The Mother Goddess

adiemus

New member
I don't think there ever was a time when women were the supreme force for goodness in the world, but given the mystery associated with any dance form that has been around for a long time, and is danced mainly by women, I suppose it makes sense to some to raise it to a 'higher level' to suit their need to deify women.
Frankly I think it has more to do with superstition and wishful thinking than any validated historical truths - but then I am someone who likes to dance because it is beautiful and not have it jumbled up with new age crystal-gazing smells and bells nonsense!
 

Eshta

New member
I think it's because some people can't believe it's possible to feel as damn good as you do without drugs or some higher being! And because this dance has the power to make you feel good about your femininity & sexuality, I think that's how it gets latched on to the Goddess thing.

Thing is, I personally don't mind people using a Goddess type theme as part of a thematic show - one I saw last year had one act that was a kind of homage to the goddess Isis (isis wings, of course!) but it wasn't trying to present the dance as something that was ever connected to goddessery. And my friend has an awesome idea for a show that uses various world dances to explore quite spiritual themes.

It's when people start claiming that the high priestesses used to belly dance at the temple of the goddess Ishtar as a representation of fertility & rebirth bla bla bla etc that my blood starts to simmer.

While I derive so many wonderful things from this dance, it is after all dance, nothing more and yet nothing less.

Eshta out!
 

Lydia

New member
I wish that this ,,godess things just go away...it just put me off...when i hear or read about artist that are using this term god in anyway ,yak....
 

Ranya

New member
Yes I am also very upset about that! And worse, when I try to point it out to some dancers/teachers that they should not teach this mother-goddes-thing and rather look at the evolution of the dance they really teach (which is a 20th century thing mostly, though derived from earlier dances), they get angry and tell me that I don't know nothing about the 5000 years or so long history of the dance, that it is as ancient as the pyramids etc. and priestresses in temples etc and sacred "curtisans" etc...
d*mn!
 

Andrea Deagon

New member
Goddess spirituality in the West

My best answer fo this is that the idea of a Great Mother Goddess had two separate but related period of evolution. One was in the late 19th century, where it represented the primitive, ecstatic but ultimately irrational practices of the world before Western white males took it over : nice, but needing to be left behind, just as you can't stay with Mommy all your life.

The other time was in the 1970's, when it arose to serve as a counterweight to patriarchal ideas about a male, paternal, dictatorial, God, and the related world view that women were inferior, morally and spiritually. A benevolent mother goddess who thought sex and women were both nice and not in opposition to spiritual realities, was a wonderful empowering image. (The real problem with this was that the Victorial manifestation of the Great Mother provided the seemingly feminist, but often reductionist, idealogy behind the modern version.)

Even if you didn't believe in the Great Mother, it was a really nice idea. So it was projected into the past. Now the average modern woman didn't have to believe in it because all those other ancient people did. :rolleyes:

In the 1970's, belly dance also took off in the West, or at least in the US, one of the reasons being that it too supported an integration of sexual, sensual, emotional and spiritual. Western women used it to integrate those things in their own lives. Regardless of its meanings in the East, that was how it evolved in the West.

So it's not too odd that belly dance and the "Mother Goddess" became involved in popular culture. For those who weren't there, and didn't have to hear about the "sultan's harem" and so on, it may be hard to imagine how great it was to have this alternative view that was also understandable by the general public. No one thought it was wrong, but no one really wanted to puncture it either.

I agree that the time for this is past. In fact one of my earliest Habibi articles, back in the 1990's, was on how we should seek the origins of this dance in the social history of the 20th ccentury (New Page 1 under articles). OTOH it isn't stupidity of individuals that caused this view to develop, it's social forces that we may now be almost ready to leave behind.

If anyone wants to read in-depth about the evolution of one motif, the dance of the seven veils, from the 19th century into the modern era of the belly dance community, I have an article on it in Anthony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young, Belly Dance: Orientalism, Transnationalism, and Harem Fantasy (Mazda 2005). Just for a little light reading ... :D
 

Andrea Deagon

New member
And I'm not done yet ...

