Tag: feminism

Review: Women of Power, by Jaq D. Hawkins

By Psyche | June 24, 2008 | 1 comment

Women of Power: The Woman As Magus, by Jaq D. Hawkins
CapallBann Publishing, 186163241X, (153 pp. including appendices, bibliography and index), 2006

“…most of the books on ceremonial magic continue to be written by men, despite significant numbers of female members existing in ceremonial magical Orders.”

Jaq D. Hawkins is the author of several books on magick. Her first, Understanding Chaos Magic, remains among the most straightforward introductions to the subject. Her latest book, Women of Power, tackles the subject of the woman as magus, what it means and how it plays out in practice. Continue reading

Review: Maiden Magick, by C. C. Brondwin

By Mike Gleason | May 30, 2003 | Leave a comment

Maiden Magick, by C. C. Brondwin
New Page Books, 1564146707, 211 pp. (+ bibliography & index), 2003

I must admit to a bias when I started this book. Actually, a couple of them. The first is a culturally based one. This is a book written for a young female, and I am neither. The second bias is a personal one. I read (and reviewed) Clan of the Goddess by this same author and found it disappointing in a number of ways. So, I was already poised to dislike this current offering.

My major problem with Ms. Brondwin, and authors like her, is her tendency to look to the past as we wish it had been. She sees the young maidens of Celtic clans as being highly honoured and treated as special. They may have been. They may also have been treated as chattel and have had lives of drudgery. Fairness demands equal representation for differing points of views.

Once again Ms. Brondwin says that you can worship the Goddess without giving up your familial religious beliefs. That may work in some cases, but certainly not all.

And again she comes up with an extremely simple method of invoking protective barriers. The last time it was a clenched fist. This time it is a triple tap of the third eye. The problem with these methods, in my opinion, is that while effective for an experienced handler of energy, they won’t work well for someone just starting down the path. All they will do is impart a false sense of confidence.

On the plus side, she does encourage young women to take charge of their own lives. She makes it clear that blaming others for problems is not the way of the Goddess.

I have to admit that many of the authors I have been reading lately, and not just feminists, seem to be suffering from a case of “history as it should have been.” Ms. Brondwin apparently sees Celtic peoples as having a predominantly joyous life with the women in charge and sees them as loving “…to dress up, wear makeup, and colour their hair with reds and purples and greens. They wanted a different hairstyle for every festival, and they’d spend hours doing each other up for the party.” (page 101). So who, I might ask was cooking the food, preparing the feasting area and watching the children? The Clan Mothers? No, they were busy running the tribe. The men? No, they were busy hunting, drinking and recounting their bravery on the hunt. According to Ms. Brondwin the food was prepared in advance and then the hired “…great musicians, storytellers, comedians and even puppeteers.”

She asserts an emphasis on harming none as a basic fact of Celtic life. Tell that to the Roman legionnaires facing a screaming horde of woad-painted Celts who didn’t have enough sense to lie down and die when they had been run through. Tell that to the neighbouring tribes who had their cattle (and maidens) stolen in raids. If they had been as peaceful as she believes, they would have been wiped out long before they were assimilated into the general European population.

Her designation of “Ire” (the fifth element) as a “lesser” element may work for her, but most folks I know consider that elements (often called “Spirit”) to be the source of the other four elements, and hence do not consider it to be less than the others.

I remarked on my earlier review of her writing that I have a problem with those who teach “the old ways” and then make them P.C. That isn’t as evident in this work, although her disparaging remarks about the consumption of alcohol in large quantities by the Celts were unnecessary, in my opinion. A simple statement that such is no longer expected would have been enough.

Once again, over half the book passes before any mention is made of male energies. This is, in my opinion, a very narrow perception of mankind and the Celtic peoples in particular. It conveys the impression that only the feminine part of the Celts had any interest, or involvement, in the spiritual life of the tribe.

According to Ms. Brondwin, merely thinking about a spirit instantly draws it to the individual. “Telepathy, channeling, or the calling up of spirits has instantaneous results.” (page 157). Not the way I was taught. She tells the reader how to communicate with spirits, and then says “There are certain cautions to be observed, and tricks for controlling your communications with the Otherworld. Read it [the next chapter] too, before you actually try to channel.” The warnings should come first, in my opinion.

Banishing an unwanted entity is as simple as saying “Go in peace. Leave me.”? Excuse me? Well, if that is true, why did we have to learn to create a protective garment (the Lorica), and make a fist of power? Ms. Brondwin’s work appears to be at a very low level of energy, by the examples she cites.

