I Am the Fool

I am the Fool, just like in the tarot deck, the one who is ready to step off into the unknown, to begin a new journey. I'd love for you to put on your fool's cap and join me. I have been studying and playing with the tarot for a while and decided to dive in and work with the archetypes in a different way -- by creating my own archetypal images of the major arcana using SoulCollage®. I have created an online course that will last for 22 weeks, starting on January 8, that will allow us to make a different SoulCollage® card each week as we start at 0, the Fool, and progress through the Major Arcana until we end at 21, The World, where we will no doubt have learned a lot about ourselves and changed a little in the process.

If you don't know what SoulCollage® is, go here for more information: What Is SoulCollage? If you are interested in learning more about the tarot, haven't tried SoulCollage®, and would like to try your hand at creating your own Major Arcana cards, this would be an easy and fun way to dive in -- like The Fool, stepping off the precipice.

Some of the first SoulCollage® cards I made were recognizable to me as archetypes from the tarot such as The High Priestess, The Empress, The Magician, The Lovers, and Death. They just came through instinctively, but since making these early cards, other iterations have wanted to come forward. Lately, I have been playing with some of the symbols found on classical tarot decks such as Rider-Waite-Smith, and intuitively finding my own meaningful symbols to add.

When beginning the tarot journey, it's a good idea to get familiar with the 22 cards in the Major Arcana --  the archetypes that symbolize life's journey from the Fool or beginner to the integrated human represented by The World Dancer. As you gaze at the 22 cards, ask yourself: Which card resonates with me the most? Which card most intrigues me and which am I most repelled by?

The Fool has always made me happy, even excited. Oh, good, I am about to start a journey! Oh yeah, I am reminded, I don't know anything about this new adventure, and I get to learn. This archetype says that it is okay to not know, to make mistakes, to take risks, as I'm doing with this course. I have been leading e-courses on goddess archetypes -- scaling the heights and plumbing the depths of the divine feminine for the past few years, and I felt ready to make a detour. When I turned 60 this year I felt something inside of me shift and I took a pause from my usual and expected course. In fact I stopped doing what I thought I should do and just let myself be. The Fool came back to me as a starting point.

I made this first Fool card when I started my journey with the goddess archetypes about 5 years ago. I called her The Crone Fool because here I was in my mid-50s embarking on a creative journey that I knew not where it would lead, but I knew it was where my soul needed to go. The prancing, youngish-oldish woman on the top of the mountain danced on a whimsical, colorful background that my daughter created when she was 10 years old. I gave my Fool wings that have the word magic on them. She's wearing a crown, signifying her queenly status and divine inspiration; yet she is playful and joyful, unconcerned about what she should be doing or how she should be acting at her age. That resonated with me. The white dog symbolized purity and instinctual nature, the loyalty of the imaginative realm, once engaged. She is in movement, as the Fool is usually depicted -- active, and on her way. One of the things I started doing at this same time in my life, is going on pilgrimage with other women to other parts of the world to encounter the sacred feminine soul and spirit of the land in Greece, England, and this year, Ireland. While on pilgrimage we are The Fool, traveling light with our knapsack, containing both inner and outer tools needed for such a trip, ready to foray into the Unknown, learning about people and places, and encountering the Self in liminal space and time.

As a therapist I am struck by how often people reveal their biggest fear is when they face the unknown and are about to try something new, because inherent in that fear is the possibility of looking foolish, of making mistakes and being judged for them. There is a little inner smile that I wear when I hear about these fears, for they are universal and certainly ones I have experienced as well, but so often signaling the call to adventure. This is the first stage of the hero's or heroine's journey as Joseph Campbell delineated. It requires that we don't know. It requires that we enter the mystery. It requires that we start something or start over. For only then can we ever hope to know ourselves, to grow and change, to experience life in its full range of musicality--the high and low notes and everything in between. It requires that we make mistakes, that we fall down, that we see ourselves from that position, ignominious as it may be. It requires that we relinquish our pride for a moment and laugh at ourselves. It requires that we stop caring what others may think. It requires that we return to beginner's mind, and in a sense, throw caution to the wind and take a leap of faith. It is one of my favorite cards.


I made another card as I began this new journey, this time with an androgynous figure -- containing wholeness, both masculine and feminine qualities -- against a background of yellow, symbolic of the sun, of unlimited potential, divine intelligence, a spiritual journey. It seems apparent that this youngster is going to grow and change, that he/she is spontaneously walking forward toward consciousness, with mountains to climb and a willingness to step off the cliff, the little dog of instinctual nature nipping at his heels, eagerly urging him on. The youth is looking up, not down at the path or lack thereof, inspired by the warmth and shining rays of the sun. He is holding a rose, symbolic of the heart and the unfolding Self.

The Fool is the Number 0, the one who contains wholeness within the seed, the one who will come full circle, the one who is all and nothing, the beginning and the end, the one who is the mandala, the cipher, the eye of God. For it is true that within every wise man is a fool and within every fool, a wise man. We are the one and the many and life lies before us if we will but begin.

So here we go! Hop on your cosmic chariot and join me in the New Year of 2017 as we learn about the tarot and it's symbolism, history, alchemical and mystical-religious origins, explore 22 different tarot decks, and most importantly create archetypes and reflections of our own soul, as we advance on the journey towards wholeness.

Go here to register: From Fool to World Dancer: The 22-Week SoulCollage® Journey

The Priestess of Memory

There has never been a timewhen you and I have not existed... There will never be a time when we will cease to be

~ from the BHAGAVAD GITA

This morning as I took a meditative walk on a beautiful, mild, summer day with my old dog, Maggie, I thought about the cycles of the seasons, of life, death and rebirth. I felt the awesome power of life being experienced in a single moment, deep in my bones, which is not surprising given that we're in the month ruled by Cancer, archetype of the Great Mother. This is a time when we are often more aware of emotions washing over us like ocean waves, flowing in, baptizing us, and then just as surely flowing back out to sea. There is no need to do anything other than notice and accept the inevitable tides.

I have come to see I am in the autumn of my life and I am beginning to accept that I must slow down and take pause, experience more of the present moment and less frantic hurrying to the next. It hasn't been an easy surrender, and I am not sure I am even there yet, as I still have things to do. But there is a subtle shift taking place within me, a shift of perception, a need to turn the prism lens and see things differently, to allow new ways of being to take hold. 

The ritual of taking a morning walk begins with Maggie, our black lab, dancing around me eagerly when she sees me putting on my shoes. I don't dare say out loud that we're going for a walk or she will bark incessantly, unable to suppress her excitement. I am aware of the time I spend with her now as I know that at 11 years old, she doesn't have many years left with us. Yet she still has plenty of puppy energy even though her chin has turned white with age. (I am starting to see the similarities between us.) She has become more protective of me lately and follows me around the house, always close at hand, usually napping contentedly, while I cook or read or work at the computer. When I leave, she curls up on the rug by the door to await my return. Thoughts of Maggie's presence in my life and the gratitude I feel for her companionship shift as I walk with her down our shady street to thoughts of my mother and father.

