Living Mythologies: The Sisterhood Wound

Ladon and the Hesperides

In this Thursday’s Moon Lodge, myself and a small band of women will be exploring sisterhood, and what it means for modern women. Do we have a sense of its existence in our lives… or not and if not, what prohibits us from owning this rite of the feminine? And what must be done to reweave this torn web?

Canterbury Moon Lodge works with the natural cycles, the zodiacal placement of the moon, astrology, the mythic realms, symbolism and shamanism to lead us through the barriers of the rational mind and ego consciousness… beyond our limited stories.

The key to Moon Lodge is found in the weaving of myths, symbols, and archetypes with our own soul experiences and the contemporary cultural condition which we inhabit… but which may, if we are not careful, inhabit us.

Myths are living entities- on one level they are rooted in cultural and spiritual history and may reveal a lot about the lineage of our shared human consciousness. On another level they exist in an astral space of flux, change and movement mirroring our evolution process. They liberate us from the hardening mechanics of our own small stories and the engine of our ego mind. They can be a healing balm for the soul- provided we do not get too rigid about their meaning and are able to flow in the primordial waters and drink from the fountain of life.

There is no fixed meaning to myths, they are fluid expressions of the journey of the human soul both individually and collectively, revealing ever deeper layers of our relationship with the divine.

Working with myth enables us to take flight from the weight of our personal stories and prisons of the mind, freeing us into archetypal realms that have much to teach us about what it means to be spirit incarnate in the material world. Myths exist in the imaginal realms- they join body- soul- mind and spirit.

Exploring sisterhood through myth:

I am struck by the many stories of groups of women, nymphs, witches, graces and sirens from the mythological archives- from the Gorgons, Graeae, and the Stygian Nymphs in the myth of Medusa, to the women of the Isle of Lemnos in the Argonaut story, to the many daughters of Atlas… the seven sisters of the Pleiades, and the seven Hesperides guarding the Golden Apples. Myths and fairy tales are full of groups of women who possess magical powers or supernatural gifts especially when they join forces. Often, these groups of women are guarded by primordial beings such as snakes or dragons – as with Ladon the dragon who guards the sacred tree in the garden of Hesperides (this echoes the serpent who guards the Huluppu tree in Babylonian myth of Ishtar).

But what meaning can this have for modern women? What can these stories teach us?

Certainly, there are far fewer tales of groups of men who, by and large, appear in myth, stories, and fairy tales as solar heroes on lonely quests for individuation, or to prove themselves worthy by achieving feats of high danger or seeming impossibile tasks (or to get the girl). Often, they must obtain the power of women to set them on the next leg of their quest, and sometimes the feminine power or wisdom is stolen, or as the case of Medea is taken on false promise thereby betraying the feminine. Stories of stealing feminine power and wisdom are told through many sources and can also be witnessed in more concrete ways throughout history… this can be quite hidden and occult too.

What then is it about groups of women? Could it be that something incredibly powerful is initiated when women join forces? When I talk to women about sisterhood, they often report a feeling of being thwarted against other women. As I see it, this sometimes looks like who can be the most ideal feminine based on a standard of masculine values.

In a patriarchal culture where hierarchy and competition are esteemed values of solar consciousness, one might wonder, where is the space for people, and especially women, to come together on equal terms, encouraging and invoking the unique gifts of each member while in turn creating something much larger and more powerful than the sum of the parts?

Historically, groups of women have been feared and accused of witchcraft and malice.

What I have learned from three years of holding moon lodge circles is that it is indeed very powerful when women come together. Sometimes I feel nothing much more than gathering in circle with open hearts and good intentions needs to happen. Being witnessed in truth and authenticity is deeply healing – to see and to be seen as we really are.

But how real can we be?

Can we be vulnerable enough to show ourselves… the wounds we carry, the trauma we have suffered, our hopes and aspirations for our lives, our innermost truths about who we profoundly know ourselves to be without the need to play small… or big? Are we angry when other women tell their truth, or shine their light? Do we pity women who dissolve and unravel, unable to keep themselves together as we calmly don our mask of ‘got it all worked out’?

Who triggers you and why?

Can you truly love and support other women? Can you receive the enormous power and magic that wants to enter your life when you are able to open to other women?

I own in myself that in the past I have found it easier to open to men and reveal more of my truth to them than I have with women (although this is a whole other stone to be turned!).

