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The Naked Goddess III

April 1st, 2018

I’m part of a lot of spiritual groups and on one of them someone posted this.

Well I had a lot to say, because I feel like that gender (which is more complicated than a binary) is absolutely important to talk about. I am never comfortable when someone says we should talk about something. Silence has a very specific power.

My main issue with this is one group or part of the gender spectrum have had the power, privilege and control of everything, including spirituality for thousands of years. We cannot “white wash” this out of spirituality. When you fail to acknowledge this privilege, the differences, difficulties and discrimination that happens, you add to it. There are more than two genders. Yet pretending gender doesn’t have a bias, that wider societies and cultures doesn’t hugely favour one over everything else is wrong. You are ignoring the problem. I liken this to when privileged white people (like me) say “I don’t see colour”. It effectively erases the thing about a person or group you have and historically have issues with. It is literally removing the part of a person or groups identity. It also allows passive discrimination, bias and abuse to occur.

Spirituality can never be divorced from society. The body politic, if you will. That is why privilege always comes in. We cannot ignore the bias towards certain groups or genders. Ignoring what is happen in a larger cultural context doesn’t make it more spiritual. Spiritual is an expression of the sacred authenticity of people. It always has a cultural context. In real life terms this means folks whom are non-binary, trans, LGBTQ+ or female are going to suffer more discrimination, abuse than those not. From harassment to income, to insurance and medical care, one group significantly is more secure, more safe, and better off.

This has an effect. From spiritual courses requiring money and travel to not having a bathroom you can use, it will have an impact. This totally removes the right of those suffering to say anything if there “is no gender”. It robs them of their identity and silences them to the difficulties and joys about their lives that make them unique.

We, spiritual and pagan people should care and recognize gender, in all its diversity. We should care because we should be advocating, creating spaces and being aware that being different is beautiful and a strength.

Spirituality is not passive or weak. Kindness and inclusivity is a strength, it is courageous.

I don’t know, what I don’t know. However I am open to listening. Listening to trans, non-binary and gender fluid people as well as the scores of women around me.

I am aware that the patriarchal hangovers and wider social norms creep into our lives often without us seeing them. There is a darker more insidious message in this short post though. Setting up the Christian dichotomy of “spirit as good and body is bad” that has been used to torture and abuse millions for thousands of years. This body verses spirit things exactly plays to these problems with body politics and gender issues. It robs people of their loving divine connection to their bodies and lives. It villainises healthy sexual desire, normal bodily function, and the power of the physical world. It divorces and stigmatizes the powerful animal instincts that dwell within.

The “animal” within is not a malign influence that must be erased or destroyed or caged. Doing so removes a deep and divine force within. If it is respected and held in balance it is wise. If it is repressed or caged it reacts like any caged wild animal would. Of course if it runs riot we become less, diminishing any part of the whole makes us less. We are instinct and intellect. We are our desires and our ability to wait or let them go. We can dwell within desire, be it sexual, hunger or rage, acknowledge them and not act. Yet unless you learn to respect and listen this animal side will act out. Repressing parts of ourselves (usually out of shame) is deeply damaging and not spiritual.

It might look like it from the outside. It might look saint-like and perfect but it just isn’t authentic to a whole person. Now some folks are wolf-spirited, some are more like deer, or lions or elephants. It is not my place to tell anyone what their inner animal must be. Or their gender. Or sexuality.

Yet I will honour them. I will make space, and listen, most of all listen. I will acknowledge my position of relative privilege as a white bi-sexual female that people are more understanding or accepting of me in certain places than people whom are differently gendered. I will speak up and stand up to the injustices and intolerance. I will bridge my ignorance with kindness and recognition.

 

 

(Celtic Gods: The Morrigan by Alexandra Rena of AlexandraRena Fine Art Prints & Gifts on etsy.)

 

I just read a very interesting article by John Beckett. In it he speaks at his unnamed discomfort at the “sexualisation” of Goddess imagery, specifically of the Morrigan.

The word he was groping for but missing was objectification. Of course this is not a new thing (I spoke before at this Greek innovation of lessening women and Goddess power).

