Excerpt from Wasted:
By Marya Hornbacher
began to chain-smoke. I stood on the back of toilets in the dorms, tight
up against another girl, our faces lifted, baby-bird-like, our illicit, punishable-by-expulsion cigarette held up to the vent.
I signed out to leave campus, walked, sometimes alone and sometimes not, down the worn road, into the woods. This was the
first time in my life when I began to like being alone. I had always had a sharp fear of solitude, but now, the walks were
necessary. I wanted the exercise. The girls and I had discussed the length of the walk from campus to the strip of shops at
the edge of Interlochen. We estimated about two miles, and we debated at length whether you estimated how many calories you
burn by the length of the walk or the time that it took. I figured by length because it would mean more calories.
wanted the solitude. I walked, my steps matching the rhythms of words in my head. Words, a sudden unfailing companion: Turn
left at the gate of the school, breathe, walk a while, and then the words would come, swinging like a metronome in my head.
I'd walk and with each line breathe in, and with each line breathe out, and step, and step.
On weekends, we were 350
children dressed up to attend evening performances, the like of which I've not seen since. Still as snow, we sat in the audience,
holding our collective breath, hearing the music in the dark. Our fingers clutched the programs in our laps, our muscles followed,
involuntarily, longing, the figures in their dance. On Tuesday nights, we shook our heads in time with the barefoot and goateed
jazz combo, their calloused hands seducing sax and string bass into some song that moved, belly deep, through the swaying,
Winter inched into the small world where we lived, drifting through small fissures in our walls, wind
leaning its shoulder into the buildings making them groan and sigh, the ground high and white, roads crunching under our feet.
The snow fell in soft convulsions, quilts of white drifting over our heads. In wool and scarves we blew from class to class,
breath coming in small white explosions from our mouths. Inside, short of breath, fat flakes clung to our hair, their perfect
geometries melting into patterns of crystalline drops.
In the cafeteria I'd pour myself coffee and dribble one-third
of a teaspoon of cream on the top. A small plate: carrot sticks, celery, mustard. As the year went on, I began to fill a bowl
with a ridiculous amount of mustard, eat mustard straight, using a carrot stick more as a spoon than as an edible. It didn't
actually seem that strange to me at the time, no matter how often people told me it was weird or made jokes about it. I was
first and foremost concerned with the loss of weight, and hell, if mustard and carrots had no fat, no calories, and filled
me up, then what the hell did I care? No one else was eating normally either, so who were they to talk? Most of the time,
a big group of girls, including me, would jabber on about our diets, how much we'd lost. Other times it would look like someone
was pulling ahead of the pack: so-and-so is throwing up, one girl says, and we'd all freak out. Oh no! we'd cry, as if we
weren't all doing it. That's awful! Or the famous anoretic on campus, a dancer who (we whispered) had been in the hospital
once (gasp) and had (we leaned closer) only four percent body fat! We said, No WAY. Are you SERIOUS? (The healthy range of
body fat for most women is between 18 and 23 percent. Did it occur to us that four percent was potentially fatal? We were
jealous.) Of course, there was body fat testing day for the dancers, and they all came back crying. Or if there was someone
who usually ate more food than the rest of us, but who ate only celery for dinner one night, we'd be all over her like a pack
of dogs, yapping and snarling that That's like REALLY dangerous, you won't have any energy, stop THAT RIGHT NOW! She'd burst
into tears and say that her boyfriend wanted her to lose weight. Fuck him! Who needs it? we cried, and gave her hugs.
I was terrifically hungry, I'd eat a few pretzels, a bit of corn, or some rice with lots of salt. Like, a really disgusting
amount of salt. Dehydration, induced by both incessant vomiting and a lack of nutrients makes you crave salt in the worst
way. It makes mustard delicious. It makes you want a salt lick. People stare, then try not to as you shake and shake and shake
on the salt. You glance up, say,"What?" When you get to the hospital, you will scream at the nurse, the nutritionist, the
doctor, the laundry boy, because you only get one of those little teeny packets of salt with your meal. You want handfuls
and handfuls of salt.
Sundays, we'd binge. Several of us, unspoken. On Sundays there was a dress-up brunch in the cafeteria,
buffets of sugary institution rolls, muffins, Danish, coffee cake, huge stainless steel trays of crusting mashed potatoes,
eggs, sausage, hash browns. We'd eat and eat and eat. But we ate strange things: seven blueberry muffins, an entire plate
of salty mashed potatoes, fourteen chocolate chip cookies. Sunday afternoons, you'd see us, faces pinched, hopping aerobically
up and down, pedaling wildly on ancient stationary bikes. One Sunday, standing in the cafeteria with Lora, eating frozen yogurt,
a friend of hers said to me: God, do you do anything other than run and eat?
l said, defensively: I don't eat that
The bragging was the worst. I hear this in schools all over the country, in cafés and restaurants, in bars, on
the Internet, for Pete's sake, on buses, on sidewalks: Women yammering about how little they eat. Oh, I'm Starving, I haven't
eaten all day, I think I'll have a great big piece of lettuce, I'm not hungry, I don't like to eat in the morning (in the
afternoon, in the evening, on Tuesdays, when my nails aren't painted, when my shin hurts, when it's raining, when it's sunny,
on national holidays, after or before 2 A.M.). I heard it in the hospital, that terrible ironic whine from the chapped lips
of women starving to death, But I'm not hun-greeee. To hear women tell it, we're never hungry. We live on little Ms.
Pac-Man power pellets. Food makes us queasy, food makes us itchy, food is too messy, all I really like to eat is celery. To
hear women tell it we're ethereal beings who eat with the greatest distaste, scraping scraps of food between our teeth with
our upper lips curled.
For your edification, it's bullshit.
Starving is the feminine thing to do these days,
the way swooning was in Victorian times. In the 1920s, women smoked with long cigarette holders and flashed their toothpick
legs. In the 1950s, women blushed and said tee-hee. In the 1960s, women swayed, eyes closed, with a silly smile on their faces.
My generation and the last one feign disinterest in food. We are "too busy" to eat,"too stressed" to eat. Not eating, in some
ways, signifies that you have a life so full, that your busy-ness is so important, that food would be an imposition on your
precious time. We claim a loss of appetite, a most-sacred aphysicality, superwomen who have conquered the feminine realm of
the material and finally gained access to the masculine realm of the mind. And yet, this maxim is hardly new. A lady will
eat like a bird. A lady will look like a bird, fragile boned and powerful when in flight, lifting weightless into the air.
feign disinterest and laugh, and creep into the kitchen some nights, a triangle of light spilled on the floor from the fridge,
shoveling cold casseroles, ice cream, jelly, cheese, into our mouths, swallowing without chewing as we listen to the steady,
echoing tisk-tisk-tisk of the clock. I have done this. Millions of people have done this. There is an empty space in
many of us that gnaws at our ribs and cannot be filled by any amount of food. There is a hunger for something, and we never
know quite what it is, only that it is a hunger, so we eat. One cannot deny the bodily response to starvation, and that is
part of the reason, some nights, I sat in the basement of the dorms, locked in a bathroom, watching myself in the mirror as
I stuffed candy bars, chips, vending machine anything into my mouth, and then threw up. There is also a larger, more ominous
hunger, and I was and am not alone in sensing it. It squirms under the sternum, clawing at the throat.
At school we
were hungry and lost and scared and young and we needed religion, salvation, something to fill the anxious hollow in our chests.
Many of us sought it in food and in thinness. We were very young at a time in our lives when the search for identity, present
and future, was growing intense, the hunger for knowledge and certainty extreme. Many of us came from less-than-grounded families.
We were living inside a pressure cooker, competition tough, stakes very high, the certainty of our futures nonexistent, the
knowledge that one is choosing a difficult life clear and the awareness that one's chances of "making it" were slim. This
created, quite simply, a hunger for certainty.
We lived in a larger world where there is also a sense of hunger and
a of lack. We can call it loss of religion, loss of the nuclear family, loss of community, but whatever it is, it has created
a deep and insatiable hunger in our collective unconscious. Our perpetual search for something that will be big enough to
fill us has led us to a strange idolatry of at once consumption and starvation.We execute "complicated vacillations...between
self-worship and self-degradation," the pendulum swinging back and forth, missing the point of balance every time. We know
we need, and so we acquire and acquire and eat and eat, past the point of bodily fullness, trying to sate a greater need.
Ashamed of this, we turn skeletons into goddesses and look to them as if they might teach us how to not-need.
at school was obsessed with food. There were the others. Oddly enough, my closest friends there were marginally healthy about
diet (of course, several of them were male), and simply by virtue of being young, very few of my friends knew anything about
eating disorders beyond their conceptual existence. This problem, rampant as it was, did not share the same very public sphere
at Interlochen that drugs and drinking did. As the dead of winter set in, my friends began to worry. I ate strangely. At meals,
they'd say, too casually, Mar, don't you want some? They'd push food at me. You need protein, Anna would say. Have some cottage
cheese, have some beans, eat something, you must be hungry. By December, I had decided to ingest one hundred calories a day
It seemed a good number, a tidy number, a "diet" rather than a disorder, a Plan. Carrots, mustard, two pretzels, the milk
in my coffee. My friends would sit down at breakfast, loudly saying: Oh, yum, I love oatmeal Mar, go get some oatmeal. It's
really good today, Mar. Oatmeal is low fat, they'd say in a singsong voice, waving bowls of oatmeal under my face as I scowled,
pulling back from it like a baby having a good pout. Mar, you'll be hungry, they'd say. I'd change the subject.
break came. I flew home. In the Traverse City airport, we sat, nervous and sad, distracted, laughing
too sharply. Few of us wanted to go back to where we came from. I got drunk in the Detroit
airport and even drunker on the plane. Calorie counting was pushed aside in favor of oblivion. My mother picked me up. Her
face was tight, her mouth pressed together in a thin line. I looked about thirty. My skin was ghastly pale, my red lipstick
garish, black clothes too loose and too old. She gave me a stiff hug. We walked to the luggage carousel, barely speaking.
