Circle of Stones: Woman's Journey to Herself

Circle of Stones: Woman's Journey to Herself

by Judith Duerk

View All Available Formats & Editions

Long ago before the patriarchal period, in many places on Earth, the Goddess was worshipped. Circle of Stones draws us into a meditative experience of the lost Feminine and creates a space for us to consider our present lives from the eyes of women's ancient culture and ritual. Incorporating the most ancient symbol of spirituality-the circle of stones-Duerk weaves

…  See more details below


Long ago before the patriarchal period, in many places on Earth, the Goddess was worshipped. Circle of Stones draws us into a meditative experience of the lost Feminine and creates a space for us to consider our present lives from the eyes of women's ancient culture and ritual. Incorporating the most ancient symbol of spirituality-the circle of stones-Duerk weaves stories, dreams, and visions of women to lead each reader into a personal yet archetypal journey, posing the reflective question, "How might your life have been different if . . ."

Complete with reading group guide.

Editorial Reviews

Society for Washington Jungian Psychology
Therapists who are recommending it, and readers in general, begin with an initial reaction of tears.

Product Details

New World Library
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

Circle of Stones

Woman's Journey to Herself

By Judith Duerk

New World Library

Copyright © 2015 Judith Duerk
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-880913-63-5


In search of Her mother

Long ago before the patriarchal period, in many places on earth, the Goddess was worshipped. Woman in the train of history has been orphaned by the death of this Great Mother, has suffered loss of connection to her own beingness, lack of sense of legitimacy and belonging in the universe or in her own individual life. Woman can draw comfort from an image of the Great Mother reaching out to her to fulfill and to bring to manifest form in her own individual life that of the Archetypal Eternal Feminine. Woman, with the help of the Great Mother, can leave the collective way to find her own individual way, for somewhere deep inside she knows she must leave to become herself.

The universal importance of woman's tears

I am at a conference leading a small group, as I have done many times in waking life. After it is over, one woman, Pat Fleming, speaks with me about the book used for the group, a history of the Elamites, of "how it was before the patriarchal period." I tell her, "It was during that earlier time that something important was allowed ..." and she says softly, "Yes, sadness."

Then I say good-bye and leave the conference. (And, in fact, shortly before the dream occurred, I had painfully decided that I must leave a conference which had been an important part of my life for more than ten years.) I kiss Sarah, now ninety years old, on the cheek, and kneel down to gather up my books and records. Someone asks, "Do you notice that each time she says good-bye she kneels down to hide her face so her sadness won't be seen?"

The last scene is in my consultation room. I am in session with a young woman of Middle Eastern heritage, whose father was not only strongly oppressive but used a framework of Freudian psychology and actual accusations of "penis envy" to subdue his daughter. She had struggled, in her work and growth, to reclaim her fine intellect and rational thinking to aid her to fulfill herself as a woman: to have that fine rational thinking function serve her feeling values, rather than to have it dominate them and force her to live out her life either as a power-driven "son" for her father or as a piece of fluff. At the time of the dream, she was in law school and about to be engaged to the man she loved — one whom her father had disapproved.

In the dream setting, the young woman is sitting in the chair across from me. Standing slightly behind her, in the shadows, is her Middle Eastern grandfather, in his native costume. The air around him is crackling with traditional patriarchal tribal laws, taboos, and mores. It is clear that if he had had his way, neither his granddaughter nor I would be there, certainly not sitting quietly and conferring about her life and how she intended to live it — claiming her own right to direct it.

The young woman sits and quietly begins to cry.

The grandfather criticizes her tears.

Something of being present in the same room with the two polarities — the young, emerging, feminine feeling side and the old, negating, oppressing, disapproving patriarchal side — fires my passion and crystallizes my words.

"No!" I say.

