Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Another Way by Monette Chilson

Art by Arna Baartz




I’m listening.

For the timber
of a voice
that speaks her truth

In a garden that
looks like paradise
but feels like prison

She speaks.

My very essence—my womanhood—
has been fashioned into bars designed
to confine me.

How many times will humanity use our suchness to oppress?

You, the hysterical female, step back.

You, with the scary dark skin, we’ll shoot first, ask questions later.

You, the semitic one, board this train with the rest of the Jews.

You, who pray to Allah seven times a day, are not welcome here.

You, with no papers to legitimize you, stay on your side of the wall.

You, the queer one daring to love the wrong person, you will not be recognized.

To it all,
Lilith says no.

No to subverting her own identity to another.

No to meekly accepting the role another chose for her.

No to limitations imposed by gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation.

No to false assumptions of supremacy over another.

No to systems based on oppression of others.

No to silencing humanity that doesn’t fit your idea of normal.

Do you hear her?

She didn’t just talk the talk,
she walked the walk…right out of the garden.

Liberator.
Resistor.

She showed us another way.

One that is our heritage to claim
as daughters and sons of Lilith,

She who would not be constrained.


An excerpt from the upcoming Girl God Anthology, Original Resistance: Reclaiming Lilith, Reclaiming Ourselves.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Inanna of the Apple Tree, A Woman’s Midrash* to the Goddess by Hayley Arrington

Art by Arna Baartz


A prayer:
O glorious Inanna
You who are older than the word
Lady of the apple tree
Queen,
Bless this woman!

A story:
In your holy garden
You tended your tree,
But,
A serpent who could not be charmed
Settled in your roots,
The anzu-bird nested in your branches,
And the red maid Lilith shaped her home in your trunk.

This could not be abided.
You who tended to your apple tree so well,
You sought to reap its fruit
And wear blossoms in your hair.

Your queenly bed was to be made from its wood.
A bed to exalt your form;
Apple-scented sheets to caress your thighs,
To enwrap yourself within.
You, who never felt helpless,
Called for help from all quarters.

Your Goddess’ throne was to be shaped
From its trunk
From the holy apple tree
From your holy garden.

Inanna, your cries went unanswered!
Your sovereignty was held hostage.
Held hostage by those creatures
In your branches
In your trunk
In your roots.

Lilith called your name
The anzu-bird sang to her chicks
The serpent slithered

The red maid beckoned.
She dried your tears.
I am your fears,”
She whispered.
I know,” you replied.
Lilith crowned you with blossoms.
The birds sang your coronation song.
The serpent twined itself around your arm,
A fitting scepter.

You slept beneath your apple tree:
A natural bed.
You sat within its branches:
A natural throne.

You, who feared the unknown,
Who sought the end,
And feared the means;
You confronted,
You won,
You crowned yourself!

A prayer:
Inanna!
As you sought your Queenhood
And tended to your tree
I, too, seek to reap my own gifts
You overcame and wore your crown.
Lend your gifts of the apple to me
As I seek the wisdom of your star
Within your fruit
In the Morning and
In the Evening.
Ancient Goddess
You who are older than the word
Lady of the apple tree
Queen,
Bless this woman!


An excerpt from Inanna's Ascent: Reclaiming Female Power.

Hayley Arrington earned her M.A. in women’s spirituality from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, where she wrote her thesis on Celtic sun goddesses. Her interests include mythology and folklore as sacred text, writing essays, fiction and poetry, and discovering women’s myriad ways of knowing. Her writings have appeared in Eternal Haunted Summer, Goddess When She Rules: Expressions by Contemporary Women, SageWoman Magazine, and elsewhere. She is a devotee of Hera and a member of Twilight Spiral Coven. Hayley was born and raised in the greater Los Angeles area, where she still lives with her husband, David and their son, Stephen.

