Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Body Sacred

Okay, so I read this book months ago, and really need to return it to the library, but have held on to it thinking, 'I really should write a post about this one' but never came up with the right words... well here goes.

I was doing a lot of reading into pagan/wiccan belief systems a while back, but when I ran across this one at the library I was especially intrigued; the premise of this book (written by wiccan priestess Dianne Sylvan) being that belief in a Goddess improves body image in women. How could I resist?

Now, here is what this book is NOT; it isn't a primer for someone wanting to learn pagan rituals, it assumes the reader is fairly familiar with them already; it is not an historical overview of Goddess worship, the author sort of hodgepodges together a pantheon of various Goddess across time and locations; it is not an overview of pagan and wiccan beliefs today, merely one pagan's memoirs; and it is not a study of self esteem problems in contemporary women, just anecdotal stories from the author's life experiences.

What this book is: the words and widsoms of one particularly hilarious modern day witch. The author is a sassy, funny, raunchy, live-life-to-the-fullest gal who loves food, sex, and shocking people, and she wrote a book that was fun to read, and that had some great ritual ideas.

Now, for someone like me, raised in a patriarchal faith, seen PLENTY of severe depression and eating disorders in most of the females in my family, and trying to redefine my concept of the Gender of God... this book rather hit home. Delightful, entertaining, an easy read.

However, on different note, this book revealed somethings to me about my belief in deity. First of all... I don't really resonate at all with appropriating gods or goddesses from other cultures for my own personal worship. And second, it showed me that I have lost my belief in an all-powerful all-loving god/goddess. That was brought home to me as I read a section in this book, from a pagan's point of view, as to why bad things happen to good people; why there is so much pain and suffering in the world in spite of this all powerful mother/healer/goddess who only wants to make her children happy... I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry, for the script was almost word for word from the LDS version I was raised with (which is almost word for word from the Christian version); agency, learning experiences, cause and effect, we don't understand Her ways, etc, etc, etc... (though Dianne's version of paganism doesn't go in for divine punishment of sins, something LDS/Christian theologies sometimes use to explain those bad things.)... somehow, hearing it from this perspective, really jolted me as to how paltry those explanations are. I don't buy it, god or goddess, I don't believe in that anymore. (and this realization has left me reeling just a bit.)

But more about that little epiphany later. Back to the point, I do think that belief in female deity can be beneficial to women depending on what that belief is. Because, see, regarding Mormon doctrine on a Heavenly Mother, I agree with Lynette; LDS women would probably be better off without that image of a voiceless, actionless, absent entity.


(chandelle) said...

i read that book a couple of years ago. and you know what? i had more or less the exact same reaction. i realized that appropriating other cultures' theology didn't work for me and i didn't believe in The Goddess, in that way. and it also helped me realize that prescribed rituals are always going to feel forced and awkward to me. i did enjoy the book nevertheless.

G said...

her open ended-ness with the rituals was something I appreciated, it was more like she gave some good ideas and then said 'but do what works for you'.

ya, the whole Goddess thing... for a while I was very gung-ho about learning all I could about the divine feminine, just to discover that I am left with as many gaps and contradictions and questions as before...

needless to say, my concept of and connection to divinity is taking rather a beating right now.

Lessie said...

This book sounds interesting--I was always petrified of Wiccans as a child/adolescent cause I knew that they were certain to lead me down to hell. I may read it sometime for a little more info. Overall, I agree with Lynette's assessment as well. It was something I worried about before I ever found fMh, or Zelophehad's daughters. My (male) spiritual mentor at the time thought I was just being silly, but it worried me none the less.

As for connection to divinity, yeah, I know what you mean. It's a hard row to tow. I hope you eventually find some peace.

G said...

thanks lessie.
that fear of wiccans... i had it too.
I remember specifically the first time I actually check out a book about it... I was really nervous! feels silly now, but that fear was real. (and that was as a married adult)

Chelle said...

Hi there, i found your blog from ex II or one of the blogs I think. Anyway, I like it, hope you don't mind me commenting.

I haven't read this book, but I think I would have the same reaction as you. Some people seem to find great hope and comfort in goddess worship, but for me it is just as empty and confused as my relationship with a father/God has become because I still see all the same philosophical contradictions. In some ways it makes things more complicated for me because I think if there were a goddess, wouldn't the world be a different place for women?

G said...

thanks for stopping by Chelle! feel free to comment any time.

yes, I am struggling with the same issues... it is a struggle because for a while that belief in a divine feminine was quite comforting, something I really clung to. Now... well, now there is just a big open question.