Posted on Monday 23 February 2009
I will forge my own goddess in the fire of my need
Unmet by the father-god daddy-world
(call her Kali)
Hammer her curving, open form on the anvil of my power
(call her Hecate)
Carry her close in the medicine bag of my heart
(call her Inanna)
Worship her with love of self
(call her Diana)
Love of life
(call her Demeter)
Love of Earth
(call her Gaia)
She asks no burnt offerings, no fatted calves,
No “Thou shalt nots”
Indeed, she sings to me “Thou shall!”
Oh, truly is she flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood,
Never further from me than my heart, my skin
My belly and breasts,
I call upon my goddess, “Rise up within me!”
And, oh, she rises.
Karen Runkles Throener © (1996)
The story below belongs to Anna Cariad-Barrett, A Minneapolis Shamanic Priestess who emerged in 2005. This was a piece of Anna’s thesis and an affirmation of her priestessing in the world.
In the fall, I began my first semester of the Marriage and Family Therapy graduate program at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. This program affirmed my background in systems theory, social activism orientation, and prepared me for clinical therapy work with individuals, couples, and families. At the same time, I began what I view as the second half of my graduate studies. Inspired to open more fully to a relationship with the Divine I signed up for a year-long developmental spiritual process which focuses on personal empowerment and explores the feminine face of the Divine.
I gathered with a circle of women for many powerful weekend workshops and community events. (facilitated by Anyaa McAndrew, High Priestess, and Psychotherapist) This process does not involve particular beliefs, dogma, and structure. Instead, it is a fluid and evolving developmental process that supports and enlivens the unique journey of each woman into her full spiritual empowerment and self-knowing. As it explores the priestess archetype, it is called the Priestess Process. The “P” word! What does the word “priestess” trigger within you as you read it?
For many in Western society it is a denigrated and dangerous word. It has been associated with other terms: witch, whore, unholy, illegitimate, exotic, and dangerous to the social order. It has taken time for me to step away from this dominant patriarchal social perspective and define the archetype of the priestess for myself. To me, a priestess is a woman who is a spiritual facilitator, takes a personally-empowered spiritual stance, and honors both feminine and masculine aspects of the Divine.
Over the hundreds of years of the women’s holocaust, or the witch trials as they are popularly known, thousands if not millions of women were tortured and killed (Armstrong, Pettigrew, Studio D, National Film Board of Canada, & Read, 1990). These women were not witches, but landowners, women with money, healers, those active in the community, or those who were simply too bright, beautiful, and gifted to be tolerated by medieval society. In other words, women with any sense of personal power were found to be dangerous and systematically stamped out of Western society (Armstrong et al., 1990). By blaming the victims as witches, we belittle this holocaust and deny its connection to the long-term oppression of women. Women have long been “known” to be sinful, and we are told to look to our fathers, husbands, and men of the church for authority. A woman with a healthy sense of internal authority and empowerment could be dangerous to the status quo! It is no wonder we have been denied positions of authority within many Western churches.
I was disconnected from the Feminine Divine, but she is my source. Up until 2500 BCE, many of the agrarian communities of Western Europe were socially organized around Goddess spirituality, and were led by women (Crawford, 2004). A number of recent feminist authors, including Crawford (2004), have stated that these societies were peaceful, egalitarian, and surprisingly complex. Though many Neolithic cities held large populations, archaeologists could find no trace of warfare for thousands of years (Crawford, 2004).
Closely mirroring the plight of women, the feminine face and principles of the Divine have been denigrated and forgotten. The Goddess and priestesses were given the negative mask of the witch and were associated with the devil (Armstrong et al., 1990). As Western society shifted from matriarchy to patriarchy, I do not believe it is a coincidence that the snake, an ancient symbol of wisdom and the feminine, was utilized in Genesis as the devil tempting a woman with knowledge, thus bringing about the exile of mankind from the heavenly garden (Kidd, 1996). With the origin of the Judeo-Christian world, the identity of woman as sinful and unholy was cemented. In recent times many men and women have begun to explore this lost feminine face of the Divine (Kidd, 1996). This journey is unique to each person. My reclamation of the feminine Divine has been instrumental in the journey that calls me to work with larger systems.
After the women’s holocaust, many women learned the forced lesson to be small, quiet, and sacrifice themselves. This is how my female lineage survived a gender-oppressive reality. It is no small task to reclaim the Feminine Divine and claim my personal spiritual power and worth. Many women are still metaphorically burned at the stake for being powerful in this culture. Living into the archetype of the priestess has been a powerful developmental journey for me. As I explore aspects of the Feminine Divine, I explore myself and the planet.
As I wrote these words, I felt my storyteller’s voice take on a new tone. As both a storyteller and participant of culture, I hold this herstory of women and my own reactions to it. The emotion of my voice tells an additional story. I refuse to be unconscious of the oppression, violence, and mystification of experience that women and all other marginalized groups face. As I identify my own determination, anger, and refusal to shrink into less than I am, I resonate with the interconnected experiences of oppression that others have faced: the loss of indigenous culture, the bigotry directed at different cultural groups and the LGBT community, the rape of environmental systems, and the economic piracy of large corporations. What began to rise up within me, as I explored the loss of the Feminine Divine, was a voice that said with certainty, “This oppression will not stand anymore. This is my work on the planet.” I claim the following intention statement for my life:
Life Intention Statement
I am Priestess Anna Cariad
Sentinel and protector
Wise elder of the circle
Loving energy incarnate
Mother to all
Through these many facets of self, I shine as a beacon to the world.
I am a global leader, teacher, and healer.
I have come forth in this lifetime as a truth speaker.
My voice and actions shake the brittle cage of oppression and violence
Until it dissolves into the flowing birth waters of harmony, understanding, and connection.
I am divine midwife in the birth of a new planetary consciousness.
I am catalyst of energy potential.
Through the divine energy of my truth,
I activate the power of my life intention.
I call forth the dynamism of my life expression
And commit myself to walking this journey.
I stand in the power, truth, and beauty of myself.
I am Priestess Anna Cariad
Anna Brooke Doherty (2005)
As Within, So without… As Above, So Below (Continue reading…)