Hindu Goddesses of the Thunder Moon

The full moon glows in the still, hot night air. The thick aroma of ripening fruit permeates the night. I sit in cool water in our wading pool. The silver light makes me the same pale non-color as the normally bright blue pool. 

Creative Commons image by San Sharma 

Creative Commons image by San Sharma 

This is called the Thunder Moon, and this year it is living up to it's name with a vengeance. My mother was nearly struck by lightning just the other day, on the other side of the world in Oregon. The whole world went pure white around her and the shock of immediate thunder shook the whole town. Here the stifling air--even after dark--is a good sign a big storm is on its way and the night will soon be filled with deafening noise and sizzling forks of light. 

On nights like this, it is not difficult to understand how ancient peoples often included a ferocious god or goddess of storms in their pantheons.  We have angered the climate gods with our decadent burning of fossil fuels and pollution of the sky. Storms seem to be the retribution of choice. Well, that's one way to look at it at least.

But July has always been the time of thunder in northern lands. The heat of June often gives way a bit and purplish clouds pile up, streaking neon-blue lightening. Tomorrow the forecast calls for another storm and I'm hoping for some rain on the garden. My eight-year-old daughter is still terrified of thunder and I don't blame her. The feeling of awesome power sweeping across our exposed hillside is disconcerting.

I have a hard time understanding how our little wooden house can withstand the ripping winds that send the tops of all the trees around us thrashing like dancers in a mosh pit. But our house stands and other than the startling slamming of doors, all is well. I check the chickens and the greenhouses in the moonlight. The garden is past the young and tender stage, so I don't cover it but let it weather the storm on its own. 

Creative Commons image by Stefanie Härtwig

Creative Commons image by Stefanie Härtwig

I am on a quest to study a different pantheons of ancient goddesses for each month (or moon), and there should be a special place for Hindu goddesses. My children come from a people who migrated relatively recently from northern India and still bear the features of that land in their faces. And so, if my daughter is afraid of the thunder, i hope these may give her some comfort and inspiration.

The Maiden of the Hindu goddesses is Laksmi, who is sometimes portrayed as a mother because of her gifts of plenty, but she is called a maiden in many traditional chants. There are many mothers in the Hindu pantheon, but I have chosen the  Mother as Anumati, goddess of nurturing and permission. The Dark Goddess is, of course, Kali, the terrifying goddess of vengeance, transformation and destruction. She no doubt approves of these thunder storms.

The Full Moon

Anumati is a goddess of spirituality, good fortune and motherhood. She is also a personification of Shakti. Her name means “to give permission.” (Dalal 2011) When she is called in the heat of the summer, her permission grants freedom from bonds and burdens.

There is still a need for caution. The thunder moon is a time of limitations, the tempering of spring and early summer enthusiasm. So, we must think specifically of what we seek and ask permission with the knowledge that not all paths are open at once, that by taking one path we choose not to take another.

Anumati's symbols are simply of the moon and the blessings of plenty and divine favor. It is a time to make wishes and choices, to ask permission of the Goddess for those things we most wish to do with forethought and the knowledge that this is one of the most open times to do so. Incense is a fitting offering.

The Waning Moon

I’ll admit that I’m a bit afraid of the Hindu images of Kali, somewhat the way my daughter is afraid of the thunder. I’m into intensity (and so is she), but this is over the top.

Kali is this ferocious goddess who kills those who defy her and hangs their body parts around her neck. One of the best understandings of Kali I have found comes from the book Naming the Goddess, in which Jennifer Uzzell describes the honoring of Kali in her Hindu family where she is seen in diverse aspects, both motherly and destructive.

Kali's great intensity has the power to transform in the most profound way. (Uzzell 2014) Like the Tower in the Tarot, her power is terrifying and yet necessary. Other than her fearsome images she may be symbolized by the orange and black colors of the monarch butterfly that embodies transformation. She can be honored with meditation and chants and an openness to change in necessary ways.

The Waxing Moon

Lakshmi is the Hindu Maiden Goddess of gifts and happiness. Her essence is positive emotion and beauty. Like the soaring beauty of the summer crescent moon, she is pure and radiant. We can honor her by sharing and spreading around the wealth and well-being she brings to us. (Rhodes 2010)

Her symbol is a white owl, symbolizing the need to open our eyes wide to the light of spiritual wealth. Stand in the center of your sacred space and turn to each direction, calling on the elements of the directions to spread the wealth and well-being of Lakshmi to all living beings in that direction. Aesthetically beautiful food is a traditional offering to Laksmi. 

When exploring other cultures, perhaps especially a culture my adopted children have some ancestral connection to, it is of paramount importance to try to put these goddesses into cultural context.

In accordance with Hindu traditions, it makes sense to set up a shrine or altar to these goddesses with candles, incense and traditional Hindu images of their diversely lovely and terrible faces. Modern Hindus keep such a home altar in the north east corner of a living room, parlor or special room on the ground floor if at all possible. If such a spot is not available, it is acceptable to have a special shelf on an east or west wall or in a kitchen or bedroom, though never in a bathroom or storeroom. Cleanliness of the area is paramount and there is an important rule against keeping money or valuables in this space. 

Keep respect in your heart and actions. The thunder moon will bring you well-being and helpful transformation.

