goddess

Renee’s Thoughts Worth Catching

January, 2015

Oya, also known as Kale or Pele, is the Goddess of Change and Transformation, and this Goddess means business.

Spiritually speaking, she embodies the qualities of Radical transformation, releasing, dying to the old to embrace the new. She embodies wind, graveyards, storms, and yes, the market place!

I have a great and grand fondness with this Goddess. I will admit, at first, with the death talk, and the letting go and change, made me all shift in my seat and take a step back. I believe, that for me, I was so used to the life created around me, that no matter how much I needed and had to change, I was scared to do that. Change seemed so courageous and I felt fearful.

She has come around once or twice now. The two times she came, were after I made it away from my childhood fears and moved on with grace instead of grief. She then appeared after my son was born and I knew that the marriage of that time was detrimental.

Now, as 2014 comes to a close, she is once again here. The past month has been an absolute roller coaster of emotions, sickness, mentally draining, physically hard, and I kept finding myself a bit let down and lost.

However, I knew that there was Oya with me. In the last few days of actually slowing down and doing some Soul searching and work and honest-to-goodness hard looks in the mirror, I am letting her take me on this ride, and I am ready and not scared at all.

For one thing, I am letting go of things that no longer serve me or appeal to the highest good of my life. I am going to let people go, even some that I may have known years. I have let go of a lot of physical things, making many trash, donation and recycling trips. And now, the deep Soul Transformation can begin.

Oya does not play around. When she is here, she is hear to work. She recognizes a change that must be heeded to and pushes the process far. She whispers a lot .. “Do you really like going to eat at that place or do you go just because it is convenient?” “Why is your closet still not organized?” “Do you want your surroundings to change? Change them!” An important thing to realize here is that she does not mess around. She will make you take that deep look into yourself so you will feel her Wind, her passion and her storminess.

She is working for you and assisting you to release these circumstances and make that change within you. She is here for you. She loves you. And she is a force to be reckoned with.

Listen to the Wind Blow.

Warrior Women

September, 2014

Rafea Anad

 

I first “met” Rafea Anad on a PBS TV show called Solar Mamas, one of a series of programs collectively entitled Why Poverty? She was thirty-two years old at the time, with four daughters (a fifth came along a bit later.) She is a Bedouin and lived in a traditional tent in the middle of the Jordanian desert, close to the Iraqi border. Her village was said to be one of the poorest of all the desert villages in Jordan.
Rafea Anad was given the opportunity to travel to India, to the Barefoot College, to learn to be a solar engineer. This college, the brainchild of entrepreneur Bunker Roy, trains impoverished women, from all over the world, to become solar engineers.
And so, Ms Anad left her four daughters, her home and her husband and headed off to India. The project is intriguing on several levels. Uneducated women, living in abject poverty, are given the opportunity and responsibility of first, learning a trade themselves, and later, training their peers to do the same. Their goal is to provide the entire village with electric power.
Watching the PBS show, I was impressed by the dedication and determination of the women at Barefoot College. They came from everywhere: Kenya, Guatemala, Colombia and many other countries. The women could not speak to each other as they did not have a common language, but they still managed to communicate and support one another. The classes were taught in English, by an Indian man with that stereotypical accent so common in Hollywood movies and silly cartoon shows. It is a wonder the women learned anything at all. But learn they did, and after six months of study, were sent home.
What struck me was the enormity of the change in Rafea Anad’s life. Here is a woman who was removed from formal schooling at the age of ten (for girls to be educated beyond that point is thought to be “shameful,”) who had never traveled before, who lived under the complete control of a strict patriarchal society, and in particular, her husband; a woman who lived a simple, perhaps monotonous, life, who was thrust into a completely new, and most likely, scary, world. I don’t know if I’d have the guts to do it.
When Ms Anad returned to her village, she (and her aunt, who had attended Barefoot College with her) installed eighty solar panels in one week. Wow! I just can’t imagine the amount of work involved. And some of the parts and components of the solar panels must have been pretty damn heavy.
Ms Anad experienced great deal of resistance, of course, from the men in her village, especially her husband. They wanted her to remain in her traditional Bedouin role of submissive, meek wife and mother. She had other plans.
The focus, strength and conviction of Ms Rafea Anad is humbling. I don’t know if I could do what she has done. I imagine it must have been excruciating to leave her daughters! What courage.
Brava! for a job well done, Rafea Anad.
To watch the documentary of Ms Anad’s journey, go here:
http://video.pbs.org/video/2296683172/

Tink about It

September, 2014

Skaði

For years I heard people talk about patron gods and goddesses. Some just chose one they liked, others were ‘called’ by the deity itself. The first didn’t feel right to me, although I had several gods and goddesses I was attracted too. But ‘being called’ sounded a bit strange. What did they mean with that? When, why, how? I didn’t really get it and very few had a clear story about how it works. It seemed to be hard to explain…

When I met my second power animal, a polar bear, in a meditation it was handed to me by a woman. At the time I didn’t really pay attention to her as I was very excited to get to know my new power animal. Somehow though, the woman settled herself somewhere in the back of my mind. In the weeks and months after this happened she slipped into my dreams, meditations, shamanic journeys and even in my daily life. Sometimes I saw her, most of the time I felt her. I just knew she was there. I had heard about a Norse goddess called Skadi, but I didn’t make the connection yet between her and this mysterious woman that decided to occupy my mind.
I decided to do a journey in which I asked my polar bear friend to bring me to her. We walked through a magnificent landscape with snowy mountains and finally arrived in a cave or hall of ice. The woman was sitting in front of a fire and a roasting spit. I assumed she killed the animal on the spit herself; her bow and arrows are lying next to her. She first welcomes my polar bear and only then she invites me with a gesture to sit down. I spent quite some time there, mostly listening, sometimes answering questions. She was friendly enough, but I still felt a bit intimidated. She radiated strength and a strong sense of authority. When she indicated it was time to leave, she gave me her symbol: a silvery white snow crystal. I thanked her and left.
After this journey it was clear to me that she had chosen me, ‘called’ me if you will. My first task was to find out all I can about her. Still a work in progress but I’ll share some of what I found here.

