- Paperback: 318 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (December 21, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0415223938
- ISBN-13: 978-0415223935
- Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,287,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Enchanted Feminism: Ritual, Gender and Divinity Among the Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco 1st Edition
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"A tour de force... Salomonsen's rigorous training in traditional theology and cultural anthropology informs the rich description and analysis of this faith community... For those too quick to dismiss feminism, witches, and alternative religions, and even for those already interested in these topics, this book will be a startling revelation."
-Carol Delaney, Stanford University
About the Author
Jone Salomonsen teaches in the department of Religious Studies at the University of Oslo.
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She writes in the Introduction to this 2002 book, "This book represents an in-depth study of how contemporary Witches in the Reclaiming community of San Francisco attempt to construct new cultural visions and new religious agency and identity by means of nature-oriented goddess worship and magical, ritual performance... This community of feminist Witches was formed in 1979 by two Jewish women, Starhawk and Diane Baker, who intended to teach others about their newly found goddess and her emancipatory rituals. Twenty years later, Reclaiming has grown into a large movement... The name 'Reclaiming' refers to a spirituality these feminists feel they have reclaimed from ancient paganism and goddess worship in order to heal experiences of estrangement occasioned by patriarchal biblical religions."
Here are some additional quotations from the book:
"Thus, from an academic standpoint, (Gerald) Gardner (with [Aleister] Crowley and [Doreen] Valiente) must be regarded as the sole inventor of modern Witchcraft, including its practices." (Pg. 5)
"It should be noted, however, that most feminist Witches---also in Reclaiming---choose to refer to their religion as Wicca as soon as they enter public space." (Pg. 8)
"...many historians believed that the people persecuted as witches in the European witch hunts were members of a surviving pagan religion ... When the thesis of an Old Religion collapsed ... there was no social heritage to a living religion, only folklore, folk customs, literature and ceremonial frtaernities. The collapse of the theory of a surviving Old Religion has caused great distress to the Witches' identity, and during the last 20 years they have developed different strategies to cope with this fact." (Pg. 89-90)
"Aradia also differs from Susan by not being willing to dismiss her Catholic Christian roots. In fact, she has become famous in the community for calling herself both a Witch and a Catholic. This explicitly dual religious identity is not very common among Witches who were raised as Christians." (Pg. 111)
"Even though Starhawk never loses sight of the fact that our experiences of gender are culturally determined, she hesitates to say that 'sexual difference' is a social construction." (Pg. 215)
"Interesting, so far, is the fact that change of sexual IDENTITY from bisexual to heterosexual or lesbian has not been celebrated or ritualized... although it usually involves a major change in a woman's life, not least if she has children." (Pg. 231)
Her most imporant contributions in the book are in the areas of sacred hermeneutics, Reclaiming Goddess thealogy, and Gender.
She contends that Witchcraft hermeutics are vertical--with unifiying of sacred and profane, natural and supernatural, language and action, with the result of creating, magical reality--or what in literary theory would be called Magical Realism--symbol and referent becoming indistinguishable from each other. What Salomonsen calls the embrace of experience as prelinguistic, I would call "phenomenological."
In terms of theology, Salomonsen contends that Witches do not divide holy experience into 'immanent' and 'transcendent.' Rather, they may make a distinction between a horizontal manifest pansacrality, and a vertical sacrality where Goddess is experienced as Power or Deity, even materializing in sacred possession (or what might be more directly called mysticism). Her discussion of multiple selves (or souls) within Reclaming (Deep Self, Younger Self, and Talking Self) are viewed as ways of integrating these pluralist realities concerning phenomenolgical and symbolic experience. In turn, these realms can be accessed through trance and journeywork to locate answers to questions, be overcome by sacred forces, or meet other-than-human persons an opportunities for "re-membering" Selves.
Thealogicaly, Salomonsen claims that we are not in the space of just a "pantheistic principle," nor a "psychological concept," but rather in a paradoxical space where "Goddess is both deity and other-than-deity simultaneously." Following the 1982 theological work of Robert P. Scharleman, Salomonsen differentiates The Goddess in Reclaiming in four levels worth delineating:
1) manifest other-than-deity (Goddess is immanent in creation--Cosmos as Goddess Body)
2) hidden other-than-deity (Goddess as incomprehensible ground of being- always hidden)
3) hidden deity (Goddess's many names and guises, created/decolonized in magical acts of language/power-from-within)
4) manifest deity (Goddess's incarnation as otherness in all beings)
In terms of gender, Salomonsen draws upon the work of feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray to point to the ethical dilemma of motherhood as both a seat of feminist power and prime subject of dominination--and consequently to see the mother-daughter relationship as the operative field for articulating multiple pluralist feminist ethical roles between women and between Goddess and devotees. The mother-daughter relationship--little mythologized in Western Culture, is approached in Reclaming through the myth of Demeter-Perspehone. Salomonsen's view, based on both introductory and advanced workshops in "women's mysteries" is that essentialized notions of gender are used and deployed strategically in Reclaming to establish power-from within for peoples and situations that require it for a specific time and purpose, and that while reified notions of gender have certainly influenced and spread through the Reclaming community, they are constantly challenged and interrogated in a continuing process of dialogue.
There are powerful strengths and contributions of Salomonsen's work, but the historical thesis is weak. She continually to fit Reclaiming thealogy into Protestant Christian theology, or claim that since Judaism and Christianity both contain some immanentist countercultural traditions, and formed the bulk of the cultural landscape many of today's adherents emerged from, that Reclaming Witches are somehow still embedded in Christianity (and to a lesser extent, Judaism). But with the exception of contemporary feminism, all of the elements Salomonsen ascribes to feminist mystics in early modern Europe are also present much earlier (and stronger) in the Perennialist, Gnostic and Hermetic traditions, which have been well-documented as influencing Bynum's Christian feminist mystics, as well as contemporary Pagans (R. Hutton, S. Magliocco, F. Yates, E. Pagels, A. Versluis, J. Godwin). Salomonsen's theological and anthropological contributions are strong--her historical judgments of religious lineage weak.
A much more likely and historically supported linkage is 19th century feminist Spiritualism, Transcendentalism, and Theosophy in the United States, which always had a personalist flavor to it, with the most tenous, if any, links to Christian theology.