Our Souls between Earth and Sea

by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Woman made of bubblesIf you stand on the shore long enough, the ocean’s waves and the pulse of the blood in your veins will synchronize. Go to the water’s edge. Wait and be mesmerized by the ancient unstoppable rhythm until you no longer hear the waves as separate from yourself.  That moment is the beginning of the story I have to tell, and that of all of us.

Forty years ago, my mother came to this New England beach where I now stand because she had begun hungering beyond all reason for seafood. For weeks she had consumed pound after pound of fish, mussels, clams, shrimp and seaweed. She had sought the ocean’s edge hoping for salvation from her compulsion, but instead she found that she wanted nothing more than to annihilate herself under the waves. Distracted by the sound of an ambulance siren just as she was about to take the first step towards the deep, she ran a half mile back to her family’s vacation cottage, locked the door behind her, and vowed never to go alone to the shore again.

She and her father had finally decided to sell the cottage, and my mother was clearing away generations of summer vacation debris to get it ready to show to buyers. They had stopped coming there years ago when she was ten and hankered for more glamorous vacations. The two of them were the only family each had since her mother had died giving birth to her before having other children, so the cottage was abandoned when it no longer interested her. Continue reading "Our Souls between Earth and Sea"

The Return of the Yogini – Part 1

By Mari P. Ziolkowski, Ph.D.

Preface

TempleThe term ‘yogini’ has several meanings, according to Miranda Shaw. She states that the term can mean a female practitioner of yoga, or ritual arts, a female being with magical powers, or a type of female deity.1 Though I am interested in all of the above, in this paper I will focus on the human female adept, guru or yogini.

When I first read in some depth about the cult of the yoginis, I was a bit put off by their connection to left handed Tantric practices (development of magical abilities, group sacred sexual practices, wandering naked, meditation in the cremation grounds).2  However, it seems that as I am drawn into further understanding of my relationship with the Tantric Wisdom Goddess Kali, I am also drawn into a need to understand who these antinomian yoginis were (are).  On an intuitive level, after working with Kali, reviewing several sources, and hearing some presentations on the yogini/dakinis,3 I became  absolutely convinced of their existence not only in the Buddhist Tantric tradition, but in its sister Hindu Tantric tradition as well.   Though it has been said that there is not much in the way of academic sources to support this claim, coming from a feminist spirituality standpoint as I do, I believe that their presence must be teased out from the rather masculinist sources that make up much of academia. Continue reading "The Return of the Yogini – Part 1"

Sacred Sites on the Greek Island of Samos

by Melinda Marton

Temple of Hera - the HeraionI love the rich, spiritual feeling of this ancient land and spent my last summer holiday in Pythagoreion on the beautiful island of Samos. There is so much to see here, I didn’t spend much time lying on the beach!

First stop was the local museum, which is a beautiful new building in the middle of the town.  It’s placed next to the ancient city and has current archaeological excavations right next door.

The Samos museum mentions all the following as local to the island:

  • The main sanctuary of the patron goddess of the island (sanctuary of  Hera, at the mouth of the river Ibravos)
  • Patron God of the city, Dionysos
  • Temple of Aphrodite – lies beneath the foundation of an old house
  • On the heights of the city, sanctuaries of the Mother Goddess, Cybele
  • Sanctuary of Demeter at the edge of the city, high on an isolated hill, as appropriate to mystery cults
  • Artemis, Dionysus and Apollo cults
  • A cult of Nymphs
  • Inscriptions of Hygeia
  • Temple of Isis with large, lavishly adorned altar in the south of the small square to the right of Lykourgos Logothetes street which leads to the harbour

Continue reading "Sacred Sites on the Greek Island of Samos"

Cobra Goddesses

By Lesley Jackson

Stele representing the cobra-goddess (upper tier) and snakes (lower tier). Department of Egyptian antiquities, LouvreBeing a contrary child I always liked snakes and was later delighted to discover that they had a very close relationship to the Goddess. I could never understand why snakes were considered evil when other deadly creatures were viewed as merely dangerous. This link to the Goddess subsequently explained it. The ability of the snake to shed its skin symbolises rebirth and cyclical time and links it to the ever-changing phases of the moon and so to women through their menstrual cycle. The snake is also a symbol of infinity, portrayed by the tail-eating Ouroborus. The symbolism of snakes is, appropriately enough, endless and far too vast a topic to dwell upon in one article so I will confine myself to three Egyptian Snake Goddesses.

Snakes were widespread and common in Egypt and there are numerous spells to prevent and cure snakebite. Despite this the Egyptians never viewed the snake as intrinsically evil just because it was potentially deadly. This is in contrast to most other cultures who saw a logical progression from dangerous to evil and as evil meant ‘anti-men’ the snake could then be vilified along with the Goddess it portrayed. Symbolism aside snakes did perform one very useful role for an agricultural people. They preyed on vermin, such as sparrows and rodents, which ransacked the food stores and spread disease. There were many snake deities in Egypt and the Snake Gods range from benevolent, though dangerous, to the ultimate evil. Not so the Snake Goddesses, they were all good though not necessarily safe. The Snake Goddesses are all portrayed as cobras; indeed the determinative (a symbol used to clarify the meaning of a word but which is not pronounced) for ‘Goddess’ is a rearing cobra. Why the cobra is considered feminine is not clear. Certainly the rearing cobra with an erect hood is very impressive. Maybe the hood gives the cobra curves that are more suggestive of a woman compared to the straighter, more phallic form of other snakes. Continue reading "Cobra Goddesses"