Bibliography

Agrawala, P.K. (1984). Goddesses in Ancient India. New Dehli, India: Abhinav Publications.
Auset, B. (2009). The Goddess Guide: Exploring the Attributes and Correspondences of the Divine Feminine. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
Caputi, J. (2004). Goddesses and Monsters. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Chaudhuri, S. K. (2003). Hindu Gods and Goddesses in Japan. New Delhi, India: Vedams.
Hunt, L. (2001). An Illustrated Meditation Guide: Celestial Goddesses. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
Jordan, M. (2004). Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses. New York, NY: Facts On File, Inc.
Leeming, D. and Page, J. (1994). Goddess: Myths of the Female Divine. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Littleton, C. S. Ed, (2005). Gods, Goddesses and Mythology, Volume 4. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.
Loar, J. (2008). Goddesses for Every Day. Navato, CA: New World Library.
Lurker, M. (1987). A Dictionary of Gods, Goddesses, Devils and Demons. New York, NY: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd.
Monagham, P. (1997). The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
Monagham, P. (1999). The Goddess Companion. Woodbury, MN. Llewellyn Publications.
Monagham, P. (2014). Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. Novato, CA: New World Library.
Motz, L. (1997). The Faces of the Goddess. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Rhodes, C. (2010). Invoking Lakshmi. Albany, NY: State University Press of New York.
Skye, M. (2007). Goddess Alive! Woodbury, MN, Llewellyn Publications.
Uzzell, J. (2014). Kali. In Greenfield, T. (Ed.), Naming the Goddess (pp. 220 - 223). Washington, DC: Moon Books.

An offering at the neglected shrine of Venus

Here is a poem inspired by the vibrant beauty of a June morning and my reading on the ancient goddess of Rome and other reading on today's weird social norms. 

Creative Commons image by Sarah Zucca

Creative Commons image by Sarah Zucca

She was told she wasn't really pretty

and she believed it.

The first boy she loved at sixteen

said he loved her even though she was fat

Solid calf muscles and round biceps

from track and hiking are not glamorous

Her full-hips and strong abdomen

were not in the magazines or on TV.

She noted down the numbers,

At five nine, she should 

be one thirty by that reckoning. 

Her face was never perfect,

her eyes too small and squinted

But sometimes she'd catch a glimpse

of her own shadow or her face looking up

she'd follow the line of her body with her eyes,

thinking it wasn't so bad,

nothing there to drive disgust, 

even grace of a kind, the health of nature

She was strong and swift.

She bent her mind to studies and career.

Twenty years flashed by before she knew it.

She scarcely thought of her body in all that time, 

except to be thankful for health 

and sometimes quietly to wish

that things could have been different.

How many times had she shouldered a pack

and hiked mountains or explored cobble stones

She built sturdy rock walls

with the husband she finally found.

He was not considered handsome either,

dumpy and overweight but strong as a mule.

And they decided dispassionately to throw their lots together.

She took care of her body's needs,

brushed her teeth and went for checkups

ate well and didn't smoke or drink.

But she rarely thought of it and rarely adorned it.

It was mostly just "it."

No mask nor jewelry,

except the thin gold of marriage

more a symbol than an ornament.

She pulled her long hair into a braid and called it good.

She had more important things to do

with her mind, with her heart, with her soul.

And the shrine of Venus grew dusty with disuse

When she comes to it at last after decades have passed

and looks at the lines across her face,

the flaws grown much deeper

and her body heavier and not nearly so strong.

Then she knows the price of offerings not left.

Now she places flowers before the shrine 

and puts gems in her ears and sweet oil on her skin.

She gives honor to the goddess she forgot

and dances in the beauty of a crone's body,

good and true to the health of nature

Faerie goddesses of the Flower Moon: International Moon Circle 11

Until now, this series on moon goddesses has focused on a different culture every month. Yet I am not trying to proscribe to others which goddesses should be honored in which months or which cultures should be considered. It is more a template of how you can explore different energies and invite the blessings of goddesses into your life.

I have explored a wide variety of cultures because it is important in today's mixed and matched world where families and nations often represent more than one cultural root--to stretch our muscles of inclusivity and to understand that what binds us together and what differentiates us in goddess-centered circles. 

Public domain image

Public domain image

Still there are other ways, other templates for exploring goddesses beyond a cultural theme for each month, it is quite possible to focus on a topic, region or element. For May--the Flower Moon--I have chosen to focus on goddesses connected to elementals, the Fay and denizens of the Otherworld.

Many cultures call these "fairies" and they are--in the most basic sense. But in ancient times, they were not seen as frilly little pixies with pretty wings and dresses. Instead they were usually understood as powerful land and nature spirits, connected to the sovereignty of a country. 

This then is the focus for the Flower Moon and because I live in this land, I will stick to Europe for this month with goddesses that did not fit neatly into the cultural themes in previous months. (That's bound to happen. Culture has few hard and fast boundaries and many goddesses belong to more than one culture or only belong to part of a larger culture. They do not respect human borders drawn upon maps or even our narrow ideas of tribe and ethnicity.)

The Maiden for the Flower Moon is the Albanian fairy goddess Zana, the Mother is Danu the ancient goddess of rivers and hollow hills, and the Dark Goddess is Morgan Le Fey of legend, fate and the fairy realm. 

The Waxing Moon

Zana is the fairy maiden of the Albanian mountains. She leaps on sheer and wild mountain sides, singing in the eternal spring dawn, accompanied by three prancing goats. (Lurker 1987) She can be headstrong like a little mountain goat, but her spirit is that of freedom and nimbleness in mind and body.