Surely she was worried, that's all it was. But I was only fifteen, and my mother is a difficult woman to read. Her face clenched
with -- distaste? irritation? what had I done now? I said, sarcastically: Well, you're glad to see me. She made that tssk
noise and said, Oh Marya. I said, What? She tssked and turned her head, moved quickly, professionally, efficiently.
We swooped through the airport like witches on twin brooms.
January was cold, February colder. During my vacation I
had achieved the acclaim I'd wanted in the form of compliments for having lost weight, giving me an oddly flat, fleeting sense
of accomplishment. I couldn't figure out how to say "no Christmas dinner for me, thanks" without causing a ruckus, and upon
my return to school I decided to eat once a week, in penance for the minimal eating I'd done at home. I ate on Sundays. Rice.
did this until I began bingeing and purging almost autonomously. This sounds very odd to people who haven't been malnourished,
maybe even to those who have, but scientifically speaking, your body will actually override your brain and make you eat. You
suddenly find yourself hanging up the phone after having ordered a pizza, with no way to hide either pizza or the hunger it
implies. You lock yourself in your bedroom and eat it and puke. Or, you find yourself alone in the cafeteria, filling plate
after plate, and you're so bloody hungry that the smell of the food, the existence of all-you-can-eat buffets, the garish
light and the 1aughter and hundreds of mouths opening wide and taking in food, take over and you eat and eat and eat and run
to the bathroom and puke. Or, one day you find yourself walking along, and you impulsively stop in a restaurant, order an
enormous dinner, and puke in the woods.
Maybe the issue is that your body remembers a time when you did eat normally.
When you were hungry, you stopped at a restaurant and ate. There is a kind of buzzing that goes on in your brain, and you
miraculously forget, at least long enough to eat, that you are studiously trying to be a good anoretic. Midway through the
food you remember, but then it's too late and you're still fucking hungry and you're hungry even after the food's all gone,
but then you feel so unbelievably guilty and hideous that you have to, you have to throw up, and so you do and everything
That's really the worst of it. That's what mortifies me now when I listen to women in the thick of it
telling me how much better they feel when they barf, when they talk about the release, the comfort, the power, however illusory
and short-lived, of being able to conquer nature. Of being able to spit in the face, or rather puke on the shoes, of this
material realm. I remember that relief, that power. I miss it. It hurts like a sonofabitch. It's disgusting, but it was my
safeguard, my sure thing, my security, my life for all those years. It was something I knew for sure, no question, that I
was good at. I knew it would be there for me when I needed it. That's the thing: It's still there. It wheedles at me, after
dinner: Come on, you're stressed, wouldn't it feel better? You wouldn't be so full. Come on, just this once? It's always there,
every day. The bathroom is right down the hall, precisely ten steps away from where I sit at my desk -- and I have counted
those steps, pacing back and forth some afternoons, ten steps, ten tiny little steps. If the need was great enough, I could
make it in three long strides.
to: the HarperCollins page on Wasted
Magazine's discussion feature on Wasted
People judge people. It’s a fact of life in the society we live
in today. I understand that, weather I like it or not, I am still under that scrutiny.
Weather it changes me or not however, is ultimately my choice.
But I think I will clear some things up, give people some reasons for
a few of the things they criticize me for.
My blanket- Ahhh yes, my famous pink blanket. My “nasty piece
of ugly fuzz” Wanna know a little story about this blanket of mine? When I was born it was the first thing I was wrapped
up in, the first thing I did was grasp the edge to stop the tears. Something that I still do.
When I was just a little girl, I was dieing from phenomena. They didn’t
think I would live a lot longer and one night the northern lights filled the sky, every color you could think of, from horizon
to horizon. My parents wrapped me up in that blanket and sat on the hood of our car with me so I could see it. It was the
first time I ever saw the aurora.
It brings me comfort, it keeps my anxiety at bay, and it helps to get
me threw the day, and that’s all that matters.
My pallor- Guess what? I’m pale. In the winter I turn translucent,
and yes you can see my veins beneath my skin. I get sick a lot as well, and yes I do look like I’m dieing. Did you ever
think I could be?
I was born with a weak immune system, illnesses attack me for a long
time before it gets the hint to kick in, so I get very worn down. And after some events in my past, I have a shortened life
span. I will enjoy it and live it the fullest I can. Why do people fear death so greatly, its just another part of nature…which
people fear as well.
The “Nature freak” thing- Do you think its an insult to
me to call me a “tree hugger” or “tree talker”? Its not. If you knew the things I knew, could hear
the things I hear…you would understand. And no offence, but I prefer the company of trees to the cruelty of you human
I could go on, but why take your fun away? I just thought I’d
let you know, for ignorance’s bliss only lasts for a little while.
Some Lesson's for Life
by An Unknown Author
1 - Most Important Lesson
During my second month of college, our professor gave
us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: "What is the
first name of the woman who cleans the school?" Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times.
She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50's, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question
blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. "Absolutely," said
the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even
if all you do is smile and say 'hello.'" "I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy,"
2 - Second Important Lesson - Pickup in the Rain
One night, at 11:30 PM, an older
African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rain storm. Her car had broken
down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help
her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960s The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her
into a taxicab. She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock
came on the man's door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached.
It read: "Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also
Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband's bedside just before he passed
away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others." Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole.
3 - Third Important Lesson - Always remember those who serve
In the days when
an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10 year old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass
of water in front of him. "How much is an ice cream sundae?" he asked. "Fifty cents," replied the waitress. The little boy
pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it. "Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?" he inquired.
By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. "Thirty-five cents," she brusquely replied."
The little boy again counted his coins. "I'll have the plain ice cream," he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put
the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back,
she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies.
You see, he couldn't have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.
4 - Fourth Important Lesson - The Obstacle in Our Path
In ancient times, a King
had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the
king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping
the road clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the away. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of
vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the
road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed
a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating
that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand.
Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.
5 - Fifth Important Lesson - Giving When it Counts
Many years ago, when I worked
as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz, who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her
only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the
same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little
brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister.
I saw him hesitate for only a
moment before taking a deep breath and saying, "Yes, I'll do it, if it will save her." As the transfusion progressed, he lay
in bed next t! o his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheek. Then his face grew pale and
his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away?" Being young,
the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order
to save her. You see, after all, understanding and attitude, are everything.
The Cracked Pot
"A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried
across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full
portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.
For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half
pots full of water in his master's house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the
end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able
to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer
one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you. "Why?" asked the bearer. "What are you
ashamed of?" "I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side
causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work,
and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.
The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, "As
we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path." Indeed, as they went up
the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this
cheered it somewhat. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so
again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.
The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of
your path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it.
I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you've watered them.
For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table. Without you being just
the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house."
The moral of this story:
Each of us has our own unique flaws. We're all cracked pots. In this world,
nothing goes to waste. You may think like the cracked pot that you are inefficient or useless in certain areas of your
life, but somehow these flaws can turn out to be a blessing in disguise."
Gaia's View on Lawns
Gaia : you know all about gardens and nature, what in the world is going on down there in the U.S.? What
in the world happened to the dandelions, violets, thistles and the stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance
garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long
lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of color by now.
All I see are patches of green.
Daphne: It's the tribes that settled there, Great Goddess. They are called the Suburbanites. They started
calling your flowers "weeds" and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.
Gaia; Grass? But it is so boring, it's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, bees or birds, only
grubs and sod worms. It's temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want grass growing there?
Daphne: Apparently so,Great Goddess. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each
spring by fertilizing it and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.
Gaia: The spring rains and the warm weather probably makes the grass grow really fast. That must make
the Suburbanites very happy.
Daphne: Apparently not, Great Goddess, As soon as it has grown a little, they cut it; sometimes two times
Gaia: They cut it? Do they bale it like hay?
Daphne: Not exactly Great Goddess. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.
Gaia: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?
Daphne; No momma, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.
Gaia: Now let me get this straight: They fertilize it to make it grow and when it does grow, they cut
it off and pay to throw it away?
Daphne: Yes, Momma.
Gaia: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat.
That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.
Daphne: You aren't going to believe this Great Goddess. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag
out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.
Gaia: What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do
say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground
and form a natural blanket to keep the moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves
become compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life.
Daphne: You'd better sit down, Great Goddess. As soon as the leaves fall, The Suburbanites rake them into
great piles and pay to have them hauled away.
Gaia: No way!! What do they do to protect the shrubs and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist
Daphne: After throwing the leaves away they go out and buy something called mulch. They haul it home and
spread it around in place of the leaves.
Gaia: And where to they get this mulch?
Daphne: They cut down the trees and grind them up to make mulch.
Gaia: Enough!! I don't want to think about this anymore. Cerridewin, you're in charge of the arts. What
movie have you scheduled for us tonight?
Cerridewin : "Dumb and Dumber," great goddess. It's a real stupid movie about...
Gaia: Never mind -- I think I just heard the whole story from Daphne -
Blood Mysteries - the subject that
is most dear to my heart. What are Blood Mysteries I hear you ask? They are what make woman sacred and special and they have
been ignored and maligned over the past few centuries to the degree of women hating their bodies at "that time of the month".
Not me - I adore my body at that time of the month (sort of hehe), I try take time out of my hectic pace of this life to totally
honour and acknowledge my body.
What so many of us have forgotten is
that the blood of our bodies - in specific our wombs - is the blood of life and without this blood there would be not creation
of new life. If our bodies did not generate this magnificent elixir then no egg would be produced and no seed could be planted
to take root and grow into a new entity.
So why then is this life force treated
as if it is dirty and evil? That is the question that has haunted women for so many years but which I hope, as we enter the
new millenium, can be answered and women can once more be allowed and encouraged to honour the very source of life.
But how does one do this in the world
as we know it. It isn't easy but it needs to be done for women to connect on a deeper level with who they are.
