Mother Pelican
A Journal of Sustainable Human Development

Vol. 8, No. 3, March 2012
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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The Politics of Eco-Feminist Goddess Spirituality:
A Theology for a Sustainable Future

Rev. Karen Tate
Independent Scholar

This was originally published in
Goddess Thealogy: An International Journal for the Study of the Divine Feminine
Volume 1, Number 1, December 2011

Abstract: This essay explores how the mythology of the Sacred Feminine, deity, archetype and ideal, might re-establish the foundations on our planet necessary for a sustainable future for all life and Mother Earth. Tate posits that a paradigm shift into a post-kyriarchal world might be achieved using secular law alongside thealogical thinking. As such, this essay compares the values of Republicans, conservatives and male-dominated Abrahamic traditions with liberals and Goddess ideals, establishing how progressive ideologies of Democratic principles are more in sync with the spirituality of the Divine Feminine. If Goddess had a political affiliation, given our two political parties, She would be a Democrat.

Keywords: Goddess, politics, Eco-feminism, sustainability, thealogy

Note: This paper was presented by the author at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion/WESCOR, Whittier College, Whittier, California, 27 March 2011. Panel hosted by the Institute for Thealogy and Deasophy, titled Goddess Thealogy and Feminist Embodiments.

Upper Paleolithic
Venus von Willendorf
estimated to have been carved 24,000–22,000 BCE
Source: Wikipedia
Goddess is a Democrat! Imagine the feedback from that statement in my interviews with Riane Eisler and Starhawk on my radio show, Voices of the Sacred Feminine! But what were we really saying in that statement that might not have been immediately evident? We were saying that the strategy to move us toward that paradigm shift, into a post-kyriarchal world, would not just be the use of secular law, but a change in theology. We believe at the Institute for Thealogy and Deasophy that the mythology of the Sacred Feminine, deity, archetype and ideal, might re-establish the foundations on our planet necessary for a sustainable future for all life and Mother Earth. Here's the line of thought:

We know religion, law, and society are shaped in large part by our mythology. We believe the ancient mythology of the Sacred Feminine, perhaps 40,000 years old or more, has been obscured and demonized, particularly in the West, by the Abrahamic traditions' immature and male-dominated religions, linchpins of patriarchy, leaving us with false normalcy that results in cultures which set men above women, with men indoctrinated to believe they are the rightful masters over nature.

Such intolerant male-dominated religions put forward the belief that their god is the only real god who gives them license to crusade against non-believers. Having nothing to counter this unnatural imbalance we have been left to endure all manner of oppression: fundamentalism, genocide, militarism, imperialism, homophobia, racism, infanticide, sexism, female genital mutilation, predator capitalism, slavery, exploitation, corporate fascism and threats to our democracy. All this we face, in conjunction with potential environmental catastrophe that can affect national security and life on the planet as we know it.

According to Egyptian feminist and Professor Nawal El Saadawi, "Patriarchy needs god to justify injustice." (El Saadawi 2011) Therefore, until we can get religion out of politics and economics, as Goddess advocates we must start rethinking our mythology, or our religion. We must see the Divine not just in male terms, which is dominant in the collective psyche. We must also see the Divine in female terms and value the ideals that go along with maternal values, or we may never achieve a contemporary egalitarian society of partnership and peace for people of Gaia.

Compare the generally accepted views of liberals and conservatives. In his commentary The Primitive Conservative Psyche (2011) Peter Michaelson, psychoanalytic psychotherapist and author, extrapolates from the insights of Berkeley professor of linguistics and cognitive science, George Lakoff in his article, What Conservatives Really Want. According to Michaelson, who cites Lakoff, the conservative belief in individual responsibility to the exclusion of social responsibility is based on the model of the strict authoritarian father, sometimes called the psychological or Freudian super ego or inner critic, which can manifest in the weak or unaware mind as judgmental, aggressive, negative, ruthless, mocking, unforgiving and irrational, with a distrust of government. Michaelson equates "Conservative mentality" to a primitive aspect of human nature, explaining conservatives' mental gymnastics for disrespecting the poor enable them to practice guilt-free ruthlessness while feeling morally superior.... (Michaelson 2011)

Conservatives rationalize their lack of empathy by claiming that the poor deserve their poverty because they are responsible for their own failings rather than considering they might be doing well considering the hand they've been dealt. Likewise we observe many conservative Christians who misinterpret doctrine believing their wealth as a gift from God for their discipline and rationalize poverty as punishment for sin or being lazy. A vast majority of conservatives tend to want to support established institutions for social stability even if this stable order means the oppression of patriarchy. According to economist John Kenneth Galbraith "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." (Galbraith n.d.)

