When I visited the city of Bath in western England, I didn’t realize it was the site of an ancient goddess temple. I knew about the Roman baths, of course, and I was vaguely aware of Jane Austen’s connection to the town, but it wasn’t until I rounded a corner in the museum and came face to face with an image of the temple that once stood there that I realized I was at a goddess site....
Dark clouds snaked through the overcast sky like an airborne river, grumbling warning of impending deluge that summer afternoon in Orlando, Florida. I was a ten-year-old sorceress with blonde curls and a need for magical sand. My nine-year-old cousin and apprentice sorcerer collected the sand beneath the overhead bars as we discussed his infant sister, whom we knew was destined to be the most powerful sorceress of all.
The river in the sky grumbled louder, flashing a bit of lightning at us in warning. I leaned against the metal bars, raised an eyebrow. "Larak," I said, calling the thunder god by the name I'd given him, "You can just wait until we get home. When I'm standing under the carport, you can pour all you want then."
My cousin cast a worried look heavenward. "I think we have enough sand," he said. "Let's get back before we get soaked!"...
I grew up on a farm in Puerto Rico where I experienced the full cycle of life. My days were filled with domestic dogs, cats, goats, pigs, hens, and rabbits. As I took care of these animals, I learned to love them. In particular, I welcomed the miracle of life with every new litter of animals. I also encountered grief as I mourned the creatures when they died. Amazingly, my nights were filled with different entities. Lions, cheetahs, giraffes, leopards, elephants, monkeys, and many other exotic animals visited my dreams. Since childhood, I have been dreaming about the African wildlife. Until now.
I was fortunate to visit Tanzania during this summer. Through the eye of my camera I captured African animals, not to mention a multitude of bright colored birds. Besides the magnificent wildlife and spectacular Tanzanian vistas, something unexpected captured my attention: A tree. Not a regular tree, but instead, a wish tree. This beautiful tree had a large opening in its center. “People come here and pray to the wish tree,” a Tanzanian man told me. “Women who desire to become pregnant climb up the tree and enter its trunk,” he said with a mysterious smile. “The sacred tree always grants females their wish. “...
I am majoring in Anthropology, and this semester I’m taking a couple of classes on Native American history and one on the anthropology of religion, which all go together rather nicely, and I’m having fun because it’s all right in my wheelhouse, as an animistic Pagan Hedge Witch and lover of culture, especially indigenous and ancient cultures....
Autumn – it’s coming. The nights are drawing in, and though the sun’s strength is still strong, there is a chill in the breeze that carries the smell of woodsmoke. The greening is fading, the vegetation now out of room to grow after a hot summer, and is now an almost choking mass, ready to fall back and rest a while. Deep within my own soul, I feel these rhythms, and will shortly be following the inspiration I see all around me within nature. The time for rest is coming, but first there is the harvest, with plenty of hard work still lying ahead. The bees and wasps are still hard at work, soon to be looking for homes to winter through, should that be in their nature. The swallows will soon be leaving, the fledglings having already taken to the skies. They are waiting, waiting for the right wind to take them back, once their food supply begins to wane.
I simply adore the autumn. The leaves will soon be changing and falling, the sweet smell of decaying foliage and the crunching of dried vegetation underfoot. The light changes, so beautifully in the autumn – it has that certain slant that makes things seem even more magical....
At a time that was not now and a place that was not here, a woman, Anima, was blessed with a perfect life. She had never been sick, never suffered from hunger or lack of love. She went about her days without any worries or concerns. One day she came upon a young woman hurt and bleeding. The young woman told her tale of suffering at the hands of uncaring people and how she had been left to die. Anima took the young woman home, cared for her and slowly her wounds began to heal.
There came a time when Anima arrived home and found the young woman about to jump into a deep well. Anima pulled her friend from the edge, saving her. She felt frustrated for the first time in her life. She did not know how to help her friend. So Anima took the young woman to the local temple. There she asked the Priestess to help heal her friend of the wounds Anima could not see. The Priestess explained that Anima could leave the young woman at the temple to be cared for. However, if Anima wanted to learn how to heal her friend, she could undergo the temple’s initiation. Anima cared deeply for her friend and consented to the initiation.
