Night becomes day, winter becomes spring, children become adults who become elders who become ancestors – transformation is a theme that appears again and again in our myths, legends and natural world.
But transformation is not easy as it requires us to let go of the old, the comfortable, the familiar and make way for the new and unknown. We can look to myth and legend with their many instances of transformation for guidance through these difficult moments.
Continue reading “Myth and Legend – Guides for Transformational Times by Judith Shaw”
Part 1, from last week, can be read here.
For those folks in the southern hemisphere who are entering fall as we the northern climates enter spring I offer this next personal narrative.
Every Autumn I buy a smooth skinned crimson pomegranate to celebrate the Fall Equinox. But until this fall I have never intentionally bought a pomegranate to acknowledge the Persephone in me although her cyclic journeys to the underworld have also been my own. I have resisted my alignment with Persephone because I have come to fear my own descents. In the last few years these periods of depression have become more severe.
The September I turned 70 on the last day of the ancient celebration of Persephone’s Eleusinian Mysteries. I spoke out loud as I set my birthday intention. I am aligning myself with Persephone. I held a pomegranate in the open palm of my hand, thinking of the fruit as a symbol of my willingness to take this step. I also saw the beautiful round fruit as the Earth, imagining the ruby –like seeds imbedded in the soft white flesh as Earth’s possibilities. As I surrendered and finally accepted my mythic identity/alignment with Persephone, I experienced a subtle energy shift. I thought about the maiden goddess who becomes Queen of the Dead, and the one who makes predictable cyclic descents into the Underworld. As I breathed through my body I experienced a palpable sense of relief… I recalled the recent dream that informed me that the “Way of the Goddess” was my way, and that I had to choose her again. Not surprisingly within a few days I once again entered a state of profound depression during which time I suddenly remembered my first encounter with a pomegranate…
Continue reading “Persephone Rising, Part 2 by Sara Wright”
The story of Sedna is yet another rendition of the Handmaid’s Tale. This one comes from the Arctic and the Inuit people. During this time when it seems as if patriarchy has a stranglehold on so many of us, I offer this Indigenous version of the story to remind feminists that tapping into mythical patterns strengthens us in ways that are impossible to articulate beyond stating that we can access that power when we align ourselves with it. As in all oral traditions there are many versions of the story but the roots of the myth are the same.
In one version of the story a young man comes to sleep with an entire family during a blizzard. By morning he is gone without having revealed his identity, but the father discovers large dog tracks in the snow and realizes his family has been deceived. The young man who slept with the family was a wild dog.
Continue reading “Sedna’s Tale by Sara Wright”
Consider the following four birth stories:
- A high priestess became pregnant in a manner that was forbidden in her society. She gave birth to a baby boy. Fearing for her child’s life, she fashioned a basket of rushes and cast him into a river. He was retrieved by a man named Akki whose name means “the drawer of water.” Akki raised the boy.
- A son was born to a young princess who had been forced to keep her pregnancy a secret because it was forbidden. When her son was born, she placed him in a basket and floated him down the river. He was found and raised by foster parents. He grew up to become a noted warrior, speaker and eventually a king.
- A young boy accidentally ingested some drops of star-studded wisdom from the cauldron of a goddess and, in this manner, was suddenly awakened to divine knowledge. The goddess grew furious that her divine wisdom was stolen. Desperate to escape her life-threatening wrath, a wild chase ensued. The boy turned himself into a rabbit, but the goddess turned herself into a dog to chase him down. The boy turned himself into a fish to swim away but the goddess became an otter to continue the chase. The boy then turned himself into a bird, but the goddess became a hawk. Finally, the boy turned himself into a seed and hid in a large pile of grain. The goddess turned herself into a hen and ate up all the grain including the boy-as-seed. In this manner she found herself pregnant. She planned to kill the baby when he was born, but when she saw him, he was so beautiful that she fell in love and she could not bring herself to do so. The goddess sewed the baby into a leather sack and threw him into the river. He was retrieved by a man named Elphin who renamed and raised him.
