Read an Excerpt
0 From ancient mythmakers to modern scientific explorers, human beings have always striven to understand the nature of the cosmos. The skywith its vast, infinite presencehas inspired awe in all of humanity. Ancient Mayans would literally converse with planetary bodies as they integrated both religious ritual and mathematical equations to predict cosmic phenomena. Humanity has always posed questions about the origins of the universe: Where do we come from? Is the universe self-contained or infinite? Is there a beginning and an end? These are profound questions that have left both mythmakers and cosmologists struggling to grasp the enormity of the universe. The parallels between creation myths and scientific models are closely aligned, and they reflect the universal mystery that compels all of us to want to know why and how we are here. What is our purpose and what place does spirituality and science have in our lives? In Marcelo Gleiser's book The Dancing Universe, the author compares the three models of creation myths to the three quantitative models theorized by the scientific community: creation out of something, creation out of nothing, and order out of chaos.
In an attempt to define the mysteries that underlie our existence, we have employed a wealth of symbols and metaphors, including archetypes, symbols that appear throughout human history. Carl Jung, the twentieth-century psychoanalyst, described archetypes as being contained in that reservoir of shared memories passed down through the millennia, our collective unconscious: "The concept of the archetype, which is an indispensable correlate of the idea of the collective unconscious, indicates the existence of definite forms in the psyche which seem to be present always and everywhere" (Jung 42). These archetypal patterns reside deep in the core of our being and surface in dreams, poetry, artwork, and in other forms of creative expression. Myths are part of the psychic heritage that has become embedded in the deep-seated memories comprising our collective psyches. The collective unconscious is what connects us to the past, present, and future, and helps to bind all human beings in a fabric of shared experience.
As we progress down new scientific roads of discovery, there is renewed consideration given to ancient methods of charting celestial movements. Many books focusing on archeoastronomy (the study of astronomical methods utilized by the ancients) share shelf space with books explaining new discoveries and modern theories. We are beginning to see the relevance of connecting with our past as we continue exploring possibilities for the future. Contemplating the divine aspects of our universe is as important as unlocking new theories about its origins. We need the quantitative measures of scientific models to prove theories about the universe. But we also need the mysticism and the human spirit that motivated mythmakers to explain their surroundings. Both disciplines have striven to understand the cosmos. Both disciplines are driven by awe at the immensity of the universe. And neither has been able to prove the origins of the universe. Yet humanity holds on to faith in the face of the inexplicable. As we unlock more answers about nature, we find that there are so many questions lying just beneath the surface. This pattern of question and answer is seemingly infinite, leading one to believe that there will always be a need for both science and faith to help move uus forward.
The Space Shuttle Columbia on mission STS-93, commanded by Eileen Collins (the first woman at the helm of a space shuttle), launched the Chandra X-ray observatory. The name "Chandra" is a shortened version of the late Nobel Laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar's name. Chandrasekhar or "Chandra," one of the foremost astrophysicists of the twentieth century, helped shed light on the nature of black holes. Chandra is also a Hindu moon god (in Sanskrit, the word means "luminous"). It is not so ironic that this name was chosen out of 6,000 entries across the country. As we move further into the deep, uncharted realms of the universe, we yearn to embrace the divine as a means of digesting the enormity of the cosmic void. Science is providing us with beautiful, inspiring, visual references of celestial hosts literally billions of light years away. In order to connect with those images and not be too overwhelmed by the confounding distances, we need to celebrate the very mystery of these celestial wonders. Again, we start asking ourselves fundamental questions about our surroundings, much like the ancients did thousands of years ago. Celestial goddesses are like old, consistent friends. Their various roles on the cosmic stage continue to fascinate and reassure us even in the face of scientific challenges. Technology will not supplant our need to nurture our spirituality, it will only reinforce it.
Reverence for the feminine divine is a manifestation of this shared experience. We know intuitively that her power is part of our past, present, and future. The goddess' transformative powers are a part of our daily experience, from the life-giving process of birth to the diurnal cycle dictated by the heavens. The goddess is an inherent part of the cosmic pulse of conception, death, and renewal. This cycle coincides with the phases of the moon, the rising and setting of the sun, and the female menstrual cycle. By reconnecting with the goddess on a conscious level, we begin to truly participate in the mysteries that inhabit our skies and our own internal cosmos. The more we allow ourselves to indulge in the spiritual essence of her presence, the more heightened our senses will become.
