Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Re-visioning Medusa: from Monster to Divine Wisdom by Joan Marler

''Yew Medusa'' by Cristina Biaggi

Who is this Medusa whose visage has haunted the western imagination for 2700 years? Why has she remained so potent, and why is it necessary to “re-vision” her now in the 21st century?

In the Odyssey (11.633-35) by the Greek poet Homer (c. 750 BCE), the hero Odysseus expresses his fear of encountering the Gorgon—a ghastly apparition, the threshold guardian of Hades. In Homer's Iliad (11.33-37), the ferocious face of the Gorgon is centrally placed on the kingly shield of Agamemnon to frighten his enemies. The Greek term gorgos—meaning “terrible,” “frightful”—was used to designate the ultimate female monster.

According to Greek mythology, Medusa is a Triple Goddess, one of three gorgon sisters—Sthenno, Euryale, and Medusa—representing past, present, and future. Only Medusa exists as mortal in present time. Her complex lineage composed of multiple myths and stories, combined with cross-cultural influences, is masterfully presented in this volume by the linguist and archaeomythologist Miriam Robbins Dexter. She rightly points out that the typical emphasis on Medusa's fearsome features are the result of extreme Greek bias against female powers, which masks her life-giving and regenerative capacities.

Long before the Gorgon Medusa constellated within the archaic Greek world and was demonized as ugly and ultimately monstrous—with her tongue lolling between sharp fangs, with writhing serpents for hair and glaring eyes—the roots of her multi-layered iconography extended deep into pre-Greek cultures. The earliest agrarian societies of Southeastern Europe, from the 7th-4th millennia BCE, were intimately bonded with the seasonal realities of the living Earth. These egalitarian farmers who developed long-lived, sustainable societies understood that life feeds on life. Death and decomposition are inevitable consequences of being alive, and the nutrients released from previously living matter are essential for life's renewal. Within this context, concepts of the sacred are analogous to the cyclic continuity of all existence. In mythic terms, the Great Goddess, as the Sacred Source of all life, is a metaphor for life giving birth to itself and absorbing itself in death.

Therefore, the Goddess of Life is also the Goddess of Death who is responsible for regeneration.1
Goddesses in various guises who represent this eternal cycle are found in ancient traditions throughout the world. The nature of every society is shaped by prevailing attitudes—honoring and respectful, or fearful and antagonistic—concerning the humbling and unavoidable fact of our individual mortality.

Linguistic and archaeological evidence indicates that the Greeks developed from tribes of Indo-European speakers who began entering the Balkan peninsula most likely during the late 3rd millennium BCE. A gradual amalgamation took place between two contrasting social and ideological systems: the matrifocal Old European horticulturalists who venerated the deities of the Earth and the newcomers who brought an androcratic social structure, warfare, and the worship of sky gods.2

The establishment of the Greek patriarchal world shifted the previous cultural valence from the egalitarian continuity of the Old Religion to the extreme imposition of male dominance and the cult of the hero. Under this new world order, all challenges to male hegemonic systems were to be crushed. As the classicist Eva Keuls emphasizes, “the suppression of women, the military expansionism and the harshness in the conduct of civic affairs all sprang from a common aggressive impulse.” That impulse was the expression of “male supremacy and the cult of power and violence.”3

It is no surprise, then, that the earth deities of the Old Religion were demonized or co-opted. A typical task for Greek heroes was to rid the civilized world of those “earth-born bogeys.”4 The Gorgon Medusa, whose gaze turned men to stone, became an obvious target. Nevertheless, on the periphery of the Greek world, there is evidence that She was venerated in her ancient powers. During the 6th century BCE on the island of Corfu, an eight-foot-high full-bodied sculpture of Medusa was placed at the highest point on the pediment of the temple of Artemis. This Medusa is not raging, but is radiant in her full potency. Snakes with open jaws extend from each side of her head and two copulating serpents encircle her waist, carrying the potential for both death and new life. She wears winged sandals, her great wings are fully extended, sheltering her two children, and her bent-knee posture suggests that she is flying. All shamanic dimensions are Hers—the Great Above, the Great Below, the Primordial Waters, and the entire expanse of the Earth. She is flanked by great felines, just as the Phrygian Mountain Goddess Cybele and the seated Ancestral Mother from Çatalhöyük before her.

