Across many cultures that function predominately with patriarchal thought, women are perceived to be closer to nature than men (Roach, 2003; King, 1989, 2003). This perception of women and nature portrays them as the ‘others’ – something that is different from and controlled by the dominant (King, 2003). The binary oppositions of male over female and culture over nature have been associated with more male-dominating religions like Christianity (Roach, 2003; Ruether, 2003) Goddess religions and earth based spiritualties on the other hand find power in the female image, connect with nature through rituals, and believe it is the destiny of humanity to participate in the cycles of birth, death, and renewal that characterizes life on earth. The Goddess and Mother Nature inspire individuals to repair the split between men and women, between man and nature, and God and the world. Ecofeminism, a type of feminist critique, uncovers the source of environmental deprivation in the structure of dualist thinking and patriarchal systems (King, 2003). Some Eco-feminists associate the feminine principle with the giving and nurturing of life, as valued in goddess religions and earth based spiritualties. By contrast, they see patriarchal culture as rising from a fear of death, which ultimately creates a culture of domination over nature (King, 2003). This essay will explore the nature based religion of Wicca and how it may influence feminist and ecological critiques. Ecofeminism will then be used to analyze society’s ecological views and determine if a possible shift towards a more caring and sustainable approach can be achieved through gender equality in religious practices.
Anthropologists have come to believe that the original human religion during the Stone Age Culture reflected a matriarchal society. The Mother Goddess was the one in power, and her son was the hunter. This religion was eventually conquered by patriarchal nomadic warriors, replacing the Mother Goddess with a male figure and reducing her to a mistress, wife, or daughter (Mellor, 2003). From the eighteenth century BC to the seventh century AD, the patriarchal reform religions like Christianity suppressed the goddess altogether and continued to worship the male, sky god (Mellor, 2003; King 1989). This patriarchal structure of the Christian religion with a single male in power creates an imbalance in gender equality and further constructs a hierarchy that puts women below men. The gender inequalities present in Christian beliefs begin with the biblical story in Genesis of the Garden of Eden. God, the highest power in male form, watches over Adam and Eve in the Garden. Eve, the woman figure, is seen as subordinate to Adam and she later becomes the cause for the fall from the Garden (Merchant, 2003). This biblical story creates a patriarchal heritage and further puts women at the devastation of humanity (Mellor, 2003). Other biblical stories in Genesis 1 of Christian writing also view nature as destructive and harmful to mankind, similar to Eve’s threat to civilization (Harrison, 1999). Although Christianity suppressed the goddess religions for many centuries, feminist and natured based spiritualties later re-emerged in North America when other feminist movements were taking place (Fry, 2000). A major growth spurt of feminists looking for alternatives to the patriarchal mainstream religions like Christianity was seen in the 1970s. An increasing number of women, as well as men, began exploring feminist approaches to spirituality. They sought to identify the world as a living being, learned to celebrate that vision in ritual, acted out of that vision to preserve the life of the earth, and built community around it (Starhawk, 1989). Wicca, also referred to as the Old Religion, Witchcraft, or Wisecraft, is a variety of Paganism that emerged in the United States in the 1960s and caught the interest of feminists during this time (Harvey, 1997). It is a religious practice based...
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