September 15, 2021 at 11:24 pm #74176Stephen GerringerKeymaster
Author, archetypal consultant, and recognized futurist Kristina Dryža is once again our guest in Conversations of a Higher Order for a discussion of “Engaging The Renewing Feminine Within,” her latest entry in JCF’s MythBlast essay series. Her work focuses on archetypal and mythic patterns within the context of nature, and their influence on creativity, innovation and leadership.
Though I will get us started, please feel free to join the discussion and engage Ms. Dryža directly (as well as each other) with your questions and observations – that’s what will make this a true “conversation of a higher order.”
Your essay packs so much “big picture stuff” in so few words: the congruence between fertility and creativity, the need for “dying” and dissolution as part of the creative process, and the mythic image of the Goddess conveying the resonance between inner processes and the rhythms of nature.
Joseph Campbell recognizes a symbiotic relationship between myth and ritual, often speaking of ritual as an enactment of a myth (“By participating in the ritual, you are participating in the myth”). In my practice, I find constructing a personal ritual an incredibly useful tool to help focus the mind and reinforce my intentions.
Are there any rituals you can suggest, or perhaps have used yourself, that might help one embody the mythological dynamic described in your essay?September 17, 2021 at 2:53 pm #74192
Thank you for the question, Stephen.
It’s so wonderful to be part of the COHO community again.
For me, the purpose of myth (whether personal or societal) is to feel our lives. And ritual is as meaningful as myth. The intention of ritual is to invite the relational presence of the divine into our lives. To appreciate the sacredness – the reverence of human life – and all that is holy. We need rituals because they structure the sacred.
But we can’t rush rituals or rites of passage. Personally, I require lots of coffee and a slow start in the morning! I need quite a long runway to propel myself into lift-off and full flight! My morning coffee and pottering around is just one way where I can sense the sacred threads in my days (and my life). Too often there’s only external stimuli demanding a reaction or response and so my morning ritual is an intentional crafting and a conscious fostering of my dawn to dusk experience.
Also, if we’re solely focused on the future, we forget our ancestors. And in our external busyness, it’s common to forget the threads from which we come from. I feel that we can only reclaim ourselves by also reclaiming and restoring the biographies of our ancestors. When we can lean back on them – the ground they paved for us and their strengths – we can move forward in life. I’ve made a shrine to my forebearers in a corner of the living room, which I visit each day: photos of them, some sandalwood candles and a few leaves of this season’s nature. I honour their memory – our lineage – in a ritualistic way and promise my tribute to my ancestors will be in my living.
Rituals give our left brain a break. They give the gods and goddesses room to speak, move and act through us – we let them alter us. The autumn equinox is coming up in the northern hemisphere on September 22. A suggestion is to offer your present troubles to a piece of paper, and then offer the paper to the ritual fire so that the words and papyrus can be reduced to the elements. And then allow the elements to be reformed into new patterns so that they can nurture and comfort you. And most crucially, bow down and pay homage to the Great Goddess. Allow her to reshape, recast and remould you for the coming season.
Put quite simply, do whatever you need to do, so long as your head falls below your heart. It’s the quickest and finest type of ritual to move you from one state of being to another.
I look forward to being in conversation with you this week – Kristina.September 20, 2021 at 5:51 pm #74191
Thank you very much for the thoughtful myth blast and this ritual suggestion.
it seems very clear to me that the discussion of death and renewal is extremely relevant to the current death and rebirth of the American Empire and world transitioning we are experiencing. With the release of the feminine in the 60’s from 5,000 years of male repression, we opened the path to rebirth. With the expected attendant consequences of defense and push back from the forces of fear and existing control. Focusing on world society from this point of view creates the appropriate optimism for our future that will be so helpful for balancing our own fear of failure to reach this next level of human development through our following the goddess’ maze and guidance.
