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!
For many women in the thirty years since its publishing, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is far more than an entertaining read. In fact, many women cite it as one of the books that first sparked their interest in feminist pagan spirituality. What is it about this book that is so exciting to women in search of meaning?
First, the author takes a cherished romantic myth from the Western tradition——King Arthur and the Round Table——and turns it inside out by rewriting it from the perspective of the women characters. But not just any women characters. These women (except for Gwenhwyfar the Queen) are practitioners and priestesses of a women-centered spirituality that is deeply rooted in ancient, pre-Christian, pre-Roman England, and they are fighting to protect this tradition against the increasingly hegemonic spread of Christianity in their homeland. King Arthur’s kingship and his court are the battleground for this clash of cultures and religions.
In telling the famous Arthurian legend from the perspective of women, suddenly, the traditional “good guys” and “bad guys” of the beloved stories are no longer so easy to classify. Morgaine is not an evil sorceress, but a priestess fighting to keep Arthur faithful to his promises to ancient Avalon and the Goddess, as well as the non-Christian peoples under his care. Lancelot is not just some wandering knight that joins the court and falls in love with Gwenhwyfar, but the son of an Avalon priestess who rejects his mother culture to fight for a Christian king. And Gwenhwyfar is not just a lovely maiden whose misfortune is to love two men, but a Christian woman, raised by a dominating and neglectful father, who fears the world and anything outside of her narrow range of vision——especially Avalon. It is, in fact, Gwenwhyfar who ultimately pushes the king to betray his vows to Avalon and the ancient religion and to embrace Christianity exclusively. Continue reading
On this first night of Sukkoth, as I sit here under the full moon feeling sorry for myself because this will be the first time in twenty-five years that we haven’t built a sukkah, I offer a few thoughts about etrogs, the fruit that is one of the ritual stars of the season.
In my book The Prophet’s Woman I mention etrog trees and etrogs a couple of times, but many people reading the novel, particularly if they are not Jewish, will not know what I’m talking about.
An etrog is a kind of citron, the fruit of a tree… Continue reading
I really don’t get it. Why do so many modern women——young, old, gay and straight——subject themselves to the regular torture of a Brazilian body wax in order to remove all or most of their body hair? This question has been bothering me for some time. And I’ve asked a lot of women about it.
It’s the fashion.
Everybody does it.
My partner likes it.
Men expect it.
It makes me feel cleaner.
I think women look better that way.
Really? Is this the progress we women have made since the Women’s Movement of the sixties and seventies? Back then we… Continue reading
At the opening of my novel, The Prophet’s Woman, I introduce my character Arishat as a widow in search of rescue. Although she was trained to be a priestess, she rejected that path to marry a royal potter, in this way becoming financially dependent on her husband and his family. However, as soon as her husband dies, his family abandons her and she is left alone to take care of herself and her three children in the middle of severe drought and famine. Unfortunately, she lacks experience in marketing her skills, and succumbs to a lack of faith in her ability to provide for her family.
In contrast to Arishat, I created Rahav, Arishat’s close friend who works in the kitchens of Israel’s royal family. Rahav lost her parents at an early age and was sold to king’s household as a servant by one of her uncles. She immediately adapts to her situation and finds a mentor in the powerful vizier, Obadiah. Unlike Arishat, Rahav is confident, spunky, and independent. But in spite of the fact that she’s so independent, Rahav, like Arishat, seeks marriage as a way to escape her life as a servant.
Now some of my feminist friends may be annoyed that I chose to portray my two main female characters as women looking for husbands, but I wrote it this way out of an understanding of the patriarchal culture of ancient Israel. In such cultures, everyone is defined by their family/clan ties, and women are defined by the men in their lives, whether fathers, husbands, brothers, or sons. A woman without a family, without men to protect her rights and interests, is at the mercy of other men, and in most cases, has little or no power. Continue reading
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