Wu, Nu Shen, and Xi Wang Mu

Spirit Women in China

This course is based on three videos about the wu (ecstatic priesteses of ancient China); other women of spiritual attainment; and Chinese goddesses (shen nü or nü shen). You also get seven photo essays, links to two in-depth articles, and a resource page for further research.

In the first video, The Wu: Spirit Priestesses of China, you'll learn about ceremonies of the wu in the context of the Chinese Concordance, the oldest written characters in the oracle bones and bronzes, shapeshifting, and the spirits of animals and ancestors. We look at texts that describe the goddess Xi Wang Mu as a wu with tiger-shapeshifting aspects

The second video, Taoist Adepts and Immortals, shows you legendary spiritual women like Chen Jinggu, MaZe, Wei Huacun and other Daoist sages; the revolutionary spiritual leader Tang Sai Er, and Ng Mui, a martial artist who originated White Crane kungfu, one of the five exiled Shaolin Masters. We also look at female immortals and the divinities Xüan Nü and Wu Sheng Lao Mu.

The third video, Xi Wangmu and Other Goddesses, goes into greater depth about one of the oldest goddesses in China, Xi Wangmu. She is named in an oracle bone inscription as the Western Grandmother, paired with an Eastern Grandmother. Later she continues to be paired with an eastern goddess, MaGu or Biaxia Yuanjun. You'll learn about Xi Wangmu as the Cosmic Weaver who governs the celestial turnings, the portals of birth and death, and her many spirit servitors in the form of fox, raven, phoenix, frog, rabbit, and various chimeric beings. Along the way, we'll look at the ancient snake goddess Nü Gua and Dou Mu, a Buddhist form of the celestial goddess.

Plus, photo essays:

The Wu: Female Shamans of Ancient China

Wu Aspects of Xi Wangmu

Ecstatic Priestesses of Chu

Indigenous Tiger Women

The legend of Chen Jinggu

Deified female adepts

Daoist wisewomen

A final section offers two of my articles and additional bibliographical resources

Your Instructor

Max Dashu
Max Dashu

Max Dashu founded the Suppressed Histories Archives in 1970 to research and document global women's history, reflecting the full spectrum of the world's peoples. She uses images to teach, scanning the cultural record: archaeology, history, art, orature, linguistics and spiritual philosophies. From her collection of some 50,000 images, she has created 130 visual talks on female cultural heritages, foregrouding Indigenous traditions, with attention to patterns of conquest and domination. She is internationally known for her expertise on ancient female iconography, matricultures and patriarchal systems, medicine women and shamans, witch hunts, and female spheres of power.

Dashu's legendary visual talks bring to light female realities usually hidden from view, from ancient female figurines to women leaders, priestesses, clan mothers, philosophers, warriors and rebels. Her courses scan the cultural record—archaeology, history, art, orature, linguistics, and spiritual philosophies—making this knowledge more accessible to all education backgrounds.

Dashu has been presenting her visual talks for more than four decades, at universities, conferences, museums, community centers, bookstores, galleries, libraries and schools, in North America, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Britain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Austria, Australia, Mexico and Guatemala.

Max Dashu's book Witches and Pagans: Women in European Folk Religion, 700-1000 (Veleda Press, 2016) has been acclaimed as a sourcebook on European ancestral traditions. Her forthcoming Pythias, Melissae, and Pharmakides: Women in Hellenic Culture will be the second book in her 16-volume series Secret History of the Witches.

Dashu has published in various journals and anthologies, including Goddesses in World Mythology (Praeger 2010) and the Encyclopedia of Women in World Religion (ABC-Clio 2018). She created two videos: Women's Power in Global Perspective (2008) and Woman Shaman: The Ancients (2013). Her daily posts on the Suppressed Histories Facebook page are followed by 181,000 people, and 72,000 more have viewed her articles on Academia.edu.

Articles, gallery and resources on the Suppressed Histories Archives website

Books by Max Dashu from Veleda Press

History Sibyl audio podcasts: www.sourcememory.net/maxdashu

Veleda blog by Max Dashu: www.sourcememory.net/veleda

Daily posts from the Suppressed Histories Archives on Facebook

Art by Max Dashu: www.maxdashu.net

Suppressed Histories Portal on Instagram

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Frequently Asked Questions

When does the course start and finish?
This minicourse can be viewed on your own schedule, at your leisure.
How long do I have access to the course?
As long as the Suppressed Histories Portal is active.

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