Gathering together at the river bank to wash, often singing while they work; gathering together to make food – often singing as they work; gathering together to look after sick children or elders – often chanting prayers as they worked; gathering together to make art – always singing as they worked; and gathering in the Temple, to create ritual, officiate at special ceremonies linked to special sacred days in the year, and to celebrate and honour the feminine Divine in all Her many manifestations. And always there was singing and chanting.
In very early times, the Temple was a grove of trees, natural caves, or a group of rocks, or a body of water, named and recognised as a sacred place (site) and returned to over hundreds of years by the same tribe. As the ancients began to understand the power of “energy” as we know it today, and the ability of invoking the presence of ancestor spirits, they began to build or create permanent shelter/buildings for their place of worship and magic – the Temple. At first, it would have been natural “buildings” such as caves, and over time, myriads of “buildings” were erected, from humble mud rooms, to grand pyramids. These building, over time, held the energy of many ceremonies, prayers and chants, making them “awesome” places to enter. This made the act of connection easier for the people who came to worship. They had to do little else than open their hearts and the feeling of the Divine filling their being was palpable.
The advent of the Temple revolutionised the ancient methods of worship. The Temple became the Spiritual and cultural heart of tribal community. Women, recognised as the earthly embodiment of the feminine Creator were the keepers of the Temple. The Priestesses, who were multi-skilled in sacred rites (shamanism), healing and divination, also were responsible for the training of girls and young women into the arts of shamanism and prophecy, ensuring that the people were well supported both in their everyday lives and also in the continuance of the herstory and well being of the tribe.
The Temple was the place of government as well, the place where the Circle of Grandmothers held council and heard petitions from the people. In the place of “god” or Goddess, people were more likely to act with ethics and honesty, and no raised voices were ever heard. In the presence of the Divine, truly divine decisions were made, ensuring the positive and prosperous growth of the tribe’s mundane and Spiritual life.
But the most important aspect of women as Priestess and wise elder, was the understanding that women bled each month without dying. To the ancients, this phenomenon was seen as “godly”, and women were seen as numinous, having powers in their bodies that men did not. And indeed, women do have deep oracular powers when bleeding, as scientific studies have shown. The original “sacrifice” was the offering of menstrual blood at the altars to the Goddess, as a means of expressing gratitude for abundance. Womens menstrual blood was also mixed with water and poured over crops to make them more abundant, a practice still used today by modern women and their house plants. The sacrificing of animals was never the province of matriarchal feminine Temple worship. The ancient Priestesses were well aware of the interconnectedness of Life.
The role of High Priestess was rotated on a yearly basis, ensuring that no one woman’s view ever became the view of the whole community for too long. And women who worked well in the position and used their powers wisely, were respected as elders of the tribe as they reached their Crone years and no longer had to bleed, mother, or take care of children. They sat as the Circle of Grandmothers or Elders and they “governed” using consensus and divination as the tools to decision making.
Associated with the Temple, was the Artists and Crafts House, the original “guilds” as we know them today. These “buildings” were attached to the temple, and in ancient times, all art was devoted to Spirit. The artisans who worked in these houses created all the needs of the temple, The sacred chalices, the bowls for sacred water, the oil burners, the candles, the candle holders, the Goddess sculptures, the hand held figurines of the Goddess – now seen as the hand held crosses of Christian culture. They also created all the mundane articles needed for life, such as food containers, plates, bowls, cups etc…., and so much more. Both men and women worked in these houses, but in the Temple, only women lived, officiated and taught.
Also associated with the Temple was the home of the dark Goddess, the House of Death or mortuary. Here the dead and dying were brought to be prepared for ritual burial or embalming. This house was overseen by male Priests, responsible fully for the preparation of the bodies, which was a complex and arduous science, and the sacred rituals for the release of the Soul. It was understood by the ancients that the work of birthing was the province of women and the work of death and burial was the work of men. Both were equally important, as death was recognised as the entry to rebirth. If death was not carried out with the appropriate or correct ritual and sacred ceremony, the Soul could not be reborn.
The Temple, was the unifying Centre of the tribe, the place where all negative energy and forces could be transformed for the good of all. It was a place of celebration, sanctity and awe, ensuring that the Divine was present in all aspects of life, and it belonged to everyone. No permission was needed to enter the Temple and the Priestesses who lived in and tended the temple, were available at any time and for any reason. The doors were never locked and nothing was ever taken or destroyed. This would have been unthinkable…..it would have been impossible for the ancients to desecrate the home of the Mother, who took care of them in everyway. To desecrate the Temple, would have been to endanger the whole tribe.
It was only when the Temple became the province of male priests that the world became a dismal place for the ordinary folk. Now, one had to have an intermediary to connect with the Divine, and it was assumed that people were “sinful” as soon as they were born. Life became slavery to a god that demanded complete obedience to his new, harsh, jealous and vengeful laws, and the people over many years began to forget their joyous, kind, generous and abundant Mother Goddess. But the Priests were clever enough to understand that the new religion of the father god, would never be accepted unless the Goddess was present in some way. So Mary, the Mother of God was created by the male priests, and the old testament was written by a group of male clerics, thereby negating for ever more the ancient, oral herstory of the Goddess.
