Language for Her

This is an edited excerpt from the author’s book PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion, Chapter 1 and a part of the Introduction

It generally seemed clearer for me to speak of the “Female Metaphor” rather than “Goddess”, particularly when I was writing my doctoral thesis about Her,  since it seemed that in some minds, “Goddess” may imply a “God in drag” … the same old Deity with a skirt (and the whiskers showing). I do however, use the term “Goddess” often these days, despite some misgivings about its adequacy, as I think humans do need to get acclimatized to Her expressed in this form, try to imagine Her again … our language and imaginations have been hysterecto-mated (a new word I think) and mastectom-ated: that is, the womb and breasts – all the potency that the female body may present with – have been removed … Her potency has been lost in the current mythological/cultural era:

The Form and the Shape that they sought

was not in any Atlas.

Her gaps had been covered up,

Her hollows filled in,

Her name blanked out.

She lay buried beneath things, silent,

but with a detectable visceral pulse.

(as I wrote some decades ago)

Yoni Rocks. Hallie Iglehart Austen, The Heart of the Goddess, p.115

Yoni Rocks. Hallie Iglehart Austen, The Heart of the Goddess, p.115

She has for too long been relegated to the fringes. According to the Webster’s Dictionary, a metaphor is a word or phrase used “to suggest a likeness”.[1] “Goddess” is a figure of speech suggesting a likeness of femaleness in the Divine, or the Divine in femaleness; few argue with that, though many do argue that “God” does not suggest a likeness of maleness in the Divine, or the Divine in maleness. The term “Goddess” does seem to evoke a different visceral impulse and visualization, which is worth noting. Some primal cultures seem to have never used an equivalent term, but neither was there any problem with a feeling for the Female as Sacred Entity: “Grandmother” spirits and ancestors were and still are, greatly revered in some cultures.[2]


I usually speak of many particular Goddesses with a capital ‘g’ – Demeter or Persephone for example, all of whom for me partake in the Female Metaphor; they are particular conflagrations of, are holons of, the Female Metaphor. I use a capital “g” even for these particular Goddesses, partly for political reasons, that is, so their divinity is remembered; but also signifying that I am not simply speaking of an archetype of the Olympian pantheon. As evidence suggests, long before the Goddesses were colonized, married off, raped and caught in sordid plots against each other, they were faces of a Matrix and a Cosmic Power.

“Archetype” is a word frequently used to name/describe the Female Metaphor, though it is much less often used to describe other Deities. I prefer not to speak of Her as ‘archetype’, as this tends to connote a ‘mindstruct’ – something merely cultural – and what I wish to convey is the sense of Her as a ‘physic’ of the Universe. Some who use the term ‘archetype’ do appear to mean just that, that is, ‘archetype’ as a ‘physic’. Joseph Campbell’s view is that “archetypes” arise not so much “from the mental sphere of rational ideation”,[3] as from the single psychophysiological source common to all humans – the body.[4] In that sense archetypes arise from “bioenergies that are the essence of life itself”.[5] For Campbell, archetypes are biologically grounded and at once the motivating powers and connoted references of the historically conditioned metaphorical figures of mythologies around the world … (and) … are, like the laws of space, unchanged by changes of location.[6]

Great Goddess of Laussel 20,000 B.C.E., The Herat of the Goddess, Hallie Iglehart Austen

Great Goddess of Laussel 20,000 B.C.E., The Heart of the Goddess, Hallie Iglehart Austen

This would seem to be the sense in which I mean the Female Metaphor, and at home with the Cosmogenetic Principle which is central to this PaGaian cosmology, and of which I speak later. However, in general I feel that the word “archetype” confuses the fundamental sense of the Triple Face Dynamic as I wish to convey Her. The evolutionary cosmic dynamics – Cosmogenesis – are not culturally induced phenomena, nor is the cyclical dynamic that the Triple Goddess Metaphor signifies: that is, the Cosmogenesis in which we find ourselves is at once completely physical and manifest, as well as intra-physical and unmanifest – it is not meta-physical and separate, it is intrinsic with the physical. Physicist David Bohm speaks in terms of “implicate” and “explicate” orders, wherein the “explicate” (or “manifest”, as I have termed it) is “a special and distinguished form contained within the general totality of all the implicate orders”[7] (or “unmanifest”/manifesting”, as I have termed it). In this way Bohm develops a way of speaking about a “universe of unbroken wholeness”[8] which is how I understand the physics of the Female Metaphor.

