The Author's Corner
Jailbreaking the Goddess
TWPT: Before we jump into Jailbreaking the Goddess perhaps an introduction to LaSara Firefox Allen might be appropriate to my readers who haven't been exposed to your writings before. You have been immersed in pagan culture and practice from childhood on. Tell me about your memories of growing up in a pagan environment and how that helped to build the foundations of who you are today.
LFA: I was raised solidly in the margins. I grew up in the back to the land movement. I was home schooled through high school, grew up with no electricity, no phone, no hot running water, no indoor plumbing. I sometimes say I was raised in the 1800s, or in an underdeveloped country called Greenfield Ranch. In many ways I was a total outsider to dominant culture.
At the same time, as I say in Jailbreaking the Goddess, all counter cultures and alternative cultures exist as counter- and alternative to dominant culture. All the alternative and counter cultures exist within the dominant culture. The bedrock is the same. So while you have folks who are trying to move out of the wounding of dominant culture, in many case they, and by they I mean we, are at the same time acting from those very wounds.
The utopia I was raised in had all that, in spades. Both the idyllic aspects and the acting from the wound.
TWPT: How did being raised close to the land fuse the pagan ideas and concepts that you were being exposed to into the fabric of who you were becoming? Would those ideas and beliefs have had the same impact in your life had you been raised in an urban environment and given the same information?
LFA: Oh yeah, I was well aware that we were outsiders. Even on the ranch that our land was part of we were outsiders. We lived way out at the edge - my parents had chosen the most remote tip of the land. And we were poor. Really, really poor. And there were a lot of us. I have a lot of siblings, and my parents took other kids in too. My cousins would come down for the summer with my auntie and uncle from north of Seattle and us six kids - my siblings and I - and our six cousins would run around like a pack. My cousins lived part time on the reservation up north, but our place was more rough than theirs.
We all had fun catching tadpoles and chasing goats and tromping around.
When we would go to town I recall the town kids - and adults too - really making fun of us. They would call us oakies. That is the slur I remember most strongly. When we were little we had "town clothes," like, "Sunday-go-to-meeting" clothes. It was a major production. And there was a theatrical bent to it, but I also think it was an act of putting on armor, my mom trying to keep us safe.
TWPT: Children (not just in chronological years) do not always comprehend the deeper mysteries of what they are practicing at the beginning of their journeys but with diligence and dedicated efforts most reach a moment when things suddenly become clear. Did you have such a moment when you understood your spiritual journey from an adult perspective and moved forward from that time in a more aware frame of mind as to where you were headed and why?
LFA: I was a very awake kid. Very concerned with the world. I would say one of my most intense memories is of the Iran/Iraq war, so I would have been maybe seven. I recall hearing about bombings, and was scared to death that the bombing was going to happen to me. I remember cowering as planes flew over.
I still feel that. I still feel it just like it's happening right here. Every war is our war.
That was the moment where I dedicated myself to a life of service. I haven't faltered.
That is, I truly believe, the moment that I woke up to remembering my bodhisattva vow, which is taken lifetime after lifetime. At the risk of being charged with spiritual appropriation I say this, but I will stand by it. The vow is an eternal commitment, and I believe that once one wakes up to it, there's no going back.
TWPT: Tell me about your association with the Church of All Worlds and your ordination when you were 29 and your motivations for going that next step further and becoming pagan clergy.
LFA: It seemed like a natural progression for me. I started my path to ordination at 19, and completed it at 29. I took my time. But my community also held me to a high standard, I think more than anything because I was the first second-generation clergy member. Meaning, the first member who had basically been raised in the Church.
TWPT: Was writing as a way of communicating your ideas to a wider audience always in the cards for you?
LFA: I have known I wanted to be a writer since I was a very small child. I always love reading. And I loved writing. My first piece of writing was published when I was 12. So yes, I knew early.
TWPT: Your new book is called Jailbreaking the Goddess: A Radical Revisioning of Feminist Spirituality. To understand what is being radically revisioned perhaps you could give me an idea of what it is that currently exists in terms of feminist spirituality and why that is so much in need of being revised.
TWPT: Do you see this cry amongst women for a new vision of feminist spirituality as being a part of the general social upheaval that seems to be finally coming to the surface in many other areas as well? Has it just reached a critical point at which it will no longer be silenced and that radical change is the only way to move forward?
