This is an edited excerpt from the author’s doctoral research, “The Female Metaphor – Virgin, Mother, Crone – of the Dynamic Cosmological Unfolding: Her Embodiment in Seasonal Ritual as Catalyst for Personal and Cultural Change”, University of Western Sydney, 2002.
My primary vision of the pattern of the Seasonal wheel of the year is one of creative power. I imagine that it may be so for any regional pattern on the planet … Her Creativity[i] manifests everywhere in various patterns, but is always a gestalt, a cycle of wholeness. The particular pattern as I have experienced and practiced it, is in accord with the Old Western European marking of Solstices, Equinoxes and four cross-quarter moments, and with a cosmology centered on the Female Metaphor.
The Female Metaphor, in Her triple qualities/aspects, is a metaphor of Creativity, based in actual life processes: life processes of coming into being and passing away, and in the evolutionary cosmic dynamics – Cosmogenesis understood to have three qualities as She does. Cosmogenesis is an actual creative process – a “physic” of the Universe. The Seasonal Moments[ii] of EarthGaia express this actual Creativity. The three together – the Female Metaphor, Cosmogenesis, and the celebration of the Seasonal Moments – are a language of Creativity, a Poetry that can express and create. Ceremonial conversation with Her through the annual cycle is a powerful admission and devotional action of relationship.
Language is a primary habitat of the human according to cosmologist Brian Swimme.[iii] Wisdom traditions have always understood the power of speech and image; the Western technological-scientific culture has forgotten a reverence for this capacity. The wheel of the year as it has been celebrated at my place for decades has been a remembering of this Power – a sacred power: that is, with a consciousness of what we are spelling out. It has been a “spell of the sensuous”[iv] – of the sens-ible, wherein the language has been regarded as material – as hard as rocks – as real.
The participants and I have spoken, danced and dreamed a language, a metaphor, that we understood as resonant with the evolutionary cosmic dynamics. All speech participates in the creation of something; it may participate in the Creative Act which is ongoing in every moment, at one with every breath, and action. I sense the celebration of the wheel of the year – the Seasonal Moments – as a Creative Gaian Power wherein our small daily acts and the way we breathe, makes a huge difference.
As I dwelt on the evolution of the Samhain ritual script for my research, I felt how this Sabbat/Seasonal Moment was a face of the Crone moving into Mother – the face of the Crone as Creator, how Her transformation of death, was truly a moment of creative conception. I remembered the words pronounced at Mabon/Autumn Equinox: “You will return as Mother, Co-Creator with me …”, and I made the connection that at Samhain/Deep Autumn, the next seasonal transition, we begin this journey to Co-Creation, with the power of Conception. I thought about how this power of Conception at Samhain – as a Power of the Old Dark One – corresponded to the Power of Fertility at Beltane/High Spring, when the face of the Virgin/Young One moves into the Mother. I traced a trail, and noticed how the polar opposite Seasonal Moments corresponded:
AUTUMN EQUINOX/MABON: “You will return as Mother, Co-Creator with me …”. There is a descent to manifesting sentient power.
SAMHAIN/DEEP AUTUMN: the power of Creator as conceiver – we say “what we will”, we celebrate the power of dreaming, the spinning from our own bodyminds. It is the Crone’s moment of ‘re-solution’, the Power of Creation through imagination, an interaction with Her dark sentience, Her re-generative fertility. It is “trans-genetic” creation.[v]
WINTER SOLSTICE: the birth – the dark manifesting breaks into the manifest form.
IMBOLC/EARLY SPRING: the nurturing of the new manifest unique self, the dedication to it – the breastmilk. It is the Young One’s Moment of the beauty of differentiated form, and commitment to it.
SPRING EQUINOX/EOSTAR: the return from the depths as Co-Creator (as promised at the Mabon descent), the ascending to manifest power – a Form-al Power, as juxtaposed to the Sentient Power of Mabon’s descent.
BELTANE/HIGH SPRING: the power of Creation through allurement. It is the Virgin/Young One’s moment of desire, the power of Creation through interaction with other – other differentiated beings – manifest reality, Her generative fertility. It is the Poetry of genetic creation.[vi]
SUMMER SOLSTICE: the climax, the maturing, the fruition, the peaking of love – the manifest breaks into the manifesting.
