From the Wasteland Rises Hope by Carolyn Lee Boyd


Carolyn Lee BoydFor millennia, humans have told stories of goddesses who have decreed that, because terrible crimes have been committed against their female loved ones or those under their protection, our world would become a desolate wasteland. They withdrew their spiritual power that made life possible so that no fruits or vegetables would grow to nourish us or no sunlight would warm our bodies. Only when justice was done did these goddesses heal the wasteland so human life could continue.

In ancient Greece, the youthful daughter Persephone was kidnapped from her idyllic wildflower meadow to the Underworld by Hades. Her mother, the great Earth goddess Demeter, wandered the world in great despair seeking her daughter while the crops withered and the people starved. Only when Persephone was returned to live on the Earth was it again abundant. Amaterasu, the Shinto Sun Goddess, hid her life-giving light when she was angered by her brother’s desecration of her queendom that resulted in a friend’s death. Finally, when her brother was banished from heaven and she was lured from her cave and saw her sacredness and beauty in a mirror, the sun’s rays nourished the Earth once more. You may know of more stories from your own tradition.

Today we are experiencing a physical version of these mythical wastelands. Farmlands turn to dust, glaciers melt, wars and industry leave gaping wounds in Earth’s skin and deep inside her belly. We now have the weapons to destroy in the most savage ways those whom we hate or fear. For the first time in human history, we can make the whole globe a real wasteland in all its forms.

These stories were not, of course, intended to describe 21st century devastation. However, I do find within them deep truths about the roots of our modern calamity and about women’s spiritual power, which I perceive of as the force that heals and promotes life and wholeness on individual, planetary, and cosmic levels by acting in a way that recognizes and honors the sacredness within ourselves and all beings.

First, the stories demonstrate an essential connection between our own wasteland and a profound dishonoring of the spiritual power of women. When the inherent worth and wisdom of half the population is devalued and ignored, the world becomes so out of balance and disordered that only catastrophe can result. When only a small number of people have all the power and do not respect the rights of other living entities to well being, exploitation is the inevitable result. The connection between disdain for women and all who belong to politically, socially, and economically disempowered groups and the trashing of the Earth becomes even clearer when we look at the aggregate effect of environmental devastation on the lives of women and so many other marginalized people.

These stories also speak to the nature of women’s spiritual power itself. They tell women to never forget the importance of being healers for one another. Baubo’s dance revealing her vulva makes Demeter laugh, igniting the beginning of the rebirth of the world. The bawdy dance of Uzume, the Japanese goddess of merriment, caused the ruckus that brought an amused and curious Amaterasu out of her cave to witness her own beauty. Listening deeply in circles, encouraging each other’s creative work, singing and dancing for and with each other; all of these and more are ways I see women giving each other the nurturing we all need to keep our spiritual power strong and fresh.

The goddesses in these stories have also been making the world harmonious and Flower in rockabundant forever, yet this is only recognized when they withhold the fruits of their power. This reminds me that we must never forget that women’s spiritual work — what we do daily to bring harmony and well being to those in our families and communities whether part of our professional work, outside activism, or the hundreds of interactions we have each day — is often overlooked as essential to moving the world closer to beauty, peace and justice; these should be honored as most holy acts.

Finally, these stories give me hope that just as humanity has the power to create a wasteland, we, as women and as human beings, can also make our Earth a paradise. In these times when the end of our species and our planet as we know seems almost inevitable, these stories remind us that we have more power inside us than we realize and we have no choice but to try to bring forth the world we wish to live in for ourselves and future generations. By visualizing an Earth that is whole and sharing that vision with others by words, art, music, dance; working through the details of new models of governance and economics on a small scale in our own organizations and communities, running for office on platforms representing these values, and more we can all find ways to dedicate ourselves to make positive change on many levels.

bridge2Those who first heard these stories of the wasteland millennia ago perhaps never imagined that it could be reality. It is our time now, and we must find our own answers to turning back the world’s environmental and spiritual desolation. This task is, of course, not women’s responsibility alone. But, we can each find our own unique place in this work by every day, in our own way, healing each other, recognizing and honoring all we do and have done, and contributing everyday to our own vision of paradise.

 

Carolyn Lee Boyd is a writer, drummer, community builder, herb gardener, home renovator, and denizen of Michigan, New York City, and New England. Her essays, short stories, memoirs, reviews, and poetry have been published in, among others, SageWoman, Matrifocus, The Beltane Papers, Feminism and Religion and The Goddess Pages. She would love for you to visit her at her website, http://www.goddessinateapot.com.

