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Exploring the feminine and masculine impulses of Godde
GODDE ~ ancient spelling of the masculine God of tradition
GODDE ~ acknowledging feminine Goddess as well as male
Christian faith explored in the 21st Century
Why I believe in a feminine as well as a masculine Godde.
I see, in the bible, a portrayal of a 'God' who appears largely masculine and sometimes warrior-like. And yet humanity is not just male.
My thinking is that, just as man and woman were both described as being made in Godde's image, Godde himself/herself is both feminine and masculine.
Godde knows from the inside what it feels to be a woman. Godde knows from the inside what it means to be a man. Godde is so much more than we can even start to imagine.
I want to acknowledge the deeply feminine in Godde as well as the deeply masculine.
I know this is not for everyone, and I don't aim to give offence. I'm perfectly happy praying to Godde as my heavenly father - and if that's exclusively the way you pray to him, then I'm with you on that. I'm realistic that most Christians identify with Jesus's encouragement to pray 'Our Father'.
For me, that relationship is incredibly valuable, but I've found actually living with the feminine side of Godde has been very precious and exciting as well, and have found it helpful to pray to Godde in her feminine attributes sometimes.
So why do I use the word 'Godde' when there is already a word 'God' which is commonly accepted?
Well first of all, I often don't. I've found in some contexts, it simply causes a distraction. Nevertheless I really like the midway spelling between 'God' and 'Goddess'. 'Godde' is one of the Middle English spellings of the modern word, so it implies no insistent change in meaning, but the nuance of a feminine side, for those who see the feminine in Godde and want to acknowledge and engage in that.
By using the Middle English 'godde' I can still think of him as masculine, and the archaic nature of the word sort of sets the divine in the context of the centuries and resonates with a sense of 'the ancient of days'. It works for me. But at the same time, godde with -de added gives the word a hint of possible feminine ending too, and for me (though others don't have to agree) that is really helpful.
If I write God, then that has always traditionally meant a male deity. Culturally the term 'God' is a masculine term. Gods in mythology are masculine, goddesses are feminine.
If I write Goddess, that has exclusively meant a female deity.
But for me, the use of the term 'Godde' is a personal way I acknowledge how I've found her (and him). It hurts me a bit when Godde is only attributed with masculine identity. I feel Godde has as much female identity as male identity.
The word Godde is a way of expressing the Holy One who contains everything it means to be and feel masculine, and everything it means to be and feel feminine.
It is less offensive to people than regularly using the term christian goddess (though I believe the Holy One is as much goddess as god. In a sense it is a compromise, and yet it also adequately reflects the fact that Godde is neither exclusively male nor exclusively female. It breaks free from the cultural implications, the masculine implications, of the word 'god'.
But hasn't the Christian 'God' always been male?
In the development of our religion there has generally been a strong patriarchal element (headship of men, Eve sinned first etc) and it is easy to see why the authority figure of Godde would naturally be defined as a masculine identity by the male priests, and the male leaders of local communities. And anyway, it can be a helpful concept - I find it easy to pray to Godde my Father. Masculine is not integrally 'bad'. But it can be, if it subordinates the female.
The church has at times appeared deeply misogynistic - I read some of the comments that Augustine made about women, and feel dismay. And over-emphasis on masculinity can trap us into limited perceptions of the way we ought to live, or even the nature of Godde.
The last thing I want to lock myself into is that kind of 'God' who is projected as macho, warrior-like, masculine through and through… the kind of 'God' who told Joshua to slaughter the women and children in the Canaanite villages.
And the last thing I want for my daughters or anyone else is a perception of women as somehow 'made from man' as in the case of Eve, weaker than man as sometimes suggested by Paul, submitted on grounds of gender to a husband, or somehow not quite so like 'God' because 'God' is more male than female.
I acknowledge the masculine side of Godde - but I'm not ashamed to explore Godde, and I've found it enriching and encouraging to embrace and encounter more feminine attributes of my Godde.
The loveliness of Godde.
I worship Godde who sent her only son Jesus, her boy, her eternal beloved one, to live with us and die for us. Godde of compassion and tender love. We have so much still to learn and understand.
And I worship Godde who is resolute, generous, masculine, caring like Boaz in the book of Ruth, and like Jesus who was the epitome of a courageous man, but more than that, of a courageous human being.
Godde is both deeply personal and deeply reclusive. Godde is mystery. Godde is so much hidden and yet willing to be explored. Her feminine nature is like that, sometimes reclusive, sometimes encountered in love.
Sometimes when I encounter Godde she is so feminine and lovely. Sometimes when I pray to Godde she shows attributes that are so much more associated with femininity, like tender mother-like love or sister-like laughter, and brave ferocious womanhood. Sometimes I have really great times with my christian goddess - honestly. I love those times.
And then sometimes I encounter Godde as such a strong and masculine, ardent Godde. And of course, I think of Jesus. I just find so many dimensions to Godde.
Of course, I'm using stereotypes and gender can't be characterised like that - men can know prettiness and tenderness - and women can be ardent. But the loveliness of Godde is far, far more than the solely masculine identity we so often assume through habit, or are taught.
My plea for patience and understanding
I say this in all sincerity, not to offend.
It is not two Goddes - it is just Godde. Godde who knows equally what it is to be a father and what it is to be a mother, what it is to feel female from deep inside yourself, what it is to feel male.
I understand that some people will find this really difficult - and of course, you can take it or leave it… or just think about it.
I can only say, it makes me feel deeply joyful and better understood. Somehow, the recognition of the feminine at the heart of Godde has brought something precious and beautiful into my life.
Sometimes Godde is like a female friend to me: like a neighbour who shares friendship with me, and comes in through the open back door to my kitchen, and sits down and drinks coffee, and chats and laughs. Domestic, personal, capable of speaking woman to woman, and relaxing, listening, feeling, engaging. That is how Godde sometimes seems to me.
I worship a Godde who is both deeply feminine and deeply masculine, and doubtless so much more as well. Because I believe that, as well as Godde's identity fully knowing and feeling the masculine and feminine, Godde also transcends gender too - knows personhood beyond the gender divides, and fluidity, and reconciliation.
Some of these issues - though not specifically the word 'Godde' - are explored in Elizabeth Johnson's fascinating book 'She Who Is'. It is really thought-provoking, and it also conveys the damage that uncritical masculinising of Godde can cause.
In conclusion, I suggest that one way to break free from gender stereotypes or prejudices in our Christian lives is to recognise the feminine heart of Godde - or, at least, to recognise that the patriarchal assumptions of some of the bible's authors (on male headship, for instance) were understandable limitations in their outlook and their time, but that this limited cultural outlook and prejudice are not things that we, as christians, should seek to perpetuate.
None of this changes the many profound encounters we read about in the bible, nor the encounters we may also have… with a Godde who is so much more than we can ever imagine or comprehend. A Godde through whom we can explore, in a fuller sense, what it means to be a "person", whatever our gender.
Godde waits patiently for us to know her better. And to know him better. As we open our hearts to love, as we seek to serve, we may encounter a Godde who is so much more than we ever conceived. And in this encounter we encounter ourselves as well, and the way we view other people, and treat them.
Men and women, made in the image of Godde. Made in the image of the lovely, personal, mysterious, dark and reclusive, brilliant and beautiful Godde.
Also: Summary and Review of Elizabeth Johnson's 'She Who Is' by Susannah Clark