Forest art installation

Women's Spirituality Program in Action

A listing of incredible work accomplished during the 2015-2016 academic year 

Hannah Tamezoujt July 13, 2016

The 2015-2016 academic year was a busy one for Women's Spirituality at CIIS! From our formidable presence at the Parliament of World Religions to the digital publication of the first ever archaeomythological encyclopedia to focus exclusively on the divine feminine, we are proud of all that members of the Women's Spirituality program have created this year! Here are 10 highlights of the great year we've had.

We Had a Seat in Parliament

The Women's Spirituality program had a strong presence at the 2015 Parliament of World Religions Inaugural Women's Assembly.

On October 15th, 2015, women from the world over gathered in Salt Lake City to participate in the first ever Women's Assembly at the Parliament of World Religions. WSE Faculty member Mara Lynn Keller, Phd delivered a keynote speech at the Faith in Women's Plenary!

Core Faculty member Alka Arora, spoke at the Women's Assembly. Arora copresented "Reclaiming a Sacred Relationship to All Beings: An Inter-Spiritual Dialogue," with Sara Salazar, WSE Adjunct Faculty and lecturer in the School of Undergraduate Studies. 

WSE students and alumnae Samantha Sinclair, Barbara Daughter, Sridevi Ramanathan, and Blythe Collier also hosted a panel presentation titled "Diverse Voices of Women's Spirituality", which they offered again in celebration of Women's History Month. The group of Women's Spirituality scholars from diverse spiritual traditions discussed the connection between the suppression of the divine feminine, women's oppression, and environmental devastation. Each panelist offered her story as a thread to weave into a new, Earth-centric, collaborative, and inclusive narrative.

We Fostered Transformative Dialogue

Faculty member Alka Arora, Ph.D. participated in a panel at the June 2016 National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education.

Entitled concurrent workshop "Pedagogies of the Sacred: Women of Color Transforming Educational Paradigms", the panel explored bridging the realm of the sacred with the political in academia, both in the classroom and extracurricular spaces. It built upon the work of a variety of theorists (particularly women of color) who explore the "sacred" as a space for potentially peaceful encounters across difference, closing the false dichotomy between the spiritual (sacred) and the political (profane), without subsuming one into the other.

Alka invited participants to reflect upon how their own notions of the sacred inform their educational praxis to foster empathy, compassion, social justice, and transformation for faculty and administrators alike.

We Embodied Diasporic Tradition

Faculty Arisika Rasak, MPH and Alum Nadirah Adeye explored "the importance of embodied living as a Person of Color" during February's African American Wisdom Summit.

Nadirah Adeye, alum of the Women's Spirituality Master's program, hosted the summit through The Shift Network. This empowering series offered throughout the month of February emphasized awareness and community in celebration of Black History Month. Women's Spirituality Core Faculty member Arisika Razak joined other African American wisdom teachers, healers, activists, and artists as presenters. For Nadirah the aim of the summit was to illuminate how African American and African Diaspora generated practices can be integrated into daily life to nourish personal and collective healing, and to sustain inspired communal action in social justice work.

Arisika contributed to this vision by speaking about the collective "we-self" of African and African Diasporic spiritual traditions - an orientation of "I am, because we are." Arisika spoke passionately about the use of music and dance to raise the vibration of the body in spiritual ritual, economic endeavors and political resistance; how these things that are considered "art forms" in the West are really spiritual technologies, "to survive and thrive." Arisika echoed the ethos of the Women's Spirituality Program in her discussion of matriarchal, Earth-based lineages of wisdom and their significance in the lives of African Americans and People of Color.

We Gathered in Community

With the April 1st conference initiated by WSE Professor Emerita Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum, Keynote speaker for Matriarchal Studies day and for ASWM, and recipient of 2016 Demeter Award. Women's Spirituality had a strong presence at the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology. Goddess Scholarship draws on historical, ethnographic and folk sources, among others, to document and honor the sacred and mundane stories which animate the traditions and spiritual lives of our global sisters and our foremothers.

This year's conference theme embraces the heritage of location in the historical City of Boston, a harbor city rich in stories and symbols of First Nations of the Atlantic Northeast and the formation of the United States. Jessica Bowman, Barbara Daughter, Gayatri Devi, Marion Dumont, Anne Key, Lynn Mitchell, Mary Beth Mosér, and Laura Truxler contributed to this year's theme "Seeking Harbor in our Histories: Lights in the Darkness" through their discussions of the Dark Goddess, sea myths and sexuality, the fierce goddesses of many lands, and their own ancestral memory.

We Were Awarded

WSE Alumn and Program Chair, Dr. Annette L. Williams received the 2016 Kore Award for Best Dissertation, for "Our Mysterious Mothers: The Primordial Feminine Power of Àjẹ́ in the Cosmology, Mythology, and Historical Reality of the West African Yoruba."  Written during her doctoral studies at the WSE, Our Mysterious Mothers speaks of the powerful feminine in the Yoruba tradition and the dualistic reaction it inspires under patriarchal influence. Established in 2010 the Kore Award recognizes excellence and relevance in dissertation research. The award was conferred at the 2016 ASWM Conference.

We Passed the Torch

Women's Spirituality Scholars' Dr. Marion Dumont and Dr. Karen Nelson Villanueva to co-chair PNW-AAR's "Arts and Religion" section.