On the flip side, according to Webster's dictionary, liberals are generous, broad-minded, and tolerant and believe in individual rights and freedom. Politically, liberals desire progress and value equality, diversity and social justice. They view government as the protector of the environment and people and want government to help alleviate social ills and protect civil liberties and human rights.

That said, perhaps it is clear to see why Starhawk and Eisler, along with many other Goddess advocates have said, until we have a viable Eco-Feminist-Goddess political party, maternal values of the Sacred Feminine are more in sync with liberal and progressive ideals, which are the home of the true Democratic party. So let us look at several examples of the marriage between liberal values, political platforms of Democrats, and Sacred Feminine mythology.

We find under the broad umbrella of Goddess, many faces across continents and cultures, with no mandate that we worship one name, one face. Instead we see a metaphor for plurality, diversity and inclusion in the loving and life-affirming Sacred Feminine, rather than the jealous, One Way, androcentric and exclusionary god of patriarchy keen on asking men to sacrifice their sons to prove their loyalty and a holy book filled with violence.

Likewise, the Democratic umbrella casts its net wide. Generally speaking, it is the natural home of those embracing gender equality and peoples of all walks of life; gay, straight, people of all skin colors and religions or no religion at all. Juxtapose that with the majority of white, Christian faces peering out at you from a male-dominated Republican National Convention.

Consider the mythology of the Inuit Goddess Sedna. She is the gatekeeper between humankind and the sea creatures upon which people depend for their livelihood. If humans becomes too greedy and exploits the creatures of the sea, Sedna cuts him off until he takes only what he needs. Greed and excess are taboo as we are all inter-dependent upon each other.

Real Democrats are the gatekeepers demanding regulation so that corporations cannot run amok and destroy the resources of Mother Earth or rights of people. Most notable is former Vice President Al Gore who pressed for stern regulation of greenhouse gases; Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to build greater knowledge about man-made climate change. On the other hand, because of the Republican world view in favor of free trade and globalization, the GOP has fought against taking steps to alleviate the threat of climate change. They dismiss it as a hoax or socialist plot to redistribute wealth from corporate polluters to the poor nations they've harmed.

The Egyptian Goddess Isis bestowed upon pharaohs their right to rule and they were to rule their kingdoms under the laws of the Goddess Ma'at, namely truth, balance, order, and justice. Likewise the Roman Lady Libertas represented the deification of the virtue of freedom.

It should be noted that it was under Democratic administrations progress was made on civil rights and social safety nets while Republicans generally put corporate interests before people, case in point the Conservative leaning Supreme Court's decision that corporations are people which has had a had a disastrous effect on the democratic process. Republicans have forced a watering down of regulation of Wall Street and threaten to de-fund many consumer protections agencies. And how can we ignore Fox News, arm of the Republican Party that cannot get into Canada because of regulations there against the media disseminating misinformation Huffinton Post citing The Globe and Mail.

In the thealogy of the Sacred Feminine, Goddess affirms women's bodies and sexuality. Priestesses of pharmacology, mid-wives and women hold the power over their own bodies and life and death is in their hands.

Today patriarchy dictates to women the parameters of beauty and women fall victims to their standards spending millions with plastic surgeons to live up to some impossible ideal. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 13.1 million cosmetic procedures were performed in 2010, up 5 percent from 2009. Beyond physical beauty, the patriarchy wants to control all aspects of women's sexuality and reproduction. Known in the United States as Big Pharma, pharmaceutical companies now hold the power over women's bodies as they encourage women to disconnect from their menses, that monthly inconvenience, that curse. They say, here, take our pill and see your sacred blood magically disappear. Disconnect from one of the very things that empowers you as a woman! In a not-so veiled culture war, the GOP has declared war on women by attempting to de-fund Planned Parenthood, thwarting access to contraception, trying to pass laws to make divorces harder to obtain, trying to legalize the murder of abortion providers, and by having miscarriages investigated and abortions abolished. Women's bodies and lives are the terrain on which this current extremist conservative movement is taking a stand.