Yesterday, my husband, Rob, and I rode our bikes the half-hour trek on country roads to the Honeysuckle Tea House for a Sunday sup. When we walked into the peaceful, open-air teahouse, the medley Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World by Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole was playing. This song is one I have designated as my dad's song as he loved the song, What a Wonderful World. Rob and I exchanged a smile and my eyes welled up with tears. It is a song that is reflective of my dad's optimistic and appreciative view of life. I feel fortunate that I had a father who would say to me, "Life is beautiful. Every time you hear a bird sing, remember that." He told me that my grandfather opened his eyes as he lay dying and spoke his last words, assuring him "It's beautiful."

My thoughts of my mom have been more and more about the gifts she gave me even though I spent much of my adult life focused on what I didn't get from her and longed for. My life's journey, and indeed, my soul's purpose, I believe, has been to heal the mother wound that was passed down, through her and through my grandmother that originated who knows how many generations back. I feel that wound is healed now and I feel deep forgiveness for her unintentional emotional abandonment as she did not know what to do with her own feelings of loss, nor did her mother, and so it went back through time.

The gifts my mother gave me were of a fertile and active imagination and the need to seek a deeper spiritual understanding of the world. As I walked this morning, I remembered how she comforted me at night when I had restless thoughts of spirits in my bedroom and feverish dreams of other worlds. She rubbed my back and taught me a prayer that began, "Father Mother God loving me..." These were the seeds of the divine feminine taking root in my psyche that would later provide the soothing balm to the ancient mother wound. I believe the reparative work she helped facilitate healed back generations of women in my family and forward to my daughter and for generations to come.

I see now that it didn't begin with me. She was trying to heal, too, and so was my grandmother, but they had fewer resources, opportunities, and support systems. It may have been an evolutionary process: They tried to find answers in the best way they knew how and passed on what wisdom they could. Perhaps it was left for me to pick up the threads and weave them together in such a way that a tapestry was formed of interconnected lives in which boundaries of time and space are but an illusion. And perhaps there will be dangling threads for my daughter to pick up and sew as well. Perhaps these are my gifts to her, and so it goes...

"Your soul is the priestess of memory, selecting, sifting, and ultimately gathering your vanishing days toward presence." - John O'Donohue, Anam Cara

Woman and the Owl

Over at the Woman and the Owl project, I was recently interviewed by Dr. Jessamine Dana, whose project is to cultivate and support women as spiritual leaders in all walks of life. I had the honor of being interviewed for her project, which you can watch here. We have both been drawn to the owl as kindred spirit and totem animal to women and our intuitive process. The owl has long been associated with the goddess, witches, wisdom, magic and the supernatural. To me the owl represents my inner voice, the place I go to within to hear answers. I wait and listen, often needing to let go of what I thought I knew or what I thought I was supposed to do, so that magic can happen.

As Jessamine Dana puts it, "The relationship between the woman and the owl is the complex connection and attraction between ourselves and our potential, between who we are and who we might become, and between the internal and the part of us that flies forward, exploring what the world might hold. The Project, is the work of going again and again into that place of mystery, of the unknown, of the Divine, from whence much of the spiritual feminine comes. It is the work of renewing our commitment to ourselves, our communities, our students, to be brave, to step forward, and to be us."


A Goddess Pilgrimage: Magical Santorini - Part 4

"To Journey without being changed is to be a nomad.To change without journeying is to be a chameleon. To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim."

- Mark Nepo

It was 3 months ago that I returned to the United States from my 3 week goddess pilgrimage to Greece. It has taken me that long to assimilate it all, to let it seep into my skin, settle in my bones, and animate my dreams...

The last stop of the trip, after leaving Crete and the wonderful journey there to meet the Minoan goddesses with 19 sister pilgrims, was 3 days in Santorini. I didn't know much about Santorini except that I was told it was breathtakingly beautiful. My friend and traveling companion, Diane Marshall, and I were pretty beat from the two-week pilgrimage, jokingly referred to as "goddess bootcamp."  It takes a lot out of you to traverse an island, climb mountain tops, descend into caves, dance, sing, create altars and rituals, and navigate a different culture, language, and people in a group of 20. Diane and I made a few last minute changes to our itinerary so we could enjoy a full 3 days of resting in Santorini, and we were so glad we did.

We took a boat the 70 miles from Crete to Santorini and arrived at a small semi-circular island whose towering cliffs jutted out from the sea like a giant cake. The white buildings that covered the tops of the cliffs looked like drizzled icing. It wasn't until we went up the steep roads to our hotel, the Volcano View, and collapsed in chairs on the cliffside patio that we gasped in amazement at the beauty of our surroundings.

I knew Santorini was on a caldera, or cauldron, formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption, but I now saw that this little slip of an island was actually one part of the circular edge of the volcano. There were a few other smaller islands that peeked up from the sea across from it which I now realized formed the other edge of the volcanic ring.

Wow! It hit me that we were perched on the rim of a volcano that had last erupted in 1450 BCE, and was now surrounded by water. We had heard much about this volcanic eruption on Crete because it was one of the factors that contributed to the demise of the rich, goddess-loving Minoan culture. We were to learn more about its effects here, at its epicenter, when this land was known as Thera and thought by some to have been the lost continent of Atlantis.

Diane and I spent the first day relaxing at the beautiful hotel that overlooked the sea and took in the calming blue and white of the sea, sky, clouds, cliffs and white-washed churches with blue-painted domes. All of Santorini seemed to be blue and white, colors that seemed to both calm us and cleanse us of our weariness.

We learned that there are more than 250 churches on the little island which takes no more than an hour and a half to traverse lengthwise. Here, the Virgin Mary was venerated and considered to be a guardian goddess of the island, comprised mostly of Greek Orthodox and some Catholics. We were to learn that some of these churches were built on sites that were once sacred to the goddesses of old, including Hecate, Artemis, and Isis, the latter due to the shared cultures of the Greeks and Egyptians during ancient times. Mary has had to stand in for the goddesses that were once revered in Her many forms.

The second day there, we rented a car and set out to explore the island. We were eager to visit the ruins of Akrotiri, a Minoan town that flourished until the volcano blew in 1450 BCE, changing the course of civilization in this area. When the volcano erupted, it covered the town in a thick layer of volcanic ash, much like Pompeii, preserving a portion of the town and many of the artifacts of life during that time, as if placed in a time capsule. It is one of the few excavations we visited that was enclosed to prevent further damage from the elements. As we entered, we saw two and three-story buildings that opened onto small squares, remnants of doors and windows, stone-paved roads, sophisticated sewer systems, furniture, utensils and earthenware jars lined up in basement storage rooms. It left one with the feeling that life was suddenly interrupted, although it is speculated that the people who lived there probably had time to evacuate as many earthquakes presaged the volcano's eruption.

