Sunday, February 4, 2018

Call for Submissions: Inanna's Ascent: Reclaiming Female Power

The Girl God is accepting submissions for our upcoming Anthology of women’s writing: Inanna's Ascent: Reclaiming Female Power

We want to hear from women about their insight into this Goddess - and how they have used Her story, a personal descent or a "dark night of the soul" to transcend and transform themselves and the world around them. Personal essays (up to 2,500 words), academic papers, poetry and (black and white) art are welcome.

Edited by Tamara Albanna, Trista Hendren and Pat Daly

Scheduled publication: September 2018

Please send your submissions to by May 31, 2018. Please note that we cannot accommodate any late submissions or corrections.

Submission Guidelines:
Please send your finished piece in a Word document.  Art should be sent in high resolution as a JPG.  You may submit more than one piece for consideration, but due to the volume of submissions, please only send your best work.

Please also include a bio under 150 words.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

To Stand Witness by Teri Uktena

Medusa by Caroline Alkonost

THE MEDUSA MYTH has always been a favorite of mine. I mean, it’s cool right? As a kid it’s a great story like Godzilla vs. Mothra. There is a horrible monster doing horrible monstery things which needs to be vanquished. And there is a hero who looks just like every other guy and he gets help from the pretty gods and he gets all these cool gadgets and he goes out, screws up his courage and defeats the monster. Hurray! Even better, Clash of the Titans with Harry Hamlin is a cult classic and the owl Bubo is a delight.

However, I also was bothered by the myth from the very beginning because it made no sense. Rarely was a monster called out as either male or female—it was just monstrous and somewhat assumed to be male (ish?). So why all the angst around this one baddie? Why was she female? Why was that a bad thing? Other monsters were ugly, but their ugliness didn’t kill, their actions did. And it really confused me that a girl monster would be powerful and deadly and need to be killed while pretty women were helpless damsels that needed to be saved. And why do they always just weep and allow themselves to be tied to things?

Unfortunately for us, the Medusa myth is alive and well, though not because of any CGI filled remakes. Medusa was a physically beautiful woman. In Ovid’s telling this is presented as uncomfortable, not in and of itself, but because she knew she was beautiful and this made everyone around her uncomfortable. There is a subtext to this implying negativity if you fully embody who you are as woman. (You know, be too attractive and you attract things you don’t want.) Don’t be powerful, don’t be uppity, don’t be who you are, don’t be… Poseidon, god of the seas, second most powerful god next to Zeus (his brother) sees her and is attracted to her. He approaches her, comments on her looks, and suggests they make love. She says no. He then forces her into the temple of Athena (who among other things is a staunch virgin with no mother) and rapes her. There are no repercussions for Poseidon. He just leaves afterwards. Athena is enraged, not at him, but at Medusa. Athena turns Medusa’s beauty into such horrid ugliness it cannot be looked on because it will turn anyone who sees it into stone. To look at such defilement, such grossness is to become forever its mute stone witness.

I say this myth is alive and well because you can hear it in each woman who comes forward to speak about their experiences with Bill Cosby (who hasn’t been charged with any crime). It is retold in each victim that comes forward to speak about Jimmy Savile from the BBC. In each case, a person who was beautiful because they lived, because they existed, because they were a portion of divinity, was taken advantage of in a way which was so destructive they were forever changed. This in itself is a horrible facet of humanity. What is worse, when it became known they had been taken advantage of there was no outrage toward the perpetrator, but outrage at them, the victim. They are turned into a hideous monster who is so dangerous they must be shunned because just looking upon them will destroy mortal man. They are other, they are evil, they are a warning to all who hear the tale, don’t be too much, don’t be too good, too beautiful, too powerful, too anything. Keep your head down and hopefully you won’t be destroyed.

When Anita Sarkeesian says, “One of the most radical things you can do is to actually believe women,” she’s speaking directly to this. That Medusa isn’t a monster. She’s us. She’s someone who has been radically changed by the despicable actions of other beings. Our inability to look at her, to see her, the myth that we will be turned to stone if we see her, is all about fear. It’s about what will happen to us if we actually see her for who she has become. This is in part the power of the New York Magazine cover

It’s nothing more than a black and white picture of seated women and one empty chair. But when I look at it I see Medusa in all of her amazing and heart breaking varieties. In this picture I see all of the women I have worked with over the years who have struggled because no one would believe them and people actively worked against their being able to seek help or even validation. I see myself telling my family what happened to me and hearing them respond that I was lying. And I remember one of the most amazing days of my life, when I told my story in the presence of men I had never met and they believed me.

