|From time to time I dive into the idea of seeing the Triple Goddess as Sisters rather than Mother, Maiden, Crone. I have to confess that the idea of Sister Goddesses, complete in their familial connectedness, representing unity, connection, and interdependency, is very appealing. We, who practice Goddess Spirituality, strive in our relationships to reflect this in our work together. Shared power!If I were to look at the sisterhoods individually, I enjoy the Ananke and the Moirae from Greek mythology. I like them because they represent a balance. One side setting the standards and the other, enforcing them! A perfect example of the laws of cause and effect!
The laws and customs of this time caused the oppression of women with very few rising up to any sort of power at all and then, only at great cost. These goddesses must have arisen from this oppression, for they perfectly reflected all areas of women’s lives.
Living under oppression, there was great need for women to reach out for help. They needed assistance from their goddesses to help them deal with the peril and confines of their daily lives. They would need protection and recourse from injustice.
Ananke was an early goddess of inevitability, compulsion and necessity. People referred to her as the “inescapable.” They said that she was born self-formed as a serpent whose arms reached across the entire universe. From her very beginning she entwined herself with her mate, Khronos, the god of time. As a pair, they surrounded the egg of matter or “form.” As their coils grew tighter, they split the egg into earth, heaven, and sea bringing about the creation of the ordered universe.
They were seen as the “cosmic-circling forces of fate and time–driving the rotation of the heavens and the never ending passage of time.”
She was also the mother of the Moirae. Under another name for her, she was Adrastea, “incorporeal, her arms extended throughout the universe and touching its extremities.” (from an email from Max Dashu)
Donna Wilshire calls her “Ananke, the Yolk,” a woman’s core center, her “knowing self,” that part of our wholeness that strives to have everything in right relationship. This was not because of regulations outside of one’s self, but governed by that inherent self-knowing, deep within.
She is a woman’s voice of authority. Wilshire states that Teleia allows woman to embrace response-ability which in turn allows Ananke to prosper and grow within. Those values associated with Ananke such as inevitability, compulsion and necessity are not things brought to woman by outside. Neither are they forced when they come from her true Ananke within. What is inevitable and necessary is that she honors that true Ananke within, her own voice of authority and wisdom.
With the passage of time her stories changed. Her essence grew ever sterner, binding people perhaps to lives without choice.
Her daughters were the Moirae, called the Apportioners. Individually, they were three sisters, Clotho, the Spinner, Lachesis, the Allotter and Atropos, the Cutter.
They were symbolic of the process of weaving with thread as life. They were divine midwives – creating a tapestry and weaving individual lives together. All three represent Unavoidability, Necessity, and Ethical Principle.
Women have come a long way in the struggle for “freedom from oppression.” It is in looking at goddesses such as these, as well as Goddess as “whole and becoming” and Goddess who is “growth, merging, and creation” we see that she represents all of life in one whole package, chaos, complexity, unity and diversity, all at once. For such powerful goddesses to arise in a time when women needed help with the constant oppression under which they lived, just imagine how powerful they could be today, if we called upon their power. These goddesses share their stories to remind us of the strength and resolve we each carry within. From this we can go within and pull their strength. For they are a part of us today and their strength lives within us, giving us the deep knowledge of our own “knowing self.” As feminists, familiar with oppression, it is important for us to know them and to know they are with us today.
Information gathered from:
MacDowell, Katherine, The Three Fates: Sister Goddesses, Ocean Seminary College, Monmouth, NJ, 2008
Wilshire, Donna, Maiden, Mother, Crone, Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont, 1993
The human body is designed to utilize all senses. We, human beings, have drifted away from our natural state through which, at one time, we engaged with all of life through our natural senses, including the intuitive. This change has come about through our active, stress filled lives in which we seldom slow down to even appreciate what is around us. We have ignored much of our sensory ability due to a change-over from right brain functioning, which is more imaginative, creative and intuitive, to left brain functioning, which is linear and analytical. Two of our senses are developed out of proportion to the others. Many people grow up in an environment lacking in exposure to the natural world. With television, computers and video games we have become residents of an indoor and often sedentary world.
In early civilization, humans and all other animals depended on finely tuned sensory awareness for survival. We walked the Earth, using those senses for protection, to find food and to move around. We did not just see and hear our way around but we felt, touched, tasted and smelled in order to survive.
