There is no doubt Beyonce was worshiped last night. My Twitter and Facebook feed lit up with praise and adoration, boys and men tweeted their longing for the Goddess, while women and girls posted props for her triumph of girl power. As I behold the image above, I see how the two faces create a chalice in the center–a symbol of the divine feminine.
While Beyonce and all the alluring young women of our time will eventually grow old–the Goddess of Love will not. She will continue to enchant humanity as She incarnates flowering and fiery young maidens throughout time.
The Goddess is bidden in American culture. We worship Her in magazines, models and movie stars. We use Her to sell ads and run our economy. A part of us knows She’s not entirely human: She’s airbrushed, adorned and acted. Still, we need Her with us. Her beauty reminds us that life is worth living. Her power ignites our dormant energy and calls us to unite and create new life together.
The Goddess is not bidden in Christianity. The Apostle Paul and the early Church Fathers steered Hellenistic Christianity away from the Pantheon of Greek Goddesses. It has been suggested that the earliest form of the Holy Trinity was derived from the Gnostics: Father (The Creator), Mother (Sophia) and Son (Christ). Later Christianity removed the Mother and replaced it with Holy Spirit, who is called a He in the Nicene Creed that is recited each week by millions around the world.
A major theological stumbling block to donning the female form with divinity in the church has been the historic vilification of the flesh which is said to war against the Holy Spirit. In Romans 7:18 the Apostle Paul writes, “I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is in my flesh,” a statement that would be very difficult for many pregnant mothers to make. The 4th and 5th century theologian Augustine coined the term “original sin” which has gone on to shape humanity’s loathing self image–a move away from what is written in the book of Genesis, where it is written that God created male and female and called them “very good.”
When the flesh and the desires of the flesh were deemed sinful, so were women, sexuality and the simple joys of life itself: nourishing food, comfortable clothes, a cozy home, a lover, a family all appeared frivolous distractions from a God who detested carnal impurities. These values belonged to the silenced Greek Goddesses–Hestia, Demeter, Aphrodite.
Furthermore, this Christian God looks suspiciously Gnostic as it tries even today to escape the flesh rather than incarnate it as Christ has, descending into all the mire–even death–to show us that God is present everywhere–maybe even in a Superbowl half time show.
As I watched Beyonce’s gyrating hips I could not simply think this woman was merely dancing. I remembered that there were once temples devoted to the Sacred Prostitute, places of initiation into the sexual mysteries. As I watched the orchestrated movements, the flames, the unfolding ritual, it was clear that Beyonce embodied the ancient Priestess.
Is this really girl power, this way of being that is clearly not for young girls or the elderly, but women of a certain age range, and a certain look? Are there any other kinds of power available to girls and women throughout their life time? Many of us are unfamiliar with the other forms the Goddess presents to women of all ages, because we have been raised on male gods and their preferences.
In my church, the Episcopal Church, which has been known as one of the most progressive branches of the church for women and gay rights, this is image of God we worship every Sunday in the Rite II Eucharist (using Prayer D):
Frequency of Names for God used in the most recent edition of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, 1979 in the Rite II Eucharist with Prayer D.
The highest frequency of names for God are male. The values of rule and power are thus equated with the Divine. If this is what is said in our more progressive churches, I think it’s fair to say the average Christian church worships one similar or even more masculine. Maybe this is why it’s so easy for us in American Christian society to ignore the teachings of Jesus and abide instead by Machiavelli’s ethos that might makes right. We worship the winners and forget that Jesus hung out with the losers.
And maybe this is why it is so dangerous for women to speak of rape. It challenges the power that male gods propagate. (Does God’s visit to the young virgin Mary echo an old story of divine rape?) If Beyonce was raped last night, would the same culture who praised her say she deserved it? Would they say: look at how she was dressed, she was asking for it? We all know where the pendulum goes: to the light and to the shadow. (I once worked for a Catholic priest who either adored me or belittled me; he struggled to find equality and humanity with women.) We may have left religion–but the Goddess is still present. Even if her sexuality is still split from our spirituality. Even if the church is dying–religion lives on, even unconsciously.
If being sexy for a general audience is the only power a woman has available to her in her lifetime, then women will continue to loath their flesh and the creative life force within. Many will cut themselves off from their sexuality to remain traditionally spiritual. Others will cut themselves off from traditional religion, the pleasures of food, or their very own bodies in order to remain sexual.
We need the whole Goddess and all the stories she inhabits. We need to say Her holy names week after week so that we can learn Her ways. If we can excavate Her divinity from the annals of time, redeem her from the ground of our being, I believe we will create a more sacred space to raise our daughters, our dignity and our divinity.