The decapitation of Medusa by the Greek hero Perseus, assisted by the patriarchalized Goddess Athena, was painted on pottery, carved as bas reliefs on temples, described in Greek verse, and propagated in myths and legends. Her murder functioned as a cautionary tale defining the ultimate consequence of manifesting female sovereignty.

When Medusa was killed, her powers were plundered. She was pregnant with her son Chrysaor and the winged horse Pegasus who were born from her severed neck. Pegasus was immediately captured and made to bring Zeus Medusa's roar and the flash of her eyes, which he used as his thunder and lightning. In book three of the Bibliotheca (3.10.3) Apollodorus describes how Athena drains the blood from Medusa's veins and gives it to Asclepius, Greek god of medicine and healing. The blood from her left side is deadly poisonous, while the blood from her right side brings life. Asclepius's powers to cure and raise the dead were thereby stolen from Medusa.

Athena placed the apotropaic image of Medusa's severed head on her aegis or breastplate and on Zeus's shield. Other gorgoneia (images of Medusa's head) were installed on temples and other places to benefit from her protection, even after death. Ironically, gorgoneia were placed on heroes' shields, armor, and chariots to protect the Greek warriors engaged in destroying all threats to the new social order, including her own.

The fascination with Medusa did not diminish at the end of the Greek Classical Era. She continued to function as a lightning rod for prevailing cultural attitudes. During the Greco-Roman period, images of Medusa were reproduced for wealthy patrons on mosaics and sculptural reliefs as mostly young and beautiful rather than disturbingly ferocious. Nevertheless, Christian zealots, who were rising in prominence, considered all pagan images abominations to be destroyed, especially of the Gorgon Medusa. During the Medieval period in Europe, Christian scholars considered the beheading of Medusa by Perseus to be an allegory of the virtuous son of god destroying the manifestation of evil, intrinsic to all women, that threatens men's souls.

Renaissance artists, inspired by Greek mythological themes, created frighteningly realistic portrayals of decapitated women with snakes for hair. The elegantly crafted sculpture by Benvenuto Cellini of a youthful Perseus holding Medusa's head aloft while he stands on her decapitated body was erected in the center of Florence in the mid-16th century. This popular theme was emblematic of the Inquisitional murders of women taking place in many areas of Europe during that time, considered necessary to protect civil society from the dangers of uncontrolled female powers.5 Later, during the 18th-19th centuries, Romantic artists, poets, and Decadents recast Medusa as a beautiful victim, not a monster. In their view, She represented the ecstatic discord between pain and pleasure, beauty and horror, and divinely forbidden sexuality.

But as the 20th century dawned, Freudian psychology promoted the regressive notion that women suffer an intrinsic deficiency resulting in “penis envy.” Freud wrote that the “depreciation of women, horror of women, and a disposition to homosexuality are derived from the final conviction that women have no penis.”6 In his view, Medusa's face represents a “vagina dentata”—a hideous toothed vagina—surrounded by the writhing phalluses of castrated men.7

Significant strides have been made by women throughout the world to challenge the deeply embedded misogyny that has plagued the lives of women and girls for millennia. Advancements (which are far from universal) such as the right to vote, to own property, to obtain a divorce, to control our own reproduction, and many other human rights have been achieved by women with great sacrifice and struggle. Nevertheless, the threat of censure, internalized as a template of fear and self-loathing, continues to enforce the physical and psychological silencing of women and girls, even in privileged cultural contexts.

The Gorgon Medusa presents herself to us here and now, requiring us to be fully present, to listen deeply—past the noise of accumulated judgments—to the Ancient Wisdom that is our true inheritance. As the Great Awakener, She reminds us of our mortality and encourages us to reclaim whatever has been silenced or diminished within us while we are privileged to be alive. We are admonished to have the courage to act and speak what is true, to trust ourselves to hold her gaze and know we will not be turned to stone.

An excerpt from the Preface of Re-visioning Medusa: from Monster to Divine Wisdom.

