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A woman waits expectantly outside the Circle. I take her hand and lead her into the sheltering ring of other women who walk this path together. As she takes her place alongside her sisters, I kiss her on the cheek and say, "Thou art Goddess." She smiles, and says it back to me. But does she believe it?
If she was raised in our modern appearance-obsessed world, she probably does not. When she goes home, she will stare into the mirror and begin to tell herself poisonous lies: "I'm so fat." "I'm so old." "I'm the ugliest thing on two legs." I wrote The Body Sacred for her, and for every other woman who longs to feel the inherent sanctity of her body—for you, for me, for all of us.
We live in a world in which feminine beauty is narrowly defined and strictly enforced through magazines, television, even radio. Advertising would have us believe that the only way to be beautiful is to have pencil-thin arms, knees that are larger than our thighs, and flawless, ageless, white skin. If we aren't born with this look, which ninety-five percent of us are not, we are told that we can have it if we have willpower—and, more importantly, money.
We are taught that our bodies are our enemy, something to be conquered and reshaped to society's whim. More money is spent annually on diet pills and fads than on food for the millions of people who will never have a chance to say "I'm such a fat cow" because they are starving to death in the streets.
In The Body Sacred, I call for a revolution of spirit. I call for women to stand up and reaffirm their Goddess-given beauty no matter how short, fat, old, or imperfect we think we are. Through ritual, exercises, and meditation, I hope to lead women of the Wiccan faith from a place of self-hatred to one of self-love, or at least to help point the way. Each of us is touched and blessed by the Divine no matter what we look like. Our task is to remember this, and to live it. For most of us, it is the hardest and most rewarding magic we will ever do.
It may seem odd to have written a book about body image specifically for Wiccan women, but it is my belief that an appreciation for our physical selves is integral to the religion we have chosen—if we believe that the Earth is holy, and that all who walk upon it are holy, we must extend that compassion to ourselves. If we are to heal the damage that the violence and greed of society have done to the planet, we must work also on the damage to our own souls forced upon us by unrealistic standards of beauty that arise from the false dichotomy of spirit and form.
Cartesian philosophy and Newtonian physics, as well as mainstream religion, tell us that the physical and the spiritual are separate; in Wicca we have a bones-deep understanding that this is not true. Quantum physics has shown how incomplete and misleading the mechanistic view of the universe is, and at last science is beginning to catch up to the ages-old wisdom, born out of many cultures, that the spirit and flesh are one—that everything is one, and everything is sacred in and of itself, not because it is a supermodel or a sitcom actress.
It is a struggle that I face every day, and no doubt one that you face as well. I wrote The Body Sacred because women will never truly win the fight for equality unless we first stop attacking ourselves. As Wiccans we have many gifts in our hands to help us on this quest; our view of the universe as a manifestation of the Goddess and God—and our ability to help shape the unfolding of that universe—is the greatest gift of all. I hope that, after reading this book, you can look into the mirror of your body and spirit and see the Goddess looking back.
Dianne Sylvan (Austin, TX) has been a practicing Wiccan since the age of sixteen. She is co-founder and President of Blessedways, a Wiccan educational and spiritual organization based out of Central Texas. Through ...