Path of She: Walking with the Goddess
The Path of She invites you on a journey of transformation with the Goddess. Heed the call of the Goddess and your soul’s longings. Step beyond the world that you know. Reclaim the life-centered ways of the Goddess. Let your own life, with its beauty and wounding, lead your journey of healing and personal growth. The Path of She can guide your way home to your true, beautiful Self, and the powers and mysteries of the Goddess.
Karen has been walking the Path of She, with the Goddess as her constant companion and guide, for thirty years. Her writings bridge everyday and magical realities, drawing upon her: in-the-world feminist studies and gender-equity consulting work; between-the-worlds magic and dreaming with the Goddess; and her personal, life-transforming pathwork of reclaiming her inner Goddess, feminine soul and womanhood.
I was born into a world that didn’t teach me what it means to be a woman in accordance with my true, sacred feminine nature and power. Instead, it made me see my womanhood as weak, small and inferior, meant to serve and please others. It taught me that power was an outside force, defined and imposed by others, that belonged to the realm of men.
Though I started my adult life on the wrong track, seeking my place and power in a masculine-defined world as an educated, career-focused business woman, my deeper Self had another plan that set me on the path of reclaiming the lost fragments of my whole, holy womanhood.
I did feminist graduate studies, ran my own gender-equity consulting business, read countless books on women’s ways and Goddess theology, spent countless hours in therapy and personal development, moved away from the city to a small, rugged island to reconnect with Nature, practiced magic, went to witchcamp, and became a priestess, dreamer and daughter of the Goddess.
Still something essential was missing, connected to the dark, death powers of my sacred feminine nature. This is the story of when this precious fragment returned to me.
It's the early hours on the day of the Winter Solstice. I jolt awake with the word “miscarriage” screaming in my brain. I dash to the bathroom to find blood coming from me that isn’t supposed to be there at week eleven in my pregnancy. My partner soothes me, and calms me down enough to take me to the hospital. Later that morning, an ultrasound confirms that our baby has died — a child we had consciously conceived and desperately wanted.
Our midwife gives us a choice: to stay in the hospital for a procedure or to let things run their course at home. I’ve been down this road before, having miscarried five years earlier. No one had told me then that thirty percent of first-time pregnancies end in miscarriage, nor prepared and coached me for this eventuality. We had gone the hospital route, and the experience had been disorienting and disempowering. This time would be differently; I would tend my own miscarriage.
In the darkest hours of the night, in the turning before the new dawn, my womb begins to convulse, releasing the dead life within. For hours, with each release, I collect the tissues of our child in a one-quart mason jar, not knowing which would have been his perfect face, his beating heart, his tiny body, his reaching hands, and his sweet toes. There are no eyes for me to close, or lips for me to kiss goodbye. This indistinguishable flesh, mixed with my life-giving blood, is all my partner and I have to mourn and bury.
In the midst of my keening grief, I remember myself — witch, priestess, wise woman — Holy Whore, Holy Reaper — midwife to both life and death moments with the powers of creation and destruction within my living womb.
Like all transformative moments, I have a choice: I can collapse into my grief and loss, bleeding myself into oblivion, and following the wisp of my child’s departed soul, or I can become something new, something that I’ve been traveling toward in my many years of collecting and mourning the death bits of my life, and gathering back the shattered fragments of my womanhood.
Naked and aching raw, I lift my blood-stained hands to the returning light, trusting that to be fully present — to feel all and resist nothing — to claim myself and my life as whole and holy — that a new dawn, a new beginning will come.
And I change. I become big enough, wild enough, wise enough, powerful enough to contain my bottomless grief and my unbounded love, not only for this child I’ll never hold in my arms, but for my own wounding and my own beauty, and all the death bits I’ve suffered to arrive awake and present for this death moment.
This story isn’t just about my whole, holy womanhood, but about yours as well. Our world has deceived us. We aren’t weak or small. We aren’t inferior and beholden to men and their ways of power. Our purpose isn’t to serve and please others, although nurturance, care and compassion are part of our sacred feminine nature. Instead, we’re big and powerful in our own right, with the presence and capacity to encompass the light and shadow, life and death, and beauty and wounding of our personal stories and collective humanity.
These greater capabilities of our womanhood aren’t a feminist fantasy. Our ancient feminine ancestors lived in accordance with their whole, holy nature. They were the red-cloaked ones, priestesses, leaders, healers and counselors that guided their communities through the natural cycles of birth, life, decay and death. Our very bodies have the powers to give and to take life. While our culture amplifies women’s ability to give birth, it completely ignores our innate capacity to terminate a pregnancy that isn’t viable. Miscarriage is natural; though it breaks our hearts, the babies our bodies reject were never meant to be.
