In our last blog we focused on Hestia as an intentional and safe gateway for encountering God and Goddess forces. As such, I’d like to begin this installment by calling on Hestia, Goddess of the Hearth Fire, to make sacred our encounter with Gaia and her creation myth, the beginning of Greek mythology.
At this point in our blog series, some of you may be wondering “why focusing solely on the Greek Mythos?”. To be sure, there are countless other Goddess archetypes and mythologies we could explore and learn from. What inspires my choice is Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, as I recently completed a 10-week online course with her via the Shift Network, and read her book: “Goddesses in Everywoman” (available at Aware House Books). Through her work I’ve come to understand a major healing potential we, modern-day seekers, can glean from Greek mythology: to learn about and work through our current patriarchal reality in order to reinstate right relationship between the masculine and feminine within and all around. Like the Greek Goddesses, many of the systems and patterns we grow and live through are informed by masculine dominion over the feminine. Although I personally long to evolve beyond this lop-sided expression of reality, I also appreciate that by-passing this reality and the process work surrounding it is a dead-end illusion. The only true way out is through, and as such my hope is that these Goddess blogs will support our facing the dragon on our doorstep, in order to heal from it and release its dominion over our psyches. Remember, lived-experience is paramount to personal growth, so use these myths and their archetypes to notice how they show up in and affect your life… and specifically in power struggles. Pay attention to how and where the wisdom and lessons offered by the archetypal forces can shine light on ways to reclaim a power-with attitude, transmute harm and/or hurt that lingers from previous wounds, and most importantly show you a way to move forward and create a love-filled and wisdom-informed life/love story.
In today’s blog we explore one of the great She myths of the Greek mythos, the birth place of all Gods and Goddess to follow. Within such a legend we may uncover the original germination of our personal and collective dragon, the patriarchy. I hope it’s obvious by now, that in suggesting we face our demons, I’m not pointing us towards slaying them. “Slaying” is the reactionary pathology that lies at the heart of all unnecessary suffering and violence in our world and is the attitude I’m hoping we can collectively evolve from. Slaying is the prerogative of the hero, the champion whose quest is to seek out and destroy the dragon, snake, devil, gorgon, monster or demon alike. These conquer myths highlight an original wound and mistreatment of what can be summed up as the feminine, specifically Her dark side. That wild, beastly, instinctive, sensual, sexual, chaotic, untameable force that scares the bee-gees-us out of the part of our psyches that longs for power, control, and dominion has led to the misjudgment and ruthless violence towards the feminine. Misunderstanding the yin, death, negative, animal, and earthly side of life, perceiving it as debase, wrong, or evil has resulted in millennia of harmful attitude and action towards what is essential and fundamental for reality, creation, and transformation to continue and prosper. This pathological attitude is reflected in all myths and legends where the personified form of this dark feminine force, which is typically casted as a dragon, snake, gorgon, or other greatly feared beast, is hunted down and slayed by none other than the hero. These myths point to our past and present power-over/under, patriarchal predicaments, where we find individuals, communities or societies consistently seeking harmful dominion over the feminine principal.
The truth that is often too hard for a control-oriented ego to bear is that the same life-giving mother is not only a womb, but also a tomb. The dark side of the mother, the side that supports death and breakdown is no less loving than the light side that supports birth and becoming. Love knows when it’s time for summer and when winter is essential. Motherly love does not love one of her children more than another but accepts and welcomes both to the banquet of life. Individuals and cultures where left-brain approaches, control, and linear perspectives are overly emphasized struggle to develop right relationship with this holistic nature of the feminine. And this is where the medicine of the heroine is so poignant. The heroine’s core attitude is one of surrender and acceptance; the heroine wins by relinquishing the false-god of complete control, and is thus able to accept, engage and integrate the birth-life-death rhythm of Mother Nature. This holistic perspective enables each part of the heroine’s life story and experiences to be valued, revered and more conscientiously related to, even Loved. Each season of the year, each member of the ecosystem, whether parasite or lion, play an essential role in creating new possibilities, complexities, and beauty afforded by change. The heroine reminds us that we are here to evolve beyond a “slay it” attitude and can teach us a healthier way to relate to the Great Mother.