She is close to the land where I live and folklore points to similar figures throughout Central Europe, though their names have been lost to time. Zana is a good name to use, because hers is still known. She is the youthful goddess of the growing things and the animals of the land I live on and thus a connection to the to the natural world.

Her symbols are mountains, goats and wildflowers. You can connect with her by visiting a place where plants and animals are able to live wild and untamed. Dance is also good.

Creative Commons image by Sandy Sarsfield 

Creative Commons image by Sandy Sarsfield 

The Full Moon

Archaeological evidence and linguistic roots trace the emergence of Celtic culture to the upper part of the Danube River in the heart of old Europe. The name Danube and the names of many other rivers in the region, such as the Dnieper, can be traced to an ancient Indo-european word for “flow” or “river,” which is very likely synonymous with the name of the goddess Danu, who has been carried into modern times by the Irish. (Koch 2006) 

It is impossible to know for certain that there was an ancient goddess called “Danu” or something similar in Central Europe as well as in Ireland, but it is likely. There are certainly plenty of unearthed goddess figures from that ancient culture and many cultures have associated rivers with goddesses. (McLeod 2014) 

There was a goddess in this ancient land and Danu is as good a name for her as we have. The hills in Central Europe are gentle and resemble illustrations of sleeping dragons, half sunk into the earth. The rivers flow between them, carrying the life blood of the land. Danu’s symbols are here in the old hills--metamorphic rock such as marble--and in the water, rivers and marshes.

One way to connect with Danu would be to engage in flowing, fluid dance. Another way would be to trace Celtic knot work or a triple spiral goddess symbol in a flowing unending pattern as a meditation.

The Waning Moon

Much fantasy has been written of Morgan Le Fey and it is difficult to find any certain truth, unless you are willing to trust to dreams and personal intuition. She is a well-known legendary figure but also an older or even crone goddess connected to healing, fate and transition to the Otherworld. (Slocum 1992) She may be another form of the Irish triple goddess of death, war and destruction, the Morrigan. Her symbols are lakes, a barge, a sword or a crown.

In Arthurian legend she is sometimes seen as a wise healer, sometimes as a malevolent destroyer and strangely also as both the enemy who causes hurt and the healer who nurses those she injured, according to some sources.  Whichever way you choose to take her, she has been a powerful figure for hundreds and possibly thousands of years. She is the mystery of fate which may not have a clear line from cause to effect or deeds to consequences.

You can connect with her by considering the role of fate and consciously choosing to face needed changes. Light a black, white or silver candle and let it reflect in a bowl of water. Consider that fate may not be set in stone and it may also not be a matter of getting what you deserve. Fate is just the part of what happens that is not within our control. As you accept that you cannot control all the important things in your life, you accept Morgan le Fay--her potential for healing and her potential for destruction.

Bibliography

  • Auset, B. (2009). The Goddess Guide: Exploring the Attributes and Correspondences of the Divine Feminine. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Caputi, J. (2004). Goddesses and Monsters. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Hunt, L. (2001). An Illustrated Meditation Guide: Celestial Goddesses. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Jordan, M. (2004). Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses. New York, NY: Facts On File, Inc.
  • Koch, J. T., Ed. (2006). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc.
  • Leeming, D. and Page, J. (1994). Goddess: Myths of the Female Divine. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Littleton, C. S. Ed, (2005). Gods, Goddesses and Mythology, Volume 4. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.
  • Loar, J. (2008). Goddesses for Every Day. Navato, CA: New World Library.
  • Lurker, M. (1987). A Dictionary of Gods, Goddesses, Devils and Demons. New York, NY: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd.
  • McLeod, S. P. (1960). The Devine Feminine in Ancient Europe. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, Inc. Publishers.
  • Monagham, P. (1997). The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Monagham, P. (1999). The Goddess Companion. Woodbury, MN. Llewellyn Publications.
  • Monagham, P. (2014). Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. Novato, CA: New World Library.
  • Motz, L. (1997). The Faces of the Goddess. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Reid-Bowen, P. (2007). Goddess As Nature. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.
  • Slocum, S. K. Ed. (1992). Popular Arthurian Traditions. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press.
  • Sykes, E. (2002). Who’s Who in Non-Classical Mythology. New York, NY: Routledge.

The Hawaiian goddesses of the Egg Moon: International Moon Circle 10

The energy of spring is a welcome boost to activism and social justice movements. We need the joy of dance and flowers, the breaking free and the energy of fire. 

Creative Commons image by  Steve Corey

Creative Commons image by  Steve Corey

Though ancient Hawaiian culture was quite formal, it gave us some of the most inspiring goddesses for social justice. It is to these women of joy, freedom and fire that I devote the month of April, the Egg Moon. 

It takes a while for spring to make it all the way up through Central Europe to our Bohemian valley. February is long and frigid. March is usually gray, muddy and lashed with chilly rain. When spring does come it often brings sudden, wild color and light to our area. The shift usually happens in early April and I have chosen to focus on the colorful and sensuous goddesses of Hawaii for this moon. The Maiden is Laka, the Mother is Hina and the Dark Goddess is Pele--goddess of fire, destruction and anger.

