Tag Archives: goddess

Gods, feudalism and power over

It isn’t an accident that so much traditional spiritual language has a feudal tone to it. Lord and Lady are terms of nobility. Christianity is full of the language of kings, sovereignty and power over. Pagans use ‘Queen’ as a term for Goddess. For a good chunk of European history those who had taken power and wealth by force of arms were keen to create the impression of divine sanction for it. The King in his castle, sucking up the bounty, is God’s representative on Earth. God the Uber-King looks down on all from Heaven – a very literal expression of being over the top of the rest of us.

The stories modern Pagans turn to were recorded, for the greater part, by people who were part of that power-over arrangement. God the Uber-King in league with the physical monarch bestowed a lot of power on the church, giving the church every reason to support the logic of the system. Plus, in a less cynical way, we tend to make sense of things through the filters of our own experience. There are reasons to think that some mythology may have grown out of the deeds of actual people, actual Kings, Queens and rulers. It may be that much of Paganism itself is rooted in monarchic cultures.

The language of democracy doesn’t really work for religion. Any notion of elected to power seems a bit odd when talking about beings who have more power than us. Chairman of the Gods is funny, but lacks a certain swing. Perhaps this is in part because one of the key things we want from Gods, is that they be bigger and more powerful than us and therefore able to protect us from terrible things. Powerful enough to protect you from other things – ie other Kings, has always been part of the marketing for feudalism.

There are other languages out there although I can’t claim deep familiarity with them. From what I’ve read, a lot of indigenous people use the language of family to talk about the spirit powers they encounter. Grandfathers and grandmothers. Brothers and sisters. If you aren’t operating in a patriarchal/feudal structure to begin with, God the father has a very different feel to it.

The language of monarchy and feudalism tends to give humans a sense of power over the non-human world, which is doing us and the world no good at all. Perhaps it is time to start questioning our word choices and habits of thinking. I don’t have any suggestions for word replacements at the moment, except to acknowledge that I find the language of monarchy and feudalism really uncomfortable and I wish we didn’t use it.

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Book reviews, and ancestors

Boneland, Alan Garner. This is an adult sequel to the two children’s books, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, and The Moon of Gomrath. Here we find Colin as an adult, troubled, and deeper into the mysteries of the edge than ever. It’s quite a challenging reframing of the first books. The writing is incredible, evocative, reality breaking, heart breaking, ambiguous, glorious… and bloody difficult to talk about without spoilers. If you love Alan Garner’s work, it’s a must, if you haven’t read anything else, you could read this, it would stand alone without knowing the two previous books in the set. I usually like talking about books, I loved this book and I don’t want to talk about it – an unusual reaction, but this is a unique piece of writing.

More about the book here – https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780007463251/boneland

 

British Barrows: A Matter of Life and Death, Ann Woodward. A fascinating book for anyone obsessed with ancient ancestors in the landscape. The author is an academic, and much of the book is based on her field observations, and her assessment of finds and records of other digs. There’s a lot of technical information – hard on the non-specialist, and a lot of visual thinking to do – a nightmare for me, but scattered through are incredible ideas, observations and possibilities. Perhaps the most exciting is the possibility of a crane bag – with no reference to crane bags or Graves, only to bags, and graves. I also didn’t know before reading that many barrows have no evidence of burials in them, these are places for the living as well as for the dead.

More about the book here – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Books-British-Barrows-Matter-Life-Death/dp/0752425315

 

Goddess Calling: Inspirational Messages & Meditations of Sacred Feminine Liberation Thealogy
by Karen Tate

Eco-spiritual-feminism. In a series of powerful essays, Karen Tate explores the relationships between politics, gender issues, spirituality and activism. Reclaiming Goddess in our lives is very much about reclaiming healthy, balanced, sustainable relationship with everything else on this planet. For the weary activist courting burnout (and I fear that’s the majority of us) this book is a real lift and contains a lot of much needed hope and inspiration.

There is a section of meditation working with Goddess imagery – meditation is a rather personal thing so whether the exact content will work for you is impossible to predict, but if you know how to take and adapt things to suit, there’s a wealth of raw material here and inspiration for approaches to meditation. I found it a really good read. If this sounds like your sort of thing, I can definitely recommend it.

More about the book here – http://www.changemakers-books.com/books/goddess-calling


Bee Garden Offering

Image by Magnus Manske

A Guest blog by Heather Awen

In early spring many people’s thoughts turn to gardening. Deciding what to plant and where to plant it, some start growing seeds inside while others make a list of flowers to buy and seed savers trade precious heirloom varieties. Gardening is commonly thought of something that people with yards only do, but there are many ways to garden even if you have no private patch of land.

This year why not plant a bee garden as a living shrine to a Deity or bioregion? Bees are dying in such great numbers there is now a term for it: Colony Collapse Disorder. According to Bees Free, http://www.beesfree.biz/The%20Buzz/Bees-Dying “Since 2006, North American migratory beekeepers have seen an annual 30 percent to 90 percent loss in their colonies; non-migratory beekeepers noted an annual loss of over 50 percent. Similar losses were reported in Canada, as well as several countries in Europe, Asia, and Central and South America.”

During this time of peril for bees, the great pollinators, an offering can be made of a safe haven.  Traditionally Pagan rituals focused on the renewal of the interconnected world. Today with 2 in 3 bites of food linked to the need for bees, renewal ceremonies for the pollinators in practical form are needed. Beyond Pesticides One Page Fact Sheet http://www.beyondpesticides.org/programs/bee-protective-pollinators-and-pesticides/bee-protective

states the biggest threat is “Neonicotinoids—including, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and imidacloprid—are a class of insecticides that are highly toxic to honey bees and other pollinators. They are systemic, meaning that they are taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets from which bees forage and drink.” They not only kill the bees, but sublethal levels cause bees to get lost.

