Embodiment, Gendered Language, and Personal/Cultural/Cosmic Stories
The Body – Essential or Not?
All knowledge is an experience of body – what else can it be? Mind is body, body is mind. Humans know enough these days – including empirically – to end the dualistic notions of bodymind, to enter or perhaps re-enter in a new way, an integral comprehension of the bodymind we each are. In his recent book The Spell of the Sensuous David Abram affirms that:
Without this body … (could there be) …anything to speak about, or even to reflect on, or to think, since without any contact, any encounter, without any glimmer of sensory experience, there could be nothing to question or to know1.
I ask then: what difference if this body menstruates, lactates – if these body processes were considered and sensed as the norm? The “modern” woman – she of recent centuries – was held down by this difference, by the fact of her organic processes. The postmodern woman, convinced that the body can be “erased”, that its substantive presence can be dismissed2, may be expected to deny that it matters, that it affects her experience in any way.
The organic processes of the female body, her “elemental capabilities3”, are not cultural inventions, though I passionately agree that much cultural invention about woman’s physicality has occurred (for example, the cultural idea that she was unsuited for education). And cultural invention continues to occur – across the full spectrum of thinking (for example, the persistent cultural notion that menstruation is a disability, or that physically strong women are “masculine”). And whilst it is true “that everything in human experience, including nature and human physicality, … (is already an) … entity shaped into cultural perceptions4”, it is an error to deny any foundational experience. We are in deep relationship with our environment before we enter it – we are already shaped by environment as we form in the womb, as Swimme and Berry point out when discussing the Cosmogenetic dynamic of communion5. We, like our primal forebears, breathe, drink water, excrete, feel. We do have a genetic code within each cell, that is a physical memory of origins … we are seeded with memory. This is especially true of the female body, whose ovum transmits the cytoplasm from one generation to the next6. The inability or unwillingness of a philosophical position to deal with a reciprocity between the being and environment – that the being itself has some innate foundational integrity, is a trait of the patriarchal mind in that it does not allow the materia any agency, sentience or autopoiesis. Scientific research is rampant with such minds, and as an example and typical of such a mind is that of Nobel award winning scientist Francis Crick7 who claimed that human joys and sorrows, memories and ambitions, sense of personality and free will “are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules8”, as if to assert that this “vast assembly of nerve cells and associated molecules” has no sentience.
I am suspicious of texts that would “erase” the body – deny physical sentience or difference, since in patriarchal cultures it is the female particularly that is associated with physical reality. Whose body is it then that is primarily being erased, that has been erased since the emergence of the patriarchal mind? (Yet artists have been obsessed with her body – as if trying to paint her back into the picture perhaps or at times to frame her there as object). The early Greeks denied her inclusion in the “kosmos” because of her messy body9. In other cultures where her body had been the lap upon which rulers sat and thus gained their right to rule10, her body was gradually stylized into furniture – a throne, and then forgotten: her body became “part of the furniture”, utilitarian. Female sacrality – the sacrality of the female body – has been “unnamed non-data in secular culture; peripheral sub-data in the phenomenology of religions”, and considered essentially “pagan” or unclean in Western religious culture11. All bodies exchange substances with the environment – the land – whether or not it is obvious to an etherealised and sanitised culture. Aboriginal cosmologies have never forgotten this exchange; as Heather McDonald describes in her book Blood, Bones and Spirit – a work on Aboriginal Christianity. The body of these cosmologies is
an organic body which is consubstantial with, and permeable to, the living environment. It is composed of flesh and blood, bones and spirit, and is subject to the organic processes of fecundity, growth and decay12.
And the exchange of bodily fluids with land is valued and significant – a participation in the very flow of life, and relationship with “the ancestors13”. Australian writer, David Tacey, points out that the spirituality that arises from the land in Australia, carried in the themes of its poets, and known by its indigenous inhabitants, is one that is profoundly continuous with the body14.
It is likely that when humans really remember the body, all bodies – this relational dynamic, this materia, in which we are – they will remember the female body, and once again will have to deal with a foundational cyclical experience of life – which includes birth and death15. How we story that experience is really very open, but it will be a recognition of the web of life into which we are woven, as well as being weavers.
Life – birth and death – does not seem like much of a “foundational cyclical experience” to most people. It seems more like a one way trip – linear, birth to death. But that depends on your perspective … if you take it from within our own small life, our own small perspective, then it appears that way. An analogy may be drawn to Euclid’s parallel lines16. While his postulate that parallel straight lines will never meet, holds true within a limited space (or in a perfectly flat featureless space – limitless and three dimensional), it does not hold true in the actual world that we inhabit – a spherical Earth17. Within the context of Earth, the lines will meet. Over time, Euclid has been proved incorrect from within a larger perspective. So with our lifeline, viewed from a larger perspective, from the perspective of Gaia, there is rebirth (but it is not personal) because we participate in a larger picture. We are a small part of the parallel lines, which actually go around a much larger entity – Earthbody/Gaia.
I am aware that some of the text and premise of this book could be subject to critique by gender-skeptical feminist theory as essentialist, as a perceived collapse of “female” into “nature18”. But I am actually identifying all being -not just female and male, or just human, but flora and fauna and stars and rocks as well, and even human culture – with nature. I then metaphorize the dynamics of all being as female, which again could be construed as essentialist. I think it does invoke “female sacrality” which for some indicates an essentializing of sacredness as female19.
I acknowledge that it may be so, but assert that it need not be. In the case of this book, there is a recognition or naming of “female-referring transformatory powers20” that are identified as cosmic dynamics essential to all being – not exclusive to the female. For example, “conception” is a female- referring transformatory power, that is, it happens in a female body21; yet it is a multivalent cosmic dynamic, that is, it happens in all being in a variety of forms. It is not bound to the female body, yet it occurs there in a particular and obvious way. In past ideologies, philosophies and theologies – many of which still make their presence felt (and hence arepresence)- the occurrence of “conception” in that place (the female body) has been devalued; “‘conception” has only been valued in the place of the mind – usually the male mind – as “concept”. Then in some circles of feminist spirituality particularly, there has been reversal of this so that the female body – and sometimes her bodymind – was the only place for significant “conception”. This book is not saying that. It affirms “conception” as a female-referring transformatory power which manifests multivalently in all being, thus affirming female sacrality as part of all sacrality . It does thus affirm the female as a place; as well as a place.
My Search in its academic form – the doctoral research – was an inquiry into the affects of such recognition on the hearts and minds and actions of participants – female and male, and including myself.