The Waxing Moon

Laka is the Hawaiian Maiden Goddess of the wild wood, dance and gifts. Her energy is that of pure joy and the colors of the natural world. She embodies joyful wildness, the innocence of young things full of promise and delightful movement. (Andersen 2011) This is what happens in April when flowers burst forth and the first green is brilliant. Laka's symbols are flowers, dance and the color yellow.

Creative Commons image by Crishna Simmons

Creative Commons image by Crishna Simmons

The energy of Laka is a glorious gift. She reminds us to bring play into our lives, to dance, to make fun gifts for no particular reason. This type of connection to a childlike joy is also a way to honor her. This is a great time to make a dandelion or buttercup crown or bouquet and to dance with no one watching.

The Full Moon

Hina is the female generative force of Hawaii, the ancient creatrix. She leads other goddesses and breaks free of male domination. She takes on many different identities, including that of trickster. But she is always tied to moonlight. She represents the rainbow array of women’s experience and the mother beyond stereotypes.

The stories of Hina are full of action, adventure, dragons, flamboyant tricks and colorful mist. One important myth of Hina is about how she made the decision to leave her husband and find a new home. She has the power to create and the strength to call an end when needed. (Monagham 2014) Her symbols are dragons, rainbows, tricks (such as April Fools day pranks) and dance. Reading stories of her adventures would be a good way to honor her as well as making dragon and rainbow decorations.

The Waning or Dark Moon

Creative Commons image by Ron Cogswell

Creative Commons image by Ron Cogswell

While Pele is the goddess of volcanoes and anger, she is treated rather nicely by the popular media. There was even a club founded in 1922 for people who had looked into her volcano in a Hawaiian national park and made offerings to her. (Nimmo 2011)

Images of her often emphasize her joyful side, which does exist. But she also truly represents the intensity and quick temper that often make strong women intimidating and gain us the labels of “hysterical” or “raging.” Half the time this intensity doesn’t even come from Pele’s anger. Like many emotionally intense and expressive women, she just is that way. She may be expressing joy but it comes with fire and spitting lava.

A way to connect with Pele is to release your inner intensity, express emotions vehemently, even if only in private. Fire is her primary symbol, though dragons may also be appropriate.

Bibliography

  • Andersen, J. (2011). Myths and Legends of the Polynesians. New York, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.
  • Auset, B. (2009). The Goddess Guide: Exploring the Attributes and Correspondences of the Divine Feminine. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Hunt, L. (2001). An Illustrated Meditation Guide: Celestial Goddesses. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Jordan, M. (2004). Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses. New York, NY: Facts On File, Inc.
  • Leeming, D. and Page, J. (1994). Goddess: Myths of the Female Divine. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Littleton, C. S. Ed, (2005). Gods, Goddesses and Mythology, Volume 4. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.
  • Loar, J. (2008). Goddesses for Every Day. Navato, CA: New World Library.
  • Lurker, M. (1987). A Dictionary of Gods, Goddesses, Devils and Demons. New York, NY: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd.
  • Monagham, P. (1997). The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Monagham, P. (1999). The Goddess Companion. Woodbury, MN. Llewellyn Publications.
  • Monagham, P. (2014). Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. Novato, CA: New World Library.
  • Nimmo, H. A. (2011). Pele, Volcano Goddess of Hawai’i: A History. Jefferson, NC. McFarland & Company, Inc.
  • Motz, L. (1997). The Faces of the Goddess. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Reid-Bowen, P. (2007). Goddess As Nature. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.
  • Skye, M. (2007). Goddess Alive! Woodbury, MN, Llewellyn Publications.
  • Sykes, E. (2002). Who’s Who in Non-Classical Mythology. New York, NY: Routledge.

The Arctic Goddesses of the Sap Moon: International Moon Circle 9

In the far north, the year is just dawning. The long moonlit nights are finally giving way to dawn. And the full moon of night is giving up its place to the waxing moon of young life. It is a mercy that the moon is in the sky in the Arctic when it is full, during the winter when there is so little sunshine. In summer, the moon is rarely visible, only in the sky when it is dark or new..

Wait. Pause and think on that miracle for a moment.

Creative Commons image by  Daniel Frei

Creative Commons image by Daniel Frei

The moon and the sun dance in this way, never leaving the Arctic in complete darkness. Such is the kindness of the guardians of sun, moon and earth. And the understandable reverence and gratitude toward these goddesses felt by the various peoples of the Arctic for millennia is a powerful meditation for people everywhere. 

If we can connect to this knowledge that, despite the chaos of the universe and the whirling physics of the planets, our sun and moon have conspired to always shed light of one kind or the other on the coldest and loneliest places, In that light, it is easier to believe that our planet will survive the current period of destruction and the forces of returning life will prevail, no matter how deep the darkness.

It is nearly spring and yet I choose now to focus on the Arctic goddesses. Their symbols often appear more apt in the winter to people in temperate climates, but in their essence they are all about the return of light. And for that reason, I feel this is their season.

I have gathered goddesses from various Arctic cultures, connecting this moon with a geographical region rather than a specific culture or pantheon. This is by no means meant as a sign of disrespect, but rather a means of including less known cultures in this circle of moon goddesses.

The Maiden for this moon is Kalteš, the Siberian goddess of the hare, the Mother is the Saami Goddess Akka, and the Dark Goddess is the Inuit goddess Sedna. 