"No, she must be allowed to cry. It is only when woman can experience her tears in the moment that she can also experience her true, deep feeling values in the moment. The tears of these young and capable women must be allowed and encouraged to flow — to flow out to the culture and society which so truly and desperately need them and their tears — to help society reconnect with the true and deep values of life which can sustain and support that culture, that life, that of life in their society,

"Someday, when the first woman president of the United States holds the sides of the podium and says 'My fellow Americans ...' as she is inaugurated, it will be important that she can be there, weeping, as she speaks, and that her tears and the intensity with which she is in touch with her feeling values can flow out to and nourish the society and influence all women."

When I awoke from the dream, I was amazed at the flow of words and at their passion. It was clear that they had flowed out of my own deepest feeling values — those that I fervently believed in and cared most deeply about.

I was especially touched by the podium scene — as the words "my fellow Americans" were delivered, I had gripped the sides of the lap desk my husband had made for me ... as if the expression of those deep feeling values from the feminine took place on a platform carefully prepared by the supportive masculine. The dream had reminded me how helpful it is if a woman has support either from an outer man or her own inner masculine side as she brings out her feeling values,

For clearly the values of the feminine need to come forth ... of the earth, the instincts, the individual ... all that nurtures and sustains life. Those values need to come forth, to re-emerge with their ancient feminine strength and passion. Those values need to come forth and to voice ... this time, not to be silenced by the oppressing, negating ancient patriarchy, but to speak clearly and firmly from the even more ancient flow of the Archetypal Feminine.

How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you? A place for you to go ... a place of women, to help you learn the ways of woman ... a place where you were nurtured from an ancient flow sustaining you and steadying you as you sought to become yourself. A place of women to help you find and trust the ancient flow already there within yourself ... waiting to be released ...

A place of women ...

How might your life be different?

How it was before ...

Long ago when life was still sacred, in many places on earth, the Goddess was worshipped. Known by many names in many lands, as Isis, Astarte, Ishtar, Ashtoreth, Hathor, temples built in her honour saw to the care of lands and flocks and kept the books and records.

The Great Goddess was revered in ceremonies perpetuating the fertility and holiness of the earth. Woman crouched on the ground during the menses in rituals regenerating the earth with the flow of her own blood. The gift of sexual love, most sacred of the gifts bestowed by the Goddess, was celebrated in yearly rites as the high priestess or queen of a region united in love with the yearly consort to honour the Goddess. Young women, coming of age, spent a night or more in the temple in sexual union with those coming to pay love honour to the Goddess. Through this act of sexual union, a woman became a virgin ... sanctified, empowered, and knowing of the mysteries of life.

And, sanctified and empowered unto herself, a woman could empower other women. Woman passed down to woman a sense of herself, of her body, of the mysteries of fecundity and regeneration.

Woman was autonomous, owned property, sat on the councils of elders, served in the courts of law, and passed down the sovereign rule, in many lands, through matrilineal descent. The children born to woman were legitimate and respectable, inheriting her property, name and title, in many places, whether or not she was married. Woman was recognized for her knowledge and sought out for her advice in practical matters. She held jobs alongside men and was valued for her insight and authority in all things seen.

But it was for her insight and authority in things unseen that woman was most valued. Through her feminine rituals, through the sacred act of sexual love, woman came into the direct presence of the Goddess, and through this experience, was opened to her own prophetic and oracular vision.

Woman knew the mysteries of life and how to invoke the primal elements of nature, touchable and untouchable. Woman passed down to woman knowledge of the elemental energies in the earth and in herself, and of how to align herself with the eternal flow of those energies, within and without.

Woman passed down to woman a sense of the Goddess, of the Primal Feminine and her belonging within it. Woman passed down to woman a sense of herself as "woman unto herself."

Woman passed down to woman a respect for her own being, revering the Great Mother in herself and herself in the Great Mother.

Woman passed down to woman a way of being within herself as she carried out her daily tasks in which she related to herself and to the task as sacred and necessary to the completion of the cosmic cycle, to be fulfilled by her, by her alone, again and again. Through that fulfilling, she renewed the earth, blessing the cycles of nature, quietly carving into the stillness of time the steps of her repeated trips for water, her winnowing of the grain, her nurturing of the earth.

