by Crystal Dawn Walker
Birthing is a messy process and re-birthing oneself into a new way of being in the world can potentially be even messier. Physical birth includes emotions, physical exertion, and multiple body fluids, while psychological rebirthing includes reviewing emotional baggage, mopping up outworn juicy assumptions, behaviors, and preconceived notions, as well as engagement with one’s shadow self.
My current rebirthing pertains to graduate school, which feels on one hand like a recycling of my young adult self—who became lost into the mists of time—and on the other hand, a renewing and revitalizing of myself onto a higher octave within the spiral of my life. Through this new academic soul searching and occasionally gut wrenching process, I have ended my first graduate year successfully as a Priestess and as Queen of myself. No small feat!
As is the case for some middle age women today, I too am questioning what exactly is “my life’s work” in the world? To backtrack a little, at age 48, I began my undergraduate education with zero college credits, three teenagers at home, and while working full-time. Now at age 55, I am in graduate school and my teens have flown from my matriarchal nest to become young adults literally winging their way around the world for work, pleasure, and adventure. I too am enjoying my own adventure—though mine is in mid-life. Presently I am confronting my shadow self during this rebirthing as I stumble and bumble within numerous interpersonal relationships, while also navigating the ocean of academic assignments for the Women’s Spirituality program, and also charting my course toward the territory I plan to claim as my Queendom, as well as my life’s work as the founder of Sister Circle Alliance Eco-Village: A Wimmin’s/Woman’s 55+ Residential Sanctuary.
The Women’s Spirituality master’s degree program that I am enrolled in is at Sofia University (formerly The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology) in Palo Alto, California. This program is not for the faint of heart. At one and the same time it is intensely academically rigorous, but it is also very rich, juicy, and alive with courses like a few of my favorites during the 2011/2012 academic year: Archeomythology, Matriarchal Societies, Spiritual Autobiography, Organic Inquiry, Embodied Spirituality, Protective Magic, Ancient & Contemporary Female Shamanism, and also in 2012/2013, The Priestess: Sacred Women in Ancient and Contemporary Culture, just to name a few. The focus of this Women’s Spirituality program is always on increasing one’s academic knowledge base, along with personal growth, and of course, transformation.
I began my first year of graduate school desiring to meet a role model who embodied women’s empowerment, feminine spirituality, and female non-profit leadership. Amazingly, I was blessed with not one, but with two women who eventually bookended my academic year, and who each generously offered her time and talent regarding my spiritual rebirthing into a more empowered woman.
The first role model, Chandra Alexandre, I met in Autumn Quarter 2011. She is a dynamic, super-energized, and focused woman who has completed multiple advanced degrees. Additionally, she is also the founder of the 501(c)3 SHARANYA: The Maa Batakali Cultural Mission, a Goddess temple in San Francisco. Chandra is a hereditary witch, as well as a Rashini Priestess of Kali. I met her for the first time during an evening when she was officiating at SHARANYA Puja (worship service).
I noted during the Puja that night, the air was infused with the fragrant aroma of incense, the lights were dimmed, meeting the evening’s October sunset with equivalence, the devotees were chanting while spiraling around a central cauldron of sacred water, containing lighted floating candles, and a sprinkling of red flower petals. I entered the consecrated space after being aspersed with Holy water and joined in the chanting and spiraling, passing by numerous smaller altars, before coming face to face with the impressive main altar to Maa Batakali; Goddess Kali of the Crossroads, which overflowed deep and wide at the end of the expansive room.
The Kali Puja is a blending infusion of eastern Goddess worship, along with western Pagan / Witch practices. Towards the end of the Puja we were invited to approach the main altar in order to offer a few—near solitary—moments of personal devotional time directly to Kali Maa Herself. I watched with fascination as many of Her devotees prostrated themselves in front of Her image. I stood and uttered prayerful words as I introduced myself to her.
Chandra touched my life by being a woman of integrity and power academically, spiritually, and personally. During my research of her, I noted that she is willing to take personal risks as well as leaps of faith. She has a determined focus, high passion for her beliefs and ideals, along with ability to multi-task, and to trust the process. From meeting her I have gained greater confidence in pursuing my academic goals, as well as to begin the process of founding my own 501(c)3 non-profit as I complete my master’s degree. I embrace and embody Chandra’s character qualities of taking strategic personal risks and sublime leaps of faith.
The second role model, Marguerite Rigoglioso, I also met in the fall, but began working closely with her during the Divine Birth Mystery Teachings priestess course in Spring Quarter 2012. I was in the first cohort of her Seven Sisters Mystery School, and ended this program as a Priestess along with becoming ordained through Universal Life Church. Marguerite, like Chandra, also began her life’s work during her dissertation research. Since then, Marguerite has authored two books on priestesses of virgin or divine birth (The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece, and Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity), with a third nearing publication. She is a gifted Priestess in her own right offering skilled spiritual counseling into the deeper mysteries of life. Her Divine Birth Mystery Teachings program opened my psychic channels of awareness into other dimensional realities as I encountered three unusual situations during my priestess training. Firstly, I came into contact with a spiritual being in a near out-of-body situation—which left me feeling a little stunned but also very empowered. In this encounter, a dark being was attempting to overpower me. I successfully used my will power, intention, and firm voice to thwart the intrusion into my personal space and body. In another circumstance I experienced unusual arcing lights coming towards my body, which had me rubbing my eyes and cleaning my eyeglasses to confirm what I was viewing. I used my new Priestess skills to deflect these as well. Lastly, I met a luminescent albino gecko on my doorstep one evening that had a personal message for me to “pay attention to my dreams.” Marguerite was always supportive and helpful during my conference calls pertaining to these unusual other dimensional encounters.
Marguerite touched my life by being a woman of intense determination pertaining to her academic studies and subsequent research, as well as her leadership in founding and teaching at her mystery school. She is dynamic, driven, and can be somewhat intimidating at times. I embrace and embody Marguerite’s character qualities of focused intention, cutting-edge leadership, and the academic acumen (acuwomon) she possesses of research and writing for publication.
This graduate year has taught me to trust my instincts—both Chandra and Marguerite model this superbly. I also learned that some women are naturally driven towards the founding of non-profits and businesses and their subsequent leadership roles, as well as to deeply immerse themselves in academic pursuits, women’s spirituality, and women’s empowerment within their prospective organizations.
I have a dream for women’s empowerment within my 501(c)3 non-profit organization. My vision is of wimmin’s/women’s community within an eco-village co-housing sanctuary for women 55+. Thanks to the wonderful leadership and priestessing examples of these two women I am feeling a greater sense of ability for renewal and rebirthing myself into my new roles in life—as a Priestess –Queen and founder of Sister Circle Alliance Eco-Village.
(A 501(c)3 organization is a tax-exempt designation for an American non-profit, which pertains to a section in the United States Internal Revenue codes.)