Presenter Biographies and Program Descriptions

An alphabetical list of the presenters at our 2011 East Coast Symposium, with descriptions of their presentations.

Amyot, Amejo, Ph.D.

. . . is an artist, creator and retired sexologist. She has worked in clay for over 20 years and discovered women’s ways of knowing from the Goddesses born from her hands and clay. Through shamanic journeys and deep intuitive ways, she brings forth from ancient mysteries the innate powers of the female. Dr. Amyot has taught at numerous universities and medical schools and had a private practice in sex therapy. She specializes in women’s workshops in female sexuality and deep introspective inner awareness, using music, chanting, movement and drumming to reach intuitive knowledge. She is a professional clay artist since retiring and is a beginning painter.

Evoking and Re-membering the Ancient Earth Goddess: a clay workshop

Form and earth define the Earth Goddess in ways that are tangible and solid. Creating three-dimensional female forms helps to inform our senses about the nature of the female goddess who is gifted with the essence of earth, ground, fertility, creation, and nurture.

Something magical happens when we use our hands to form images, to evoke the ancient call of the earth and invite her to teach us the essence and power of the female whose gifts are from earth energy. Using guided imagery and intuitive ways of knowing, each participant will create a Goddess. We will sit in circle and share the same wisdom that came to our ancestors as they sat in ancient times and created their ancient earth Mothers from clay.

Beck-Friedman, Tova, M.F.A.

A multi media artist working in video, photography and sculpture Tova Beck-Friedman has exhibited internationally in festivals, museums, galleries and on television including: The International Artists’ Museum, at the 50th Venice Biennale; The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC; Yeshiva University Museum in New York and The Jerusalem Cinematheque. Her film AT THE ALTAR OF HER MEMORIES was broadcast on Israeli Television and A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS AN OLD(ER) WOMAN on US PBS stations.  DON’T ASK won first prize on Reel/13 and was broadcast on NY Thirteen/WNET.

Translating Ideas into Images

A multi-media presentation surveying my life-long work — sculpture, drawings, installations and video — interpreting the Goddess imagery.   While not narrating a particular story, the work embodies the cumulative myth; primordial images emerge as the human figure fuses with nature formations. Among the installations are: Homage to Wisdom, featuring HOCHMA the ancient Hebrew deity of wisdom, Sophia’s predecessor and Excerpts of a Lost Forest; Homage to Ashera, depicts Ashera — the ancient Hebrew Mother/Goddess revered in groves, and her sacred tree symbol. A recent video, MEDUSA’S HEAD draws on Medusa’s myth.

Braff, Johanna

Johanna is a doctoral student in the Classics Department at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She received her BA in Classics at Swarthmore College, and her MA at the University of Maryland. Johanna currently teaches Greek and Roman literature in translation at Brooklyn College and focuses on women in Greek literature. She has a forthcoming publication on the character of Helen in Latin literature in Revue des études anciennes.

Sappho 16’s Helen: victim of the gods or promoter of evil?

The mythological heroine, Helen, has been type-cast throughout literature as either a cheating vixen or an innocent pawn of the gods. However, most often, modern day scholars translate the archaic poetry depicting this female in order to highlight either a guilty or innocent depiction. This paper will closely examine Sappho’s poem 16, what the fragmented poem states for certain about the heroine and what depictions more modern scholars implant so as to give the poem their desired interpretation.

Florescu, Catalina, Ph.D.

Transacting Sites of the Liminal Bodily Spaces is Dr. Florina Catalina Florescu’s first book (to be released in 2011). In addition to her academic work, which has been published in book chapters and peer-reviewed journals, this author has written two plays, Transitional Object and Three as in Tri-angle or the Aftertastes of Life. More information about her work can be found on her blog: She is currently teaching at Stevens Institute of Technology.

