“Why Are So Many Women Embracing Vesta & Contemporary Paganism?” by Debra Macleod

The rediscovery of ancient faiths like Vesta, as well as other pre-Christian polytheistic belief systems, has been skyrocketing for years now.  And while both men and women are embracing these, I’d like to focus here on why women are doing so.

For starters, more and more women are re-thinking the religious whopper that being born with a uterus automatically makes us subordinate humans to those born with a penis.  I mean, honestly – would any self-respecting omnipotent being make such important designations based on genitalia?

Yet there it is, in the Bible, for all to read.  In Ephesians: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands…For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church…Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

This message comes directly from an all-powerful, invisible, supernatural male god.  Hmm.  That’s handy.

Of course, Christian leaders and followers alike regularly jump through hoops trying to qualify and rationalize this kind of thing.  Most typically, they’ll say “it’s such a complicated passage…it doesn’t really mean submissive…well, not exactly...”

To me, there’s absolutely nothing complicated about this passage.  It says that women should do what their husbands tell them to do.  The message is clear and intentional.  And it’s one that is still being dished out today in sermons across the continent and across the world.  After all, men are stronger and might makes right…right?  And it’s impossible to have a marriage where a husband and wife can be equal, right?  (I guess my husband and I didn’t get the message…)

But let’s imagine for a moment that the passage read as follows: “Husbands, submit yourselves to your own wives…For the wife is the head of the husband as Christy is the head of the church…Now as the church submits to Christy, so also husbands should submit to their wives in everything.”

Let’s also imagine that this message comes directly from an all-powerful, invisible, supernatural female goddess.

How many men do you know who would sign up for this religion?  None, I hope.  If you have a son, would you want him to enter into marriage believing this to be true?  I hope not.  My husband and I are raising a son and we would never want him to think that he was somehow less than a woman.  Yet turning it around like this should make us aware of how “normalized” it has become to subordinate women in a spiritual sense…and also how absurd that is.

We are often told that Christianity “advanced” the status of women.  Hardly.  Even the old boys club of ancient Rome had its forward thinkers in terms of humanism and gender issues.  Polytheistic Romans were the first to conceive of marriage as a union between one man and one woman, which was an important step toward improving the status of women.


The Vestal order – managed by priestesses – was Rome’s most important and only state-funded, full-time priesthood.

To be sure, life in pre-Christian ancient Rome was no bed of roses.  It was a patriarchy where men dominated most aspects of a woman’s life.  Spiritually, however, no such hierarchy existed.  Gods and goddesses, including Vesta, were both revered.  The feminine was not spiritually subordinate to the masculine.  In fact, the Vestal order – managed by priestesses – was Rome’s most important and only state-funded, full-time priesthood.

After Christianity forcibly established itself as the sole religion of the Roman Empire, this culture of patriarchy continued.  Men continued to dominate almost every area of a woman’s life.  That didn’t change.  The only thing that changed was that the feminine became spiritually subordinate to the male.  There was only one god – a male one.

This gave men “divine justification” to rule over women.  Had that kind of divine justification not existed in our Western culture, there’s no telling what advances may have been made in terms of gender equality; however, I’d lay bets that we wouldn’t still be fighting for control over our own reproductive systems in the year 2015 CE.

As it happened, progress – social and scientific – only happened when the world started to look over the shoulder of religion and back at humanist ideas that had taken root in the ancient world.  We call this time of re-discovery the Renaissance.  And regardless of your gender, your life is better because of it.

Today, a different type of Renaissance is taking place – the “spiritual but not religious” movement.  Many people are leaving organized religion, or just rejecting it outright, in favor of personal spirituality which for some includes the re-discovery of Vesta and other ancient belief systems that were violently suppressed during the rise of Christianity.

Interestingly enough, this 21st century Renaissance is motivated by some of the same things as the 15th century Renaissance: a passion to understand the natural (not supernatural) world, free thought and intelligence, compassion and respect for our fellow beings, personal autonomy and values, and the belief that spiritual growth is inherently personal.

I see many people – men and women alike – embracing elements of the Vesta tradition (visit NewVesta.com for more info) as a spiritual focus for their life and family unit.  It marks a return to the pre-Christian value that one’s spouse and family come first, rather than god or the church.  It also allows people to participate in the comfort of “ritual” without having to buy into doctrine that they just can’t get behind.

