Jailbreaking the Goddess – a review and my thoughts

This year, my treasure from Pantheacon was Jailbreaking the Goddess: A Radical Revisioning of Feminist Spirituality by Lasara Firefox Allen.

Bookcover from Amazon.com

She offers a theory involving a 5-fold archetypal model for goddess connection, assisting us in unpacking the inherent patriarchy behind the triple goddess model. First and foremost, she is quick to say – both in her book and in her talks – that she is not demonizing or telling you to throw away all of your triple goddess beliefs. In fact, she acknowledges how necessary that concept was in early neo-paganism and what a beautiful story it makes for myths.

What I love most about LaSara’s books (she also wrote Sexy Witch, now out of print) is her no-nonsense approach to spirituality. It is refreshing to have someone dive right in, encourage your personal responsibility, use some irreverent humor, yet regard the subject matter with the utmost respect. Her and Sera Beak, author of The Red Book, are two of my favorites simply for their writing style and personality.

What I loved most about this concept is the removal of uterine utility. Maiden, Mother, and Crone are defined by their biology and uterine utility – is she bleeding yet? is she childbearing age? has she stopped bleeding yet? Yes, there are triple goddesses in old mythology, like the Matronae (who are all mothers) or the three fates (who are varying ages depending on who you’re taking your information from), but a strict maiden mother crone triad is hard to come by without some creative mental gymnastics.

It also completely removes any personal agency for your life stages and alienates anyone who doesn’t possess a working uterus OR chooses not to use it. Is a 12yr old really a Mother just because she has started her menses? Have you had cancer and subsequent hysterectomy? Are you a trans woman? What about the 1 in 5000 women that suffer from Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome lacking or possessing only underdeveloped vagina and uterus? How about those of us who cannot or choose not to have children? Suzannah Weiss just wrote a great article titled, “5 Supposedly Empowering Things We Need to Stop Telling People About Their Periods”. While a lovely concept, and one I have tattooed on my back in the immortal triple goddess moon, it is increasingly hard to relate to this triad under the myriad of ways women are women.

LaSara presents a non-linear, non-utility way of relating to goddess, titling the 5 archetypes: femella, potens, creatrix, sapientia, and antiqua.

Femella was a really great read for me, and brought to light an interesting lack in historical and modern pagan myths – that of the divine girl child. We have the Christ child and Krishna, even Ra Hoor Khuit for divine boy children, but our nod to divine girls start with teenage maidens like Nimue or Kore. It has sparked in me a desire to go back through mythology and seek out the girls we overlooked, bound as we were by conventions of patriarchy that interpreted ancient texts in ways of ownership and held that ancient goddess statues were fertility ‘cults’ instead of honoring the divine feminine as a religion.

I most strongly identify with the potens energy. In the Avalonin tradition this corresponds with the Guardian energetic. In the Hellenic pantheon this would be Diana/Artemis or even Aurora. I have chosen to not have children but am long past the stage of maiden. Being able to slide into the potens mold and feel like it is a perfect fit was such a relief, a release of anxiety I didn’t know I was holding.  Something in spiritualty that is ‘for me’ and that makes sense for me from where I’m standing now.

Many people will tell you that the Mother can mean birthing creative endeavors as well as children, and that is true to an extent. However, you don’t often come across someone who says my books are my children – not the way a child they birthed is, anyway. You almost can’t divorce the pregnancy, birthing, & mothering concepts from the label “Mother”. LaSara captures that energy perfectly in her creatrix archetype. It allows for creation of anything, whether that is creation of a human or creation of a concept, book, tradition, etc.

Sapientia is the wise woman, the leader of the movement, the woman who has put in the time, seen some shit, and stands confident in her knowledge. This makes up for the decades past motherhood when women were somewhat adrift, not yet crones but not afforded the respect that living life should accord you. Athena and Ma’at are two that LaSara offers for consideration in the Sapientia archetype.

The fifth archetype is Antiqua, the old woman at the fire who has done her work and now keeps and tells our stories. She is the hag, the Baba Yaga in the forest, making apologies to no one, and often fearful as she spans the line between the living and the dead. Especially in Western culture, there is such a fear around aging. We isolate our eldest elders, pushing them aside as their minds being to slip and they remind us of our own approaching mortality. This archetype allows a reclaiming of this space, separate from constantly giving to the community as leaders – this allows for the women who have done their time, and now wish to rest.

In the non-linear form that LaSara introduces, you can slide into and out of these energies whenever and however they happen. As I read through this book I was struck, looking back, at the times in my life when I was strongly standing in one or another. Moving across the country by myself, driving 3 days in a Penske with just my dog and my cat? Heavily potens! My lifelong love of unicorns and fantasy and coloring books? Holding onto that femella energy. Watching a relationship die and knowing it was time to end it? Fully antiqua, as I held that vigil. Graduating with any of my degrees? Hello sapientia! Even birthing this blog is channeling creatrix.

LaSara’s book also offers some really great ideas and conversations around colonization of ideas, of peoples, of cultures, and of gods, as well as appropriation vs. respectful worship. I think these are topics that have been largely ignored by the larger pagan communities, feeling like “she called to me” overwrites decades or even centuries of oppression, colonization, and decline by a dominate culture. It is important to remember that a god or goddess is their people, and they are of the culture that birthed them. In order to fully know them, and work with them on the deepest level, don’t you think you should know their history, know their people, and find respect for all parts of them?

On my personal path, I’m now working to see who my touchstones for each archetype will be. Have you read the book too? What were some of your thoughts? Based on my brief and not-at-all-as-in-depth-as-the-book descriptions, who do you see as your patroness for each archetype?

About the Author

Grace is an avid reader, geek, and gamer living with anxiety and fighting against depression. She volunteers when she can, in as many avenues as possible. Grace loves attending cons and festivals, but also values her time at home with fur-babies and her books. An eclectic pagan since childhood, Grace has studied as a Chakradance facilitator, level 2 Usui Reiki healer, and has been a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon since 2012. She credits Phyllis Curott and Edain McCoy with her introduction to Wicca, and The Chalice & The Blade by Riane Eisler as her introduction to historical concepts of paganism. Other inspirations include The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, The Red Book by Sera Beak, and Avalon Within by Jhenah Telyndru. Her (current) greatest shero and ladycrush is Michelle Obama <3. Facing hard topics dead on is Grace's signature, asking the questions no one wants to hear, and rustling the jimmies to get Change made. It has often said that you never have to wonder what Grace is thinking! She is currently fleshing out several writing projects, and hopes to pitch those soon.

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