Her view of the Celtic women’s life is one of constant joy and happiness. They laughed all the time. I have to wonder, when did they find time to tend the fires, raise the children, and be wives?

This is the second book I have read in the past month that I cannot recommend to the serious student. I really hate to say that about a book, but there it is. In fact, since this is the second book by this author which has elicited this response from me, I would hesitate to recommend any of her work. Although her book is categorized as “Young Adult/Wicca,” there is nothing of Wicca in it.

Save your money on this one.

Review: Women’s Magic, by Sue Bowers

By Mike Gleason | May 18, 2003 | Leave a comment

Woman’s Magic, by Sue Bowers
Samuel Weiser, 1578632218, 165 pages (notes, bibliography & index), 1993

Once again I find myself tackling a book written for the feminine part of the Craft. Obviously, I approach this book from an outsider’s perspective.

On a personal level, I found the boldface type used to highlight the sections to be distracting in appearance. It seemed, somehow, as if it were amateurish (I really can’t describe it any other way). I even asked my son for his opinion, and his response was “Not a fan myself,” so I feel safe in assuming that it is not just a personal bias on my part.

Ms. Bowes says, on the third page of this book, “This ritual cries out for physical contact with nature, but you can adapt it for the comfort of your home.” This is one of the problems I have seen in the Pagan community lately. There is far too much emphasis on physical comfort. If you can’t be “inconvenienced” to go out into nature, you can’t really connect with the Divine.

Although she says frequently that this book is not about a feminist point of view, her presentation of history has a distinctly feminist interpretation to it. While this is not necessarily bad, it should be honestly acknowledged. “Allowing” women to go to a moon lodge is not the same as “banishing” them to such a location. Each of these is the result of a particular view of history and should plainly be stated as such.

She postulates a ten-fold return of negative workings upon the operator, which far exceeds the “Law of Threefold Return,” so commonly accepted in the Craft. I’m not sure where the ten-fold concept comes from, and it would be nice to know its origins.

I find it slightly incongruous that a British author is recommending Native American techniques of purification (smudging). This is simply one example of what some Pagans see as “cross-cultural fertilization” and what some indigenous people see as the theft of their spirituality. To use techniques from another culture without a thorough understanding of the originating culture is disrespectful, at a minimum, and dangerous in a worst-case scenario.

Ms. Bowes, like many of today’s authors, speak of contacting your spirit guide for inspiration and insight, as if all one has to do is flip a switch to make this connection. It takes serious work to connect to, and to maintain contact with, one’s spirit guide. It is not something to be undertaken without proper care and preparation.

The author speaks frequently about the spirituality of life in days gone by, and how women were constantly aware of their function holding it all together. This is, according to many, utter hogwash. Most people, in days past, were more concerned with simple existence. They were too busy simply living to give much thought to spirituality. Time to devote to spirituality is a modern luxury. Her view is of the past as many Pagan authors wish it had been.

This book presented me with some rather nagging problems. Most importantly is its heavily dogmatic approach, in areas. Even though Ms. Bowes repeatedly says that the reader should do what feels right, she continually says that certain things need to be done in certain ways, while giving only the slightest reasoning for those assertions.

Her presentation of dissolving karmic relationships is overly simplistic in my view. Most individuals could easily convince themselves about the accomplishment of resolving these conflicts, but it usually takes a great deal more work to do so, in my experience.

This book has a uniquely British flavor and may, because of this, be unusual enough to get people, in the United States, to pay attention. It has little emphasis on exact ceremonies or rituals, allows for a large degree of self-expression, and encourages the reader to look within for answers.

Do I recommend it for everyone? No, just as I wouldn’t recommend Wicca for Men by A.J. Drew for everyone. Many men will have difficulty in accessing the information herein. It is couched in terms and forms which are not much emphasized in today’s heavily male dominated society. There will be those women, also, who will experience difficulty with these concepts as they struggle to establish themselves as being the equal of any man.

The ideas contained in this book evoke a different energy than may be found in other, main-stream publication. This may very well help to bring about a true balance of energies in the world. There is so much emphasis today on dominating our environment (both personal and societal) that we sometimes lose sight of the ideas of cooperation and “going with the flow.”

If you are looking for a rather unique perspective on “feminine mysteries” without the emphasis on Dianic thought, this is the book for you. Read it. Let the ideas work their way through your psyche. You may well find your frame of thought and reference expanding far beyond what you have considered to date.