Joan Marler is the Founder and Executive Director of the Institute of Archaeomythology, an international organization promoting archaeomythological scholarship. She is the editor of The Civilization of the Goddess by Marija Gimbutas (1991), From the Realm of the Ancestors: An Anthology in Honor of Marija Gimbutas (1997), The Journal of Archaeomythology (2005-present), The Danube Script (2008), and other publications. She is completing her doctorate in Philosophy and Religion with an emphasis in Women's Spirituality at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco where she has been an adjunct professor. Joan lectures internationally on the life and work of Marija Gimbutas and is the author of more than thirty published articles including a biographical article about Marija Gimbutas in Notable American Women, A Biographical Dictionary (Harvard University Press, 2004). Joan is the author of “An Archaeomythological Investigation of the Gorgon” in ReVision 25, no. 1 (Summer 2002): 15-23; and “The Gorgon Medusa” in Women in World Religions (ABC-CLIO, forthcoming).

1 Marija Gimbutas emphasized the significance of regeneration, without which all life would cease. For a presentation of Old European iconography related to the life-giving, death-wielding, and regenerative cycles, see Gimbutas, Marija. The Language of the Goddess. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989.
2 Gimbutas, Marija. The Civilization of the Goddess. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991. See also:
Marler, Joan. “An Archaeological Investigation of the Gorgon.”
Re-Vision (summer 2002): 15-23.
3 Keuls, Eva C. The Reign of the Phallus: Sexual Politics in Ancient Athens. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985:13.
4 Harrison, Jane E. Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion. New York: Meridian Books, 1955: 162.
5 Most of the tortures, beheadings, and burning of women in Italy took place in the North. The centers of Renaissance humanism in the city-states to the south had a controlling effect on the most extreme expressions of Inquisitional mania.
6 Freud, Sigmund. “The Infantile Genital Organization,” in The Medusa Reader, M. Garber and Nancy J. Vickers, eds. New York: Routledge, 2003, 85-86.
7 Freud, Sigmund. “Medusa's Head” (1922), in The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 15 (1921-22). London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Reclaiming Ourselves by Trista Hendren

Art by Arna Baartz

How do we even begin to reclaim ourselves when so many of us have been so badly wounded by patriarchy? By uncovering the truth about Lilith, we can reclaim our own divinity—and learn how to resist effectively and overturn patriarchy.

So where do we start? We first must begin to understand who Lilith really was—beyond what the patriarchal narrative told us.

This anthology has been a starting point—but I believe we can all dig deeper and go further in our personal lives. Whether you end this book believing Lilith was a strong archetype of the first woman—or a Goddess in her own right—there is no denying Lilith has much to teach us.

Alice walker noted that, “The God of woman is autonomy.”1 I have made it my God recently—but it is something I have had to work hard to reclaim. The last decades have been an intense process of digging up every single thing I have been taught and examining it for what it really is. Lilith is an archetype that ditches conformity and tramples on the status quo. She teaches us to refuse to play a game that was set up so we would fail. Lilith was maligned as a demon killer of babies. But what if—as Monette suggested in My Name is Lilith—She is intimately known to us.
“You may think I’m a stranger, but—truth be known—we met long ago, when you were still in a cradle. I came to you and tenderly rocked you, singing lullabies to calm your soul so new to this earthly realm.”2
It is my belief that Lilith has always been with us—and within us—and she is asking us to sing the world anew with Her. It belongs to all of us, and it about time we reclaimed it. Andrea Dworkin words hang over my head every day of my life.
“I have to ask you to resist, not to comply, to destroy the power men have over women, to refuse to accept it, to abhor it and to do whatever is necessary despite its cost to you to change it.”3
The cost of reclaiming our Lilith-selves is often rejection, which can be painful. The cost of dismissing our true selves is higher and more painful. We must no longer participate in the rejection or subordination of ourselves or any of our sisters. This means we must also listen to each other in a deep way, heal the hurt—and break through the maze of patriarchy together, joyously.

There is a reason most of us didn't grow up knowing about Lilith. It is time to radically reconsider Her now—and Eve too for that matter. They are Divine Sisters and Goddesses—as we all are.