It is important to meditate on the goddess as we continue to observe the heavens. The inscrutable nature of the universe is as miraculous as conception and birth. The ubiquitous goddess has given us a wealth of stories and symbols to help us connect with the essence of our souls. The many images and stories that I have presented in this collection showcase the similarities that all goddesses from disparate cultures share. Many of the elements and symbols contained in the paintings represent the merging of the conscious with the unconscious. In the entry for Luonnotar, the Finnish goddess is shown floating upon the primordial waters of chaos until the breaking of eggs releases consciousness and allows life to flourish. Another example of the bridge between unconsciousness and consciousness is exemplified when the Sumerian goddess Inanna breaks away from the smothering embrace of the earth and emerges into a new, conscious state on the surface. The moon and sun are also considered symbols of unconsciousness and consciousness, respectively. Lunar mysteries stem from the fact that the moon is present during the night or unconscious state and the sun coincides with light and consciousness.
The symbolic polarity present in some of my images is a reflection of thhe balance necessary for the sustenance of life. This can even be observed at the subatomic level. Atoms are comprised of protons, electrons, and neutrons that work together to maintain a neutral charge. Life could not exist without this delicate balance. So, too, the sun goddess' travels across the heavens are juxtaposed by her sojourns under the Earth and into unconsciousness during the hours of darkness. Without light, there would be no dark; without dark, one would not recognize light. The many symbolic images in this book are an attempt to tap into this subconscious level. The paintings are meant to act as tools of contemplation and will hopefully help the viewer identify the nurturing power of the feminine divine. By identifying the beauty and strength that is the goddess, we can learn to harness positive goddess energy and use it to help ourselves become stronger, more intrinsic players in the universe.
The expansion of mass media, the connective capabilities of the World Wide Web, and the ever-advancing space telescopes are leading to profound changes that will forever alter the human landscape. It is the human spirit and our connection with the divine that provides us with the courage to move forward and climb higher pinnacles of achievement.
As we move closer to universal consciousness, what better vehicle for being prepared for such profound thought processes than by contemplating celestial goddesses and their various roles on the cosmic stage? By reflecting on the goddess, we will be better equipped to ponder the complexities of science. In Edward O. Wilson's book Consilience, the author states that "science needs the intuition and metaphorical power of the arts, and the arts need the fresh blood of science" (Wilson 230). By depicting the goddess in her myriad of forms and personalities, I am interpreting the divine mysteries of the universe in a tangible form that we all can relate to, regardless of gender or race.
Considering information from complementary disciplines will enable us to grow intellectually as well as spiritually. Contemplating the mysteries of the universe facilitates creative thinking. In true Zen form, the more we learn, the more we need to learn. The internal spirit, the essence of our being, is what is touched by the goddess. If we let our internal voices guide us into pure, contemplative thought processes, then we can examine the quantitative measures of science with an enhanced feeling of awe and reverence. We become more emotionally connected, more spiritually elevated, and ultimately better, more flexible observers of nature. We need the goddess to be a part of our conscious beings as we move forward into a new millennium of astounding scientific discoveries. And as we acquire more scientific understanding about the cosmos, perhaps we can acquire a deeper connection with the goddess.
How to Use This Book
0 With all the changes that are going on in the world, from technology to our own personal relationships, the one thing that seems to remain fairly constant is the universe. Of course this is not entirely true, but due to our relatively brief physical life spans we can be lulled into the comfortable illusion of cosmic constancy. Human beings are instinctively drawn to the beauty of the stars. We write songs and poems about the glorious sunrise and the romance of a star-strewn night. We are drawn to the mysterious and unattainable nature of the moon and planets. But when we look to the stars andd celestial bodies for inspiration, we may also be intimidated by the sheer enormity of it all. It can be difficult not to feel insignificant and downright overwhelmed when contemplating distances that would take a thousand generations to cross. This is the science of the universe as we know it. But where does spirituality fit into this scheme? Is there any room remaining in our fact-jumbled minds for the divine?
