The blood mysteries, they have called to me for years. The calling felt distant, an eery echo in an old worn in cave that lived deep within my wombspace, the house of my ancestors.
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My initial entry to the goddess path began with a deep intellectual bent; I soaked up myths and studied archetypes like crazy, waiting until the day when I was ready to talk to goddesses on a more tangible, personal level. Because I’ve always been a bit of a myth junkie, and because I’m a scholar at heart, I jumped at the chance to read the late Patricia Monaghan’s revised and re-released Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines, published by New World Library. The book didn’t disappoint my thirst for information.
This large tome differs from Monaghan’s out of print title The New Book of Goddesses & Heroines in both its structure and its scope. Echoing Merlin Stone’s Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood, the Encyclopedia is arranged by continental region, with sections on Africa, Eastern Mediterranean, Asia and Oceania, Europe, and the Americas. Each section begins with a brief overview of cultural and historical information about the region in question, and as can be imagined, the regional sections are subdivided for clarity (and to offer more specific information about, say the Egyptian tradition within the African context).
In addition to the cultural context, Monaghan provides an extensive bibliography, plus a detailed description of how and why she chose to include the sources she did. Despite acknowledging the cultural limitations, Monaghan opted to draw her information only from works available in English, but the bibliography includes information about translations for the serious goddess scholar to track down on her own.
Chock full of information about both goddesses and heroines (historical female figures, or those with supernatural powers that don’t quite elevate them to goddess status), this is an excellent resource for anyone with an interest in goddess lore and the divine feminine. Scholars and casual browsers will both find something to appeal to them, since, as Monaghan notes in her introduction, the faces of goddesses around the globe are incredibly diverse; they “can appear as young nymphs, self-reliant workers, aged sages. They can be athletes or huntresses, dancers or acrobats, herbalists or midwives. We find goddesses as teachers, inventors, bartenders, potters, surfers, magicians, warriors, and queens. Virtually any social role women have played or are capable of playing appears in a goddess myth.” The vastness of goddesses, and, in truth, women, is represented in this volume, and it’s a resource I’m sure I’ll return to again and again.
Image retrieved from New World Library, http://www.newworldlibrary.com/BooksProducts/ProductDetails/tabid/64/SKU/82171/Default.aspx#
When I was a solitary practitioner, I rarely thought of the gods beyond “which one would be right to invoke for this spell?” In hindsight, this was pretty selfish and a ridiculous way for me to treat deity. We don’t make demands of our gods… and when we do, we usually reap a quick and brutal lesson to not do THAT again. Fortunately, the gods that I invoked, summoned, and stirred were kind to me when I was new to the Craft and I didn’t have to learn a harsh lesson.
It's been almost a year since I walked through the veil of transition between Maidenhood and Motherhood.
In my typical Scorpio fashion I have jumped in full force, straight into the deep end. She is yet to be 'babysat' by anyone besides my husband, she sleeps with me at night, on me to nap, my breasts are forever at her disposal, we are pretty merged, my Maiden and I at this point. It seemed the most natural way in the world for her and I to be together at most times, it feels as if a part of my insides was birthed outside of me while remaining a part of me. Like I gave birth to my heart and now I hold her as close and as dear as possible.
Despite this energetic vortex that envelopes the two of us, somewhere throughout this year it became apparent to me that I was going to need some downtime, this need developed into a routine known in the evening as 'Daddy/Daughter' time, this is my time to unwind. When we decided, my husband and I that downtime was very much a necessity for me, the vision that I held was of me knitting, reading, writing, meditating, napping and drinking tea. I'm happy to say that at 11 months this is pretty much how my sacred space looks 80% of the time.
Daddy/daughter time began with me addictively watching TV series and eating potatoe chips (often they were organicish) and drinking pop (cane sugar instead of white....) getting as many "ep's" in as I could and fervently escaping into other worlds. I posted on my personal Facebook page asking for more show recommendations when I had devoured Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey, The Tudors, Boardwalk Empire and finally Orange is the New Black. My Priestess sisters, energy community and homesteading friends suggested some nice healthy mindful practices rather than T.V. They had the same vision for a healthy, full time to self that I had had. I just wasn't there yet. I felt myself slink away from announcing my dirty little TV and snacks habit and just sank even further into the couch cushions. I sank and I feared that I may have lost all of who I thought I was. I wondered if I was going to loose my Priestess self, if I was going to be a Stay-At-Home-Mom that didn't write, hold circle, offer services to others and ate junk food and watched T.V. I'm so appreciative that I allowed myself to sit and eat. I'm grateful that I didn't push and that I was were I was and allowed that to be okay. These months humbled me, they revealed my humanness, not only in my need to take time for self, but in my ability to experience a little sloth without loosing my soul or my calling in the process.
