Workshop's goal is to connect to, revive women's inner goddess Leader says sessions embrace spirituality through art, meditation

July 08, 1996|By Erica C. Harrington | Erica C. Harrington,SUN STAFF

An article in Monday's Howard County edition of The Sun incorrectly referred to the status of Renaissance Books in Ellicott City. The store's manager says that it will change its name soon to Legends but will remain in the same location under the same management.

The Sun regrets the error.

Ellicott City resident Sherry Healy believes there's a goddess in all women.

To reveal that inner deity, Healy, 34, leads workshops called "Reviving the Goddess" that put women in touch with spirituality through art, meditation and discussions of cultures that revered female godheads.

Healy's goddess workshops are a part of a national trend that embraces forms of spiritual healing outside traditional religions. About 60 women from across the Baltimore-Washington area have participated in Healy's program.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

But as with many spiritual phenomena, the goddess workshops are meant to be experienced, not explained. Relying on religions and rituals of eras past, Healy wants to connect women with their spirituality and intuition.

While they are not meant to replace established faiths, the sessions allow women to get in touch with parts of their souls that might have been ignored in male-dominated paradigms and language, Healy said. Participants come from varied religious backgrounds.

"People carry around rules that don't work anymore," Healy said. "We're working to make a woman-affirming, life-affirming religion."

A workshop has eight sessions, and a new one begins four times a year, according to the seasons. The next workshop -- with the first session at the Meeting House in Columbia from 1: 30 p.m. to 6: 30 p.m. -- begins Aug. 18, when the harvest has come in and JTC Earth is moving away from the sun, Healy said. The workshop costs $55.

A typical session has about 12 participants and begins with an activity meant to bond them, such as passing a hug from person to person. Then Healy begins a discussion of patriarchal and dominant societies and their impact on women's lives. During the discussion, the participants talk about ancient religions that honored female as well as male deities.

"The first religion was goddess-oriented with Mother Earth, and we've gotten far away from that," she said. "We want to help people get in touch with the part of themselves that can live in harmony."

The move toward a more peaceful, creative self is a result of centuries of a "masculine, military way of life," said Dr. Gail Thomas, director of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Thomas uses Greek and Roman myths to teach corporate executives how to increase employee creativity.

"If only [the masculine] half of us can go to the office, that annihilates nurturing, creative resources," Thomas said. "We're looking for awareness of community and creativity, and we look to myths as a way to imagine the source of a creative reservoir."

But the trend toward spirituality and its feminine aspects is sometimes met with skepticism, even among adherents. Beverly, who didn't want her last name used, wasn't sure what to expect from the goddess workshops.

"I thought it would be women chanting or something," said the 39-year-old social worker from Catonsville. "But it's been inspirational -- it's a validation of my belief system."

The spiritual healing that Healy teaches can help with physical healing as well. Ellicott City resident Claire Meiklejohn said a combination of acupuncture and meditation at the goddess workshops helped bring her neurological disorder under control.

"I had the illness for three years, and I was so stressed out because doctors told me they couldn't do anything," Meiklejohn said. "Meditating helped my body's natural healing system to work better."

Healy began the workshops two years ago after garnering a following from classes she taught at the now-defunct Renaissance Bookstore in Ellicott City. She studied informally with clergy of different religions and did her own research for workshop material.

"There are no schools for women who are trying to put a feminine face on religion," Healy said.

Healy said she didn't intend to make the workshops a career, but that they grew from networking with women.

"We all have a calling, and we ignore it sometimes," she said. "I decided to pay attention."

For information about the goddess workshops, call Sherry Healy at (410) 750-7329.

Pub Date: 7/08/96

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