Friday, September 7, 2018

The Resurrection of Female Power by Trista Hendren

Art by Laura Tempest Zakroff

“What would our world look like if there were a rebirth of reverence for women, in all stages of life? How would we see ourselves if we were to revive the sacred feminine archetype?” -Amy Bammel Wilding1

Growing up in the Church, God was Male and I was shit.

I learned how to put myself last, in service to ALL—sacrificing myself daily in the service of His needs, whoever that man might be. The penis was my God, whether I recognized it or not then. There was no sacred masculine—and there still is not—because I cannot seem to recover that part of myself. Choking down dick will do that to a young woman.

Years later, I never understood my fascination with the Christa figures, despite my absolute disgust with the Church.

"Christa" by Edwina Sandys

If you're like me, what you remember most is the image of Jesus on the cross, ever-sacrificing—not the images of glory. Growing up in my particular denomination—we practiced a foot washing ceremony on Maundy Thursday. It was my first glimpse of what a women's circle could entail—powerful!!!—and yet deeply humbling to have someone else wash your feet and then to wash the feet of the woman next to you.

But that was a ritual saved for one night a year, and it would be years later before I discovered the power of women meeting together in circle regularly—with our own rituals.


Painting by Jakki Moore


As noted throughout this anthology, many females experience their first descent during girlhood.
“Over time, the girl-child becomes disconnected from the 'home' within her. Caught in the swirls of others, twisted in the shapes of others, depleted by the demands of others, she becomes outer-directed and loses touch with herself. Her breath becomes shallow. She ignores her body. She looks to saviors outside of herself for salvation and validation, forgetting the rich resources within her.” –Patricia Lynn Reilly

It took me a long time to discover the lengths that patriarchy took to crucify me—or as it is often more politely phrased, to “clip my wings.”

But I suppose if I am honest, it took even longer for me to realize that the act of clipping my wings could not keep me from resurrecting myself—and flying again.

You see, even if you clip a bird's wings, they will grow back— eventually. The bird just needs to learn how to fly.

All my life, I had been too focused on my cage. I did not even realize my wings had grown back and the door was unlocked. Hence, I never learned how to fly—it seemed beside the point.

The easiest way to keep a woman caged is to make her believe she is powerless—and utterly incapable of flying on her own.

The simplest way to keep a woman on the cross is to convince her to keep her own nails in place—and even get her to nail them back into her own hands and feet when they come lose.

In my own life, I had been too focused on the systematic structures that hold women down. And believe me—they are there. We need to remove all of them so that girls do not continue to grow into women living in cages who can't even feel their wings.

Whether it be by incest, rape or other sexual abuse, physical, emotional or financial abuse, or the garden variety of subordination and submissiveness many of us are raised with—most females don't put up much of a fight anymore by adulthood. We often still feel those hands that held us down vividly, as if they were still there on our shoulders.

We are so disassociated with our bodies, we are barely even acquainted with them. We don't know our cycles, our vulvas, our breasts—or even our real food intake needs. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Most of us are completely divorced from ourselves before puberty.

I have come to strongly believe that no matter how much you know intellectually, you cannot claim your full power if you are disassociated from your body. And this self-hatred and unawareness of our bodies that is ingrained in girls from childhood must be stopped—and reversed in those of us who are older.

I didn't realize the full force of my own self-hatred until I watched Hannah Gadsby in Nanette, talking about her intense level of shame. Like most women, I was abused in a myriad of ways for the majority of my life. But it is that base level of indoctrination from birth that held me firmly in place in the underworld. As Gadsby howls so beautifully in her performance:
“To be rendered powerless does not strip you of your humanity. Your resilience is your humanity... To yield and not break—that is incredible strength... 
There is no way, there is no way—anyone would dare test their strength out on me because you all know there is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”
Patriarchy tends to go for the easy targets—namely, children—and women who have been sedated by the crushing weight of indoctrination and abuse.

I am currently remodeling an enormous, dilapidated house that I bought with my husband—and it has taught me a lot about myself. Among other things, I learned that all my life I had taken shortcuts that belittled my own best interests and growth.

My Norwegian husband is the slow and thorough type. I never have been that way. I always rush to get things done as soon as possible. We laugh at each other through this process as he insists on taking his own. sweet. time... filling holes, sanding, putting on primer—and then carefully applying 4 thin, even layers of paint.

My methods, if left to my own devices, would be exactly the opposite. I would just take a Super Soaker and squirt down all the walls until they were adequately drenched with a fresh, bright color. I think a lot of females work at speed-demon pace because we have too much on our plates—whereas men, statistically, have far more free time. We are used to taking the fastest way possible because we are constantly starved of time—especially time for ourselves.

What I realized during this process is that I never felt like I was worth it. I never thought I deserved any time spent on myself. I had spent my life giving away my hours, my days, my sovereignty and my-self.

Your home is a reflection of yourself in many ways, and there is no greater time in my life when I have felt this. We bought a once-grand old house that had been mistreated and abused for 40 years—much like I had been. The symbolism could not have been closer.
“Say, who owns this house?
It’s not mine.
This house is strange.
Its shadows lie.
Say, tell me, why does its lock fit my key?”
-Toni Morrison, Home
We are repairing the house as an investment—to restore some of what was destroyed by my previous husband's addictions. Mine was a messy 15-year descent, filled with every sort of loss. I have written entire books about my descent. I seem to have gotten stuck there somewhere along the way.