I just saw a Pete Seeger saying in the Optimist Daily letter that the way to better the world is through finding optimistic stories and retelling them.
much love and aloha. Roger EpsteinSeptember 21, 2021 at 2:16 am #74190
Thank you dear Kristina for your thought provoking essay.
“Put quite simply, do whatever you need to do, so long as your head falls below your heart. It’s the quickest and finest type of ritual to move you from one state of being to another.”
So well said. Each year my heart wants a different ritual around the harvest full moon. This year, if I could, I’d love to have a ritual near the ocean under the full moon and watch the waves play with the shoreline. I am imagining a place of solitude up on a hill, near a light house, as the full moon pours its beams onto the vast ocean. So this is more or less a ritual that engages my imagination, not my current reality. As Campbell said, rituals are enactment of myths, and myths —- “Myth, like dream, is an expression of the human imagination thus grounded in the realities of the psyche and, like dream, reflecting equally the influences of a specific social environment ” So I am imagining~~~~~~
Kristina you wrote, “For me, the purpose of myth (whether personal or societal) is to feel our lives. And ritual is as meaningful as myth. The intention of ritual is to invite the relational presence of the divine into our lives. To appreciate the sacredness – the reverence of human life – and all that is holy. We need rituals because they structure the sacred.”
Societal rituals in natural settings, like the forests, lakes, oceans, and hills, speak to me a lot. For me, it enhances the sense of sacredness, and defines my geographical horizon. Such rituals bring me closer to the sun, moon and stars and the landscape around me. This was not always the case because I grew up in a tradition where rituals were more around death and resurrection (societal and group rituals) – forty days of mourning, and then celebrations, but not in nature-settings.
In Norway, I participated in nature rituals, and since then, the longing to be near a forest, to walk there on a moonlit night, trekking a dark path, lit only by a few lanterns, looking for a place to rest, but where? The land, sometimes covered with soft snow, and sometimes all wet with rain, offered no rest, and all one could do was keep walking. The smell of hot chocolate and a few hand held torches beckoned one to dry boulders, where a surprise awaited. That’s a ritual, I wish could be global rather than just Nordic.
Thank you again Kristina.
ShaahaydaSeptember 22, 2021 at 10:53 am #74189
Equinox greetings to you Roger!
Yes, the genesis and cure of our wounds is something that we feed, support and create with each moment of breath, based on the narratives we tell ourselves.
Many of the current narratives in society feel like a poison to me. I feel the only storyline that we need to know right now is the one of descent and eventual return and consequent descent and rising. That’s the current – and unchanging – story arc. And knowing and trusting that the descent is as valuable, and necessary, as the ascent. There’s an ancient Mesopotamian saying that says, ‘No one comes back from the underworld unmarked.’
Very best, Kristina.September 22, 2021 at 11:21 am #74188
Autumnal blessings Shaahayda!
At the moment I am in Vilnius, not my usual forest in Nida, and I will miss the burning of the reed sculptures in Amber Bay tonight. My heart hankers for the ritual, dance, music and fire inspired by the legends and totems of the Curonian Spit. But here I am, in a bland hotel room, waiting to speak at a conference. So I turn my attention instead to the sacred nature and ritual of work.
I hear you about wanting to get closer to the landscape. I recently watched this documentary on Marija Gimbutas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjE2-H1R9Zs and I took such comfort from the nature rituals described. It gave my soul a place to rest.
All my best, Kristina.September 22, 2021 at 11:59 am #74187
As an addendum Roger, Joanna Macy in her book ‘Active Hope’ co-authored with Chris Johnstone writes: “Active Hope is a practice. Like tai chi or gardening, it is something we do rather than have. It is a process we can apply to any situation, and it involves three key steps. First we take a clear view of reality; second we identify what we hope for in terms of the direction we’d like things to move in or the values we’d like to see expressed; and third, we take steps to move ourselves and our situation in that direction.”September 22, 2021 at 11:02 pm #74186
I love your quote above!
