Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Goddess worship in Early Christian Community

Ok! Midterms are almost done, and time for a new post on archaeology and Goddess worship in early Christian community. Professor Arthur Segal first found images of Aphrodite in excavations in Israel in 2009. Excavations are at the roman village of Sussita, inhabited until an earthquake destroyed it in 749 c.e. Professor Segal was part of an American delegation uncovering the day to day homes of early Romans in the now Christianized empire. The discovery of Aphrodite figurines goes a long way to showing that early Christians maintained Goddess worship well into the Christian era.

Then this past September, archaeologists unearthed more Goddess worship evidence. In a wealthy home, Israeli and American archaeologists uncovered a wall painting of the city's patron deity, the Goddess Tyche. The same home held beautifully carved figures of Dionysus' companions, Maenads. The maenads appear to be dancing in the ecstatic dances associated with the cult to Dionysus.

Put together, these findings over several years offer modern women another model of Christianity, one that values female deity and completely different models of sexuality than often depicted in early Christian community. Maenads are about as far from religious celibacy as one can get! Yet here is Sussita, a Romano-Christian town with clear evidence of Goddess cult surviving alongside the established rule of the empire.

And how cool is that?

A lot of Christian effort has been put into creating Christian community in imitation of the early house churches of the Roman empire. From Puritan attempts to create a fortress to God to more modern feminist celebrations of egalitarian house church, Christian theologians, churches and community groups have found inspiration in learning about early Christian communities. Well, here we have another model, one that includes female deity - and Aphrodite and maenads at that.

For women who want to remain in the church, yet find new meanings to women's body/power, and new definitions of God that include women, the finding of Goddess worship all the way into the 8th century is a wonderful new path. Incorporating Aphrodite and maenads into modern Christian worship may seem far-fetched, but really it isn't. Aphrodite figures celebrate women's body, and in Roman eras were associated with Artemis at Ephesus as much as pure sexuality. Aphrodite, however, ruled the heaven and the earth, which is why so many of Aphrodite's temples include Gaia and Uranos around her skirts. It is sad that modern people see Aphrodite as purely sexual terms without realizing her powers extended over arts and learning, and in some histories she is associated with war and fortifications. Aphrodite has many faces, some historians tracing her back to Astarte. Aphrodite in Christian homes is exciting.

Tyche is equally exciting. Tyche presides over the wealth and prosperity of the city; most Roman cities had a temple to Tyche, to ask for her blessings over the town. The Emperor Julian closed her temples as idolotrous, yet here archaeologists find her worship persisting in a wealthy home in Sussita. Again, a strong image of female power continued despite attempts to force the Roman world into monotheism. That a wealthy home publicly displayed a Tyche wall painting is especially powerful. For day to day Romans, goddess worship and Christian identity were not incompatible. Tyche as a model of the importance of women in civic life is marvelous: the United Nation slogan "When women move forward the family moves forward" exemplifies this view. Tyche, goddess or archetype, demonstrates a new economic model.

And let's be honest. Worshiping a maenad? Well, how awesome is that? Christians can use some help learning to celebrate and empower women and sexuality, and if early Christians kept maenads about, well, that is another wonderful model for all to follow, goddess worshiping or not.

I urge everyone to check out the awesome research on early Byzantine/roman communities in the early Christian era. Just as archaeologists are showing the multiplicity of faiths in Jewish communities, archaeologists are finding awesome examples of multiple faiths in the Christian world. Such mew visions enhance all of our worship!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Karen Tate Call for Action: Fight the GOP and Fox News

Ok, for those of you interested in magical action against the right wing, here is a call for spellcasting for March 3rd, 2011. Karen Tate, of Voices of the Sacred Feminine Radio show and streaming, posted this as part of a facebook group tired of the endless attacks from the GOP extreme rightwing and media like Fox News.

Here is the post from Karen:

On Thursday March 3, at anytime during that 24 hours, we're engaging in mirror magic to thwart the Republican (GOP) party and Fox News. We're tired of the Republican war on women, the middle class and poor, planned parenthood, and now the unions who helped build the middle class. We're tired of Fox News distorting truth for the benefit of Corporations and the GOP. Many of you probably saw independent studies that came out from universities showing how viewers of Fox are some of the most mis-informed viewers in the United States. They are hiding behind the Constitution to lie to Americans to pad their pocketbooks. They constantly try to divide Americans based on racism, sexism, immigrant bashing, religious intolerance, etc. Why? Because if everyone wakes up to the real enemies - the corporations who are the masters of the GOP, then they'll have quite a problem on their hands if the people unite against a common enemy and demand justice and fairness. Many are coming to believe the latest budget cuts economists say will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, that the GOP has publicly said they don't care about, is actually an intention to sabotage the country's economy, then blame Obama, so they can win the 2012 presidency.

So, get out your mirror. Have some image that represents the Republican party and Fox News. Use their logos if you like. Google the logos of Fox News and the GOP and print them out. Place your mirror on your altar or kitchen table or where ever you plan to work this intention. Your focus is whatever bad intentions for Americans spews forth from FOX or the GOP, it is reflected back at them. That their deeds and lies are exposed and come back to haunt them. That people wake up to their misdeeds destroying average Americans so the rich can get richer. Basically, they are bringing this on themselves. What they put out in the world will be reflected back on them. Cook up the intention whatever way you want, but this is the central focus. They get back what they've been spewing. The damage they've been doing comes back as damage to their cause. So make your logos face the mirror, effectively reflecting their image and deeds back at them. Muster up all your pent up anger and passion and put it into this intention. Then release it into the Universe so it can do it's work. And leave the mirror and logos/pictures/images there if you can - giving it more energy everyday.

We have to use the collective power of our intentions. We certainly don't have the money Republicans have to buy off our politicians and make laws and tax codes that continue to benefit the rich. No one on the Right is calling for shared sacrifice. The War Budget isn't being tapped for money. The rich aren't getting tapped to pay taxes even at the Clinton Administration rates - instead they're getting tax cuts. Their rich accountants find ways they dodge taxes. So where do they want to get the money -- on the poor and middle class who have been reamed by Wall Street.

Wake up America -- fight against this economic terrorism.

Of course any magical work can be changed to suit your spirituality. Prayer to stop rightwing media and GOP assaults on the US and state budgets are always welcome. I am rather fond, myself, of writing letters to my representatives - a good spellcasting if there ever was one. Puja to a budget for justice is good. Offerings to saints or deities, all good. Whatever path to spirituality works for you, demanding economic justice is cornerstone to all faiths.

Join with Karen tomorrow!