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Practicing the Presence of the Goddess
Everyday Rituals to Transform Your World
By Barbara Ardinger
New World LibraryCopyright © 2000 Barbara Ardinger
All rights reserved.
Our Many-Splendored Goddess
Three Goddesses of Transformation
Lately I have found myself much engaged with Found Goddesses. Found Goddesses are the modern ones to whom we pray in situations never dreamt of by ancient peoples. Today, for example, we are Finding goddesses of computers and potluck, and I am, in fact, writing a book of Found Goddesses that includes goddesses of meetings, duct tape, air conditioning, apartment rental, and good hair cuts. We should, I believe, take the Goddess and our worship seriously, but we don't have to abandon our sense of humor when we practice the presence of the Goddess. Finding a goddess is an act of creativity. It's an act of noticing a need and meeting it. It's an act of practicing the presence of the Goddess Whose aspects may be both traditional and modern.
Reader, take some time now to interact with these Found Goddesses: Serenissima, Theadonna, and Sancta Chrona. Invite them into your life and allow them to help you change your life.
Serenissima, Goddess of Taking Care of Yourself
It was true for Grandma and for Mom and it's still true for us: woman's work is never done. With economic conditions being what they are for us ordinary folks, we are working harder than ever, often holding down two jobs or working excessive overtime, plus trying to do our share of housework and childcare. On top of working too hard, we try to spend some time with our children, our partners, and our parents, not to mention keeping in touch with our friends. Some days it's impossible to keep up. Some days we can't even cope.
It's time to get help. It's time to call on the Goddess Serenissima, She Who holds our hands, rubs our shoulders, tempts us into a bubblebath, and teaches us the vital, life-preserving skills of self-love, self-care, and self-time.
Bringing Serenissima into Your Life
This is a two-part ritual whose intention is to bring the power and beauty of Serenissima into your life and relief into your schedule. Your intention is to create a whole day of self-time two weeks or one month from now. You are, therefore, asking Serenissima to intervene in your life in all Her ordinary, magical ways to reschedule your obligations and clear a day on your calendar.
For Part 1 of the ritual, decorate your altar with beautiful things you love. Put a calendar page or the pages of your daily organizer covering the next thirty days, starting today, on the altar (but out of the way of candle flames and dripping wax). Invoke Serenissima with these words:
Holy Goddess Serenissima,
touch my life
and give me the space and time
to nourish myself
to cherish myself.
touch my life.
Show me the path to your peace.
Light the candles and visualize Her fingers moving across your organizer and making changes. See meetings being postponed, deadlines being rescheduled, the work being shared more equitably.
Understanding that Serenissima works in subtle ways, remain aware of possibilities during the next two weeks. Look for ways to facilitate the changes you invoked. You need to be alert. She may create the opportunities, but it's your own action that will open up your self-time.
One of the lessons Serenissima may give you may be to learn to say no. Practice saying this powerful little word at appropriate times. Another lesson may be to learn to set priorities and delegate tasks, both at work and at home. In very practical terms, this may mean that you should stop trying to do it all yourself. You may have to learn to give up perfectionism; sometimes good enough really is good enough.
Work with Serenissima. Let Her guide you. And when your promised day shows up, seize it.
Do Part 2 of the ritual during the morning of your day. Your day.
Settle the logistics the day before, if not earlier: who does what, when and where, and to whom while you're utterly unavailable. Tape notes for your family to every surface in the kitchen and bathroom if you have to. Tell them to do it themselves. Let them learn to be resourceful.
Decorate your room and your altar with your favorite colors. Spray your favorite scent into the air and open a new potpourri. Touch your favorite essential oil to your throat, wrists, and heart. Have your most beautiful chalice ready, half filled with water. Speak to the Goddess:
Most Serene Majestic Goddess,
I thank You for this day.
Tranquil One, o Easeful One,
I thank You for all my days.
Goddess of Harmony and Repose,
I celebrate all days as Your days.
As you light your candles, imagine that each tiny flame is a star that brings serenity into your life.
