I am an inventor, a mythmaker, who has received/taken remnants of her indigenous religious heritage, and newly available parts, and spun and woven new threads, fabrics and stories.[i]
My method of approach has been informed by my deep personal involvement … my need to “place” myself here – as feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray suggests that woman needs to do.[ii]
Irigaray said that woman is not situated, “does not situate herself in her place,” that she serves as a thing and is thus nude.[iii] I have intuitively felt the need to “clothe” myself, to find the Place within me, to move from object to sentient subject.[iv]
The way the Cosmos was for a white girl child of Western European descent growing up in country Australia, with Protestant religious teachings, was a place surveyed scrupulously by a vengeful Father God, who was at the same time spoken of as the epitome of Love. What did that do to one’s understanding of Love? How does a woman – or any person – become functional within such a cosmology?
I did eventually uncover that this father god was deeply divorced from an earlier Earth-based heritage that had been completely covered over within the Protestant reality … a heritage that had a Female form, which I became very hungry to know. The journey has been Home.
I was a religious young person with a heart seeking the essence of a sentient Cosmos, but blind to the androcracy of the offered teachings and texts. My feminist awakening came in the late 1970’s via the early writings of philosopher Mary Daly.[v] There began the conscious search and passion for a cosmology that included and embraced me and my female kind fully:
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.[vi]
Admonished and encouraged by Monique Wittig’s famous: “Make an effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent”,[vii] I eventually became bold enough to assume such a task – the task of re-creating a gynocentric cosmology in which I could situate myself. I had no plan, just a felt necessity that drew me on – it was completely organic.
The process has included three qualities: (i) the transformation of making Space to Be … much had to be broken down, dismantled, and debris removed; (ii) the dedication to the sacred Urge to Be – daring the journey and; (iii) the creating of a dynamic Place to Be … being in communion with others, growing and in-forming each other with new knowledge. A gynocentric cosmology was spun from remnants and newly available parts, and ceremoniously embodied in sacred space through her full cycle of creativity – the Seasonal Moments expressed in my place on the planet … in a process over decades. Early on I sensed the power of ceremonial concourse with Her, the power of creating ceremonial space that participated in Her full cycle of Creativity, wherein She could be spoken, sung and danced into being. The sentient cosmos honors this: She is a relational reality, loves attentive con-versation.
Over years I have developed a Poetry and aesthetics for the Solstices, Equinoxes and cross-quarter days, based in the work of Starhawk,[viii] yet re-created with celebration of Her as the creative dynamic unfolding the Cosmos. I wrote:
… I am not referring to a “feminine” part of the Divine, nor to some complementary partner to the Great Mystery, nor to some “half” of the Creative Principle of the Universe. When I speak of Her, She is a name for the whole Creative Principle.[ix]
The unfolding gynocentric cosmology was/is grounded in Western European Pagan/indigenous tradition, linked to story of the unfolding universe – Cosmogenesis, and in particular expressed with female metaphor … triple Goddess poetry: unfolding as a Poiesis of the creative cosmos, the making of a world. I wrote a doctoral thesis on it. I spoke of Her as the Female Metaphor.
It began with a passion to know Her as the Name of the Cosmos – the Mantra Matrika, by which the universe is spoken into being.[x] I desired to study Her three qualities – as the patriarchs had (struggled) to do for their trinity, for their version of Her: I had a passion to fathom their significance. Self-described “geologian” Thomas Berry described three qualities of Cosmogenesis … the process by which Western science understands the universe comes into being,[xi] and I identified these three qualities with Hers: Her triplicity with essential cosmological creativity. Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry call these three features of Cosmogenesis “cosmological orderings of the creative display of energy everywhere and at any time throughout the history of the universe.”[xii] They say these three refer to the “basal intentionality of all existence” and they are “beyond any simple one-line univocal definition”.[xiii]They are highly complex, interconnected and ongoing processes. And so She is.
