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 

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.

Freya and Beltaine Magic

Freya is the unapologetic goddess of love and sexuality in Norse mythology. We celebrate her on May 1, Beltaine, a cross-quarter day between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice.

As described in Elizabeth Cunningham’s first book of the Maeve Chronicles, Magdalen Rising, in which Mary Magdalen is brilliantly transmogrified into a Celtic goddess, “the eve of May was a socially sanctioned orgy. Running off into the woods with someone who wasn’t your spouse was practically your civic duty. You were obeying the oldest law. You were multiplying the orgasms of the sexy, fecund earth. Hey, it could only help the crops--and hence the tribes. So just this once, go ahead. Surrender. Let go and let god/dess. That was the mood of Beltaine.”

Freya is perfect for the season. She is a sassy, bawdy and bold goddess archetype who, like Aphrodite, has many lovers -- pretty much whomever she chooses -- and her legions are legend.

Her story is one of love and lust for life, men, and beautiful objects like the necklace of amber tears she obtains after bedding the four dwarves who made it. (Makes you wonder about Snow White and what she was doing in the beds of the 7 dwarves, doesn’t it?)

It turns out these four dwarves represent the four directions in Norse mythology, and through these acts of consummation, Freya embodies the energy of these directions as well as the elements of earth, air, water, and fire. The necklace came to symbolize her life-giving power, and though many tried to steal it, including the trickster, Loki, Freya held onto it with fierce determination and supernatural authority.

For she is a goddess with magical powers and knowledge of Seidr, a form of Nordic shamanism that allows her to shapeshift into various animals from falcon, to sow/boar, to goat. She rides in a chariot drawn by two cats and is sometimes described wearing a white catskin cloak, gloves, and shoes, and at other times wearing a cape made of falcon feathers.

Freya shares some qualities with the Greek triple goddess, Persephone, Demeter and Hecate. She has the ability to resurrect after being killed in initiatory rites much like the Eleusinian mysteries allude to, and has the role of leader of the Valkyries, who bring half of the dead warriors from every battle to her (the other half going to Odin, who may or may not be her husband referred to as Od). She is adept in the magical arts like Hecate, a seer and spinner of the Great Wheel of life and death with all of its lustiness, messiness, and juiciness.

So enjoy, this frisky time of the waxing moon, Sisters and Brothers (Oh, did I mention that one of Freya’s lovers was her twin brother, Freyr, similar to Isis and Osiris, the holy rulers of the land who ensure fertility and abundance through their divine union?). These gods and goddesses remind us of our primal nature and connection to Mother Earth whose bounty we enjoy but often take for granted. Beltaine is a day to jump over the fire, have a picnic, “go-a Maying,” (or roll in the haying), and remember who our mother is.

Brigid, Triple Goddess of the Fire

In Celtic tradition, February 2, Imbolc or Candlemas is celebrated. This is the time when Brigid or Bride, makes her presence known. She is goddess of the fire; Imbas was the word that described inspiration that came from her creative and transformational fire. Imbolc refers to the time when the ewes are lactating in preparation to give birth to their lambs in spring, just six weeks away. it is a time for the maiden Brigid to bring in the light so as to usher the old crone of winter out and let the sunshine in.

Brigid's triple aspect is as goddess of poetry, smithing, and healing. The fire is important to each of these crafts. The poet receives enlightenment and passion from the fire, and the stories and poems told by the bards were like fire themselves, unable to be harnessed, touched or held. They could only be passed from mouth to ear in a sacred way by those who were skilled in the art of storytelling. Both the white-hot fire of the blacksmith that shapes lumps of metal into useful objects, as well as the healing fire of the hearth that boils the herbs and potions, bring about transmutation. And so it is with each of us as we honor Brigid's fiery presence. She has the power to enlighten us.

When Christianity usurped the worship of the goddess, St. Brigid was born in the fifth century CE, with many of the same attributes as the beloved goddess of yore. St. Brigid was born at sunrise just as her mother crossed the threshold of her home, associating her with the idea of liminality--existing between worlds. There were many legends about St. Brigid's connection to fire, like the goddess of her namesake. One such is that when she was an infant, she was left in the house while her mother tended the animals. Neighbors saw great flames of fire engulfing the roof of her house and rushed to her. But when they reached her, there were no flames or burnt remains. She was said to perform miracles, like the magical goddess herself, healing the afflicted, bringing stillborn babes to life, and having a never-depleted cauldron of food for those who were hungry.

St. Brigid's fire is still tended by 19 nuns in Kildare, Ireland and never allowed to go out. Tonight I gather with a group of women who celebrate these sabbats as the Great Wheel turns, and we will all light candles from one that was lit from Brigid's sacred flame in Kildare. I invite you to light a candle in honor of the returning sun, the bright goddess, and the passions that stir within each of us.

Kuan-Yin & the Year of the Dragon

Happy New Moon and Chinese New Year! It is my birthday today, on the cusp of the New Moon in Aquarius on January 22 and the Chinese New Year on January 23, when the Year of the Dragon commences.

I have this very picture of Kuan-Yin, goddess of compassion, mercy, magic, and fertility on my wall. Her name means "one who perceives sounds," which means she can hear the cries and prayers of the people, particularly the children of the world.

She is often depicted riding a dragon over the sea. The dragon is an ancient symbol of power, wisdom and transformation. As we enter the year of the dragon, which occurs every 12 years, we can be sure that this will be a year of getting things done on both the spiritual and physical plane.

Whatever you set your mind to this year, you have the strength and power of the dragon to propel you forward. In Chinese astrology, each animal of the year is paired with one of the five elements, and this is the year of the water dragon, also bringing Kwan Yin to mind.

So this is the time to find compassion for ourselves and others, a year to transform on a feeling (water) level, and to complete whatever needs to be healed or transmuted. Water calms the fiery dragon, so there may not be as much upheaval and anger both on an inner and outer level with this tranquil influence.

How auspicious as we enter this new moon in Aquarius, the water bearer, we also welcome the water dragon. We can call in the great bodhisattva (near-Buddha), Kuan-Yin, who vowed never to forsake us as long as there was one human being who had not yet seen the light of truth. She is with us, another form of the Great Mother protector, whenever we need her. We're in good hands.

If I were adrift upon the ocean

with demons and dragons all around.

I would think of sweet Kuan-Yin

and the hungry waters would subside.

If I were trapped within a furnace

as hot as hell's own blazes,

I would think of Kuan-Yin's power,

and the flames would turn to water.