Meditation helps us to weed through the detritus of our day-to-day lives in order to get to the pure, creative, fluid part of our mind. This part of our being can be our sanctuary. It is a place where we can explore, nurture, expand, and refresh. It is our personal getaway where no one else has to go. It is our personal playground, a placid beach, a verdant forest, and anything we choose it to be. By going within to this personal and tranquil place, we can see ourselves from a different perspective and perhaps view our life situations with a more objective eye. It is also a place where we can convene with the goddess and contemplate the cosmos.
By employing meditation techniques, we can nurture a relationship with the goddess that can help us to understand our importance in the grand scheme of things. The goddess can provide you with a link to cosmic energy by helping you to explore your own subconscious. Our psyches are like microcosmic reflections of the vast, magnificent universe in which we reside. The goddesses in this collection mirror the patterns or archetypes that surface again and again in world mythologies. By meditating on stories of the goddess, we can allow her to accompany us on our personal quest to understand the nature of the universe and appreciate the limitless knowledge, energy, and creativity contained within our subconscious.
Since it is so easy to become distracted by day-to-day concerns, it is important to set aside quiet time to ponder the marvelous goings-on within your own mind. After all, how can we digest the immensity of the universe if we do not take time to nurture our own being? Meditation can help to bring equilibrium and a sense of peace into your life. Through meditation, you will be able to nurture a relationship with yourself by cultivating a relationship with the goddess. The celestial goddess can be a reflection of who we are or who we would like to become.
How to Meditate
No matter how hard we try to balance the complexities of our lives, there is usually something that infiltrates our positive well-being. Perhaps you get stuck in traffic, or you have a falling-out with your best friend, or you burn the beans cooking dinner. No matter how well-managed your life is or how even-tempered you are, it is hard not to experience some level of stress throughout the course of the day. Knowing that you have the option to meditate can help you to deal with your daily mishaps. Meditation is your quiet time. You can look forward to this relaxation time . . . time to recenter and cleanse yourself of your own internal pollution.
When I use the term "meditation," I am not referring to the practices of any particular culture or religion. Meditation is a versatile form of relaxation: You are free to delve into this exercise in any manner that you choose, taking bits and pieces of ideas and practices that feel right to you. You can meditate in the shower, while you walk, or during your lunch break. You can also customize your meditations to include objects, other people, or both.
It may be difficult to get started, but once you incorporate meditation into your routine, it will become a daily ritual that you look forward to. Meditation is also inexpensiveit does not require the inclusion of any instruments or tools.
Meditation can help release creativity and facilitate artistic endeavors, even if you do not have a propensity to express yourself in this manner. I engage myself in a meditative state when I sketch ideas. I feel that the celestial goddess guided my pencil and brush as I painted the images you see in this book. Her image can manifest itself in many styles and forms during this automatic process. But you do not have to be an artist to experience this. You can use meditation as a tool for releasing thoughts and ideas and for helping you to look at your life with a fresh perspective. Daily routines such as cooking, gardening, and shopping can all be enhanced by employing meditation techniques. In Barbara Ardinger's book Goddess Meditations, the author states that "meditation is a process whose aim is to quiet the body so the mind can work creatively. It tames the left brain so the right brain becomes free" (Ardinger 10). I find this observation to be quite accurate and useful. I feel it is essential to cleanse my mind by meditating before embarking on a creative endeavor.
Here is a list of techniques that may be helpful for you as you try to determine what techniques best work for your particular needs:
• visualization and imagery; this technique is ideal
when applied to this book
taking a walk
• engaging in a creative activity, i.e., sketching, stitching,
painting, ceramics, etc.
• positioning yourself: standing, sitting, or lying down
• guided group meditation
• focusing on an object, i.e., a statue of a goddess
Letting the Goddess Work for You
To begin, familiarize yourself with her stories and then study the images in the book. You do not have to be rehearsed in goddess lore or be exceptionally creative, for this book is designed to assist the beginner as well as those who have already established a relationship with the feminine divine. The meditations are meant to be used as a springboard to help you access the wealth of ideas and imagery that are stored within your subconscious, so feel free to expand on what I have provided for you. The more you practice visualization, the more complex and immersive your meditative journeys will become. Visualization, or using imagery to help you with your meditations, is a good technique for those who have a hard time letting go of "reality." The introduction of a visual element will oftentimes help facilitate the relaxation process. It will provide a point of focus' a gateway into the quietude of the subconscious.