The truth is, there was never anything sinful or wrong about being female. In fact, the divine was always feminine. The Original Sin was in fact the lie of a white male god—a reversal that has caused unfathomable damage to the world. However you view Lilith, there is no doubt that if you embrace Her, She just may well change your life.

May reclaiming Lilith bring healing to each and every woman and girl-child—and and restoration to our broken world.

An excerpt from Original Resistance: Reclaiming Lilith, Reclaiming Ourselves.

1 Walker, Alice. Possessing the Secret of Joy. The New Press; 2008.
2 Chilson, Monette. My Name is Lilith. The Girl God; 2016.
3 Dworkin, Andrea. Life and Death: Unapologetic Writings on the Continued War Against Women. Simon and Schuster; 1997.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Inanna Advises Her Initiate by Psyche North Torok

Painting by Arna Baartz

One day, you will make the journey
into the belly of should,
into the cauldron of not good enough,

into the gut of unworthy.
Neither gods nor darkness will show mercy.
Shadows will carve your life.

Desire will drop away, begging survival.
Try any means to avoid it;
still you will be called to your descent,

your muscles spent, leaden,
your thoughts embalmed in silence.
Take with you what you may;

you will lose it all.
But leave one jewel here –
the best you have – to pull you home.

Bury it on some wild hilltop.
Bury it by your oldest cedar.
Bury it in the roots of your heart:

One gem to draw you back to
yourself, potent as a secret,
unwavering as the underworld.

Poem featured in Inanna's Ascent.

A graduate of Ohio State University, Psyche North Torok is a writer and lover of words, language, and Nature. Her poems have appeared in Common Ground Review, Mountain Astrologer, and various collections including the Grayson Books anthology, Forgotten Women. She lives and works in Columbus, Ohio.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Live by the Sun, Love by the Moon by Carolina Miranda, OCT, M.Ed.

My love of mythology, history and education led me to finding out that different cultures around the world had always different versions of their interpretation for this cyclical movement. Inanna, Ishtar, IxChel—these were all entities that were worshiped well before patriarchy took on the world like a virus. Each of these Goddesses are particular to their own local geographic region, but they hold the same essence: They are the goddesses of love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, combat, justice, and political power. This was the way ancient civilizations found to interpret these powerful forces of nature and which all relate to the sacred Feminine. The more comfortable I have become with understanding what this Goddess really means in a rational manner, through physics, mythology, history, cosmology—and looking at it from a strictly educational perspective—the easier it has become to embrace its essence in a spiritual way.

In 2017, for my 37th birthday, I decided to go to Iroquoi Ink here at the Ohsweken First Nations Reserve, and get a full chest tattoo of the Mayan Goddess IxChel. IxChel was the Mayan Goddess who holds a similar mythology to that of Inanna. I have become comfortable with displaying Her proudly on my chest despite being an educator in a conservative Catholic system. I have also since began to reclaim my Indigeneity, and although I can no longer associate myself with any particular tribe or land as I was severed from it three generations ago, I can proudly say that I am a woman who understands the power of the moon, and of cyclical time, and of relationships, all of which are so vital to life and to the care all Indigenous cultures have shown to the Earth.

I plan on reviving this knowledge as much as I can in a renewed way, while I continuing to study sciences, creating new mythology through the knowledge I have of nature and philosophy. I am no longer willing to live in a world where we continue to glorify Sons and worship the Father figure only. As a devoted and strong Daughter of this incredibly life giving planet, the land guides me and I have taken on as my life mission and commitment to elevate and hold the figure of the Mother, as a Creator of equal status of power.

An excerpt from Inanna's Ascent.