“Also, if we’re solely focused on the future, we forget our ancestors. And in our external busyness, it’s common to forget the threads from which we come from. I feel that we can only reclaim ourselves by also reclaiming and restoring the biographies of our ancestors. When we can lean back on them – the ground they paved for us and their strengths – we can move forward in life”
Have often thought with all the emphasis of being in the Present, which is important…there is still something to be said for all our “stories.”
Our stories as much as our existence radiate so much of who we are!
A reason too, I think so many are drawn to Campbell!! And mythology!
And love your ritual to your ancestors can relate to that celebration of honor to loved ones and those who came before! Beautiful!
Since I’m an unfortunate rambler just wanted to ask a couple of questions…
One in regards to the Goddess or Goddesses.
Because of (?semantics?) and perhaps “commercialization” of “the feminine image,” that for some the term has a shallow interpretation “goddess as pedestal object.” And it’s more of a male image of putting a woman on a pedestal where she has to live up to all these expectations. And the word Woman is sometimes preferred to Goddess. This was in relation to a conversation I had about Mary in the Christian tradition with a Catholic friend. There is a strong women’s movement in part of the church now.
But it’s the idea that Mary as Woman saying “Yes,” is powerful.
But regardless of all the symbolism which reflects Goddesses before her…
To even see her in any metaphor including the word Goddess “objectifies her,” a patriarchal thing to do apparently. So that Mary as a Woman is making a powerful affirmative which echoes around the world. And an affirmative for all women.
Just curious if you had ever run into that kind of different perception??September 23, 2021 at 4:16 am #74185
Oh how I wish I could be in the forest in Nida, the sand dunes, the reed sculptures, climb the Parnidis Dune, explore the dead dunes, and walk the Baltic Beach every night, and live in one of those wood cabins nearby. Ah what a life!! I can imagine how very much you miss the totems of the Curonian Spit.
I am imagining myself on the beautiful Baltic Beach, in Nida, Klaipeda, Palanga. I read a good deal about Lithunia, about Nida, about the peaceful beaches in October. They say, ‘Once October hits, Palanga turns into a ghost town. The streets are peaceful and the beach is empty. This is the time to truly appreciate the seaside, sit peacefully on the beach and watch the Baltic Sea. It’s the time to wander the streets and discover how beautiful and sleek they are.” There I will be even if its only in my dreams.
Thank you for the youtube documentary of Marija Gimbutas. I have watched quite a few on her life and loved them so very much.
ShaahaydaSeptember 24, 2021 at 12:31 am #74184
I also would like to add a disclaimer to my statement query above:
I know that all those here (smile), know of those deeper threads and labyrinths of Godess/es…all those various phases of light and shadow…thanks not only to the Joe Campbell’s in the world but also to the researchers like you Kristina, who carry on in their own unique ways about these same symbols and energies, which live in our psyches!
What a perfect time for this as unless I’m mistaken the Vernal Equinox was once considered both the New Year of the “Celts,” or “Gaels,” as well as the New Year of the Cherokee.
A time of gestation going into the darkness before returning to the light.
I do understand the deeper perception of “Goddess” and all She symbolically represents. Does not bother me at all!! It’s just been an interesting navigation coming across different perceptions and all one can really do is be kind!
For after all the Root of the discussion is still there whether one says Woman or Goddess…since after all the topic is about the Divine Feminine!
The only thing I can imagine is that in my discussion it is the “humanness” which was perceived to make Mary’s Act as Woman (human Woman) to be so miraculous.
A lot of interesting navigation in the world!! But if someone else knows more about that tradition because they have grown in it and spent a lifetime studying it…and being a part of it.
Then I just listen.
Briefly on to my other question speaking of the need for rituals.
Sometimes I wonder if some rituals are born more out of the head and intellect than the heart?
Or maybe it’s a balance of both?
Your ritual for your ancestors and your suggestion of ritual feels very heart based.