*Midrash, a form of biblical exegesis which literally means to investigate or study; a Jewish tradition of reinterpretation of original texts. Women’s spiritual midrash has become an increasingly popular feminist form of reclaiming sacred texts from all different religious and mythological origins. In my midrash for Inanna, I reinterpret “The Huluppu-tree” poem to show Inanna overcoming her obstacles on her own and embracing her shadow self. I interpret the Huluppu-tree as an apple tree as a further way of embracing that symbol so closely allied with women’s sin, for my own and other women’s reintegration of our fears, and knowing that we can be all we need to be for ourselves.

Daughters of Lilith Can Be Muslim Too by Riem Farahat

Painting by Arna Baartz



 They asked her “how did you free yourself?” 
She answered, “by embracing my own power.

-Yung Pueblo


Once upon a time a man and a woman got married. They found out they were incompatible and had different views on marriage and life. She wanted to be his equal partner, but he didn’t see it this way. She was unhappy, so she decided to walk out and live her life according to her. The end. Except that many years later, people still spoke of her rebellion and her defiance. In a typical fashion, she was vilified and took the blame for everything while no one spoke of her ex. It was said that her wrath was extended to her ex’s new wife and their offspring for many generations to come. People held on to these made-up stories as a reminder of what women are capable of if left untamed and thus needed to be confined and disempowered. Little did they know that through their stories Lilith also became a symbol of what women across cultures are yearning for. She became a symbol of resistance and empowerment.

This is a very short version of Lilith’s story. While she is linked to ancient and old religious scriptures, it is very easy to see that in reality, her story is not so unique but rather one that represents a struggle that many women regardless of their cultural and religious background might identify with, even women from Islamic cultures who were never introduced to Lilith.

Lilith in the Islamic Narrative

Lilith does not appear in the Quran or any known Islamic traditions, which makes her a perfect symbol for modern day women who identify with Islam. Had she been part of an Islamic Narrative that corresponds with the Judaism and Christianity story (where Lilith defies God), Muslim women might reject Lilith completely or might struggle with extreme guilt if they tried to identify with her. Therefore, by stripping Lilith from any ties to Islam as a religion, it allows women to relate to the struggles Lilith faced. Instead of focusing on Lilith as being Adam’s first wife who rejected him and his God, we focus on people’s need to create a fictional female character and punished her for her choices to further demonize and put down women.

Up until a few years ago, there was hardly any interest in Lilith in the Arab / Islamic world. A google search of the word “Lilith” in Arabic hardly give any results. Currently, there are only two books that introduce Lilith’s legend to Arabic readers. The first is a book of poetry “The Return of Lilith” by Lebanese writer Joumana Haddad, published in 2004, and the second is titled “Lilith and the Modern Day Feminist Movement” by Syrian writer Hana Abboud, published in 2007. Abboud recaps Lilith’s legacy from mythology and Jewish scripture, and her importance as a feminist icon from a secular stand while also referring to other goddesses such as Ereshkigal, Hecate, and Ishtar. He also sees Lilith’s legacy as one that goes beyond women’s rights and into a human rights issue, one that could be identified by both men and women. This makes the book it a unique addition to Arabic literature.

Today, there are more search hits on Lilith but these websites briefly recap her story as a Jewish / Christian myth. She was the first women and she disobeyed God, so she became a demon who brings death along with her wherever she goes. It also helps that there are more pop culture references in recent years and Hollywood characters named Lilith, though usually vampires or succubi.

Doing a google search in English for “Lilith” and “Islam” gives a lot more results. This is understandable since Muslim English speakers would be more exposed to the revival of Lilith’s legacy, whether as a demon or symbol of empowerment. While Arabic online results disconnect Lilith from Islam, most English searches don’t. Comments written by Muslims claim with certainty that Lilith is a filthy demonic beast mentioned in Islam but fail to back up their claim with any Islamic references. This raises an important side point on the influences of Judeo-Christian traditions on the general Islamic narrative. In short, some Muslim scholars believe that the interpretation of the Quran was influenced by Judeo-Christian narratives, especially when it comes to women’s rights. For example, in the story of creation, according to Islam, Adam was created first and then Eve. Both were complicit in being expelled from Paradise rather than Eve being a temptress. However, a lot of Muslims subscribe to the belief that Eve was the sole force behind their expulsion. Also, according to one Hadeeth (sayings of the Prophet Mohammed) Eve – Hawaa – was created from Adam’s rib. Many scholars believe this to be a symbol of women being breakable if abused and mistreated, while also being protectors of men’s hearts and lives. Many others take this this literally and go as far as believe that the rib’s curve shapes a woman’s judgment.  She is unable to be on the straight-righteous path on her own and always needs a man to guide her. It is argued that the later interpretation is influenced by Judeo-Christian traditions rather than a subjective reading of the Quran and Hadeeth. Because of this, scholars who believe in metaphors also call for an evaluation of common beliefs Muslims carry about women and to introduce ones that truly reflects Islamic doctrine and are female empowering.

