The Woman and the Owl Foundation was born out of my deep appreciation and esteem for the lives of service and the experiences of the world’s ‘unsung heroines’, the women spiritual leaders who create and sustain community. The Foundation continues my research, education, and support of Women of Spirit, regardless of their tradition or background.
I hold a PhD (D.Phil) in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Oxford, England. During the course of my studies, I resided in Nepal for two years, performing ethnographic research at a Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage site in the high Himalayas, close to the Tibetan border.
While living with the Nyingmpapa Buddhist nuns who are the caretakers of the pilgrimage site, I began to think more deeply about the nuances and challenges of being a spiritual person in a woman’s body, and wrote about how the gender and sexuality of the nuns was a primary concern for many of the pilgrims and non-Buddhist ritual leaders who came to the site. The caretaker nuns of the site become nuns because they are the second of three daughters born to families in the surrounding villages, and not usually because of a personal spiritual calling. This also raised some interesting questions about the nature of spiritual calling, predetermination, and spiritual development. My stay in the nunnery allowed me to study a range of girls, young women, and mature women at various stages of spiritual development, commitment, and identity.
I became actively involved in earth-based religions while living in Ireland, and have gone on to study and practice within Lakota, Curanderismo, plant medicine, and other traditions. After finishing my doctoral dissertation in 2012, I moved from England back to my native USA, to continue my research on women spiritual and ritual leaders in the context of ‘new’ and ‘native’ traditions.
In addition to serving as Director of the Woman and the Owl Foundation, I sit on the board of the Moving Steps Foundation, A non-profit organization that operates a dance company in a women’s medium-security prison and offers dance programs for former offenders.
Dr. Jessamine Dana is a teacher, writer, mentor, and facilitator at the individual, group, university, and corporate levels. Her work at the Woman and the Owl Foundation is both an offering to the public and a personal journey.