Mystery is defined as that which is
beyond understanding, that which baffles or perplexes, that which is profound and known only by revelation. When we speak
of women's Blood Mysteries, we are referring to the biological events of Menarche, Childbirth, and Menopause that are accompanied
by changed perspective and the influx of knowledge beyond reason. We don't know why we change and grow and acquire knowledge
so dramatically at these times, but we do--this is the Mystery. And as we share this knowledge, the revelations linked to
changes in our bodies, we reclaim the power and wisdom inherent in being women.
Menarche is a prime example of how
mystery has accorded women power and respect. Before the advent of science, menstruation was biologically confounding -- how
could women bleed thus, and not be injured? This must be magic, the ability of women to bleed and yet be well! Long before
conception was understood to require fertilization, women were thought to generate life simply by withholding their menstrual
blood in an autonomous feminine process. The sexual act was not linked to conception. Women were apparently stirred by spirit,
then retained their blood, gestated and brought forth new life. Thus menopause was viewed not as a loss, but as an increase
of power--older women permanently retained their blood and so transcended the cycle of death and rebirth; they became as the
source of creation.
But when Christianity recast women's
bodies as evil, the source of original sin, the womb ceased to be a sacred temple and the Blood Mysteries were no longer acknowledged.
And as science deconstructed human beings to a set of physiological functions, medical technology developed to further separate
body and spirit. Now we have tools to "aid" the birth process, medications to "ease" menstruation or override the effects
of menopause, surgery to extirpate women of their wombs. We seek to tame and dominate the forces of nature: we plant crops
that deplete the soil, we raze our forests and pollute our waters. This would be unthinkable in a world that reveres the feminine.
This is not to deny that technology
has its benefits -- contraception has been a boon, and women's lives have been saved in complicated childbirth or pathological
But we have lost the Mystery. Reclaiming
women's blood rites as profound psychological turning points is the foundation of revealing new, empowering archetypes for
women, and rediscovering our most ancient ones.
The BLOOD MYSTERIES of Avalon
< The young maidens coming into their
first moonblood were considered the embodiment of the Maiden Goddess and Huntress. Those who had borne children embodied the
Mother Goddess, offering the additional wisdom of their greater life experience to the work of the moon-time. Their guidance
assured that the Goddess's messages would be clear and true for all of Her children.
< Among the Hunter-Gatherers, women
were honored as the source of all life. It was they who provided for the tribe by gathering the foods and herbs that were
needful to sustain them through the long winter months. The children they bore sustained the Elders when age kept them from
continuing their duties. No man was allowed to be present at childbirth. Only when the midwives had done with their task and
mother and child were safely delivered was the father allowed within the birthing room. Mothers were honored and richly gifted
by the whole community.
< MOTHERHOOD: <
In all Sisterhoods, the changing role of the mother-to-be was honored prior to the onset of labor by Rites symbolizing her
descent within and emergence from the Regenerative Cauldron of the Great Mother. Although the priestesses had novices to help
mind their babes, in becoming a mother each woman assumed the role of nurturer within their tribe. Tribal mothers were considered
the embodiment of the Mother Goddess.
< MENOPAUSE: <
Most powerful of all was the woman who no longer shed her blood, but kept its wisdom within her. Except during the Moon Rath,
the Crone had no need of minding children; her task was to teach and guide the community's spiritual life. In the most ancient
reaches of our Tradition, tribe and clan were ruled not by Chieftains or High Kings, but by a Council of Nine women Elders
accomplished in healing, midwifery, oracle and priestesscraft. It was these Elders who provided judicial, spiritual and mundane
guidance to tribe and clan. The woman whom all the Council agreed was the greatest adept among them became the Morgen. As
the Sisterhoods grew and expanded, it was she who represented her people among the Nine Morgens of Avalon.
< THE GUARDIANS: <
It was the men's task to guard the sanctity of the Moon Rath or Oracle and ensure that nothing intruded upon the solitude
of the bleeding women. In the time of the Hunter-Gatherers, the tribes lived in a matrifocal world (a Mother-centered society
in which women and men are considered equals]. Men were honored as hunters, builders and protectors of home and family. In
a time when folk owned no land or cattle, wars were few; but the elements provided plenty of challenges and what stores could
be put by had to be protected from the ravages of nature's other creatures. In a time when warriorcraft consisted mainly of
Shadow work with "the enemy within," men earned their highest honor as guardians, fathers and sages.
< MENARCHE, MOTHERHOOD & MENOPAUSE:
Maiden, Mother, Crone
At the heart of Avalon's Women's Mysteries lie the Blood Mysteries. It is through their moonblood that women most strongly
experience Cycle, the turning of the ancient Avalonian Wheel. Embodying the central mystery of the Cauldron of Death and Rebirth,
moonblood was the first offering to the Great Mother: It fed the child within the womb or bore it thence unto the tomb; in
the fields, fed corn and rye; but held within made women wise.
A "mooning woman" [a phrase whose origins are obvious] is at her
most powerful, open to the subtle messages of all the Worlds. As offering to the Great Goddess, her blood ensured the tribe's
survival. In time past, when women's moons came mainly at dark of moon, special rituals and customs marked and honored its
< MENARCHE: <
In all nine Sisterhood centers, women met in a Moon Mound or Rath [dream lodge] to share the visions evoked by the blood,
which was collected for offering. Their dreams, shared when they emerged, provided guidance for family and tribe.
Ban-Draoi sat atop the druid's egg [kept at the Temple of the Morgens, vulva of the Goddess within the landscape]
and prophesied. Their blood, collected in the cupmark on the top of the stone, was used as offering in ritual and given back
to replenish the fields.
< The Rites of Passage of the Sisterhood
centers through all Ages and Archetypes reflect the deep symbolism with which ritual actions and words were imbued by the
ancients. Ritual (especially of the pre-Celtic, Hunter-Gatherer period) was light on speaking and heavy on symbolic imagery.
The holiest images were those which reflected the body and essence of the Great Mother in any of Her forms. If we examine
the fetishes and other artifacts of the people of the Goddess Cults we find an abundance of vulva, womb and breast images
consistent with a faith that revolved around a nurturing Mother Goddess.
These are also the images evoked in ritual, for
"Like Attracts Like..."
< Through the shapes and forms of individuals
and groups in stillness and in motion the sacred landscape of the Mother is revealed and the spiral journey illuminated. In
our literal, function-oriented world it is often difficult to refind the silence of sacred space and the subtle nuances of
symbolic language. Yet it is this which we must rediscover if we are to fully experience and understand Avalon. We must balance
function and poetic form. We must cease to be functionaries and become again the vessels of the gods.
Blood Mysteries - General Information
In creating this page I was confronted with the fact that although women's
spirituality is a very strongly emerging presence today, there is extremely little information on that sacred mystery that
makes women sacred and unique. This page is not just intended to focus on women's blood mysteries, but on the magick and mystery
of blood in general. I had planned to start with women, as I am one.
It puzzled me as I searched the web,
magazines, and books for distinguishable and accurate information regarding blood, especially women's blood, as I had not
thought it a taboo any longer. But make no mistake, the information may not be readily in print, but it is there and has been
for more years than any of us can comprehend. Ever since the first women humans have had the gift of sacred blood.
In the beginning, according to the
Wise Woman tradition, everything began, as everything does, at birth. The Great Mother of All gave birth and the earth appeared
out of the void. Then the Great Mother of All gave birth again, and again, and again, and people, and animals, and plants
appeared on the earth. They were all very hungry.
"What shall we eat?" they asked the
Great Mother. "Now you eat me," she said, smiling.
Soon there were a very great many lives,
but the Great Mother of All was enjoying creating and giving birth so much that she didn't want to stop. "Ah," she said smiling,
"now I eat you." And so she still does.
We all come from the same mother. We
all return to her embrace, bloody-rich womb place, when we die. Every woman is a whole/holy form of her. Every woman's blood
is a holy mystery. The word "blood" is one with some mystery and stigma attached to it. It bothers no one to say the word
"blood" when a person is cut and bleeding. It bothers no one to use the word "blood" in poetry and song. But it does begin
to make people tense when we hear/see certain words spoken or written with of the word "blood". For example, "sacred blood"
alerts most people immediately to a hushed and quiet sense of wrong or taboo. What about "blood mysteries"? That is equally
shocking to some.
But blood is the elixer of life. Without
it we cannot live. In fact, through the monthly cycles of blood shedding in women we realize that blood means fertility and
is a metaphor for life itself. This is the beginning of blood as something sacred and blood as a mystery.
Blood mysteries teach that women's
blood is holy blood, healing blood. The blood mysteries teach us to remember that life and healing comes from and returns
Every month we remember: I am woman.
I am earth. I am life. I am nourishment. I am change. Even as women cycle monthly we each have patterns in that cycle. We
may feel fatigued, creative, sad, happy, or introspective, for example, during certain patterned times throughout our cycle.
Part of the scared mystery of this is realizing that these times are portals for magick and growth. By recognizing this we
become more in touch with our bodies and our selves.
For too many years has the word "period"
been hushed. We are women. We bleed. We also give life to every human being that has ever existed and ever will exist. When
we hear terms like, "oh, she must be on the rag" to describe a woman's attitude it is demeaning to every woman. What person
can presume to know what a woman feels or how her period affects her? That is especially no man's place to presume such things.
Why, when a woman complains, is she a "bitch", or has PMS? When a man complains he is seen to be expressing justfiable woes,
but a woman is called "bitch" or "nag" before what she has to say is even heard- have you ever asked yourself why that is?
The answer is quite disturbing. Women, in this world, do not matter as much as men. This is not to say we need special treatment-
we don't. But we live in a world oriented toward men... and it shows.
I am no feminist. At least not in the
hard core sense. I enjoy a man who opens doors for me, yet I assume he knows I am capable of doing it myself. I enjoy when
my husband will step forward and defend me if needed, although he and I both know I am quite capable of handling myself in
any situation. I am not a "feminazi", but for those who are, I have realized the justification in that view. Women are not
an extension of men. We are separate, equal, and magickal.
As a woman, I am blatantly and repeatedly
confronted with my changes: hormonal harmonics stirring moon time visions, ovulatory oracles, pre-menstrual crazies, orgasmic
knowings, birth ecstasies, breast-feeding bliss, menopausal moods.