Reinventing the Myth of Demeter through Persephone’s Suffering and Altruism

The reinvention of the myth of Demeter excavates another major mythical figure, Hades. This essay’s Persephones are so intensely moved to see their mothers suffer, that, in a manner of speaking, their lives are literally a living hell. Their epiphany reveals that degrading ache is a Hades-in-disguise that transports them to their psyche’s pitch-dark places. In other words, the mythical figure of Hades is a reality when we deal with extreme forms of pain and suffering. The applicability of myths in situations where narrating the agony of the other is just as vital as a touch and as a prescribed treatment.

Graff, Shelley

Shelley is a teacher/singer/songwriter who has been sharing her original songs about women’s lives as a keynote speaker, performer, or workshop facilitator for over twenty years at conferences, festivals, and women’s events. Shelley has three CDs of original music: Moon Mama (1997), Fire On The Arrow (2005), and Coming Home (2010).

Singing in Sacred Circle

An opportunity intended to encourage women, regardless of singing experience, to share their embodied spirit voices in a noncompetitive, relaxed, safe space. This is an experiential workshop that creates an opportunity for participants to look into their sisters’ eyes and share voice and spirit through song. While learning short, repetitive, women/goddess-centered, and earth-based chants and songs, women’s collective power rises from the center of the circle as all voices create an energy that is empowering, loving, healing, and transformative.

Jacquet, Elizabeth

Elizabeth has taught Latin and history at the Pomfret School in Connecticut since 2002. She earned her BA from Boston University, majoring in Classical Languages and Ancient Civilization, and minoring in Philosophy. Additionally, she participated in the American Academy in Rome’s Classical Summer School where she developed a deeper interest in Etruscology and art history. Currently, she is pursuing her MA from Union Institute and University and working as co-director/creator to an art retreat in France.

Reflecting on Equality: Women and Mirrors in Etruria

This talk focuses on the examination and analysis of dominant imagery depicted on Etruscan grave goods, with particular emphasis placed on hand mirrors associated with feminine burial. Through this, I shall demonstrate that the women of ancient Etruria, particularly those of the upper class, were revered as equals by their male counterparts, with due admiration given to their efforts as wives and mothers in their role to continue the Etruscan bloodline under the threat of Greek and Roman domination.

Jell-Bahlsen, Sabine, Ph.D.

Dr. Jell-Bahlsen is the author of The Water Goddess in Igbo Cosmology. Ogbuide of Oguta Lake (Africa World Press, 2008 – honouree, Elliott B. Skinner Book Award), and of documentary films including Mammy Water: In Search of the Water Spirits in Nigeria (1991, based on in-depth field research in Southeast Nigeria. Dr. Jell-Bahlsen’s Ph.D. in anthropology is from The New School, New York and her MA from Germany; ;

The Water Goddess, Ogbuide, of the Igbo People of Southeastern Nigeria

This paper focuses on the Water Goddess as a major representative of the female side of the universe recognized by the Igbos of Southeastern Nigeria, whose major female divinities are Earth and Water, since time immemorial. The Water Goddess is locally embodied in the Lake Goddess, Ogbuide of Oguta and her environs. Ogbuide’s other name is Uhammiri. She is also popularly known as Mammy Water, when worshipped by nonhereditary and often female priests and their followers.

Melmed, Stephanie

Stephanie is a licensed clinical social worker based in Washington DC. She facilitates women wisdom circles where women can connect to one another, to the larger cycles of seasons, life events and inner workings. The circles include exploring dreams, moon phases, and the roles of women in Torah and their connections to ancient Goddesses. She will be ordained in the ritualist program, Kohenet, in the Summer 2011.

Embodying the Descent Myth

We explore the ancient story of Inanna’s Descent and how women today can embody this narrative as their own. Unlike other myths, women are at the center of this story. Both Inanna and Ereskegal take central roles. Transformation is understood through a woman’s experience and perspective. Additionally, this story of descent and ascent is not understood through any women, but through that of powerful archetypes, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, and the Queen of Shadows. By embodying the complexity of this narrative and the archetypes involved, women can digest their own experiences from a position of self worth and deep knowing.

