Re-Storying Goddess: a PaGaian Cosmology

Below is the text written by Glenys Livingstone Ph.D. for the YouTube video Restorying Goddess: a PaGaian Cosmology published in February 2011:

Welcome to my MoonCourt (as seen in the video and in photo below).

I do thank the Mothers and the Grandmothers of this Land, and specifically this Place, and the Mothers and the Grandmothers of the ages, of many times and places, who have spoken to me in some deep way, beyond my knowing.

Re-Storying Goddess for me means re-storing a sense of “She” to the Cosmos, restoring female sacrality – to the small particular self to begin with, to other, and to all-that-is. … re-storing “Her” as Language – image and word – for the Creative Dynamic that unfolds the Universe.

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As Elizabeth Cady Stanton said, well over 100 years ago, it is not our biology that has betrayed us, but the beliefs and the stories we have about ourselves.

Most of the religious stories that most on the globe grew up with at this time, did not have the female in Careful mind. Most world religions still specifically story the female as problematic to creation or enlightenment or whatever, or at least secondary: though some are clever enough to attempt to disguise it. The term “God” still commonly invokes the “Face of Ultimate Reality”, the Absolute, and the term “Goddess” still overwhemingly invokes a mere mythological entity.

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“Goddess”, or “God”, is metaphor, a poetic image – suggesting a likeness of femaleness or maleness in the Sacred/Deity. According to the Webster’s Dictionary, a metaphor is a word or phrase used to suggest a likeness. “Goddess” is a figure of speech suggesting a likeness of femaleness in the Deity – few would argue with that: though many do argue that “God” does not suggest a likeness of maleness in the Deity, that it/He is neutral or may represent both, whereas Goddess may not.

Some cultures don’t need the word “God” nor do some need the word “Goddess” because female sacrality is not a problem – femaleness in such cultures, is understood to embody transformatory powers[1] – and thus the very nature/essence of the Cosmos: birthing, lactating, conceiving, gestating – are transformatory powers.  And all genders in such cultures find purpose in supporting regenerative capacities.

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Theology was meant to be poetry – what else could it be, as it attempted to describe Ultimate Reality/Creativity. Theology has mostly ended up as a description of a dead butterfly pinned in a glass case, not one that is alive and flitting about in the garden … in the act of being. I prefer the term “Cosmology”: it is a study of our Place, which is Dynamic, a Verb, not a Noun – it is an Event. I understand myself as a student of the Poetry of the Universe. Poetry is a language of Goddess.

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The texts we choose for our lives create the texture, the context – when we choose a story for our lives, or accept a pre-scribed one, it lives us. There is a cosmology in our everyday speech and action.

Re-Storying Goddess, and celebrating Her in Seasonal Moments, may participate in the process of scribing one’s self, authoring one’s self, at the deepest level, and storying the Universe as “She”. What might happen then – if the Universe was storied as “She”? What difference might it make to the world we live in?

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When I speak of “Goddess”, I mean Her as a totality – not a “Feminine” PART of the Sacred. “Goddess” may be metaphor for Ultimate Creativity – the Sacred Cosmos … and in three qualities of Her Unfolding, Her Cosmogenesis: ever-new differentiated being, infinite full communion/relatedness, and constant transformation within Her sentient Self. She may be re-storied to THAT integrity in our hearts and minds.

Then one Enters … the richness and magic of this Cosmic Dynamic of Creativity, Who is embodied and embedded in all being. She is the seamless sacred Matter, Mother, Materia, Madre Whom we are.

HER 3 ASPECTS

The primary Place that the Mother-Universe may be sensed as present, is in this Place – (gesturing to the self).

–   bodymind, the breath, the whole phenomena of its ebbs and flows, but the breath may be a major place for contemplating Her three aspects of waxing, peaking and waning .

A lot of us in Western industrialised culture have been turned into outsiders in our own land. And in the patriarchal context of most global cultures (not all) this is particularly true for women. We are often (or have been) outsiders in our own land – this Land (again gesturing to self).

Most of us – female and male and all genders have learned well how to think from outside ourselves: that is, with a consciousness that treats ourselves personally and thus others as less than worthy of reverence, as all colonisers have done.

This is particularly true of women in the patriarchal context of most of the globe.  We have been and are a colonized people, re-discovering our Native Land. The details vary from culture to culture but the overall effect is common.

It is not our biology that has betrayed us, but the beliefs and stories  we have about ourselves.

Most of the religious stories that most of us grew up with did not have us in mind. Most world religions still specifically story the female as problematic to creation or enlightenment or whatever, though some are clever enough to attempt to disguise it. “God” still invokes a “Face of Ultimate Creativity” and “Goddess” still invokes a mere mythological entity … or these days – a new age floosy to be toyed with.

Ultimate Creativity and Authority has been storied for most of us as “He”. “Goddess” religion is put aside as  “fertility cult” and primitive.  “God” and the Male Metaphor “He” still dominates the minds and hearts of those who contemplate the Bigger Picture – “world” religions: though changed/shifted a little at the last Parliament of the World’s Religions, and my presentations were part of that. The domination of “He” is overwhelmingly re-iterated in the maleness of the clergy. It is in the language, in our everyday speech. The texts we choose for our lives create the texture – when we choose a story for our lives , or accept a pre-scribed one, it lives us. There is a cosmology in our everyday speech – a “meta-narrative”.