Having said all of that, I wish people would just stop with the dancing priestesses. It burns me not as a belly dancer but as a student of ancient religions. There's no such thing as a "temple priestess" -- there were priestesss to specific deities who had ties of varying sorts to specific temples to those deities.

One example: ancient Egypt. There's evidence for elite women serving as (part time) dancers to some gods (only a few, but hundreds of musicians attested), but no indication of what sorts of dance. But since the temple rituals were very specific ("choreographed"?) and solemn, it doesn't look as if an inately improvisational, joyful dance would be appropriate.

Where you have dance illustrated on sacred occasions, it looks acrobatic, and a Middle Kingdom papyrus that has to do with hiring dancers for the festivals at a temple (Ilahun) indicates that foreign dancers were hired from outside the temple, and there's other evidence of "working-class" dancers being hired for temple gigs. So what they did was anyone's guess, there's no solid evidence. But even if they were belly-dancing their little hearts out, it's not accurately described as dancing by "sacred temple priestesses" or whatever.

"Sacred temple priestess" is a feeling that some dancers get when they prepare for or conceptualize their dance, or even dance it. Which is fine, because I'm not trying to stand in the path of belly dance morphing into whatever it wants in the West, that's not going to change the Eastern phenomenon. But it's the violence done to the past that bothers me.

As I put it in the article I mentioned in the last post, "The past, whose inhabitants are no longer around to trouble us, is still available for colonization."

Of course, unlike you studio owners and performers out there, I am on hiatus from dancing and teaching, so I don't (any longer) have to explain patiently and with a smile on my face to reporters and the GP what the story really is.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Goddess

Dear Gang,
I am reminded of an archeologist ( can't remember his name right now) who was talking about certain metaphysical groups who always want to give credit for the building of the pyramids to either space aliens or the use of heavy duty magic. What he said was that in not giving due credit to normal human beings for both conceiving of the idea of pyramids and actually building them, that they are greatly denigrating the human soul, heart and mind. These structures were built by humans, for the very human need and purpose of achieving something lasting, either in the form of the structure itself, or in the preservation of the human body and soul.
I feel that the dance is has everything to do with this same kind of humanness. Yes it touches our souls and hearts, but it is an incredibly human form of expression, and has little or nothing to do with godliness. The things that it expresses are human things. Can that not be sufficient and complete in itself? Humans are sublime creatures and why not celebrate that?
Regards,
A'isha
 

Reen.Blom

New member
My best answer fo this is that the idea of a Great Mother Goddess had two separate but related period of evolution. One was in the late 19th century, where it represented the primitive, ecstatic but ultimately irrational practices of the world before Western white males took it over : nice, but needing to be left behind, just as you can't stay with Mommy all your life.

The other time was in the 1970's, when it arose to serve as a counterweight to patriarchal ideas about a male, paternal, dictatorial, God, and the related world view that women were inferior, morally and spiritually. A benevolent mother goddess who thought sex and women were both nice and not in opposition to spiritual realities, was a wonderful empowering image. (The real problem with this was that the Victorial manifestation of the Great Mother provided the seemingly feminist, but often reductionist, idealogy behind the modern version.)

Even if you didn't believe in the Great Mother, it was a really nice idea. So it was projected into the past. Now the average modern woman didn't have to believe in it because all those other ancient people did. :rolleyes:

In the 1970's, belly dance also took off in the West, or at least in the US, one of the reasons being that it too supported an integration of sexual, sensual, emotional and spiritual. Western women used it to integrate those things in their own lives. Regardless of its meanings in the East, that was how it evolved in the West.

So it's not too odd that belly dance and the "Mother Goddess" became involved in popular culture. For those who weren't there, and didn't have to hear about the "sultan's harem" and so on, it may be hard to imagine how great it was to have this alternative view that was also understandable by the general public. No one thought it was wrong, but no one really wanted to puncture it either.