I am wholeness. I am woman. I know
the bloody places: the narrow space between life and death, the mess of nourishing life, the flow of letting life go. The
Wise Woman tradition is a bloody-handed woman, a bloody-thighed woman, a woman who sees to the other side of things.
All shamanic powers are the powers of women's
blood mysteries. Shamanic powers are the natural powers of menstruating, menopausal, and post-menopausal women:
* Oneness with the earth, with Gaia, as a responsive nuturing presence
Communication with plants, animals, rocks
* Weather making
* Shape shifting
with fairies, devas, elves, dragons, unicorns...
* Acutely sensitive senses of smell, taste, hearing,
excerpt (modified) from Healing Wise
It is time for women to reclaim their strength.
The blood mysteries are important in
daily life as well as for magickal purposes. The following pages hold ritual, magick, and perspective....
Blood Mysteries - Ritual
THE PURPOSE OF WOMEN’S RITUAL
< To celebrate Women’s
Mysteries is to reclaim and to re-sacralize our journey through the five blood mysteries. Although the blood mysteries are
natural physiological occurrences, under patriarchy these passages have become tainted, even to ourselves, by being ignored,
discounted, invalidated, and shamed through a cultural denial of women’s uterine blood and by the oppression of male-dominated
religions. Women don’t even realize that they are being robbed of the opportunity for profound spiritual connection
through the reverent celebration of their bodies. Under patriarchy, the natural cycles of womb blood are defined as unclean,
polluting, and shameful when they are recognized at all. Because women are not permitted to consciously live in their bodies
and must adapt to the artificial ways in which their lives are structured, there is an impact on the way women experience
menstruation, pregnancy, birth, and menopause physically, emotionally, and psychically. Young girls are taught to hide the
evidence of their monthly cycle, and most menopausal women experience this passage in silence, depression, and isolation.
Historically, under patriarchy, the human body, and especially women’s bodies and their children, became men’s
property. Women in most parts of the world today continue to suffer from the impact of this historical change. How have we
women internalized that attitude in our own self-perception? To what extent does that historical change continue to affect
us personally and collectively today? When the miracles of creation and transition have been so long denied to us, how can
we begin to measure the depth of our loss, the absence of our birthright to recognize ourselves as reflections of the Goddess?
Is it possible that the patriarchal legacy of ownership is the source of the disconnected feelings that so many women of today
have with their bodies? If we don‘t feel that we truly belong to ourselves, how can we be truly present and aware of
what we feel physically and emotionally?
The reclaiming and recreation of women’s rites takes the diverse threads of women’s lives and weaves them into
a tapestry, a whole multi-colored cloth of physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Ritual provides a medium to convey meaning
to ourselves through the manipulation of symbolic objects, specific activities, or actions; serving as a bridge to carry meaning
to the personal or collective, conscious and subconscious mind. When ritual is consciously created and enacted, the women
are transformed and the past, present, and future are linked into a continuum that can be observed, felt, and learned from.
When life passages are clearly marked through ritual, we can "connect the dots of events in our lives" to see the pattern
in what may have previously felt like a random series of events. We can observe, understand, and integrate those events that
have shaped our attitudes about womanhood, sexuality, love, and life.
Although some people use the words ceremony and ritual interchangeably, ceremony describes a series of acts, often symbolic,
as prescribed by law, religion, or state. Ceremony generally implies little to no improvisation, and is generally more rote,
regimented, and concerned with the exact order of things and the precision of each enactment.
The purpose of ritual, on the other hand is transformation. Although ritual is likely to have a specific purpose, form, enactments,
and direction of flow, its flexible form allows room to breathe and incorporates the unforeseen and unexpected inspirations
and responses of those women facilitating and participating. Although there may be transformational aspects to ceremony and
ceremonial aspects to ritual, the internal result of the experience indicates which form is dominant in the occasion: transformation
or merely a marking of time.
In order to heal and help change past attitudes or beliefs that impact the present, many women are creating rituals in the
present that revisit past experiences and milestones not recognized as significant at the time. There is healing in giving
ourselves in the present what we were not able to give ourselves, or did not know that we needed in the past. A post-menopausal
woman might create or participate in a menstruation ritual that may help to heal her from generations of familial denial of
that important passage for young women. I have witnessed countless times the power ritual has to transcend linear time and
help to heal past experiences.
Ritual can give women a sense of connection to their ancestors and to the greater circle of women spanning centuries of history
and culture. This is especially true of the blood mysteries where the blood connection from our maternal ancestors, our grandmothers,
our own mothers, through ourselves, and on to our daughters, is so deeply felt. When we celebrate a young woman’s first
bloods, we are linking back to our single shared ancestor from our most ancient past, through our woman line, our woman’s
blood. It is upon the womb blood of women that all human life depends. It is the elixir of life contained within the Holy
Grail of the womb from which creation itself sips.
RITUAL AND WOMEN’S LIVES
< Any life passage
or transition we experience deserves conscious attention. We internalize attitudes or beliefs about ourselves, our bodies,
our sexuality, and life in general based on how our experiences are responded to, or not, by others and ourselves. In the
aftermath of a significant transition, we formulate life decisions, consciously or unconsciously. These internalized decisions
continue to influence us in our present and into our future, affecting our behavior, actions, and choices. Unexamined, negative
subconscious decisions can have devastating far-reaching affects. An example of this would be a girl’s first menstruation.
Often, this first experience is met with secrecy, embarrassment or shame. Somewhat more positively, but less frequently, the
girl’s parents do their best to not make it a "big deal." Internally, the girl develops an attitude that either being
a woman is dirty or shameful, or becoming a woman is "no big deal." Either decision follows her into womanhood, affecting
her relationship with her body, her sexuality, and the physical symptoms of her monthly cycle. In other words, what we do
or don’t do in treating or responding to a significant life passage or transition can have an enormous effect on the
rest of that woman’s life.
According to medical intuitive and healer Caroline Myss, every memory, decision, and attitude has an energetic factor or consequence
to it. There is an energetic "cost" to not dealing with these negative past or present experiences. For every negative experience
we have had that has not been consciously dealt with, there continues to be a "leaking" of one’s present life force
energy to that past experience. In her words, "You are in as many places as your emotional energy takes you," and that using
your present reservoir of energy to "finance" the past is one of the causes for susceptibility to physical illness. Ritual
provides an opportunity to address memories, decisions, and attitudes energetically. It is never too late to "call your spirit
back," as Caroline Myss describes it, and "unplug" your circuits from those experiences. The impact upon our lives from passages
that were unmarked by ritual is impossible to fully comprehend. Many women are creating rituals to help heal and change attitudes
or beliefs that impact their present consciousness. They are magically reaching back into the past, revisiting experiences,
making different decisions based on new awareness, and marking milestones that were not recognized as significant at the time.
Any event that you find personally significant is worthy of ritual attention.
1. Take a moment to think of an important
experience that was not consciously treated as significant, either by yourself or others.
2. Reflect on what actually
happened and how you remember feeling at the time.
3. Recall now, what decision or decisions (consciously or unconsciously)
did you make from the experience. What information did you come away with that affirms or undermines your beliefs about life,
love, yourself, other people? What might you have internalized that is continuing to motivate your actions, decisions, or
beliefs in the present? How much of your life force in the present continues to be spent on this (these) decision(s)?
After examining this issue, what decisions do you still hold to be true? What decisions would you choose to change? What new
decision do you choose to hold? Record or share your answers in some way either through writing, drawing, dance, talking,
Doing this exercise often for different passages can bring you in touch with great personal revelations. It also can give
you ideas for creating rituals in the present that re-frame events of the past. Begin to make a list of passages or transitions
you would like to create ritual around. It is not too late to create a ritual now that would have been healing or helpful
twenty or thirty years earlier. Ritual has the power to transcend time and allow the mind and heart to heal and begin anew.
Blood Mysteries - Magick & Perspective
If I command the moon it will come down
And if I wish to withhold the day
will linger over my head
If I wish to embark on the sea
I need no ship
And if I wish to fly through
I am freed from my weight
She is acknowledged, and worshipped
in many contemporary cultures, by diverse names and in many aspects. She is the Goddess - counterpart to the God, and equally
important to spiritual balance in today's world.
The first association made with the
word "Goddess" is usually the images of primitive fertility goddesses, which are found scattered over Europe,
images which are thought to be among the first representations of the divine known to humankind. In searching for Her we undertake
a journey into that part of our own psyche, which resonates to the call of the wise.
However, She is not only the inspiration
of dead civilizations, nor an historical curiosity - seeking the Goddess is not a reversion to the primitive, but rather an
identification with a multi-faceted symbol. She means many different things to those who choose Her as artistic patron, or
as inspiration for their creative work and spirituality.
If we are inspired by myth, we are
drawn to examine the roles of men and women in the society, which gave rise to the myth. Among the earliest cultures, images
of fertile women and of the hunt were crafted in stone and clay, in ochre painted on cave walls and carved into the rock.
They are representations of two human needs - children to increase the tribe and food to sustain it - arguably the oldest
representations of deity. The images are important in their own right, for beyond the necessity for water, food Shelter and
companionship, these early people sought to express their concept of forces in nature, which shaped their lives. Like all
good art, it crosses cultural barriers and evokes feelings, which are relevant today, because we are still connected to the
same human needs.
Today, priestesses and priests of the
Goddess add their knowledge of psychology to the experience of history, to create a new worship from an ancient wisdom. They
celebrate the Goddess in religious rites, yet they also draw parallels between the myths of the Goddess and the phases of
human life - just as some people relate to the myth of Persephone in the Rites of Eleusis and perceive that it tells the tale
of the Maiden (Persephone), the Mother (Demeter) and the Crone (Hekate).
A triumvirate of maiden, mother and
crone is, in modern paganism, related to the phases of the moon, corresponding to first crescent, full moon, waning moon and
dark moon. The process of birth through growth, maturity, aging and death is also connected to the aspects of the goddess,
though the aspects are called by many diverse names from as many different pantheons.