Beautiful and gracious Serenissima,
Show me Your paths of peace,
Show me Your ways of woven light and dark,
Show me Your threads of shining work and play,
and I will move with You,
and in You I will dance.
Take a sip of water from your chalice. Savor the way the water touches your lips and tongue; savor its taste. Consider the natural, unthinking way your mouth accepts the water, the way you swallow without thinking how to do it.
Know that this sip of water is a tiny gift from the Goddess, a single drop of the essence of the Most Serene One. Remember also that water makes up over ninety percent of our human body and that water also carved out the Grand Canyon. Remember the simple power of water, that water flows around all obstacles. Feel the water's glowing, calming essence as it enters your body and remember that all nourishment — from your mother's milk to whatever you plan to have for lunch today — enters your body and your being and becomes your body and your being.
Continue to sip water from your chalice and recall what the chalice is. It's the true holy cup, the original Holy Grail. It's your Mother's breast.
Remember that as you accept Serenissima into your life, in sips and in seconds of time, She is always present. Like the water, She becomes part of you and you are thus gradually and imperceptibly transformed. As you move in the ways of Serenissima,you embody Her and become more serene.
We are all, each of us and all of us, drops of Her gentle rain on a parched and thirsty land, and when we bring Her serenity into our lives, one day at a time, we are bringing Her back to all of Her children.
Leave a few drops of water in the bottom of your chalice and treasure all these things and ponder them in your heart.
Most Serene Majestic Goddess,
I accept this day.
Tranquil One, o Easeful One,
I accept all my days.
Goddess of Harmony and Repose,
I accept all days as Your days.
Remembering that the circle is open but never broken, spend the rest of your day doing whatever you want to do.
Theadonna, Goddess of Gratitude
The name of this Found Goddess is constructed from the Latin words for Goddess and gift. Although our lives often become so busy we forget Her and fail to notice Her gifts, She never forgets us. She is ever generous.
Reader, slow down a minute and look around. Can you identify Theadonna's gifts in your life? Some may arrive in disguise, in plain brown wrappers or delivered by strange messengers. We need to train ourselves to be able to recognize them. That training has two phases: mindfulness and gratitude.
Mindfulness is paying attention, being vigilant. Every time you catch yourself being unreasonably angry, sinking into self-pity, focusing only on the negative in a person or a situation, becoming fearful of some invisible (and probably imaginary) menace — stop it! Pay attention. Ask yourself what's really going on here. Take a deep breath. Recall Theadonna to your heart and mind. Look around and identify Her gifts to you.
For example, here's a list of five of Her gifts that I identify today:
1. My son, his girlfriend, my two cats, and I are all healthy.
2. They have a clean, safe place to live; the cats and I have a clean, safe place to live.
3. Publishers send me review copies of books. Some are books I want to read. I get to keep them. (My friends get most of the rest. The dregs go to a used bookstore.)
4. My plants are all green and healthy. Some of them are blooming.
5. I have a good car that starts every morning and is comfortable to drive.
"Well, big deal," I hear you say. "These are just ordinary, everyday things."
"You're right," I reply. "Ordinary things, indeed."
It's their very ordinariness that makes them wonderful. Every ordinary day is a blessing of the Goddess.
Take time to identify five ordinary, everyday things for which you are grateful today. Make a little ritual of your list-making by lighting a candle, playing music, talking to the Goddess.
If it took you awhile to finish this little list, reflect on why this is so. Do you think you're in charge? Do you expect impossible things to happen just at your say-so? Big miracles, the kind sometimes promised by the gurus, are not the point here.
Theadonna is the Goddess of gratitude for the little things that keep our lives moving along, day by day. How often do you say please and thank you, even to store clerks and busboys? How often do you thank the flowers for blooming (they would, anyway) or your email for actually working or your videos for coming out of the VCR? When you push the button on the soda or snack machine and your selection is what you actually get, do you say thank you?
