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All over the modern world, a new social phenomenon is gradually taking shape. Women, the traditional pillars of Judeo-Christian religion, are turning against this faith. Many women prefer to gather in small grass-roots groups in each other's homes, where they discuss recent studies of prepatriarchal Goddess worship and engage in rituals aimed at recreating some feeling for those ancient faiths.
Because of its private nature, the phenomenon is almost invisible to the public eye. Occasionally, the popular press takes a passing interest in it, giving it the label "witchcraft," which is understood to be mildly newsworthy. Under another one of its labels, "the women's spirituality movement," the phenomenon is hardly defined or even definable in this man's world.
The women's spirituality movement has given many women better feelings about themselves, in consequence of joining together with other women in groups, gatherings, circles, covens, or conferences. Women touch, embrace, communicate. They share food, feelings, thoughts, and ideas. They praise each other's accomplishments. They support each other in trouble. They provide sympathy for hurts, advice for problems, many kinds of mutual education. They laugh or cry together, love or quarrel, lend things, give gifts, do favors. Some find in women's groups the closest relationships of their lives, closer than their bonds with husbands, children, or parents. Others drop out after a time, but with changed attitudes.
Women have always banded together along the underside of male-dominated social structures.Aside from obvious natural bonds among female family members, women have always joined all-female groups that in some way served the mutual support functions listed above, whenever they could. Old-fashioned sewing circles and quilting bees gave their members more than needlework expertise. Grandma's Saturday afternoon teas or Sunday luncheons held more rewards for Grandma and her friends than men ever noticed. Volunteer groups, community services, neighborhood committees, social clubs, church and charity organizations, even bridge clubs or the PTA gave women opportunities to meet and work with one another, to communicate, cooperate, and widen their circles of friends.
Women working together on almost any kind of project have inevitably formed mutually supportive relationships out of their common needs and shared life experiences. When a woman has faced any of life's common crises birth, bereavement, illness, sudden misfortune, troubles with love or work there have usually been other women there to help.
Male-dominated society still exploits women's natural propensity to care, to nurture, to take responsibility for the comfort of others. Unfortunately, feminists still allow this to happen. Nothing much has been changed so far by women talking together of the Goddess's blessings instead of the annual fund-raising party, or of the archetypal power of femaleness instead of their children's grades.
As far as most men are concerned, women's talk is still women's talk, having little to do with the "real" world that is, the world where money is made. Men with power in that world seldom pay attention to what women say among themselves. They even pride themselves on their ignorance of it. They still believe women's groups perform busywork, the only real purpose of which is to keep women off the streets and away from the seats of genuine power.
Because Goddess worshipers use the term power much more loosely, they need to understand that, to men, it means the capacity to threaten or destroy. Like it or not, the fate of all women, their children, and their earth lies in the untrustworthy hands of men corrupted by their lifelong craving for that "real" power which also corrupts women in ways so numerous and so subtle that it takes a very high degree of consciousness-raising to name and avoid even a fraction of them.
Patriarchal society has always found ways to exploit women's need for what is called busywork. Done in solitude, such work has been thought to provide a harmless outlet for frustrated female creativity that will never become commercially viable (the only raison d'être recognizable by the patriarchy), Done in company, such work has been thought to provide harmless ways for women to help one another support male-headed institutions: family, government, church.
A prime example of such exploitation is the churches' canny enlistment of women to work without pay for their cause: promoting the patriarchal God and his ever-acquisitive priesthoods, after the latter spent centuries demolishing women's own religions. A human analogy is found in the Bible: Yahweh directed his warriors to take heathen girl children as their household slaves and concubines, after raping and killing the girls' mothers (Num. 31:17-18; judges 21:10-12).
If a few women today talk of resurrecting the long-since raped and killed Divine Mother, many churchmen believe they can be ignored as too few, and usually too poor, to matter. Churches go on enjoying the faithful service of their unpaid ladies' auxiliaries and maintain the conventional idea that women who recognize no church, or who call themselves witches and Goddess worshipers, are only lunatic-fringe cultists, misled by some diabolical power into making fools of themselves.
In one sense, women may again play into patriarchal hands when they leave conventional religion behind and begin to study, work, and play with the older matriarchal concepts. Most Goddess worshipers emphasize such traits as human warmth, love, sensitivity, generosity, and nonjudgmental acceptance. Lo and behold, the same traits were always urged upon Christian women too. Through the course of European history, by the golden rule standard, women were the only true Christians. Their men may have talked fine rhetoric about loving their enemies and giving away all their worldly goods; but in practice, Christian men slaughtered their enemies in unending wars, crusades, and persecutions, while their church was the richest institution in a Europe foully poisoned by the abject poverty of its general population.Crone. Copyright © by Barbara G. Walker. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.