Personal and Social Transformation
Since 1998, forty students have graduated from the Women's Spirituality doctoral program, producing dissertations that serve to define the academic field of women's spirituality.
The doctoral dissertations place our students' voices within an the growing body of knowledge of women's spirituality, which itself has relationship with women's studies, philosophy, religion, ethnic studies, and/or the humanities. The dissertations envision personal and social transformation, and are grounded in the literature and standpoint of women's spirituality and at least one other academic field such as philosophy, religion, gender and women's Studies, or ethnic studies.
Doctoral dissertations provide advanced students with the opportunity to focus the breadth and depth of their understanding on a topic significant to them and the larger world, making an original, creative contribution of knowledge and insight in scholarship.
Select abstracts provided below are included with permission of the author. Links to abstracts or full texts are available depending on copyright. Some links require a university library account, while others are open access.
Margaret Grove, PhD. "An Iconographic and Mythological Convergence: Gender Motifs in Northern Australia Aboriginal Rock Art." (1998)
Valerie Anne Kack-Brice, PhD. "Silent Goddesses: A Study of Elder Breton Women and Saint Anne." (1998)
Dianne Elkins Jenett, PhD. "Red Rice for Bhagavati/Cooking for Kannaki: An Ethnographic/Organic Inquiry of the Pongala Ritual at Attukal Temple, Kerala, South India." (1999)
Holly Suzanne Reed, PhD. "An Inquiry into the Meaning of Descent and Ascent in Women's Psychological Development: Research Contributing to the Theories of Women's Development." (1999)
Judith Rae Grahn, PhD. "Are Goddesses Metaformic Constructs? An Application of Metaformic Theory to Menarche Celebrations and Goddess Rituals of Kerala and Contiguous States in South India." (1999)
Miri J. Hunter, PhD. "The Queen of Sheba: An Ancient Woman for Modern Times." (1999)
How does the study of ancient woman, the Queen of Sheba, inform womanist pedagogy? What role does the study of history play in the development of womanist research? This work studies the legends surrounding the Queen of Sheba. It examines evidence that suggests that the Land of Sheba was matristic and that this queen was the last in a succession of women rulers. Since she is considered the last, it is important to study her as a pivotal link in the development of patriarchal society.
This last Queen of Sheba was believed to be the woman responsible for turning over her authority to her son, Menelik I, thereby starting the patriarchal Solomonic rule that controlled the part of the Land of Sheba that was known as Ethiopia. Through the examination of remnants in the culture of Ethiopia and Yemen that appear to have a link to earlier religious and cultural traditions, I establish that this Land was once matristic through the following analyses: linguistic analysis to show that language was used functionally and structurally to disconnect the new patriarchal order from its pre-patriarchal roots, and iconographical analysis focusing on a still practiced pre-patriarchal tradition.
The questions that I explore are
(1) What was her religion?
(b) What were her reasons for visiting Solomon?
(c) What are the implications of her abdication in favor of the male?
Other questions include
(1) How was the patriarchal telling of her story used to influence women of other cultures and traditions?
(2) What legacy has this Queen left for women
(3) How do we re-claim the wisdom and power of women demonized by monotheistic religions and popular culture?
Full text PDF available through ProQuest here.
Katarzyna Catherine Rolzinski, PhD. "Seeing Mother Home: An Inquiry into the Experience of Daughters as Caregivers for Their Dying Mothers." (1999)
Tricia Anne Grame, PhD. "Life into Art; Art into Life: Transformative Effects of the Female Symbol on a Contemporary Woman Artist." (2000)
This dissertation is an exploration of a contemporary woman artist's search for the soul of her creativity. It is a visual and textual autobiography of spiritual evolution documenting the power of art as a transformative vehicle. Personal history, memories, and dreams from early childhood to the present as well as major disciplines, ideas, and artists influencing her are examined and assessed in terms of developing an ever-expanding consciousness and identity. Nearly one hundred reproductions of works by the author/artist produced over a thirty year period are included to support the discussion.
The author explores, from a personal perspective, how the language of the unconscious is revealed and released through the creative process, becoming tangible in the work of art. The art produced manifests life mysteries which, when understood, can nourish and heal. Her insights and personal growth have been particularly enhanced by exposure to certain Jungian psychological principles, feminism, and the work of American poet Anne Sexton. In all three, the author detects a reconciliation process between physical realities and spiritual search relevant to her own experience.
Symbolic expression and use of the female form in prehistoric and historic art work are examined in relation to the author's personal symbolism, archetypes, and iconography, revealing a sense of continuum and alliance with past and present artists, which the author has increased through her work curating art exhibitions focused on women's spirituality both in this country and overseas. The consistent employment of female forms in her work for the past twenty years is analyzed, including in-depth discussion of the predominating ones—anonymous draped women, the Virgin Mary, and prehistoric goddesses. Despite shared themes, several distinct bodies of work in series have been produced, entitled Raise the Veil, Blossom Wherever She Plants You, Beyond the Symbol , and After Eden. The similarities, differences, and the personal evolution and development these works evidence are discussed.
Together, the dissertation's expository text, the subjective prose accompanying the illustrations, and the reproductions of the author/artist's art work document her experience of the transformative cycle between art and life.
Full text PDF available through ProQuest here.
Jennifer Colby, PhD. "Transforming Tonantzin/Guadalupe Cultural and Spiritual Identity Politics in Latina and Euro-American Women's Art in San Juan Bautista, California." (2001)
Susan Gail Carter, PhD. "Amaterasu-o-mi-kami: Past and Present; An Exploration of the Japanese Sun Goddess from a Western Feminist Perspective." (2001)
Of all the world's main religions, only in Shinto is a goddess, Amaterasu-o-mi-kami, preeminent without a male consort. This dissertation explores why Amaterasu-o-mi-kami came forward in female form and still survives into the present.
The hypothesis set forth in this study is that the matristic aspects of culture in Japan's prehistory provided fertile ground for the myth of Amaterasu-o-mi-kami, her female form, and her continuing spiritual reign.
Her survival today, in part, can be attributed to the remaining characteristics of this earlier matristic culture and to the political success of the Yamato clan, who claimed her as their tutelary kami (deity). This clan came to be the ruling family, and represents the longest continuous imperial reign in the world.
To this day Amaterasu-o-mi-kami continues to command respect in Japan. Homage is still paid to her through active worship, continued practice of ancient fertility rites, as well as periodic ritualized rebuilding of her Grand Shrine at Ise. Amaterasu-o-mi-kami and her myth continue to shape the social, political, and spiritual lives of the people of Japan.
Full text PDF available through ProQuest here.