Photograph by Onderwijsgek

Neonicotinoids were banned in the EU in 2013 but this may be overturned according to The Soil Association. “The temporary EU ban on neonicotinoid pesticides is looking like a fragile barrier against the political and financial muscle of the chemical companies.”

http://www.soilassociation.org/banneonics  Unfortunately 100% of the soil samples from the UK’s hedgerows are still filled with neonics, especially the hawthorn, a favorite for bees.

Honey is connected to many ancient pagan sacred rituals while Deities of flowers are abundant. In folklore Fairies are connected to flowers. Eco-pagans working to regenerate the land where they live recognize the important role of flowers, bees and other pollinators. No matter what your spiritual path, creating a native flower garden for bees is a practical ceremony that can be a living temple or offering to whomever or whatever you consider sacred. Consider it for a group ritual or a private meditation.

Your living shrine could be a container garden, a flower box, seed balls thrown into vacant lots, guerrilla gardening or planting flowers in the land where you live. Even if you are an apartment dweller there are many ways in which you can create a bee garden.

 

Step 1: Who (besides the bees!) is your bee sanctuary a living shrine for?

In designing a garden the first thing is to decide who will be the recipient of this devotion. If you are bioregional animist take time getting to know the place where you will be gardening. Listen to its needs, to its past, intuit its hopes for its future. Research what the land was like before industrial civilization changed it so drastically. Look carefully and talk to the land about the garden and sense what it needs. There are a lot of benefits which the land may want to hear about such as bringing beauty to the people and how that could result in the land being treated differently . When doing this sort of work think of yourself as a diplomat reaching out to a land that may not have much reason to trust you. Form a relationship by being honest with your intentions and listening to the environment. Any vow that you make about tending to the garden including watering be certain you will keep. You are not just creating a place where bees can pollinate; you are reestablishing a sacred relationship with place.

Whether you are a hard polytheist, believe that the different gods and goddesses are aspects of the divine or a duotheist Wiccan and believe that all goddesses are version of the Lady and all gods to be versions of the Lord, there are many Deities connected to flowers and honey for who you can plant a living temple. If there is one with whom you have a strong relationship or one with whom you would like to develop strong relationship, consider dedicating the garden to Her or Him. You can also dedicate the garden to several Deities perhaps, arrange a section for the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone or have yellow flowers for a solar Goddess and red flowers for a sacrificed God. Most of all follow your intuition. Please take a look at the following information about the Gods and Goddesses in ancient Pagan cultures and imagine how important the bee must have been.

In the Germanic tradition we have Freya, with flowers falling from her hair; Freyr’s female helper Beyla whose name is suspected to be connected to honey, from

Photo by Umberto Brayj

which the sacred mead is made; and the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of the Dawn and Spring Eostre. Brythonic Britain gives us Blodeuedd “flower face;” Flora is the Sabine Roman goddess of flowers and springtime; Gaelic Scottish Bride is the Goddess of Spring; and the Gaelic Airmid is a healing Goddess of herbalism. Maia is an ancient Italic goddess of Springtime; Mycenaean Goddess Potnia is called “The Pure Mother Bee”; and the Greek nymph Chloris is associated with flowers, transforming many Divine heroes into flowers such as Hyacinth and Crocus. Hindu goddess Parvati kills a demon by stinging him from the bees that come from her body. Bhramari is the Hindu Goddess of bees, Austeja is the Lithuanian Goddess of bees while the Mayan Goddess of bees is Colel Cab. Mayan fertility Goddess Xochiquetzal’s name means “flower standing upright;” the blossom Princess Konohanasakuya-hime comes from Japan; and the Yoruban Orisha Oshun loves honey as an offering.

 

The world of flowers and bees is not limited to the feminine. Ah-Muzen-Cab is a Mayan bee God; the Egyptian sun god Ra’s tears turned to bees when they landed on desert sand; and the Hindu love God Kamadeva’s bowstring is made from honeybees. Melissus “honey man” comes from Crete; Aristaeus is the Greek God of beekeeping; and the Lithuanian God of bees is Bublias. Chinese mythology has the 12 Deities of Flowers. In Haitian Vodou Papa Simbi is the herbal healer and magician and Grand Bois is associated with trees and herbs, often given offerings of honey. The Egyptian fertility God Min is offered honey.

Wiccans could create gardens for the Triple Goddess, perhaps focusing on the Maiden or Mother depending on the type of flowers planted. If focusing on flowers of the underworld, the shrine could be for the Crone. The Green Man is an obvious candidate for a fertility pollination garden. If you are a bioregional animist these bee gardens are be offerings to the spirits of place.

Different deities are associated with different flowers. The Lily was a symbol for Ishtar, Hera, Juno and later the Virgin Mary, and of Upper Egypt. Venus and Epona both received roses as offerings. In Scotland Bride brings snowdrops with her in the Spring. In Greece the red anemone is linked to the death of Adonis while the violet is the blood from Attis, killed while hunting a wild boar. Carnations in Mexico are the flowers of the dead. Asphodel is the flower of the underworld, sacred to Hades. Ganesh Jee is known to love red flowers. Irish Diarmaid and Grainne made beds out of Heather to hide when they eloped. Celtic water goddess Coventina is depicted holding a water lily. Freya is associated with milkwort, cowslip, primrose and daisies “day’s eye.” The roots of Aster, the “starflower” of the Greeks, were crushed and fed to bees in poor health. When Virgo scattered star dust to the earth it became aster flowers. The Greek goddess Iris led the souls of dead women to the Elysian Fields, so purple irises were planted on the graves of women. Pansies were white until pierced by Cupid’s arrow when they turned purple. A maiden named Clytie fell in love with the sun God Helios who abandoned her and the Gods turned her into a sunflower. The Brythonic Olwen’s name means “white clover.” Weyland the Smith used to be left Valerian in exchange for horseshoes.