Medusa isn’t a story in some book: she’s all around us. She’s not a monster too ugly to look upon, she’s the ugly truth. If we have to look at her through the shield of a magazine photo or stand with our backs to her and look at her through a mirror, then so be it. The time when sending Perseus to kill her would work is ending. It’s time to give over this turning to stone business and instead become the heroes that stand witness to what has been done.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Calling Medusa In by Jane Meredith

Art by Diane Goldie

IF WE WERE TO LOOK at our childhoods, really look at the horror of them, we would turn to stone.

As we get to know our friends, the layers strip back between us and another version is revealed. The drunken parents who forgot their middle child’s birthday. The mother too depressed to get out of bed, or who laid on the couch crying for a year. The fathers who were absent, violent, or addicts—or the stepfathers who took their places and were violent, alcoholics, rapists. Having the wrong clothes at school, or no lunches, having to pretend everything was all right while at home terrible scenes were enacted weekly, monthly, daily. The danger, the fear, the wounds inflicted physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

If we were to really look, to open our eyes and see what was there, as an observer or maybe to reclaim it through the eyes of the four-year-old girl hiding terrified in her room, hoping somehow the waves of shouting and crashing pass over her; the toddler who couldn’t be taken to hospital during her epileptic fit because all the adults were so high they couldn’t drive; the seven-year-old struggling to be self-sufficient; the ten-year-old looking after younger siblings; the teenager trying to stay in school while caring for a parent who was alcoholic, disabled, depressed; the daughter not fighting off her brother, or father, or cousin, or uncle—believing that it kept the family together, or because she wouldn’t be believed or would be blamed… the children put into foster care to be neglected, abused, traumatised by unrelated adults or shifted endlessly one home to the next. If we were to really see all of this we would surely turn to stone in horror, outrage, disbelief, of utter heart-breaking tragedy that cannot, cannot be borne.

Rape. How many, how endlessly many of us carry that story? Carry it in our flesh, our memory, our very cells recording the violation the near-obliteration of our selves, our fragile child-bodies, our resilient child-minds, the selves of us formed in torment and still this endless desire to survive. Rape by fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers—how many incest stories have I heard by now? Sexual abuse by older siblings, cousins, gangs, sometimes mothers even; violence and horror and deep levels of manipulation practiced casually at the tortured edge of life and death, those children learning deep within them how to live on the edge how to somehow grow up despite all that; this would turn us to stone if we really looked at it. The statistics—up to one in three girls, up to one in six boys (this was in Australia in 1999, somehow I don’t believe it’s any less in 2017)—experienced sexual abuse of some kind before their eighteenth birthday. Do you feel the chill in your flesh setting in; your thinking beginning to grind to a halt; your movements slowing, stuttering, the breath coming more shallowly? We’re starting to turn to stone, reading or writing this, thinking about it.

Then there was the ordinary, almost dull level of humiliation and defeat inseparable from childhood. That casual, merciless way we were subjected to the power of others in the everyday, dragged along the street crying with hiccups, face a mess and unable to coordinate my feet under the stress; being told-off publicly, humiliated in front of our friends or family; the way it was assumed we couldn’t hear or wouldn’t understand when they discussed our faults; the preferencing when they gazed with eyes and words of praise at our brothers or sisters and glazed past us – how do any of us come out of it as half-way presentable human beings? Remember that they lied, neglected and beat us; remember that they did not rise in our defense when we were attacked outside our homes but instead brushed it off or told us to grow up, which desperately we tried to do. Remember how dangerous life was. We were lucky to survive.