 

Skadi

 

Skaði is one of the lesser known goddesses of the Norse Pantheon. She is the goddess of winter, snow, ice, cold, skiing and hunting. She is often depicted on ski’s with a hunting bow, accompanied by a snow animal (polar bear, white wolf, arctic fox). Her colours are white and icy blue.
Contrary to a goddess like for example Freya there is not a lot to be found about Skaði in the Edda’s and/or other texts from that era. The name Scandinavia is said to be derived from her name, meaning ‘Skaði’s island’. Etymologically her name is related to ‘skathi’, an Old Norse noun meaning ‘harm, damage’, the Dutch word is ‘schade’ which could point to the destructive power of snow and ice. Sometimes Skaði is referred to as Öndurguð (Old Norse ‘ski god’) and Öndurdís (Old Norse ‘ski dís’, often translated as ‘lady’).

Not everyone agrees on calling her a goddess. She is the daughter of the Jotun (ice giant) Thiazi. When the Aesir (clan of gods) kill her father, she leaves Jotunheim (world of the ice giants) and travels to Asgard (realm of the Aesir) to avenge this heinous act. The Aesir fear the destructive powers of winter and convince her to refrain from revenge. She agrees, but demands two things in return. First the gods have to make her laugh, because she hasn’t been able to laugh since her father died. Then Loki ties the end of a rope to his testicles and the other end to a goat. When the goat starts to walk, Loki’s face grimaced from the pain and Skaði laughs out loud. Her second demand is to marry one of the gods. Odin agrees, but determines she can only see the gods’ feet to choose from. She chooses the most beautiful feet, thinking it must be Balder. However, they belong to Njord, the sea god. The marriage isn’t very successful. They eventually split up because Njord can’t get used to living in the mountains and Skaði hates the sea.
According to the Heimskringla (a collection of Norse kings’sagas) Skaði later married Odin, and they had many children together. She also has connections to Loki. In the poem Lokasenna (Poetic Edda) she places a venomous serpent right above Loki’s face, he can’t get away from it, because he is bound. His wife tries to catch the venom in a bowl, but when she has to empty it, the venom drips on Loki’s face, causing a lot of pain and his fury.

There’s more, but that’s too much for a column. More sources and info are always welcome though, tips of books/websites/etc. are much appreciated.
I made a Pinterest album to collect images and artistic impressions of Skaði: http://www.pinterest.com/tinknl/deity-skadi/

 

 

Did you know Skaði before you read this?
Do you have a patron god(dess)? How did that happen?
T(h)ink about it and share if you’d like…

Blessings

Goddesses of Sorcery

July, 2014

Aine, Goddess of the Sun

 

Aine
In Wicca today we often associate the sun with the God and the moon with the Goddess but in fact there are many sun Goddesses in many cultures. At the time of Midsummer when the sun is at its peak we connect with that energy in our rituals and our meditations (also in our bar-b-q on the deck!)
Three Celtic Goddesses are associated with the sun, Aine, Brighid and Olwen. Aine was one of the great Irish Goddess who represented the spark of life. Her festival was celebrated on Midsummer’s eve. Later she was remembered in Christian times as the fairy queen in south Munster and she is said to haunt Knockainy Hill there. She has been known by other names, such as the Lady of the Lake, the Goddess of the Earth and Nature, and the Goddess of Luck and Magick. (www.goddesses-guide.com)
Aine was the daughter of Eogabail who was a member of the Tuatha da Danaan and the foster son of the Sea God Manannan Mac Lir. Some other legends say that Aine was married to the Sea God. Aine’s original role was a Sun Goddess, and she is sometimes called “bright,” . It was when she was in that role that she was able to shape-shift into becoming “Lair Derg,” the “Red Mare,” or the horse that never could be outrun. This is analogous with the sun because you can never outrun the sun! (www.angelfire.com)
Traditionally, Sun Goddesses have been known as Goddesses of Love and Fertility, and Aine followed in that tradition with great enthusiasm. It was during a much later period in time that Aine developed the characteristics of a more maternal Moon Goddess, and was believed to guard her followers’ livestock and crops. There are farmers, even today, who perform the exact same rituals that their ancestors performed thousands of years ago. At midsummer, they walk through their fields and wave their torches, in the hope that Aine and her sacred fire might grant them an abundant harvest. Farmers also continue to burn flowers and straw, as another way of honoring Aine, in the hope that she might grant them freedom from illness and evil throughout another turn of the Wheel of the Year.
In her role as a Moon Goddess, Aine was known as a Goddess of Agriculture and a Patroness of Crops and Cattle. An ancient myth exists which describes how Aine sat in her birthing chair on August 1st, and gave birth to a sheave of grain. It is believed that by performing that act, Aine gave the gift of grain to the people of Ireland.
Aine has always been an extremely popular Goddess, and she had a reputation for being exceedingly friendly with human men. People would worship Aine in the hope that she might bestow sexuality, fertility, abundance and prosperity upon them. Those attributes have often been connected with Love Goddesses, and Aine took her primary responsibility, that of encouraging human sexuality, very seriously.
Aine was well known for teaching humans about love, human love and divine love. In the first way, Aine become lovers with human men, and in the second way, which was the one that she used more frequently, she taught humans how to walk in spirituality, unity and love with the Goddess Danu or Anu. This is a very important part of Aine’s cult because she can deepen the love and connection we have with the Ever-Living-One, the Great Mother Goddess Anu.
When Aine did offer her love to human men she conceived a great many children, and by doing so, it is believed that she gave birth to a magickal Faerie-Human race.
Many stories exist regarding Aine and her mortal lovers. One day, while Aine was swimming in a river, an Irish Earl who just happened to be passing by stole her cloak, and then refused to return it to her until she agreed to marry him. With a heavy heart Aine agreed to his terms, and she did, indeed, keep her word and marry him, and some time later she gave birth to a baby boy. In the hope of gaining her freedom from the Earl, Aine struck a deal with him, the terms of which stated that he could never show even the slightest bit of surprise at anything their son might do, because if he did Aine would gain her freedom.
Eventually, the day finally arrived when the Earl witnessed his son perform the most amazing trick, jumping in and out of a bottle! He found himself unable to hide his surprise from anyone so Aine gained her freedom, and she returned back to the sidhes to live happily, once again, with the Faeries. Her son flew away in the form of a wild goose. This story is only one example of how intelligence, ingenuity and determination, which are all qualities of the Divine Feminine, were able to aid Aine, thereby allowing her to free herself from the Earl’s patriarchal bondage.
Like many other Celtic Goddesses, Aine can be seen as a singular Triple Goddess, based upon the various powers she possesses. In her first aspect, Aine has the ability to reward her followers with the gift of poetry or, for those that she deems unworthy, with the curse of madness. Aine’s second aspect is attributed to her association with lakes and wells, and with her ability to heal. The waters, which come from “Tobar-Na-Aine,” or “Aine’s Well,” are known to have life-restoring qualities. Finally, in her third aspect, Aine takes on the guise of a Dark Goddess, with the ability to appear to mortal men as a beautiful woman, which leaves little room for doubt why she has frequently been called the Leannan Sidhe, which means the “Sweetheart of the Sidhe,” or the “Faerie Lover.” Aine is also a part of a Triple Goddess trinity, consisting of herself, and her two sisters, Fenne and Grian(meaning sun). When a full moon rises, lighting up the evening sky, the three of them ride their horses from out from their sidhes, to laugh and play in Lough Gur.
Petitioning Aine