If planting a garden for the Good People, land spirits or elves consider some of these flowers. Fairies love strawberries and St. John’s wort. In folklore fairies meet in gardens of chrysanthemums. The spear thistle is the emblem for Scotland. In Wales foxglove or Maneg Ellyllyn (“the Good People’s Glove”) is sacred to fairies. Elecompane is a good offering for the Alfar who, like the Fey, also love Sweet Cicely. The Dutch called Rosemary “elf leaf” and once believed it to be haunted by elves. Daisies are helpful with forming relationships with nature spirits who also connect strongly to the highly poisonous Lily of the Valley, which should never be transplanted lest the land be offended.

Honey is part of the ambrosia of the gods of Olympus; one of the five ingredients for the elixir of immortality in Hinduism; the basis of the Scandinavian holy drink mead, while in Buddhist myth Buddha made peace among his disciples when a monkey brought him honey to eat. Even the oracles at Delphi originally are thought to be connected with honey.

Obviously honey has been an important part of human ritual for centuries! In the nation of Georgia archaeologists have found honey in an ancient tomb about 5000 years old. The dead had three different varieties of honey for the journey to the Afterlife.

 

Photo by Severnjc

Step 2: Designing the Garden

In planning where your garden will be check where the sunlight is at different times during the day. Bees like sunny places with protection from the wind. Most packages of seeds will tell you how much sun the plant needs and may say what soil conditions are best. Some plants like sandy soil while others prefer clay. Your seed or plant seller should be able to help. In a container garden the right soil seems especially important.

Here is a list of common plants that bees especially love:

Basil Ocimum

Cotoneaster Cotoneaster

English lavender Lavandula

Giant hyssop Agastache

Globe thistle Echinops

Hyssop Hyssopus

Marjoram Origanum

Wallflower Erysimum

Zinnia Zinnia

Calliopsis

Clover

Cosmos

Crocuses

Dahlias

Foxglove

Geraniums

Hollyhocks

Hyacinth

Marigolds

Poppies

Roses

Aster Aster

Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia

Caltrop Kallstroemia

Creosote bush Larrea

Currant Ribes

Elder Sambucus

Goldenrod Solidago

Huckleberry Vaccinium

Joe-pye weed Eupatorium

Lupine Lupinus

Oregon grape Berberis

Penstemon Penstemon

Purple coneflower Echinacea

Rabbit-brush Chrysothamnus

Rhododendron Rhododendron

Sage Salvia

Scorpion-weed Phacelia

Snowberry Symphoricarpos

Stonecrop Sedum

Sunflower Helianthus

Wild buckwheat Eriogonum

Wild-lilac Ceanothus

Willow Salix

Bee balm

Borage

Catnip

Coriander/Cilantro

Fennel

Mints

Rosemary

Sage

Thyme

(Remember to make sure that they are native to where you live.)

Bees also feast on the flowers in vegetable gardens, especially:

Blackberries

Cantaloupe

Cucumbers

Gourds

Cherry trees

Peppers

Pumpkins

Squash

Strawberries

Watermelons

 

Image by Wojsyl

Bees like variety, especially the colors blue, purple, white and yellow. Because different bees have different tongue lengths, include a variety of shapes of flowers. To keep them fed all season, plant a few varieties that bloom in spring, summer and autumn.

Plants that are traditionally considered weeds are the sturdiest. They make flowers, too, and many of them are helpful medicinal magickal or culinary herbs. We have seen bees excited about lemon balm and oregano. You may want to consider having your flower shrine double as a garden for cooking, magick and medicine, which may tie into any deities to whom you devoted the garden.

 

If you are buying seeds be positive that they are organic seeds, with nothing that could kill the bees. Beyond Pesticides has a webpage dedicated to the safe companies in the US. http://www.beyondpesticides.org/programs/bee-protective-pollinators-and-pesticides/what-can-you-do/pollinator-friendly-seed-directory Look for heirloom, organic seeds if you can because those are plants in danger of becoming extinct and we want lots of diversity. Be sure to focus on native wildflowers which will be hearty and support the entire ecosystem. You do not want to risk harming the bioregion while doing something to help it. Every area has a beautiful diverse variety of indigenous plants. Many stores sell an organic native wildflower mix.  eNature has a state guide for the US, http://www.enature.com/native_invasive/ Bee Happy Plants https://beehappyplants.co.uk/ready-ship-bee-pastures/

lists organic pre-19th Century Pollinator Cover Crops (which you could buy from them) or you can look online.

 

Finally if you need to, buy organic soil at your local garden shop.

If you do not have a patch of land where you can plant flowers perhaps you have a windowsill, rooftop, stone patio or balcony where you can have a container garden. There are many resources for creating a container garden. Check your local library or these websites Rhode’s Organic Life  http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/container-gardening-101

And Popular Mechanics http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/lawn-garden/how-to/g59/container-gardening-460709/

(Please remember Popular Mechanics is not about organic gardening.) Avoid shipping pallets as they have chemicals sprayed on them to prevent rotting, plastic as it leaches off chemicals and other containers that may be toxic.

 

Another option is guerrilla gardening. From WikiHow: http://www.wikihow.com/Start-Guerrilla-Gardening

“Guerrilla gardening is a term used to describe the unauthorized cultivation of plants or crops on vacant public or private land. For some practitioners, Guerrilla Gardening is a political statement about land rights or reform; for others, it is primarily an opportunity to beautify and improve neglected, barren or overgrown spaces. Guerrilla gardening can be conducted either via secretive night missions or openly in an attempt to engage others in the idea of community improvement….”

Many of the community gardens in New York City were guerrilla gardens in the 1970s. Guerrilla gardening is very popular in Europe especially England. Where there has been gay bashing pansies have been planted and recently there was an international sunflower guerrilla gardening event. The Guerilla Gardening blog has a Getting Started page http://www.guerrillagardening.org/ggwar.html

to help you with the process as does WikiHow. http://www.wikihow.com/Start-Guerrilla-Gardening (Remember, you will have to return for watering and caring for the plants.)