- A woman of the priestly caste of her tribe gave birth to a baby boy. At the time, all boys born to her tribe were under a decree of death. To save her son’s life, she created a basket of reeds and floated him down the river. He was found by a royal princess who retrieved him from the water, gave him a new name and raised him to adulthood.
Continue reading “Aren’t We All Divine Children? by Janet MaiKa’i Rudolph”
Let me share with you the Goddess most honored as the Goddess of liminal time and space. It is our beloved Hekate, Great Goddess of the Three Ways, bridging Earth, Sea and Sky as we travel between worlds.
In modern times, She is seen by many as a “hag” or old witch stirring the cauldron. This idea was popularized by Roberts Graves’ book, The White Goddess. In early writings, however, she is portrayed as a beautiful and powerful maiden goddess.
“I come, a virgin of varied forms, wandering through the heavens, bull-faced, three-headed, ruthless, with golden arrows; chaste Phoebe bringing light to mortals, Eileithyia; bearing the three synthemata [sacred signs] of a triple nature. In the Aether I appear in fiery forms and in the air, I sit in a silver chariot.” (Chaldean Oracles)
She was the only one of the ancient Titans that Zeus allowed to retain her power after the Olympians seized control. She shared with Zeus, the awesome power of granting all wishes to humanity (or withholding, if she chose).
Continue reading “Hekate, Goddess of Liminality and Intermediary by Deanne Quarrie”
The legend of La Llorona has been a part of Hispanic culture in the Southwest since the days of the conquistadores. Though the tales vary from source to source, the one common thread is that La Llorona is a woman named Maria who is always dressed in a white gown, the spirit of a young Mexican mother who drowned her children in the river in a moment of rage or abandonment by her lover and then took her own life in her deep shame and sorrow. La Llorona’s disembodied spirit is said to haunt the rivers at night – especially the Rio Grande – where she can be heard weeping in remorse for her dead children. Children are cautioned not to go out after dark because La Llorona might murder or drown them too. Because the tale of the Weeping Woman originated with the Patriarchal Spanish conquest I have always been suspicious of the various versions of this story believing that its meaning has been distorted.
Immediately what comes to mind is the Mater Dolorosa, Our Lady of Sorrows, or Mother of Sorrows. All refer to the Virgin Mary, the only goddess left in Christianity. Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows is another name used to refer to this goddess. The Mater Dolorosa is also a key subject for Marian art in the Catholic Church.
Continue reading “La Llorona by Sara Wright”
The Cleveland Symphony Orchestra last week put on a two-night production of Richard Strauss’s Daphne: A Bucolic Tragedy in One Act. It was an outstanding collaboration between conductor, singers, instruments, and the stage and costume production and design team. Included in the show was a lone Dancer who represented the emotional content of the music (as opposed to representing a single voice or persona in opera). She nimbly wove about the stage painting a sort of visual poem of tones and feelings rather than articulated concepts.
I went to the show, expecting something really beautiful as I always find Strauss somehow soft on the ears. And, it was a masterpiece to be sure. Franz Wesler-Most, the symphony’s Music Director and the opera’s conductor, commented on the production in the program notes, observing that this opera is rarely performed because it is so difficult to sing, especially the role of Apollo. This team made it look effortless, and it was as a result a tremendously satisfying, rich, and edifying night out. Continue reading “Daphne’s Salvation? by Natalie Weaver”
I was trying not to fidget as I sat on the hard, unforgiving walnut pew. It was a gorgeous summer day out, and I was locked inside breathing stale air and with nothing to look at but the dreary speaker, and, behind him, a life-sized, picture of a sweet-looking man about to be hung from nails driven through his hands. I was visiting my parents, who love to take me to church, and I just wasn’t able to say no.
