I have always been a huge fan of the holy.
Ever since I was a little girl, it was a hobby of mine to explore places of worship, and try to understand where I fit in, what I believed, what it was all about.
Holiness made me feel right at home. Like I belonged.
Except for the fact that I was excluded. Or regulated to the most unholy spots. Being a girl and all.
Even as a little one, I found it kind of curious, kind of maddening, kind of outrageous that it was so hard to find feminine representation in places of worship.
I wanted in.
All the way.
I wanted to swing the incense and wear the fabulous gowns.
Or wear the white shawls, and carry around the parchment scrolls.
Or pray in any sacred space that called to me.
Meanwhile, I observed my mother who, instead of attending services at our synagogue, declared herself a child of nature, and preferred to sit on the porch and enjoy the birds and trees. She found the holy in the natural world.
Later on, I encountered Alice Walker, who wrote The Color Purple. I heard her speak about how she worshipped and trusted mother nature, who never lets us down.
In 1997, she wrote an essay called The Only Reason You Want to Go to Heaven is That You Have Been Driven Out of Your Mind, in which she says:
“It is fatal to love a god who does not love you. A God specifically created to comfort, lead, advise, strengthen, and enlarge the tribal borders of someone else. . . Looking back on my parents’ and grandparents’ lives I have often felt overwhelmed, helpless, as I’ve examined history and society, and especially religion, with them in mind, and have seen how they were manipulated away from a belief in their own judgment and faith in themselves. It is most painful to realize they were forever trying to correct a “flaw” that of being black, female and human that did not exist, except as “men of God,” but really men of greed, misogyny and violence, defined it. What a burden to think one is conceived in sin, rather than in pleasure; that one is born into evil rather than into joy.”
I started researching the feminine divine like a star-struck fangirl.
I found that worship of, and including, the feminine was as different from what I grew up with as a loaf of wonder bread was from home-baked. I found the work of Maria Gimbutas, Merlin Stone, Riane Eisler, Martin Prechtel.
I found a new way to holy.
And I found a place where I felt utterly at home rather than utterly outcast.
I learned that according to the divine feminine, there was divinity in everything and everyone.
The worn metal spoon that had been my grandmother’s, that she had brought with her from Russia, and was now mine, stirring the pots that fed my child, was holy. Filled with the spirit of the love of all those ancestral dinners cooked.
I learned what I already knew – that the sky, the clouds, the stars, the sun, the moon were all sacred givers of life.
That it was mother earth who fed us and held us as we slept at night.
And I learned that it was my turn on, my erotic nature, my life force that connected me to my own divinity.
Whether in the arms of a lover, fingers on a keyboard, dancing, weeping with rapturous joy or sorrow, singing to the oldies or the newbies – when I was turned on, I was plugged in to my divinity. I was at my happiest, my most me, when in connection to, and in service of, the divine. Turning on was tuning in.
These concepts were revolutionary, and relieving.
The prayer I was taught as a child was not like this.
Prayer was about obedience. Being right or being wrong. Being in, being out. Inclusion if you played by the rules, exclusion if you didn’t.
Turn on was considered profane.
And just about the unholiest thing a girl could do.
When I looked deeper and investigated the word, ‘profane’, I found out that it was from the Latin pro-fanum, meaning ‘outside the temple’.
It didn’t mean bad.
It just meant outside the temple.
Which is where my mother preferred to sit, anyway.
There’s much more to this story, which I share in my new book, but today, I just wanted to open up the conversation.