One can conclude from this that Lilith is slowly making a jump into the Islamic / Arab world through the English language, but so far, the narrative has been one that seeks to demonize and vilify Lilith and subsequently all women. Because of this, it becomes very important to remind Muslim women that Lilith is not part of the Muslim narrative but perhaps a character who is part of a collective divine feminine. 

My Fascination with Lilith and Her Contribution to My Coaching Practice

I have no idea when it started or when I first heard of her. Perhaps I have I always known about her. When I try to recall the first time I heard of her, my memory goes back to a book I picked up on Eve. Back then I had a fascination, and still do, with Eve as another misunderstood figure. Since Lilith was not part of the narrative that I grew up with, the idea that Adam had a first wife was interesting but irrelevant to me. In 1999, Lilith’s legacy invited me again. This time it was through the Lilith Fair, a concert tour and travelling music festival of female artists founded by musician Sarah McLachlan. It was an incredible day but to me, Lilith was just a name of a fair and a large gathering of mostly women.

Years went by and next thing I know, I started identifying and embracing Lilith. I had a feeling I knew her and rejected most narratives that sought to demonize her. During this time, I also became a life coach and started working with women, and occasionally men, who were feeling disconnected, disempowered and unhappy.  I started seeing parts of Lilith in most of my clients. Actually, rather than seeing parts of her, I saw the void that is created when we disconnect with her legacy.

When we disassociate ourselves from that part of us that represents Lilith, we disconnect from ourselves, with the Universe and with other beings. We start to have a distorted image of ourselves and others. We start to feel extreme jealousy of other women, insecure, hold grudges, and become judgmental. We deny ourselves sexual desires and become fearful and controlling. We are overcome with high levels of anxiety, depression, guilt and shame. We view ourselves as victims and tend to blame rather than take responsibility for our choices. We act unhappy and lost.

By allowing ourselves to identify with and channel the Lilith within us, we open ourselves to a whole new world;

