European women’s circles embracing spirituality and “sisterhood”

Since the early 2000s, the emergence of women’s circles, small, intimate monthly gatherings exploring women’s issues, in Europe has also seen the growth of eclectic spirituality among participants, writes Chia Longman in the journal Religions (January 1). These circles “appear to be a growing phenomenon across the globe in recent years, as they have become more visible and accessible to a broader audience due to the Internet and the launch of various transnational ‘circle movements’ since the 2000s that promote circling.” These circles tend not to promote any one version of feminism and spirituality, which is often seen by the participants Longman interviewed as a personal issue. But such alternative practices as meditation, rituals, chanting, the presence of altars, oracle cards, blessings, and references to the divine or the sacred feminine were frequently found among these women.

These circles are not only seen as protected spaces and a source for self-empowerment but they also stress the concept of “sisterhood,” which lends them a sense of “collective agency and community,” Longman adds. She calls these groups “post-secular” in that they try to break down the divides between secular, religious, and spiritual. The circles’ appeal shows a “growing curiosity from the side of secular feminism for the neglected, yet critical, and even political potential of spirituality…a new kind of spirituality/wellbeing practiced by (predominantly, but not exclusively) white middle-class women in the West….”