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Archive for the ‘Goddess’ Category

Over the past three years we have been studying some of the myths and stories of the Celtic Lands.

The first work we did was on the Mabinogi……….the well-known collection of stories from Wales. The Mabinogi are a series of teaching tales aimed at aristocratic young men. The tales guide them through life lessons on how to deal with women, honour and above all, relationship with Nature, the Otherworld, its inhabitants and lore. A subject of many a blog from me has been aspects of Sovereignty, and the Mabinogi is packed with challenges where the young nobleman learns how to deal with living on the sacred Land.

We followed that course with one on Taliesin, the master magician, and more recently a course called Celtic Source, looking at the myth and stories of the Celtic Lands and from whence they arose.

Interestingly, as part of a discussion on the Celtic Source course …… we touched on something that has always fascinated me. From a detached viewpoint it was noticed in the modern-day spiritual scene there seemed to be two camps. One camp looks to refining personal energy as a means to move forward in spiritual growth. Seeking that which is beyond as a means of redemption, echoing many religions.

The other camp finding that gaining greater contact with the planet and nature aids spiritual growth. The latter, having a self-labelled, broadly pagan approach, the former looking to attention on the subtle energies of the body and to the subtle layers of being beyond the body.

So, where did the ‘it has to be better somewhere else’ come from? It brought memories of reading ‘Be Here, Now’ by Ram Dass in the 1970s and not totally ‘getting it’ then, but totally on it now.

The ‘better somewhere else’ simply looks outside or beyond what is in the Now.

The counterpoint indicates we have all we need ‘Now’, but we just don’t realise it. There is no ‘somewhere else’ better. Pining for ‘elsewhere’ just gets you further from ‘being here, now’.

Looking back to the roots of myths and stories of the Celtic lands, they were told to those who were not the workers but the next layers up. The workers knew how to have a good relationship with the Land, the cycles of Nature and the input of the liminal energies around them. They could not function in their daily lives without this innate knowledge.

The more gentrified had lost that link and the stories were for them. True, storytellers would have regaled both worker and overlords with the stories, but the land workers knew what the storyteller was on about. The workers did not have to be reminded, but probably smugly listened to the antics of the young warriors in the stories, messing up and being punished for it.

Where did these land workers get their innate knowledge from? One thought emerged that in the very distant past, the liminal energies of the Land taught them, much like it is believed that plants taught people (actually plants still do teach) how to use them for healing. The Land energies still do teach too, if you are open to listen.

However, as is apparent from these old myths and stories, if the Land is ignored and contact with it is lost, trouble follows fast. The past shows what needs to be heeded. Ignore it and the suffering will be repeated.

In 2019 our leaders who have no idea what ‘living in the real world’ is like. They know nothing of being poor, homeless, having to work 24/7 and still not having enough to keep food on the plate and a roof over the head. So not much different from the noble young men in the Mabinogi and other tales……..

Our leaders are ungrounded with their heads full of ideas that are not practical and in fact damaging to the wider populace.

Without being grounded, respectful of the Land and Nature…. those who lead are going to always fuck it up………. and here we are today…. Those with little or no connection with the Land and Nature are in charge and are destroying the planet.

Without being grounded, people will not be in touch with who they really are.

Without being grounded, people will not be able to learn from the Land and Nature. They might think they are, but will be unable to put what they have learned into practice.

Without being grounded, people will experience high levels of stress on every level (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) and be less able to adapt to changes in environment.

We have no bards or poets today whose job it was to train the young noblemen and to cunningly persuade their Lords to ‘do the right thing’. The media (modern equivalent of bards and poets?) have sold out to the leadership and use their influence to coerce the minions about the achievements of their leaders. A complete 180 degrees turnaround on the ancient role.

The latest batch of leaders have even consigned the wisdom of and respect for the womenfolk to pointless gossip or to tasks as handmaids.

The phrase “we want our sovereignty back” rings hollow, when real sovereignty is about having a good relationship and working hand-in-hand with the Land and Nature.

