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.


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