Goddess Thealogy affirms female power. Where Goddess was worshiped, her temples were the centers of wisdom, culture, and financial power and were often presided over by women. Researchers such as Merlin Stone and Heide Goettner-Abendroth, in her book, Societies of Peace: Matriarchies Past, Present and Future point to matriarchal societies where Goddess was venerated and maternal values practiced, women and children were protected and had a spot at the center of the culture, reaping the benefit of that positioning at the center.

According to Nawal El Saadawi, there can be no real democracy without equality and there is neither under patriarchy. Fortunately, the strides made by the United Nations and the U.S. State Department help to empower women. This very empowerment is considered the moral imperative of our time. Former President and Democrat Jimmy Carter left the Southern Baptist Church because of how the Bible discriminates against the female gender and thwarts women from realizing their fullest potential. Feminist women are at the forefront exploring "exchange and gift economics" as an antidote to crumbling capitalism. Republicans continue to vote down laws that would guarantee equal pay for women despite women being heads of households. According to UN Women, citing UNICEF, women perform 66 percent of the world's work, produce 50 percent of the food, but earn 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property. The White House Project Report: Benchmarking Women's Leadership found females comprise only 23 percent of leadership positions within academia, 16 percent within corporations, 17 percent in politics and 15 percent in religious institutions.

When all sectors were averaged, 18 percent of women are in leadership positions overall - hardly the needed critical mass to influence the direction of our country or society. In America alone more than three million elderly women live in poverty and the typical woman working full time, all year, earns just 77 percent of what her male counterpart earns. Writing for The Nation magazine in the article titled "The War on Women's Futures," Princeton professor and author, Melissa Harris Perry, decodes the message shrouded in the language of Republican fiscal austerity which disproportionately affects women. She cites the GOP's social agenda unravels the progress made by women, forcing them back into the domestic sphere as they cut family planning services, and creates an environment of compulsory childbearing where women can't control their fertility. This makes it more difficult for women to compete for degrees or jobs with their male counterparts.

Within Goddess spirituality or religion, advocates believe we do not diminish other men and women to assert our own strength. We do not exploit others. We strive for win-win situations through negotiation and partnerships, not power over and domination.

Over the years we have witnessed how patriarchy, militarism, imperialism, colonialism, conquest, and fundamentalism exploit people and resources creating poverty and inequity at home and across the globe. We can witness how predator or disaster capitalism is used to amass great wealth and grab power for the haves, leaving the have-nots vulnerable and at a disadvantage. We see how the absence of journalistic integrity coupled with corporate interests can result in a country brainwashed into any number of ideas, including the bogus Iraq war ginned up by the Bush administration. We see how history and school books are re-written to serve a conservative agenda. We see in California how Tier One religions (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Native American) have rights and protections not afforded Tier Two religions, such in the case of Chaplain Patrick McCollum's legal struggle with the state of California. We fear how the current economic, environmental and political crises we face will be exploited to militarize our societies and further strip away rights and liberties.

We are standing at the crossroads with the Goddess Hecate. She is shining her light and showing us where we have been, where we are, and where we might go. It is up to us to decide what kind of world we want to live in. Mahatma Gandhi was asked by a journalist what he thought of Western civilization. He answered: "It would be a good idea." Will mankind try to practice civilization?

We say we are a religious nation, yet the poverty rate is the third worst among developed nations according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the poverty rate is expected to rise from 13.2 percent to 15 percent this year. Forty million Americans are on food stamps and that number is also expected to rise. 99ers or those people whose unemployment benefits ran out long ago, are off everyone's radar screen. Yet despite unemployment benefits being an insurance workers pay into, Republicans held these benefits hostage until President Obama agreed to extend tax cuts for the richest 2 percent of people in country.

The GOP/Republicans are not even making an attempt to pretend they're about creating jobs. House Republican leader John Boehner, famous for passing out checks from tobacco lobbyists on the floor of Congress said if their budget cuts cost Americans more jobs, "So be it" while the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty estimates that 700,000 to 2 million people are homeless on any given night. In early 2011, the Republican Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, was trying to pass a law to take money directly from the poor and elderly and he's not even trying to hide he's giving it to corporations. In a war on democracy, he also wanted to pass a law that will allow him to dismiss elected officials and turn over the running of cities to corporations if the city was deemed in financial crisis. Several Republican governors are destroying labor's right to collective bargaining.