If enemies pursued me, if I were thrown

from a high mountain peak, if knives

were raised against me, if I were imprisoned

or beset by beasts, I would call on her.

Her pity shields me from the lightning.

Her compassion is like a cloud around me,

which rains down sweetness and

puts out the fires of my sorrow.

- Chinese prayer to Kuan-Yin

Yemaya, Goddess of the New Year

Ready to plunge into the New Year, Sisters?

Yemaya, Yoruba goddess of the ocean, is one of my favorite goddesses. She is Mama Wata, Star of the Sea, Stella Maris, a Mother Creator goddess who gives birth to us in the New Year as we give birth to ourselves, with new skin, fresh eyes, and an open heart.

She grants wishes, midwifes our dreams into reality, buoys us to dance in the creative waters, helps us flow through life and swim in the liquid pools of our being. She encourages us to dive deep and find the essence of our soul's yearnings and bring them up to the surface. She invites us to play like little seals and otters, allowing our creative juices to spill out and over the canvas of our lives.

There is no right or wrong, she says, when it comes to creating. Follow your intuition, let it flow! It doesn't matter whether you step in and slowly find your footing, wading further and further out, or jump in feet first. She opens her arms to you. The water's fine.

I accidentally brought this goddess into being three years ago before I knew much about her and before I started working with her intentionally. When I was creating my SoulCollage® card for my sacral chakra, center of creativity and emotions, sensuality and sexuality, I journeyed to meet my animal ally of this place.

There I was met by a manatee, a great, soft, gentle creature, which can be found in both salt and fresh waters. Manatees were once mistaken for mermaids because of their feminine, cowlike form. In the image I created, I included a mermaid queen who fed the manatee of my creative chakra. Behind her danced the goddess, Thetis, a Greek sea nymph, who like Yemaya, represents fertility, as well as pleasures found in dancing and singing. Only later, as I actively explored the mythology of the mermaid goddess Yemaya, did I realize that I had already met her and cast her in the important role of feeding my creative soul.

I started actively working with her in 2010 and got to know her well, calling upon her by literally sending a message in a bottle to her by dropping it into the ocean. She heard my call and helped me give birth to my SoulWork book, In the Lap of the Goddess: Connecting With the Divine Feminine in 2011. I kept the SoulCollage® card I made of her archetype (below) next to my computer as I worked. I thought sometimes of my creative work as the steady drip, drip, drip of water until it forms a pool. At times I imagined myself swimming around in the murky depths until I found clarity. I saw myself opening shells and finding pearls. I honored her with a chapter in the book about working with this creator goddess. With Yemaya's help, I persistently kept moving through, diving deep and resurfacing, again and again.

And I call upon her now as I take another leap in 2012. My dreams include:

  • adding another chapter to my book on Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. This chapter will be on self-love and self-care.
  • launching Goddess Temple, where I will offer 2 e-courses based on my book, the first of which will run from March 4 - 31, and will explore The Triple Goddess, the maiden, mother and crone within each of us.
  • sending my workbook to publishers to secure a book deal, which I envision in an expanded form with more goddess goodness to work and play with
  • traveling to Greece to visit the sacred goddess sites, temples and caves, and soak in the Mediterranean beauty

Remember, Sisters, Dream Big. Size Matters.

What are your wishes and dreams for the New Year? Yemaya is waiting to hear your call.

Go here to register for the Goddess Temple e-course, a 4-week exploration of The Triple Goddess, Persephone, the maiden, Demeter, the Mother, and Hecate, the crone using my SoulWork book, In the Lap of the Goddess (discount available if you've already purchased the book):  Goddess Temple

Cerridwyn and the Winter Solstice

I am Cerridwyn, daughter of Wales. I live alone on an island in the middle of Llyn Tegid (now Bala Lake). Some call me a hag witch, which I consider a compliment for they are only acknowledging my powers as a holy woman, a fierce healer. I have two children, a daughter, Creidwy, and a son, Morfran, who I would fight to the death to protect from harm's way. And that is what I do for you, my children, protect and guide you through the dark nights of winter.

For this is a time to be brewing new potions in your cauldron for the coming year. It is time now to sit by the hearth fire and stir the thick soup, letting it simmer over the long dark nights to come. Don't be afraid to add new ingredients, to play with the recipe. I encourage you to add generous dollops of Courage, magnums of Inspiration, and heaping cupfuls of Trust. Circle the cauldron throughout the winter months, remembering its power, touching the container of life, death and rebirth, the never ending cycle, the beginning and the end.

Seek the light in the pregnant darkness. Gestate. Care for yourself. Renew. Restore. Release. And do it now my children, on December 22, the longest night of the year, when the sun appears to stand still in the sky. It is the time to release all that has been accumulating and weighing you down so that you can make way for the new.

I invite you to follow the lead of my sister, Pixie Campbell, as she guides you in the Mother of All Releasings Ceremony: Winter Solstice, 2012.

Happy Solstice!

Winter Solstice Blessing by Stacy Anne Murphy

Shed away your tired old coats my darlings. Shed the tears that tear you from within. Like a snake who has outgrown her skin, writhe and scrape until the dull old scales fall away.

Slough off the remnants of your worn-out self. Peel away the layers that no longer suit you, that constrict you, so a shiny, smooth, lissome you emerges.

Glide effortlessly into the new year adaptable, flexible, amenable, joyful.

Enter your new beginning with grace, warm, bright, glistening, grace.

Lakshmi and the Taurus Moon

On this Taurus full moon, with the pulsing energy of 11/11/11, a time of wish-fulfillment upon us, the goddess Lakshmi asks us to check in with our self-worth and to own our power as creative women deserving of abundance. Lakshmi is the Shakti or activating female goddess counterpart of Vishnu, the preserver of all life. She is much like the Greek goddess Aphrodite; both are seen as ancient Mother Goddesses who are said to have been born from the ocean, the Great Mother's womb.  They are goddesses of love, beauty, fertility, and abundance.

Taurus is governed by Venus, the planet named for the Roman goddess of love and beauty. A Taurus full moon helps us bring into being that which we have been longing for and to get our needs met in ways that are self-fulfilling and rewarding to us.

Lakshmi wants us to know our self-worth and act from this place of personal power. When doubt and fear creep in, Lakshmi can help us transform these shadowy energies into confidence and love, and create a bountiful harvest.

