Why the Divine Feminine Matters

So, why the divine feminine?  What's the big deal?  Doesn't the world have enough on its religious plate without adding in a cosmic She to the mix?

Sure, there are a huge number of spiritual options available, particularly in the west, and some of these include divine feminine figures.  But when we take a not-very-close look at the major world religions, an obvious theme emerges: holy men and He gods, with women playing a marginal role at best.

I know that not everyone out there feels the need for the divine feminine (and maybe that's a problem -- but it's not one I'm going to tackle here), but I do.  Here are some reasons why I think its important that She gods become recognized equally amidst a global culture of patriarchy.

1.  Women need a god who looks like them.

In my thirty church going years, I never once encountered any theology that met me in my femininity.  Never did I see or hear anything about breastfeeding, menstruation, sex, childbearing, and parenting that treated them as the sacred acts that they are.  Often, women and women's physiology were talked about in the negative -- women as whores, women as traps for good men, menstruation as dirty, breasts as dangerous.  And even when women were portrayed in a more lovely light, it was in a two-dimensional, passive supporting role to a man.  Nor did I see powerful women in the same kinds of leadership roles as men.

The message was clear: I, a woman, was a problem.  I, a woman, was weak.  I, a woman, was not wanted -- unless, of course, it was to be a quiet member of a man's flock.

As I grew older, and especially after I became a mother, I longed for a god who bled monthly as I did, whose cycle turned with the moon as mysteriously as mine does.  I longed for theological metaphors about the nourishing power of a woman's milk-filled breasts. 

But there wasn't anything, and I was the poorer for it.  I believe that women of every belief are spiritually malnourished because of this lack of the divine feminine.  Women represent roughly half of the world population, and this ratio is not even close to being reflected in our global spiritualities.

“She had power
over the most magnificent
forces on Earth, but she still
didn’t feel like she had power
over the most important thing
of all—her own heart.”

Josephine Angelini, Goddess

2.  Men need to see a god who looks like a woman.

Women aren't the only one's who need a divine She.  Men do, too.  While patriarchy has led to the dominance of males in world in many ways, it has also robbed them.  Modern acceptable masculinity seems to become ever more limiting and claustrophobic.  "Real men don't cry," we hear.  "Suck it up, don't be a sissy," too many little boys hear.  "Don't be a girl." 

But sometimes, we need to cry, both men and women.  We need to be soft or quiet or gentle or intuitive or feeling or sassy or mystical or any of a host of the more feminine aspects, no matter our gender. 

Not to mention that sometimes a Mother God is who's needed.  Men need to recognize the power and dignity and intrinsic value of the feminine, and part of that is reinstating Her into our faiths.

“In the older view the goddess Universe was alive, herself organically the Earth, the horizon, and the heavens. Now she is dead, and the universe is not an organism, but a building, with gods at rest in it in luxury: not as personifications of the energies in their manners of operation, but as luxury tenants, requiring service. And Man, accordingly, is not as a child born to flower in the knowledge of his own eternal portion but as a robot fashioned to serve.”

Joseph Campbell, Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine

3.  Our world is powerfully anti-women.

In many places, feminism has made great positive changes for women.  In others, not so much.  In all places, more work is still needed.  Even the word "feminism" itself is a dirty word, which I can't help but imagine that this wouldn't be the case in a world that respects and honors women as much as it does men.

Rape culture, violence against women, objectification of women, the glass ceiling, overt and subtle sexism -- it's everywhere, not just our holy places.  And again, I can't help but imagine that this wouldn't be the case were god as much a She as a He. 

“Women HAVE a history that has been systematically suppressed. Our collective spirituality has largely been tainted to fit the needs of men and those in power. This has a profound effect on the self-esteem of girls and the women they become. This influence can be seen in their life choices, partners and financial security for the rest of their lives. It also has an effect on the way their future partners will view them - and ultimately treat them. Our girls deserve better. The time to introduce feminism and woman-centered spirituality to ALL children is now.”

― Trista Hendren

4.  We are disconnected from our bodies.

When I check out the patriarchal mores that pervade our culture, I see a blatant disregard for our bodies and our planet (and I don't think the two are disconnected).  Many of the male-dominated religions tell us that the body is bad/dirty/sinful.

But why?  What about our healthily functioning bodies is dirty, exactly? 

The divine masculine is, in my opinion, all about looking outside of ourselves, or up at god in heaven.  This is not inherently bad.  But it becomes an unbalanced mindset when we never look in any meaningful way inside ourselves, or down into the dark, harder, and no less holy parts of life.  And that's what the divine feminine is -- she's the inside, the dark, the night, the balancer of the outside, the light, the day.  To look at it another way, think of what kinds of crazy you'd be going if it was constantly day, or constantly night.  We need both. 

And really, could rape culture exist in a world where women's bodies are seen as symbols of god?  I have a hunch that the answer is no -- at least, not in the pervasive way that [sexual] violence against women flourishes today, and has flourished for centuries.

“It makes utter sense to stay healthy and strong, to be as nourishing to the body as possible. Yet I would have to agree, there is in many women a 'hungry' one inside. But rather than hungry to be a certain size, shape, or height, rather than hungry to fit the stereotype; women are hungry for basic regard from the culture surrounding them. The 'hungry' one inside is longing to be treated respectfully, to be accepted and in the very least, to be met without stereotyping.”

― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves

5.  We are disconnected from nature.

Similar to how we are collectively disconnected form our bodies, we hear that the earth is here to be used/subdued/dominated (kind of like how patriarchy treats women, actually).  And that kind of top-down domination has led to a host of problems that will, sooner or later, spell our own destruction.  The divine feminine is not disconnected from the earth, but is one with nature -- there's a reason we call the planet Mother Earth.  She invites us into balanced practices that nurture our environments, and in turn sustain ourselves in body, mind, and soul.

“The symbol of Goddess gives us permission. She teaches us to embrace the holiness of every natural, ordinary, sensual dying moment. Patriarchy may try to negate body and flee earth with its constant heartbeat of death, but Goddess forces us back to embrace them, to take our human life in our arms and clasp it for the divine life it is - the nice, sanitary, harmonious moment as well as the painful, dark, splintered ones.

If such a consciousness truly is set loose in the world, nothing will be the same. It will free us to be in a sacred body, on a sacred planet, in sacred communion with all of it. It will infect the universe with holiness. We will discover the Divine deep within the earth and the cells of our bodies, and we will love her there with all our hearts and all our souls and all our minds.”

Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter

Your turn: what do you think?  Why does the divine feminine matter?

photo by Maria Panayjotou under a Creative Commons license

photo by Maria Panayjotou under a Creative Commons license

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