Monaghan, Patricia

Patricia Monaghan is Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at DePaul University in Chicago, where she teaches literature and environment; she is also consulting faculty at The Union Institute, where she advises students in goddess and mythological studies. She is the author of more than a dozen books on goddess studies, most recently “The Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines” (ABC-CLIO). She also edited the three volume series, “Goddesses in World Culture” (Praeger). A poet as well as a scholar, she is the author of four books of poetry.

Hail Mary, to be published by Salmon Poetry in December, is Patricia Monaghan’s novel-in-verse about the Virgin Mary, exploring the feminist aspects of this religious image.

Norris, Merry

Merry Gant Norris is an artist, teacher, and creativity mentor who worked for 35 years to develop community resources for women in recovery from addiction. A painter of goddesses and mandalas, Merry has been honored with five solo shows and in 2000 opened MERRY NOVA STUDIO as a safe place for women to explore their spirituality through art. Merry gives mandala workshops and founded GODDESS AND ANGEL, a joyful program that helps women discover their sacred wholeness.

My Gift From the Goddess: EmBODYment

A presentation of Merry’s work concerning the creation of mandalas centered on women’s experiences of the divine.  The mandalas provide a visual record of the artist’s colorful journey from descent into a devastating addiction to a rebirth and becoming a “Goddess Midwife.”v

Olomo, H. E. Oloyo Aina

H. E. Aina Olomo, the Ajidakin of Ife, is a Yoruba chief, an Oloye, with more than 30 years of Yoruba spiritual traditions. She was installed as a chief of the Ooni of Ile-Ife, the paramount king of all Yoruba, in Texas, and consolidated in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. While in the Republic of Benin, Oloye received the title Her Excellence Igbo Iyalase along with the mask and guardianship of Gelede. She was ritually en-stooled and her stool is made from the sacred Iroko tree of the Great Mother that honors her connection to the Iyami. She is also an ordained interfaith minister.

Primordial Mothers of Yoruba Spirituality

This presentation examines the chapter on the divine feminine principal of Yoruba spirituality as published in the Goddesses in World Culture, “Iyami Osoronga: Primordial Mothers of Yoruba Spirituality.” A complex hierarchy regarding the cosmology of female power has evolved in Yoruban territories. This hierarchy has arisen as a consequence of the diversity in the cultures honoring the ultimate female divinity and dissimilar natural environments.  This paper will present the many sacred names used to describe the great mother energies.

Roffman, Rosaly DeMaios

Poet and Professor Emeritus, Rosaly still teaches mythology, literature and creative writing. She started a Myth/Folklore Studies Center at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She co-edited the prize-winning Life on the Line, and is the author of Going to Bed Whole, Tottering Palaces , The Approximate Message, and In the Fall of a Sparrow, a recent chapbook published for Arts educators at a teacher’s Institute. She was a featured writer on the BBC’s “Writer from Abroad” series. She has been widely published and has read her work in Ireland, Greece, Mexico, Israel, Spain and Bratislava.

Rosaly will read from her new manuscript I WANT TO THANK MY EYES and from a series of poems-in-progress that re-envision a retelling of the Odyssey through the voices of female characters. Presentation may include the showing or playing of a CD/video of a collaborative piece entitled NO MORE MASKS for which she provided the poems/text.

Ruyle, Lydia

Lydia is an artist scholar emeritus of the Visual Arts faculty, University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado where The Lydia Ruyle Room for Women Artists was dedicated in 2010. Her research into sacred images of women has taken her around the globe. For seven years, Ruyle led women’s pilgrimage journeys to sacred places. Ruyle creates and exhibits her art and does workshops throughout the U.S. and internationally. Her book, Goddess Icons–Spirit Banners of the Divine Feminine, was published in 2002. Her Goddess Icon Spirit Banners, which have flown all over the world spreading their divine feminine energies, preside over our meeting rooms for this symposium.

The Embodied Goddess of the Western Hemisphere

A visual talk will focus on the images and herstories of the sacred feminine in the various cultures of the Americas. Many Goddesses of the Western Hemisphere are unfamiliar, angular, and fierce to the classical European western civilization ideal of beauty. The images are complex and encoded with many symbols which connect to goddess symbols around the globe. Embodied Goddesses and their myths celebrate the creative forces of nature as earth, cave, volcano, landscape, plants, animals, birds.

