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.
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.