When I look into this, I see that as a little girl I feared being subsumed by my mother. I felt on some level as if I existed only as an aspect of her and not as a person in my own right. I was an appendage of her, and she needed to hold the power so that I would not defy our mother-daughter complicity which was designed to continue living-out the false woman image. While the true or authentic woman was devastated by unresolved inter-generational and inter-cultural trauma, a mask had been created to prevent the pain from showing- which also meant that the trauma could not heal. In the culture I was born into it did not take much for a woman to be considered crazy. Many women were socially rejected, labelled and judged for dispalying symptoms of trauma- my own grandmother included.

I was strongly encouraged to hide behind the false woman mask because if the terrible wound that my mother and I, and my grandmother carried was exposed, it would have felt like certain death. And with compassion I can see that my mother did not feel she had the tools and resources to make the descent into the deepest soul wounds and come back to tell the tale.

This dynamic of complicity set me up for a lifetime of feeling unable to own myself in the company of other women- especially ones who wielded patriarchal type, control-over power, who denied the feminine in themselves and who would therefore no doubt punish me for it. But what is the experience of being in our authentic woman in the presence of other women (or anyone for that matter)? As the archetypal psychologist James Hillman says, we do not know what a real feminine consciousness looks like. It has been a long time since this has been anchored on the planet.

I and others are involved in the work of returning the exiled feminine.

At some point I realised that in not owning the truth of who I am in my full woman, I cannot fully support and love another woman to express that integrity either because of feeling threatened on some level. Feelings of jealousy, envy, suspicion, judgement, and any number of negative emotions keep us separate from other women- but in truth this is only separates us from ourselves.

Deeper still is the fear that if we really show ourselves for who we really are we will be abandoned, unloved, rejected or ridiculed. But it is silence and complicity that prevents us from coming home to ourselves.

These are some of the questions that we will be journeying with in Thursday’s Lodge, however if this post has inspired you please add your comments.

 

Re-Visioning Medusa: A New Myth of Serpent Power & Instinctual Wisdom

'Serpentarium' By Patricia Ariel

In re-visioning the myth of Medusa, I begin to see it as a teaching for modern women about the journey back to our instinctual selves so that we may become co- creators in our own life. It is the teaching of the Dark Goddess, and the dark moon mysteries. It is also a teaching about menstrual rites, and the ability to reset ourselves during menstruation which acts as an inner barometer checking how aligned with ourselves we are.

As a priestess in the temple of Athena – goddess of wisdom – Medusa is primed to be Athena’s top girl. She is diligent, devotional, chaste, reverend and respectful. She is the ‘good girl’ doing what is expected of her but ultimately responding to the will of another, and as we shall see, denying her true nature.

Medusa’s story begins with consciousness- though it is controlled and inauthentic, then her descent into unconsciousness when she is turned into a hideous gorgon, and finally her rebirth into her true self as the moon horse Pegasus, and healer of others through the power of her blood. In exploring feminine consciousness, Medusa’s myth also sees parallels in the myth of Lilith. In astrology the triad of Lilith consciousness- asteroid Lilith- Dark Moon Lilith- Black Moon Lilith- tells a similar story of reclaiming banished feminine wisdom. Looking at Lilith and Medusa points in a natal chart can describe the possibility of feminine rebirth.

In the most common reading of the myth, Medusa’s liaison with the sea god Poseidon is seen as a rape, in much the same way as Kore’s abduction to Hades is also viewed through the lens of violation.  But what if Medusa, originally a sea nymph, ‘protector of the dark moon mysteries, who celebrated the sexual rites with the lineage of sea gods’[i] was in fact initiated back to herself, in a sacred homecoming in which she reconnects with her instinctual energy?

In the temple of Athena, Medusa is a dutiful Priestess but serving the chaste goddess of wisdom Athena – a goddess who was born from the head of the ultimate solar god, Apollo – may be a self-sacrificing act that denies her access to her true self. Essentially Medusa is mistress of the dark moon, occult teachings, and sex magic. To deny these aspects in herself is to deny her essence and her destiny. A tantric union with the sea god, King Poseidon offers Medusa a return to her true nature even while she deeply offends and is punished by Athena – reason- and cast out from the temple precincts- ordered society.

It could be that originally Athena and Medusa were one in the same, derived from an ancient Libyan goddess, or rooted in Egyptian mythology through the goddess Neith. As the solar gods assumed precedence over matriarchal and lunar consciousness, the temples were often burnt and desecrated, many of the priestesses became destitute, whores, or nuns, and the Sun god Apollo boldly steaked his claim in the Temple of Delphi- a name whose etymology has its origins in the same word a womb- and where the famed Oracles of Delphi advised the great and good of the land though a mysterious power that rose form the earth- serpent power.

