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Aspecting the Goddess is a memoir, a workbook and an exploration of twelve different Goddess myths. Aspecting, or drawing down a Goddess, is an invitation to share our bodies and our experience with the divine feminine. Step by step, this book unfolds different levels of this practice.
|Product dimensions:||5.45(w) x 8.58(h) x 0.73(d)|
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Walking with the Goddess
Walking with a goddess is a way of granting us some insight into her myth or stories. Walking with can be an introduction to a goddess we don't know, perhaps one who has appeared in a dream or whose name has leapt out at us. It is less intense than some other ways of working with a deity, which does not mean the experience won't be profound. Walking with a deity allows us, unlike dedicating oneself to a goddess or even presencing a goddess, to choose when we are and are not in dialogue. It is more like having a conversation with someone – at times an absorbing, surprising or challenging conversation – than inviting them to move in with you or swearing undying oaths with them. It requires our specific focus and attention for anything to really happen.
Because walking with a divinity is less intense and all-consuming than, for example, aspecting, it means it is relatively easy to stretch it out over long periods of time. A month can be an appropriate time to allow impressions and experiences to accumulate. We may also walk with a goddess for a single ritual. If this is planned for a ritual with others, often one person – preferably more than one – might spend a week or a month prior to the ritual conducting a personal walking with that deity. This is similar to how we might approach aspecting a deity in ritual – for most people, turning up to a ritual, their preparation takes place during or immediately prior to the ritual. But the person or people aspecting, and their tenders, will have spent at least hours and more probably days or weeks feeling their way into the aspecting, the story and the deity in the lead-up to the ritual.
At the Glastonbury Goddess Conference in England one year I found myself in the Circle of the Maiden for a week, aligned to the North-East (the northern hemisphere direction of Imbolc; in the southern hemisphere it would be the South-East). As well as representing maidens and the state of maidenhood, this grouping of one-eighth of the conference attendees was assigned Goewin, from the Welsh myth-cycle of the Mabinogion. Goewin is the foot holder of Math, the king. According to myth this position was always held by a maiden and among our circle were included the young girls present at the conference, pre-and early adolescents. It was a curious place to find myself and I did not feel much affinity with the Maiden; so I chose to walk with her, rather than invoke her or enact her myth.
Because I was walking with her through the week, holding her in my awareness as I moved through the activities of the conference, I began, slowly, to see things from her point of view. I saw how the young girls in our group were so immediate in their grasp of ritual and sacred space and how little explanation they needed, compared with adults. I saw their simplicity – innocence, if you like – granting them a strength and an immediacy in joy, involvement or risk where others of us were more reserved. I also witnessed the absolute, contained and complete beauty of a woman in our group, in her forties, who named herself bodily a virgin. I asked myself, who is this foot holder of the king? Who holds the feet of the king? – and I was thinking of the old kings, married to the land and their blood bound to its welfare and protection. The king sits on a throne. He places his feet in the lap of a young woman, a virgin. Who is she? She is seated – below him. On the floor, on a cushion. On the earth, in effect. Surely she must be a living human representation of the earth, the earth goddess. The one the king marries when he takes his oath of kingship.
This is what I learnt, walking with the maiden foot holder of Welsh myth. She is the earth. Where the king places his feet – that is the earth. The one who guards, who guides his feet – is the earth, which is the sacred feminine and any harm done to her is harm to the king. In the Mabinogion is a story describing the rape of the king's foot holder, which leaves her unfit for the role and the king's response, as well as punishing the perpetrators severely, is to marry her. Thus if she is the land, if in effect he is already married to her because he is the king, it is the perfect, circular and mythic response. Her violation makes obvious what was true all along; the king is married to the earth and her rape – already treated as a grave, even dire act – has much wider-reaching implications; even more so in this time of exploitation of the earth's resources and widespread natural devastation than when the Mabinogion was written.
Walking with a goddess can be a way to gently introduce yourself to her. We are unlikely to feel that the deity's attention has swung sharply onto us, in critical, demanding or piercing ways, which certainly can happen when we enter into deeper relationship. Walking with a goddess is not a passive act on our part and in fact may require more deliberate ongoing attention to maintain a connection; whereas, for example, with dedication or aspecting, once we have done the invocation and made an initial commitment we may feel the whole thing is taken more or less out of our hands. Walking with a deity can also be a practical and respectful way to get to know a number of deities in a relatively short time; for example different members of one pantheon, or twelve or thirteen different goddesses during a year.
