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The Divine Feminine

Remona Aly explores the history of feminine spiritual power, taking her own inspirational relationship with the notion of the divine feminine as the starting point.

Remona Aly considers the multi-faceted power contained in the idea of the divine feminine.

From the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk to the Kaaba in Mecca, Remona journeys through some of the religious and spiritual traditions which have venerated the feminine and she reveals the obscured influence of women in major religions.

Remona explains how her first encounter with the Quranic Maryam (the Christian Mary) - and how Maryam's status as a prophet of Islam - offered her a revelatory new perspective on her own religion and a radical new way of looking at religious traditions across cultures and throughout history.

Taking in the Native American creation story of Grandmother Spider, the mystical Jewish concept of Shekhinah, Beyonce's channelling of Oshun, a Nigerian Yoruba deity and the fierce spirituality of the Suffragettes, Remona demonstrates that the feminine divine has had many apparently contradictory faces - some soft and nurturing, others imperious, warlike and cruel.

She argues that it is vital for all of us, women and men, to recognise the legacy of the divine feminine, a legacy which transcends simplistic assumptions about gender and offers a return to a more balanced and humane relationship with the world.

The readers are Kate Lock, Milli Proust and Max O'Brien.

Thanks to Ranjana Ghatak for her performance of a poem by Meera Bai (composed by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan).

Presenter: Remona Aly
Producer: Michael Umney
A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4.

30 minutes

Music Played

  • Natanis 'Kit' Largo

    Euphony

  • Debbie Friedman

    The Angel's Blessing

  • Beyoncé

    Hold Up

  • Eric Clapton

    Layla

  • Ali Akbar Khan

    Extract from a poem by Poem by Meera Bai (performance recorded especially for this broadcast)

    Performer: Ranjana Ghatak.
  • Sami Yusuf

    I Only Knew Love (‘Araftul Hawa)

Readings

Title: Grandmother Spider and the Web of Life

Author: Taino Ti

Publisher: Spider


Title: On the wings of Shekhinah: Rediscovering Judaism’s Divine Feminine

Author: Rabbi Leah Novick

Publisher: Quest Books


Title: Goddesses and the Divine Feminine

Author: Rosemary Radford Ruether

Publisher: University of California Press


Title: Divine Feminine

Author: Joy Dixon

Publisher: John Hopkins University Press


Title: Gentlemen and Amazons

Author: Cynthia Eller

Publisher: University of California Press


Title: Mists of Avalon

Author: Marion Zimmer Bradley

Publisher: Penguin


Title: Women of Sufism 

Author: Camille Adams Helminski

Publisher: Shambhala


Title: Sacred Women of Africa and the African Diaspora: A Womanist Vision of Black Women’s Bodies and the African Sacred Feminine

Author: Professor Arisika Razak

Publisher: Digital Commons

Broadcasts