Carolina Miranda, OCT, M.Ed. is an Educator certified by the Ontario College of Teachers, and she holds a Masters of Education from Nipissing University. She is one of the main organizers of the Waterloo Region Women's March, in Ontario, Canada as well as the creator and co-founder of Feminine Harbor. She immigrated to Canada from Brazil in 2003 and has since developed strong ties with the Waterloo Region. In 2004 she became one of the very first ensemble actors for the internationally acclaimed theatre company The MT Space, directed then by Lebanese-Canadian director Majdi Bou-Matar. She is a writer, and some of her most recent essays and poetry can be found in the Anthology of Social Justice and Intersectional Feminisms, organized by Dr. Katrina Sark, and which has officially launched on International Women's Day 2018 in Victoria, BC. Most importantly, however, she is a single mother of two incredible little girls who inspire her daily to become not only a better person but to leave behind a better world. Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion are not just aspects of her job, but how she authentically experiences the world through her relationships and family ties.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Intention of Truth: My Journey Through the Underworld with the Dark Goddess - Sacred Storytelling by Genevieve Deven

Painting by Arna Baartz

I am Goddess, the Queen of the Dark.
You set an intention to live in truth.
Don't mess with words because I'll see you keep them.
This is my journey.
I carved you this path and it's an honor you won't forget.
I am always here in your shadow,
in your truth,
in your fear,
in your pain,
in the void,
in the dark night of your soul.

I am Inanna.
I am Kali.
I am Pele.
I am Medusa.
I am Erishkigal.
I am Hecate.
I am Persephone.
I am you and you are me.
We are one and eternity.

Excerpt from ''Intention of Truth,'' featured in Inanna's Ascent.

Genevieve Deven walks the sacred spiral of life as a mother, healer and artist. By stepping onto the path of the Priestess, she could no longer deny the Dark Goddess her dance. That dance led her on a journey through the depths of heartache to the heights of self-empowerment, reclaiming sovereignty and wholeness, respecting both the light and the shadow. Genevieve strives to be a source of empowerment for women and girls to recognize their intrinsic self-worth and their wild, wise woman within. She inconspicuously celebrates the Goddess in every woman and the Divine Masculine in every man while living in a conservative, Christian community of Southern California. Thus, bringing the essence of the Goddess and earth-based spirituality into the mostly unlikely of places.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Status Quo Has to Go by Trista Hendren

Arte de la Jessica Gonzales

As we were finishing this anthology, two headlines from different parts of the world captured my attention. The first was from the Netherlands, where 17-year-old Noa Pothoven had asked the government to be euthanized after years of suffering—stemming from being sexually molested at a children's party at age 11 and later being raped by two men when she was 14. The government denied her request, and her parents allowed her to slowly starve herself to death at home, agreeing not to force-feed her. I do not blame this girl for her choice, nor her parents for honoring it. I blame a world built on patriarchy and the resulting sexual entitlement of men. We must rebuild a world where children are never raped or abused—and give them every reason to go on living.

The second headline was a trial in India, where an 8-year-old nomadic Muslim girl was abducted last year while she was out grazing horses. She was gang raped for 5 days in a Hindu temple—and then strangled and bludgeoned to death. Her name, which is rarely mentioned in the press, was Asifa Bano—and her eyes will always haunt me.

When I woke up this morning, I tried to connect with Asifa's soul and felt my heart break into a million little pieces. I then tried to send love and comfort to her parents by connecting to my go-to Mother-Goddess energy, but found no solace. Mother-God had failed us. It was Lilith who came.

As a mother myself, I knew the pain of Asifa's mother was not something that would ever be consolable. As Karen Tate wrote, “We’re allowed to have the Great Mother in our spiritual paradigm if she is docile and tame like Mary, or as the Goddess that saves women in childbirth or men from bombs and typhoons. But would patriarchy have us reclaim the full meaning of the Queen Mother of Compassion, or any Goddess, if it meant embodying her might bring our world into balance and emulating her caused women to no longer serve the status quo?”

The image of a Mother God is so much more palatable than Lilith, who seems nothing short of a wild woman. Lilith-Goddess is like the Auntie who saves the day with Her 'fuck that shit' energy—pulling together her own Gulabi Gang when necessary. Lilith's mothering style has been chastised (whose hasn't?)—but I see her more as a mother-bear whose children are at risk. No one dares to mess with that woman.

Let's be clear: These days, all of our daughters are at risk. And each and every one of them belongs to us.

We must begin to create a world where being female means more than trying to avoid and/or endure rape. Lilith refused to lie down to be fucked by Adam. She must be MAD AS HELL about the current State of the Union.