We were at one time a right-brain functioning species but over time, with the development of written alphabets rather than those based on pictures, and a fast paced, artificially constructed environment, we have gradually become mostly left brained in our approach to life. This keeps us in our heads and out of touch with our bodies as we move through our lives. This in turn, can leave us disconnected and out of touch with the sacred. We are meant to be sensuous creatures and were not designed to live out our lives with only our mental bodies.
It is my belief that with conscious practice of the use of the five sense as well as all of the other subtle ways in which we experience life, we can return to fully functioning beings with a full body appreciation of the oneness that we share with all of life. Through diligent practice we can develop an appreciation for nature, in fact, a return to nature. Awareness of our inclusion within the web of life will be the result and the benefits of becoming more attuned with nature and the sacred will return. It is my belief that a return to nature with opened and developed sensory awareness, a greater appreciation for the value of peaceful co-existence will become clear. Engaging in full-body awareness with all of life will broaden our appreciation of the “whole” and our inter-connectedness to the web of life.
As human beings we are capable of having fully “sensing” bodies. We come into this world as infants, somatic in nature – all sensory awareness – without cognitive process – all feeling. Our parents, in their care for us, serve as the cognitive part of our worlds until we reach a certain stage of development then able to move from our full body awareness into our cerebral functioning and thinking processes.
Some of us, out of pure need for survival, developed very quickly into thinking beings, leaving behind completely, our somatic selves, because it was not safe to be in the body. We were in situations where our cerebral functioning was necessary to survive.
Because so many of us grew up in troubled homes, we have few memories of being children. Many of us have very little awareness of being fully alive, expressive, and in our bodies. Many of us left our child self behind and our task now is to retrieve her, to find that child of feeling, the one who experiences pleasurable sensation all throughout her body.
If we are to fully embrace living a magical life it is important to remember how to live in our bodies comfortably and safely. If we re-awaken all of our senses, our awareness is expanded and our perceptions clarify and develop. Without this, our magical life will not develop as it could. Our enjoyment of all that is Sacred will be impeded as if walled in and separated from all that is possible.
When I was a child and I needed to remove myself from what was to me threatening, I found solace in nature. I grew up near the Pacific Ocean and was, from an early age, like Child to Mother, fully attached to the Sea. Even today, just standing with my feet in Her blessed waters, I am relieved of my sorrow and stress. Swimming in her, my body finds total freedom.
When I was no longer near the Ocean, I discovered trees. I climbed them to the highest places to rest my body on their branches and be comforted as no human ever comforted me.
And finally, when no escape was possible other than my room, I had my music. I have always used music to comfort, to heighten, or to fully experience any emotion that I might be having. As a child, I lay on my bed, the music playing next to me. I felt it course through my body much as I sense energy today, feeling it move, dancing it with my hands, all over my body.
Twenty-five years ago I suddenly became aware how I had lost that sensing, feeling child and how much work I had in front of me to find, heal, and restore her. Now, so linear in my thought processes, so cut off from my ability to express emotion, feeling and yet unable to express, those feelings so long stifled within needed to be opened and embraced. I knew I had to find a way to get out of my head and back into my body.
Over the last 25 years and in the process of finding this again, I have served in the community of women as a Priestess of the Goddess. When I bring a new woman in to assist in her spiritual growth, within our Sacred Circle, these words are said to her,
“I, Bendis, daughter of Danu awaken the power within you.” (I move my hands over her head and face and say) “These are the senses we have abandoned.” (I press my thumbs to her eyes and say) “To see with acuity,” (I now place the palms of my hands over her ears and say) “to hear with clarity,” (I brush her lips with my fingers and say) “to taste with purity,” (I lightly brush her nose with my fingers and say)” to smell with intensity,” (I then run my hands down her arms to her hands and say), “and to touch with sensitivity.” I then place my hands over her third eye and say… And now as since the beginning of time, from mother to daughter, from Danu to Her own, “Danu, Bless your daughter. Open her wisdom eye that she may join with us, in a line forever unbroken, Danu’s daughters.”
From this point we begin our journey, walking together engaging with all of who we are, fully embodying the divine, one with the Earth. Be-ing in Her embrace.
I grew up as an “Army Brat.” The biggest impact that had on my life was of having to change schools often. As an introvert I don’t integrate easily into new surroundings or with new people. It was not horribly difficult when I attended schools in the military dependent school system but when it was time for me to enter high school, my parents decided that my brother and I needed to be exposed to “normal” life. What that meant was we were suddenly thrown into small community schools where students seldom experienced the welcoming of strangers.
