Paris, Mars, Football & Intrigue

I am recovering from a two-day whistle-stop trip to Paris, arriving on Bastille day, 14th July, then watching the France/Croatia World Cup final on 15th.

In a bar with friends I sing Allez les blues! wave a small French flag, drink Rose and grin inanely at random strangers. I am intrigued and stunned by the intense frenzy of people in the grip of what at times feels like mass hysteria. As exciting as it is, by the end of the first half I need to get out and take a breather… but there is no escape from the madness and the heat is oppressive.

At the end of the street I see a church and go inside; the place is empty but for a few others taking refuge. Even within the thick stone walls I can hear the resounding cheers across the city as France scores its third goal. Inside the church a female member of the clergy simply smooths her alter cloth and goes about her business, seemingly oblivious to the ensuing chaos.

Vigin Notre Dame Lorette

Virgin of Notre Dame Lorette

There are many beautiful images in the church – Notre-Dame-de- Lorette, near Montmartre- a sequenced panel showing the Rosa Mystica, and the Goddess Virgo (Demeter/Ceres).  And it strikes me… out there, millions of people are losing their senses in a Dionysian frenzy and are for the most part unaware of the layers of meaning and symbolism encoded in the city – its structures, architecture, and in the leys beneath the concrete grids of urban life. In here esoteric secrets hang in silence like off stage characters waiting for their cue to perform their master piece- when the time is right. The revelers, barely conscious of the under-lying forces at work in themselves and in the collective unconscious, grow wilder as the match continues; the secrets of the church remain conscious only to those who carefully constructed this temple of worship. Above me, the Virgin Mary is being crowned by the Holy Trinity.

Holy Trinity

Mary being blessed by the Holy Trinity, Notre Dame Lorette

All cities are fascinating in their way but there is something mysterious and enchanting about Paris… and perhaps, like London, it is a bit dark. In the streets tens of thousands of screaming fans are in the throws of ecstasy incited by the triumph of their team… and maybe their outpourings are as much to do with a welcome release of pent up emotions as their team hitting the big time.

There is nothing in the world that excites passion and fever quite like football, the only other cultural event that was on a par with the World Cup was the death of Princess Di in 1997 when 32 million viewers in the UK, and two billion worldwide shared in the collective grief of her untimely and shocking death. Diana, Queen of Hearts (Cups) tragically killed on The Port d’Alma Tunnel (Bridge Way for the Soul), an ancient sacrificial site to the Roman Goddess Diana- Paris is full of secrets.


Gargoyle on Notre Dame, Paris

When the game is over I walk with my love through the districts and streets towards the Champs Elysees, we are silent witnesses of history in the making as we weave through ever-denser crowds singing the national anthem and the Marseillaise over and over again. People suspend themselves from vehicles hooting horns and grin indiscriminately to all, slapping and patting whomever they can reach in the crowd. There is common bond that surpasses politics, race, religion, gender and class.

On the Metro, “Qui ne saute pas n’est pas Francais” (anyone who isn’t jumping isn’t French) fills the impossibly crammed carriages and to prove their national allegiance most began to jump. For the first time I am concerned for our safety as I imagine the train breaking down in the middle of a tunnel… all of us cooked sardines!

Fear has an interesting way about it, the second you open the door to it even just a fraction, it wants to bring all its friends to the party too. Wasn’t there something about a national security alert this weekend… 12 000 police patrolling the streets for Bastille day yesterday and 4 000  police today? And many more security personnel.

Champs Elysees 2018

Champs Elysees, World Cup final 2018

Approaching the Champs Elysees I notice armed police with guns and tear gas; riot police barricade the road and I am not sure if they are letting people through a trickle at a time or whether the road is closed… but I have a strong feeling to turn back. It is then I get soaked by both a fizzing bottle of champagne and some other unidentifiable liquid pouring down from near-by scaffolding. Celebration, joy and ecstasy stand side-by-side with teeming demons enjoying the chance for a real blast.

We find another route into the Champs Elysees which seems to be the more typical entrance… thousands upon thousands… a million people… all headed towards to the Arc de Triomphe. Red, white and blue smoke fills the air as the skin of bare torsoed young men glistens under street lamps. Voices in unison grow louder and bolder, and we witness impressive feats of athleticism as bus shelters and monuments are jumped on and danced upon.