My story has a happy ending. On this Winter Solstice, despite my heartbreak and the death and despair that threatened to overtake me, I reached for life and my whole, holy womanhood, and life reached back. I changed profoundly, becoming a woman and priestess of the light and the dark, and of life and of death. This deepened my healing journey, physically and spiritually, making me strong and present in new, empowering ways. I consciously prepared my womb and my heart for new life, and a couple of years later, as the seasons turned to Spring, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.
We are living in what the Goddess calls the Great Turning: an evolutionary/revolutionary transition where the future of humanity and our Earth home will be decided. The Great Turning is here, now. We’re in the midst of the muck and mess of world-shattering change.
My dreams and ritual work have been preparing me for the Great Turning for many years. As the pressures build, and the outer world gets noisier and more chaotic, I find myself digging through these magical experiences, seeking the deep vision and guidance of the Mysteries.
Imbolc has arrived — a between time when light and shadow dance together, and the darkness and death of Winter give way to the light and life of Spring — and a memory of a previous Imbolc ritual comes to me.
In this ritual, the priestesses guided the participants to return to their moment of conception to reclaim the passion and purpose that drew each of them from the realm of spirit into this world of matter. My priestess task was tending the Sacred Witness, a veiled, silent observer, to keep her grounded and protected while she opened herself to the deepest roots of our magic.
The Sacred Witness found herself in a place where the spirits of the dead and the souls yet to be born gather between the worlds. In sharing this ritual experience with the Sacred Witness, the ancestors came to me and spoke through me, and this is what they said:
“We have cut the cord. It is time for you to travel on your own. You are fully grown now, and we set you free in this world. Be big, be beautiful, be yourself. The world needs you. We believe in you. Shine bright. Make us proud.”
After the ritual was complete, a friend took me in her arms as waves of grief flooded through me, my whole body shaking as the ancestors cried through me and with me: for the pain of their stories; for the pain that they’ve passed on generation after generation; for the desperate need of this ending; for the sweet beauty of this world that they’re leaving behind; and for their forever love for us, their children, and this world’s greatest hope.
The ancestors are personal and archetypal; they’re the ones that have gone before us, both as part of our personal family and ethnic/cultural heritage, and our collective humanity. Their lived experiences and stories are woven into the fabric of our shared human reality, and the particulars of our family mythology and everyday lives. This world we live in, right now in 2017, is constructed of their stories where fear and the worst of our human instincts overrule love and our best qualities.
These stories of our ancestors are done. They’ve served their purpose of bringing us to this evolutionary/ revolutionary moment. Our ancestors have cut the cord, and seek an end to their pain and grief. And it’s each of us, their children, the waking ones, that must do the hard, messy, transformative work of putting our ancestors to rest.
This is happening right now, all around us, in the noise and chaos unfolding on the world stage. Our ancestors’ stories are unraveling before our eyes, and we’re being called to join in this work of disassembling the stories that trap us in a reality of fear and the worst of our humanity: stories on how to live and dream; stories that tell us who and what matter in our human society; stories that have passed on patterns of wounding and coping; stories that dim our light and hide our beauty; stories that hold the secrets and lessons that will ripen us into our true selves; stories that are the ancestors’ final gifts to us.
Imagine yourself as Sacred Witness in these Great Turning times. Let yourself sink deep between the worlds, and see the tumult on the world stage as the death process of our ancestors’ stories. Some of these stories will call to you; they’ll speak to your ancestral lineage, personal life experiences, and the very passion and purpose that drew your soul to this world of matter.
Claim these stories as your own. Let them guide your healing and action taking, and transform you into your full maturity and power. Always, choose love over fear, and your best instincts over your worst. Make this your soul work and contribution to the great task of mending our human society. Do these momentous, world-shattering things and our ancestors’ stories will have served their sacred purpose. Endings will come, rest will come, and we, their grownup children, will dream and story the world afresh.
Though this work may seem overwhelming, perhaps even impossible, remember the ancestors love you, believe in you, and know you’re the world’s greatest hope. Be big, be beautiful, be yourself. The ancestors have passed this precious world onto you, onto each of us. Let’s make them proud.
Winter is the season of the Dark Goddess and Her rebirth magic.
Beneath Nature’s outer state of dormancy and death, new life gestates in the dark belly of the Earth. On the Winter Solstice, the new light of the solar year is reborn from the darkest night. So too we reclaim and rebirth our true beauty from the depths of our wounding. These are the Dark Goddess mysteries that call to us in the winter season.
The Dark Goddess’s wisdom teachings reach out to us from the ancient Sumerian myth of Inanna’s descent to the Underworld realm of Her sister, Ereshkigal. Together, these sister Goddesses gift us with the forgotten ways of the Dark Goddess’s rebirth magic.
Here are four Dark Goddess teachings to guide your personal rebirth magic in the winter season.