In the midst of this gray, ashen ghost town, some buildings exhibited beautifully-painted frescoes on the walls. One in particular thrilled me as it showed what women of the time looked like, how they dressed and wore their hair. I especially loved the painting of the young priestess who seemed to be in motion and the life-sized female figures portrayed in the "House of Women" who seemed so vibrant.




From there, we wandered from black volcanic beaches to white pumice beaches to red lava stone beaches until we found the old settlement of Thera, perched on a hillside. I read about the tiny church halfway up the hill that was built on the site of an ancient temple of the goddess, and wanted to see it. Once again, as Jean Shinoda Bolen points out in Crossing to Avalon, one way of "usurping goddess sites was by building chapels or cathedrals in honor of Mary on them. As a feminine expression of divinity, Mary is archetypally the mother goddess. In all but name, this is how she is worshipped... For regardless of discriminating points made by theologians, the man or woman who prays to Mary is speaking to the same compassionate goddess whose names were, among others, Demeter, Isis, Tara, or Kuan Yin, goddesses who, like Mary, understood suffering.... When Mary chapels are built on goddess sites, they are, in effect, reconsecrated and renamed, places where it can be said that the Goddess continues to be honored."

After a full day of exploring, we made our way to the north tip of the island to the town of Oia where we were told the sunsets were spectacular. There, we sat on a rooftop patio and sipped wine and watched the sun go down along with throngs of others lined along the walls of the cliffside city.










The third day was spent just walking up and down the cobblestone streets of the quaint town of Fira, relaxing, shopping, always eating magnificent food and taking in the beauty around us.

It was hard to leave this magical isle. We wanted the days of keeping our gaze on the deep blue sea, sipping wine, and letting the warm wind blow through our hair until the sun dropped beneath the horizon to never end. But as all good things must, this journey, too, came to a glorious end in Santorini.

The pilgrimage to Greece to encounter the goddess was one that will always be a part of me, and that did indeed, transform me as I felt the presence of the goddess both within and without. For She is there. Wherever you seek Her, you will find Her. And I came to know, as did Morgaine, the last priestess of the goddess in The Mists of Avalon, who followed a young girl into a chapel at the end of the story "...even if they think otherwise... these women know the power of the Immortal. Exile her as they may, she will prevail. The Goddess will never withdraw herself from mankind."


A Goddess Pilgrimage: Crete - Part 3

As Carol Christ, our fearless leader, explained to us that first night in Crete, a pilgrimage is more than just a journey to a sacred place, it is a journey between states -- physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. In a way, when you are on a pilgrimage you are without a country. In starting a pilgrimage, you cross a threshold into a liminal state, where you often experience a sense of timelessness, if not another place in time. Pilgrims are on their own personal odyssey as well as on a collective odyssey with other seekers. In their book, The Archetype of Pilgrimage: Outer Action with Inner Meaning, Wallace and Jean Clift describe the various reasons for embarking on a pilgrimage:  to answer a call to adventure (one of the first stages Joseph Campbell described in "The Hero's Journey"); to experience a place of power; to hope and ask for healing or a miracle; to express a love of God (or Goddess); to find or reclaim lost pieces of ourselves; to give thanks; to ask for forgiveness; to leave the routine of ordinary life and experience something new or numinous; and to prepare for death. On this last point, it would seem we are always preparing for death, albeit often unconsciously, and going on a pilgrimage can feel like one of those things you need to do before you die. In many respects, all of these reasons compelled me to go on Carol Christ's Goddess Pilgrimage, a 2-week sojourn she has been leading in the spring and fall for 20 years.

The night before we left Athens for Crete, I put on some music (Gabrielle Roth's CD, Luna) and danced on the rooftop of our hotel, where I had a stunning view of the Acropolis, awash in golden light. I was celebrating the initiation I had experienced at Delphi and preparing myself for our morning sight-seeing at the Acropolis, afternoon releasing ceremony at Eleusis, and evening flight to Crete the following day. Dancing in the moonlight I felt the energy of the priestess. I was integrating the mysteries I had already experienced and initiating myself for those to come.

The next night, we landed in Crete and met our sister travelers on the rooftop of our hotel in Heraklion under a full moon. There were 20 of us, including Carol and two sets of mother and daughter travelers. I knew my mother was a part of this journey in spirit, and felt her presence strongly at times as I continued to both grieve and celebrate our life together. My sister pilgrims and I shared a little about ourselves and why we were there, starting with the affirmation, which would become a familiar refrain, "I am whole, I am here, I am... " and say our name.

"I am whole, I am here, I am Stephanie." And so began the pilgrimage on the beautiful island of Crete, where the ancient, yet advanced, Minoan civilization honored the goddess of earth, sea and sky.

The first stop was the palace or sacred center of Knossos, built around 2,000 BCE on sacred grounds where people had lived and worshipped since Neolithic times (6,000 BCE and before). We silently walked in procession through these ruins, some of which were partially reconstructed by the archeologist, Arthur Evans, in the early 1900s. This was where the snake goddesses, which I was thrilled to see in the Heraklion Museum, were found.

The palace of Knossos is where the King-Priest Minos and Queen-Priestess Pasiphae were thought to have lived, as well as the half-man/half-beast minotaur, in the center of the labyrinth. Some surmise that the myth of Theseus slaying the minotaur with the help of the princess/goddess, Ariadne, whom he later abandoned, represents the end of the worship of the goddess and the beginning of the patriarchy on Crete and throughout Greece, as Theseus was a warrior king from Athens.

What was most likely enacted here before the patriarchy was the hieros gamos, or sacred marriage between the priest and priestess who wore masks of the bull and cow, representing the joining of the sacred masculine and the sacred feminine, or the sun and the moon.  This celebratory pageant, attended by all members of the community, included the connubium, or consummation rite, and ended with the coronation of the king and queen in the center of the labyrinth. The mural depicting the "ladies of the court" were likely priestesses, dancers who led the procession and circled around the royal couple. The bull was sacrificed as part of the marriage feast to ensure fertility across the land. These rites were once widely celebrated at the sacred centers of the Minoans, for they were an egalitarian society in which the goddess was honored as the ubiquitous, life-giving force that She was.

We were to visit many other sacred centers of Minoan culture throughout the two week pilgrimage. We would weave in and out of the stone passageways and crumbled  foundations, imagining what it would have been like to live in these village centers where the people practiced sacred rituals as part of their everyday life. Virtually all of these sites had stone altars, many in the form of kernos stones, giant table-like slabs, with bowls carved into them for the placement of offerings.