Lakshmi reminds us of our wealth, both on a soul level and on the earthly plane. She reminds us that the Universe is abundant and plentiful. We have all we need and more. If we're feeling needy and lacking, where is this idea coming from? What old story are we telling ourselves that may need to change so that we can embrace the life-giving, loving, sustaining energy of the Goddess Lakshmi?

Lakshmi stands on a lotus, a symbol of spiritual enlightenment and beauty. By seeing and embracing our own inner beauty and the beauty that surrounds us, we allow our perception to create our reality. This is our secret power, simple but profound. As we change the way we see things, our reality shifts and reflects how we think about ourselves and the world.

I am whatever is. Whatever is, I am. I am whatever is visible. Whatever is visible, I am. I am whatever is invisible. Whatever is invisible, I am. I am whatever is alive. Whatever is alive, I am. I am whatever moves and breathes. Whatever moves and breathes, I am.

I am the very spirit of life. The very spirit of life, I am. Everything that exists in time is part of me. I am everything that exists. When time ends, I will end. I will vanish, disappear, dissolve. And with me, everything else will vanish, disappear, dissolve. I alone can create, and I alone destroy, this universe.

Everything that exists is mine. Everything that exists is me.

- Invocation to Lakshmi, India

The questions to ask yourself now are:

What is it I want to manifest?

What is my plan to fulfill it?

How am I living or not living in abundance?

How might I be giving my power away?

How can I own my power and manifest my dreams?

What am I willing to let go of that may be in the way of making this happen?

What do I need to add to my life or change to make this transformation complete?

How can I better love myself?

How can I better love others?

Namaste.

Hecate and the Threefold Path

If you see an old woman walking down the road one dark moonless night, take heed, because that may be the "Distant One" who has words of wisdom for you. Be kind to the woman who stands at the crossroads for that is said to be the threshold to the underworld, the realm of Hecate and the maiden-turned-queen, Persephone.

And if you come upon such a crossroads, leave an offering for Hecate's supper.

If you honor her, she will honor you by showing up whenever you need help, whenever you stand at a crossroads and need to make an important decision, a choice about which direction to take.

She is the one who will stand beside you and help you summon the courage to step into your power, to listen to that inner voice that knows what is the right decision for you in that moment.

She is the one who will help you hear the answers that your ancestors have to give you if you will but ask and listen.

She is the one who protects you in remote places, when you have lost your bearings, when you feel trapped, hemmed in, without a safety net.

She is the one who is the Dark Mother, who will hold you in the blackness until the first streams of light illuminate your path.

She is the one who midwifes you through your own birth, death, and rebirth and who helps lost souls pass over.

Hecate is one of the oldest manifestations of the triple goddess and her power is in threes:  

She embodies the three faces of the goddess: maiden, mother and crone. Sometimes she is depicted as having three animal heads: lion, snake and dog or at other times the dog, horse, and bear.

She travels with three black hounds or some say the three-headed dog, Cerebrus.

She stands at the crossroads where three roads meet. From there, she can see into the dimensions of past, present and future.

She is the moon in its three phases of waxing, waning, and full.

She walks between the three realms of earth, sky, and the underworld, where she presides over the passages of birth, life, and death or of birth, death and rebirth, a reflection of the moon's phases.

She represents the three stages of the mysteries of agriculture: the green corn (Kore, the young maiden), the ripe ear (Persephone, the queen) and the harvested corn, symbolized by Hecate, herself.

She is a goddess of magic and transformation and carries three sacred objects: a key, a rope and a dagger. Use these symbols to help you unlock the wisdom of the ancient mysteries.

The key is the way into the underworld, where we must go to transmute fear into love and bring unconscious stirrings into the conscious light of day.

The rope is the umbilical cord that when cut allows us to experience rebirth, renewal and enter a new cycle.

The dagger, like Kali's sword, cuts through the illusion of control and duality and allows us to see things in greater dimension, no longer in black and white, either/or possibilities. She helps us give up control when its needed to allow magical transformation to occur.

Hecate represents our medial nature, our ability to see beyond the ordinary, and thus she can help bring magic and mystery into our lives.

Hecate, daughter of Nyx or Ancient Night, is with us now, during the dark, new moon and especially on Samhain, October 31.

It is on October 31 that the veil between the worlds is said to be most transparent, and a good time to converse with the ancestors, leave offerings, and discard what no longer serves us into the fire. What do you need to release? Halloween is a good night to name it and cast it into the fire.

Hecate stirs the cauldron of creativity. What is brewing in your cauldron tonight? The new moon is a good time to start a new project or claim a path you want to take and step onto the road with Hecate at your side.

The Dark Mother: Snake Goddess

I am the Darkness behind and beneath the shadows. I am the absence of air at the bottom of every breath.

I am the Ending before Life begins again, the Decay that fertilizes the Living.

I am the Bottomless Pit, the never-ending struggle to reclaim that which is denied.

I am the Key that unlocks every Door.

I am the Glory of Discovery, for I am that which is hidden, secluded and forbidden.

- excerpt from "Charge of the Dark Goddess" by Lynne O'Connor

One of the very earliest manifestations of the Dark Goddess was the Minoan Snake Goddess, who reigned during the 16th century BCE. She holds two snakes aloft, symbolic of the dual nature we see on earth: masculine and feminine, light and dark, life and death. The goddess acts as the fulcrum, the one who holds both in balance. The netlike pattern on her skirt reminds us that She is the weaver of life, her womb the center of the web. The seven layers correspond to the number of days in each of the moon's four quarters. Sitting in the lap of the goddess invites one to experience the matrix of time and eternal transformation.

The Aries full moon on October 11 and the Scorpio new moon on October 26 provide a portal to walk through the door and meet the Dark Mother. This is her season, the time when the veil between the worlds starts to dissipate, culminating on the Celtic cross-quarter day, Samhain, or Halloween, on October 31, when the veil is thinnest.

The full moon initiates us on the Quest, the journey to find our True Self, and the creative and artistic expression that is our Soul's purpose. It is time for the Kundalini serpent power that lies coiled at the base of the spine to awaken and move up through the chakras into its full power. This feminine life force has been recognized and celebrated since ancient times. It allows us to reconcile the dark and the light, the positive and the negative, to let go of that which no longer serves us and to transform.

The Dark Goddess helps us see in the darkness of our own being, that which lies beneath the surface, wanting to be seen, heard, known, born. It has but to be cultivated so it can reach up through the rich soil of the unconscious towards the light. We can help it by looking inward now and sitting with the feelings that are percolating, shining light on them, and tending them.

