I was a little triggered by my mother’s last post. In Artemis fashion, I withdrew deep into the woods of my being and just sat there for a long time pondering the energy that hit me and the critiques my mother raised against the Goddess. I felt in a way as if I was Artemis herself, and I had just received a blow in battle. The triggering feeling took me to a place to explore the old wounds I have received when a woman, or a group of women decide they don’t like me and they stop talking to me. I felt my mother's rejection of Artemis as a rejection of an aspect of the sacred feminine, which includes a rejection of a piece that belongs to me, to her, to everyone.
One of the harshest weapons women can use against one another is to pretend that another being doesn’t exist, as if she’s turned off her instincts towards you and left you for dead. What stings even worse is when the ignored prey of the crowd becomes the food that the community feasts on as they gossip to provide energy (even if it’s a mean energy) to fuel their private lives. This is one reason I prefer the woods to the city, and why I feel especially close to Artemis who can stand boldly in her own instinctual nature, regardless of what everyone else is saying or doing.
A big part of me doesn’t want to be in the public eye like Athena is. I’ve been exploited and humiliated there. In the public square things that are so precious and innocent and intrinsic to my experience as a human are often objectified and devalued in the light of a culture that loves to fight, is quick to judge and kill and deconstruct that which it doesn’t understand. Wisdom is not at the center of our culture—she’s out crying in the streets with all who are suffering, and I’m often crying right alongside her. How do you communicate to the center governing body that there is suffering all around and we need to do something about it, when the center seems to be unconscious of its actions, impotent, or even enjoys the exploitation and suffering it is creating.
We can look at this on two levels, and it’s a big thing to behold: our cultural landscape is mirroring the dynamics that are taking place in our internal worlds.
I feel that I carry a lot of shadowy things of humanity that people are uncomfortable with publicly, but maybe hungry for privately: I’m emotional, sensual, playful, passionate, and I value the wonder of childhood, dreams, and adventures into mysterious unseen worlds. When I studied psychology I feared that if I told people that sometimes I can hear spiritual beings or relatives who have passed away talking to me, I would be labeled with several different psychological disorders. In times past women like me were called witches and burned at the stake--a time of extreme devaluing of the feminine. Now people are beginning to see and remember that this is an eternal aspect of the intuitive feminine that was once honored and associated with the ancient priestesses.
Math and science have never been my lunch table, and it’s not because I’m just a stupid girl—which I've been called countless times. In a strange way, it was a gift because it caused me to work hard in school to prove otherwise. Too often though, women continue trying to prove their worth to a culture that just doesn't see it no matter how hard we kill ourselves. I live and thrive in feminine ways that feel less valued by the dominate group. Math is not a realm where I am called to contribute to human evolution. Listening to spirits and improvising music and art may not be yours. We don’t have to be enemies just because we’re different. Just because I don’t sit at your lunch table though, doesn’t make math and science less valuable to humanity and just because you don’t understand my world, does not mean that my world does not exist, nor does it give you the right to run over me, rape me, bully me, and force me into submission. I would much prefer to cultivate a gracious curiosity about this magnificence of existence and learn from others in a world that shares Wisdom rather than possesses her.
When times get tough, it’s the arts, music and recess that get cut in education. The realms I live in are just not as valued by the dominant culture. Does this mean that I am less valuable?? I know that the answer is no—but I’m still working on deprogramming my body as I work to re-teach myself what I experienced and was taught growing up. It’s an active effort for anyone who differs from the dominant culture to find and hold onto their intrinsic value within when the culture is not able to show a mirror of your value back to you. Even if others don’t value my gifts and my essence and the realms I have access to, it doesn’t make me a less valuable part of creation. Even if my mother doesn’t like Artemis, it doesn’t make Artemis energy less valuable to human evolution, or to the whole of creation to which she belongs where she holds an essential piece of the puzzle in the sacred symmetry of life.