We may have turned to stone somewhere along the way, in some subtle shifting manner so we don’t fully realise it. We just block that part of our lives out, build a wall or two. Encase ourselves in a fort, a high tower, an underground bunker. Stone is good for all that, walls and towers and bunkers. When our friends start to reveal their childhood miseries and shames we retreat, back behind our own wall and shore up the chinks, so the horror doesn’t seep through. It’s contaminating. I can’t hear about your nightmare without remembering my own. So I don’t want to hear. Not that I can forget my own—it visits me in a hundred ways; at night in the landscape of dream, or during the day when I see a child encased in misery in the street or supermarket and sneaking into my relationships or even in the memory of how I sometimes was with my own child.

I’m looking at my childhood and I’m in the process of turning into stone. Or turning into something—maybe stone is just a transition point and then I’ll erupt, spewing lava, molten stone, magma and it will be so fierce I’ll cover everything with it and even the memories will melt.

I read Tarot cards for a young woman, seventeen maybe, and the cards were horrible. I noticed her nervousness, and in her hands, she was wearing a piece of cheap jewellery where a ring is attached to a chain that links to a bracelet around the wrist. A slave bracelet, it’s called. When I asked why the cards were so dreadful she told me her father came into her room at night and sexually abused her—raped her, a couple of times a week, had for years, maybe five or six years. I told her the name of her bracelet, she fumbled with it, trying to get it off. I asked why she didn’t leave and she said she had a younger sister, maybe even two of them, I forget the details by now. She said as long as she stayed, they were safe from him. I asked, “how do you know?”—and saw a new level of horror enter her life. I hope she did something. I gave her phone numbers to call. I hope I reflected her horror enough to get her attention, that snakes rose up out of my hair, in her eyes and she was spurred into action. This was not the only time I heard that story.

My story isn’t that bad. But isn’t that the way we diminish the grief of it, measuring against others and saying, oh well it isn’t as bad as that. We survived after all and mostly we had homes and went to school and mostly our lives are better, now. Shored up with all that stone, perhaps, and the way we let our eyes glaze over and stopped thinking feeling being almost just barely breathing until it passed over us, like a storm or through us and then we came back into our bodies though our bodies weren’t the same any longer that cortisol still streaking through us changing the way we dealt with shock and pain, numbing us like stones to our own feelings, our own sense of danger til we couldn’t properly tell, any longer, which situations were good for us and which weren’t, we were drawn to danger maybe for the thrill, that’s what it took to spike our dulled emotions into feeling something or—even more sinister—for the familiarity of it.

This is all just in the ordinary suburbs of civilised Western life. This does not take into account actual war, genocide, child soldiers, slavery, child brides, genital mutilation, child prostitution, most of the world really. Medusa—where are you? When the patriarchy cut off your head was it to prevent your telling these stories, the stories of women and children and drawing all eyes to the horror of them? Was it to take your terrible powers and turn them onto those who are already the victims? To stop the power of serpents and stone that paralyse the perpetrators and let the innocent transform their suffering? When we reclaim Medusa’s heritage what shall we turn to stone? And then we shall slither free, out of those cracks in the walls or from under the foundations, shedding our skins as we go and becoming bright and beautiful. We will shed those childhood skins, the shapes of our suffering, and in with our knowledge, we will become healers and artists and activists.

Perhaps you were not one of those children. Maybe you had an ordinary safe loving nurturing amazing or just uneventful childhood. Can you listen to these stories, watch them playing out in the adult lives of your friends and lovers and not find yourself turning somehow toward stone, the contamination reaching out and into your ears and eyes as you are forced to consider how people treat the smallest amongst us, most helpless, dependent and fragile beings? Do you turn away, refuse to listen or do you try to hold these stories within your largess and if you don’t turn to stone, what happens then? Can you convince us we are safe, now, listen long enough to still the demons, step up to the challenges we throw at you, untrusting, unsure? Can you stay present to help weave a different story for us, for those who have been turned to stone, somewhere on the inside?

What would it be like to reclaim these histories and breathe through them, to let them out into the open and not have to carry them with us, like stones on our backs, in our hearts, blocking our eyes and ears and freezing our brains? What would it be like to wield the Medusa power of stones and snakes? Look into my eyes and know the truth of my childhood, of all our childhoods, the wounded ones and I think that’s most of us by now; I’m really not sure who there is left to turn into stone. So perhaps it’s the institutions, the nuclear family or just the family, the schools that don’t notice or can’t do anything for the blasted children who inhabit them, the systems of work and economy and poverty and pain that grind down the adults responsible for these small ones til they can’t think and can hardly love and have nowhere to turn and no answers and no resources and clearly it’s all utterly terrible; what if those institutions turned to stone and we were set free?