Dianism in a nutshell

By Inanna Seastar | May 26, 2002 | Leave a comment

This is an article I wrote for PROTEAN SYNTHESIS, a semi-private newsletter after it was solicited by the editor.

Recently, I got back in touch with my teacher after nearly two years and dropped a couple of bombshells on her: I had changed gender identity and had come together with two other women to form a Dianic coven. When the initial shock wore off, Rita sent me a complete run of Protean Synthesis and a solicitation for this article.

Several years ago I subscribed to several stereotypes regarding “those peculiar Dianics”. They were thealogically unbalanced, they hated men, they denied that men had souls, they were all lesbians, they couldn’t spell (in the orthographic sense; no one has yet accused Dianics of inability to work magick), etc. etc. When I came together with my covensisters, I realized that these notions were at most partially true and some cases were patently false.

I believe there are only three valid generalizations that can be made about Dianics: 1) We are all feminists. 2) We all look to the Goddess(es) far more than to the God(s). 3) We are all eclectics. Note well that there are plenty of non-Dianic feminist Witches, non-Dianic eclectics, and non- Dianics who are primarily Goddess-oriented. There are also doubtless a good many feminist, Goddess-oriented eclectics who do not choose to call themselves Dianic. In my own case I use the “If it quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck” argument, as well as the fact that my HPS learned the Craft as a Dianic and runs Dianic rituals.

Some of the stereotypical generalizations I can dismiss out of hand. I don’t know of a single Dianic who denies that men have souls. Even Z Budapest doesn’t believe that piece of tripe anymore! It is true that Dianism is particularly attractive to separatists, and many separatists actually hate men. Many Dianics are lesbians. Some misspell words like “woman”, women”, “egalitarian”, and “holistic” on purpose. Not all fit these, however, and I think that Z Budapest in her younger, or spiritual bomb-throwing, days represents an extreme and a small minority. There are a number of males involved in Dianism, and some of those are men [NB: I use the terms “man” and “woman” to indicate gender identity, that is, how one’s heart, mind, and/or soul are configured. I use “male” and “female” to indicate physical sex, that is, how one’s plumbing is configured. I hope this dispels confusion.].

Thealogical and magickal imbalance is not so easily dismissed and needs to be addressed further, as that is the most valid objection that thoughtful Witches have to Dianism. The apparent imbalance comes from the Dianic emphasis on Goddess-worship, often to the complete exclusion of God-worship. This upsets many Witches’ sense of polarity balance. The resolution of this apparent imbalance lies in the consideration of other polarities than sexual and/or gender as the primary polarity. There are indeed many other polarities to consider: true-false, life-death, dark-light, rational- mystical, creation-destruction, order-chaos, and good-evil, to name but a few. One problem with the masculine-feminine polarity is that there is a strong tendency to express all other polarities in terms of it. The Chinese were particularly fond of this, and mapped everything they liked into the yang side, and everything they disliked or feared into the yin side, the patriarchal no-accounts!

One thing I have discovered is that if you look hard enough, you can find goddesses to fit both ends of most polarities. Some even occupy both ends simultaneously. Inanna, my matron goddess, is a good case in point. She is the Sumerian goddess of love, war, wisdom (which she won in a drinking bout!), adventure, the heavens, the earth, and even of death (in the guise of her dark aspect, Ereshkigal). A very busy lady indeed is Inanna. At this point it becomes largely a matter of personal preference rather than of polarity, whether one chooses a god or a goddess to occupy a particular place in a ritual.

No Dianic I know of denies the existence of the God. Indeed, He gets mentioned as the consort of the Goddess with some frequency in Z Budapest’s HOLY BOOK OF WOMEN’S MYSTERIES, which is close a thing as there is to a Dianic version of the Gardnerian Book of Shadows. He is there, and sometimes we will invoke Him, when it is appropriate. He makes His own path, and we follow our own, and when they cross naturally we honor Him and do not avoid Him. We also do not force the paths to cross simply to lend an artificial balance to a ritual where none is really needed.

Now that I have spilled a good deal of ink over what Dianism is not, I should now say a few words about what it is: a movement of feminist, eclectic, Goddess-oriented Witches.