Similiarly, some common Pagan language that is used today does not communicate the actual physics of the Universe that it aspires to celebrate, or is at least unhelpful to the changing of our minds; for example, at times Light and Dark are spoken of as being in a battle,[9] where at Winter Solstice, the celebrations are languaged as marking Light’s “victory over the darkness of winter.”[10] Other Pagan sources say it is Dark’s victory – that at Winter Solstice, “darkness triumphs”.[11] Either way it is being storied as a battle, which in actual fact the Sun is not engaged in. In my opinion these expressions do not conjure a desirable or insightful story about the Light and Dark phenomena caused by Sun’s relationship with Earth. This kind of language does not do this ancient Earth-Wisdom tradition justice for our time, and perhaps it never did amongst the early ancestors who observed, studied and reflected upon the Earth Wisdom. Our language needs to fit our understanding of the Universe, needs to fit us (humans and all beings) into – story us into – the Universe, as our minds know it.

Language is important to this work of re-inventing and re-storying. Cosmologist Brian Swimme and cultural historian Thomas Berry, who understand that they are telling a new story in our times, have said:

… each extant language harbors its own attitudes, its own assumptions, its own cosmology. Thus to articulate anew the story of our relationships in the world means to use the words of one of the modern languages that implicitly, and to varying degrees obscures or even denies the reality of these emerging relationships. Any cosmology whose language can be completely understood by using one of the standard dictionaries belongs to a former era.[12]

Thus, they say, to understand a new cosmology in any significant way, “is a demanding task, requiring a creative response over a significant period of time.”[13] This is kin to how Mary Daly speaks of “the very arduousness of the task of Naming and calling forth Elemental be-ing.”[14] The project of re-storying and celebrating our Habitat/Place as Gaia, Primordial Mother, in our times, with new and archaic understandings as anyone undertakes it, is subject to such a requirement. New relationship with certain terms and names – the language we speak – needs to be established, and the Metaphor – the Female Metaphor/Goddess/Gaia – needs to be spoken, enacted, lived – until we who are the participants have begun to know this Language in our cells. Certainly the embodiment of this Creative Metaphor in the seasonal ceremonial celebrations is a process that deepens my sensed knowing each time the year goes around – it takes that kind of time, consistent practice over years. I realize that for myself, I am so far only scratching the surface; and other participants in this particular process have expressed feeling the same.

Birth of the Goddess

PaGaian icon. Artist: Julie Cunningham, Media Creative,


It has been my passion to find other language, other pathways to express those depths; and certainly for me it had to be a pathway that not only admits the Female/female, but celebrates Her/her, as integral with the Cosmos – in a way that patriarchal paradigms never have or could. It has been my passion to allow an experience of this for myself, and for others – WITH others … and that is where it really becomes meaningful, when communion is found. My self re-creation became something that other people found resonance with, and I found resonance with them – and what has been my expression has been extended as I have felt for their expression. I have largely played the Poet, yet it has been an inter-active process, that continues to grow over time – and into a plant we do not yet know.



(c) Glenys Livingstone 2015


[1] Webster’s Third International Dictionary of the English Language, p.1420.

[2] Hallie iglehart Austen refers to this in her discussion of “Language” in The Heart of the Goddess, p.xxi.

[3] Joseph Campbell, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, p.11.

[4] Joseph Campbell, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, p.12.

[5] Joseph Campbell, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, p.13.

[6] Joseph Campbell, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, p.19.

[7] David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, p.xv.

[8] David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, p.xv.

[9] Which is also the story told in many other religions, in various ways.

[10] Vivianne Crowley, Celtic Wisdom: Seasonal Rituals and Festivals, p.40.

[11] Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, p.182.

[12] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.24.

[13] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.24.

[14] Mary Daly, Pure Lust, p.25.



Bohm, David. Wholeness and the Implicate Order. NY: Routledge, 1995.

Campbell, Joseph. The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and as Religion. NY: HarperPerrenial, 1995.

Crowley, Vivianne. Celtic Wisdom: Seasonal Rituals and Festivals. NY: Sterling , 1998.

Daly, Mary. Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy. Boston: Beacon Press, 1984

Iglehart Austen, Hallie. The Heart of the Goddess. Berkeley: Wingbow Press, 1990.

Livingstone, Glenys. PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion. Lincoln NE: iUniverse, 2005.

Webster’s Third International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1986.

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