Tag Archives: Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess – International

Magical Moments and Safe Spaces during Spring 2015 Red Tents and Movie Screenings

by Jayleigh Lewis

Dr. Isadora’s recent travels took her to Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Wisconsin, where she attended Red Tent events both large and small. From an assembly of highly educated women at a psychology graduate school to a gathering of priestesses at an annual spiritual conference, the Red Tent brought magic and inspiration to all.

The filmmaker of Things We Don’t Talk About (otherwise known as the Red Tent movie) visited the Michigan School of Professional Psychology in Farmington Hills, Michigan (a northwestern suburb of Detroit), on April 26, 2015. She was there at the invitation of Ciera Bies, a doctoral student of Dr. Betz King, who is the coordinator of MiSPP’s master’s program. Dr. King and Dr. Isadora met in 2010 at a conference of the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology, of which the two are members. Dr. Isadora was giving a presentation of the research that would eventually become the Red Tent movie; Dr. King was offering a workshop on menstruation ritual. Dr. Isadora was intrigued by the workshop and, when offered the opportunity, attended and had a great time.

MiSPP is a small, independent graduate school that was founded in 1980 as the Center for Humanistic Studies. The campus is four acres but all classes are held in the same building. Students, as part of their degrees, are required to organize events that bring presenters to campus; since Ciera’s doctoral work is aligned with Dr. Isadora’s Red Tent work (which itself was a doctoral dissertation, the first non-written dissertation allowed by the University of Wisconsin!), Dr. Isadora was a natural choice of presenter.

The event sold out with between 75 and 100 women in attendance. It was a highly organized, professional affair. A silent auction consisting of 100 donated items raised $500, which was used to help pay the cost of the gathering. Additionally, 25-30 community organizations and businesses were sponsors, with advertising featured in the programs that were handed out to attendees. During the first half hour, women were free to socialize, participate in the auction, and enjoy catered food before sitting down to watch the movie.

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The large atrium space was also host to a post-screening Red Tent, during which it was revealed that the majority of the women present held master’s degrees, while half held PhDs. It was a very educated audience! Strangely enough, the school’s regulations stipulated that the male janitorial staff had to hang the Red Tent; this was done on the Friday prior to the screening. The Red Tent stood ready all weekend, just waiting for the women.

Dr. Isadora at the permanent Red Tent in Lousiville, KY

Dr. Isadora at the permanent Red Tent in Louisville, KY

On May 8, Dr. Isadora attended a much smaller screening at a yoga studio in Clarksville, Tennessee, called Yoga Mat. On the way to Clarksville, Dr. Isadora took a detour to the famous, permanent Red Tent in Louisville, KY, where she spent the night in the Red Tent. It was a fantastic space created by Amy and Rebecca, where they host bi-weekly Red Tent events for women and girls. For more info visit:  http://www.redtentlouisville.com/

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Clarksville, TN is home to a large military base, and the town’s culture mostly revolves around it. The yoga studio might be one of the only local places able to attract a crowd that would be interested in the Red Tent movie! The screening was sponsored by the studio’s owners: Trish, Erika, Amanda, and Erin. Approximately 20 women attended, filling the space. An unofficial Red Tent followed, during which the women participated in a discussion initially prompted by questions about the movie but largely self-directed. The women explored aspects of the experience of being a stay-at-home mom, with some women speaking from the perspective of moms who wanted to stay at home with their kids but couldn’t, and some speaking from the perspective of moms who do stay at home but want to work.

Recently, Dr. Isadora has been making Red Tent movie rentals available online for $1 on specific dates which are announced in advance. May 9 was one of those dates. For 24 hours renters could watch the movie as many times as they wanted. For upcoming dates when you can take advantage of this opportunity (and to buy your rental ticket), go to the upcoming screenings page. The next two dates are June 13 and July 11.

For the second time in two years, Dr. Isadora was invited to the Priestess Gathering of the Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess, International (RCGI), held in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. This year’s gathering took place during the weekend of May 15-17. The RCGI, co-founded in 1983 by Lynnie Levy and Jade River, is a legally recognized religion dedicated to positive spiritual growth for all people and especially for women. It is an endorser of the film. Last year’s Gathering included a film screening as well as a Red Tent that was raised for the duration; this year there was no screening but a beautiful Red Tent and Dr. Isadora hosted a Red Tent workshop.

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Built by Dr. Isadora and 2 incredible helpers, this year’s Red Tent was grander and bigger than last year’s. It included several nooks and crannies, including an “inner sanctum” encircled by a larger outside space. Many women commented that they enjoyed this layout; even though the Red Tent as a whole could hold about 10 people at a time, those inside felt such coziness and privacy that they could almost imagine that they had the whole Tent to themselves! Dr. Isadora already has a vision for next year’s Red Tent: a two-story stairwell, including a loft area, will be incorporated into it. The stairwell will become a “birth canal”-like tunnel of red fabric, and the loft’s balcony will allow women to look down on the lower portion of the Tent. Additionally, Barb, who every year creates wonderful, elaborate altars for the Gathering, has agreed to build a Red Tent altar of all natural materials. Those who heard about this plan are very excited and can’t wait for next year!

