Seasonal Salon

Worthy of Shelf Space

It’s the time of the daughter, the maiden, and the blood sister.  Spring time brings innocence.  Sometimes, though, innocence is too often and easily destroyed.  The first two books show the damage that precepts of religion can do whether thousands of years ago or in today’s world.  The others draw on the child-like joy of picture books. In this issue, travel back in time to the original red tents.  Learn about the damage and oppression still occurring against lesbian youth.  See how women image themselves as Goddess.  Enjoy learning of Holy Icons and create your own visions of beauty. 

Enjoy and appreciate the wonder of youth.

 

Something Old:

The Red Tent, Anita Diamant, Picador USA, 1997

Long before the red tent movement began and Isadora Ledenfrost created her stunning movie, Anita Diamant awakened a generation of women to the “what ifs” of the ancient Middle East.  How would our world today be different if the Hebrew patriarchs had honored the Queen of Heaven?   What might have happened if the daughters of Inanna, Annath, Asherah, Uttu, and Isis had retained their memories?  As Diamont begins her tale, “The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken….That is why I became…a brief detour in the history of my father Jacob, and the…chronicle of Joseph, my brother.”  

Those of us who were raised Jewish or Christian heard the story of Jacob and Leah and Rachel.  We discovered the saga of the technicolor coated Joseph sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.  But we didn’t learn about Dinah, the only daughter of Leah and Jacob.  We certainly were not taught about the sacredness of women’s blood and the time set aside for women to share, bond, and rest in the red tent.

Dinah was the only girl child in a hoard of brothers. From her mothers, she acquired knowledge of spinning, cooking, and midwifery.  And she absorbed the songs and stories of the Goddess.  Diamont follows the brief outline provided in the biblical book of Genius to show us what the life of Dinah may have been like.   We view a snapshot of Dinah as the brave girl, the passionate lover, and the empowered woman.

What if we still celebrated the barley harvest with the Grandmother in the tents of Mamre?  Would the soil of Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, and Jordan be free from war at last?

 

Something New:

Saving Alex: When I Was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I was Gay, and that’s When My Nightmare Began, Alex Cooper with Joanna Brooks, Harper One, 2016

Alex Cooper was the typical teenage Californian Mormon girl with one big exception.  After falling in love with another girl, she told her parents she was gay.  Her parents threw her out of her house and then sent her to live in a small town in Utah with Johnny and Tiana Siales, a couple who practiced conversion therapy.  Alex was “home-schooled” and forced to wear a backpack full of rocks while facing a wall every day.  The rocks, as Tiana explained, “…represent the physical burden of being gay….It will help you feel what a burden you are carrying in choosing to be gay….you know it’s not in the plan of salvation.”  This occurred in 2010, not in some far away time or place.

Eventually, Alex is able to return to public school.  There she makes friends, meets other gay teenagers, and encounters a supportive teacher.  As she trusts her story to others, they begin to search for a way to free Alex from her prison.  The suspicious Siales’ pull Alex out of school, but Alex escapes in the middle of the night and is rescued and protected by her new friends and the local police.  Alex takes the Siales and her parents to court.  The court orders her parents not to “seek change of the child’s sexual orientation.”

I thought carefully about including this book because I try to be judicious about what may be considered an attack on another religion.  The Church of Latter Day Saints is not the only sect that has a long history of discrimination against lesbian women.  And certainly, not all individual Mormons support anti-lesbian bias.  While LDS still does not support same-sex relationships, as of 2018, LDS Family Services states that they do not provide reparative or sexual orientation change efforts anymore.  Nine states and the District of Columbia now have laws against conversion therapy.  Let’s add more to end this practice once and for all.

Alex, thank you for your courage.

 

Picture Book One:

Goddess on Earth, Portraits of the Divine Feminine, Lisa Levart, Lush Press, 2011

Beautiful.

Lisa Levart prepares a sensory feast for the eyes in her lavish art photographs.  A variety of women and girls portray the Goddess in her many guises.  You will see familiar faces such as Olympia Dukakis, Z Budapest, and Suzzy Roche.  You find beloved Goddesses like Lilith, Green Tara, and the Norns.  Even more special are the unknown treasurers.  See fifteen-year-old student, Isabelle McCella, as Ekineba, Goddess of dancing and drumming from the West African Kalabari Tribe.  Or perhaps Greta Levart as the Chinese Goddess of Forgetfulness, Meng Po, will catch your fancy.  

The book is arranged in sections of Maiden, Mother and Crone.  However, in Lisa’s world, young girls embody crones and crones portray sensuous women in a wild, imaginative cornucopia of imagery.  As icing to a magnificently frosted cake, each section contained brief myths of each Goddess.  Add an introduction by Jean Shinoda Bolen and an afterword by Starhawk and what more could you possibly want?

Indulge yourself.  Get this gorgeous book for yourself and another as a gift to a special friend.

Picture Book Two:

Holy Women Icons, Angela Yarber, Parson’s Porch Books, 2014 and Holy Women Icons Contemplative Coloring Book, Angela Yarber, Parson’s Porch Books, 2016

Holy Women Icons began as a series of paintings.  Angela Yarber creates thirty-two figures of whimsical, magical art.  Some of the pictures are goddesses.  Others are both famous and lesser-known inspirations.  All are a joy to behold.  

Unlike other representations, these folk art figures emphasize the heart of woman as the most visible feature of the panel.  As Yarber states, “all women’s bodies are beautiful….But even more beautiful is the heart, what lies within.”  Each stylized heart contains a truth of the woman portrayed.  For example, Georgia O’Keefe’s heart declares, “The windswept plains tore Open her creative heart.  The sun poured in, She painted, And she was free.”  A story accompanies each figure, providing richness, explanation and depth to the work.  Finally, each figure has questions for contemplation to help the reader get to know and comprehend the icon more deeply.

Two years later, Ms. Yarber enriched the iconography by creating a coloring book of the images.  Whether the day brings a need to commune with Guanyin or with Martha Graham, this coloring book is sure to offer hours of reflective pleasure for young and old.

 

Renee Rabb is an ordained RCGI priestess who now lives with her wife, Barbara, on the Big Island of Hawaii in a place called Paradise Park.  She still reads a lot and is learning the meaning of aloha.

Category: Spring Equinox 2018