Many of these sites had lustral baths, large cisterns or small rooms filled with water in which people passed and cleansed themselves before taking part in sacred ceremonies. There were storerooms with giant pithos jars that were used to hold the olive oil and wine. Many of these centers were built over and over again after maurauding invaders set fire to them or earthquakes ravaged them. At times, we would feel the veil was thin between present time and days of yore, and we could feel, if not hear, the priestesses dancing and singing or sense the panicked state of those who fled from impending danger.


This introduction to Minoan culture was followed by a much anticipated visit to the Paliani Convent, an old convent (from about 668 CE) and the sacred myrtle tree that is said to be over 1000 years old. Sue Monk Kidd described her visit there (while she was on Carol's pilgrimage) in her book, Traveling With Pomegranates, and the granting of her wish to write a novel after being a non-fiction writer for many years. The Secret Life of Bees, which featured the black Madonna as a prominent character, would be her first book of fiction.  I looked forward to visiting this sacred tree as I have always loved the spirit of trees, and this one was magnificent.



The story goes that after the Turkish invasion in 1821, the convent was destroyed, but an icon of the Virgin Mary was found in the tree. The nuns moved it into the church, but the next day it was found back in the tree. As many times as they tried to take it in, She made her way back to the Tree of Life. And so she has remained there, now entirely encompassed by the arms of the great tree (a smaller replica hangs on the branches for all to see).

Here, we said prayers, asked for healing, and tied a ribbon on the tree in remembrance. We each took a small piece of the myrtle tree from fallen twigs, wrapped the same color ribbon around it, and brought it home with us. One member of our group shared that she had experienced an instantaneous healing of a problem she had been having for months. The nuns who lived there were sweet and welcoming, and we felt Mary's presence.

The highlights of the pilgrimage for me were the rituals we performed at altars we created in various settings, from a Tholos, or rock tomb on the top of a hill, where we all took part in a ritual to honor our ancestors, to ones we performed in some of the caves we visited, which very much felt like being in the womb of the Great Mother, to those we built on mountaintops with panoramic views of Crete and the surrounding seas. We each bought a Minoan snake goddess to represent us on the altars. We would bring liquids for libations to pour onto them, including clear spring water, wine, and honey, as well as seeds, stones and talismans we wanted to bless.

Our arduous climb down into the depths of the first cave, Skoteino, which means "dark," was a profound experience for me. As we entered the cave, I heard a fluttering of wings and a white dove, symbol of Aphrodite, flew out. She is an ancient mother goddess I have felt a strong connection to so I felt this was a sign of her presence.

We created a beautiful altar and releasing ceremony, where I was able to not only let go of the hurt between my mother and me, but lifetimes of pain in my motherline that freed us all.  We then descended two more levels and ten of us made our way down into Her womb. There we extinguished our lights and sat in complete darkness, meditating. I felt such peace and connection to the divine as I sat upon the moist, red Mother Earth and envisioned being held in her great lap. In each of the five caves we visited we sang songs to Her, the walls reverberating with the sound of twenty women's voices, as if we were in a cathedral. And, so we were -- the cathedral of the divine feminine.

In these two intense weeks of travel, we got to experience the beauty of Crete, from beaches to mountains, caves, gorges, lakes, and plains. We sang songs to the goddess on the bus as we zig-zagged across Crete. We rode donkeys to the cave of Zeus. We sat in the roots of a 2,000 year old tree that all 20 of us together could just wrap our arms around. We wandered the streets of many a town in search of treasures and adventure.

We got to know the people who lived there, simply but happily close to the earth and her bounty, and those who ran small inns and tavernas.





We feasted on many gorgeous meals of fresh vegetables, fruits, the most delicious homemade yogurt, feta, bread, local honey, and olives of every variety that most taverna owners harvested from their own orchards after the tourist season ended. And always the raki, the distilled wine aperitif that was served with every meal. Yamas!

It was always a treat to pluck a ripe pomegranate from the trees that flourished there.


We met women who were hand crafters in the old tradition of weaving on looms, creating intricate embroidery, and lace-making. We learned of the hidden motifs of the goddess, the tree of life, the snake, and other symbols of the feminine divine that have been woven into fabrics and piece-work for centuries. While Greece is very much a patriarchal country, which was evident in the roles we saw played out, archetypes of the goddess are still evident in many weavings.

handwork with goddess motif

We danced traditional Balkan and Greek dances under the leadership of Laura Shannon, who leads women's ritual dances around the world and whom we were privileged to have with us.

We savored our days off in beautiful locales like the small mountain resort, Zaros, the picturesque fishing village of Mochlos (I want to go back to both of those dreamy places one day) and the small coastal city, Agios Nikolaos, where I behld the goddess in the sunrise.

The weather was warm and clear as was the sea we swam in more days than not. There is nothing like eating and drinking at a seaside taverna and then plunging into the warm waters that lap at the shore. At Mochlos, we could swim to a small island and explore the ruins of a sacred center of the Minoan culture that was once attached to the land.

This pilgrimage to the goddess of ancient Minoan culture was a journey that has continued to play out in my dreams and memories. It all started with a dream I had last year of standing on a Grecian cliff and noticing some undiscovered temple stones beneath my feet and realizing that I had found one of Aphrodite's forgotten temples by the sea. To me, this symbolizes the rising of the goddess and the shift of consciousness that is slowly taking place that will include once again an embrace of the divine feminine. For all of us who shared this pilgrimage we truly came to know She is there for all who seek Her.

Be sure and read Parts 1 and 2 and the conclusion of my journey to magical Santorini in Part 4.

If you wish to explore the goddesses on your own, I offer e-courses that you can learn more about by going here:  New Moon Goddess Mystery School and here: Goddess Temple e-courses

If you are interested in taking the goddess pilgrimage to Crete with Carol Christ in the spring or fall, you can find out more by clicking here: Ariadne Institute 

A Goddess Pilgrimage: The Eleusinian Mysteries - Part 2

One of the things I knew I wanted to do on my trip to Greece was to take time to release feelings I still carried about my mother's death on June 12th of this year. Because of all that I had going on in my life at the time, I didn't fully grieve her passing. I felt relief that she was freed from suffering a 14-year mental and physical decline due to dementia, culminating in a broken hip and having to spend the last eight months of her life in a nursing home, confused and alone. In many ways, I had been grieving the loss of my mother for years, so I was prepared for her to go when she at last died at age 94. But this mother-daughter relationship is a deep and primal one, and regardless of the nature of the relationship, a mother's death generally marks a profound passage in a daughter's life. And so, for me, two questions seemed to be nagging at me: How do I grieve my mother's death? and How do I honor her?