If it is fear, we can observe it and wrap it in a blanket of security and safety, transforming it into love.

If it is hurt and pain, we can cry and release it and hold it in our arms, nurturing and calming it, allowing it to turn into understanding and peace.

If it is anger and negativity, we can allow it to speak and be heard and then release it, changing it into gratitude, acceptance, and serenity.

But, first we must acknowledge these dark places, illuminate them, and then work with them to bring them into a higher state of consciousness and integration. For they are all parts of the shadow that must be seen and taken care of, for they will get our attention one way or the other. Like the snake that sheds its skin, we can release the old, shadowy parts and claim our new skin.

Ancient people used to think that the snake died when it shed its old skin and was reborn with its new skin.  The Greek word for the snake's cast off skin is "geras" meaning "old age." After shedding the skin, one was reborn, and made new again. Snakes were seen as magical beings and were associated with the mother goddess as symbols of transformation.

But once the patriarchal religions supplanted the worship of the goddess, snakes, along with women, were vilified and seen as the source of evil, seduction, and temptation.  Since Eve listened to the Serpent who guarded the Tree of Life and ate the apple as the snake implored her to, women have been blamed for the fall of man.

However, Eve's biting into the apple was what allowed us to enter into consciousness, and it is a role that women continue to play in the world. It is the feminine that shines the light, and brings consciousness to relationship. As we begin to enter the cycle of the dark half of the Wheel, Autumn and Winter, it is time to shine our light and do the healing work that starts with each one of us. Healing ourselves we do our part to heal the world.

There are a number of pages in my workbook, In the Lap of the Goddess: Connecting With the Divine Feminine, which are devoted to this deep, soul work and transforming negative emotions into positive ones. I would love to gift you with my 57-page self-care manual so that you can work with the five goddesses that make up the chapters. Please leave a comment here about what you would like to transform and I will randomly select a winner on October 26 and send the book to your door.

Baba Yaga Rides Again

The full Harvest Moon on Monday marks the time when farmers bring in the last of the summer crops, the late harvest of root vegetables and cruciferous plants that will warm our blood over the colder months to come. The weather is starting to change, the sky to darken, foreshadowing the turning of the Great Wheel towards fall. We celebrate the autumn equinox on Friday, September 23. There's something in the air. Do you feel it? The stirrings of the Wild Woman, the dark goddess who arrives on owl's wings, silently gliding through the forest to awaken us? Do you hear it? The yip of the coyote, the howl of the wolf, the yowl of the cat, as they pad stealthily through the underbrush in search of sustenance?

As September wanes, what does your inner Wild Woman want? Before we start to draw inward, there's still time to dance under the light of the moon, to stir something up in the creative cauldron. What is your passion? Art? Writing? Dancing? Singing? Cooking? Teaching? Nurturing? Healing? If you don't know, it's time to listen to your inner voice, to the Wise Woman within, to The One Who Knows.

You know the story of Baba Yaga, don't you? It all starts with a little girl named Vasalisa, who much like Cinderella, must live under the watch of a horribly jealous stepmother and two mean, ugly stepsisters after her mother dies. But on her deathbed, Vasalisa's mother gave her a little doll, dressed just like Vasalisa. She tells her to keep it in her pocket at all times and to ask her for help whenever she needs it.

So, as in all such stories, Vasalisa is sent out into the forest, into the dark unknown, where the old woman, Baba Yaga lives. Her mission is to fetch an ember from the Yaga as her stepmother and sisters secretly conspired to let the fire burn out. Everyone knows Baba Yaga is an ugly old witch, a frightening hag who flies about in the dead of night in a cauldron with a pestle as an oar. It's well known that she eats children for breakfast and uses their bones for toothpicks. Oh, and did you know her house dances around on chicken feet? Go on, little girl, there's nothing to be afraid of.          

And so the brave, little Vasalisa ventures into the deep, dark woods, just as we all must step into the darkness at times and face our worst fears. What are they?

That you may fail?

Look foolish?

Not be liked or approved of?

Or perhaps that you won't live up to others' expectations?

Name your fear: ____________________

But at each twist and turn of the path, Vasalisa consults the doll in her pocket and is advised which way to go, until at last she arrives at the crazy house that careens about on chicken feet.

Vasalisa sees the fire for which she has been sent inside of a skull perched on a fence post. As she starts to reach for it, the unmistakable cackle of Baba Yaga causes her to pull her hand back in fright. Baba Yaga demands to know why she should give her the fire.

"Because I ask," Vasalisa replies. That is the right answer, Baba Yaga tells her. Why? Because we cannot get the help we need unless we ask.

Baba Yaga tells her she will give her the fire if she will complete the tasks she sets for her, seemingly impossible ones. She must cook three meals and clean her entire filthy house during the night, which Vasalisa is able to do with the help of the little doll. The next night she must sort thousands of seeds from the dirt so that Baba Yaga will have oil the next day. This she is again able to do with the help of the little doll in her pocket guiding her.

Satisfied, Baba Yaga gives the skull with the burning ember inside to Vasalisa. She carries it home trumphantly, much to the surprise of the evil stepmother and sisters who thought they had seen the last of her. And, as is often the case with evildoers such as they, the fire consumes them, and leaves nothing behind but a few charred bones.

And so it is with Baba Yaga, the witch, the crone, the hag -- for hag comes from the word, haggia, meaning holy wisdom -- the wise, old woman who teaches us. Her words are sometimes harsh, her demeanor frightening, her lessons hard. But as the dark goddess, the dark mother, she helps us burn up our fears and transform from frightened little girls into women of courage, women who are willing to take the necessary risks to reap the rewards of consciousness and creativity, to fuel the fires of our passions.

And so, the Wild Woman learns to listen to her inner voice, follow her intuition, and dance by the light of the moon. Are you ready?

If you're in the Triangle, come to my Art & Soul workshops at Dancing Moon Bookstore on Saturday, September 24 and October 1, where we will meet and explore five goddesses: Persephone, the Maiden, Demeter, the Mother, Hecate, the Crone, Kali, the Destroyer, and Yemaya, the Creator, using my workbook, In the Lap of the Goddess: Connecting With the Divine Feminine. Pay by September 19 for a discount. Go here for more information: http://owlandcrow.saladd.com/goddess-workshop/

Mother Mary Comes to Me

Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene have been with me as spiritual guides for a long time now and lately, Mother Mary has been coming to me in unexpected places. I bought two statues of Mary that caught my eye at a couple of vintage stores I recently stopped into. One is of her face, which I am decoupaging, and the other is a full figure with chipped paint and a little angel peeking out from beneath her robes. The two Marys came to me again recently after my annual exam since having thyroid cancer and my thyroid removed in 1997. A lymph node lit up on a PET scan in my lung area. I called in the two Marys, who had helped me though my healing process before, and after 3 months of probing and questioning by doctors and talk of removing it, the lymph node disappeared without medical intervention. Through this, I was reminded of the healing power of these two goddesses once more. They have guided me through some dark times.