As I sat I daydreamed about our indigenous European ancestors. They did “church” outdoors, in fragrant, airy forests with wild bluebells, warbling birds, and gentle breezes caressing their skin, ears and eyes. Instead of doing hard time on walnut benches, they got to dance, chant, hold hands and jump through fires.
Continue reading “The Grimm Brothers’ “The White Snake”: A Feminist’s “Adam & Eve”? by Jeri Studebaker”
Queen Maya, the Mother of the Buddha of our age, who before his Enlightenment was known as Siddhartha Gautama, died shortly after his birth. So the future Buddha was raised by his aunt and stepmother. It is said that the womb of the Buddha’s Mother needed to remain unsullied by further pregnancies. This is similar to the belief that Mary Mother of Christ did not bear any more children after Jesus, which is held by some Christian traditions.
In addition, the Buddha’s conception and birth were both miraculous, according to the legend and some Mahayana texts (such as the 44th chapter of the Gandavyuha Sutra). The Buddha was conceived when a white elephant entered Queen Maya’s right side, or, in the Sutra, light entered the Queen’s body. The Buddha was born from his Mother’s right side. The light was emanating from every pore of the body of the Bodhisattva Buddha, while he resided in the Tusita (joyous) heaven before descending to earth. This light reminds us of the golden rain form that Zeus took to reach Danaë in her cell to conceive Perseus, and links these two Indo-European patriarchal discourses. Continue reading “Mother of All Buddhas by Oxana Poberejnaia”
Here’s how my mind leaps around. I was mooning about and trying to figure out what I wanted to write for this blog when I picked up one of the books in the stack at the other end of the couch. I bought The Mythology of Eden by Arthur George and Elena George because I’d read the thoughtful review by Judith Laura, a Goddess scholar I know and respect.
In their introduction, the Georges present a paragraph by biblical scholar Millar Burrows that explains that myth is:
a symbolic, approximate expression of truth which the human mind cannot perceive sharply and completely, but can only glimpse vaguely, and therefore cannot adequately or accurately express. … It implies not falsehood, but truth; not primitive, naïve misunderstanding, but insight more profound than scientific description and logical analysis can ever achieve. The language of myth in this sense is consciously inadequate, being simply the nearest we can come to a formulation of what we can see very darkly. … The procedure is quite legitimate if [we] understand what is being done (p. xii). (Burrows’ book is An Outline of Biblical Theology, published in 1946.)
Mind leap: Wow, I said to myself, does this describe the revisionist fairy tales I write? I try to see through that dark glass more clearly and recast old ideas in new ways. (I hope this doesn’t sound too pretentious. I don’t mean it to.)
Mind leap: And, I further said to myself, we scholars who write for Feminism and Religion often write about myth, though we don’t always acknowledge that our religious stories are indeed myths. It’s like the old joke—“If I believe it, it’s religion. If you (or they) believe it, it’s myth.” Even though we sometimes call our myths the inerrant word of this god or that goddess, the stories in all of our holy books are our instructive myths. Read Burrows’ definition again. Continue reading “Scholars of Mythology by Barbara Ardinger “
In the Jewish and Christian traditions, Wisdom (Hochma in Hebrew, Sophia in Greek) is a female figure who is an aspect of deity. This has been forgotten for many years, but people are beginning to re-discover Her.
There was a time when Power and Good counsel walked hand in hand. That was the springtime of the world. In those days men and women honoured each other and honoured also the living world. The sun, moon and stars, the winds, the waters, and even the rocks themselves were known to be alive. In those days Death was no enemy, but a friend to be welcomed when She made the invitation to visit Her country.
But Good Counsel became pregnant, and Power began to be afraid. He feared first that the coming child would take Good Counsel away from him. And then he feared that their child would so well combine the features of the two of them that it would in due course put him down from his place.