The tools of journaling, meditation, trance and ritual will assist you to stay connected, or keep connecting with the deity you are walking with. At the end of this section are two exercises to assist you in walking with a goddess.CHAPTER 2
One dark moon night twenty years ago I sat with three other women in a shadowy room and we created a ceremony for Persephone. Perhaps the year was even heading into winter. On that night we ventured into the realms of myth and ritual, guided by the goddess and her story. I remember a palpable sense of Persephone being in the room with us. Each of us created an offering. I know that because I've kept mine, inside the box with my ritual mirror. It's black cardboard in the shape of a teardrop, there's a spiral outlined in gold and purple glitter and words, spiraling inwards. Let me walk always towards you ... Inanna Ishtar Isis Artemis Gaia Freyja Aphrodite. Although Persephone's name isn't on it I have been walking towards her since that long ago ritual, watching her story weave in and out of mine and reflecting on our parallels and differences.
Persephone's myth is captivating, familiar and alarming to many of us. We are drawn to it, held by it, frightened by it. The innocent daughter of Greek Demeter, powerful goddess of grain, one day Persephone picks a flower. At this stage she does not even have a name, she is known as Kore, maiden. The earth opens up beneath her and she vanishes. In different versions of the story she went into the Underworld because she heard the dead souls calling to her; or she was abducted by Hades, Lord of the Underworld, or seduced by him. Her mother searches for her in vain and when she finally discovers where her daughter has gone, she cannot get her back. In revenge, or grief, she brings about the first winter. By the time Persephone is released from the Underworld she has eaten some pomegranate seeds and is bound to return, thus creating the round of seasons as every year the earth mourns her loss. Hecate, crone goddess of the crossroads is an almost silent player in this story. She witnesses Persephone's descent, eventually assists Demeter and offers a third way of viewing this myth.
Persephone's story takes us in and in. Her invitation – to eat of the mysteries, to become an initiate – reveals itself as soon as we begin working with her. So many times in a group of women we've taken a pomegranate and broken it open, peeled back the skin or sliced into it to reveal those red seeds, glistening, jewel-like. Take this and eat, knowing. Knowing it binds you to the Underworld, knowing it means that, like Persephone, you'll return and return again to the dark ... We commit ourselves to the mysteries. We travel Persephone's paths without knowing where those paths will take us. We leave our mothers, surrender our daughters, we mourn and create winters and springtimes and revisit and return. We walk with Persephone.
Persephone is shrouded in mystery. Her great disappearing act, from her own story, remains fascinating to us. At the beginning of the myth she vanishes into the Underworld and then nearly all the rest of the story is about other things until, right at the end, she appears again. The story follows Demeter in the upper world as she searches and mourns for her daughter. Oh the trials of mothers, yes, we've all heard that. But what we want to know is what's happening with Persephone in the Underworld – is she dead? Alive? Does she love her husband and maybe-abductor, Hades? Hate him? Is she trying to escape? Resigned to her fate? Even when she is returned, through Demeter's efforts, to her mother's embrace and to live at least half the time in the upper world, we still don't know the answers to those questions. Her story swings around the separation from, and return to, her mother.
Mothers and daughters, the red lines of women. Within twelve months my mother dies and also one of my closest friends dies; Trinda, the woman who for twenty years mothered me in all the ways she could. Both died around the age of seventy, both as a result of long-term health conditions monitored and treated, in my mother's case over forty years, for Trinda over fifteen. Both deaths were shocking to me, though I had known about them, known they were coming, were soon – but I had never attempted to imagine what it might be like when they were dead.
When I was a small child I longed for my mother. I'm sure there were times we were close but I mainly remember the times she was an impossible distance away from me, although maybe in the same room, or just down the hall. Perhaps, really, I find this part of Persephone's story hard to imagine, that she was so close to her mother, that they moved together like one doubled being through the fields and orchards of Demeter's domain. I spent my childhood trying to win over my teachers, imagining that the affection of each of those women, in turn, could make up for my mother's lack of attention. I looked – closely, piercingly – at the mothers of other girls, wondering at their interactions with their daughters and wondering, also, how one of them could somehow become my mother. Louise's mother, Becky's mother, Eliza's mother, Michelle's mother ... I watched their closeness with their daughters and envied it, longed for it.
There's that piece with the earth, when Persephone enters into the earth, which has opened up for her. My high school was alienating, difficult and frightening. I had arthritis and was in pain; that bone-deep relentless aching and the stabbing, seizing pains that arthritis combines. I could not seem to find any corners to be happy in. Sometimes, at night, I would let myself out of my bedroom and tread softly outside, barefoot. I lay on the earth, face down. I did not wish to die, exactly; I had no call towards death or suffering. But I did wish that I could turn time back and not be born. I would dig my fingers into the dirt, through the grass and leaves and sticks I lay on. Take me back, I whispered, into the realms of the dark, still, growing earth; take me back. If the earth had opened up for me then, I would have stepped through. I would have vanished.
