How do you feel, if you believe in a religion where this is true, to only have a MALE god to relate to? Have you ever been worried about it? How do you feel having your Savior be a male? Do you wonder if he can really, possibly, truly know your innermost thoughts and ideas and struggles as a woman? Am I alone in wondering why the world shuns the idea of a FEMALE Divine?
In the LDS religion, though it is never voiced very loudly, most members believe in a Heavenly Mother…someone married to the Heavenly Father that they pray to and seek guidance from. But nothing is really taught or known or even talked about….just this vague idea that she is there, quiet, in the background, not really playing any part that I can see. These vague ideas made me imagine a Mother who was always soft-spoken and dripping with sentimentality and all the saccharine rhetoric that goes on about her existence has simply turned me off the idea for much of my life. I didn’t want to identify with THAT kind of a female deity.
I know many people would think it sacrilelgious to even WANT to know if a female counterpart to God exists–let alone if I desire to pray to her, which I don’t, not at this point. Here is why–the explanations of why we can’t pray to her disturb me…like Heavenly Mother is too special to talk to? Heavenly Father is protecting her from the evil things her children would say about her? Or maybe, worshipping a woman is just one step away from leading followers in the direction of pagan fertility rites? Each argument, which I have indeed heard several times in my life time, seems sillier than the last.
Many LDS feminists have advocated giving a more prominent place to Heavenly Mother in their basic religious doctrine. I don’t really know how I feel about this either. I understand the argument completely. Worshipping a male God without a female counterpart puts males in a privileged position, doesn’t it? God is like them in a fundamental way that God is not like women. I think this is where some of the root of my issues with religion are growing…I cannot believe that an environment, any environment which conceptualizes the divine in exclusively males terms does not to some extent influence the ways in which that said environment is going to think about men and women and their capabilities.
Lynnette at Zelophad’s Daughters voiced this issue with words I could have written myself: “If we have no Heavenly Mother, women have no divine role model which pertains to their gender, and that is indeed a challenge. But if Heavenly Mother exists, what we have is a divine role model for women which may be more disturbing than no role model at all–one in which women are silenced to the point of invisibility, in which they seem to disappear altogether into the idenity of their husbands. Though I find the idea that God is a married couple to be appealing, I am unsettled by speculations that the Father in some way represents both of them, or that she is listening or involved despite the fact that we are permitted to address him and him alone. Some suggest that this setup exists because the two are so perfectly unified. But why, I wonder, does unity seem to require that women (but not men) sacrifice their individual identity–in this case, to the point where we can only guess as the whether a female is even present in the relationship.”
There are numerous Jewish and Christian groups who see the Holy Spirit as being our heavenly Mother. They base their thinking regarding the gender of the Holy Spirit on the fact that the Hebrew word for Spirit is Ruach, which is feminine. I thought this was an interesting idea…not one that works for me, but I love that other religions have tried to work the female into their fundamental belief system.
The Umbanda or in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil the Candomble religion worship Iemanja as one of the Seven orixas of the African Pantheon. She is the Queen of the Ocean, the feminine principle of creation and the spirit of moonlight. (Much like the Catholic Our lady of the Seafaring). I feel connected with her for a very real reason. When I was studying in Brazil our group of 40 students went the home of a Candomble Priestess and ate African food while she told us about her religion. They identify with three Gods and four Goddesses. As you grow, the Priestess will assign you a patron God or Goddess to identify with. Someone asked her how she assigned them. She said that often, the God or Goddess was simply shining through so brightly, it was impossible to deny. So, that girl asked again, “Well, can you see any of them in us?” The Priestess, beautiful in her white clothing, regal in her manner, spiritual in her nature looked around the room and said, “Yes, there are three here who shine bright with their God.” The girl pressed her, “Won’t you tell us?!” I was quiet, knowing that when she had scanned the room, her eyes had lingered just a bit longer on me then they had on the girl next to me. She pointed to two girls and told them, then she pointed to me. “You, with the blonde, your Goddess is as clear as the blue sea on our coasts. Your Goddess is Iemanja.”
Research Iemanja–you’ll see why it was so special for me. The mother goddess, the patron deity of women, especially pregnant women…
The feeling inside, this idea that a female goddess was shinning through me was one of the most spiritual moments in my life. Even more than that was realizing that I hold within myself endless possibilities. However, it has taken me a long time to get to where I am, and I still wonder about these male Gods. I still wonder what life would have been like for an innocent, blonde, rosy cheeked girl to grow up with a strong female divine letting her know that she was just as good as the men who were allowed to lead her just because that’s how it’s always been done.
–D’Arcy Benincosa (Note: This was originally published here.)