Louise M. Pare, PhD "Moving between the Worlds She Brings Forth All Things from within Her Body: Intrinsic Movement as Transformative Spiritual Practice and Expression of Women's Spirituality." (2002)
This dissertation explores how women practicing the intrinsic movement forms Transformational Movement and Continuum Movement use these practices as a tool for self-transformation, healing, and expression of women's spirituality. Using feminist-based organic research methodology, five women with extensive movement experience who met my five criteria became co-researchers in this inquiry. This study is grounded in movement stories, beginning with my own experiences of how these intrinsic movement practices are transformative, healing, and an expression of woman's spirituality.
Using the structures and processes of these movement forms, I conducted a series of audio-taped movement interviews with each woman as a method of gathering the data for this study. My primary research questions were "how is movement practice spiritual practice for you?" and "how do you experience transformation and healing through your movement practice?" Using verbatim transcriptions of these movement interviews, I created and analyzed the five richly detailed movement stories which, with my own story, form the primary data for this study.
I found that these stories described how these intrinsic movement practices used as spiritual practice (IMP/SP) express six key themes of women's spirituality:
(1) IMP/SP considers the body of each woman practitioner to be sacred and the site of encounter with the Sacred Feminine—the creative lifeforce manifesting as female.
(2) IMP/SP regards woman's sexuality as sacred.
(3) IMP/SP brings forth new images of woman's spiritual power.
(4) IMP/SP is grounded and embedded in the spiral organization and functions of the body from its most simple to most complex structures. By following the body's intrinsic movements, the practitioner enters into a woman's spiritual path which, as a spiral path, involves a process of descent and ascent.
(5) IMP/SP is holistic, transformative, and integrative.
(6) The multilevel body-mind knowing employed in IMP/SP manifests qualities of expanded consciousness as described in yoga psychology and current research by neuroscientists.
These five stories also contain a meta-narrative: "I Am Woman Giving Birth To My Self," which describes five stages of a self-transformative process of the mature woman through IMP/SP, and which also reflects the various qualities of consciousness of the seven chakras.
Full text PDF available through ProQuest here.
Delphyne Jodie Platner, PhD. "All Women Are Witches: Women's Stories of Re-Awakening to Their Ancestral Memory and Inherently Spiritual Nature." (2003)
Regardless of race, class, or culture, women share a profound ability to reawaken to their ancestral memory and inherently spiritual nature. This process is not identical for all women. Each woman's experience is unique; however, the essence of each woman's experience is analogous to all others' experiences. My inquiry will focus on women's journeys toward self-awareness within the patriarchal context of the United States. Despite the fact that women worldwide have been indoctrinated into a consciousness steeped in a patriarchal paradigm, this work seeks to show that western women possess an innate ability to vanquish their own internalized oppression and reinstate a consciousness that, I believe, holds all life as sacred. The inquiry question is: What is the experience of women who realize a spiritual calling to become priestesses when living in a paradigm that fails to recognize the divine feminine? What impact has this shift in consciousness, from unwitting daughters of the patriarchy to self-empowered priestesses, had on their lives, as inspired by an awakening to their inherent spiritual power?
Using a methodology of organic inquiry (a spiritual, holistic, and inclusive approach), I interviewed five contemporary priestesses. This exploration collected and integrated women's stories of initiation, healing, empowerment, and transformation in the journeys of self-awareness and claiming power. Using critical feminist theory and participatory paradigms to look through the lens of feminist spirituality, I discovered that my co-researchers' stories revealed a massive process of "unlearning" that they, of necessity, experienced in order to embrace and feel empowered in their womanhood. This study aims to inspire the reader to employ these findings in the socialization of future generations of young women.
Full text PDF available through ProQuest here.
Mari Ziolkowski, PhD. "Fierce Shakti/Fierce Love: A Feminist, Heuristic, Transpersonal Encounter with the Hindu Goddess Kali Ma." (2003)
This, in spiritual autobiographical form, is a feminist, heuristic, transpersonal study of my encounter with the energies of the dark goddess, within and without. In the context of psycho-spiritual transformation, the groundwork of my life will be laid out—the groundwork that made such a transformation possible. However, the focus of the journey will be my transformational process at CIIS. Altered states—including holotropic breathwork, dreams, and meditations—will be informing the process, as will life events, people and guide (books) encountered along the way. Areas of study I have chosen to highlight in the journey include altered state consciousness research; the symbolism of the dark goddess for western feminists; and research on the Hindu goddess Kali. What is sought is integration. What is sought is understanding. What is sought is further clarity about why this goddess has appeared to me "out of the dark."
As Clark Moustakas has done in his autobiographical study, I wish to do an internal search through which one discovers the nature and meaning of experience. Along with the feminist methodology of reclaiming women's story and experience—studying women completely—I wish to study myself, to follow the invitation of whatever presents itself in my consciousness as perception, sense, intuition or knowledge. I wish to attune to all facets of my experience of meeting Kali—allowing comprehension and compassion to mingle—recognizing the unity of intellect, emotion, and spirit. I will follow Moustakas' stages of engagement in the process, and work with the organic inquiry practice of sacralizing all stages of research. As in the many transpersonal approaches, I will utilize direct knowing, breathwork, dream work, and meditation to illuminate my research. I will chart my altered state encounters as I seek to answer the question "What more can be known about why the Hindu goddess Kali has appeared to me, a western feminist?" Join me if you will in this transpersonal, heuristic, feminist encounter.
Full text PDF available through ProQuest here.
Elizabeth Low Webster Shillington, PhD. "The Moon in Her Womb: An Organic Inquiry into Women's Stories of Menstruation and Spirituality." (2004)
Abstract and Full text PDF available through ProQuest here.
Jan Isobel Marijaq, PhD. "Patriarchy and Fundamentalism in the Science Fiction of Sheri S. Tepper." (2004)
Anne Key, PhD. "Death and the Divine: The Cihuateteo, Goddesses in the Mesoamerican Cosmo-Vision." (2005)
In the Mesoamerican cosmo-vision, the Cihuateteo were mortal women that died in childbirth, were deified, journeyed with the sun from noon to dusk, and then took up residence in the heavenly region called Cihuatlampa in the western sky. These goddesses appeared as regents of the west in the codices in the 260-day ritual calendar. They descended to earth every fifty-two days and were venerated in large temples and small neighborhood shrines built at the crossroads. The Cihuateteo's mortal bodies were considered so powerful that warriors would attempt to take part as a talisman.
