MythBlast | The Flowering of the Feminine Divine
In “On the Great Goddess,” the introduction to Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine, Joseph Campbell addresses “the challenge of the moment” for women, which is to “flower as individuals, neither as biological archetypes nor as personalities imitative of the male” (xiii–xiv). He touches as well on the idea that we are in this together, and must find a way to work it out with compassion.
This flowering of the individual feminine — separate from the masculine — is indeed the challenge of the moment as the mushrooming of the #metoo movement seems to demonstrate. I believe women’s psychological development is potentially revolutionary. The discovery of the importance of intimacy, relationships and care, those things which value connection above autonomy and competition, have been familiar to women from the beginning, a legacy or gift of the Goddess. In rediscovering this gift, perhaps both men and women can rediscover the organic flesh and blood of this earth, this divine aspect in a living relationship, as opposed to remaining greedy tenants, hardly aware of their own aliveness, waiting to be serviced, in a soulless building.
In the older view the goddess Universe was alive, herself organically the Earth, the horizon, and the heavens. Now she is dead, and the universe is not an organism, but a building, with gods at rest in it in luxury: not as personifications of the energies in their manners of operation, but as luxury tenants, requiring service. And Man, accordingly, is not as a child born to flower in the knowledge of his own eternal portion but as a robot fashioned to serve. (Joseph Campbell, Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine, xxii)
Today, dead, (or at least attenuated) goddesses reach us through affliction, through pathology, through the suffering of the Soul and attendant symptoms of the body. Greek goddesses in particular exhibit such divine infirmitas—a wounded or suffering aspect present not just in physical symptoms, but in a psychological view of life as well, in other words, an infirm way of seeing, an infirm psychology. These suffering aspects are reflected in the suffering of contemporary women—such as depression, sexual abuse or sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders. These wounded places in women also have a mythopoetic and psychospiritual perspective, which you can see in the profound resonance between the wounds of woman and the wounds of the Goddess.
When a woman journeys inward to retrieve her frozen creativity, she faces Medusa. (In the animated film Moana, the feminine hero finally comes to understand that the sacred heart of the goddess Te Fiti, stolen by Maui, the hero of men, must be returned to her, in order for creativity and life to be restored to both). To face Medusa is to face the prisoner of the depths, the rage of not being able to speak our truth, acknowledge our creativity, our freedom of expression, and our aliveness. It is terrible and terrifying. The Demonic Goddesses in their horrific and fearful aspects have developed from their confrontation with Indo-European patriarchal invaders of Goddess-worshipping cultures.
When women cry out about Mother Earth’s suffering, they functioning as priestesses of Gaia, of Mother Earth. From the ancient oracle of Delphi to Joan of Arc, from Rachel Carson to Vandana Shiva, women have spoken out powerfully against greed and the abuses of the patriarchal order, urging people to come back to their senses and listen to the wisdom of the earth which first emerged from the depths in Delphi, so long ago.
Women’s voices often illuminate the power of the feminine principle in the world today, and the essential role it must play in bringing back a sense of balance, and harmony to the excesses of an Apollonian driven ethos. The Feminine principle may live, or be suppressed, in both men and women. I believe our future and our well-being, depends upon meaningfully and perhaps even heroically, reconnecting and reengaging the Feminine principle in our everyday encounter with the world around us.
She must learn again to speak
starting with I
starting with We
starting as the infant does
with her own true hunger
and pleasure and rage (97)
Raïna Manuel-Paris, Ph.D.
Subscribe to JCF’s email list to receive a weekly MythBlast newsletter along with occasional news and special offers from JCF.