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The Goddess Bootcamp
Okay is a Four-Letter Word. You are Meant for More
By Kagiso Msimango
Jacana Media (Pty) LtdCopyright © 2012 Kagiso Msimango
All rights reserved.
Seek the Goddess
Women have been taught that, for us, the earth is flat, and that if we venture out, we will fall off the edge.
~ Andrea Dworkin
Where should we begin our path to the juicy land of WOWness?
Let us start at the beginning and, when we get to the end, we'll stop.
There we find God, but before we get to Him, let me share some trivia with you. Did you know that sprinting a mile in less than four minutes was considered impossible, until Roger Bannister did it on 6 May 1954? Incredibly, within three years, 16 other people also achieved this "impossible" feat. It is amazing what you can achieve when you have someone to look up to, a role model who can bring out the best in you.
Role models inspire us to aim for and achieve dreams that would otherwise have seemed beyond our reach. Whitney Houston witnessed her cousin, Dionne Warwick, release hit after hit and dreamed of being just like her. She went on to become the most awarded female artist of all time. Renowned film director Woody Allen says he watched the Marx Brothers' films hundreds of times and imagined himself being just as funny and talented. He is now an award-winning screenwriter, director, actor, comedian, author and playwright whose career has lasted for more than half a century.
Often, the influence of role models is starker when it is negative; such as when boys who have only hip hop videos and local criminals as beacons of success aspire to thuggery, or girls try to metamorphose into skinny blondes with flowing locks, thanks to a surfeit of images of airbrushed Barbie clones and not enough of women who look like them. It is well researched and documented that the Barbie image favoured by toy manufacturers, fashion houses and advertising agencies has had a significant negative impact on many women's self-image, but few have examined the even greater damage to girls and women resulting from the lack of a God in our own image. The most prevalent religions of our time portray God as male, and is God not the ultimate role model? Where do you go after God, how much higher can you aspire?
The impact of the lack of a god in our, female, image has carved a deep scar in women's self-worth and clipped our wings. This is the ultimate glass ceiling. We are in the business of creating; every day we all wake up and engage in various activities. What we are really doing is creating our lives. What do you associate creation with? For many people creating is God's domain. God is the ultimate creator, who populates the universe the way we populate our lives. When it comes to creating, God is the boss.
I grew up in a Christian household and, while I was still really young and impressionable, someone bought me My First Book of Bible Stories. The depiction of God in that book is still emblazoned on my psyche. God was a portly, bearded old white man, with a smiling, rosy-cheeked face. I think the same guy moonlights as Santa Claus. I was happy to pray to this God in my youth, but as my years and self-awareness increased, so did the distance between me and this "father who art in heaven". I struggled to see how an old white man, who hadn't bothered to visit earth since biblical times, would relate to or care about my problems as a young, black female earthling. The potency of a role model depends on how much of yourself you can see in them. A black, homeless, teenage prostitute shooting up heroine to get through the night is unlikely to be inspired by a middle-aged, white middle-class banker's victory over a cocaine addiction.
The first woman we meet in the old testament of the Bible, which is common to both the Christian and Jewish faiths, is Eve – and hers isn't a warm and fuzzy tale of sunflower fields, summer love and bounding golden Labrador puppies. It starts off happily enough, in the Garden of Eden, until Eve falls for the charms of a devious snake. This leads her to defy her father, God, by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – which happens to be the only thing she and hubby Adam are forbidden to do. She seduces poor Adam into breaking God's only rule. This pisses God off no end and gets them kicked out of paradise for good; dooming all their progeny – that's you and me – to lives of pain and suffering.
No wonder our world is so misogynistic, what with all the assaulting, raping, pimping, trafficking, mutilating and stoning that seems to plague women. Thanks a lot, Eve!
The damage this story has inflicted on the self-worth of women is staggering. As Laurie Sue Brockway reflects in her book, A Goddess Is a Girl's Best Friend, "The blame, shame and underlying fear of retribution has, unfortunately, become ingrained in us even if we rarely, if ever, give it conscious thought. Whether we know it or not, women come into the world fulfilling an ancient, unconscious agreement that we are not as good as men, not as worthy and certainly not as divine. This cultural socialisation impacts us all in some way, on some level. As the daughters of Eve, we carry on her legacy." Men have an abundance of divine role models, while we have a vividly tragic cautionary tale tattooed on our collective psyche that subconsciously sends us to the naughty corner whenever we dare to want more. We learn from this story that women are fickle, unworthy, deceptive, disobedient, ungrateful, untrustworthy, evil seductresses and harbingers of doom. It is because the first woman did not stay in her lane that life is a bitch, bitch.