It’s a good thing that Artemis’ counterpart, Athena was up next, because it’s Athena’s courageous energy and calm wisdom that I need to tap into in order to write and express myself in the public realm. Athena draws me out of the woods to make sense of my internal experiences and share my instincts and gifts in the world for the benefit of others like me who’d prefer to stay hiding in the woods.
The sentiment of, “I like Jesus better,” feels like the popular girl just stole one of my friends away. Who can compete with her/him? Of course Jesus is cooler and more popular. He was Christ for God’s sake. He was in the lime light. Crowds followed him everywhere. Artemis hates the crowd. She’s the divine energy that rules over all that remains unconscious, and unseen, underground, wild and unintegrated in our psyche. When Jesus escapes to the desert he is honoring the divine energy that is found in solitude, he’s in Artemis’ realm—an aspect of God. See, what I’m trying to say is that if we want to know more of God, we’re going to have to understand all of God’s aspects, which we never will because it’s just too big. But at least we can realize that we have created a comfortable box by only seeing a divine things as male. If we are truly hungry for spiritual growth, we will learn to see God in even our fears and in our enemies, and in the feminine that makes us uncomfortable.
I have to push into my Athena energy when it’s time to leave my solitude and fight for justice. It’s an effort, but it’s what must be done when the little ones are being forced to grow up too fast, when the domain of the womb is being legislated by men who do not honor the Goddess. Athena is the Goddess of Wisdom and of War. But Athena doesn’t just fight for the sake of fighting. She’s not a show off. Her demeanor is calm and she only goes to war to fight for what is right. Her war serves justice which seems to be sold to the wealthy these days rather than offered as a human right to all the people.
“When the divine feminine, the goddess, is no longer revered, social and psychic structures become overmechanized, overpoliticized, overmilitarized. Thinking, judgement and rationality become the ruling factors. The needs for relatedness, feeling, caring or attending to nature go unheeded. There is no balance, no harmony, neither within oneself nor in the external world. With the disregard of the archetypal image so related to passionate love, a splitting off of values, a one sidedness occurs in the psyche (a Donald Trump occurs on the political stage?). As a result, we are sadly crippled in our search for wholeness and health.”*
Many of us are so jumpy and ready to fight for any cause before we truly understand the root of the problem (roots are found in the earth—in the feminine realm of the instincts and feelings), and thus many of our modern day wars do not create a more just society because we are waring without wisdom. This kind of war perpetuates trauma and adds to the cycle of violence rather than restoring justice to the city and healing to all of her inhabitants.
To say that an angry Goddess is petty is to add further injury to her and all of humanity when our anger is rooted in deep injustice. This anger is not petty. It points to the deep trauma of the feminine and the myths that arose around her in patriarchal ages that devalued her energy and gifts. It points to the deep trauma that arose when we were asked to grow up in a world where we were raised to sever our feelings and instincts to systems of power that did not ultimately have our best interest at heart. How convenient for those in power. The city is disconnected from the Goddess of Wisdom that would nourish all of her valuable inhabitants—not just the "special" ones.
Anger is an emotion that is often forbidden for women (especially Christian women), and it’s the one emotion that men are culturally allowed to express. This reveals the patriarchal culture that shrugs when injustices happen to children and women and the feminine in general—or blames them for being emotional, or expressing the wounds that patriarchy is inflicting. Deny your experience, the patriarchy says. Deny your feelings. Ultimately: deny the Goddess and deny yourself.
The Goddesses Athena and Artemis express their rage when women are raped. Did you know that Medusa’s head of snakes was a gift from the Goddess Athena after Medusa was raped by Poseidon? With her snake hair she would be protected always from unwanted advances. Artemis killed her friend because she thought he raped her nymph. The Goddesses will not tolerate rape and devaluing of people or the planet. And yet patriarchy will not allow the feminine to rule in this realm and to be treated with dignity, honor and equal value. When patriarchy oversteps its bounds and tries to control the feminine realms, like a mother wolf, the Goddess will snap her jaws. This does not make her petty. This makes her bold, courageous and wise. She knows the boundaries of her Queendom are being exploited she is not content to live in apathy or denial, she fights for her sacred realms back in order to restore harmony to creation.
