I jumped at the chance to be able to review a wonderfully unique and magical book, Jailbreaking the Goddess: A Radical Revisioning of Feminist Spirituality. I was doubly honored to be able to share the author’s–Lasara Firefox Allen–thoughts and process of writing as well as let you, our readers, get to know such a beautiful person with such vitality and presence. Her heart is overflowing with information to ignite our interest and imagination beyond the usual words written around the subject matter of Goddesses and Magick.
More than a grimoire of spells, at the heart of this magick is taking the journey into self exploration and deconstructing our thoughts to encompass an opportunity to grow and “create new ways out of old ways.” Part journal, part therapy, Lasara takes our hand and guides us into a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us by stepping into the stories that are our expression of deity.
Danette Wilson: “Deconstructing our ideas and identities as well as dismantling the system that oppressed and dominated, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, class”…is such a tall order, but very important to get to who we really are. Can you expand on that for others who may not have read your book yet?
Lasara Firefox Allen: It is a tall order! But in my opinion, it is the Work. You know, the work we’re all here to do – should we choose the assignment. I think religion is often used to reinforce those systems, but spirituality – deep, heart-rewilding, mind-breaking, transformational spirituality – by necessity calls us to break those systems down.
Being decent humans for sure calls us to break those systems down.
Systems within systems, you know? It’s how we orient, how we organize. It is easy to think that because people tend toward hierarchies, for example, that hierarchies are “natural.” But we do a lot of things that are not natural – if there is such a thing as natural. For example, I don’t think default monogamy is “natural.” I think if it were, people would maybe be better at it? But we do it because the system we are all living in – and even cocreating – is set up to require it. You know, until we decide that we aren’t going to do it that way anymore and decide to do it differently.
Also, we don’t do a lot of things that are “natural,” because culture frowns on those things. Like, for instance, we have lots of prohibitions in this culture against collective living. There are actually laws in place in many towns that make it basically impossible to create truly collective households. Is it natural to live one family to a house? To be isolated away from multi-generational living? I don’t think so, but it is normative. So we do it, even thought multi-generational living is normal in much of the majority world.
When we make choices to go against the normative, we “uplevel” the difficulty setting for our lives. But the potential rewards are vast. So the question is, what do you want? Do you want liberation? And if you want liberation, do you want it for everyone? That’s what I’m in it for: collective liberation. And that is, at the core, much of what Jailbreaking the Goddess is focused on as the best possible outcome.
I truly believe that collective liberation is the only true liberation. Individual liberation falls far short of the mark. I think working for individual liberation is selfish, actually, and one of the main flaws in application of many spirituality traditions. It leads to a sense of spiritual isolationism that is very Ayn Rand in flavor.
Danette Wilson: What was your inspiration and original process with developing the awesome Fivefold Goddess Model as opposed to our long standing Maiden, Mother, Crone?
Lasara Firefox Allen: The fivefold model is inclusive, and flexible, and more true to what I have witnessed as the true reality of womanhood. The threefold model is, in my opinion, outmoded, and rooted deep in the patriarchy. We are, as I say in chapter two, more than our biology. So very very much more.
Also, this model takes us beyond the issue of trans inclusivity, because trans women are included in the fivefold model. All women are. Your biology does not define you. So why should biology define our concept of the feminal divine?
Danette Wilson: I absolutely resonated with and devoured your whole methodology for Creating Your Magickal Wheel integrating the Wheel Of The Year and our own relationship with the Elements and the Fivefold Faces you outline so wonderfully. What was it’s inspiration?
Lasara Firefox Allen: I am a believer in praxis. Hands in the dirt, pen on the page, incantations on our lips. Concepts are mind-changing, but application is life-changing. Creating your own wheel gives you a chance to truly invest in your own spiritual process in way that many never have.
Working from the wheel is great because many contemporary Pagans and Witches have at least some familiarity with with Year Wheel, so there is a starting point to build from. But the awareness that nothing needs to be set in stone is new for many, and so liberating.
