GODDESS AVA PARK:
One Woman Persevered in Her Dream to Establishing a Goddess Temple in one of
California's Most Conservative Counties
2006 Suzan Vaughn
the battle of the spiritual warrior is with the self."
--The Book of Runes by Ralph Blum.
Ava's battle scars were
invisible, but I knew they were there. The Director of the Goddess Temple of
Orange County met me at the entrance to her sanctuary in flowing robes and
copper circlet. Her grace and dignity were hard won partly by the battle she had
fought to get the Goddess Temple a location of its own.
"We started meeting in my
home, but when we outgrew the space, I knew it was time to look for a real
location for the temple," she told me.
As a pet psychic and goddess
icon merchant, I had rented Cleopatra's Library to translate messages for
people, to and from their precious pets. The
prospect of combining my love of animals with promotion of the Divine Feminine
was exciting. But as a former journalist, I also wanted to hear the story of
this wonderful sister who had bucked the odds to build a successful temple in
the middle of one of the most conservative communities in California.
With a wave of her hand,
Priestess Ava introduced me to Reception
Room with its lovely altar to Bridget, Celtic goddess of holy water and sacred
flame. The altar is composed of a large flowing well ringed by fire.
beautiful flowers, scents, candles and symbolic statuary, the Goddess who had
reached enlightenment but agreed to stay earthbound for the sake of helping
humanity was well represented.
Adjacent to the entrance was
Cleopatra's Library, a cozy room filled with books, multi-cultural goddess
statues, tables, twin Egyptian Bast statues (four-feet tall ceramic), and
artistic Egyptian wall hangings of Isis. It was a perfectly private venue for
tour then took me past Oshun's Lounge where rich red and gold colored pillows
and African-inspired hassocks formed a triangular sanctuary in the corner of a
large room. Adorned at the entry by exotic teas to quench the thirst, along with
water, fruits and snacks, it felt safe, warm, and protected there.
"This is where women gather
to talk and share and laugh after Sunday services," she said.
As we entered the Main
Sanctuary, we crossed a small wooden bridge under which the abundant waters of Lakshmi’s River of Blessings flowed. Ava
dipped her fingertips into a bowl of holy water to her left and blessed herself
before entering the temple.
The 1,600 square foot space that
can hold 100 was originally constructed as a warehouse, but had been
completely transformed with golden walls, encircled by a grove of living trees.
In each quarter corner is an altar that honors the elements, the phases of a
woman’s life, and the seasons of the year, which I learned had never been seen
by men. These altars were for women only, and are screened from view when men
are present in the Sanctuary.
The Main Altar, with a life sized golden Eve offering her apple of
wisdom, is open to all. Featured in the middle of the room was the
specially prepared altar for the coming Sunday Service, an altar to the Goddess
Athena, originally a Goddess of Craft and Wisdom … later overlayed by
patriarchy with warrior aspects. The Sunday Service was featuring “Warrior
Women,” with a guest priestess expert in martial arts and ancient Amazon
In the western corner, is “Diana’s Grotto,” an altar to
this goddess, composed of a magical tree that women can enter, one at a time, to
meditate on the tree stump next to the flowing spring.
I was overcome by the expansive
display of the Feminine Divine. Tears welled up in my eyes and I turned to Ava
who paused in her discourse about the temple's history and construction. She was
used to that kind of reaction.
"I didn't know I'd react
this way, but it's an overwhelming feeling of coming home, isn't it? How many
women have this kind of emotional reaction?" I asked her.
"Almost all of the women
who come here. The sacred feminine has been suppressed for so long, most of them
weep just as you did," she said.
With that, she gently put her
hands together in prayerful pose, and retreated to allow me private moments with
each of the altars. Afterward I joined her in her office to find out more about
the spiritual journey she'd undertaken that eventually resulted in the creation
of this sacred feminine space.
Shopping for a location for The
Goddess Temple of Orange County was no easy task. Holding the vision in prayer, Ava first looked in neighborhoods she
felt she could afford on her start-up budget. She said she felt unsafe in many
of them, which was not an option.
"I dressed in conservative
business suits as I went about negotiating leases. There was no flowing robes or
goddess crowns as I'm wearing now. But when many of the leasing agents found out
I wanted to put a Goddess Temple in their building, they withdrew their offer in
horror. I was even accused of devil worship," she laughed.
"I know what you
mean," I shared. "I talked my Baptist family into allowing me to do
the Thanksgiving prayer a few years ago, and when I opened the prayer with 'God,
Goddess, All That Is,' let's just say a lively discussion resulted, and I was
not allowed to lead the blessing again."
During initial inquiries, Ava
told leasing agents she intended to put a church in the building. Many told her
they had other churches, so it was no problem, until they found out what kind of
church she was planning. Then, the back pedaling began.
Eventually, Ava found Sky Park
Circle, an upscale industrial and office complex very near the John Wayne
airport in Irvine, California. It was safe, clean, relatively affordable, and
had plenty of free parking. She matter-of-factly discussed price, length of
lease and other particulars, and the papers were in front of her before the
leasing agent asked about her business.
"He hardly looked up from
his desk when I told him it would be The Goddess Temple of Orange County,"
"You know it's a three year
lease," was all he said.
"Yes, I do," she
Ava, with her sister priestesses of the Temple, now holds the vision of a free-standing structure built in the middle of
the city, surrounded by land for
outdoor ritual, but for now her sanctuary is centrally located and easily
accessed. She is truly a modern warrior Goddess, imbued with Athena's qualities
of self-confidence, power,
courage, intelligence and diplomacy. #