In dreams, the Maiden often represents
the potential self, the person we are becoming, and a possibility not yet real. Something has been conceived - a new attitude
or idea, the seeds of a poem, an unknown strength, the courage to resist, or create or die.
There is a place within us
which contains the Maiden - complete unto ourselves, virgin, we proceed from a willingness to meet every stranger as another
deity in disguise. The Kore in Greek Myth can represent the potential within us all. We seek Her power, in the willingness
to enter initiation, to abandon perceptions, to enter the realm of the unknown. She is the Maiden who lives in harmony with
nature, who is reckless and restless about rules and restrictions. She is the Kore, stolen away by death into the underworld
where She undergoes the transformation knowledge brings. She is stolen, dispossessed of Her innocence to become the initiate
who is Persephone, Queen of the Underworld.
The knowledge gained in this journey, from child-woman to ruler of the dark
mysteries of the underworld, marks a separation from the mother in the individuation process; severed from the complacency
of childhood, we face our own decisions and trials. We take risks - sometimes risks that are not wise ones - but all these
risks and adventures make us who we will become. We are reminded that a willingness to face our own mortality and effect the
transformation of an initiatory experience marks our ability to complete the cycle of personal spiritual growth. The Maiden
awakens us to the potential and creative strengths that slumber in the underworld of our own psyche.
The Mother is nurturing, creative and
gives of Her substance to the world. She embraces the principles of returning and recycling energy. Through Her, the gifts
borne by the Maiden are transformed in the crucible of mature realization.
The Mother can be perceived as our nurturing
self, complete, but also a companion. She reaches beyond the singular to contain a multitude of possibilities. She is the
relating principle, able to encompass a relationship of equals, to create and to build strength in Herself and others. Giving
of Herself, She receives in return the freedom to fill Her cup with new dreams. The Mother has many images - She is the serpent
and the butterfly Goddess; She is the deer, the bear, the wolf or the sow and is mistress of the art of transformation. Her
association with these creatures is not totemic; She is not a woman with the characteristics and strengths of an animal. Instead,
She is the creature or the Goddess. Part of these tales of transformation speaks of metamorphic change, dispossession and
the process of alienation. Many myths tell of a Goddess who, in the dark of night, or at certain times, transforms or is transformed
by some magic process (not always by choice) into a mythic beast. Her offspring are referred tor as foals, cubs or kids and
are more powerful than their (often) mortal fathers in that they have the blood of faerie and the power to transform themselves.
These myths are part of our Heritage, where the realm between the worlds exerts its attraction and speaks to us of spiritual
Red is the color of the Mother - blood of birth, of the menstrual flow that Heralds the sea change at puberty
and heats the blood in passion. It also represents blood drawn by Her or owed to Her in battle. It is no co-incidence that
love Goddesses are often also warrior Goddesses; their language is that of the blood, the water of life. She teaches us that
duration and ripening, of ideas and maturity, are important; She emphasizes that we must free our children and ideas to blossom
in their own way. Until we have given of ourselves, we cannot either return to the Maiden within and learn things from a new
perspective, or move into the realm of the Crone, who is the weaver of dreams.
The Crone is the queen of the shades,
dark mistress of the night. She gathers the strands of our realizations and weaves a many-colored tapestry to illustrate our
lives. As a midwife and timekeeper, She attends each birth and cuts the cord that binds us to the Mother. She is priestess
and seer, weaver of magic and tide, who holds the spindle and measures the thread of our lifespan, weaving it into the web
for a certain time and then releasing us to the regeneration of death.
As ruler of the crossroads, She is the giver and
taker of gifts. She may grant us everything we desire or withhold it. She may wear all the faces of the Goddess simultaneously
and is often portrayed as a serpent with many heads or as a medusa. She is that which we most fear and are most fascinated
with - the realm of death. She leads the initiate into the depths of their own renewal in
Her role as teacher of the mysteries.
She is found in the twilight world, as wise women are often portrayed, or on the edge of a forest, a river, and the sea or
in an isolated cave. This makes Her a figure of dreams and magic. When we seek Her power within us, we challenge the boundaries
of life and are "out on the edge" of reality. Her, the balance is precarious but She teaches us to synthesize realizations
from the knowledge we glean from experience of life. Some of Her powers are those of the Fates, the Norns, and the Muses.
She is also seen as a spirit of the wind and of wild places where things may be transformed into their opposites. As such,
She can as easily change Her form and be seen as a woman of any age She chooses.
She is wanderer and oracle, Herbalist
and shape shifter, wild woman of the wilds. She moves between the worlds of humankind and the elder gods freely and without
restriction for She is a creature of all places, not just one physical realm. Where the Maiden can be seen as encompassing
potential, and the Mother contains all fulfillments, the Crone rejoices in release from ties. Her knowledge of that which
binds makes Her the ruler of cord magic and spinning. She apprehends the lessons of past, present and future and leads us
into the mysteries of renewal.
A MODERN PRACTICE
The Triple Goddess who manifests as
Maiden, Mother and Crone, is one of the forces worshipped in the Old Earth Religion and in modern Paganism and Wicca. She
is the creator / preserver / destroyer who interacts with other multi-faceted deities.
We borrow from cultures of the distant
past a concept of pattern, an ordered progression of changes within the individual and within society. Whether we perceive
the Goddess as the primal female aspect of our own nature or as an aspect of deity; or indeed, as the creative principle of
the universe, we can relate to imagery of the Goddess and find reflections of Her cycles in our own bodies. The process of
change and growth that occurs in our life is echoed in the myths of the Goddess, from various cultures, which stress connection
with nature and cultural rhythms. The theme of the Goddess leads to an examination of the role of deity in our everyday lives
and, in turn, an exploration of the inspiration provided by spiritual or religious principles.
Now and again in the world individuals
seek personal inspiration from the environment and express that connection through art, music, dance and ritual. We create
the fragile strands of a cultural web and call on the many aspects of deity who are part of our spirituality.
The Goddess has many names and is as
real to Her Priestesses and Priests today as She was in remote history. We call on the ancient wisdom, on the Lady who has
changed Her shape to fit the needs of Earth's children. We worship and celebrate in open fields and groves of trees, in suburban
living rooms and city parks, carrying a wild magic in our hearts and a willingness to undergo transformation and challenges
in the names of the deities we worship.
The Goddess is once more honored in
all Her aspects and finds a place in our hearts and our daily lives. Her power is seen in nature, in the depth of sacred pools
and in the pull of the tides of earth and sea. The Mystery lives within us and is known by many names; we all carry Her within
us, whatever our gender or age.
As an individual, I am poised between
the faces of deity - between the underworld of dreams, myth and creativity on the one hand and the realm of thought, action
and self-expression on the other. As priestess and woman I flow along the edge of the blade, a precarious but exhilarating
balance - celebrating deity and life.
Blood Mysteries - The Siren
Sirens, crying beauty to bewitch men coasting by; woe to the innocent who hears that sound!...
The Sirens will sing his mind away on their sweet meadow lolling.
There are bones of dead men rotting in a pile beside
them and flayed skins shrivel around the spot.
In my skin, she is there; ink and blood paint her into everything I am,
while she gazes from behind me, murmuring curses we would kill to hear.
She is veil of death, womb of blood, mystery of
the abyss. At her feet, the dead and the alive succumb to her song, to her flood of blood and sea and to her ever open wound.
In the past, we bled for the vision quest, blood streaming down thighs as, in groups, we gathered to exchange stories, to
Between our legs were Chaos, Night, Revenge. In other histories, we
bled impurity, our womb had teeth. The word hysteria rose out of the theory that our wombs moved freely around our internal
organs and caused insanity. The female blood and flesh were meant to be feared, reduced, denied, and now, synthetically perfumed.
To some, the woman was associated with water - unconsciousness, mystery,
depth, and sensuality. She held the power to bring drought and flood and to use her voice to condemn, cast spells and judgment,
to make blind or reveal. Listen! the swish of the blood,
The sirens down the bloodpaths of the night,
Bone tapping on the
Singing under the breath of sleep. 1
She gave the moon, and thereby, gave dreams - in some cultures, she
was forbidden to sleep during menstruation, for her dreams were considered altered by psychic powers too violent to be allowed
to speak through her. Elsewhere, it was this violence that was sought after in the bleeding woman - dreams became means of
divination. She became the moon, the triple-moon goddess, the maiden, mother, and crone. Her blood entailed descent, as in
Persephone and the crossing of the threshold of womanhood in her descent to Hades. The pomegranate she ate from was womb,
seed, and blood. The Furies, born from the blood of castrated Uranus, black-clothed avengers of crime, especially crimes of
blood. Their names are Allecto (neverending), Megaera (envious anger), and Tisiphone (retaliation).
The bleeding cycle
was used to gauge time, for the woman's blood is bound to the moon and the tides of the sea. Said Kali, "I AM Time, ever inclined
to destroy the worlds and annihilate all and anything that is not worthy of keeping." Here we unveil the Fates, born of night,
symbolic of ancient forms of Justice. Triple-goddesses still, they spin, measure, and cut the thread of life. Whatsoever they
will, be it annihilation or poetry, must come into being, must be born out of chaos and blood. The woman's blood and flesh
as life giver and life taker is prevalent in the paradoxes that so imbue the history of blood.
The blood that flowed from
Medusa's decapitated head fell on the desert, and there engendered snakes. The Gorgon's remaining blood was caught in vials
by Athena - it had such power that a single droplet from the left side could raise the dead, and the same amount from the
right could instantly kill. 2
To mark themselves with the power of menstrual blood, women have historically
made signs on their bodies to recreate the creative power, bringing warnings, protection, repellence, attraction, and religious
significance. The teaching of menstrual principles to men and the use of blood as a signal or sign or status was heightened
by the use of slashing - the women could create blood at will, through cutting. The sight of blood on another woman's thigh
could start a woman bleeding, so slashing, for some people, was a method of synchrony. Women found that they could have menstrual
signals visible on their faces and other parts of their bodies even when they were not in the dangerous state of menstruation.