The triple spiral motif, the triple goddess, many triplicities around the world may express this – the nature of Her creative unfolding of the Cosmos in every moment. And She may be celebrated in a year long process of seasonal creativity as Earth orbits our Sun: I translated a devotional practice of such celebration to my place in the Southern Hemisphere, in Australia. The consistent sacred space became a Gaian Womb, a sacred site, that has held and nurtured many.
The path over the decades has been long and winding. Robin Morgan’s poetry has nursed me since early times:
I am learning.
The cord is wrapped around my throat.
I am learning.
The passageway is cramped and blind
I am learning
though Kali dances through it, past
where Demeter still seeks Persephone,
where Isis searches for the fragments of Osiris, where I wade upstream through a living current
which seizes me and drowns me into life,
pumping, pumping, as from a giant heart
whose roar I have called Mother in my dreams.
What do you remember?
What is it that you long for still?
Oh let me hear you hear
me speak oh
me oh let me[xiv]
O One who Hears
Let me Speak
What is it that
Wants to be Spoken?
O speak to me o
hear me speak you
am given, received … Met[xv]
And so, it is.
May each find Her reciprocity:
We are/She is creator and created, always at the same time.
© Glenys Livingstone 2015
Glenys Livingstone Ph.D. (Social Ecology) is the author of PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion and has recently produced PaGaian Cosmology Meditations CDs. She has been on a Goddess path since 1979, which has included diverse spiritualities and a scientific perspective, inner and communal work as well as academic scholarship. Her studies have been in theology, ritual, archaeomythology, social ecology, psychology, sociology and education. Glenys lives in the Blue Mountains Australia with her partner Taffy Seaborne, where she has facilitated Seasonal ceremony for over two decades, taught classes and mentored apprentices. In 2014 Glenys co-facilitated the Mago Pilgrimage to Korea with Dr. Helen Hwang. Glenys’s website is http://pagaian.org
Daly, Mary. Beyond God the Father; Towards a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation. Boston: Beacon Press 1973.
_________ Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism. London: The Women’s Press, 1979.
Irigaray, Luce. An Ethics of Sexual Difference. (trans. Carolyn Burke and Gillian C. Gill) NY: Cornell University Press, 1993.
Morgan, Robin. Lady of the Beasts. NY: Random House, 1976.
Livingstone, Glenys. PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion. Lincoln NE: iUniverse, 2005.
Starhawk. The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. NY: Harper and Row, 1989.
Swimme, Brian and Berry, Thomas. The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era. NY: HarperCollins, 1992.
Walker, Barbara. The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983.
Wittig, Monique. Les Guerilleres. NY: Avon Books, 1973.
[i] Glenys Livingstone, PaGaian Cosmology, p.44.
[ii] Luce Irigaray, An Ethics of Sexual Difference.
[iii] Luce Irigaray, An Ethics of Sexual Difference, p.10-11.
[iv] Glenys Livingstone, PaGaian Cosmology, p.4.
[v] Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father and Gyn/Ecology.
[vi] Glenys Livingstone , 1997.
[vii] Monique Wittig, Les Guerilleres. NY: Avon Books, p.89.
[viii] Starhawk, The Spiral Dance.
[ix] Glenys Livingstone, PaGaian Cosmology, p.25.
[x] as Barbara Walker describes, The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets, p.546.
[xi] See The Universe Story by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, pp 66-79.
[xii] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.72
[xiii] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.71, referred to by Glenys Livingstone in PaGaian Cosmology, pp. 45-48.
[xiv] Robin Morgan, “The Network of the Imaginary Mother”, Lady of the Beasts, p.85.
[xv] Glenys Livingstone, 2006.