What brought the question up was memory of a dear friend “Clarice Bowman.” I’ve mentioned her elsewhere on other boards (so forgive me Stephen for my overlapping repetitions *wry grin*)
Clarice was the first woman Methodist Minister in NC. She was tall had a commanding presence but also a deep care and kindness. As a real little child she was so kind to me. Had to be in her seventies when my family knew her almost eighty. Beautiful woman.
Clarice had written books and pamphlets and also was well versed in Joe Campbell!
One paraphrase she said: “rituals are fine but do not become so worried with rituals that you cage yourself from God’s surprise.”
Or for this one could say Goddess’s surprise.
So wondered if you had any thoughts on that?
Personally I feel your rituals would do more “uncaging!”
Or you are talking of rituals which give peace and quiet and focus to the mind…
Thus freeing it from that chatter…so there is a chance to find quiet and reconnection!!
To be fair, Clarice could find ritual in the the simplest of moments:
“communion” by going to a favorite place to eat and sharing that with friends…
Or finding a place to park where there was a view of a NC lake and enjoying sharing that spot in company of dear friends.
That could be ritual for her!
In case any others wish to post here.
Thank you again for the essay and your thoughts on rituals at this turning of the seasons!!September 24, 2021 at 12:52 pm #74183
Thank you for the question sunbug.
I like how the subtitle of Campbell’s book is ‘Mysteries of the Feminine Divine,’ and so saying that Mary is a Goddess/Woman objectifies her, well, then we disconnect from the mysteries of the divine feminine . . .
I haven’t run into that perception but I found Rudolf Steiner’s book ‘Isis Mary Sophia: Her Mission and Ours’ helpful in broadening discussions on this topic.
Very best, Kristina.September 25, 2021 at 2:16 pm #74182
Hello again sunbug.
With the autumn equinox we distinctly see how ritualistic shedding is necessary. Trees shed their leaves, which become mulch for the soil. When leafless, the trees draw their energy from the roots so that they can burst through with greater life force for the next cycle. Engaging with these cycles is our opportunity to love the earth and the forms the Goddess gives us.
In the shedding, the trees in their starkness reveal their knots and the patterns in their bark in greater detail. They shine clearer after being hidden in the leaves. To evolve, it’s essential that we make peace with the fact that things must depart our lives. So to your point about ‘uncaging,’ I’m reminded how we must remove the non-essential so that the essential may speak in our lives.
This equinox is the call to shed what no longer resonates with us for the season, which we now find ourselves in (metaphorically as well as literally). We don’t lose anything in evolution. Nor will we ever. We revitalise ourselves by letting go of what we’ve outgrown.
Meet you at the threshold, Kristina.September 26, 2021 at 12:32 am #74181
Thank you Kristina for both responses to my queries! I think with the first, the issue was about emphasizing the Human? Instead of the divine? I suppose the challenge for me was/is the sense of the divine informing everything including the “human.”
Even though I sometimes become lost in details…was more ready to “shed the details,” like leaves to sense the heart of the matter…but if the details are what are important to someone else for the heart of the matter…it is what it is.
And I love your description of the shedding of the leaves during the autumnal equinox. Fall has always been my favorite time of year since a young child. The changing colors, the crisp wind and apples…the azure sky.
Fall always felt like any adventure could happen…I guess looking back it did feel like a time of birth or rebirth. A time for New things.
Even though Spring usually takes that title…
Fall held the potential of the unexpected and beautiful…a time to light the wood stove and make cheerful orange flames.
As you said the trees stand out in stark patterns when they lose their leaves. I’ve become mesmerized in the overlay of their dark and wooded webbing against an overcast sky and winter sun.
Or framing a sunset that would have been hidden by the leaves.
It’s funny you mentioned the trees shining after shedding their leaves…for I have seen not only snow but the years that brought ice storms…long before Elsa or Let it Go were a spark in the minds of young children.