Feminism: This covers a vast multitude of virtues and sins. I do not think the stereotypical radical lesbian separatist is as common as is believed. Moderate to liberal feminism is probably far more common, even among Dianics. Certainly my own coven contains no separatists! There are too many nice men out there, even though surveys have shown that 70% or more of all men are potential rapists. The nice ones are found among those who are not in that repulsive majority; you just have to look to find them. One of the places you might find such nice men is in Dianic covens! Some are mixed groups, at least some of those of the branch founded by Morgan McFarland. My own is something of a mixed up group, I suppose. While we do not currently have any men in the coven, two of the three of us were born male and still have original-equipment plumbing. The Goddess and our HPS accept us unreservedly as women.

Eclecticism: If there is one dictum of Z Budapest’s that bears repeating to everyone in the Craft, and which gets followed by many, it is “When in doubt, invent.” Dianics tend toward creative ritual, drawing from any and all possible sources. I have yet to see a Dianic equivalent of the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, nor do I ever hope to see one.

Goddess Orientation: I’ve discussed this at some length while talking about polarity. There are some wags who have said that Dianics are nothing but matriarchal monotheists. I tell you three times: The Dianic Goddess is NOT Jehovah in drag! The Dianic Goddess is NOT Jehovah in drag! The Dianic Goddess is NOT Jehovah in drag! A much closer analogy would be that Dianics have taken the Classical pantheon and reclaimed most of the roles. This, too, is oversimplifying, but it is not nearly as wide of the mark as the usual criticism. At some point I may write up a long exegesis on the Dianic Goddess, but not here. My own personal involvement with Her comes from a great feeling of comfort I do not find elsewhere. She feels right. I have a great deal of difficulty accepting known rapists (most of the Olympian males are this, especially Zeus, Hades, and Pan!) into my personal pantheon. I also feel a personal vocation from the Mother; it is rather incongruous to me to embrace a male deity wholeheartedly when the Goddess comes to me and calls me Her daughter. This goes doubled, redoubled, in pentacles, and vulnerable for lovers of women.

I hope this little discussion of Dianism-in-a-Nuitshell has proved enlightening to you. It is not a path for everyone, but it is a valid path for some, and in considering it I hope that you can now ignore the garbage that has been put forth in the past as “data” regarding it.

Inanna Seastar
Birdsnest Coven

Review: Clan of the Goddess, by C. C. Brondwin

By Mike Gleason | May 9, 2002 | Leave a comment

Clan of the Goddess: Celtic Wisdom and Ritual for Women, by C. C. Brondwin
New Page Books, 1564146049, 2002

Okay, I can already hear the indignation. “How can a man fairly review a book dedicated to women’s mysteries?” I’ll be honest I would probably be asking the same question. However, my explanation is simple. No, I’m not a gay male. What I am is a Priest of the Old Religion who has learned to access both the masculine and feminine aspects of my own current existence and past lives. I have no problem manifesting either the Goddess or the God, as needed.

One objection I have, with many authors, is their tendency to state theories as if they are proven and accepted facts. Ms. Brondwin suffers from this problem, and it manifests early in this work. On page eight of this book occurs the statement “Worship of the Goddess, the Great Mother, wan an abiding faith worldwide for more than 20,000 years.” This is a theory that has received wide publicity. However, since written history only extends back to a MAXIMUM of 6,000 years, and objects can only IMPLY facts but not PROVE them, this must remain unproven.

Probably my major problem with Ms. Brondwin is her habit of stating things as facts when they have not been proven. I don’t mind people who qualify such statements with “In my opinion” or “It is alleged” or “Some people believe,” but to state, as this author does, “Entities are extremely positive in nature” without any qualification is, in my opinion, very misleading.

The author’s often-repeated statements regarding the supremacy of the Clan Mothers in Celtic society have not, to the best of my knowledge, been substantiated by anyone, other than feminist authors. These claims may well be accurate but, lacking written evidence, all we may state with certainty is that it MAY have been that way.

I also have a problem with a statement on page 14; “finding the spirit of the Goddess inside your heart doesn’t threaten any other religious you might hold”. Truly discovering the spirit of the Goddess would, in my opinion, threaten beliefs held by a sincere Muslin, Christian, or Jew, at the very least.

On page 203 she makes another statement that defies verification. “Halloween, but all its traditions come from the Clan of the Goddess.” Had she said “most,” or “many,” I wouldn’t have a problem, but the use of “all” is a bit strong

“Children walked the fair grounds on high stilts, or played marbles in the dirt.” Really? I wasn’t aware that Celtic tribes maintained fair grounds. I, personally, would have thought that “high stilts” were a relatively recent (say within the past 400 years or so) idea for entertainment. I may be wrong on that, however, and it is merely my opinion.

