What if your belly — the most maligned feature of women's bodies — were not shameful but sacred? What if your belly were home to the profound wisdom, power, and guidance ready to reveal itself to you through image, breath, story, and ritual? What if your body's center were in fact sacred space, temple of the Sacred Feminine as She lives within you?
If you want to make peace with your body and your belly — if you want to claim the treasure waiting for you within your body's core — join me on this journey of discovery. We'll invoke story, image, breath, ritual, and more as we go.
More on the Origins of Belly Magic
What's necessary to our survival is sacred.
What is necessary to humankind's survival?
Women's pro-creative power. If women don't push babies out of our bellies, the tribe of human beings ceases to exist.
(The ancient Hebrew word for "tribe" also means "mother." The word for a clan within the tribe, batn, also means "belly." No healthy women's bellies, no clan. No healthy mothers, no tribe.)
I've been looking into human evolution recently — a good place to look for the origins of belly magic.
Although not all scholars agree on sequence and significance, a few things happened as human beings evolved:
- We began walking upright, on two feet.
- The female pelvis, adapting to bipedalism, narrowed the birth canal.
- The advent of cooking in effect pre-digested our food, allowing us to get by with shorter intestines, making more energy available for brain development.
- Fetal brains and heads became larger.
- Given the relatively narrow birth canal, infant and maternal mortality increased during childbirth.
With childbirth such a life-or-death proposition, it's no wonder that women developed traditions of dance, rituals, birthing practices, and herbal potions that conditioned our bodies to survive childbirth and to birth healthy infants. What we call "belly dancing" is one trace of those traditions.
The impulse, even the instinct, to touch a pregnant woman's belly may be ancient. And it's certainly intrusive when uninvited. A Pennsylvania woman recently made national news when a neighbor touched her pregnant belly without her permission. He faces charges of harassment. (The geography reveals its own irony: The incident occurred on Tip Top Circle in Lower Frankford Township.)
The more we and our culture operate at the "tip top" — the more "heady" we become — the more we lose touch with the lower, deeper levels of our being.
The evolutionary trend to shorten our intestines reduced the extent of our enteric nervous system, otherwise known as the "belly brain." We do all the better, therefore, to cultivate our connection to this central source of instinct and intuition.
Within our body's center dwells not only the "belly brain" but also the energetic center known as the hara. Hara, a Japanese term, denotes our power to promote creation in any dimension we choose. Childbirth is one — but not the only — manifestation of women's pro-creative power.
One woman reports on her experience of her pregnant belly as "public property" this way:
The moment it became obvious that I’m pregnant, I went from an individual worthy of privacy and personal space to a vessel available to whoever lays eyes on me. Not to overanalyze it, but I wonder how much of this is tied to how our society views ownership of women’s bodies overall.
I find it interesting that the most intrusive things have only happened when I’m alone, never when I’m with my husband. When I’m with him, we’re a unit, a family. You’d think we’d get double the questions since there are now two of us – perhaps some comments on his sperm, an ever so gentle fondle of his testicles, a rousing “way to go sport!” for surpassing all those hurdles to get me pregnant. But, no. Surprisingly enough, none of that has ever happened. Go figure.
When I’m with him, I belong to him. Alone, I belong to the community. Alone, I’m not me; I’m the vessel through which a new child will be born and that child, until it is born, belongs to everyone. My value isn’t my individuality, my intellect, my sense of humor, whatever I think makes me who I am. It’s the utility of my uterus and what it holds in it.
It’s the same abstraction and shared ownership of the woman and fetus that lets legislators fervently debate abortion while ignoring women’s and children’s health issues. During pregnancy, a woman no longer exists as herself and the child doesn’t yet fully exist at all. Both are just abstract ideas, open to the interpretation of society. The actual woman or child doesn’t have to get in the way of the theoretical debate because they’re not real people, just objects of the community.
We women are indeed real people; we're not abstractions, we're not objects.
When we inhabit our bodies, claim the pro-creative power dwelling within our body's center, we can begin to work our belly magic. As it has from the beginning, such magic makes possible humankind's survival.
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