Living in the Lap of the Goddess

Cynthia Eller --- 1993-95

Living in the Lap of the Goddess: the Feminist Spirituality Movement in America, 1993-95. pp. 114-115, Beacon Press Books

Where ritual and performance art intersect, there is another area of spiritual feminist expression: ritual theater. At times spiritual feminist theater is scarcely different from the spiritual feminist workshop: the “audience” is drawn in, and they dance, chant, and paint their bodies along with the “actresses.” At the other end of the spectrum are theater pieces in more traditional dramatic form that address spiritual feminist topics. For example, a two-woman organization called WomanShine Theater performs a play titled “Women of the Gateway” that tells the sotry of two women who meet “in a 9th century village of women healers and artists” and find each other again and become lovers in a subsequent lifetime in the twentieth century. Other performance pieces fall somewhere in the middle: they involve the audience, but never pretend to be spontaneous ritual. Several of these pieces are explicitly feminist, such as those created by Mary Beth Edelson in the late 1970s: “Your 5,000 Years Are Up” (referring to the patriarchy) and “Memorials to the 9,000,000 Women Burned as Witches in the Christian Era.” The latter, performed on Halloween night in New York, consisted of a long litany of names of women who were executed as witches in the middle ages, and eventually led to a procession through Soho of people chanting “The Goddess is here; the Goddess is us.” A more recent performance piece occurred in 1989 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where a group called “Witches’ Return” put the “Patriarchy on Trial.” Larger-than-life puppets were constructed to represent specific patriarchs: priests, pornographers, rapists, serial killers, and academics, among others. Each puppet was put on trial individually, and eloquent and poetic statements were read detailing their crimes. A triumvirate of judges (one of whom was Mary Daly) ruled in the case, sentencing the patriarchs to death, with assistance from the hundreds of women in the audience who obligingly booed and hissed at appropriate intervals.