Saturday, October 19, 2013
Who is the Goddess? And how do we represent Her?
The past few decades have seen the gradual awakening and resurgence of spiritual practice, ritual, ideology and iconography of the Goddess archetype. On Facebook, numerous sites dedicated to different aspects of Goddess worship, honoring the Divine Feminine, or of re-opening the Path of Priestess have emerged manifold. Women, and to a lesser extent, men, have heeded this call and continue to do so as shown by the way thousands seek out and engage with these concepts everyday.
Some of us who worship the Goddess and identify ourselves as priestesses (or male priests seeking to redress the balance between Sacred Masculine and Feminine) come from a position of political outrage, others from daily communion with Spirit, or a mixture of both.
Who do we refer to when we talk about 'The Goddess'?
Is She the image or statue or representation of Kali, Durga, Tara, Mother Magdalene, Isis, or some other strong female warrior figure, or a softer embodiment of sensual femininity and love such as Aphrodite - or a combination of both? You can have endless discussion on this one question alone - but it is safe to say that most practitioners/worshipers accept the Maiden/Mother/Crone figure as one who blends attributes of martial ferocity and/or sensuality alongside softer, sexual, sometimes maternal aspects. Others still may look to Mother Nature or the force of Gaia as their explanation of the 'Mother Goddess' - it is a matter of choice, to some extent.
How should we represent Her?
Representing the Goddess is no mean task - she - as is the Male God - is infinite. You can represent her by a stream, a tree, a beautiful man, a crone, a gorgeous woman, a little boy - she is in everything. She is in the glint of the eyes of a murderer, she is in kiss a mother seals on her child's forehead to ward of nightmares, she is in every act that we do - 'good' or 'bad'. You could then say that this question is unnecessary - but I would assert otherwise - it is up to you to accept or reject my line of argument.
We complain so much about mass media, advertising and other ways in which the commercial world has in fact dulled our thinking, made us think in stereotypes and cliches. Many of us have voluntarily lost a lot of contact with that world, and have begun to think for ourselves and engage with reality, in all of its hues and nuances. Subconsciously, on a global level, people are awakening to the fact that many of the ideas we have - about who is 'beautiful', 'ugly', 'worthy', 'good', 'bad' are products of cultural conditioning, much of which is mediated through the lenses of the film or fashion industry. So many of us struggle with body issues as we seek to be accepted, or to measure up to the standards that are projected as being 'normal' or 'ideal'. Men and women of colour face an additional burden in that the tone of their skin is still used to judge the content of their character. Despite our best efforts (and long may they continue), much of the world still operates with the deeply-rooted mindset that somehow - Skinny/Thin is attractive and White/Caucasian skin is more valuable. In my public life I study these perceptions and the way they are constructed and am happy to provide evidence for any assertion I make in this piece - respectful requests for such will be answered if asked.
Many of the voices I hear and have observed who are embracing the re-surgence of the Goddess in their spiritual practice are from the Western hemisphere - and that is wonderful thing in itself. But one thing that I, and other site owners, have noted is the alarming constancy in representing the Goddess / woman who has embodied or embraced the Goddess within / a free spirit as a skinny / athletic / woman of Caucasian descent. The other common depiction is of the powerful bodies of dancers or warriors. I have had this contention reviewed by others with a longer site presence and find my observations confirmed. Increasingly, we are beginning to associate raw feral gorgeous feminine beauty with a certain kind of aesthetic appearance.
If you recall my comments on the media's manipulation of the way we perceive beauty - I'm sure some parallels are obvious. I would hope that after reading this site owners more consciously chose images which reflected more diversity. I am not accusing any Goddess page or liker of such page of racism, sexism, etc. -- please be clear on that.
The moment we learn to see the Goddess and God - in everything and everyone, that is when we will have reached this part of our spiritual goal. The crone with her teeth missing, the obese man or woman, a middle-aged, lined, un-botoxed housewife with lovehandles, or a child starving in the midst of poverty, the cellulite, the lines, the sagging boobs, the woman with a broken smile, an old man with warts and hair growing out of his ears, everything - the moment we can see, truly see the Divine in all of these people and situations - is when we have achieved a part of our much larger spiritual goal.
As I see on so many spiritual sites - the definition of 'Namaste' - (essentially) The Divine in Me, Honors the Divine in You is a goal that many of us are working towards. It is easier to fall in love with and adore (at the very least be attracted to) a human being who more closely meets our ideals of beauty. All of us do it to some level, and yet we admire those who look past the looks (not that there's anything wrong with dating an Adonis or Aphrodite) and see the soul within. Worshiping the Goddess works (for me) in a similar way. It's easy to love her when she's sexy, powerful, gentle, nurturing, fierce, etc. but the real test of (my) faith comes when I have to love her when she is chaotic, deformed, ugly, unpleasant, insane, disfigured etc. (she will have Her reasons for being so). It is my belief that when you can see Her in everything and love her in beauty and ugliness, in fairness and in injustice, in Light and in Dark, then and only then... Would I claim to realize the fullest meaning of 'Namaste' (and the same with the Divine Masculine). The moment we don't have to have this discussion, where when see a body, we see Divinity within it irrespective of gender, race, shape, size, infirmity, morality -- that is when Namaste rings truest - and the Higher manifestations of this Spiritual Path are realized.
The more we uncritically choose our representations of the Divine Masculine or Feminine (the same argument can be made for the male god - I mean, I've never seen a post of an 'average' man being depicted as Cernunnos or Shiva) as conforming to some mainstream ideal of beauty, the farther we get. The more we associate it with some racial identity, the farther we can from wholeness. This isn't to say that beautiful white women (or strikingly gorgeous black supermodels) should not be represented as goddesses.... It is to say that they are One... Just one... Shade of Her....
I do my level best in my own site to represent as many cultures and traditions as I can, without abandoning my own roots and I encourage others to do the same. At the end of the day, we're all recycled stardust, beautiful beings of energy.
Love knows no colour, no form, no manifestation. As we represent, as we teach, let us be more conscious that we reflect all shades of the Divine Rainbow The more we consciously include, the stronger we get.
With respect and love, from a global priestess,
Blessings to you all
Thanks to Suppressed Histories Archives and many friends who commented on drafts of this piece
Original Post and Image by ~ The Goddess, The Serpent and The Sea: Building Pathways of Light