Christianity is one of the youngest male defined religions to emerge. The Islamic religion and the Buddhist beliefs are much older, but still, if one looks carefully, the Goddess is still present.
With the loss of the ancient, Goddess loving concept of Temple, paradise was truly lost. All the beauty of the old concepts of “all being one”, and “do only what is good and if you cannot do that…do nothing until you can” and “what you put out, comes back to you threefold” and many more ancient laws of life on Earth went underground. Today, women and men all over the world are re-energising the old religion of the Goddess. There is much writing now available, which proves beyond a doubt that this glorious global matriarchal religion flourished for at least 30,000 years of recorded life on Earth. And who knows how much more will emerge as carbon dating processes become more and more developed. I predict that we will find evidence of peaceful, matriarchal consciousness for millions of years. And the temple will always be at the centre of life.
THE NEED FOR A TEMPLE IN AUSTRALIA
As I travel overseas, I take every opportunity I can to enter churches, mosques and temples of all descriptions. I love to walk into these places of worship which hold the prayers and dreams of millions of people. The feeling is always that of deep connection, no matter how the Divine is described and worshipped in these places. After all, there is only One, named and described as many different manifestations of the Creator. The Divine does not change…only the dogma and practices which accompany the choice to worship.
When I was in Glastonbury, I had the opportunity to visit the Goddess temple there, created and voluntarily maintained by a group of men and women led by Kathy Jones. It was a blessing to walk into a space which was so obviously dedicated to the Goddess.
The main altar, which had a large painting of a very abundant Goddess as the backdrop, was beautiful. On the altar, were many lovely artifacts and candles and incense etc….but what struck me most was the hundreds of little pieces of paper which held the prayers of people who had visited the Temple that week. I was told that each week, the Priestesses of the Temple collect the peoples’ prayers and in ceremony, offer the prayers to the Goddess in spoken word.
I walked around the space, seeing the four altars to the Four Directions. Large wicker statues had been lovingly made for each Element, creating an eerie feeling that they were actually alive. Each altar had been decorated with appropriate items and I felt a deep sense of “Yes..this is so good” deep in my heart. On the floor, here and there, were statues and objects donated by lovers of the Goddess to the Temple. It was obvious to me that many people appreciated this sacred space where they could embody fully their spirituality of choice.
When I was in Nevada, I was fortunate to be taken to experience the Temple of Sekmet, donated to the people of Nevada by Genevieve Vaughn.
This little Temple took my breath away. Totally open to the elements and the people and creatures of that place, the Temple was built of straw bale construction and had openings on all sides and an open roof. A beautiful wrought iron artwork of a half sphere created of crescent moons “covered” the roof
and a smaller wrought iron circular artwork of Goddesses holding hands protected the central fire pit.
A large black stone statue of Sekmet adorned the Western wall and a stone statue of a typical abundant Goddess sat facing Her.
Everywhere, people had left offerings….pictures, jewelry, feathers bones and stones, all kinds of objects. The space was sacred in a wild and untamed way. I was affected at a visceral level as I stood at the entrance and looked in. It took me quite a while to actually enter and then I had to chant to ground myself. It was such a powerful place, resonating deeply in my being. I felt my faith deepening and my dedication to the goddess “sharpening” or focusing in some way. It was an indefinable feeling, but I knew deep in my bones that something wonderful had happened.
I had an epiphany in that moment, as I understood how powerful Temples are. How palpably they hold the energy of sacredness and worship. How imprinted in the very walls, floor and objects are the intentions of those who came there to deepen their connection to the Divine. I imagined how healing it would be to come here and just sit in times of crisis or grief – as I experienced when my canine companion died last year. I imagined how wonderful it would have been to have my Croning Ceremony here. I thought about all the rituals I had created for hand fastings, baby namings, ceremonies of gratitude for prayers answered, rituals for the bringing in of abundance, so many…so many….and each time I had to set up the Temple space and then dismantle it again when the work was finished. All that wonderful energy, enjoyed in the monument and then lost for ever, to live on only in memory.
In that moment, I decided that I needed to create a permanent Temple in Australia. I had to begin. There had to be one Temple at least in Australia, totally dedicated to the worship of the Goddess. A Temple open to all who wished to connect with the Divine. And not only a Temple, a place of teaching and learning. A place where regular ceremonies could be held and rituals enacted for Full Moons, Solstices and Equinoxes and so on. A Temple which could begin to accumulate the sacred energy which all Temples resonate with. A Temple where people could gather from all over Australia for annual worship and celebration of the Goddess, where people could come and get “married”, where babies could be named in the sanctity of the Goddess, where young girls could celebrate their menarche, where all milestones and initiations could be witnessed and celebrated, where Priestesses could train in the skills and arts of that profession with a variety of teachers of many disciplines.
It is possible. So today, The Temple is set up in my large garage space….where I go….the Temple goes. Every day I sit in meditation and chant the Goddess into Being and fill the Temple with Grace. I hold the Light and invite all who wish to join me to come. You are so very welcome.