Among native tribes, chin tattooing was primarily a mark of the female status achieved at menarche. Among some people, tattooed
lines continued down the neck onto the breasts or stomach. In addition to using tattoos for ritual purposes, people marked
their mouths and bodies with bits of special carved wood and shell. They were pushed through holes punctured in the skin,
ears, nose, septum, or embedded in the flesh of the menstruant.
All of the openings of the face were, by extension, vaginas
in need of protection. Protective ornaments have also been embedded around, and between, the eyes. Scarification was also
used to adorn and protect. Her body was a writing tablet before writing, covered with information. Her face, breasts, abdomen,
and back would be decoratively scarred as well. 3
Invoker of wound and mystery, the body of the woman is the immaculate
witness to time, vengeance, creation and destruction. The blood that floods down her skin is the siren song of mystery religions,
violence, the impenetrable thread that binds sex and death. In chaos she invokes shadows - the word made flesh - the rapture
of the curse, the bouquet of the underworld, the eyes that bleed.
(taken from-http://www.angelfire.com/realm2/amethystbt/index1.html and I give the author compleat and total credit for her work)
By Dr. Tom Pinkson
the mid 1970's I had the good fortune to spend some time living with Native American people in the desert
of Nevada. Each morning would begin with a sunrise ceremony and end with
a communal dinner, then sitting around the fire in the evening socializing, singing and discussing the events of the day.
I helped out with the building of a barn, hammering and nailing in the hot sun. When it got to hot, I'd jump down from the
roof and take a soak in a old bathtub filled with water. I worked hard and had a wonderful time learning the ways and being
part of a large, cooperative community.
One of the new learnings for me at the time was witnessing how the girls and
women who had their period went into a specially designated area where no men were allowed. They slept in a special tipi,
their meals were made for them, they had no chores to do, no tasks. They were given the whole time of their menstruation to
be either alone or with other women, off by themselves. They listened to their dreams, worked on various creative art projects,
or simply relaxed in meditative states of contemplation attuning to their feelings and the guidance of their intuition. Their
dreams were especially valued by the elders, for women "in their moon" were considered to be in a special state of power.
Through their physical opening they were in closer communion with the mysterious workings of the universe and their dreams
were carefully listened to for guidance affecting the whole tribe.
Their solitude was not a punishment, it was not
a banishment because of impurity. In fact, it was just the opposite. It was an honoring of the power of the woman and her
sacred status as bringer of new life. This power of woman was considered so important, so strong, that when it came upon her
through her sacred bleeding, it was important that she not have to be involved with anything else--not with taking care of
kids, household, husband, chores, work, not anything except be with and honor the flow of her deeper being. The women enjoyed
their monthly "vacation" which was a respite from the hard labor of the camp. It also placed the men in the position of once
per month taking care of the kids, home, meals, etc. It seemed to work quite well and I was very impressed by this social
and spiritual "arrangement" around biological function.
It was not until I spent time with Native American people that I was exposed to a healthier relationship with the
feminine and it felt right and I felt better to be a part of it.
Of course this belief system about menstruation was the exact opposite of the one I had been
introduced to by my culture which emphasized shame, dirty, something not to be discussed in public, embarrassing, etc. Scorn,
ridicule and harassment were the norms of my culture towards the woman and her period. Of course it did not stop there. The
ways, work and being of the feminine were all looked upon as inferior to the masculine. It was not something I liked but it
was all I was exposed to by the dominant cultural mores where I was brought up. It was not until I spent time with Native
American people that I was exposed to a healthier relationship with the feminine and it felt right and I felt better to be
a part of it. I thought about Joseph Campbell's notion of the formative function of myth in a culture. Campbell believed that a society's creation myths basically laid down the rules of how to
live properly to appease the gods and maintain equilibrium. Within the story portrayed in the myth lay the proper roles for
behavior for men and women, what was important and how to go about living in accord with these values.
With this idea
in mind it is interesting to look back at a key aspect of the creation story for western society--the drama in the Garden
of Eden. All was wonderful in the garden for Adam and Eve until, until, ah--here it comes--Eve leads poor Adam astray. She
in turn is led astray by the serpent. When Adam eats of the Tree of Knowledge, a tree that comes up from the earth, from below,
from nature, boom, they are busted and booted out of their idyllic state into a world of suffering and pain. Thus it is the
feminine that leads to the downfall brought on by the sensuous, undulating energy represented by the snake. For the Hebraic
people whose story this originally is, patriarchy was the social norm. Male babies were favored over girl babies, their deity
was a vengeful sky god figure who brooked no breaking of his laws. The priestly caste dictated that the way to Jehovah was
through them, and only them. Going to the earth, and the fruit of the earth for knowledge, was verboten. If you tried this
way of gaining wisdom, the punishment was direct and severe. The message was quite clear--don't listen to the feminine. Fear
it, control it, subdue it. Don't respect it, don't make a place for it in the pursuit of knowledge.
We have done a
pretty good job of integrating this disrespect of the feminine message as a look through his'tory and a perusal of
the daily news will readily ascertain. The rape of the earth, the abuse of women, the reliance on rationality and logic as
the only valid means of gathering information, the repression of feelings, of intuition, the manipulation of sex and sensuality
for profit instead of as a sacred gift of the spirit through the flesh, the repression of love and responsible loving and
the promotion of destruction, all testify to the imbalance we have created emanating from the creation myth we have lived
In contrast to this anti-feminine myth from our culture, in my travels with shamanic people around the world
I have found quite the opposite to be true. In these cultures I have found stories where it is the woman who brings the healing
medicine and who is thus honored and treated as respect. Healing and wisdom guidance flow right out of the Mother Earth and
is sought out in solitude through rites of passage and initiation such as the Vision Quest and pilgrimages to places of power.
Prayers and thankfulness offerings are made to the various manifestations of the feminine Goddess for without her there would
be not life. She, in all her wondrous and mysterious forms and gifts, is revered and worshiped. She is the Sacred Mother and
creative principle of creation. The Huichols call her "Tacutsi Nakaway", Great Grandmother Growth. She is a great Wisdom Elder.
I think we have to listen to her to get back into the garden. Now is her season and her finery is all around us. Let us drink
and eat of her wisdom, let us dance and sing praises of celebration for her bounty and her love. Let us work to protect her
and all her children. Let us grow new stories that enable us to grow in a healthy way, the way our Mother intended from the
beginning. Let us begin again, this time listening to the ancient counsel of the Wisdom Grandmother, the Sacred Feminine.
It is within us all, it is for us all.
Get bikini fit
Dimpled thighs, flabby tummy? It's time you get yourself a bikini...
out on a beach with those long perfectly shaped legs, sun-kissed tan and of course that little bikini that leaves almost nothing
to the imagination.
Okay, okay, we all might not have
legs that come up to our elbows or we may never wear that teeny bikini but we can be sure that time in the sun this summer
will be heaven. Still, it bothers me that there are women who are afraid of bikinis.
Just the other day I paged through
a popular South African magazine, and there she was, the model with a perfect body, looong legs, wearing a one-piece. And
the headline claimed that the one-piece costume is sexy! Have I missed something? Are South Africans bikini-prudes?
Some women shriek at the idea of
wearing anything that doesn't cover up those dimple-infested thighs or at the thought of bearing the extra flesh that shouldn't
be there in the first place.
What is it about women that makes
them too ashamed to get into a bikini and pretend that it's a secluded beach and it's okay to have flesh hanging out from
all the tight corners of the lycra bits that are so figure hugging it'll leave little red dents when it's taken off. Besides,
once you've mustered up the courage to get into a two-piece, the one-piece will be just a memory or left to the prudes of
I love bikinis on the beach, I wear
those briefs like no-one's watching or comparing.
But that's just it, isn't it - women
compare. They silently compare thighs, stomachs, hair, noses, dimples - and I'm not talking about the ones found on your face.
Yes, there are beautiful bodies on the beach. Yes, there are women who would put Elle Macpherson to shame, but hell, I wear
my bikini with pride, lazing in the sun and think that I'm having the time of my life. Why not? Why feel shitty about the
skinny bombshell with the surfboard tummy getting all the stares - from men and women?
There's no point in hiding behind
a huge swim-suit which will only make you look bigger. I know some grannies who still bare it all in a two-piece and they
look great - not because they're in shape but because they don't care. They go the to beach to feel their feet sinking in
the soft white sand, to be soothed by the lull of the ocean, to absorb every ray the sun has to offer and know that it's complete
I say let it all hang out, let your
briefs be brief, let the flab see the daylight and let the roving eyes of less secure women compare - because nothing compares
to spending the day at the beach, and that should be exactly the reason for going: Simply to get close to paradise and frolic
- wearing almost nothing. Forget the bikini-ready fitness, the bikini-ready diets and of course celebs in bikinis - because
it all starts with the way you think…the rest will follow.
If anything, let this summer be
about bikinis and being bold enough to let yourself wear one. It's called getting bikini fit - and it doesn't start with a
warm up. So, slap on some sunscreen, your sunglasses and a smile that says, "I don't care," and join those who are too cool
to worry about what others think.
She may not take exotic vacations or drive a sports car, but she still manages to enjoy the nectar of life.
Carolyn C. Armistead
It's fitting that my friend
Gina had just indulged in a luxurious massage when she spotted the phrase she would adopt as the motto for her life. The words,
on a poster her masseuse kept on the wall, read: "Live Juicy."
Live juicy. When she shared her new mantra with me,
I had to agree it sounded indulgent, sensual and exciting. After all, it's another way of saying carpe diem; what Thoreau
meant by "sucking out all the marrow of life," although that image isn't quite as appetizing. It's about not merely living
your life, but going for the juice. (I have since traced the phrase to a writer named Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, aka SARK, who penned a book published in 1994 called Living Juicy.)
Sure enough, Gina
has taken these words to heart. Recently, she showed me a picture of the luxury sports car she hopes to buy. "Now that's juicy,"
she remarked with relish. Gina's life is juicy in other ways as well. Her curly hair, which she used to keep cropped short,
has grown long, giving her a goddesslike appearance. She gets weekly manicures and frequent massages. She vacations in Italy
and wears sexy lingerie and toe rings. I envy her whole juicy life.