Invite Theadonna into your life. The way I keep Her beside me is to write in my gratitude journal every night before bed. Some days, yes, all I can think to write are that I'm still breathing in and out (on stressful days, this is a big deal to an asthmatic) and that I have a warm bed to sleep in or that no one yelled at me today. Some days are not great, but every single day has some gift in it. Some days the gifts are exceedingly small. Occasionally, however, they may be major miracles.
Here's a true story. For years, the left lens kept falling out of my glasses. It fell out while I was drumming; it fell out in my car; once it even fell out when I was standing in line at Disneyland. It got to the point where I was carrying a tiny screwdriver in my purse. One Monday last spring, I came home, took my glasses off, changed clothes, put my glasses back on, and walked into the living room. The lens fell out again. I heard it hit the floor. I got down on hands and knees and looked for it. As cats always do, Heisenberg helped me. We looked and looked, but that lens just wasn't there. Fortunately, I had spare glasses. On Tuesday, I phoned around to find a new optometrist, as my old one had retired a few years ago. The optometrist I found was — aha, it's a small world — a friend of my old one. I got my eye exam and ordered regular glasses and sunglasses. With nice frames and bifocals and tints and coatings, the price was nearly $400. Wednesday, I spent all day saying, "Goddess, I need $400 to pay for these glasses. I could take it out of savings, but that's rent money." Deciding not to worry, I just did my work. When I got home and opened the mail, there was a check for $500 from the publisher of Goddess Meditations. They'd sold the foreign rights.
A week later, Schroedinger, my calico cat, found the missing lens. It was under my bed. Now it's on my altar.
Whether all these things were coincidence or whether they were the actions of the Goddess in my life doesn't matter. I am grateful.
Reader, what is your story? How has the Goddess moved in your life? perhaps you can create an altar or ritual around your story.
Sancta Chrona, Goddess of Living in the Now
She is our Sacred Timekeeper, the One Who ticks off the seconds of our lives, the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years that we live in but seldom ever notice.
How does time move? You already know the two theories. One asserts that time is linear. Each tick of time is like each letter of each word of each sentence in a book. We read one word at a time, one sentence at a time, always in the same direction (except for those perverse people who read the end of mystery novels first). It's very orderly: time past, time present, time future. Remember, however, that there's a reason they call it "verb tense." Living a linear life and focusing all the time on the past and the future are not always healthy ways to live.
Sancta Chrona reminds us that there's another way to look at time. Time is Now. It is always Now, and Now is always cycling, always spiraling, ever turning and returning. It is always Now, because the past and the future are mental constructs. Right this minute, they're not real. When the past was real, it was Now. When the future becomes real, it will be Now.
But you know that. I'm just reminding you.
Serenissima, Theadonna, and Sancta Chrona are sister Goddesses. First, they advise us to take better care of ourselves. Second, they tell us to become vigilant. We must pay attention to the gifts of the Goddess and give thanks for them. Third, they remind us that it's time to give up regretting lousy things we once did and continually basking in good things we once did. Now is the time to stop worrying about future disasters or anticipating things that may never come to pass.
Now is real. It's all we've got.
Living in the now goes with being grateful. Listing things for which we're grateful helps us focus our mind on where we are right now. When I'm feeling anxious (and that's something I'm quite good at), therefore, I make another list. Here's my Right This Minute list:
1. Right this minute, there's food in the refrigerator.
2. Right this minute, there's catfood in the cabinet.
3. Right this minute, there are clothes in the closet.
4. Right this minute, there are books on the shelves.
5. Right this minute, there's money in the bank.
Basics again. But I'm not defensive about seeing basics. Basic things keep me from worrying. Basic things keep me living in the Now. Like Her Sisters, Sancta Chrona is a Goddess of basic things.
Stop reading and make your own Right This Minute list. Make a little ritual if you like. Light a candle; play music.
If you want to, create rituals around the goddesses or around your lists. A ritual of gratitude is always good, and rituals honoring basic, ordinary things keep our spirituality rooted right where it should be: here on our beautiful living earth.
