Seasonal Salon

Worthy of Shelf Space

For this edition of the Seasonal Salon, we were asked to tie our submission to RCGI’s 30th Anniversary.  Of all the books out there, choosing the ones with the most significant links to our religion proved to be a challenge.  There are many wonderful volumes, each with their own merits.  When the sifting was over, four stood out.  For this anniversary edition, we have reviews of the one book that began Feminist Dianic Wicca, and therefore the beginning of RCGI; a collection of where we are today, essays and literary works from 21st century priestesses; the philosophic, anthropological and herstorical perspective of legitimacy of Goddess worship; and an example of practical application of the first legally recognized women’s religion.

Happy 30th Anniversary, RCGI!


Something Old

The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries, Zsuzsanna Emese Budapest, Weiser Books, 2007, First printing Susan B. Anthony Coven No. 1, 1980

In the beginning, there was Z.  And the Goddess smiled and said, “This is really going to be good!” 

There are hardly words to describe the importance of this work which originated as The Feminist Book of Light and Shadows.  Without Z’s vision and sharing of her knowledge, women’s religion would likely not exist in the recognizable form that it does today.  Those of us around in the 1970’s women’s movement all knew who Z Budapest was—the crazy witch from California casting spells in support of passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  And we shook our heads in amusement, apprehension, confusion, and joyous appreciation.  We didn’t all understand right away.  Z laid a foundation for the examination of patriarchy at its most basic and created an alternative where women could find and remember the divine within themselves. 

The first thing in Chapter One is “The Politics of Women’s Religion, the Manifesto of the Susan B. Anthony Coven No. 1.”  This lays out the theory, the thealogy, the politics and the practice in one succinct declaration.  This is the basis of Feminist Dianic Wicca.  This is who we are. 

Z’s book is chock full of spells, rituals, ancient celebrations and lore.  There is a massive amount of detail.  I can’t possibly describe in this review the depth and breadth of all the information found within.  Every Feminist Dianic witch must have a copy of this book.  We owe it to future witches to keep this knowledge alive and circulating.



Something New:

Stepping into Ourselves, An Anthology of Writings on Priestesses, Anne Key and Candace Kant, ed., Goddess Ink, Ltd., 2014

This newest offering from Goddess Ink is a treasure trove of ideas, information and inspiration.  What is a Priestess?  What do they do?  Are they all alike?  Anne Key and Candace Kant’s compilation provides the opportunity to dip into many traditions and explore a wide variety of beliefs.  Forty-nine priestesses contributed material to this anthology.  All are interesting and worthy of careful reading.  This review, however, focuses on the five women who claim direct connection to RCGI. 

Jade River’s essay relays her personal story as a priestess and the founding of RCGI.  In our 30th year, reading this short essay to understand our own herstory is essential.  The section, “Roles of the Priestess” contains an article by Jennifer Jones, titled “The Story of My First and Second Urban Street Trees.”  Jennifer travels the path of an Earthwalker and her lovely article describes the pragmatic and responsible, as well as the spiritual, considerations of bringing greenness to an East Coast city environment.  Nano Boye Nagle’s essay “It’s Easier to be a Priest than a Priestess” conveys a powerful personal look at the realities of gender and spiritual fluidity.  Moving into the “Toolkit” section of the book, Nan Brooks has a delightful story, “The Circle of Theatre and Ritual” of how her early work in performance art morphed into skill as a ritualist.  Nan provides both practical organizational ideas and philosophical wisdom.  Kim Duckett offers profound insights in “As Within, So Without:  Some Psychological Aspects of Priestessing” which all women working within a circle need to know.

This is just a tiny taste of the pleasures which reside between the covers of this book.  Put it on your bedside table and read it every day.


Something Non-US:

The Civilization of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe, Marija Gimbutas, HarperSanFrancisco, 1991

Five hundred and twenty-nine large pages.  Maps and tables.  Drawings and color plates.  Appendices and footnotes.  A scholar’s delight.

Marija Gimbutas rocked the academic world with her perspective of radically different ancient societies from those traditionally taught as the beginning of civilization.  In painstaking detail, she lays out a compelling argument starting with the beginning of agriculture and moves society by society across Europe.  As she uncovers details of the Neolithic cultures, she provides archeological evidence that shows a completely different picture of early people. 

In Chapter 7, Gimbutas reaches the conclusion that patriarchal scholarship was too threatened to accept.  Here she states that Old Europe did indeed have a religion that centered on the Goddess:  “According to myriad images that have survived from the great span of human prehistory on the Eurasian continents, it was the sovereign mystery and creative power of the female as the source of life that developed into the earliest religious experiences.  The Great Mother Goddess who gives birth to all creation out of the holy darkness of her womb became a metaphor for Nature herself, the cosmic giver and taker of life, ever able to renew Herself within the eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth.”  Gimbutas continues her story of sacred script evidence and social structures, concluding with the Kurgan invasion from South Russia and the destruction of the Goddess cultures.

The next time your intellectual relatives tell you our religion has no basis in reality, this is the book to drop in their laps.  It speaks for itself and for us.


Something True

Tying the Knot, A Gender-Neutral Guide to Handfastings or Weddings for Pagans and Goddess Worshipers, Jade River, Creatrix Resource Library LLC, 2004

RCGI is the oldest legally incorporated tax-exempt religion in the United States which serves women and Jade River is the co-founder of RCGI.  One purpose of religions is to perform the rites of passage that mark the occasions in people’s lives.  Weddings, or handfastings, or joinings are one of the most joyous events within a community of women.

If you are a minister or priestess who performs Pagan weddings, this book has a place of honor on your shelf and is consulted frequently.  If you are considering marriage, this book will help you navigate all the ends and out of various decisions.  Jade’s done a super job of covering all the practical matters.  From selection of a location to the construction of the ceremony to choosing the wedding attire, it’s all found within the pages of this book.  She even has a chapter on Optional Activities to personalize your ceremony, including money-saving options. 

As a Priestess who has conducted handfastings, I found that the sample ceremonies provided in Appendix A provided a wonderful starting point in helping couples design their own events.  Perhaps one of the most useful chapters for both clergy and for couples concerns talking with non-Pagans about a pagan wedding.  In concise and humorous terms, Jade gently walks people through the pitfalls and possible solutions to creation of a day that provides meaning to all involved.

Our thanks go to Jade for providing such a needed resource for our religion.


Renee Rabb is an Ordained Priestess of RCGI who lives in Austin, Texas and is becoming a poet as she ages. She is actively involved in the 1st Austin Circle of RCG in Austin, Texas.  She has been an activist since the age of 9 and does not plan to stop any time soon.

Category: Beltane 2014