My relationship to my mom is a complex story, as is the myth of Demeter and Persephone, which I have written about here and here. I have come to believe that some of my healing work with my mother entails past lives and karmic ties that I felt needed to be severed once and for all. So I felt compelled to visit Eleusis, a town 14 miles outside of Athens, which is now called Elefsina and is known as an oil refinery town, situated on the Bay of Eleusis. Because of its inelegant surroundings, there are not many visitors anymore. It is not on the list of tourist destinations, and in fact, our wonderful and accommodating travel agent in Greece, tried to dissuade us from going there, saying there was nothing to see. Of course, that depends on what you're looking for.

My friend and traveling companion, Diane Marshall, agreed with me that it was important for us to go there for we both had some work to do with our own mother-daughter story even though it was going to be inconvenient to get there in the little time we had left on the mainland. Something was telling us to go despite the obstacles and naysayers, and as often happens when you are clear about your intention, things fell into place. A lovely man named Nikos was sent by the travel agent to take us there for 2 hours on our way to the airport, where we would depart for Crete that evening.

During the taxi ride there, we caught glimpses of the old road, the Sacred Way, which was used thousands of years ago by the pilgrims who annually made the trek to Eleusis from Athens. They went in a procession, cleansing themselves along the way at a well, stopping to pray and offer sacrifices at altars and shrines, led by the high priestess of Demeter carrying a casket of sacred objects for the initiation rites. This happened in September, the same month we were visiting the sanctuary. The Eleusinian Mysteries were enacted for over a thousand years and many people, from kings and queens to commoners, chosen as initiates, took part in them. We don't know exactly what happened during the 9-day ritual at the Eleusinian Sanctuary, but we do know some things: that to be able to participate you had to swear an oath of secrecy and that when participants completed the rites, they no longer feared death.

Eleusis is the place where the Demeter-Persephone story was played out as part of the mystery school and figures in the myth, itself. It is the story of life, death and rebirth. It is the story of the matrilineal and matriarchal culture being supplanted by the patrilineal and patriarchal culture. It is the story, seldom told, of the primacy of the mother-daughter relationship, which in a matriarchal culture would have been deemed as important as the story of the father and son (of God), which took its place.

Demeter was the name of the Greek Mother Goddess, some say another name for Gaia, the earth goddess, who was known and celebrated in earlier Minoan Crete before she came to Greece. She was the goddess of the grain, which represented life in ancient times, for people were dependent on the earth, its growing seasons, and the food that came from Her and sustained all life. The earth was seen as feminine for she was like a great, round, pregnant belly where life grew in the fertile darkness until it was ready to burst forth into the world, and then eventually die, as all living things do. And miraculously, it seemed, every spring there was rebirth as new life came forth from the seeds that grew in the darkness, in a continuous circle of renewal. So the earth became synonymous with the Great Mother, who was responsible for life, death and rebirth. And in olden times this cycle was sacred and celebrated, as was the goddess. Offerings were made to the Great Mother to keep her bounty plentiful and so that people could express their gratitude for her abundance.

The story of Demeter and Persephone can be understood on many levels, but on one level it is simply the story of the earth mother, Demeter, giving birth to the seedling grain, Persephone, who is snatched away by Hades (death) and taken into the Underworld for a time (germination, growth), only to be brought back into the world above by the power of the Mother, the giver of life (rebirth). On another level, it is the story of the daughter leaving her mother and becoming her own person and the grief that the mother feels when her little girl goes off into the world to carry on this cycle as a goddess in her own right.

Both Diane and I were mothers in the middle of this motherline ourselves. My mother had just died and my daughter will be graduating high school and going off to college next year. This year, my friend, Diane, had to put her mother in a memory care facility and her grown daughter moved away to another state. When we got to Eleusis we were both immediately drawn into the energy of the setting and entered a liminal state. We could feel the power of what was enacted in this sanctuary, once hidden behind high walls. We walked around, taking in the place where temples to Demeter, Artemis, and Hecate once stood.

In the myth, after Persephone is abducted, Demeter searches for her for 9 days, grieving mightily. In her anger, she stops nurturing the crops and a famine occurs. She finds herself in Eleusis, where she attempts to bestow immortality on the king's son (alluding to the new, coming patriarchal story), but is thwarted by the queen who thinks she is trying to harm him by passing him through the fire (of eternal life). Demeter then reveals herself as the goddess and commands that a temple be built there in her honor.

Her temple is the site where the final enactment of the mysteries took place in the dark of night. It is believed that during the final 2 days of the initiation, after fasting for several days and taking part in an enactment of the myth, the celebrants drank kykeon, fermented barley water that likely had hallucinogenic properties (ergot from barley is known to have these effects). During this ritual, the initiates' eyes were opened to new ways of understanding by beholding the epiphany of the goddess as Earth Mother, the rising of Persephone, and the reunion of mother and child.

Diane and I were drawn to the cave that represented the entrance to the Underworld, where Persephone was abducted and where she later rose. This was near the ruins of the Temple of Hecate, the goddess who heard Persephone's cries and alerted Demeter as to her whereabouts and the Plutonian, an underground sanctuary dedicated to Pluto or Hades, where initiates may have spent some time in the darkness.

Diane used her pendulum to find the site that had the most concentrated energy and it was on a primitive altar stone where we built our own altar. I placed photos of my mother and me as well as a medicine bag which contained shells representing her bones and hearts with our names on them that I had created for this purpose. Diane and I together created a ceremony of thanks to our mothers and daughters as well as a releasing. For me, it was a time to let the tears flow onto the Mother herself, the earth that held us, provided for us, and to which we will one day return.

Earlier this year I took a shamanic journey in which I saw what had happened between my mother and me in a past life, which I believe bound us in a way that I knew needed to be dissolved. In this journey I saw that I was her mother at a time when women were in mortal danger for practicing healing arts that many called witchcraft and thought were the devil's doings. I was a healer, a medicine woman of those times, and my mother was my daughter who mistakenly betrayed me, letting the powers that be know what I did to help others, and I was killed. I saw that my mother was an innocent who was horrified at what she had inadvertantly done and carried that guilt over many lifetimes. It explained a lot about our relationship during this lifetime. Why I always felt like her mother, why things always seemed to overwhelm her and I would be in charge, why she was interested in metaphysical healing and chose a religion (Christian Science) founded by a woman healer (prayers were addressed to "Father-Mother God"), and lastly, an answer to the puzzling riddle of why my mother never could understand what I did for a living even though I would explain it to her over and over. This refrain continued through two distinct careers I had in my life in which my mother would often say, "Now tell me again what it is you do for a living. Explain it to me," and I would until I became infuriated that it never seemed to sink in.