I'm feeling the need for Mary's protection and guidance now as I step into somewhat new territory of leading goddess workshops based on the goddesses in my workbook. I am feeling a bit tender and vulnerable and even a little overwhelmed as I prepare for this new leadership role. It is times like these that I seem to need her most.

I think there is a part of me that has resisted the mother, Mary, because of the way she has been sanctified and even made a bit saccharine in Christian tradition, so I have been trying to meet her--the Christian version of her--and see her in her full depth and meaning.

I find her more approachable and accessible in her old, chthonic forms. I've found that her spirit lives in every culture, going back to the images of the Great Mother from Neolithic and Paleolithic times. In the round, full-figured Venuses that have been dug up throughout Europe and Asia.

She is Stella Maris, mother of the sea, personified as Yemaya in West Africa. She is Artemis of Ephesus, the ancient many-breasted goddess before she became the Greek goddess of the forest and its creatures. She is Kwan Yin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy.  She is Brigid, the Celtic earth goddess. She is Isis, the Egyptian goddess who gives birth to a divine child. She is even Kali Ma, the blue-faced Hindu mother goddess. All of these goddesses are considered midwives who watch over women during childbirth, where life and death hover at the crossroads.

The Christian mother of God could be said to be one of the later incarnations of this powerful, earthy archetype. Except, in Christian tradition her earthiness and sexuality were split off and given to the other Mary, of Magdalene. Both she and Lilith, goddess of Jewish tradition, were cast in the role of prostitute by Judeo-Christian patriarchy because in that dualistic worldview, the feminine was not to be sexual unless she was "bad." Only the feminine divorced from her earthiness, fecundity and sexuality, was "good." That put women in quite a bind.

This is also why I have struggled with Mother Mary, a supposed virgin mother. She represents only part of the feminine whole, an exalted part, an idealized version that is hard, if not impossible, to reach. Only by embracing the two Marys have I felt that there is completion and a mirror in which I can see myself.

Mary Magdalene, the human Mary, carries the energy of the error-prone, often misunderstood wife/mother, who must find her way in the world. Only recently has the Catholic Church admitted that there is no evidence she was a prostitute and allowed that she was, in fact, a disciple, although many believe she was more than that. They're not ready to admit that she may have been the wife of Jesus and the mother of their child, Sarah, a girl -- what was cryptically referred to as the Holy Grail -- a cup, a feminine holder of Wisdom, the missing part to the masculine divinity that took hold and has prevailed ever since. In many ways, we're still searching for the Holy Grail, the feminine divine.

Mother Mary comes to me, perhaps asking to be understood, accepted, allowed in, as she is. After all, she has survived the patriarchal attempts to mute and transform her. Now when I look at her I can't help but see the hidden layers, knowing there is a deep, dark goddess at her heart, a timeless being that cannot be thwarted.

There is no question that the Madonna and child is beautiful in art, but in most paintings I find her remote. I am drawn to the black Madonna, which seems to hold more of her down-to-earth nature: dark, black, warm, moist, like the soil.

On my altar, I have both the light and the dark Mary to remind me of the riches to be found in both places, above and below, in the shadow and in the light, in the labor of birth and in the release of death, in her humanness and in her glory. Symbolically, we are giving birth over and over again as we create every new permutation of our lives. And, so, too, are we dying many little deaths throughout the spiral dance of life. We need our mother, the Great Mother, to see us through these often cataclysmic changes.

I have found that when working with the energy of whatever goddess is making herself known, it is important to bring her into the world, to find or create images, symbols, and totems to see and touch, to work with on a daily basis. It is through images and symbols that we can create a dialog with our soul, and thus find the deeper meaning of our existence.

I offer here the Gnostic prayer to Mary Magdalene:

I am first, I am last,

I am loved and I am scorned.

I am life, I am death.

I am pure and I am soiled.

I am the knowledge

that hides within all questions.

I am what is sought, and I

am the seeking itself.

I am all that is within you

and all that is outside you.

I am the garment that shows you

the secret shape of your soul.

Ariadne

I've been thinking about Ariadne, who, the story goes, was a princess whose father was the King Minos of Crete. She was the one who helped the hero, Theseus, who came to slay the Minotaur -- half-man, half-bull -- by giving him a ball of red thread so that he could find his way out of the labyrinth, where the minotaur lay in wait. She struck a deal with Theseus that if he returned, they would marry and he would take her away with him, from her father's kingdom to a new life. But here's the interesting thing about Ariadne and the myth that has been told so many times in this way: it's not the real story. The true story is that Ariadne wasn't a princess, she was a goddess, the Mother Goddess, the primal Snake Goddess of Crete, the Great Goddess. That's the way she was seen and celebrated long before the Judeo-Christian religion took over and demoted her to the role of a princess, a daughter of the patriarchy.

But perhaps it is the later version that we can most relate to today: a maiden who must face the authority of the father, the culture, the patriarchy, and forge her own path, gain experience, until she can find the roots of her own power and divinity deep within. Until she can discover the true goddess that has been buried deep inside and almost forgotten by history, and, indeed, by Herself.

In Sue Monk Kidd's awakening and transformation beautifully told in her book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey From Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine, she grapples with the minotaur as she casts off the role of the dutiful daughter in both the practice of her religion and in her way of writing. She describes the half-man, half-bull monster who lives at the center of the underground labyrinth as carrying the spirit of the Old King, the negative animus, the inner critic. We each have to slay our own minotaur, the self-hatred, the self-doubt, the self-destruction that would eat our own soul if it had its way, that would gladly devour the sacrificial lamb of our dreams and desires if we allowed it.

When I was working to birth my book, In the Lap of the Goddess, I was very much aware of this inner voice that tried to waylay me and tell me I couldn't do it, who, when I encountered obstacles, and didn't know where I was going, suggested I give up. I still hear that voice when I contemplate the task of marketing my book and finding an audience and a publisher. The road seems daunting, much like the long, labyrinthine tunnels Theseus had to find his way through.

