Read an Excerpt
Glorious Queens and Slavegirls
The eternal feminine draws us upward.
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
It’s very difficult being a woman. It’s very difficult being a man too, I realize, but this is a book about women. Sam Keen wrote a book about men, which he called Fire in the Belly. My friend Tara called me up one day and told me she wanted to write a companion volume, Volcano in the Uterus. I laughed when she said that, but inside I was thinking, and Catastrophes in the Breasts and Terror in the Ovaries …
More women cry, loudly or silently, every fraction of every moment, in every town of every country, than anyone—man or woman—realizes. We cry for our children, our lovers, our parents, and ourselves.
We cry in shame because we feel no right to cry and we cry in peace because we feel it’s time we did cry. We cry in moans and we cry in great yelps. We cry for the world. Yet we think we cry alone.
We feel that no one hears. And we must all listen now. We must hold the crying woman’s hand and minister to her tenderly, or she will turn—this collective feminine shadow self—into a monster who will go unheard no longer. This book is an effort to hear and understand her, in today’s world, as she exists at this moment, imprisoned while still dressed in all her ancient, soiled regalia. She is like a child yet she is not a child. She is our mother, our daughter, our sister, our lover. She needs us now, and we need her.
Womanhood Today is tentative and unsure, a thing defined more by what it isn’t than by what it is. For some women, this is not a problem. They have risen above the complexities of society’s projections and misunderstandings and now fly high above the clouds. For most women, however, the resistances they encountered as they reached for the sky were so great that their wings have now drooped, and they try no longer.
Womanhood is a mass pain of unspoken depth; and when we try to speak it, we’re liable to be told, “There you go—complaining again!”
As long as this is true, not half but all of humanity is obstructed in its journey to our cosmic destination. This destination is far, far away, a place so deep inside us that we have barely glimpsed its outer walls.
This is a book about a woman’s inner life. Here, we are our real selves, while in the outer world we are impostors. We’re not sure why we’re posing, except we have no clue how not to. We have forgotten the part we came here to play. We have lost the key to our own house. We’re hanging out outside the door. The stress of being away so long from home is hurting us, even killing us. We must not stay away; we must find the key. For until we do, we will continue to shrivel—our faces, our breasts, our ovaries, our stories. We are drooping down and falling apart. If we knew how to moan, they would hear us on the moon.
But the dirt around us is moving, making room for tiny sprouts. Like every woman, I know what I know. Something is starting to happen. New things lie in store for the earth, and one of them is us. Womanhood is being recast, and we’re pregnant, en masse, giving birth to our own redemption.
Watch. Wait. Time will unfold and fulfill its purpose. While we wait, we must not go unconscious. We must think and grow. Rejoice and dream, kneel and pray. There is holiness in the air today; modern priestesses are appearing all over. They are who we are, for they are us: friends, therapists, artists, businesswomen, teachers, healers, mothers. Start laughing, girls. We have a new calling.
You can tell who we are: We use whatever our business is as a front for talking about things that really matter. We’re only stuck in this work, you see, because our real work was taken away from us several thousand years ago. We looked on the map, but our town was gone. We looked through the catalog but couldn’t find the course we wanted. It’s as if someone removed our chair but couldn’t take away our longing to sit.
Together we embark on a quest for our own enchantment. It will take us to a place where what is feminine is sacred, as are a lot of other things as well. There we can become who we are meant to be and live the life we are meant to live. But we need to see the lay of the land, and we need to see clearly the way back home.
“What?” you say. “Me, enchanted?” Yes, I say, and don’t act so surprised. You knew when you were little that you were born for something special and no matter what happened to you, that couldn’t be erased. The magic could not be drained from your heart any more than Lady Macbeth could wash the guilt from her hands. Sorry to tell you, but you had it right years ago, and then you forgot. You were born with a mystical purpose. In reading this now, you might remember what it is.