"Death and the Divine: The Cihuateteo, Goddesses in the Mesoamerican Cosmo-vision" explores the place of the Cihuateteo in the Mesoamerican cosmo-vision. This study takes into account the highly problematic yet informative writings of the Spanish clerics as well as the indigenous multivalent symbols used in the codices and sculptures. The examination of these resources was augmented by fieldwork and investigation in Mexico, including research at the Institute of Anthropology at the University of Veracruz. My standpoint as a feminist fuels this study as a reframing and rediscovery of the Cihuateteo, offering an interpretation of these goddesses as powerful and highly venerated deities in contrast to the demonic characterization proposed by past and present writers.
The first section of this study focuses on the Cihuateteo within the Mesoamerican cosmo-vision. This section explores six codices containing images of the Cihuateteo and the works of several Spanish clerics. I propose that the Cihuateteo were regarded as the standard for bravery that warriors were exhorted to emulate. As well, I suggest these goddesses were the embodiment of the cycle of sacrifice and creation. The second section concentrates solely on the Cihuateteo statues from El Zapotal No. 1 and Cocuite in central Veracruz. By examining the Mesoamerican symbol system, I offer an interpretation of the postmortem features of the statues themselves, the headdresses, the snakes around their waists, and the censers, all of which demonstrate the ability of these goddesses to traverse the spatial planes of the earth, celestial heavens, and the underworld, acting as conduits. I propose that the Veracruz statues were used in ancestor reverence ceremonies, part of a tradition beginning in the Formative era and continuing to this day in Day of the Dead ceremonies.
Full text PDF available through ProQuest here.
Viviane Dzyak, PhDs "We Women Walking: Exploring the Voices of Female Pilgrims in Community." (2007)
The convergence of two areas in the study of religion—pilgrimage and women's spirituality—remains largely unexplored. This dissertation maps this new terrain by exploring the spiritual experiences of six women pilgrims who walked a portion of the Santiago de Compostela (Le Chemin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle) pilgrimage route in France and Spain. Focusing on the interaction of human embodiment, self-narrative, and women's community in female pilgrim experience, this study seeks to articulate and recover an embodied and relational spiritual-feminist epistemology, which challenges the dualistic, hierarchical, male-centered religious and philosophical assumptions and socio-political power structures in the West. The intention of this project is to illuminate a new understanding of human connection and interrelatedness by focusing specifically on female spiritual experiences within the context of personal and communal sacred journeying.
The current study investigates the following five hypotheses:
(1) Embodiment and relatedness are central to women's spiritual experiences.
(2) Female community is efficacious in the development of women's spiritual consciousness.
(3) Story is a powerful tool for elucidating the patterns and varieties of women's spiritual lives.
(4) Women can employ their voices and embodied selves to resist and dismantle oppressive patriarchal structures.
(5) Pilgrimage, as an embodied spiritual practice, is a metaphor for the life journey of contemporary human beings embedded in an interdependent, interrelated, and interconnected world.
Within the context of a distinctly female space, the women in this study discover that they are able to mirror experiences of the sacred for one another by providing the safety and the freedom to express the diversity and the depth of their embodied encounters with the divine. Each woman's story and sacred experiences belong uniquely to her, yet paradoxically blend and commingle with other human stories and collective experiences of the spiritual. The empathy that is born when women share the stories of their sacred experiences allows them to discover threads that connect them.
The use of self-narrative and an eco-feminist, voice-centered, relational research method together highlight each woman's experience as unique and ground her embodied humanity within the context of a human and more-than-human interconnected world.
Full text PDF available through ProQuest here.
Interview of Viviane Dzyak discussing her research and dissertation.
Irene L Plunkett, PhD. "A Sturdy Rose: Spiritual Feminism—A Literary Legacy of Women of the United States, Sixteenth through Twentieth Centuries." (2008)
Anastasia Prentiss, PhD. "'Sophia Rising: A Modern Woman's Passion Play': An Exploration of Sacred Theatre and Wisdom Literature through a One-Woman Semi-Autobiographical Performance." (2009)
Anna Joyce, PhD. "The Sixth Sun: The Spiritual Path and Practice of Mexican-American Curanderismo." (2011)
This dissertation explores the Mexican-American healing tradition known as curanderismo, an ancient yet dynamic and evolving syncretic system, which maintains elements of the indigenous, earth-based cosmo-vision that existed in Mexico prior to the arrival of the conquistadores, while continuing to absorb new influences. The study explores the more expansive role that curanderismo, the art of healing, plays in the lives of contemporary Mexican-American practitioners as a cohesive spiritual path, closely attuned to nature as a source of sacred presence, with values rooted in an ancient worldview of the Mesoamerican cosmo-vision.
Curanderismo has been studied from the perspective of medical anthropology as folk medicine, and from psychological and sociological vantage points as complementary or integrative medicine or folk belief. With the exception of several autobiographical works which touch on a personal journey in curanderismo, no comprehensive work has been done to date depicting curanderismo as a spiritual path and way of life.
This project discusses the belief system underlying curanderismo and places contemporary healers who embrace curanderismo within a spiritual orientation that supports a deeper and more direct connection to the earth and indigenous traditions of healing; to the spiritual values of humility, loving kindness, and service; and to an embodied knowledge of spiritual realities.
Methodology includes participant observation, during the summers of 2007, 2010, and 2011, at a University of New Mexico course titled "Traditional Medicine Without Borders," and in-depth ethnographic interviews with six curanderas from Albuquerque who were presenters at the class. My study in New Mexico provided a context for approaching this tradition; a broad understanding of the tradition's contemporary components; and an opportunity to observe the work of Mexican and New Mexican curandera/os. The heart of the dissertation also draws upon my participant observation with a Sacramento-based community of curandera/os with whom I attended workshops, ceremonial events, community projects, and healing events from 2008 until the present. In addition to participant observation in this community and the deep friendships I formed with the curanderas, I conducted seven in-depth ethnographic interviews with practitioners from this community.
Abstract and full text PDF available through ProQuest PQDT Open here.
Laura Ann Truxler, PhD. "Priestesses of the Goddess: Prophecy, Poetry, Vision, and Healing among Three 19th Century Mormon Women; A Feminist Cultural and Spiritual Herstory of the Gunn, Morley, Cox, and Tuttle Maternal Lineage, 1823—1915." (2011)
Women in my maternal lineage were co-founders of the early Mormon Church who carried with them into their newfound faith an already existent belief in the female divine. Identified by different names including "Goddess," "God the Mother," and "Heavenly Mother," these early Mormon women's relationship to this thea-logy is the focus of my research.