The Terms “Feminine” and “Masculine”
It is popular for writers in the area of consciousness to describe different qualities of consciousness as “feminine” and “masculine”, (for example, intuition as feminine and intellect as masculine), and to describe humanity’s move out of an original participatory mind as “masculine”. The image of St. George (masculine) slaying the dragon (feminine) is understood to speak of a necessary move in the evolution of consciousness, both of the collective and of the individual. It is popular to describe the active differentiating force of individuation as masculine. To quote one such writer: “The birth and development of the masculine principle in consciousness revolutionizes humanity’s experience of itself and of the world22.” It is implied that “maternal” consciousness is simply amorphous and chaotic, and incapable of an evolutionary move. This is often seen as some justification for the patriarchal mind – that humanity needed to “get away from Mother”. Yet the move out of original participation as a state of non-reflective consciousness23 and the move into patriarchal mind appears to have been two different things. Peter Reason supports this in his citing of the work of Eisler, Swimme and Berry as opposed to the thinking of Colgrave and Wilber24. These former thinkers speak of evidence of sophisticated, complex, matristic Neolithic societies. Marija Gimbutas and Merlin Stone pioneered these insights into “Goddess” cultures, and many other scholars have developed it since. There appears to have been many pre-patriarchal cultures with highly developed reflective awareness, indigenous traditions knowing deep Wisdom. Reason says,
It is difficult to believe that these complex societies were based on a pure form of original participation: that there must have been a high degree of purpose, planning and reflexiveness. Yet the social organization was articulated in terms of equality and partnership25.
Reason also cites Paula Gunn Allen26 who describes complex and sophisticated gynocratic Native American tribal cultures. He says that these highly developed, self-reflective participative cultures are “not a description of original participation in the sense of being unconscious and unreflective27.”
As Barbara Walker points out, reflecting on the historical and mythic view of motherhood28, it may well have been the female mind that instigated the radical changes in the way humans did things, that it was her desire for order, storage, abundance, tools, fire, medicine, art etc. that led to many of humanity’s inventions, settlement in villages, writing, counting and social complexification. Walker asserts that it was precisely the female as mother who was the original “civilizing” force, which actually initiated the shift from spatial consciousness into time. The assumption that it must have been a “masculine” quality is perhaps part of the patriarchal mind set, which would rob maternity of its essential active creativity. Judy Grahn develops this notion also with her insights into “menstrual mind”, asserting the primal creativity of such a mind29.
I think that part of the reason for confusion on this issue, is that it is true biologically that the male did emerge “out of” the female cell – that is, meiotic sex was an evolutionary event30. Thisis a memory31, and it is celebrated in many ways. But it is a confusion to associate the advent of the male or masculinity with the advent of patriarchy, or consciousness, or enlightenment. The biological emergence of the male at about 1.5 billion years ago, is quite distinct from the so-called “emergence of consciousness”, which is quite distinct from the development of Neolithic matristic cultures, which is again quite distinct from the development of patriarchy. It is perhaps even a mistake to speak of the “emergence of consciousness”, since consciousness may now be assumed to have been primordial – according to some scientists, and in accord with many ancient Wisdom traditions, it is matter that emerged from consciousness32.
There is no need to masculinize this force/face that urges the move into individuation and complexification – it is an artificial construct to do so. I will, in the course of these chapters, describe how such a force/energy is an aspect of Cosmogenesis and contained within the Female Metaphor. Within the three faces of the One Creative Principle, is included the aspect of differentiation – the Urge to Be, to manifest; there is nothing innately or necessarily masculine about it. Nor ultimately would it have to be described as feminine/female, but it is a quality of the Female Metaphor, contained within Her. The point being made here is that the consciousness of the Mother is not an amorphous sludge, as the patriarchal mind has storied it. She – “maternal consciousness” – has full creative capacity, has always been quite capable of change; in fact, it is her very nature.
The incessant masculinization of things separative, rational, assertive, is harder than rocks in many imaginations and thinking of all genres – even amongst those who think they are New Age and ushering in some new kind of consciousness. “Wholeness” does not have to be understood in terms of a “feminine” plus “masculine” equation, and nor does it serve us. The Universe was not necessarily formed by “female” plus “male” energy, as is often loosely asserted even by those whose work could otherwise be considered helpful to gaining wholeness33. This dualism is not essential to the Creativity of the Universe. Creativity required such qualities as are stereotypically associated with “male” energy, long before the advent of the male, and even before the advent of the biosphere – the first cell. The so-called masculine attributes didn’t suddenly appear in the Creativity of the Cosmos when the male appeared. Differentiation for instance is a quality innate to all being, and is primordial. The advent of gender and meiotic sex was an enormous leap for Cosmogenesis, enhancing the Cosmic project of Creativity, a major catalyst and immensely alluring one as far as I and many are concerned, but it is not required for “wholeness”. I will illustrate the relativity of this mindstruct by developing the Female Metaphor, a complete and whole unity of Creativity.
Another dimension to the confusion on this issue is the lack of clarity about the primordial nature of the Power of Allurement – a Power that Brian Swimme lists among others as “coursing through the Universe and each of us34”. Allurement may and does manifest between female and male, but it is a power that is not bound to female and male relationship. It has been present primordially, before the advent of maleness or gender. Allurement, or Holy Lust as it may be termed (as I do in Beltane ritual), unites the Cosmos, but it is not female and male united that unites the Cosmos: this is lovely poetry – a metaphor and an experience – the Power may take place here, but it is not bound to this relationship. All being knows it – within the self and in relationship.
Masculinity or maleness is a particular physical expression that can give rise to its own symbolism – but the interpretation of that symbolism is something else. For example, the phallus can be passive, vulnerable and flower-like if the mind-frame is shifted. The Green Man metaphor may be developed as a deeply relational story of maleness – of “male-referring transformatory powers” as it may be termed: and there are some who are doing that well in recent times35. The story of maleness as innately “active, dominant, inflexible”, by association with the phallus, is a patriarchal one that can be changed. “Masculinity” and “femininity” are largely cultural developments – developed over time by story, belief systems, even the foods each sex have been allowed to eat in some cultures, the activities they each have been allowed, so that certain styles, physical and psychic, have been bred into and out of maleness and femaleness to suit the mindframe. “Maleness” and “femaleness” on the other hand may be something quite different and more like a physical kaleidoscope: and it was a very creative move at a relatively recent point in the evolutionary story, that did enhance the Cosmogenetic enterprise of differentiation, communion and autopoiesis36. Both are embraced and immersed in the same Creative Principle/Dynamic of Being, up to that point of evolution and beyond. Both may be described as exhibiting these three characteristics of the Creative Dynamic of Being.
In the conclusion to his book on The Triple Goddess, Adam Mclean discusses how the triple facet may present itself within the male psyche, or as I would put it – in male “story form”. McLean specifically identifies male versions of the Virgin, Mother and Crone37. These male story forms are Knight, Husband and Artist; and he does to some extent qualify these images, and restore them with a deep sense of Beauty, Integrity and Wisdom – as aspects of the Sacred. Generally I find that these images, as Mclean stories them, do mirror my own understanding of the triple qualities of the Female Metaphor. McLean still does use such concepts as “masculine side” and “feminine side”, in a way that I think is completely unnecessary, especially when he is able to story the Triple Metaphor in male form and female form as he does.
