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Our Whole, Holy Womanhood: A Death and Life Story

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.    

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

My book Faultlines argued our country is going through on of the most divisive periods in Western history, at three progressively deeper levels. First is the cultural split rooted in the divergent paths the North and South took over slavery, a split reignited with the Civil Rights movement and the Republican Party’s “Southern Strategy.” 

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    "A free society depends on recognizing people will disagree politically and NOT BE ENEMIES." So your answer is to label people wi
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    Just got to your comment as in July I was packing and much of August has been spent getting settled in New Mexico. That said, you
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    Mr. diZerega, I am conflicted about Trump's candidacy. I dislike him. But if he wins, it will be the last hurrah for his politica
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    Trump is a man with a long record of fraud against those weaker than himself. In his speeches he urged violence against demonstrat
Sacred Feminine or Goddess Feminism?

In recent years “the Sacred Feminine” has become interchangeable with (for some) and preferable to (for others) “Goddess” and “Goddess feminism.” The terms Goddess and feminism, it is sometimes argued, raise hackles: Is Goddess to replace God? And if so why? Does feminism imply an aggressive stance? And if so, against whom or what?

In contrast, the term “sacred feminine” (with or without caps) feels warm and fuzzy, implying love, care, and concern without invoking the G word or even the M(other) word--about which some people have mixed feelings. Advocates of the sacred feminine stand against no one, for men have their “sacred feminine” sides, while women have their “sacred masculine” sides as well.

Nothing lost, and much to be gained. Right? Wrong.

Perseus with the Head of Medusa: Sacred Masculine?
Perseus with the Head of Medusa: Sacred Masculine and Sacred Feminine?

When Goddess feminism emerged onto the scene, it had a political edge. It was about women affirming, as Meg Christian crooned in “Ode to a Gym Teacher,” that “being female means you still can be strong.” Goddess feminism arose in clear opposition to patriarchy and patriarchal religions. It was born of an explicit critique of societies organized around male domination, violence, and war; and of the male God or Gods of patriarchal religions as justifying domination, violence, and war. In this context, “the sacred masculine” was not understood to be a neutral or positive concept. To the contrary, the male Gods of patriarchy were understood to be at the center of symbol systems that justify domination.

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  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Carol, thanks for encouraging the idea that making readers comfortable is not necessarily the honorable thing for a wordsmith to d
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Thanks Lisa.
  • Lisa Sarasohn
    Lisa Sarasohn says #
    Thanks again for your elucidation, Carol. In the past, I've titled my workshops "Embodying the Goddess" and "The Goddess In Our Mi
  • Lisa Sarasohn
    Lisa Sarasohn says #
    And for a stirring performance of the song, see https://youtu.be/MQrC2pEalJ8
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Thank you, Lisa. I'm glad that young people are still singing it, in all the languages of the world. And thank you, John.
Food for the Soul: Three Goddess Anthologies

With the holidays coming in just a few weeks, I bet you're thinking of the presents you'd like to buy--whether for loves ones or for yourself. For me there's no gift better than a good book. Books are food for the soul, precious companions on our life journeys. Honoring the magical number three, as well as the multitude of voices that speak about the Sacred Feminine, allow me to share with you my three favorite anthologies:

 

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_rise-to-standing.jpgI'm clearing out the clutter in my studio when a scrap of paper pops up with a poem I must have written years ago.

Reading the piece, which sports the title "Forgiveness," I wonder: What does belly wisdom have to do with that?

The Woman's Belly Book: Finding Your True Center for More Energy, Confidence, and Pleasure includes two poems, but this isn't one of them.

Searching my computer for a file that might contain the poem, thinking I could copy and paste the words here for you rather than type them out again, I find files labelled Forgiveness.0, Forgiveness.1, and Forgiveness.2.

Turns out, back in 1995 — twenty years ago — I guided people through a Ritual of Forgiveness in a workshop that was (if I remember correctly) part of a Sufi conference on healing.

The ritual involves moving through the Honoring Your Belly sequence of power-centering gestures — twice, in fact, each time with a different narration.

Apparently I wrote the two narrations for this Ritual of Forgiveness sometime after writing the ones that inform the Rite for Reconsecrating Our Womanhood and the Rite for Invoking the Sacred Feminine. The Reconsecrations voice a sequence of affirmations tracing the heroine's journey; the Invocations present a series of body prayers addressing the Feminine Divine. In each case, the words imbue the 23 gestures they accompany with personal meaning.

Likewise, in the first round of this Ritual of Forgiveness the 23 movement and breathing exercises enact "Decomposing the Old, Conceiving the New." The same gestures, in the second round, animate "Gestating and Generating the New."

Both rounds involve drawing out images emerging from the body's center: first, what we're willing to release; then, what we welcome to take its place.

Twenty years ago, I discovered that energizing the belly and activating its wisdom with movement and breath could contribute mightily to the process of forgiveness. I believe I'm ripe for exploring that connection again.

How are you with forgiveness — needing to forgive, resisting forgiveness, knowing how to forgive — in your life?

Here's the poem that sparked a twenty-year retrospective that, for me, is oh-so-timely today. I hope it's a pleasure for you.


Forgiveness

pulls you out of the muck with a pop
sets you on your feet here
where the ground is sturdy
and the footing's firm
turns you around to face the
dawn-rising horizon
brushes you down, proclaims you
good as new
sends you on your way
with a scarlet smudge on your sacrum
and a turkey sandwich on rye
and a note safely pinned to your lapel:
moving forward

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From Gaia and Dionysus to Jesus and Mary Magdalene

"How would you like to be interviewed for a book that questions the historical existence of Jesus?" asked Minas, a journalist, editor, and old-time friend of mine. "I'd love it if you would like to point out the similarities between Jesus and Dionysus." It was an offer I couldn't resist. The interview turned out to me more than 5000 words long, opening a host of fascinating topics. It is included in the book Jesus Mythicism: An Introduction, whose English translation recently came out. It is written by Minas Papageorgiou and also includes interviews by well-known scholars, such as Maria Dzielska, Payam Nabarz, and Joseph Atwill.

I'm delighted to share a part of my interview with you, with permission from the book's author.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_womb_wisdom.pngBefore I tell you about a great short film, "Belly Button," let me remind you that my free Womb Wisdom conversation, Connecting with the Sacred Feminine, goes online on Wednesday, April 22.

If you haven't already done so, register for Womb Wisdom at nourishthefeminine.com by Tuesday, April 21 so you receive the email with the link to the conversation. 

Remember, once you register for this free event, you're on your way to receiving two gifts I'm offering, each complementing The Woman's Belly Book: a $5 discount on the Honoring Your Belly instructional DVD and a 20% discount on the full-color illustrated paperback, Rite for Invoking the Sacred Feminine.

Now, to the movies:

Early on in my career as Belly Queen — championing women's bellies as sacred, not shameful — a friend showed me a poem she had written. The piece included the words: "first scar, mother scar."

b2ap3_thumbnail_mary-crossroads0.pngDavid Hewitt's gem of a 10-minute film, "Belly Button," offers its own take on that theme. The cast includes Sharon Small and Don Gilet, two of my favorite British actors.

Hewitt describes the story this way: "Six strangers are drawn together at one moment in time, but with different dreams."

b2ap3_thumbnail_mary-crossroads3.png

Myself, I see the sacred feminine at the crossroads. What's the story you see?

 

 
Click on the images above or here to see the film on YouTube.
 
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