Radical Revisioning: A Q&A with Author and Pagan Priestess Lasara Firefox Allen

It feels like a tragic understatement to claim that the world is going through a very difficult time at present. Hurt upon hurt is inflicted on the earth, and on the bodies of the already vulnerable, and political leaders offer prayers but scant action. Religious communities can offer spaces for grief and comfort, but all too often, they don’t venture beyond what feels safe. Sometimes, what’s needed is something far more drastic, and Jailbreaking the Goddess: A Radical Revisioning of Feminist Spirituality may just be the tool that takes us there.

The book deconstructs the maiden/mother/crone tradition and offers in its place a fivefold model that advances a woman's agency regardless of her biology, illuminating the concept with examples ranging from Sojourner Truth to the Notorious RBG.  Author Lasara Firefox Allen is an ordained Pagan priestess and teacher and previously wrote Sexy Witch, a witchy guide to self-empowerment and sexuality. We chatted via email about faith, works, feminism, and how to bake a cake with a file inside for the deity of your choice.

HEATHER SEGGEL: Let me start right in the middle of the book, with the idea of thinking of g/God as a coconspirator or a nonhierarchical deity. This seems so radical as to be head-spinning, yet you talk about things like sitting down to chat with your god, a practice that's common among evangelical Christians! What do you see as the potential benefits of getting worship out of the clouds and into our homes and neighborhoods?
 

LASARA FIREFOX ALLEN: Well, I'm an anarchist at heart. I tend to believe that a great many of my gods may have inclinations in that direction as well. I want to enter into relationships of love and devotion from the stance of conspiring together for our greater liberation. I don't see why I would want to enter into a relationship with a god or goddess any differently.

That said, some gods really prefer a hierarchical interaction. I may give honor to those gods, but I am less likely to enter into, say, a contractual obligation with them.

One of the things to remember in this is that most of the gods love us, and they need us too. We are their hands and feet and hearts and bodies in the world. We are in a very solid way the only interface the gods have with humanity. We can serve them by doing their works in the world. And when you do, I have found that the gods will bring us gifts. Whether those gifts are just a sense of insight, or alignment, or of the calm and satisfaction of "doing good," or are more material gifts like wealth or opportunity, the gods do tend to reward those who love them well.

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Talk a little about the fivefold goddess model: Where did it come from, what inspired you as you were solidifying it?

The fivefold model comes forth as a response to lack. Many women don't feel represented in the more well-known, threefold maiden/mother/crone model. Many of us feel left out, or even pushed outside the circle, when it comes down to the threefold model. For some that is because they don't have a uterus, for some it's because they have chosen not to use theirs to birth progeny. But even for those of us who do choose to breed, the threefold model is limiting. Very few of us are oriented toward this strictly linear progression represented by the maiden/mother/crone cycle.

In Jailbreaking the Goddess, I offer a lot of opportunities to deconstruct the model and make room for the more flexible fivefold. At the core, though, the most radical part of that process is the central thesis: When we are defined by our biology, we are defined by our productivity. When we are defined by productivity, we are a utility. When we are a utility, we are stripped of agency.

We are more than our biology. We are more than our possible production of heirs.

To align our concept of the divine with our uterine capacity is pretty much the opposite of what I think most of us are doing with our lives.

What do you mean by "jailbreaking the goddess"? What is she shackled by?

The goddess is limited by our concept of her. We are liberating her from our own limitations. By breaking her free, we are breaking ourselves—and all women—free. And by freeing ourselves, we will liberate our concepts of the divine.

The book is timely in ways that are painful to recount right now: White supremacy, policies that favor cishet people and endanger everyone else, and police violence against Black people are causing harm virtually everywhere, but these are matters often left unaddressed by the Pagan community. When they come up, it's in ways that support those in power (I base this solely on hearing complaints to this effect, as I’m not a community member). Can you talk about your decision to push back decisively against this trend? How has it been received in your spiritual community?

I believe there is a strong desire to create equality in most of the Pagan and goddess worshipping communities. However, our blind spots get the best of us. The tools I am offering in Jailbreaking the Goddess are about liberation. I truly believe we're all in this together—this being the human experience. And I truly think liberation will come only when we all realize that.

I also think ideologies of helpfulness are often misguided. So a lot of what I offer forth is about self-examination. But also it's about where the rubber hits the road. Too often we can get lost in the process of self-examination and not ground it in actual application. So in Jailbreaking, I offer ample opportunities also to put your values into action. Like, you want equality for girls and women? What are you doing to actually make that happen? Are you putting time and energy into it? Because prayers are just really not enough. Prayers are lovely. They totally do not absolve you from further work in the world though.

I think the largest "sin" in the alternative spiritual communities I have been part of—not just Paganism, but all of them—is this disconnect. We need to be active in creating change, to whatever extent we are capable of. American individualism has fused with religion and even spiritual practice in many cases, creating this really self-involved, libertarian-style, aggressive self-interest form of spiritual pursuit. You see it in Christianity too.

I think it's dangerous.

As women we are socialized toward the collective. So why not really make the most of that? Jailbreaking is very much a tool to take that and use the impulse for the betterment of all.

How important is intersectional feminism to spiritual matters? I appreciate how they're intertwined in your approach but can see an argument for their separation, almost along church/state lines.

I don't think there should be any separation at all, honestly. I believe that our spiritual observations, ideologies, and beliefs should align with our political ideas and commitment. Must align, even, as far as gracefulness goes. Why would we want to be working against our own political beliefs in our spiritual pursuits?

But, many are. So I invite us all to examine that. And to heal it, so we are working toward the world we believe in with all the tools we have access to.

How should spirit be enacted in the world?

I believe spirit should be enacted consciously, with heart and mind alignment. What if everything you believed lined up? What if your ideas of the divine and your ideas of the mundane were integrated?

It's a powerful question to ponder.

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by Heather Seggel
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Heather Seggel is a full-time writer and newly minted part-time law library assistant who lacks the appropriate wardrobe for either job. Her work appears in print and online. She's a longtime Bitch contributor. 

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