1)     Lilith is determined, sensual, and a natural leader. She is not afraid to embrace her sexuality and enjoy the pleasures of life. She is not apologetic either. What are your views on sex and how has it shaped your life? 
2)     Even though she is said to have played a role in Eve’s descent, Lilith is not interested in competing with anyone. I always envision Lilith and Eve being friendly with each other. Perhaps, they complement each other. The opportunity for this friendship to nourish became none-existent just as many attempts were made to demonize these two women. This serves as a reminder that most societies will always try to separate women by playing them off against each other. There will always be stories circulating that women are the enemies of other women. It is Lilith who caused mothers the pain of losing their new born. It’s another woman who is a home wrecker, i.e. responsible for kicking you out of your version of paradise. Many feminists have also subconsciously played on this narrative when they claimed Lilith was more superior to the submissive Eve. Both are archetypes that are inside of us. Neither is better than the other and both suffered.
 3)    Lilith invites us to embrace our true unapologetic unique selves. Lilith willingly gave up the safety and comfort of paradise, where she felt out of place, and embraced the world of the unknown.   She reminds us that it is up to us to create the life want to have. She didn’t wait for change to happen. Instead, she took matters into her own hand and changed her story. We always have a choice.  Ever when we believe we don’t. What is stopping you from living the life of your dreams?  
4)    Lilith teaches us to know and accept the consequences of our choices and accept responsibility for our actions.  What are you struggling to accept?
5)    Through vilifying women, men suffer too. Both Eve and Lilith were vilified, while Adam was not directly vilified, his mere existence portrays him as weak, insignificant and whinny, with a hunger for power and self-esteem issues. Don’t men deserve a better legacy than this? Perhaps this also time for a sacred masculine awakening.
 6)   People will always talk. Lilith continues to ignore the mass of small-minded people, and instead cares for those who celebrate her. Who are you surrendering your powers to? Thousands of years have gone by, the legacy of Lilith still exists, and her followers keep increasing.
 7)   It is fully alright to be single or lead an unconventional lifestyle despite what society tells us. After all, Lilith chose to walk away from the only existing man because he didn’t suit her.
 8)  Lilith invites us to be guided by our inner voice and wisdom.
 9)   Pick your battles wisely and know when it’s over. Trying to change someone else is not a solution. Instead of spending her time and energy trying to change Adam, Lilith walked away.
 10) Knowledge is power, whether this knowledge is about ourselves, the world around us, or a specific situation we are in. Knowing who we are remains both the most important information and source of knowledge. Otherwise, how do we know what our true desires are if we don’t know who we are? Lilith knew herself and what she wanted. She used the knowledge of knowing the name of her creator to her advantage and empowered herself.  Who are you? Who do you want to be? 
11) Embrace the transformation as an opportunity to grow. A transformation can be a scary time, filled with pain and confusion, but it is also a great time for growth, and a great time to get comfortable with who we are or who we want to be. Lilith willingly went through the transformation when she walked out of paradise.
 12) Lilith must have had tremendous faith to be able to continue. Maybe it was faith in  herself, or God, or another higher power. What do you have faith in? 
13) People will fear that which they don’t understand. People continue to fear Lilith and women in general, yet that hasn’t stopped anyone, especially the legend of Lilith. What would you do and where would you be if you didn’t care about pleasing people? 
14) Lilith invites us to embrace our shadow – the part of us which is unknown – and to embrace the darkness which we are told to reject if we want to be “good” women: Good people don’t have feelings of anger, resentment and guilt. What if having these feelings is what makes us good humans? What feelings are you struggling to embrace?

Lilith is called and seen in different light. She is a succubus. A goddess. A vampire. A patroness. A muse. The first feminist. The first witch. To many others she doesn’t exist, not even as a fictional character. To others, she is just Lilith. Insignificant. Whatever her origin and her existence is, many women feel empowerment by her and draw deep inspiration from her because like so many women and men, she has suffered. She embraced her powers and her weaknesses. She turned hate into a source of existence. Her story of decent is a story of determination and it is in all of us.  Of course, connecting with Lilith is not the only way to a life of abundance and fulfillment, but it is one way that has been largely neglected and kept in the dark. So why not give it a try and connect with the Lilith within you?

An excerpt from the upcoming girl god anthology, Original Resistance: Reclaiming Lilith, Reclaiming Ourselves.

Riem Farahat has a Saudi Arabian father and a German mother. She is a Californian at heart and graduated from California State University, Dominquez Hills with a Bachelor of Art in Psychology. Riem also holds a Master’s degree in Intercultural Conflict Management and is currently a life coach based in Saudi Arabia. As a coach, she works with people in conservative societies to help them embrace their choices, honor their true selves, and take charge of their lives. She can be reached at Joy@driveyourlife.today

Monday, April 29, 2019

For Inanna, Who Cannot be Contained by a Grave by Amanda Lee Morris

''Flight'' by Patricia Ballentine



Inanna, who is also called Ishtar and Astarte
Who has endless names unknown or unspoken
Who is also called Queen of Heaven and Queen of the Earth
and Mistress of All the Universe

As the evening and morning star
You shine on us as the sun is setting
Your light carries us through the night and through our darkest hours
You shine on us when the sun is rising
Your light adding to that of the day and to our brightest hours.

With a crown of stars, of gemstones, of a million leaves, petals, and horns
You rule over all the realms
And it is an honor, indeed, to be ruled by you.

You decorate your breast with stars
with lapis, agate, and pearls the color of the brightest rainbows
But it is you who give jewels and the cosmos their luster
For even naked and alone and hung up on a meat hook in the underworld
You are still the most treasured beauty of both heaven and of earth.