Young men conceived at Beltane “wore the special “Child of the Mother Only” designation painted proudly on their shields”. I have a couple of questions about this one: First, why were they called “Child of the Goddess Only” six lines before they became “Child of the Mother Only”? There is a big difference between “Goddess” and “Mother.” Next, how many such shields have been found? In what parts of Europe? Where are they displayed? How large a span of time do they cover?

Although the author claims to be passing on authentic Celtic Clan Mothers’ teachings, I must admit to some misgivings. The oldest teachings must, of necessity, have been oral, and the attempt to convey them in written form is difficult, if not impossible. When passing on oral lore there is much more than verbal communication going on. Body language, tone of voice, and numerous other factors come into play, not to mention the setting of the teaching. On a totally different level, just compare the different feelings you experience reading a Stephen King novel (for example) sitting outdoors on a sunny day with the feelings you have reading the same novel on a dark, stormy night by flickering candle light. See the difference?

I also have a problem with people, like this author, who purport to teach “old traditions”, and then say you don’t need to do the unpleasant things that were part of the of the past (mind-altering substances, human remains, etc.) If you wish to experience what your ancestors did, you need to share their experiences in their totality.

Ms. Brondwin incorporates the technique used by many others, from the Silva Mind Control to Laurie Cabot’s “Alpha State,” of a ten step deepening of the meditative state, unfortunately without acknowledging her indebtedness to the work of others who have gone before her.

My training is very different from Ms. Brondwin’s. While I can see her point of view, duality and balance were stressed in my training. Thus I find it a bit disconcerting that throughout the first half of the book, NO mention is made of men, or male influence, other than in negative forms (rapers, murderers, pillagers). For someone who is just starting to investigate the Goddess religions, it does present an extraordinarily unbalanced view.

The second half of the book does mention loving men in your life, but by that point many readers may have picked up (and incorporated) an anti-male bias as being part and parcel of the Goddess-worshipping religions.

Combining “channelling” with automatic writing” seems a stretch to me. Granted I do not use automatic writing on a regular basis, I am aware that it is nowhere near as simple and harmless as she indicates. It may be, but there are dangers to look out for, which Ms. Brondwin fails to point out.

I also have a problem with blanket statements, such as “all professions within the tribal system were open to either men or women.” Such statements assume that ALL Celtic tribes throughout their cultural area, and throughout their period of development shared the same, unfaltering, set of operating rules. That appears to be a VAST oversimplification to me. Simply look at “American culture.” We cover a vast geographical area, and a mere three hundred years of development; but it would be naïve to make the same statement. Three hundred years ago, women (in American culture) could not be doctors, or lawyers; men hunted for a living, or worked on farms in the vast majority of cases. Neither of those instances hold true today. Yet they are all part and parcel of the “American culture.” Cultures grow and evolve and change.

The author assumes a unity and sophistication for the Celts who were, after all, an evolving, diverse race of people, which I, personally, find hard to accept. She states, at one point, that when young women decided, with the help of the Clan Mothers, which profession they wished to follow, that “and, if need be, funded from the coffers of the Celtic social services monies” as if the tribes maintained a treasury with monies set aside for certain uses, much like the state governments in the U.S.

The rituals and techniques she teaches are harmless enough in their forms and approaches, but truly fail to acknowledge the potential problems, which may be encountered. I am not one of the large number of Pagans who go through life expecting problems to attack at every opportunity, but one must be aware that something more than closing your fist and visualizing a glow around oneself may be needed in times of difficulties.

While I can certainly appreciate her desire to help her readers have it all, her encouragement (on page 197) for one to “Go for it all”, is highly impractical for those just learning the techniques of creative visualization. One needs to be able to clearly see and define what one is visualizing. Too many objects or desires make it difficult to bring the proper level of concentration to bear, in my experience.

Her bibliography leans heavily on feminist interpretation of culture and could benefit from a bit more balance, I feel.

My overall impression of this work is that, if you are heavily feminist, you will find it to your liking. It touches all the right buttons, and plays to all the major themes. If you are not heavily feminist, but still have a fairly large body of experience to draw upon, you will find many useful ideas contained here, which can be easily modified to fit into a more balanced world view. However, if you are brand new to Goddess religions, you might be best advised to buy this book, put it on your bookshelf, and read it after you have some basic experiences under your belt. It is most definitely, in my opinion, not a book for a beginner (even though most of New Page Books offerings are).

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