My approach uses historical/critical method, feminist cultural history, rhetorical analysis, feminist hermeneutics of suspicion, and intuitive inquiry. These methodologies allow me to place early Mormon women's experiences and stories at the center of the analysis, revealing an engaged and embodied thea-logical practice situated and shaped by the women themselves. This inquiry explores how seeresses, or women who practiced the gifts of seeing , experienced visions through the use of seer stones, and interpreted dreams, received prophetic revelations, spoke in tongues, and authored mystical poetry. In addition, I contend that the gifts of the spirit, including the gifts of seeing and the gifts of healing, also meant that some early Mormon women either officially or unofficially assumed practices of priesthood authority. While the male hierarchy of the Mormon church often refused to honor the spiritual and priestesshood gifts of early Mormon women, women's individual and collective devotion to the divine, their faith community, and their families meant that some of them unofficially fulfilled practices of the priestesshood.
The possibility for this research first emerged through the written word of my maternal ancestress, Cordelia Calista Morley Cox, whose story provides the context and key texts for this project. The birth, life, and death of Cordelia Calista Morley Cox frames and encompasses the time span covered by this dissertation (1823-1915) which also coincides with the rise and decline of Mormon women's practice of the priestesshood. Cordelia's mother, Lucy Gunn Morley, and Cordelia's daughter, Arletta Maria Cox Tuttle, are also included in this research, as a three-generational study, recognizing and honoring women's connections to one another, and highlighting women's spiritual and visionary traditions within the context of a new and evolving church.
Full text PDF available through ProQuest here.
May Elawar, PhD. "The Epistemic Goddess: A Post-Colonial Analysis of Justice through the Methods of Women's Spirituality: A Feminist Case Study on Afghanistan." (2011)
This dissertation makes a contribution towards social justice. The Epistemic Goddess is a metaphor for a post-colonial approach to women's spirituality. She explores how the methods and epistemologies developed by women's spirituality scholars can positively, and practically, impact the pursuit of a peaceful and just world through an engagement with the complexities of war in Afghanistan.
This dissertation contends that engagement with religion is imperative for transformative and enduring social change. The Epistemic Goddess represents an epistemological shift from the unquestioned assumptions presented by traditional theology, that divinity represents only rationality, order, and transcendence, to a way of knowing that also connects divinity to chaos, irrationality, nature, the body, and the feminine. This non-dualistic, holistic way of knowing defuses epistemic hierarchies and creates space for a multitude of alternate and inclusive visions of the divine, even one that could encompass the divinity of the goddess, a profound and ontological departure from the god of patriarchy. Such scholarship uncovers the underlying belief systems that are used for justifying violence and re-conceptualizes values such as justice, freedom, and peace.
An Afro-centric and feminist exploration of Ma'at, the ancient Egyptian goddess of justice, is engaged to re-conceptualize justice. Justice emerges not as a static state of affairs, but as the actions and policies that move the world towards balance. Transcending time and space, I present Ma'at as both a worldview and as the epistemic basis for an original methodology that interweaves women's spirituality with post-colonial theories. It ensures an epistemic vigilance that recognizes global systems of interlocking oppressions, with a goal of transforming them into more just relationships. It brings in voices of women, formerly colonized peoples, and many others that have been marginalized for reasons of race, gender, class, religion, or nationality. It also acknowledges multiple ways of knowing.
I approach the violence in Afghanistan by questioning the epistemic basis that allows certain factions in the West and in the Muslim world to insist on an irreconcilable "clash of civilizations" that is perpetuating war. By including subaltern voices of women, the strategies proposed reveal the interconnections between several issues and are intended to contribute toward the creation of more just and peaceful social and political policy formation that will move us out of patriarchal oppressive paradigms.
Michelle Herrera, PhD. "Red Earth, Brown Earth: Walking In Two Worlds; the Journey of Indigenous Women in Academia." (2011)
In Hui Lee, PhD. "Crossing Over Ten Thousand Sorrows: The Haewon Jinhonkut; A Korean Shamanic Ritual for 'Comfort Women' in the Military Sex Slavery by Japan." (2012)
This study investigates the Haewo n Jinhonkut, a Korean shamanic ritual offered to the spirits of thousands of Korean women forced into military sex slavery by Japan during World War II. Most of the women, known today by the controversial term "comfort women," died from physical and spiritual breakdowns. Although activists are seeking justice for survivors, the ritual is an act of justice for the deceased.
In Korean shamanic cosmology, the spirit of the deceased, if agitated, cannot cross over; shamans believe that they can help the deceased spirit by addressing unresolved strains between the deceased, the living, and the divine. The ritual for the deceased "comfort women," the Haewo n Jinhonkut, is based on a rite of passage for the dead intended to resolve these issues.
Initiated by Ddomoon, a South Korean feminist group, shamans officiated a ritual for "comfort women" in 1993. Later, shamans in the Association for Preservation of Hwanghae-do kut offered the ritual between 2003-2006.
This study analyzes the religious, cultural, and political significance of the Haewo n Jinhonkut ritual from womanist, feminist, and decolonizing perspectives. While honoring mainstream ritual theories developed by scholars with European and North American backgrounds, this study applies emerging ritual theories of indigenous shamans, which allows explication of the deeper meanings of the Haewo n Jinhonkut and identification of the submerged meanings beneath the ritual's signs, symbols, and images. The womanist cultural history approach honors women's history and places the ritual in a culturally specific context to draw out what is submerged beneath; for this end, videotapes, personal experiences of attending and participating in rituals, and interviews with shamans and participants as source material are utilized.
Korean shamans transformed the tragedy of "comfort women" into beauty and harmony through the power of this ritual; the deep compassion and care for deceased "comfort women" is a moving act of balancing the universe. Additionally, the Haewo n Jinhonkut brought together housewives, feminists, and shamans, creating potential avenues for further uniting Korean women in other arenas. Finally, the study explores the ritual's significance in light of future spiritual justice work.
Full text PDF available through ProQuest here.
Pairin Jotisakulratana, PhD. "Mothers of All Peoples: Goddesses of Thailand from Prehistory until the Present." (2012)
While women in the West are trying to recover their goddess traditions which have been strongly suppressed under Christianity, the goddess tradition of Thailand has been alive and has coexisted with male-dominant religions through the present day. Thailand is a land of a great diversity in people and their belief systems. The goddesses and their veneration are carried on by these many different peoples. Yet in the field of women's spirituality, the goddesses of Thailand are rarely known. This dissertation is an attempt to fill this gap. Using feminist cultural history and archaeo-mythology, this dissertation presents the history, myths, and rituals of these goddesses. These goddesses exist within the context of a matri-focal culture of Thailand. The Thai people often refer to their goddesses as "mothers." Goddesses' roles reflect the authority of women in a matri-focal culture in such areas as fertility, spirituality, household, trade, and politics. Influences from Indian religions, especially Buddhism, have devalued the goddess tradition. Nevertheless, the custom has survived into modern times. An overview of the tradition is explored in the first part of the dissertation.