I expected my ascent to be much easier—but the truth is, it has been just as messy cleaning it up. Ascent is a process, which is why the story of Inanna is so important as a map for women.

There are no shortcuts during ascension. “Healing begins where the wound was made,” as Alice Walker wrote. But returning to the wound often implies ripping off the band-aid—or the masks.


"Tree of Inanna" by Liliana Kleiner


By subverting the Inanna myth and inserting Christ as Savior instead, patriarchy did a pretty good job of mind-fucking the world. We are taught the opposite of Goddess values in the Christian narrative. As Monica Sjöö and Barbara Mor wrote in The Great Cosmic Mother, “The patriarchal God has only one commandment: Punish life for being what it is. The Goddess also only has one commandment: Love life for what it is.”

Inanna dresses herself elaborately for Her descent. Everything was (willingly) taken from Her, as it was from me rather begrudgingly. What I forgot though—without the myth of Inanna directing my own life—is that all was returned to her.

I did not need to continue to walk around in tattered clothes my entire life like my image of a crucified Jesus returning from the grave. My particular image of Jesus was nearly always that of him suffering immensely on the cross for my sins. Even more than 20 years after leaving the church, I am not sure I ever really got over my feelings of unworthiness.

I talked about self love—and even co-wrote a book about it. But my affection for myself was weak. As Toni Morrison wrote, “Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.”

My internalized oppression was strong. And there is no blame in that. We indoctrinate girls from birth to hate themselves and put themselves dead-last. Arnfríður Guðmundsdóttir wrote that “Women's sufferings have been justified by appealing to the salvific significance of their suffering.”

In order for us to rise, we must shred these beliefs. And then we must actively dissolve their hooks in every area of our lives.

“This Second Coming is not a return of Christ but a new arrival of female presence, once strong and powerful, but enchained since the dawn of patriarchy. Only this arrival can liberate the memory of Jesus from enchainment to the role of “mankind's most illustrious scapegoat.” The arrival of women means the removal of the primordial victim, “the Other,” because of whom “the Son of God had to die.” When no longer condemned to the role of “savior,” perhaps Jesus can be recognizable as a free man. It is only female pride and self-affirmation that can release the memory of Jesus from its destructive uses and can free freedom to be contagious. The Second Coming, then, means that the prophetic dimension in the symbol of the great Goddess—later reduced to the “Mother of God”—is the key to salvation from servitude to structures that obstruct human becoming.” -Mary Daly

I thought I had embraced these words full-heartedly. Intellectually I had. But internally I was still doing the little things every single day that said I hate myself.

It is not always the big things... oftentimes it is the small things that are too minuscule to even seem important. But when they become daily habits, they can take over everything else. They can rob us of our joy—and even our lives. As Sandra Heimann explained:
“Goddess was weakened by fragmentation; gods gained power by assembling fragments; they cobbled together a “monotheistic” god from stolen goddess parts."
Likewise, patriarchy teaches women to fragment themselves to complete the destruction of all that is female.

We have been focused on patriarchal crucifixion stories for too long. When we put our own stories back together, we put our lives back together—and we reclaim our power. As Hannah Gadsby says, “You learn from the part of the story you focus on.” We must reclaim the resurrection of Goddess—and use Her stories to learn how to ascend in our lives.

May the legend of Inanna—and the tales of ascension by Her daughters—inspire global transformation that will resurrect female power everywhere.



An excerpt from "The Resurrection of Female Power" in Inanna's Ascent: Reclaiming Female Power.



Order your copy here.





Endnotes:

1Bammel Wilding, Amy. Wild & Wise: Sacred Feminine Meditations for Women's Circles & Personal Awakening. Womancraft Publishing (October 9, 2017).

2 See “Christa” by Edwina Sandys (1975) and Arnfríður Guðmundsdóttir's paper, “When Christ becomes Christa.”

Guðmundsdóttir, Arnfríður. “When Christ becomes Christa.” Fyrirlestur í Wartburg Seminary Dubuque, Nóvember 2012.

3 Maundy Thursday is the Christian holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter, commemorating the foot washing and Last Supper of Jesus .

4 Reilly, Patricia Lynn. Be Full of Yourself!: The Journey from Self-Criticism to Self-Celebration. Open Window Creations (April 1, 1998).

5 Gadsby, Hannah. Nanette. Netflix Original, 2018.

6 Morrison, Toni. Home. Vintage; (January 1, 2013).

7 Walker, Alice. The Way Forward is With A Broken Heart. Ballantine Books; 1st Ballantine Books ed edition (October 2, 2001).

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

9 Morrison, Toni. Beloved. Vintage; Reprint edition (June 8, 2004).

10 Guðmundsdóttir, Arnfríður. “When Christ becomes Christa.” Fyrirlestur í Wartburg Seminary Dubuque, Nóvember 2012.

11 Daly, Mary. Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women's Liberation. Beacon Press; Revised edition (June 1, 1993).

12 Heimann, Sandra. The Biography of Goddess Inanna; Indomitable Queen of Heaven, Earth and Almost Everything: Her Story Is Women's Story. BalboaPress (September 29, 2016).


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