BURN SISTER, BURN
An ancient Jewish commentary describes sacred text as “black fire written upon white fire.” Black tells one story, white another. We can only read the first story, but one day we will know both narratives, and on that day, when we have the whole story, we’ll know how to live in peace.
While the metaphor suggests the relationship of the cosmic masculine and feminine energies that dwell in everyone and suffuse the universe, it also applies to gender, and the nexus of women and spirit in our time is a new light and a new day. While women have become in the last twenty-five years far more visible in the workplace, perhaps the most revolutionary place that they have entered is in the realm of spiritual leadership. Here they stand in numbers that make them for the first time in history a community.
There have always been a few notable women in every age that lead with the feminine face of God: from Julian of Norwich to Aimee Semple McPherson, a few women have stepped out of the box of conventional religious wisdom that understands women as serving God by serving men. These women didn’t wait to be ordained by seminaries, because God ordained them to preach and teach. In 1811, Jarena Lee became the first African-American woman preacher whose sermons reached whites as well as blacks. Naturally she waited until she was a widow so that no one could accuse her of not deferring to a husband.
The divine feminine has also been an accepted part of religions. The Beatles sang, “Mother Mary came to me, singing words of wisdom, let it be, let it be.” If we don’t physically exist and remain in archetypal form, or if there are only a few of us and we don’t preach against the doctrine of women’s place for other women, we are received joyfully into spiritual communities.
Especially in America where we have always outnumbered our brothers in faith groups by two to one. But God help us if we begin to speak the other story, the “white fire” that reveals the divine through women’s lives as creators and nurturers of life. As Marianne Williamson says, “They used to call us witches, now they call us bitches.” Imagine how dangerous Anne Hutchinson must have been in her teaching that anyone God chose, and only those so chosen, had access to the will of God. The male clergy of Massachusetts in 1638 understood that if they weren’t on God’s list, then they had no authority! They banished her into the western wilderness where she and her followers were killed by Native Americans.
Whether we understand the unprecedented presence of a community of women spiritual leaders as a gift of the women’s movement, the decline of religious institutions that has weakened the ban of women clergy, the age of aquarious, or God’s hand, one thing is clear. We’re here and as a community of rabbis, witches, priests, ministers, teachers, theologians, nuns, and faith healers, we have a lot in common as women of spirit who have finally been given the baton.
Never before have we gathered as a community, and perhaps if we do stand together and support each other in our work of bringing more tenderness into the world, we’ll find ourselves on trial again. Maybe we should be feared, because our motives are subversive. We don’t this work for the money or prestige, no one ever said to us when we were girls that we should think about becoming a spiritual leader, and no matter how successful we may become, we can never forget that we are vulnerable as women.
As a constellation of stars burning together, for the first time in history we can show the world what the divine feminine looks and sounds like. We aren’t offering an alternative to the male deities, nor are we advocating a supplanting. How about simply bringing forth a more complete glimpse at the power the makes half the creative energy of the world?
If the newspapers reported the world of Isaiah’s prophecy, a world where war, hunger, and fear were memory, then maybe I’d have to believe that suppression of women’s voices in spiritual leadership was the way things are supposed to be. But since the world hasn’t yet given us the spiritual authority to sit at the table and speak in the name of children, the natural world, peace, and social justice, I suggest that the time is now. However we understand our new community, let’s use it for the sake of heaven and speak in all the names of the divine to give us the whole message.