At Eleusis, I symbolically cut the cord that tethered us in this karmic way.  Synchronistically, two months before my mother died, I found a letter she wrote to me 25 years ago that I had forgotten about in which she asked me for forgiveness, explaining how difficult it was for her to be a mother given her own emotional abandonment by her mother. Upon reading this letter years later, I knew that the forgiveness she sought went back many lifetimes. I knew I needed to call her although I wasn't sure she would be able to comprehend what I wanted to say. At that time, my mother was in the hospital and had been taken off the hideous, sedative drugs they gave her at the nursing home, and a window of clarity and opportunity opened. I told her I forgave her and would always love her and that we could release any hurt and pain we had carried between us in this lifetime and in past lives. She thanked me and told me how good it was to hear those words from me. I asked her to forgive me, too, for my anger at her and any pain I had caused her as her daughter. She told me there was nothing to forgive and that even though she didn't at all times know how to show it, she had always loved me.

Those two hours spent at Eleusis, at the very site where an ancient ritual of mother and daughter love and loss was played out for over a thousand years, were healing and transformative for me. I am quite sure I was there, too, in a past life, and perhaps my mother was, as well. For we have in common that we have been seekers of the greater meaning and understanding of the mystery of life, we both sought creative ways to explore our soul's purpose, and we both found a spiritual path that embraced the divine feminine. I can better honor my mother for the life and gifts she gave to me, which are so much clearer to me now that the veil of pain has been lifted.


If you are interested in exploring the myth of Persephone and Demeter and how to work with these powerful archetypes, you may enjoy my Triple Goddess e-course that explores the maiden-mother-crone through the Greek goddesses Persephone-Demeter-Hecate.

A Goddess Pilgrimage: Initiation at Delphi - Part 1

I came to Greece to go on a two-week goddess pilgrimage to Crete, with a few days added on either end to explore mainland Greece and Santorini. The journey truly began for me that moment when I crossed into liminal time and space at the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia at Delphi.

Liminality, from the Latin word līmen, meaning "threshold," has been defined as "the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete." (Wikipedia). Websters defines it as "of or relating to a sensory threshold."

My friend, Diane Marshall, and I had arrived in Athens the day before we went to Delphi, just as a general strike of workers was called and all public transportation, tourist destinations, and museums were shut down. We wandered around Athens that first day, somewhat jet-lagged, but excited to take in this sprawling world capital city. "Just stay away from the parliamentary buildings," we were told, "and you'll be fine." And where we roamed, through the famous plaka, the old, historical "Neighborhood of the Gods" at the foot of the Acropolis, there were no signs of protests or unrest. In fact, it was a little quieter than usual due to the strike and people staying home from work, which made it easier to acclimate to our surroundings.

We took in the agora, the ruins of the old Roman marketplace, which once had homes and shops lining the Sacred Way that led to the Acropolis, where magnificent buildings, including the Parthenon and Temple to Athena, once stood as a fortress overlooking the city. We could not go up to the Acropolis on this day, so we walked and walked and enjoyed eating the healthy and delicious Mediterranean cuisine at the open-air cafes, or tavernas, grounding ourselves as much as possible on our first day in a country neither of us had been to before.

On our second day, we were happy to leave the energy of the city and head to the mountains, to Delphi, a couple of hours from Athens. I was excited to see Delphi as I was fascinated by what I knew of the oracles at Delphi, priestesses who prophesied for people who made the pilgrimage there to seek their counsel. Since we were on a tour with only a couple of hours to spend at Delphi, we were taken to the more recently erected Sanctuary of Apollo (6th c. BCE) built on the slopes of Mount Parnassus.

In ancient times when the goddess reigned and the Mycenaeans, an early agrarian, peace-loving people who worshiped Her, inhabited the area (1500 to 1100 BCE), the first prophetess, Herophile, sat on top of a rock, known as the Sibyl Rock, and prophesied next to the omphalos, or navel of the earth mother, Gaia. Leaders and people from near and far came to hear the gifted oracle's prophesies, which included the foretelling of the Trojan War. But then about 1000 BCE, the Dorians overtook the Mycenaean villages that included a sacred spring and cave with vapors emanating from deep below that were said to have trance-inducing properties. These invaders brought their god, Apollo, with them and instated him there.

The story goes that Apollo had to fight and kill the giant python, the offspring of Gaia, that guarded the sacred Castalian Spring so that he could establish his own temple and oracle. This would presage the end of the worship of the Great Mother earth goddess, and the beginning of a patriarchal culture represented by the Hellenic gods and goddesses, some of whom were preempted and reconstructed from the attributes ascribed to the ancient mother. But these new gods and goddesses behaved much more like humans, acting out qualities of both light and shadow, such as love, generosity, wisdom as well as jealousy, narcissism, and vengefulness.

Symbolically, the male god killing the snake, a primordial symbol of the goddess, made a fitting myth for the beginning of the cult of Apollo, also establishing his might and power over the region. Apollo is said to have arrived riding on the backs of dolphins which became his priests in the temple. Some myths say he made the sailors who brought him his priests. These priests became intermediaries to the new oracle, a priestess known as the Pythia, a woman chosen for her deep, intuitive abilities. She sat upon a tall tripod in an underground chamber inside the temple, chewing on laurel leaves, and breathing in the hallucinogenic and noxious fumes that emanated from the underground fissures as she prophesied. (The priestess had to be replaced every so often as this was a dangerous and often deadly calling, owing to the poisonous fumes. One can't help but consider that enclosing her in a chamber is what made this job fatal, whereas before the patriarchy took over, she was on a rock in the open air where she would not be in danger.)

While it was interesting to contemplate this story and see these temples, I felt called to go down to Athena's temple across the road and down into a ravine below Apollo's temple. On the way, I passed the Castalian spring, the same water source that has flowed down from the mountains since ancient times. In the past, those who came to the oracle for guidance, would anoint and purify themselves at the spring. I stopped and drank from the spring and used it as holy water, touching it to my pulse points, third eye, and heart. I walked down the road towards the temple of the goddess I had blogged about last month, thinking about her qualities as protector and patroness of Athens, where I had just been. I thought about her earlier origins, where she was not seen as a warrior goddess, but as a patroness of arts and crafts, particularly weaving. She, too, had been co-opted by the patriarchy.

As I started down the path leading to her temple, I noticed that a tourist group was boarding their bus, leaving the place empty. I was delighted to be going down to her temple by myself so that I could perform a ritual. I pulled from my medicine bag a beautiful, blue, double-lobed celestite stone that a friend and sister from my Goddess temple e-course had gifted me. I had brought it as my talisman for the trip. Its properties help you feel harmonious and peaceful under times of stress, and as I knew traveling in a foreign country can bring its own kind of stress, I wanted to have it as a calming touchstone. It was also said to open one to new experiences and connection with the divine.

As I approached the remaining foundation stones of Athena's temple, I felt the stone grow warm in my hands and decided to set it down and charge it in the bright sunlight that beat down on the dark stones. I circled the temple wondering if I should leave the stone as an offering to Athena. I was torn since I wanted it for my protection and yet, it was a beautiful offering to this goddess who I felt was initiating me into this world of ancient and modern Greece.