At the beginning of Persephone's story she picks a flower she has never seen before. But this is Demeter's daughter, who spends her whole life in fields and orchards. And she had not a mortal's length of childhood, but that of a goddess. How long is that? Centuries? What type of flower is it, that she would never have seen before? Perhaps she went somewhere Demeter never went – the forest, maybe – and therefore saw flowers she'd never seen before. Some versions of the story say Hades made that flower especially for her. But the way these Greek stories work they'd tell you what flower it was, so you could find one yourself, like you could find Demeter's corn, or a narcissus, lute, a lightning bolt or pomegranate or all the other symbols those stories use. Persephone never leaves Demeter's side, or so it's said, so either the story got it wrong and they weren't so tied-together or – she'd begun wandering.
Was this was her first time away from her mother? Or perhaps she'd been stretching out the thread that bound them, further and further ... Then, that flower – was it really a flower or is that just a nicety of story-telling? I've heard the story told with the flower as a symbol for her menstrual blood, or her ripening sexuality. Maybe the flower is her genitals, or even his. Hades. God of the Underworld, rising up through the earth to seize hold of her, the instant she picks that flower. A flower she's never seen before. And she's the child of a single mother; who was impregnated, if you want to go into detail, by her brother Zeus, the same one who had agreed to look the other way when their brother, Hades, wooed or maybe stole Persephone to be his wife. Okay, so her husband is her uncle; doubly so since both her parents are his siblings. But this is not a casual dalliance. He makes her his queen, is very loyal and apparently monogamous – almost unheard of for those Greek gods – and allows her to visit her mother for months on end every year. Although I notice he doesn't invite Demeter into their realm.
It is only in my mother's death that I feel myself approaching her again and then it is not as the woman she had become but as part of this mother-daughter ribbon of lives I am threaded on. I dream of a line of women, holding hands and a river flows between me and the next woman up the line, my mother. My grandmother is on the other side of her. It is the generations of us and the river, surely, is the river of death and life. On this side of the river, mine, is life and on the other side, stretching back, are the realms of the dead. The next woman to be tugged across the river, to that side, will be me. I see my mother now as one in a pattern, an archetype of French land and blood, one body in the endless line of one woman giving birth to another. The mysteries are being revealed.
My life is so different from my mother's life, my grandmother's, my great-grandmother's and great-great-grandmother's. I can imagine that for each of those women it was like watching her daughter enter into the Underworld, perhaps never to be seen again. My great-great-grandmother Aurore Ismerie was born in France. I know nothing about her life. Nothing except this: she left her mother to live in a foreign land, from which she would never return. Her daughter, my great-grandmother Josephine, bore seven children and her husband died when the youngest, my grandmother, was one year old. Five of those children were boys, the eldest of the seven her only other girl, a beauty who married when my grandmother was still a small child. Josephine was crippled with arthritis in the later part of her life and my grandmother Antonyle Yvonne, known as Neila, surrendered her dreams of becoming a nurse to stay and nurse, at home, her mother.
So the stories of mother and daughter blur together, my grandmother's story defined perhaps by being the dutiful daughter, not marrying until late and then giving birth to three children, two boys who both died shortly after being born and finally my mother, another Josephine, her only living child whom she never really forgave for being a girl. Or, perhaps, for living when her sons had died. My grandmother stayed in that narrow, home-based role; she nursed her dying husband when she was only in her fifties. Later, for many years, she nursed one of her brothers, the taciturn, abrupt, withdrawn one who was never kind or grateful to her, at least not that I ever saw or heard about. He suffered paralysis down one side of his body, half his face was frozen, making his speech even more bitten off than perhaps he would have chosen and he walked with a cane from my youngest memories.
My grandmother watched my mother go to university and have a career, although to leave home she did have to get married. She watched her daughter's children, my brother and myself, stay alive and she watched my mother have the freedoms of the sixties, seventies, eighties while she remained in a kind of time warp; even her closest friends addressed her by her married name and on principle she never did anything purely for pleasure. In a small way she had clearly gone through hard times, I remember that we were never allowed to open a packet of biscuits or a tin of soup until its exact replacement was in the cupboard.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Aspecting the Goddess"
Copyright © 2017 Jane Meredith.
Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
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Table of Contents
How to Use this Book 9
Walking with the Goddess 15
Ritual - Walking with the Goddess 54
Exercise - Creative Expression 58
Researching the Goddess 61
Research - Reading and Writing 95
Journey - Going There 98
Dedicating to the Goddess 101
Ritual - Commit to a Goddess for a Year 142
Ritual - Dedication to a Goddess 146
Presencing the Goddess 149
Exercise - Creating an Altar 192
Process - Making an Attribute of a Deity 195
Enacting Myth 199
Process - Enacting a Myth 238
Exercise - Finding Your Own Story in a Myth 242
Aspecting the Goddess 245
Star Goddess 267
Process-Preparing to Aspect 284
Ritual - Aspecting a Deity 288
Ritual Basics 295
Entering and Leaving Trance States 302