I agree that the time for this is past. In fact one of my earliest Habibi articles, back in the 1990's, was on how we should seek the origins of this dance in the social history of the 20th ccentury (New Page 1 under articles). OTOH it isn't stupidity of individuals that caused this view to develop, it's social forces that we may now be almost ready to leave behind.

If anyone wants to read in-depth about the evolution of one motif, the dance of the seven veils, from the 19th century into the modern era of the belly dance community, I have an article on it in Anthony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young, Belly Dance: Orientalism, Transnationalism, and Harem Fantasy (Mazda 2005). Just for a little light reading ... :D
Bravo again
 

Andrea Deagon

New member
A'isha, I also love your post -- the idea that the dance is about human things. "Humans are sublime creatures ..." We are, aren't we? :) We are the total of our experiences, and that is what we dance about.

Maybe it's my Quaker upbringing, though, but to me the human is also imbued with something divine, whatever you call it. You don't (in my mind) have to see it as an entity (let alone a gendered entity) or anything separate from ourselves -- It could just be the sum of our common humanity. And the enchantment we've been talking about on another thread is shared through this common humanity, even if there is also a lot that could potentially drive us apart. If you're inclined (as I am) to see the divine in all aspects of the world, then humanity and divinity are two aspects of the same thing: mirror images, or the shell and the core, or the interwoven threads of the whole cloth.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Goddess

Dear Andrea,
I am a Panthiest and I believe that there is no thought, word or deed, or any other manifestation of any kind that is not God's experience of Itself, through and through. In other words, there is nothing that is not God!!
Regards,
A'isha
 
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PriscillaAdum

New member
That would be Dr. Zahi Hawass. I heard him say that on a Discovery documentary. Love that man!

Regards
Priscilla


Dear Gang,
I am reminded of an archeologist ( can't remember his name right now) who was talking about certain metaphysical groups who always want to give credit for the building of the pyramids to either space aliens or the use of heavy duty magic. What he said was that in not giving due credit to normal human beings for both conceiving of the idea of pyramids and actually building them, that they are greatly denigrating the human soul, heart and mind. These structures were built by humans, for the very human need and purpose of achieving something lasting, either in the form of the structure itself, or in the preservation of the human body and soul.
 

adiemus

New member
So... is there any way to (gently) tell these women that they've got it wrong? They always seem so angry when I say there isn't any evidence to support their ideas, then go and look all horsey and snooty at pagan old me!
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance Theology

Dear Adiemus,
I think that people believe about the dance what they need and want to believe, a lot of times, rather than trying to look at the information available to us and draw a reasonable conclusion. It is sort of like anything else that human beings decide to turn into a religion. That which is sacred does not necessarily need to make sense or have a historical background in truth of any sort. That's what "faith" is all about.
Just look at the historical Jesus, for example. It was not enough that he came into a very violent place and thought very different kinds of thoughts in a time when no one else was really thinking them yet in his little corner of the universe. ( I think that was TRULY miraculous!!!!) No, we gotta have the guy raising people from the dead, turning water into wine, walking on water, etc. Some people are not satisfied with the true miracles in their religion or in their dance, so they create what they need.
For me this sublime humanness that the dance expresses is the very miraculous truth of the dance, but I guess that is just not spectacular or "deep" enough for some people.
What can we do about it? We can keep on dancing our truth and that's about it. Audiences seem to respond VERY positively to the realities of the dance when we dance well, because it touches them at their very human core also.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Ranya

New member
Yes, in a certain way I sometimes feel that trying to destroy stereotypes is like fighting a Hydra - you cut of one head and fifty other dancers will come to town telling just the same lie about the Mother Goddess thing. It sometimes makes me desperate because I say to myself, no matter what I do, there will always be this one dancer somewhere who's going to tell all these invented "historic facts" and all....but then I realize that I love this dance so much I cannot give up, and there would be one knight less to fight the inaccuracy-stereotype-hydra beast.
 
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