This is a continuation of Molly’s piece from Wednesday, 10 August 2016. You can read Part 1 here.
After explaining that the homebirth of her second son was her, “first initiation into the Goddess…even though at that time I didn’t consciously know of Her,” Monica Sjoo writing in an anthology of priestess essays called Voices of the Goddess, explains:
The Birthing Woman is the original shaman. She brings the ancestral spirit being into this realm while risking her life doing so. No wonder that the most ancient temples were the sacred birth places and that the priestesses of the Mother were also midwives, healers, astrologers and guides to the souls of the dying. Women bridge the borderline realms between life and death and in the past have therefore always been the oracles, sibyls, mediums and wise women…
…the power of original creation thinking is connected to the power of mothering. Motherhood is ritually powerful and of great spiritual and occult competence because bearing, like bleeding, is a transformative magical act. It is the power of ritual magic, the power of thought or mind, that gives rise to biological organisms as well as to social organizations, cultures and transformations of all kinds… (page unknown).
I have been a childbirth educator since 2006 and I have given birth five times. Each birth brought me the gift of a profound sense of my own inherent worth and value. It was the shamanic journey through the death-birth of my tiny third child, however, that ushered in a new sense of my own spirituality and that involved a profound almost near-death experience for me. After passing through this intense, initiatory crisis, the direction and focus of my life and work changed and deepened. Shortly after the death-birth of my third son, I wrote:
Though my miscarriage was the most difficult and saddest experience of my life, I feel like it was a profound and transformative and actually sacred experience. I am so grateful to my little Noah and for the gifts he brought to my life. His birth has taken its place as the most transformative experience of my life. I feel like I am still in this place of “openness” after birthing him, where I am ripe for growth and change and discovery…
…I feel like I can appreciate more fully the totality and complexity of the female experience/life as a woman.
I feel I actually encountered the Goddess most meaningfully during this time of personal suffering. While I previously connected strongly with Goddess imagery and was interested in Goddesses and women’s spirituality from a feminist perspective that valued the symbolism in a socio-political context, I did not feel a truly personal experience of Goddess “energy” until this pregnancy loss. That is when I felt She actually existed and when I realized that I was in relationship to her all the time. When being transferred to the hospital singing that Woman Am I chant to let my husband and mother know I was still alive, I did not feel scared of dying because I felt a compassionate presence, that I concluded could be defined as “Goddess.” And, in the aftermath of this tiny son’s birth, I felt accepting of myself in a way I had never felt before. A sense of being held. A sense of profound worth. Something perhaps similar to the feeling of “Love as the ground of being” that Carol Christ describes in her writings. I was also amazed to discover that after years of self-defining as areligious, I did in fact have a spiritual language and conceptualization of my own and that these were the deep resources I gathered to me during a time of significant distress, fear, and challenge.
This loss experience reminds me in several ways of descriptions of a shamanic initiatory crisis. This phenomenon is, “…a rite of passage for shamans-to-be, commonly involving physical illness and/or psychological crisis…”
The wounded healer is an archetype for a shamanic trail and journey. This process is important to the young shaman. S/he undergoes a type of sickness that pushes her or him to the brink of death. This happens for two reasons:
The shaman crosses over to the underworld. This happens so the shaman can venture to its depths to bring back vital information for the sick, and the tribe.
The shaman must become sick to understand sickness. When the shaman overcomes her or his own sickness s/he will hold the cure to heal all that suffer. This is the uncanny mark of the wounded healer.” (via Shamanism [Wikipedia)])
Following the miscarriage-birth of my baby, I experienced another early miscarriage at six weeks and then went on to become pregnant with my daughter. The courage required to keep going and to try again after such a traumatic loss is a touchstone I have drawn upon for strength ever since. It is powerful to feel fear and then do it anyway. It is powerful to watch yourself move through crisis and emerge with strength. It is courageous to move within fear. To feel it. To sit with it. To move within it. As I moved through the early weeks of her pregnancy, I realized that while I had longed to restore my “rightful” state as Pregnant Woman, I felt disconnected from the physicality of being pregnant again. I felt as if I needed to actively and purposefully re-incorporate the pregnant identity into my sense of self. I turned to birth art, creating the first of what would become an ongoing, life-changing, process of three dimensional journaling, making clay goddess sculptures about my life and feelings. To welcome Pregnant Woman back into my heart, soul, and identity, I created a full-figured golden sculpture of a pregnant goddess and as I worked on her, I began to settle back into the feeling and connection of being pregnant again. She sat on my altar until my new baby girl was safely born and held close to my heart. Another small pregnant goddess figure journeyed with me into the birth pool as I labored and gave birth to my final child, another boy, my first unexpected pregnancy, that prompted a journey through opening my heart, mind, and body to that which is unplanned. As I look at the curly head of my young daughter and the golden hair of my final baby, I give thanks to their brother, and to Her, for opening the way that they might enter this world.
Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing. She is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and finished her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of Womanrunes, Earthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit. She writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Brigid’s Grove and at her Woodspriestess blog.
3 thoughts on “Priestess as Shamanic Path – Part 2 by Molly Remer”
I felt a compassionate presence, that I concluded could be defined as “Goddess.” Yes that is exactly what I have felt in times of crisis and now feel often in my life.
I also feel a presence of love and compassion in the universe, that feels also close and intimate. As I age, I stopped naming it, but just “soak it in”. We three (so far) voicing the experience, coming from different backgrounds and beliefs, is somewhat awesome!
At one of the low points of my life, I also felt a compassionate presence. In fact, I swear the Goddess kissed me. After that I began healing. A beautful post, Molly. Thank you for reminding me of that experience.