I stood on the temple stones where many hundreds of years ago, priestesses had walked. I imagined what it must have been like when there were temple walls, altars, and sacred rites going on here. I held the celestite in one hand and asked Athena for protection on my travels, openness to new experiences and people, and to the mystery that I knew was unfolding. Then it seemed as if the gem leaped from my hand. I heard it hit the hard floor and I saw half of it roll away and fall into a crevice in the middle of the temple. The other half of the gem lay at my feet. I picked it up and held it in wonderment. Athena had answered my question with such an obvious solution. She would take one half and I would take the other with me, and so we would be joined in divine sisterhood.

I slowly walked out of this sacred sanctuary changed, enlivened, moved. I had crossed the threshold into a feeling I would carry with me over the next 3 weeks in Greece and even back home with me. It has taken a month for me to start feeling back on the ground of my country, home, family and work. Now I am in the process of integration, of deep rest and the need for more sleep, for any crossing into liminal time and space changes you, maybe even shatters you, in some way. This kind of dismembering is good and necessary for transformation. I would say there is no going back: you are changed on some level by crossing such a threshold, through ritual that brings about a shift in consciousness, by experiencing life in a different culture, setting, and even time. For my journey felt like one that embraced many lifetimes. I had a sense that I was able to move thought the past, to have glimpses of what life was like hundreds of years ago -- a remembering -- and at the same time be present to what was happening in this lifetime in a rather fluid, dreamy way. This was the initiation of my pilgrimage that in many ways, I am still on, and will always be on.

Stay tuned for future installments: Part 2, The Mother-Daughter Story, where I recount my healing journey to Eleusis, the place where the Eleusinian mysteries and the story of Demeter and Persephone played out for thousands of years; followed by Part 3, Goddess Boot Camp, the 2-week, life-changing odyssey on the island of Crete with 20 sister pilgrims; and Part 4, Santorini Magic.


Don't Mess With Athena

As I will be in Athens in just a little over one month where I will begin a goddess pilgrimage, I have been exploring the stories of Athena, patron of the city. She almost didn't get that job as she and Poseidon were both in contention for that honor. When the people voted, it was split down the middle because the women voted for the goddess while the men voted for the god; however there was one more woman than there were men, and she cast the deciding vote. It is also said that the Olympian gods gave it to Athena because she planted the first olive tree on the Acropolis. Apparently the men of the newly named city of Athens were so angry that She won that they decreed that women of the city would give up their citizenship, no longer be able to vote, and their children would no longer go by their mother's last name as had been the tradition, but would take their father's instead.

This, my friends, was the beginning of the patriarchy, when the stories got changed. It would almost seem that Athena was made a token female deity (disguised as a man) so that the men in power could strip women of their rights. However she may have been used, she was thereafter cast in the role of masculine warrior goddess who, the patriarchal story went, was born from the head of Zeus, top Olympian dog and her father. They now proclaimed her a virgin goddess, devoid of sexuality, and in her newly cast androgyny made her "all for the father," aligning her with the patriarchy against the rights of women and the motherline.

Before I go on to talk about the earlier origins of Athena -- an entirely different story, which always interests me more -- the heady times when women ruled more peacefully before men took over -- it may be worth pondering for a moment the similarities between what happened then and what is going on now, right here in River City, that is the United States of America. Does it not seem as if we are in danger of slipping back to a more rigid patriarchal structure what with the conservative Republicans (Paul Ryan and Troy Akin to name two) trying to take away hard-fought women's rights on abortion, equal pay, and reproductive freedom, as well as the rights of LGBTs to enjoy the same constitutional freedom as everyone else? We may need Athena's warrior prowess and ability to protect us now more than ever.

But getting back to her pre-patriarchal beginnings... Athena is also known as Pallas Athena, which appears to refer to her role as a warrior who went into battle to fight the good fight when necessary. She was a prudent warrior and strategist, being the goddess of wisdom, so as an archetypal figure for women, she is the one who does not shrink from bullies and who will not only go into battle herself, but will do everything she can to help others win, especially when the odds are stacked against them. She may have gotten the name Pallas Athena from killing her father, a giant named Pallas, who tried to rape her. She then took his skin, tanned it, and made it into her aegis or shield and appropriated his wings for her own feet. We'll talk about how the image of Medusa's head ended up on her aegis in a moment.

But one other interesting story of note is that Athena is often depicted with a large snake either coiled around her or at her feet. The snake is an ancient symbol of the goddess, often thought to symbolize the transformational aspects of birth, death and rebirth that is at the heart of all goddess mythology, and indeed the story of woman. The snake was an animal that could travel underground and above ground, in both worlds, and could shed its skin, the ultimate transformation from the old into the new. But on a very practical level, snakes in those days were helpful creatures who were often kept near the stores of grain almost like watch dogs to kill and eat the vermin that threatened the food supply. It is also said that the snake may have been Athena's child with Hephaestus, the lame smith god (and cuckolded husband of Aphrodite) who also tried to rape Athena, but failed. However, his ejaculate fell to the ground and instead impregnated Gaia, the earth mother goddess, and from her a serpent boy named Erichthonius, was born, whom Athena, in a sense, adopted, and who seems to have followed her around like a little puppy dog.

As to the snake-headed goddess, Medusa, whom Athena wears on her breast and shield, some say that Medusa is Athena's sister and helped her ward off evil and intimidate her enemies with her monstrous gaze. Some legends say Medusa was once a stunningly beautiful Amazon warrior with luxurious, thick, black hair. However, she made the mistake of defiling Athena's temple by making love to Athena's rival, Poseidon, there. Athena had her servant kill Medusa by cutting off her head and her hair was turned into snakes. And the more familiar myth has Perseus cutting off the head of Medusa with the help of Athena, who was angry at her for messing around in her temple (although her anger about this seems positively patriarchal).

Another story suggests that the priestesses in the temples of old wore helmets and masks adorned with snakes, the symbol of transformation, and that it was not Medusa's head on her shield but a representation of the priestess who was the mortal emissary of the goddess. Some say that Medusa is but the shadow side of Athena and the two are one and the same. The message is: Don't mess with Athena. You might be turned to stone.

However, before Athena became the warrior goddess of the Athens city-state, her primary role in the matriarchal culture appears to have been much more benign. She was a goddess of the home, family, and community at large, as well as patron of handicrafts, particularly weaving. In the patriarchal worldview this protector of the family tribe was given big cajones and put in charge of the political state and given the same status as Ares, god of war. At her heart, though, we may see Athena as a fierce protector of women, children and family, whose wise counsel is to be sought in times of conflict, as one who will stand up to abusers and tyrants.

