Introducing the GAIA Book Club and Study Circle. This is a Space for Members to read, to study, and to learn together.
In this section we've provided information about the hows and why of a Book Club. If you decide you'd like to join us, become a Member and head over to the GAIA Discussion Forum where you will have complete access to the discussion as it happens. We welcome You to the Online learning Space of GAIA!
Why have a Book Club or Study Circle?
Some years ago going into a bookshop or library and asking for a book on the Goddess yielded very slim pickings. Today there are hundreds of books on this topic however they are of varying quality. Some of the ‘old standards’ are still important and this first Book Club selection goes back to those which shaped our thinking, rituals and lifestyles as Goddess women.
While many book groups focus on newly published works the GAIA Book Club is going to commence with some of the foundational works of women who have gone before and paved the way for our understanding of the Goddess in our times.
Having a study circle or book club based on the GAIA suggested books and discussion pointers will help you to think through what you are reading, share your ideas with others and deepen your understanding of the Goddess and the community. In general, being a member of a study circle/book club exposes us to new ideas and different perspectives about a book, challenges us to move beyond our comfort zone and helps us build new and lasting friendships based on shared values and interests.
Can an individual be part of this? Of course! If you are not in a situation where you can get a group together you can follow the reading guide. Members have access to the GAIA Discussion Forum where we will be holding on-line conversation so that sole readers can share thoughts and ideas with everyone else.
Setting up Your own Group
Many groups start with a few friends getting together and agreeing that they would like to share their thoughts about their reading. Who better to start with than existing friends who share your interest in the Goddess? There are no rights or wrongs about the way in which a book group or study circle is set up or run although members should establish a structure and a regular meeting time and place. They should establish a first meeting where they will plot out the kinds of books and topics that they will tackle in the book club. This first meeting would also be the ideal time to agree on a schedule for finishing one book.
It is also important to agree on expenses for books, venues, and food. Everyone must be comfortable with how much to spend on books (e.g. everyone buys paper backs only or you only use books available in the public library), how much time to spend reading the book and how much time to devote to the book club meeting itself. Once the structure of the group has been established, the members can agree on the actual books that they will be reading and who will be hosting or moderating the next meeting. Lastly, they can also agree on a name for their book club so that it gives the book club a tangible identity and a sense of history.
Creating the ‘rules’
Many groups think that they don’t need any ‘rules’ however some fundamental agreements can help the conversation flow effectively and ensure that everyone feels included. For example, you may want an agreement on confidentiality so that members can feel safe to share at a personal level knowing that it won’t go outside the group.
You may also want an agreement on the amount of time each person speaks or a way of sharing the time equitably or not interrupting or talking over each other. Some groups have agreements on being on time and regularity of attendance. Others have agreements about the process for inviting new members.
It is worth thinking about these agreements right at the beginning and then check on a regular basis if the process is working well for every member or if some things need to change.
Some of the things you will need to think about include:
How many people? A very small group can be supportive but it could fall apart if a couple of members drop out or can't make a meeting. A very large group can work but needs to be run on a more 'formal' basis in order to be sure that the conversation stays on track and everybody gets a chance to contribute. Six to eight people is a good size to start with. It's a small enough number to fit inside somebody's home or around a table in a cafe, gives everybody a chance to voice their opinions, and if one or two members can't make it to a meeting, or drop out altogether, there are still enough people left to have a good discussion.
What type of people? Do you want people to be about the same age or do you want to mix generations. Perhaps the most important thing is to look for people with some common ground. In this case it will be important that the members are interested in discussing books that deepen understanding of the Goddess.
Differing expectations is probably the leading cause of problems in book groups. Again it doesn’t matter what you agree as long as you have similar expectations and an agreed process for changing aspects if desired.
How often do you want to meet? Every week, once a month, every quarter? Most groups find that it is best to start out by meeting once a month at the most, and discuss one book only. Given the list of books and study guides provided here you will want to decide where you start and the order in which you want to progress.
Where will you meet? Will you always meet in the same place, either somebody's home or a public space such as a room at the library or a cafe? Or do you want to rotate venues?
If you all know each other then meeting in someone's home is probably the easiest option. However it is not always convenient for some people to have, a meeting at their own home, whereas for other members - e.g. those with small children and no babysitter - it might be the only way they can attend.
Think about whether you want to have snacks and even a meal together and make sure that everyone brings food to contribute so that the hostess is not left to do it all. Also make sure that everyone contributes to cleaning up after a meal.
If it is a new group, having the first meeting in a neutral location allows you to get to know each other as individuals without being weighed down by the preconceptions that come from visiting a person's home before you know that person. The other reason is simply a matter of basic safety - you wouldn't invite a blind-date to pick you up from your house, so don't invite a group of strangers into your house until you know them well enough to be sure you want to continue to meet with them.
When will you meet and for how long? Select the time of day/evening that will best fit your group - and try to stick with the same time and day of week once chosen. For example, 1st Tuesday of each month, 7pm. For a relatively relaxed meeting schedule aim for about 2 hours with perhaps an extra 30 minutes if you are going to share a meal.
While it's best to have a basic structure that you follow it is important to allow flexibility within this. What works for others may not work for your group. The bottom line is that if your group is going to work the members must want to be there. Stay focused on making the group a fun and interesting place to be and whatever format your group takes it's sure to be a success!
Running the meetings:
It is worth having a designated convener for each meeting. This can rotate around the group. It is important that someone keeps the conversation on track, ensures that one or two people don’t dominate and that everyone gets a turn.
The group might like to structure the meeting in the following:
We have selected a range of books that have influenced many women and helped them to understand the Goddess and Divine Feminine. There are a mix of novels and non-fiction books, which span a wide range of styles and topics. For example, according to a survey within the Goddess Community in Australia, the Mists of Avalon has been a key introduction for many women to the Goddess in the British Isles. Anita Diamat takes a small verse from the Old Testament and creates a plausible alternative to the story of Joseph and his brothers. Margaret Songbird has researched the life and influence of Mary Magdalene.
Members : Login to the Members Section and follow the links to find Tricia's guide questions for study of each book:
Marion Zimmer Bradley : Mists of Avalon
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We have suggested that you read in roughly the order given here as the first two novels provide an interesting introduction to different ways of viewing history and religion and are works of fiction based in some historical event. These books are followed by the work of Margaret Starbird who has taken a ‘fiction’ created by the Catholic church and researched the truth with amazing findings.
Our one male writer is considered to be a major influence in the development of Goddess spirituality. Robert Graves was one of the first in the West to look at the role of the ancient Goddess and Her influence in modern times.
The next four books are foundational texts in the emergence and shaping of the Goddess community particularly in the USA. A balance is provided by the work of Kathy Jones Priestess of Avalon whose writing is based on her lived experience of the Goddess in Brigit’s Isle.
Finally, one of the books of Jean Shinoda Bolen provides an opportunity to consider the ways in which the ancient Grecian Goddess archetypes still influence us in the 21st Century.
Some of these books are substantial and complex and you might want to study them over one or two months. Take your time, enjoy the journey.
Goddess Blessings. (Book Club prepared by Tricia Szirom, GAIA President and co-owner of Gaia's Garden.)
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