To provide insights into the Thai goddess tradition, the Rice Mother is explored in detail. She is one of the most important goddesses because people depend on rice for survival. It is believed that rice comes from her and if humans respect her, fertility will be ensured. Conversely, disrespect will result in famine. Her myths and rituals provide a whole paradigm of how to live in harmony with nature and its cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, creating equality in society and respecting the feminine power as the source of life. Conflicts and compromise with Buddhism and Hinduism are clearly recorded in the myths. Plausible arguments for the veneration of the Rice Mother in the prehistoric period are explored. Impacts of the so called Green Revolution and capitalist economy in modern times have deteriorated the Rice Mother's veneration more severely than at any time in history. However, the efforts coming from the alternative rice farming movement is a shining hope for the revival of the Rice Mother tradition.
Joan Cichon, PhD. "Matriarchy in Minoan Crete: A Perspective from Archaeo-Mythology and Modern Matriarchal Studies." (2013)
Ancient Crete evokes for many the image of a highly sophisticated civilization, peaceful, artistic, and refined; a society in which women were highly visible and important, and the supreme deity was a goddess. Yet despite the fact that authorities acknowledge that women played a major role in Minoan society and the preeminent Minoan deity was female, there is a gap in the scholarly literature regarding the role of women and matriarchy in Minoan Crete. The debate over whether or not Bronze Age Crete was a matriarchal society continues to be heated and unresolved. It is the intention of this dissertation to advance the discussion toward a more complex, detailed, and certain conclusion.
Using archaeo-mythology—a methodology pioneered by archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, which incorporates a consideration of linguistics, mythology, history, and folklore as well as archaeology—as the primary methodology, this dissertation follows several lines of approach. First, by reviewing the archaeological artifacts, architecture, and religious iconography, and by surveying a wide range of archaeological and archaeo-mythological studies and interpretations, it shows that in Bronze Age Crete a mother goddess was worshipped as the primary deity and that Minoan Crete was a goddess-centered society.
Second, it argues that Minoan Crete was also a women-centered society. To illustrate women's central religious, social, economic, and political role in Minoan society, Minoan art—frescoes, statues, seals, and rings—along with the remains of temple palaces, towns, tombs, and residences, are interpreted from an archaeo-mythological perspective. Archaeological data as well as historical and mythological clues provide substantive evidence for a matriarchal system.
This in-depth study utilizes the latest archaeological findings and the emergent fields of archaeo-mythology and modern matriarchal studies to make a compelling case for a matriarchal Bronze Age Crete, based on our expanded knowledge and contemporary understanding of matriarchy. The definition of matriarchy advanced by Heide Goettner-Abendroth is determined to be applicable to ancient Crete.
Karen Nelson Villanueva, PhD. "Invoking the Blessings of the Tibetan Buddhist Goddess Tara through Chanting Her Mantra to Overcome Fear." (2013)
In Tibetan Buddhism, the goddess Tara represents the feminine nature of the divine. She is a popular Tibetan deity who has been embraced by many Western feminists because she is said to have rejected the belief extolling that one could not become enlightened in a female body. Vowing to always be reborn as a woman until she attained enlightenment as a Buddha, she is reputed to come swiftly and compassionately to our aid when called upon. She may be invoked through prayer, visualization, and mantra, of which there are several specifically ascribed to her many forms of manifestation.
Fear can cause suffering that may be an obstacle to achieving higher realizations that lead to enlightenment. As a meditational deity, Tara is especially efficacious in saving us from our fears. This dissertation explores the experience of contemporary Western people who invoked the blessings of the goddess Tara through chanting her mantra to overcome a stated fear. Using a participatory research methodological approach, twelve coparticipants met at an urban Buddhist center on six occasions in order to meditate and chant Tara's mantra together. Over the three months of the study, the coparticipants created small home altars, attempted to chant alone, and journaled about the overall experience.
An examination of their fears (e.g., fear of having children, fear of failure, fear of expressing the self, fear of ending a relationship, fear of sexuality, and a fear of being open) revealed that many co-participants exhibited a fear of love or connection to love. During this study, an exploration of their journals revealed that all of the co-participants experienced a lessening of fear. According to Buddhist beliefs, chanting Tara's mantra supports the realization of love, like that first experienced with one's mother, and this, in turn, may develop one's compassion for all beings. This notion was supported by the experience of several co-participants who commented on how Tara was manifesting in their lives and who began to recognize her presence. Ultimately, their experience was consistent with Buddhist beliefs in the efficacy of using mantra.
Lisa M. Christie, PhD. "Re-Membering the Cosmological Self: Toward an Ecological-Postmodern Feminist Process Philosophy and Goddess Thealogy." (2012)
Women's spiritual experiences are under-theorized in philosophy and in thealogy. Drawing on contemporary women's stories of their exceptional spiritual experiences and the empirical evidence of new studies in science and parapsychology, this theoretical study seeks to answer the following questions: What worldview and philosophical paradigm might make women's exceptional spiritual experiences—such as nature mysticism; experiences of numinous others, including deities, spirits, and discarnate ancestors; experiences of transpersonal identification with others; and apparent out-of-body and life-after-death experiences—intelligible and coherent? And, how might this worldview shape an understanding of Goddess in post-traditional Goddess thealogy?
Beginning with the ecological postmodern epistemological stance of the eco-feminist philosopher Charlene Spretnak, I first conduct a spiritual feminist, integral, transpersonal phenomenological analysis of contemporary women's stories of their exceptional spiritual experiences, drawn from the literature of women's spirituality. I then undertake a spiritual feminist, integral, heuristic synthesis of these experiences, taking into account the evidence of new studies in science and parapsychology to identify a worldview in which these experiences might be intelligible and coherent. The resulting worldview is compatible with Spretnak's cosmological self-world gestalt and her organismic, radically non-dual metaphysics.
This worldview can also be substantially expressed as a feminist process philosophy. The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead speculated that his process philosophy could theoretically explain experiences of telepathy and action at a distance. The philosopher of religion David Ray Griffin has proposed how process philosophy might support extrasensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis, as well as experiences of life-after-death. However, he does not consider a broad range of women's exceptional spiritual experiences.
Next, using the methodologies of speculative philosophy, integral methodology, and the embodied thinking of Carol P. Christ, I develop an ecological-postmodern feminist process philosophy that I propose can make women's exceptional spiritual experiences intelligible, and I show how this worldview might explain a broad range of women's exceptional spiritual experiences.