 

  • Shape-shifting: petition Aine to help you with shape-shifting work.
  • Fertility and abundance: burn straws and flowers on an altar dedicated to Aine to ask for fertility and abundance
  • Love: petition Aine to bring the right lover (human) to you
  • Freedom from an abusive relationship: Aine can help you to find your freedom from an abusive relationship, but she won’t help you to fix that relationship. It is also possible that she will punish the abusive person, so make sure that you who are petitioning are free from guilt.
  • Spiritual Advancement: Petition Aine to deepen your connection and understanding with the Goddess Anu.
  • For Poetic Inspiration: If you have writers block Aine can help you with poetic inspiration
  • Healing: Take a cup or cauldron of water and bless it in Aine’s name. Use this water for healing. (You could travel to Ireland and visit Aine’s well to obtain water also.)

References
http://www.goddess-guide.com/sun-goddesses.html
http://www.angelfire.com/journal/ofapoet/aine.html
Monaghan, Patricia.1990. The Book of Goddesses and Heroines. Llewellyn publications.

MoonOwl Observations

June, 2014

Selene

Selene is a Goddess of the moon. She is generally depicted as either riding a horse or in a chariot drawn by a pair of winged steeds. She drives a white chariot of the moon across the sky each night and is usually shown with a crescent moon on her head. She is one of the Greek triple Goddess’ of the moon. She shares this with artemis and Hecate. Selene is the sky, artemis on earth and Hecate in the lower world and in the world above when it is cloaked in darkness. These three are also known for their aspects as the Mother (Selene), Maiden (artemis) and Crone (Hecate).
This favourite of poets is represented by the full moon and is the keeper of the silver wheel of stars. The days of the full moon could be set aside for her worship. She is also known as Luna, Mene and Selena.
-Mother of Pandia, Ersa, the Menai and possibly the four Horai. She also had a mortal child named Mousaios. She is a very passionate Goddess and has had many lovers but a popular story would be between Selene and Endymion.
“One night as she moved across the night sky looking down on the Earth below, Selene saw a beautiful young man sleeping. The handsome young man was named Endymion, and according to most legends he was a shepherd tending his sheep in the countryside. Entranced by the beautiful sleeper, Selene asked Zeus, the leader of the Greek gods, to give the youth eternal life and to make him sleep forever. Zeus, who loved Selene, and was her lover by some accounts, agreed and the young man remained young and asleep for all time.
In some stories, Zeus awakened the youth and asked him what type of life he would choose to lead. The young man, who had also fallen in love with the lovely moon goddess, asked that he might sleep forever beneath her soft light. Each night he dreamed of a beautiful woman who came and made love to him. Selene gave birth to 50 daughters as a result of her visits to Endymion. Their daughters represented the 50 lunar months of the Olympiad, or period of four years marking the beginning of the Olympic games in ancient Greece.
The love story of the sleeping young man and the beautiful moon goddess was a popular subject for artists during the second and third centuries. Many Roman and Greek tombs were carved with images of the the sleeping Endymion and the beautiful goddess coming down from the night sky to visit her lover. It also provided the ancient Greeks with an explanation for those who seemed to sleep without awakening. Like Endymion, perhaps they were merely waiting for a god or goddess.”
It is said that Selene’s moon rays fell upon the sleeping mortals, and her kisses fell upon her love, Endymion. She visited him often and had 50 of his children (this representing the number of lunar months between each Olympiad.
Selene hates change and has a fear of abandonment, which leads to her being unfaithful and having various affairs. She influences Agriculture, long life, medicine, visions and more.

Some things associated with Selene are:

Day of the week: Monday
Wood: Willow
Colour: Silver/grey
Candle: White
Power of giving sleep; lights the night and has control over time.
Sacred plant: Selentrope.
I found this hymn for Selene and thought I would share:
Muses, sweet-speaking daughters of Zeus Kronides
and mistresses of song, sing next of long-winged Moon!
From her immortal head a heaven-sent glow
envelops the earth and great beauty arises
under its radiance. From her golden crown the dim air
is made to glitter as her rays turn night to noon,
whenever bright Selene, having bathed her beautiful skin
in the Ocean, put on her shining rainment
and harnessed her proud-necked and glittering steeds,
swiftly drives them on as their manes play
with the evening, dividing the months. Her great orbit is full
and as she waxes a most brilliant light appears
in the sky. Thus to mortals she is a sign and a token

