Carol Patrice Christ, 1945-2021
“In Goddess religion death is not feared, but is understood to be a part of life, followed by birth and renewal.” -Carol P. Christ
Carol Patrice Christ died peacefully on July 14 from cancer. Carol was and will remain one of the foremothers and most brilliant voices of the Women’s Spirituality movement. At the conference on “The Great Goddess Re-Emerging” at the University of California at Santa Cruz in the spring of 1978, Carol delivered the keynote address, “Why Women Need the Goddess: Phenomenological, Psychological, and Political Reflections.” Christ proposed four compelling reasons why women might turn to the Goddess: the affirmation and legitimation of female power as beneficent; affirmation of the female body and its life cycles; affirmation of women’s will; and affirmation of women’s bonds with one another and their positive female heritage (Christ 1979).
Carol graduated from Yale University with a PhD in Religious Studies and went on to teach as a feminist scholar of women and religion, women’s spirituality, and Goddess studies, at institutions including Columbia University, Harvard Divinity School, Pomona College, San Jose State University, and the California Institute of Integral Studies, where she was an adjunct professor since the inception of the Women’s Spirituality, Philosophy and Religion graduate studies program in 1993. Christ published eight profoundly thoughtful and inspiring books, several in collaboration with her friend and colleague Judith Plaskow, whom she met at Yale:
- Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on Spiritual Quest (1986)
- Woman Spirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion, anthology co-edited with Judith Plaskow (1992)
- Odyssey with the Goddess: A Spiritual Quest in Crete (1995)
- Weaving the Visions: New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality. Anthology co-edited with Judith Plaskow (1989)
- Laughter of Aphrodite: Reflections on a Journey to the Goddess (1987)
- Rebirth of the Goddess: Finding Meaning in Feminist Spirituality (1998)
- She Who Changes: Re-imaging the Divine in the World (2004)
- Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Co-authored with Judith Plaskow (2016)
After first travelling to Greece in 1981 with the Aegean Women’s Studies Institute led by her friend Ellen Boneparth, Carol fell in love with the country. She chose to live in Greece, first in Molivos on the beautiful island of Lesbos, and then moving recently to Heraklion, Crete. She had a passion for saving the environment and was active in the Green movement in Greece. she also had a love for swimming in the Aegean and sharing Greek food and wine with friends in Greece and from overseas.
Carol’s fascination with Crete, ancient and modern, led her to found the Ariadne Institute for the Study of Myth and Ritual, through which she offered an educational tour, “Pilgrimage to the Goddess” twice annually. These tours introduced many to a direct experience of the ancient Earth Mother Goddess in Crete (goddessariadne.org).**
In her most recent article, for the Encyclopedia of Women in World Religion: Faith and Culture, Christ wrote about the Goddess religion and culture of her beloved island of Crete, and the roles women played in that “egalitarian matriarchal” civilization. Her eloquent words speak not only to the Goddess religion of ancient Crete, but also to the spirituality and ethical values she also cherished, which are much needed in our own culture today.
As discerners and guardians of the mysteries, women created rituals to celebrate the Source of Life and to pass the secrets of agriculture, pottery, and weaving down through the generations. The major rituals of the agricultural cycle involved blessing the seeds before planting, offering the first fruits of the harvest to the Goddess, and sharing the bounty of the harvest in communal feasts. These rituals establish that life is a gift of the Goddess and institute gift-giving as a cultural practice. As women controlled the secrets of agriculture, it makes sense that land was held by maternal clans, that kinship and inheritance passed through the maternal line, and that governance and decision-making for the group were in the hands of the elders of the maternal clan. In this context, the intelligence, love, and generosity of mothers and clan mothers would have been understood to reflect the intelligence, love, and generosity of the Goddess.*
*Carol P. Christ, “Crete, Religion and Culture” Encyclopedia of Women in World Religions: Faith and Culture across History [2 volumes] edited by Susan de-Gaia | Nov 16, 2018 ABC-Clio Santa Barbara 2019.
Obituary written by Mara Lynn Keller, PhD and Ellen Boneparth, stating, Please feel free to forward to your circles or post to newsletters or to the press.
** Additional information from Laura Shannon:
We are planning to offer an online memorial/celebration of Carol's life on her birthday, December 20, 2021. Details to follow.
Everyone is warmly invited to share memories of Carol, pictures too if you have them. Please email them to Xochitl Alvizo at firstname.lastname@example.org (the email must include 'blog'). Xochitl will add them to a running tribute post which she has set up on FAR and will update regularly. (Thank you, Xochitl.)
The Goddess Tours to Crete, which Carol led for over twenty years, will resume in Fall 2022, and will be led at Carol's request by Laura Shannon with support from Tina Nevans and Mika Scott, following the template which Carol created. Donations to the Ariadne Scholarship Fund in Carol's memory will be gratefully accepted by the Ariadne Institute for the Study of Myth and Ritual, the 501c3 non-profit educational and charitable organization which Carol founded. Donations are tax deductible in the US. Ariadne Institute, P.O. Box 5053, Eugene, Oregon 97405. www.goddessariadne.org
Filmmaker Cheri Gaulke has just posted this beautiful video of an interview she and Anne Gauldin conducted with Carol during her Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete in September 2019, the last tour Carol led. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhbV5ow0SUM
This weekend, Carol had been planning to present her new paper, 'A Working Hypothesis for the Study of Religion in a Minoan Village: Theories of Harriet Boyd Hawes, Marija Gimbutas, and Others' at the Symposium of the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology and the Institute of Archaeomythology in honour of the centennial of Marija Gimbutas. Participants will be able to hear a recording of Carol reading this paper, with access to the recording (and all other conference proceedings and materials) for a year. Information and registration at https://symposium.womenandmyth.org
May our beloved Carol, fearless pioneer in feminist thealogy and Goddess studies, rest in peace. She will live on in her writings and in the memories of thousands whose lives she touched and changed through her words and teaching.