Of course, every woman who explores or embraces the Vesta tradition does so for her own reasons.  Yet I regularly speak with women who find the androcentric, monotheistic thrust of the world’s “big three” religions to be off-putting and irrelevant to them, and who feel drawn to the “softer” side of spiritual world-views such as Vesta.

It speaks to them, respects them, comforts them, feels natural to them.  It complements their values and reason.  It brings meaning and devotion to their marriages and strengthens family solidarity.

And in the end – and whether you’re a woman or a man – isn’t that exactly what spirituality is supposed to do?

The Author: Debra Macleod


Debra Macleod, B.A., LL.B. is a couples and family mediator, a top-selling marriage author-expert and a popular resource for major media in North America. She is the leading proponent of the New Vesta tradition and order. Her New Vesta book series and Add a Spark women’s seminars “spread the flame” into modern lives and homes. You can visit Debra’s private practice at DebraMacleod.com or her Vesta website at NewVesta.com.

See Debra Macleod’s other posts.

20 Comments on ““Why Are So Many Women Embracing Vesta & Contemporary Paganism?” by Debra Macleod

  1. Totally agree unfortunately still a long way to go.

  2. Debra, first of all, have patience with for I’m not a native English speaker.
    I agree that Saint Paul’s vision was patriarchal. But you have to understand him in his own historical context. Our mindset is in many ways historically conditioned. We thein in what our contemporaries think, we believe what they believe, we are imersed in the idea pool of our time. There is no ‘neutral”, ‘objective’ point of view. The jewish society Paul was living in was patriarchal, so was the great apostle.But I believe that judging Christianity only from this point of view would be reductionist and shallow. This was the first point.
    Second, the Romans were not the first to set the marriage as a legitimate union between man and woman. You can trace its roots since the dawn of mankind. It continually evolved but is as ancient as humankind is. The Roman marriage is better knwon for it was regulated by the Roman Law which (the Angloe-saxon nations excepted) is the foundation for almost all modern legal systems.
    Trhird, the Renaissance have nothing to do with “free thought” and so on. These are urban myths, or, to put it better, enlightment myths. The Renaissance had a taste for magic and supernatural who would make the Middle Age man to look like very rationalistic. In order to better understand this you should read IOan Petru Culianu ‘Eros and Magic in the Renaissance’.
    And finally, I thing that religion adresses to our deepest feelings, to the real innerself. Going to a softer and easy “customised” hedonistic “spirituality” is just a game, not something to take it serious. Before going to Vesta, celtic and all other New Age mumbo jumbo, you have to question yourself if, in a limit situation, it’s will be Vesta or no matter whatever New Age-postmodernistic deity you would ask for help. I have a suspicion that you would not. The you would cow and the name of the old, nasty patriarchical god would spring out from your lips. That’s because when we feel the danger, shallow and trendy ideas we profess when we are not threteaned are imediately blown away.
    To put it straight, true believes are those deeply rooted in ourselves and which pass the test of edge situations. All the rest are fashion, trendy ideas but nothing more.
    I agree with feminism but trying to build a religion, spirituality (it is and sounds shallow) from this it is simply hilarious.

  3. Dear Han

    Slow down a little bit or otherwise it will make you feel bad. I have to admit you have a strong imagination and snap quickly. You are fabulating. The insults, the arrogance and the horor empire you’re describing are just in your head. You are obsessed with domination. I am not engaged in any campaign so I don’t expect any resistance. I’m not that kind of hyperactive NGO militant guy. This profile better suits you. I’ve figured you well, son. You’re one of those who shout “a lion!” when they see a mouse. Cool down a little bit and stop being so utterly simplistic. I’m fed enough with men like you. The music you’re singing I’ve heard thousand times again and again and not from the most brilliant ones. Rather than beating the drums and sounding the trumpet of the brave new world you are celebrating you would better read a few (good) books. I can asure you that some general grounding won’t hurt anyone, not even you. Stop endulging yourself in this cheap self comforting PC gloom and step into the land of ideas that contradict your teenager dreams. So now you may go to sleep but not before taking an intelectual tranquiliser. Good night to you, too.

    • Quite a long winded post for nothing more than ad hominem. Is that all you have? You are dismissive and abusive to pagans and paganism on this, a site by and for pagans and about paganism, and seem to think you’re right to do so. You clearly consider your Abrahamic monotheism superior and think to lecture those who do not follow it, but what do you hope to accomplish? Can you seriously be so deluded as to think you will be obeyed, or are you simply antagonizing people just because you can? Do you think anyone will abandon their beliefs to embrace yours due to your rants, or do you simply seek to make yourself feel validated by putting down the beliefs of others?

