Monday, October 19, 2020

Sovereign Unto Herself by Trista Hendren


Painting by Leticia Banegas

Deep in the psyche even of great women, there has not been a female metaphor for greatness, for strength, for the wisdom which they themselves embodied. The female Deities had been so slandered, so stripped of essential integrity… this is not myopia. The millennia of patriarchal narrative has left our minds locked up, unable to grasp the Female Metaphor… that she may stand sovereign, not as greater than, but in and of herself: so that, when a woman or a man desires to express greatness, nobility, strength they are able to easily reach for a female image.” 
-Glenys Livingstone, PhD1

Imagine for a moment a picture of your greatest hero. Who is it? Why is this person your hero? How does her life relate to yours? How HAVE THEY influenced you?

Our heroes are important: They guide us to where we can go (if we dare) and save us from our own limiting beliefs about ourselves. How do we guide our children to find role models who will empower them?

Every woman I know who took Women’s Studies in college talks about how their whole world sort of opened up with their first class. Why do we deprive our girls of this experience throughout most of their education? Is it possible more children would love going to school if it related back to them directly?

How can they have heroes that don’t reflect who they are?

The highlight of my son’s second grade school year was a “Hero Speech.” The kids researched various historical figures, picked the one that they identified with most strongly, continued to research that person more thoroughly, and finally wrote and presented a speech (in costume) to the entire second grade community, including parents and grandparents.

It was a wonderful project, and I was thrilled to see my son so engaged with his research on Benjamin Franklin. When he finally took the stage, he was Ben Franklin.

However, when I went into his classroom a few months before to celebrate his birthday, I was dismayed. I was only hearing about research on male heroes. The kids were allowed to ask anything of me about my son’s very early years. The questions they came up with were both creative and fun to answer. I decided to ask a few questions of my own.

I asked if the kids could name some female heroes.

No one could name even one.

The teacher explained that they were somewhat limited because the project required that they research books dedicated to heroes at their appropriate reading level. Apparently there just were not enough books written for second graders about women in history.2

The day of the speeches was a proud one. It was heartwarming to see all the kids dressed up in their costumes, filled with pride after months of mastering their presentations. As the children’s speeches were delivered, I couldn’t help notice the numbers of girls who were dressed as male heroes, giving brilliant speeches in men’s words.

There was not a single boy, of course, who dressed as his female hero or spoke in her words. My heart ached for all the second grade girls. In fact, I felt very sad for every woman in that room.

I couldn’t help but wonder why this is still happening.3

Fast-forward about a decade, and I don't see a lot of change. While we now live in 'progressive' Norway, to-date, my daughter has had one day (ONE DAY!) where they focused on women's history in school.

When she has brought up Goddesses in the schools of this secular country, she has been hushed. Even with a curriculum that teaches all the major world religions, Goddess is never mentioned.

Imagine a world where our daughters grew up knowing Her many names and rich history. Imagine a world where women did not spend their entire lives searching for their divinity.

As Simone de Beauvoir wrote 60 years ago, “Man enjoys the great advantage of having a god endorse the code he writes; and since man exercises a sovereign authority over women it is especially fortunate that this authority has been vested in him by the Supreme Being.”4 

I believe the time of men's authority is over. He has colonized the female sex long enough. As Monica Sjöö and Barbara Mor wrote: “...the female sex has functioned as a colony of organized patriarchal power for several thousand years now. Our brains have been emptied out of all memory of our own cultural history, and the colonizing power systematically denies such a history ever existed. The colonizing power mocks our attempts to rediscover and celebrate our ancient matriarchies as realities. In the past, women have had to accept this enforced female amnesia as “normal”; and many contemporary women continue to believe the female sex has existed always... as an auxiliary to the male-dominated world order. But we continue to dig in the ruins, seeking the energy of memory; believing that the reconstruction of women’s ancient history has a revolutionary potential equal to that of any political movement today.”5

Mainstreaming women's ancient history is long-overdue. Gerda Lerner wrote, “Women’s history is the primary tool for women’s emancipation.”6 When women learn their rich HERstory, there is a significant shift that ripples through their entire way of be-ing.

This anthology is our attempt to bring back some of the ancient and suppressed wisdom—via the Goddess commonly known through much of the world as Isis.

An excerpt from the introduction to our upcoming anthology, On the Wings of Isis: Reclaiming the Sovereignty of Auset.

Read the second excerpt here.


1 Livingstone, Glenys PhD. PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion. iUniverse, 2005.

2 I tried to remedy this with my (younger) daughter by searching out our own books—which I read with her at home. The Who Was/Is Series was one of the best we found—and we read through all the books on Women. I wrote to the publisher to request that they publish an equal number of women but they never responded.

Burleigh Muten's Goddesses: A World of Myth and Magic and Ten Thousand Names: Goddess Stories from Many Cultures were the first two Goddess books we found for children. (Muten's book, Return of the Great Goddess, was my first introduction to Goddess in college!) Now that I have a younger niece and nephew, I can see there is greater selection of books for children about women, people of color and LGBQT people. Whether or not these books are read in schools remains a mystery to me.

For those of us who are grown, I highly recommend the work of anthology contributor Max Dashu, who has been restoring women's history for over 50 years through her Suppressed Histories Archives.

3 Adapted from an earlier essay published in Elephant Journal entitled Women's Studies Must Start Earlier. June 15, 2012.

4 de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. Vintage; First edition; 1960.

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

6 Lerner, Gerda. The Creation of Patriarchy. Oxford University Press; Reprint edition, 1987.

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