Belly Magic: Blessings from Your Body’s Center

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.

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Lisa Sarasohn

Lisa Sarasohn

The Woman's Belly Book: Finding Your True Center for More Energy, Confidence, and Pleasure — info at — shares what I've learned during 25 years of exploring the mystery and power of the body's center.

The French edition, published by Le Courrier du Livre, arrives in January 2016!

It's today's best-kept secret: Your body's center, your belly, is home to your core life force. It's the site of your soul power, the source of your passion and creativity, your intuition and sense of purpose, your courage and confidence.

My greatest joy? Inspiring women to activate our body-centered soul power so that we may express ourselves all the more as the gutsy woman we are.

b2ap3_thumbnail_april04cover.jpgNot long ago I had the whole-body urge to locate an artist whose profile I'd read years ago in a magazine that's regional to Asheville and Western North Carolina — WNC Woman. The magazine, founded by Julie Parker, had featured my Honoring Your Belly article in its first issue. It's been a strong force for women's writing, art and entrepreneurship ever since.

But I no longer remembered the woman's name. I did remember that Julie had described her as painting from her hara — the Japanese word for both belly and the source energy concentrated within the body's center.

Searching on [wncwoman + hara], I found Julie's interview with Joyce Metayer. The April 2004 profile begins:

Joyce Metayer stands in front of and facing her work, feet planted firmly and powerfully on the earth, hands on her hara, as she explains how she births her work — how her inner vision emerges into three dimensions. Literally three dimensions, for these pieces are intricately-constructed canvases of mind-boggling complexity. She explains how she projects her sketch for a piece onto the wall to determine its appropriate size, then moves forward and back until the size is just so — until she literally feels it in her hara. This visceral connection to her work is so strong it seems almost visible ... a cord from womb to work, as it were. 

I surprised Joyce with a phone call and had the pleasure of speaking with her. Our conversation included this exchange:

LS: How did you develop this process?

JM: I didn't. It found me.

LS: How do the images arrive? How do they enter your awareness?

JM: I see the image as a holograph, a shape in three dimensions. Then the color plan comes to me as a bodily sensation.

With Joyce's permission, here are three images of her work. For titles and larger versions of these images, plus additional images and more information on each piece, click here.





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b2ap3_thumbnail_Devenez-Amie-RGB.jpgIt's been three — and thirty — years in the making.

Now the dream's coming true: The Woman's Belly Book has just been published in its French edition by Le Courrier du Livre.

I'm going to France this summer to share the good news — we hold the power to promote creation within our body's center, within our bellies.

The book's French title means "become friends with your belly" or more simply, "befriend your belly." The subtitle refers to the practice of belly-energizing movement and breath: "5 minutes a day to connect with your source of energy."

If you've read The Woman's Belly Book, you know how the Source Energy concentrated within our body's center connects with the Sacred Feminine as she dwells within us. And with the presence of Mary Magdalene as she brings the Sacred Feminine into life and into form.

In addition to leading a workshop at Centre Tao in Paris, I'll be visiting bookstores and libraries to present readings. What's more, I'll be visiting sites that share the energy of Mary Magdalene.

And so the adventure continues!

As the new edition has emerged, I've delighted in learning how English expressions translate into French. For example, the English words for "trust your gut" become "avoir du cœur au ventre" in French. That's literally "have heart in your belly." Trust your gut, love your belly.

In upcoming posts I'll say more about the "belly magic" threading through my dream, my intention, of sharing this work with women worldwide. I'll give you the introduction I wrote (in English) for this new French edition. And I'll post notes of my journey through France this summer.

For now, if you or your friends read French, or are French, here's something for you: Anne Delmas, the splendid woman who translated The Woman's Belly Book, provides a fine description of the book's French incarnation here.

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dove-2015Every year, it seems, I'm bewildered by all the fuss about Christmas. And every year I eventually rediscover, or revive, a meaning for the season.

This year, as in other years, it's happened a day or two before December 25, and now I'm scrambling to join the Christmas cheer. This is the story...

I'd recently finished reading Margaret Starbird's Magdalene's Lost Legacy: Symbolic Numbers and the Sacred Union in Christianity. Another of her books about Mary Magdalene, The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail, was a major inspiration when I was writing The Woman's Belly Book, so intrigue led me to read more of her work.

In Magdalene's Lost Legacy, Starbird presents the system of number-coding called gematria, how it figured in the writings of early Christians, and what it means for understanding Mary Magdalene and the return of the Sacred Feminine to Western culture.

These subjects are, of course, intricate and deep. Here's how I've rolled them into this year's Christmas card — and how they've spiralled into the Source Energy, the pro-creative power, dwelling within our body's center:

What's gematria? The way I'm understanding it, gematria is an ancient practice that links mind to spirit by relating letters to the vast significance of number.