In mythology, particularly Greek mythology, but also Roman, Christian and Celtic, fragmenting the goddess into opposing aspects was a way to undermine Her power, or set Her against Herself in the form of the ‘Other’.

In our next Moon Lodge, we will be exploring Sisterhood and addressing the blocks that modern women have in joining forces with, loving, and supporting other women. Divide and separate is one the oldest and simplest methods of bringing things, and people, into a weakened state and many modern women have a hard time supporting other women. One reason for this is that is hard to support/love another when you cannot be that for yourself. Women often report issues around trusting other women, or feeling that other women are out to get them, undermine them… or steal their man. When female power is in short supply, patriarchal values such as survival of the fittest, power over, control, and undermining the enemy comes into play. When women do not feel empowered to get their needs met, they are often accused of using tactics of manipulation. A friend once told me that she thought the hardest thing for a woman to do around other women is to hold her power. Whatever way I look at it, I can see/feel that the issue of sisterhood is deep wound of our time that is ready to be healed.

Imagine Athena and Medusa as one in the same- a mighty power of instinct, wisdom, the ability to merge, and the ability to separate. Soli/lunar magic unified in one awakened being.

When Medusa’s head is severed by the demi-god Perseus, the drops of blood falling on parched African desert as her flies away form the scene of the crime, causes little plants, flowers and shoots to spring up in an otherwise arid land. The blood of Medusa is a holy substance with life giving properties, and death dealing powers. Fertilizing barren land with the healing waters of life echo Medusa’s role as ‘mistress of the waters’ and connects her with a lineage of grail priestesses including Mary Magdalene whose knowledge of how to materialize spirit are at the heart of the gnostic and grail teachings.

The flowers that spring up from the drops of Medusa’s blood represent the power of renewal- which are the secrets known to the dark moon goddesses of transformation, renewal and initiation.

On receiving the blood of Medusa, Athena makes a gift of it to the god of healing Asclepius who separates the liquid into two vials. The blood in the left vial can destroy and cause death, while the blood in the right vial restores and heals and can bring life back to the dead. This is the mystery of the serpent wisdom- it has the power to destroy or create. Medusa herself has the power to destroy by rendering those who gaze upon her to stone, while in her beheading she unleashes the winged moon horse Pegasus, symbol of creative inspiration, revered by artists for centuries.

I prefer to read the myth like this… a rebirthing story for Medusa, her creative power finally unleashed by the death of her old persona and the restoration to her natural state. Medusa is sometimes originally depicted as a sea mare, and her name means “I come form myself”.

For modern women we might read the myth of Medusa as a caution against rejecting our essential selves. When we do this, we are in some way punished and we punish others… we can turn others to stone in our jealousy and frustration at our unlived lives. We, daughters of the patriarchy, often carry the burden of the unlived lives of our mothers’ who may have bitterly resigned themselves to a life of denial, and like Athena punish their daughters who dare to turn away from this feminine denying conspiracy.

Returning to one’s primal essence is often viewed by others as not very rational and indeed can at times look quite mad to the rest of the world. And in one way or another we will be punished for such a transgression against the social order. But sometimes we have no choice. Afterall, you cannot turn down the great sea god Poseidon.

In astrology, Neptune- Poseidon’s Roman counterpart is an outer planet taking us into the transpersonal realms. This suggests that when we are in the grip of an outer planet god, it is not about our self-will, wants and desires, rather the experience weaves us into the non- rational mystery of our soul’s journey and homecoming.

Of course, the shadow part of working with the myth of Medusa is undoing all the ways that we betrayed ourselves and were betrayed by others- often our mother- healing the wounds… we might even say sins, of going against our true nature.

[i] Mysteries of the Dark Moon by Demetra George. P. 159

Shamanic Mask Work

Using masks as a shamanic practice is deeply powerful and healing. In last night’s Sun & Moon lodge, wearing a mask gave me permission to be more theatrical, more confident, and removed from my usual persona so that I was able to open and channel an energy that is both me and at the same time is the point where I meet the gods. Mask wearing as a shamanic practice grants us access into the transpersonal realms where we are liberated from the burden of our conditioning.

In shamanic mask work the ego is silenced, our normal persona falls away and something else comes in- latent parts of ourselves, shadow parts, gifts, sacred insights… we become a transmission for something much larger than our ego identified self and beliefs about who we and others think we are.

