An early article on women’s ceremonies

Women’s Ceremonies

There are times in a woman’s life where it is extremely helpful for her to affirm her innate strength and beauty as a woman. And to have that affirmation echoed and reflected in the faces and voices of a circle of women.

Goddess grants us our inner spiritual initiations in Her own way, in Her own time, through the winding course of our lives. But a circle of women can be called together whenever we feel the need of them, to hold and affirm us as we pause momentarily on the brink of significant change in our lives.

Women’s ceremonies can help us: to prepare ourselves for a wedding or handfasting,; to gather our inner resources on the eve of giving birth to a baby, launching a new business, dedicating our lives to the Goddess, beginning a new job or role or creative project, embarking upon an apprenticeship, training program or course of study.. A circle of women can bear witness as we celebrate endings: progressively let go of our growing children, grieve and heal a divorce, the end of a relationship, the anniversary of a loved one’s death; claim mastery and step into the authority earned through our lived experience.

But what about those in-between times of our lives? The daily round of continuing to show up, pay attention, stick at it. The months of persistent hard work for delayed or intermittent reward. What of the years of perseverance? What sustains us through the ups and downs of a long-term relationship, of family life, of work as a carer, a teacher, a social or environmental activist, an artist or writer or priestess? Where does the sustenance come from to keep on with a personal journey to heal from physical illness, addiction or abuse? Or indeed, whatever other form of soul-work regularly occupies your energy and attention, and may occasionally leave you feeling emptied out and weary?

We are indeed fortunate to live in a place and time where so many different spiritual paths and traditions are available to us. Her e in Perth there are temples, churches, mosques, synagogue, a Quaker meeting house, and probably more. Open the Nova magazine any month of the year and you will find an amazing range workshops, classes and retreats with teachers from a wide variety of traditions offering meditation practices, yoga forms and an ever growing range of healing modalities.

Women work in this world alongside men. Many of us have fathers, brothers, lovers, sons and close male friends who are a beloved and important part of our social, emotional and spiritual lives. Our lives are entwined, and from many perspectives our common humanness out-weighs any gender-based difference. If we eat, work and sleep together, then it is natural enough that we should want to pray together also. Shared spiritual practice can bring us into a beautiful awareness of the unity which encompasses and underlies our human differences. Why then, might a woman seek spiritual sustenance in the company of other women?

There is a particular quality about women’s sacred space which is hard to adequately capture in words. For some women, in some phases of our lives, it offers us something we don’t as readily find anywhere else. This is particularly true when we are engaged in the “invisible” work of our culture – spinning and weaving the threads of relationship and spirit which bind families and communities and keep the worlds together. (This is not exclusively women’s work, but it is work which many women do). The Ishtar Women’s Mysteries address this reality, are part of this work, and can help feed and sustain us on this level.

Arguably, before a woman is ready and able to engage in a full, filling and creative relationship with another person, she needs first to have come into her own creative power as a woman. To have tasted her own soul and found it juicy and good. Even in these supposedly “liberated” days, this is not something easily come by. We, like a growing proportion of the world’s population, are living with and working to heal the residue of a couple of thousand years of a culture which has stolen the spiritual birth rights of both women and men. We are drawing on the inspiration of older traditions and finding our own ways to reclaim the gift of being “at home” and comfortably embodied upon the Earth – body, mind and spirit – in female, or male, form. The Ishtar Women’s Mysteries are one possible vehicle that a woman may make use of in this quest.