The Sacred Feminine
It is not easy to live in our 21st century world full of suffering and confusion for many. The challenges we now face worldwide have come about from the long-term rejection and degradation of the Sacred Feminine. The Sacred Feminine is the mysterious source of all life, the wellspring of all creation, and we have forgotten this. Its creative power exists in men as much as it does in women. The Sacred Feminine carries great wisdom, sensitivity, and a tender love for all life. It respects the need for suffering and vulnerability, for deaths and rebirths. It asks that we embrace life and preserve it. In all its wildness, the Sacred Feminine brings to us the ability to unify body and soul, spirituality and politics, the human and the divine. Yet most of us have lost touch with the Sacred Feminine. It’s time to regain it, and there is no better place to begin than to move into the world of women and see what we find there.
A WOMAN’S LIFE
So great are the demands on women now—many of them self-imposed—that we are often in danger of losing track of our own soul and of burning ourselves out. There is no place for the old female rituals in our lives. In other cultures—among the Native Americans, for instance—women would leave the tribe for a few days each month to enter the soul realms and experience the Moon Lodge during menstruation. There, in the presence of other women, they gave themselves permission to enter altered states of consciousness, to restore their energies, and to express the wildness of their own creativity—a creativity which, at the dark moon time of menstruation, has nothing to do with nurturing or relating to men or to children. We in the Western world have no such opportunity. Instead, many women, unaware of the value of venturing into the soul realms where dreams, instincts and wild energies abound as a way of reconnecting with personal meaning, choose to “control” their moods and cycles by taking hormones—not only to avoid unwanted pregnancies but even to regulate events so that a business meeting doesn’t come up in the middle of a menstrual period, when they might not be as rational or socially acceptable as at other times. Then, sooner or later, every woman gets moonstruck. When it happens, the ordinary world in which she has been living is rent asunder. She is being initiated into the wild and wonderful mysteries of the Sacred Feminine. Menopause has arrived.
A LOST WOMAN
“Isn’t it wonderful?” the editor of the woman’s page of a national newspaper said to me one day, “Science has finally conquered women’s biology.” “What are you talking about?” I replied.
“Oh, you know,” she went on, “It’s great. We don’t have to menstruate anymore and we don’t have to have babies thanks to the Pill. We don’t even have to go through menopause or get old now that we have HRT. At last, women are set free from their biology. I’d like you to write a piece on it.”
It took me a few seconds to recover from the shock of hearing an intelligent woman voice an opinion so far away from my own sense of what the nature of the Sacred Female is about. I knew there was no point in even discussing the issue. I said that the idea didn’t grab me and walked out of the office literally stunned by how carelessly this poor frazzled and confused woman could dismiss a million years of inherited female creativity, wisdom and blood. She had done it with the wave of a hand and the swallow of a pill. Then, almost as an obituary, she had proposed a 750 word article on modern women’s new-found “freedom”. At the door I turned to look at her. There sat a haggard 35-year-old who looked 50, hunched over her computer smoking cigarettes. Three years later someone told me she had just had her womb removed.
SUFFERINGS OF THE WASTELAND
The editor’s sense of freedom, like much of the so-called “freedom” we hear about, is certainly of a very limited kind. Since all freedom is won at a price, I cannot help wondering how high a price we are paying and if it is real freedom at all—or is it a new form of slavery dressed up for make-believe? I know too many dynamic, successful women who appear to have everything. Yet, when you sit down with them alone—away from the glitter of their busy lives—they describe feeling out of sync with themselves. A sense of sterility and stagnation permeates their lives, and they carry a feeling of emptiness and even of betrayal, yet from what and by whom they rarely know. Many have aimed for the top and arrived. So now what? Where is the next challenge, the next battle to be won, the next social occasion? Like the editor, they tend to pack their days with duties and appointments, always uneasy that if they stop for a moment they might let somebody down or their lives might fall apart.
PERILS OF LOGIC
Just as our mothers and their mothers before them embraced the expectations of their culture that fulfillment would come through being a good wife, a good mother or good servant, women now have taken on another cultural stereotype. We have learned to do things logically. We have largely bought into a male stereotype based on the attainment of academic, financial or artistic success. We have thrown ourselves headlong into the male world, and many of us have “made it” within that world’s terms. Yet in the wake of our success, we often find ourselves pursued by a confusing sense of barrenness and despair that further achievement in the world, new love affairs or the prospect of a facelift can do nothing to cure. It is at this point that many women, myself included, first hear the call to adventure. It comes as a powerful challenge to leave the ordinary world in which we have lived decades of our lives and set out in search of answers: Why did this happen? What was wrong? What secrets have we forgotten, and what connections had we lost, in our obsession with doing things and our tendency to opt for chemical control of our body’s cycles? And what are we missing out on?