There are women who are enchanted, living here now as there have always been and always will be. They are bearers of the Goddess’s torch, however dim its light may shine. On the inner planes, they are priestesses and queens. They are absolutely powerful; they have made it past the gates. I have known a few, and I have heard of others. And I will tell you all I know, of who they are and how they do it.
At every moment, a woman makes a choice: between the state of the queen and the state of the slavegirl. In our natural state, we are glorious beings. In the world of illusion, we are lost and imprisoned, slaves to our appetites and our will to false power. Our jailer is a three-headed monster: one head our past, one our insecurity, and one our popular culture.
Our past is a story existing only in our minds. Look, analyze, understand, and forgive. Then, as quickly as possible, chuck it.
Our insecurity is inevitable in the absence of personal meaning. Without a sense of connection to deeper, more noble ideas, we are doomed to a desperate struggle for things that fill us up: the job, the relationship, the looks, the body. We are tyrannized by a belief that we are inadequate. No nazi with machine gun could be a more tormenting presence.
The monster’s third head is the pop culture we collectively spend billions of dollars supporting each year. It does not support us in return. Most movies do not love us, most advertising does not love us, most of the fashion industry does not love us, and most rock and roll does not love us (very sad that one—it used to). Like many battered wives, we look endlessly for love in places with no capacity to love us back. We must consciously choose to do this no longer.
Until we do, the monster will keep us locked up in his dungeon. Deep inside us, however, is an inborn escape hatch. It’s a love that doesn’t end or waver or make money off us or play games with us or stomp on our hearts. It’s our spiritual core. Within it, we exist as cosmic royals: mothers, sisters, daughters of the sun and moon and stars. Within this realm, we find God, the Goddess, and our own sweet selves. Laugh at all of this at your emotional peril.
The outside world contains many vicious dreams, and those dreams have a hold on us. I know, I know. But I have heard some spiritual secrets, and so have you if your ears have been open. There are ways to transcend, ways to go forward. We can leave the monster behind. We can find deliverance for our hearts and come home to scented roses.
There is a door, a true one, a passage of emotional opportunity, and we are perfectly capable of sailing through it. Angels are holding it open for all of us. But you must be bold. Sissies can’t see angels, so sissies can’t find the door.
Most women I know are priestesses and healers, although many don’t yet know it, and some never will. We are all of us sisters of a mysterious order.
Several years ago, I found myself waking up at four-fifteen each morning, my eyes popping open as if on cue. Later, I learned that in days of old four-fifteen was considered the witching hour. How perfect, that seemed to me. We would all awaken at the same time and join with one another, and worship, and know.
We still know things. As best we can, we continue to commune. “Is the baby asleep?” “Did you get the job?” “Did he come home?” “Does your pain feel better?” “Have you heard the news?” We begin as friends and then develop a shared realization, conscious or unconscious, that we are bearers of magic and that our circles of support are circles of mystical power. It’s a woman’s prerogative to know of magic, and to practice magic, and to use her knowledge to help the world.
We are used to thinking of Friday the thirteenth as bad luck. In fact, Friday the thirteenth was the day the witches gathered. When the patriarchal system, headed by the early church, began to squelch the power of women, witches were deemed evil, and many great women were deemed witches. Their meeting time, then, was seen as bad luck rather than as what it truly was: a time for women to gather and share energy and pray together and heal.
Our mystical power should not be relegated to the distant past. It still exists. I want mine now, and so does every woman I know. Our power is not evil but good. We must reclaim our goodness as well as our power. Today, the reason we haven’t found our grail, the key to who we are as women, is because we look for it in worlds of false power, the very worlds that took it away from us in the first place. Neither men nor work can restore our lost scepter. Nothing in this world can take us home. Only the radar in our hearts can do that, and when it does, we return to our castles. There we are crowned in gold, and we remember how to laugh, how to love, how to rule.
We can’t look to the world to restore our worth; we’re here to restore our worth to the world. The world outside us can reflect our glory, but it cannot create it. It cannot crown us. Only God can crown us, and he already has.