Greek and Hebrew alphabets imbue each letter with a numerical value. Summing the numbers assigned to each of the letters in a word reveals another number, another dimension of meaning, another connection to human experience. The Greek word for “dove” is peristera, written περιστερα, with these numerical values:


These Greek letters spelling “dove” add to 801. The number 800 corresponds to the Greek omega (Ω); the number one corresponds to alpha (α). With gematria of 801, the dove is the “Alpha and Omega,” the unity of beginning and end. Reaching from first to last, it is completion, fulfillment.

What's more, the sum of the numerals comprising 801 is 9, a trinity of threes, the epitome of three. Three carries the significance of the circle, the unconditional acceptance that encompasses both this and that. Three enfolds dualities into one wholeness: the Sacred Marriage yields the Divine Child.

For the early Greeks, the dove signalled the presence of Aphrodite, embodiment of love and beauty — she who brings life, death, and peace to the world. Early Christians understood the dove to signify Sophia, Holy Wisdom; they later adopted the dove as sign of the Holy Spirit.

The gematria of “Holy Spirit” (το αγιον πνευμα) is 1080. That same number, its numerals adding to nine, is the measure of the moon‘s radius in miles. Given numbers one, eight, and nine, gematria links Holy Spirit with moon, goddess, Sophia, the feminine — and with the dove.

In this light, the dove (801) coming to rest upon Jesus’ shoulder at his baptism in the River Jordan heralds the descent of the Holy Spirit (1080) — Sophia — into his nature. Indeed, early Gnostic Christians understood Sophia to be incarnate in the dove sparking Mary’s pro-creative power to birth Jesus as the child of Holy Wisdom.

Pro-creative power, yes.

That's what more or less fits into a Christmas greeting. For the illustration, I filled the dove with a pattern of Chinese spirals and sent her flying over a shrine in which doves perch atop three pillars. This miniature clay shrine, found in Knossos, Crete, dates to 2000 years before the birth of Jesus.

What about those pillars?

As the Rite for Reconsecrating Our Womanhood was developing, I called number 13 in this sequence of belly-energizing exercises "Stretch Up/Press Down," describing its way of tracing a vertical axis.

As I did with each of the 23 moves in the sequence, I paired this gesture with an ancient artifact conveying a sense of the Sacred Feminine. In this case, I paired the move with an image of pillar, recalling Sophia's "pillars of wisdom":

Wisdom has built her house,
She has hewn out her seven pillars...
— Proverbs 9:1

I made a clay replica of the three-pillar shrine presented in Elinor Gadon's The Once and Future Goddess. (For more detail, see the color photograph of the original, displayed at Greece's Heraklion Archaeological Museum, here.) I also sketched the shrine as a line drawing.  

 Gadon fig 66Clay replica informed by photo in Elinor Gadon's The Once and Future Goddess


Incorporating that sketch, the Rite for Reconsecrating Our Womanhood shows Stretch Up/Press Down as a gesture of affirmation: As we let go of preconceptions and expectations, we can attune more nearly to our inner wisdom, to Sophia:

text-line drawing

Still, pillars are powerful phallic emblems, and doves perched upon pillars show us something about the Sacred Marriage. 

Indeed, there's a lot of Sacred Marriage going on this season:

The shaft of light at the dawn of winter solstice penetrating deep into the dark of Neolithic earthworks such as the tomb at Newgrange, County Meath, Ireland. The Hebrew Shekinha — the word's Semitic root refers to birds nesting — partnering Yahweh. The virgin Mary partnering Deus. The prelude to Mary Magdalene, understood by early Gnostic Christians as an incarnation of Sophia, partnering Jesus.

Maybe next year I'll be writing a post titled "Sex and the Santa Claus."

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Screen-Shot-2015-11-25-at-11.40.28-AM.jpgRecently I saw Spotlight, the movie. Set in 2001-2002, the film chronicles how the Boston Globe's team of investigative reporters revealed the pattern of child sexual abuse rampant among Massachusetts' Catholic priests — and the Boston Archdiocese's systematic cover-up.

Early on, the film gives us psychotherapist Richard Sipe. He's been braving the Church's opposition and documenting this pattern for decades. He cites one aspect of the problem's origin: the secretive atmosphere surrounding priests' sexual activity.

Sipe estimates that, at any point in time, about half of all priests are engaged in a sexual relationship, despite their vow of celibacy. Given the film's timeframe, Sipe's "metric" indicates that 6% of all priests are molesting children. With further research, Sipe later revised that figure to 9%.

Recently I also read Margaret Starbird's book, Mary Magdalene: Bride in Exile (Bear & Company, Rochester, Vermont, 2005). Another of her books on Mary Magdalene, The Woman with the Alabaster Jar, was a central, inspiring resource for me back when I was writing The Woman's Belly Book.