For ages unto ages, poets have given their words to you
But one poem is not enough
Nine prayers are not enough
50,000 words are not enough
Seven epics are not enough
To contain your glory

And so shine on, glorious Queen, mistress, and Goddess.
May your brightness never fade
And may we always appreciate the bright blessings and dark lessons you bestow upon us all.



Amanda Lee Morris is a clinical social worker, ordained minister, and initiated high priestess who lives in North Carolina where she enjoys a life full of love.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

How to Live Well Despite Capitalist Patriarchy

Painting by Cheryl Braganza



Capitalist Patriarchy sucks for women.

I used to blame myself incessantly for everything that was wrong in my life. As I grew older and began to speak more openly and honestly with other women, I began to connect the dots that make so many of us miserable. My hope is that as more women begin to wake up and share with each other, we will heal ourselves and weave our way out of this hellish maze together.

Capitalist Patriarchy thrives when women shut up and do as they are told. While it would appear (for some of us at least) that if we play by the rules, we will be safe—those of us who begin to rock the boat with our questioning and refusal to STFU know how easy it is to be thrown off the boat altogether—children and all.

Everything within Capitalist Patriarchy is designed to keep your inner-knowing and body wisdom suppressed. Therefore, in order to thrive despite this system, you must come back into contact with the deepest parts of yourself. As females, we have been taught to deeply hate those parts of ourselves, so they are often the most hidden—buried deep within. As Monica Sjöö and Barbara Mor wrote:

Once we thoroughly understand how and why patriarchy acquired its power over us—the power of an entrenched mistake over the minds and lives of all people—once we understand and feel clearly that the fight of witch women is also the fight of earth’s people everywhere against mechanical subjugation and exploitation—once we reestablish the magic link between the individual psyche and the earth’s vital energy flow, between all-evolving matter and all-evolving spirit, and learn to encourage and teach others to do the same, in a loving return to what we always were—perhaps then, in the final time of crisis, the Serpent Goddess will shake herself loose from her deep exiled sleep in the earth’s belly. Perhaps the serpent of life’s flowing energy will begin to rise again, all luminous and of the earth, and the children of the Great Mother will rise up with it, and the universe will be our home again, as before. This flight is not an escape, but a return. The only way for human beings to survive the end is to return to the beginning.”2

We must reconnect to that Serpent Goddess energy in order to regain our vitality.

Painting by Cheryl Braganza

I'm not a financial guru by any means—and I don't believe women are financially disadvantaged by accident. I did, however, spend 13 years as a mortgage broker and earned my MBA in my younger years, so I do know a thing or two about money. I also spent many years as a broke single mother, so I know how to stretch a dollar better than most people. Being poor requires a sort of creativity that those who are middle class and above cannot begin to imagine.

But happiness isn't all about money. You can be happy with or without it. I've lived with just about every variation there is except the very far extremes on either side. I have come to believe in the importance of naming and claiming our own realityinstead of passively accepting the labels and perceptions of those in power. As bell hooks wrote nearly two decades ago:

Women need to know that they can reject the powerful's definition of their reality—that they can do so even if they are poor, exploited, or trapped in oppressive circumstances. They need to know that the exercise of this basic personal power is an act of resistance and strength. Many poor and exploited women, especially non-white women, would have been unable to develop positive self-concepts if they had not exercised their power to reject the powerful's definition of their reality.”3

When we examine how we are contributing to Capitalist Patriarchy with our own time, money and energy—we can reallocate our funds for things that contribute to our liberation instead of our subordination. As Arundhati Roy wrote:

Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness—and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we're being brainwashed to believe.”4

One of the best things that living in a different country has taught me is to question my assumptions. Many of us repeat the patterns of our families without questioning whether they serve us well. As poet Mark Gonzales asked, “Who told you the stories that taught you what it meant to be human, and did they have your best interests at heart?”