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Dr. Isadora noted one very special moment that took place during the Gathering, a moment so touching that, for her, it was “the one thing I was supposed to do that weekend” and by itself was enough to make her glad she had showed up. She had offered the veil dancing ritual (where a few women lie on the floor while the rest of the group dances around them with veils, eventually laying the veils down on the women and resting them there for a short time until slowly and gently lifting them back off) in the Red Tent, and about 13 women had participated. One woman had very much wanted to attend but hadn’t been able to. Following her intuition, Dr. Isadora offered to do the ritual again that night just for her.

Later, after the main event of the evening, Dr. Isadora was sitting at a picnic table with a group of women eating fruit, including the woman who wanted the veil ritual. She got up to go do the ritual, and all of the women at the table joined her! A spontaneous, magical moment that no one could have planned followed as the women danced with and honored their sister. Being a woman who does not fit many traditional feminine norms, she was deeply touched to feel this kind of support from other women. After the ritual, the group played the song “How Could Anyone” (“How could anyone ever tell you you were anything less than beautiful? How could anyone ever tell you you were less than whole?”) and sang the words directly to her. In that moment, nothing could have been more perfect.

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Creativity was in abundance at August screenings

by Jayleigh Lewis

Creativity was in abundance at screenings of the Red Tent movie, Things We Don’t Talk About, during the first weekend of August 2013.

On Friday, August 2nd, the interfaith women’s organization Gaia’s Womb commenced their annual summer women’s retreat in Racine, Wisconsin, a small town on the shore of Lake Michigan. Angie, one of the founders and current director of Gaia’s Womb (as well as pagan minister and women’s spiritual leader), planned this year’s retreat around the theme of the Red Tent. She invited ALisa Starkweather, founder of the Red Tent movement, and Isadora Leidenfrost, Red Tent movie filmmaker, to attend as special guests and presenters.

The weekend-long retreat began with the film screening, the first screening since last September’s premiere to feature the presence of both ALisa and Isadora. Many of the small group of approximately 20 women had attended this annual retreat together for years, but almost none had previously heard of Red Tents. They were in for a treat as they gathered in one of the buildings of Racine’s DeKoven Center, surrounded by architecture evocative of cathedrals and old-style universities.

Unbeknownst to the attendees, at Angie’s direction, the retreat’s coordinators were creating a Red Tent space for the attendees following the film screening. The next morning, the women arrived into this space, finding as if by magic a sacred temple prepared for them. ALisa led one of that day’s workshops, giving the women a firsthand experience of the passion at the heart of the Red Tent movement.

Screening in Indianapolis, IN

Screening in Indianapolis, IN

Meanwhile, Isadora was off to Indianapolis, Indiana, for another movie screening that Saturday, August 3rd. The local chapter of the Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess – International (a Goddess-centered, legally recognized religion serving the women’s spiritual community, and one of the endorsers of the Red Tent movie) hosted the screening, as well as a Red Tent gathering, inside a church. Grace and Lia, the organizers, prepared some very unique activities for the gathering.

CabbageThe highlight, according to Isadora, was an activity involving vegetables. Small groups of participants each received a different vegetable which had been cut in half. They were given the instruction to look closely at their vegetable and describe its characteristics, with an eye to seeing it as if for the first time. Each group created a synthesis of their observations and shared it with the gathering as a whole.

Collective expressions ranged from lists to poetry; Isadora’s group wrote a poem inspired by a purple-and-white cabbage:

In life we see life & the many layers

all is connected, a labyrinth

Limbs extended, a woman gives birth

Eight arms for her roles

Center is protected by multiple layers

When placed core to core a spider is formed to weave the breath of life

The spine supports

the ribs wrap; the breasts feed

A tree reaches

Layers are the age of the cruciferous vegetable

revealing the organs to digest experience.

It is a Red Tent.

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The white part of the halved cabbage had transformed in the group members’ imaginations into a woman raising her arms; the purple part had transformed into veil-like layers of fabric hung for a Red Tent. A second image emerged when they put the two halves of the cabbage together core to core: a white spider, limbs outstretched, against a purple background. More images, simultaneously suggestive of a tree and a woman’s body, revealed themselves when the outsides of the two halves were held side by side.

According to Isadora, the process was mind-blowing. This activity and another (a meditation that invited women to listen to sounds from nature with eyes closed) assisted Red Tent participants in expanding their perceptions beyond habit, in reaching toward the beauty of everyday sights and sounds. The fresh perceptions that emerged spoke to the ways in which women’s community is rooted in the natural world as well as the ways in which all life is connected. It was a clear affirmation of the creative power of women coming together!

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