The Gifts of Women’s Temple
There’s a low table in the middle of the dome shaped circular tent, covered with bunches of rosemary, mint, basil, tarragon, sage, lambs ears, a dozen vases of flowers, a set of deer antlers, a jar of hawk, turkey and other large feathers. A few lit candles guide our eyes as the Goddess speaks to us through our noses and our hearts, as we choose herbs and flowers to make up our ceremonial bath water. Welcome to Women’s Temple.
The woman in the middle of the circle raises her arms to have her shirt and bra lovingly removed, at her request, by the three handmaidens who are serving her. The women’s hands have the perfect medicine needed for this sister, as they continue to gently stroke her legs, back, face, her entire body, slowly and softly. The late summer sunlight filters through the leaves of trees overhead onto her bare breasts. Tears stream down her face. As she would later share with me “I feel truly transformed, having been rinsed of both shame and pain. My body feels whole for the first time since childhood.” Welcome to Women’s Temple.
A line of women forms outside the arching portal that we have created, between two trees, using grape vines and flowers. As each woman steps through, a flower is placed in her hair, and her third eye is anointed with a powder made from red rose petals. In a sweet whisper, each woman is welcomed, asked to remove her shoes, take a seat at the circle, and drop into silence with us. Sage and incense waft through the air. Welcome to Women’s Temple.
Four women lay on their backs, eyes closed, arms outstretched, at the center of the circle. Eight other temple sisters, their fingers like butterflies, land on the bellies, the toes, the cheeks and the noses of the four reclined sister flowers, touching, stroking and caressing them. One woman plays with another women’s long hair. Another rubs her sisters feet. Welcome to Women’s Temple.
The call to Women’s Temple for me began in 1993 when I was initiated as a priestess of Oshun in the Yoruba tradition. The next two decades held many more initiations for me, from the erotic wisdom school of The Body Electric School, months of ashram stays in India, Women’s Temple Facilitator Training through Awakening Women, countless moon ceremonies, personal sadhanas, founding an ashram in the wilds of Kentucky, and birthing my two daughters.
Why do we need Women’s Temple? Why has my journey to share this work been so steady and strong, yet twisting and mysterious? Why do our bodies open up when they are touched gently, without an agenda? Why is healing and releasing trauma through the intentional experience of pleasure not more prevalent and recognized? Why do our hearts soar when someone fully hears our story and asks for more?
This past weekend, I had the honor of facilitating a half day Women’s Temple session at my friend Allison Kemphaus’ event in Petersburg, Kentucky called Into the Deep Soul.
After sitting in silence together, and slowing us down with a centering meditation, I started the circle by sharing what this work has meant for me. The deeper I have gone in this work, the more I see how comfortable I am with many of the constructs that I have internalized from our culture… achievement, accomplishment, financial success, academic and scientific progress, measurement, verification, validation, credentials… and yet none of these things have been the potent medicine that has brought me the transcendent, shining moments, the epiphanies and the deep connections. None of these things have welcomed me deeper into the mysterious place of devotion and embodiment. This work, of gently, steadily, intimately connecting with ourselves, our bodies, and each other, however, has brought me deeper and deeper into a sense of peace and devotion to the mystery at the core of everything.
During our closing circle, many of the women shared how just being present at the retreat was a stretch for them. And the Women’s Temple experience, even more so. And yet, I heard many shares about how transformative it was for these sisters to shed layers of shame and pain around their relationship with their bodies and themselves. This was deeply moving for me, and deepened my already strong faith in the power of this work.
I am inspired to be sure to offer at least four Women’s Temple experiences next year. I’m offering this retreat in April, in Western Massachusetts. I’m sure I’ll host something here in Kentucky at some point. I would love to receive invitations to facilitate Women’s Temple in other cities or circles; I love to facilitate, and I love to work with a sister who loves to host and invite a circle for us.
So this blog post is my commitment to offer this work more planfully in 2020, and to keep all of you notified about when and where they are happening. Welcome to Women’s Temple.