I’ll be honest. For me, 2017 royally sucked. Though “feminism” was dubbed the “word of the year” by Merriam-Webster’s—as evidenced by the Women’s March, the Handmaid’s Tale, Wonder Woman, and the Me Too Movement—the reason feminists thrust our fed-up fists into the air in protest so frequently was because of the way women are routinely unjustly treated.
In the midst of this global, political, national fury, I experienced personal struggles in 2017 with the death of my brother and my mother’s cancer diagnosis. There was beauty and goodness that filled the year, to be sure, but you can believe me when I say that I am welcoming 2018 with open arms. As I entered into conversation with myriad feminists across the gender spectrum around the world, it seems that many echo these sentiments. We could not wait to bid 2017 farewell. Yet, I knew that I did not want to enter the year filled only with bitterness and resentment. Rather, I wanted to mindfully move forward with radical gratitude, hope, and intentions set on creating a more beautiful 2018. Enter the goddess.
By goddess, I really mean goddesses, namely, seven different goddesses from across traditions and landscapes. Knowing that I can’t be the only one yearning for a mindfully feminist way to begin the new year, the Holy Women Icons Project created a 7-Day Online Mindfulness Retreat inspired by seven different goddesses. Rooted in gratitude to the mindfulness practices of the Buddhist tradition, this Mindfulness Retreat is designed to help restart our mind, body, and heart for the upcoming year.
I want to briefly share with you a glimpse at how these revolutionary goddesses offer us mindfulness practices that can accompany us throughout the entire year. I begin with Oyá, a goddess of transitions. In Santeria, she is the powerful Orisha of winds, lightening, storms, death, and the transitions life and nature bring, both positive and negative. Learning about Oyá makes us mindful of the transitions of the new year.
Next is Santa Muerte, or Holy Death, a Mexican folk goddess who heals, protects, and delivers the dead to the afterlife; she is a goddess of death and loss, particularly for the outcast and marginalized. Learning about Santa Muerte makes us mindful of what we lose as we transition into 2018.
From transition and loss comes destruction with Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of Volcanoes, Fire, and Lightening. Though she is known as a destroyer as her lava consumes all in its path, she also creates as new life pushes through hardened lava, reminding us that there are often parts of our lives that need to be destroyed before we can create something new. Learning about Pele makes us mindful of needed destruction in the new year.
Inevitably, with destruction comes chaos, manifest in the Babylonian goddess of creation, Tiamat. Since we are so often taught that we must conquer chaos, or rid our lives of chaos in order to be mindful, Tiamat reminds us that beauty, newness, and mindfulness can actually be found within the chaos, if only we look deep enough. Learning about Tiamat makes us mindful of the chaos the new year can bring.
Transitions, loss, destruction, and chaos create space in our lives for new creation, and Xōchiquetzal makes us mindful of this. The Aztec goddess of fertility, beauty, and sexual power, Xōchiquetzal is the passionate protector of mothers, lovers, and prostitutes. She is the patron of pregnancy, childbirth, and young mothers. But she is also a patron of weavers and artists because they can make pleasure by creating objects beautiful to behold. Learning about Xōchiquetzal makes us mindful of the possibility for new creations in 2018.
New creations make space for beauty. And Poli’ahu, the Hawaiian goddess of snow, makes us mindful of beauty. Poli’ahu is understood to be the most beautiful of all Hawaiian goddesses, and perhaps the most beautiful in all the world. Not simply because of her appearance, but because of the beauty she creates. Truly. Did you know that it snows in Hawai’i? This beauty—like Hawaiian snow—is unexpected. Learning about Poli’ahu makes us mindful of the ways we can discover beauty in unexpected places this year.
Finally, beauty leads to compassion, and who better to teach us about compassion than Guanyin, the Buddhist goddess of Mercy and Compassion? With webbed fingers so that no sentient being can slip through the cracks between her hands, she offers all a compassionate embrace. For those in need in of compassion, and those wishing to extend compassion to others, Guanyin is there. As we enter into this new year, learning about Guanyin makes us mindful of compassion.
Sharing one week during this first month of 2018 with these seven different goddesses will make us mindful of the goddess dwelling within, and open our mind, body, and heart to be mindful of transitions, loss, destruction, chaos, new creations, beauty, and compassion. Retreat participants receive seven daily email reminders and the online retreat takes about 20-30 minutes, though it can be done at one’s own pace, and you can return to a day if you miss it. Each day, retreatants receive an intention, image of a goddess, mindful movement practice, reflection, guided writing exercise, ritual action, and closing blessing.
If you’re anything like me, you need both mindfulness and the collective wisdom and power of seven goddesses to accompany you into this new year. If interested, see the Holy Women Icons Project’s 7-Day Online Mindfulness Retreat. May this new year be filled with revolutionary mindfulness as we embrace transitions, loss, destruction, chaos, new creations, beauty, and compassion. Rage on!
The Holy Women Icons Project, an intersectionally ecofeminist non-profit, is searching for a Goddess of Social Media and Marketing Intern (title negotiable)! Might you or someone you know be interested? Learn more here!
Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber is the Founder and Creative Director of the Holy Women Icons Project. She holds a Ph.D. in Art and Religion. A professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, she is the author of seven books. As an author and professional artist, she is creating a retreat center with her wife and child on Hawai’i Island as a part of the Holy Women Icons Project non-profit.