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Barbara Ardinger

Practicing Her Presence
by Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D.


As we live in our everyday lives, we find ourselves engaging more and more in worship. Before it becomes action, worship is focus; it is what is called mindfulness. To some people worship means keeping an "attitude of gratitude," and to others worship is seeing the "worth-ship" in life. It’s creating altars and making music. It’s saying, I love and cherish all forms of life because I recognize something of which I am a part, and I want to celebrate my recognition.

Practicing the Presence of the Goddess by Barbara Ardinger

We can worship in a specifically demarcated holy place or you can worship just about anywhere on our planet, which is itself a holy place. We can sit or stand before our own altar and understand how an altar is a miniature earth that embodies all the earthly, earthy powers. We can worship with silent prayer, do a private ritual in our bedroom first thing in the morning, or gather and hold hands with like-minded and like-hearted people to strengthen our connections with one another and with all our kin on earth.

Since we don’t know, however, exactly how people living as far back as Stone Age worshipped the Goddess, we who live today have to use our best guesses about the ancient forms of worship. We use our intuition, our vision, and hints and suggestions from many sources, including archaeological discoveries and evidence from books in which the old ways were described in order to anathematize them.

This makes us a very eclectic bunch, and when we worship we often make it up as we go along. That’s one reason why there are so many traditions and processes, so many ways of doing rituals (which all seem to work), and so many books that seem to contradict each other. I believe that they really complement each other. I believe that Witchery, or Wicca, is catholic in the original sense of the word: general and all-inclusive. Whatever our method of worship, what we’re doing is practicing the presence of the Goddess.

As we dance with our Mother Earth to welcome the Age of Aquarius (or the New Age or the New Millennium), therefore, more and more people are wondering if the things we measure only with our minds and machines are enough to nourish our lives. We’re asking if the things we buy and sell are what we really want, after all. We’re looking for the invisible, nourishing dimension of life that hasn’t been really accessible since the Industrial Revolution lined us all up and started whirring, cranking, and belching at us.

We’ve been reaching forward to new and improved technology or backwards to the phony "traditional family values." But I wonder . . . have we been reaching in the right direction?

What would happen if we reached inward instead? If we laid our hands on the small, dark, precious seeds of creativity and love that rest deep inside us all? Instead of focusing on outward things to help and heal us, what would happen if we focused inward?

Re-creating the Sacred Dimension

Whatever form our worship takes, our intention is to do what more and more people are doing: re-creating the sacred dimension in their lives, in life itself. We are renewing our personal connection to the divine.

As far as we can tell from the archaeological evidence, the Neolithic Civilization of the Goddess lived closer to the earth than we do today. They called her Mama back then and lived in harmony with the light and the dark, observing and celebrating the phases of the moon and the year. We who are creating the new earth-based religions—we who are their modern children—are inventing modern versions of ancient observations and celebrations.

We’re observing and celebrating the re-emergence of open worship of the Goddess after at least 5,000 years of underground worship. To use the current jargon, we’re seeing new patterns and changing our paradigms. We’re merging the sacred with the secular. We’re recalling our true essence, which is both immanent and transcendent. We’re engaged in life both as it is and as it can be.

Have we come back again to paradox? Yes, indeed. It’s difficult to write about the sacred dimension because words are intrinsically inadequate to the job. In writing this book, I’m using a left-brain medium to approach a right-brain process, and what comes out are paradox and extravagant language. But you’ll also find paradox and extravagant language in books on Zen and yoga and the Qabalah, in Sufi and Hassidic mysticism, in the words of the Christian and New Thought mystics, and in the Course in Miracles books.

I think this fact helps to explain why most of the books on Goddess ritual are like cookbooks: it’s easier to give a recipe than to wander around in the batter. How do we describe the indescribable? How do we visualize the unseeable, apprehend the impalpable, ponder the unthinkable?

As simply as I can say it, the practice of the presence of the Goddess is a way to get centered in your own center. Other people have other names for this center: God, Christ Consciousness, Higher Self, Nirvana, Unity With All, Reverence For Life. I call this center the Goddess.

Of the many paths that lead us to the Goddess, I believe that the following are two of the most familiar and relevant.