LFA: I believe that this book, and its prompt success, point to a yes. It is time. If it weren't this book wouldn't be getting the traction it is getting.
TWPT: Who put the Goddess in jail that now requires a jailbreak? (I saw in one of your comments from the author that a patriarchal overshadowing or "root rot" has occurred in feminist spirituality perhaps you could touch on this during the answer to this question)
LFA: We have all put her in prison! We are all her jailers. Until we become her liberators. The key is that she is liberated through our liberation. Once we liberate ourselves, she will be free.
Because honestly, I know at the core that the divine is unimpeachable. But our concepts of her keep her constricted. And that in turn constricts us as women.
TWPT: How does Jailbreaking the Goddess approach this subject and how is the material arranged in the book so that the readers will come away with a good understanding of your revisionist concept of feminist spirituality?
LFA: I believe strongly in feet on the ground and hands in the dirt practice. There are plenty of opportunities in this book to really get into it and take on your magickal and spiritual path. You get to build it how you want it this time. Journaling, activities, rituals, and group work are all covered in the book. My hope is that people will really take the work and apply it.
TWPT: In the broader scope of things how do you think your ideas and approaches will be received by the Goddess community and existing traditions who have probably been using the old models of visualizing feminist spirituality?
LFA: I am sure there will be push back. But I am also not saying that everyone has to adopt this new model. Some will hold to how they have been doing it for decades. That's ok! As long as there is a place where all of my sisters feel at home in the arms of the goddess, and her community, I will feel that I have done what I was lead to do.
TWPT: What are your hopes for how this book will be used and what kind of changes are you hoping that it will spark among the readers who will pick up a copy of it?
LFA: My hope is that Jailbreaking will ignite transformation for those who read it. My hope is that it will start conversations about inclusivity, about power, about transformation, about structures and community. My hope is that it will encourage people to reach out of their tight little circles to make contact with others, and that together we will take the work of dismantling patriarchy, with all of its ills - racism and white supremacy, classism, sexism and misogyny - that we will take this dismantling seriously. That we will do what work we can to decolonize, that we will shop up for our indigenous community members and do what we can to make things right.
There is a lot of work to do. It's a long road from here to liberation. But we have to walk it, step by step. It's a lot easier with company.
TWPT: Obviously change never comes overnight in social and cultural issues such as this so what do you see as the next steps in keeping the subject matter you covered in Jailbreaking the Goddess in discussions that happen through social media and in groups around the country or around the world?
LFA: I will do my best to keep stirring the pot. I have a lot of interactive options on my website and I hope people will take advantage of them. I also hope to begin speaking more to the academic community. I look forward to collaborations with other feminist spiritual thinkers, movers, community leaders, and teachers.
But it's also a question of people just doing the work. Taking the book and using it to help restructure things. I will help with that as I am able, but I trust that it will take off on its own too.
And we'll see what's next on the book front. I have a proposal in, but it's too soon to talk about it.
TWPT: I've seen quite a few positive blurbs about Jailbreaking the Goddess so far. Do you think that's because your ideas are resonating deeply with readers and they are recognizing the truth of them within their own communities and their own lives?
LFA: Yes, absolutely. It's partially because I listened to the community for years before I wrote this book. I also had about 30+ test readers who gave me feedback as I wrote it. That process allowed me to really dig deep and move through my own limitations. Jailbreaking the Goddess is in a very real way a product of our community.
TWPT: How do you feel about the comments you are getting back from those who have been reading and reviewing the advance copies of Jailbreaking the Goddess?
LFA: It's a little bit overwhelming, but also rewarding and a vindication. Some writers write for themselves. I don't. I mean, not mostly. Mostly I write for my readers. Knowing that I have done well by them is really the best possible outcome for me.
TWPT: As a teacher, a coach and a spiritual guide do you have any plans to integrate some of the ideas that you wrote about in Jailbreaking the Goddess into these other areas as well?
LFA: I teach an initiation cycle based on the material in the book, and will be offering workshops in many regions on book tour. It's already been integrated. And I will continue to integrate it for certain.
TWPT: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us here at TWPT and we wish you all the best for your new book.