Issue 25, Summer/Autumn 2014
Enchanted Moon Goddess Cabinet
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Articles & Fiction
by Laura Shannon
For thirty years I have been researching and teaching women’s traditional circle dances of the Balkans and Near East, which have been danced for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, and are still danced today at weddings and village celebrations. The method I’ve developed is to compare common motifs in archaeological finds, embroidered textiles, dance patterns, and song words. I see these four forms of women’s artistic expression as modes of unwritten communication, transmitting ‘hidden information’ which, in the words of Marguerite Rigoglioso, 'may have been deposited for safekeeping in those great repositories of the forbidden – myth and folklore – where they have remained veiled in plain sight for two millennia.'1 In this article I would like to share some of what I have observed about women’s dance traditions in remote villages on the slopes of Mount Olympus in Greece, and the ancient wisdom encoded within them, which I believe has its roots in the Goddess culture of Neolithic times.
All over Greece, the Balkans, Russia and Ukraine, Central Asia, India, and in Scandinavian and Celtic lore, myths and legends tell of nymphs, nereids, naiads, and Muses. Also known as vily (whence comes the English term 'willies'), these priestess/Goddess figures are divine or semi-divine female beings associated with water, clouds and rain; birds, flight and journeys between worlds; trees, vegetation and healing herbs; prophecy and divination; fertility and blessing, and music and dance. In Greece they were worshipped as early as the 8th C BCE.
'Nymph' derives from nyfi (νύφη), bride, while 'Muse' most likely derives from the Indo-European root men-, which also gives us the words 'mind', 'memory', 'menses' and 'spiritual activity'. The Muses are thus the maiden Goddesses of memory, music and dance, protectors of spoken knowledge encoded in myth and sacred poetry. Usually three or nine in number, they sing and dance near waters and fertile greenery, or, hidden in cloud, draw near to human homes. (read more...)
by Lesley Jackson
We are accustomed to lovely and inspiring creatures associated with the Goddess; from the elegant ferocity of the lioness of Sekhmet to the gentler cat of Bastet, or even the endlessly hypnotic snakes of the Cobra Goddesses. Given the variety of animals that the Ancient Egyptians encountered it is surprising that they should associate a scorpion with a Goddess, particularly a largely benevolent one.
The Scorpion Goddess Serket (Selkis or Selket) is first attested to in the 1st Dynasty so she will have been a Pre-dynastic Goddess (before 3,100 BCE). Serket can be depicted either as a woman with a scorpion on her head or as a scorpion with a woman's head and torso. Her name Serket Hetyt means "she who causes the throat to breathe".1 A Goddess responsible for the divine breath of life or a euphemism referring obliquely to the effect that scorpion venom has on its victim's breathing.
Scorpions were very common in Ancient Egypt and they have a unique and distinct appearance. Scorpion stings were a common, but none the less distressing, hazard. Attendance registers from Deir el-Medina contain many occurrences of men missing work because of scorpion stings. The potency of the venom varies and some species are relatively harmless. The symptoms are burning pain followed by shortness of breath but for the young, elderly and weak the poison could be fatal. It is because of the latter symptom that Serket was thought to control breathing. Female scorpions are larger than the male and so have more venom. Was this why they were associated with a Goddess rather than a God, or was it pure misogyny?
Why was the scorpion associated with the divine anyway? It could have been regarded as a demon, perhaps such a powerful entity needed placating not demonising. One reason might be that the agent which inflicted the damage was the one best able to remove it, or at least reduce its impact. To the ordinary Egyptian, at the base of a rigid social hierarchy, there was a direct correlation between rank and power. In an absolute monarchy their king was almost godlike in his power over the life and death of his subjects. Any creature, such as the scorpion, with the ability to kill appeared to have an equivalent divine power. (read more...)
by Kirsten Brunsgaard Clausen
November. A new year has just begun. The harvest is happily stored. Mother Earth will give no more. The dancing colours of summer are gone. Frost has nipped off the head of all living things. Finally winter! Everything sleeps – from the tiny insect to the big bear. Skeletons of trees stretch out their branches, black and bare. Gray are the heavy clouds, white the frozen ground. Silence. Death … then suddenly – a blood-curdling shriekcuts through the air. Immediately the wind throws back an howling answer. A moment later earth and sky raise a roar together. A tumult of dry leaves and frozen plastic bags whirl round in the storm. People who lose their footing are swept aside. Snowflakes whip in the faces like nails of glass. Now She rules: "the Kælling"2! Now is Her time – Her playtime. On the backs of foaming wolves and ragged boars She rides forward 3. She is the Bone-Mother, the age-old Wise One. Wild and playful. Who would she need to make up to? Was She not the first on Earth, dancing here long before any living creature took its first steps? She is surely older than time. Oh, doesn't She remember the day She wrestled down this conceited warrior god, the high Thor himself, god of the newcomers, the Aesir4! Isn't She Herself the very Grandmother Hel? Elle they call Her. For sure She is the great-great-grandmother of everything. She need not bow to anybody. Ha-haaaa! Her mouth full of yellow teeth laughs. Ugly as sin She is, if you see only her outside. Tough, wrinkled skin covers Her old bones. No rosy cheeks. That was long ago! Her gnarled fingers crook into the fur of the beast. You will see Her flying, yelling, through the air – in stories from Germany – with a deafening noise and fury, with shrieking instruments and howling beasts5.