Teenagers are cruel – well, not just teenagers – children are cruel. For the most part they are not “other” concerned. Their focus is on “self” and while a new student in class might be a curiosity to them, in actuality a new student, if smart or attractive, is instantly a threat. They are perceived of as competition. I know this because it happened over and over to me as the new kid in town in three out of four of my high school years.
It was hard for an introvert and so I would quietly attempt to find my niche in each new school. It quickly became evident that I was a good student and, being a pretty new face, I was marked as a threat for the girls already competing for the popular boys. I was, however, a backward adolescent, a late bloomer, and was put off not only by those ostracizing girls but also by the advances of the guys interested in my new face.
Somehow through my quietness, I was labeled as “arrogant.” That was something that always confused me because feeling arrogant was not something I could identify with in my lonely world of isolation. It was not until I was in my mid-thirties, in my first work situation as a supervisor that it suddenly clicked and I understood why I was labeled arrogant. As a new supervisor I wanted to “manage” my department in a way that I wanted to be managed. I wanted everyone in my department to be properly trained, to feel totally supported and able to achieve success in their jobs. Many years later I learned to label this philosophy “servant leadership” but at that time (70’s) it was just my idea of how I wanted to lead my team. I began having weekly meetings with my team and I quickly learned that these women’s sense of self had clearly been damaged by their patriarchal upbringings. This was my first time to actually see and witness women thinking they were “less than” or unable to achieve things because of being female. I know it existed, I just did not see it. This was my awakening to my own feminist views on life. Prior to this I was simply unaware.
I was raised by very progressive parents. I was born in the 40’s and graduated from high school in 1960. Clearly I should have been a product of the 50’s, but because of the forward thinking of my parents, I was instead raised to be self-assured, confident and able to stand on my own two feet. They instilled within me a personal belief system that said “I can do anything I choose to when I set my mind to it!” So the women in my small accounting department back in the 70’s became the first women I took on to mentor. It became my job to help them find their own power, to learn that they were smart, beautiful and able to achieve anything they desired.
I also now understood why I was perceived of as arrogant by those girls back in the 50’s. I was self-assured and confident. I was aware of my own abilities to achieve my desires during a time when girls thought all they were ever going to be able to achieve was to make babies and please some man who provided for them.
Here is one example of my parents in action. When I was in the fifth grade (age 10), my parents were called to school for a conference with my teacher. I was in trouble for failure to say “yes, mam” to my teacher. I was not born or raised in the South so saying “mam” was unfamiliar and foreign to me. I was taught to say, “Yes, Mrs. Skinner” when replying to her. So my parents had their conference and my father explained to her that I was not raised in the South nor were most of the children she was teaching in the Military Dependent School System and that she was going to have to allow for cultural differences if she were going to be successful with these children. He told her that as long as I was polite he would not require me to learn “yes, Mam” as a way of replying.
When the conference was over, my father sat down with me and shared what he had discussed with my teacher. He ended by saying “Certainly if you wish to say ‘yes, Mam’ you can. However, I hope I never hear you say ‘yes, Sir.’ Never place yourself beneath a man!” This is just one example of a parent looking toward the future for his daughter.
And so, with my first supervisory experience, it became a life-long passion to assist women in finding and claiming their own power. For ten years I did this work only in the work place but when I came into my own “Goddess Awareness” it became the focus of my spiritual life as well.
Now, seeing women blossom in their own sense of self-worth because they have found the divine within themselves brings me my greatest pleasure. For a woman to know of her own sacredness, to know how powerful she is, to know that she can achieve her wildest dreams brings the greatest joy imaginable.
Sometime between the ages of 35 and 55, give or take, a woman enters a phase in her life that can only be described as metamorphosis. Yes, most call it peri-menopausal or menopausal, but truly such changes occur in each woman’s life at this time and it truly is a metamorphosis.
It is that time in her life when she stops producing as much estrogen but the production is often haphazard, sporadic and certainly unpredictable. This affects every aspect of her life. She might notice her eyes being dry in the morning, feeling like grating sand when she tries to open them. Her bleeding times may come on at different intervals or not at all. She may bleed more – she may bleed less. She may experience hot flashes – you ask, “What does that feel like?” Imagine a wave of hot air hitting you in the back of your neck and head – instantly causing you to break out in a sweat. You might even get red in the face! All of this, of course, is without warning, and happening at the most inconvenient times. You will often exclaim, “Is it hot in here?”