 

Seed balls are actually a farming technique started by Fukuoka which has caught on with many people. “Homemade seed balls are a clever way to sow seeds (single species or a mix) without digging.  It’s inexpensive, easy and you can cover a lot of ground.  They are just scattered onto the soil surface, not buried.  Then they just sit there, ensconced in their mud-and-compost ball until it rains, safe from birds, rodents,  drying out, and they won’t blow away.  They are especially useful in areas with unpredictable rainfall.” Explains permies.com

http://www.permies.com/t/974/fukuoka/Seed-Balls-good-winter-project

with great instructions on to make them. The balls are made of clay, compost and seeds, one of which should be a nitrogen fixer like Clover. Bees love Clover. Making seed balls is not hard and it is a fun group project. The Druid’s Garden https://druidgarden.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/making-seed-balls-and-scattering-seeds-for-wildtending/

has the most truly environmental way to make seed balls, although many of us probably won’t be able to locate clay locally. (Please note that in the Druid Garden blog post there is no nitrogen fixer added to the seed balls because these balls are going into places where there already are a lot of nitrogen fixer is growing. Their post is about restoring native medicinal plants to the land.) Other instructions may be found at Mother Earth Living http://www.motherearthliving.com/gardening/how-to-make-seed-balls.aspx

 

Step 3: Ceremony for the Shrine

Let the process of gardening be an act of magic. If making seed balls, envision peace, health and safety for the community. Bless all the seed balls at the end with a sacred intention for the land. If working with a group, chanting or singing as you make them can enhance the ritual atmosphere, even creating a trance state.

Planting in your yard or containers offers you a chance to experience a new form of moving meditation.  How you approach guerilla gardening may require different enchantments. Planting at night with a lookout, you may want to ask for invisibility.  Many people have stated that planting during the day, especially if they look like a city worker (some even wear a neon vest), makes them almost invisible because they act as if they are “just doing my job, sir.” If you are on friendly terms with your neighbors, they probably will be happy you are planting flowers in the abandoned hole where once there was a tree or nailing flower boxes on to the fence. Some businesses have space for flowers but no money for landscapers and could be receptive to you brightening up their storefront or parking lot, especially when you mention you will be returning to care for the plants.

If your bee garden is going to be for a deity you might want to think about painting, wood carving or making a mosaic sign in honor of that deity, perhaps something like “Flora’s Sacred Shrine,” “Potnia’s Protection” or “The Field of Mead.” Symbols related to that God or Goddess can be painted onto the pots, buried into the ground or hung from a fence or tree. Images of bees or honeycombs, the Gods drinking their honey drinks, and open flowers are all appropriate. Finding images at the garden store for a Fairy garden should not be hard.

When the flowers are in bloom and the space feels settled consider having a dedication ceremony. Perhaps invite some like-minded people over and explain how you are working with nature to repair the damage from Colony Collapse Disorder. Let them know the dangers of pesticides. A group meditation to raise energy to attract bees or requests to the Deity for whom it is a living shrine about honey and nectar could be the central focus of the ritual. Then drink mead or eat honey sweetened cakes as people sign international online petitions about protecting bees at Care2 and http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/673/611/950/

Greenpeace http://sos-bees.org/#petition to cement the energy in the political world. Toast to the sweetness of life and bees themselves. Tending to the living temple (not needed with seed balls) continues your offering to the land, Fey ones, Deities and bees.

Imagine garden after garden united in the sacred return of the blessed bee!

 

Heather Awen’s Writing Archives
https://heatherawen.wordpress.com/


Walking without conquest

We did not go to the top of the hill, and as we skirted the side, the thought came to me ‘feminist walker does not conqueror the summit’. Exploration and adventure can often involve the language of conquest. There can be something decidedly macho about the bid for the top, or for covering the distance. Look back at older explorers and adventurers, and there’s a language of penetration, as the man takes the landscape, and the landscape is female. This is something H. Rider Haggard took to a wilfully absurd extreme in King Solomon’s Mines (the mountains that are the breasts of Sheba, and the treasure cave are, when you look at the map, pretty unsubtle).

It’s easy to have even the tamest of walks turn into something that is about achievement, in a way that has a really interesting impact on our relationship with the land itself. The top of the hill is just as much about reaching the summit and looking down on everything as the top of a mountain might be. Not that there’s anything wrong with climbing things or getting to the highest point. The issue is how motives and intent affect experience. There is more to a hill than reaching the top of it, but if we’re only interested in the summit, we may miss a lot of things along the way.

This is perhaps doubly interesting  as an issue for Pagans. Many of us see land, or the Earth as a whole, in terms of goddess. Mother Earth, Gaia; if we understand this as her body, then how we walk upon it, is worth thinking about. Are we here to penetrate the forest, or the cave? Regardless of gender, we can cast ourselves in really macho roles in relation to our journeys.

It’s a different process to walk as someone who is interested in seeing how the landscape unfolds. Being someone for whom each wrinkle, each bump and curve, is important, and engaging. To be someone who seeks out not just the pretty, picturesque faces but is willing to walk through old industrial sites and new ones, along main roads, under motorways – this too is the land. The land does not always wear the face of a beautiful virgin goddess – if previous visitors have ravaged her, she may bear scars and open wounds, lines of sorrow, and she may seem hostile.

If we simply go to take, if we walk to possess and to be gratified, seeking only what is most pleasing to us, caring only for the face of the land where other humans have not bruised that face with careless treatment, we are still colonialists. Regardless of personal gender, we are still the man in the pith helmet who wants to penetrate virgin forests to bring back prizes. We don’t have to be that. We can walk in sympathy. We can walk with empathy and with a desire to know and understand, to be present rather than to conquer. Then we find that the side of the hill has its own precious qualities, different from the summit but no less worthy, and everything changes.


Breaking the Mother Goose Code

I did not really expect to be convinced by Jerri Studebaker’s book about finding signs of ancient Goddess worship in fairy tales. I’m just not the sort of person who is easily persuaded by much, and the sleight of hand history of Dr Anne Ross, and the chicanery of Robert Graves have left me resistant, to say the least. I’m very wary of circular logic, too. Go out looking for evidence of sacrifice and you’ll see it any time there’s a dead person. Go out looking for Goddess survivals and you can all too easily infer them into anything with breasts.

