Women’s Spiritual Power Is All Around Us by Carolyn Lee Boyd


 

Carolyn Lee Boyd

In this most challenging time, women are showing the world what women’s spiritual power can do. They are guiding nations, states, and communities through the pandemic and towards environmental sanity; feeding the hungry bodies and spirits of their neighbors by organizing community assistance projects; offering hope and care to vulnerable family members; and leading and healing in so many other ways. They are calling on their inherent, profound belief in their own sacredness and that of others to gain access to the strength and clarity that leads to wisdom and effective action.

Yet, finding and using your spiritual power is easier when it is affirmed by the people and subtle messages you experience every day.  In our society, too often girls and women may struggle to find encouragement to identify and use their spiritual power, whether because of present or past experiences or the sheer overwhelming nature of our individual and societal challenges.  Yet, symbols of women’s spiritual power are all around us, everyday, and can help guide us to that deep well within we have all carried since birth.

In fact, women’s common tasks and the dwelling places where we spend time every day have intertwined with women’s spiritual power for millennia.  Ancient goddess temples in Old Europe had workshops for bread making, weaving, and pottery-making, for example. Households in ancient Crete each had shrine rooms.  So, by seeking inspiration in everyday places, we are joining generations of women before us. 

Where might we find everyday holders of our spiritual power? 

Mirrors are tools of shamans, for example in Asia and Eurasia, and associated with witches in Europe.  It is thought that they can reflect or trap the soul and be a gateway to other realms. Amaterasu, the Japanese Shinto solar goddess, was persuaded to leave her cave and bring life back to the Earth when she saw her reflection in a mirror. 

Hair as a source of women’s power is perhaps most famous in the story of Medusa, with her serpent hair.  However, hair also held power for Isis, who used hers to raise Osiris from the dead, and European witches who were thought to use theirs for magic.

Collection of inherited heirloom antique bowls

Cauldrons, chalices, and other bowl-like objects are associated with Cerridwen, the Greek Fates, and other goddesses as life-giving or transformative. I have a collection of antique serving bowls inherited from my grandmothers, who received them from their own mothers and grandmothers. Maybe they were just practical gifts, but perhaps there was also some unconscious remembering of the symbolic power of bowls as the holder of the spiritual power that they wished to bequeath to their descendants.

Brooms are another symbol of witches and goddesses like Frau Holle, who use them to fly. Devotees of the Hindu Lakshmi connect Her with brooms when they clean their houses to welcome Her in.  

Many of the common herbs and plants in our gardens have held spiritual significance for our ancestors. Geraniums are associated with Isis and Gaia, among other goddesses. Lilies are sacred to the Middle Eastern goddess Astarte. If you grow lotuses, think of the Hindu Kali. 

Can you think of others?

Do these objects really enable us to find and use our spiritual power? They can if we experience them through the lens of the sacredness of our own daily lives. Gazing into a mirror shows us the brightness of our souls in our own eyes.  Womb-shaped bowls are daily reminders that, whether we are mothers or not, we can create good things in life for ourselves and others as well as make our own destiny.  Brooms lead us to the truth that our spirits are not Earthbound and help us sweep out what is no longer useful to our lives. Our gardens are a direct connection to Mother Earth.

I experienced the power of these symbols when, after chemotherapy, losing my hair  represented to me the loss of my sense of control over my life and future. Finally, when my hair had grown back to a quarter inch in its natural gray color, I decided to toss my wig away and stop dyeing my hair.  This was a turning point in regaining my sense of spiritual power, acknowledging my strength in the face of uncertainty.  I now think of my gray hair as  my “moon hair,” a sacred object that connects me to the majestic energy of that celestial object.

And remember, 21st century symbols can be just as significant as ancient ones. A friendship bracelet given to us by a childhood friend can be a lifelong reminder that we are valuable and loved. If your computer reminds you that your sharp and deep intellect inspires your students or your drum set gives you a new and loud voice, bask in the spiritual power that these objects help you access.