So how do we apply the heroine’s attitude to the patriarchy? If each part belongs, am I suggesting we need to learn how to conscientiously relate to and even Love the patriarchy? Believe it or not, I am! But here me out. For starters, to understand what I’m suggesting, we must first have a clear definition of Love. I am not implying a naïve, passive, or immature version of love. The type of love I’m referring to is True Love, Love that is both wise and compassionate. Wisdom without compassion becomes stone-cold, heartless action; and compassion without wisdom becomes bleeding-heart martyrdom. The heroine’s quest is to learn how to wisely Love the hero, the dragon, and the ego self. The heroine’s quest is to surrender to the reality that each archetype and character belongs, and following on the heels of acceptance, learn how to wisely relate to, work with and integrate each force. As heroines, we’re not here to kill off that which challenges us, we’re here instead to shift our perspective and relationship with it. A quote from Carlos Castenada comes to mind: “A warrior doesn’t see life as good things and bad things, a warrior sees things as challenges, simple.”. Our challenge is to “meet each other in a field beyond all notion of right and wrong” (Rumi), and to simply take the encounter as a challenge. The warrior of conquest sees these challenges as opportunities to prove his/her ranking, the warrior of Love sees the challenges as opportunities to become whole (whole is synonymous with heal) and evolved (evolve, evol ve, love ev). To better understand what I’m suggesting, let’s look at the Greek creation myth of Gaia.
In the beginning, there was chaos. Within chaos was a mess of matter and space, and a complete lack of order. And since “lack is the essence of need. Out of that original need came the mother force, Gaia.” (Treasure of Greek Mythology, by Donna Jo Napoli). Gaia was an attracting, orderly force. She brought things together, she created order and rhythm, allowing a place for everything, including that of other Gods and Goddesses. Uranus took form and chose dominion over the Heavens; Pontus reigned over the seas. Gaia watched as nature took on a life of its own and experienced love. Gaia longed for a lover of her own and considered her options. She felt attraction to both Pontus and Uranus, but where Pontus seemed ragging and unsettled to her, Uranus appeared calm and soothing. She chose Uranus, and between them they had 12 children, the Titans. One might assume this would have brought as much joy to Uranus as it did to Gaia, but sadly Uranus experienced his children as a threat. Their strength and charisma suggested they might surpass his dominion one day, and so he recoiled from them. Nonetheless, he continued to create new life with Gaia, but as was inevitable, his fear poisoned each successive brood. First it was the one-eyed cyclops, whose unsightliness, size and power further affirmed Uranus’s fear of his offspring. Still, he continued to create new life, and the even larger, many-handed ones were born. Finally, Uranus could bear his fear no longer, and swiftly he caged all his children deep within the body of their mother, Gaia, causing both her and the grown children great pain and suffering. Although Gaia loved her husband, she knew she had to take a stand against this mistreatment and monstrous behavior. She rallied the support of Cronus (Saturn), one of her eldest and strongest adult-children, and devised a plan to dethrone and dis-empower Uranus for good.
This first myth shines light on a root cause of power over/under attitudes. At the heart of most power struggles is fear, and a desire for control. When faced with fear, as Uranus was, how can we make a healthier choice? Clearly his fear was a self-fulfilling prophecy, creating and exaggerating the very outcome he wished to avoid. What I find most fascinating is that Uranus, as an archetype, symbolizes evolution (read up about Uranus Return to learn more about this archetypal force). It seems insanity that Uranus ever hoped his offspring would fail to surpass him, as the very notion of evolution implies increasing complexity and a movement beyond that which came before. Uranus’ resistance to the inevitable is a classic example of how resistance creates unnecessary suffering (pain + resistance= suffering, Dr. Rick Hanson). As warriors of Love, we can be compassionate towards Uranus (and the Uranus-part within our own psyches) who naïvely longs to remain in control and be dominant; however, unlike Uranus, we need to enlist wisdom alongside compassion, and learn to relate to this power hungry part of ourselves in a way that considers not just our selves, but also the need other/s. We can feel compassionately, and choose our actions wisely, and this True Love approach frees us from the harmful outcomes of otherwise wrong-doing in relationship. What’s wonderful about this, is that since Uranus IS the evolutionary archetype, we can see that his mythology is in truth designed to inspire US to evolve beyond the limits of his-story. Uranus failed to pause and check his fear-based reactions. Assuming righteous authority, he acted out his fear and harmed not only his children and his lover, but also himself. His-story makes clear that fear, inspired by ego-centered, power-over desire is unhealthy, and grandfather Sky/Heaven/Uranus shares with us his-story so that we can evolve beyond it!