Goddesses of Sorcery

May, 2014

Dream Goddess: Mari
I’m tired this morning and it’s not because I didn’t sleep. I feel as if I was dreaming all night about doing Shamanic healing for people. It seemed in my dreams that many people needed help, especially extraction of dangerous and unwanted entities and soul retrieval. One person needed help to pass over. In my dreams I was using a jam jar with no lid as my Shamanic tool. I also looked really good in my new shoes!
When we sleep our mind relaxes and processes our day. People would die if they did not sleep and all who sleep, even if they don’t remember, dream. Dream Shamans are people that practice the discipline of lucid dreaming. They can ‘fly’ to anywhere to do healing and helping in their dreams, travel to other levels of existence, find spirit allies and dream the world into existence. These strange ideas are not mine, but the ideas of many Shamanic dreaming cultures. (1) One thing all of them say is that it is a very difficult Shamanic path that takes a lot of practice and discipline; they don’t just lie down and sleep!  During the day they spend a lot of time bringing their waking consciousness into a very high state, in other words transforming their lives and their energies so that it reflects in their dreams. You can’t lead a life of non-awareness and no spiritual practice and then expect to fall asleep and be the enlightened master!
In our study of Goddesses we often look to the five major Pagan Pantheons of Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian and Celtic but another Pagan culture was the Basques. The origin of the Basques and the Basque language is a controversial topic but interestingly the ancient language of the Basque people, which developed from the Proto-Basque language, is the only Pre-Indo-European language that is still spoken in contemporary Europe. (2)
Basque country was Northern Spain and the south of France. Their main deity was the Goddess Mari, the woman in red, who was depicted sometimes as a tree-woman, a fire-woman or a thunderbolt. She was married to Sugaar who was thought to be a dragon and they met only on  Fridays, the Witches day. They were worshipped, cared for and honoured by the Sorginak, the Witches who were also Dream Shamans. Sorginak are often said to recite the following spell to travel to and back from the akelarre (Witches Sabbat): “Under the clouds and over the brambles”. Sorginak often are said to transform themselves into animals, most commonly cats. (3) Doesn’t this remind you of the stories of Witches from the British Isles and also the Shamanic cultures around the world?
Dream Shamanism in Other Cultures
In an article by Ryan Hurd (5) he suggests that in many indigenous cultures around the world dreaming is practiced as a shamanic art. The dream journeys are marked by clarity, intense imagery and emotions, are invariably known as big dreams, and in most cultures are treated and interpreted differently than the dreams that reflect anxieties and everyday-life concerns. A few years ago I attended a workshop given by the Foundation for Shamanic Studies on dreaming as a Shamanic practice and they proposed the same idea.
Here are some other examples closely resembling the stories from the Basque. Shamans of the Orang Asli culture in Malaysia use their dreams and vision states to shape-shift into animals and retrieve information in order to gain power, protect individuals and villages, and communicate with the forest directly. Similarly, dream hunting has also been reported by Hugh Brody, in his 1997 narrative Maps and Dreams about the Beaver Indians in Northern Canada. Shamanic lucid dreaming is well known in South America, as well. Chilean anthropologist Rosa Anwandter suggests that there are over 20 dream-honoring societies in the Amazon basin and another half-dozen in Peru. One clear example is the Guarani peoples, who meet regularly in circle to share their dreams. The Guaranis of Paraguay also recognize lucid dreaming, and are said to move their villages based on dream warnings of future floods.
Learning Lucid Dreaming as a Shamanic Witch Practice
Wicca is fundamentally a Shamanic religion, although modern in its application. Casting a Circle, calling in Spirits, aspecting  Deity, dancing and drumming to raise power, divination, trancework and meditation are all common within the Witch’s Circle. These practices change us and Witches often find themselves becoming active in their dreams.
The way to cultivate this practice is to keep a dream journal and eventually to pinpoint the dreams that recur. These are important dreams. Next try to dream those dreams. When you have some control over the dreams try and dream about a place you know. Then dream about a place you don’t know and go there when you wake up (or look at pictures) to compare.  I have dreamt about places and later visited them for the first time. It’s a strange feeling! Later on you can practice healing work in the dreams and also dreaming the future.
Goddess Mari
The Goddess Mari was honoured by Witches who were Dream Shamans. If you want to learn more about this dreaming you could make an altar to her and create a ritual to the dream shamans who were associated with her. I made a small altar in my room and since I didn’t know what Mari looked like I put a small statue of a Witch with some little animal figures to represent familiars and some rocks to hold the stone of Mari’s mountain. I put some bread as an offering (see reference 4 from the Spanish encyclopedia below) and I made up the following poem. Then I wore red clothes, since that is Mari’s colour, lit some incense and went to sleep. I plan to write down my important dreams and put them in an empty jam jar to honour the dream I had this morning.
Under the clouds and over the brambles
Sorginak dream and Sorginak ramble
Through time and space their dreams meander
By Mari’s mountains and Mari’s thunder
Bread for the Goddess under the stars
Dreams for healing and for the dream jar
References
1.further reading:
  Not For Innocent Ears: Spiritual Traditions Of A Desert Cahuilla Medicine Woman by Guy Mount and Ruby Modesto
Dreaming the Soul Back Home by Robert Moss
3.  See: Enciclopedia General Ilustrada del Pais Vasco Encyclopedia Auñamendi, which in turn cite Euskalerriaren Yakintza, Tomo I “Costumbres y supersticiones”, by folklorist Resurrección María de Azkue  (1864-1951). It notes that additional legends were recorded by Jose Miguel Barandiaran  and Juan Thalamas Labandibar.
Esteban de Garibay Zamalloa, Memorial histórico español: colección de documentos, opúsculos y antigüedades, Tomo VII.
Margaret Bullen, Basque Gender Studies, page 150 (Reno: University of Nevada, 2003). ISBN 1-877802-31-X
From the Spanish Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Auñamendi:
The most prominent mythical being of the Basque traditions, without any doubt, is a beautiful woman: Mari. She habitually resides in the interior of the Earth and emerges at the surface in specific epochs via various caves and caverns. She alternates, therefore, moving from one mountain to another before the amazed look of man. Mari is beautiful and dressed in elegance, the quintessential essence of feminine guile. At other times, she adopts the form of different animals, or becomes a ball of fire crossing the horizon. The quality of her personal effects, such as her household furnishings, is considered the equivalent of solid gold, as prime example of the magnificence corresponding to her station. Haughty and arrogant in the defense of her interests, she allows no mortal to enter her dwelling, so that none of her personal goods are unduly appropriated.
Mari has powers that allow her to reduce the stolen gold to coal with the simple contact of day light; and she knows how to turn the coal into gold for good services. At times it is risky to approach her, including her cave. She does not put up with the shepherds building their cabins in the environs of Supelegor. One such was pursued by the Lady, transformed into a raven, and although he escaped with his life, he died shortly afterwards as a consequence of the scare. The geography of Mari’s influence was at one time more extensive than it is today. The children of la Burunda called the leftovers of the meal with bread that the men brought when they returned home «pan of Mari of the mountain», basoko Mariren ogia. And, to the south of Urbasa, in Améscoa, this custom continued until very recently: they used to tell the children «Eat the bread of the old woman of the mountain» or also, «bread of the little grandmother of the mountain». There are also areas where the traditions of this spirit are still very much alive, but where they do not use her name. They call her, simply, the Lady, Damea. These stories, however, are usually very similar and refer to the same person.

Goddesses of Sorcery

April, 2014

The Goddess Can Change the World

Recently I participated in the International Women’s week at Vanier College in Montreal. My talk was called “The Goddess Returns” and I spoke about a very important issue: how Goddess spirituality can decrease violence against women by empowering women.

My talk was held in a large classroom with fifty-plus young people expectantly waiting to see a Witch (maybe with a big pointy hat and black cat!) arrive to tell them about the Goddess.  I did not bring the hat and the cat but I did bring a lot of thought-provoking ideas! I started the talk by asking the students to imagine what God might look like. Then I talked about the different ways that God is perceived in the different main stream religions. I would like to share some of my talk with you.

