Reclaiming the Feminine Divine

Posted on Monday 23 February 2009

Creation

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,

Bone, sinew

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.

Anyaa McAndrew

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

Mystical dreamer

Visionary

Creatrix

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

As I began to develop a relationship with the feminine divine, I realized how absent she and her principles were from my life and the society I live in. Having been a fish in water for the first 22 years of my life, I had no idea another reality existed or what was lacking in my worldview. My view of the Divine is a sacred presence made up of the interconnected energy of the universe. It is certainly not limited to the confines of a gender or a specific way of being and knowing. So why do I find the Feminine Divine relevant and important?

How we make meaning of the Divine has a direct impact here on Earth (Kidd, 1996). In recent millennia, God has predominately been understood as male (especially in Western society). As above, so below: when we held up God as male we saw masculinity as sacred. God’s masculinity became an unquestioned raison d’etre for patriarchy. Positions of authority were given to men, and because other ways of knowing God were not valued, women and women’s wisdom were devalued.

I believe that how we know and experience God is connected to our worldview, made up of the substance of ourselves. Women and men each have our own wisdom, perspectives, and qualities. For example, women give birth, menstruate, and attend to important transitions (for example, midwifery, the family life cycle, and care of the dead) throughout life. Accordingly our worldview tends to honor the cycles of life and view life from a cyclical perspective. Some cultures honor the dance of masculine and feminine, for example Hinduism’s Shakti and Shiva. For me, I believe we are all made up of the sacred substance of the Universe. As within so without, we project the sacred ways of knowing in ourselves outward, onto the Divine. Living in a patriarchal reality, I learned the following lessons:

I am not sacred, but sinful and my value is less than that of a man. This lesson is connected to the Christian cultural norm that women are the originators of sin and sprang from Adam to be a helpmate, but not created in our own right.

As a woman, my way of knowing is not valuable, but dangerous, dirty, and wrong.

I see no symbols of the sacred that represent me. The only symbols of femininity I see uphold patriarchal values, creating limiting or harmful choices for defining myself. For example, mother Mary is held up as a symbol for women to aspire to. Her popular symbolism is paradoxical and an impossible ideal for women: fulfill your social role of motherhood but do not be a sexual being in your own right. This is the harmful split of virgin/whore consciousness.

It is important to note that the lessons I have learned are rooted in my social citizenship in a predominately Christian Western society. While I believe many of the themes I discuss have global trends, including the pervasiveness of patriarchy across the planet, the examples I often use are derived from my personal developmental process which is steeped in my culture of origin. Because I began to explore the Divine Feminine, I began to see the incredible imbalance of validity between masculine and feminine principles, and the impact this has within our psyches and on a global level. In the next section I will discuss masculine and feminine principles and their impact.

Faces of God, Faces of Humanity

As we have made meaning of the Divine as male or female, and sanctified the aspects of ourselves that parallel that image, we have accordingly recognized the sacred wisdom within ourselves. Because God has been predominately understood as male, masculine ways of knowing and being have been upheld in isolation, while feminine wisdom has been vilified, mystified, and repressed (Kidd, 1996). Accordingly, the following principles of the Feminine Divine may be unknown or foreign. I encourage readers to utilize these texts for more in-depth information and discussion [Dance of the Dissident Daughter (Kidd, 1996); The Passion of the Western Mind (Tarnas, 1991); Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom (Northrup, 2006); Daughters of the Inquisition (Crawford, 2004)]. I will spend more time fleshing out feminine principles to aid readers in “re-membering” this aspect of their psyches and our culture.

Principles of the Masculine Divine are steeped within their cultural context of patriarchy and are reflected here as they have been constructed in Western Christian Society. Again, I believe many of these themes are paralleled in other faith traditions that live within a patriarchal global context. Neither feminine nor masculine principles have been understood and lived in balance to one another. I have made meaning of these principles through the study of multiple texts (Kidd, 1996; Tarnas, 1991), discussion in a community of women, and through the reality of my own lived experience. I encourage readers to notice if these principles ring true with your lived experience in your culture of origin.

I see reflections of this patriarchal reality in our emphasis of quantitative over qualitative research. Is it a coincidence that popular momentum for the Divine Feminine is growing as autoethnography arrives and expands as a legitimate mode of research? I see reflections of this patriarchal reality in the diplomatic and foreign relations strategies of the current administration. “If you are not with us, you are against us.” “If you dissent, you are supporting the terrorists.” “There is an axis of evil.” I see reflections of this patriarchal reality in the upsurge of violence and conflict in the world. I look forward to the emergence of a new understanding of the Divine Masculine that is not weighed down by competition for power/truth. I believe this emergence will come when we begin to again embrace the feminine, solidifying collaboration in addition to competition, and can hold the two aspects of the Divine in balance.