Real sovereignty is recognising what women have to offer, having a good relationship and working hand-in-hand with women.

When the ‘peasants’ revolt against the craziness of today they risk being labelled as terrorists.

These ‘terrorists’ are simply being ‘here, now’, mindful of Nature ……………

They want to be financially wealthy and secure, and are destroying Nature (e.g fracking) for short term financial gain.

They pay lip-service to caring for the environment and put pressure and responsibility onto the ‘peasants’ do their bit. In reality, those in leadership could demand scrubbers on cement factory chimneys, which would cut down carbon emissions hugely in one simple move.

Which begs the question of why are the leaders doing what they are doing?

I also sense that those in charge are afraid….they are scared…… scared of the things they are consigning swathes of the population to……. lack of money, loss of status…… they are scared of things they cannot control………they are scared of the power of Nature.

The planet with a quick shiver could kill us all, ants that we are, on her surface.

River2Mind you, we are doing a pretty good job of destroying ourselves……

 

 

 

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It has been a long while since I blogged as a lot has gone on, with deep shifts of energy and identification of patterns that have taken a while to surface and understand.

I have never been an ‘Earth Mother’ type as I am blessed with an independent, rebellious streak. Nevertheless, from time to time I have taken younger women under my wing to support them through times of transition and transformation, with eventual success.

This was until a year ago.

There came a time, at the point of transformation, the person chose to stay as they were. After they had put so much effort into working on themselves this came as a shock to me and caused me a lot of soul-searching, re-assessment and self-examination.

Had I failed?

Eventually the realisation came that it had been my job to create the opportunity for them to change and whether they did or not was nothing to do with me. I had done my job and kept my side of any karmic bargain.

It was compounded by other issues dear to my heart. The liminal beings of the Land were involved as were the energy flows within the Land.

I was guided by the energies of the Land, to help them make some delicate adjustments to how energy flowed in several places. This I did with a few trusted friends, but I was still emotionally troubled. I always support people in their freedom to make their own choices, but never had I come across someone wanting to stop growing.

Then I realised I had that same choice when I was in my early 30s. Stay where I was, conform, be safe or choose to break out of the apparently cosy place that my life had become. To me that was no choice, being the rebel so I chose to break free. The cost was considerable at the time, but I would do the same again. However, I can really appreciate that this would not be for everyone.

Events last year forced me to step back and let go…and then let go some more.

This I did and got stuck back into my work with the Land. I got to know this area where I now live, quite intimately, in a geographical sense, over a period of three months. Gradually this brought a deeper connection within myself too.

In meditation one evening, a new dragon companion presented itself. it seemed I had passed some sort of test……. but a skeleton dragon! WTF!!!
I had to let go of any preconceived thoughts about how it flies and just chuckle at the absurdity of the whole thing. Terry Pratchett would have had a field-day.

skeldrag

It was also made clear to me as a local cauldron-holder, that I needed to hold energies at every level…….for the Land, its liminal occupants, but also for the human occupants.

I had done a few things to try to help gather the disparate human energies of the valley in the last three years. Recently, an opportunity presented itself to do some very practical, mundane work for the local community. I threw ‘my hat into the ring’ without any idea if I was the type of person with skills that was being looked for. I told myself I was too old, for a start. Well, upshot was I found myself ‘walking my talk’, and doing a ‘real job’ for the first time in thirty years.

Of course, it is the ultimate “bringing spiritual practice into the material world” – so what more could I ask?

ogyenmenlasmall.jpg

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“Stand to face the light of the atomic blast of Pluto through the New Moon in Capricorn on New Year’s Day 2014.

To the ‘mud peoples’ and those who came from the stars as protectors of this planet…… now the time has come to shield each other and protect the Earth from those whose blind greed and callous disregard would seek to subjugate and destroy.

Know who you are…. Know each other. Create lines of communication and energy between you like a web of light and dark to balance and hold both personal and collective energies.