We've all had a conversation with a man during which he readily expressed that women are deceptive. How can men and women have healthy relationships, of any nature, with such underlying beliefs? Because men and women are products of the same history, women also carry this belief that at our very core lurks a devious Jezebel. Too often you will hear a woman proudly declare that she doesn't have female friends because women are jealous, malicious gossipmongers. Men are just as gossipy, jealous and malicious. In fact, I generally get my best scoops from men. The difference is that men keep their hands in their pockets and furrow their brows when they dish the dirt, and they never go around bragging that they do not have any male friends. You'd view a man who proudly avoids cultivating male friendships with suspicion, yet we seldom bat a Maybellined eyelash when a woman expresses such a sentiment. Why is that?
It is worthwhile, as a woman attempting to shake off Eve's shackles of guilt, to keep in mind that history is subjective. Recorders of history always edit reality based on their conscious and subconscious agendas. People tend to "see" things based on their particular frame of reference. Perception is the process by which we categorise and interpret information. Selective perception describes how we process information in a way that favours one interpretation over another; generally we interpret information in a way that is congruent with our existing values and beliefs. Psychologists say selective perception occurs automatically. The Bible is a HIStory book. Many of us tend to think that it descended, fully formed from heaven, untouched by human hands. No sister, it was compiled by mortal men, and not too long ago, either. Remember too that the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. If you've ever watched a soapie with sub-titles you will appreciate how much can get lost in translation. Yes, gorgeous daughter of Eve, my intention is to sow doubt. I usually put many people out of joint with this topic. Once I even managed to get rebuked "In the name of Lord Jesus!" I didn't even know what being rebuked meant. I do now, and I am okay with being rebuked because I like to think Jesus would approve of me advocating a cultivation of self-love. Daughter of Eve, I hope you see the purpose for which this is intended. It is important for women to seek an empowering HERstory. If we can tell a different, better story about women, it will allow us to embrace our inner power and raise our self-worth without the subconscious fear that our actions will spiral humanity down into eternal pain and suffering, again. That's a huge chip to have on your shoulder.
Patriarchal religions, in the greater scheme of things, are a recent development. There was an era when matriarchy dominated, which – although different from the current scenario – was no better. What the world needs is wholeness, not domination of one or the other. Many millennia ago, even before matriarchy, God was perceived as both male and female, Mother/Father God. Even the Old Testament occasionally forgets to keep God male. Genesis 1:26–27 reads: Then God said, Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Mother Goddess is found in many ancient cultures: Greek, Roman, Tibetan, Hindu, Yoruban, Babylonian, Egyptian, Zulu and more. In his book Indaba, My Children, respected tribal historian Credo Mutwa retells a Zulu creation story of how the human race was created by Ninavanhu-Ma, the Great Mother. It is only in the past few millennia that God became a guy, in line with the suppression, oppression and devaluation of the feminine. I am referring to more than the oppression of women; this is the oppression of femininity in both men and women, by both genders! Take a walk through a bookstore and notice the sheer volume of books teaching women how to manage, date, or think like men, which we buy. You will struggle to find 10 books teaching men to do anything like women. When a woman is likened to a boy or man it is perceived as complimentary, but most times when a man is likened to a girl or woman it is usually intended as an insult. Women insult a guy by telling him to "man up" or by referring to him as someone's bitch. Yes we do.
After centuries of racial discrimination, many black people suffered from a "white is right" mentality. Activists such as Steve Biko and Malcolm X understood that one of the elements required to correct the damages of racial oppression was for black people to recognise this thinking within themselves, and to actively and consciously cultivate black pride. Many black South Africans still suffer from internalised apartheid 18 years into our democracy. Of course, 18 years of democracy is not enough to erase the psychological effects of 300 years of colonisation, followed by 48 years of apartheid. Similarly, due to 6 000 years of feminine oppression, both men and women suffer from a "male is right/female is wrong" mentality – bitches, witches, bimbos and hos. To free ourselves from these shackles, we need to feel them cutting into our wrists and weighing down our ankles. We can then liberate ourselves by actively and consciously cultivating feminine pride.
In order for us women to manifest lives that are worthy of us, we must acquire a healthy relationship with our personal power and self-worth, along with a healthy sense of entitlement. We too need to feel that we are legitimate heirs to the throne. I am not asking you to drop your religion, if you have one, in favour of worshipping a female god. I'd like you to acknowledge the absence of the feminine aspect of God from modern history. Recognise its impact and seek to put the feminine back into the divine, for yourself.
