What follows are tributes to Carol Christ as well as her Obituary. There are so many comments that it worth going to feminismandreligion to read the others.
Carol Patrice Christ, 1945-2021
“In Goddess religion death is not feared, but is understood to be a part of life, followed by birth and renewal.” -Carol P. Christ
Carol Patrice Christ died peacefully on July 14 from cancer. Carol was and will remain one of the foremothers and most brilliant voices of the Women’s Spirituality movement. At the conference on “The Great Goddess Re-Emerging” at the University of California at Santa Cruz in the spring of 1978, Carol delivered the keynote address, “Why Women Need the Goddess: Phenomenological, Psychological, and Political Reflections.” Christ proposed four compelling reasons why women might turn to the Goddess: the affirmation and legitimation of female power as beneficent; affirmation of the female body and its life cycles; affirmation of women’s will; and affirmation of women’s bonds with one another and their positive female heritage (Christ 1979).
Carol graduated from Yale University with a PhD in Religious Studies and went on to teach as a feminist scholar of women and religion, women’s spirituality, and Goddess studies, at institutions including Columbia University, Harvard Divinity School, Pomona College, San Jose State University, and the California Institute of Integral Studies, where she was an adjunct professor since the inception of the Women’s Spirituality, Philosophy and Religion graduate studies program in 1993. Christ published eight profoundly thoughtful and inspiring books, several in collaboration with her friend and colleague Judith Plaskow, whom she met at Yale:
- Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on Spiritual Quest (1986)
- Woman Spirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion, anthology co-edited with Judith Plaskow (1992)
- Odyssey with the Goddess: A Spiritual Quest in Crete (1995)
- Weaving the Visions: New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality. Anthology co-edited with Judith Plaskow (1989)
- Laughter of Aphrodite: Reflections on a Journey to the Goddess (1987)
- Rebirth of the Goddess: Finding Meaning in Feminist Spirituality (1998)
- She Who Changes: Re-imaging the Divine in the World (2004)
- Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Co-authored with Judith Plaskow (2016)
Christ’s first book, about women writers on spiritual quest, is a book of spiritual feminist literary criticism that focused on feminist authors Kate Chopin, Margaret Atwood, Doris Lessing, Adriene Rich, and Ntozake Shange. She discovers four key aspects to women’s spiritual quest: the experience of nothingness; awakening (to the powers that are greater than oneself, often found in nature); insight (into the meaning of one’s life); and a new naming (in one’s own terms). She emphasizes the importance of telling women’s stories in order to move beyond the stories told about women by the male-centered patriarchy. Her concluding chapter speaks of a “Culture of Wholeness,” that encompasses women’s quest for wholeness, and she adds that, for this wholeness to be realized, the personal spiritual quest needs to be combined with the quest for social justice.
After first travelling to Greece in 1981 with the Aegean Women’s Studies Institute led by her friend Ellen Boneparth, Carol fell in love with the country. She chose to live in Greece, first in Molivos on the beautiful island of Lesbos, and then moving recently to Heraklion, Crete. She had a passion for saving the environment and was active in the Green movement in Greece. she also had a love for swimming in the Aegean and sharing Greek food and wine with friends in Greece and from overseas.
Carol’s fascination with Crete, ancient and modern, led her to found the Ariadne Institute for the Study of Myth and Ritual, through which she offered an educational tour, “Pilgrimage to the Goddess” twice annually. These tours introduced many to a direct experience of the ancient Earth Mother Goddess in Crete (goddessariadne.org).**
In her most recent article, for the Encyclopedia of Women in World Religion: Faith and Culture, Christ wrote about the Goddess religion and culture of her beloved island of Crete, and the roles women played in that “egalitarian matriarchal” civilization. Her eloquent words speak not only to the Goddess religion of ancient Crete, but also to the spirituality and ethical values she also cherished, which are much needed in our own culture today.
As discerners and guardians of the mysteries, women created rituals to celebrate the Source of Life and to pass the secrets of agriculture, pottery, and weaving down through the generations. The major rituals of the agricultural cycle involved blessing the seeds before planting, offering the first fruits of the harvest to the Goddess, and sharing the bounty of the harvest in communal feasts. These rituals establish that life is a gift of the Goddess and institute gift-giving as a cultural practice. As women controlled the secrets of agriculture, it makes sense that land was held by maternal clans, that kinship and inheritance passed through the maternal line, and that governance and decision-making for the group were in the hands of the elders of the maternal clan. In this context, the intelligence, love, and generosity of mothers and clan mothers would have been understood to reflect the intelligence, love, and generosity of the Goddess.*
*Carol P. Christ, “Crete, Religion and Culture” Encyclopedia of Women in World Religions: Faith and Culture across History [2 volumes] edited by Susan de-Gaia | Nov 16, 2018 ABC-Clio Santa Barbara 2019.
She Who Lives – Gina Messina
Carol P. Christ is one the bravest, boldest, and most revolutionary women we have ever known. For so many of us, Carol is a friend, a mentor, and the one who taught us to tell our stories. Her books, articles, and writings here on Feminism and Religion created a space for other women to ask questions, to challenge the patriarchy, and to affirm our value.