Remember that idealism without a dose of realism is an empty dream.

Seek out where you can make a difference without becoming a victim or a rescuer as these two both require someone to blame………remember too that people are just people, being human!

Time your actions carefully to make the maximum use of the energy and resources available.

Fix your own back yard. It is always easier to see the faults in someone else’s, judge what the resolution would be and fret when nothing appears to be done.

Above all, don’t sit idly by when your neighbourhood and its people are under threat or being manipulated. Even a tiny step, a wise world or a small, but appropriate action, can be the start of something big!”

GreyDragon

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Whilst visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum in London recently we came across this lovely sculpture of St Margaret and a Dragon:
Far from the dragon being at all scary, this one looked more like a pet.
StMargaretsmall
St Margaret is recorded as being a patron saint of childbirth, pregnant women, kidney disease and wronged people. The childbirth and pregnancy angle is initially very surprising as she was venerated for her virginity. However, one of the stories goes that on her refusal to marry she was tortured. It was also said that she was tempted by or eaten by a dragon. When the dragon swallowed her she fought back and killed it with her crucifix – hence her sometimes being referred to as ‘St Margaret, the Dragon Slayer’. Here, the assumption being that the dragon was a representation of Satan. It is thought that this is where her patronage of childbirth came from – as she herself was safely delivered from the innards of the dragon.
In the Roman Catholic Church her feast day used to be the 20th July, but in the fifth century it was first suggested that decided that her story was ‘apocryphal’ (of doubtful authenticity) and only in 1969 was the date was withdrawn from the calendar. In the Eastern Orthodox Church her feast day is the 17th July. St Margaret is still recognised as one of the saints that spoke to Joan of Arc and indeed there are many churches that bear the name ‘St Margaret’ – including Westminster Abbey.
Delving a bit further, here are some of the lines that give reference to St Margaret, taken from a mediaeval poem:
“Holye mayde Margarete loked her besyde.
There sche sawe a lothelye dragon in a corner glyde,
Brennynge as the blake fyre. His mouthe he gaped wyde.
That mayde wexed alle greene as the gresse in someres tyde.” (lines 179-182)
“Holy maid Margaret looked her beside.
There she saw a loathly dragon in a corner glide.
Burning as the black fire. His mouth he gaped wide.
That maid waxed all green as the grass in summer time.”

 

The final line is very interesting as ‘waxed all green as the grass in summer time’ was a well-known, subtle way of referring to promiscuity.
So what do we have here? Is this a description of seduction? Is this yet another tale of deriding women for being women? This does seem to sit easily with some religious traditions that make it clear that if a woman is raped, she is the one to be punished. Similarly, with a situation of sex outside of marriage when the woman is blamed and vilified, yet the man walks ‘free’.
Is the ‘dragon’ also another way of referring to woman’s sexuality, women’s ability to give birth and women’s power?

Not as far-fetched as one might think and there is a religious commentary on the story of St Margaret and the dragon that says:

“Surely this is because giving birth is not unlike a dragon splitting open to reveal a saint!”

Ouch!

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maatsmall

Maat or Ma’at, was the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, law and justice.

Maat was also personified as a goddess who regulated the movement of the planets and stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities. In this way she set the order or logos of the universe. Egyptians believed in an underlying unity in the universe and that proper conduct in public life upheld that (21st century politicians please note!). In short, everything, everywhere was linked to and part of Maat.

Early records indicate that Maat is the status quo for nature, society, in every dimension. Her role in and after creation is to prevent the universe from returning to chaos. Pharaohs were often depicted with the emblems or images of Maat to highlight their role in upholding the laws of the Creator.

Maat was depicted as a young woman, usually holding a sceptre and ankh. Sometimes she is shown as having wings and nearly always has a feather as part of her headdress.

Her energy is often thought of as a combination of the planet Saturn (law, tradition, stability) and the zodiac sign of Libra (The Scales). The stone Lapis Lazuli has close connections to her.