I ended up persuaded to a degree that surprised me.

What makes this book such an interesting and provocative read isn’t, I thought, the main thrust at all. It’s the details. The histories of where nursery stories have come from and how they’ve changed over time. The correlations between fairy stories and other major cultural shifts. I’d not thought before about the way in which many fairy stories are really at odds with Christian stories. I was, I confess, too busy being cross about the princesses. But now I have reasons to rethink those, as well.

The historical correlations Jeri Studebaker brings together in her book are intriguing. There are many unanswered mysteries here, that will leave you wondering. She has evidence for the political use of the fairy story as a way of making commentary, and the literary place for the fairy tale in Europe as well. That’s without getting into the issues of goose footed women, egg laying, and shamanism. Oh, and magic spells. And how we might envisage a non-patriarchal world. I love this book because the author is cautious about her claims, and keen to remind us when she is speculating and the limits of what the evidence can support. Speculation is so much more enjoyable when we hold our uncertainties with such honour, I think.

At this point, whether or not Mother Goose is really, historically and provably a goddess survival seems a lot less important than what we try to do with her stories, and other such stories, moving forward. It is in the nature of stories to change and evolve over time, being re-imagined to fit the new context. Stories that survive are often stories that can be adapted, or that give us powerful archetypes to work with. So the question to ask may really be, how do we want to work with those archetypes in the first place? What stories do we want to tell, and why? Do we understand the implications of the stories we are sharing?

For me, the book raised another question as well. (Bear in mind here that I am a maybeist, not a theist nor an atheist.) If religion is imagined into existence by people, as well it might be, then to connect with the religions of our ancestors we need their stories, or whatever fragments survive. Take away its stories and Christianity ceases to exist. If religion is based on the experience of living, then through shared experiences, we can come to similar conclusions as our ancestors did. If we reverence the things life depends on, then we can find our way to the importance of the mother, the goose, the eggs and all the other ideas about life fairy tales can carry. If the deities are independently real and active, then of course things that look like them will keep turning up in people’s stories and ideas, for all the same reasons that they turned up in the first place – because they are offered to us by the divine as inspiration.

I don’t know. I still don’t know. I’m fine with this, and I enjoy books like this one that are able to challenge my carefully chosen uncertainty.

More about the book here – http://www.moon-books.net/books/breaking-mother-goose-code


Seeking Goddess

I went into the forest, searching

For elegant sylphs, beautiful goddesses

Of familiar, pristine grace.

 

I found dense briars, tangling,

Thorny thickets, mud slick trails

To badger sets and nowhere,

Trampling predecessors vanished.

Walking beneath ancient boughs

Amongst bulging bowls, mighty trunks.

Deer trods and flood paths,

Forgotten streams, deep banks

No gilded Goddess called to me

No angel led the way,

No answers came.

 

I waded the wood mud

‘Till it crusted my skin,

Tore that skin bloody in brambles,

Tangled leaves into hair knots,

Grew a thick pelt against winter.

Walked my feet into leather

Leather into hoof and horn.

Ribbonned clothes into feathers

Found claws for fingertips.

I made love with the trees

And grew sharp tusks to root

Alongside the boar. I slept with lynx

Rolled in deer musk, licked blood

From fresh snow, sucked berries

And learned the raven’s song.

 

I grew ivy from my temples

Birds in my hair, roosting

Pouches of flesh to hold apples.

Found my own milk flow

And those who would feed.

Gave birth to wild bee swarms,

Wrote letters to the moon, in smoke.

 

Became bristle, blood, belligerence.

Became mud hunger desire.

Became wood and wasteland,

Bleak moor and mountain

Left trails to lead you astray

Waiting for you to follow.

 

Come you for a taste of leafmould

And tusk sharp wild woman kisses.


Goddess mythologies and social justice

A guest blog from Karen Tate

How are ancient Goddess mythologies and religions relevant for social justice?  How can we all hear the call of the Goddess?

So let us look at several brief examples of the Sacred Feminine as deity, metaphor or myth and how we’re given a template for living or advice for values we might embrace with social justice in mind…..

1) We find under the broad umbrella of Goddess, many faces across continents and cultures, with no mandate that we worship one name, one face.  Instead we see a metaphor for plurality, diversity and inclusion in the loving and life-affirming Sacred Feminine, rather than the jealous, One Way, androcentric and exclusionary god of patriarchy keen on asking men to sacrifice their sons to prove their loyalty and a holy book filled with violence.  Those embracing Goddess might easily see choosing peace, tolerance, gender equality and peoples of all walks of life; gay, straight, people of all skin colors and religions or no religion at all, as being in alignment with Her diversity, resulting in a  more inclusive, just, equal, balanced and sustainable world and society.

2)  Consider the mythology of the Inuit Goddess Sedna.  She is the gatekeeper between humankind and the sea creatures of the regions near icy waters on which indigenous people depend for their livelihood.  If mankind  becomes too greedy and exploits the creatures of the sea, Sedna cuts humanity off until he takes only what he needs.  Greed and excess are taboo as we are all inter-dependent upon each other.  As our environmental Goddess, Sedna, teaches us to be wise stewards of Mother Earth and Her creatures.  This is a rejection of excess and exploitation in all forms and She calls us to environmentalism and to be Her spokespeople protecting habitats across the globe.  We might be called to be at the forefront fighting against fracking, poisoning our water and air, and depleting our natural resources.  We would deplore exploitation of any kind, including wage discrimination, worker exploitation or multi-national corporations decimating local economies and indigenous peoples.   We certainly would use our vote to support those who fight for the 99% and allies who would  protect Mother Earth and Sedna’s creatures.