Because if we don’t turn into stone, or we turn into stone but then we keep turning, there’s a transformation, a transition, a snake-like twist and turning—and serpent-like we hiss and rise and maybe strike, paralysing our enemies or maybe we just slither off elsewhere, somewhere more interesting and rub up against a few difficult places and slip our skins and are reborn.

Medusa. Hiss her name out, like snakes. This is the worst, the most terrible thing—and if we can face that and still reach out to each other, if we can look it full in the face as it happens all around us in the houses and supermarkets and families we see on buses in the parks, in our own street and presumably in the houses of our friends and colleagues and our own families, happening still—if we can face it and not be turning into stone then we can strike. Let the serpents rise from my head, many bodied, writhing. Let them call out what they know and mark it as an act of horror, like thoughts that finally have to speak themselves. And shouting, singing into being, let us finally honour this ancient goddess: the mystery of facing terrible truth. Medusa’s head was cut off, but let us reclaim that—this ancient knowledge: the power to see and know the truth.

Oh Medusa, I’m calling you in. I invoke you. I invoke you into the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, I invoke you into my own life and the lives of my friends, I invoke you into the houses and families of childhoods everywhere. May there be a Royal Commission into the Family. Into childhood abuse in the home. Well might our faces be masks of horror, well might we feel parts of ourselves turning to stone as we confront what awaits us. Feel the shivers down your spine, the hairs rising on your arms and neck. Bring your qualities Medusa—it is time. It is time serpents were released and wildness broke the stone face of what is acceptable and we saw behind the masks and those who raise spear or shield against you were struck with the power of truth.

An excerpt from Re-visioning Medusa: from Monster to Divine Wisdom

Monday, August 7, 2017

Naming and Claiming our Victimhood

Painting by Arna Baartz

“The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim
has ceased to be a victim: he or she has become a threat.”
 -James Baldwin

We live in a world that doesn’t like the word victim.

The meaning of victim, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, is:

  • a person who has been attacked, injured, robbed, or killed by someone else.
  • a person who is cheated or fooled by someone else.
  • someone or something that is harmed by an unpleasant event (such as an illness or         accident).

There is no shame in any of that. Any shame lies with the perpetrator.

What comes up for you when you think of yourself as a victim?

How would it feel to name, claim and release your victimhood?

Articulate your victim-hood. You may want to create a separate Word document or journal.

Mary Daly wrote that “Women have had the power of naming stolen from us.” Take back your
power by naming and claiming it all.  Then, set it aside for now. You may want to share it
eventually. There is tremendous power in sharing our stories.

You may also want to burn it—or rip it to shreds.

Daily Thought: When I look at you I see myself.

Daily Suggestion: Clench your fists, open your hands; feel it.

An excerpt from New Love: a reprogramming toolbox for undoing the knots

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.”
-Muriel Rukeyser

Friday, June 16, 2017

Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times by C. Loran Hills

Painting by Arna Baartz

Pegasus is a symbol of spiritual elevation, transformation, and transcendence. I always knew that Pegasus was born out of Medusa’s blood but I didn’t know the entire story. I followed that trail of blood toward a richer, deeper understanding of female power. When I read Barbara Walker’s Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, I discovered a complex and more meaningful narrative. Long ago, Medusa was the serpent-goddess of the Libyan Amazon. She represented female wisdom as the destroyer aspect of the Triple Goddess, Virgin-Mother-Crone. She was similar to Kali Ma, the Hindu Triple Goddess of creation, preservation and destruction.

A Gorgon was a monstrous female creature within the complicated pantheon of Greek gods and goddesses. Her face would turn anyone who laid eyes upon it to stone. Gorgons were hideous beings with impenetrable scales, hair of living snakes, hands made of brass and sharp fangs. They guarded the entrance to the underworld. A stone head or picture of a Gorgon was often placed or drawn on temples to avert the dark forces of evil. Medusa was one such Gorgon.

