Editor's note: Normally, this group would capitalize any references to goddess out of respect, but because of AP style rules on this news site, that is not possible.
“If you had to pick a city, anywhere in the world, as the city of the goddess, which one would it be?”
That’s what Mary Alice Merrix asked about a dozen participants in our Full Moon Women’s Circle on April 3, 2012.
Evocative names flew by: “Athens? Cairo? Venice?” This French woman declared: “Paris!”
But none of us were right.
The answer was much closer to home, hidden in plain sight. Mary Alice held up Alan Butler’s book “City of the Goddess: Freemasons, the Sacred Feminine, and the Secret beneath the Seat of Power in Washington, DC.”
It sounded like the latest Dan Brown mystery. Yet, it was fact.
Of course, I knew that France had her own patron goddess, Marianne, liberty personified as a woman leading the people to “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” England’s patron goddess is Britannia, and New York City is associated with the Statue of Liberty.
But how could Washington, DC, the U.S. symbol of male patriarchy par excellence, be the 'City of the Goddess'? According to Butler, “Columbia” was chosen as the patron goddess for the Latin word “columba,” meaning dove.
The dove is associated with the goddess of Minoan Crete, often referred to as “The Dove Goddess.” She is one of the personifications of the Greek goddess Aphrodite (Roman Venus), the Greek Demeter and the Egyptian Isis.
The District of Columbia is located half in Maryland, half in Virginia. Butler recognizes the names honored British royalty, but he argues they refer back to ancient goddess worship, the constellation Virgo and the planet Venus.
My copy of the old book “The Year of the Goddess” by Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, designates May 14 as the day for the Panegyric of Isis, when people gathered in her temples to praise her. Like the Catholic Mary, Isis is Queen of the Heavens, often represented with a crescent moon, a starry cloak and a dove.
I was so intrigued that I interviewed Mary Alice Merrix to unveil the mystery.
CM: Mary Alice, what inspired you to create a ritual centered around this book?
MAM: “I was curious about how the author came to see Washington, DC, a very male city, as the ‘City of the Goddess.’ It was a new concept for me.”
CM: What did you resonate with in particular?
MAM: “The many statues that represent the goddess in Washington, especially the statue on top of the Capitol. Its proposed name was not ‘Freedom’ but ‘Liberty,’ which related back to the goddess references.”
CM: In his book, Butler writes: ‘Freedom is a concept, whereas Liberty actually was the name of a goddess, whose Latinized name was Libertas.
MAM: “Not surprisingly, the patriarchy found a way to change that. It tends to cover up that whole goddess worship thing. They changed her name, but still, the reference is there. Nobody talks about the original meaning. It took this author to uncover it and talk about it so that the rest of us can have access to it.”
CM: Is that what gave you the idea for the discussion in our Circle?
MAM: “I thought it would be interesting to discuss how your views have been radically changed by an event, a book, a person who introduced a new idea, a different way of looking at things. Growing up, you start with what your parents tell you, your teachers, your ministers. At some point, you have to find out what you really believe.”
CM: Was it such an epiphany that led you to our Circle?
MAM: “Our Circle spoke to me like another book spoke to me 25 years ago: ‘When God was a Woman’ by Merlin Stone. I thought about my own truth, different from an outside authority. It was empowering to know the feminine was, at one time, for thousands of years, considered divine. As a woman, it felt right. I looked for like-minded people, which meant mostly women. I found this group. It’s kind of my church, that circle, how it feels for me.”
Thanks to our Circle and Mary Alice, my view of Washington is forever changed.