One of the precepts of ecofeminism (at least as I attempt to practice it) is the recognition of not only the value and beauty of both human bodies and the physical world, but also of our deep spiritual and genetic connections with all that is. This is, I think, a serious issue with most of the larger world religions today: a belief that the physical is somehow filthy and impure, and that we will do something like shed our bodies in order to achieve heaven or nirvana or whatever — which is always a sort of metaphorical "above" where we are now. Frankly, we live in a truly astonishing and immanently beautiful world; to believe it is nothing more than physical garbage to be used up and discarded is, I feel, a staggeringly immoral betrayal of the earth's gift to us of life itself.

I am only starting my studies in this area of emphasis, but all of the Native American cultures I am aware of respectfully recognize our debt of gratitude and reciprocity with nature. Many of them also seem to have strong matrifocal characteristics, often based on the powerful goddesses which their legends say gave them birth in one form or another. This is not to lump all Native American cultures together, but rather my interestedly noting what seems — at least so far — to be a thought-provoking trend in these cultures towards rational acceptance of interpersonal relationships with all that is.

For example, Inés Talamantez' article "The Presence of Isanaklesh: A Native American Goddess & the Path of Pollen" lyrically describes the menarche ceremony of the Mescalero Apache. She shares the process with the reader through her observations and dreams, noting how they are interconnected to the Apache, and explains the mythic meaning of the rituals. It is ceremonies like these which culturally emphasize the sacrality and leadership of women, and which position women as the caretakers of the people and those who smoothly transmit the culture from generation to generation, maintaining its balance and harmony.

Initially the four-day-long ceremony functions to mythically shift the young girl into a manifestation of Isanaklesh, the Apache Mother Earth, so she may bless and heal the people, and be blessed in return by them (which is a mutually respectful appreciation and support I find sadly missing in all the Religions of the Book). Her family as well as her clan is heavily involved in this extensive, dramatic, and beautiful ceremony. Afterwards the young goddess secludes herself for another four days to meditate on what she has been taught of the Apache cultural history, ethics, and philosophical traditions. When she finally re-emerges, she is welcomed back as a woman of her people.

Isanaklesh's diye, or spiritual strength, is symbolized by yellow pollen; through her diye she exemplifies cultural concepts of sensible womanly strength and virtue. Despite much Christian colonization, both Apache women and the Goddess Isanaklesh still powerfully emphasize and embody interrelatedness for their culture, which maintains a balanced sense of power, and harmonious relations between people — whether human or other-people from nature.

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Whew! Almost finished with the next book, which is quite interesting: After Patriarchy: Feminist Transformations of World Religions. Report coming soon, I hope! :)


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