1. Your new book is titled Jailbreaking the Goddess. What exactly does that mean?
"Jailbreaking" means to break something or someone free. With Jailbreaking the Goddess, we are breaking the goddess free of the bonds of biology. Or, at least breaking our perception of her free. I mean, I have a hunch that at heart she is absolutely liberated, and has always been so.
The book was originally titled The Fivefold Goddess. To be honest, Jailbreaking the Goddess was at first kind of a joke-title in my head, because the material that was coming forward was so radical. When my editor asked me to reconsider a title though, Jailbreaking the Goddess was what I first offered. And to my great surprise, the team loved it. So we went with it.
After we had settled on Jailbreaking the Goddess: A Radical Revisioning of Feminist Spirituality as the new title, I had a few days of complete terror that I had chosen a name that might be too strong for people. But again my editor soothed my fears, and invited me to bring the most strong, radical, transformational material in as I wanted to.
It was an amazing experience. The new name allowed the book to radicalize in ways that offer opportunities for true transformation on both personal and collective levels.
2. Why did you feel such a new vision of feminism and female spirituality was needed?
Having grown up in the Pagan community, and with the goddess (and goddesses) as central to my ideas of and relationships with the divine, I am in an interesting place for cultural critique. As someone for whom Paganism is the primary religious format I can see some of the limitations of the ideologies that those who shaped the culture may be blind to.
I am also a strong feminist, and a feminist critique of Paganism and goddess spirituality was overdue.
Starhawk said of my work, "Jailbreaking the Goddess is an important contribution to the writings on Goddess tradition and feminist spirituality. Allen, a second-generation Witch, brings the tradition firmly into the Twenty-first century." I'm honored, and I feel that this work is truly doing what she says here: bringing feminist spirituality current.
As a counter-culture—or more accurately, a collection of counter-cultures—we exist within the dominant culture: that which we are counter to! That being the case, we have a lot of un-examined values viciously ensconced in what appears to be innocuous carriers. Or even, in some cases, what we consider to be empowering carriers.
I call this stealth patriarchy, or creeping patriarchy.
A prime example of this is the three-fold, maiden/mother/crone model. Because the three-fold model is based in biology, at some level the three-fold model distills down to the feminine as a utility. When our biological function is enshrined as the representation of the divine, we are defined by our usefulness, not by our essence or beingness.
Another problematic element is that the biology aspect also puts many women outside of the circle. If woman=mother and mother=woman, what about women who cannot—or choose not to—bear children? Are those women also divine? Obviously, yes! So don't we want our divine symbols and archetypes to reflect that?
3. Your previous book is Sexy Witch, and you've done a lot of work with sexuality, relationships, and body positivity. Why are these topics so important to you?
Until we can claim our bodies entirely as sovereign territories, we will not be free. Women are encouraged by culture (and in many cases not just encouraged, but forced) to see ourselves from the outside, looking in. We are told how to dress, told what we can and cannot to with our reproductive anatomy and function, told our sexuality is evil and dirty—and then even at that, having sexual consent stolen from us.
I was teaching a class a few years back and we were all sharing about the ways we were introduced to sex. A number of women had shared stories of inappropriate touch at different ages as their introduction. A woman who hadn't yet shared started crying. Not at all unusual. I encourage people to go to the heart of it, so crying is a thing we honor in our spaces.
We all paused, and I asked if the woman wanted to share what was happening for her. She told us that she had never been sexually assaulted or touched inappropriately, and that this made her feel less of a woman. The fact that she had not experienced sexual assault left her feeling outside the experience of womanhood.
This story is why these topics are so important to me. Being fully able to live in—and AS—our bodies is a key to liberation.
4. Jailbreaking the Goddess replaces the traditional, three-fold model of femininity (Maiden/Mother/Crone) with a five-fold model that is not tied to biology and reproduction. What are the stages of this new, five-fold model?
The five are:
- Femella, the child
- Potens, the youth
- Creatrix, the creator
- Sapientia, the wise one
- Antiqua, the old one
They can be envisioned as a linear, somewhat age-related trajectory. But one of the cool things is that because the aspects are not tied to biology, they are not a strictly linear progression. Also, we may be in more than one aspect at a time. So the system is nonlinear, and also multi-valent.
5. What do you hope readers will take away from Jailbreaking the Goddess?
I hope that people take away the deep knowing that their spirituality is their own, and that they can create it in ways that truly fit. And in addition, I hope that people take away a grounded awareness of their own spirituality being part of the larger struggle toward liberation. We do not exist in a vacuum. We exist in symphony and synchrony. As we move toward liberation we move the whole toward liberation. And as we move the whole toward liberation, we are liberated.