Waxing Moon

Kalteš is a Siberian Ugric goddess of the moon and the hare. She is also called the dawn maiden and she is a symbol of life, hope and energy in a cold land. She is a maiden who helps with births and determines the destinies of humans. Her symbols are the hare, the goose and the birch tree. (Lurker 1987)

The Sap Moon is the time when the birch begins to leaf in our part of the world, leading to the name of the month in the Czech language as Birch Month. A good way to connect with Kalteš might be putting birch twigs into a vase and making hare figures. We often make hare-or rabbit-shaped cookies for Ostara during this moon. 

Full Moon

Akka means old or mother-age woman. She is a Saami goddess of many faces. As Madder-Akka, she is Lady of the Mother, the ultimate mother who gave birth to the others. All that is good comes from her.

As Sar-Akka she opens the womb and is sometimes considered the supreme deity. She was traditionally honored by chopping wood outside the birthing tent, and new mothers ate porridge with three sticks in it to divine the future of their child. Finding the black stick meant death, white meant good luck and the cleft stick meant success.

Juks-Akka is the Bow Woman, the protector of children and the spirit of the wilderness. Uks-Akka is the bringer of light and the guardian of thresholds, both of the womb and of the home. She gives blessings to those going out into the world. (Monagham 2014).

So, this is a good full moon to make porridge from hardy and whole grains--sweet and delicious. Sticks may or may not be added, but divination is also a good way to connect. Blessing all the entrances to the home is also appropriate. 

Creative Commons image by Steve Cottrell

Creative Commons image by Steve Cottrell

Waning and Dark Moon

I rarely find the stories of dark goddesses too dark, but Sedna’s story was at first too much for me. I put her aside for a time, but she came up again and again in seemingly random studies about the goddesses of many cultures. And now that I look more closely I see the awesome power of her story. 

She seems at first to be simply a helpless victim, which was the reason I was initially uninspired. Sedna was a maiden who refused to marry. She ran away but was captured at last by a husband. Then her father came to take her back in his boat. It is possible that it wasn't just her who refused the marriage but also her family.

A storm rose up at sea to block the father-daughter escape. And fearing that his tiny boat would be swamped, the father pushed Sedna into the sea. She clung to the side of the boat but he cut off her fingers and arms. She drowned and her fingers turned into seals and her arms into whales as she sank. The end.

Or so I thought. But through further research I found that Sedna is the Inuit goddess of plenty, not of tragedy, victimhood and passivity. At first, I still wondered if she was a sign that the Inuit people feel they were short changed when it comes to "plenty," given that they inhabit a frozen land and have suffered so much at the hands of other humans. 

But again, this was just my narrow, modern thinking showing. As it turns out, Sedna is truly the goddess of plenty because to the Inuit the sea, the seals and the whales constitute a great and abundant plenty. The Inuit are well aware that we live from the lives of others, that our sustenance requires sacrifices from the earth and from the sea. (Monaghan 1999) This is why the story of the goddess of plenty is one of sacrifice and loss as well.

It is only gratitude that Sedna asks. Instead of the wrath of many dark goddesses, she let’s us suffer our own internal consequences for ignoring these facts of life and nature. Symbols of Sedna are the full figures of whales and other large sea animals as well as waves and boats. One way to connect with her is to honor those beings that provide us with food in whatever climate we may be in and regardless of whether or not they are plants or animals. Activism to protect the oceans and ocean creatures from pollution, over-fishing and other human activities are also appropriate in her name. 

Bibliography

  • Auset, B. (2009). The Goddess Guide: Exploring the Attributes and Correspondences of the Divine Feminine. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Caputi, J. (2004). Goddesses and Monsters. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Hunt, L. (2001). An Illustrated Meditation Guide: Celestial Goddesses. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Jordan, M. (2004). Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses. New York, NY: Facts On File, Inc.
  • Laguna, R. (2014). Ishtar. In Greenfield, T. (Ed.), Naming the Goddess (pp. 214 - 216). Washington, DC: Moon Books.
  • Leeming, D. and Page, J. (1994). Goddess: Myths of the Female Divine. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Littleton, C. S. Ed, (2005). Gods, Goddesses and Mythology, Volume 4. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.
  • Loar, J. (2008). Goddesses for Every Day. Navato, CA: New World Library.
  • Lurker, M. (1987). A Dictionary of Gods, Goddesses, Devils and Demons. New York, NY: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd.
  • McLeod, S. P. (1960). The Devine Feminine in Ancient Europe. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, Inc. Publishers.
  • Monagham, P. (1997). The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
  • Monagham, P. (1999). The Goddess Companion. Woodbury, MN. Llewellyn Publications.
  • Monagham, P. (2014). Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. Novato, CA: New World Library.
  • Motz, L. (1997). The Faces of the Goddess. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Reid-Bowen, P. (2007). Goddess As Nature. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.
  • Skye, M. (2007). Goddess Alive! Woodbury, MN, Llewellyn Publications.
  • Sykes, E. (2002). Who’s Who in Non-Classical Mythology. New York, NY: Routledge.

Simple method for making a beautiful Brigid doll

My eight-year-old daughter is not normally very excited about crafts and she tends to be impatient, so I was amazed and delighted by our success with this craft. 

We made Brigid dolls today--two of them because she decided to set up her own altar and wanted to make her own doll all by her self. The craft held her interest for several hours and came out really beautiful.