The Goddess Returns

    When most people think of God, they think of a masculine figure or energy. They use the pronoun ‘he’. If you are a Christian or Jew and believe the Bible, specifically the Old Testament, you may read that man is made in God’s image. The King James Bible says in Genesis: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  Most people forget the last bit: male AND female…..So what the bible alludes to the idea that God is both male and female. But Christians and Jews still think of God as “he”.

Islam teaches that no one is like Allah.  Quran verse 42:11 says that: Allah is the creator of the heavens and the earth and there is nothing like him. But they still refer to Allah as ‘he’. Some Muslims say that Allah is the same God that is worshipped by Abraham.

Buddhism does not believe in God in the same way, they believe in Buddha. Being human, the Buddha had a human body like any ordinary person. There is also nothing in the teachings of the Buddha that suggest how to find God or worship the god’s of India, (where he came from) although the Buddha himself was a theist (believed in gods), his teachings are non-theistic.

The Buddha was more concerned with the human condition: Birth, Sickness, Old age, and Death. The Buddhist path is about coming to a place of acceptance with these painful aspects of life, and not suffering through them.

The Buddha is not thought of as a god in Buddhism and is not prayed to. He is looked up to and respected as a great teacher.  He was a human being who found his perfection in Nirvana. Because of his Nirvana, the Buddha was perfectly moral, perfectly ethical, and ended his suffering forever.

Does that mean that every Buddhist in the world is an atheist?

No! A lot of Buddhists believe in God, a lot of Buddhists don’t believe in God… And a lot of Buddhists just don’t know. All three points of view are OK if you’re Buddhist because the end of suffering is more important than God in Buddhism. (1)  

Hinduism believes in one universal soul called Brahman that manifests into the world as many forms, mainly Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, a triad of Gods. Goddesses can also be manifestations of Brahman.

    Wicca has a different view point and emphasis than Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. Wicca is a spiritually that comes from the British Isles and while it is a modern religion, has its roots in antiquity. So Wicca as we know it today all started in the 1950’s when a man called Gerald Gardner decided that Witchcraft should be brought out of the broom closet! Since then Wicca has become the fastest growing religion in North America today. I think one of the reasons is because the people of the world are ready to re-connect with the Divine Feminine, their Divine Mother, the Goddess.

The thread that runs through every Wiccan Tradition is the belief that God/Goddess is immanent: present within nature. Judeo-Abrahamic Religions believe God is transcendental (outside creation), Taoist religions (ex. Buddhism and Hinduism) believe that the world is “maya” (an illusion), but Wiccans believe that God/dess is immanent and the world is sacred. This means that we believe all life is Sacred including plants, animals, the planet and YOU!

The Students Meet the Goddess

    At this point in my talk I had the students close their eyes and relax. I invited the Goddess to enter the room and I felt her calming and gentle presence! The energy in the room had changed! I asked them to return to the picture of God they had imagined at the beginning of the talk and then to imagine a beautiful woman glowing with light standing beside the God image. Then I asked them to imagine this Divine Lady stepping forward and coming beside them, then to feel her putting her arm around them and holding them. I was surprised to see the deep peace and happiness on their faces!

    Sharing their experiences some of the students were shocked that they actually felt a warm arm around them. Some saw the God and Goddess as their parents. One boy said that his Goddess didn’t have a head! I think this is very significant because it shows how our modern society has removed the face of the goddess from our lives. It was a wonderful experience for me as a speaker and for the group.

Next I talked about the impact of Goddess Spirituality on the world.

What would happen if you believed that God was female?

If when I said the word God you not only saw a male figure but you saw the Great Mother standing beside Him how would that change you? If you as a woman realized that not only are you sacred but that you were actually made in the image of the Goddess would you feel empowered?

An empowered woman is not afraid to stand up for her rights. She is confident and strong. She raises her sons and daughters to respect others, because she does not have to prove to others that she is strong, she knows she is. If women were empowered perhaps the violence and inequality against women would change.

I would like to propose that Goddess spirituality empowers women and that the boys raised by empowered women grow up to be men who see women as equals and treat them with respect. This theory is backed up by many feminist studies and scholars. Since Wicca is the only religion in the world where the Goddess is seen as the main Deity, perhaps this is why it is growing so quickly, as people react against the gulf between genders.

Violence against women

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women states that “violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women” and that “violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men“.

In North America, specifically in our beautiful city of Montreal, the inequality against women is not as evident as it may be in other countries. However all over the globe, violence and discrimination against women and girls violates their human rights and severely compromises young people’s sexual and reproductive health. Harmful practices, including female genital cutting/mutilation, femicide, gender-based violence, and early marriage, damage girls’ physical being and self-worth by reinforcing gender-based marginalization and inequality. Gender inequalities and biases pervade cultures worldwide, preventing women and girls from fully realizing their rights to reproductive health and equality. Even here one in four women has experienced violence related to sex and gender!

    Here are some very frightening statistics about violence against women. How can we change this? The only way is to change society from within each home and within each heart. Goddess spirituality and empowered women can do this! Let the Goddess return to the world!

Discrimination against women and girls often begins at conception, especially in parts of India and South Asia.

  • In parts of India and South Asia, there is a strong preference for having sons. Girls can be perceived as a financial burden for the family due to small income contributions and costly dowry demands.

  • In India, pre-natal sex selection and infanticide accounted for the pre-natal termination and death of half a million girls per year over the last 20 years.1

  • In the Republic of Korea, 30 percent of pregnancies identified as female fetuses were terminated. Contrastingly, over 90 percent of pregnancies identified as male fetuses resulted in normal birth.

  • According to China’s 2000 census, the ratio of newborn girls to boys was 100:119. The biological standard is 100:103.


The rate of femicide (murder of women and girls) has significantly escalated over the last few years. 

  • In Mexico, the high murder and disappearance rate of young women in Ciudad Juarez has received international attention for the last ten years, with an alarming recent resurgence.

  • In Guatemala, the number of femicides has risen steadily from 303 in 2001 to 722 in 2007, with the majority of the victims between ages 16 and 30. A U.N. report found that femicides are inadequately investigated in Guatemala.

  • Throughout the region, inadequate record-keeping around domestic violence and the victim’s relationship to the murderer results in a problem of underreporting of gender-based deaths.

In Canada hundreds of Aboriginal women go missing each year and these disappearances and deaths are seldom news! (See the work of Ann Marie Pierce).


