Facing change: Eastside women’s temple closes doors

After 13 years of drum circles, lunar rituals and quiet cups of tea, the women-only sanctuary, the Full Circle Temple, held its last ritual circle on Sunday. The vibrantly-colored house on East Burnside was closed because of budget reasons. The closing, as well as talks of opening up a new feminist collective that may include men, are signs of a new era of feminism in Portland, for some associated with the Full Circle Temple.

After 13 years of drum circles, lunar rituals and quiet cups of tea, the women-only sanctuary, the Full Circle Temple, held its last ritual circle on Sunday.

The vibrantly-colored house on East Burnside was closed because of budget reasons. The closing, as well as talks of opening up a new feminist collective that may include men, are signs of a new era of feminism in Portland, for some associated with the Full Circle Temple.

Since 1995, Full Circle Temple has maintained an open-door policy, allowing any woman to enter the house. For some, the four-bedroom home was a place of sanctuary. For others, it was a place to celebrate their spirituality. But recently, donations given to the temple have not been enough to sustain rent, which was often covered by the landlord, group members say.

Last December, the building’s owner, Terri Treat, announced to Full Circle’s organizational council that they would either need to come up with a stable financial plan, or the temple would need to close. When neighborhood fundraising attempts failed, the temple’s closure was announced at a gathering held there in early February.

Full Circle Temple operated as a meeting ground, ritual space and a place to stay for women ranging from those that were visiting town for a week, or those that needed a temporary home for a night. Groups such as the Sisterhood Circle would also meet regularly at the temple to meditate, enjoy the backyard garden or hold earth-based religion festivals.

At the last gathering on Sunday, many of the women who used the space said there is a need for a place like this in Portland.

In with the new

Full Circle’s closure does not necessarily mean an end to activities that were previously held in the temple. Some women, many of whom are newcomers to Full Circle, are looking to form a new women’s collective.

Nikki Hemlan, Anni Paisley and Nova Dawn, all members of the Sisterhood Circle, have been gathering for a year at the temple every other Sunday. They say they feel the time has come for less exclusion of gender within the organization. Circle members say that a precedent has been set for women’s equality and bringing men back to the table is the best way to keep that equality and facilitate further harmony between genders.

“We need to allow these energies to intermingle,” Hemlan said. “There has been a need to exclude and separate, now is the time to reunite. I think it’s a really great step.”

While no specific plans have been finalized, all three women spoke positively on the idea of allowing people of any gender into their not-yet-designed new space. With Portland’s transgender community, Circle representatives say that it is difficult to even consider maintaining gender boundaries, when those lines are continually crossing.

Future of the Temple

The group has been tossing around ideas for what the new collective would be and where it would be located. Some people involved with the temple say they hope to one day utilize the former location on Burnside–if they can be sure of making rent payments.

“Some of us are thinking of moving in and supporting it partially with our own rent payments,” Hemlan said. “And then the community rooms can be used for music shows, parties, dinners, those sorts of things, so this space isn’t closed off.”

“Right now we’re in the phase of looking for people who want to be involved,” Dawn said, in the near-empty main room of the temple this Sunday. Hemlan agreed and said, “Money of course, is the foundation.”

Get involved:

Anyone interested in participating with the Full Circle Temple, or getting in touch with them about the future of the collective, can call Nikki Hemlan at 503-875-0003, Anni Paisley at 206-914-6003, or email Nova Dawn at [email protected]