|The Last Goodbye! (detail)|
by: Suhair Sibai
My journey with the Divine Feminine began many years ago, but I didn’t realize it at the time.
It started when I began menstruating and was suddenly made to feel “different” from the other children. I was becoming a woman but still considered myself a child – one who suddenly had a huge responsibility thrust upon her…”you cannot wear that bathing suit in front of your uncle” … or “girls should sit on this side of the room, behind the boys during religious studies and cover themselves because loose hair will land you in hellfire.” I was 13. I also was thrown out of aforementioned religious studies class because I refused to accept that the boys were a level above. And worse, my vagina had once again betrayed me by virtue of her not being a penis.
Menstruating women were always considered dirty in Islam – “Don’t come into the mosque”…“Stay off the prayer rugs”…”Don’t pass in front of a praying person” – as if my body was just one huge sin while it was menstruating. (It was one huge sin anyway because we could menstruate). Not only that, it had been ingrained into my psyche that menstruation was a monthly curse, that I could now get pregnant, and there was no more playing with boys, because I might make them do something wrong. Dangerous ideas started to inhabit my teenage mind.
My turbulent relationship with my mother worsened as she became more religious and I became more rebellious. It seemed I was always causing trouble because I asked too many questions. Because I was a woman, my freedoms were stripped away with every passing year and I grew desperate, depressed and felt alone. I couldn’t connect with this very male energy that they called God, and even though they said he was genderless, he sure felt male to me.
I abandoned Islam and returned to it more times than I can recall. My first return followed my study of Sufism and the saints and mystics – in particular those from my native Iraq, such as Rabiaa from Basra. Even though I grew up in the West, I always felt closely connected to my homeland and its rich history. Learning about how these women chose to devote themselves to God and not conform to social norms and pressures of the time gave me hope.
We were also taught about the prophet’s first wife Khadija, who was approximately 25 years his senior, his employer, and the one who proposed marriage to him. She was an independent businesswoman and very successful during her time. She was also the one the prophet turned to when he started having his visitations from Gabriel, and she comforted and supported him.
Of course, there is the beloved daughter of the prophet, Fatima, and how his love for her was immeasurable. I recall hearing that the prophet said “what hurts Fatima, hurts me,” clearly indicative of his protective fatherly love for her.
But none of this helped me in my personal journey. I still felt marginalized, side-lined, shamed, and silenced. It didn’t help that I was also living in a dysfunctional household and that life had become a matter of survival. I never abandoned the idea of God, but I never accepted that God was a man, and a cruel one at that – waiting for my hair to slip out of my headscarf during Sunday School so he can toss me in the pit of hell.
I realized that it wasn’t Islam, or even religion that was oppressing me; it was patriarchy that drove my oppression, and the oppression of women and girls all over the world. It was the patriarchal structure that was built into religion itself, mixed in with culture and first generation immigrants struggling to keep their children safe, at any cost. The costs were high, particularly for us girls.
Why would God create half of humanity, only to be subjugated, and why give that oppressed half the divine spark in our wombs? We have the power to create life, and yet instead of being celebrated we are silenced, feared, and even loathed.
My return to the Goddess started in October of 2011. As I was researching the situation of women in Iraq for my Master’s thesis, I came across countless horrific atrocities committed against women and girls. One such incident changed me forever. It was a news report about a village in one of the provinces where there were only women and children left. The US forces had swept the area and the media came to investigate. The men were dead or had been imprisoned, and for two to three years the women and girls had been systematically raped and impregnated by Al-Qaeda and their sympathizers. Watching the interviews and hear the desperation in these women’s voices – in the language of my homeland with its distinct dialect – tore my heart out.
By the time I completed my thesis and graduated, I was completely devastated and emotionally spent. I became increasingly frustrated by the world’s lack of response. I felt like we had abandoned these girls and women, and we had blood on our hands.
Knowing little of my rich history, but knowing enough to understand that there were once Goddesses and Priestesses ruling in my native land, I deeply lamented the loss of the divine feminine, and the horrific treatment of women and girls as a result.
I continued my research because I wanted to publish my findings and show the world what was happening to women in my country. It was during that research that I began to dig deep into history, going back to ancient Samaria and running right into the Goddess.
When I met Innana (Ishtar) I was enthralled. I couldn’t get enough of her story and what she represented. After weeks of reading about her, studying her, and striving to understand her, I descended with her. I went into the underworld, deep into my psyche, where I met all my fears and insecurities, guilt and pain. She helped me understand that I would be born anew when I came back out into the light.
She also showed me what I needed to do. I abandoned the work I was doing – statistic gathering to prove that women were victims of patriarchy and male aggression – and instead, focus on her message, and the message of the Divine Feminine. The Goddess is rising again and she is calling on us all to help her.
The Goddess has done something else for me, something very profound. As a Mother archetype, she has become my mother and I her daughter. She has healed the very painful mother wound I have been carrying my entire life. I know that as her child, I am worthy and valuable, loved and honored.
by Tamara Albanna, An excerpt from the upcoming Girl God Anthology: Jesus, Muhammad and The Goddess.