Women's appreciation of embodiment is not new — simply (deliberately?) forgotten in a more androcentric world. As it slowly re-emerges within society as well as academia, women's (and men's) re-embodiment appears to be more frequently — and often more deeply — creatively realized in a wider variety of fields. Examples include aikido (as already demonstrated), dance (and, in specific, belly dancing), some women's sports, poetry and other self-reflective writing, and painting. Most personally surprising is the increasingly public, shining thread of spirituality woven through the tapestry of beliefs of many of these creative endeavors. For example, in 1995 Circlework leadership trainer Jalaja Bonheim explores the very nature of disembodiment in the West at the time of writing, comparing it to what she considers the less world- and body-negating Eastern spiritual premises (though in actuality those too have their strongly anti-body elements). She metaphorically encapsulates hat she considers these less dogmatically rigid, more cyclical beliefs in the title of her book: The Serpent & the Wave: A Guide to Movement Meditation. The simple exercises, rhythmic music, and dance movements she describes capture the cyclical nature of life-death-rebirth, and are specifically designed for creative spiritual as well as physical healing and well-being. Indeed, eastern dance styles have been life-changing for many women, leading them to a new appreciation of their artistic and physical abilities. Also, unlike modern society, matricentric belly-dancing not only requires women to be visible and present in the moment, but is also extremely welcoming of a wide diversity of body types. Consequently many of the relevant books contain statements from women participants regarding their increased or renewed self-respect and pride, based in their re-found re-embodiment.

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The recently deceased dancer, musician, and urban shaman Gabrielle Roth takes this awareness of the spiritual nature of dance to its logical next step when she embraces all forms of meditative rhythmic motion as potentially inherently healing and religious. In her book Sweat Your Prayers: Movement as Spiritual Practice she not only explains how she awoke to this understanding, but also offers an explicitly sacred approach to dance itself. Dividing up meditative dance into five different categories, she recognizes the cyclical, wave-like symmetry of life, seeing dance as embodied human expression of this endless energetic pattern. Interestingly, she conceives of dance as a means of meditative embodied trance states to be something most beneficially shared with a "tribe" of like-minded dancers, rather than specifically as performance. She expresses her vision of such sacred movement as becoming a means of bringing its practitioners to a healing re-unity of body and soul, human and nature.

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In 2000 belly dancer and feminist instructor Iris J. Stewart was moved by her dance practice — started for health reasons when she was in her 40s — to write on the sacred history of belly dancing. She explicitly refers to her research as a journey into the sacred feminine and women's spirituality, as she traces the sacred nature of dance through her derivatively titled Sacred Woman, Sacred Dance: Awakening Spirituality Through Movement and Ritual. While she fruitfully reviews the sparse, often androcentric historical written record — such as Old Testament records of women singing and dancing in praise of Yahweh — of necessity she also turns to the few historical, still-existing material goods, as valid historical "texts": paleolithic rock paintings, weaving patterns, pendants and sculptures, vase painting, and bas-relief. In all of these she finds evidence of this unrecognized women's history "hidden in plain sight" — despite its often destructive "editing" by the ravages of time. She closes her book with chapters on modern sacred dance, including both suggestions and examples, so that creative spiritual re-embodiment may be experienced by yet more women.

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It was only three years later that Kajira Djoumahna, a Reiki Master and American Tribal Style belly dancer/instructor, collected the various articles which comprise The Tribal Bible. The book is mostly a how-to for the various elements of costuming and persona, rhythmic movement, music and drumming, ethics, and ritual which comprise American Tribal Style belly dance. However, the increasing spiritually physical awareness of many of the women participant-authors shines through in their confident voices and their dance-inspired research for the historical inspirations for their creative modern dance style.

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Drummer and historian Layne Redmond performs yet another powerful act of female re-membering and re-valuing: disgusted with the misogyny and sexism then rampant in the traditions of drumming, she researches and writes When the Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm. Her goal is specifically ecofeminist, though she never uses the word: to break through negative cultural conditioning so that women and men can live in spiritual harmony with the natural world and each other. Through historical illustration and writing, she discovers the ancient origins of the sacred frame drum and the priestesses who played it in ritual for their life-giving goddesses, tracing this practice through time and cultures right up to the point that the drum's sacred nature and usage is appropriated by men for their jealous gods. Redmond also includes a fascinating section on the biological influence and meaning of rhythm and entrainment, noting its curious healing — and often mythic — applications. As she notes, the ritual of sacred drumming is a mythic and spiritual technology which reawakens forgotten human connections that cross national boundaries, and can lead to the healing of the Divine Feminine.

 

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