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Priestess, Mother, Sacred SisterReligions Dominated by Women$

Susan Starr Sered

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780195104677

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195104677.001.0001

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(p.291) Appendix B Alphabetical Summaries of Auxiliary Examples

(p.291) Appendix B Alphabetical Summaries of Auxiliary Examples

Priestess, Mother, Sacred Sister
Oxford University Press

Beguines The movement of celibate Christian women known as Beguines originated during the thirteenth century in the Low countries and the Rhine Valley. These women lived in small communities and dedicated their lives to charitable acts. For a variety of reasons, including the fact that they lived outside of monasteries, they did not receive papal approval.

Black Spiritual Churches New Orleans Spiritual people trace their origins to a woman named Leafy Anderson, who came from Chicago to New Orleans in the 19205. Spiritual churches are linked to numerous older religious traditions, including Protestantism, Folk Catholicism, Pentecostal Movement, nineteenth-century American Spiritualism, and Vodou practices of the African diaspora. Spiritual people have a widespread eclectic belief system. During church services, many Spiritual people may enter into trance or other ecstatic states that include periods of dancing, spinning, uttering “coos,” violent seizures, writhing on the floor, etc. Recent studies show fifty Spiritual churches in New Orleans today.

Guglielmites This thirteenth-century Christian “heresy” considered women to be the only hope for the salvation of humanity. They announced that the third person of the trinity had been incarnated in the female Guglielma of Milan and would establish a female-ruled church with female cardinals. Churchmen viewed the Guglielmites as fools and Guglielma was condemned as a heretic.

Luvale of Zambia Women's ritual expertise is passed down through matrilineal lines. The Luvale believe that female ancestors afflict their outmarrying female descendants with illness and infertility to remind them of their matrilineal obligations. Involvement in women's rituals and participation in the women's healing cult cures women afflicted by ancestral spirits.

Sanctificationists Also known as the Woman's Commonwealth and as the Sanctified Sisters. This all-female group became an official community in 1890 in Belton, Texas. The women broke off from the Methodist church, primarily because of their belief in celibacy and ecumenism. Although they began as a worship group, so many of the women became estranged from their husbands (because of their religious beliefs) that they found it necessary to form a commune to ensure their economic survival. The group never had more than 100 members. According to Sally Kitch, “Although they left no (p.292) record of a belief in either a female God or a female Christ, court testimonies, interviews, and the group's constitution reveal a feminist approach not only to the economic and social independence of women from men, and to the personal autonomy of individual women, but also to a female-identified source of spiritual authority” (1989, 14). Kitch notes that the group experienced violent resistance to their celibate communism (1989, 63). Over the years the religious focus of the group declined, and the economic focus took precedence.

Tenrikyo This Japanese religion was founded in 1838 when God revealed himself to the foundress Miki Hakayama. Tenrikyo teaches that sickness originates from mental attitudes. God is referred to in Tenrikyo as “God the Parent” and associated with parental love. Diseases are seen as an opportunity to improve oneself because God informs humans of his true intentions through disease. In recent years approximately half of the priests are women, and two-thirds of the members are women.

Tensho-Kotai-Jingu-Kyu (also spelled Tensho-Kotai-Jingukyo) This new Japanese religion was founded in 1945 when Mrs. Sayo Kitamura discovered that she carried God in her abdomen. She became the spokeswoman of a kami [deity], known as the Tensho Kotai jin (Absolute Almighty God of the Universe). The Tensho cult draws on Buddhist, Shinto, Confucianist, and Christian concepts. There is a worldwide membership of approximately 360,000 people, most of whom are Japanese.

Tetum Religion In this Indonesian society women are associated with the sacred and men with the secular. Women preside over most rituals and most ghosts are female. The clan shrine is attended by a priestess. Birth symbolism is highly developed in Tetum religion; the first ancestors emerged from the earth womb, and birth rituals are complex and lengthy.

Theosophy The Theosophical Society was founded in New York in 1875, and in the i88os spread to London and Madras. Theosophists taught that the human body is a temporal home for the eternal spirit and this spirit goes through evolutionary stages and reincarnates itself both in male and female guises. This evolutionary process involves the interaction of both matter and spirit, yin and yang, male and female.

Vodou The leaders of Haitian Vodou are mediums who lend their bodies and voices to a large and variegated pantheon of mostly African spirits. In rural areas of Haiti most leaders were male; in contemporary urban America most are female. The essence of Vodou is healing: healing between people and healing between the living and the spirits. Rituals involve drumming and possession trance.