1. We took a square of white cloth and put a solid ball of cotton in the middle of it. You can use anything from crumpled paper to cloth scraps to a Styrofoam craft ball. You can also use a white paper handkerchief in place of a white cloth for a quick but less durable doll. 

2. We then gathered the corners of the cloth and tied a red or gold string under the ball to form a kind of neck. We cut slits every few inches in the cloth, almost up to but not quite reaching the neck. 

3. Then we rolled up another smaller rectangle of cloth and tied it at the ends to form arms. This we inserted under the neck through the slits, so that the arms protrude on both sides. (I also inserted a little extra cloth in min for breasts but my daughter didn't. You can see the difference in the photos below.

4. Then we inserted some dried lavender stalks from the bottom in place of legs. This makes the doll smell wonderful. You can substitute many different herbs or stalks of grain. Really anything symbolizing your last-year's harvest is symbolically appropriate. 

5. We tied a second string around the middle under the arms, This serves as a waist and holds the herb stalks in place. 

6. Now it was time to decorate the doll. First we put on hair. We loosely sewed embroidery floss into the head, letting each stitch dangle for several inches. This was by far the most difficult and time-consuming part of the craft and it could be avoided by coloring or gluing on wool, fabric or feathers in place of hair. But we loved the look of the embroidery floss.

7. We then tied and stitched a scarf or hair band on over the hair. This can also be done with hot glue. 

8. Next we put on faces. My daughter chose to color hers on with markers and I embroidered mine on, although I am no expert at embroidery. Both turned out fine.

9. I added a lace apron to match the scarf, because I had a bit of extra curtain lace hanging around. Both can be made with any white cloth or even a white paper handkerchief. 

10. Finally we used another red string to tie a few lavender sprigs into the hands so that they formed a welcoming circle in front of the doll.

All ties were made with either red or gold strings. A Brigid doll should generally be white with red, gold and possibly purple highlights. This is the doll we will use in our Imbolc ritual. We will place the dolls in baskets by the hearth to sleep through the night before Imbolc. Then the children will come and light candles and symbolically wake up Brigid to bring in the spring in the morning. It is their favorite part of the Imbolc holiday. 

I'm so happy to finally share the making of the doll with my daughter too.

By the way, this is the same craft used in the children's adventure story around Imbolc called Shanna and the Raven. Although in the book the craft is done with natural sticks or stalks of herbs for the arms as well. There is also a delicious recipe for white and red strawberry dumplings in the book. It's a story about how a couple of modern goddess-orriented kids celebrate the holiday and learn to use intuition for their own protection. 

I hope you will all have peace and inspiration this holiday. Blessings of creativity and warm hearths to all!

Journey to the Dark Goddess - Pagan Book Review

Journey to the Dark Goddess: How to Return to Your Soul by Jane Meredith is a startling combination of a spiritual guide book and a very practical how-to manual. It is almost more self-help than a spiritual book, although you can take it in a Pagan interpretation.

Here in one book are the myths of the Dark Goddess and those who journey to the Underworld to meet her--Inanna and Ereshkigal, Persephone, and Psyche--as well as the explanations of why and what these myths mean spiritually and psychologically, personal experience stories and clear instructions for rituals to consciously choose your journey of transformation.

Meredith sees the Dark Goddess as that which has the power to transform us through inner work. Because most people avoid deep inner reflection, we are usually brought to it through hardship, disaster, illness, loneliness, grief or depression. Meredith's concept is that a person can choose to take the steps necessary to meet transformation on our own terms--before it is forced upon us through circumstance or, if necessary, during such circumstances. 

Overall the concept is solid and well explained and executed. There is some moderate repetition but for those inexperienced with the concepts and ritual format, it will likely be helpful. The sections are well labeled and it is possible to navigate in the book, if the repetition does bother you. 

The writing is clear and enough flexibility is left in the instructions for the steps to be practical for a wide variety of people. If there is one thing that left me concerned in this book, it was the author's wise assertion that individuals consciously undergoing such a passage should always have support persons lined up in advance with specific instructions for helping the seeker should she get stuck in her process.

Primarily this includes reminding the person on the journey to the dark goddess to eat, sleep and exercise regularly. It also means providing compassionate moral support. While this is excellent advice, there was very little in the book on how to find such support or what to do when it is lacking. In today's world, it is not always easy for individuals to find authentic support and a large reason for seeking out such a book could well be isolation and social alienation. 

It may simply be that the author has no answers for this particular conundrum. She does not claim to have all the answers and in fact uses examples of her mistakes along the way as useful teaching tools to show how the steps of the journey should and should not be done. 

Using the book

Over the past month, I have experimented with the rituals, imagery and myths in this book. It just so happened that this book arrived on my doorstep at a time when I had to enter a dark and frightening situation consciously. 

I have been legally blind all my life, but my eyesight has largely remained stable. To others it may seem very weak, but I am very glad for what I have. Suddenly in the past year my sight started to fail due to cataracts. And I was told that I am in a high risk category for cataract surgery. I could become totally blind very quickly if the surgery didn't go perfectly... and there is a lot that can go wrong.

The surgery had to be scheduled at the darkest time of the year--November and December--to minimize risks. And so while I normally guard myself against the harsher parts of life at this time of year, I now had to face them fully. I also had a support person available both for the surgery and for the journey to the Dark Goddess.

It was quite a coincidence that the book arrived at just such a time, so I decided to go through it in a practical way. I have been through some dark periods--depression, social ostracism, infertility. So, I know what Meredith means when she describes a journey to one's personal underworld. 

