Fellowship of Isis History Archive - New Orleans
Celebrating the Goddess
Embracing the Divine Feminine of 10,000 Names
October 5 - 6, 1996
University of New Orleans
Reports: Isian News No. 82, Samhain, 1996
Celebrating the Goddess, New Orleans. Caroline Wise writes: “”This event was organized by Cathryn Rogers at the request of Olivia, held in the beautiful and exciting city of New Orleans, with its unique cultural and racial mix, called ‘a part of the Caribbean anchored in the United States’, we enjoyed tropical weather. Around 200 attended a the University. It was sponsored by Alternatives, and The Covenant of the Pentacle Wiccan Church. Co-sponsor Selena Fox was unable to attend, but we send her best wishes. We started by calling in the four directions, the Yellow people, the Brown people, the Red people and the White people, and chanted. The altar was graced with Judith Page’s famous pictures of Isis and Osiris.
Maury Hereford-White directed Olivia’s play ‘Isis of Ten Thousand Names’ in which the Earth and Moon were put on trial and face the judgment of Osiris, with the circle of the Zodiac and the planets in attendance. A deosil dance was led by the planets and a widdershins one from the Zodiac, forming a circle of eight, symbol of infinity.
Olivia Robertson spoke of the need for the Goddess today, how our obsession with time gave rise to the idea that women were no good after their menopause, that men were “on the scrap heap” at 45. She said that psychic awareness with nature freed you from this way of thinking. She created a sacred space as the Cave of the Earth Mother and said we could return to this space any time just by holding an oak leaf, for example. She took us on to the next phase, from the cave to the beautiful temple, where we rise above the animal and dream of being initiated into the mystery religions and magical orders and learn to control our passions and learn compassion. Here we opened the heart chakra, the Sun centre. By visualizing this Hall of Learning, we can enter it and ask for what we need, but if we find ourselves becoming spiritually arrogant, we can blend with our “self” in the cave, with the stone circles, kivas , plants and animals. In the third sphere, we leave both temples and look to the stars, and see the Temple of the Zodiac, see our sign, and enter it. That way, all time is around you - past, present and future are one. We linked the silvery light from the stars with the earth power from below, and sent out healing to any cause we wanted to help.
There were presentations by, among others: Sallie Anne Glassman, a Voodoo Mambo, initiated in Haiti, a Santeria priestess and priestess of the Kali Lodge OTO. Sallie Anne spoke beautifully of the African Goddess Erzulie, Loa of love and beauty. Sally finished her talk with a ceremony to Erzulie, where we were washed (anointed) with a mixture of Champagne (Erzulie likes luxury!), cake, banana, coconut and pineapple. This was a fabulous rite - after being washed with the pleasant mixture, many started dancing to the drums, and there was one partial possession and one full possession - this with Debe Nix. As Debe danced, Sallie Anne placed the white lace shawl on her, which is worn by those being ridden by Erzulie. At the end, an oracle was given through Debe, and Erzulie announced that before the end of the year, 3 women present would be pregnant.
In the true spirit of the Fellowship, this was multi-cultural, multi-racial event, and we were enchanted by Ingmar Mounce, Pema Seldron of Dhongak Tharling Dharma centre in New Orleans. She spoke of the Dakini Tradition of Tibet, with chants and chimes.
Luisah Teish, Priestess of Oshun in the Yoruba Lucumi and author, offered a captivating retelling of African tales of the gods, making them relevant to today and awakening the feminine and the Goddess hiding within these tales. We heard of Elegba and Yemaya, and Dhomy stories preserved in Haiti and Cuba. Luisah told us “Oshun holds a mirror. It is not about vanity, but self-realisation. Oshun River in Nigeria is one of the most peaceful places in the country, yet under it is a volcano. Oshun helps us understand the power of the Erotic in nature. A Belly Dance performance by Audre Elizabeth Emmett and fellow priestesses in their fabulous jewel-colored scanty costumes was spectacular, dancing in the four directions and reminding us of the sacred origins of this dance form.
Stacey Simmons of the Covenant of the Pentacle Wiccan Church said it was important that we had come, that many people had had dreams and visions about coming to a Goddess conference in New Orleans. She (like me) saw New Orleans as the city of the Goddess, and Her work is certainly being done here.
As we flew over the swamps on our arrival, I saw a huge figure of Isis rise up from them. I was mystified, but Cathryn Rogers explained that they are familiar with, and work with Isis of the Delta - she walks the local swamps as she walks the Nile Delta; that New Orleans was on the same 33 degrees latitude as the Giza Plateau, and also Tibet, and that due to the bend in the Mississippi, the city was crescent shaped.
