Friday, September 14, 2018

"Raw, insightful and compelling" - a Review of Inanna's Ascent by P.D. Mackenzie Cook

'Inanna's Ascent: Reclaiming Female Power' is raw, insightful and compelling. It rekindles the ancient recognition of women's intimate connection with the Goddess and, for me, evokes the affirmation that women are “preeminent by divine right and natural law”.1 This ancient perception has blossomed again in recent years, and it is deeply moving to read about the ways in which it is guiding and nourishing women's personal journeys today. Most profoundly, this vibrant book shows that women are embracing the hidden Goddess within themselves. They have stopped walking “in fear of the [...] Sky God”, 2 and in coming to know themselves as Goddess they are taking the next step along Inanna's path: splitting “the door where cleverness resides” to reveal “what lies inside”3 Simply put, 'Inanna's Ascent' shows how women are recovering the sovereignty that is their fundamental birthright.

The essays in this anthology are filled with thought-provoking insights – from the telling of ancient female-centred myths and noting their significance in terms of Jungian psychology, to the retelling of patriarchal myths in women-friendly ways; from discussing the tensions in balancing women's vulnerability and weakness with their inner resources of strength and power, to ancient perceptions of men both as nourishing harvested wheat and as partners in women's ascent from the underworld to the intimate sacred dance of renewal. And, among these powerful essays, the book also holds other rich offerings: beautiful celebrations of Goddess and Woman in heartfelt poetry and captivating artwork.

It is irrelevant whether we agree with these women in every detail (especially as men). Their stories and insights are as personal and artistically-crafted as their poems and illustrations. What is important is that this book resonates. It may not happen in the same way, or in the same places, for all of us – and certainly not in a single reading. This is a book to be savoured: a companion worthy of the time we spend letting its stories, its sacred songs, and its inspiring visions sink in deeply.

It is also a book to be shared with friends and loved ones. In fact what may be most startling about it is its relevance not only for women, but also for the men who love and admire them. As women become more conscious of the Goddess in their lives and being, and thus reclaim their implicit sovereignty, it is vital that we men learn to listen – and to recognize, revere and respond appropriately. To do this we too must connect with the feminine, with the “life-giving springs [...] hidden in the depths” of our psyche, of nature, and of the women in our lives.4 Absorbing the offerings in this book will help women explore the Goddess they share in the depths of their being. It will also help men to connect with and understand those depths – especially if we are included in women-led discussions and sacred rituals inspired by this book's eloquent invocation of the Goddess. We too must become “sacred attendants of ecstasy”,5 and in this connection it has been a genuine honour and gift to be asked to review 'Inanna's Ascent'. It is a book that will help restore the balance of nature's order: that of the Goddess, emerging once again as life-giving Matrix and Mistress.

~ P.D. Mackenzie Cook (author of 'Epona: Hidden Goddess of the Celts')

Order your copy here.

1 Henricus Cornelius Agrippa (1529), Declamation on the Nobility and Preeminence of the Female Sex, Albert Rabil Jr. (Ed. and Transl,), University of Chicago Press, 1996.
2 Diane Wolkstein & Samuel Noah Kramer (1983), Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Harper & Row; p. 5.
3 Betty De Shong Meador (2000), Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart, University of Texas Press; p.124.
4 M. Esther Harding, Women's Mysteries, Rider, 1991; p. 30.
5 Betty De Shong Meador, ibid

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.


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).

Friday, August 31, 2018

Inanna's Ascent by Tamara Albanna

Inanna's Ascent by Tara Reynolds

When we think of Inanna, she is usually envisioned as the descending Goddess—and often, it is her time spent in the Underworld that is most alluded to. While the Underworld, or the “shadow” is vital, it is equally important to remember what happens after the time spent in the darkness, the void, or the long dark tunnel.

Something wonderful happens—the caterpillar emerging from the chrysalis, the child leaving the womb, the flower bursting through the soil to bloom.

As you come out of that space, when things looked so utterly helpless at times, that’s the “miracle“ of the ascent, but it’s not really a miracle at all, it’s what comes next.

We are very much focused on the shadow. This is valid, and incredibly warranted, because not all is “Love and Light,” all the time—that’s just not realistic. One only has to turn on the news and see the intense darkness of this planet of ours. Balance is so desperately needed, but that balance works both ways.

Unfortunately, it seems as though the “shadow” has become somewhat commoditized, as with everything else that has a potential market in New Age circles. People realize the value, monetarily, of the shadow and shadow-work as it were.

Everywhere you turn these days there seems to be an obsession with the descent, and the darkness, as though we are somehow meant to spend a lifetime or two, in that space.

Even the title of this book, Inanna’s Ascent, drew questions from those who thought Inanna is only about the descent. Have we not earned the emergence from darkness?

I descended from the Priestesses of Sumer—the keepers of Inanna’s temple, during a time when the divine feminine was honored, and the name of the Goddess was on the tongue of all the inhabitants of the land. When the murderous patriarchy swept through, the civilization slowly began its descent, along with the Goddess—and all things feminine. Slowly, the Goddess was forgotten, and Her name became a distant memory. 

The people of the land have suffered—particularly the women and girls—and although the Goddess is in their DNA, we are in need of a remembrance. Inanna descended, was killed, and re-emerged three days later—long before Jesus made that same journey. 

Inanna descended for us, she was cleansed of her sins—and she cleansed us all as well—so why do we continue to suffer?

We descend our entire lives it seems—only coming up for brief moments of respite. Patriarchy pushes us down repeatedly—and sometimes, we just stay there.

When Al-Qaeda came into towns and raped women and girls en masse, we descended. When Daesh swept through the land, raped and murdered women and girls—while the world watched—we descended further and further. Wars, and sanctions, starvation and hopelessness—all by the patriarchal machine—we descended.

What is the response to this? In my view—and in the pages of this anthology as you will see—it is to remember. The beautiful women who have contributed to this work are all daughters of Inanna; they were all called home in one way or another. Inanna's Ascent examines how women can rise from the underworld and reclaim their power, sovereignly expressed through poetry, prose and visual art. All contributors are extraordinary women in their own right, who have been through some difficult life lessons—and are brave enough to share their stories.

Inanna is known as Queen of Heaven, but she really is a sexual Goddess. She is the very essence of woman—with divine spark in her womb: creation and destruction all at once. She chose her lovers, she did not allow a man to rule over her, and she knew her power. We are her daughters, and we have been silenced, made to feel unworthy, abused, hated, made to forget.

It is time to remember.

It is my hope that in the pages of this anthology, you too will remember, and begin your own journey—or continue the one you are currently on with renewed strength. My wish for you is to be the Goddess in your own life—to embody Her, and know your divinity.

For the women and girls of my Motherland, Iraq—the home of the Goddess, the cradle of civilization—may we rise again. May we once again turn to Her, and within ourselves, and remember who we are.

We have earned this ascent—all of us.

It is our time now.

An excerpt from the Introduction to Inanna's Ascent.

Order your copy of Inanna's Ascent: Reclaiming Female Power here

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