“Dowry deaths” are responsible for the murders of thousands of women every year, especially in South Asia.

  • If a bride cannot meet the financial demand of her dowry, she is often subject to torture, harassment and death by the groom’s family.

  • UNFPA estimates that 5,000 women worldwide are burnt to death in murders disguised as ‘kitchen accidents’ each year because their dowry was considered insufficient.

  • In India and Pakistan, thousands of women are victims of dowry deaths.3 In India alone, there were almost 7,000 dowry deaths in 2005, with the majority of victims aged 15-34.


“Honor killings” continue to take place in Pakistan, Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Yemen, Morocco and other Mediterranean and Gulf Countries 9

  • Honor killings occur when women are put to death for an act that is perceived as bringing shame to their families; this can mean killing as punishment for adultery or even for being the victim of rape.

  • In Pakistan nearly 500 women a year are the victims of honor killings.1

  • In a study of female deaths in Egypt, 47 percent of female rape victims were then killed because of the dishonor the rape was thought to bring to the family.

  • In 2002, 315 women and girls in Bangladesh endured another form of violence against women, acid attacks. In 2005, even after the introduction of more serious punishments for the crime, over 200 women were attacked.


Physical and sexual abuse of girls is a serious concern across all regions.

  • In Nigeria, a treatment center reported that 15 percent of female patients requiring treatment for sexually transmitted infections were under the age of five. An additional six percent were between the ages of six and fifteen.

  • In South Africa, one in four men report having had sex with a woman against her will by the time he was 18 years old.

  • Research conducted among young women in sub-saharan Africa found that partner violence and the fear of abuse stopped girls from saying “no” to sex and jeopardized condom use.

  • According to the Jamaica Reproductive Health Survey, approximately 20.3 percent of young women 15-19 years old report having been forced to have sexual intercourse at some point during their life. Overall, one-fifth of Jamaican women have experienced forced sexual intercourse.

  • A 2009 report released by the Colombian Inspector General’s Office showed that in Colombia, at least 27,000 women and girls experienced intimate partner violence last year – with 74 percent of these being “underage girls.”

  • In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 20 percent of young women experience intimate partner violence.15


Female genital cutting/mutilation (FGC/M) causes serious injury to millions of young women every year

  • FGC is the removal of all or part of the young woman’s genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is most prevalent in parts of West, East, and Northeast Africa, though also practiced in Asia, the Middle East and the immigrant populations of North America and Europe.

  • FGC/M is practiced for sociocultural and economic reasons. Family honor, the insurance of virginity until marriage, and social integration are often used as justifications for the procedure.

  • Between 100 and 140 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation worldwide and 3 million girls are at risk of the procedure each year in Africa.

  • A 2005 study found that in Egypt some 97 percent of women age 15-49 had undergone FGM. In Mali, 92 percent of women age 15-49 had undergone FGC/M in 2006; Burkina Faso, 77 percent; and North Sudan, 90 percent.18


Child marriage continues to put young girls at great risk for too-early pregnancy and other sexual and reproductive health issues.

  • In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, more than 30 percent of young women between 15 and 19 are married.

  • In Nepal, 40 percent of girls are married by age 15.

  • In 2005, the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey concluded that in Ethiopia 62 percent of young women aged 20-49 married before age 18.

  • Worldwide, approximately 14 million women and girls between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth each year.

  • Early pregnancy and childbirth have severe consequences for adolescent mothers including complications at birth, obstetric fistula and death, often linked to unsafe abortions.



Cross-Generational Sex Poses Numerous Risks to Young Women

  • Particularly in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, socioeconomic pressures force many unmarried 15-19 year old women to engage in sexual activity with a male partner at least 10 years her senior in exchange for material goods, money or higher social status.

  • Based on 2006 Demographic and Health Surveys, among young women ages 15-19, 21 percent in Nigeria, 7.5 percent in Lesotho, and 9.5 in Uganda reported they had recently engaged in high-risk sex with a partner 10 or more years their senior.

  • Girls and young women involved in cross-generational sex have a severely reduced capacity to negotiate condom use, putting them at high risk for HIV infection. As such, young women 15-24 years old are three times more likely to be infected with HIV than young men age 15-24.

References:

  1. Quote by Kusala Bhikshu, a well-known Buddhist monk, at a talk given at a high school in Los Angeles

  2. Further reading:

UN General Assembly, 61st Session. Secretary General’s Study on Violence Against Women. Accessed from http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/vaw/violenceagainstwomenstudydoc.pdf on January 28, 2010
UNFPA.
UNFPA State Of World Population 2005. Chapter 7. Accessed from http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2005/english/ch7/index.htm on January 28, 2010
Viachova A, Biason L, editors.
Women in an Insecure World. Geneva, September 2005. Accessed from http://www.dcaf.ch/women/pb_women_ex_sum.pdf on January 28, 2010
UNFPA.
Femicide. Accessed from http://74.125.155.132/search?q=cache:2zPSBS-54v8J:www.unfpa.org/16days/documents/pl_femicide_factsheet.doc+femicide&cd=4&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=safari on August 20, 2009
NPR. “Juarez: A City on the Edge.” June 21, 2004. Accessed from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1966988 January 28, 2010
United Nations General Assembly.
Follow-Up to Country Recommendations: Guatemala. Accessed from http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/11session/A.HRC.11.2.Add.7.pdf on January 28, 2010
United Nations Development Fund for Women. “Fact Sheet: Violence Against Women Worldwide.” Accessed from http://www.unifem.org/campaigns/sayno/docs/SayNOunite_FactSheet_VAWworldwide.pdf on January 28, 2010
Garcia-Moreno, Claudia. “Gender Inequality and Fire-Related Deaths in India.” The Lancet 2009; 373 (9671):1230-1231.
United Nations Development fund for Women. “Violence against women: Facts and Figures.” Accessed from http://www.unifem.org/attachments/gender_issues/violence_against_women/facts_figures_violence_against_women_2007.pdf on January 28, 2010
0Nazrullah M et al. “The epidemiological patterns of honour killing of women in Pakistan.” European Journal of Public Health. 2009. Accessed from http://eurpub.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/ckp021v1 on January 28, 2010.
BBC. “Fall in Bangladesh Acid Attacks.” 2009: April 25. Accessed from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/5133410.stm on January 28, 2010
Moore AM et al. “Coerced First Sex among Adolescent Girls in Sub-Saharan Africa: Prevalence and Context.”
African Journal of Reproductive Health, 2007. 11(3): 62-82. Accessed from http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2367148 on January 28, 2010.
Thomas, T. “The Facts: Reproductive and Sexual Health in Jamaica.” Washington, DC: Advocates for Youth, 2006.
Procuradua General de la Nacion. “Procuraduría General de la Nación revela preocupante situación de violencia intrafamiliar y violencia sexual en Colombia.” Accessed from http://www.procuraduria.gov.co/html/noticias_2009/noticias_358.html on January 28, 2010
Varia, S. “Dating Violence Among Adolescents.” Advocates for Youth, Washington, DC , 2006. Accessed from http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=417&Itemid=177 on January 28, 2010
UNFPA. “Gender Equality: Calling for an End to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.” Accessed from http://unfpa.org/gender/practices1.htm on January 28, 2010

