Saturday, March 15, 2014

Harriet Ann Ellenberger: Why Goddess Feminism, Activism, or Spirituality?

I got involved with women’s liberation in the early 1970s, so involved that it became my life for many years. During those beginnings of what is now called “the second wave of feminism,” everything was new to us and everything was mushed together -- the political, the economic, the intellectual, the emotional, the spiritual. I liked that a lot; it felt as if all the parts of myself were coming together.

During that time, I learned something crucial: the imagery and concepts of patriarchal religion justify and are embedded in the material structures of oppression. I don’t know which came first, institutionalized oppression (of everyone; I’m not speaking here only of women) or the religious expression of that oppression. All I’m certain of is that patriarchal religion permeates, for example, the Oxford English Dictionary, which I use all the time, in conjunction with Websters’ First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language, conjured by Mary Daly in cahoots with Jane Caputi.

I’m not a particularly spiritual person; I don’t practice any spiritual discipline, unless you can call reading and writing “spiritual.” And I agree with Marx that [patriarchal] religion is the opium of the people, the heart of a heartless world, that which keeps people alive in the iron cage of oppressive systems while at the same time discouraging them from collectively opening the door of their prison and venturing out into the real world.

While rejecting the historical function of father-god religions, at the same time I look to the new Goddess writers, re-discovering and re-inventing the early religions of humankind, for inspiration. The earliest religions of humankind seem to have worked to bring people together, rather than to crush some while benefiting others. That is attractive to me. The love of the earth and the stars and the mysterious invisible worlds that permeate Goddess spirituality also attracts me. Plus, the old and new Goddess images are so cunning and beautiful, and there is something enticingly poetic about the ceremonies being created and re-created in the name of Goddess spirituality.

What’s not to like about all this?

Harriet Ann Ellenberger
rural New Brunswick, Canada


This is an ongoing collective writing project, initiated by Magoism: The Way of S/He and Mother Tree Sanctuary in response to the question, "Why Goddess Feminism, Activism, or Spirituality?" We will feature different women's answers here and on the Magoism blog in the months to come as part of this project.

Contributions are welcome.  Please email or join the discussion on the Magoism group on Facebook.


  1. Inviting and guiding by Harriet Ann Ellenberger! Your story rings depth and truth!

  2. An amen to your words Harriet: " The earliest religions of humankind seem to have worked to bring people together..." As women, we can unite the world for peace, love, and nurturing the earth and all upon her! Paula

  3. Thank you, Harriet! I can very much relate to your words and your truth ... I love all that you love about Goddess spirituality, too! <3