On the night of the dark moon, Anima descended into the caves under the temple. There she was undressed, bathed in the waters of the cave and told to follow the stream. As she descended, the Priestesses slapped her face. Shaking and nude Anima was asked if she consented to continue the initiation. Anima consented. She continued through the caves with only the stream to guide her and its water to drink. As she went further, the Priestesses would appear in the darkness to disrupt her sleep or to beat her. After every disruption or beating they asked Anima if she consented to continue. Anima consented.
Finally the hunger, the aching muscles, the lack of sleep, and the fear of the next beating overwhelmed her. Anima came upon a deep pit in the caves and stood at the edge. She did not know how much longer the initiation would be. The stream seemed to continue on without end. She took a deep breath. As she stared into the darkness she saw light to her left. Anima headed towards the light climbing up to reach it. The rocks were sharp and slippery. Bloody, wet and exhausted she emerged from the caves.
The Priestesses stood around her in the light of the full moon. They beckoned her to bathe in the sea. Anima consented. Her wounds stung and she tasted her tears. The Priestesses welcomed her out of the sea with bread and honey. Anima was marked in the middle of her breasts, on her forehead and at the bottom of her back with the sign of Priestess. She traveled back to the temple and found her friend. Anima heard her story, understood her pain and supported her healing. Soon the young woman’s wounds, both seen and unseen, were healed. From then on Anima traveled throughout the lands listening and supporting women in their healing. Her life as Healer and Priestess began.
“Here is your sacrament
Take. Eat. this is my body
this is real milk, thin, sweet, bluish,
which I give for the life of the world…
Here is your bread of life.
Here is the blood by which you live in me.”--Robin Morgan (in Life Prayers, p. 148)
“All religion is about the mystery of creation. If the mystery of birth is the origin of religion, it is women that we must look for the phenomenon that first made her aware of the unseen power…Women’s awe at her capacity to create life is the basis of mystery. Earliest religious images show pregnancy, rather than birth and nurturing, as the numinous or magical state” (Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor, The Great Cosmic Mother, p. 71)
I am working on a thesis project about birth as a spiritual experience. As I collect my resources, the quotes above keep running through my head. Birth as the original sacrament. Breastfeeding as the original communion. Blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, women transmute blood into breath, into being, into life for others.
Abrahamic theology in its root mythology, sets up the male body as "normal" as well neatly includes the notion that there is a divine hierarchy in which men are above women in value, role, and power. It also twists reality, by asserting that women come from men’s bodies, rather than the other way around. This inversion didn’t begin with Christianity, it has roots in more ancient mythology as well. Connected to the conversion of women’s natural creative, divine-like powers of the womb into the originators of sin and corruption, we readily see the deliberate inversion of the womb of the Goddess into the head of the father in the gulping down of Metis by Zeus and the subsequent birth of Athena from his head. Patriarchal creation myths rely heavily on biologically non-normative masculine creation imagery. I really appreciated the brief note from Sjoo in The Great Cosmic Mother that, “In later Hindu mysticism the egg is identified as male generative energy. Whenever you come upon something like this, stop and ponder. If it is absurdly inorganic—male gods ‘brooding on the waters’ or ‘laying eggs’—then you know you are in the presence of an original Goddess cosmology stolen and displaced by later patriarchal scribes” (p. 56).
As the nights shift to cooler weather in my part of the world, a woman’s fancy begins to turn to…beer? Well, maybe that’s just me, but the harvest time brings to my mind celebrating life around a bonfire with a cold bottle. Autumn grain festivals could be the perfect time to pour out a foamy libation. As interestingly, many researchers argue that our ancient ancestors began cultivating grains not for baking but for brewing. Ancient cultures across the world incorporated these brews into daily religious life. And in that history of the development of beer, women and the Goddess take a central role. The ancient beer makers in many cultures were often women, and their products were sacred to Goddesses....