As I learned more about the principles of the Feminine Divine, I found much of my own worldview and way of being to be honored and understood. I had found sacred affirmation of my personal truth that we are all connected to one another and the understanding that the cycle of life, death, and rebirth is an ever-present teacher during times of conflict.

My point is not that feminine principles are better, or should replace their masculine counterparts. I believe we have moved from a matrilineal civilization to a patriarchal civilization/worldview that is disturbingly out of balance. This imbalance is negative because women and women’s wisdom have been devalued and repressed. Humanity, both men and women, have been denied this essential wisdom as a way of understanding the feminine energy within ourselves and on the planet. It is my belief that we each carry masculine and feminine energy within ourselves. When the feminine is suppressed both men and women lose the chance to fully understand ourselves and use the full spectrum of gifts we embody. As we are each a microcosm for the planet, so too has the suppression of the feminine disinherited the planet from its full spectrum of wisdom and its ability to find a peaceful balance.

On a global level, women, our bodies, and sexuality have been devalued and turned into the paradox of commodities and sin. Our girl children face the possibility of genital mutilation, domestic abuse, and forced sexual contact. I believe this rises out of both the devaluing of the feminine and as a means to suppress it. Our global body, the sacred Earth, has been devalued, and therefore polluted, mined, and used up. This is a startling parallel to the treatment of women. People have been taught to sacrifice themselves for a transcendent reality. The reality here on Earth is the oppression of the labor force to maintain the authority and power of a few. Our governmental systems are fragmented hierarchies fighting for power to soothe their fears of diverse ways of being and knowing.

I have come to understand that it is time for humanity to move from the hierarchical worldview of one-up and one-down to a place of the balance of opposites. Light and dark, young and old, masculine and feminine: as a marriage and family therapist, I understand these principles to be in a relational dance with one another that enriches us fully in their interconnectedness. I understand the light in my life by its borderlands of shadow, and so too do I understand the wisdom of honoring both the miracle of transcendent consciousness and the sacred reality of each moment.

As a marriage and family therapist, my spirituality is a bridge to working with global themes and issues. I have come to know that as marriage and family therapists, we have the opportunity to extend our clinical practice beyond the traditional notions of marriage to sacred marriage: the harmonic balance between masculine and feminine. The marriage and family therapy field has the opportunity to facilitate healing and shifts in consciousness in systems on multiple levels:

The individual system: facilitate new awareness and honoring of the balance between masculine and feminine aspects within the self. In this way each person can know her/himself more fully, profoundly, and accept parts of the personality that have been rejected by social conditioning. Each person can have access to the full spectrum of masculine and feminine wisdom.

The couple/family system: facilitate the creation of balanced structure and validation of the feminine and masculine within the couple/family system. We can support families as they shift from validating the masculine above the feminine to an egalitarian balance of principles that honors multiple ways of knowing and being in the family and maximizes family resources.

The global/social system: marriage and family therapists can work as social activists, authors, and group facilitators to call for the sacred marriage of masculine and feminine principles on the planet. We understand the relational dance between masculine and feminine. She is an equal and capable partner for the masculine and their egalitarian partnership creates a more balanced structure for the global family, in which we can thrive. Marriage and family therapists can send out the call for the re-emergence of the feminine that will bring new wisdom and strategies to the issues we face.

As a marriage and family therapist, I can see that the consciousness of sacred marriage in each of these systems as interconnected. When I embody the balance of sacred marriage within myself, I can transmit it into my family system. Family systems are the building blocks of the global family. As a profession, we have the opportunity to create efficacy on each of these levels. Our planet can learn to sit in a collaborative circle where we are all valuable. We can embrace the sacredness of the moment and the planet so that we may create a sustainable future. We can know that we are not alone, do not have to be fearful of difference, and lay down the self-protection of our violence. We can know that we are all connected. In this safe space, a more healthy masculine can begin to emerge which is not limited by fear and power. We can begin to fully know the wisdom of masculine and feminine, and hold them in balance within ourselves, in our families, and on the planet. As we learn to honor the full spectrum of divinity, we can begin to honor the full spectrum of humanity and all of life.

In May 2006, I created a sacred marriage ceremony for the masculine and feminine within myself. It was an amazing day. The soft wind of spring blew across my cheeks and with violets in my hair I honored the sacred dance of the Divine Masculine and Feminine within myself.

Commitment to Self

I stand here as a whole, complete, perfect, and balanced being.

I am worthy of my birthright.

I commit to living authentically,

Loving every aspect of myself,

Serving my truth,

Taking risks into the extraordinary,

I marry myself first and forever.

I rise in radiant song, reveling in the ecstasy of my union with my masculine partner,

Loving, nurturing, and providing,

With my feminine self,

Self-sovereign, intuitive.

I am expanding, blessed by the living breath nurturing my sacred spark.

Anna Brooke Doherty (2006)

Anyaa McAndrew @ 2:53 pm
Filed under: Of Interest to Women andThe Divine Feminine andThe Priestess ProcessTM

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