Goddess Conference in Australia
A Reflection by Tricia Szirom
Recently I flew with friends and family to the Gold Coast; not for a holiday or to visit the theme parks there, but to a Goddess Conference which drew together over 140 women (and a small group of men) from around the country. Australia has had a Goddess Conference for eight years starting in Melbourne with the work of Avril Webb and then taken to the Gold Coast by the energetic Patricia Corner (Pomegranate Grove). And even before that there were many gatherings and workshops which brought Goddess women together.
Thursday there were two major ‘events’: A fringe event with Kathy Jones who had been on tour here for the preceding two weeks, thanks to the vision of Anique Radiant Heart, and the set up of the venue. We were in a new venue; new to us and recently completed in Southport. The set up turned a large, new community building into a temple to the Goddess with the wonderful banners by Lydia Rule, hangings, altars and stalls overflowing with art and craft sacred to Her. The set up was an indication of the ways in which the women involved worked together for the weekend.
The conference commenced with a ritual to honour the elders and traditional owners of the land and to invoke Goddess to be with us throughout the weekend. We were now in sacred space.
What followed was an amazing array of workshops, performances and presentations prepared by women who live their lives in Her service. Six streams were covered: ecology, scholarship, women’s circles, ritual, music and dance, crafts. The buzz between sessions was intense as women processed what they were hearing and learning.
The workshops demonstrated the wonderful creativity within this growing community along with the diversity of approaches and practice. What is truly incredible is that within that diversity there is the will to come together and find common ground.
Friday night, the opening ritual saw Kathy Jones, from the Goddess Temple in Glastonbury, bring the Flame of Avalon to join with the Flame of Gaia here in Australia. This flame now holds flames from Ireland and Iberia as well. Every participant was able to take the flame with her to spread in her own community. It is impossible to fully capture the depth of emotion and reverence that was held in that ritual as women joined in their love of Goddess with women from across the globe.
Kathy contributed a strong and emotional message on Saturday morning with an ‘apology’; a response from her to seeing the opera by Deborah Cheetham, Pecan Summer, which tells the story of a young Indigenous woman stolen from her family and raised in a white Christian community and the ‘walk-off’ from the Mission by the whole aboriginal community.
Munya Andrews and Bilawara Lee held us spellbound as they talked about connection to the land, protocols for being on the land and the Goddess in Indigenous culture.
Saturday night was a joyous celebration that brought together the incredible talents of international renowned musicians – singers, dancers and poets such as Wendy Rule, Shekhinah Morgan, Anique Radiant Heart, Ganga Ashworth and Sue Gee.
Sunday afternoon was a Community Gathering where family and friends joined us in a festival of ideas, music, dance and celebration.
So what else was special about this Conference?
For the first time men were invited to participate in the conference and there were three presentations that included men. One was facilitated by Drs. Patricia Rose and Phillip Costigan on Goddess Ethics and raised the important issues of how we live and make a difference as Goddess people. Gede Parma co-facilitated a half day workshop with Jane Meredith and then joined Phillip Costigan on a panel ‘Men Who Love the Goddess’ during the Community Gathering on Sunday afternoon. This panel provided an opportunity for other men to hear and discuss how they might contribute in our community.
Although there were some women who were not comfortable with men being present there was strong support from many to this new approach and a number of women commented on how healing they had found the presence of these men. A women only space was provided and some workshops were only open to women.
Having a ‘personality’ from another country join us to share their experience of building a Goddess community was also a first and a wonderful innovation. The experience of having Kathy Jones bring her knowledge and wisdom to us was both affirming and challenging in that it encourages us to keep working together to find ways that we can support each other in bringing Goddess more fully to Australia.
There was also a launch of two new books on the Goddess in Australia: Seasons of the Goddess: Perspectives from the Southern Hemisphere and Gaia Emerging: Goddess Beliefs and Practices in Australia. The launch featured Rachael Kohn from ABC Radio The Spirit of Things. Rachael took the opportunity to spend a day at the conference interviewing various women and observing the range of activities. Her program will be broadcast on ABC Radio National, 6pm December 4th.
Finally, this conference affirmed the need for us to find new ways to express our experience of and love for Goddess in this great southern land. While the traditions of our heritage in the northern hemisphere are valued, it is clear that connection with this sacred land is emerging as a priority. What is wonderful is that Indigenous women are offering to help us in this quest and their generosity of spirit is an invitation not to appropriate but to understand and find our own way to express our spirituality in harmony.