Starhawk develops the qualities of these aspects in the male form in her chapter on “The God” in The Spiral Dance, though she does not specifically identify them with the three faces of the Goddess; she simply says that “Like the Goddess, the God unifies all opposites38.” In Starhawk’s tradition, the God moves through an equivalent three faces over the period of the Wheel of the Year along with the Goddess, and in the Creation story of Starhawk’s Faerie tradition there are three evolving aspects identified as male – “the Blue God, the gentle, laughing God of love”, then “the Green One, vine-covered, rooted in the earth, the spirit of all growing things”, and “the Horned God, the Hunter whose face is the ruddy sun and yet as dark as Death39.” These images may be identified as a male form of the triple faced Creative Dynamic, present within all. There is a dire need for the re-storying of these male forms; the patriarchal context has not generally provided stories of males that serve and nurture Life, as the Triple Faced Metaphor may do, and in our times the young particularly are starving for such. In recent decades, men have begun re-storying themselves, feeling for their own experience as “life-enhancing” beings. In recent doctoral work that is inclusive of personal art, poetry and imagination, Phillip Costigan does this re-storying. He describes it as a “re-positioning of men in a more life-enhancing engagement within the Sacred Network of All Beings”, coining a new term to express this sense of male embodied sacredness – the male in “life-giving relationship with the Sacred within a cosmos imbued with this Sacred40.” His term is “virism”, which he derives from the Latin word for a specific man, ‘vir’ and the Latin word for green, ‘viridis’. He also derives the term from ‘viriditas’ meaning greenness or verdure – a term coined by Hildegard of Bingen, the twelfth century German mystic, to name “the greening power of the universe41”. Such work invokes a “male sacrality” as part of and within the Context of a Sacred Whole.
This book then is not an exploration or statement of a difference between some concepts of “feminine” and “masculine”, or “female” and “male”. It is a development of a metaphor based in female bodily experience that is ubiquitous in natural phenomena such as all bodily cycles, the moon cycle, plant cycles, and the seasons. I do not spend time “dismantling a dualism based on difference” as feminist theorist Val Plumwood describes that task42. However, my work here does conform to features that Plumwood describes as required for “the reconstruction of relationship and identity in terms of a non-hierarchical concept of difference43”, and I do believe this work, in its social action – its experiential concourse as already described – does conform to Plumwood’s features of “appropriate relationship of non-hierarchical difference44”.
Plumwood outlines two common problems that the female may be entrapped by, in the formation of identity as a “post-colonial” group, that is, as a group that has been “colonised”, situated as “Other”, or “backgrounded” – however one chooses to term it. Those two common problems are identified as (i) the denial of difference and (ii) the reversal syndrome (where the dualism and hierarchical arrangement are accepted, and value is reversed, that is, everything “female” is better than everything “male45”). My work here does neither of these things. Difference is specifically addressed on various occasions, in theory and in regard to the visceral impact of language; and in the academic version it is further addressed in the experiences of participants in the rituals where there are people of both genders participating fully. In regard to the latter problem of “reversal syndrome” as defined by Plumwood, the Female Metaphor developed in this work does not fall into this entrapment as “the new identity”, which is identification with the dynamics of all being, is not “specified in reaction to the coloniser … (or) in relation to him46.” Also, (the new identity) has not accepted “the dualistic construction of identity47.” Definition of the Female Metaphor is not “in relation to the master48”, as Plumwood defines the possible problem: the nature of the Self in the Metaphor of this work always has agency and is centred in cosmic source, even while it remains deeply related, connected in the web of life.
Sometimes expressions used by some participants in their responses seem to indicate that some may still be caught in problems of “hierarchical difference”, but I perceive and accept this as a remnant or an individual interpretation and difference of understanding, which is part of a dualistic cultural heritage. This cannot be abolished in one swift move. It is true as Plumwood asserts in earlier writing49, that Gaian symbolism is not an automatic guarantee of change, but I believe that when such metaphor is approached in a ‘holarchical’ manner rather than with a concept of hierarchy, that the Gaian symbolism and story does have the innate capacity for participants to change. A sensuous identification of the dynamic self with the dynamic Earth and Cosmos, through female metaphor, may serve as a gateway for some even beyond the female metaphor.
Others may explore the possibility of male metaphor as Cosmic Dynamic, but I am not doing that here or implying that it is not possible. As I have stated it seems like a highly desirable project, and feel that such projects are in process.
Goddess as Religion
This issue of the “status” of a “religion” needs to be addressed as the Female Metaphor is so often stated as – (given the status of) – “cult”, as opposed to “religion”; that is, as opposed to having the status of any other “World Religion” as all the patriarchal, “historical” religions are known. Goddess “religion” has for the past few millennia been referred to as “fertility cult”, and this has been understood to mean a more lowly status because matter itself had been reduced to insignificance. The reproduction of matter has been considered a trivial thing by most patriarchal religions themselves, and certainly by Western philosophy. It has been characteristic of the patriarchal mind to divorce itself from its embeddness in material reality. “Fertility” itself is a term that needs to be re-valued. There is no reason to assume that the ancients did not comprehend the multivalence – the depth dimensions, of “fertility”. It is the Creativity of Earth, of the Cosmos, and it is concerned with the Life in which we are immersed. The modern mind frequently assumes that “primitive fertility rituals” came from an insecurity about survival. This may in fact be a massive projection. Frequently, our ancestors of earliest times partook in the abundance of nature, so perhaps the “fertility rituals” were as much a celebration of regenerative cosmic power. Heide Goettner-Abendroth, scholar of matriarchal cultures, now uses the term “faith of rebirth” rather than “fertility cult50”. However I prefer to stick with a re-valuation of fertility. This eventuates further when I develop the three faces of the Female Metaphor, particularly in the re-storying of the Old One, that is, the post-menopausal elder. If the ancients were simply concerned with physical fertility (which only a dualistic mind can conceive), why celebrate this “useless” phase? The “fertility cults” seemed to have some understanding of the integrity of life – birth and death; certainly they seem to hold more than the “primitive”, “unconscious” veneer they have been dealt by researchers of recent centuries, and by their conquerors of old.
The word “religion” itself is problematic, as it tends to imply a rigid system of belief. Its roots are in the word religio which may be interpreted as “binding” in a negative sense, or as a connectedness in a positive sense of relatedness and bonding. There is argument for the case that Goddess imagery and language is not another religion, since She underlies and is threaded through all of them; She is a Metaphor, but so is “God”, as I have discussed. It would seem more accurate to speak of “Goddess spirituality”, since that seems to indicate a fluidity and aliveness. Heide Goettner-Abendroth uses “matriarchal spirituality” for this reason51. Goettner-Abendroth re-defines “matriarchal” as meaning “in the beginning was the mothers”, contending that ‘arche’ did not mean ‘dominance’ until later52. However, I am keen to have Her understood with the dignity of an in-depth spiritual practice, a coherent worldview; and the word “religion” does that. There are many different varieties of ritual and form within Goddess religiosity it is true, but so there are in God religions. She does deserve to be listed as a “World Religion”, given that She was the main metaphor for Deity for so long and so pervasively, and still is revered in some form by millions of humans.