3) Egyptian wall carvings clearly show the Egyptian Goddess Isis bestowed upon pharaohs their right to rule and they were to rule their kingdoms governing under the laws of the Goddess Maat, namely truth, balance, order, and justice.  Similarly, we see the Hindu Goddess Kali standing atop her consort, Shiva, whose powers must be activated by Her. Clearly this suggests patriarchy, or rule of the father, resulting in rule by the male gender,  has not always been the way of the world, nor would be the way of the world with Goddess restored to center.  Neither would we want patriarchy in a skirt as absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Even a cursory glimpse here shows a call for female leadership and a respect for women’s power, both of which are sorely lacking in our world as academia, corporate America, religious institutions and politics has less than 20% representation by women in the United States.  We must support women who embrace Goddess ideals and support their leadership in these bastions of male control.  Isis instructing pharaoh she is granting him the right to rule, but only if he employs the Laws of the Goddess Maat, can be seen as support for civil rights, voter rights, worker and immigrant rights and consumer protection from powers that might mis-use and exploit the individual or the planet.

4)   In the thealogy of the Sacred Feminine, Goddess affirms women’s bodies and sexuality.  Priestesses of pharmacology, mid-wives and women hold the power over their own bodies and life and death is in their hands.

Today the patriarchy dictates to women the parameters of beauty and women fall victims to their standards spending millions with plastic surgeons to live up to some impossible ideal. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 13.1 million cosmetic procedures were performed in 2010, up 5% from 2009.  Beyond physical beauty, the patriarchy wants to control all aspects of women’s sexuality and reproduction.  Known in the United States as Big Pharma, pharmaceutical companies now hold the power over women’s bodies as they encourage women to disconnect from their menses, that monthly inconvenience, that curse.  They say, here, take our pill and see your sacred blood magically disappear.  Disconnect from one of the very things that empowers you as a woman   In a not-so veiled culture war, one political party has declared war on women by attempting to de-fund Planned Parenthood, thwarting access to contraception, trying to pass laws to make divorces harder to obtain, trying to legalize the murder of abortion providers, and by having miscarriages investigated and abortions abolished.  Women’s bodies and lives are the terrain on which this current extremist conservative movement is taking a stand.

If we had a feminine face of god at the center of society, or Her ideals affirming life, female authority, sacred sexuality, and leadership,  men and their institutions would not control or dictate to women.  Equal is equal.  Women would understand their sexuality and bodies are sacred and in their own hands and would not be complicit in their own oppression or exploitation.  Fortunately many women are catching on to this as they embrace groups like the Red Tent Movement.

5) Goddess thealogy affirms female power.  Where Goddess was worshiped, her temples were the centers of wisdom, culture, and financial power and were often presided over by women.  The Unitarian Universalist Women’s Cakes for the Queen of Heaven curriculum, as well as researchers such as Merlin Stone and Heide Goettner-Abendroth, in her book, Societies of Peace: Matriarchies Past, Present and Future  point to matrilineal, matrifocal or matriarchal societies  where Goddess was venerated and maternal values practiced, women and children were protected and had a spot at the center of the culture, reaping the benefit of that positioning at the center.  Not only must we restore women’s position in society to that of equal partnership with men but we must once again turn to the attributes of the Feminine, such as caring, sharing, nurturing, negotiation, collaboration, solidarity, partnership and peace – all of which have been marginalized or demonized under patriarchy – and embrace these values so that quality of life is restored for the most of us.

In conclusion, I’ve touched briefly on but a few ideas showing how Sacred Feminine herstory, metaphor and  mythology might be reclaimed and reinterpreted to provide a roadmap toward a more sustainable future.  We have in the feminine images of divinity deities, archetypes and ideals to show us the way.  It is up to us if we want to move away from or temper the “authoritarian father” idealogy that shapes our religions and culture and instead heed the advice of the Great She and her Sacred Feminine liberation thealogy as our role model.

How do we hear her call?  I can only speak for myself.  Once I started focusing on Her, trying to learn about different goddesses as either deity, archetype or ideal, she becomes a part of you.  You are inspired by her, motivated by her, empowered by her.  You just have to listen to your heart, your head and your body and you will develop and strengthen the connection.  I think its really that simple.  It’s a relationship of reciprocity.  You focus on Her and you get much in return.

 

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I recently read Karen’s book, I thought it was inspiring and I very much enjoyed it. You can read my review on Goodreads. Goddess Calling can be found here –


Taking the veil

IMAG0324Veils have roles in many different religions and traditions, serving both cultural and spiritual purposes. Generally the veil is a female item, which means it raises questions about whether the covering of the face is in some way sexist.

If you are covering the faces of women so that men cannot be tempted by them into acting inappropriately, then you have a problem. No part of the female body constitutes either an invitation or an excuse. Any culture that tells men they can’t help themselves also tells them it is acceptable to abuse women who are not covered up. This is entirely toxic for people, regardless of gender.

A veil is a barrier between person and world. You see differently when you look through one, and they reduce peripheral vision so you have to move more carefully. If you are involved in a spiritual stepping away from the world, this may be helpful. Veils are traditionally associated with grieving, and it does give you a degree of privacy around emotions.

A woman in a veil becomes a mystery – so would a man in a veil. The loss of face gives you something that is definitely a person, but not a specific person. That can be de-humanising, but it can also be powerful. I’ve used veils in rituals when I’ve been asked to plays Goddess roles. Coming unexpectedly out of the woods one winter and arriving, veiled and anonymous at a ritual circle, I was much better able to represent Goddess to the gathering because my own identity was veiled. It also created some drama, and that can be a good thing in rituals sometimes.

The hidden face makes you a little uncanny, a bit ‘other’ and people feel less certain about you. This only works when the veil is not the norm, and when a covered face is startling. In the photo I am dressed for a ‘Day of the Dead’ procession, in which being ‘other’ and startling was very much part of the plan. I also found in this context, that the veil – like a mask or a painted face – creates permission for misrule. Having marked yourself as outside social norms, it is easier to go dancing and screaming through the streets.

Of course the other thing about veiling – which religious bigot with sexist agendas should bear in mind – is all about the allure. That which is hidden can be more attractive, more seductive than that which is openly displayed. That which is unavailable easily becomes fetishised. The flash of an ankle could quite undo a staid Victorian gentleman. Cover a woman’s face and you may spend more time obsessing about her appearance than you would if you could see. As methods of control go, it’s often counter-productive. Being faceless can be incredibly powerful.


Imperial Russia & the Goddess

Today’s guest blogger, Steven Ingman-Greer comes to us from Top Hat Books (who published by Intelligent Designing for Amateurs) Top Hat are doing some interesting things around unorthodox, speculative and innovative historical fiction…

Lost Eagle, the story of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II’s daughter Grand Duchess Tatiana (1897-1926)
By Steven Ingman-Greer

I’ve loved the world of Imperial Russia and the family of the last Tsar Nicholas II for as long as I can remember. From a child I’ve had pictures of them in my head, often moving pictures. Sometimes I would even hear the family saying words, to each other and also to me. These feelings, intuitions and imaginings went hand in hand with my study of them from a purely historical, objective point of view. But as I studied the histories, over the years I came to realise that what we are taught in schools and often academic institutions as well is only the history of often one point of view, that of history’s “winners”. This realisation ignited my strongest characteristic. My curiosity. I just had to know what I wasn’t being told. The other side of the story that I felt existing just beyond my reach…the side that would bring in the complete picture in perfect balance, like a ballerina en pointe…

I am very lucky. In life I have studied the world from two apparently opposite perspectives. First, I regard myself as a musician. I studied classical music theory and practice from the age of seven and have played viola and clarinet, the viola to professional standard. For this there is rigorous study of technique required. But in the end the technique is put to the service of intuition and if you are on track, no two performances of the same piece will be identical and each will have the stamp of your unique individuality. As a composer, I know intimately, that after all the study of fugue and Sonata Form, in the end, you simply hear music with your inner senses, feel it, and then write down what you hear and feel using your technical skill at the service of your intuition. As the Imperial Family’s friend Sergei Rachmaninov said, “music goes from my heart to your heart, bypassing your brains…”

My apparently opposite training is that of a scientist. I am a qualified Analytical Chemist to Masters level and have done a doctorate in Chemical Engineering. From this, you learn strict observational technique and to look at all sides of a problem before reaching any lasting conclusions, conclusions which must be rigorously tested before being accepted.

My love for Nicholas and his family has driven me to study them in depth for many years. My scientific side has studied all the available English texts and I knew intimately what the histories said of them, what they did, studies of character etc…
But all the time I was studying them, I was aware of my other side, the intuitive one, blinking away at me, like a beacon in the night. And this went hand in hand with the deepest side of me. As an adopted child, who lost my mother at an early age, I intuitively learned to turn to the universal mother instead. I had a devotion to the Virgin Mary when I was young, but was also driven to study religion from many perspectives, eventually coming to realise that all religious paths are simply reflections of one initial universal source which expresses itself alternately in masculine and feminine form. The Russians I discovered had an initial devotion in ancient times to the Universal Mother, the Goddess for want of a more accurate term. When they embraced Orthodoxy in the year 988, it was largely the beauty of the Icons of the Holy Mother and the music of the chant that they responded to, rather than any particular religious doctrine. For them, worship of the Goddess simply continued in another form. For many, especially in Siberia, the practices of Orthodoxy were simply added to the intuitive Shamanism that already existed there and the seers and healers went on with their work as before. This seemless transition has meant that the “Old Ways” have survived in Russia, largely intact to this day. And it is from this tradition that the man known as Rasputin came.

This man has had a very bad press over the years, some of it, it has to be said, his own fault. But basically he went to help the Imperial Family as a result of a vision of the Holy Mother, who told him to go to St. Petersburg to help them. Once there, he was able to help heal the Tsarevitch Grand Duke Alexei of his haemophiliac attacks. But even more importantly than that, he taught all the Imperial children the native wisdom of the Russian people. In this tradition, everything, down to the rocks, is seething with life. There is no such thing as “dead” matter and everything is imbued with the spirit of the mother, from whom comes all life in the universe. He knew intuitively the gifts of each child in the family and taught them accordingly. In my first novel about the family, “Lost Eagle”, told from the perspective of Nicholas’ second daughter Tatiana, her gift is that of communion with the animal kingdom, with which she has a special, healing bond. Her sisters and brother all have different gifts. These, and Rasputin’s relationship with the Goddess I will explore in future books.

In this first book I also begin an exploration of the concept of the “willing sacrifice”. My research over many years has lead me to conclude that the form of religion we know today was once very different, indeed opposite to what it is now. Today, we venerate the willing sacrifice of a male figure on a Roman executioner’s cross. But in the past, the willing sacrifice venerated was that of a Holy Maiden, a Royal Priestess, whose ritual death and resurrection affirmed the continuity of life on Earth to be sure, but who also demonstrated in ways that are now lost to us the continuity of life, the Afterlife and rebirth as well. The stories of Jesus after his resurrection – being seen and spoken to by disciples – are mirrored in the stories of the Maiden’s resurrection. But she was part of an intuitive mystical tradition in which life beyond this mortal one was not simply intuited, it was known – through the Maidens – by everyone. Let me be clear. Life after death in these earlier times was no matter of faith. It was a matter of truth and actual knowledge, gained from and through the feminine. In Rasputin’s actual words, noted down by Tatiana in a book you can still see today – “…all is in Love and not even a bullet can strike love down.”

Over the last two millennia the loss of this knowledge has come through the persecution of the Feminine in Mankind as a whole – both in actual persecution of Woman, but also in the persecution of what the Feminine actually means. Qualities such as intuition have become devalued and since the Enlightenment, the very thought that everything in the Universe has life has come to be treated with contempt bordering on derision in lower scientific circles. It is this attitude to life that causes animals to be treated as no more than machines for our experimentation and the earth to be mined and fracked ruthlessly for resources without thought for the consequences. Ironically, the great scientists, those who have made ground breaking discoveries, like Albert Einstein, valued intuition highly, indeed he himself said – “intuition is more important than knowledge”.

Rasputin taught the Imperial Family the wisdom that he and his ancestors already knew. That the Earth and everything on it and in it both visible and invisible was alive and was part of the Sacred Circle. From this comes the basic concept of Freedom based on an acceptance of free will and free choice in all beings in all things. The Tsar began to take these teachings on board himself, instituting an Act of Freedom of Religion in the early years of the 20th century. This officially freed the believers in the old faiths from persecution by church or state. Had he survived beyond 1917, it was his intention to institute the reforms of his Grandfather Tsar Alexander II and introduce universal suffrage, making the Tsar a constitutional monarch and giving the choice of government freely to everyone.

The world as we know it today is a sorry place. Freedom of the kind I am talking about is still unknown, even in our, apparently, democratic society. Wars are still being fought over religion, when they could all stop now if people simply realised that all religious paths lead inevitably to One universal Source and respected the right of all to follow a path dictated by individual freedom of conscience. Sexuality, that intensely feminine quality of inner and outer communion, and one celebrated as a liberating force by Rasputin, to the fury of the male Russian aristocracy, remains suppressed and not properly understood in many areas to this day. Above all, there is a deep need now to reaffirm the Earth as a living being and all creatures as possessing soul and heart, all to be treated with the love and compassionate understanding that we would wish to be treated with ourselves.

These then are the issues that are at the heart of my work. They are issues which I explore intimately in my novels on the Russian Imperial Family, beginning with “Lost Eagle, the untold story of HIH Grand Duchess Tatiana of Russia”. I wanted to tell their stories from the perspective of the daughters of the Imperial House, those beautiful figures in white who have never had a voice until now, but whose suppressed voices, when allowed to finally sing, tell us a story that takes us within, back full circle to where we all began. The Russian Orthodox Faith knows this secret. For their most secret and sacred Icon of all, seen recently on a visit to Mount Athos by Prince Philip, cousin to Tsar Nicholas II, is the Icon showing the Mother of God giving birth to the Universe.

“Lost Eagle”, the story of Nicholas II’s daughter Tatiana, her life and escape to England after the massacre of her family, is the first of five novels exploring these themes. It is published by Top Hat and is out on October 25th, 96th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.
For more information please visit my website, http://www.losteagle.co.uk

All content © Steven Ingman-Greer 2013


The urge to be elfin

Comments on my recent ‘stuff going on in my life’ blog queried why it is that I want to be thin. A valid point and worthy of a ponder. I’ve spent my entire life considering myself to be overweight, and wanting to be thinner than I am. Photographic evidence suggests my child self was not as obese as I then believed myself to be. Post having a baby, I was quite large. In my teens I was certainly buxom, and at the moment I’m the smallest I’ve ever been as an adult. A few years ago I would have said I stood no chance of being this thin, and wouldn’t aspire to be thinner, and yet here I am, and still too big, by some elusive measure.

I absorbed very early on the simple message that only very thin people can be attractive. Super-waifs were fashionable and I longed to be visually appealing. So much pressure is put on girls to be attractive – not good, or clever, virtuous, kind or pretty, just thinly beautiful. I was ‘funny looking’ and too fat, from as far back as I could remember. I couldn’t fix my face, but in theory I could be thin…

The funny thing is that I’m perfectly capable of finding women who are not bone thin, visually attractive. I like curves, when I’m looking at other women. I admire feminine figures. Not my own body, though.

I’ve noticed a thing with weight loss… the idea of lose some pounds every week. There’s no end point, no sense that it should stop when you get to the right place. The kudos is for losing, week after week, even though if you did that forever, you would die. None the less, the concept of getting thinner, as something I should always be doing, is hard to shake off. No matter what clothes size I am, it never seems small enough and the reflection in the mirror looks podgy like a suet pudding.

Intellectually, I know that I am thinner than I have ever been, that bone-thin is not something I find attractive in others, nor is it healthy, but the impulse simply has not gone away. The only bit I found resonant in the otherwise tedious Bridget Jones’s Diary, was her observation that she had always imagined the ideal was to consume no calories at all, to somehow exist without eating. Irrational, troubling, wholly familiar.

It’s been drilled into me from so many sources and for so many years, that this particular demon will take some silencing.
The trouble is that I wanted to be an elf, a willowy fey creature, a nymph, a dryad… something delicate looking and romantic. I have always been solidly built, tall, robust looking such that people are quick to assume that I am all of those things, and emotionally robust as well. I do not look like a delicate little flower, ergo I do not need to be treated like one. There are times when looking like a fragile orchid might have elicited more helpful responses. People see, and make judgements, and I’ve dealt with that all my life. I’m a big girl, I shouldn’t be making a fuss. Smaller, more innately feminine and delicate girls have seemed, from my jaundiced perspective, to get cut a lot more slack. I wanted some of that.

On the other hand it makes me furious, this culturally ingrained idea that in women, only small is beautiful. The less space you occupy, the better. Appetites of any kind are unladylike, and vulgar. Ghosts of the Victorian parlour haunt us yet, with their eighteen inch waists and fainting fits. Half-starved models and actresses modified by surgery. Air brushed pop stars. Disney Princesses with their wasp waists and nice dresses. I know where these ideas come from, but they got in early, and there isn’t much to counter them with.

I spent a lot of years thinking that, if only I was thin enough, I would be loveable. Finding someone who loves me as I am has been a revelation, but there’s a lot of history to this one. I suspect I’m not alone in these experiences. Encountering tales of what other young women endured in order to be thin, and thire fear of weight, have made me realise that no one gets to win with this. The thin girls aren’t happy either, and they see fat girls in the mirror too. There’s an enormous wrong around how we portray ideal femininity, and I’m afraid the Pagan community is as rife with it as any other. Take a look at our representation of goddesses. Waifs predominate. Young, fashionable waifs, often scantily clad. I’d like to live in a world in which the ideal feminine is not profoundly unnatural.