Originally published on White Noise
Pick-and-mix spirituality is on the rise. So for our Growth theme, White Noise’s eternally inquisitive content editor, Arnelle Paterson, took a trip to the Goddess Space in Maida Vale in search of her feminine powers.
Alternative spirituality intrigues me. Perhaps it’s my insatiable curiosity of anything considered ‘other’. Or was it inevitable because of my mixed ethnicity, and its interfaith by-product: a blend of Christianity, Islam and traditional West African religion? Maybe it’s the free-spirited child in me, the idea that I don’t have to conform to a set of specific religious rules, skating between Christian, Islamic and even Buddhist beliefs that emphasise the importance of gratitude, faith, prayer, self-awareness and karma, whilst honouring the monotheism of Abrahamic religions.
Today, I’m meeting a woman with the kind of brows that you could only hope that Anastasia Beverly Hills brow products might bless you with. She goes by the name of Anoushka Florence, and I’m visiting the Goddess Space, a sacred space she opened three years ago “to support women in connecting back to their truth.”
I’m surprised by the simplicity of the room. There’s no incense burning, no tarot cards sprawled across the perfectly-lit floor, not a hint of mysticism in sight. But what exactly is it? Florence explains: “The Goddess Space is a sacred space for women to gather together and to really connect back to themselves through ceremonies, through gathering, through one-to-one sessions, through many different avenues that will lead you back to yourself.”
Perhaps it’s this idea of connecting back to something that is the catalyst behind the recent rise in alternative religion and spirituality. Over half of Brits who consulted a psychic reported that they felt the experience was truthfuland, Wicca, which has over 53,000 followers, is thought to be the fastest growing religion in the UK.
The Goddess Space – while not affiliated with the Wiccan movement – keys into the same rebellion against mainstream religion. And Florence believes that technology has a part to play: “I think people are seeking connection, and we’ve been sold this false advertisement that social media and technology are these gateways to instant connection. But more than ever, everyone feels so disconnected.” She goes on: “Spirituality is a reminder that above all the technology… feeling another human, seeing another human, and hearing another human is actually all we need to feel whole.”
Having grown up in a deeply religious Jewish family, Florence turned away from organised religion when she was just 13. “The Goddess wasn’t mentioned in Judaism; it was ‘he’, it was the ‘man’, it was God. I was like: I just don’t feel this anymore. So I broke away and I went numb to spirituality and to everything, had crazy teenage years and early twenties and then I hit a brick wall and spirituality came back into my life.”
I was interested to know how Florence perceives the Goddess. She explains: “It is the divine aspect and spark that lives within each woman, that is channelled through us. We are embodying that Goddess energy on this planet… That soul, that intuition, that emotion, the healing powers, all these different beautiful aspects that make up a divine woman have come from the source of it all. She’s Mother Earth.” She’s not only one drawn to the femininity of the Goddess. The revival of Spiritualism among women echoes the contemporary Women’s Spirituality Movement, born in the 1970s, that confronts the assumption that God is male.
Florence expands: “Most religions have left out the Goddess. If you’re connecting to the energies and you don’t have a female archetype to connect to, it’s difficult. Judaism, Christianity, Islam – although it’s spoken about, it’s not as revered as the tribal communities where nature is religion. And recognising that we are nature, a woman’s cycle is the same as the moon cycle.”
But she draws the line at describing the Goddess Space as a feminist group. “I believe that men and women are different. We’re equal, but different… We need different rights to a man, but in an equal space.” She asserts, “So, I would never call myself a feminist, but I’m totally girl power all the way.” The Maida Vale-based practitioner even works her business around her menstrual cycle. “I’ve got to honour myself, I’ve got to honour my body, my wellness so that I can actually express it in the way that it needs to be expressed.” So working when your womb feels like it’s being raked with a pitchfork by the Devil himself? It’s a no-no.
Florence’s eventual return to spiritual practice had a poignant foundation. She was “going through a bit of depression”, decided she wanted to be an actress, quit her job and began attending an acting school. She recalls her first day at drama school. “My teacher looked at me, he goes: ‘Before you can pick up a script, before you can take on any other character’s role, you need to know exactly you are,’ and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t know who I am!’” At the beginning of every class, she and her classmates would meditate for 45 minutes, and through this she found spirituality.
These days, she uses different healing practices from oracle cards, meditation and sound healing, to bath rituals, flame watching and grounding (putting your feet in the soil). The use of magick is a practice that Florence feels can help with self-development. Magick – no typo, the added ‘k’ differentiates it from rabbit-pulling-from-a-hat entertainment – is defined as“techniques for harnessing internal and external energies that will help us change ourselves and our environment.” But the magick aficionado believes it’s a little deeper than that. “Magick is a conversation with the universe, that the universe is having with you through experience and through things. Coincidences, synchronicities in life, they’re the universe sending you signs and messages.” You don’t have to be Sabrina the Teenage Witch to add a little magick into your life either: “You could be cooking dinner and sealing intentions into your cooking. It’s intention.”
Spiritual growth is not as easy as positive affirmations, chanting and pretty candles. “It’s funny because, the further down you go in your path, the harder it gets really, because you’re getting to the real core, the beginning. As you get to the wound, you realise that it’s a lot deeper than just your boyfriend’s pissed you off. The core wound is way more painful than that.” The self-awareness that comes with spiritual growth can help in the expansion of other key areas in your life too. “It’s about you first and then you trickle. If you’re trying to fix your relationship but you’re not whole, then it’s impossible. Same with your work. Everything manifests from you being full.”
Florence’s practice certainly resonates, but it’s left me wondering where my place is on the spirituality spectrum. As I leave Maida Vale, I remind myself that I can be both religious and spiritual. My spiritual relationship is personal, between God and I – and no one else. Maybe that’s what a spiritual space is really about, creating a mental state of awareness that everything starts within yourself. On that note, I’m off for some me time.
The grass is growing, ice creams are obligatory and our theme for May is Growth.
Want to start your spiritual journey with a tribe of sisters? You can sign up to Anoushka Florence’s three-month programme here.