Most minds on the planet, at this time in the human story, are so used to reducing the Female Metaphor/Goddess to cult, archetype, consort, wife of, that it seems necessary to dwell for a while on this issue. Most minds are non-plussed as to who else She might be, if not in relationship to, or secondary to, or even a danger to, a male “major player”. Was She ever anything else? In the following chapters I will address who else She might be, both from past evidence and from present experience of cosmological dynamics. These chapters will not directly address the “why” question – that is, if She was once something other than Her present reduced state, why did that change? I wish to focus on the present – who She is now, and, on what use that might be. What might be the consequences of changing our minds sufficiently, so that Medusa for instance, can be comprehended as metaphor for Divine Wisdom? Many scholars contend She once was understood this way. What might it mean for our minds to welcome Her back? Would that alter the way we relate to Earth, to Being?
A “Home-ly” Religion
My partner put forward the perception of Goddess religion being a “homely” religion, and he meant that with all the status that “homely” may have. It may be written as “Home-ly” to emphasize that it is connective to Home – as Earth, Self, Cosmos. Such a description as “Home-ly religion” – perhaps as a counter to “World religion”(!) – is based on evidence of the ancient practice of every house being a shrine, a sanctuary to Her; when there was no separation between the secular and the sacred, when “religion was life, and life was religion”. This is described by Riane Eisler in The Chalice and the Blade53, referring to the archeological work of Marija Gimbutas. A “home-ly” religion then is a “domestic” religion – one that may be known in the familiarity of one’s dwelling – bodymind, home, backyard, region, “country”, Earth, Solar System, Universe.
The Moon Goddess
The triple-aspected Female Metaphor that has long captured my attention and imagination and lured me into the Search has in other times been known as “The Moon Goddess”: that “aspect of Creativity of the Cosmos that manifests in the Moon” is the long modern title for Her perhaps54. The phases of the Moon have described for and since the first eyes, a pattern, that at some point was noticed to resonate with the human female cyclical pattern, and indeed, that of all human body cycles. Moreover, the Moon’s cyclical pattern – of waxing and waning through lightness and darkness – was noticed to be reiterated in flora and fauna everywhere. The three phases have been known by the ancients of many cultures, and others since throughout the ages, as Virgin/Maiden, Mother/Creator, Old One/Crone, mirrored as they are in the three chronological menstrual phases of the female:- pre-menarchal young one, menstrual mother, and post-menopausal elder. A Scots Gaelic prayer describes the Moon as “lovely leader of the way55”, and so She has been for many humans, who have noticed Her cyclical pattern imbued in All, including in the seasons created by the annual Earth-Sun relational transitions or “movements”. Moon was perceived as a teacher, the Teacher for many.
The Moon Herself is a Presence often taken as secondary, extraneous, romantic. Yet without Her gravitational pull on Earth, creating the tides – the ebb and flow – the biosphere may have never evolved56. The Moon’s central role in our manifestation, in Earth’s Creativity as we know it, largely goes without recognition. The same is true of the role that the female human cycle must have played in the early development of human consciousness: its role may well have been central yet it is never mentioned as a possible factor in mainstream texts. This body of conjecture is missing from much of what passes for real story of human beginnings. Rarely is it thought, as for example researcher Alexander Marshack thought, that the lunar notations found on bone, stone, antler and goddess figures may “have laid the foundations for the discovery of agriculture, the calendar, astronomy, mathematics and writing57.”
As Judy Grahn points out, “human perception began, many creation stories say, when we could distinguish between light and dark”; that
Disciplined separation is clearly a major factor of human culture, and the most complex and fundamental separation practice is that of the first menstruation, or… menarche58.
Yet a recently produced documentary about the earliest of humans59 that put forth all kinds of detailed descriptions of their lifestyles and even projections about their emotions and why they did certain things, did not conjecture such a thought. The text never flickered toward the possibility that the female cycle and its replication of the Moon cycle exactly in timing, may have impacted on the human psyche in a primordial, foundational way. Perhaps, as Grahn suggests, it was the “menstrual mind” that first connected to an external frame of reference – the Moon – and began to acquire external measurement and noninstinctual knowledge60. When humans first performed ritual burials, one hundred thousand years ago, what was their referent for thinking about death? What did they observe around them everyday about death and renewal? Could it have possibly been that “the Female Metaphor”, in its lunar cycle and its human female cycle, may have played a central role in the earliest developments of the human mind – our sense of time, and existential wonderings and celebrations of life and death – just as its resonant Cosmic Moon Cycle played/plays a central role in the evolution of life on Earth? Could contemplation of the pattern that the Female Metaphor suggests, in its mandala-like rhythm have been the source of earliest human insight? Shuttle and Redgrove define a mandala as
a pattern which is effective in connecting one part of experience with another, and the contemplation of which leads to insight. A mandala has a centre, a boundary or circumference, and cardinal points. It often depicts a rhythm, which one can see at a glance in a single image61.
They describe the Moon cycle as forming a mandala, and that the menstrual cycle can take a similar shape. Could the cosmic ubiquity of this metaphorical pattern have been the basis for knowledge/wisdom, that served humans and their growing conscious relationship to Cosmos? Could the primordial experience of witnessing this trustworthy rhythm have been the beginnings of “the inexhaustible creativity of humanity”, as other Goddess researchers suggest62?
For a culture to have abstained from asking these questions, to have, for millennia been unable to form these questions in the mind, reveals an alienated mind – a mind that is out of touch with the Earth and Cosmic cycles, as well as that of the human female. An alienated mind is one that does not know participation, that “unconsciously participates” as Barfield describes63 – a mind that has severed its connections, wherein phenomena exist separately, a mind that has dissociated. Most humans today live in cultures that are alienated in this way, though it is expressed diversely. I speak mainly from within my own white Western Christianized culture, but it is by no means unique in regard to alienation from the Context/Earth/Universe – in which the human finds themselves64. If humans regard themselves as alive and sentient, then so is our Context/Matrix. We and our consciousness are “not some tiny bit of the world stuck onto the rest of it65.” We are inside Her – our Matrix. Our Context appears to be alive and sentient, as Creativity spills up from within Her at local and universal levels; but it appears from the ecological crisis that we find ourselves in, that we humans have on a large scale shut ourselves off from this knowledge. Speaking for my own Western cultural context, we humans of this context today find ourselves living “on” a planet. For a long time, we have not participated “in” it. We have understood ourselves as apart from it, as an addendum or superior; and now, we often understand ourselves as inferior. Some humans who are still closely linked to their indigenous heritage have not lost the knowledge that She and they are alive in each other. These humans have remained intimate with our66 Context, and the understanding of the local not being separate from the Cosmic, and that this Context is the Matrix of all humans and beings.
