Goddesses are so hot right now.
Conservators at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta are in the process of reuniting a Roman marble statue of "Goddess of Love" Venus (or Aphrodite, to you Greeks) with—for possibly the first time in 170 years—her head. The High Court in the East Indian city of Calcutta has quashed a case against leading Bengali writer Sunil Gangopadhyay for allegedly defiling a Hindu goddess, Saraswati. Gangopadhyay testified that he was joking when he said he kissed an idol of the "Goddess of Learning" to satisfy his desire. An Ipswich, Massachusetts, toymaker has released The Goddess Dolls, which "symbolize the positive and empowering aspects of the Goddess tradition, such as love, wisdom and compassion."
There's more: Jim Eagles penned a loving piece in a recent New Zealand Herald about his relationship with Konohana Sakuya Hime, the goddess of Japan's iconic Mount Fuji. Closer to home, the 20th annual Long Beach WomanSpirit Summer Solstice Fair at the Unitarian Universalist Church June 10 drew, as its co-founder recently told Long Beach's Beachcomber newspaper, vendors and people "who are supportive of the feminine and goddess movement."
And then there is this: Mariah Carey has earned the Gillette Venus Award, not for her latest album, which has gone platinum six times, but for her shapely legs.
With apologies to Jan Brady: Goddess, Goddess, Goddess!
All this goddess palaver naturally forces one to turn inward, to his/Her own place of being, in this case Orange County, in this case the Goddess Temple of Orange County. But this intrepid reporter cannot attend holy services on these holy grounds—inside a nondescript Irvine business park—because my penis keeps getting in the way. Except during certain gatherings, the Goddess Temple of Orange County is for ladies only.
Fortunately, the temple's Reverend Ava—who longtime readers will remember as Ava Park, former head of Orange County People for Animals who was deemed Orange County Citizen of the Year by this very publication—did agree to share why goddesses are all the rage. Turns out they have been for tens of thousands of years.
"Thirty thousand years ago, pretty much everyone on the planet had the idea that God was female, and women everywhere were the natural spiritual authority, serving as shamans and spiritual leaders of tribes and clans," the Rev. Ava explained. "Five, six, seven thousand years ago, patriarchy or 'rule of the father' arose and demoted women, throwing them out of positions of power in religious institutions, turning them into chattel, and, on top of that, blaming them for all the bad stuff! Think Eve in the Garden of Eden."
She and her followers believe that the world has suffered terribly in the ensuing years because the balance of women's spirituality is out of whack.
"When our only God is a scary, punitive, remote Father in the Sky, it's hard for people to feel the nurturing, protective, compassionate aspect of the divine, and to show that loving face to one another. Even though the more recent New Testament/Christian God is often referred to as compassionate and loving, the actual underpinning of our overall societal beliefs about God seems still to be the Old Testament God of punishment, wrath and fear. And he's way up there in the sky somehow, far away, transcendent, not inside, not part of us."
The notion of God as male, as the He/Him of the Bible and elsewhere, naturally makes females feel as if they are "the other," and that impedes them from feeling holy and sacred, the Rev. Ava maintained.
"In our church, everything is holy and sacred, every aspect of reality, every woman, every man, every child, every animal, every plant, every bug—yes, bugs!—everything. And when we know ourselves as holy and sacred, we act like it. . . . When women don't feel holy and sacred, their self-esteem is shot and they start to allow all sorts of bad things to be done to them. They accept abuse, oppression and mistreatment as their natural due. It is not."
But she also contends "this Judeo-Christian Father God is also ultimately very hard on men." Patriarchy operates under the dominator model, setting itself up as being strong and all followers as weak. According to the Rev. Ava, "This model of behavior sets the stage for everything that is wrong with our world: wars, aggression, violence, trashing Mother Earth, child abuse, sex slavery, racism, classism, factory farming, puppy mills, global warming, high gas prices, Humvees, homophobia, bad plastic surgery and the common cold—okay, well, maybe not that last one."