Starbird presents a convincing argument that Jesus, being Jewish and according to Jewish custom, would most likely have been a married man. His partnership with Mary Magdalene as wife, consort, and colleague would have testified to the wholeness, and sanity, of creation.

Starbird links the Church's 12th-century rule of priestly celibacy with its denial both of Mary Magdalene's relationship with Jesus and of the Sacred Feminine:

In the aftermath of scandals involving Roman Catholic priests, people are now, for the first time in centuries, seriously asking, "What else did they forget to tell us?" Because the current crisis of confidence in the Catholic hierarchy is directly related to this hierarchy's dissociation from the sacred feminine, the relationship of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is entirely relevant to the problem. Enforced clerical celibacy, after centuries of devaluing the feminine half of creation, was mandated in 1139 when an edict by Pope Innocent II forced married priests to abandon their wives and children. (p. 150)

Absent Magdalene, insanity arises in a multitude of forms.

Spotlight shines the light on one form of insanity: Nearly one in ten Catholic priests have engaged in sexually abusing children.

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Yes, the painful reality of denying the Divine Feminine within institutional structures. Thank you for this post. I am one of th
  • Lisa Sarasohn
    Lisa Sarasohn says #
    Thanks, Lizann, for your comment, and for your good work. Blessed be!

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I met herbalist Lindsay Wilson when she presented “Restoring Digestive Health,” a day-long workshop at the Organic Growers School’s Harvest Conference near Asheville, NC.

(Photo of Lindsay Wilson courtesy of Luisa Porter, Catfish Alley Magazine)

Her name was already familiar to me. Since publishing The Woman's Belly Book, I continue to delve into the body center's role in every dimension of our well-being. When I was looking into the connection between soil depletion and our ability to replenish the gut bacteria so important to our physical and mental health, I found Lindsay's helpful blog post titled Eat Dirt.

Along with a gastroenterologist and a naturopath, Lindsay figures in Give thanks for beneficial gut bacteria and feed them well, my recently published article in Asheville's weekly newspaper, the Mountain Xpress. "Our gut is a garden," she says, and you can read her suggestions for cultivating that garden here and here.

Now settled in Mississippi, Lindsay lived north of Asheville for several years. I was curious about her connection to Western North Carolina and asked her: What influence has your time in this region made upon the ways you understand and address digestive health?

Her answer details a deepening relationship with the natural world:

I moved to Spring Creek, just outside of Hot Springs, in the Winter of 2009-10. I became the Retreat Manager at a 30-year-old silent, contemplate retreat center called Southern Dharma. While working there, I continued to deepen my interest and awareness around digestive health.

As the retreat manager, I took all of the basic enrollment information from retreat participants. One of the questions asked about food sensitivities or intolerances they had. I was really surprised by all of the various digestive issues people had and that further solidified my interest in digestive health.

After my time there, I worked on a farm near Max Patch for a year or so. I grew a good bit of my food and foraged for greens, berries, and mushrooms as well. Even though I had always had a garden, working with the soil and the land on this scale was eye-opening. I began to have quite a few insights into the nature of our digestive complaints and our disconnection with the basics of life. I began to see that soil work...was indeed...soul work.

Living in the mountains was simply mesmerizing. I charted and took note of what was in season and how that particular food or herb was relevant to health of the body at that time of year. I named certain seasonal phenomena and observed nature because there was no distractions and only time. For example, I started to call the fruiting season the "berry wave," which was a steadily ripening flow of berries from mulberries in the early season to autumn olives in the very end of the season.

Basically, with the stark beauty of the Pisgah Forest, I began to see the impeccable timing of it all. Jessica Prentice's book Full Moon Feast was in my possession and I read it for the third time while living there. Her book was about certain indigenous and traditional cultures that had named the thirteen cycles of the moon.

These names were also connected with seasonal phenomena of a particular bioregion, something I began to call Seasonal Intelligence. I even taught two on-line courses on this, using the framework of Traditional Chinese Medicine and their five seasons and related organ systems. The participants and I met on the phone each season so that I could present a basic framework of how to use food and herbs in a seasonal context.

Living in the mountains was a real boon to my understanding of natural cycles and my place in it all.  I am forever grateful for the experience!

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    She's a terrific teacher. I met her last year at SEWWC.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_tggcover.pngThanks to Maureen Corrigan and her excellent So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures, there's another upsurge of interest in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel.

I've been seeing images of the novel's original cover on tote bags and t-shirts. In fact, I’d just finished an immersion — reading So We Read On and then The Great Gatsby — when I was browsing in the regional authors section at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC. Glancing down at the table there, I see a scrap of paperboard with the cover pictured here, complete with a cryptic "95 R" jotted on the back.