The air, the air! The storm is Her true element. One of them. (read more...)
by Jeri Studebaker
Spellbound, almost hypnotized, you float through magic lands of enchantment with fairy princesses, talking frogs, magic cats and candy houses, with Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and a whole host of others. Was it like this for you when you read fairy tales as a child? It was for me – I was as enchanted as Sleeping Beauty when she dropped off into her 100-year sleep. And the magnificent illustrations of some of those talented old children's book illustrators (Arthur Rackham, Walter Crane, Kay Nielsen, et al.), made the journey even more intoxicating.
Now, as an adult with years of research under my belt, I have come to the conclusion that many if not most of these fabulous old fairy tales originated among goddess-oriented Europeans. This is exciting, because it means fairy tales hold secrets about how our ancient pre-patriarchal ancestors viewed goddesses, magic, good and evil, the first humans, and other potentially fascinating aspects of their spirituality -- information we can't really wring out of many other sources.
Although I wish I could take credit for it, the idea that fairy tales are all about goddesses is not mine. Even the Brothers Grimm, back in the early 1800s, wrote that fairy tales originated among pre-Christians. And the German culture historian and goddess scholar Heide Gottner-Abendroth, the great Russian folklorist Vladimir Propp, and one of America's foremost authorities on the fairy tale, Dr. Jack Zipes, all suggest it's not just any old pre-Christians who created European fairy tales – but rather ones whose lives revolved around female deity. In these tales the princesses and even the witches themselves are actually secret code for "goddess." (read more...)
by Susun S Weed
Herbal medicine is the medicine of the people. It is simple, safe, effective, and free. Our ancestors used -- and our neighbors around the world still use -- plant medicines for healing and health maintenance. It's easy. You can do it too, and you don't need a degree or any special training. Ancient memories arise in you when you begin to use herbal medicine -- memories which keep you safe and fill you with delight. These lessons are designed to nourish and activate your inner herbalist so you can be your own herbal expert.
In our first session, we learned how to "listen" to the messages of plant's tastes. In session two, we learned about simples and how to make effective water-based herbal remedies. The third session helped us distinguish safe nourishing and tonifying herbs from the more dangerous stimulating and sedating herbs. Our fourth session focused on poisons in herbs and herbal tinctures, which we made and then collected into an Herbal Medicine Chest.
In this, our fifth session, we will find out how to help ourselves and our families with herbal vinegars, one of the green blessings of the Wise Woman Way. (read more...)
by Hannah Spencer
From the waters of Nu, the primeval ocean of Egyptian myth, to the river Styx, which deceased souls cross on their final journey, from the world-encircling oceanic serpent known as Oceanus or Jormungand, to the celestial river of The Milky Way which flows to the land of the soul, water has always denoted the confines of earthly existence, both at its beginning and at its end, and in both a physical and spiritual sense.
This belief evolved because water is the life force of Mother Earth. Just as blood flows through the veins of our bodies, so water flows through the rivers and oceans of the Earth, in a lovely demonstration of the macrocosm-microcosm relationship: “as above, so below.” No living thing can survive without water, and as birth is heralded by the breaking of the waters, so it was believed that the soul was also carried out of this world by a celestial river. Therefore it is no surprise that water has always held such importance in belief and tradition.
Like all boundaries, those defined by water can be breached. Oceans, rivers, lakes and springs have all been traditionally considered liminal zones - places where the metaphysical boundaries between our world and the spirit world are weak. Crossing of water was often associated with physical and spiritual journeys to other worlds. The Irish folk heroes, Oisin and Bran and also the Japanese hero Urashima all sailed across the ocean to reach a paradisiacal land, and Gawain in the 14th century saga, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, had to cross water to reach the Green Knight's castle, an allusion to the spiritual initiation or test that he was undergoing. "Beyond the seventh wave" was a Celtic metaphor synonymous with the land of the spirit. (read more...)
Poetry & Reviews
by Annelinde Metzner
Goddess of the Moon! Ix Chel,
translucent and ever-changing weaver woman,
creator, destroyer, healer,
sleek jaguar of stealth and grace,
how you awaken me each morning!
Long before the sun's rise, now in early Spring,
you are there, Ix Chel, in my window,
sparkling bright mystery upon my sleepy eyelids.
I pull the blankets up to my eyes, and give gratitude,
oh most lovely Woman of the Isle of Women!
Before the day begins, you awaken me tenderly,
fresh from dreams, half asleep.
"Remember me! I pass here each night,
I touch your forehead with my luminous beauty,
I bless you, I reach for you,
I am Ix Chel, your sister,
gracing you once more
with my lightest spark of transformation
and truth. I only ask
that you receive me gladly."
March 21, 2014
A web designer and all-round computer person, Geraldine is responsible for a number of websites. In her spare time she writes articles and poems, loves researching Goddess in mythology and also produces artwork on her beloved computer. She also runs an online correspondence course called "Getting to know the Goddess".