Time passed.

Things began to change.

Laws were introduced taking rights of inheritance away from woman. Control over her property, finances, and legal affairs was given to the men related to her. Her political and social autonomy was taken, and in some places she was considered property.

The most supreme gift of the Goddess was denigrated — sexual love was shamed and reviled. Her claiming of her sexuality as sacred to herself and to the Goddess was scorned and humiliated. Sexual union, once sacred and ecstatic, became debauchery. The sacred temple rituals, wherein a woman had become holy and free, were condemned as orgiastic and the priestesses as "temple prostitutes."

The sacred groves dedicated to the worship of the Great Mother were condemned and closed. The serpent, venerable symbol of wisdom and nobility, was denigrated and reviled. It became, for the epochs following, a target for humiliation and derision, treated as a symbol of woman's folly, evil, cunning, and lust. This ancient symbol of life was abased as that which tempted Eve, and, through Eve, all of humankind, into sin and death.

The wisdom of woman, gained through her identification with her body, with the Goddess, and with the earth, was no longer revered, but ridiculed and rejected. Once honoured as prophetess and seer, woman was now scorned. Her instincts and intuition, through which she perceived the elemental energies in the cycles of nature and her knowledge of healing, were rebuked and humiliated.

Among the last of nations to hold the Goddess in highest reverence and woman in a place of honour was the small land of Elam. Lying in the Zagros Mountains between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf, Elam was known in the ancient world for the unique respect it gave woman. The right to its royal throne passed down in complex forms of matrilineal succession through much of Elam's history until the capital city Susa, the temple, and the ziggurat were razed (circa 627 B.C.).

In Elam, the snake, ancient symbol of the Goddess and feminine wisdom, was represented in bronze-casting and pottery. The Elamites knew the symbol of the tree of life with its coiling serpent. The fertility symbol of intertwining mating snakes spread through the ancient world.

In Elam, the Great Mother was revered as primary deity. Not until the second millennium B.C. was Her position threatened. And then, even as the Goddess relinquished ever greater worldly authority to the male gods, the secret rites of Elam remained those of the Goddess, the earth, and the serpent.

In Elam, among the last and alone, the Goddess was revered, woman was honoured, and, through the sacred sexual rites, she tended the elemental energies in the cycles of nature, reconsecrating the Goddess, the earth, and her own body.

In Elam, last and alone, woman still passed down to woman entitlement to live her life in devotion to the Goddess and to the feminine within herself.

In Elam, last and alone, woman passed down to woman the sense of living her life each day identifying with the Great Mother, knowing that life was sacred, within and without.

And then in Elam,

in Elam, also, things began to change,
No more could woman hold up her head to
revere the Goddess and honour herself.
No more could woman hold up her head,
No more.
No more.

How might it have been different for you, if, on your first menstrual day, your mother had given you a bouquet of flowers and taken you to lunch, and then the two of you had gone to meet your father at the jeweler, where your ears were pierced, and your father bought you your first pair of earrings, and then you went with a few of your friends and your mother's friends to get your first lip colouring;

and then you went,
for the very first time,
to the Women's Lodge,
to learn
the wisdom of the women?
How might your life be different?


"Yes, sadness ..."

In my dream the woman who spoke of Elam was Pat Fleming. She and I had known one another for half a dozen years through a conference on religion and psychology. Pat was warm and embracing, maternal. A few weeks after she appeared in my dream, her article appeared in Psychological Perspectives. In it she wrote of her loss of, and life-long search for, her mother.

The issue published a brief summary of Pat's life ... and an announcement of her death. Her own mother had died a few hours after Pat's birth, and the daughter had spent her lifetime in search of the lost mother. In the article Pat traced the steps of her earliest infant experiencing of her loss of the mother and her feelings of emptiness as a child. She wrote of her life-long effort to find a connection to an external mother, and her final hard-won sense of self as her dreams grounded her in a mothering source within herself. Pat's writing described poignantly the depth of her own sadness — the black hole within the motherless child.