Wearing a mask also has a strong effect on those around us… their preconceptions of us drop away, they can no longer hold onto who they think we are- which in turn challenges them to also redefine who they are. They are brought in that moment into a new space of knowing nothing about us or who we might become. And they are not sure who they will become in this new dynamic.

Last night we worked with the mask of Medusa which as a symbol is more than the myth of the terrifying gorgon abandoned in the cave at the edge of the western world. The mask of Medusa was donned by priestesses who worked with dark moon magic and wished to keep their workings secret from the uninitiated. The serpent headed crowns and monstrous masks were an emblem of the serpent rites and mysteries.

When considering the mask in a modern context and working with it for collective and psychological healing, it is interesting to consider the many masks we wear in our lives and the expectations that we fulfil for others. By refusing to accept the masks, by refusing to wear them, and instead explore hidden parts of ourselves by dropping our persona and stepping into something new is so liberating!

In ‘Mysteries of the Dark Moon’, Demetra George says that in order to transform the mask, we must recognise and acknowledge the wrathful face that we present to others. In working with Medusa, we must recall her from her banishment and reclaim the serpent headed Queen by honouring the dark moon wisdom that arises from our sexuality. Medusa is the source of our deep, regenerative healing power. The menstrual blood of the Serpent Goddess that could heal or kill, and even raise the dead is reflected in the twin serpents of Life and Death twinning about the winged staff of the caduceus- today the emblem of the medical profession.

Finding the point where asteroid Medusa is placed in our natal birth chart offers clues to understanding how this power may be activated in our lives and the ways in which we wear masks to deny and supress this power in ourselves, or project it on to others.

Please contact me if you would like an astro-shamanic consultation.

Medusa as Shamanic Guide to Reclaiming Feminine Serpent Wisdom

Medusa – Serpent Goddess of female wisdom whose name means “I come from myself”, may have a lot to teach us in reclaiming our wise woman- but we have to reach behind the mask… a very scary thing for us modern women to do, as the mask has kept us, if not entirely connected to our feminine wisdom and power, then at least alive in a culture that has largely rejected these aspects of the feminine.

In the beginning the mask of Medusa was a protection to guard the feminine mysteries from those who had no ‘rite’ to know them, or those who could misuse, damage or destroy this sacred knowledge. Unfortunately as women became less sourced in their feminine power the mask of stone that could be turned turned either outward or inward replaced the true face of feminine power.

Medusa- serpent headed monster, once priestess, primordial sea nymph, stony-eyed death giver, cave dweller on the edge of the world…

What can the myth of Medusa mean for modern women?

Like all myths the Myth of Medusa is a living entity, morphing into new shapes and interpretations with the continual unfolding of human consciousness.

The most commonly known version of the myth is that Medusa was a priestess in the temple of Athena, goddess of wisdom before her terrible transformation. In this myth we witness Medusa very much as the victim, rather like Persephone whose journey of initiation is also corrupted to portray the feminine in a passive state. In both cases, the myth of Medusa and the myth of Persephone may instead be read as journeys of initiation in claiming our Queendom by accepting our true essence.

Originally a sea nymph Medusa’s beauty was beyond compare and men travelled far and wide just to catch a glimpse of her- though in her vows of chastity appropriate for Athena’s temple she would give herself to no man. But the mighty sea god Poseidon had other ideas… so enraptured was he by Medusa’s beauty that he vowed to have her by hook or by crook. Poseidon raped Medusa in the temple precincts thus enraging the chaste and virtuous Athena who, rather than avenge Poseidon, instead punishes Medusa by changing her beautiful tresses into hissing serpents.

Medusa at once is banished from the temple taking up residence with her two gorgon sisters, Sthenno and Euryale, in a cave on the edge of the world, on the ocean’s shore near to the border of night and death. So horrifying was Medusa’s monstrous appearance that any mortal who dared to look upon her was immediately turned to stone- stories spead far and wide about the lands and caverns in the area being strewn with pertified men.

Of the three hideous gorgons, Medusa was the only one who could die and the solar hero Perseus on a mission contrived by King Polydectes set out on a mission to slay the head of Medusa. The gods were on his side… donning a mirrored shield given by Athena, golden winged sandals from Hermes, a sword form Hephaestus, and a helmet of invisibility from Pluto, the young demi-god son of Zeus and the mortal Danaë, was invincible.