Finally, I consider the implications of the cosmological self for post-traditional feminist Goddess thealogy, developing a conceptualization of divinity that can support monotheistic, polytheistic, and non-theistic perspectives.
Full text PDF available through ProQuest here.
Lori Swick, PhD. "Recognizing Women's Initiative in the Development Of Christianity." (2013)
Marion Gail Dumont, PhD. "Reclaiming Women's History in the Region of Marion, Montana through a Hermeneutic of Place and the Stories of Three Individuals: Kau'xuma'nupika, Gail Peters Little, and Arlene Wehr LaPierre." (2013)
Feminist historians have shown that the annals of western conquest have privileged the discourse of dominant groups at the expense of those who have been marginalized. Feminist content analysis allows me to assess the presence or absence of women and their voices in the historical and archival records of this region. This dissertation crosses chronological boundaries in presenting women's history through the lives of three individuals—Kau'xuma'nupika, Gail Peters Little, and Arlene Wehr LaPierre—who lived in the same locale, but during different time periods: colonial, post-depression era, and the turbulent sixties.
As a feminist, cultural-historical study, this dissertation explores alternative approaches to research, utilizing a hermeneutic of place as the primary methodology. As an interpretive framework, the methodology guides my search for understanding the lived experiences of individuals in a particular place and provides a relational rather than a linear approach to historical analysis.
Through my engagement with the place of Marion—a small, rural town in the wilds of western Montana—I came to focus on the stories of three women whose own relationships with this place inspire us to look more closely at the historical and cultural forces that have shaped North America. Being in place—walking and sleeping on the land, learning the topography and the landscape, listening to the stories and myths of this particular place and the people who lived there—served to shape and influence this place-based historiography.
Edward Relph's phenomenological discourse of place, particularly in terms of insideness/outsideness and authentic/inauthentic sense of place, provides a conceptual framework for presenting my analysis of the meanings of place as they are revealed through the narratives of Kau'xuma'nupika, Gail Peters Little, and Arlene Wehr LaPierre.
Full text PDF available through ProQuest here.
Mary Beth Moser, PhD. "The Everyday Spirituality of Women in the Italian Alps: A Trentino American Woman's Search for Spiritual Agency, Folk Wisdom, and Ancestral Values." (2013)
This study presents an inquiry into the everyday spirituality of folk women in Trentino, Italy and nearby regions from the fifth millennium BCE to present times. It integrates themes from archaeology, folk stories, and women's lives from the perspective of a third-generation Trentino-American woman. Utilizing the methodology of feminist cultural history, exemplified by the foundational work of Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum, it adopts feminist and indigenous research methods to interpret specific cultural information gathered from local literature, on-site research, and oral interviews of women.
Drawing from the archaeological record, this study focuses on representations of goddesses, ancestresses, and females in ritual whose iconography conveys an embodied relationship of women with nature and the cosmos. This study contributes an analysis of the folk stories, which villagers once told in nightly gatherings known as the filóoffering, insights into the characteristics and actions of the Anguane, magical women who dwell in the wild. It proposes that their "mysterious taboos," when interpreted with Judy Grahn's metaformic theory, can be understood as rules which are menstrual in origin, and thus associated with the oldest sacred female ritual. Along with the Winter Goddesses, whose rules govern the end of the annual cycle, the Anguane maintain the sacred order of life. In the stories, they ask to be remembered. The magical agency found in the folk stories is echoed in the everyday spiritual agency of folk women, which is examined through their use of adornment, textiles, food, and medicine. The experience of women as healers, midwives, and counselors is valued.
Throughout the study, women's relationship with the sources and cycles of life is made explicit. As spiritual agents, women protect, utilize, and transform the sources of life; they maintain, embody, and renew the full cycles of life, which spiral forward and connect with the past.
Through the oral tradition and everyday activities, women transmit values that include sharing and caring, honoring the ancestors, respecting elders, caring for children, protecting nature, and keeping one's word. Folk wisdom communicates the interconnectedness of all life and responsibility to future generations, offering timely knowledge for living sustainably and in balance.
Full text PDF available through ProQuest here.
Annette Lyn Williams, PhD. "Our Mysterious Mothers: The Primordial Feminine Power of Aje in the Cosmology, Mythology, and Historical Reality of the West African Yoruba." (2014)
Among the Yoruba, àjé[dotbelow] is the primordial force of causation and creation. Àjé[dotbelow] is the power of the feminine, of female divinity and women, and àjé[dotbelow] is the women themselves who wield this power. Unfortunately, àjé[dotbelow] has been translated witch/witchcraft with attendant malevolent connotations. Though the fearsome nature of àjé[dotbelow] cannot be denied, àjé[dotbelow] is a richly nuanced term. Examination of Yoruba sacred text, Odu Ifa, reveals àjé[dotbelow] to be an endowment gifted to female divinity from the Source of Creation. Female divinity empowered their mortal daughters with àjé[dotbelow]—spiritual and temporal power exercised in religious, judicial, political, and economic domains throughout Yoruba history. However, in contemporary times àjé[dotbelow] have been negatively branded as witches and attacked.
The dissertation investigates factors contributing to the duality in attitude towards àjé[dotbelow] and factors that contributed to the intensified representation of their fearsome aspects to the virtual disavowal of their positive dimensions. Employing transdisciplinary methodology and using multiple lenses, including hermeneutics, historiography, and critical theory, the place of àjé[dotbelow] within Yoruba cosmology and historical reality is presented to broaden understanding and appreciation of the power and role of àjé[dotbelow] as well as to elucidate challenges to àjé[dotbelow]. Personal experiences of àjé[dotbelow] are spoken to within the qualitative interviews. Individuals with knowledge of àjé[dotbelow] were interviewed in Yorubaland and within the United States.
Culture is not static. A critical reading of Odu Ifa reveals the infiltration of patriarchal influence. The research uncovered that patriarchal evolution within Yoruba society buttressed and augmented by the patriarchy of British imperialism as well as the economic and social transformations wrought by colonialism coalesced to undermine àjé[dotbelow] power and function.
In our out-of-balance world, there might be wisdom to be gleaned from beings that were given the charge of maintaining cosmic balance. Giving proper respect and honor to "our mothers" (awon iya wa) who own and control àjé[dotbelow], individuals are called to exercise their àjé[dotbelow] in the world in the cause of social justice, to be the guardians of a just society.