Here I am thinking back on the first weekend in August, we were in KC, Mo. I was speaking at a paranormal convention where a few presenters including myself, talked about encounters beyond ghosts.' How can I relate this to goddess living' I wondered, since the event impacted me in a profound way. A Native American paranormal team's approach was earthy and beautifully grounded in their culture and background. Their stories were of 'elementals' and shape- shifters harassing a family. One team spoke of an entity who 'oppressed' a team member and how she changed in behavior. One Bigfoot expert who has discovered their language told, for the first time of his own face-to-face run in with Bigfoot. Another woman spoke of her UFO experiences and of being a part of a national investigative community now. I told of my own run-ins with ghosts and beings that are-something else-
The amazing thing that happened that weekend was the nearly spontaneous outpouring of the speakers to bare events that were personal, and often traumatic. We didn't just relay sightings we'd gathered from others; the tales from our attempts at helping people to understand what's going on around them. Here was gathered a group of people who, for the most part, had never met each other before, and we were onstage, opening up to the audience and daring to face the possible stigma of being called "crazy". You could see the truth as each person spoke, tears luring behind their eyes, the break in their voice as they kept emotions in check, describing the the all-too-real brush with the otherworldly.
Onstage, we faced our own nightmares and called upon strength to face ridicule. That weekend I had people come to me and thank me for confessing to my encounters with beings that were never human, then, as with another event where I dared to admit to those types of encounters, people came to me with relief that I knew what they had gone though, that I could identify with something they experienced. My occupation is a massage therapist and energy worker, I am a healer by trade and choice. I investigate the paranormal because of the "knowing" that something else is out there, something beside punching a daily time clock. Goddess living would seem to dictate that I am to elevate beyond a merely self-servicing life; to vibrate at a higher frequency, to bring a healing to the world. Perhaps this was just one of the means at my disposal, to drop the shields I use to guard myself and allow that exposure to prove to others that they are not alone....
There is a subtle narrative that exists in the desert, where I meander through a series of washes that lead into canyons. I am nicely secluded, despite being in the middle of one of the West’s largest cities. Summertime in the Sonoran Desert is perfect for a solitary fox like me… I scurry and watch, quietly observing ripening tunas on prickly pear, and listen to the curve-billed thrasher chiming a sharp morning hello to fellow winged compadres. The air is hot, even at 4:30am. The breeze is close but discomforting in its stagnant hold of sand and baked stone. I take a seat on the granite, smoothed by monsoon water flow, and wait for a story to be told.
This is the wash where I have spent many hours. When I arrived in Phoenix in 2007, South Mountain Park, or Muhadag Do’ag, as the range is known by the O’odham nations, was my first taste of this unusual land of light and edge. I have met many wild companions during my solo hikes here. I have listened to the song of five coyotes as they created day from night – turning stars into saguaro blooms. This is the place I watched resident owls descent in twilight, swooping low from their granite and gneiss shelters and out onto the cityscape, into December’s near-chill nights.
In the dusty wash, I climb up onto an outcrop where a lizard (dreamtime) skitters behind the branches of a Palo Verde. I shift my focus to discover a spiral petroglyph, about 10 inches in diameter, carefully concealed by the new growth of the spiny, pale limbs. The glyph can be anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand years old – here, it is tough to tell. I consider the spiral. I feel the maze of my own mind and body. The blood moves through my heart and across the fields and waterways of my being to animate my arms, my legs. I inhale – the air circulates through time. I think of the path I walk and the lifetimes of fellow walkers, all sharing the breath, movement. I have been feeling so disconnected lately. When I dream of the maze, I remember that I am never alone… only my mind is the great isolator, but life –
the rhythm of breath and circulation – brings me back to the world.
As you may remember from an earlier post, I have come to the Glastonbury Goddess Conference to present my workshop on Deep Grounding. It's a fun workshop and has all that stuff that modern Pagans seem to love--some learning, some technique, some meditation, some toning and some dance. Frosted with a short ritual.
Bazinga, as they say.
I checked out the space this afternoon and it is a pretty little room that doubles as a gallery in a place called the Glastonbury Experience. It's the Miracles Room....
