Friday, January 21, 2011


When I first started this blog, my brain ran into a little discomfort in referring to Heavenly Mother as Goddess. I told myself, "If I have no qualms in calling Heavenly Father God, why this mental quirk about calling Heavenly Mother Goddess?"

I think the answer stems from our cultural tradition of patriarchal Christian religion. In Christianity, "God" is not only a title, it is a name. While we know "El" is the Hebrew name for "God," in English we just stick with "God." For a nerdy example- it's like how "Doctor Who" goes by Doctor and it is both a title and name. He's just "Doctor."

"Goddess" on the other hand, has been much more limited. In Protestant-idea-entrenched America, the word "Goddess" is only used in referencing non-Christian pantheons. "Goddess" was a word for what other people worshiped. Indeed, she is the Other, and not like my God- and not like me. Except that when it comes down it it, I'm not like my God either, I'm more like the Other- and indeed I am the Other and that is where Christianity starts separating itself from women. What is unique to Mormonism is that we do believe in a Heavenly Mother- so we have the potential to no longer treat women as the Other and include them as equals- equally potential to reach the status of God and Goddess. Unfortunately, as Mormons, we haven't made that step to really include Heavenly Mother into our reverence. And that's why I started this blog: to include the Mother in our thoughts- and to include women into what it means to be godly (goddessly?).

I had been thinking about this idea and then while I was reading Dance of the Dissident Daughter, I found that Sue Monk Kidd said it well,
An uneasy reaction to the word Goddess is common among women. Thousands of years of repression, hostility, and conditioning against a Divine Mother have made a deep impression on us. We've been conditioned to shrink back from the Sacred Feminine, to fear it, to think of it as sinful, even to revile it. And it would take a while for me to deprogram that reaction, to unpack the word and realize that in the end, Goddess is just a word. It simply means the divin in female form.
So as I continue this blog and continue to put "Goddess" in my scripture study, I also hope to "unpack" the word and let go of the connotations of "Other" and accept the person it represents, not only as someone as awe-inspiring as God, but as my own potential. And my daughter's. And my son's. And yours.


Sara K.S. Hanks said...

Thank you for this insight. I was struck by that same passage while reading "The Dance of the Dissident Daughter." It's tough to shake the old connotations of "goddess," but I think it's a worthwhile task to pursue.

One thing that does bother me about using "goddess" is that, as a word, it feels like a subset of "god," a revision of "god," when in fact, I view Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother as equally and mutually GOD. Were it possible, I would love for the word "god" to accurately and fully and entirely stand for both Mother and Father in the ears of those who hear it, but there's probably too much baggage for that to be possible. Anyhow, it's a complex thing to navigate. I really appreciate your contribution.

TopHat said...

Sara, I worry about that, too. And I've considered using "God" to mean both Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. But I dislike that for the same reason I dislike the convention of the scriptures to use "men" to refer to "people." You just can't win! Maybe we'll come up with our own term. ;)

cc said...

I feel the same way as Sara about the word "God", but I think it's important to appropriate words for ourselves. The english language is shifting and changing, and these words and meanings are up for grabs in a way. I think it's important to be comfortable using Goddess because it can imply so much just by being a difference in our dialogue. The opportunity for introduction of ideas in connection to words is very real at this stage of awareness for us all I think. But I still feel comfortable using God to reference them both. What I really wish we had was a new pronoun that was neither here nor there. Can we make one up to start using? ;)