But he did it with the help of the feminine, Ariadne, who provided a way back: a red thread. Red, like the color of blood, thread, like the umbilical cord that connects the newly-growing fetus to the mother, like the one the Fates spun and wove into the warp and woof of each person's life. It's important to hold onto that thread, that lifeblood, when we are in the midst of it, when we don't know our way.

It's important to have something to hold onto, to remind us of what we wanted when we started, so we can feel our way through the uncertainty, the unknown, and to help us return home, to ourselves. And so it was for me. I held onto a thread that I started with, and it became a lifeline I dared not let go of, that allowed me to move into uncharted territory and find my way back.

It took the inner masculine and inner feminine working together to set the course, kill the beast, and complete the journey. The feminine provides the inspiration, the vision, and charts the creative path. The masculine does the hard work of getting it done, manifesting it in the world, and slaying dragons. Both must work together and help each other. Without the feminine muse spinning the dreams, the masculine has little to work with. Without the masculine energy to get through the day-to-day and put the ideas into form, the inspiration dissipates like a will o' the wisp.

And so each of us becomes Ariadne, a mortal princess who must leave the known, safe world on the sacred journey to reach the goddess. And to borrow a quote from Monk Kidd's book, "When I speak of Goddess I am in no way referring to an entity 'out there,' who appears miraculously as a fairy godmother and turns the pumpkin into a carriage. I am in no way referring to a Goddess 'back there,' as if I participate in resurrecting an ancient religion. In the sense that I am woman I see the Goddess in myself." - Nelle Morton

On my odyssey I have been meeting many wonderful women who are writing blogs that tell of their own journeys. I have been honored to provide guest blogs for the soulful Aja Blanc at Moon Woman Rising on the Beauty of the Crone (yes, I declare myself a beautiful crone) and on the bright and beautiful blog of Jo Crawford, Crafting the Sacred, where I talk about my Soul Work. Please visit and become acquainted with these women of wisdom and join us in the Goddess Circle.

Corn Mother

Corn Mother is a Native American goddess from the Seminole tradition. In this time of bountiful plenty, abundance and fertility, the Corn Mother reminds us to be grateful for all the gifts Grandmother Earth has to share with us. My garden is healthy and happy and it gives me pleasure to go out and water the tomato plants, squash, cucumbers, basil, peppers, and herbs that are  growing there in the hot July sun.

Corn Mother is a grounding influence and right now after a two and a half week whirlwind with my sister, Lynn, visiting for the first time in North Carolina, I'm ready to enjoy being back down to earth.

We went to Asheville in the mountains of North Carolina one weekend and Williamsburg, Virginia the next. That's us at the Indian village in Jamestown, imagining what life would have been like if we were Powhatan. They gave the Colonists a lot of help when they got to the new land and prevented many from starving, although the first winter in Jamestown is known as the Starving Time.

It's something to imagine what life would have been like stepping foot on land that had never been tamed with no amenities except what little you brought with you on the ship from England. It really does give you pause to look around and see all that we now enjoy as a result of these courageous men and women who came here with next to nothing and made lives for themselves and a legacy for all of us to enjoy.

Speaking of bounty, I went to the Farmer's Market today, my Saturday morning ritual, and found such wonderful goodies as pecan peanut butter and Blue Ridge Mountain sour cherry preserves. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches never tasted so good.

Fresh corn, green bean and tomato salad, Southern squash casserole, and fresh pesto potatoes made a lavish summer feast for dinner tonight.

I haven't talked about our new girls in the family, but they deserve mention here, because we enjoy them so much. We have 6 pet chickens, who will be laying eggs in about another month. You can see some of the girls here: Kali, Chipmonk, Ginalolabrigida, Charlotte, Thelma and Louise are as cute as can be and come out clucking to greet me when I let them out into the yard to eat up the bugs, especially those ticks. These girls will always be egg layers and will never end up on anyone's dinner plate.

While my sister was here, we were able to join a powerful circle of women in Hillsborough (like last year, a coven of 13 magically convened) and make dolls with Outsider artist and Cherokee storyteller Cher Shaffer. This year we made dolls out of clay, healing dolls or soul dolls to remind us of our own feminine power, divinity, and healing abilities. It's always a rich experience hearing Cher's stories and sharing food and comraderie with interesting, creative, and soulful women.

May we all enjoy the fruits of summer and bask in the providence and nurture of the Corn Mother.

Mother and Daughter: Demeter and Persephone

to be a fool while spring is in the air                 

my soul approves.

--e.e. cummings

As spring gives way to summer and the return of the sun on the solstice, June 21, we are in the time of these two goddesses. Persephone, the maiden, represents the new moon, the emergence of spring, rebirth. Demeter, the mother, who represents the full mother moon, greets her daughter as she emerges from the Underworld, to reign together over the Earth in spring and summer. These goddesses work together to bring about fertility and growth and to remind us that as above, so below.

The mother-daughter dyad helps us remember our own inner maiden and all that is new, innocent, playful, growing, free and light-hearted, as well as our inner mother and all that is cultivating, blooming, active, abundant, and full. This is the time of year when we are witnessing both of these aspects at work on Mother Earth and  within us.

Of course, we must not forget the third part of the triple goddess, Hecate, the crone, whose time is winter. And while it is not her season and we feel her less strongly during the bright days of summer, she is there, in the shadows. There is a lunar eclipse today in Sagittarius, reminding us of her presence, the things that are hidden from consciousness that may be revealed over the next days and weeks to come. Hecate also reminds us to stay in balance between doing and being, and the need to rest and restore. She has the gift of overview and helps us discern what is important and what is not. She is Persephone's companion in the Underworld, so she and Persephone can help us during times of darkness and shadow and guide us back to the light.

Many of us may be looking forward to summer vacations as a time to unplug and and recharge, sitting in the quiet and beauty of long, summer days at the beach, in the coolness of the mountains or lazy days at home enjoying our gardens, children, and a good book. Summer vacations can also be busy times of actively doing, going, and seeing.