Cristina Rose Smith, PhD. "An Altar to 'Integrative Solidarity': A Mestiza (Xicana, Filipina, and Euro-American) Approach to Creative Texts." (2014)
La mestiza embodies a multiplicity of ancestral locations, ethnicities, and cultures. On the borders and in diaspora, she is often internally divided within a socially constructed white masculinist framework that would have her locate herself from one homeland and identify as either "woman of color" or "white." Interconnected with colonial and patriarchal epistemologies, this study explores how the dominant framework, more often invisibly, encourages racism within the mestiza's psyche and within women's spirituality communities.
This study seeks to heal traumas of racism by employing a transdisciplinary mestiza approach—bearing feminist and indigenous decolonial lenses—to engage with the nuances in between binary racialized identities where the mestiza is situated. In mestiza-situated space are stories of recovering indigeneity by recognizing, grieving, and deconstructing the dominant framework. This study focuses on, in particular, stories of mestizas nutured in colonial mentality as well as contextually read as white.
Pamela Ashkenazy, PhD. "Maternal Bereavement: A Feminist Reconstruction." (2014)
Sara Salazar, PhD. "The Curandera's Daughters: Spirituality, Art, and Activism in the Lives and Works of Cherrie Moraga and Lila Downs." (2014)
This dissertation explores the spiritual, artistic, and activist lives and works of Chicana artists Cherríe Moraga and Lila Downs. It argues that these artists navigate their mestizaje, or mixed blood experiences, through their artwork to heal their soul wounds and transform their lives and communities. I ask, How do the lives and works of Moraga and Downs model potential spiritual and cultural transformation within the Chicana/o community?
Inspired by the lineage of traditional curanderas and Gloria Anzaldúa's frameworks of spiritual activism and Coyolxauhqui imperative, which are both steeped in the wisdom that the path of the artist is to find balance and healing, I begin this study by exploring the ways in which these artivistas (artists who use their art as activism) address and diagnose the wounds of conquest, colonization, and capitalism with regard to land loss, land conflict, and migration, respectively. In addition, I employ cultural history, narrative inquiry, and textual analysis as methodologies within a larger context of feminist, postcolonial, and queer theory to examine the lives and works of Moraga and Downs.
Next, I analyze the use of curanderismo and spiritual activism as spiritual tools that provide an authentic connection to pre-conquest ritual and spirituality and that offer individuals agency to envision the future. In addition, I examine how Moraga and Downs attempt to heal the wounds of their mestizaje (mixed race) lineage by infusing the ancient practice of curanderismo with nontraditional healing tools, such as la lucha (struggle) and flor y canto (flower and song).
The heart of this work is dedicated to exploring the ways in which Moraga and Downs craft nepantla (in between) spirituality and marry this spiritual tapestry with their political activism to create magic and transformation. I argue that the lives and works of Cherríe Moraga and Lila Downs are templates for healing and renewal and these transformative theories and practices offer a spiritual and communal technology that heals wounds inflicted by conquest, colonization, and capitalism.
This interdisciplinary dissertation highlights the lives and works of strong Chicanas in an effort to create a link between past and present-day women. The strength that Moraga and Downs exhibit throughout their works is a transformative healing model that has the potential to strengthen and empower generations of Chican@s to come.
Margaret Lynn Mitchell, PhD. "Saint Brigid of Ireland: A Feminist Cultural History of her Abiding Legacy, from the Fifth to the Twenty-First Century." (2015)
This dissertation examines the life and legacy of Saint Brigid (Bhride, Brighde, Bride, Brigit, Bridget, Ffraid) of Ireland, a fifth-century Irish Catholic Abbess, whose rise to religious sovereignty took place at the merging of Christianity and Celtic beliefs. It explores the prehistorical and historical, religious, and cultural factors that led to her rise to prominence and religious authority, including an analysis of the prehistoric mythological lineage of the sacred feminine landscape into which she was born. The research question addressed is, What are the multi-dimensional facets of Brigid's life and her abiding presence as a symbol of the sacred feminine divine for our world today?
The evolving manifestations of Brigid's veneration and legacy, from her birth until modern times, are examined through the lenses of feminist cultural history, Irish religious history, modern matriarchal studies, folklore studies, and art history methodologies. The comprehensive and expansive scope of this study spanning fifteen hundred years creates a fuller picture of the global contributions of a prominent female spiritual leader that goes beyond Brigid's more familiar associations with fire and holy wells, and as patron saint of poets, writers, healers, midwives, and blacksmiths.
This study explores the hypothesis that Brigid's rise to prominence was enhanced by the vestiges of an indigenous Indo-European and/or old European culture that expressed worship of the sacred feminine divine. Archaeo-mythological methodologies are used to examine connections between Brigid as goddess and Brigid as saint, with particular emphasis on the ancient symbols of her sovereignty practiced today in rituals of veneration, healing, and personal empowerment by contemporary women and men: the cros Brighe (Brigid's cross), crios Brighe (Brigid's sacred belt or girdle), and bhrat Bhride (Brigid's sacred cloak).
This study documents the blossoming revival of interest in Brigid in the early twenty-first century, utilizing women's spirituality methodologies and feminist research practices, with a focus on sacred arts, literature, and folklore. A description of contemporary rituals generated in Brigid's honor includes the author's journeys to Brigid's sacred sites, and interviews with individuals connecting with and embodying Brigid's legacy to serve as beacons of light, hope, justice, and peace for our world.
Vanessa Soriano, PhD. "Women’s Spiritual Leadership: The Styles, Practices, and Beliefs of Women’s Leadership in Female-Centric Spiritual Spaces." (2015)
The research topic for this dissertation focuses on women's leadership in female-centered groups and organizations that have incorporated some notion of the sacred feminine. A key objective of this study is to reveal the styles, practices, and beliefs of women's leadership in female-centric spiritual spaces. To generate data on this theme, a diverse cohort of women spiritual leaders was intensively interviewed to capture how women lead in female-centric spiritual spaces. For the purposes of this research initiative, women's leadership in these spaces was referred to as women's spiritual leadership because spiritual principles shaped the leader's actions and values.
A constructivist-grounded theory was developed that elucidated the various features of women's spiritual leadership in female-centric spiritual spaces. Within these spaces, the women spiritual leaders make deliberate attempts to not replicate the models of power found in masculinized institutions and culture. These female-centric spiritual spaces are areas where women's leadership, spirituality, and empowerment can be expressed, as long as a continuous conscious effort is made to eradicate shadow, patriarchal, and egoic comportment. Within these environments, women's leadership styles and practices reflect the traits of secular women's leadership, but are guided by the tenets of the women's spirituality tradition. Spiritual leaders consciously utilize leadership styles and practices that are grounded in a feminine and collaborative model of power, which is believed to reflect the beliefs and principles of women's spirituality. Overall, the findings of this study exhibit how women spiritual leaders lead and illuminate the beliefs and principles that guide their leadership styles and practices.