My mentress, the Priestess Aquarius, would teach me this during every learning session we spent together. "Above all Candise, a Priestess must be humble," she would tell me during my training. It was these words that followed me when I fell into a depression during a 'dark night of the soul' three years back. Similar to, yet nowhere close to as dire, this dark night of the soul mirrored my surrender into the couch potatoe phase that I have just been through. Both of these situations called for me to fall into what was and to allow myself to be in those moments, to let go of what I thought life should look like and to flow with the River of life. My dark night of the soul began when a man who has lived this lifetime shrouded in darkness, one who had wreaked havoc on my life when I was a young Maiden re-appeared in my life temporarily three years ago. I fell to pieces as years of frozen and unacknowledged trauma rose to the surface. My first response was to 'spiritual leapfrog' through the pain. To skip over the pain, to deny it, to spiritualize it away, simultaneously I felt myself teetering along the thin line of self-destruction as my old wounds promised to take me over the edge and back into the black abyss of self-destruction that I had lived in once long ago. In that moment of choice a silent clarity descended upon me and I made a deal with Goddess, I said to Her, "okay, I'm going to fall apart now. I'm going to feel everything I didn't feel when I was abused so many years ago. I'm going to fall to pieces and I'm not going to rush to come back together, I'm just going to let it happen and I need You to carry me through this." And I did. I just fell completely to pieces. For one full year I did little more than make it to work, the rest of the time I cocooned on the couch, I barely ate or showered, I went to trauma therapy and fought the voices in my head that argued that therapy wasn't as evolved as breathworks, meditations, Shamanic journeying and communal circles (all of which I also attended). My world turned black and I wasn't sure I would ever see colour again, my pride was stripped away from me and I flowed along the river of despair until one day I was delivered to the shore. I stepped away from the river integrated, more whole than I had been before I fell apart and I was gifted with experiences that I could offer others on the shamanic path. Suddenly I had less 'answers' for others and more experience to share in. This was the heavy pill of humility that I swallowed and this experience has taught me that being real, being human is worth more than any shiny ideal of a spiritual woman that I could try to fit into could ever be.
So I fell into my couch once again, though this time out of burn out rather than despair and I just watched as much TV as I could, I trusted the process despite my very alive pride that yelled at me that I was loosing all of my Priestess self in this year of Motherhood. I struggled with my 'Superwoman' archetype that had envisioned me baking, cooking from organic scratch, writing, knitting, sewing, visitng friends and humming a merry tune all the way through. I judged myself, harshly, after all I only had one little baby. I had so much help from my husband. I wasn't working. She slept great. So what was my problem? Simply put I was drained. In the Waldorf tradition of thought, which is rooted in anthroposophy a woman's child is under her 'Madonna Cloak' for the first three years of life. Energetically my Maiden sucks up as much of me as she can and I need to reboot. So I sat. And I watched, and I watched and I snacked.
"The moon shone brightly, and I knew that She was watching over me. I knew Her to be more than anything and everything, and I felt Her upon my face, my body, and my heart." - Entry from Finding the Masculine in Goddess Spiral, a soon to be published anthology by Immanion Press.
July 30th came faster than I could imagine. Now, with deadline passed, over 30 submissions sit before me, the task at hand: to curate and edit, Finding the Masculine in Goddess' Spiral: Men in Ritual, Community, and Service to the Goddess....
Sometimes one has to retreat from the world, in order to better understand it. Finding sanctuary, a sacred space where we can open our souls without fear, where we can simply be, is a glorious experience. It happens a lot less than we need in our lives, in my opinion.
A goddess of sanctuary, Nemetona is an elusive deity. Not much is written or recorded about her in Classical texts or history. Just the barest hints and place names, some tribe names and a couple of inscriptions. Who is this goddess to whom we can bare our souls, in complete soul truth, knowing that we are held?...
Though she is not as well-known as some of the other Minoan deities who made their way into the later Olympian pantheon, Eileithyia, the divine midwife and goddess of childbirth, was profoundly important to the ancient Cretans. There is some speculation that Eileithyia is actually her Minoan/pre-Greek name, which is unusual among the deities from Crete; we know most of them only from their later Greek epithets. In the Cretan dialect her name is Eleuthia (e-re-u-ti-ja in Linear B), which may connect her to Eleusis and the mystery religion celebrated there. A goddess of birth could certainly have a place in the transformational ceremonies of a mystery religion. The meaning of her name is disputed, though it may have its roots in the term ‘to bring’ or ‘to deliver,’ which would make sense for a goddess of childbirth, or possibly in the word for ‘to aid or relieve.’ She is sometimes depicted as multiples – the Eileithyias – rather than a single goddess, and sometimes as a dual goddess, one who either slows labor or speeds it, depending on her attitude toward the laboring woman. To me, her multiplicity links her to the oldest female deities such as the Fates and the Mothers (Meteres or Matrones).
The Minoans worshiped Eileithyia at a cave near Amnisos, the ancient port that served the city of Knossos. Archaeologists have found evidence of her continuous worship in that cave beginning in Neolithic times, so she is one of the oldest Minoan deities. According to legend, she was born in that cave, making her a part of the living landscape of the island, much like Rhea. In the cave archaeologists have found figurines of women in childbirth, nursing babies and in prayer postures. These votive offerings women made to this goddess tell us what they wanted from Eileithyia, which is pretty much the same thing pregnant women have always desired and still hope for: a safe and fast delivery of a healthy child who nurses strongly and grows well. In this way, Eileithyia ties us to our ancestors going back through the generations and the millennia....