Seasonal Salon

Worthy of Shelf Space

In winter, we spiral inward. It’s a time to revisit, reflect, and renew. The wise woman, the hag, the crone---all the words we reclaim and re-empower. The books this season bring wisdom, often bought with pain. This issue we remember the cost of oppression, whether by political forces or by familial cruelty. We also see visions of hope and strength as women claim their own space and their own sovereignty by creating work of art and beauty through words and image.

Happy Solstice and dreams of a peaceful world.

Something Old:

The Shawl and Rosa, Cynthia Ozick, Vintage International, 1990 (originally published 1980)

“The Shawl” is a short story originally printed in The New Yorker. Rosa is a novella following the same woman thirty years later.

In a mere 15 pages, Cynthia Ozick describes the unimaginable horror of the forced march to and incarceration in a Nazi death camp by a mother and her baby. Rosa wraps her baby in a shawl which magically succors and protects her starving infant. We watch, heartsick, to the inevitable climax. Rosa begins in Miami where Rosa Lublin, “a madwoman and a scavenger” lives in one dark room in a hotel populated by the elderly. Through the story, Rosa explains what her life was like in Poland before Hitler. “I was a chemist almost. A physicist,”…before “the thieves took her life.”

I felt compelled to re-read these stories in light of the current situation on the Mexican border. In one passage, Rosa confronts a manager of an exclusive hotel: “Mister, you got barbed wire by your beach.” “Are you a guest here?” “I’m someplace else.” “Then it’s none of your business, is it?” “You got barbed wire.” “It keeps out the riffraff.” “In America it’s no place for barbed wire on top of fences. Only Nazis catch innocent people behind barbed wire.”

Let’s speak out like Rosa.


Something New:

Cheri, A Girl, Born to Rise, Kip Parker, Nine Pentacles Press, 2018

Sometimes the path to the Goddess ventures into dark and painful places. Other times it romps through Michigan ferns.
Kip Parker takes us on her loosely autobiographical life journey beginning with her childhood in a large Ohio family. As the younger daughter, Cheri is more at home playing war games with her brothers than focusing on hair styles and the Beatles with her sister. She is loved and appreciated by her parents and defended by her oldest brother, Donnie. A dark thread runs through the family, though, as Cheri’s mother dies of cancer and she faces abuse from a brother and step brother

As Cheri grows up, she becomes Kip, a woman able to understand her own power. She leads us through the bars and sex scenes of New York, battles with addiction, and brings us to her increasing knowledge of self-worth. A feminist bookstore becomes a portal to her first trip to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. There Kip meets her new Tribe. As she encounters Jade River and Kim Duckett, she realizes the meaning of her long-time dreams and what it means to be a Guardian.

This is a brave book. This is an important book. This is a book for every girl who was different and for those who love them.


Something Non-American:

Hawaiian Goddesses, ‘Alua, Second Generation, Linda Ching, Hawaiian Goddesses Publishing Co., 2001

I encountered a conundrum when thinking about this book. Hawaii is, of course, a part of the United States. But, after living here for a time, I have learned that it is clearly not American. Hawaii is Oceana. The culture of the island people of the Pacific is very different from any that you find attached to the mainland of any of the Americas. The myths of the Polynesian based people are magical and lyrical. This book provides some of them.

Linda Ching is primarily a photographer, so the stories in the book are stunningly illustrated with women embodying the goddesses, vistas of Maunakea, groves of lehua blossoms, and the waves of the ocean. She follows the traditional story line of Pele and Hi’iaka, and the volcanic destruction of Puna on the Big Island; Poli’ahu, the snow goddess of the sacred mountain Maunakea; La’iekawai, goddess of rainbows; and Hina , goddess of the moon. Each story has been kept alive in Hawaii through traditional chants and Hula performances.

This book is a visual joy as well as an easy introduction to this world unto itself called Hawaii.


Something True:

Vibrant Voices: Women, Myth, and the Arts, Proceedings of the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology, Volume II, Sid Reger and Marna Hauk, eds., Women and Myth Press, 2018

Words can’t do justice to the wonder of this book. Most people think of ASWM as a vehicle for interesting and knowledgeable scholarly research. It is that, but it is also a home for beautiful, powerful art and for the women who create it. From the Forward by Judy Grahn to the Afterword of Cristiana Biaggi, each page of this anthology is a feast for the eye as well as for the intellect.

The section “Seeking the Holy Winds: Artists at Work” contains 12 full-color renderings of goddess artists with accompanying explanations of the works. RCGI Priestesses Louie Laskowski and Sid Reger present their exquisite works, “Praying Mantis & Butterfly Goddess” and “Wisdom Harvest.” Barb Lutz, well-known from the RCGI Gatherings, contributes “Honoring Lydia: A Double Goddess Altar” as a tribute to the late Lydia Rule.

Of course, there is a plethora of stimulating articles to read and enjoy, many strikingly illustrated. RCGI Priestess and sociologist Kathryn Henderson provides important and thought provoking considerations in her “Respectful Engagements with Living Traditions.” From “Sanctuary: Feminine Centered Dwellings as Areas of Sacred Protection” by Toni Trusdale to “The Representation of Goddess Imagery in Feminist Art” by Simone Clunie, you will find much to engage your creativity.

This is a must-have addition to any goddess scholar’s library.

Renee Rabb is an ordained RCGI priestess who 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: Winter Solstice 2018