Warnings from the Broom Closet
Warnings from the Broom Closet
Taking Issue with the Goddess Issue
Habibi received the following “Letter to the Editor” in response to the “Goddess” Issue (Volume 12, No. 4), our most frequently requested back issue. Because the author persuasively and knowledgeably argues the existence of the Dark Mother, we have decided to share the letter in its entirety with our readers. The identity of Eithne will remain confidential.
I am a Pagan Priestess, initiated and legally ordained in the ancient Celtic and Hermetic traditions. I also have a couple of degrees in psychology, and background as a mental health professional. Thus, I am writing from both religious and psychological perspectives. One can speak in terms of Godforms, or in terms of Jungian archetypes — the process and effects are exactly the same. I teach Celtic mythology and pre-Christian Western European comparative religion, which is Goddess-oriented. I am often asked to lecture to college and university Anthropology and Women’s Studies classes on the subjects of Goddess traditions, customs, mythologies, and practices. Marija Gimbutas chose us for a project because we were the oldest authentic Goddess-oriented tradition that she could find still in existence on the north American mainland. There is a lot of academic and social interest in Goddess religions these days, due to feminism.
There are quite a few Pagans around. Some have very famous names in other areas of endeavor. We even have a few show-biz celebrities. There is an international network of Goddess organizations, based in Ireland. There are also local and national networks, directories, political organizations and periodicals. There are computer networks and bulletin boards.
Eithne is my “outer court” name, a name that we use with the public (especially the press). Most of us conceal our identities (we call it “being in the broom closet”) because religious persecution is still a problem. Many of the uninformed label pre-Christian beliefs and practices “Satanic,” although Satan is not a Pagan concept. I blame a lot of this on the movie industry. I call it the “Roman Polansky School of Comparative Religion.”
In our tradition the Goddess and the God are actually two different expressions of the same Divine Mind or Energy, like two different facets of one personality (polymorphic monotheism). We relate to both. However, the Goddess slightly outranks the God, and the Priestess has final authority over the Priest.
I’ve observed increased attention to Goddess-consciousness issues in the dance community lately. This can be harmless and pleasurable activity, if kept superficial. Dancing in the ocean or singing Goddess songs in the moonlight never hurt anyone. Doing minor ritual is also probably harmless and beneficial. But for anyone who attempts to venture into deeper waters, there are some serious issues to consider:
1) It appears that many of the dancers are only relating to the Bright Mother — the side of the Goddess that is loving, bright and nurturant. The older Godforms (or archetypes) are not polarized into all good and all evil like the Christian God and Satan. All of the older Goddess forms have a bright and a dark side, as well as three aspects (maiden, mother, crone). The Nurturer is also the Devourer. The Dark Mother is often expressed in mythological terms as Kali, Erishkagal, Persephone, Ceriddwen, Binah, Hecate, the Caillach, the Morrigan, Ama, Lillith, etc.
Dealing with the Bright Mother, the nurturer, can be very joyous and pleasurable. But deal with the bright side long enough, and the dark side will also manifest sooner or later. This is inevitable. I guarantee that it will happen, over time. The Bright Mother brings joy, but the Dark Mother brings transformation. Contact with the dark side of the Goddess brings one face-to-face with the darkest depths of one’s own personality. The psychological impact is tremendous. It can range from disconcerting to disorienting or worse. It is wonderfully restructuring and liberating, but also difficult and painful. Fragile personalities have been known to decompensate. Beginning students often say, “SHE would never hurt me.” I’ve never heard that statement from an Adept.
2) The ancient pre-Christian Godforms, or archetypes, are far more primal than the more contemporary Godforms. They represent raw nature energies. They can effect wonderful transformational changes in one, but they tend to be very heavy-handed about it. Working with them tends to liberate one’s internal primal energies. This is precisely the point, of course. But, again, I’ve seen some very nasty emotional backlash as a result of unknowledgeable dabbling.
3) Some Goddess-oriented consciousness expanding exercises are Initiatory. That is, they effect a genuine Initiation. Initiation, if it is real, and it “takes,” tends to bring one’s worst faults straight to the surface. This is, again, the point. It is like cleaning a nasty old closet. But, there had better be someone knowledgeable around when this happens, to help clarify and sort things out. If not, there could be problems. I’ve seen even very advanced practitioners seriously affected by initiatory backlash, and the process can last for weeks or months.
4) Most of the consciousness-raising exercises that I have observed among the dancers involve water. “Water work” (meditations, exercises, pathworkings, etc.) is a very wonderful transformational tool. It promotes intuitive development and emotional flow — which is very “unblocking” for dancers.
However, water work should always be balanced with exercises in the other elements (earth, air, fire, ether). Working exclusively with water can lead to paranoia and melancholy. This is particularly true for dancers, most of whom are what we call “water types” to begin with.
5) I’ve occasionally seen “searching for the Goddess within” become “overbalanced,” and turn into narcissism, male-bashing, or lack of concern for the material and mundane. We call this hazard “ungrounding” or “becoming airy-fairy.” Because we have learned to value the female God energy, we cannot then devalue the male God energy. And learning to deal with the material and mundane is our reason for incarnating.
The point is that superficial Goddess-consciousness exercises can be pleasurable and beneficial. But dabbling in the very heavy, serious workings without very well-trained instruction and supervision can be dangerous. The ancient archetypes are incredibly psychodynamic, and can effect personality changes that are abrupt and wrenching. Look at it this way: these ancient religious practices and exercises were all people had before there was psychotherapy. That is why they can be so potent. Some people can handle it. Some others need a more gentle, gradual, and contemporary approach.
I do not mean to convey that it is all hard work and painful process. It isn’t . It can free one from many cages. Some of the rewards are so incredible that I can’t describe them in print. The only readers who would believe me are the ones who are already there.
But my best advice, from one who has learned the hard way, is dance to your Goddess, light candles, sing songs, celebrate — have fun with it. But stay entirely away from the Deeper Mysteries and the heavier exercises unless you have a teacher who is very well-qualified, experienced, and competent. What you don’t know really can hurt you.