As bellyqueen, and in The Woman's Belly Book, I champion our body's center as the energetic sourcepoint of our courage, confidence, intuition — and creativity. Fitzgerald's words about writing Gatsby add his own evidence. After completing the novel, he recalled:

I'd dragged the great Gatsby out of the pit of my stomach....

After thoroughly considering the manuscript, Fitzgerald's editor at Scribner, Max Perkins, sent the author a long letter. He wrote:

And all these things, the whole pathetic episode, you have given a place in time and space,…you have imparted a sort of sense of eternity. You once told me you were not a natural writer — my God! You have plainly mastered the craft, of course; but you needed far more than craftsmanship for this.

That's the body's center — the sourcepoint of our creative energy, our connection to transpersonal power.

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Rape culture


No, it's not a pretty phrase. But it's a fitting name for a set of institutions and ideas that steal away women's pro-creative power through physical violence, social shaming, and economic exploitation. 


In The Woman's Belly Book, I say pro-creative power is our body-centered power to promote creation — through childbirth, yes, and through life-affirming ways of being in every dimension.


Creating a cultural paradigm beyond rape is what Kim Duckett's about. How does she do it?


"I take women to Hel and back," she says.


Her vehicle for visiting goddess Hel is reviewing — and rewriting — the ancient Greek myth of Persephone’s descent.


"Stories lead to the heart of healing," my recent article in the Mountain Xpress, Asheville’s weekly newspaper, features Kim and her work. 


For whatever reason, the newspaper has shied away from relating the horrific aspects of the conventional myth to current events in the culture at large. I invite you to read the article here and add your comments online. Tell us: How is revising the myth of Persephone important for you, your family? 


Here's some background:


Kim Duckett, a.k.a. Woman Who Follows Her Heart, is an ordained Priestess and a shamanic ritualist rooted in the mountains of western North Carolina.


Holding a doctorate in Transpersonal and Spiritual Psychology with a focus on Feminist Theory, she’s taught women’s studies in college and university settings for thirty years. She also co-founded the rape crisis center, now known as Our Voice, that’s been serving the region’s women and men for more than forty years.


The Wheel of the Year as an Earth-Based Spiritual Psychology for Women names Kim’s forthcoming book. Those words also name the teaching she offers to women as she travels throughout the nation.


Kim describes her teaching this way in the International Journal of Transpersonal Studies:


The Wheel of the Year as an earth-based psychology for women is inherently feminist and also based in transpersonal psychologies. Women explore the turning points, or holydays of the Wheel, on both spiritual and psychological levels through a wide range of modalities that engage body, mind, emotion, and spirit.


The Wheel of the Year focuses the first year of Kim's Sacred Mystery School, a three-year curriculum in women’s spirituality. With the arrival of the autumn equinox, she invites women taking part in Mystery School to update and personalize the myth of Persephone.


Kim knows, as famed mythologist Joseph Campbell did, that myths validate and preserve a culture’s social and moral order. She knows, as Campbell did, that myths must change to keep pace with changing times. “Myths are teaching stories,” she says. “So it’s important to ask: What are they teaching?”


She begins by presenting women with the conventional version of the myth: Hades snatches maiden Persephone, rapes her, and imprisons her in his underworld realm. 


Does this scenario sound familiar? So many of us have similar stories.


Finally breaking through to national awareness with New York magazine's July cover story, scores of women have alleged that comedian Bill Cosby did Hades over decades, holding young women captive in an “underworld realm” of drug-induced loss of consciousness. They’ve alleged that agents of various cultural institutions aided and protected Cosby, keeping his actions secret, allowing him to continue.


Drawing on Charlene Spretnak’s research, reported in Lost Goddesses of Early Greece, Kim inspires women to recognize alternatives to the Greek myth as it’s usually told, including versions pre-dating the ones validating rape culture.


In a circle of mutual support, expressing themselves through dance, poetry, and drama, women create their own versions of the myth. In these, Persephone chooses to descend. 


Each woman acknowledges, as Persephone does, her need to deepen. She chooses to move inward, to re-member and re-collect herself, to be with her inner wisdom. In the deep, dark, womb-like realm of goddess Hel she finds a place for rest and replenishment. She meets not Hades but Hecate, the wise woman within.


And then she emerges, refreshed. She embodies greater clarity, more vitality, and a renewed sense of purpose. She returns with a mythic guide to her own well-being. 


What’s more: Women rewriting the myth of Persephone as woman-affirming stories of descent and return build the foundations for a generative, peaceable culture of life.


How do you rewrite the myth of Persephone? I invite you to add your own story, your own comments, here.





More info:


Kim Duckett
A Year and A Day Sacred Mystery School for Women


Charlene Spretnak

Lost Goddesses of Early Greece



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