Taking care not to look at Medusa directly, Perseus captures her reflection in his mirror as he slowly steps backwards, then with one fell swoop cuts of her head. From her severed body spring the winged horse Pegasus and the golden sword wielding giant Chrysaor. The other two gorgon sisters arrive on the scene, but Perseus escapes wearing the helmet of invisibility given to him by Pluto. Some people say that he flew away on the back of Pegasus holding in his hand the grotesque head of Medusa and that wherever the drops of blood fell to the earth, flowers, plants and other verdant life sprung forth.

Thereafter the goddess of wisdom Athena wore a breast plate of the Medusa’s head on her person as a symbol of protection. She gifted the blood of Medusa to the great healer Asclepius who separated it into two vials- the right vial it was said had great healing properties- even the power to bring back the dead- while the blood of the left vial was said to destroy and kill.

The Myth of Medusa is immensely rich with its origins rooted in north Africa and the Egyptian goddess Neith, who was known as Anatha in Libya, and Athena in Greece. In her book, ‘Mysteries of the Dark Moon’, Demetra George tells us that Neith emerged from the primeval floodwaters, and her name means, “I have come from myself”. As part of a triple goddess figure with Neith/Anatha, and Metis, Medusa embodies the third dark aspect of the destroyer/crone, and was revered as the Queen of the Libyan Amazons, the Serpent Goddess of female wisdom.

Feminist and Jungian scholars have made much of the layers of symbolism embedded within the story. For George, “Medusa in her association wit the serpent and the menstrual blood that could both heal and destroy, embodies the dark moon mysteries of the goddess. In her red-faced gorgon mask mounted by a crown of snakes, Medusa in women signifies a source of feminine wisdom that is connected to their sexuality.”

Kundalini serpent power is the life-force, prana or chi that lays dormant at the base of the spine until such time that it is activated and begins its journey up the spinal, passing through and activating the chakras (power centres) before arriving at the crown chakra. At which point cosmic consciousness is awakened. This force can then be used for regenerative healing and renewal, open doors of creativity, oracular wisdom and spiritual power.

Like Demetra, I see the hissing crown of the Medusa as feminine serpent power that once activated moves one beyond the constrictions of duality into a cosmic consciousness where there is a union between human and divine. Another way to say this is that the human body becomes the earthen vessel able to be penetrated by and hold divine energy.

This power has been repressed and punished by centuries of culture that have feared it, and women themselves have become cut off from the root of their feminine grounding. The monstrous aspect of Medusa is the mask we wear to protect ourselves from the vulnerability that we feel in being cut off at the root. Either we turn the mask out toward those we feel we must protect ourselves from- and in the case of modern women this often translates as many aspects of culture. If we turn the mask inward on ourselves, we despise all that makes us powerful and feminine- our menstruation- shamanic birthing- sexuality- magic, and Dark Goddess wisdom. This power has been so feared and so rejected in our culture that we have learned to disown it in ourselves and punish it in others.

Rather than see the myth of Medusa as another story of female disempowerment and victimisation, I see Medusa as a shamanic guide who can lead us to the places where we have blocked Dark Goddess power in ourselves. One way to do this is to acknowledge the mask of bitterness we wear, and the situations where we can petrify others and ourselves in our stony rigidity and insecurity.

However, this tale comes with a huge caution- these mysteries must be approached carefully and with great respect, and at the right time. Like a kundalini awakening the serpent power must not be unleashed prematurely or in ways that are dangerous, for then it can kill.

The clue to approaching the feminine mysteries lies in the fact that Perseus, or anyone else for that matter, cannot look directly at Medusa. With a lot of help from the gods in the form of magical tools, and by only looking upon the reflection of medusa rather than her actual person, is Perseus able to slay her.

This tells us that the feminine mysteries cannot be approached in a rational way, and that we must seek the help of the gods to contact the divine. That is why we need ritual, ceremony, initiation, rites of passage and prayer, and return to our bio-mystical rites.

It is said that at one time Athena and Medusa, along with the sea goddess Metis were all part of the tripe goddess archetype- from Athena we receive wisdom, intellect, valour and courage, from Metis intuition and creative expression, and from Medusa sexual power, magic and psychic abilities. Before patriarchal consciousness separated these aspects of femininity, this trilogy of power and attributes was the bedrock of the feminine wisdom and essence.

If you would like to work with Medusa and begin to see behind the mask in your own life, looking at the placement of asteroid Medusa in your chart can point to the area of your life and rulership under whose power Medusa operates.

Contact me if you would like a consultation.