So, if a lop-sided history doesn’t work, would it be safe to assume a lop-sided her-story might? Although at times the pendulum does need to swing, and sometimes far, in the opposite direction in order to establish balance, I’d like to suggest we’ve learned enough from our fore-bearers to evolve beyond their lop-sided stories, and intentionally shift towards creating a third, more holistic way. The family history that follows on the heels of Gaia and Uranus’s story clearly outlines that until we seek out the root cause of our attitude pathology of dominion, history or herstory will simply repeat themselves. As the Greek Gods and Goddess family tree continues, we find the story of Cronus, whose fear of being overcome by his offspring inspires him to swallow them. Clearly the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, when the lineage of suffering continues with Zeus, who, after overcoming his father Cronus, he sadly models after his ancestors when, shortly after claiming the almighty throne on Olympus, he marries Metis and a first sign that she is with child, he not only devises a plan to swallow the baby, but swallows the mother to evade being surpassed by his children…
I think this last tale points to exactly where we are at in our collective evolution, on this planet. Patriarchy and male-dominance over the feminine sees us swallowing the planet, our mother earth, by over consuming her resources, possibly to the point of making void her potential to continue her creation stories. Ancient Greek mythology provides a reflecting pool for us to see clearly the misery we’re currently imparting with wrong relationship attitude and behavior towards the feminine. At the heart of this dis-ease is our over developed left-brain and its exaggerated fear towards the Mother Force, especially that aspect of Her that promises death alongside Her gift of life. Modern medicine and its fanatical obsession with death as the enemy is a poignant example of our lop-sided approach to the birth-life-death reality. The question for us all to sit with is how can we face our fear of death? Can we find a way to be compassionate and loving towards the feelings death engenders (such as fear, sadness, aversion, and grief), and then choose to enlist wisdom as skillful means to integrate, respect and deeply honor death? Death and all the dark aspects of the feminine are as essential and foundational to the great love story and web of life as the light. It’s up to us to find a heroinic way to be with and wisely face that which we perceive as demonic and terrifying on our very doorsteps. To find a way to accept, integrate, and then eventually evolve alongside the challenges that face us.
The truth is, in all Greek mythology we barely hear tale or rhyme about the essential divine masculine and/or divine feminine, let alone what right relationship between them looks and feels like. These stories are generally told in a broken reality, a patriarchy, where there exists a poisonous power imbalance between the masculine and feminine forces. As hinted to in the first creation myth of Gaia and Uranus, we need to enlist these stories as inspiration for our evolution. These stories can help us trace our ancestral and archetypal histories and come to see clearly where the seeds of fear and desire for control took hold. We can then use this awareness, and the feeling-tone of it, to trace this root pathology within our own psyches, and learn to discern where it tempts us to foil our personal vision for a sustainable and loving right relationship. Although strengthening the feminine within and outside of ourselves is essential to re-establishing balance, I believe attempting to conjure a her-story, one that finds the feminine dominant and/or valued above the masculine is simply more of the same hurt, just a different flavor. Healing means to become whole, which means we need to integrate the foundational aspects and their complexity, the good, the bad and the ugly, in order to not only survive, but thrive and co-create a better story. And, in concert with the myth of Psyche and Eros, and the medicine of the heroine’s quest, I believe True Love’s healing will prevail as each of us discover, uncover, recover and then fully express our unique Soul’s story, our individuals “my-story”…our mysteries.