Feeling nervous and slightly claustrophobic, we stop walking into the centre of the crowd and are happy to sit on the side-walk watching waves of people passing in their clusters- though tonight they are one. After a while we turn and walk in the opposite direction towards the Place de Concorde, the octagonal square between the Champs Elysees to the west and the Tuileries Garden to the east. The square was once a place of many public executions- the Luxor obelisk exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramesses II marks the sight where Marie Antoinette and her husband were guillotined. More contemporaneously, a point on the line from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre marks Jim Morison’s death place.

On World Cup night the square is electric with music and dancing, people hang precariously from impervious statues. Constant chanting and drumming fill the air as people party wildly under a beautiful sunset and a smokey blood red sky suspended ominously above the Arc de Triomphe- Dionysus himself would have been pleased.

A walk by the Siene towards the Louvre, the energy begins to feel less intense but a couple of metro rides away in The Marais where our hotel is located, the streets are still lined with people celebrating to an almost continuous score of honking horns… all road etiquette is totally discarded. We eat dinner in the mayhem.

The Marais was once a marsh land before being drained by the Knights Templar and the monks of the Abbey of Saint-Martin-des-Champs in order to build their monasteries- indeed the name of our hotel is the Jacques de Molay!

Exhausted we fall into bed not stirring until morning- thankfully the hotel is protected from the reveling that continues through the night resulting in 2 deaths (not in Paris), 102 arrests and 292 held in custody, country wide. Riot police shoot tear gas and water cannons into the crowd in an attempt to control a band of men wearing ski masks who are on the rampage, looting and throwing stones at shop windows. Next day the Metro reports,

Troublemakers marred some of the festivities at the top of the Champs-Elysees, breaking the window of a major store and throwing makeshift missiles at riot police as the celebrations wound down close to midnight. Revelers set off smoke bombs in the national colours, obscuring Napoleon’s triumphal arch.

The following day I walk through The Marais to Notre Dame, the heat is intense and the queue to the cathedral extends the full breadth of Jean-Paul II square, but I am determined and take my place in the line.

Some time ago I discovered that several of the old Cathedrals and chapels across France and into Britain are located on what was once known as The Initiates Pilgrim Route. In 2009 while walking the Camino Santiago I found a book that claimed that the traditionally accepted route from various starting points in Europe to Santiago Compostella was in fact a distortion of the true route by the Catholic church. I was strangely thrilled and excited by the idea and have been exploring it ever since. According to the theory, the starting point of the pilgrimage route – which is linked to the path of the Milky Way – is Santiago Compostella which is said to be the Oracle of the Moon and ends at the Saturn Oracle in Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland. In between Toulouse, Orleans, Chartres, and Amiens make up the remaining planetary sites- seven in all, the typical number of initiation.  Notre Dame Paris is the Mars Oracle.

Mars God of War

Mars God of War

The astrology chart of the World Cup event places Mars at 7 degrees Aquarius – when the violence breaks out Mars is crossing the ascendant and moving into the 12th house. At 10.25 Mars is exact on the ascendant then moving across twelfth house until 11.55. At 11.30 the riot police release tear gas into the remaining crowd to disperse it. Between 10.25 and 11.30 is exactly when the violence and break-outs occur.

Mars in the 12th is typically associated with repressed anger bubbling up to the surface in a sometimes ruthless and dangerous way. When Mars shares the 12th house with Pluto as it did that night- forming an exact conjunction around 11 PM the energy has the potential to explode. Add Black Moon Lilith into the mix at 27 degrees Capricorn also in the 12th and you have a recipe for the displays of discord that played out in Paris that night – a reflection of the shadow side of the much hyped global event described in the astrological chart.


The astrological chart of the rioting that took place in Paris the night of the World Cup victory for France, July 15th 2018- Mars, Pluto and Black Moon Lilith in the 12th House.

To end on a positive note, I loved my time in Paris (even though I felt exhausted for a couple of days after). Paris has not always been an easy relationship for me – Paris is not easy- but it is enchanting and mysterious, full of mythos and symbolism with an under-belly full of secrets charms and intrigue behind the beauty and the majesty.

