"...when schisms happen, when new groups form, our “umbrella” simply expands to encompass them too. That said, changes, evolution, and yes, schism, can signal a sea change within the larger whole (think of Buckland and Cunningham ushering in the self-initiatory “solitary” paradigm). A barometer to measure changes in our community’s weather. It is within this context, I feel, that we should view the press release just sent out by Lady Yeshe Rabbit and the Amazon Priestess Tribe."
The historical implications of my actions neither elude me nor impress me. I notice them most significantly as my own path unfolding and I feel a mixture of self-consciousness and hope that whatever example I might be setting will be of benefit. I see this evolution in my life as natural, and I am in a practice of surrender to an inner call of conscience that grew and developed over a period of time and under my own watchful curiosity. When I crossed a certain line of resistance around the issue of gender, my emotional attachments to one single way of thinking became significantly less important to me than finding my own most authentic, mindful, active possible role in the restoration of peace and justice, the easing of hearts/hurts, and the potential that a greater strength in our community might emerge from this work. In short, I stepped out of my own way and allowed something new to emerge.
From what I am told by my sisters who have given birth, stepping out of the way of yourself is not only beneficial, it is demanded by the body within the process of labor and delivery. One song beloved of the Bloodroot Honey Priestesses has a line that goes, "I transform my body and birth myself again," and it is a reclamation of our eternal sovereignty. I made the decision to evolve my own work from my intellect and my heart together in concert, without presumption that anyone else needs to share my feelings. For those who do share my feelings, I am happy to contribute in whatever small way I can to making this whole thing we call pagan life work out well, but your journey is your own. I welcome you to share your observations of your own journey with me, if you wish. I can learn a lot from others' experiences, and I learn the most from my own. I am sharing my thoughts here in transparency so that you can see how my engine works, in case you are curious about the mechanics of my decision, along with my sisters, to take this step.
Around and within us, the cosmos demands evolution on a regular basis. "Adapt or die" is one law of natural selection, and humans and animals and nature on this planet continue to answer that call on a daily basis, with inventions, mutations, and iterations.
Yet another law of natural selection is longevity: in order to be classified within a given genus or species category, certain core aspects of an organism must remain relatively unaltered over time. For example, in 40 million years of the evolution of rabbits, lagomorph bone structure and size have remained relatively unchanged, with a few notable exceptions within select and specific contexts.
In short, in order to survive, an organism must have evolutionary flexibility AND a consistent core structure. But if one group of rabbits in Northern Kentucky have certain characteristics not found in rabbits in, say, Belgium, are they all still lagomorphs?
Yes. And this becomes important later in this essay.
I've fielded a few questions thus far about the meaning of the term "Pan-Dianic" versus "Dianic." I'd like to start by saying there is no "versus" in this equation. They are co-existent, co-creative, and can be collaborative at times and not at other times, based upon the needs of those willing who have decided to create a temporary autonomous universe within any given Goddess circle.
Science offers us a possible approach to understanding the terms Dianic and Pan-Dianic via taxonomic ranks, beginning with the largest and widest possible lens, and narrowing things down to the most specific possible lens: kingdom (I would call it queendom, just sayin'), phylum/division, class, order, family, genus, species. The genus and species designations offer the greatest possible individual detail about an organism to the scientist observing an organism. This is where we find greatly varying expressions in plumage, color, bone lengths, abilities evolved over time due to geography, etc.
In taxonomy, there are conflicting viewpoints, of course. Various taxonomists over the years have disagreed and debated over certain types of designations, and even now, debates continue about whether or not to include certain nomenclature that suggests DNA research in the emerging taxonomies of genetically-modified organisms. You, reading this, might not categorize things the same way I do. I'm an armchair taxonomist at best :) My main purpose here is to introduce a possible lens through which we can view a specific point I plan to make. The most important thing to note about the scientific taxonomic system is that we do not predicate one designation over the other as "better." They simply convey degrees of specificity from widest possible lens to most specific possible lens.
In this sense, as Pan-Dianic suggests a broader designation of who is included in Goddess-centered worship space and under the definition of "embodied Goddess," we might place it at the "Family" level, with Dianic Wicca as one of many possible more-specific Goddess-centered "Genus" Traditions, and with the "Species" as various lineages within each.
There is another way we might look at Goddess worship in the US, as well. We might analyze ourselves along a continuum based on our practices, beliefs, and/or experience. We might say, "We are all involved in Earth-based Goddess practices, and along this continuum we find this and that and this iteration of that, and this completely different thing on this end..." Thinking about that as a possible way of understanding Goddess worship in the US is, for me, an exercise in "who do I sit next to whom at the dinner party?" Sorting the guests into tables, as is done at many large formal gatherings, is considered in some circles to be a mark of good judgment and respect on the part of the host/ess. It's not that I think one guest is better than another, or unable to make his/her own decisions; obviously they are all equally invited as honored guests, but if I am the hostess and the point of overlap, I do want to take into account their personalities, preferences, and sensibilities so that all can enjoy themselves. Since we are all the hosts of our own personal worldviews, we can see how different people might delineate different contiuum models based on their own preferences. A continuum of continuums. I am comfortable with that. I have room for all of that in my worldview.
There is yet another lens through which we can view Goddess worship in the US. One of our most natural gravitational forces is centrifugal, with all of us gathering in a circle around an invoked or co-created energy at the center that extends to include all in the spiraling, spherical dance of ecstasy and the profound experience of "worlds within worlds." In this model, we do not find ourselves sorted very specifically other than all as active co-creators and participants in a temporary autonomous universe that has resonance in all other universes. There might be a leader or more than one leader who is actively holding that center space for the sake of the work, but all are equal as beings. The well-loved song, written by Rick Hamouris, says it all: "We are a circle within a circle, with no beginning and never ending." (Hey- while you're at it, go fund DJ Hamouris's Kickstarter for her new album, "Snapshots.")