Before Ayn Rand became a household name or Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in the movie, Wall Street, captivated the masses with his "greed is good" ideals, a license to callously cheat and exploit, we believed in the progressive values of Star Trek. Remember, in Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan (1982) when Spock's dying words to Kirk were "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." Or a few years later, in Star Trek: First Contact (1996) Picard explains the world view of the future when he says "The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity." In fact, Star Trek's mission was one of exploration and humanitarianism rather than the Right Wing rejection of science or the Ayn Rand values to spurn collectivism and altruism.
That said, I wonder how many have considered how much more Trekkies and Goddess Advocates have in common? Let's see.
I live, work and play in sight of the Catskill Mountains. Although I've followed the Hudson River ever farther north in my life, always there were mountains. First there were the gentle Hudson Highlands, then the rocky faces of the Shawangunks, and then, finally the Catskills. It was those wooded peaks that made me finally love the Hudson Valley. I'm blessed to see the Catskills every day, whether glimpsed as I stretch for a peek from our driveway, or sprawling before me as I cross the bridge heading back home after work. They mark the days, the seasons, and I love them. This morning, as I drove home from the Farm Market across the river, my car fragrant with basil and my mind sorting out what to make with the tomatoes and zucchini I'd purchased, I reached the bridge and gasped. The mountains were...gone. Just not there, as if they'd been stolen away by the same villain who swiped the Moon in the movie Despicable Me. Where they usually could be found was only a smudgy gray haze.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a post at my home blog entitled Acts of Faith http://mountainwomon.blogspot.com/2011/09/acts-of-faith.html . So often spirituality relies on faith as its foundation. After all, we can't know there's a Goddess, can we? We can't prove Her existence, can't touch Her, see or hear Her with our standard-issue eyes & ears. And yet, I've known there was Divine since the day after my older son was born 32 years ago. They laid him tummy down on my chest, and he managed to somehow raise his tiny head, and looked past my eyes into my soul. Yep, I know babies aren't really 'looking at' anything at a day old. I don't care; I know what happened that day, and first, that moment changed both our lives. Second, I knew at that moment there was a Divine Being. It would be years before I believed that Being gave a rat's patootie about humankind, and years before I would recognize the Divine as Goddess, but at that moment in time, there was no faith involved; I knew as surely as I know the mountains haven't really vanished. Humidity, fog, clouds have hidden them from my sight, but never my heart.
We of the Goddess path share that knowing. This post's title is borrowed from Jade River's classic Dianic Wiccan book of the same name. To have a relationship with Goddess is to know that relationship is possible, to know that She is there in the rising Sun and waning Moon, in joy and grief, sex and celibacy, birth and death. But that doesn't mean any of us have to have that knowledge from the get-go. We develop it over time, by listening, looking, trusting and questioning, digging in the dirt, living our lives and praying. Perhaps your journey will start with faith that later becomes that which you know and are....
Perhaps one of the most intriguing ancient items that I have come across recently is the Strettweg Chariot, sometimes called the Strettweg Wagon. While researching the pre-Christian chariot burial of an ancient woman for my first blog post, I found this unique vehicle. The central figure is female; she towers over those assembled around her. The true meaning of this item is lost to time, but that won't stop us from discussing the tantalizing possibilities that the Strettweg Chariot offers up to the mind.
Highlighting the history of women and our connection to feminine concepts of Deity is the central purpose of this blog. While I won't always focus on items from the ancient past, recovering the role that women and Goddesses have played throughout time often means turning to the pre-Christian era. That is the time period that this artifact hails from. The Strettweg Chariot rested in a grave of cremated ashes for over 2,500 years. It was buried sometime in the 7th Century B.C.E. in what is now Austria and has come back into human hands to proclaim its mysteries.
Later, she might wonder whether she’d been looking at one too many Venus figurines for her online archeology course.
But now her mind, as it had for days, weeks, decades on end, was chattering non-stop, yammering thoughts (judgments, really) through circles within never-ending cycles of not-good-enough. Such had been her life, so-called, whatever you would call absenting yourself from actual contact with the world's flavors, textures, and other trinkets of sensation. Certainly her world — although some might call it sterile — was neat, tidy, clean.
She wasn't discontent with her circumstances. Any time she had peeked out of her circumscribed la-la-land, however arid — and, to her credit, she had attempted several sorties — she'd encountered bits of barbed wire in her milk, darts flying through the air, cutlery strewn across the sidewalk. In her, yes, limited experience, the world was not a friendly place. If her existence within her self-imposed isolation was a bit lonely, actually loveless, at least she was safe. Trips to the grocery store and library were adventures enough.
