Practicing the Presence of the Goddess is the daughter of A Woman’s Book of Rituals & Celebrations, which I wrote in 1990. It was published with a yucky green cover, but enough people bought it in spite of the cover that the publisher decided to reprint it (with a new cover) in 1995. I got to rewrite much of it and hopefully made it a better book. I still hear from people who tell me they love it. In 1999, the publisher decided to give the book a third incarnation, and I got to rewrite it once more. That’s the best part for a fussbudget writer like me: every rewrite is an opportunity to make it just that much better, clearer, prettier, more factual, more poetic. This is, in fact, another lesson I like to share with the authors whose books I edit. When they rewrite, they can usually make their book better. And I’m there to help them do it.
I adapted the phrase “practicing the presence” from Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, a Carmelite friar who lived in Louis XIV’s Paris and wrote a little book called The Practice of the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence’s practice was to dedicate his every thought and action to his god, whether he was praying, writing pastoral letters, repairing the shoes of his fellow Carmelites, or cleaning the monastery’s kitchen.
We can likewise practice Her presence every day while we’re, say, packing our kids’ lunches, scrubbing the toilet, cleaning up after a sick cat or dog, sweating at the gym, standing in line at the post office, or driving on the freeways or crowded city streets. Wherever we are, there She is, too.
Here’s an excerpt. Remember, I first wrote this book back in the days when nearly every pagan and witch was still firmly in the broom closet and most people had no idea who or what a goddess might be. It’s a sort of Goddess 101 text. But it still works for newbies today!
Our Many-Splendored Goddess
When we decide to practice the presence of the goddess, who are we talking about and what on earth do we imagine we’re going to do? How are we going to spend our days, our nights? Will our life change, or what? When we create and enact a ritual, what kinds of energies are we invoking? What is their source? What is the return on our investment of thought, work, experience, and devotion?
When we declare that the Goddess is the source of our being and our energy, these are vital questions, for we’re changing our lives. We’re dreaming up an ancient deity and reinventing a religion. We’re creating a spirit-affirming way of life, not returning to the Neolithic, but bringing its peace and creativity to our modern world. We’re singing the Goddess into our lives. We’re dancing the Goddess out of her five-thousand-year eclipse.
Her essence is many-splendored and many-layered. It’s complex and simple, abstract and concrete, spiritual and earthy, superhuman and human, transcendent and immanent—all at the same time. Examining the Goddess is like trying to get a soap bubble under a microscope. When we try to describe Her many-layered essence, therefore, we find ourselves taking refuge in paradox and extravagant language. That’s because we’re trying to explain the inexplicable, and words can get us only halfway there.
I find that it is figurative language that most successfully describes the holistic concept we call “Goddess.” When we talk about the Goddess of Ten Thousand Names, therefore, we may say she is like our physical mother or like falling rain returning to the ocean (similes). We can think of Her as the feminine principle (metonymy, in which a part stands for the whole), or we can see Her as the earth (both personification and metaphor). When we talk about goddesses, we often use metaphor: She is the moon (and Her names are Ix Chel and Levanah), She is love (Radha and Freya), she is creation (Spider Grandmother and Ishtar).
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