Early Christian and Jewish priests had some very odd ideas about the worship of objects (animism) and linked it to avarice and greed. Love of possessions was seen as “worship” of things. I’m sure you’ve all heard the “consumerism is making Christmas pagan” rubbish that gets to do the rounds every few years. The worship of an object however is not about greed. The thrust of avarice is ownership. Yet worship is to acknowledge, imbue, transcend or awaken an essence within an object. The worship of an object is to elevate it to sacred, holy. To believe it is more. Perhaps an expression of something spiritual or holy clothed in a physical expression of its divine force.

Objectification is reductive. The being is reduced to a visual composite of sexual stereotypes. Objectification lessens the subject being viewed. When it becomes titillation the narrative becomes focused not on the subject’s wants, thoughts or needs, but on the observers. Historically this is how women were controlled in a culture, art and religion.

So how do we solve this encroaching pornification? Firstly we have to acknowledge that pornography and it’s extremely exploitative and toxic ideas of beauty, sexuality and objectification are everywhere. The cultures are so saturated with them right now studies show that teenagers (boys and girls) thought only breasts that had been surgically enhanced were normal.

How with this level of ownership especially on the female form can we expect our Goddesses to not be influenced by this?

First off we need to be aware of the objectification. Name it. Call it out. It is happening more and more. From the satire of drawing male superheroes in sexual “female” costumes and poses to better and more honest nudity in films and television. Of course the answer is not objectifying men. That seems to miss the point entirely.

The second thing is to commission and make better art, especially divine art. I don’t think I own any art or divine images that depict the Goddess (any Goddess) naked (except for my tarot deck) and none that objectify them. This has meant I have made a lot of my own. Sex sells, and if it stops selling they will have to try something else. There are folks who sell reproductions of much older Goddess figurines. Ones that stubbornly refuse objectification.

Nudity isn’t inherently sexual. What we need, and maybe the Goddesses deserve, is to be whole. To be able to be powerful and frightening, and sexual and terrifying, merciful and present. To acknowledge the thinking, breathing, complicated being women are as people. Maybe if we stop objectifying women, the objectification of Goddesses will also cease to be an issue. Maybe then our warrior Goddesses will wear proper armour; our mother Goddesses will have stretch marks, menses and swollen nipples; our hunting Maidens will have muscles enough to draw their bows and skinned knees; and our Old Ones will be radiant with scars, deep lines and the beauty of age.

There is no new “pornification” or sexualisation of Goddesses. The extreme of the sexual and exploitative gaze has become more and more extreme but we have also finally begun to recognise it. What we can do is call it out when we see it. Put our money where our mouths are and keep fighting.

 

Resources:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/2018/01/dont-like-sexy-morrigan-imagery.html

 

The Naked Goddess

 

(Last month’s cover of PaganPageOrg, Goddess by Angie Yelton At FalconFire Ceramics Studio)

 

The censoring of female Goddess bodies is apparently not a new thing. While Greek and Roman Gods had their genitals lovingly crafted, in all shapes, ages and sizes, there is no hint of a cleft on the white marble. It symbolises the Greek, then later Roman idea that women must (especially in public) be silent. While this silence of your vulvic voice is not new, taboo is always, always drawn from something powerful and sacred. At least to James Frazier.

 


Greece bronze-age culture seems to be the turning point from the Minoan, Egyptian and other Goddess cultures. Before that Goddess were made in their multitude. Yet the context is differs. The observer is trying to express something, and while some are nude and some are not they lack the objectifying gaze. When you look at a Greek Goddess statue they are posed not to be observed, but objectified. There is a pornography, almost predatory quality to how these women are designed to be viewed. In stark contrast the snake grasping Goddess or priestess from the Minoan culture whom is bare breasted gazes out defiant, triumphant even. This is the context. The difference between observing, bearing witness to the power of the female form and leering at it.

 


This “pornifcation” of the body, of nakedness, especially female nakedness is even more apparent in the modern internet age. It comes from those whom are in power or powerful positions within Instagram and Facebook judging images and only being able to view images of female bodies through this lens. Nakedness is not inherently sexual. Those observing seem to lack the ability to tell the difference between images observing female stories and bodies (even Goddesses) and the objectifying frame of pornography.

 


Pornography does not have to be nude to be pornography. It is designed to arouse and stimulate a sexual response. In fact near nakedness, or its illusion is a key trait in some pornography. It is more titillating to almost see something than to see it. So much of our media is at least tinted with this toxic view point. Again context is key.

 


Much of this stems from tech industries really struggling with these concepts and a failure to see something fundamental. Something so simple and true it seems obvious: women are people.