I am re-linking with my own indigenous heritage, one that lives in my very bodymind. It has an actual tradition – of female-based metaphor – that has been nearly obliterated in relatively recent human history, that is, the last few millennia. It would be simplistic and short-sighted to single out the Inquisition of the last millennia of this Common Era as the only gynocidal event of the West, though it was certainly a horrific one. Though my indigenous heritage has its most recent roots in Old Western Europe – in the Earth-based tradition that goes back to pre-Celtic times – it also has roots in the bodyminds of other ancients of my line, who observed and knew a resonance of being with Earth and Cosmos. This heritage ran into difficulties long before the Inquisition, as Starhawk outlines in her overview of culture, politics and mythic cycles67, and as many others including Merlin Stone68 and Gerda Lerner69 document. Lerner says, “in the period when written History was being created, women already lived under conditions of patriarchy70”; our roles, public behavior and sexual and reproductive lives were already so defined – our bodyminds had already been locked up, the Goddess temples had long been emptied, the integrity of the priestesses had long been trivialized. It had long been anathema to receive and speak Her Wisdom71 – a Wisdom I call “Gaian”, and of which in our time, we may come to know in a new way.
More Context – Personal/Cultural/Cosmic Stories
My personal context then, which cannot be separated from the cultural and cosmic context of my organism, and that fires my passion, is that I write as “a daughter born into the patriarchy”. I know fairly well “my” story through these past few millennia. From my journal a few years ago:
They said I destroyed the world with my sin – it was my fault. My wickedness was to blame – and Jesus, a man, had to suffer a terrible death to make it right. I, a woman, and all the other women like me, carried the burden for everything that was not right with the world. And I believed them. I did not disagree. At the trials, when they accused me, said what I did was evil – I could not remember, was I? I became confused. When I was a “qadishtu72” and the conquerors came, they said I was unclean, that their god regarded us as filth, that our kind had brought pain to the world. I was guilty. After a while, I couldn’t remember – perhaps I was. I now remember, my confusion clears, the veils are lifting. I remember my innocence. I lift the burden from my shoulders, and from other women’s shoulders. I again walk proud and free73.
I write as a daughter hungry for the Mother, and I understand what Monique Wittig means when she says: “the language you speak is made up of words that are killing you74.” Personally, I have been so hungry for the Female Metaphor, for the Mother – for words for Her, for knowledge of Her, that I could perform terrible and radical acts to find Her. I went away from my young children for a long period of time for this – to find the Mother for myself, and for them: I did not want to give my children the world I had grown up in – the world they needed had to be integral with Matter, or there would not be a world at all.
Queen Elizabeth I is known to have said, “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king75.” Even a woman as great as this, of such astounding achievement and wisdom, felt driven to compare herself, to measure herself with male metaphor. Deep in the psyche even of great women, there has not been a female metaphor for greatness, for strength, for the wisdom which they themselves embodied. The female Deities had been so slandered, so stripped of essential integrity. Yahweh is after all God, Medusa is after all merely a goddess. We can forgive Yahweh his crimes … this is not myopia. The millennia of patriarchal narrative has left our minds locked up, unable to grasp the Female Metaphor … that she may stand sovereign, not as greater than, but in and of herself: so that, when a woman or a man desires to express greatness, nobility, strength they are able to easily reach for a female image.
I have been told that to look at history, theology, philosophy from the female perspective is myopic – one-eyed. It is commonly assumed that these disciplines have been regarded from the “human” perspective, that the male has incorporated both female and male perspectives, that he has been fair in all these matters, and indeed, capable. I have been expected to disregard it if the female is rarely mentioned as a factor in the first two million years of human existence, or if she is, that it is in a secondary placement or in a slanderous context. A casual perusal of most history, and “pre-history”, from a “fair” perspective would leave one wondering how the human species reproduced itself, let alone that the female had any further creative input to the human enterprise. As an example, one such weighty tome called The Last Two Million Years76, has in all its four hundred and eighty-eight pages of text and plates, remarkably little evidence of female presence to the human enterprise. She rates a mention every now and then in relation to “problems of reproduction77”, greater sexual receptivity than female apes78, and men insisting that “their sisters married outside the family79”. The very occasional Goddess or woman of note is most often, a mistress, consort or wife. Queen Elizabeth I stands alone as a woman of power in the last two million years, and even then the caption under her portrait is couched in a negative, reading “Defeat of the Armada80”.
Even a more recent text on the world’s religions, which could be regarded as more “fair-minded”, fails significantly in its balance. This text, The World’s Religions by Ninian Smart, has five references to the women’s movement, including note of Mary Daly, and to the fact that women are having an increasing role “in religions where in the past a patriarchal perspective has prevailed81.” Smart is aware of the gender issues in the language and organization of religions. Yet in his own text, while he gives extensive treatment to the Holocaust, Marxism, various Chinese cults, and Malcolm X gets referenced twice, nowhere does he reference Mariology, nor is there any reference to the Inquisition. Witchcraft is mentioned once in the context of Polynesian religions, as “using ritual means to bring about bad results for others82”. The Great Isis is referred to as “Osiris’ wife83”, the main subject of the story being Osiris. Isis Herself is referred to twice in the context of a “cult”. The Great Inanna is described as “associated with showers and thunderstorms”, “goddess of war”, “a harlot”, and “supposed even to have become queen of heaven, as consort of An84.” The “Enuma Elish”, which is generally accepted as the Babylonian creation epic, but which is actually the creation of patriarchy in that culture describing as it does the murder of Goddess Tiamat, is here told by Smart completely unsympathetically to the indigenous tradition85. The epic is praised as “celebrating (the incoming god’s) victory”; and the god, Marduk, is praised nonchalantly by Smart as “great”. There is an apparent acceptance of the slaughter of the female at the base of creation. Philosopher Paul Ricoeur writes, in regard to this epic:
Thus the creative act which distinguishes, separates, measures and puts in order, is inseparable from the criminal act that puts an end to the life of the oldest gods, inseparable from a deicide inherent in the divine86.
This “criminal act” then, this shedding of blood by the blade may be seen as a replacement of the “menstrual mind“ that separated and distinguished, that Judy Grahn speaks of. Ricoeur goes on to describe creation as “a victory over an Enemy older than the creator87” – thus tracing the historical outcome of a “theology of war” and the enemy behind all enemies; but it is Catherine Keller who notes that Tiamat’s sex is a salient fact88. To state Her sex, is to state/”status” Her – this “Goddess-Mother” as Her name means89 – as the Enemy within all enemies. It is to understand war as the act of a Cosmically and Maternally alienated mind – not as inevitable essential beastly nature as most of us have been taught. Tiamat’s slaughter, is described graphically in the epic, as it is by Smart in his text: her corpse is used “to create the present universe, slitting her in two like a fish, one part being heaven and the other earth.” As Joseph Campbell points out, this
great creative deed of Marduk was a supererogatory act. There was no need for him to cut her up and make the universe out of her, because she was already the universe91.
