These first days of February, I have been reflecting about the nature of this season in which many different world cultures seem to celebrate the same process of moving from darkness to light, from cold to warmth, from wintery rest to busy Spring. The promise of blossoming life. A promise, we are told in the Welsh myths, that is based on the cauldron of Ceridwen, on the fire tended by Brigid. All life, it is said, comes from a sort of Womb of Being. And it is only fitting that we ascribe inspiration, passion and the urge to create to that same ever-pregnant womb.
But what gives when the Divine Feminine of myth and lore, and especially of current Earth-based revival practices, falls back to motherhood as the be-all, end-all of being a woman? And to throw ritual affairs even further back in the history of thought, a kind of motherhood which remains submissive and will-less even when faced with abuse. The Earth weeps with centuries of human hybris, but she certainly will not forever forgive and forget. It already is payback time for Mother Gaia.
Surely everybody knows about Athena and Minerva, and some even Brigid, who is also well-acquainted with the fire of the forge and martial efforts. But then Ceridwen screams with rage when her plans of offering Awen to her son meet failure, and many folks’ first reaction is that of disgust. Being a goddess, her anger is misplaced; she must be prone to tantrums, they complain. And just like her beautiful daughter was said to be destined to a careless life, many warrior and wise goddesses bear an interesting attribute: that of virginity. No matter how many circles one dances around the subject (pun intended), the most diffused archetypes of womanhood revolve around fertility, being available to male lust, and eventually being a mother. And after menopause, the once maiden and now mother shall become a crone. And remain cisgender, of course.
As an occasional atheist with a knack of fostering friendly relationships with blocks of meaning, which then might, or not, respond to the invitation, to me the traits of gods and goddesses clearly seem to be as bound to time and space as any other product of culture. Your mileage may vary if hard *theisms are your thing. But if you ask me, it is the persons who get to write history, and therefore most myth as well, who hold the key to this conundrum. Even the most authentic tales of the land have been at least once revised by those in power. By kings and their secretaries. By clergymen. By men in general, although it is preferred they be wealthy and able.
The narrative of the few whose body appendixes granted them the power to shape history and thought has turned the Feminine into taboo. In fact, one of many taboos which long condemned our bodies, their workings and their innate intuition to shame and othered the ill, the poor, the queer, the foreigners, indeed anyone who does not belong to the tribe. The tribe needs an Other to survive, lest it loses its identity, and ultimately, the very power which holds the many hierarchies together.
By definition, crystallised structures do not deal well with fluidity. To be in movement implies continuously escaping the dictatorship of words and ideologies. Once one manages to give something a name (not mutually negotiated beforehand, mind you), that person is in control. Silence, however, always renders you unarmed. And that promised land of Otherness soon becomes a target for rumour. Those with a vagina become mysterious and somehow dangerous; their talk about wombs and monthly cycles is deemed an “old wives’ tale”; and motherhood becomes a State-regulated service rather than first and foremost a matter of choice and love. In that mystery lies fear and condescendence, a war on an unspoken threat to convention and the world as we know it. Witches get burnt alive.
Otherness then becomes a land of dark goddesses (where even their skin indicts them), the cold, passive Yin for the male Yang.
Otherness, however, is actually a deep and rich stream of pulsating rawness. Where gender is dismantled like the fragile piece of machinery it is, where many different cultures and traditions come alive, away from the cruel grasp of the Empire. Where the diversity of bodily abilities is embraced as a reflection of the inherent worth of Being. Where the wonder of the body needs not to be disguised with far more underwhelming possessions. Where losses can be gains. Where our full potential awaits, both feared and longed for. The potential for life and death, of bringing about and tearing apart. This shadow, of which Carl Jung used to talk, gathers the spoils of our ever-lost war on Self, all the many treasures neglected by our alienation and the violence we perpetuate on others.
“This shadow holds so many colours”.
Regardless of one’s gender, within or without the binary, I feel that reconciling with the Shadow is about this path of unlearning, this persistent and restless fight with each and every god of taboo until they capitulate and, in death, impart their plentiful wisdom. It implies letting go of useless judgment, denouncing inhumane morals and doctrines, and deepening empathy towards the minority, the oddity, the Other. Starting with oneself. It implies letting go of words and of the violence in our speech. The violence there is when taking time to speak in the name of, or instead of those whose voices we’ve muffled. Starting with the Earth herself, ever speaking, ever ignored. In solidarity and in active listening, there is wisdom and the voice of the Dark Goddess.
The myths speak of a union between the God and his female counterpart. I suggest that the Feminine, whichever shade of Otherness it reflects in each one of us, is the greatest revealer of who we are, whence we came from and where we shall return. Otherness reminds us of this primordial identity every being shares, beyond all structures of oppression, way before the first split of the tribes. Back when everything was gleefully diverse and the same all at once. That is a power the rulers of the world cannot take away. The Sun has no becoming; it is the Moon that goes through motions. And in movement, all life and poetry, all joy and pain and even truth itself, truth to oneself, becomes manifest.
Life begins outside our comfort zone, they say. Only outside our ivory towers, outside the lies of conventions, all closets, all fear, violence and privilege torn apart, can our best self, the only Self, finally shine. Inside the cauldron, all becomings are ceaselessly brewed from raw uncensored pulsions, enriched with centuries of struggles and underground codes like spells, from the unique creativity which comes from being the Other. The Inspiration that arises from living the Goddess, maiden and slut, mother and warrior, crone and fool, hunter and artist, standing proud with high heels and a full beard. Her cauldron bears the power to give life and to take it away, to build and defeat entire civilizations. The power to make all things new.