27 February 2011

The Female Force Erputs

The earthquakes in New Zealand and the tremors that have been shaking the earth all around the Ring of Fire are connected with the events in Northern Africa and the Middle East. The roiling energy that is escaping where it can from underneath the Earth’s crust is being reflected in the uprisings of people who live in the very regions where the chain of humanity reaches far back into history’s depths.

Even before the earthquakes occurred, I put the revolution in Egypt in the context of Mother River because the great birth canals of civilization, the great rivers that nurtured humankind’s civil development, have been not only Creative Forces but also Destructive Forces, both giver of life and taker into death, both China’s Pride and China’s Sorrow, and as these current events play out, the nature of the Feminine Force as Revolution inspires me.

The devastating earthquakes in New Zealand, plus our own recent experience with a tremor here in Patagonia, and the one year anniversary of the tremendous earthquake that so shook Chile are reinforcing this concept of the Feminine Force as shaper of our lives. This force that is welling up from the interior of the planet is another incarnation of Mother River, the Mother of Life, the Nurturer, but also the Destroyer. She is what the Hawaiians call Pele, the Volcano Goddess.

Kilauea eruption, 1954

These ideas about the Feminine Force, which arose from humanity’s earliest understandings of nature, were of full-bodied beauty, power, love, strength, intuition, connection, and change. They were not at all the picture of delicate femininity and motherhood that has taken hold in the fundamentalist Abrahamic traditions of today. These multifaceted ideas have, through time, been largely subverted by others that portray the universe as orderly, and therefore manageable.

Megalithic Observatory Kokino near Kumanovo in Macedonia
Early Bronze Age

The devolution occurred slowly, as agriculturally based societies learned to keep track of the stars and the sun around what ancient astronomers knew to be the Round Earth. The leaders who emerged from these societies were those who were quick to understand the power that this knowledge gave them. It was the power of the gods, and they used this power to gain other kinds of power over the people who would do the work of farming the land and hauling the stones and creating the pyramids of social order upon which they would stand high above all else, reaching upwards as the Symbols of Creation and Life were raised from their bed of Earth up into the sky.

Through time, the Female Force was no longer honored as the Creator/Nurturer/ Destroyer in an organic and integrated way. Rather, institutions were developed, the universe was ordered according to new understandings, and Her power was overshadowed by the rising of the sun as a more ideologically powerful source of life from on high. Feminine Intuition was displaced by the supremacy of masculine substance over feminine form, so that the female body became a mere vessel for the masculine personhood. And nomadic tendencies to go with the flow of Nature’s Patterns was supplanted by the establishment of permanence and the quest for dominance.

Predynastic Egyptian artifacts
image by Wikipedia author, Jeff Dahl

This transformation is evident in the changing character of the most ancient of Egyptian goddesses, Neith. The earliest images known to have been worshiped in Egypt were fertility figurines, symbols representing Neith, and the Vulture of Nekhbet and Cobra of Wadjet, who were the patrons of Upper and Lower Egypt, respectively. Neith was the original Egyptian River Mother Creator. She was the Primordial Waters of Creation. She was the Great Mother. She later became known as the Great Cow Mother of Ra. She had, at different times, the head of a Lion, a Snake, a Cow. She, at times, was Nurse of Crocodiles. Through time, she transformed into the Weaver of the World. She became the goddess of War and Hunting, the Maker of Weapons of War and the Guardian of the Bodies of Fallen Heroes. She also became known as the Goddess of Wisdom.

Through the ages, different societies along the Nile invented many other goddesses associated with Motherhood and Protection; Hunting and War; Truth and Justice – Nehkbet and Wadjet, Isis and Hathor, Bastet, Nephthys, and Nut; Ankt and Sekhmet; Maat.

And other civilizations throughout the ancient world invented many more goddesses:

Venus de Milo

The Feminine Force as Maiden, Moon Cycles, Hunter, Fortune, Keeper of the Hearth Fire, Source of Inspiration, Goddess of Art, of Endeavor, of Beauty, of Idealized Love, of Sexual Love, of Ecstasy – Lilith, Artemis/Diana, Fortuna, Hestia/Vesta, the Muses, Athena/Minerva, Aphrodite/Venus, Ishtar/Inanna/Astarte, Dionysus...

As Water, Mother, Fertility, Unconditional Love, Protector, Wife – Nammu and Ki/Ninhursag, Mahadivi and Kali. Demeter/Ceres, Vasudhara, Sitatapatra, Hera/Juno...

