I am delighted to welcome you to my website. Please feel free to ramble at your leisure—there’s my blog, an interview, research suggestions, reader’s sharing page, and lots of great links to other writers and artists with similar interests.
And don’t forget to let me know what you think! I’m always up for a juicy discussion.
Tamis Hoover Renteria
The book is now published!
The first thing I do in the garden when I move to a new place is plant herbs. We cook a lot in my family, and fresh herbs are an integral part of whipping up great tasting food. But if you don’t grow your own herbs, you have to pay outrageous prices at the grocery store for those little packets that go bad in a few days in your refrigerator.
So this morning I gathered up my pots, my dirt, and my seedlings, went out to my small apartment patio, and started planting. And as I scooped up soil and nestled the tiny plants into their new homes, inhaling the earthy tang of basil and sweet pungency of mint, that familiar witchy feeling came over me and my mind drifted to thoughts of ancestral mothers tending their gardens of medicinal herbs, stirring up ointments and brewing up potions to heal their village families.
Granted, that imagery of ancient crones in thatched cottages surrounded by herbs has grown a bit cliché, but it still resonates deeply with me, as it does with many women. There’s power in that imagery. Continue reading
Last night I was interviewed as one of the women who contributed to the book, Stepping Into Ourselves: An Anthology of Writings About Priestesses. I’m thrilled about doing my first interview and I hope you have a chance to check it out. Just go to You Tube and type in A Gathering of Priestesses #18 Tamis Hoover Renteria.
For the first several years of therapy, I was doing crisis work, wrestling with childhood complexes that were keeping me from getting on with my life. Eventually this therapy proved successful because I was no longer having anxiety attacks or serious bouts of immobilizing depression, and I was capable of handling most day-to-day crises without falling apart.
But I decided not to stop my therapy at this point because it seemed that there was so much more to learn about myself. I don’t mean in some kind of narcissistic belly-button gazing way, but in the tradition of Socrates’ injunction to “know thyself,” and in the sense that Pema Chodron, the Buddhist monk, talks about spiritual practice as a process of learning to understand yourself and take responsibility for your actions.
This isn’t fun or easy work. It can be excruciatingly painful, but it can also be exhilarating and liberating. For example, I tend to be pretty congenial in public and with my friends, but I’ve always had an anger problem at home. In therapy, I’ve learned how my anger and touchiness has affected my family and made life more difficult for all of us. This recognition has led to deep remorse and many apologies, as well stumbling attempts to control my temper and my insufferable irritability. (Still a work in progress, of course.) As a result, my husband has felt freer to talk frankly with me about how my anger affects him, and our communication has improved tremendously, which has only deepened our intimacy and love for each other. Continue reading
Several years ago when I was first exploring Goddess spirituality, I signed up for a women’s weekend retreat in the hills of western Sonoma County. I did not know the leader of the retreat, except by reputation, and I did not know any of the women who were attending. So I was a little bit nervous about the whole adventure.
However, I was determined to pursue new experiences. So I turned my small sons over to my husband and headed into the wild hills with my map and my minivan on a Friday afternoon——and quickly got lost, not to mention… Continue reading
I fell and broke my left wrist and it is very difficult to type so I will not be posting much for a while. But I’ll be back.
I haven’t been a fan of Disney movies since I was about ten. But recently several of my more feminist and enlightened Facebook friends endorsed the movie Maleficent. That made me curious, so I actually managed to peel my backside off the t.v. couch one evening to go and see a movie on the big screen.
And I’m glad I did. I actually loved this movie. The whole damn sexist patriarchal paradigm of the Sleeping Beauty story is completely turned on its head! Not only is Maleficent a good fairy, but she’s complex and multi-dimensional and so capable of self-reflection and change that she eventually comes to terms with her own internalized anger and evil–anger and evil, by the way, which are the result of a man’s betrayal and a male assault on the magical kingdom of which she is the self-proclaimed protectress.
It was at first a bit difficult for me to enter the movie’s story, because I had a personal history with the earlier Disney Sleeping Beauty movie: it caused me nightmares for years when I was a little girl and was a foundational dream in my early Jungian therapy. So when Maleficent first appeared as a fairy girl with those iconic twisted horns that look so diabolical, I was a little on edge. But I kept reminding myself that the horns and antlers of goats, deer, and cattle, (not to mention the tails and hooves) were once sacred to many pre-Christian cultures in their pagan gods and goddesses, and had been stigmatized by the Church and transformed into symbols of evil.
And soon I was pulled completely into the story. Maleficent is introduced as a powerful young fairy, soaring across the fields and forests of “The Moors” with her magnificent wings, friendly with all the magical creatures of this very egalitarian and happy kingdom. Continue reading
I’ve been thinking a lot about heat, drought, and rain in the last few days. That’s because I’m leaving one hot, dry place——Tucson Arizona——to live in another hot, dry place——Hanford, California. I’ve looked up the statistics. Technically, Hanford has fewer hot days and more rain than Tucson. But Hanford has a lot of smog and it doesn’t have the southwest monsoon.