I suggest that this kind of unconsciousness, as exhibited by Smart, on the part of the writers of “humanity’s” texts is analogous to the writing of Australian history wherein the Indigenous Australians are either ignored or labeled as “savages”.
Most people naively assume that the history as told to them is the history of women as well – we are so used to our absence. Perhaps one only really notices it when reading a history that does include women in a conscious way, such as Margaret Wertheim’s Pythagoras’ Trousers. Such an inclusive history as she presents, in regard the education of women particularly, has informed me further of my context, my heritage, and what it has meant to be doing this work of unfolding the Female Metaphor and female-friendly cosmology.
A strong part of the cultural milieu in which I grew, was that I felt identified as sex object … with no subjectivity, no space to Be. Pornographic magazines of the day depicted women being constantly pursued by salivating men – either there was an assumption that she desired this, or they did not care to ask her. And Christian cosmology appeared to condone the imposition of a dominant will upon another – at the very heart of it is “the sacrifice of the lamb”. Women have been especially vulnerable, with their submission openly advocated92.
“Marilyn”, they sometimes called me, simply because of my babyhood waved platinum hair. I was not particularly cute as I grew up, on the contrary, I was skinny, had buck teeth, freckles and a bad haircut. But Marilyn was suggested to me by this naming, as someone I could model myself after. I didn’t think about it a lot, but I don’t remember any other significant famous women in the first decade of my life. As a child I was very conscious of being looked at, and perhaps on reflection, it was because I was female. I felt transparent and vacuous. I remember believing that others (particularly adults) could see my thoughts. The Great Male Metaphors of the day – God and Santa – knew everything about me. The male humans imitated the Deity with constant Gazing, in magazines, movies, wall calendars. I could only hope to be chosen to be worthy of his desire, yet at the same time it was known that he could be dangerous.
I felt acutely the identification of myself with the “inanimate” world, as it was understood to be – dead and inert. I had no words for it of course. Ursula Le Guin says,
We are told in words, and not in words, we are told by their deafness, … (that) …the life experience of women, is not valuable … to humanity. (We have been valued by the patriarchal viewpoint only) as an element of their experience, as things experienced93.
The male in this worldview was also “inanimate”, albeit the machine that was expected to perform.
I began to find words, and consciousness of my assigned cultural destiny as sex object. I wrote:
What did it take to move from that, to develop a shell, a protective boundary, to pull the shades on the imposing mostly male Gaze, to allow a fertile darkness within my being, where “I” could begin? What did it take to create this kind of darkness, a safe place to Be, to shut out the world and scream “I”? … A sex object has to completely fall apart before she can rebuild herself in her own image. She has fall into the mud, begin again, perform her own acts of Creation, mold herself of this solid material. It is out of the mud that the lotus blossoms. It does not grow on some pedestal, under the light of the eternal Gaze. How ironic that our paternal mythmakers made Medusa’s gaze the deadly one!
I was fortunate, my life did fall apart, I was lost. The journey into Her story, means a participation in Her descent and return, it means a shattering of what went before. How does a woman stop being object, and become subject? How does she become the body in her own mind? It requires more than a headtrip, it requires the descent of Inanna, a falling apart. I was still a product of patriarchal narrative, and still seeking the Beloved (the Mother) outside myself. What did it take to move from that, to allow a fertile darkness within, from which the Self could begin? The regaining of integrity, and an understanding of why we lost it, or did not have it, can require a great darkness.
Thus my comfort with the Darkness of She, Her autopoietic aspect that I will re-story in the chapters ahead – I have found in my Search that this was also the experience of the Dark of other women who had known invasiveness/objectification of a sexual kind. My creativity comes out of my subjectivity, my inner depths; this is where my ability (able-ty) springs from. I have barely believed in this sentience myself – this Source of my ability. I am ambivalent about writing “Source” with a capital, as I also want to affirm that it is “source”, with a small “s”, to affirm that it is in me – and of course, it is the Ocean, it is Source; but my small part of it springs from the ground of my own small source. This Goddess Metaphor, this Wisdom tradition, is about recognizing the Power within each being, and making the Hera’s journey, taking it for ourselves – female and male, all beings. This is empowerment – as opposed to a worldview that says some have this sentience and some don’t. It is the difference between Kali, who is an agent of Creativity – Creator – who may rage and act, and Eve who is guilty and answers to a Creator outside of herself. In Goddess cosmology, I “participate directly in the cosmos-creating endeavour”, as Swimme puts it when speaking of the autopoietic aspect of Cosmogenesis94. I am not a passive recipient or bystander.
Perhaps one of the earliest indications of a direction to take, came from my mother’s hesitancy about the stories available, to read to her children. The stories had bits in them that she did not seem to want to tell. She would falter as she read, and then proceed as if making it up. It caused me to wonder, “what did the wolf really do to Little Red Riding Hood and grandma? What other horrible things were possible, that I had not yet imagined?” It seemed my mother would have spared us the whole tale if she could have. I felt my mother’s wish for more hopeful tales, tales of a better world. My mother had an ember in her heart that longed for a world that she could embrace, one that she could even just dream of … if something would help her imagine it. So I always listened for Something Else. Hints of Something Else did come through – in the revelation of the vast starred night sky; and in the revelation of the ancient relationship of sun and land, that I as a country girl had time to ponder. Something Else also came threaded through poetry that I loved at school, and music on the airwaves from far away places. The country girl knew she would have to travel a long way – into Other Times and Other Places, to find expression for the world that she and her mother wished for.
Another clue, not in a cognitive level but in a deep intuitive visceral level, came when I experienced the Creative Force of Life in my body – when I was pregnant for the first time. This was truly revelatory … it, the Cosmos, Ultimate Mystery, was in me! They had lied! It was a shock to realize that “something” could grow in me. There was nothing second rate about this. All previous stories had hidden its significance from me. But still I had no words to describe it – no possible expression for this. The knowledge sat in my heart like an uncut jewel, awaiting its time.
It is not female biology that has betrayed the female, as Elizabeth Cady Stanton observed more than one hundred years ago, it is the myths and stories that have been told about her, what has come to be believed about her – even by the female herself95. In the Christian West, it is common for a woman to be described or to describe herself as “just a mother”. It is common for “barefoot and pregnant” to connote powerlessness. Simone de Beauvoir suggested that it was as mother that woman was most fearsome, so it was as mother that she was enslaved96. Yet there are cultures in the human community where a birthing mother is described as a “great warrior” – going to the gates of life and death, to heave and push a soul into the world97.
In regards to the understanding of virgin: where once it meant she who is “one-in-herself98”, in patriarchal cultures it has been reduced to announcing the state of her hymen. Yet once virgins were just as likely, though not necessarily, sexually active, and holy women. The purity of the virgin was her freedom – it meant that all creativity was within her99. Artemis’ devotees dressed in special tunics and celebrated an “uncompromising autonomy100”. The virgin of the ancients embodied a holy Lust – a sacred ecstasy. She tended the flame – in many cultures101 – kindling the spark at the Heart of existence – and it was not asexual.