This work for me has been about enhancing the process of scribing myself at the deepest level, storying the Universe as “She” – and my life from within that frame . What might happen then – if the Universe was storied as “She”? What difference might it make to the world we live in?

We need stories and images of integrity, power and compassion, beauty and strength, honor and humility, mirth and reverence …

As I understand it and teach it,  the word “Goddess” is a metaphor for Ultimate Creativity – the Divine, the Cosmos. Before we can understand Her as that, before we can speak sensibly about Her as That, She must be re-storied in our hearts and minds.

And it was my experience that once that is in process, everything changes – because this Metaphor is embodied and embedded in all being. She embraces all, IS all, is the seamless Matter that we are.

GODDESS METAPHOR

“Goddess” was/is a totality – contained All within Her. She is not a “Feminine” PART of the Sacred  – re-iterate p.89 PC “the lioness not manifesting ‘masculinity’ when she hunts for food” !! This is key … it may be incomprehensible to you, but therein lies Who She is – try to remember. This understanding of Her as a totality is re-iterated throughout my book.

  • “Goddess”, or “God”, is metaphor, a poetic image – suggesting a likeness of femaleness or maleness in the Sacred. According to the Webster’s Dictionary, a metaphor is a word or phrase used to suggest a likeness. “Goddess” is a figure of speech suggesting a likeness of femaleness in the Deity – few would argue with that, though many do argue that “God” does not suggest a likeness of maleness in the Deity.

Some cultures don’t need the word “Goddess” because female sacrality is not a problem – femaleness is understood to embody transformatory powers … birthing, lactating, conceiving, gestating. And all in such cultures find purpose in supporting these regenerative capacities.

  • Theology was meant to be poetry. Theology is a description of a dead butterfly pinned in a glass case, not one that is alive and flitting about in the garden … in the act of being. “Cosmology” is a study of our Place, which is about a Verb, not a Noun – an Event. I understand myself as a student of the Poetry of the Universe – in the tradition of Poets. Poetry is a language of the Goddess.

excerpt from 1990 PAPER on “The Future of Religion”: both shamanic and pagan.

By shamanic, I mean that individuals are “storying” themselves, knowing themselves and thinking from within their own skin. Shamanism relies on direct lived experience for an understanding of the sacred, as opposed to relying on an external authority, external imposed symbol, story or image. Each person must claim their own inner power, imagine or visualize themselves and use this in the service of life. Myth/story which arises from within draws its power from a realm of pattern “which is common to people of all cultures and all times”[2]. The archetypes that arise, have done so since ancient times and have recurred across many cultures, in a diversity of form. This shamanic direction tends to come out of a feminist spirituality because here, women have learned  to no longer take things on faith or presciption. It is a tendency of feminism to cure one from swallowing pre-scribed religion – all holy texts and myths must be reflected on suspiciously given their millenia of androcratic bias – and one is entered into the process of self-scription, of authoring, scribing oneself.  Religion then becomes based on what we can feel, what we can know.  We each then  find “for ourselves our individual role in the matrix”[3], a way in which each being is part of the texture of the universal fabric. We are linked by a recognition in each other of a power that arises from within, not by some external word.

When we realise that we all contain within us that which we seek – a basic premise of the old Goddess religion, and mystical and shamanic traditions – there is no power base for religious leaders or gurus who claim an inside track or rights to   knowledge of the sacred. What we have then as a basic resource is each other, each other’s stories – the Divine immanent in human community. The structural model is one of small networked groups, a model that has always been part of feminist praxis.

By a “pagan” direction that tugs at the future of all religions, I mean one that is connected to the Earth and its cycles, material reality, physical existence, body cycles. As women take seriously their lived experience, a notion of deity separate from the cycles and rhythms of physical being recedes, and the necessity of knowing and celebrating the Larger Rhythms of which one is a part arises. By paganism, I do not mean some kind of regression that would leave behind our hard won scientific knowledge. On the contrary, since in paganism the Divine is manifest in the physical world, and since science strives to deepen our knowledge of the physical world, these two share a future (as they perhaps did share a past). Science has already deeply affected pagan mysticism and will yet more in the future, for example: the spiral, ancient symbol of death and rebirth takes on a new level of meaning when we recognise it as the shape of DNA. (9) Another example: the ancient notion of the Mother Goddess always spinning and weaving the threads of life is revitalised with the recent “superstring” theory of physics, wherein the smallest building materials are understood as waves or strings, and the universe is understood to be pervaded with billions of unseen strings whose different frequencies give rise to all of matter and energy in creation.

Re-linking with the “natural” world, our material reality does at the same time mean the remembering of a primal harmony (which some peoples of the Earth have not yet ever forgotten).  It means opening ourselves to a memory our bodies retain, of the primal elements of which we are formed. There is the hope that this kind of spirituality will unite us in our diversity, because all humans share this memory.  There are no chosen people, all are children of Gaia, the living Earth.

MoonCourt-1

fn. 1: I acknowledge Melissa Raphael for this term: in Thealogy and Embodiment 1996.

fn. 2: Houston, Jean. The Search for the Beloved. Jeremy P. Tarcher: Los Angeles 1987, p.33

fn. 3: Drury, Neville. The Elements of Shamanism. Element Books: Dorset, 1989.

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