Carol’s gift to us came at a cost to her. Like the lotus flower, she had to grow through mud before recognizing her own beauty. It was through her own struggle in darkness, her efforts to wade through its heaviness, that she found her strength, wisdom, and voice. She found the Goddess.
Carol described her journey as a Serpentine Path; one that began in despair and resulted in “rebirth and regeneration.” It led her from Stanford, to Yale, to her beloved home in Lesbos. She struggled with the “gap between what we know in our minds and what we feel in our hearts and in our bodies.” It is this disconnect that Carol sought to reconcile and ultimately found the power within herself to attain holistic healing.
Her journey is a representation of the expedition that so many women find themselves on – leaving behind the confines of patriarchal religion and male dominated spaces to find a sustaining spiritual vision that is affirming to women and the Earth.
Carol lived this spiritual vision through her writing, her activism, and her Goddess Pilgrimage. She is a trailblazer; the founding mother of the Goddess movement, and a woman who engaged her divine energy to create positive change and teach us that we have the ability to do the same.
We may not be able to see Carol, to speak to her, and will desperately miss her physical presence and brilliance; and yet, she is here. Her spirit is woven into the Earth and is ever-present in our lives.
According to Carol, “The simple act of telling a woman’s story from a woman’s point of view is a revolutionary act.” It is through Carol’s story that we have learned to share our own, to see each other, and to know that the Goddess is within us. And it is through our vulnerability and willingness to speak up, our empathy and compassion, our acknowledged connection, and care for one another – our continued revolutionary acts – that Carol lives.
Carol P. Christ
December 20, 1945 – July 14, 2021
May she rest with the Goddess
My comment to Gina:
I am so moved by this entire tribute that I will post it on my blog. I have been so stunned by this depth of this loss that it has been impossible to put words together coherently -Words that truly express who Carol was and is. She will live on in every heart that she touched – and she touched many. ” Her spirit is woven into the Earth and is ever-present in our lives.” I see her in every green leaf on every tree… As you also say Carol lived her spiritual vision through her writing, her activism and her goddess pilgrimage becoming a model for the rest of us. And lastly,
“… it is through our vulnerability and willingness to speak up, our empathy and compassion, our acknowledged connection, and care for one another – our continued revolutionary acts – that Carol lives.”
In Memoriam: A Collective Tribute to Carol Patrice Christ 1945 – 2021
The community of Feminism and Religion (FAR) grieves the death of Carol P. Christ.
Our sister friend, Laura Shannon, emailed us early in the morning to share the news that “Carol passed peacefully in her sleep last night at 12.11 am on July 14th. Alexis (Masters) was with her.” Carol died in the company of friends.
Her writings here on FAR have been a gift to countless many of us for years. She recently emailed me to let me know that she would need to step back from writing her weekly FAR post for the foreseeable future, and, that if she could pull it off, she would send in her swan song soon. That moment didn’t come and that’s ok. There is no finale for a person such as Carol. We are changed and blessed because of her presence in our lives. Her legacy will be long and enduring.
I invite you all who would like to share a short tribute in honor of Carol Christ to send it here to FAR so it can be published as part of this post. This will serve as a running tribute that we can keep adding to. It will be a space to share, to grieve, and to celebrate her life. Send in your reflections to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also share in comments below as well.
No single one of us can capture all that Carol has meant to us and to the world –– it is only right to hear from the many voices as we celebrate this most brilliant friend and teacher of ours.
“In Goddess religion death is not feared, but is understood to be a part of life, followed by birth and renewal.” — Carol P. Christ
Carol married intellect with heart centering –– she had a formidable intellect but always spoke from her heart.
In view of learning of Carol’s death I find these words from Janet’s post today inspiring:
“Who is she that shines through like the morning star,
beautiful as the moon,
radiant as the sun
awe-inspiring as a cascade of starlight?”
Why, Carol Christ, of course.
I am heartbroken – I will miss her so much.
–– Sara Wright
My response to Xochitl:
- My comment to Xochitl:
I awakened in the pre-dawn hour on July 14th – I remember looking out the window into a sea of verdant green as the words came “write a poem about the birth of the goddess”. Although I had another deadline to make I listened to that voice and wrote a little poem. Later that day I learned of Carol’s death on FB – That evening when I returned to my poem I realized that the little voice had helped me write about who Carol had become…I came to feminism through the back door as an eco -feminist. Carol’s impeccable scholarship and her compassionate heart centered approach to women issues deeply influenced my own ideas and feelings – validating the “both and” approach that I was struggling to embody. Carol was a woman I most admired as a truth teller. Her own life challenges created a level of authenticity that I was able to trust. It is time now for me to return to her books… to re -read her words, to re-engage with her ideas, to feel close to a woman that will remain a Beacon of Hope during this time of patriarchal breakdown. Carol’s Light will never be extinguished because she has created a path we can all choose to follow. Her spirituality embraced “All That Is” – one of the qualities I loved most about her. I will miss her physical presence all the rest of the days of my life.
Xochitl, thank you so much for creating this sacred space – and it is sacred – for here once again we can share our thoughts and feelings at a time when we are grieving a deep loss… I am struck by how naturally you emulate Carol’s approach, always creating space for others….You have my heart.