There are a dozen rituals described in Journey to the Dark goddess but not all of them are mandatory for such a journey. I did some of the preparation rituals and exercises with curiosity but little deep connection. Then when it came time for me to consciously descend into the dark, I combined the ritual of the seven gates to the Underworld described in the book with a ritual sauna in an underground cellar and a time of utter silence.

My experience of the seven gates to the Underworld was quite different from what Meredith describes. It was a very powerful ritual, but I felt somehow detached from my emotions, which are usually rampant. It was almost as if I was watching myself from outside myself, watching this person I barely knew falling and disappearing into the gloom. After an entire moon in which I underwent two surgeries, a month of enforced rest and near isolation, and much upheaval in my relationships and household, I finally felt the flickering of returning energy .

Those things I had relinquished on my way to the Underworld--attachments to family, home, status and cherished skills--had reordered themselves and taken on a different significance. In the end, while my experience is not the same as Meredith's, it was very helpful to follow her guidelines and concepts. 

The Celtic Goddesses of the Cold Moon - International Moon Circle 6

The Cold Moon is cold indeed in Central Europe and the British Isles. It is almost never snowy but it is bone-chilling and often bleak. The sun shrinks down to the southern horizon, so that even at noon it shines crosswise across the land, throwing huge stark shadows, if it is visible at all. Mostly it isn't though and the sky and land are gray in the fallow time. 

It is at this moon that Celtic myths tell of imprisonment, ordeals, fierce storms and transformation. And yet it is also the time of rekindled hope, the sun almost disappearing and then returning, miraculously at last.

I have chosen to celebrate the Celtic goddesses for this moon. They are sometimes harsh in aspect but also embody the promise of solace and hope that the winter solstice brings. The Maiden for this moon is Aine, both a sun and moon goddess often recognized near the solstices; the Mother is Rhiannon of strength and steadfast courage in the face of unjust punishment; and the Dark Goddess is Cerridwen with her cauldron of change for the turning of the new calendar year.

Creative Commons Image by Barry of Flickr

Creative Commons Image by Barry of Flickr

The Waxing Moon

Aine is an Irish goddess of the land connected to both sun and moon. Her connection to the land means that she has the power to make a man king.

While she has many consorts, such a relationship must be on her terms. Several times in myth, she is forced to be with a man who desires power—raped by a king and captured by another man while sitting on the shores of a lake. But she escapes and takes her revenge, denying sovereignty to those who abuse her or the land.

Aine is bright and fertile, a high lady of healers and a protector of women, particularly women who have been abused. Today many rituals call on Aine to comfort and aid the victims of abuse or to bring justice to their abusers. (Burdette 2014) We can connect with Aine for rituals of healing (including healing for specific parts of the land), protection and calling on the sun for light and the powers of creativity. Her symbols are geese, the sun, the moon and apples. Use fir or apple scents.

Full Moon

Rhiannon was falsely accused of a terrible crime. She endured with dignity both the grief of a lost child and the great hardship of unjust punishment and humiliation. In times of injustice, hardship, misfortune or illness and when the sorrow of infertility spreads its shadow, we need Rhiannon’s courage and steadfastness along with the hope of eventual justice.

Creative Commons image by Lailantie Core

Creative Commons image by Lailantie Core

Still, there is no promise that we will be given all of our desires. Rhiannon suffered and was not actually granted a reward in compensation. Instead the hardship itself gifted her with even greater inner strength than she had possessed before. Her sorrow ended at last when her child was returned to her. She didn’t get revenge. Instead she continued to be a mother to the people. She was the one who was stronger and thus the one who could endure. Her symbols are horses and three magical birds who can both raise the dead and put the living to sleep. (Skye 2007)

You can connect to Rhiannon by doing horse-related crafts or putting up horse decorations. Put this quote of a Druid triad on your altar: “There are three spiritual instructors: worldly misfortune, bodily illness, and unmerited hatred.” Add a picture of Rhiannon and three bird figures or three candles (if possible decorated with birds or shaped like birds).

Also, do a Tarot reading or allow children to choose a Tarot card that they like and discuss the meanings and lessons of the cards. Tell the story of Rhiannon. Put out bird seed or homemade bird feeders for the birds who accompany Rhiannon. In today’s world unmerited hatred often comes in the form of racism, sexism, homophobia or ablism. Listen to the music of inclusion and anti-prejudice movements. Use the wood of oak and the greenery of holly at this time.

Cerridwen's Cauldron - Creative Commons image by Aida Di Leto Lundquist

Cerridwen's Cauldron - Creative Commons image by Aida Di Leto Lundquist

The Waning Moon

Cerridwen is the keeper of the cauldron of spiritual transformation. She is considered a dark goddess primarily because transformation of this magnitude usually hurts. She also governs death, rebirth, prophesy, magic and divine inspiration. She gives moral counsel and magical potions of deep wisdom. (Auset 2009)

The moment of standing in a free natural place in starlight is hers—that yearning after mystery which is always just beyond our grasp. Her symbols are a cauldron, a white sow or an old woman in starlight. You can connect to her through rituals of transformation, divination and magic. Burn rosemary and cedar incense. Greenery of ivy or pine is appropriate.