As Crone, Knowledge, Wisdom, Justice, Law and Order, Success, Judgment, Death – Ereshkigal, Tara...

While there are still vestiges of these and other goddesses that remain alive in today’s world – in Buddhism and in Hinduism and in many indigenous traditions (this is not to minimize the scope or importance of these traditions, particularly in China and India) – amongst the cultures that have been most influential in shaping the modern world, monotheism has completed the devolutionary changeover from the Feminine Force as Mother River Power to the feminine as basically a necessary evil, as Eve, the seductress, and her sister Mary, the vessel.

With this disintegration of the power of the idea of the Feminine as Creator/Nurturer/Destroyer, to be ready for the unpredictable was replaced with faith in “divine reason.” To be aware of the inevitability of chaos and change was superseded by dogged alliance to preservation of the status quo. To embrace the feminine cyclical nature of the universe was rejected by institutionalization of the power structure. The feminine celebration of Instability as the balancing act of a larger system – of an individual life as one segment of a larger interconnected process – was demonized, and thus the world was split in two, into Male and Female, Active and Passive, Light and Shadow, Good and Evil, and the bipolar disease set in.

Now, from Northern Africa, where human histories reach back as far as 10,000 BC in their pastoral cultural connections, to the Fertile Crescent, the Cradle of Civilization, the most ancient of Feminine Forces has risen up from the bowels of the Earth. She is Change and Uncertainty. She is Chaotic and Powerful. She is the Force of Nature personified. She is Mother River in inundation and Pele in eruption, releasing pent-up pressures and reforming the landscape. She is, no doubt, a force to be reckoned with, but only those who are resistant to her change, who refuse to get out of the way, who are invested in the tyranny of stability for its own sake, or have fallen victim to the myth of stability when the reality is that change is inevitable, have any reason to fear the outcome. Those with the courage of hope and the conviction to follow through embrace this Feminine Force.

We are seeing other tremors, as well, taking place in the Midwest of the United States. But let us be very clear about the nature of these events, because they are in no way, shape, or form anything like what is going on in those ancient lands. To characterize them as such is to demean the significance of the Earth shattering-revolutionary changes in that part of the world. People protesting the turning back of the clock on rights that they had struggled to gain is not this Feminine Force at work. This is not Earth-shattering, nor revolutionary. This is not anything more than people engaging in the Democratic Process, which the Tea Party politicians are working to undermine with their bullying tactics and their hard-line stances and their fronting of the agenda of the deregulation crowd.

Hindu Goddess Kali

There are rumblings of cataclysmic change happening in the world, and embracing that kind of change means being awake and aware and alive and in the present. It requires the courage to act rather than waiting to react, understanding what is happening rather than succumbing to blind fear, engagement and connection rather than hiding behind walls of ignorance and disconnect. Instead of being mere observers, it is participation in the change, where intelligence, versatility, adaptability, and sensibility are the most useful qualities. It is a constant seeking of perspective and balance amongst forces in action. It is to honor the Feminine Force in all of its magnificent complexity.


Anonymous said...

I loved this post. I've always thought of God as more feminine than masculine. If we think that heaven is somehow reflected on Earth then it makes sense to have a female creator of life, just like in nature.

I have studied neo-pagan religions like Wicca and I liked the idea that women were so highly respected.

I do definitely believe in a higher power, but I don't subscribe to it being masculine and vengeful.

Julie R Butler said...

Thanks for your input here, Sara.

I never really thought of this feminine force before in the way that I have been expressing it, lately. But it really does make more sense to identify the creative force with the feminine - just like in nature.

It was a bit of a brainstorm to realize that the change from ancient goddess worship occurred because it was decided that sunlight was more powerful than water and earth, which are the building blocks of all life - and it was just a short hop from there to decide that the male seed is more important than the female body that builds all life.

My thoughts on the "higher power" are that there are many powers at work in the universe, some of which we have not even discovered, yet, including powers that we have that we don't understand... but I like to call the power that holds the universe together "Love."

Expat Daily News Latin America Editor said...

Great Piece! Great blog. Will you marry me?

Dr Anwar Shah said...

Julie and Sara,
Great posts. I loved reading them. The ancient religions of Hinduism and Islam vouch for the power female dities in as much as both hold females in the highest regard. Like Kali and Allah (female)in Hindu and Islam kept them intact even after Islam eraedicated old thinking. Muslims today call their God Allah (Female)

Julie R Butler said...

Dr. Shah,

Thank you very much for commenting. This is very interesting - I have much to learn about Islam.

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