12 thoughts on “Re-creating a Gynocentric Cosmology: Situating Myself by Glenys Livingstone”
Thank you, Glenys, for giving us a peek into your search for an authentic self. Irigaray is “spot on” when she says “woman is not situated, ‘does not situate herself in her place’…she serves as a thing and is thus nude. I have intuitively felt the need to ‘clothe’ myself, to find the Place within me, to move from object to sentient subject.”
hello Esther … along those same lines re woman not being situated, I am amazed at how differently a woman’s story can be told, depending on how much patriarchal twist there is in the mind interpreting it. I have just read the story of 18th century scientist Emilie du Chatelet by Robyn Arianrhod (in the latest COSMOS magazine), and it was great: but when I looked Emilie up on Wikipedia, I was disappointed at the tone of her story there, and in most other links that I found … her story was told in very ordinary manner, without a real recognition of the contribution she made – very different from how Robyn Arianrhod told it with announcement and detailing of the nature of Emilie’s brilliance – actually “situating” her.
Brava! Footnotes and poetry, brava. You do excellent work. I especially love the Wittig quote–“Make an effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent”–which I have hanging on the wall behind me.
Thank you so much Barbara for your words of praise, and thank you also for your encouragement to submit an offering for this auspicious forum. Yes, isn’t that a marvellous quote … so many of us have been encouraged by this – lost daughters that we have been.
It’s wonderful to finally see what you look like, Glenys. (I’ve seen your beautiful temple, but I don’t remember seeing any pictures of you there). And to read again some of your insightful, poetic and intellectual evocation of the ineffable as I experience Her. Thanks!
oh Nancy … my face has been around the place :) I will try to remedy that omission in your realms. … lovely to hear from you, and connect with you here.
Thanks, Glenys! Fascinating post, so many facets, cosmic in itself. Maximus of Tyre (2nd c. AD) once said: “Socrates calls love a Sophist, Sappho a myth-weaver (μυθόπλοκος).”
thanks Sarah … and for the lovely quote: wow “Sappho a myth-weaver”. One of the earliest Goddess images that inspired me was Alphonse Mucha’s “The Pole Star” from his “The Moon and the Stars” series, though I did not know its name, nor was “Goddess” a word in my mind at the time: Her hands seemed to me to be spinning new stories as She faced into what I imagined as the setting Sun (though it is apparently the North Pole Star). I have an image of myself mimicking her – taken several years ago: that image (together with Mucha’s print) can be found in this article http://magoism.net/2013/12/02/essay-1-con-text-personalculturalcosmic-stories-by-glenys-livingstone-ph-d/
Reblogged this on PaGaian Cosmology and commented:
This is my first essay to be published on the Feminism and Religion forum – I feel honoured to be in such auspicious company … lots of interesting articles there
Thank you for sharing your story so poetically! Faith-birth-stories are so beneficial for people just beginning their journey and reminiscent for those of us further down the spiritual path. I really enjoyed reading this post and reblogged your work mixed with my own faith-birth-story here: https://everymagicalday.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/finding-the-goddess-with-glenys-livingstone/. Thanks again!
Wow Storybook … love the annotations, and the connection.
Re your experience via the public library at 15: I think that age is a factor … I hear of so many having epiphanies at that kind of age (theory: is it connected to menarche?). Being a country girl with no flash library, I had epiphanies with Sun and Earth, and night sky at about that age. I love your response to what you read about Yahweh’s treatment of the astrologers … so many ignore this violence (and wonder why we have the bedlam in the Middle East).
Re your experience with Madonna: she was a great model in many ways … I handed out an article/interview about her in my Restorying Goddess classes for over a decade, together with an image of her in the same pose as the Bird-headed Snake Goddess of North Africa (4000 B.C.E.) … I saw her as re-invoking the Virgin quality (which was/is so much more and profound than the patriarchal trivialisation of it). … really interesting how she spoke to you in deep places that you held secretly. In the Restorying Goddess classes that I facilitated, we had storytelling circles where we each got to speak our deep experiences in ceremonial manner – we in-formed each other in that way.
and re becoming Catholic! … hehe I did that at 17 (before I left home for college in the big city). I liked how serious they were about devotional practice – it was integral with life. Later when I left christianity (8 years later), I figured it had been good Pagan training, and I also did formal theological and liturgical training (the Jesuit School of Berkeley) let me finish my Masters there even though my thesis was focussed on the Great Mother): this was all really crucial to my understandings.
great conversing with you