Moderator’s note:Today’s blogpost was originally posted March 14, 2018. You can visit it here to see the original comments.
When I raise my eyes to a bird soaring over me in flight, I am no longer bound to the Earth by gravity. I stop my round of daily tasks and widen my vision to view myself and our world from above through birds’ eyes. For just a moment, as I observe beyond my usual narrow horizon, I perceive truths about myself and others that have been hidden and grasp wisdom that has previously eluded me.
From Neolithic times onwards in cultures stretching across the globe, as described by Judith Shaw, bird-shaped goddesses have embodied life, death, rebirth, and more. More recently, as noted by Miriam Robbins Dexter, these beautiful winged beings were perceived of as monsters and flying through the air was one of the accusations made against the women persecuted as witches in the Burning Times. What greater demonstration could there be of the intense terror this powerful relationship between women and birds creates in those who demand dominion over women’s bodies and souls?
Perhaps we now need a re-envisioned Bird Goddess for the 21st century to help us see ourselves and all beings, our planet, and even our cosmos anew through Her eyes. We would experience not only a wider panorama of space, but also of time, for flying dinosaurs have lived on Earth for 140 million years.
First, we would see ourselves as tiny, struggling beings on a huge blue and white ball. We would notice our fragile bodies and overworked minds and spirits and most of us would be amazed at how we have transcended the challenges we experience everyday to dream of a more peaceful, just, sustainable future and then to get to work each morning to make it happen. We would see ourselves imagining entire universes in our words, art, music, and bodies. Through the Bird Goddess we would see that we can be magnificent.
Yet, as we gazed across time, we would also be horrified at the many catastrophic actions — wars, conquests, oppressions, and other injustices — we as individuals, communities, nations, and a species have done over the millennia. Through the Bird Goddess, we would have to face, and begin to make amends for, what we have done and perhaps begin to heal these wounds.
Then we would move to a higher view, seeing our planet just as humans saw the entire Earth for the first time decades ago and were awestruck. We would understand what is at stake when we devastate our environment and that the primary characteristics of the world we were born into are beauty and sacredness. Because we and all other beings are part of this world, we too, are sacred and beautiful.
Finally, we would go higher still and see the cosmos and the 95% of our universe that is dark energy and dark matter that we cannot experience with our meager human senses. Through the Bird Goddess we would come to know that whatever conflicts we have with other beings, whatever anxieties and fears we have allowed to rule our lives, whatever miseries we dwell on, we are an essential part of a unity that is much more vast and endlessly delightful than we could have previously imagined. We could live a million lives and still never stop being fascinated by our universe.
What a difference it could make in our own lives and our effectiveness as feminists and spiritual activists if we could see through the eyes of the Bird Goddess each day!
How mighty would we be If we could cast off the self-limiting images of ourselves we have been taught by our society when we face a challenge? How encouraging would it be if we could truly see that we are not alone but are surrounded by billions of women all over the world who want only the best for their families and communities and the world?
What if we could see the whole river of human history, as well as that of our individual ancestors, including the millennia of progress towards equality and justice as well as the acts of injustice and oppression done by our ancestors who came before us? Would we not have wiser and more comprehensive insights into how we came to live in a world that is ecologically unsustainable, unjust, and full of violence? Might we not think of solutions we never had before?
What if the Earth and all beings were considered to be so beautiful that their destruction was morally unthinkable? What if our differences were thought to make us each uniquely beautiful to each other? Would we not be even more passionate and committed than we are now?
What if we were endlessly fascinated by our entire universe, including the tiny part we live in? Would we still be so susceptible to depression and despair as we went about our work to heal our world?
Seeing through the eyes of the new Bird Goddess, we can learn to perceive the world differently, which changes what we say, how we behave, and how we interact with people. When we do that, we can begin to transform our own lives and those of all whom we encounter. Like our women ancestors who found in a bird’s flight all that is most profound in our universe, the Bird Goddess’s gift may be just what we need most today. May we all be lifted on Her wings.
Carolyn Lee Boyd is a writer, drummer, and herb and native plant gardener. Her essays, short stories, memoirs, reviews, and poetry have been published in a variety of print magazines, internet sites, and book anthologies. She explores goddess-centered spirituality in everyday life and how we can all better live in local and global community. She would love for you to visit her at her website, www.goddessinateapot.com,where you can find her writings and music and some of her free e-books to download.
7 thoughts on “From the Archives: Through the Eyes of the 21st Century Bird Goddess by Carolyn Lee Boyd”
To the Celts, the ancestors and founders of Europe, the Goddess of Death was Badhb (‘Baive’) the raven.
After the male warrior revolution that deposed the female Supreme Being Dana the Earth Mother in favour of the male Supreme Being Zeus, Jehovah, Jupiter in about 1200 BCE, Badhb was replaced with Bodhbh (‘Bove’) the male God of Death.
In the General Post Office (the GPO) in Dublin the central feature of the lobby is the dying ancestral hero Cuchillain, tied to a standing stone with drooping sword and with Badhhb or Bodhbh on his shoulder. Cuchullain represents the heroic human facing death and honoured by Her with Her personal attendance.
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Thank you for this information which I hadn’t known! What a powerful image for the Dublin GPO!
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“Tiny struggling beings.” That’s for sure! Tinier than ever before, even with all our technology and tools. It would indeed be wonderful to see ourselves through the eyes of a new Bird Goddess, a Goddess of love and kindness……and flight! Flight above the planet we’ve nearly wrecked as we worship and follow our angry, vengeful male gods and their priests and preachers.
My hope right now? That a new Bird Goddess might teach us to ignore those gods and their followers and to care for each other and our blessed mother planet. I love your final paragraph! Let it inspire us all, not just readers of your post but everyone on the planet. Yes, excellent excellent excellent post. Thanks for your thinking and writing. Bright blessings!
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Thank you, Barbara! Your comment about how you hope the Bird Goddess might teach us to care for one another and Earth made me think of the piping plovers. Piping plovers are tiny little shore birds that are almost extinct due to habitat loss across the upper part of the midwest and nearby areas of Canada. About the time I wrote this I visited one site of a collaborative program over several organizations and states as well as Canada that are focused on bringing back this little bird by rearing chicks abandoned by their parents due to human interference and then placing the grown-up birds among other piping plovers to join their flocks. It is amazing what care the nurturers of these birds provide. I heard a recent update and they are getting close to the number of pairs they need to be fully safe and independent again. To me this is one story of the Bird Goddess teaching us to care for other living beings and the planet. Anyway, thought I would share it!
If you’re interested in birds (duh…), find the PBS documentary Earth Flight. It shows the migrations and lives of birds around the world. It’s wonderful!
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This from Sara Wright who is having trouble posting:
“What greater demonstration could there be of the intense terror this powerful relationship between women and birds creates in those who demand dominion over women’s bodies and souls?”
Such an excellent point Carolyn. If only…. what i see around me is people who are asleep – or focused on being out of the world – the universe holds so much appeal – anywhere but here.
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You are right – lack of focus on what we need to do is such a problem. It does seem like it’s so hard to get the attention of people to what is happening to our planet. We’ll all just keep doing what we can and know that we have done what we could and hope people wake up!
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