We are the only industrialized national that doesn't provide healthcare for all its citizens. Republicans, the so-called family values folk, want to keep us at the mercy of healthcare monopolies. The latest census figures show the gap between rich and poor widening to the largest margin ever with the richest 1 percent pockets more than 20 percent of total income which is greater than the total amount earned by the bottom 50 percent. CEOs that once made about 25 times more than their employees now make 350 times more than workers. Almost three years after the melt down on Wall Street, few executives have been criminally charged while Main Street suffers. And Republicans continue to roll back progress or thwart bills and laws that protect citizens, like progress made for clean air, food safety and healthcare.

The Dalai Lama said it would be Western women who would come to the rescue of the world. Might it actually be Goddess Thealogy? How would people re-act to a change in the mythology? Well, if the popularity of the recent movie Avatar is any indicator, the movie many I know equated with Goddess church, I think the Sacred Feminine might stage a coup based on the concept of inter-connection, reverence for Nature, a Mother Goddess, and respect of one another and the planet. Most people thought those were pretty cool ideas they would like practiced in society. My radio show listeners proclaimed they wanted to book passage on the first ship to Pandora. Over and over people in my community, with teary eyes, retold the powerful scene in Avatar as Jake knelt at the Tree of Souls, imploring Pandora's Goddess for help, saying his race, the Earthlings, called the Sky People, had destroyed their Mother and tomorrow they were coming to destroy Her.

Perhaps due to such a positive public response to the movie, the Vatican felt it needed to chime in with their warning. Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi reiterated Pope Benedict XVI's views on the dangers of turning nature into a "new divinity." And yes, many conservative evangelical Christians saw no value in Pandora's ideals. All over the internet readers could see many preferred a military conquest and corporate victory over the other, you know, people not like them, those blue-skinned tree huggers.

Well, the tree huggers on Gaia, people of all colors, genders and religions are calling on Goddess Thealogy to re-set the balance as she did on Pandora. Can we do it? Can change happen?

When St. Paul was run out of Ephesus, lucky to be alive after he tried to turn the masses away from their beloved Goddess Artemis, he must have wondered if this fledgling Christianity he was selling would ever stick. If you lived and worshiped in Pagan Rome, you probably never dreamed you would see the day the empire would be dominated by Christians, and if you were an early Christian fearing for your life, you surely wondered what the future held. Women being burned at the stake during the Inquisition surely could not foresee the changes that might be in store for women, no doubt like their sisters of the nineteenth century, when it was debated if women had souls.

Slavery was the norm across the globe in ancient times, including in the fledgling United States. Contemporary films like Iron Jawed Angels have documented how American women fighting for the vote were abused, and threatened with institutionalization and arrest for their activism and desire for equality. It has only been in the last few decades that African American men could play in the professional baseball league. Certainly, not that long ago, the thought of an African American or woman becoming President was unheard of in the United States.

One thing is certain, change and transformation are inevitable. They occur when enough people will it, usually after a profound event, or when circumstances collide that usher in transitions of new beginnings. Recent events, whether across the globe, as in the Arab Spring in Egypt and the liberation of Syria, or closer to home, with the partisan political battle to retain worker rights in Wisconsin or the occupation of Wall Street and Washington D.C., people are responding. They are beginning to organize at home and abroad and respond to the naked greed, the rape of the environment, voter oppression, swelling poverty, disaster capitalism, abuses of Wall Street, inequality and injustice, threats to their social safety nets, austerity measures, unemployment, jobs being shipped overseas, and the regressive politics of Republicans so obviously not interested in helping anyone but corporations.

But have the majority of people had enough yet? Can these social and political activists tip the scales in favor of the have-nots? Will values of the Sacred Feminine finally have their rightful place in society? Will Goddess Thealogy be reborn in the mainstream world? Gaia, Kali, Sekhmet, Isis, Durga, Ma'at, Sedna, Demeter—we call upon you to help us re-set the balance!


El Saadawi, N. (2011). What is Democracy?, GritTV. Video also accessible here.

Galbraith, J.K. (n.d.). BrainyQuote web site.

Michaelson, P. (2011). The Primitive Conservative Psyche, BuzzFlash.

Karen Tate is an ordained minister and ritualist. For over two decades, Karen's work has been fueled by her intense interest and passion for travel, comparative religions, ancient cultures, and Goddess Spirituality. She is available to perform the legal ceremonies and rituals that mark the most important life passages for yourself or your loved ones. Whether chosen to be done privately or witnessed by the community, these ceremonies help us to memorialize important moments in time, whether that be a beginning, ending, or continuation of one's journey through life. For more information see her ministerial website.

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