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Pagan Power Women

Town 39My recent visit to the @wiltshiremuseum in Devizes was enriching. There was, in addition to the bone flute recently blogged about, a section about the power of women and their place in bronze/iron/neolithic society.

Nothing is certain, obviously, we weren’t there, but we can just pick over the items that the ground has saved. The archaeology indicates that there were women of status and power, marked by their grave goods, the jewellery and the knives that accompanied them. The displays of grave goods @wiltshiremuseum are affecting. These are all domestic and personal items, used by someone and treasured enough to be taken to the OtherWorld. I like personal items, I wonder at the stories they could tell.

It’s a Pagan thing, this empowerment of women, something that is sadly missing in organised religion. It strikes me as I wave my ash twig and dance naked round the Ring of Brodgar, that what religion has chiefly organised is a male dominated hierarchy. Even in this day and age we have the Church of England scrapping at the Synod over women bishops. I never have worked out how we allowed this and yet I have to admit, being brought up CofE I didn’t question it. Church was church and the lack of women folk in the Bible didn’t ring any bells, church or otherwise, until I grew up and began to think ‘It’s a bit of a boys club this.’ and the thoughts that Jesus only had male disciples. There was his mum of course and then there was Mary Magdalene but, as Waldemar Januszczak’s excellent programme on BBC Four the other day states, she’s only mentioned four times. The women are sidelined. They wash feet. They weep. They are, classically, a madonna and a prostitute.

It’s not good enough. It’s not true.

In Pagan faith there is God and Goddess and each has their role. The Vikings thought that women held all the magic and intuition and were the staff bearers. I think I’ve probably waffled on about this before but it is sticking in my mind.  At another museum binge, this time the British Museum and their Vikings exhibition, there were several ‘staffs’ found in graves with women.  There were women who were chosen, who were considered to be wise and special and had much to contribute. Women brought ‘seidr’ the shamanistic magic and were simultaneously revered and feared. They had power.

In later times there were wise women in villages, women with the knowledge of herbs and healing who were pushed out, turned into ‘witches’ in what was, to my mind, a power grab. The Church, stone and stalwart, wanted everyone to come into the church and be brainwashed and shackled to the rules, you can’t, therefore, have anyone outside that system who is walking their own path. You can’t let people have an alternative, especially not when that alternative is a woman. So, women who had life skills, midwifery etc were persecuted, driven out and in some cases, killed. You have a faith monopoly.  You make female knowledge a taboo, a thing of ‘witchcraft’, you poison and you taint.  I wonder how much valuable knowledge was lost?

The world has been trying very hard but women can’t be written out of spirituality and it’s probably a factor in the rise of ‘other’ religions. The mainstream laughs or derides Pagan or Wicca or Druid or even Jedi.  If you laugh at something you make it small. It’s time to stop laughing. These spiritual ideas are not going away, they shrug off the attempts at control and mockery.

The people who are drawn to those ideas and thoughts are searching for something for themselves and finding it. They are finding the trees and the goddess that have been waiting there all along.




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