PRB. “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: Data and Trends.” 2008. Accessed from http://prb.org/Publications/Datasheets/2008/fgm2008.aspx on January 28, 2010
UNICEF. Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. 2005. Accessed from http://www.unicef.org/publications/files/FGM-C_final_10_October.pdf on January 28, 2010
Jarallah, Yara. “Marriage Patterns in Palestine, Unlike Rest of MENA.” Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau, 2008.
EGLDAM. “Old beyond Imaginings: Ethiopia and Harmful Traditional Practices,” 2003. Accessed from http://nctpe-fgm.net/downloads/obi.doc on August 1, 2009. 

UNFPA. “Gender Equality: Giving Special Attention to Girls and Adolescents.” Accessed from http://www.unfpa.org/gender/girls.htm  on January 28, 2010
USAID. “Cross Generational Sex: Risks and Opportunities.” Accessed from http://www.igwg.org/igwg_media/crossgensex.pdf on January 28, 2010.
Tostan, “Abandoning Female Genital Cutting.” Accessed from http://www.tostan.org/web/page/586/sectionid/547/pagelevel/3/interior.asp on January 28, 2010
USAID. Issue Brief: Preventing Child Marriage: Protecting Girls Health. 2009. Accessed from http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/global_health/pop/news/issue_briefs/prev_child_marriage.pdf on January 28, 2010
Population Reference Bureau. Combating Cross-Generational Sex in Uganda. 2009. Accessed from http://prb.org/articles/2009/crossgenerationalsex.aspx?p=1 on January 28, 2009

Ask Your Mama

April, 2014

Are you cyclically confused? In a ceremonial quandary? Completely clueless? Wonder no more.

 

             _    *Ask Your Mama               

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Spirituality and Didn’t Know Who to Ask™

 

by

©Mama Donna Henes, Urban Shaman

A Question of Baby Steps to the Goddess

 

Dear Mama Donna

 

I am not a follower of the goddess, but I was walking around downtown Brooklyn with my six-year-old daughter Beatrice when she said to me, “Mommy, I don’t believe in God. I believe in Mother Nature and the faeries in the woods. That’s why I make the circles with the rocks.” Clearly she is on a spiritual path and I would like to support her but I really don’t have the background to show a 6-year-old the path to the Goddess.

 

I have seen some of your literature about spirituality and ceremony and thought that you might  give me some ideas as to how to help her find her way to the Goddess.

 

Thanks,

 

Mom On a Mission in Brooklyn

Dear Mom,

 

Ah, to have had a mom like you when I was six and building shrines! I am so impressed with your desire to help your daughter pursue her own personal spiritual path. Brava!

 

I established several rituals with my little granddaughter who spent every summer with me until she became a teen. At bed time, after we read stories or talked, we would “Do Om.” I would sit on her bed facing her. We held each other’s hands to create a complete circle, and then we chanted together, Ooooommmmm. Every night was different, sometimes longer, sometimes softer. Occasionally it got all  silly and giggly, but more often, we chanted until we felt peaceful. Shaleike would drift off to sleep and I would be reenergized for my night’s chores. This was sacred to us. Sometimes she would ask, “Can we do om for a really long time tonight?”

 

You might say some version of grace at meals, acknowledging the bountiful Mother Earth Goddess for all the fruits of her belly. Since she already seems to be drawn to creating altars and shrines, you can encourage her to make a special one for her room and “make offerings” there. I’ll bet she has her own version of what that might mean.

 

The moon is a great way to link to the Goddess. In most cultures, She is the Lady in the Moon. I never could understand how anyone could look at that lovely, smiling, serene lunar face and refer to it as The Man in the Moon. Watch the lunar cycles and do something special on the full and new moons.

 

The New Moon is the perfect time to start something. Begin a project, Make a plan, Set a goal or an intention. Make a wish. As the moon grows to fullness, so will your ideas. This is a great opportunity for Beatrice to understand that her ideas are powerful and that she can strive to manifest them. She can make offerings to the growing moon to send energy to whatever she is focused on.

 

On Full Moons we often got dressed up as for a party and drove out to the beach on Stateb Island and danced in the moon light. With sncks, of course1

The first thing Shameike asks when I pick her up in the summer, is “when is the full moon.” When she was little, she called it the “whole moon.”

 

Take your cues from her. She still remembers.

 

With blessings on your grand adventure,

 

xxMama Donna

Dear Mama Donna,

 

Can we do a fire circle? A water circle?  An air circle? And an earth circle together?

 

Love,

 

Beatrice

 

Dear Beatrice,

 

Yes. We can do a circle together. I would love that.

 

And you can also do a circle whenever you want to all by yourself – or you can invite your mom or a friend if you want. You can sit down with a bowl of water and a bowl of earth and some incense to make fire and smoky air. You can talk to the Goddess whenever you want to. You can ask Her for help, or you can just tell Her how great you think She is. You can also tell her how great you think you are! She will be proud.

 

Keep on making your stone circles. People all over the world make circles of stone to use alike a temple for the ceremonies to the Goddess. When the weather is warmer, you could have a ceremony circle outside. What fun!!!

 

Whenever you have a question, please write to me and I will answer you.

 

I can’t wait to meet you. You are a real soul sister!

 

Lots of blessings of light and love to you,

 

xxMama Donna

 

*Are you cyclically confused? In a ceremonial quandary? Completely clueless? Wonder no more. *Send your questions about seasons, cycles, celebrations, ceremonies and spirit to Mama Donna at: CityShaman@aol.com

MoonOwl Observations

February, 2014

Pele

Pele is a Polynesian Goddess of volcanic fire, lightening, wind, volcanoes and sorcery. She is a popular figure in many stories of ancient Hawaii known as Hawaiian mythology.