The beauty of the Goddess is often displayed by the luminous glow of her skin, the fluid movement of her body and attire, and by her nourishing and loving qualities that identifies so splendidly with the Feminine Divine. When we envision the Goddess, we visualize the mermaid, the fairy and the priestess; all very beautiful and soft representations of the Female aspect.
Mother’s Day this year had me thinking about my mother and my journey with Goddess. As a child, my mother was my first Goddess- I looked to her to keep me alive. My physical and emotional needs were met by her. As I got older, my mother shared the pantheon with the Virgin Mary. My mother is a Virgin Mary devotee with a liberal attitude toward divorce, birth control and other women’s right issues. As I grew up, I learned to look to my mother also as prophetic Goddess, showing me where our life was leading to. I would then turn to the Virgin Mary in my dreams to comfort me and shield me from my nightmares.
As a teenager, I became aware that Goddess existed as a truth beyond my own personal experiences. I grew away from seeing my mother as Goddess, archetypal mother providing me with all the love I needed. As I drew away from my Catholic upbringing I could no longer find solace in the Virgin Mary with her submissive undertones. As I grew into my sexuality, the Virgin did not resonate with me. I researched the Goddess in the Neo-Pagan movement-- I welcomed the Goddess who saw all acts of love and pleasure as her rituals. I started shifting my need for greater mother love to the Goddess as well. I learned more about all the different Goddesses-- especially Ariadne, Kali and the ancient Goddesses of Neolithic times.
Later, I went through a dark time in my life full of depression and eating disorders, I immersed myself even more in the history of Goddess. Looking back, I see that time as lacking in self-love. I looked everywhere but to myself for the love and acceptance I craved. I am forever grateful to Goddess as deity and idea, holding my mother love until I could take it on. Eventually I realized that I could not heal without being my own Mother Goddess. A Mother Goddess nourishing herself physically and emotionally—I healed myself of depression and anorexia!...
We look to the past to inform the present and to help define ourselves in relationship to those who have gone before us. For women that type of reflection can be clouded by the assumptions made by researchers operating in patriarchal environments. The role of women throughout history was often over-looked or even misinterpreted. This can still happen today, as we all have internal biases inherited from what our cultures teach us. When we think of women in the distant past, what picture forms in our minds? How does that shape how we feel about ourselves as women today?
In reality, the story of women is far richer, varied, and dynamic than we are taught in our schools and in our popular history. Like the Goddesses we read about, or worship, or simply respect, we have played an active part in all facets of human culture. The amazing legacy of women is one that archaeology and history is constantly uncovering.
I like to think of this as looking back in time with the eyes of the Goddess. We can see Her at work throughout history in our female ancestors. Whether in pre-Christian cultures that worshiped Goddesses, or in the divine feminine that still breaks through in Christian history, we can search through the mists and find Her. We do this by examining the lives of the women who came before us....
While reading Dianne Sylvan's latest novel this past March, I had a flash of insight that knocked me out of her Shadow World and into the timeless, space-less realm of what Ellen Dugan calls “just knowing.” The scene in the book was of a young Witch drawing down the moon – pulling the Goddess into herself. I told my empty bedroom, “She's not pulling the Goddess into her. She's awakening the spark of divinity within herself!” Cool! I thought. Then I went back into the reading.
When I first came home to the Pagan path eleven years ago, I felt very uncomfortable with the Goddess and God concepts. The Wiccan Lady and Lord felt extremely foreign and abstract to me. I was raised Buddhist, and as a teen had gone through a period of absolutely despising religion altogether, especially the Judeo-Christian religions, whom I held accountable for committing torture, rape, murder, and genocide in the name of their Lord.
I had an especially hard time choosing my magickal name, because the only name that felt right was a Goddess name, and I did not feel worthy of naming myself after a Goddess. After a couple months of struggle, I took the name Rhiannon, because I wanted to internalize her ability to overcome unfair burdens and punishments and become vindicated....