Danette Wilson: I adore the freedom of your powerful “when a woman’s worth is not defined by her uterus”. Who are some of your favorite Goddesses? Gods?
Lasara Firefox Allen: Some of goddesses I have had the most long-term, deep relationships with are Persephone – who lives in such a liminal space, and is so complex, Tara. She is complex and in the heart of my bodhisattva vow she is there as a teacher. I also rely in this way on the spirit of Yeshe Tsogyal, who I experience as a deity. I have an ongoing, lifelong commitment to Babalon. None of these deities were phsically mothers, interestingly. I never until this moment really took note of that. So in a sense I really feel that my goddesses are working through me in this redefinition of contemporary feminist spirituality.
I love Dionysus. He was the first god who came to me in a dream. He told me his stories. I wasn’t even a teen yet. I went and read his stories and the ones he told me were true. I have a soft spot for Hades, because I am in some sense, as a dedicant of Persephone, in his service. It just happens that way.
I love Jesus. And a love for Allah is a jewel I carry in my heart. Allah transcends gender. I have learned so much in my love of Them – or as I call it, “capital I It”.
I honor the archangels too. And many animal and place spirits. And time spirits. Kairotic elements.
There are others whom I have relationships with as well, but I do not feel that they are mine to claim. We are working our stuff out, so to speak.
Danette Wilson: Your quotes ‘language is a virus” and “there is a power in words” are important. How can we be more aware of our language?
Lasara Firefox Allen: Language is a Virus was a song by Laurie Anderson that was popular in the mid-80s. I love Laurie Anderson, and found inspiration in her when I was a kid. She was so suave and hot, and smart. I liked women in suits. And, especially smart ones! Not much has changed there. I love that she and Lou Reed were partners, too. He was another one of my early gender-fuckery icons.
Language as a virus was also a concept in a novel by Burroughs.
My thought behind language-as-virus is that language can infect us with ideas. If we don’t have words for a concept it’s hard to shape the conversation around it. As women, our languages have been devalued. The languages of poor folks have been devalued. The languages of People of Color are ongoingly devalued. I taught English language skills in a school for at-risk youth in Mendocino county for a number of years. The experience was instructive. The administration had a policy not to allow slang in the classroom, and not the allow kids to talk about illegal or conceivably “gang-related” activities in their writing. What the administration didn’t get, but that I could see by being in the classroom, was that all of these rules were leaving the kids totally incapable of engaging with language. Liberalism, while well-meaning, strips people of agency ongoingly.
Language shapes culture, and thankfully, culture shapes language too, so there’s still hope. New words are being created and introduced everyday, and old words are being redeemed, remembered, re-contextualized.
Language snobbery is a death gasp of a dying culture. Or I hope that, at least. So if we are going to infect others with our ideas, why not spread beneficial viruses instead of harmful ones?
As to how, it’s the same as with anything. Stay present. Aware. Awake. Conscious. When you have a reaction to what someone else is saying, examine the reaction. Remember that often your greatest breakthroughs are on the other side of great discomfort. Learn. Absorb. Adapt. Realize that the sum is going to be greater than the parts.
Together we are capable of moving toward greater liberation.
Danette Wilson: You have said “In the course of spiritual studies leading up to and since my ordination, I have been blessed to find teachers and guides from many cultures, and treasure greatly the opportunities I have had to again and again drop my attachments to religion, politics, and even my personal identity, in order to invest myself more deeply in the pursuit of my spiritual truth.” Who was one of your most inspiring teachers?
Lasara Firefox Allen: Oh my gosh. Sheik Abdel Aziz Al-Bukhari comes to mind immediately. He has passed on, and I only knew him for a short time before his death. But he showed me a devotion to god that was amazing. He said, “When I wake up my heart is saying, ‘Allah, Allah, Allah…” While I talk with my wife over breakfast, my heartbeat is “Allah, Allah, Allah…” When I drive my kids to school, my heart says, “Allah, Allah, Allah.” When I shop, and eat, and walk, “Allah, Allah, Allah.” When I fall asleep at night, “Allah, Allah, Allah.” I was in Jerusalem, and ended up in Sheik Bukhari’s living room. I was transfixed. As he spoke about this, he drummed his palm on his chest. Allah lived so strongly in his heart.