I’m not going to even talk about the smog, because I’m too worried about it and I’ll get crazy. But the monsoon? Aaah. That’s what Central California needs——a cool, fierce blast of wetness in the middle of the impossibly hot summer.
The monsoon started this week in Tucson. Clouds have been building up for about a week now and finally they accumulated enough moisture and energy to boil up a couple of beautiful big storms. Beto and I were caught in one on our way to a friend’s house two days ago. Rain was blasting down on our car from all directions, the wind whipping it around in wild gusts as though a gang of giants was hurling fistfuls of water at the windshield, trying to knock our car off course. The water was coming down so fast that even the main streets were flooded. I’ve never seen my cool, calm husband grip the steering wheel so tightly as we navigated through that deluge and finally reached our destination. Continue reading
My female protagonist in The Prophet’s Woman, Arishat, is a Phoenician, daughter of a long line of priestesses. According to the backstory that I created for her, her family originally came from the island of Minoan Crete, a great matriarchal civilization of which Arishat has many ancestral memories, and which continues to shape her values.
I first chose Arishat because I have been intrigued for years by the Elijah/Elisha biblical stories where women are empowered by their associations with a prophet.* Because this particular story of the widow of Zeraphath (Sarepta) shows a long term relationship between Elijah and the widow, I thought it might be a good starting place for the novel.
But at the time, I did not think much about the fact that this story is about Elijah’s relationship with a foreign, non-Israelite woman.
And then, months into the writing, it hit me like a stroke of lightening and I had to laugh at how oblivious I’d been for so long. How had a I missed it? Arishat is like me, an outsider to Judaism, who through association with a prophet, becomes a member of the Israelite people. My unconscious had been working double-time in this selection of a character! Of course I’ve never met a real prophet, but the prophetic, social justice side of reform Judaism was a key element in my attraction to Jewish religion and to my converstion.
And as I wrestled further with the book’s plot, I more consciously used my experiences as a convert to flesh out the dynamics of the relationships between Arishat and her adopted people. At first, she is just learning about the culture, observing and absorbing. Then slowly she becomes used to the rhythms of her new life, and learns to live in harmony with the clan and the people. And as a reflection of that integration into this society, she is eventually formally inducted into the tribe through ritual: a mikveh (bath) with the women, an examination by the clan elders, and a formal presentation of herself as a Jew to the entire clan. Continue reading
No surprises here: She is much harder to find in our cultural heritage than the Wise Old Man. Wisdom figures are those that help the hero or heroine on his/her journey, so perhaps the most obvious Wise Old Woman is the Fairy Godmother of the Cinderella story, portrayed in dozens of popular versions from children’s books to the Rogers and Hammerstein musical to the Disney movie.
Then there’s Glenda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz who helps Dorothy find the yellow brick road. And, as my husband has argued convincingly to me, there’s also Galadriel the Elf in The Lord of the Rings, who, as co-ruler of the Elfin kingdom of Lothlórien, plays a Wise Old Woman role when she gives guidance to Aragorn and the others on their journey with the ring.
But do you notice that in two out of these three examples the Wise Old Woman (WOW) is not depicted as an old woman? Glenda is portrayed as a sparkly fairy-like creature of indeterminate age, and Galadriel, although she’s supposed to be centuries old, is depicted as looking young and beautiful. And even when the Wise Old Woman is depicted as an old woman, as in Cinderella’s fairy godmother, she’s usually made to look foolish and silly, bumbling as she guides the heroine along.
It’s as though we can’t put female, age, power, and goodness together in our cultural mind set. Think about it. The only truly powerful, elderly women who appear in western heroic journeys are not Wise Old Women, but Evil Old Witches.
Hmmmmm. Continue reading
Wow. Talk about a difficult topic to pin down in a web search. I was looking for progressive, feminist, Jewish blogs and websites the other day, and to get started, I typed in “Jewish Feminism” on the Google search site. However, to my horror, instead of what I was looking for, I got all kinds of bizarre and frightening stuff, some of which frankly scared the crap out of me, and all of which offended and worried me.
The worst was a You Tube video made by some anti-Semitic right wing group. I was greeted first by heavily ominous music, followed by a video which scrolled through dozens of pictures of Jewish feminists——Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, etc. Each picture was superimposed with a bold Star of David and the message that accompanied this display was a diatribe about how Jewish feminist women would eventually destroy their own men, which in turn, would eventually ultimately rid the world of Jews.
Watching that video, even briefly, was a horrifying experience. And unfortunately, it wasn’t the only anti-Semitic site that I stumbled on in my search for Jewish feminism. Evidently, an integral part of much Fascist neo-Nazi propaganda is to associate Jews with feminism, and feminism with the alleged degradation of our species.
Unfortunately, it’s not only neo-Nazis who associate Jewish feminism with the degradation of civilization. Several of the other websites that popped up when I typed in “Jewish Feminism” were those of orthodox Jewish groups. One in particular was Chabad’s website. Chabad is an extremely conservative Jewish religious movement dedicated to returning all Jews to orthodox Judaism. On these sites, they discussed the proper role of Jewish women and blamed feminism for all kinds of problems in the Jewish community. Continue reading