CrossCurrents: The CIIS Blog "Gathering of the Ancient Goddesses"
A Celebration of all Goddesses of the World at the 2017 Glastonbury Goddess Conference
This summer, I had the great pleasure of participating as an assistant producer and actor in the sacred drama, Gathering of the Ancient Goddesses: Return of the "Top Girls," performed at the 2017 Glastonbury Goddess Conference.
For those unfamiliar with the conference, this annual event, now in its 22nd year, is a unique transformative spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical experience.
In 2017, the conference celebrated all Goddesses of the World with six days of sacred ceremony, processions, presentations, workshops, and performances. Directed and created by my sister, Alexandra Cichon, with the assistance of dramaturge Jade Kelly, Gathering of the Ancient Goddesses is based on the first act and scene of Caryl Churchill's 1982 feminist play, "Top Girls."
In the Churchill drama, the main character, Marlene, hosts a dinner party at a London restaurant to celebrate her promotion to managing director of Top Girls employment agency. Her guests at this party are five women from the past.
For the sacred drama, instead of historical women, 14 priestess-actors theatrically embodied ancient Goddesses. The Goddesses attended a banquet (the table an homage to Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party) in Avalon (Glastonbury). Their hostess was the Lady of Avalon, and the occasion, the 2017 Glastonbury Goddess Conference.
The Goddesses came to Avalon from around the universe and across time. Demonized, denigrated, and diminished by millennia of patriarchy, the sacred drama celebrated the triumphant return of these ancient Goddesses, achieved not through violence, but by the power of love, by force of wit, wisdom, daring, deep patience, perseverance, and strategic alliances with sometimes strange bedfellows.
The cast, which included priestesses from Mexico, Portugal, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, Australia, and New Zealand, embodied the Goddesses Ixchel, Lilith, Hecate, Sheela Na Gig, Venus of Malta, Ariadne, Aphrodite, the Lady of Avalon, the Neolithic Portuguese Sun-Eyed Goddess, and Cat Goddess, and the Triple Goddess of Life, Death, and Rebirth.
The director asked each priestess to hold for a six-month period, in meditation, the Goddess who called to her; to listen, to embody, and to record what the Goddess wanted said. Thus, neither the director nor the actors chose the Goddesses: the Goddesses chose the actors, and chose to come through them to make their presence known to the audience in Glastonbury.
A Khoros wove all the Goddesses' stories into one thread, red as Ariadne's thread, leading us home to the pulsing bloodline of our divine Motherline.
Gathering of the Ancient Goddesses was extremely well-received with cast and crew members receiving praises such as: "Absolutely wonderful," "Terrific production," "Wonderful costumes and make-up," "Stunning, felt so ancient, as if I was seeing into our past." It has been said that sacred drama works to invigorate new myths and stories that will feed into mythic reality and change fixed ideas and thought-forms about how the world is. If that is true, then I believe Gathering of the Ancient Goddesses has contributed to making a positive change in our world.
Joan M. Cichon, a retired history professor and reference librarian, has a PhD in Women's Spirituality from CIIS. Her dissertation, "Matriarchy in Minoan Crete: A Perspective from Archaeomythology and Modern Matriarchal Studies"reflects her on-going interest in Bronze Age Crete, archaeomythology and Modern Matriarchal Studies. Joan is a board member of the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology, and an organizer of the biennial Matriarchal Studies Day. She may be contacted at email@example.com.