1. Turn your mind to your inner darkness to seek your personal rebirth magic.
Rebirth is a special kind of transformational magic that can heal your soul and make your life anew. It doesn’t come from an outside source, nor from the things you already know and understand about yourself and your world. Instead it emerges from the lost, forgotten and denied parts of your Self and your life story, secreted away in the dark folds of your inner landscape.
Inanna turns Her mind to the Great Below. She chooses to leave the land above to descend into the Underworld realm of the Dark Goddess Ereshkigal. She steps beyond Her known, secure world in search of the transformation that awaits Her in the vast unknown of the sacred dark.
The Dark Goddess is Mistress of the sacred dark that exists both in the greater world, and in the depths of your inner landscape. Here you can discover the very stuff of your rebirth magic: the lost stories of your beauty and wounding, as well as the hidden treasures of your dormant gifts and potential.
Be brave. Turn your mind to your inner landscape. Follow in Inanna’s footsteps, and descend into the vast unknown of the sacred dark within. The healing and transformation you seek awaits you there.
2. Commit to show up, empty and open, to the raw, unedited truth that is your life.
There’s no hiding, running away or distraction when you descend into your inner darkness in search of your rebirth magic. An empty, open state of being is an essential requirement in your rebirth pathwork with the Dark Goddess.
To enter Ereshkigal’s realm and descend to Her throne room in the depths of the Underworld, Inanna must give up Her royal accoutrements. This is the law of the Great Below. Inanna passes through seven gates; at each gate something is taken away, until naked and humbled, She stands before the mighty Ereshkigal.
The Dark Goddess doesn’t ask these things of Inanna, or of you, because She is cruel or domineering. She knows that you can’t learn, heal or grow when you’re burdened with a busy life, and stuff-filled mind. She strips you down so you can be present to the greater truths and possibilities within you.
Be still, empty, open. Know that when you work with the Dark Goddess, She will demand much of you. She will take away your masks, pretensions, judgements and anything else that stands between you and your work of soul. You’re the master of your own journey, working at the pace and level of depth that are right for you, and ensuring your self-care and self-responsibility in your spiritual pathwork. But, step by step, healing moment by healing moment, the Dark Goddess will return you to the raw, unedited truth that is your life, and the inner space of your deepest transformation.
3. Sometimes something has to die, to end, for something new to be reborn.
Decline, death, suffering, wounding – these are parts of our human experience, and the reality that governs all things of the living Earth. Try as we might, we can’t escape them. Instead, we need to embrace these aspects of our mortal existence as our allies and guides in our rebirth pathwork of healing and transformation.
Ereshkigal takes Inanna’s life. Inanna makes this ultimate sacrifice in service of Her greater becoming. This too is the law of the Great Below.
Both Goddesses understand that suffering and sacrifice are the price of admission to the Underworld, and to life itself, and that the old self must die for something new to be born in its place. These are the deepest roots of the Dark Goddess’s rebirth magic.
Be wise and let your unfolding life lead your soul work. Don’t expect your spiritual pathwork to be pretty or easy. There’s a sacred purpose in everything that comes your way, even those death-like endings, and wounding experiences. Rebirth magic will take you to the deepest roots of your soul work. It will ask you to die to your old self, over and over again. But trust that something new will always arise in its place.
4. Rebirth is the Dark Goddess’s gift and promise.
To travel the ways of the Dark Goddess isn’t for the fainthearted. It requires bravery, commitment, wisdom and resilience, as well as a high level of self-care and self-responsibility. The Dark Goddess is a demanding taskmistress, but She gives so much in return.
Ereshkigal grants Inanna the ultimate gift for Her suffering and sacrifices — a new life. Inanna is reborn, transformed into Her full beauty and power: Goddess of Heaven, Earth and the Underworld. Inanna accepts Her death, trusting that rebirth will come, because this is the way of Ereshkigal.
Inanna knows these things. She descends into the Great Below and abides by its laws by Her own freewill and choice. She stands before Ereshkigal humbled but undiminished, still a Goddess in Her own right. She surrenders to death and is reborn into a more powerful, whole version of Her Self. This is the Dark Goddess’s gift and promise to anyone who braves the Great Below and Her ways of rebirth.
In the winter season, with the powers of death and darkness reaching their peak on the Winter Solstice, the Dark Goddess calls you to Her rebirth magic. Like Inanna, you get to choose whether to say yes to the ways of the Dark Goddess, and let Her guide you into the depths of your inner darkness where your rebirth magic awaits you. Though the work may seem hard and daunting, remember that the gifts are immeasurable, because what is reborn is nothing less than your true, beautiful, powerful Self.
My journey on the Path of She began thirty years ago.
At this time, I was in my mid-twenties, totally lost in the mainstream culture, with a business degree and a promising career in a blue chip company, living a material, achievement-driven life that neither fed my soul nor gave me joy.
Then one fateful night, on a Winter Solstice eve, the Goddess came to me in a dream. Though I wouldn’t remember this dream until many years later, my life was set on a new course.