The Divine Feminine

Modified on: March 1, 2021


Celebrating Women’s History

“The inclusion of female divine names and images in worship and ministry empowers our work of peace and justice in the world by helping to break down patriarchal structures that keep so many people in poverty and oppression.” (Rev. Dr. Jann Aldredge-Clanton)

I once shared an image of the Divine Feminine with a group in dialogue about gender, race, and religious difference. This image is rooted in deep scriptural and faith community traditions, but it is very different from the normative male images of divinity to which many people in the group were accustomed:

Saint Sophia, by Mirta Toledo
Saint Sophia, by Mirta Toledo

The response was moving. Some people experienced deep recognition and elation. Others were very disturbed. It was evident that for everyone the image was unexpected and impactful. Images are powerful—they are a mirror, an echo; they tell us something about ourselves and our world, whatever our beliefs may be.

Of course, images of the Divine Feminine are foundational for human cultures around the world and throughout time:

Kuan Yin, Bodhisattva of Compassion
Kuan Yin, Bodhisattva of Compassion
Isis, Egyptian Goddess of Life, Death, & Magic
Isis, Egyptian Goddess of Life, Death, & Magic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there are images of great complexity, that push us beyond the usual boundaries of our accepted reality:

Ardhanarishvara, the god Shiva & goddess Parvati fused
Ardhanarishvara, the god Shiva & goddess Parvati fused

“Viewing deity as including and transcending female and male releases all genders to experience a deeper spirituality as we have greater freedom to fulfill our potential in the divine image.” (Rev. Dr. Jann Aldredge-Clanton)

When I shared with the UUCS Worship team and members of our congregation that we would be focusing on the Divine Feminine during this month, I was again moved—many people shared with me stories, images, and books about their encounters with the Divine Feminine, and the transformative power of those encounters in their lives. I would like to invite you to join in this dialogue as well. If you have stories, images, practices, or experiences of the Divine Feminine you would like to share, please reach out to me over the course of this month ( minister@uucs.org ). I would very much like to hear them.

For those of us who identify with a divine power, these stories, images, and practices can be challenging and liberating about who divinity is, and what our connection to Her can be. For those of us who do not find meaning in divinity, these images can still be challenging and liberating, a mirror revealing the power that human beings can access within ourselves to dismantle systems of oppression, symbolized in images from fellow human beings around the world.

For all of us, these images are an invitation—to be challenged, to be liberated, to discover a power for liberation of which we are all a part.

“With all the injustice and violence in our world, we often feel overwhelmed and wonder what we can do. We all want to make a difference…. We contribute to transforming our world through including female names and images of the divine. I invite you to speak and sing Her name, to experience Her transforming power.” (Rev. Dr. Jann Aldredge-Clanton)

Scott


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