BACK TO SOURCE
How could we, as women, continue to buy into values and ways of living which not only didn’t serve the coming to fruition of our own talents and our capacities for joy, but were inexorably destroying the earth? Where had all our real freedom gone, and our power—not power in the masculine sense of power over, but in the feminine sense of power to?
I delved deep into the past in search of archaeological findings and archetypal connections that might give clues to just what as women we had lost, and how any of these lost treasures might be rediscovered. This led me into the realm of myth and ritual. I discovered that the two worlds—the world of science, with all its shifting biochemistry and rising and falling hormones, and the world of myth, peopled with archetypes, symbols, goddesses and rituals—not only met, they are blended within a woman’s body and psyche. And where they meet is a cauldron of blood.
According to written records, since the beginning of human history, the power of creation was believed to reside in the holy blood that pours forth from a woman’s body. It ebbs and flows with the waxing and waning of the moon. Blood has always been credited with magical power and with containing the essence of a person’s soul—”one’s lifeblood”. Medieval physicians believed that a woman’s menstrual blood could cure leprosy and act as an aphrodisiac. For centuries, both male and female rituals for receiving the gifts of the Sacred Feminine involved ingesting menstrual blood: It was mixed with red wine and taken as an alchemical drink. Ancient Egyptians, Celts, Persians and Taoists in China all held similar beliefs about menstrual blood, and carried out similar rituals. In Ancient Greece during planting festivals, women mixed their menstrual blood with corn seeds, then spread them upon the earth for fertility. In the 17th century, when William Harvey wrote his famous scientific treatise on circulation, he referred to the flow of blood through the body as the coursing of spiritual power. Even our word “blessing” is derived from the Old English bloedsed, which means bleeding.
HARMLESS AND FREE
Menstrual blood and the blood of childbirth are the only kinds of blood given freely—that is shed without wounding. Not only metaphorically but speaking strictly from a scientific point of view, human life cannot be created without the blood in a woman’s womb. So profoundly did an awareness of the power of a woman’s blood touch the lives of primitive people that native words for menstruation carry connotations of spirit, divinity and magic—of the supernatural and of the sacred. Ancient Hindus taught that all life is created out of the congealing of Great Mother’s menstrual substance, which had been worked and thickened to form curds or clots from which the crust of solid matter emerges. Their goddess of creation, Kali-Ma, “invited the gods to bathe in the bloody flow of her womb and to drink of it; and the gods, in holy communion, drank of the fountain of life and bathed in it, and rose blessed to the heavens.”
The sexuality of the genuinely free woman is the sexuality of sheer instinct—the wildness of the Sacred Feminine set free. It is she that calls a woman into the secret places of the woods and provokes her to dance naked in wild abandon. Hers is a sexuality to be used in any way she chooses—in union with another; as power to heal the earth and all its creatures in need of healing; or alone to generate the alchemical meeting of male and female within her own body. She will be what she is, she will have what she wants. She is neither passive nor submissive, and her sexuality also has nothing whatever to do with bringing physical children into being. The Sacred Feminine’s eroticism is sheer ecstasy, lived for its own sake, and sheer creativity. She creates in an uninhibited, animated, fiery way, which emanates from the soul of a woman or a man. Such sexuality is the fuel for all creative powers in the world. It carries with it the energy of regeneration and of healing for the world. It is the kundalini power—the rejuvenating cosmic illumination, the power of the serpent, the sacred fire which heals.
LIGHT OUT OF DARKNESS
As the Sacred Feminine gains entrance into the body and psyche of a woman or a man, it illuminates one dark corner of his or her psyche after another, lifting away all that is old and dead and without meaning, the way kundalini energy rises up within a body to illuminate each of the chakras. Their power becomes the power to leave behind what is dead and useless to make way both for personal rebirth and renewal to the natural world. It is the indomitable creative power that lies sleeping in the consciousness of both men and women. Perhaps more urgently than ever before, the Sacred Feminine now calls to us to remember who we really are, and all the creative blessings we have, which the world around us needs so very much. Never in human history has it been more urgent that we listen and respond, for our own sake and for the benefit of all beings and all living things on the earth.