The Embodied Goddess of Anatolia

A visual talk will focus on the images, symbols and stories of the embodied sacred feminine over 14,000 years in Anatolia. Anatolia is the ancient name for Turkey and means Land of the Great Mothers. Early Anatolians domesticated grain and animals and left an incredible legacy of their cosmic view of the universe. Cultures were born, flourished and changed over time on this bridge between Asia, Europe and the Middle East. All the cultures had images and herstories of the sacred feminine as the Great Mother.

Sanford, Mei Mei

Mei Mei Sanford, Ph.D., and the Iyalode Osun of Iragbiji, teaches in the Africana Studies Program at the College of William and Mary. She is the co-editor of Osun Across the Waters: A Yoruba Goddess in Africa and the Americas, the editor of the forthcoming Divine Earth, Imperial Earth: Sopona and Nana Bukuu in Africa and Its Diaspora, and the author of many articles and conference papers on Yoruba and Yoruba Diaspora religions and arts. She received smicha from Kohenet, the Hebrew Priestess Institute.

Abundant Embodiment in an Aniconic Tradition: Nature, Trance and Art in Yoruba Religions

West African Yoruba religions are religions of continual embodiment. The orisa, deities, female and male, appear to and interact with their devotees through trance, in nature and in ritually prepared images. This paper will examine Yoruba forms of trance, aniconic images of the divine, and iconic exceptions to the rule in traditional Yoruba religions, in their Diasporic descendent Santeria, and in a contemporary Yoruba priestly artist’s depiction of the goddess Osun. The paper will draw conclusions about the implications of embodiment for Yoruba cosmology, ethics and aesthetics.

Schein, Lorraine, M.F.A.

Lorraine is a New York poet and fantasy/sf writer. Her works have appeared in Melusine, Witches & Pagans, Vallum, Women’s Studies Quarterly, the Mother Tongue Press We’Moon calendar, Alice Redux, a collection of stories about Alice in Wonderland, and many other publications. The Futurist’s Mistress, her poetry book, is available from and Amazon. She dabbles in the occult, is writing a graphic novel, and needs a job.

Goddess Poems

I will be reading some of my goddess and female spirituality poems, which focus on the embodiment of the goddess in both Western and Eastern cultures. I use imagery from Celtic, Chinese, and Jewish lore. In some poems, I tell of the physical details of goddess worship, such as dance or what it is like to visit the Delphic oracle today. In others, I evoke Artemis, Hekate, and the Shekinah, sometimes in a contemporary context, imagining them manifesting today. My work is humorous as well as serious, and I like to draw on the future as well as the past.


Serpentessa is a 21st century Snake Priestess, rebirthing ancient wisdom into the world today through the teachings of her live gentle snakes. Her (red tail) boa constrictors are very good-natured around multitudes of people and occasions. For over 18 years, Serpentessa has established high precedents resulting in many verbal, visual and written testimonies from spiritual explorers endorsing the value in their lives of choosing to Snake Journey.

Belly on Earth, Snake on Skin: Woman as Embodied Goddess

Earth & Serpent entwined together are a primal archetype of embodiment. Snakes undulate & contour their bellies to crevices, caves, rocks, plants & water currents: the belly of Mother Earth. Encountering a live Serpent compels humanity to be instinctively embodied in the present moment. The embodiment of Earth & Serpent & Woman is facilitated by Serpentessa. You are at choice to interact with a gentle natured Serpent. Embody your personal wisdom: body ~ mind ~ soul- in the power of the moment. Includes Snake orientation. Workshop requires small amounts of movement: lying down & standing. Mat or pillow suggested.