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Categories: Climate Change, Ecofeminism, General, Goddess feminism, Goddess Spirituality

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12 replies

  1. This appeared on my fb feed a few days ago and so clearly expresses what happens when women do not rebel but side with the powerful. Yes women have the power to change the world if we band together around the values of love, care, and generosity associated with motherhood, but all too often we think the best we can do is to get a little power by lining up next to the powerful and exploiting whoever has less power than we do, slave and servant women, lower classes, other races, and so on. Sisterhood is and can be powerful, but first we have to cut the ties that bind us to those who dominate and exploit us and all of the other “others.” Sigggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

    Liked by 7 people

    • Carol, thank you for reminding us of the stark truths behind the majority of women who choose Patriarchy if not in words then by their actions. Truths like this should give us pause – help us to reflect upon how we may be perpetuating this earth destroying cycle with our own – often unconscious actions or out of “need.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • I had not seen that Winnie Mandela quote before. “… working out the resultant frustrations not against men but primarily against themselves, in their competition for men as sons, lovers, and husbands.”

      Anyone who has worked in a female-predominant field has seen this firsthand! It is for that reason I prefer to work with men — the cattiness and backstabbing exist but to much less extent, resulting in a smoother, more efficient, less stressful work environment.

      I would add that, long before a DIL enters the family portrait, CHILDREN are victims since they are victims of their mothers’ frustrations. Studies prove that when mom is abused or mistreated by dad, she is likely to vent her rage, aggression, and frustration onto her children. So CHILD ABUSE is being perpetuated thanks to this family “system” (let’s not forget that the family is the building block of civilization) that is a reflection of our culture as a whole. (During the High Middle Ages, the serfs were told that serfdom was “ordained by God” and “but, don’t worry — you can be the “king of your castle!” And, of course we all know that women and children were considered chattel for millennia.)

      Is there any hope of change? (I don’t espouse inverting the system but rather revising it: peaceful cooperation toward mutual goals, with everyone’s contributions valued and appreciated, would be my ideal.) How can there be with so many followers of Abrahamic religions and living in the shadow of a giant penis monument erected in our nation’s capital?

      Liked by 1 person

      • … and I believe a huge step toward becoming “civilized” is to eradicate the barbaric practice of circumcision of BOTH males AND females. Traumatic genital mutilation is no way for an infant to come into the world or a young girl to endure and suffer health consequences for the rest of her life.

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  2. People who are dominated in an oppressive system (patriarchy, slavery, colonialism), sometimes cooperate and even defend the system because they believe they must (or are seduced, manipulated or terrorized into believing they must) in order to survive. May we find the courage, and support each other in finding the courage, to break out of the prisons we sometimes, knowingly or unknowingly, perpetuate. This imperiled earth was, is, and can be paradise. Thanks for this encouraging post, Carolyn!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for this important post, Carolyn Lee Boyd. You rightly mentioned: “for the first time in human history, we can make the whole globe a real wasteland in all its forms.”

    I think that’s why Starhawk and other modern writers initiated concepts such as “earth-based spirituality,” also called “eco-spirituality.” And these terms are important because for a long time, Earth was becoming more and more polluted — there was no true reverence for the Earth, as there had always been for the concept of Heaven.

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  4. Wonderful essay that speaks to the truth of what is, without the need for denial or false hope.

    Your words about women move me deeply:

    “First, the stories demonstrate an essential connection between our own wasteland and a profound dishonoring of the spiritual power of women. When the inherent worth and wisdom of half the population is devalued and ignored, the world becomes so out of balance and disordered that only catastrophe can result.”

    I think that women’s stories and actions may be the only possible hope left for humans/non humans and the planet.

    As a mythologist I am familiar with world traditions that speak to the power of women and goddesses. Prophesy has become our daily reality and still most refuse to see. We must keep on speaking out. At the very least, we, as women can align ourselves with Nature’s life force even if it is not enough to alter the tides…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks, Carolyn, for this powerful post! The 2 myths you cite (and several more) were the backbone for a keynote I delivered at a UU conference about 10 years ago. Instead of focusing on the wasteland, I focused on what we as women could learn from the goddesses’ responses to patriarchy. I think I should dig that keynote up and post it here, since it continues to elaborate on what you’ve written.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for your amazing post, I love how combined history with the NOW in perspective of feminism.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Beautiful post and so, so true! I love these words ” what we do daily to bring harmony and well being to those in our families and communities whether part of our professional work, outside activism, or the hundreds of interactions we have each day — is often overlooked as essential to moving the world closer to beauty, peace and justice; these should be honored as most holy acts.” The beauty of women’s caring nature does this even with women who have little awareness of how their way of being affects the world. Thanks for reminding us all.

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  8. Thank you for this post. It reminded me of an amazing experience I had at the last August eclipse. I felt drawn to pull an oracle card from Doreen Virtue’s Ascended Masters’ deck. A singular card leapt out and it was Amaterasu. I read her story and then also read that she is the Goddess of the Eclipse.

    To have this card leap out, on the day of the Eclipse was mind boggling!…….

    Like

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