Seasonal Salon

A Spiritual Lineage

Her eyes, dark as coal, held only genuine curiosity. How could she know her question would keep me from sleeping through the long Solstice night.

“Was your family a religious one?”

She mistook my hesitancy to answer. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.”

“Oh, no,” I protested with a smile. “I’m not sure how to respond.” Pages turned in my mind—images of those Sunday mornings… my mother trying to coax my father and me toward her church. “But I hate Sunday School” and later, “But I hate MYF (until those Sunday night meetings became a cover for a forbidden date.) There would be Church Camp where I learned to smoke and cuss; The Church of the Saviour, a 60’s version of the Methodist Church; a year of Sundays with the brilliant feminist Carmelite nuns at their monastery—and imposing stone fortress, where former nuns and priests found solace…until the morning the visiting priest’s homily centered on St. Paul and…that’s another story.

“My family religious?” I laughed. “If that means I couldn’t leave the breakfast table until my mother had read the daily message from ‘The Upper Room,’ inevitably keeping Mrs. Grubbs, my ride to school, waiting at the end of our drive.”

“I have been thinking about my lineage,” I began.

“What church?” she asked.

“Methodist. My grandmother was instrumental in establishing the Irvington Methodist Church.”

But that isn’t my lineage, I protested into the darkness of my sleepless Solstice night. I sat up, fluffed my pillow, turned onto my back and stared into the dark, until the image materialized of Hecate, goddess who stands at the crossroads between living and dying. Hecate who’s been the goddess I most often turn to, whose wisdom I seek. And now, she offers insight into my lineage…not my mother’s nor my grandmother’s: my spiritual lineage.

Out of the darkness, memories come: remembering my first Sistercelebration in 1977 at the feminist book store (I was sure the we would be struck down for the heresy being preached); the first time in circle, a circle of women, in a clearing of a woods, under a starry night. Women danced beneath the full moon; women spoke of the moon, of the Goddess and I was afraid.

Setting aside my fear, I began a quest: Goddess? What about God? I discovered Merlin Stone’s “When God Was A Woman,” Mary Daly’s “Beyond God the Father”, Starhawk’s “Spiral Dance” and when I discovered Z Budapest’s “Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries,” I never looked back…and I was not afraid.

Dianic Wicca* was born of the feminist movement. It is, in essence a Goddess-based and feminine-focused spiritual path, the belief of which, according to Z Budapest, is “We always recognize, when we say ‘Goddess,’ that She is the Life-giver, the Life-sustainer. She is Mother Nature.”

And I had found my home: a place, a woman’s culture that has its own traditions, its own roots in matriarchal herstory.

On a trip to England and Ireland in 1998, a sister traveler urged me to explore the Cella Program in the Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess where I studied and learned and after six years, I graduated and chose to seek ordination. Eventually, I was led to The Wheel. Kim Duckett, Phd, led a group of us women through The Wheel of the Year in four seasonal weekend gatherings. The Wheel brought life and accessibility to our women’s religion. Honoring the eight holy days with ritual has psychologically grounded the knowing of Goddess: The Wheel has become my religion…my spiritual path.

Honoring my lineage, at the first blush of dawn, The One of ten thousand names fills my mind until I fall asleep with the chant, Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Innana.


What is your spiritual lineage? I invite you to ponder this question. May the answer be illuminated in the returning light, and may that knowledge offer hope and sustenance for you, for your community, for Mother Earth.

*See “The Story of Diana”

Nancy VanArsdall is an ordained Priestess of the Re-Formed Congregation of the Goddess. She has completed an historical fiction novel, A Thousandth Telling, based on her suffragist grandmother. She published Coming Full Circle, Honoring the Rhythms of Relationships, in 1996, available through RCGI. She has returned home to Indianapolis with her beloved.

Category: Winter Solstice 2017