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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Oh my goddess!

No, this is not a post about the manga. One of the most recent entries at Feminist Mormon Housewives discussed the concept of the Heavenly Mother in the LDS church--or rather, the lack of concept. For those not familiar with LDS doctrine, the theology considers "God" to be the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as three separate and distinct beings.


Something's missing, isn't it? For a church which emphasizes the motherly role of women and the significance of the traditional family structure, one would expect the godhead to include a fourth figure: God the Mother. But nary a mention in the mainstream church. Oh, you'll get a mention here of Heavenly Mother smiling down on you, a throwaway comment there about how it "makes sense" that there's a Mother-figure up there alongside the Father-figure, but nothing concrete and no commitment. The most I ever heard my (extremely garrulous) Mormon stepfather say about Heavenly Mother was when I asked him why we didn't know about her, and he gave me the apparently-familiar and sanctioned spiel about Heavenly Father not wanting all us Earth bastards to take Her name in vain.

Bullshit, of course. There is no Mother-figure in the LDS church because, despite all the fawning talk about women's divine natures and holy roles as mothers and wives, women are not valued in that community to the extent that men are. The church was one of men's making and they, like so many others, created God in their image.

As you will see if you click through the fmH link, many LDS women are concerned, frustrated, saddened, and angered by this lack in church doctrine. There is no divine feminine for them to look up to, despite the exhortations of leaders to develop one's divine nature. There is no Mother-figure to turn to and pray to as the members are encouraged to pray to the Father. The lack of the Mother undermines LDS doctrine; I wonder how the leaders have not noticed this? Perhaps they noticed and tried to ignore it, but ultimately, I hope, women will rise and there will be a Heavenly Mother to back them up.

Eliza R. Snitch's recent entries about the book Women Who Run With Wolves, for me, feed into and draw steam from the issue of Heavenly Mother. The book and her reactions to it are philosophical and utilize the concept of "Wild Woman" as feelings, instincts, reactions, and desires which are repressed for a variety of reasons and which women and men alike must return to in order to live fully and truly. However, I see "Wild Woman" as being directly connected to Heavenly Mother; both are lost, repressed, and stifled, and both are utterly necessary in different ways. For a mainstream religious woman--by which I mean a woman belonging to a sect in one of the Big Three faiths--to be without a divine corollary is often depressing and frustrating, and reinforces feelings of helplessness and unworthiness. The lack of divine female figures allows women to be cut off from Wild Woman, allows those in control to decree what instincts, feelings, and desires are proper. In the LDS church, the missing Mother allows the patriarchs to close women off from the priesthood.

(Danu, the mother goddess of the Tuatha de Danaan in Irish myth)

My heart is with women in these situations, whatever religion they belong to. Since forsaking the LDS way for a life of sin and intellectualism, I have spent a good amount of time reading feminist literature about divine femininity, as well as various ethnographic texts about religions which embrace a female deity. What I have found and continue to find is beautiful and complex and rich. I am not currently in need of a well-broken religious path to follow, but you may be assured that if that time comes, the path I choose will welcome and revere women and sing praises to a divine lady.

(Beautiful "Danu" image taken from Thalia Took's A-Muse-Ing Grace Gallery. You can admire the rest of her amazing artwork here.)


Carla said...

One of the few things I still revere the Catholic Church for is the veneration of Mary and other female Saints. Yes, they'll give you a big spiel about the difference between worship and veneration and that we are not worshiping them but asking them to pray for us, but come on. What is really the difference between the way people feel about Mary and the way they feel about Jesus or God? I bet a majority of Catholics feel much closer and more reverent of Mary. And how many people say rosaries more often than prayers to Jesus or God?

The fact is Catholics worship Mary. I'm just sick of everyone trying to deny it and make it look like an evil thing to do. I am terribly disturbed by the hatred of the idea of giving anything like praise to a woman - and that's what it is, it's not about idolatry of worshiping a person, it's because she's a woman.

Ave Maria. Salve Regina. Hail, Mother of God.

Diana said...

That is an excellent point, Carla. My formerly-Catholic boyfriend considers Mary to be the female divine of Catholicism, and the way my not-really-practicing-but-still-culturally-Catholic grandmother talks about Mary is similar to the way my parents talk about Christ.

Catholicism does seem to be one of the few mainstream religions which allows for even an oblique worship of a female deity. I don't know much about reform Judaism, but as I understand it that path allows for personal interpretations of scripture, so I suppose female deities are reasonably welcome there, especially given the preponderance of Jewish feminists!

Eliza R. Snitch said...

The Virgin Mary was (and is) a huge draw for me. I think that regardless of Catholicism's faults, the presence of the divine feminine is something that they are doing right that very few other mainstream religions are doing.

Reform Judaism does try to include the divine feminine. Elohim at one point had a consort, Asherah. I don't know very much about it, but I do know that the idea of a strictly male God or concept of God is avoided in reform Judaism.

Oh, and thanks for the shout-out. = )

Diana said...

I suppose this is totally goofy, but I found Anita Diamant's book "The Red Tent" to have a really beautiful treatment of Asherah and other Semitic goddesses.

And, your blog is totally worth shouting out. :B

Carla said...

Oh I had completely forgotten about that. I actually took a lot of pleasure in the women's abuse of El in The Red Tent, and was really entranced by their own spiritual practices.

Anonymous said...

I think it's because in LDS theology if we were going to talk about Heavenly Mother it would have to be in the plural form: Heavenly Mothers. Awkward.

Diana said...

Reason: Wah wah wah...good point. Definitely not a conversation the church wants to have, I think! :D

Carla: honestly, I found the rituals and worship depicted in "The Red Tent" as moving and evocative as anything I ever read in scripture. Hmm, a post about religious views shaped by fiction books might be coming on...

Carla said...

ooooh, exciting!

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