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December 17, 2008

The Witches of Contra Costa to Hold Winter Solstice Celebration

Yes, that’s right witches. And pagans, Wiccans, and other women who worship goddesses of ancient and indigenous cultures—like Artemis of ancient Greece and the White Buffalo Calf Woman of Native American mythology. These followers of this outside-the-mainstream form of spirituality will be holding their annual Winter Solstice celebration this Saturday evening in Pleasant Hill and will be honoring the Hawaiian snow goddess Poli’ ahu (depicted at right).

Those hosting the Winter Solstice celebration are members of the all-female, Lafayette-based temple Daughters of the Goddess, a fair number of whom proudly call themselves witches. 

The celebration, which will take place in an outdoor location, will include the “fun and popular candle exchange,” as well as singing, chanting, drumming, dancing, the reciting of poems, and of prayers "for the rain, our health and bringing in our power as the light returns to the Northern part of our planet.” So says Leilani Bierly, the Lafayette mother of two who is the high priestess of the temple.


I’ve met and talked extensively with Leilani about her temple and her spirituality. She’s a friendly, attractive woman with a warm smile and dark flowing hair (kind of like Poli’ ahu). She is half-Hawaiian on her mother’s side. Like other members of her temple, she was raised in a more mainstream religion—in her case, Catholicism—but that religion never clicked with her.


Leilani once worked as a stockbroker, then revived her interest in the traditions of her Hawaiian ancestors, particularly in the myths surrounding the Hawaiian goddesses, after she became a mother. Leilani says that giving birth and becoming a mother, the most joyous but challenging job in the world “called her to something,” and that “something” was her “divine feminine.”


At the New College in San Francisco, Leilani studied astrology and female deities of early natured-based faiths. She argues that monotheistic religions, including Christianity, marginalized these faiths to consolidate power over lands they conquered. Their male-dominated hierarchies, she adds, denigrated women’s status in society, persecuted any who challenged the status quo, and defined witches, the healers in ancient cultures, as evil.


Leilani herself is a witch and teaches a year-long course in witchcraft that includes studies in female self-empowerment, the creation of altars, understanding the elements and directions of nature, and “magickal” and medicinal herbs.


She acknowledges that the word “witch” is pretty charged and conjures up Hollywood horror movie images of women in long black robes, stealing away to forests in the middle of the night to sacrifice animals. To Leilani, being a witch is simply being "a woman empowered to make changes in her own life," a message of self-acceptance that's not altogether out of step with what you might find in the pages of Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine. The members of Leilani's temple are “trying to get back into a culture where women are honored, our sacred mysteries.”


Members of her temple include East Bay suburban wives, moms, and professional women. Some of the temple's monthly circles and special ceremonies, like their Winter Solstice celebration, attract women from all over the Bay Area and even Northern California. Their events are almost always held outdoors, because being the presence of nature is a major component of their faith.


To learn more about the Winter Solstice celebration or about the Daughters of the Goddess, visit their website.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

These women are dangerous. You make it sound like they are nice and everything but they hate men and break up marriages.

Happily Married Witch said...

Anonymous,

You obviously have never had experience in this women's group! I have been a part of Daughters of the Goddess for over 4 years and am happily married and love my husband more than anything! This group has helped me fall even more in love with my husband as it has helped me become empowered as a woman. To me anonymous you sound like a man who is scared and threatened by a strong women. There is nothing more powerful then two people coming together as equals!

What is DANGEROUS Anonymous is fear and ignorance like you have expressed here!

From,
A happily married, man-loving Dianic Witch!

Aura Velarde-DOTG Witch said...

Anonymous-
My being a Dianic witch is not equivalent to me hating anyone even someone like you and I am definitely not a dangerous person. How do you even deduce a general comment like that? I, as well as my temple sisters constantly strive to come from a place of compassion which is a prevalent theme in our Daughters of the Goddess temple. What I personally do hate is when people speak not from a place of intellect and heart but instead from their ass. What a dirty place from which to pull your opinions and to truly show how scared and ignorant you really are. How pitifully inferior it is that you are hiding behind your pen by being anonymous. And pity is all I have for someone like you.

Anne said...

Wow Thanks for the great write on the Daughters of the Goddess temple. I have been a part of the temple for 7 years and it has transformed my life.

Anne