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Home > Temple Questions > Wicca

All right, I have to know — what are these "disturbing elements" that people sometimes remove from the Descent of the Goddess? You can't just drop a reference like that and not spill.

Sure I can, it's my web site! But OK. Check out this version, from Gardner's Witchcract Today, and then compare this version, from Starhawk's The Spiral Dance.

Starhawk's version may be more poetic and somewhat better-written, but the older version is notably harsher - instead of just accepting the sacredness of death as soon as it's explained to her, the Goddess still says she "loves him not", and is told that if she cannot accept Death's hand upon her heart, then she will feel his scourge, and she accepts this as fate, and only after going through the scourging does she come to love him.

Many modern Wiccans, particularly feminists, find this unacceptable for political reasons, and consider it an example of abuse or violence against women. Starhawk even goes so far as to declare that "The God does not perpetrate acts of sadomasochism on the Goddess", and assures us that "In Witchcraft, love is never associated with actual physical violence" (The Spiral Dance, p. 100).

But to read this myth as an instance of male violence against women or S/M play (not that I think there's anything wrong with the latter, just for the record) is to miss the whole point, and to take the myth overly literally as if it concerned ordinary people rather than divine embodiments of cosmic forces.

The reality is that accepting the sacredness of death isn't a quick, easy or painless process. Losing someone you love hurts. A lot. Denying that pain, accepting a pat philosophical explanation about how it's all part of the big picture and really not so bad, without ever working through your real feelings, isn't going to get you anywhere in dealing with it. It's only by facing the pain and coming through it transformed, by receiving Death's scourge, that we can come to love Death and accept the sacredness of that final part of the life cycle.

The cleaned-up versions of the Descent may be more palatable to many people, but they sacrifice a lot of the myth's power and truth for the sake of inoffensiveness.

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