This issue of GA! is dominated by the death this year of two of the founding mothers of the Goddess movement, Asphodel Long and Monica Sjöö.
Asphodel (formerly Pauline) Long died peacefully at 6am (GMT) on Tuesday February 1st, the day of Imbolc itself. She was aged 84 and had had an amazing life and career. She was a founder member of the European Society of Women in Theological Research, the London Matriarchy Study Group (1975) and the Matriarchy Research and Reclaim Network (1980) which ran for many years until the mid-1990s. I first met Asphodel through MRRN when I started editing some of the Newsletters in the early 1990s, and she provided an inspiring role model for anyone who was interested in Goddess and reclaiming women’s spirituality.
In 1966 she was the first Sophia Fellow at the University College of St. Mark and St. John in Plymouth and in 1983 she received a degree in Theology at London University at the age of 62. Her course on ‘Female aspects of deity’ was offered by the Centre for Continuing Education at the University of Sussex in an unbroken cycle from 1987 to 1994, and from 1993 to 1996 she was a tutor in the Feminist Theology outreach programme of the University of Wales in Lampeter. She is author of many articles and the classic book In a Chariot Drawn by Lions: the search for the Female in Deity (1992), and is also well-known for her exquisite Goddess-inspired poems (one of which, Chant for Women Travellers, was reproduced in GA4).
Asphodel has inspired and influenced many many women and men over the years, as witnessed by the tributes to her on her website, and the words spoken at her funeral in February. Some of these are included in the tribute that follows.
After a long struggle with illness Monica passed into the spirit world at 6.20pm (BST) on Monday August 8th. I heard the sad news about an hour later, and shortly afterwards the first visible sign of the Lammas new moon appeared over the western horizon framed by my window – I felt she was now in the arms of the Goddess. She had been ill for some time, firstly with breast cancer, then bone cancer two years ago. Earlier in 2005 a massive brain tumour was diagnosed, and it was then clearly going to be just a matter of time. The timing of her going – at Lammas – seemed to be significant. Both her sons had died around this time, late July and August, and at last she was going to be with them.
Monica had such a profound influence on so many women and men, both inside and outside the Goddess movement, that it is difficult to know where to begin with the tributes to her. Her first book, co-written by Barbara Mor, The Great Cosmic Mother, burst on the world like a huge breath of fresh air in 1987, and continues to be influential to this day. I first met her in 1990, and we have been close friends ever since.
I was honoured to publish her book on The Norse Goddess in 2000, and have the MS for another one on Tanit, the African Goddess, which I plan to publish in the future. I last met her in June this year, and although feeling weak, she was still excited about the book and writing new amendments to it! Before I left, she gave me a short piece she had written, which reads like a preparation for her journey to the spirit world – with her permission given at the time, it is reproduced in the tribute to her. Monica was simply irreplaceable and will leave a huge gap in the Goddess world.