Sunday, November 29, 2009

Re-Engaging with the Feminine




I've spent the last four days savoring home and family. Also logging in some nice reading time which I've not experienced in a while, revisiting a favorite book of long ago.

Right now, I'm traveling through Europe all over again with Jean Shinoda Bolen in Crossing to Avalon: A Woman's Midlife Pilgrimage for the Sacred Feminine. This memoir chronicles her visits to various pilgrimage sites, specifically those dedicated to the Feminine: Chartres Cathedral in France, Glastonbury Tor in England, and more.


I read this book in the mid-90s when my own search into the "feminine face of God" or "the Goddess," as some might call it, was unfolding. I was wowed, to put it mildly, at how nurtured, yet empowered, I felt while reading it. Dr. Bolen was uncovering something very big in me, something I once knew but had forgotten. Simply put, I "remembered" that I was sacred, all women are sacred; that the Feminine is real and vitally important to our past and our future—especially now.

As an anthropology major in college, I never learned about a 30,000 year period in our collective history where the Feminine was honored and revered; where the Goddess reigned supreme and where She, in all her forms, was celebrated all over the world. This shook me to the core. Why, when there was an abundance of archaeological evidence to prove this, was I never taught about it?

Bolen's book, along with a myriad of others (including this and this) opened a new spiritual pathway for me. Today, many younger women are discovering a new path, too, with the help of author Sue Monk Kidd, whose recent books give women permission to connect with the Sacred Feminine. Sue, herself, proclaims allegiance to the Black Madonna. And as you may know from reading my book, Your Truest Self, I have a deep connection to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, though I understand her best through an archetypal image—the interspiritual Mother of us all.

I just finished Sue Monk Kidd's new pilgrimage book, too, one co-authored with her daughter Ann: Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story—but that's another post—because I could write for hours on what has arisen in me because of this tale. :-) It's marvelous. I highly recommend it. And I will be posting more on it here in days to come.

Needless to say, I am awash and enthralled these days with the Sacred Feminine. And I'm quite sure my next writing project (yes, book!) is about this subject.


I wonder ... Do you have a particular connection to the Sacred Feminine—as YOU understand it, of course.


And, if you do, what has it done for you as a woman?

(Image "Dreamer of Malta" courtesy of www.ancient treasures.com)

18 comments:

Rachel said...

You know, I definitely have a connection to the sacred feminine and oddly I think it's my Roman Cathlic upbringing. One of the things the Catholic church has always been critcised for is it's worship of the Mother Mary, and we were very big on it at the church I went to as a child! I think instinctively this aspect of the sacred feminine has stayed with me and has always been the source of my interest in the female divine.

Heather said...

Thanks for the reminder of Crossing to Avalon - which I loved too. Riane Eisler's Chalice and The Blade was the one that started my journey. Thanks too for the info about Traveling with Pomegranates - great tilte - I will look for that one too and look forward to your blog on the subject.

Kind regards
Heather Mendel
www.dancinginthefootstepsofeve.com

Jan said...

Rachel,
You are certainly not along in realizing that your Catholic upbringing may have provided an affinity to the SF (Sacred Feminine). Though, for many, Mary has taken on a much broader meaning. No longer is she perceived as a meek, mild or submissive creature. It seems that our emerging feminist awareness has allowed her to be more, larger, empowered. A Mary for all times, seasons, and persuasions, if you will...I am happy to hear that there is a connection there for you. May it flourish!

Heather,
Welcome, and thanks for stopping by. If you loved these two books as I did, you will truly appreciate the Kidd book. A big step out in faith for her to write, but well worth the wait. :-) I visited your blog. So nice to find you, another kindred spirit. Blessings!

Wilma ham said...

For me my femininity is growing with my general awareness of spirituality and who we are.
I threw the whole goddess concept away with the whole religeous concept.
It was the code of light by Jessie Ayani that started my journey.
I find it amazing that I now can celebrate my femininity and I am grateful. It adds so much more delicious awareness and depth to who I am.

Rose - The Center of My Self said...

In tough times, I always turn to Mary, too. As Catholics, we do not worship her; we do revere her (as we would a favorite aunt or grandmother), but it would be sacrilege to worship her. My mother's name was Mary, too, so I sometimes pray to Mary, Mother of God, and Mary, Mother of Me. I'll sometimes include my aunt, too. Being of Latin culture, it's natural to turn to the womenfolk in the family.