When I teach my daughter, Miss B, about Spirit and creation, I refer to Mother Goddess and Father God. In Goddess: A Celebration in Art and Literature, Jalaja Bonheim observes, "Women need images that validate their femininity, their sensuousness, and their mysterious magic, and that reveal the sacred dimensions of their own gender. It's only natural that the goddess should have special significance for women, who long to know, too, that they are made in divine image." If we are all created in the image of God, then does it not follow that God has many images? I am not an old white man. The colour of my skin does not match the pallor of the God of Abraham. It is brown like that of Yoruban Goddess Oya. I cannot trace my feminine curves in the images of the form of the prevailing male God. I find them in the depictions of Venus, the Roman Goddess. When I have concerns about safety, security and survival issues, I am drawn to look to Father God for guidance and protection. When my worries are of a feminine nature, like when I am fretting about my child's health, I seek comfort from Mother Goddess.
The Goddess is hidden in plain sight. Notice her. When you drive down the highway and you are suddenly met by a burst of those pink and white flowers that grow wildly and abundantly in glorious contrast to the grey tarmac, are you not seeing the handiwork of Goddess?
Mother Goddess can still be found under different guises. Did you know that the Catholic saint St Brigit is actually co-opted from goddess worship? She is a remixed version of the Celtic triple goddess Brigid, known as the keeper of the sacred fire. The name Easter comes from the goddess Eostre, a Teutonic goddess of fertility and new beginnings. Incidentally we also have her to thank for the name of the female hormone oestrogen.
Seek the Goddess in women who own their power, women like Madonna, Oprah and Maya Angelou. Whether you are a fan of these women or not is immaterial, the fact is that their lives are self-determined; they flourish on their own terms and have a healthy sense of entitlement. There is no doubt that they feel 100 per cent comfortable and worthy of their queendoms. Madonna, who is now in her fifties, unapologetically has affairs with young men who have all their hair, rock-hard abs and butts you can bounce a coin off. How many women do you think secretly envy her for having the chutzpah to do that? The poems created by Maya Angelou can charm the hidden goddess out of the most shamed of Eve's daughters.
My favourite is "Still I Rise". Read this excerpt Evelet, and allow it to coax out your inner goddess.
Out of the huts of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Plenty of women have shaken off Eve's guilt and shame. They are not all famous celebrities. For instance, one of the most powerful and grounded women I know is my grandmother. When that woman walks into a room you actually have a visceral reaction to her presence. She does not doubt her divinity, and hence allowed me an early glimpse at mine.
Seek the goddess within you, and you will find your personal power.
Becoming a Goddess: Finding the Divine Feminine
1. Seek the Goddess in Nature. Take nature walks, go hiking, go for a swim in a stream, river or ocean. Stop and smell the flowers, literally. Notice butterflies and dewdrops on spider webs early in the morning. Notice how she decorates sunsets with pinks, oranges and purples. Take a picture of all these wonders of Gaia and paste them in your journal.
2. Seek the Goddess in history. There are many more examples of goddesses hidden in plain sight, like those of Brigid and Eostre. A fun one to go searching for is Mary Magdalene, the supposed biblical prostitute. Go on an adventure to seek out her true HERstory.
3. Seek the Goddess in modern women. The nice thing about the age we live in is that you don't have to relocate to North America to benefit from the divine presence of Marianne Williamson; you can befriend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. You don't need to turn back time to be inspired by the courage of Anaïs Nin; you can still read her books and connect (physically or virtually) with her other admirers. Even in your own backyard there are surely many women who have a great connection with their divinity. Befriend them. Let them inspire you.
4. In your journal, write a list of all ALL the things that you want. Check if there are any that you feel you shouldn't want – ones that feel like you want "too much", like you are asking for a bite of the apple, the one thing that God said you can't have. Acknowledge this and start pondering what needs to happen for you to give yourself permission to have these things.
5. Must Read: Michael Tellinger's Slave Species of god.
Excerpted from The Goddess Bootcamp by Kagiso Msimango. Copyright © 2012 Kagiso Msimango. Excerpted by permission of Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd.
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.
Table of Contents
How to Make the Most of Goddess Bootcamp,
Session 1: Seek the Goddess,
Session 2: Happen to Life,
Session 3: Know Thyself,
Session 4: Choose You,
Session 5: Change Only You,
Session 6: It's Not All You,
Session 7: Free Your Heart,
Session 8: Feed Your Soul,
Session 9: Exalt Your Body,
Session 10: Change Your Mind,
Session 11: Say "Yes!" to Life,
Session 12: Learn to Receive, Graciously,
Session 13: Say "Yes!" to Pleasure,
Session 14: Travel Light,
Session 15: Mind Your Language,
Session 16: Love You, More,
Session 17: Embrace Your Femininity,
Session 18: Remember Yourself,
Session 19: Own Your Sexy,
Session 20: Live on Purpose,
Session 21: Just Do It,
Session 22: Commit to You,
Be Okay with OKness,
Goddess Bootcamp Crew,
About The Authors,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I liked the book and i did finish it but it dragged on a little