 


This idea that women are not cattle to be bought and sold is still radical in some places. Yet in the West we like to think we are enlightened while simultaneously eroding their humanity. You can be strong, independent and fierce, as long as you attractive. In cool, absolutely. Were they gorgeous?

 

Without a doubt. Was it the point? Not in the slightest. They were (ironically) more like those Minoan figures, breasts bared holding the snakes aloft.
The female nipple, her menses, Divine Goddess nude or otherwise are part of our story, our lives and in erasing them is part of the problem. We must mould our digital Goddesses as they were once made out of clay. With hips and breasts, in all shapes, ages and colours, with scars and lions. We must not let them silencer words “be what you like, so long as titillates me to watch you do it”.

 

 

(Goddess of Willendorf)

 

This is why Wonder Woman was such a revelation to me. That gaze was absent. It was the observer, not the objectifier who held the camera, told the story. It didn’t care how “pretty” the Amazons were while they were running screaming into battle. Was it e us, because they know the vulva speaks.

Respecting Yourself by Respecting Your Opposite


In the last article I talked about how women were not inferior to men and how throughout history there were many women warriors. Often times when a woman talks about women warriors many think that she believes that women are superior to men. This is not what I believe, so I hope this sets the record straight right now. The first thing a warrior goddess must learn is that male and female warriors are equal, absolutely and completely. Men and women are different sides of the same coin.


I have heard so many Pagan women talk about how females are superior to males. I often see the Goddess worshiped as superior over the God. Even some pagan men feel this way. They give me their reasoning which includes females reaction times being faster, female life spans being longer, females being more tolerant to pain, females creating life, etc. Spirituality aside, I get these email forwards from women that are supposed to be funny… they talk about how men are, saying things like “Because I’m a man, you don’t have to ask me if I liked the movie. Chances are, if you’re crying at the end of it, I didn’t.” These attitudes only promote inequality and gender issues. In the case of females thinking they are superior, it is promoting the same bigotry that the male dominated cultures do. This is not going to help empower us; it is going to help entrap us in the same conservative world we are trying to escape. We must stop thinking about our differences making us superior, we must think about them making us a perfect balance.


As warrior goddesses, when we think of our warrior gods, we must realize their importance and not subject them to the same degradation we have been subjected to. We need to not stereotype and we need to realize that each person is an individual and should not be judged based on their gender. We each possess projective and receptive traits.


Despite the fact that we should not make judgments based on gender, there are differences between warrior goddesses and warrior gods. Like in procreation, these differences are needed to make a balance. I am not going to pretend to fully understand the male mind, because I am not a male… but I do have opinions based on my observations and experiences.


Male warriors tend to be aggressive towards solving their problems. They go out and find what is wrong and they fix it. Males also tend to try and posture in their battles; this is not stupid, this is a natural instinct that works. If you look bigger and more threatening, the threat may well go away. Women, however, tend to be more subtle in their fights. They tend to leave things be unless they are directly threatening the things they care about. However, when they are provoked to fight they often do not posture; they usually just eradicate the problem.


Both of these approaches to “battle” are necessary. As is evident in the world today, if the male warriors dominate the world, things will be very aggressive. There will be problems made where there were none, making for almost constant warring. If female warriors were dominant, there would probably not be wars as frequently, but when they happened, they would be so terrible that very few would survive. This is why we need a balance of both males and females. Females would keep the males from being too aggressive and the males would keep the females from being too passive.


I want to take a brief moment to dispel a popular myth. I hear many women say that men are unfeeling and this is why they fight so much; they don’t think about who they hurt and they just don’t care as much as women. This is wholly untrue. I know many current and ex-soldiers and I will tell you, they are very feeling indeed. They have such deep feelings, in fact, that many of them have psychological problems because of many years of fighting and the horrible things they have seen. Men have the same deep emotions that women have, they just express them differently.


Now, I talk in examples of battle because I am speaking about warriors, but as mentioned in the last article, being a warrior does not mean you must be violent. These concepts can be used in every facet of life. A warrior goddess will give respect to herself and other women, but also to the men in her life. My husband and I have an equal partnership that has lasted for 11 years running now. We do not differentiate our jobs based on who is the man and who is the woman; we differentiate them based on who has what skills. He has a regular well paying job, I do not; this does not make me feel inferior. I hold a much higher rank in martial arts than he does, but this does not make him feel inferior. Because we are so equal and balanced, after 11 years of marriage we still are asked if we are newly weds.