The mother, first representative of the Self to the infant, constellates in the infant what will become the sense of Self within as the child grows. As the baby sees itself mirrored in the face of the mother, sees its own image lovingly reflected in the mother's eyes, a fledgling sense of a true and worthy self is born within the infant. With the birth of that sense of self is born a sense of being seen, recognized, and valued as who one really is.

Loss of the personal mother may leave the child without sense of self or self-worth, without hope that one will ever be seen as oneself, There is fear of being unable to become one's true self, of never being truly known — never knowing who one truly is. One is left, abandoned, isolated, without hope of future ... as Pat wrote, floating in "black emptiness."

Loss of the mother is experienced as a totality of loss of safety, security, nurture, comfort, or joy. The child, rather than knowing itself as valued, embraced, and precious, perceives itself as tainted, condemned, sick, shamed, and guilty — eternally unworthy of love. There is a loss of the possibility of being acknowledged as who one most deeply is.

Pat wrote of the daughter's need to separate from and then to introject her mother in order to connect with a source of nurture within herself. If a girl loses her mother and is unable to complete this process, she may live in fantasy, conscious or unconscious, of restoring the original unbroken uruboric connection, the hope of complete unity with the mother. She may go through life endlessly seeking her mother, involved in ceaseless activity, seeing her image in suitable as well as unsuitable individuals, and seeking from them the love and nurture so deeply longed for. She may give love to many, seeking, appropriately and inappropriately, through her giving of mothering, to ease the pain of her own loss. At worst, she may catch herself compulsively forcefeeding nurture to those who neither need nor want it.

For a daughter, the steps of separating and introjecting are necessary so that she may later reconnect with the mother. This time, it will be no longer in an identification, being "just like mommy," but in real relatedness to the mother as other. Now, the daughter may experience her own equal reality and substance as woman. Now, she may become her own individual woman self with a center, a grace and maturity of her own, not eternally a satellite circling an older, stronger woman.

Pat wrote movingly of the comfort she drew from her perception of her search for her mother as that of the daughter Persephone searching for the mother Demeter, even while the mother yearned for and searched for her daughter ... sought, even as she was seeking ... each one, the mother as well as the daughter, longing for the love of the other, needing the other's presence, love, reflecting, in order to complete and to fulfill her own feminine life process.

Pat Fleming's story of a daughter's search to recover her mother illustrates, in an individual sense, what the dream image of the Elamites represents in a collective sense: modern woman's search for the Archetypal Mother and her sadness at the loss of all that the death of the mother represents. Just as the daughter needs to mourn and to release the personal mother in order to introject her and come into a new relationship with her, so must women, since the Elamites, mourn and release the Great Mother in order to come to a new relationship and understanding of Her and of themselves as women.

Like Pat, who never had a chance to know her personal mother, woman in the train of history has had little chance to know her collective Great Mother and has longed to regain and know Her. Woman in the train of history, orphaned by the death of the Great Mother, has suffered loss of connection to her own beingness, lack of sense of legitimacy and belonging in the universe or in her own individual life. Orphaned, woman has been treated as orphan. She has received shame and humiliation, has felt unworthy of love and dignity. Full of self-loathing, she has put herself and other women last.

Woman, so unmothered, has not had a chance to separate from, or to introject, the Great and Wise Mother, to feel within herself the possibility of being her own source of nurture, of wisdom. She has remained, often, the eternal girl, unable to feel or claim her full weight, substance, stature.

Woman, so unmothered, needs a chance to mourn her collective loss — to face into the pain of her black emptiness and to release it. She needs to mourn, to let go, in order that she may finally connect inwardly with what she never outwardly had. This lack is not a lack or loss of nurture from a personal mother, but a greater loss — the loss of rootedness and strength flowing in an immense, ancient cord throughout history from the primeval Great Mother Herself.


Excerpted from Circle of Stones by Judith Duerk. Copyright © 2015 Judith Duerk. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More

What People are saying about this

Joan Borysenko
Every woman needs this book by her bed.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >