When my mother and I began this project of exploring the Goddesses, our faith, and our relationship back in January I thought we could push this baby out before Lent. Then Lent came and went and we decided we could make this happen in the season of Easter. But the Goddesses refused to be squeezed into our timelines and demanded that we give them more time and space to tell their stories. As we were wading through centuries of mystery and mud, the deeper we went, the more strained our relationship became; my mother and I found ourselves feeling misunderstood, hurt, and silent, ironically at the gate we had designated for the throat chakra.
In the midst of all of this, more violence erupted in our culture, making this work feel almost irrelevant. But the more I considered the systemic roots of violence, I realized that the return of the Goddess brings the essential healing for which we are all searching.
Many women have issues at the throat chakra from history's long silencing of our stories. It is well known that the church traditionally focused on stories written by men for men and that history is written by those who won wars. The stories of women were omitted in the lectionary readings and the characters we often heard about growing up (as we do in many modern day stories and movies) women often play the side kick—as if they are not a subject in and of themselves. Today women are groomed to lower our naturally high pitched voices in order to talk and act in more masculine ways so that we can be heard and respected in our communities. We have been trained to act like a man to survive; we divide and conquer ourselves in order to survive in a patriarchal culture where the feminine is devalued. The Goddesses war.
Our collective consciousness still bears the pain and taboo of thousands of women who were hung (at the neck, the throat chakra) or burned at the stake for speaking their truth or for simply being a woman who was perceived of as evil during the Inquisitions and the witch trials. Before the rise of scientific rationalism, women were the natural healers in their families and local communities. Women were the gatherers of herbs and medicines and the knowers of the magic of human touch, which is often restricted in modern day societies and hospitals where more invasive--even life threatening treatments-- are preferred to natural “weaker” solutions. Doctors who were unable to heal a patient often blamed a witch for thwarting his efforts. Women’s wisdom was systematically demeaned and dismissed and then, adding insult to injury, women were labeled hysterical for reacting to their suppression and domination.
Recently I watched the revolutionary documentary, The Mask You Live In which explores the way boys are raised to repress their emotions. (Anger seems to be the one acceptable emotion men can express.) Men share how the worst thing you can call a young boy is 'a girl.' In our culture boys are constantly getting the message early on that being perceived of as weak is a threat to their manhood. Men are socialized to hate and despise the more feminine aspects of themselves like vulnerability, emotionality and tenderheartedness. Not only men are taught this, but everyone who wants to get ahead in our country is taught this. In order to make it in the real world the qualities of compassion and empathy often get in the way of the accumulation of power which often requires that one disassociate from the human family and see the world in terms of “us” vs. “them.”
This devaluation of the feminine side of our humanity, and the loss of our empathetic relatedness, is fueling our culture of violence and apathy.
I remember an old friend telling me how he was beat up one day in elementary school and how when he got home his father hit him again for not hitting back. These are the powerful cultural forces that boys and men are up against, forces that make being perceived of as weak dangerous for all of us.
If God was never a woman, if being a girl is the lowest common denominator, then how were we ever supposed to learn to value the feminine qualities of vulnerability and connectedness in the first place? If Eve (the mother of creation) is to blame for sin entering the world, if the Goddesses are only evil witches, if emotions are only experienced as manipulation by a culture that would prefer to stay disconnected so that it can dominate without feeling guilt, then it’s no wonder we are so fragmented by violence today.
When we demonize weakness, the weak appear to us as demons.
When we demonize weakness we become possessed by violence towards self and others in trying to rid our human family of essentially more feminine aspects of our intrinsic nature. We overvalue independence separating ourselves from the consequences of our actions, from our connection to the earth and to one another, and demonize our natural dependencies upon the earth and community we need to survive, as if any kind of dependence was intrinsically bad.
Maybe this is why so many people are so angry today. We were raised to shun weakness in ourselves and in others and now we are supposed to have compassion and love others who embody the very qualities we were taught to see as evil? Many of us lack the internal structures to have compassion for others in need because we have been taught that our true needs were selfish and our weaknesses and emotions were bad. Many feel that the rules are suddenly changing (and they are) and we are smarting from a world where we did what we thought was right, only to discover it was actually wrong. Some of us are still fighting that realization because it is a painful one.
Most of us remember the uncomfortable years of navigating the social pecking order that arises in junior high and high school. At an early age children are trying to determine (consciously and unconsciously) who is on top and who is on the bottom of the totem pole. The ones on the top receive our projections of glory, worship, and popularity (and conversely our jealousy—when we can’t also see our likeness in them too) and the ones on bottom serve to hold our disgust, our hatred and our fears (and conversely our compassion—when we can see our likeness in them too).
Where were you in the social pecking order? What did you do to remain there? To rise up or fall? Who did you break relationships with to make it? Who did you betray?
As a military child who moved around the country every three years switching schools often, I had the opportunity to experience many different places on the social pecking order totem pole. I learned a lot about the power of projection and how people in one town may adore you and value your gifts and people in another town may not. While I don’t know what it’s like to be black in this country, I do know what it’s like to feel the projections of misplaced hatred and shame of a community that perceives you as being at the bottom of the social totem pole. For one year of my life I held the dark space of the school slut. I had just moved to a new town before eighth grade, made the wrong friends, and I was sexually abused by a trusted youth leader in the community who was well regarded by the adults. In his efforts to maintain power and silence me, he spread rumors about me, and before my first day of school in a town where I knew nobody, I was crowned the school whore by my peers.
Every school seems to need a girl to hold this space for the community; it is a difficult place in the human psyche and crowded lunchroom to reign. Being publicly marked as a slut or a feared minority is like being that piece of sacred earth designated for a landfill. People need to put their shadows somewhere. It has taken me a long time to understand that the shadow comes out in order to be healed. The shadow wants to be integrated. It is bursting forth from within all of us, and those who are unlucky or brave enough to hold dark space for our most unconscious projections are giving us the gift of consciousness. Ultimately, they hold the keys to our healing.
In my darkest days I wondered how I would survive in a world that couldn’t see my true self or value. On those days, the black female voice has saved me. Writers like Maya Angelou and courageous women like Rosa Parks modeled to this timid white girl dignity and bravery. I only had to serve as the school slut for one year—then I moved. I got to be a cheerleader, I got to experience popularity and white privilege. I could hide in my looks where others could not hide the color of their skin. I don’t know how they survive a lifetime of prejudice. But I want to learn where they find their strength. I believe they can teach humanity how to recover our dignity against all odds.
In a culture that raises up leaders and praises them for dominating and controlling others, our human dignity is marred on both ends of the spectrum: the strong and the weak are traumatized by violence. Those of us who are unable to meet our society’s expectations to be tough and to dominate, end up dominating our souls and our inner worlds, hating our very selves for our inability to conform and be “successful” while still depending on a violent family (as children) or a violent society for our survival. (See: Stockholm syndrome).
In individuals insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs it is the rule.
Maybe this is why we continue to fear and oppress women and minorities and unconsciously deny what we are doing—we cannot be held personally accountable for following society’s codes, right? We’re not really bad people, right? Maybe some people don’t view the #blacklivesmatter as a movement for equality; instead they fear (maybe unconsciously) the pendulum swinging in the opposite direction. Maybe those in power fear that what they did to someone else will also be done to them. Maybe they fear (even unconsciously) that the victims will draw from their years of oppression and finally bring forth justice, and this justice (an eye for an eye type) would bring the same death and destruction that was brought to them. Who can hold all that darkness? Where do we put that landfill? (Jesus is like: bring it. Lay your burdens on me, stop laying them on other people.) Archetypally this space also belongs to the great Mother Goddess, the black Madonna, the dark feminine that has been the target for centuries of disdain of our own human frailty and femininity.
St. Paul wrote about the law bringing death, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Unconsciously we do to others what has been done to us; there is no escaping the consequences of our sins, or the effects of our karma. When we hurt others, we fuel the cycles of violence. When we deny the consequences of our actions we fuel the illusions and kick the can of healing and reconciliation farther down the road. Jesus said the greatest teaching is this: Love God and love your neighbor as yourselves. (Mark 12:30-31 & Luke 10:27). To love in the face of hatred and follow this high vibrational way of human life requires that we have a self—that we know what that self feels and we know what that self needs. But if we are dominating and silencing the needs and feelings of that very self in order to survive in a culture that is constantly telling us not to feel and to simply follow orders so that we can gain power and be successful in life—then we have no idea how to treat our true self—nor anyone else’s for that matter.
It seems to me that many of us are terrified of facing how we really truly feel. And who has the time to descend into the basement of our very being and retrieve the soul from the jaws of death? If we aren’t getting paid to do things: like raising our children and salvaging our souls, then it is assumed in our capitalistic culture that these things aren’t really valuable to the greater good.
Some people decide that things are so messed up that maybe it’s best just to numb ourselves and live lives of denial because we believe we are powerless to change anything. And yet, the violence is erupting; the shadows are demanding to be seen. We are not going to be allowed to stay numb. We will either have to descend into the darkness we have inherited and do our healing work consciously, or we will be dragged into the underworld kicking and screaming to face what we have left rotting there in order to experience resurrection. We can't escape it; resurrection must happen in the natural cycle of life.
In a society like ours that has become a world power by dominating and stealing the land from native peoples, raping and pillaging the earth of its vital resources, and destroying others countries and economies for the benefit of a few, we have created a lot of natural consequences which are now returning to us. We have a chance now to open our eyes and face the horrors that we have created in our quest for power and in our blind ignorance (of things known and unknown, things done and left undone). In our collective efforts to divide and conquer the world, we are now waking up to the consequences of how we have allowed our communities and our very souls to be divided and conquered, if we are brave enough to behold the truth and surrender to our healing while resisting the powers that wish to control us through fear and violence.
In the ancient days hell was not understood as a destination for punishment at the end of one’s lifetime; the flaming underworld was known as a realm of the Goddess who helped humans transform their pain into new life. Jesus also teaches a similar message when he says, take up your cross; our salvation is found in walking through our pain, not avoiding it. For many of us the descent is a journey down from our rational thinking mind into the wisdom of the heart. Here the flames of love can make all things new.
Just as the bees are experiencing colony collapse disorder, so too are we experiencing the breakdown of our society. The totem poles and ladders of power are toppling all around us and giving way to a new emerging form: the sacred circle of the human family where no ground or person is allowed to be a designated landfill for our unconscious shadows. We are waking up to the holographic universe of which we each hold an essential part. We are realizing that what we do to another we do to ourselves. We are connected. We are integrating what we know. This is a time of tremendous healing and transformation. We have gifts to use. We have voices to share. We are ascending into our higher natures. We are leveling up now. We can do this. In fact, we were born to do this.
This brings us to our next gate in our Divine Like a Girl, Descent to the Goddess project: the heart chakra where we will explore the Mary, the Black Madonna and the Goddess Isis. These images of Divine Feminine energy hold keys to help us descend into the depths of our human suffering, to search for all our fragment parts, and rise to new life again.
Hecate & Persephone
Athena & Artemis
Mary & Isis
Hestia & Demeter
Aphrodite & Hera