How many of us today feel we were able to express our rage after we were raped? More of us go silent because we know too well the stories of others who have been publicly humiliated when they called the police. The masculine seems to be saying to us: just shut down your feelings (like you trained us to do!) as we participated in raising our boys to be tough and taught them not to cry (I’m really trying not to do this--but that means I have to learn more about all my feelings too!) The shadow side of the divine feminine (in all genders) is oozing with centuries of rage for all of the ways in which her energy has been devalued, controlled, manipulated, subjugated and demeaned under patriarchy.
Feminine energy honors the cycles of life, birth, and death. Women’s mysteries were once an honored part of city life. Women would leave the city and rest together during their bleeding (Can you imagine how amazing this would be?). Then the men would take over doing all of the work of the city in their absence. (Can you imagine how amazing this would be?) It was known that menstruating women were closer to the spirit worlds and the women would share their wisdom and strengthen one another while they regenerated their strength. When they returned to the city the men appreciated even more all that the women did, and the women blessed the city with their renewed wisdom. (Can you imagine how amazing this would be?)
Many Athena women have fathers who cherish them and as such these women are initiated into the upper echelons of masculine power. These women are usually able to develop their masculine sides further because the men in their life weren’t belittling them for being female. However, these women can also struggle with remaining connected to their own feelings and instincts (or their own Artemis aspects), as they live much of their life facing masculine energy and the father figures approval rather than their own internal sources of satisfaction. Athena herself was born of Zeus’ head. Athena women are gifted at speaking to the masculine energies on their own logical terms. I think of my maternal grandmother who without a PhD is invited to give lectures to the professors at St. Olaf College and my cousin Erika who appears on the news during election season and talks statistics, and my sister-in-law Andrea who is a bad ass Montessori high school teacher. Athena women are talented at going head to head with the masculine logic in a way that brings balance and wisdom back to the order of society.
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My mother’s last post kept me wondering: can we really love the shadow in God/Goddess/Humans? It seemed daunting. Does the shadow eclipse the divine and make the whole energy useless? Can we only love the perfect light, the popular people? And then I remembered that Jesus said if you love me: feed my sheep. The sheep are not perfect. The sheep are humanity. The Goddesses reveal to us the feminine aspects of the divine which we currently oppress in our humanity. They reveal to us our unintegrated aspects and our discomfort with our own feminine nature.
God did not call us to only love the divine. God calls us to love even our enemies. Why? Why must we love that which is not perfect? Can we? I certainly love my children even though they are not perfect. I love my family and my friends, even my ex though we share disagreements. I find it’s hardest to love myself, but that’s the work, isn’t it? To love all.
The word repentance in the Bible means simply “to turn around”. According to Christianity’s central message of love, we can always turn around, we can always come home to love, our true home. Forgiveness is for everyone. Integration is for all energies, because all energies come from God. Everything must be healed. This is the work we came here to do.
When we study the archetypes, we are looking at many aspects of the divine, pieces and energies that once belonged to the whole and have been scattered throughout all creation. We all hold a piece of the divine puzzle within us. The divine is in creation (if it’s alive it comes from the source of life.) We cannot pick and choose which aspects of God's life we like and which we don’t. We are told not to make God into our own images. We can’t kill half of creation and say now we can love what’s left. We are called to behold it all and love it all.
The Goddesses all have their shadow sides (as does God—just read the Old Testament!). Yet in my Christian upbringing the focus was always on how perfect God and Jesus were and how messed up I was. And I guess that’s where I got disconnected from God and Jesus many years ago. I couldn’t relate to their perfectionism. It didn’t woo me and fill me with wonder and awe like running barefoot through the grass did. This theological perfectionism did not bring me comfort. Perfectionism chops me up. I always fall short. Father God and Only Son Jesus don’t understand the messiness of my feminine world where there is blood, where there is rape, and silence. Where there is pregnancy, and birth, and motherhood and the wisdom of the crone. It seems that stuff just isn't really needed in Christianity. Jesus bleeds. Jesus feeds. Jesus replaces the Goddess. The church gives birth to new life in Christ at baptism. The men wear dresses. All of this felt like a big assertion: We don’t need the feminine. And I just didn’t agree. I need her. She’s in me and I don’t want to crucify her anymore. And I would appreciate it if everyone else could be a little more gentle with her too.