Bibliography

Auset, B. (2009). The Goddess Guide: Exploring the Attributes and Correspondences of the Divine Feminine. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
Burdette, A. (2014). Aine. In Greenfield, T. (Ed.), Naming the Goddess (pp. 90-92). Washington, DC: Moon Books.
Caputi, J. (2004). Goddesses and Monsters. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Hunt, L. (2001). An Illustrated Meditation Guide: Celestial Goddesses. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
Jordan, M. (2004). Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses. New York, NY: Facts On File, Inc.
Koch, J. T., Ed. (2006). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc.
Leeming, D. and Page, J. (1994). Goddess: Myths of the Female Divine. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Littleton, C. S. Ed, (2005). Gods, Goddesses and Mythology, Volume 4. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.
Loar, J. (2008). Goddesses for Every Day. Navato, CA: New World Library.
Lurker, M. (1987). A Dictionary of Gods, Goddesses, Devils and Demons. New York, NY: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd.
McLeod, S. P. (1960). The Devine Feminine in Ancient Europe. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, Inc. Publishers.
Monagham, P. (1997). The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
Monagham, P. (1999). The Goddess Companion. Woodbury, MN. Llewellyn Publications.
Monagham, P. (2014). Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. Novato, CA: New World Library.
Motz, L. (1997). The Faces of the Goddess. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Reid-Bowen, P. (2007). Goddess As Nature. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.
Skye, M. (2007). Goddess Alive! Woodbury, MN, Llewellyn Publications.
Slocum, S. K. Ed. (1992). Popular Arthurian Traditions. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press.
Sykes, E. (2002). Who’s Who in Non-Classical Mythology. New York, NY: Routledge.
Woodfield, S. (2014) Drawing Down the Sun: Rekindle the Magick of the Solar Goddesses. Woodbury, MN. Llewellyn Publications.

The Goddess in America - Pagan Book Review

Here's America's answer to Pagan Planet. which focuses heavily on the British Isles. The Goddess in America: The Divine Feminine in Cultural Context, edited by Trevor Greenfield, is an impressive anthology of Neopagan, Reclaiming and Goddess-oriented writers and it provides a valuable study guide for anyone seeking to understand Goddess-centered faith in America.

Right off the bat, this book passes the first, most obvious and most often failed test when it comes to looking at Goddess spirituality in America. That is it starts before Columbus... long before Columbus and stays there for a solid chunk of the book. Kudos to the editor for that. It isn't a stance without its critics and dangers. 

The issue of the uneasy relationship between Goddess-devotees of European descent, Native American Goddess spirituality and cultural appropriation is addressed without any definitive conclusion. It's a sticky subject and there is essentially no way to satisfy everyone. Several authors weigh in on the topic in this anthology, all offering various versions of a moderate viewpoint: i.e. people should be free to honor goddesses other than those from their own genetic background as long as they do so with true respect and take the time to understand the cultural context of the goddess and give something back to the culture and community that the goddess comes from. Some authors have more exacting standards than others when it comes to correct respect but that is the general consensus.

The book continues with a variety of perspectives on the historical development and contemporary character of goddess spirituality in America. Again, the editor has heard the calls for more racial diversity in such anthologies and the authors represent reasonable diversity within the movement, including Vodun and Hebrew goddess perspectives. 

The book is generally well written, excellently edited and interesting to read. Unlike some similar books there is little attempt to make it easy or light reading, however. The authors state their issues in all their complexity, which will make the book appropriate for university programs and other scholarly considerations. It includes several sections on pop culture, including an essay on representations of the Goddess in pop culture as well as the Goth movement, but these issues are handled from an analytical perspective, with respect for those who are part of these trends and yet without playing to a pop culture tune. 

If there is any issue in which I feel the book is not fully representative of American goddess-spirituality it is in the emphasis of several authors on Reclaiming. My broad experience of the on-line world of American goddess spirituality shows that both formal Reclaiming groups and the general values and ideals of Reclaiming are much less prominent in America than they are represented in this book.

I personally love the Reclaiming movement, however, and I wish these values and ideals had greater sway in the popular goddess movement in America, so I don't take offense at its exaggerated influence in the book. I dearly wish more people today took social and environmental activism to the core of their spirituality and acted on the principles they profess. Instead I find a media landscape which deadens passion and ridicules those who stand up for their beliefs actively.  

Thus to paraphrase the motto of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, this is something like the Goddess in America--as she is and should be.  This book sets out not just to document where we are but also to point a conscious way forward for the goddess community in America. 

All in all this is an excellent anthology on contemporary goddess spirituality and well worth the read.

Celtic Witchcraft - A Pagan book review

The book Celtic Witchcraft by Mabh Savage is a delightful little surprise. I had three books to review this week and I took this one last because I wasn’t sure what I’d find. I am a Celtic inspired Pagan but witchcraft isn’t my focus. I’ve seen far too many cookbook style spell books that seemed to do more to mock my beliefs than to further them. 

But I’m a sucker for new information, so I went for it in the end and was very pleasantly surprised. This is no spell cookbook. It is a clearly organized, yet readable exploration of the philosophy and symbols of Celtic witchcraft. It’s focus is spiritual and symbolic depth in one narrow field.

As a result there are only really a handful of specific “spells” described in the book, but the information and concepts are there that will allow those with enough experience to come up with their own and to judge the authenticity of spells from other sources. 

It's a relatively short and readable book in the Pagan Portals style, not an exhaustive academic source by any means but very useful for defining Celtic witchcraft.