Eleni Dedes, PhD. "Oracular Priestesses and Goddesses of Ancient Krete, Delphi, and Dodona." (2015)
This dissertation discusses the roles of oracular priestesses and goddesses in Krete and Greece. The appointment of oracular priestesses to the service of a particular goddess such as Gaia or Athena is reviewed. In addition, this study demonstrates the extent to which the worship of goddesses, led by oracular priestesses, was a pre-eminent aspect of religion in ancient Krete and Greece. Various types of conduits and methods used to receive oracular messages are also considered, including trees, baetyls, the inhalation of gaseous vapors, the chewing of laurel leaves, and the possible use of bees and snakes.
This dissertation also considers the implications that feminist archaeology brings to the interpretation of evidence regarding oracular priestess and goddess traditions in Krete at the temple palace of Knossos, and in mainland Greece at the oracular sites of Delphi and Dodona. An interdisciplinary methodology is employed, drawing on archaeology, mythology, archaeo-mythology, and feminist spiritual hermeneutics in the academic field of women's spirituality.
To facilitate this study, a set of characteristics is specified for determining which figures can plausibly be considered oracular priestesses and/or goddesses. The set of characteristics which distinguish a goddess from an ordinary woman or girl include (1) ritual or sacred "find contexts;" (2) the presence of worshippers or adorants; (3) symbolic attributes of divinity, especially those which are representative of the female in local cultural context and perhaps also in cross-cultural contexts; (4) gestures of divinity, in local and/or cross-cultural contexts; and (5) larger relative size. Priestesses are distinguished by (1) typical gestures of adoration or offering of votives; (2) typical attributes in cultural context and/or cross-cultural contexts; (3) the study of epigraphy (where possible); and/or (4) prosopography. The characteristics which distinguish oracular priestesses from other kinds of priestesses include the priestess' interactions with trees, baetyls, bees, birds, and snakes, or the inhaling gaseous vapors.
Jeannette Larino Wooden Kiel, PhD. "Women's Stories of Ecofeminist Activism and Artistic Expression: A Trandisciplinary Spiritual Feminist Inquiry into Transformative and Spiritual Connections." (2016)
This dissertation explores the stories of seven women spiritual-ecofeminist-activist-artists, including myself. It answers the question, What transformative and spiritual connections does one have with her eco-feminist activism and art?
This study connects different ways of knowing from the mind, body, heart and spirit, and it has three significant dimensions. The first dimension—transdisciplinary spiritual feminist inquiry—allows the researcher to interconnect several disciplinary ways of knowing, and it presents feminist ways to inquire about experiences with activism and creative artistic expression. The second dimension—exploration of transformational and spiritual connections—explores how study participants experience spiritual connections within their spiritual-eco-feminist-activist artwork. The third dimension-—nspirational narratives—holds the hope for the reader to connect to these stories, eco-feminist activism, and artwork, and to be inspired to become agents of creative social change. After the conclusion of each of the interviews, I created a reflective art-piece, inspired by each artist-activist.
The research methodology combines transdisciplinary inquiry with feminist and women's spirituality methods. Epistemological approaches are rooted in women's spirituality and feminism.
The responses of the seven women spiritual-eco-feminist-activist-artists revealed, upon analysis, nine shared themes: inspiring others; finding one's voice; connecting to ancestors; healing; honoring/connecting to nature; finding community; traveling; greening daily life,; and discovering/honoring the goddess. These themes, along with the three main themes—early inspiration and goals; art and activism interconnections; and spiritual dimensions—affirm that numerous spiritual and transformative connections exist between their activism and creative artwork, and that these connections are dependent upon the person's background, history, chosen spiritual-eco-feminist-activist artwork, and creative media. Responses indicate that there is a spiritual component to the participants' spiritual-eco-feminist-activist artwork and that their activism and artwork are interconnected. Their responses show that each of the seven women spiritual-eco-feminist-activist-artists defines eco-feminism in her own unique way, while making connections to nature, women, the sacred feminine or goddess, and healing. And that all the activist-artists utilized art and spiritual sources to heal and regain balance in their lives. The voices in this study, through storytelling, create a space of "multiple consciousness," where the multi-dimensional voices of the seven women spiritual-eco-feminist-activist-artists are heard and valued.
Janice Parker, PhD. "The Ties That Bind: The Ritual Sacrifice of the Erotic Love Goddess, the Sacralization of the Divine Hero, and the Comptemporary Culture of Rape; A Mythopoetic Rememberance of the Goddesses Hathor, Aphrodite, and Marilyn Monroe." (2016)
By all evidence, the rape of women and girls on a global scale is the quintessential crime of our civilization. Yet as a culture, we remain indifferent to the horrors of rape and the brutal acts of male aggression targeting women. To reach a more complex understanding of the religious, psycho-spiritual, and cultural myths supporting the dominant worldview that rationalizes the gravity of rape and denies women divinity and sexual freedom, this dissertation interrogates the relationship between the systematic degradation of the erotic love goddess, the triumph of the hero’s myth as the master narrative of the Western world, and the contemporary culture of rape.
This interdisciplinary study proposes that the journey of the goddess from universal symbol of life to the property, sacrifice, and scapegoat of the patriarchal hero is one of the major undercurrents informing the lived reality of women and the current epidemic of rape. Accordingly, it draws on mythology, cultural history, and popular culture to examine the compelling patterns of consciousness expressed by the erotic love goddesses from the Neolithic era to present times. For this thesis, Hathor, the serpent goddess of Ancient Egypt, signifies reverence for the goddess as the ultimate mystery of existence; Aphrodite, the Indo-European goddess of sexual love, personifies the ritual sacrifice of the erotic powers of the goddess; and Marilyn Monroe, the Hollywood sex goddess, represents the rape of the goddess and the psychological, physical, and political realities of a raped woman in current times.
Juxtaposing the ritual repudiation of the goddess, the exclusion of women from the godhead, and the vilification of female sexuality with the rise of the hero’s myth, this dissertation establishes the central role of the male, rape, and the violent domination of women in the origin myths of Ancient Greece, the Abrahamic religions, Freudian psychology, and the visual mythology of Hollywood. As demonstrated, the hero’s myth represents the fundamental dualisms at the core of Western thought, mandates the supreme sovereignty of males and the subordination of females, and sanctions the rampant rape of young girls and women by men in the mythic and material realms.