Power devised a plan. He opened his mouth to its widest, and pushed Good Counsel in, swallowing her whole. He now felt free of his fears. He began to claim that all the good counsel in the world now belonged to him, and so he declared that it was only fitting he should rule all the world. Though many opposed his claim, he persuaded, and sometimes bullied, others into believing that this opposition was due to bad counsel. And so, though many grumbled and secretly worshipped elsewhere, he set himself up as ruler of the world. Continue reading “OF POWER, GOOD COUNSEL, AND WISDOM by Daniel Cohen”
A socio-political examination of Genesis 16 explores how ancient myth can influence the story of Hagar and Sarai. Socio-political events could have occurred between the Egyptians and King Solomon that influenced the writing of this text. According to John Currid in Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament, the Egyptians and Hebrews borrowed many things from each other and because of that, an inter-relatedness exists between the languages as well as cultural and religious practices of both kingdoms (26). It is this inter-relatedness that I wish to explore and ask the question -was Hagar an Egyptian Princess demoted to a lower position of servitude in order to make a political statement of superiority of the Israelites over the Egyptians? Or is this a story of conflict between two of Solomon’s wives? Finally, could this story tell us about events that occurred after Solomon’s death since the Biblical texts from the pre-exilic period began to take shape during the reign of David and Solomon? This is a very brief exploration of these theories.
In Genesis 16, Hagar and Sarai connect Egypt and Israel in a familial relationship, one rooted in strife. These two women, an Israelite and an Egyptian, are brought together because of Sarai’s barrenness and need to fulfill the covenantal promise. Because of this, Hagar becomes Abram’s secondary wife. This is not the only time that marriage between an Israelite and Egyptian occurs in the Old Testament. Joseph marries and an Egyptian, the daughter of a priest of On (Genesis 41:45). Solomon also has an Egyptian wife who seems to have some importance because she is mentioned six times in the Old Testament (1 Kings 3:1; 7:8, 9:24; 11:1-2; 2 Chronicles 8:11).
Important is the fact that this passage could be rooted in the writings that emerged in that period that portray family strife. Savina J. Teubal in Ancient Sisterhood: The Lost Traditions of Hagar and Sarah, states these “andocentric writing and editing” of the biblical narratives portray conflicts between women who “vie for the attention of their husbands or sons” (19). In this case the story really could be a tale of family strife inspired by two of the wives of Solomon, one of which was Egyptian.
Continue reading “Hagar – Demoted Servant or Egyptian Princess? By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”
A story that follows on from my version of Perseus and Medusa…
We are blind now, my sisters and I.
He came to us, the hero, the shining one, Perseus, proud in his strength, bright as the two lightning flashes on his tunic.
There were three of us, three sisters known as the Graiae. We had always had only one eye between us, which we passed from one to another, yet we saw more clearly with that one eye between three than many did with two eyes to themselves.
And we saw him for what he truly was.
“Where is she,” he demanded.
“Who,” I asked, though we knew well what it was he wanted.
“Medusa. She whose snakes creep in and poison our good and wholesome society.”
We laughed at the way he saw the world, and I answered “No.” I spoke for us all, since at the time I had our one tooth.
But then I made a mistake. Wishing my sisters to see him, I took out the eye so as to pass it to one of them. But he grabbed the eye as I tried to hand it on. Continue reading “Happy the Land That Needs No Heroes by Daniel Cohen”
This is the tale of the first death in the Trojan War.
The Greek army was gathered in Aulis. Its men had come from many towns and islands. Some were there with dreams of glory, some with dreams of gold. Others were there because their chief had demanded their presence, and either loyalty to the chief or fear of him had brought them.
The fleet was waiting and the soldiers were ready to embark. But for weeks now the wind had been blowing from the wrong direction, and the men were getting restless at waiting so long. They were beginning to think of the harvest – they had expected that the war would be won long before harvest time – but that was now so close that many men were making ready to go home, and some had already gone.
Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek army, was fearful that the conquest and glory he sought would escape him if the winds continued contrary. And so he consulted the seer Calchas. After much searching the seer replied, “The goddess Artemis sends you a warning. If you wish to make war against Troy, you will have to kill your daughter.”