      Regardless, you are naught but a troll and I am surprised your abuse is allowed to stand. Clearly, the moderation here is lax or else you’d have found yourself sitebanned some time ago.

      • Han, hello to you too. Did it take you so long to scheme your replica or it just popped out of your mind? And please, look who’s talking about ad hominem attacks. Because that’s the only thing you did since posting here. Sorry, but I’ve rarely met such a hypocrisy. Since you are blind when exposed, I’ll quote your words: “abusive”, “dismissive”, “naught”, “troll”, “lax” and so on. Before giving names, start looking at yourself and please for once and for all to keep yourself in check and have a better choosing of your words if you can’t manage the same thing with ideas.

        You simulate surprise at the moderator’s laxity. That’s maybe because he/she has a better grasp of reality than you. All are grown up people here and can tell a debate from ranting and barking as you are doing here. They need no self enabled advocate such as you. You don’t care about their opinions or mine more than you care if life exist one million light years from here. In fact, you are angry I have exposed your lack of ideas and accountability. Look at Nicole. She understood I was coming with a different vision but she also understood that we can agree to disagree in a civilized manner. She won’t convince me and I won’t convince her. That’s life and a free world. I am not abusing as you, a in lousy way of missing the real sens of words, are implying. If you have problems with that and want stone unit of vision, than join the North Korea Communist Party.

        I am challenging them, oh, yes, but that’s way too far from what you say a I do. No one else seems to bother except you. The topic is well above your level of your thinking. So, you are back to square one and didn’t change a bit. That’s no substitute for reading and trying to improve your general grounding. Simulating indignation and embracing causes you don’t understand and are not called to defend can’t hide your ignorance. And that’s my last replica to you.Talking to you it’s a terrible waste of time, so don’t bother to write anymore until you put some ideas in your speech, for now it ‘s vain.

        • First it’s ad hominem, then when called on it you resort to “I know you are but what am I?”. And again you diffuse this simplistic retort into multiple paragraphs of sophistry filled with seemingly intelligent words that parse out to nothing. You should be a politician, you have the necessary talent for speaking much while ultimately saying nothing.

  4. I am a practicing pagan and i love this article. U go girl! I only wish that more people were as accepting as we r.

  5. Great article. I follow the Norse Pagan path and can agree with the move towards non-abrahamic religions increasing. I think a lot of it is to do with the fact that extremists are showing the true colours of many of the laws/rules/policies of these abrahamic religions and how archaic these words are. It is also becoming a lot less stigmatised to be open about what you believe in these days. There are no more ‘Witch Trials’ and recognition is being given to other religions including to military persons.

  6. Strong words you use for those who, simply, don’t share your views. And I you call yourself a tolerant, liberal being while you put all the others in a single basket and call them “extremists”. And the thread goes on by giving names such as “Witch Trials”, “stigmata” etc. Just pompous empty words. Take a word, put it in a weak context and all the meaning is blown away. I see that some peoples around here have adopted defensive attitudes although no one attacked them. The “revolutionary” pitch and the strong words are thrown with too much lack of depth. It sounds like a drama queen lament. I know that victimization speech makes the gives one’s the upper hand, but let’s go back to arguments.
    When talking about Norse Pagan way or any other pagan way (Vesta and whatever) do you mean you really believe in those gods? They really exist for you? Why Vesta and not Juno? Why not Diane or Ceres? And so on. What’s the doctrine, what are the “fundamental trues” of these religions?
    If you believe that one religion is intolerant then you turn your face from its institutions or from its god? Then you “build” your own customized god in order to adjust him/her to your self indulging true? In the end, do you really believe the easy way is the best way? Looking from here it looks like that’s what you’re doing.
    If possible, I would like a rational and well articulated explanation, not the poorly vain rhetoric I’ve been fed with up to now.

    • Hello Radu,
      I believe that some information may have been miscommunicated.
      I am a practicing pagan. I personally feel a stronger pull towards the old Egyptian gods, than I do to any other pantheon.
      Paganism is not a monotheistic religion, we tend to be polytheistic as men are typically not seen as being the givers of life.Women are the ones who give birth, and in most pantheons the earth and water are typically seen as being attached to the female divine. While fire and air are usually seen as being masculine.

      We also do worship the old male gods, I know people who worship Odin, some who worship Pan, and Others who worship Osiris, Set or even Anubis.