Deep Thought

The first path is largely intellectual. We need intellectual content—facts, history, theory, philosophy, theology—and intelligent discussion of that content so we don’t fall into silliness or rote repetition of practices handed down from some god or guru or would-be highest of all high priestesses. We need to think for ourselves. We need to think about what we’re doing, not do it just because someone said we should. When you adopt a mystical sensibility, therefore, do not abandon your common sense. Keep your wits about you and throw some healthy skepticism in the mix.

A Ritual of Thoughtfulness. Take a few minutes to find out what’s on your mind. What are you currently reading? What are you thinking about these days? What has been bothering you? What do you need to learn? What questions do you hear yourself asking? If you need to, sit down with a tablet and pencil and make a list. From your list, select one topic that seem to need resolution, or at least direction.

Set up your altar. If you have a figure of Athene, set Her in the center. You can also set anything else that signifies Deep Thought to you on your altar, but I never put books on an altar where there are lighted candles.

Holy Powers of Elemental Air, goddesses and gods of the mind,
I seek intellectual understanding,
I seek to know [name your issue].
Holy Powers of Intellectual Understanding,
Come into my life, touch my every step, bless me with your
Great gifts of reason, judgment, discrimination, the fresh air of new ideas.
Great and generous Powers,
I need to know,
I need to think,
I need to understand.

Now put these thorny issues out of your conscious mind. Read a mystery, watch your favorite video, play a game. At the same time, know that the deities work in mysterious ways. Remain alert for hints and leads and suggestions. Perhaps you’ll overhear a conversation that jogs your mind, perhaps someone will mention a book or magazine to you—however it happens, you will receive food for thought. Think about it.

Good Works

The second path is more active. No one I know is as dedicated and selfless as Mother Teresa or Albert Schweitzer, to be sure, but we can do good works where we live on the planet. We can do them out of kindness and the recognition that we’re all related, and not out of fear that we won’t go to heaven if we don’t. We can be courteous to our coworkers, yield on the freeway, volunteer to feed the homeless on a national holiday, or give money to a charity. Even our smallest good works are beneficial. They’re not only mutually beneficial, but they also add that much more kindness to the aura of the planet. Believe me, kindness is more important today than it was five or ten years ago.

A Ritual of Good Work. Homelessness and social turmoil. Floods and tornadoes. World hunger and the uncountable number of children living in poverty. It seems as if there’s no end of calls for us to do good works in the world. What issues touch your heart?

What causes would inspire you to actually do something? Do you care about Tibet or seemingly insurmountable problems in African nations? Wait—let’s stay closer to home. Do you have a friend with cancer or AIDS? Do you actually notice the homeless and hungry people in your town?

Again, take some time to sit down with a tablet and pencil and find out what you would like to better understand. Perhaps you can sort through the appeals you received in the mail this week. Select a cause you really care about and are ready to do something about.

Set up your altar. Perhaps you will want to lay a photo of a philanthropist or activist you admire on it, or perhaps a figure of Aphrodite, not just a goddess of love but the Divine Creatrix.

Holy Powers of Elemental Earth, goddesses and gods of the manifest world,
I seek understanding of the purpose of charity, of good works,
I seek to know [name your issue].
Holy Powers of Practical Understanding,
Come into my life, touch my every step, bless me with your
Great gifts of groundedness in the Goddess, of survival and prosperity.
Great and generous Powers,
I need to know,
I need to take action,
I need to understand.

Now go about your daily life. Put your yearning to do good works aside and work in your garden, clean out those overstuffed closets, sharpen and polish your tools and hang them in their proper places. Opportunities will come to you. Perhaps you’ll get a mail appeal that inspires you. Perhaps you’ll get a phone call from a politician who finally makes sense. Perhaps a friend will invite you to a lecture or other event that make you stand up and stand for something. Go for it.

From Practicing the Presence of the Godddess © 2000. Reprinted with permission of New World Library - www.newworldlibrary.com

Goddess Meditations by Barbara Ardinger

Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D., author of Practicing the Presence of the Goddess and Goddess Meditations, Barbara lives with her cats, Schroedinger and Heisenberg, in Southern California. She is an initiated Dianic Witch and holds the Green Tara initiations, given to her by Dagmola Jamyang Sakya. She is currently at work on a book of humorous Found Goddesses and looking for a publisher for her novel about a vampire, a far-right extremist, and a coven of witches who live in Orange Co., California. Barbara also writes book reviews that are published in numerous magazines, including SageWoman and PanGaia.


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