It is imperative that you relax and symbolically shed the stresses of the day as preparation for your meditation. I love to take evening walks when the skies are clear and the goddess and the stars speak to me from the blue firmament. Even if I was feeling fatigued or uninspired before my walk, I will often return feeling revitalized and ready to continue writing or sketching. Another of my relaxation techniques is to take a shower in the dark with the window blinds open. This way I can view the stars and moon while the water is cleansing my body (of course, only do this if you feel safe doing so). Try this during the day and you can imagine the sun goddess Saule's golden liquid cleansing you with its nurturing propertiies. Another way to help prepare yourself for meditation is to take an aromatherapeutic bath with or without strategically placed candles around the tub. I also decorate my home in a celestial motif by hanging moons and stars from the walls and ceilings. These little acts help me to feel peace and harmony within my household. By indulging in these simple pleasures, you can learn how to reestablish inner equilibrium and more easily fall into a meditative state.
My husband uses meditation as a means of organizing his thoughts. He takes daily meditation breaks by lying down on the bed, closing his eyes, and reviewing what he needs to accomplish to clear his "things to do" list. After this refresher, when all his internal papers have been filed away, he will emerge from his meditation reenergized and ready to expedite work in an efficient and relaxed manner. Meditation is an exercise as important as any physical exercise. It is important to keep your mind fit and free of unnecessary stress buildup. If you allow stresses to hibernate in your subconscious without properly disposing yourself of them, you run the risk of depleting your body of good, healthy energy.
You can also incorporate elements from the goddess' stories into your meditation. If you feel you will meditate more successfully by holding or focusing on an object that symbolizes the goddess and her story, by all means do so. For example, White Shell Woman uses a crystal to bring fire to humanity. Try burning a candle and holding a crystal during your journey.
Meditations and visualizations can be performed in group situations or in a solitary manner. I have experienced both and prefer the peace and quietude afforded within my own home. A group meditation can be a wonderful way to feel the transference of energy from one person to another. In the meditation I have provided for Mawu, you can mimic the group circle by meditating with others.
The goddess' ability to maintain beauty, grace, and strength in the face of adversity reminds us to see the light even during some of our darkest moments. The celestial goddesses are universal yet intensely personal guides who can usher us through our life journeys, helping us to put our fears aside and teaching us how to thrive on challenge. Allow them to aid you in confronting problems in a more effective and rational manner. Above all else, the goddesses remind us that we are not alone in this vast universe. We are the intertwined roots of a grand cosmic tree.
So let us begin. Browse through the book and start with a goddess you feel particularly drawn to. This book is meant to be used over and over again. The more you study it, the more you will be able to extract from the imagery. May you nurture a beautiful relationship with each and every manifestation of the celestial goddess. She has so much to show you.
0 Amaterasu, whose name means "Shining Heaven," rules the heavens and brings warmth and light to the world. She is the Japanese Shinto goddess responsible for cultivating rice fields, creating irrigation canals, and teaching mortals the arts of weaving, farming silk, and cultivating food. The great sun goddess was so radiant at her birth that her parents placed her in the sky where she could shine in the celestial realms.
But, alas, her life-giving rays disappeared for a time after her jealous brother Susanowo fell into a rampage and began to destroy Amaterasu's creations. He trampled on her rice fields, left excreement in her temples, and tossed a flayed piebald horse through a roof, killing several weaving women. Amaterasu retreated from the violence by finding refuge in a cave. There she hid herself in protest, causing the world to fall into a wintry plight. Plants began to wither and people began to deteriorate as darkness gripped the land in cold talons.
The gods became alarmed at the dire situation and began to devise a scheme to lure the sun goddess from her cave. The 800 gods gathered around the cave entrance, hung trees with jewels, and placed cocks near the threshold. The erotic goddess Uzume adorned herself with bamboo leaves and began to dance in a manner that created uproarious laughter and cheer. During Uzume's performance, one of the gods placed a mirror in front of the cave entrance.
Amaterasu became curious at the growing ruckus outside her hiding place. She carefully opened the cave door, and there she gazed upon the most beautiful reflection she had ever seen. Amaterasu had never seen herself before, so she was spellbound by her own shining countenance in the mirror. She left the cavernous womb and allowed her brilliant rays to spill upon the landscape. She rejoined the company of the gods and reclaimed her place in the sky. The gods banished Susanowo from the heavens, and life and fertility were restored to the land.
