My son listened to Ariana Grande’s God Is a Woman for the first time. “God is a girl?” he asked me. Yes, certainly, god is a girl. His face quizzical, clearly this concept, one that has been self-evident to me since childhood, is entirely new to him. I don’t talk much about god, don’t practice any religion, answer my son’s questions on the subject in the simplest and most unbiased ways that I can. His access to knowledge on the topic comes through school and through relatives who hold very different beliefs from my own. And I have long held an approach that my child’s relationship to spirituality is his own, not one I can forge for him, nor one that must mirror mine.
As a kid my conception of the goddesses and the gods was that they all existed. I pictured it in my mind, the heavens above us were inhabited by every deity any human believed in; a peaceful coexistence. My son has garnered a different picture, “God is a boy,” he insists. And I think, I’ve been too laissez faire about this god thing, for my child to hold so singular a notion of what that deity could be. When we conceive of god as boy only, given what we know about the influence of representation on the psyche, how then do we suppose girls suffer the severance of themselves from the divine image? How is our sons’ conception of woman diminished by a refusal to see the divine in female form?
It’s in seeking redress to this issue that Trista Hendren began The Girl God publications. A mother of two herself, a feminist, and a woman with her own deep connection to spirit, she saw this lack of representation as a source of wounding to girls and sought a remedy to this through a series of children’s books collected in The Girl God Trilogy. The books are illustrated with original artworks by Elisabeth Slettnes and are accompanied by quotations from a wide variety of writers on the subjects of divinity and female personhood. The three stories are rooted in Trista Hendren’s relationships with her daughter and with her son, and her experience of parenting them as a single mother.
The Girl God tells the story of a mother helping her daughter to recognise female divinity. Personal and touching, the sorrows of the breakdown of a parental relationship are explored with sensitivity as are differences in religious practices. We learn of how the lack of representation of the female divine detrimentally impacts the development of the girl child’s sense of self, and how reconceiving the divine in female form, the Girl God that resides inside each of us, has a transformative power, one that brings deepening connection to ourselves and our foremothers.
“What will our children do in the morning/If they do not see us/Fly?” Rumi
Mother Earth again is a story about her daughter, Helani, learning what it means to honour Earth as mother and symbiotically respect the mother who raises us. Relatable passages reflect on coming to terms with having a mother who is different from the norm, segueing into an exploration of the reasoning behind choosing a different path, a path of reverence to our Mother Earth in a time when destruction of natural balance in our ecosystem is the dominant policy of the structures we live under. When our daughters are pulled into acting against their own best interests in order to fit in, to be deemed worthy, the story here presents another option, of integrity, authenticity, life in equilibrium with the Great Spirit that is Mother Nature.
“The end of consumerism and accumulation is the beginning of the joy of living.” Vandana Shiva
Tell Me Why focuses on the mother-son relationship, returns to the refrain of not taking our mother for granted and how this is linked to respect both for the Earth and for women. As mothers we do-for our children, it becomes second nature to many of us; achieving a balance between altruistically caring-giving yet teaching the child to be appreciative of the efforts others put forth for them is an ever-present challenge, perhaps even more so with the boy child, who all to often grows to be a man who relies with ingratitude on the women in his life to figuratively and literally pick up after him. Here Trista Hendren creates an allegory on the importance of reciprocity, co-operation, and compassion as values necessary for the wellbeing of men and boys.
When I reflect on the lessons I wish to impart to my son, these values are high among them. Recognition of women as embodying the sacred seems to me crucial to the recognition of the full-personhood of women. I want my son to know that how he treats people matters, and how we treat people starts with how we see them; to extend to others empathy, we must first understand their spirit to be as expansive as our own, and how can we see the expanse of that spirit in women and girls, if we don’t see those female spirits as fully connected to divinity as those of men and boys?
“If not for reverence, if not for wonder, if not for love, why have we come here?” Rumi
There was a time, real in our human pre-history, when god was a woman and woman was living goddess. May she return to us now.
The Girl God Trilogy, in a new hardback special edition, along with other books from the Girl God publishers, can be purchased here.
I am grateful to the authors of the the following books, whose work and thought on female divinity have over the years fortified me: When God Was A Woman by Merlin Stone, The Living Goddesses by Marija Gimbutas, and In The Beginning, She Was by Luce Irigaray.
Cara Belle Scott is a womanist, a single mother of one and a lifelong avid reader. She posts about books on Instagram, Goodreads, and Litsy @womanistbibliophile
Raising Mothers is a free online literary magazine for femmes and NBPOC parents of color. We center the work of the marginalized in our effort to normalize our stories and existence on the web, and in life.