But if Gina is sipping apricot nectar, my world
is pulp-free orange juice. Where she is indulgent and adventurous, I am cheap, practical and something of a homebody. She
is silk; I'm worn flannel. She covets a BMW Z4 Roadster; I've settled for a minivan. Frankly, these realizations are disturbing.
In my quest for a comfortable, predictable, in-control life, have I forgotten how to fully live?
I used to know how.
I backpacked through Europe, climbed the Alps and stood in awe at the foot of a glacier.
I drove a dune buggy on the beach in Cozumel. I competed in four sprint triathlons. Sometimes
I've guzzled the juice, other times it's been a sip, but it's always been worthwhile.
After spending time with Gina
and contemplating my own woefully juiceless existence, I resolved to do something about it. After all, SARK
herself proclaims that living juicy is all about the small, celebratory choices you can make every day. Dry your clothes in
the sun, she suggests. Eat mangoes naked. Keep toys in the bathtub. These make me smile. These, I can do.
I'm learning, means challenging the ordinary, making a point of doing things that bring delight. I buy myself flowers now.
I wear big, dangly earrings to the grocery store. I play kick-the-can with kids in the neighborhood. I've borrowed my daughter's
boogie board for the thrill of riding the surf.
Granted, I still wear worn flannel jammies and drive a minivan, but
now I remember to add the occasional shot of apricot nectar to my pulp-free juice. It's about living juicy on my own terms,
seeking out and savoring the juicy moments every day. And that's something we all can do. Juicily. Cheers!
For most of
us, the belly is cause for shame and embarrassment. Contemporary Western culture bids us to trim our tummies, manage our midriffs,
battle belly bulge, and attack our abs. Accordingly, we try to flatten our stomachs and banish our bellies from sight with
diet pills, weight loss regimens, exercise gadgets, girdles and corsets, liposuction, and surgical tummy tucks. We have bankrolled
multi-million dollar industries with the notion that there's something wrong with woman's belly as it is. We have spent our
money and we have compromised our health. We have made ourselves miserable attempting to comply with our culture's conventions,
attempting to make our bellies invisible.
Here is one
example of the shame attached to women's bellies. One woman told me:
Once I was so sick that I had to call an ambulance
to take me to the hospital.
As the medics were taking off my shirt—I was practically dying—
all I could
think of was sucking in my belly so they wouldn't see my fat stomach."
men in other times and cultures have recognized the belly as sacred, not shameful. Cultures native to every continent have
developed patterns of movement and breath-traditions of dance, rites of healing, spiritual practice-which honor and energize
the belly as our connection to source energy, the Power of Being.
Your Belly draws upon this world-wide wisdom to create an opportunity for you to
experience your belly as your body's sacred center. This practice enabled me to move beyond a twenty-year eating disorder—twenty
years during which, in alternate rounds of starving and stuffing my belly, I gained and lost at least 2,000 pounds.
I began to
diet when I was seventeen, having made the flat-bellied, stick-figured fashion model Twiggy my idol of Thin. I would consume
nothing but cottage cheese and water for weeks at a time, then binge with abandon for weeks, only to repeat the cycle again.
Whether I was finally squeezing myself into size seven jeans or wildly devouring another bag of cookies, I was always obsessed
with my weight and shape, with filling my belly or keeping it empty.
Dieting gave me a sense of control that I had not
previously had in my life.
Dieting also gave me a seemingly straightforward way to reshape myself
according to cultural
standards for a woman's body size.
sense of control and compliance came with a pricetag. In order to restrict my intake of food I had to deny my hunger and all
the other sensations emanating from my bell—anger, fear, joy, grief, desire, and satisfaction. As long as I was dieting,
I had to set aside my ability to know what I was feeling and give myself what I wanted.
of rigid self-denial, my physical and emotional hungers could no longer be denied. They emerged in my belly as an irritation,
a grumbling, a restless stirring, a craving to feel full. These sensations were terrifying, intolerable; I tried to extinguish
them by cramming my belly with food. My weeks of compulsive dieting would dissolve into weeks of compulsive eating, a guilt-ridden
attempt to compensate for the deprivation I had previously imposed upon myself.
during my teen years I witnessed a demonstration of yoga during a worship service at the Unitarian church I attended with
my family. Years later, desperate to escape the cycle of stuffing and starving myself, I remembered that demonstration. Not
knowing how else to help myself, I began taking classes in Kripalu Yoga (kripalu means "compassion"). I learned to
practice breathing and stretching exercises with the intention to promote self-awareness and self-acceptance. In the practice
of yoga I found a meaningful way to begin nurturing my body and soul with something other than food.
to the practice, I trained as a Kripalu Yoga instructor and yoga therapist. As part of my training I learned a sampling of
movement and breathing exercises derived from Masahiro Oki's Zen style of yoga. This approach to yoga focused on developing
hara—the Japanese word for the belly as the body's physical and spiritual center, the source of our spiritual
The belly as source of our spiritual power? What
an amazing idea!
Here was a totally new take on the belly.
I read about
the benefits of developing hara in Karlfried Graf von Durckheim's Hara: The Vital Centre of Man. One who develops hara, I learned, unites with the
nourishing, creative, regenerative flow of the universal life force. One who develops hara experiences, in Durckheim's words,
"not a power one has but a power in which one stands." One who develops hara enjoys the list of qualities I coveted for myself:
security, confidence, courage, creativity, serenity, identity, authenticity, autonomy, sense of purpose, sense of connection.
I craved these
qualities, which I recognized to be attributes of the soul, expressions of soul-full living. I resolved to practice the hara-strengthening
exercises. I would do them consistently for a couple of weeks, reveling in the new levels of energy and confidence I would
experience. But then a nameless dread would arise and I would stop. After a few weeks I would long to experience that hara-powered
vitality again and I would start the practice once more.
morning practice, I began to giggle. I giggled and laughed for half an hour or more, for no reason at all. I began to suspect
that the feelings hidden deep down in my body's center might not all be dreadful—they might also include joy.
and determined to do these hara-energizing exercises on a regular basis, I prepared myself to confront the barriers that were
periodically blocking my way. Accordingly, I defined my start-and-stop pattern of practice not as a personal failing but rather
as something important to investigate.
What, I asked, is the significance of bringing
energy and awareness
into my belly, into a woman's belly?
led me to the beginnings of human experience. I learned that our ancestors revered the ultimate, universal Power of Being
as First Woman, the Great Goddess; they understood the world as the body of the Sacred Feminine. The images and icons crafted
by these ancient matrifocal-woman-centered-cultures honored the pro-creative power of woman's belly as kin to the power creating,
sustaining, and regenerating the world.
suggested that, through history, women's social standing within a culture has correlated with the degree of that culture's
respect for woman's belly and regard for the Sacred Feminine. The last five thousand years of patriarchal culture, for example,
has degraded woman's belly, women, and the Sacred Feminine-as well as native peoples, nature, and the feminine sensibility
in both women and men-in a single process of devaluation.
culture, I learned, subjects woman's belly to both overt and covert violence. The modern methods of disempowerment include
sexual assault, unnecessary hysterectomies and Caesarean sections, restrictions on women's authority in pregnancy and childbirth,
and reproductive technology that depreciates women's wombs. They include belly-belittling diet schemes, Barbie dolls, pinch-an-inch
apparel with built-in corsetry, and instant-slimming undergarments. I realized that the girdle my well-meaning mother expected
me to wear to slenderize my shape when I was fourteen was an item of serious social control.
Now I understood
why bringing awareness to and energizing my belly stirred up feelings of "nameless dread." Patriarchal culture, by definition,
literally hates women's guts. For thousands of years Western culture has made war on women's bellies; such brutality has made
the belly an uncomfortable place in which to be. I understood why so many women, myself included, have suffered through compulsive
dieting, compulsive eating, anorexia, and bulimia, enacting the ambivalence we feel about our bellies. In a culture which
subordinates women and shames women's bellies, those of us who have internalized the culture's animosity can all too easily
make the belly the focus of our self-contempt.
my study of cultural violence against women and woman's belly was also liberating. I recognized that, whatever dread I might
feel as I energized my belly, these difficult feelings were only culturally imposed, layered over the deeper treasure awaiting
my discovery. I knew that I needed to contact the vitality and power of hara more than I needed to avoid whatever anxiety
might arise in the process.
For my own
healing, I developed the sequence of belly-energizing exercises which has become "Honoring Your Belly." I began by selecting
and adapting a set of hara-strengthening exercises from the many I had learned, arranging them in a way that made sense to
the body as a well-rounded "workout." I designed the sequence to start with "warm-up" stretches, continue with more vigorous
movements, and conclude with "cool-down" poses. To link the movements organically I ordered them according to the way they
placed the body in relation to the vertical axis and the horizontal plane, in relation to the earth and sky, and to the earth's
Practicing this sequence daily, enlivening my belly
with movement and breath,
I no longer felt compelled to stuff or starve myself.
The eating disorder gradually diminished
When I began
this belly-energizing practice, the most that I hoped for was relief from the cycle of bingeing and dieting that had engulfed
my life. In fact, the practice has given me much more. The program has evolved into new dimensions, adding myth and image
to the patterns of movement and breath. The sequence of exercises has become a woman-affirming ritual, a "Rite for Reconsecrating
Our Womanhood." Each of the exercises has become a gesture embodying an ancient symbol of the Sacred Feminine. As I continue
to honor and activate my belly, the core energy residing at body's center finds expression in image and voice, making the
Sacred Feminine an immediate, intimate presence in my life and continually generating new elements of the practice.
