The Nine Touchstones of Goddess Spirituality: Trust the Knowledge that Comes through the Body

Jul 3rd, 2018 | By | Category: Articles, Feminist Craft

As I have written elsewhere, one of the main appeals of Goddess Spirituality and Feminist Witchcraft for me is that it is fundamentally embodied. One of the most dangerous and insidious ways in which the patriarchy exerts power over women and femmes is by encouraging body hatred and body distrust. The tradition of Christianity in which I was raised taught that the body is sinful, not to be trusted, something to be risen above and ultimately shuffled off.

The messages I got about my body through my church were echoed by the larger culture — as a girl and a young woman, I was to take up as little space as possible, to strive for thinness, to deny my body’s “baser” desires, and to avoid seeking pleasure through my body at all costs — though it was acceptable for me, under certain circumstances, to offer my body to men as an instrument of pleasure. I was also an immensely intelligent and clever girl, and I received great recognition for my intellectual pursuits at the same that my body — never the cultural ideal of beauty or thinness — was derided. I was told that it was all right that I was not pretty, because I was smart. In an effort to “overcome” my body, I focused ever more on the life of the mind, studying hard and pursuing scholastic achievements. While I have never regretted becoming a scholar and an intellectual at a young age, in my later life I have come to realize that I chose that path because I was determined to ignore and even “make up for” my body’s perceived sinfulness and deficiency.

All this meant that I spent many years living essentially from the neck up. I even gave up physical activities that I enjoyed, such as ballet, because I believed I was better off to focus on the life of the mind.

What I didn’t realize then was, as songwriter Sarah Jaffe says, the body always wins.

The body will demand our attention. It will bring our lives to a halt if necessary, with illness and pain. It will make us sit up and take notice, to care for it, to provide it with what it needs. It can do this lovingly, gently, or harshly and even violently. But it will be heard.

And if we take the time to listen to the body, it can tell us so much — about ourselves, about our circumstances, about the world around us, about the worlds we cannot see. The knowledge that comes through the body is intuition — gut instinct, if you will — but it is also sensory input. The body provides us with knowledge — visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, emotional, kinesthetic. The knowledge that comes through the body is so often direct knowledge the world — knowledge that is filtered through our cultural lenses, sure, but it is also direct experience. We are taught not to trust this body-knowledge — and the fact that such body-knowledge is coded as “feminine” or the realm of women is no accident — by the overculture. Learning to trust this knowledge is a slow, tenuous thing. But when we can trust the knowledge that comes through the body, we become fully embodied and present in the world — we have a richer experience, a more holistic experience, of ourselves, our world, of Goddess.

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