It is not only everyday objects that hold spiritual power, but our daily actions, too. The activities we do to help others in our modern workplaces — whether offices, classrooms, our or other people’s homes, or elsewhere — are just holy as the baking, weaving, and pottery-making that happened in the Old European temples. Planting a neighborhood community garden with the intention of bringing Mother Earth’s beauty to others or writing a poem that only you see, but which expresses wisdom you did not know you had, are both transforming expressions of profound spiritual power.

In this challenging time, women’s spiritual power is needed more than ever. But we all experience times when our sense of our own spiritual power is fragile. If we take the time to look, we can see now with newly opened eyes a world that celebrates, amplifies, and helps us understand and use the spiritual power within us all, for ourselves and generations to come. 

Sources: For more information on the integration of female deities in everyday life, including workshops in temples, see Elinor Gadon’s The Once and Future Goddess and Marija Gimbutas’s The Living Goddesses.  For more on various symbols of women’s spiritual power, see Barbara Walker’s The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets and The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects.

Carolyn Lee Boyd is a writer, drummer, community builder, herb and native plant gardener, and  past/current 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, www.goddessinateapot.com where you can find some of her free e-books to download as well as contact her.



Categories: Ancestors, Divine Feminine, Feminism, Foremothers, Gender and Power, Goddess, Goddess feminism, Goddess Spirituality, power, Power relations, Sovereignty, Women and Work, Women's Power

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20 replies

  1. As Z Budapest once said, “Magic trains your mind like Pavlov’s dog.” She suggested lighting a yellow candle for intellect only when you were trying to write and to be sure to blow it out if you got up to make lunch or do the dishes or straighten the house. This is how I wrote my first book. We may believe that women have power but rituals and objects are embodied reminders that bring this knowledge down from the head into embodied knowing. Of late I have been lighting candles next to my images of the Cretan “pitcher” Goddesses in the mornings and evenings before first light and during the time when the sun sets. This practice not only brings beauty into my home but also reminds me that we are always nourished by the Source of Life.

    Liked by 8 people

    • What beautiful practices! Thank you for sharing them. I have noticed an impulse towards lights and candles more generally recently. In my small town and in others I have heard of, the town and individual residents are putting up Christmas lights early and I’ve started lighting candles again, something I hadn’t done for a number of years. We are indeed coming into the season of light-filled holidays!

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  2. “We may believe that women have power but rituals and objects are embodied reminders that bring this knowledge down from the head into embodied knowing.” And, yes to a Both~And tp women (both women and men from the Sacred Place of Creation) both having the power and enacting it in the rituals and objects we makes our inner and outer spaces sacred with… sacred adornments… accessorizing life with the sacred adornments of things substantial that move us and share our presence into action in support of all the scales of beauty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your phrase “all the scales of beauty.” Yes! So much of embracing the sacred in everyday life is finding beauty all around us, and not just the kind of beauty that is valued by our commercial culture, but the beauty in everything. Here in New England the trees have just lost all their leaves and I have been noticing that, while the vibrant colors of spring, summer, and fall are giving way to duller grays and browns, the geometry of their branches which are hidden by the leaves, is so elegant and expressive.

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  3. Your article reminds me of a moving visual story in a video that to me expresses the wounded Divine Feminine in all of us that I feel we will need moving forward to enact, and enliven into health, a world community full of people strong enough and Self-aware enough from each doing their sacred work… strong enough to be comfortably gentle in the focused power of patience as we each whole-being listen to others in Empathic Silence. Video: “The Frayed Angels”

    Thank you, Carolyn. What a wonderful depth and strength in your article to start off early and enrich my day. Thank you.