The ice beautiful and deadly perhaps brought by the wintry queen herself herself.
Stark tree limbs encased in glass catching moon bows on a frosty clear night and shooting arrows of white radiance across a clearing.
The beauty only broken by the sharp crack of a heavy limb falling deep into the night.
Then the rise of the sun casting rainbows between every melting limb.
How could one not feel new beginnings? Even if the winter queen put one in their place after slipping and sitting oof! On an innocent looking patch of melting ice!
But yes Fall…a time of the hawks flying too. And meteors streaking bright in a cold dark night.
“See you at the threshold too!”September 26, 2021 at 6:44 pm #74180Stephen GerringerKeymaster
Hope you don’t mind if I add a thought in response to this question you raise:
Briefly on to my other question speaking of the need for rituals.
Sometimes I wonder if some rituals are born more out of the head and intellect than the heart?
Or maybe it’s a balance of both?”
Ritual takes many forms – but the point of ritual, at least according to Campbell, Eliade, and others, seems to be to open a portal and propel us past surface realities, into an experience of a deeper reality underlying the world we perceive with our senses. Ritual allows us an experience transcendent to, yet in harmony with, that of the physical senses. A living ritual has a numinous, dream-like, surreal component – that sense of participation mystique, as Campbell labels it, using a term borrowed from Levy-Bruhl. Ego breaks down, and one’s sense of self both dissolves, and expands beyond, individual identity. Like in a play (drama, come to think of it, having evolved from sacred rituals), we suspend our disbelief, and participate in the myth.
That doesn’t seem to happen with rituals constructed by intellect alone.
In his introduction to Primitive Mythology, the first book of the four volume The Masks of God, Joseph Campbell makes a compelling case that ritual has its origins in play.
He segues into the subject by telling the story of a professor’s four year old daughter, who is playing on the rug with three burnt matches while her father writes at his desk. Considerable time passes, and then the daughter screams in terror and comes running into her father’s arms, crying “Daddy, Daddy, take the witch away! I can’t touch the witch anymore!”
The little girl had been playing Hansel, Gretel, and the witch with the matches (ironically enacting a myth, so to speak – fairy tales are often the traces of earlier mythologies); though she knows the match is just a match, the little girl, caught up in her play, also believes the match is a witch.
Drawing then on Johan Huizinga’s groundbreaking work Homo Ludens (“Man the Player”): A Study of the Play Element in Culture, Campbell makes the connection between play and ritual, both of which occupy a play-sphere where the prevailing logic is “make believe” – aka, acting “as if”:
“This vivid, convincing example of a child’s seizure by a witch while in the act of play may be taken to represent an intense degree of the daemonic mythological experience. However, the attitude of mind represented by the game itself, before the seizure supervened, also belongs within the sphere of our subject. For, as J. Huizinga has pointed out in his brilliant study of the play element in culture, the whole point, at the beginning, is the fun of play, not the rapture of seizure. ‘In all the wild imaginings of mythology a fanciful spirit is playing,” he writes, “on the border-line between jest and earnest. . . . As far as I know, ethnologists and anthropologists concur in the opinion that the mental attitude in which the great religious feasts of savages are celebrated and witnessed is not one of complete illusion. There is an underlying consciousness of things ‘not being real.’
And he quotes, among others, R.R. Marett, who, in his chapter on “Primitive Credulity” in The Threshold of Religion, develops the idea that a certain element of ‘make-believe’ is operative in all primitive religions. ‘The savage,’ wrote Marett, ‘is a good actor who can be quite absorbed in his role, like a child at play; and also, like a child, a good spectator who can be frightened to death by the roaring of something he knows perfectly well to be no “real” lion.’