So here is what I encourage each of you to do on the first step of your journey to becoming a warrior goddess. Look at the men in your life, whether they are friends, family or a mate. Erase all of your preconceived ideas and really pay attention to their differences; see how they compliment you. Look at the different types of men and decide what you like and dislike about those types.


After you are done with that, look at yourself and other women in your life. Look at the different types of women and see how they compliment you. Figure out what you like and dislike about the different types of women. Write notes down in a journal about both the men and women. Read it many times, meditate on it, ask your deities (if you have any) for guidance. Come to an understanding about who you are and what kind of woman you want to be. Understanding yourself and your differences from others is the first step to becoming a warrior goddess.


***


author bio:


Athene


[email protected]


http://www.athenestemple.com


Athene comes from a family of Eclectics and has been practicing Paganism from a young age. Athene is an accomplished musician, swimmer, archer, artist, crafter and martial artist. She is active in teaching Pagan spirituality, magick and teaching and learning Judo and Jujitsu. She is also active in promoting equality and balance between genders and races, as well as environmentalism. Athene is well traveled and has been through much of the United States, as well as some traveling in Canada and France.


Athene has faced many challenges in her life, which fortunately she has over come. She tries to use these life experiences as examples to help others grow strong and sure of themselves. Athene’s current life goal is to help women become empowered through pagan spirituality; embracing themselves for who and what they are, overcoming social stigmas such as “thinner is more beautiful” and “women are victims”. She is willing to speak and teach at Pagan events and often will answer questions through email.

It is almost impossible to meet every beauty standard. It is almost impossible for the beauty, diet and medical industries to “approve” of your body, skin, hair and eyes. In a world that deliberately shifts the “should’s” and shames that attacks and blames, loving yourself is an act of rebellion.

What is reviled in one country is celebrated in another. From skinny shaming to fat-hating what stays the same is the entitlement of male-gaze, the disgust and ownership of the female form. The idea that women are objects for public consumption is at the root of both modesty and pornography.

My mum was a fat hater and a fat-shamer. So was my dad. This meant that while I was “not pretty” I had the good grace to be thin and clever. I prized this things because both came easily to me. I can’t tell if I was an exercise addict, someone who coped with anxiety through exercise, or just very active. I would roll at of bed at dawn and do 30 sit-ups, until about the age of 17. Exercise makes me feel good, helps me focus and is something I really enjoy, though I can’t do much, if any, these days. I didn’t diet, far from it I ate a huge amount, but as a dancer I knew plenty of girls who ate tissue to not be hungry. Girls who didn’t eat for half of the school week to be “thin enough” to go out on a Friday. Fat was a mystery to me. A softness I was scared of. Still find frightening on occasion.

Fat was “weakness” and was far too vulnerable to the rough grabbing hands. No I wanted to be hard, strong and never weak. Of course I hated myself plenty. My wonky nose, crocked teeth, my ginger curly hair. Once I stopped dancing I grew breasts quickly. They came as something of a shock to me. I went from a B to a D cup in a very short time and they had their perks I was sort of mystified by this fleshier body.

As I got older, and then had children my weight was the first thing my mum would comment about.

You look fat, and not the jolly kind.”

Oh you lost weight, your face looks better.”

You are thin enough now, much skinnier you’ll look ill.”

Of course my mum was a much better feminist than I was because I had “given myself over to the yoke of motherhood” instead of doing something “more important”. My feminism was “too soft” and far too feminine and far too fat for her.

I have been all different sizes, shapes and tones and while I was more desired by men when I was thinner and more toned I have rarely been happy with myself. Rarely felt self-love or safety in my skin. I fear the toxic seep of this self-loathing for my daughter. I wonder what seeds I have sown accidentally. I have been working on loving myself for years and sometimes I feel I get there.

So how do we create real change? How do we dismantle huge industries that promote self-loathing as self-care? How do we dare to be soft when it hurts so much? How do we find our strength in body, spirit and mind? I think we must make Goddess figurines. Thousands of them, millions. Ones that are like us, as we are, not as we wish to be. Some with huge voluptuous breasts or none to speak of. Some with long legs, or no legs. With curly coils, or no hair. With lines and scars. With powerful thighs and big arses. So that we know our flesh is powerful and beautiful and important. That we are worthy, fat, scarred, skinny and all. For in reclaiming our image as beautiful, as sacred art maybe we will love ourselves just a little bit more.