She was born of the female spirit Hina. It is told that she sailed to Hawaii because she was being pursued by her older sister Na-maka-o-kahaí because Pele seduced her husband. She originally landed on Kauaí, but due to her sister flooding her homes, she moved down a chain of islands and ended up landing on Mauna Loa, one of the world’s tallest mountains. Her sister could not send her waves high enough so Pele ended up staying there. Her brothers came and surrounded her in various cliffs and mountains. Her youngest sister Hi’iaka was favoured by Pele, who is said to have hatched from an egg that Pele kept warm during the trip to Hawaii. Once Hi’iaka was a grown woman, Pele travelled in spirit to form the north shore of Haua’i, and while there she fell in love with a young chief named Lohi’au. When she went back home she sent her younger sister to convince the chief to come home to her. The sisters extracted vows from each other: Hi’iaka promised not to encourage Lohi’au should he become attracted to her and in return, Pele promised to contain her fires and lava flows so as not to burn a grove of flowering ohi’a trees where Hi’iaka danced with her friend Hopoe.  But, when Hi’iaka found that Lohi’au had died. She ended up restoring his spirit to his body and the two set off back home to Pele. But, it had been fourty days since Pele had seen or heard anything and she grew warry and so she sent a flood of lava into her younger sister’s grove, killing Hopie in the process. Hi’iaka saw the burning trees and she flung herself into Lohi’au. Pele then sent another stream of lava, which killed Lohi’au. Hi’iaka, being a goddess, survived the ordeal.

Legends of Pele show that most of her lovers didn’t escape with their lives as she would hurl molten lave at them, trapping them in misshapen pillars of rock that exist in volcanic fields to this day.  Many who had seen Pele destroy others were terrified by her but there are many altars to her beside lava streams. She is known as a passionate, volatile and unpredictable goddess. She dwells in the Big Island’s craters and she continues to send lava down the mountainside and adds new land around the south-eastern shore almost continuously since 1983. There are several phenomena connected to Pele, including Pele’s hair, Pele’s tears, and Limu o Pele (Pele’s seaweed). A volcano on the Jovian moon Io is also named Pele.Tales of her power continue to this day. Drivers are said to have picked up an old woman who is dressed in all white and is accompanies by a little dog. They then look in the mirror and realize she is missing. Her face appears in photographs or volcanic eruptions and most people who live on the islands speak respectfully of Pele. She has destroyed more than 100 structures on the Big Island since 1983, but she has also added more than 70 acres of land to the islands south-eastern coastline.

Pele is well known as a volcano goddess living in the crater of Kilauea on the island of Hawaii. Red berries, gin and brandy are the common sacrifices to this powerful Goddess out of respect and not necessarily worship. Her worship has lasted much longer than most of the older gods and you can go to Hawaii now and still hear tales of her and her power. Her visible active power has strong influence on the hearts of citizens. It is local legend that if you take any rocks from her mountain home with you, you will be cursed with bad luck.

Goddesses of Sorcery

November, 2013

Branwen, White Raven

Goddess of Sorrows

I’m writing this article at Samhain, the time of the year when the veil between the worlds is thinner and Witches remember and honour their beloved dead. How do Witches understand grief and sorrow? One way is by using the story of Branwen as a blueprint for guided meditation. I offer this story and these ideas to you to help you understand and learn from the sorrows in your life.

Once upon a time Branwen, White Raven, sister of the giant Bran the Blessed King of Britain was given to Matholwch the King of Ireland in marriage to make peace between the two nations. During the betrothal feast Efnisien their half-brother arrived and was furious that the marriage was to take place without his approval. In anger he mutilated the horses of Matholwch. War almost broke out then and there but Matholwch was appeased by Bran who gave him a magical cauldron which could bring the dead to life, although they would remain mute following their revival.

Branwen went to live in Ireland but was treated cruelly by her husband Matholwch as punishment for Efnisien’s mutilation of the horses, though not before she gave birth to an heir, Gwern.  Branwen became a kitchen slave and was beaten and starved. During her time in the kitchen she tamed a starling and sent it across the Irish Sea with a message to her brother about her sad life and Bran brought a force from Wales to Ireland to rescue her.

When Bran arrived Matholwch agreed to give the kingdom to Gwern, his son by Branwen, to pacify Bran, but the Irish lords did not like the idea, and many hid themselves in flour bags tied to the pillars of a huge newly built house made to honour Bran. They planned to ambush Bran’s forces. Efnisien, checking out the house prior to the arrival of Bran and his men, guessed what was happening and killed the hidden men. All was not well and at the feast to celebrate Gwern’s becoming King of Ireland, Efnisien in an unprovoked moment of rage threw his nephew Gwern into the fire and kiled him.

War broke out and all the Irish were killed except for five pregnant women while only seven of the Welsh survived to return home with Branwen, taking with them the severed head of Bran. On landing in Wales at Aber Alaw in Anglesey Branwen died of grief that so much destruction had been caused on her account. She is buried in a square grave.

Branwen, the White Raven, is an aspect of the Goddess who can never die, so what is the deeper meaning of this story?  In every belief system in the world we find the figure of the Lady of Sorrows.  She is the Mother who understands our grief, our pain and all our losses.  Examples are Kwan Yin, who will never go to the Otherworld until all the souls of the world are liberated from suffering, Mary weeping at the foot of the cross where her son hangs dying, or Isis searching for the dismembered body of Osiris.  Native American stories tell of Mother Bear who carries our sorrows for us.  We have all experienced grief and pain that changes us and teaches us compassion and hopefully not bitterness!

 

What is the meaning of your sorrow? What are your fears and shadows?  Why have they come to you and what have you learned from them?  Wiccans understand that Efniessin is the God of Chaos.  You may think that he is an evil character but he is the force that stirs the Cauldron, keeping the Universe moving in its cycle of change, of death and re-birth. His existence is crucial or our energy would stagnate and die.

 

One way to work with the images of this story is to create a square altar to represent the grave of Branwen. Take as much time as you need to understand all your sorrows, meditating on them, writing about them and contemplating their lessons. You can ask the starling to help! When you are finished take some small pebbles or stones, smooth and round, and paint an image of your sorrows on them, one sorrow per stone. Place them on the altar and ask Branwen, Goddess of Sorrows to hold them for you until you are ready to heal and let them go. When you are ready you can take the stones and throw them into running water under the Full Moon. The secret of this ritual is then to never talk about these sorrows again, to let them fade away into the water, leaving only their lessons and the compassion and wisdom learned from them. Allow the grief to leave you forever with the blessings and the help of Branwen White Raven.

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