She is often seen as holding a sword, which I like to think of as the sword of truth, which must be held high whenever we are confronted by foes who would take away our power. As long as we stand in the truth, demand nothing less than our right to equality, and don't give away our power, we will prevail. Hear that, Romney, Ryan, Akin, and all other preservers of the patriarchy? We've got Athena, goddess of wisdom, truth and justice, at our side. We're ready to fight the good fight.

Psyche’s Journey and the Creative Process

In my Goddess Temple e-course to meet the Alchemical Goddesses, you take a similar journey as Psyche, the woman who became a goddess. If you want to know Who is Psyche? you can read about her here. I am fascinated by this story because there are so many ways to understand it. One way to look at Psyche’s journey is the one presented by Jungian analyst Robert Johnson in his book, She, as symbolic of feminine psychology, the way we women tend to operate and face challenges as distinct from masculine psychology (which he defines in the book, He).

Another way is to look at Psyche’s journey as symbolic of the creative process. Each time we take on a creative project or endeavor, whether it’s starting a business, writing a story, committing paintbrush to canvas, starting a new course of study, or any number of ways we enter the creative realm, we are faced with obstacles and challenges, fears and doubts, breakthroughs, growth, and jubilation.

The first obstacle might be characterized as the terror of beginning. It often feels overwhelming to look at the journey ahead and all that we need to accomplish to bring our creation to fruition when we are at the starting point. Where and how do we begin? The blank canvas, the blank page -- facing the unknown -- can be daunting.

The first of Psyche’s tasks is sorting a huge pile of seeds. The task of sorting is a good way into the creative process. Whether it’s words on a page that have to be organized, paint colors and media that have to be decided on, classes that have to be selected, or choosing the steps needed to make a business a success, we are needing to sort through ideas, words, concepts, materials.

Sometimes we need to organize our office or studio and clear out the clutter, and as we do so, sort through the wheat and the chaff in our head, before we feel prepared to embark on the creative journey. A jumble of words and ideas will need to be sorted into coherent sentences, some edited out. The colors and image chosen for a painting may get painted over as a new image and colors emerge that we like better. So many decisions need to be made as we start the process of bringing our creations to life, decisions that may be changed a hundred times as we sort through what matters most.

Psyche’s seed-sorting task speaks to this aspect of beginning the creative process. It is a winnowing of ideas, of discerning what’s important and vital to our vision, and what’s not.

Psyche despairs about doing this seemingly impossible task, but she is able to do it with the help of the ants. Ants represent patience, taking one step at a time, moving one kernel at a time, until the job gets done. So as we begin to create, it’s important to step into the mess or chaos of not knowing and begin with one thing. And then another, and another, whittling away until the vision starts to take form and we’re in it!

The second task Psyche has to accomplish is to obtain a bit of golden fleece from a fierce and potentially deadly ram in a field. She can’t see how to do this and almost gives up in despair until she hears the reeds whisper to her a way. All she has to do is wait for the right time, when the rams are on the other side of the field, and pluck some fleece from the bushes! That’s like one of those moments when you say to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that? Of course!” This is when we discover that there is an easier way to do something than we had thought or than we have been doing. And we start to do it that way now because we have learned a more efficient and clever way to do something, but we had to do it a different way or sit with the dilemma for a while first.

This often happens in the creative process when we’re stuck. We’re frustrated and don’t know how we’re going to proceed or how to solve a problem and we may think about giving up because it’s just too hard! This is when we need to pause, wait, and listen. Just when Psyche was about to give up, the inner voice whispered an answer. If we can learn to wait for it and listen, many times we will find the solution.

Sometimes we need to sit on something, sleep on it, or otherwise take a break and come back to it with new eyes. By biding her time, Psyche was able to get the prize in a way that did not require that much effort. We forget sometimes that the easiest way may be the best way. We may realize that we’re making something harder than it needs to be. This is the lesson of the second task: Stopping to see what our choices are and letting the answer come to us. If we can hang in there and not give up, and stay open and ready to receive, the answer invariably arrives. It may come from our own inner knowing, from a dream, or it may come from an outside source, a synchronistic event. This is a matter of trust.

The third task involved Psyche being sent to the River Styx, the boundary between the Earth and the Underworld, where dead souls pass over, and which is guarded by all manner of monsters and beasts. She is to fill a goblet with water from the dark river and bring it to Aphrodite. Again, Psyche is ready to give up, knowing that she cannot approach the river under these circumstances. She is helped by an eagle, who carries the cup to the water, fills it, and brings it back to her. The eagle was summoned by Eros who asked Zeus to intercede and send the eagle. This points to the need for helpers, support, and the ability to gain perspective.

There comes a time in most creative endeavors when we must ask for help, feedback, or support. Again, we may be trying to do things the hard way, all alone, and feel that we are working in a vacuum. Like the eagle, we need to be able to fly overhead and look down on our situation and ask: What help do I need? Who or what can assist me and help me overcome these obstacles and accomplish my goal?

We also want to be careful of the trap of stubbornly insisting upon doing things our way, on our own, with no help. The creative process needs to be fluid and active, like the river, and we need to consider all of our resources and tools and not be closed to outside help, however it may come. The intervention of the masculine forces in the myth, suggests marshaling that part of our psyche that can logically figure out what needs to be done, swoop in, and do it without letting fear stop us. The feminine is the allowing, receiving, and being open to intuitive wisdom and guidance. The gift of overview, the eagle eye, can help us see what needs to be done more clearly.

The fourth task Psyche is faced with is to go down into the Underworld and obtain a box of beauty from Persephone, who rules there. She is not supposed to open the box, but we already know Psyche is a curious woman, who couldn’t resist looking upon the face of her lover. So, of course, like most of us would be inclined to do, she peeked into the box. And then something came over her that caused her to fall into a deep sleep and near-death. Fortunately, Eros (again, the masculine part of our own psyche that knows when it’s time to act) flew in and revived her.

We could see this as Psyche being a bit too passive, overwhlemed and immobilized by ideas and things to be done, not to mention the myriad obstacles before her, that she can’t quite get up the motivation and energy to meet the task and complete it. She gets off-course by looking into the box even though she has been advised not to. This symbolizes the things that distract us and pull us off our path, procrastination, or things that we know are destructive to our creative process, but we do them anyway in an unconscious act of self-sabotage.

It is often at the end point or near the end of a creative project, that we want to give up and are tempted to abandon it, leaving it by the wayside, incomplete and unfinished. It is the masculine component of our psyche that helps us to wake up, activate, organize, and get the job done. We may need to step back and reconnoiter, and call in our inner warrior to help us move past these last barriers to accomplishing our dreams.

Thus reunited and joined as Psyche and Eros in divine union, we reach the pinnacle of the creative process when our inner feminine (thoughts, ideas, imagination, inspiration) and masculine (acting, doing, accomplishing, manifesting) are working together harmoniously and are able to give birth to new life. The wedding of Psyche and Eros represents living out our creative potential and the divine child they give birth to is our own creative dream brought to life.