I don't know, though, that I embrace the SF. I believe that God/Spirit/Universe/Divine Consciousness has no gender. It's only in our physical selves that we have gender due to our physical bodies. Without them, though, we are neither feminine or masculine, I feel. We are simply Divine.

Jan said...

Wilma,
I am so glad to hear that you are able to celebrate your feminine awareness. And whatever resources/experiences brought you to that light-filled place, hooray!

Yes, in the grandest picture, there is no feminine or masculine. We just all ARE. But I am afraid that we as a people, as a world, have a very long way to go before a significant number of us embrace that and live out of that enlightened place. We still live in a patriarchal world and I'd like to believe that it is shifting toward embracing "the feminine" especially in terms of leadership and values, but I think that may yet be in generations to come. In the meantime, if we can foster those qualities in ourselves, that is key. We are the ripples...

Joy said...

Jan,
In my life, the Sacred Feminine had not even been introduced to me, or perhaps I had not been open to it until recently. I have not had a mother figure, so even Mother Mary seemed distant and unreachable to me. I couldn't understand unconditional love; although I could--and do--extend it, I couldn't understand that it would exist for me and I could receive it. Abandonment has been my life issue, so thinking I housed the Divine and was worthy of love and abundance was quite foreign to me until a few years ago. I've always known I've contained Spirit--but never thought about the depth of that. Then a few years ago, I discovered energy and flow. And in the last year I discovered my self worth was not dependent upon merit or works, it just "was" because I "am". It's an amazing facet to discover and can be as overwhelming to learn as it is fun. I'm trying to learn for me and my own life, but also because I am a role model for my daughter and I want her to know her Divine Self and for her life to be full. Thank you for your recommendations. I will read them:)

mermaid said...

The Sacred Feminine has inspired me to worship my precious body (even in states of dis-ease), my talents and the unique opportunities for their expression, and my sacred suffering, which is helping me to transform the fragmented self into a whole being.

twila said...

My exodus out of "traditional" evangelical spirituality began when, as a student of the scriptures, I discovered the sanitizing of the feminine in the words refering to God. It was a surprise and a wonder to me to find so many feminine pronouns and names for God in the original languages that had been changed to "cleanse" the bible. My favorite is "El Shaddai", which is translated all-powerful but which in reality comes from the root word "shad" which means breast and the literal translation is "many-breasted one". I love that. All-nurturing. Beautiful. Later, I learned that early christians often prayed to Father God and Mother God. Don't hear many preachers praying to Mother God today.

My trip into the sacred feminine began back then and continues to today. It is the thing that gives me hope - both for myself personally and for the world. I deeply believe that the re-emergence of the sacred feminine is vital to the continuation of our species and the protection of the earth. I think it may just be one of the most important issues facing us today.

Jan said...

Rose,
By the lovely practices you share here, you already ARE embracing the DF. By acknowledging your deep and visceral connection to it (through prayer, as you say, or through ritual) you affirm its power to heal and uplift you. Your attention to your own feminine nature is part of all this. :-)

And yes, I do agree with the last part of what you say, as I explained above, regarding Wilma. I do not beleive, however, that these things need to be either/ or or exclusive. In fact, the Feminine celebrates by INCLUSIVITY. Not by separation, or one is better or more effective, right, or true than the other. The Feminine embraces ALL as aspects of herself, which in the highest regard, is also the masculine. The Mother and Father can be perceived as separate, yet one, does that make sense?

Truly, inclusivity, cooperation, acceptance are hallmarks of the Feminine.

Nadia - Happy Lotus said...

Hi Jan,

Congratulations on being inspired and guided to the subject for your new book! That is wonderful.

As for me, I never really fully understood the power of the Sacred Feminine until my mother died. Sounds weird but it was not until she died, that I was able to fully grasp the concept. It is a long story but what I will say is that the Sacred Feminine is just so amazingly powerful...it is quite humbling.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Jan said...