She also had a role in Egyptian mythology as the person who dealt with the weighing of souls that took place in the underworld, after death. The departing soul (the heart) was weighed against her feather to determine whether the soul would reach the paradise of afterlife successfully. You can find a list of the questions that the soul was asked below the main text. These questions are comprehensive and anyone telling the truth would answer ‘no’ to at least one, consigning the soul to another incarnation.

Anubis/Thoth would then weighed the heart against Maat’s feather and if the scales were balanced the soul was released into the afterlife.

Maat has a temple dedicated to her in Karnak and there have been hints in documents that suggest that there were at least two others ( Memphis and at Deir el-Medina)

Having done Kabbalistic pathworkings linked to Maat when much younger, I can vouch that when working with her energy one has to be clear about one’s motives, completely truthful and honest or all hell will break lose!

Here is a translation of the 42 Negative Confessions. Some of them may seem repetitive, but this is caused by the inability to translate the exact intent and meaning of the original language.

1. I have not done iniquity.
2. I have not robbed with violence.
3. I have not stolen.
4. I have done no murder; I have done no harm.
5. I have not defrauded offerings.
6. I have not diminished obligations.
7. I have not plundered the neteru.
8. I have not spoken lies.
9. I have not uttered evil words.
10. I have not caused pain.
11. I have not committed fornication.
12. I have not caused shedding of tears.
13. I have not dealt deceitfully.
14. I have not transgressed.
15. I have not acted guilefully.
16. I have not laid waste the ploughed land.
17. I have not been an eavesdropper.
18. I have not set my lips in motion (against any man).
19. I have not been angry and wrathful except for a just cause.
20. I have not defiled the wife of any man.
21. I have not been a man of anger.
22. I have not polluted myself.
23. I have not caused terror.
24. I have not burned with rage.
25. I have not stopped my ears against the words of Right and Truth. (Ma-at)
26. I have not worked grief.
27. I have not acted with insolence.
28. I have not stirred up strife.
29. I have not judged hastily.
30. I have not sought for distinctions.
31. I have not multiplied words exceedingly.
32. I have not done neither harm nor ill.
33. I have not cursed the King. (i.e. violation of laws)
34. I have not fouled the water.
35. I have not spoken scornfully.
36. I have never cursed the neteru.
37. I have not stolen.
38. I have not defrauded the offerings of the neteru.
39. I have not plundered the offerings of the blessed dead.
40. I have not filched the food of the infant.
41. I have not sinned against the neter of my native town.
42. I have not slaughtered with evil intent the cattle of the neter.

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ekajati2

Ekajati, whose name means ‘one single birth’, or ‘one braid of hair’ is probably one of the fiercest and most powerful of the ‘dark’ goddesses, mamos8 or dakinis9. She is found in both Buddhist and Hindu traditions.

She has a special place in the Tibetan traditions of  Bön1 and Dzogchen2 teachings as she is regarded as one of the three protectors3 or guardians the teachings. According to legends her right eye was damaged by Padmasambhava 4 so that she could help him deal with Tibetan demons.

In her Tibetan manifestation she is seen as having a chignon or bun of hair and only one eye – the latter being a nod to the legend that Padmasambhava pierced the other – but also indicative of non-dual vision, the lack of separation between the universe/creator and the self. Her single tooth shows that she destroys or eats through obstacles and the single breast feeds those who correctly follow the teachings and traditions that she protects.

Like many images of the ‘dark’ goddesses, she is depicted naked or sometimes wearing a skin (in softer imagery a tiger skin, but in more wrathful imagery – a human skin!) and dancing on the corpse of the ego. Her headdress if often composed of skulls as is her necklace. What she hold in her hands can vary – skull cup5, grigug6, khatvanga7 or  in some designs a  corpse of a perverter of the teachings as her sceptre in one hand and the heart of an enemy or betrayer in the other.