The crone aspect of the Female Metaphor is not only about age, it is also about the acceptance and valuing of darkness as essential to the life process. Once this aspect was connected to regeneration and Wisdom, and some cultures understood darkness as the source of being. In a culture where the darkness is languaged as evil, where there is no place for the compost, this aspect is feared and loathed. Where only the Light is valued as positive, where the nurturance of the Dark has been forgotten, real wisdom and compassion will never be discovered.
Re-storying “Her” means re-storying “her” – the mere human (as well as our Habitat), and vice versa: Her stories are the stories of women (and therefore of men, who are co-Habitants) through the millennia, Her image is the image of women. The patriarchal re-writing of Persephone’s voluntary descent to the underworld, as a rape of Her, expresses a change in the human psyche that was taking place102. She was no longer Sovereign, and no longer had the integrity and courage of a Hera/Redeemer who might go to the underworld voluntarily for the getting of Wisdom or the comfort of souls. She once had the same redemptive aura/power as Jesus later came to have103, and so She can again. When Persephone’s older story is re-constellated in the human psyche, She is allowed to move out of victim status104. Persephone had the Wisdom of Goddess, She had understanding of the fertility of the Dark terrain – the Mystery of life and death. When the integrity and grace of Her descent is restored, so is Her full participation in the Mystery and adventure of life. In the telling of Persephone’s older story, the mere human female is also re-storied, re-visioned, re-imagined from within a framework that has her in mind and in heart; a story the way she or her mother would want to tell it, a story beyond victims and perpetrators where Divine Essence is expressed.
At this point in time the re-storying of Goddess has been happening now for some decades amongst many on the planet, based upon the research of many over the past century or so, and particularly upon the research and reflection of many within the past fifty or sixty years. It is a complex creation – this is as it should be. How else could it be? The following chapter on Her re-storying is a gathering of the perspectives of many researchers, scholars, poets and storytellers. It is my particular blend, as I have collected it over decades. As I re-wrote it for this publication, it came to feel like the gathering of found shattered fragments of a vessel, that I have been piecing together: and now at last I begin to sense a Shape. Her Form and Her Shape have not been in any Atlas – it has taken many voyagers, seekers, mapmakers, diggers, stargazers, explorers: all willing to go beyond the bounds of the known world (“where there be dragons” as the Old Wisdom says!). The process of re-storying Goddess, as anyone undertakes it for themselves, for and with others, may be like a bird building a nest; and that indeed is what I feel I have been doing, and what all Her other hungry and lost daughters and sons have been doing.
(c) Glenys Livingstone 2005
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1 David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous, p.45.
2 Charlene Spretnak, States of Grace: the Recovery of Meaning in the Postmodern Age, p.122.
3 Charlene Spretnak, States of Grace: the Recovery of Meaning in the Postmodern Age, p.122.
4 Charlene Spretnak, States of Grace: the Recovery of Meaning in the Postmodern Age, p.122 referring to Derrida.
5 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.77.
6 See Irene Coates, The Seed Bearers, p.10.
7 Francis Crick, was credited with the co-discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA along with James Watson. Rosalind Franklin whose work appears to have been crucial to the discovery remains uncredited and even discredited – see Ethlie Anne Vare & Greg Ptacek, Mothers of Invention, p.214.
8 Referred to by Cameron Forbes in an article “Thirst for Thought”, page 4 in The Weekend Australian February 3-4 2001.
9 See W. K. C. Guthrie, The Greek Philosphers, p.34-40.
10 See Erich Neumann, The Great Mother, p.98-100.
11 Melissa Raphael, Thealogy and Embodiment, p.21.
12 Heather McDonald, Blood Bones and Spirit: Aboriginal Christianity in an East Kimberley Town, p. 20.
13 Heather McDonald, Blood Bones and Spirit: Aboriginal Christianity in an East Kimberley Town, p. 21.
14 David Tacey, “Spirit and Place”, EarthSong journal, issue 1, p.9-10.
15 “Life” is not the opposite of “death” – “Life” contains both “birth” and “death”. I feel it is important to correct this in our language on occasion.
16 David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous, p.198, refers to Euclid’s postulate in a slightly different context.
17 David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous, p.198.
18 See for example Plumwood 1993 and 1991.
19 See Melissa Raphael, Thealogy and Embodiment: the Post-Patriarchal Reconstruction of Female Sexuality, particularly p.8-10.
20 Melissa Raphael, Thealogy and Embodiment: the Post-Patriarchal Reconstruction of Female Sexuality, p.8 (emphasis mine).
21 Melissa Raphael, Thealogy and Embodiment: the Post-Patriarchal Reconstruction of Female Sexuality, p.8-9.
22 S. Colgrave, The Spirit of the Valley: Androgeny and Chinese Thought, p.71 cited in Peter Reason, Participation in Human Inquiry, p.21.
23 Jurgen W. Kremer, “The Dark Night of the Scholar” in ReVision Vol. 14 No. 4, p.172-173, referring to Owen Barfield’s definition.
24 Peter Reason, Participation in Human Inquiry, p.24-25.
25 Merlin Stone, When God was a Woman, p.24-25.
26 Paula Gunn Allen, The Sacred Hoop, p..2.
27 Peter Reason, Participation in Human Inquiry, p.26.
28 Barbara Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets, p.680-694.
29 Judy Grahn, Blood, Bread and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World.
30 See Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.105-109 and Elisabet Sahtouris, Earthdance, p.126-131. And as Sahtouris writes: “All our mitochondria are descended from those of the egg cell with which we began, as they do not occur in sperm. Mitochondrial DNA is therefore referred to as maternal DNA.” (in Sidney Liebes, Elisabet Sahtouris and Brian Swimme, A Walk Through Time: From Stardust to Us, p.78-79.)
31 Our human phylogenetic history lives within us. See Georg Feuerstein,”Towards a New Consciousness: A Review essay of Jean Gebser”, Noetic Sciences Review No.7, p.23-26.
32 See Willis Harman and Elisabet Sahtouris, Biology Revisioned.
33 Andrew Rothery, in “The Science of the Green Man”, makes one such statement in his Conclusion.
34 Brian Swimme, The Powers of the Universe.
35 For examples: the work of William Anderson, Green Man: the Archetype of Our Oneness with the Earth, Andrew Rothery, “The Science of the Green Man”, and recent doctoral work of Phillip Costigan, “An Australian Man in Search of an Embodied Spirituality”.
36 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.108-109.
37 Adam McLean, The Triple Goddess, p.121-122.
38 Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, p.113.
39 Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, p. 31.
