I can understand why women today are attracted to Wicca. No, it’s not the silly spell casting and consorting with the faeries. That’s just romantic, even superstitious nonsense. It is a place to be a woman in a spiritual sense. Christianity has failed to give women a good place to stand in the House of God, and too many are casting about for something – anything – to replace it. Feminist theology has failed Christian women. Many of us had no good reason to work up that much anger at the church and men, even while admitting their foibles. Feminist theology, in my view, pushed us to challenge men for their place in a power-mad hierarchy. Many of us had neither the drive nor the interest to engage the old church on its own terms.
What we needed was to be valued as women.
Without the feminine in the church, in the Body of Christ, there is a lack of creativity. (Theologians and the rank and file of clergy for millenia have confused the corporal body of Jesus with the spiritual Body of Christ.)
The myths of our Holy Scriptures have been used against us, beginning with Eve. “Myth” is something that is true in an abstract way without being provably factual. The Book of Genesis in particular contains myths about Creation. Whoever wrote the first chapters of Genesis was not an eyewitness to the Creation; this happened long before the invention of written language, certainly. An essential truth is expressed in the narrative of Adam and Eve: We were made by God to walk with God, to know God face to face, to live in His love and to love one another. We failed to do that by our own free will, one of the attributes we received in God’s image. (Creationists, do not bother writing in to refute. I am not entering into this argument. I stand where I stand.) Eve has been blamed for all the ills of humanity since. If Eve was beguiled, then Adam was complicit.
God expels His creatures from the beloved garden; He sends them out into the wilderness to make their own way, to survive and perhaps prosper by their own labour. While they have brought a curse upon themselves, God turns it into a blessing. They will not have to live as animals, surviving by instinct only. They will till and spin, sharing in the growth of the land. It will be in labour that Adam will produce fruit from the earth; it will be in labour that Eve will bring forth children. God’s left-handed blessing is that they will share in the act of Creation; the created will create, each to its own kind. Eve names her child Cain, “God has given me a man” – from Hebrew “qanah” – to acquire.
By Genesis 12 we are entering firmer ground as far as a history is concerned. Nothing about the Abraham/Isaac/Jacob-Israel is provable; there are no confirming historic records, just archeological surmise. The narratives are plausible, though, in the sense that Christians accept that God does speak to His creatures and directly influences what these creatures do. We accept that God has the power of life and death, and the power and will to judge, reward, and punish. Abraham, Sarah, and their descendents see God and talk to God. They know His presence directly. They lived in a world of miracles and blessings. So do we, but we don’t have eyes to see God’s presence as they did.
Recreating their world is a big challenge. They lived semi-nomadically, moving seasonally amongst the springs nd natural meadows of Mesopotamia. It was a fertile world, most of the time. They could set up camp, something like a tent village, and expect to see no one else for weeks. We know some things abotu their day to day life, how they tended herds and flocks, how they grew some crops, how they cooked, baked and brewed. The more intricate details of their lives are harder to piece together.
Some of you may have read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. This is fiction about the life of Jacob’s family, his twelve sons and his daughter. The central theme is of women’s spirituality and their cultic practices at that time, with the women continuing to engage in pantheistic and idol-centered rituals. They keep their ritual life apart from the YHWH spirituality of Abraham/Isaac/Jacob-Israel. While the author writes as if the YHWH cult was minor, and certainly its practitioners were a minority in their larger culture, Genesis supports a view that the Abramic family were the “priests” of the cult, with many followers in their clans and amongst their slaves and servants. The only hint in Genesis that the women may have had a separate cultic practice is that Rachel, wife of Jacob, stole her father’s household idols when the family broke off from him. These may have been clay or stone cultic figures obtained from shrines, or they may have been ancestral relics, such as the decorated skulls that have been found at Jericho. Was she trying to rob her father, Laban, of his power? This is not a likely explanation since his idols had not enriched him. He did not prosper until the God of Jacob, YHWH, bestowed blessing on Jacob. More likely, Rachel was trying to secure a right to the inheritance Laban tried to keep back from her and her sister Leah, Jacob’s first wife.
The women in Genesis participate in dialogue with YHWH, turning to the altars and sacred places when they have questions about conception and birth. YHWH seeks out Sarah as well as Abraham, and informs her of her impending pregnancy. YHWH is always their God, and speaks to them about the sacredness of procreation.
Part Two will concern more about how God spoke to the women who know from the Bible.