A Review of Soul and Shadow, Birthing MotherWorld by Jeri Studebaker
by Jeri Studebaker
In several ways this book amazed me. First, I was blown away by Kathy Jones’ utter honesty about profoundly personal parts of her life: her deep fears, her screw-ups, her cancers, and her confusions about her own life, motivations and leadership abilities.
Second, whatever she herself felt about it, I was struck by Kathy’s remarkable ability to lead others. The sheer number of outstanding Goddess workshops, classes, presentations, field trips, conferences, plays, and other activities she has led, created and/or organized is overwhelming. After finishing the book I am in awe of her energy, dedication and creativity.
Third, Kathy describes her years-long battle with certain members of the UK Goddess community, her attempts to understand and heal the ancient wounds she feels caused this friction, wounds not only in the others but also in herself. Despite all her painful and laborious work, however, the abuse continued — mostly on social media. What’s amazing to me is that Kathy didn’t give up. At one point, driving in her car, she looked at a wall ahead of her and had thoughts of driving into it. She didn’t, and she didn’t desert the Glastonbury Goddess community, either.
As someone who’s organized and led Goddess- and other women’s groups myself, I can attest that almost every leadership issue Kathy experienced was an issue I experienced myself. As Kathy notes, some women drawn to women’s groups seem a bit more likely to be those extra-damaged by the patriarchy. The question is, how do we deal with this? Kathy thinks one way Goddess devotees can heal their wounds is by reliving the experiences they suffered during past lives when they were connected to Goddess temples, while these temples were being obliterated by patriarchal men (and possibly women too).
A fourth amazing part of this book consists of Kathy’s attempts to help readers relive the closing of the ancient Goddess temples. She does so in 10-15 short “stories” that pepper the second half of her book. I call them stories because they have characters, dialog, settings, action, and all other aspects of literature, but Kathy says many came to her as visions. In each story, Kathy is a central character, as if she herself is actually going back in time and reliving her lives in several ancient Goddess temples, as each was decimated (this temple destruction was a long, drawn-out process beginning around 4000 BC and ending around 400 AD – plenty of time for someone today to have lived through countless closings).
What follows are short excerpts from two of these visions:
“We are inside the Sanctuary of the Temple, the door to the outer Courtyard is bolted. There is noise and shouting outside. We, the Priestesses of Her Temple, are gathered together in circle. They are dressing me in an old cloak, hiding my hair and face beneath a hood. We sing praises to the Lady with tear-filled eyes and fear trembling our voices. I am the one who has been Chosen by Lot, to leave by the secret exit, to run from the invaders, to escape, taking with me the Lady’s Treasures, all that we revere and honour, to hide deep in the land. These, Her most Sacred Objects – the Maiden Grael, the Sacred Cup of Love, the Mother’s Chalice, … all are wrapped in leather or hessian cloth to protect them through time, and placed in the basket I now hold. I shall guard these Treasures with my life….”
“I AM HERE AGAIN in another time, at another ending.
“I AM RUNNING, running so hard. My lungs are bursting. My heart is pounding. Fear-filled adrenalin courses through my veins. I can barely breathe but I keep going. I am running for my life. Away, away from the Temple of Artemis, away from that Sacred Place which has been my home since I was a child….
“I have learned the practices of invisibility, but my fear overwhelms the centre ground and I know that I can be seen, as a whirl of colour and energy rushing by. Heads turn to watch the frantic woman pass, veils streaming. I glance backwards and there on the far hill the stone Temple gleams in the sunlight. I see the spiral of smoke reaching upwards to the sky, a tiny tendril of flame curling out through a window. By the gate there are men in strange garb, looking towards the town.
“I duck down to hide. Voices around me have also noticed the smoke,
“’Look, look! Is our Temple on fire?’
“’Mystress, can we help you?’
Especially those leading Goddess groups will want to read this book. It’s comforting to read someone who’s shared your difficult experiences, the book provides ideas about how to cope in such a role, and Kathy herself serves as a superb role model re: Goddess leadership.
You can read more from Jeri Studebaker at Goddess Pages magazine.