40 Phillip Costigan, “An Australian Man in Search of an Embodied Spirituality”, p.38-39 of draft.
41 Phillip Costigan, “An Australian Man in Search of an Embodied Spirituality”, p.36 of draft.
42 Val Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, p. 60.
43 Val Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, p. 60.
44 Val Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, p. 60.
45 Val Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, p. 60-62.
46 Val Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, p. 61.
47 Val Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, p. 61. For a clear analysis of ways of dealing with “pairs”- in particular “masculine” and “feminine”, see Rita Gross “The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism: Reflections of a Buddhist Feminist”. She speaks of ”dyadic unity”, “hierarchical dualism” and “monolithic entity”.
48 Val Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, p. 61.
49 Val Plumwood, “Gaia, Good for Women?” Refactory Girl.
50 Heide Goettner-Abendroth, The Goddess and Her Heros, p.xvi.
51 Heide Goettner-Abendroth, The Goddess and Her Heros, p.xiv.
52 Heide Goettner-Abendroth, The Goddess and Her Heros, p.xviii.
53 Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade, p.23.
54 Just as “Bear Goddess” is that “aspect of Creativity of the Cosmos that manifests as Bear” and so with other zoomorphic and descriptive Goddess titles. She – the Creative Principle – is as diverse as Being is.
55 Caitlin Matthews, The Celtic Spirit, p.302.
56 See Lynn Margulis’ research into the beginnings of the biosphere, as referenced in Connie Barlow Green Space, Green Time, p.186-188, and Connie Barlow (ed.), From Gaia to Selfish Genes: Selected Writings in the Life Sciences, p.48-66.
57 Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess, p.20 referring to Alexander Marshack, The Roots of Civilization.
58 Judy Grahn, Blood, Bread and Roses: How Menstruation created the World, p.11.
59 Neanderthal’s World shown on SBS in mid 2001.
60 Judy Grahn, Blood, Bread and Roses: How Menstruation created the World, p.12-14.
61 Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove, The Wise Wound: Menstruation and Everywoman, p.263.
62 Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, in The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image, p.19.
63 Jurgen W. Kremer, “The Dark Night of the Scholar” in ReVision Vol. 14 No. 4, p.172-173.
64 While ”itself” may be “correct”, I feel this useage further affirms human belief in self-alienation from Context – that we are “its”. There are other problems associated with the use of “her” or “him” or both, so I’m choosing this “problem” – the one of “them”.
65 Owen Barfield, History, Guilt and Habit, p.18 quoted by Jurgen W. Kremer, “The Dark Night of the Scholar” in ReVision Vol. 14 No. 4, p.169.
66 It is “our” Context, not “theirs” as some might describe it: all of us do live in Earth and in the Universe. Although it can be argued that in most cases, the indigenous person’s mountain for instance, is not the mountain of the Westernized mind – “their world is not ours!” (Jurgen W. Kremer, “The Dark Night of the Scholar” in ReVision Vol. 14 No. 4, p.173), it can also be argued that at a deeper place, we may find “ among the silent spaces, realities where cultures and their peoples touch in ways that are yet to be fully explored” (Kremer, p.174 referring to K.C. Forman,The Problem of Pure Consciousness.) Also I think it is time to move into the assumption that some previously Westernised minds have made steps towards their own indigenous mind; there is a growing “we” of “future participation” – a term Kremer uses (p.173) to speak of regained, intentional participation in our habitat.
67 Starhawk, Truth or Dare, p.37-40.
68 Merlin Stone, When God Was a Woman.
69 Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Feminist Conciousness.
70 Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Feminist Conciousness, p.249.
71 I mean “Wisdom” here to be understood as a name for a religious tradition – that has had no name – much as “Buddhism” or “Taoism” are understood to be names.
72 Merlin Stone, When God Was a Woman, p.156-157, describes “qadishtu” as “the sacred women of the temples”. They were holy women who were also sexual, but the word has often been translated as ”prostitute”.
73 With this story I am not telling women of races and ethnicities other than my own that they should be able to identify with my story. I am expressing my own resonance with this story, as one who has inherited elements from that culture via my religious heritage. I personally feel that I can identify with such stories of women; that is not to say that the reverse is true. See p. … also for more on this issue.
74 Monique Wittig, Les Guerilleres, p.114.
75 It is quoted, though not exactly as written here, in the film Elizabeth (Universal 1998).
76 Reader’s Digest
77 Reader’s Digest, The Last Two Million Years, p.22.
78 Reader’s Digest, The Last Two Million Years, p.17.
79 Reader’s Digest, The Last Two Million Years, p.19.
80 Reader’s Digest, The Last Two Million Years, p.235.
81 Ninian Smart, The World’s Religions, p.586.
82 Ninian Smart, The World’s Religions, p.169.
83 Ninian Smart, The World’s Religions, p.203.
84 Ninian Smart, The World’s Religions, p.200.
85 Ninian Smart, The World’s Religions, p.200-201.
86 Paul Ricouer, The Symbolism of Evil, p.180 quoted in Catherine Keller, From a Broken Web: Separation, Sexism and Self, p.76.
87 Paul Ricouer, The Symbolism of Evil, p.182 quoted in Catherine Keller, From a Broken Web: Separation, Sexism and Self, p.76.
88 Catherine Keller, From a Broken Web: Separation, Sexism and Self, p.77.
89 Barbara Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, p.998.
90 Ninian Smart, The World’s Religions, p.201. The use of the metaphor of “fish” in the tale is perhaps a conscious reference to the Goddess’ yoni ( See Barbara Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets, p.313) – this is where She was cut, and interestingly, women in cultures of this creation myth, continue to be genitally mutilated today.
91 Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, p.170.
92 See Rita Brock, “Can These Bones Live?”Feminist Critiques of the Atonement”.
93 Ursula Le Guin, Dancing at the Edge of the World, p.155. Brackets my paraphrase.
94 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.75.
95 Elizabeth Cady Stanton actually said “Woman is made the author of sin, cursed in her maternity, subordinated in marriage, and a mere afterthought in creation …The first step in the elevation of women under all systems of religion is to convince them that the great spirit of the Universe is in no way responsible for any of these absurdities” February 29,1896 letter to the editor of The Critic. My particular paraphrase of what Stanton said could also be interpreted from resolutions passed at the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention in Irene M. Frank and David M. Brownstone, Women’s World: A Timeline of Women in History, p.132-134.
96 Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, p.171.
97 Hallie Iglehart Austen, The Heart of the Goddess, p. 18.
98 Esther M Harding, Woman’s Mysteries: Ancient and Modern, p.125.
99 Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, in The Myth of the Goddess, p.197.
100 Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, in The Myth of the Goddess, p.326.
101 Miriam Robbins Dexter, Whence the Goddesses: A Source Book, p.165.
102 Charlene Spretnak, Lost Goddesses of Early Greece, p.105-107.
103 Joseph Campbell notes that “Jesus took over what is really the Goddess’ role in coming down in compassion”, in Bill Moyers The Power of Myth, p.180.
104 See Charlene Spretnak, Lost Goddesses of Early Greece, p.109-118, and also Carolyn McVickar Edwards, The Storyteller’s Goddess, p.178-183.