Our Many-Splendored Goddess
When we decide to practice the presence of the Goddess, who are we talking about and just what on earth do we imagine we're going to do? How are we going to spend our days, our nights? Will our life change, or what? When we create and enact a ritual, what kinds of energies are we invoking? What is their source? What is the return on our investment of thought, work, experience, and devotion?
When we declare that the Goddess is the source of our being and our energy, these are vital questions, for we're changing our lives. We're dreaming up an ancient deity and reinventing a religion. We're creating a spirit-affirming way of life, not returning to the Neolithic, but bringing its peace and creativity to our modern world. We're singing the Goddess into our lives. We're dancing the Goddess out of Her five-thousand-year eclipse.
Her essence is many-splendored and many-layered. It's complex and simple, abstract and concrete, spiritual and earthy, superhuman and human, transcendent and immanent — all at the same time. Examining the Goddess is like trying to get a soap bubble under a microscope. When we try to describe Her many-layered essence, therefore, we find ourselves taking refuge in paradox and extravagant language. That's because we're trying to explain the inexplicable, and words can get us only halfway there.
I find that it is figurative language that most successfully describes the holistic concept we call "Goddess." When we talk about the Goddess of Ten Thousand Names, therefore, we may say she is like our physical mother or like falling rain returning to the ocean (similes). We can think of Her as the feminine principle (metonymy, in which a part stands for the whole), or we can see Her as the earth (both personification and metaphor). When we talk about Goddesses, we often use metaphor: She is the moon (and Her names are Ix Chel and Levanah), She is love (Radha and Freya), She is creation (Spider Grandmother and Ishtar).
But what do we mean when we speak in figurative language? As well as we can, in our halting, stumbling way, we're stating our belief in an immanent, omnipresent Goddess.
The Goddess of the Spheres
To clarify my ideas about the Goddess, I turn to the most successful metaphor I can actually get my hands on, which is a set of wooden spheres. You've seen them in gift shops and catalogs: three, four, or five painted spheres, all nested one inside another. I have three or four sets of these spheres, one of which is actually egg-shaped, plus a couple of orphan spheres.
The outermost sphere is generally painted midnight blue and "is" (represents) the universe. On one of my sets, the heavenly constellations are painted in gold and the astrological sun sign symbols are red. The universe is the biggest, most abstract thing we think we can know; it's the big picture. And here we are, holding it in the palm of one hand.
Split the painted universe along its equator, open it up, and discover its contents. The solar system lies nested tidily inside. In one of my sets, the solar system is deep blue-green, and the planets are circular splotches of color.
Open the solar system and the sun emerges, mirror halves with two painted faces and matching sets of golden rays. In another set the third sphere is not the sun but a two-inch earth, its oceans and continents apparently taken from Renaissance maps, with Latin names and vast empty space to designate territories unexplored by Europeans: Here Be Monsters.
The innermost sphere is usually the moon, with two graceful painted faces and silver rays. In my egg-shaped set of five spheres (the insides of which are painted dark blue with gold stars), however, the innermost sphere is a fiery red and gold egg, complete with a tiny phoenix rising from the painted flames. In any set, the smallest sphere is the only one that's solid, the only one that doesn't contain and conceal yet another visible level of the cosmos. (Unless, of course, we include the atomic and subatomic levels of reality, in which case we can start all over again.)
If, as many of us believe or intuitively know, the Goddess "is" the cosmos, let's use our little set of painted spheres to discover Her layers.
Excerpted from Practicing the Presence of the Goddess by Barbara Ardinger. Copyright © 2000 Barbara Ardinger. 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.
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Table of Contents
ContentsCandle. Circle. Magic.,
Foreword by Burleigh Mutén,
Introduction: Still Looking for an Equal-Opportunity Religion,
PART 1 OUR MANY-SPLENDORED GODDESS,
PART 2 A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF MODERN FEMINIST SPIRITUALITY,
PART 3 PRACTICING HER PRESENCE TODAY,
PART 4 TRANSFORMING YOUR WORLD,
Appendix A: Revisionist History,
Appendix B: Goddess 101 Basic Library,
About the Author,