Over the last six years, CIIS Women's Spirituality Program scholars have enjoyed a strong presence with stellar presentations of rich research at the Pacific Northwest region's American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature/American Schools of Oriental Research (PNW-AAR/SBL/ASOR)-and this year was no exception!

This year's annual meeting was held at the University of Idaho, in Moscow, Idaho, May 20-22, 2016. After six years of service, initiators and co-chairs Dr. Susan G. Carter (2001) and Dr. Louise M. Paré (2003) passed the torch of leadership for the "Arts and Religion" Program Unit of the Pacific Northwest American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature/American Schools of Oriental Research (PNW-AAR/SBL/ASOR), during the annual regional meeting. CIIS Women's Spirituality graduates, Dr. Marion Dumont and Dr. Karen Nelson Villanueva, stepped forward to carry the torch of this dynamic section.

We Shattered Myths

AWSM Anthology Myths Shattered and Restored Edited by WSE Alums Gayatri Devi and Marion Dumont.

This collection of essays from this year's ASWM proceedings is a valuable contribution to contemporary feminist and womanist efforts to ensure that today's herstory is not forsaken in tomorrow's myths.

We Were Archived

The literary papers of WSE Adjunct Faculty Mary Mackey, Ph.D. were archived by Smith College.

Her work is now housed in the Sophia Smith Special Collections Library at Smith College in Northampton, MA. The two best collections of papers relating to women's history and women writers' publications in the United States, and perhaps the world, are held by Smith College and the Schlesinger Library at Harvard. Her poetry has been featured with that of Jane Hirshfield, one of America's most important poets who presently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American poets.

Congratulations, Mary!

We Were Passionate About What’s on Our Plate

WSE Alums, Teresa Marbut and Charlotte Cressey, wrote and spoke on the importance of food

The intersection of womanist, feminist discourses and ecology come together in the food we eat - a reality that alumnae Teresa Marbut and Charlotte Cressey are making their life's work. On March 8th 2016 Charlotte Cressey spoke with World Vegan Radio on veganism as a new paradigm of relationship that makes possible radical compassion and connection.

In late July of 2015 Teresa Marbut published Spiritual Foodways: An Ecofeminist Perspective on Our Sacred Journey with Food

Focusing on food history and agribusiness, Dr. Marbut focuses in her book on GMOs and their devastating impact on our collective wellbeing. Renewing the sacred nature of food systems, and the role of women within them, is wholly necessary if we are to heal our personal, collective, and Earth bodies. For Teresa right relationship with all food sources is the way forward. In April 2016 Teresa spoke on the significance of seeds in Tikkun magazine.

We Changed History to Herstory

Re-Genesis: A Feminist Rewriting of Spiritual History at CIIS

The Women's Spirituality Community is excited and proud to introduce Alumna Eahr Joan's life's work: The Re-Genesis Encyclopedia the first and only Archeo-Mythology Database in existence. In Eahr's words, the encyclopedia is a synthesis of the "Spiritual Dark-Motherline, Integral Research, Labyrinth Learning, and Eco-Thealogy.".The Re-Genesis Encyclopedia was designed as a trans-cultural-and-historical multimedia text for an online database. The project began on October 11th, 1979, with 12 years of field work in the Near East, North Africa and Europe following its inception at the British Museum library in conjunction with London University. This text documents and archives the existence and influence of divine feminine spirituality across disciplines, cultures, and historical periods from 3,000,000 BCE to the new millennium, 2000 CE.

As an annotated chronology of the spiritual mother-line from the Hominid ancestry, supported by a profusion of photographic images from sacred sites and museums around the world, Re-Genesis is the first feminist spirituality database of its kind. Re-Genesis speaks to the re-membering the breadth and depth of the silenced and missing female story; the story of the female as sacred, and the story of female deities. " As an interactive online database, Re-Genesis invites others to share in the process of re-creating their own mother-line story. Eahr says of her work that finally she has "the archive I have waited all my life to read." This is a monumental achievement for the world of women's spirituality, and for our understanding of human history as a whole!

We Were Published

Core Faculty Publications, 2015-2016:

Core Faculty, Alka Arora, Ph.D.

  • Arora, A. (2016). Justice for just us? Tikkun, 31(1), 30-35.
  • Arora, A, & Elawar, M. (2015). Questioning God: A spiritual feminist dialogue. Cross Currents, 65(4), 457-468.
  • "Heralding the Fourth Wave: Young Women's Spiritual Activism" Forthcoming in Goddess 2.0 Anthology edited by Karen Tate.

Core Faculty, Arisika Razak, CNM, MPH

  • Razak, A. (2016, forthcoming). Sacred women of Africa and the African Diaspora: A womanist vision of Black women's bodies and the African sacred feminine. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 35(1).

Core Faculty, Mara Keller, Ph.D.

  • Keller, Mara Lynn, "Archaeomythology as Academic Field and Methodology: Bridging Science and Religion, Empiricism and Spirituality" in Myths Shattered and Restored: Proceedings of the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology, edited by Marion Dumont and Gayatri Devi.  Women and Myth Press, 2016.
  • Keller, Mara Lynn, "Women's Spirituality in Higher Education," in Foremothers of Women's Spirituality: Visionaries and Elders, edited by Miriam Robbins Dexter and Vicki Noble. New York: Teneo Press, 2015, 55-64.

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