    “The Frayed Angels” ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHDKav26OX0

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  4. We need symbols to help us manifest/embody that other less tangible (usually) world. This time of year I honor the Tree of Life by putting crystal prisms on my Norfolk Island pine….Creating and enacting ritual is a powerful way to enter the Dreamtime… I find that for me following the 8 spokes of the year pulls me into that world…

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    • I love your ritual of putting crystal prisms on your pine! I can visualize how beautiful that must be. Another wonderful way to celebrate! It makes me think of the coming winter solstice (for those of us in the north) and the rebirth of the light, or the fading away of the light for those in the south.

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  5. I think rocks are also symbolic of our power. Rocks last. They’re hard and sturdy and beautiful. Another symbol of our power is the Blessed Bees (Found and named for me by Elizabeth Cunningham many years ago) and whom I put in my book Finding New Goddesses as one of our Good Neighbors. Everything about the Bees and normal bees is sacred and powerful. I’ve turned my whole apartment and each room in it into a sort of altar with symbols of the four elements in their four directions, with rocks I’ve picked up and rocks I’ve found and rocks and gems I’ve purchased in the north. Earthly power.

    Many thanks for the wisdom of your post, and brightest blessings to us all for finding and cherishing our sacred feminine power. Cheers!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Thank you for mentioning rocks, which I hadn’t thought about for the post but which are indeed sacred. Near where I live are many sacred stone structures built by the Native people who have lived here for tens of thousands of years. Some of the sites are still in ceremonial use, as I understand it. Some of the local towns and volunteer organizations, along with Native communities, have begun to work to preserve and properly protect the sites that are on public conservation land. Seeing them when I am hiking in the conservation land and learning about their sacred nature has really helped me understand the spiritual power of stones and gems.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a thoughtful, inspiring post, Carolyn. I have a cast iron cooking pot, shaped like a small cauldron that I inherited from my mother-in-law. It has been the cauldron of rebirth in many a Samhain ritual–and I also cook soup in it! Today my cat Brigette (brown tabby with a white bib, white paws, and white tip of her tail) has kept me company all morning during writing time. She is next to me as I type this comment. She is my dear familiar, and I am hers. Many animals suffered along with women during the persecution of witches. Honor to their descendants!

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    • Greetings to Brigette! Until a few months ago a black cat named Ashley Whisper (for no real reason!) lived with us for almost 20 years and she was definitely my familiar. I didn’t think of her that way when she first came to us, but she soon made clear that she was a familiar and that our bond went beyond physical being. I can still feel her in the house and it is comforting! I love your cauldron – there is something very right that it is both a cauldron of rebirth in ritual as well as what you make your nourishing soup in!

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  8. Sounds like Ashley Whisper is still your familiar Love and comfort to you both!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great essay, Carolyn. It wasn’t until I reached middle-age that I began to appreciate ritual. In my upbringing, the word ritual always seemed to be preceded with the word empty. So, ritual (in my mind) became synonymous with fake. I know better today and even appreciate ritual in a way that I could never while growing up. It’s why I was so “hell-bent” (if you will) to attend my brother’s recent funeral. And since rituals are symbolic, they are able to speak to one on several levels. Thank you so much for posting this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for the kind words! I had the same experience of not really appreciating the many layers of ritual until I was older, in my 40s. As I think back, there were things I did when I was younger – like marching in the NYC Halloween parade every year – that really were rituals, but I didn’t realize that they were. I’ve been missing formal and informal rituals with friends since the pandemic and I look forward to picking this back up when life gets back to normal.

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  10. Carolyn, besides your wonderful article, I highly enjoyed, I really love how you name your gray hair as “Moon hair “, that is so very inspiring. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Lovely post, Carolyn. It moves me to begin a new ritual with each day, namely thanking the spring that flows near my house with a tobacco offering. Like many here, I’m missing ritual and the spiritual enrichment it has brought to my life. My altars remind me of my spiritual power, but enacting the connections symbolized by the rocks, shells, pine cones, goddess statues, etc. on them is much more powerful, since it involves more of my senses than just sight. Thanks again.

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