‘By considering the whole sphere of so-called primitive culture as a play-sphere,’ Huizinga then suggests in conclusion, ‘we pave the way to a more direct and more general understanding of its peculiarities than any meticulous psychological or sociological analysis would allow.’ And I would concur wholeheartedly with the this judgment, only adding that we should extend the consideration to the entire field of our present subject.” (Primitive Mythology 23)
Campbell then examines the play element in the Roman Catholic mass, and rituals of other cultures, noting that “Belief––or at least a game of belief––is the first step toward such a divine seizure.” (Theater, as well, which has its origin in ritual, is grounded in that play logic – the suspension of disbelief).
Some rituals arise spontaneously – it may take a while before you even tumble to the fact that what you are doing is a ritual –and then often, there is some intention involved, and your intellect is engaged. But I would say that effective rituals – those that have a deep, profound, emotional impact (composed of living symbols, or what Campbell, borrowing from Jungian psychiatrist John Weir Perry, calls “affect images”) felt in body and soul, rather than just going through the motions – are akin to artistic creations, drawing more on intuition, spontaneity, and imagination.September 26, 2021 at 10:34 pm #74179
Stephen, I do not mind your in depth addition at all!
I’ve thought a lot about that “suspension of disbelief” and being engaged in the acts of play which lead/become ritual/experience in relation to several of the recent myth blast authors over the months!
you write:Ritual takes many forms – but the point of ritual, at least according to Campbell, Eliade, and others, seems to be to open a portal and propel us past surface realities, into an experience of a deeper reality underlying the world we perceive with our senses. Ritual allows us an experience transcendent to, yet in harmony with, that of the physical senses. A living ritual has a numinous, dream-like, surreal component – that sense of participation mystique, as Campbell labels it, using a term borrowed from Levy-Bruhl. Ego breaks down, and one’s sense of self both dissolves, and expands beyond, individual identity.
That makes sense to me (both from reading Campbell and seeing this reminder!)
And there are different levels of ritual
Ex: for some looking for a sign or symbol maybe from a St.
Flowers is what they seek (specific related flowers)
But for others Prayers on behalf of those they care about is what they seek And they want deeper in…not so much flowers.
But Where I struggle is where both the “play” and the “deeper experience,” become overwhelmed with “details,” or argument of details…which seem much more in the realm of intellect but are perceived as highly necessary nuances in order to hear the story the Proper spiritual way. Meaning it can only be one way or only be understood deeply with the Right details.
It’s more of those challenges in communication and perspective.
It’s sort of fascinating and I choose respect and kindness…
But it’s hearing the perspective of this women’s movement within Catholicism. I’m sure Campbell would have been fascinated too!
If I mentioned matriarchal cultures it was immediately understood…
Yes: God as Mother.
Yet Mary:Mother of God cannot be a goddess nor have divinity because? It belittles her human act as a human woman? Saying a Yes…to carrying the son of god.
And I cannot claim to understand all the nuances myself of ones faith/theology.
It just felt confusing but perhaps because the divine feminine lost that raw perception and energy in more patriarchal cultures would be my guess so Mother can be an aspect of God and occasionally God can be she.
But Mary must remain human for her act to be powerful. I guess can see how that “plays” out. Yet she’s also honored among Women. So it’s emphasis on the humanistic part of the divine story even though the divine is playing through that. And maybe Mary is to humble to go round with titles….
When Campbell references “one’s sense of self dissolving and expanding beyond individual identity” that’s a place sometimes I want to challenge some Campbell perspectives…on a different board/subject…but rounding up into some contradictions…such as a sense of self dissolving does not necessarily keep an outside Guru or Gurus from projecting his/their sense of self on your journey. Unless you are lucky and it’s a teacher who cares and guides without needing control and encourages you to find your own way/path.
And the other conundrum: looking for the distinction between group/societal ideologies AND universal consciousness which seems to work on its own internal clock. And ? Being careful to not to mistake one for the other.
But my apologies to you and Kristina for this wander off subject.
Perhaps the wind and play of Fall will bring thoughts to a clearer threshold!!
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