By looking at Goddess worship in the US as a circle, we can best see the most compelling arguments for inclusivity: all are equal at the table of the Goddess, gathered around Her life-giving Mysteries. We can also see arguments for exclusivity: "We are a circle WITHIN a circle. We are a circle of our own. The specificity of our unique experience is meaningful." I think both are true.
In short, to evoke the Kentucky rabbits and the Belgian rabbits of my earlier example, we are all similar in love for the Goddess here: we all place Her at the center of our practice, we all espouse feminist goals of equality, honor, and respect for all, we all hold the Goddess as sovereign and primary.
As Pan-Dianics, we take the additional view that the Goddess is present, whole and sovereign within each and every body, not only the bodies of cisgender women, and we stand for personal sovereignty and self-determination in the means one uses to locate and connect with that inner and/or outer Goddess. In short, we Pan-Dianics are looking at the same mountain as our Dianic sisters, but we have a panoramic lens as opposed to a close-up lens. Both are important. Both enable the witness of beauty and wonder. Both views will stir the heart, but one might appeal more to one type of person than another.
I'd like to take this opportunity to say that our Tribe's decision, along with the Living Temple of Diana, and Rosmarinus Stehlik, to begin referring to ourselves as Pan-Dianic, is not to deny our Dianic sisters their crucial space for healing, nor is it a rejection of the goals of equality, respect, and honor for cisgender women. Rather, we include the Dianic spaces and truths within the scope of our plural worldview as crucial to our shared vision of a healed planet where the Goddess is alive and freely embodied in the heart of each being who welcomes or needs Her.
If we were to look at Pan-Dianic and Dianic along a continuum, they are two guests that might feel glad to sit next to one another at the table. They will find they have enough in common to establish parity, and enough different to create an invigorating conversation. We might find that we read many of the same news sources, follow many of the same wisdom principles, share some experiences. We also might find that our places of divergence are fruitful and rich for exploration of the Goddess and Her messages and meanings in our individual lives and groups. Personally, I feel the whole world to be my teacher, and I welcome continued dialogue with all of my Pan-Dianic, Dianic, and other pagan sisters and brothers of many paths. I can talk about the Goddess/life/magic/the universe forever. And I find it rewarding, even when the rough edges of conversation are occasionally uncomfortable.
If we embrace the spherical model of analysis to look at Pan-Dianic and Dianic, we see the Goddess at the center of the sphere, with all of us swirling about her in the dance of co-creation. Our source is common - just like the core of the planet, while our surface structures are diverse (islands and continents). I look around at the Goddess community, at the pagan community, and also at many other faith systems that might not identify within the scope of either, and I see vastness, timelessness, endless possibility for awakening, beauty when understanding is achieved through community, and mutuality with respect for the "circles within circles" as well.
In short, for those who are curious, there is no argument or hierarchy in this comparison between Pan-Dianic and Dianic. They are structurally different, with one dedicated to the goals of plurality and one focused with specificity on a particular set of experiences. They are both valid within the larger scope of Goddess worship. Goddess worship is valid within the larger scope of reverence on Earth. And, I believe, reverence on Earth is valid as it relates to the survival of our planet and species in peace and sustainability.
It is my hope that this might help those who are adjusting to the new designation, and wondering where I stand. I remain firmly dedicated to my ongoing commitment to wholeness within, feminist goals, wellness of all beings, and worship of the Goddess.
As a reminder, this is what the Bloodroot Honey Priestesses define as the core principles of our Pan-Dianic practice:
We honor everyone walking their own paths of knowing and serving the Goddess, including all beings of all genders.
We respect the sovereignty and autonomy of all individuals/groups to ritually honor the Goddess as whole and sovereign unto Herself according to their unique needs and preferences.
We support, for those who wish it, ritually gathering around specific experiences with appropriately- and respectfully-invited attendees rather than biological determinism as a matter of universal exclusion. For example, we believe it is every 11-year-old Maiden's right to determine who will be present at her First Moon ceremony. We equally support gatherings that are open to all self-identified women for exploration of the varieties of women's experiences. We equally support groups of gay men gathering to honor their own Goddess natures. We support the right of trans-women to create rituals specific to their experiences, and to share these with other trans-women and cis-women as they see fit. We support the idea of cis-gender, cissexual, heterosexual men gathering to explore the Goddess as daughter, friend, universal love, mother, queen, self. And so forth, into infinite beautiful variety.
We hold for clarity, compassion, and linguistic sensitivity in delineating intentional sacred space, and mindfulness toward how we communicate around the topics of privilege, healing, and spirituality. Our discourse shapes the universe. Words are breath, power, actualization. We hold our use of language as a significant magical responsibility.
We hold a commitment to elevation of all women's rights at the center of our vision. We believe that elevation of cis-women's and trans-women's rights to a position of honored equality will open humanity as a whole toward a more balanced and healthy approach to life, the planet, and consciousness.
We invite others who share our commitment to personal sovereignty and inclusive Goddess community to also adopt this terminology, if it feels correct to you. There are no initiations required to call yourself Pan-Dianic. If what you read here resonates with you, you will just know it to be your truth. Beyond that, your choice to study with any teacher, or join or initiate into any particular group is a private matter, up to you.
Thanks for continuing along this journey of exploration, and blessed be.