He knew at the time that I was there that he was ill. He said, “It’s alright. When God comes for me, my bags are already packed!” He was a joyful, beautiful, holy person. I absolutely loved him with my whole heart, and learned so much just by sitting near him.
I want to say too, that I learned so much from people along the way whose names I never even learned. Just by watching how they lived their devotions. The Holy Land was major for me in this way.
But there are many others too. I think Islam stands out for me distinctly because it broke me down in a way, and allowed me to rebuild myself. Nothing that I thought of as me before my experience in the middle east was as core to the true me as I thought it was. I am a better feminist, and a better person, for my time in Palestine. I feel like every person there was my spiritual teacher.
Come to think of it, I wish that I could maintain more of that sense all the time. I do actually believe that every person is my spiritual teacher.
Danette Wilson: I loved reading your praxis “how to activate and create a magical life filled with beauty and limitless vision through ritual and new ways of thinking”. How can we change others’ rigidity once we’ve worked through your process?
Lasara Firefox Allen: Yes, those are Rosa DeAnda’s beautiful words from the foreword of Jailbreaking the Goddess. I feel like the best way to influence the rigidity of others is to meet it with consciousness. Sometimes we need to meet rigidity with force, sometimes we need to meet it with fluidity. Staying in our interactions is key, and at the same time we need to stay present in our values and beliefs while being engaged, present, and responsive.
How we meet racism might be radically different from how we meet ageism. And, how we respond to rigidity in any area of thought will be different if it’s coming up in interaction with a colleague, a family member, a lover, or a stranger.
It is important to do what we can to shift things, but we also have to protect our hearts, minds, and bodies. Only do what you can, and don’t put yourself in situations of undue risk. Unless you must! In which case do, but call in back up. I do try to stay aware of intersectionality in confronting any of the isms. If I am less at risk than someone else, I will take the risk instead of making them step into it, if that makes sense? Like, my younger kid is trans and non-binary. In a case where they (singular they) are being misgendered, I will speak up so they don’t have to. Of course, it is also important to make sure that the person who is more marginalized will welcome your intervention. The last thing I want to do is pull some “white savior” bullshit. So I always make an attempt to gauge consent before I step into something the is not primarily my battle.
At the same time, while I don’t want to center myself in struggles that are primarily someone else’s, all struggles for justice are my struggles – and all of ours. As my friend Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdottir says, “Don’t do it because you’re an ally. Do it because you’re a decent person.” So while I am a white person, racism is my struggle because I try to be a decent person.
Danette Wilson: Lasara between being Teacher, Author, Priest, Activist, how do you find the time to do it all?
Lasara Firefox Allen: Ha! And that’s just my WORK! I also have a partner, kids, a cat, a large extended family, and other loves and close friends I am committed to sharing time with. To be honest it has been a kind of challenging time lately with so much focus on the launch, but I have amazing support. My husband, Robert, makes sure I eat, and go for walks, and put down the computer from time to time to just hang out. My younger kid, Sol, who is 16, invites me to watch Steven Universe or another series. We generally have a family night once a week where share dinner and a movie or TV show. I go on little trips with my older kid, Aurora, who no longer lives at home. I try to make dates with other loved ones too, but honestly some of my loved I only see once or twice a year!
I feel like a gift of getting older is the realization that it doesn’t all have to happen right now!
Balance is key. Robert and I have a rule: never too busy for a kiss. Priorities are important, and taking care of our bodies and lives and loves needs to be as important as our Work in the World in order to make it all sustainable. Eating, drinking water, kissing, sleeping, taking a walk, stretching: when my commitment to these things slides I know it’s time to re-calibrate.
Also my husband is the more domestically-oriented of the two of us. He takes good care of me, the house, the family space. I couldn’t do all I do without the support I receive.
On that front, I am also getting much better at delegating work stuff, and have an amazing team working with me. It makes it possible to get so much more done with grace.