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How One Woman Persevered in Her Dream to Establishing a Goddess Temple in one of California's Most Conservative Counties

© 2006 Suzan Vaughn

"Always 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.  Surrounded by 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 consultations.

             Ava's 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 warrior women.

             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," she said.

            "You know it's a three year lease," was all he said.

            "Yes, I do," she responded.

            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.  #