The Red Death: Menstruation as a Symbol of Renewal- Part 9

Figure 9 Georgia OKeeffe Inside Red Canna 1919

Georgia O’Keeffe ‘Inside Red Canna’ 1919

Now women return from afar, from always; from ‘without’, from the heath where witches are kept alive; from below, from beyond ‘culture’ Helen Cixous

In returning to the starting point, to the question that prefaced this journey: ‘How are we to understand menstruation in our modern world? I reach no real conclusions and arrive only on a precipice in which science and technology boldly offers a bridge- I am not sure that I trust this bridge as looking back I can see the rational, left brained approach to humanity and culture has largely excluded and denied the gifts of the feminine- the price to pay for this has been high. Is there another way to cross? Maybe it is less about crossing and more about healing the chasm that has developed between matter and spirit, body, and mind.

I do not believe that menstruation is like a vestigial organ left over from an outworn evolutionary stage, nor do I believe that it is a ‘curse’ a burden, a pathology, or a mark of inferiority. I believe menstruation, then as now, and hopefully into the future is a divinely sacred and beautifully ordinary expression of our interconnectedness with life; our inevitable dance with death; and our inherent capacity for renewal and regeneration. It is also a symbol of the goddess for whatever that may mean in our modern world; for me it is the comfort of feeling that no matter how advanced science is or however ‘artificial’ intelligence becomes, there exists beneath the surface of things a deep well spring that replenishes and nourishes humanity in its evolution and helps us to make choices based on the creative principles of life.

An exploration of the meaning of menstruation through language is limited, words like ‘patriarchy’ and ‘feminism’ are loaded and betray a deeper meaning of the ways in which human consciousness and especially sex and gender has been, and continues to be, manipulated. I am neither ‘anti-male’ nor do I wish to ‘elevate’ women above men: “to exalt women-as-nature” (Curry, 2012), but neither can I deny the unique connection women do have with the natural rhythms of life through their bodies.

It is not menstruation that is dangerous, it is the speaking out of things that have so long been denied and punished: “When you find the place where culture splits form a natural truth you have found a key- a way inside the disease of a culture” (Owen, 1991). Not everybody is willing to look at the disease. Instead, we advance more and more scientific ‘breakthroughs’ to clean all traces of “the fact that we are born of women and that we shall die, that we are carnal, mortal beings” (Mies and Shiva, 1997).

We stand at a threshold where I believe we have a say in which path to take. Is the ‘Red Death’ the end of menstruation or is it a reappraisal of menstruation as a symbol of renewal?  As Jules Cashford and Ann Baring say in their book ‘The Myth of the Goddess’

“Nature’s continued existence depends ultimately on the kind of consciousness we bring to bear on it”.

In the digital age that takes us deeper into virtual worlds and machine consciousness, being embodied and present in all of our being, not just the head and imagination seems more important than ever.


The Red Death: Menstruation as Symbol of Renewal- Part 8

Why is it that so many modern women are choosing to reject their menstruation which we have seen is a rich source of feminine power, magic, and healing? Previous blogs in this series show that rejection of the feminine and in particular female bodies and bodily functions can be traced back to Greek philosophy and early Christianity. We have seen how fear of the feminine and misogyny was particularly virulent in the early modern period manifesting in the genocide of countless women, and we have seen how modern gynaecology, according to Mary Daly continues to oppress women.

Greeks and gender

In Feminism and Ecology, Mary Mellor says that “Debates around the nature of sex/gender differences and the impact of women’s biology on their social position has been very much a feature of Western feminism”. Within the feminist dialectic the most enduring and contentious issue has without a doubt been the essentialist debate: Is there an inherent quality of female distinct from male that runs deeper than social conditioning? And if so, what does this mean? Many second wave feminists rejected any essential difference between men and women other than biology while refusing female biology as the bind that keeps women subordinate to men. For de Beauvoir and other cultural feminists of the 20th century there was no ontological difference between men and women other than on a physical level and anything men were capable of women were too. In this way, many women sought to prove they were just like men. Other feminist disagreed and feminism itself splintered into a shattered picture of womanhood.

Within feminism the debate raged: Are women on account of their biology connected with the natural world and the cycles of nature in a particular way? This question, more than any other in the feminist/gender debate has been prohibitive in a coherent meaning of womanhood and points to more than just a split in feminist thinking: it is a wound at the core of the female experience and is instrumental in a perpetual rejection of the feminine.

