Language of the Goddess

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Audio File

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This panel discussion was part of the From the Realm of the Ancestors: Language of the Goddess conference sponsored by the Women’s Spirituality Program at CIIS (June 12-14, 1998 at Cowell Theatre, Fort Mason in San Francisco) in honor of the pioneering archeologist Marija Gimbutas. The conference focused on the necessity of refocusing our collective memory, and to the cultivation of vision, creativity, insight, and the celebration of life. The conference was moderated by Joan Marler and featured presentations by scholars and artists who acknowledge the significance of Dr. Gimbutas’ research and theories. Gimbutas’ discovery of Goddess-centered, matristic societies that preceded the development of patriarchy in Europe has initiated a new perception of European prehistory that challenges traditional assumptions about the origins of western civilization.


Moderator: Joan Marler


Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum, Ph.D., is a feminist cultural historian whose books and classes emphasize the African origins of all humans and African legacy on migration paths to all continents, from 70,000 BCE to the present, conveying values of caring and sharing, justice with compassion, equality, and transformation. These themes are underlined in her book, Dark mother:African origins and godmothers, whose Italian edition was entitled La Madre O-Scura by Mediterranea Media, 2005, and whose Cameroun, Guadalupe, Paris, international and French edition, 2007 was entitled, La Mere Noire. In 2008 she was given an award for her commitment and research by the Menaibuc international conference in Paris, Grande Protectrice des Nations Negres.

Cheryl Simmons is a nationally acclaimed visionary and authority on specific issues of treatment and health for women. She has created and taught many original treatment incentives for women whose lives are in peril, and whose destinies are threatened by the inherent danger of addiction and the subsequent circumstance of incarceration. Additionally, she has demonstrated commitment, consistency, and diligence in generating culturally appropriate clinical interventions specifically for the African American Community. As a facilitator of countless workshops, seminars, lectures, etc., she has shared valuable information with community-based service providers, the San Francisco Department of Social Services, the San Francisco Sheriff's Department, JFK University, the University of California, the California Bureau of State Parole, San Francisco Department of Public Health, and the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment in Rockville, MD. She has created programs for incarcerated women at San Francisco County Jail, Chowchilla State Prison, and the Federal Correction Institution in Dublin, California.

Arisika Razak, CNM, MPH (Health Care Administration, UC Berkeley 1978, Certified Nurse Midwife, UC San Francisco 1980), is a Professor of Philosophy and Religion and Women's Spirituality, and past Director of the Women's Spirituality MA and PhD program at the California Institute of Integral Studies. She is also Director of Diversity at CIIS. Arisika is an African-American healer, ritualist, spiritual dancer, and educator who practices an eclectic mix of Earth-based spiritual traditions. She has worked with indigent women as an inner-city nurse-midwife for more than 20 years, focusing on the lives and cultures of women of color, which has led to her research interest in feminist, womanist, mujerista, and postcolonial epistemologies and worldviews, and in women's health. Arisika is a diversity trainer and spiritual dancer who leads spiritual and healing workshops. She has performed nationally and internationally; she was the 2008 American Association of Religion-Western Region's conference chair and vice president, and she is the organization's 2009 president.