As one of the ‘21 Taras’ her energies are also seen as Mahachinatara (Dark Blue, Wrathful or Ugra Tara) and in Blue Tara (where she depicted with the head of a wolf). She is regarded as a liberator, with the power to remove fear and barriers on the path to enlightenment.

Mantras and practices linked to Ekajati are kept secret or only released after an initiation process as many teachers accept that working with her energy can be destructive if a practitioner does not have the capacity to handle the effects. Disrespect, carelessness and laziness will be dealt with by her destroying egos and pushing a practitioner onwards to ultimate realization. This may sound like something one would aspire to, but the effect, without appropriate guidance and support would likely be fatal!

Notes:

1Bon: is the native, ancient Tibetan practice that has its roots in shamanic and animist traditions and now runs parallel with later Buddhist practices.

2Dzogchen: translated from Tibetan as ‘The Great Perfection’, sometimes also called ‘Atiyoga’

3Protectors: Ekajati is generally considered one of the three principal protectors of the Dzogchen and Nyingma lineages. The others are Rahula and Dorje Legpa.

4Padmasambhava; also known as the ‘Second Buddha’ and Guru Rinpoche. He introduced Tantric Buddhism to Tibet.

5Skull Cup: Implement used in ritual to remind the practitioner of the impermanence of life.

6Grigug: Implement used in ritual to represent a knife used to remove skin from a corpse

7Khatvanga: a long staff with depictions of 3 skulls and ribbons of the 5 colours of the elements

8Mamos: Wrathful goddesses, usually pictured as furious, ugly women. They can be dakinis acting as protectors. Ekajati is their queen. If reacted to negatively, mamos appear to be aggressive, destructive and wreak chaos.

9Dakini or Khandro: Energy beings often but not exclusively in female form, messengers, bringers of wisdom .

ekajati

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 The Goddesses who Spin and Weave

The weaver and spinner goddesses come from many cultures and traditions. ‘Weavers and Spinners’ are those energies that activate and guide events in our lives that help us develop our own individuality and disentangle us from becoming blind followers of what is considered ‘normal’- no sheep or lemmings here! This process of individualisation is often accompanied by change, transformation and challenge that are seldom comfortable. The processes help us to understand the relationship we must have with life itself and the balance we need to have within ourselves to move forward.

 These archetypes themselves and the effects of working with them, bears a close relationship with the facets of the dark goddess from Tibetan Buddhism and Hindu philosophy. Contacting these goddess energies directly can be a terrifying experience unless well-prepared. Touching the underworld of our souls is not for the faint-hearted!

In Greece the ‘Fates’ – Clotho (spinner), Lachesis (allotter) and Atropos (unturnable) were the three crones who controlled the destiny of an individual by spinning their life with a spindle and distaff. Athena was also linked to spinning and condemned the arrogant Arachne to life as a spider. Ariadne, from Crete, helped Theseus escape the labyrinth with thread she had woven after he had killed the Minotaur.

Neith was the goddess of weaving in Egypt prior to the dynasties we are all familiar with. She was renowned for her wisdom but is most widely identified as a goddess of war and protector of women.

Ragnell comes to us from a 15th century English poem as she who seriously challenged Gawain (one of King Arthur’s knights) with the classic question …..‘what is it that women desire?’.

(The answer to this question is subject of the song mentioned in a previous blogpost on March 13th 2013 ‘King Henry’ by Steeleye Span). Ha!

 The tales of the Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm – ‘The Three Spinning Women’, Rumpelstiltskin (Mr Gold in TV’s ‘Once Upon a Time’) and the poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson – ‘The Lady of Shalott’ all remind us of the pitfalls of spinning and weaving.

 Pulling the whole imagery of the weavers and spinners together, brings into question how much freewill we have or think we have – and how much of our lives are at the whims of ‘fate’.

 When we know we are ‘stuck’, repeating the same patterns, with the same responses and recreating the same problems – what do we do? The ‘dark’ aspects of the Goddess might be a way forward….. but make sure you have a good guide! Few of us are as innocent and honourable as Gawain!

weaversmallred

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