Gaia essentialist image

Gaia, Greek Goddess of the Earth by Marcia Snedecor

While the debate remains unresolved and while women are constantly splintering into more and more factions over their basic spiritual and cultural identity, ‘maldeveloped’ technologies such as menstrual suppression, artificial wombs, gender reversal operations and puberty blockers remain largely unchallenged to any significant degree while Misogynist tendencies beneath the surface of our culture remains unchallenged in any truly meaningful way. If these assumptions are not challenged, they cannot be healed… if they are not healed they will prevail. It is not possible to by-pass these issues by suddenly creating a gender neutral or unisex society.

As we approach greater levels of crisis in the natural world and planetary condition, it is not possible to address these issues without also addressing the issue of the feminine. While many eco-feminist are unashamedly making the link between the oppression of the feminine and the oppression of the natural world under dominion of patriarchy, still others, including ecologists would rather avoid the link. In avoiding the issue, especially within an ecological framework that concerns itself with the future of the natural world, is to by-pass a hugely important issue. Avoidance does not address the denial of the feminine, nor does it offer a possibility to truly differentiate masculine and feminine, a task, according to Ann Ulanov “we must wrestle with”.


To take an anti-essentialist position as a safe guard toward biological determinism is to not only reject the female body and inherent feminine qualities that exist in and of themselves, but also diminishes the possibility of opposites – the creative tension which allows for renewal and regeneration. Denying the qualities of woman’s nature and the feminine principle is detrimental for women but ultimately affects all of us in our human connection to and embeddedness within nature.

Fear of biological determinism is rooted in the patriarchal assumption that women’s primary function is to produce children. Just because a woman can produce children does not mean she is obliged to. Before the witch trials, women would have held many positions in their community that did not entail mothering and were not under patriarchal control– herbalists, midwifes, healers, wisdom keepers. crones…

Within a cultural context, essentialism need not mean subordination by the patriarchy- this has been the main and enduring argument used against a gynocentric and female embodied positions. For pagan feminist Starhawk, a.k.a. Miriam Somos, rituals involving menstrual blood and other aspects of women’s bodies that are declared taboo or unclean in male religions are celebrated; she sees ritual as a way of generating energy for political action and the image of the goddess as a way of understanding the immanence – the aliveness of spirit and vitality that permeates the natural world.

Utero by Elisa Riemer

Utero by Elisa Riemer

We are all connected to nature, male and female, but how we are connected to nature and what those differences are must be addressed, if they are not, I suggest that the feminine will continue to be rejected under the guise of an ever encroaching ‘gender neutral’ society. Esther Harding, an early advocate of Jungian thought views the essence of feminine psychology in sharp contrast to masculine psychology. Harding says: “Without wresting with this task of differentiation, we fall into formlessness and cheap imitation of current personal roles…. we miss our chance to become unique persons”.

In transpersonal psychology we see that opposites are important in coming together to form what the ancient world referred to as hieros gamos. Jungian analysts Nancy Qualls Corbett says that the hieros gamos is “a mystical process in which the disconnected elements are joined together to form a whole” (Qualls-Corbett, 1988 p.70).  In her book The Sacred Prostitute: Eternal Aspects of the Feminine, she says: “If we deny sexual difference, we deny the fact of otherness” (Qualls-Corbett, 1988, p.82). A condition of equality does not exclude, and perhaps even demands, difference. According to Nietzsche, “Opposites have an equal inherent value, so that one polar element cannot dominate and annihilate its counterpart”.

Le livre de la sainte trinité

Hieros Gamos Alchemical image from Le livre de la sainte trinité

The ongoing feminist critique, including some ecofeminist and ‘third wave’ feminism often holds the ‘master model’ of patriarchy responsible for the continued subordination of women and nature but I suggest this view is in danger of fostering a belief in the inherent weakness of the feminine. It is a view that challenges the system by fighting fire with fire and is filtered through logic, the rational mind and fear. Endless books have and continue to be written in ever decreasing spirals and hair-splitting semantics in an attempt to change the system from without when in truth the change comes from within. Expending energy on patriarchy, vying for an equal status in an unequal system and jumping through impossible hoops leads to nowhere.

I am not saying do not challenge the system or patriarchy, my point is to extract vital energy from an endless pit of distraction and illusion and put it to better use by forging a genuine and life enhancing connection with both the material world and spirit thereby becoming conduits of vitality, creativity, and life force. Being embodied helps us to connect but while we dual with the nameless faceless forces of control, resorting to separatist viewpoints we lose energy and are worn down. By constantly battling with this rather elusive entity we call patriarchy we hand our power and precious energy over to a devouring beast who always demands more.

When we finally see that the emperor is wearing no clothes, is he still the Emperor? And if he is, is it not because we continue to call him so?

The Emperor has no clothes on

Though it may be true that modern Western culture is patriarchal, I would argue that women will not find their power within that paradigm and therefore must reinstate a feminine power that does not depend on patriarchy. While some feminists could argue that this position is separatist and excludes women from culture, it is important that women (and men) embrace their own feminine in an empowered way. I am not arguing for a separatist situation where men and women exists in different cultures -that is not possible and more importantly patriarchy is not about men and women- that is one of the biggest illusions – what I am advocating is a feminine revival in which all the exiled and rejected parts of the feminine, for men and women, are brought back into the matrix of consciousness- including and perhaps beginning with the body and the natural world.

The Red Death: Menstruation as a Symbol of Renewal- Part 7

Menstrution and the Pineal Gland

Pineal Gland and the Eye of Horus– Google Images

Interference with natural hormonal activity could have huge impact on the female psyche – hormones, according to Vicki Noble, writer of Shaki Woman plays a vital part in facilitating and accessing female power: “Just before and during menstruation, women experience their strongest healing and oracular powers” (Noble, 1991, p.173). Birth control and interfering with hormones have been known to cause mental health problems in women – a recently published study sheds light on the alarming relationship between hormonal birth control and depression; the findings according to the study are “Only the latest in a long line of battles between women and their doctors over accurate information” (Broadly, 2017).

In the subtle interplay between hormones and emotional well-being there is also the spiritual connection to consider. Research in neuroscience has made a link between menstruation and the pineal gland: “Consideration of pineal melatonin functions provides a new dimension into the understanding of the neuroendocrine mechanisms governing the cyclical phenomena of the female reproductive system” (Sanyk 1992). This is corroborated in Clinical Reproductive Medicine and Surgery: Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Ovarian Axis and Control of the Menstrual Cycle by scientists Beshay and Carr, who say:

“The menstrual cycle is the result of an orchestra of hormones…. it involves the interaction of many endocrine glands as well as a responsive uterus. The menstrual cycle remains a complex process where many aspects are still not well understood” (Beshay and Carr, p.31).

Medical News Today November 2017

The Function of the Pineal Gland in Medical News Today, November 2017

The pineal gland, according to the 17th century Philosopher, Descartes is “The principal seat of the soul and the place in which all our thoughts are formed (Descartes, quoted in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2005). While Descartes, from his materialist perspective ascribes the soul to a physical part of the brain, the spiritual aspects and functions of the pineal gland have been well documented in eastern religions such as Tantra, and more recently in the West by Dr. Rick Strassman, M.D., author of DMT: The Spirit Molecule. Strassman, who has dedicated years of research to the pineal gland, suggests that it is the “factory for a powerful brain chemical called DMT (Di-Methyl Tryptamine) which when produced induces a person into a psychedelic and mystical experience” (Collective evolution, 2017). Of the curious nature of the pineal gland, Strassman says,

“All other brain sites are paired, meaning that they have left and right counterparts; for example, there are left and right frontal lobes and left and right temporal lobes. As the only unpaired organ deep within the brain, the pineal gland remained an anatomical curiosity for nearly two thousand years. No one in the West had any idea what its function was” (Strassman, quoted in collective evolution, 2017).

Visionary States DMT

Visionary states induced by DMT- Artist Unkown- Google Images

In The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist says that there are –

“Two fundamentally opposed realities rooted in the bihemispheric structure of the brain- the left and right hemispheres, and that particularly over the last five hundred years, the cerebral hemispheres that should cooperate, have been in a state of conflict” (McGilchrist, 2010, pp. 2-3). This is due to an over dominance of the left brain.