Joy,
It's so interesting ... many who are "motherless" find great comfort in the arms of the Feminine. It is an all-embracing, all-accepting energy, that affirms who we are in the moment as women. (There is no striving; we feel we are enough, perhaps for the very first time. Self-acceptance is one of "Her" calling cards.) This connection is very healing and empowering. It sounds as if this may be making itself know to you now as you come into your own in exciting new ways. Your deep desire to have your daughter appreciate her true femininity via you embracing yours is simply wonderful! I am confident you will find your way and hear HER whispers, if, indeed, it is time and this is a path for you. May we all be open to what comes....

Mermaid,
Your description of how the Feminine has spoken to you, inviting your deeper into wholeness is so beautiful to read! You are on an amazing journey and I am so glad to always read the next little installment. Healing, as you know, is all about coming into wholeness, which means the same thing as holiness.

I continue to celebrate you and your path and am so glad we are connected. xo

Jan said...

Twila,
Thank you for sharing your journey in such a beautiful, powerful way. Our journeys are very similar. :-) I love your reference to the "many breasted one." There is much cross-cultural artwork (particularly sculpture) which bears this out. It does invite us to reconsider our notions of "God" if we haven't already to be more inclusive. And less-than-inclusive language is definitely a barrier for many women.

I admire women who can make peace with that and still hold true to their feminine "take" on the Sacred, Joyce Rupp being one of those, one of the 12 Holy Women featured in my book. She is a Catholic sister who found her way to Naropa and back again, uncovering Sophia (Wisdom as presented in the OT) as her prayer pathway. Have you read her books by any chance, especially those on Sophia? My favorite is "Prayers to Sophia."

I agree with you that now is the time that the Feminine is making itself (herself) known for the purpose of our greater good and planetary healing. Thus my new book writing bent....

Jan said...

For those of you interested in learning more about the many breasted goddesses in history (to which Twila referred), here is a fascinating link. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_of_Artemis. Includes art!

ingrid said...

Hi Jan, my first introduction to the sacred feminine was at the hands of women who were very angry with their childhood religion. They rejected the father-god and embraced the Goddess instead (in fact I think they rejected men in general). It was very either/or and a real turn off for me. I felt their anger and hostility, but not their own sense of feminine holiness/creativity/compassion- energy. Today feels like a different world though, as we evolve and influence change through the power of our love and our intention for a harmony between the masculine and the feminine. Now the divine feminine is something I can feel deep within myself as well as in all things- without rejecting the divine masculine. I'm very excited to hear more about your journey and am so thankful that you will share your discoveries and enthusiasm with us.

Jan said...

Nadia,
I am not surprised that your connection with the Feminine came through loss...it often does. I believe this because of the tremendous healing power of the Feminine. I would love to hear more about your experience, if you wish to share...Privately or here. It could offer much support for others's journeys too...

Ingrid,
Thank you for this. You put it so well—what so many women's reactions are like when it comes to the Sacred Feminine. It is sort of like throwing the baby out with the bathwater...and I am heartened that you did not do that. I am celebrating how the Feminine continues to flow through you and all your beautiful work. It just oozes with it, and, as you know, is one of the factors that drew me to your work in the first place. :-) Oh, the places we will go together!
xo

Sandi Delia said...

Hi Jan and all,

I feel a profound connection with the Mother Earth. A day doesn't go by where I am not in awe of the beauty surrounding me. But, I lose sight that this same beauty is in me and all of us far too easily.

I absolutely love Sue Monk Kidd's writing. I'm thrilled to find out she has a new book coming out. How fabulous!!!! The first book of hers that I read was When The Heart Waits...it held my hand during a lonely and difficult time in my life.

Bright blessings....
Angel Wings
(Sandi)

P.S. I have been stung with the H1N1 virus. Spent a week in bed and am still pretty tired.

Jan said...

Sandi,
I do hope you are feeling better day by day! Too bad you don't have SMK's book with you now. It would make a marvelous companion. It came out a while ago. I got my copy at the library. :-)

I am so glad to hear your perspective here. Connecting with Mother Earth is one of the most profound ways we can bear witness to the Sacred Feminine. Especially with Earth as Mother, Caretaker, and Provider. She offers unconditional resources and presence. May we all honor her. In so doing, as you say, we honor ourselves. Truly, there is no separation--only an illusion of that.