If there is a 'curse' to being female, it is not childbirth. I have given birth twice—and while I understand that everyone's experiences are different—I have had headaches that were more painful than either of my births were. When birth is not turned into a medical procedure, it can be quite powerful—reminding us of our Goddess-potential to create life.

The curse was actually was in 'God's mandate' of male domination—which has resulted in so many atrocities.

We must create a world where we—and our daughters—can passionately design the lives we want to live. We must come back to a garden where enthusiastic, of-age, love-making and sexual ecstasy take precedence over the male sexual prerogative that has destroyed so much. Lilith was maligned because she embraced the 'erotic as power.' As Audre Lorde wrote:
“This why the erotic is so feared, and so often relegated to the bedroom alone, when it is recognized at all. For once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.“41
It is through Lilith's energy that we can reclaim the erotic power that has been stolen from us via rape and sexual abuse—and the daily threat of both that keep many of us 'in line.' It is Lilith who can help us protect our daughters. It is through Lilith that we can reclaim the autonomy and joy that is our birthright.

I came across the words of Grace Sesma, of Curanderismo, the Healing Art of Mexico, on Facebook as I was working through my grief stemming from Noa’s and Asifa's short lives.
“Children are the seeds of a future yet to be determined. We should think of ourselves as the caretakers of all children; not just those in our family and immediate circle of friends, community, town, or nation. How we care for all children today will reverberate throughout time. It will imprint itself within the cellular memory of millions yet to be born.

We are the ones who can heal and weave strands of new, healthy, genetic memories that our descendants will carry: wisdom, courage, resiliency, health, and loving-kindness.

The future is fluid. It shifts and adjusts course as we make individual and collective choices. May our choices bless all the children of the world and all of creation.”
Lilith's energy is what I believe we need now to push us through. As we lose abortion rights throughout the United States and continue to wait for Equal Pay around the world, watching helplessly as so many of us are raped and abused—let us remember something.

Lilith just walked out.

She never completely left us though—and you can see her everywhere if you pay attention.

Art by Liliana Kleiner

Lilith is the grandmother who killed a rabid bobcat with her bare hands to protect her sleeping granddaughter.

She was Polly Higgins, Earth lawyer and activist, who fearlessly led a decade-long campaign for ecocide to be recognized as a crime against humanity—selling her house and giving up a high-paying job, “so she could dedicate herself to attempting to create a law that would make corporate executives and government ministers criminally liable for the damage they do to ecosystems.”

Lilith can be seen throughout women's literature—particularly, as Dr. Gillian M. E. Alban mentioned in her essay—as Toni Morrison's Sula—whose character radically changed my life as a young woman.

Lilith appears in music—from Aretha Franklin's R-E-S-P-E-C-T to Whitney Houston's Try It On My Own to Aurora's Queendom—singing songs that inspire freedom and autonomy.

Lilith reincarnates Herself through our daughters—when they push us to reconsider our own hypocrisies and shallow-thinking—and teach us that new ways of being are possible.

Lilith spoke to us through women like Sojourner Truth, Andrea Dworkin and Audre Lorde. She is every one of us who says, I AM NOT TAKING THIS ANYMORE.

Lilith erupts through Maya Angelou's breath-taking poem, “Still I Rise”—and every single time one of us invokes it—particularly, and most recently U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar.
“I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling, I bear in the tide.”
As our literal oceans swell with garbage, and our world reverberates with racism and male violence, we must embrace Lilith's massive energy. I call on Lilith to guide us out of this man-made mess that patriarchy has piled onto for thousands of years. The status quo is no longer acceptable. I re-commit my life to doing whatever it takes to overturn it. I ask you to join me.

An excerpt from ''The Status Quo Has to Go'' in Original Resistance: Reclaiming Lilith, Reclaiming Ourselves.

Trista Hendren is the Creator of The Girl God series. Originally from Portland, Oregon, she now lives in Bergen, Norway with her family. You can read more about her projects at www.thegirlgod.com


Henley, Jon. “Dutch girl was not 'legally euthanised' and died at home.” The Guardian; June 5, 2019.