After the event, Olivia, Debe Nix and her snake Sol, Heru, Matthew Boulding and myself made a pilgrimage to the tomb of the Voodoun Queen Marie Leaveau. Voodoun, much maligned and misunderstood, was brought to New Orleans by the African slaves. It is a religion in which women hold the power, and that sees the sacred in trees, springs and animals. Marie Leaveau did much to help the local people, and her initiative during various epidemics saved thousands of lives. Her tomb is a spiritual focus for hope for the local people who bring offerings and petitions everyday - so an unbroken line of pagan religion is alive at this spot. My memories of the conference are of beautiful priestesses with snakes, dancers flashing fabulous colours, and a glorious celebration of the goddess. Cathryn is to be congratulated for giving us such a great event. We hope more members can attend next year.”
From the same issue of Isian News, Ruth E. Nazar of Diana’s Sanctuary writes:
“I was fortunate to be able to attend the 1st Fellowship of Isis Convention in New Orleans. I did not know what to expect, but it surpassed my concepts by miles. The people who came together in the spirit of community to organise this event had such a love for the Divine Mother that her essence permeated every second. It started with the Fellowship ceremony ‘Isis of Ten Thousand Names.’ All of us in the ritual had not rehearsed, or worked together as a group, but as every true ritual does, it took on a life of its own. When the time came for the dancing of the planets, I was on the end of the line, and I was going so fast I didn’t know if I would be able to make the curve. As I was whipped around, I began to giggle and each curve produced more laughter, until finally everyone around me was laughing. Then Olivia Robertson came on as the Oracle of Isis, speaking for the Earth, everyone was moved to tears because she was so right. She spoke of cruelty, drug abuse, wars and strife and bought promise of salvation thorough aligning with the Mother in the form of Isis. I was playing the part of Aquarius and when it was time for my last lines I could barely speak because my heart had flown open with the words of Isis and my emotions were so high. I could see everyone around me was also moved greatly. This ceremony was one of the best ceremonial experiences I’ve had, simply because it is my deepest desire for the Earth to become the highest planet possible. It was an awesome way to begin the convention.
Later we had drumming from a professional group, Sisterbeat. We all danced, including Olivia, to a driving beat that spoke to our hearts. My favorite story from Luisah Teish was about how Oshun learned divining. (Anyone interested contact me for my version of this amusing story.) My favorite thing on the second day was the ordination of the priestess from Seattle. Debe Nix sang, and I could see her receiving healing. After she was shining with the light of the Mother. The convention’s last ceremony was Wiccan: “The Promise of the Maiden.” Each person was given the opportunity to say what was their wish for the future, and I am happy to say that when the Maiden took my hands in hers and said “I am the Mother of Ten Thousand Names”, I could see it in her eyes. The love poured through these women into the entire auditorium. It was such an uplifting event and I will be sure to attend next years. To anyone who wasn’t there, I am sure you can access this energy by attuning to the promise of the Maiden - that your heart’s desire be fulfilled. Blessed Be.”
Also from Issue 82, Samhain Isian News, this report of the ordination:
Joanna Powell Colbert, Lyceum of Stella Maris, Star of the Sea, USA. Joanne has trained in the mysteries of the goddess for 15 years and is a published poet. She was ordained during the Celebration in New Orleans. The officiating priesthood included Elaine Kolp, Brigid’s Well Iseum, Roberta Shoemaker-Beal, Fertile Crescent Lyceum, Cayne Marchetti and Cheri Weissman, Isis of the Dawning Star Lyceum, Debe Nix and Heru - Isis of Philae Lyceum. Olivia ordained Joanna, who was graced with a beautiful crown made of sea-shells. Lady Johnice of the Temple of Artemis, Lady of the Beasts offered a song about Joan of Arc, linking the maid of Orleans with New Orleans, which has a bronze statue of her. Debe Nix offered a song and Caroline Wise, a Mystic Journey, boarding the ship of Stella Maris on the Mississippi in the Crescent City of New Orleans, and sailing round the world to the source of the Thames (The Isis) in England, linking us all by the waters of the Isis. The atmosphere at the point of ordination could be described as electrifying. Matthew Goulding of Isis of Time and Space, London reports: “It was powerful and moving, you could feel the power passing to Joanne as she was ordained. A ripple went through the company, and everyone was moved.” Joanna asked Caroline to read a translation from an early prayer to Stella Maris:
Mysterious clouds part in the Heaven
And from your brow shines the ancient stars.
Queen, you embody the Goddess of the Waters.
With your smile you calm the storms.
At your kind word tranquility returns, the breeze of which brings us peace.
Goddess of the Sea, of the Living Waters,
Your Cheek kissed by the beautiful Moon,
Your Brow decorated with the majesty of the stars.
The waves are swelling,
The foam is obscuring the beautiful roses,
The scent of hope with which we proclaim you
Goddess of the Sea.