I'm already seeing my summer laid out before me: my sister, Lynn, is visiting us in North Carolina for a busy 2 weeks of sight-seeing and weekend trips to Asheville and Jamestown; my daughter, Chloe, is going to a filmmaking camp in July for 3 weeks, she and I are going to California for 10 days to visit our dear friends whom we have missed these past three years since moving to North Carolina. I am facilitating a SoulCollage® summer solstice gathering in June, an introductory playshop in July, and will be preparing to lead a SoulCollage® facilitator's workshop called SoulCollage® and the Divine Feminine: Nurturing Your Soul With the Goddess Archetype in Her Many Forms in early September. Whew! The active mother is very much alive in me this summer, but so is the maiden who will be embarking on some new new ventures and playing -- with friends and family with a carefree heart.

On June 21, as the Sun enters Cancer, ruled by the moon, with the lunar eclipse energy casting its shadow, we can expect to have emotional stirrings, and for family bonds and relationships to take center stage. Persephone and Demeter  help us mend, heal, and strengthen the relationship between our daughters and our mothers. For as Jung said, "Every mother contains her daughter in herself and every daughter, her mother, and every mother extends backwards into her mother and forwards into her daughter."

Three chapters of my interactive SoulWork book, In the Lap of the Goddess: Connecting With the Divine Feminine, are devoted to the triple goddess of Persephone, Demeter and Hecate. Summer is a good time to get to know these aspects. I hope you'll take a look...

The Bear Goddess

The Native American Bear Woman is protector of Mother Earth and the tribes and clans that walk upon her. Bear Woman is in her cycle of power during spring and summer. She has moved out of her cave with her cubs underfoot, and is foraging for food and water. She is a shapeshifter who moves through the forest with agility and strength, helping us awaken to our potential and reminding us to not let our creative energies lie dormant. Look for what feeds your soul and chow down! Bears care for their cubs for a couple of years until they are old enough to go out on their own, and in this way, they are akin to human mothers whose task is to prepare their children to find their own way and learn their own strength. Bear Woman tends to the unity of the family of man and animals, ensuring their safety and protection.

The Greek moon goddess of the hunt, Artemis (Diana), was also a bear goddess who presided over all of Nature.  She was a protector of animals, and had attendants called arktoi, or "bear girls." These maidens behaved like tomboys, wearing bearskins and masks, lived in the wild, untamed and unwashed, protected from men, until they reached puberty and had developed the strength and ability to chose whether to remain virgins in the temple of Artemis or to marry. For Artemis and her acolytes were virgins--whole unto themselves and not defined by the masculine. It was Artemis who transformed one of her nymphs, Callisto, into a bear, who then became the constellation, Ursa Major.

Artemis had strong principles about preserving Mother Earth, in keeping with the Native American Bear Woman. As fierce protectors of women and children and all wildlife, they believed that all sentient beings were deserving of respect and would not allow them to be killed wantonly. Artemis is responsible for the protection of great areas of pristine countryside in Greece even today because of the people's veneration of her and all she stood for. In this way, Artemis and Bear Woman are protectors of the environment and patronesses of conservation.

The Bear Goddess is symbolic of the circle of life, death and rebirth. She reminds us to go within when it is time. The Mama Bear guides and protects us on the journey into the Underworld of the Unconscious, where we ponder our lessons and gather our creative energy until it is time to emerge into our cycle of power once again.

Learn more about the goddesses that represent these cycles: Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, Demeter, the Mother, who like Artemis, ruled over the land, and Hecate, the One Who Knows, by ordering my new SoulWork book, In the Lap of the Goddess: Connecting With the Divine Feminine, available as a download or in printed form to be mailed to your door.

Comment here about your favorite goddess between May 25 - 31 for a chance to win one of four e-book format copies of: The Triple Goddess (3 chapters in one); Kali, the Destroyer; Yemaya, the Creator; and the entire 58-page book, In the Lap of the Goddess. Winners will be randomly selected on June 1.

"I finished reading your book and am working on Kali. I love it!!! It is a wonderful tool and I love the guided meditations. I want to try the audio versions on your website. I really like it! You put a lot into it. The layout and graphics are really perfect. I love so many of the images." - Diane J.

Selene, Wild Woman, Goddess of the Moon

Selene, Greek goddess of the Moon (Luna in Roman mythology), is a wild woman moon goddess who had many lovers, including Zeus, Pan, and a mortal shepherd, Endymion, who was given eternal life, albeit asleep, and with whom she begat 50 children.

She is part of the lunar Triple Goddess. In this triumvirate, Selene represents the fruitful mother, the full moon. Artemis, nature goddess of the hunt, represents the waxing moon crescent, while Hecate, the Old One, the One Who Knows, stands for the waning moon crescent.

On this full moon in Scorpio, my rising sign, I feel the call of the Wild Woman. This archetype keeps us connected to our instinctual nature, which women have pretty near had shamed out of them over the millennia.

When the patriarchal religions began defining and splitting off the masculine (sun, heavens) from the feminine (moon, earth), the power shift would have long-term repercussions.

In the dualistic worldview of western culture and religion, God, the father, was heavenly, pure and good, while God the Mother, like Satan, was cast out, and linked to evil, witchcraft, and dark sexuality.

If she was personified in any deified form, like Mary, she was a virgin, split off from her sexuality, or a whore, like Lilith, the goddess who refused to lie beneath Adam in a subservient role and was thrown over for the more compliant Eve.

And look what happened to Lilith: she's been described as a demon, a succubus, a killer of children and a seductress who will steal another woman's man. She was banished from the Garden of Eden for demanding equality and has had a bad reputation ever since. We can now see her as a wild woman, who would not be tamed or defined by conventional authority.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in Women Who Run With the Wolves, describes the wild woman as our true nature: "This Self must have freedom to move, to speak, to be angry, and to create. This Self is durable, resilient, and possesses high intuition. It is a Self which is knowledgeable in the spiritual dealings of death and birth.

Today the old one inside you is collecting bones. What is she re-making? She is the soul Self, the builder of the soul-home... she makes and remakes the soul by hand. What is she making for you?"

For a deeper understanding of the Triple Goddess as represented by the classic Greek trinity of Persephone, Demeter and Hecate (Maiden, Mother, Crone), and to find out how they are active in your life, order my 30 page, 3-chapter edition, or the entire 58-page SoulWork book, In the Lap of the Goddess: Connecting With the Divine Feminine.

The Goddess Maia - Queen of the May

It's May! It's May! The lusty month of May!... Those dreary vows that ev'ryone takes, Ev'ryone breaks. Ev'ryone makes divine mistakes! The lusty month of May! - from Camelot, Lerner and Loewe

I don't know what you have planned for the month ahead, but in the olden days, lusty young men and maidens were running off to the woods together, with nary a virgin returning. Beltane is celebrated in the Celtic tradition starting on the eve of May 1 and lasting throughout the day. However, in days of yore it was often celebrated with feasting, dancing, and merriment all the way through May 15. In the Gaelic lands of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, Beltane refers to the entire month of May. So there's nothing that says you can't extend your celebration through the end of the month!