“Six men escape death sentence for rape and murder of eight-year-old Indian girl.” The Journal.ie; June 10, 2019.

Tate, Rev. Dr. Karen. Goddess Calling: Inspirational Messages & Meditations of Sacred Feminine Liberation Thealogy. Changemakers Books; 2014.

Lorde, Audre. “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Ten Speed Press; 2007.

Preuss, Andreas. “Georgia woman says she killed rabid bobcat with bare hands.” CNN; June 18, 2018.

Watts, Jonathan. “Polly Higgins, lawyer who fought for recognition of 'ecocide', dies aged 50.” The Guardian; April 22,2019.

Morrison, Toni. Sula. London: Vintage, 1973, 2004.

Angelou, Maya “Still I Rise.” And Still I Rise: A Book of Poems. Random House; 1978.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Inanna in the Armenian Dance of the Reed by Laura Shannon

Painting by Arna Baartz

Even as a young girl, I admired the older girls and women in my life—my sister, my mother, my grandmothers and aunts—and instinctively felt there was something special about being a woman, which I was proud to be part of and eager to grow into. At the same time I was keenly aware that my blossoming femininity made me a target, and my childhood was punctuated by frightening encounters in which I found myself in danger because I was female.

In our time, we are able to speak openly about our experiences of sexual threat, assault, or abuse, and to see how tragically frequent they are for so many young women and girls in our society. In the United States of the 1970s, however, I felt completely and utterly alone. These unwanted encounters left me with a terrible sense of shame, which I internalised and translated into deep feelings of powerlessness, inadequacy and worthlessness. My early years as a young woman were marked by descent: depression, despair, chronic health problems, and an overall sense of being lost, not fitting in. There was nobody to show me healthy self-love and self-care, nobody to teach me how to safely grow up as a woman in a woman-hating world.

The intensity of my descent brought me into contact with various sources of support. Sylvia Brinton Perera’s book, Descent to the Goddess, gave me great inspiration and comfort early on.1 I was astonished to see my lonely journey of depression and exile reflected in a myth of female initiatory descent and return dating back more than 4,000 years. The figure enacting this archetypal cycle, the Goddess Inanna, was the central female deity of her era2, but this was the first I had heard of her.

The hymns to Inanna, written ca. 2300 BCE by the priestess-poet Enheduanna and beautifully translated by Betty De Shong Meador, revealed that Inanna’s gifts include not only the acceptance, but the celebration of female sexuality as a precious treasure, worthy of protection.3 Inanna embodied, in Meador’s words, ‘what so many women long for, a spirituality grounded in the reflection of a divine woman, offering a full sense of foundation and legitimacy as females.’4 I hoped it was not too late for me to learn this too.

My quest to reconsecrate my wounded femininity led me to the healing power of dance. I trained in both dance movement therapy and Sacred Dance, and began to research traditional women’s circle dances of the Balkans. That was more than thirty years ago. Since then, my personal ascent has been mediated through movement, both solo and shared, which has accompanied an epic journey of inner work throughout my entire adult life.

An excerpt from a longer paper detailing the healing power of this dance in Inanna's Ascent.

Laura Shannon has researched and taught traditional circle dances for more than thirty years, and is considered to be one of the ‘grandmothers’ of the worldwide Sacred / Circle Dance movement. Through extensive research in Balkan villages and wide teaching experience, Laura has pioneered a new understanding of traditional women's dances as active tools for spiritual development. Originally trained in Intercultural Studies and Dance Movement Therapy, Laura is currently pursuing an M.A. in Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred at Canterbury Christ Church University in England. She gives workshops, trainings and performances in more than twenty countries, and her numerous articles on dance have been published in many languages. She is founding director of the Athena Institute for Womens' Dance and Culture and a regular contributor to Feminism and Religion. In between her travels, Laura resides in Canterbury, Findhorn and Greece. www.laurashannon.net

1Perera 1981.

2Meador 2009: 133.

3I was amazed to learn in Meador’s book that Enheduanna was the earliest known poet to be recorded by name, though I had not learned about her in my studies of history and literature.

4Meador 2000: 9.