Amaterasu's worship is still honored today, and the Japanese imperial family traces their heritage to the sun goddess.
Imagine standing within a damp, chilly tunnel. Darkness feeds your fears as you try to discern a means of escape. Focus hard on a crack in the rock ahead and see a flicker of light. A stream of light expands and permeates the dark cavern. Feel the light beam warm your fingertips and travel up your arms as you begin to move forward. As you lengthen your strides, feel the light continue to travel through your body until it fills your being completely and dissolves the fortress of claustrophobic darkness.
You see an image in the light, and as you squint you can make out your own countenance. It is a smiling reflection of yourself. You look confident, bold, empowered, and beautiful. Walk into your reflection and feel yourself absorbed by the positive solar energy. You feel alive, energetic, brazen. With this new outlook, continue to walk forward into a beautiful, fertile landscape that unfolds before your eyes. You have left the tunnel behind and are now breathing in the fresh, balmy air. Stretch out your arms and breathe deeply; as you breathe out, lower your arms and feel yourself emerge, feeling more confident and alive. Allow yourself to return to your conscious body.
By recognizing the power of your own inner beauty, you will exude an external beauty
and energy that will enable you to live
more happily and confidently.
0 Arianrhod is the Welsh goddess known as Silver Wheel, who is associated with the moon, night, fertility, magic, and reincarnation. She also is known by the name Silver Goddess of the Dawn.
As the daughter of the great Welsh mother goddess Don, Arianrhod is a beautiful and powerful young deity who lures many seamen into her seductive embrace. Despite her many liaisons with the sea folk, she remains independent and continues to reside in a castle on the secluded island of Caer Arianrhod.
In the Mabinogion, a collection of medieval Welsh stories, a story is told of how Arianrhod was summoned by Math, son of Mathonwy, and her brother Gwydion to prove herr virginity so that she could provide Math with a lap for his tired feet. She was ordered to step over a rod, but in doing so, she gave birth to two children. One was a blonde boy who crawled away and joined the sea folk to become Dylan-Son-of-the-Wave. The other was a fetus whom Gwydion recognized as his own offspring. Gwydion quickly absconded with the fetus and hid him in a magical chest until the fetus was strong enough to breathe on his own. Feeling violated, Arianrhod exercised a Welsh mother's right to refuse the fetus three things: a name, the right to bear arms, and a human wife. But Gwydion and his son were later able to outwit Arianrhod when they donned disguises and paid her a visit. She inadvertently named the boy Llew Llaw Gyffes, or "The Bright One of the Skillful Hand," after she witnessed the boy kill a wren with a single stone fling. She also provided him with a sword, thus giving him arms. Later Math and Gwydion went to the forest and produced a wife made out of flowers for Llew Llaw Gyffes. The new companion was named Blodeuwedd, or "Flower Face."
It is said that this story illustrates the decline of goddess-oriented societies at the hands of the patriarchal clans. Even so, Arianrhod's status as a deity earned her a place in the constellations as a resident of the Corona Borealis.
You are standing on a moonlit mound surrounded by monoliths engraved with spirals. The goddess Arianrhod appears out of the fog and smiles. She reaches out and you willingly allow her to take your hand. You admire her shimmering presence and feel her tingling energy travel up your arm and into your heart. She leads you to a long branch that hangs down from an ancient tree covered with vines. Arianrhod beckons you to leap over it with her. You try to look past the branch, but are unable to see through a thick fog. You feel a little apprehensive as she leads you forward. You take a deep breath as you jump over. You feel, rather than see, a carpet of stars sweep past your feet. Arianrhod continues to hold your hand as she leads you on a flight past celestial bodies of magnificent colors. You see silver wheels spinning past, and time becomes irrelevant. The new sensation washes away your inhibitions and you feel energized. The wheels continue to float past, and you realize that there are no endings: The wheels turn infinitely, like the continuous birth of stars in an endless universe. Feel your body begin to descend and soon you are back on solid soil. Breathe out and return to your conscious body.
The leap over the branch has shown you that life is continuous and new beginnings are part of our journey. Embrace new beginnings and enjoy the challenges that new flights
will reward you with.