Further, she says men actually want women who are goddesses—"The Real Goddess. Not those fake, impossible, air-brushed, implanted Barbie-doll goddesses," the Rev. said.
"Men are constantly looking for The Goddess in all the ways they know how, some of them fumbling and funny. Every day, wary-looking men from 20 to 80 step hesitantly through the temple doors. They look around at the beautiful altars lit with candles and, dazed and confused, they bravely forge ahead in their search. 'Ummm . . . can I get a . . . a massage?' Yes, they are looking for The Goddess! Or at least, a goddess. Online earlier that day, they Googled 'goddess temple' and guess what? Up popped 1,000 porn sites and massage parlors. No wonder they see our sign, 'The Goddess Temple of Orange County,' on Red Hill in Irvine and think what they think. How sad that this is what the world thinks a goddess is. Men are indeed looking for The Goddess . . . just not in quite the way we'd prefer."
Rather than immediately shooing these poor souls away or calling the cops, the temple's priestesses inform them that they are in a place of worship for women, that they should feel free to send their wives, sisters and girlfriends, and that men are welcomed to special events.
"We love the men," the Rev. said. "They, too, are part of all that is divine."
The Goddess Temple was founded in 32,002.
"No, that's not a typo," she said. "We date not from Christianity, but from the Paleolithic when The Goddess was first honored."
Orange County women have learned of the temple's existence by word of mouth. The curious generally check out a Sunday service—women only, of course—before becoming hooked.
"During services, we do magic, allow sacred energies to move through our bodies, fill ourselves up with these and then send out the extra to those who need it in the world," the Rev. said. "We hold the vision for a new way of being in the world: peaceful, powerful, abundant, joyful. These are our natural rights as humans, but in order to own them, we must claim them. And we do."
Most newbies find this refreshing, having previously only been exposed to churches where one person—usually a man—tells them how things are, what they should think and how they should act.
"In our church, we do indeed have a facilitating woman who guides the transitions from the singing to the drumming to the sharing to the praying to the libations, but we all contribute equally to the energy of what is happening in the room," said the Rev. "It's much more alive and real and immediate and fulfilling."
She insisted that women can only "remember and personally re-experience our ancient spiritual power" without the distraction of men present, "wonderful as they are."
And as all that unrelated goddess talk at the top of this story illustrates, women seem to be craving faiths like hers these days.
"People are realizing that the prevailing Big Five—Judeo, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu—Patriarchy has shown us all it can. The dominator model has run its course."
The Rev. Ava turned Cheney-esque.
"It's still very much operating in the world, but it is definitely in its death throes—it's all but done. We're all becoming very sick of wars and mistreating each other. We're seeing new paradigms of creation."
Then she turned Gore-esque.
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"Something is shifting. It started in the 1970s when we saw our home planet from space for the first time, and with temples such as ours arising, the shift is starting to gain momentum. It will take time certainly—those in power don't give it up easily—but people are starting to get the inconvenient truth, as Al Gore—a true, powerful goddess man—says, we can no longer afford to disrespect and abuse our first mother, the Earth."
The Goddess Temple will continue its goal of "bringing a balance" to the women of Orange County in the meantime. But, hey, Rev. Ava: What about the dudes?
"The Women of the Sacred Feminine are already including them! The men are an absolutely integral part of the whole process. We pray for and affirm their peace, true power—not force, as in David Hawkins' Power vs. Force, [a] fabulous explanation of the critical difference—and fulfillment right along with our own. It's all tied together in one great web."
WORSHIP SERVICES FOR WOMEN AT THE GODDESS TEMPLE OF ORANGE COUNTY, 17905 SKY PARK CIRCLE, STE. A, IRVINE, (877) 683-6753; WWW.GODDESSTEMPLEOFORANGECOUNTY.COM. SUN. GUIDED MEDITATION, 9 A.M.; MAIN SERVICE WITH DRUMMING, DANCING, RITUAL AND GUEST SPEAKERS, 11 A.M.