McGilchrist says, “If I had to characterise the left hemisphere by reference to one governing principle it would be that of division” (McGilchrist, 2010, p.137).  He continues:

“Features of the left brain are verbal and analytic, requiring abstracted, decontextualized, disembodied thinking, dealing in categories…. concerning itself with the nature of the general rather than the particular. The right brain however is unified: concepts are not separate from experience, and the grounding role of “betweeness” in constituting reality is apparent” (ibid).

Is the divided brain that McGilchrist talks about the apparatus of “Western reason”, “logic” and “duality” so rejected by feminist critics like Vandana Shiva and Val Plumwood? Based on McGilchrist’s and Strassman’s research, is it likely that the pineal gland, the unified part of the brain, can resolve the split between spirit and matter and transcend duality, even only for temporary periods of time? If so, menstruation as an organic biological function, connected to the pineal gland, may indeed provide a gateway for women to make the transition into what today we would call an altered state of consciousness. For many traditional and ancient cultures this shift was considered initiatory states of consciousness, non-ordinary reality, or even what scholars of pre-modern cultures have referred to as “participation mystique”. The Philosopher and Ethnographer Lévy-Bruhl says that participation mystique:

“Denotes a peculiar kind of psychological connection with objects, and consists in the fact that the subject cannot clearly distinguish himself from the object but is bound to it by a direct relationship which amounts to partial identity” (Jung, [1921] 1971: paragraph 781).

Anthropologist Barbara Tedlock describes the shamanic experience as “complex, mystical, and awe-inspiring, as befits the integration of the physical and spiritual worlds- two diverse and powerful realms where the shaman practices her calling” (Tedlock, 2005, p.13). In this way, the menstruating woman, with possible access to mystical states, facilitated by the release of DMT, becomes both one in her body… bleeding and present in the physical world and at the same time connected to the spirit world. This state does sound similar, if not the same, to Bruhl’s “participation mystique”, in which the menstruating could experience herself as connected to the cycles of nature and the cosmos. Based on anthropological reports of mystical and magical states of menstruating women, and the recent findings on the connection between menstruation and the pineal gland, it seems likely that menstruation is indeed “the medium of a spiritual-communal bond” (Sjoo and Mor, quoted in Noble, 1991, p.27).

Luis Tamani Amasifuen

painting by Shaman and Visionary Artist Luis Tamani Amasifuen

If menstruation is to be resacralized as a magical gateway, as with any altered state of consciousness, is best accompanied by ritual and ceremony. Ethnographer and folklorist, Arnold Van Gennep sees society as:

“A house with rooms and corridors in which passages from one to another is dangerous…. danger lies in transitional states, simply because transition is neither one state nor the next, it is undefinable…. the person who must pass from one to another is himself in danger and emanates danger to others. The danger is controlled by ritual which precisely separates him from his old status, segregates him for a time and then publicly declares his new entry to his new status” (Mary Douglas, 1966. P.97).

This may explain then, why menstruating women are considered taboo… there is danger in the transition from one state of consciousness to another… more likely though the danger to the church and other androcentric establishments is that women’s connections with the divine under these circumstances are neither regulated nor controllable. For a desacralized culture, eradicating menstruation, and therefore the possibility of ‘menstrual initiations’ may be an easier option that dealing with the consequences of women’s empowering journeys to the spirit world. In this light, it easy to agree with the opinions of Vandana Shiva, Carol Christ, Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove, et al, who say that the control of women is really about the control of knowledge and power.

There is a well known Chukchi proverb which states:

“Woman is by Nature a Shaman”

While the correlation between menstruation and the pineal gland is only being realised now, the connection with the magical aspects of blood have been known throughout history in various cultures and times. In Sex from Plato to Paglia the philosopher Alan Soble includes a chapter on the Gnostics which describes how menstrual blood is considered a sacred substance: Epiphanius of Salamis, a 4th century monk claims that  “certain Gnostic sects worked with menstrual blood in magical rites that imitated the Eucharist, to ‘’collect from out of the power within bodies” (Soble, 2006, p.409). And according to Jungian, Nancy Qualls-Corbett, “the Christian Holy Eucharist is built on a human sacrifice- the symbolic libation of blood for the strengthening of life” (Qualls- Corbett, 1988, p.24n).