Issue 23, Summer/Autumn 2013
The Birth of Earth, by Sophia Breillat
© Roslyne Sophia Breillat
Click here to read the accompanying article, MAKA INA, Upon Sacred Ground, which is an extract from Sophia's new book: "Heart of the Earth, Nurturing the Sacred Feminine". See her website:www.wildheartwisdom.com, or email Sophia at email@example.com.
Articles & Fiction
By Lesley Jackson
Being 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. (read more...)
by Melinda Marton
I 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
by Rohase Piercy
Every woman has her ‘juno’. Guiding spirit, higher self, female genius, call her what you will, according to Roman belief we all have one, just as every man has his ‘genius’. Whatever the social, political and domestic restrictions imposed by patriarchal Rome upon its women, here was something no husband, father or master could deny: a little piece of the Celestial Goddess, the Saviour, Mother and Queen of Rome, resided in every woman, slave and free, as a guide and companion through life. The concept of female Deity would soon be all but obliterated by the new religion of Christianity with its masculine threefold God, but women of the Classical era still took it for granted that they, like their Bronze Age ancestresses, reflected the Divine image equally with men. Juno’s Greek counterpart, Hera, offered a role-model to women throughout every stage of life, from Pais (child) to Khera (widow); but Juno goes a step further, and personifies the female principle itself.
The etymology of Juno’s name is thought to be linked to the Latin iuven, ‘youthful’, shortened to iun as a prefix (as in iunior, younger). Emile Benveniste identifies the original meaning of this root as ‘vital force’, connecting it with the Vedic word ayuh, ‘genius of the vital force’. Contemporary Roman commentators also saw a link to iuvare, ‘to aid’ or ‘to benefit’, re-enforcing Juno’s identification with her Etruscan counterpart Uni, whose name is thought to mean ‘She Who Gives’. Following the conquest of the Etruscan city of Veii in 396 BCE an evocatio was performed, issuing a solemn invitation to the Etruscan Goddess to transfer her allegiance to Rome. The invitation appears to have been accepted: Uni was worshipped in Rome as Iuno Regina, and her Temple on the Aventine Hill housed the ancient wooden cult statue transported from Veii. (read more...)
by Milina Jovanović
Ecofeminism as a modern concept dates back to 1974, yet most Women and Gender Studies programs in the U.S. do not offer courses on it. Some even fail to mention this important revolutionary perspective. We have generations of feminists and Women’s Studies graduates who are unfamiliar with ecofeminist world views.
Facing the many global challenges and grave dangers of our times--including climate change and its disasters--we might return to ancient views and practices that acknowledged the unbreakable links between women, men and nature. As our life on earth may be in danger, the need to recapture ancient and develop modern ecofeminist theories is more important than ever. (read more...)
By Mari P. Ziolkowski, Ph.D.
The 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. (read more...)
By Roslyne Sophia Breillat
She has many names in many tribes and many cultures, she is One and yet she is within all. In Australian Indigenous tribes she is Kuturu, heart, spirit of the Earth. In Incan mythology, Pachamama. In Northern Native American cultures, Maka Ina, Mother Earth. Her blades of grass seek the Sun’s warmth through narrow cracks in the cold hard world of concrete. Her tiny birds sing their sweet songs in the filthy gutters and gloomy alleys of elegant society. She flowers, she blooms, she flows, she grows, her vines entwined beneath spreading piles of stinking rubble and polluted chemical skies.
And She, this female spirit of the Earth, is the primordial essence of thee, woman. (read more...)
by Carolyn Lee Boyd
If 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. (read more...)