This is the time when Maia, the maiden, Roman goddess of--you guessed it: fertility--as well as playfulness and granting wishes--was feted. Her name means mother and this is really the time when the maiden of spring gave way to the mother of summer. Maia was Queen of the May and was celebrated with flowers and blooms in abundance.

The May Pole was first a tree festooned with flowers and ribbons, symbolizing the phallic energy of the season and the renewal of Mother Earth. Bonfires were set atop hills and celebrants would run between two fires for cleansing and to bring about a bountiful harvest and good luck in the year ahead.

When the Christian religion supplanted the pagan traditions and sexuality was split off from spirituality, some remnants of the old traditions remained. In fact, Mary became known as Queen of the May:

O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the angels, Queen of the May

In honor of Mary, young girls wore flowered garlands around their head, maintaining the symbols of fertility (flowers are the sexual organs of plants), new growth, and the maiden.

If you want to learn more about how the maiden and mother goddesses relate to your own life, check out my Triple Goddess pages. There you will discover how the seasons of the maiden, personified by Persephone, and the mother, embodied by Demeter, and the crone, represented by Hecate, are reflections of the feminine psyche and alive in you! You can now purchase my interactive e-book, In the Lap of the Goddess, in its entirety or pre-order it if you would like a bound copy delivered to you after May 20.

For more information, check out my interview with the amazing creatrix and dear friend, Pixie Campbell, at Pink Coyote.

Ostara and The Miracle of a Rabbit

As Easter approaches, the Anglo-Saxon goddess, Ostara, fills our days with spring blossoms, colored eggs, and bunny sightings. Like all spring goddesses, she brings with her new ideas, new beginnings, rebirth, and hope. In the Christian tradition, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ, but in ancient times spring festivals celebrated the arrival of the goddess who ushered in the new dawn, the imminent return of the sun. Following these time-honored traditions, today Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. This full moon, known in April as the Egg or Pink Moon, appears on April 17.

As a fertility goddess, Ostara reminds us of what we are birthing. Her totem animal is the hare or rabbit, a symbol of fecundity. It is a time to make great leaps, to start bringing that idea that's been brewing into fruition or to take the leap into the unknown. Because who knows what magic will come when you do?

Today, I am giving birth to two chapters of my SoulWork book, In the Lap of the Goddess: Connecting to the Divine Feminine available here. The two goddesses featured in these chapters, Kali, Goddess of Destruction, and Yemaya, Goddess of Creation, are timely as they help us through the process of death and rebirth.

In May, I will present three more chapters on the Triple Goddess of Greek myth: Persephone, the Maiden, Demeter, the Mother, and Hecate, the Crone. At that time you will also be able to purchase the entire SoulWork book, which celebrates these five goddesses from different traditions, either as a download or in printed form.

And to tell us about another great leap into the unknown is my guest today, the beautiful Goddess Leonie from Down Under, whose Creating My Goddess Year inspired me to create my own e-book. And without further ado, here she is to tell us a tale about...

The Miracle of a Rabbit

Many moons ago, a rabbit came to live in our front yard for a while. She would sit there, hovering beneath the pines, watching us with calm eyes and a dignified kind of grace.

I would laugh about it each morning as we set off to work together.

"Rabbit! I wonder what that means! I must look up its medicine!" I'd tell my love.

Then we'd bundle into our blue jeep and head out into the turquoise day, and I'd promptly forget about it.

Each night we'd return home just on dusk.

And there Rabbit would be. Hovering just beneath the pines, just out of arm's reach.

I worried about her at first. Worried that she would be sniffed out by the neighborhood dogs that roamed.

She didn't want to be caught though. She led us on a wild hopping goose chase until we relinquished the fact: she was safe. She was happy. She was where she needed to be.

Then we'd go inside our cottage, and I'd forget about it.

And each morning, the same dance would happen again.

There Rabbit would be.

We'd drive and I'd dream out loud to my love:

"What does Rabbit mean? New hope? Spring time?"

It was winter here in the southern hemisphere. Spring was still months away, and it just didn't feel like the answer that fit.

And I'd say "I should look deeper into this. Find out her medicine!"

And then…

I'd forget.

I was too busy eating everything in sight. And forgetting everything moments after they happened.

Can you guess Rabbit's medicine yet?

One Sunday, my love and I ate falafels for lunch.

I pushed the rest of mine away.

Ugh. I feel nauseous. What did we eat last night?

My love looked at me. They crinkled around the edges, and his right eyebrow raised just a millimetre.

After knowing and loving this man for ten years, I know the movements of his face as whole conversations.

WHAAAAAAT? WHAT'S WITH THE EYEBROW, MISTER?

And he smiled a secret smile.

My love, he said.

Do you think it's time for a pregnancy test?

I was adamant I wasn't.

I would KNOW if I was. Me - the one who is so in tune with her body. I would KNOW if a baby's energy had come to stay!

But the smile and the crinkle of his eye and that glow of his --

they suggested otherwise.

And as he so often is, he was right.

I was.

Nine moons later, a cyclone blew over my tropical hometown paradise -- Proserpine, the only town in the world named after the Goddess Persephone. A deep energy cleansing.

My waters burst with a rush of ocean the next day.

Three days later, a week or so after the equinox, a week or so before Easter,

a baby girl was born.

She rushes in one swoop into her father's hands, and he gifts her to me.

She echoes one birth cry, then is quiet, wide blue eyes open to the world, taking it in peacefully.

And true to the spirit of the Rabbit, to Spring, to miracles, to hope, to Easter,

her name emerged:

My goddess daughter. Filled with the light.

Of the goddess that Easter was named for.

Of Morgaine Le Fay.

Of all the ways the blessings of our ancestors make our days anew now.

The time is drawing near again.

The marketplaces become filled again with soft, fluffy totems of rabbits, and chocolate odes to the beginning egg.

And my heart lights up with the joy of it all.

It is that sacred time again: the spring time in our souls.

The rabbit is hopping.

Note: Ostara just turned one in March.

~~~~ Goddess Leonie is the creator of the popular creativity and spirituality blog, www.GoddessGuidebook.com and the online Goddess Circle.