Night sweats – now these are fun! You will find yourself waking up in the wee hours of the morning, sometimes able to go back to sleep but often not. It may take awhile for you to notice that along with this wakefulness come the drenched bed covers and sleepwear! Ye gads!
This, my sisters, is the best of it. There is more you ask? Oh my, yes! Let’s talk about the mood swings! Imagine PMS every day – now, not all day – but all of the emotional expressions of PMS become your regular friends. Bitchiness, bad temper, impatience, foul moods, unexpected tears, and a general “leave me the heck alone” feeling! Your friends and family will wonder what is happening to the sweet, levelheaded woman who used to be in their lives. Actually, this is a very beneficial process of pushing aside all of the garbage we load ourselves down with and the phony fronts we feel we have to put on to be what is expected instead of who we really are. This process is truly a shedding – you are the Sacred Snake of Becoming!
My whole world as I knew it, my relationships with friends and co-workers – everything changed for me when peri-menopause set in.
I had spent my entire life up to that point controlling every emotion, making sure that what surfaced for others to see was “acceptable” to others. Having been raised in a very “British” home, emotions were something not displayed in front of others. Not silly laughter, not anger, and certainly not tears.
I had a hysterectomy (uterus only) when I was 43. Because I had healthy ovaries, I knew that one day I would experience menopause as does every woman. But somehow, because I no longer had a period each month, it took me awhile to figure out who this new woman was that I was becoming.
Everyone had always known me as steady, level, un-flappable. Never seen before were the sudden eruptions of temper or the instant fits of weeping. Even more important was the fact that I also, did not know this new woman emerging. It was frightening, to say the least.
Fortunately, I had just recently found the Goddess and so when I figured out what was going on with my emotions, I decided to accept this new me and ride the ups and downs, the ever turbulent roller coaster of my life. I also decided to do it without hormone help and was far too new at this to even consider herbal assistance.
It did not take me long to figure out that my anger would not kill me or anyone else. I also learned that I did not die from my flowing tears. I am not sure why I thought I would. Perhaps I had transferred my earlier fear of parental wrath into fear of the emotions themselves. One thing I did know, I was free of that paralyzing fear – free of embarrassment and free to fully experience the “feeling” me, the emotional woman I had buried deep inside. Gone were the muscle spasms of pent up tension. Gone were the headaches I had suffered for years. Gone too, were those I thought to be friends but who were not accepting enough to accompany me with love on this ride. Surprise, surprise, I have never missed them!
If your friends wonder – share that with them. Tell them that you are the Sacred Snake shedding Her skin! You may even feel like “hissing.” This is your time of metamorphosis and in the end, a magnificent Crone will appear. Guaranteed!
Oh, did I tell you that your hair will mysteriously disappear from all over your body as well? Ye gads, someone ought to tell you that pubic hair is not forever! Nor are thick eyelashes or shapely eyebrows. Those will suddenly grow in every direction imaginable. You might even get nose hair! The good news is you won’t have to shave your legs near as often and if you are like me – you will just quit shaving altogether!
All of this is your practice zone for the Crone that is coming. The Crone who won’t give a darn what people think. This is your training ground for letting go of all of those “people pleasing” ideas. This transitioning time will allow you to test the waters for being outrageous and of course, will give your friends and family a taste of what is yet to come! This is your time to shed all the cumbersome clothing and the clinging trappings of a sedate life and learn to fly – even if one day you might need a cane!
My advice for you is to accept this as a normal part of your life. Welcome the surging emotions for it may be the first time in your life that you can actually feel them fully as well as find new ways to express them. Love them, for they come from you. They will force themselves on you, so become their friend. Love yourself. Give all the loving care to yourself that you would to a beloved “other.” Follow a healthy diet. Learn ways to adjust to these changes gently. Make your bath your comfort zone, complete with soft music, candles, and some sweet smelling herbs. Be patient with yourself. Forgive yourself. Most important of all, be your authentic self. You are a beautiful wonder!
In Dianic Craft, the Fall Equinox is the time we honor the peri-menopausal woman. She is Woman Coming Fully into her Power. She displays the unbounded limits of her own self. She explores and shares the amazing power of her emotions, now less contained, now erupting in a glorious array of color and sound. She is emerging as Woman Glorified!
We dress her in blazing color – the oranges, red, and russets of the Harvest Season, for this is surely her harvest.