LILITH

(Painting by John Collier – Source: Wikipedia)

When my children were small, I was good friends with a woman whose birth family practiced Orthodox Judaism. We had known each other many years, our children were close and we had each been to many family gatherings. One summer, we were attending a pool party at her house and her parents were in attendance. I went to say hello to her father and then asked him about Lilith, as the first wife of Adam. His response was to look at me, say nothing, then turn to walk away. He never really spoke to me much afterward.

THAT is the power of Lilith.

Who was the powerful woman? Was she a demon? Was she a woman that refused to be subservient to a man? Did she leave Eden on her own? Was she kicked out?

Her origins seems to be rooted in Babylonian demonology. In Sumerian, her name comes for “lilitu”, which means “female demon” or “wind spirit”.

In the Sumerian tale of Gilgamesh, the hero (Gilgamesh) goes to help the Goddess Inanna, who was being beset by demons, one of which was Lilith. This part of the tale was added some 600 years after the original.

(Source: YouTube)

In Jewish tradition, Lilith is a dark demon, but others see her as a dark Goddess, but either way, she is ancient and powerful. In the Talmud, she was described as being sexually wanton and the stealer of men’s sperm from which she gave birth to demons. The Talmud, the book of civil and ceremonial law, states, “It is forbidden for a man to sleep alone in a house, lest Lilith get hold of him”.

It is in the Genesis Rabba, religious texts with rabbinical interpretations of Genesis, that we first hear of Lilith as the first woman, created at the same time as Adam.

Adam demanded that she life beneath him and she refused. Adam wanted her to be subservient to him and she refused. She stated, “We are equal because we are both created from the earth.”

(Photo Source: The Lilith Library)

This myth was added to book “The Alphabet of Ben Sira”, which added that Lilith then fled into the desert. Adam complains to God that the woman that was given to him has left. Three angels are sent after her. The angels tell her that she must return but she refuses and says, strangely, that she knows that she was made to harm children, but that if she sees the names of these angels on amulets, then that child will be saved.

Some would say that when she refused to lie beneath Adam, that she was turned into a demon, a succubus, and banished from Eden. For some, she became a sacred whore, beautiful, dangerous, who would seduce men and kill them.

Eve was then created from Adam’s rib, making her made from him, submissive to him and would lie beneath him.

She has been an influence in literary characters, such as in “The Coming of Lilith” by Judith Plaskow, among many other stories, novels and poems. It is said that C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia”, that the White Witch was influenced by Lilith. There is the Lilith Faire, which raises money for battered women’s shelters and breast cancer awareness.

Girl God Publications has the “My Name is……” series, written for children, where Goddesses who have been demonized, have their stories told in a positive, affirmative manner. The third in this series is “My Name is Lilith“, by Monette Chilson, which I highly recommend.

(Photo: Amazon)

Lilith has become an icon for feminists who see her refusal to lie beneath Adam as a call to freedom, a rallying cry to break away from the bonds of

patriarchy.

She can be looked to for inspiration in being and accepting who we are – strong, empowered, independent women, making our own choices and living the lives we choose.

Blessings!

***

About the Author:

Susan Morgaine is a Daughter of the Goddess, Witch, Writer, Teacher, Healer, and Yogini. She is a monthly columnist with PaganPages.org Her writings can be found in The Girl God Anthologies, “Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak” and “Jesus, Mohammed and the Goddess”, as well as Mago Publications “She Rises, Volume 2, and “Celebrating Seasons of the Goddess”. She has also been published in Jareeda and SageWoman magazines. She is a Certified Women’s Empowerment Coach/Facilitator through She is the author of “My Name is Isis”, one in the series of the “My Name Is………” children’s books published by The Girl God Publications. A Woman International, founded by Patricia Lynn Reilly. She has long been involved in Goddess Spirituality and Feminism, teaching classes and workshops, including Priestessing Red Tents within MA and RI. She is entering her 20th year teaching Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, being a Certified instructor through the Kundalini Research Institute, as well as being a Reiki Master. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon. She can be found at https://mysticalshores.wordpress.com/ and her email is [email protected]

My Name is Isis: The Egyptian Goddess

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