Shaw, Miranda

Miranda Shaw (Ph.D., Harvard University) is the award-winning author of Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism, which has been translated into five languages, and Buddhist Goddesses of India, both published by Princeton University Press. She serves on the religion faculty of the University of Richmond in Virginia and sojourns frequently in India and the Himalayas to research women’s spirituality and goddess traditions. Her third book, Buddhist Goddesses of Tibet and Nepal, is nearing completion.

Living Goddesses: Embodying the Divine in Buddhist Nepal

Dr. Shaw will offer a visual journey into the fascinating world of Buddhist goddess worship in Nepal. Based on her groundbreaking research, the talk features beautiful, evocative slides of the goddess images and rituals that Shaw photographed during her extensive field research. She interweaves word and image to communicate a profound, inspiring Buddhist vision of the powerful sacredness of divine females and the human women who embody them at every stage of life, from childhood through old age.

Shere, Holly

Holly is a folklorist, priestesses and chantress who serves as a congregational rabbi. She co-founded and co-directs the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute, devoted to reclaiming and innovating models of embodied, earth-honoring Jewish spiritual leadership. Since 2006, Holly has held the rabbinic pulpit of Olney Kehila Congregation and officiates life-cycle ritual in the Washington DC area. Her tribal-style prayer offerings in celebration of the sacred feminine can be found on her CD, “Wild Earth Shebrew.”

Wild Earth Shebrew: A Devotional Chant Experience

Embark on a creative chant journey in celebration of the Sacred Feminine. We’ll follow the flow of a Jewish morning prayer service, with an ear toward particular ways Goddess appears to, and embodies through, each of us.  Chants will be in English and Hebrew, but no Hebrew knowledge or chant experience required and participants needn’t have a “good voice”. The only requirement for this session is a willingess and desire to play in devotional space.


SheWho is a feminist women’s vocal ensemble and intentional community dedicated to the beauty, power and importance of women’s voices. We sing to celebrate women, to express our diverse experiences of spirit and to promote social change and justice. SheWho was founded in 2000, and has since appeared at Sistersingers Choral Festival, National Women’s Music Festival, and at several local venues. We have shared the stage with Alix Dobkin, Jamie Anderson, Emma’s Revolution and others. We take our name from the SheWho poems of Judy Grahn, with Ms. Grahn’s permission.

Sklover-Filgate, Leesa

Leesa Sklover, Ph.D. is a pioneer in integrative medicine, sound-music healing, avant-garde composer/chantress of sacred and trans-species music, creator/performer of an off-Broadway musical, spiritual counselor, shamanic healer, cetacean researcher (advocate and psychoacoustic research for lone cetaceans in the wild). Her Dreamsculpting workshops, research and published writing, focus on communication and archetypal communion between human and non human beings, healing traumatic stress, the creative healing process, yoga/music therapy, neuropsychotherapy, and resilience.

Lost in the wild: The Ruptured Mother-Child Archetype in the Trans-species human/animal worlds

Explore the Archetype of mother loss and the lone child/being, through shared patterns, emotions in human/animal experience and myth. True healing is explored through resilience, creativity and connections to other beings on earth. An isolated Beluga whale in the wild, is seen along side the story of a neurologically impaired new mother, who suffered a stroke during childbirth. Themes of bonding, isolation, loss of destiny and resilience are seen through Trans-species psychology and music/ communication research.

Streitfeld, Lisa Paul

Lisa is a cultural critic, new media artist and curator of ®EVOLUTION! inspired by her ongoing series for HuffPost Arts. After an extended spiritual journey chronicled in autobiographical fiction and experimental forms of memoir, she was a newspaper critic/reporter uncovering the embodiment of a 21st century archetype sourced in the hieros gamos icon. Since 2005, she has both instigated and tracked this grass roots movement through a series of curated exhibitions, performances and blogs devoted to spiritual embodiment.

The Embodied Goddess in 21st Century Art

presents a theory of art arising from the author’s 1983 kundalini awakening. This theory interprets the new paradigm principle that enabled her to cross the conventional boundary of critic vs. artist to participate in new art forms as they were being created, showing how these configurations influenced her own new media art experiments.

Link to program schedule.

Link to home page for this Symposium.

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