarchy and the pinnacle of social rule but instead at the bottom of society.
Each of these movements can be said to have their own weaknesses and strengths, but none can be said to be truer than the others. While each definitely contribute their own unique perspective, more work is needed to be done both within academics and in the more radical social feminist religious movements before more definitive conclusions on any notion of validity can be reached, if it is ever decided that one interpretation is the best at all. Certainly, there will be more discussions and debates on the issue of the feminist religious experience and constant searching for the divine feminine that many people now seek.