Medusa embodied the principle of medha, the Indo-European root word for female wisdom. Pegasus was named for the Pegae, water priestesses who tended the sacred spring of Pirene in Corinth, Greece. Pegasus represented divine inspiration. His crescent moon-shaped hoof stamped the ground and dug the Hippocrene (Horse-Well), a spring of poetic inspiration on Mount Helicon, the home of the Muses.

In a late version of the Medusa myth, related by the Roman poet Ovid (Metamorphoses 4.770), Medusa is a ravishingly beautiful maiden, “the jealous aspiration of many suitors.” Poseidon rapes Medusa in Athena’s temple. The enraged Athena transforms Medusa’s beautiful hair into serpents and makes her face so terrible to behold that the mere sight of it turns onlookers to stone.

King Polydectes, the ruler of Seriphos, enters the story. He wants to marry DanaĆ«, the only child of the king of Argos; however, her son, Perseus, doesn’t approve. In an effort to get rid of Perseus, the king sends him to fetch Medusa’s head, expecting him to die. Athena assists Perseus by giving him a mirrored shield. He views Medusa’s reflection in the shield and cuts off her head. Immediately, Pegasus springs from Medusa’s blood.

This latter version of the story is disturbing in that Medusa is blamed and punished by Athena even though she is Poseidon’s victim. In another twist, Athena co-opts Medusa’s power by placing Medusa’s face upon her shield. Yet, after many millennia, Medusa remains a compelling symbol of wild female power. Paradoxically, she is a dangerous, unruly woman who invokes fear and she is also a potent image of inner strength for women.

Wild women are condemned as corrupt, depraved, immoral, sinful, wanton, and wicked. Women who live in a state of nature, not tamed or domesticated, are unruly, ungovernable, visionary, savage, and ferocious. These derogatory labels teach us to fear each other, our power, and to deny our inner wisdom. Strong-willed women are demonized in the patriarchal system and socialized to behave.

An excerpt from Loran's essay in Re-visioning Medusa: from Monster to Divine Wisdom
Order here.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Medusa’s Vindication (it will be the mirror) by Kerryn Coombs-Valeontis

Art by Nuit Moore

from the imprisonment of her violation
vipers crowning the exile hiss
a fury that can never
be captured

devouring her dementing well beyond
the sanity of rage, banished
of innocence, her revenge poised
to strike; hunted becomes the hunter

clever one's journey
seeking renown, eager to vanquish
the scorned woman that becomes the gorgon
withering the bravest

it will be the mirror, holding truth
to their lie; the sword its servant
releasing its prey from the sins
of the fathers

ransomed to their shame, she hears
the wing-beats of the white
horse, sprung from her spilt
vindication draining away…

bearing her far beyond vengeance
leaving those who do not mourn
burning to possess the purity
of the Pegasus ascending

©Kerryn Coombs-Valeontis, an excerpt from the upcoming girl god anthology, Re-visioning Medusa: from Monster to Divine Wisdom.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Pythic Portals by Nuit Moore

I painted this Medusa in 1997, with magickal intent behind Her. I had ended a 2-year relationship with someone after they physically assaulted me (by trying to strangle me, closing off my voice, at the neck, my hair streaming), and called me all of those words that weak men will call a strong woman. I wanted Medusa to have my back after he was taken to jail, after he was out of the house. So one night on the next Dark Moon I painted Medusa with all of the rage and fierceness I felt. I wanted whoever would cause me harm to stop in their tracks when they saw Her eyes (which contained my eyes), to freeze and not be able to take another step into my home. And so for many years, I kept this Medusa facing my front door. It is thought by some, including myself, that the serpent-tressed Gorgons found on the outside of some ancient temples indicated that this was a holy space of the mysteries of women and of the Goddess, and the Medusa served as Temple Guardian of these mysteries, and as a warning to those who would trespass. I actually did not even think of this when I painted Her to guard my own temple. It was instinctual, the call—and this is how She speaks, from the awakened kundalini... from the root of the yoni to the belly pit of survival and up through the opened third eye that sees. Medusa Herself is an ancient Libyan Goddess of the mysteries of Life and Death, regeneration, the menstrual mysteries, the shamanic powers of serpents and snakes. Fierce and deeply powerful, the Goddess MEDUSA.

An excerpt from Re-visiong Medusa: from Monster to Divine Wisdom.

Pre-order here.