Laurie Sue BrockwayLaurie Sue Brockway is an interfaith minister who teaches and writes about women's spirituality and the feminine faces of God. Returning to school at age 40, she entered The New Seminary to study the religions and spiritual cultures of the world. Her latest book is "A Goddess Is a Girl's Best Friend: A Divine Guide to Finding Love, Success and Happiness."

How did you become interested in goddesses?

When I was in seminary I was awed by the number of divine females I discovered in all the world traditions. I found that there were certain religions, like Hinduism, Buddhism and some of the African traditions, that actually included the worship of goddesses.

But I felt that the presentation in seminary was lacking. I'd be sitting there in the Hinduism class waiting, waiting, waiting, and think to myself, what about the goddesses? And the goddesses were presented as after-thoughts, "Well this is Vishnu, and here's Lakshmi, she's the wife of Vishnu."

However, Lakshmi is a really happening goddess! She is the Goddess of Fortune. Go to any Hindu temple on Friday night and they are doing puja, worship services, to Lakshmi, and here she was reduced to "the wife of Vishnu." I mean, I love Vishnu -- he's great, she chose him -- but I was hungry to know more about these divine females.

I had finally come to a point in my life where I was relating to divinity on a very personal level because I had seen God in feminine form that looked like me. Lakshmi looks like everyone in my family -- we all have dark hair, she just has more arms!

I'd grown up thinking that only some people can commune with God. As a minister, it troubles me that some religions teach people that they have to have a go-between between them and God. I realized that in the goddess traditions there is a direct pipeline with the goddess; there's no intermediary needed. The goddess traditions give us more direct access, almost like your own mother. Not everybody's mother is like that but the whole concept of mother -- being there, a shoulder to cry on, guidance. This was a profound revelation to me.

How do you see the goddesses? Do they represent archetypes, or actual beings, deities?

I personally think of them as divine beings and energies, but I wouldn't want anyone else to feel they have to adapt to my point of view. Not all religions would agree, but I think it helps to personify the divine. For some people, though, it is more appropriate to view them as archetypes, or messengers.

I just want people to know that the concept of the goddess is not a made-up thing, that goddesses have been worshipped for eons, from the very start of creation. I believe that the Goddess was intentionally dropped out of many holy books and teachings; over time, honoring of women was also dropped out. That's why women sometimes feel disenfranchised from their own faith; or disconnected from their own divinity.

So your book is not promoting goddess-worship, necessarily -- it's about helping women relate to the divine?

It's about enhancing your self-esteem and your spirituality, by seeing yourself as a living link to the divine; that's really what it's about. We've been raised in a culture that's given us millions of images of the male divine, and ideas of the male divine, and the language of the male divine, without giving us a language and a vocabulary for a feminine divine. So on the deepest cellular level of our beings, women feel like they're not included in divinity.

Women have a tendency to `worship' men, and yet, sadly, we don't always see our own worth. I spent my entire growing up, until I was about 40, putting men onto pedestals. I could always see their divinity but I couldn't see my own. I've interviewed thousands of women about their relationships, their self-image, and how they feel about men, and what happens in their relationships, why they have this or don't have that. And the one theme that came up over and over again was that women suffered from a lack of self-esteem. That got in the way of everything, was a roadblock to all happiness and love and success that they hoped for. They could see the man as more powerful and divine and give over their power in the relationship, but they couldn't give the power to themselves.

Should women "convert" to more female-friendly traditions, or can an understanding of the goddesses compliment any religious practice?

I would never suggest anyone convert but I absolutely encourage people to explore the history of the Goddess; and, if they're moved, to find and celebrate the feminine in the religion of their birth or other traditions. The mother brings us life, so I believe the goddesses bring a deeper connection to all of life. The divine feminine can complement any spiritual practice because she brings balance.

A lot of people yearn to know more, yet grapple with the idea of goddess because they've been taught there is no goddess -- there's only God. They have a lot of guilt about it. Some women turn to the goddess religions, like to Wicca or some form of neo-paganism, but many women do not want to abandon the tradition they were raised in. They want to connect to the divine energy without feeling they have to `worship' the goddess. Certainly they do not have to give up the God that they were taught about as a child. I believe you can [have] both. I think my book just shows that there are a lot of different interpretations of the goddess, and a lot of different ways she's been worshipped throughout history. And it gives us an image and a sense of divine power that we can relate to.

It's just a little book that I hope will give women a lot of insight and information on how they can be stronger and more peaceful, how they can have more love and better relationships, how they can be more successful and make their dreams come true. And how they can be happier accepting themselves for who they are, really getting to the core of their being, their inner soul, their inner goddess.

Did you get a sense that one or more of the goddesses helped you write this book?

Lakshmi is my homegirl. I truly feel Lakshmi called to me and invited me to explore this path. And it was she who moved me to write the book, and share what I had learned with other women. I do see her as a living and breathing goddess and I am blessed to have such a full experience with her. For example, at the Hindu temple today I felt that I was fully and completely with her, and it was so great. I was very happy to feel that energy all around me and feel a connection to God, Goddess, to all that is.

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