To make this
book manageable, I've limited its scope to reconceiving the belly as the site of our soul-power, presenting Honoring Your
Belly as a pleasurable and empowering movement program. See Part V, Additional Resources, to obtain information on practicing
Honoring Your Belly as a rite for reconsecrating our womanhood and as a ritual for invoking the Sacred Feminine.
and practicing Honoring Your Belly essentially saved my life. Over the years, as I've shared this practice with women
in weekly classes, day-long workshops, and weekend retreats, I've witnessed the profound and wide-ranging benefits the practice
can bring to many.
this book in response to the many women who are asking for a practical way to feel good about their bellies. My intention
is to offer you an opportunity to experience your belly as the source of wisdom, guidance, and vitality which is your greatest
treasure. My intention is to offer you specific skills to enliven the soul-power centered in your belly and to bring that
vitality into your everyday life.
centered in your belly is pro-creative power, kin to the power promoting creation which infuses the universe. This pro-creative
power generates new human life; it also brings forth new ideas, images, systems, institutions, organizations. Activating this
power, you can direct it into any expression you choose: personal healing, intuition, creativity, family relationships, your
work, your community, your world.
power abiding within our bellies can bring us greater health, freedom from addiction, enhanced sexual pleasure, more satisfying
relationships, a sense of prosperity, a sense of the sacred in our daily lives, an ecological consciousness of kinship with
all creation. I suspect that the pro-creative power abiding within our bellies can help generate the evolution of consciousness
that humanity needs for our own and the earth's survival.
Honoring Your Belly is a continuing adventure.
Sharing this adventure with you is my greatest joy.
information & inspiration
Women Hold the Power to Save
But Will We Use It?
by Lisa Sarasohn
What's necessary to our survival is sacred.
To our ancestors, it was obvious. The tribe's survival through
time depended upon women's capacity to bear and raise healthy children. The pro-creative power dwelling within woman's belly
granted life beyond death.
The language of our ancestors bears witness: The ancient
Hebrew word for "tribe" also means mother. The word for a clan within the tribe, batn, also means belly. Woman's belly makes
us kin. Woman's belly defines and sustains our community.
The wisdom and power that we carry within our body's center
is ancient. I can feel it threading back to the origins of life on this planet. The wisdom and power that we carry within
our body's center is the instinct for self-preservation.
This instinct for self-preservation speaks to us through
our gut feelings. This instinct is the power that urges us through sex and childbirth. This instinct is the force that moves
us to fulfill our soul's purpose. This instinct is the energy that connects us with humankind and with all of earth's creatures.
Today, humankind's survival does not primarily depend upon
women's capacity to bear children. It depends upon the conditions into which our children are born. What endangers the tribe's
survival now is war, famine, poverty, injustice, disease, and environmental destruction.
But the tribe's survival still depends upon woman's belly.
Our pro-creative power is not just for making babies.
In Gaia's lap
Yesterday, near dusk, I took a walk through the woods and
afterwards lay on my back on a grassy lawn. A ridge of blue mountains rimmed the horizon. As my spine stretched out upon the
ground, it seemed to tingle with sensitivity, ready to receive communication.
I wondered: "What does the earth have to say to me? I'll
listen." Immediately, I sensed a voice rising, saying: "Save me! Save me!" I turned over then, touching belly to earth and
felt a faint heartbeat.
What are the dimensions of the ecological crisis occurring
across this planet? Scientists predict that we'll make the planet uninhabitable in the foreseeable future. Historian Roger
Launius says global destruction is inevitable:
Ultimately we're not going to be able to survive on this
planet. We have to become a bi-planetary, tri-planetary, multi-planetary species if we have any hope of survival.
Somewhere out there, there's an asteroid with our name written
on it. We may do something to our environment to make it impossible to survive here. If we want to survive as a species, we
have to move beyond this planet.
How do you feel reading these words? What do you feel in
I feel outraged. Reading those words is gut-wrenching. Global
disaster is a stark proposition, hard to digest, tempting to deny. What could any of us possibly do to avert such a catastrophe?
Deep Ecology activist John Seed says that the rate of environmental
destruction is so rapid that, unless we spark "an unprecedented revolution in consciousness," no action that we take now can
save us. "Nothing but a miracle would be of any use," he declares.
I believe women -- you, me, all of us -- are the miracle.
What do you imagine would happen if women acknowledged the
pro-creative power we carry within our body's center? We would know indisputably, in our guts, that our bodies are earth's
body. What degrades the earth damages us. What nourishes the earth nurtures us.
When we love our bellies we open to a tender, intimate connection
with the planet. As we allow ourselves to breathe deeply, we notice the quality of air. As we allow ourselves to eat in peace,
we notice the quality of food and we care about the soil in which it grows. As we feel our kinship with the trees, we notice
the fate of the forests.
We have been sitting in Gaia's lap for a long time. Now it's
time for us to hold her in ours.
As we obsess about our body weight and shape, we bankroll
the cosmetic surgery and weight loss industries with more than $40 billion each year. What else could we do with our $40 billion?
What do you imagine would happen if, instead of trying to
banish our bellies, we directed our core energy and our money to healing the distress within our communities, nations, the
world? What would happen if, instead of trying to shrink our stomachs, we used the resources we already have to ensure humankind's
What do you imagine would happen if women took charge of
our pro-creative power, claimed it as our own?
two years my grandmother had been coming to me in my meditations. I knew she was bringing a gift for me, but for eighteen
months I wouldn't even look at what she was holding. When I was willing to look at it, I saw that she was holding a gold ball
of energy. After another few months, I took the ball from her and I brought it into my belly.
After that, everything fell into place. A community development
foundation asked me to be its director. I accepted the job once the Board agreed to my plan for genuine grassroots empowerment.
We would discover that we already possess the courage, confidence,
passion, compassion, creativity, and insight that we need to act on behalf of the earth and all her creatures.
For millennia, women have expressed our pro-creative power
by bearing and raising healthy children. Our pro-creative power has always worked through us to ensure the survival of our
lineage, our family, our tribe. The birth-giving capacity of our bellies has ensured the survival, and evolution, of the human
In these times, our tribe is all of life. Our home encompasses
all of earth. Today, women have the opportunity -- perhaps the calling -- to apply our pro-creative power to preserving life
on this planet.
Imagine: We cultivate and direct our pro-creative power to
generate peace, justice, and ecological sustainability within every realm of human endeavor.
Imagine: We bring our pro-creative power to bear as we establish
new ways to feed, shelter, educate, employ, entertain, inspire, and govern ourselves. We organize new ways to promote our
health, resolve our conflicts, serve each other, protect each other, and preserve the life of the natural world.
Where do we start?
We start with ourselves. We value and validate ourselves.
We celebrate our body's center as the chalice of our sacred wisdom and spiritual power.
And we dance with Baubo, the belly goddess, indulging in
a regular dose of belly laughter. We add another chapter to the story of Persephone, Demeter, and Baubo:
In the previous episode, Hades abducted Demeter's daughter
Persephone, raping and taking her to his underworld realm. With Baubo boosting her courage, Demeter continued searching for
Persephone until she found her. Retrieving her daughter, Demeter restored fertility to the earth and allowed humankind's survival.
In this episode, Hades is more subtle. He captures Persephone's
attention with gilded trinkets and rhinestone jewelry.
He also gives Persephone a mirror. The mirror is warped;
it distorts her image whenever she seeks to know her own beauty. The mirror captivates Persephone, totally absorbing her in
a never-ending effort to fix how she looks.
Meanwhile, Demeter has been poisoned, robbed, battered. She's
sick; her vitality fades daily.
The earth suffers: The air is foul, the rivers are toxic,
the soil is barren, the oceans are dying. Industrial pesticides, pollutants, and pathogens aggravate Demeter's chronic illness.
They begin to penetrate her daughter's body and sicken Persephone as well.
Now is the time to beckon Baubo into the story. Let's ask
Baubo to wake Persephone from her trance and take her to Demeter.
Persephone sees that the earth goddess is near death. She
understands that Demeter's illness heralds her own demise. She alternates between denial and despair.
Then Baubo, with her bawdy jokes and hip-wiggling jigs, brazenly
reminds the woman who she is. Flashing her belly, Baubo reminds Persephone that she holds sacred power within her body. Emboldened
to act bravely, the woman…
How do you say the story goes from here?
This is my prayer: May we know ourselves to be sacred beings.
The Perfect HeartOne day a young man was standing in
the middle of the town proclaiming that he had the most beautiful heart in the whole valley. A large crowd gathered and they
all admired his heart for it was perfect. There was not a mark or a flaw in it. Yes, they all agreed it truly was the most
beautiful heart they had ever seen. The young man was very proud and boasted more loudly about his beautiful heart.
an old man appeared at the front of the crowd and said, 'Why your heart is not nearly as beautiful as mine.' The crowd and
the young man looked at the old man's heart. It was beating strongly, but full of scars, it had places where pieces had been
removed and other pieces put in, but they didn't fit quite right and there were several jagged edges. In fact, in some places
there were deep gouges where whole pieces were missing. The people stared -- how can he say his heart is more beautiful, they
The young man looked at the old man's heart and saw its state and laughed. 'You must be joking,' he said.
'Compare your heart with mine, mine is perfect and yours is a mess of scars and tears.' 'Yes,' said the old man, 'yours is
perfect looking but I would never trade with you. You see, every scar represents a person to whom I have given my love - I
tear out a piece of my heart and give it to them, and often they give me a piece of their heart which fits into the empty
place in my heart, but because the pieces aren't exact, I have some rough edges, which I cherish, because they remind me of
the love we shared.
Sometimes I have given pieces of my heart away, and the other person hasn't returned a piece of
his heart to me. These are the empty gouges -- giving love is taking a chance. Although these gouges are painful, they stay
open, reminding me of the love I have for these people too, and I hope someday they may return and fill the space I have waiting.
So now do you see what true beauty is?'
The young man stood silently with tears running down his cheeks. He walked
up to the old man, reached into his perfect young and beautiful heart, and ripped a piece out. He offered it to the old man
with trembling hands. The old man took his offering, placed it in his heart and then took a piece from his old scarred heart
and placed it in the wound in the young man's heart. It fit, but not perfectly, as there were some jagged edges. The young
man looked at his heart, not perfect anymore but more beautiful than ever, since love from the old man's heart flowed into
his. They embraced and walked away side by side.