There is always a reason to worry and there is always something that you can be unhappy about. The last years have taught me to forget all that—as much as you can—and focus on what is right in your life and brings you joy. When you find that place in your being, it is much easier to give to others. You help no one by being a miserable person. The world has enough miserable people. Capitalist Patriarchy was designed with that very thing in mind. So, dig through all that nonsense—turn it upside down and on its head and kick it as far down the street as you can. Then, find your bliss and share it.

While this book is dedicated to the memory of Cheryl Braganza—whose words and art inspired me immensely—it is also heavily influenced by the memory of my grandparents, who taught me that you can live well no matter how little money you have in the bank. My Nano used to often say that it was rich people who were poor—poor in spirit. She taught me that no matter how much you have, if you are selfish and nasty about it, you are the opposite of rich. As my dear friend Andrew Gurevich wrote:

“A vitally-important and unspoken message of this failed American experiment is that even the so-called 1% do not seem to be comprised of balanced, fulfilled people most of the time. It seems that it's not just the 'losers' of this current system of unbridled, savage capitalism and its attendant institutions of repression and control that suffer all of the psychological, physical and spiritual fallout these systems produce. The elite themselves seem increasingly insecure, addicted, paranoid and discontent. Indeed, it is just as George Orwell warned us so many years ago when writing about British Imperialism in the Far East, 'When the White Man turns tyrant, it is his own freedom he destroys.' The ennui hits them with an unrelenting force because it exposes the lie they have believed for generations: namely, that all they possess will make them whole. The Hindus have rightly diagnosed this psychosis by claiming a person can 'never get enough of what they don't really need.'”5

I have had to learn how to redirect my energy and beliefs. That said, I have seen how New Age thought can be dangerous for women. We simply can't will ourselves out of this existence into a commune filled with rainbows and unicorns. Genevieve Vaughan did a brilliant job of explaining the subtle, but important difference in thought.

It has become commonplace in the US New Age movement to talk about the co-creation of 'reality.' It is said that, by our thoughts, we cause certain things to occur and others not to occur. I hope to be able to show how we are collectively creating a patriarchal reality, which is actually bio-pathic (harmful to life), and I propose that we dismantle that reality. Our values, and the self-fulfilling interpretations of life that we make because of them, are creating a harmful illusion which leads us to act and to organize society in harmful ways. This is one sense in which our thoughts do make things happen. If we understand what we are doing, however, patriarchal reality can be changed. First, we must have the courage to change the basic assumptions which serve as fail-safes to keep deep systemic changes from occurring.”6

This book will serve as a starting point to challenge some of our societal assumptions, in hopes of helping women become stronger and breaking their chains. As we begin to heal collectively, we can overturn this system altogether. 

Painting by Cheryl Braganza

When we are separated from our sisters by secrecy, we lack the keys to unlock our cages. As Beatrix Campbell wrote:

Capitalism does not do life. And that lie is never more exposed in the twenty-first century than when we bring to it the light of gender and the unsaid—the silences and secrets that are knotted in the articulation of capitalism and patriarchy.7

It is time to break the silences that enslave us. Just as Goddess was dethroned thousands of years ago by outright lies and defragmentation, many of the same weapons are used to weaken females today.

It is Capitalist Patriarchy's goal to keep women exhausted, ill, on-guard, numb, ashamed, distracted and defragmented so that we don't have the time or energy to battle the giant Himself. We must return to ourselves— and to Goddess consciousness—to regain our strength and overturn this abomination.

There was once another way. Let us begin to remember.







Endnotes:

1 El Saadawi, Nawal. Memoirs from the Women's Prison. University of California Press; Reprint edition, 1994.

2 Sjöö, Monica and Mor, Barbara. The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth. HarperOne; 2nd edition, 1987.

3 hooks, bell. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. South End Press, 2000.

4 Roy, Arundhati. War Talk. South End Press; 2003.

5 Gurevich, Andrew. “In Goddess We Trust: America's Spiritual Crossroads.” Jesus, Muhammad and the Goddess. A Girl God Anthology, 2016.

6 Vaughan,Genevieve. For-giving: A Feminist Criticism of Exchange. Plain View Press; 1997.

7 Campbell, Beatrix. “Neoliberalism: The Need for a Gender Revolution.” Questia, Spring 2014.