      None of this is built, we follow to the best that we can, we study ancient history to see how these gods used to be worshiped and try and do them justice.

      I was a practicing roman catholic until I turned 14. At that point I was told I could not lead others in service, that only men could become priests. Where did women fit? That’s when I really started looking through the Bible and doing research. The holy book that is used is missing a lot of information. A group of men got together and did a huge edit on what was acceptable to go in it and what should be taken out. Unfortunately it is not the text that was handed down originally. That being said, it is up to interpretation and our own personal judgement to make sense of it.

      This is exactly what each of us is doing.We are looking at things and making our own choices. And in doing so we are growing more spiritually than we could with the strict rules set out by the different churches.

      Nicole (Handmaiden to the gods)

  7. I am a male Goddess worshiper. My wife’s name is Vesta. When you marry a Goddess, Love becomes worship.
    One person’s myth is another person’s religion. I Love, Adore and Worship the Feminine Divine.

  8. Pingback: Vesta, Goddess of Home and Hearth | Barefoot Hippie Witchery

  9. There are a few aspects of the priesthood, vestales virgines, that seem skipped over. Each priestess was chosen in childhood by the Pontifex Maximus and had little, if any choice, to resist the appointment. She served until her mid-forties, which at the time was essentially a lifetime appointment. She had little choice as to how she served, including the fact that should she engage in sexual relations with a man while in service, she and he would be walled up alive and left to slowly die. She was also subject to physical correction in the form of whippings by the Pontifex Maximus. So, while you are correct in your assertion that the Vestals were revered – and inspired nuns and sisters of a later Christian age – they were no less the victims of patriarchy than other women.

  10. Ask people: would you want a man or woman as your boss?

    Even most WOMEN say they’d prefer a male boss, to the petty jealousy, cattiness, etc of a woman.
    THAT is why the ancients wrote that men should be in charge.

    • That is utter sexist bovine excrement and I hope you know it. Human beings are INDIVIDUALS, and every group of people has their kind hearts and their filth-spewing anuses. You, sir, are acting like the latter.

      The whole point of non-discrimination is to avoid the fatal flaw of prejudice, aka presuming things about a person simply by the category they belong to rather than knowing and judging them on an individual basis. Contrary to popular belief, you can NOT know things about a person based on mere superficial traits, because people are all different from one another and you don’t know a person until you know that person. There’s no simple shortcut to knowing people, and “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is more than a moral axiom, it’s also good practical advice. Failing to follow it will cause you to make all sorts of mistakes caused by making uninformed assumptions instead of getting real knowledge.

  11. Debra, you wrote a great piece, but man, I should not have read the comments. #headdesk

    • I understand that feeling! Some people think that their majority status entitles them to harass and belittle others for not conforming to their expectations. They claim to believe in freedom of choice, but all too often that seems to boil down to only mean freedom for themselves and the ability to run roughshod over everyone else. Conformists and bullying all too often go hand in hand, with ignorance and arrogance fueling discrimination and social persecution.

      That attitude is at the root of many of the greatest challenges and conflicts facing our society today, and unfortunately bigotry doesn’t die easily. To my fellow pagans and feminists, I say keep your head up and stay strong. They fight so because they have seen the writing on history’s wall which spells their epitaph. Remember the words of the pagan rock pioneers Inkubus Sukkubus who said

      “Clinging to their dying empire
      Clutching at their blood-stained bibles
      Their final days have come at last
      And they shall fade into the past”


      “Now the darkest age has passed
      The Goddess has returned at last!”

      The revolution is won, without violence, our progressive ideas have prevailed. We must remain vigilant, of course, and the wounded animal that is conservative Christian would-be theocracy will growl and snap and thrash and claw, but it is bleeding out. Time will finish them, and the more they spew hate and commit violence the more they hasten the day when they are naught but a powerless relic of the bad old days. The future is inclusive and tolerant, and the Christian majority of tomorrow is much closer to the teachings of Christ in their embrace of peace, diversity generosity, and equality. Pagans will be able to safely co-exist in friendship with them and all other faiths in the truly free nation we are becoming without fear of harm or discrimination, and violence in the name of religion will be a thing of the past. It is inevitable.

      Hate may yet win a few battles before it is all over, but the war is already lost to them. Love has won.The children of tomorrow will look back at the hatred of today with shock and revulsion and even confusion, unable to comprehend the irrational futility of hate. Until that day, stay strong and blessed be.

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