The divine child is usually a male with no shadow side; it’s the favorite son who can do no wrong. It’s In the gospel of Mark, which most scholars believe is the oldest of all four Gospels, we find a very human Jesus who reveals his fears and his emotions and his uncertainty about what is going on as he heads to the cross. It has a very different tone than the over-confident Jesus we find in the Gospel of John which was probably written much later, after the ideas about Jesus were understood post resurrection after the Christ-ed Jesus solidified. In the Gnostic gospels we find a story where even Jesus accidentally kills one of his childhood friends as he was discovering his own powers. Whoops! But we don’t allow Jesus to have a shadow so that story is not in our tradition. Theologically, psychologically, we must see Jesus as perfect for some reason. And if the divine male child is perfect, who will hold the shadow? It will be the little girl. (Yay for the The Run Like A Girl movement which is pushing back on that!) Even though orthodoxy holds fast that Jesus was fully human—we have still stripped away his sexuality and the inherent shadows that come with being fully human, and constructed a religion that deifies the masculine and demonizes the feminine.
I remember when my brother got caught with beer in high school, it was a big joke. When I got caught, I was grounded. He and I made similar mistakes. But I always seemed to get in more trouble. The shadow sides of the masculine is so often over looked or justified as “boys will be boys” but somehow the feminine dark stuff is just so ugly and awful that it even overshadows any good it brings, so that the feminine is cut out of the divine nature and cannot be loved, or integrated? When we idealize the masculine and demonize the feminine we are crucifying God all over again.
Jesus said, if you love me: feed my sheep. That means all the sheep. All people. All facets of feminine and masculine. All have shadow and light. All belong to the big picture of God. Love them. Feed them.
Mom says we find everything we need in Jesus. I say we find the real deal in the integration of all of the opposites (which I believe is what Jesus was trying to teach us when he commanded us to love our enemies). We don’t find God by tossing out everything that bugs us about someone else. As Episcopalians we seek and serve Christ in all people loving our neighbor as ourselves. Yes, Jesus was top notch, an enlightened being who did amazing things for humanity. But 2000 years later, we are still killing our enemies rather than loving them like he taught us. Humanity has not been able to incarnate his message that love is for everyone. Putting ourselves on Jesus’ team doesn’t make us right or safe. It calls us to love even the hardest of people, even those trying to kill us. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
The fact is though, Jesus cannot initiate me through the mysteries of being a woman. Jesus did not have breasts, periods or give birth to children or grow into an old woman. We need guides and mentors for all the stages of our lives—even human ones. Jesus can teach me all about love, but he cannot teach me about the mysteries that belong to the cycling feminine body or how to have sacred sex. The Goddesses hold that wisdom. The Goddesses are all aspects of the divine (which have been oppressed in patriarchy and traumatized, so yes, we can’t clearly see them yet, we sense their pain, and maybe we’d rather avoid it.) The Goddesses are not demonic; they are not in conflict with Jesus’ teachings. I am not disowning my faith by learning from the Goddesses too, I am making my faith so much bigger.
To sit at the lunch table with Jesus arguing over who’s the greatest is missing the whole point. The point is to love all. Welcome all. Feed the sheep. Even the most challenging ones.
As Athena is the Goddess of Wisdom, I love this image of Sophia from the Vatican below—she is the fount of wisdom. She feeds the masculine and the feminine; she nourishes all of creation like the great mother she is. Feed my sheep. The Goddess is all about that.
Download Athena's coloring page here.
*The Sacred Prostitute, Eternal Aspect of the Feminine. Qualls-Corbett, Nancy. Inner City Books, Toronto Canada © 1988. p 16.