LAMMAS/LATE SUMMER: the consuming of the fruit, the receiving of the fullness into the cauldron of manifesting larger self, the dark embrace, the return to source, nurturing the sentience. It is the Crone’s Moment of ‘dis-solution’, the beauty of immersion, and commitment to it.
The whole wheel is a creation story. The Mother – the Matrix – is present at each and all the Seasonal Moments/Sabbats: conception at Samhain, birth at Winter, lactation at Imbolc, formal power at Eostar, fertile at Beltane, mature fruit at Summer, receiving/consuming at Lammas, descending to the power of the dark at Mabon.
At Samhain, the Crone/Old One is Creator towards manifest form, at Beltane the Virgin/Young One is Creator towards manifesting dissolution. Corresponding to the Crone’s movement of re-solution (re-forming) at Samhain, is the Virgin’s movement of desire (dis-solution/receiving/consuming) at Beltaine. As I come to know this dynamic, how the dark process corresponds to the light process – how they mirror each other, I come to perceive the dark more clearly as a quality of life. I come to more trust in the process – this Gaian Process of ongoing Creativity, never-ending renewal.
I propose that She – the Female Metaphor – in her three aspects, may be understood as a dynamic of Creativity – a dynamic innate to being, that may enable a person to participate more fully in the life of their own organism, and thus in the life of the Larger Organism of which we are part.
I propose that to participate in the year long process of ritual and celebration of Cosmic Metaphor for Creativity, with contemplation and consciousness, may enhance: (i) love of self, in a willingness to abide with the beauty and integrity of the particular differentiated self, and recognizing that this self is not separate from the Large Self which is Gaia (this is the work of the Virgin/Young One aspect) (ii) love of other, in a deep sense of relationship and communion with other people, the planet and the Cosmos – knowing both one’s support for and how one is supported by (this is the work of the Mother aspect) (iii) love of All-That-Is, in the understanding of transformation as not only possible, but indeed, as intrinsic to the pattern – enabling one’s more joyful participation in this intrinsic creativity (the work of the Crone/Old One aspect).
I propose that to participate in this Metaphor changes how one relates to loss; there is more willingness to let go. As one comes to identify with the Larger Self, and recognize one’s place in the scheme of things, it turns around egoic hubris that would indulge in holding on, usually manifesting in behaviour destructive to self, other and planet. Apart from obvious personal and interpersonal conflict that such hubris may generate, there is wanton ‘therapeutic’ consumerism on a large scale, which is symptomatic of disregard for Earth. I do not mean to imply that when egoic hubris is let go of then there is no conflict, I mean simply that the source of conflict may then more likely be the creative tension of being alive, rather than a desperate unwillingness to accept change.
I propose that participation in this Metaphor also changes how one relates to this life, especially if one has had uncertainties about the value of it. Spiritualities frequently stress the impermanence of this life, but in the cosmology presented here, life – manifest reality – is celebrated equally, and its perdurance becomes more obvious. When one is able to grasp something of the dynamic of Cosmogenesis from the earliest stages of the Cosmic story as we currently understand it, life’s perdurance seems as insistent as the void.
It is true that one does not personally perdure, but one comes to know participation in a Process that does. For some people that is not sufficient, to be mere specks upon the road of a greater Journey, but that seems to be the situation; and the ‘specks’ do create the Journey. The ceremonial celebration of the seasons may be an embodied reiteration of this truth, and enhance a willingness to participate creatively in this life.
(c) Glenys Livingstone 2015
[i] I capitalize ‘Creativity’ and ‘Female Metaphor’ because I mean them as names for the Absolute, for ultimate sacred entity. I am keen that Deity may be known by many names and qualities … but I restrained myself.
[ii] I capitalize to signify that they are holy days, as any holy day is so written.
[iii] Canticle to the Cosmos, DVD series, video #9.
[iv] A term which is the title of David Abram’s book The Spell of the Sensuous.
[v] The term “trans-genetic” is used by Thomas Berry in his ninth principle of a functional cosmology (see APPENDIX A PaGaian Cosmology http://pagaian.org/book/appendix-a/ ): it is meant to speak of cultural coding – the production of language, customs, achitecture, institutions – which Berry perceives as a further development of genetic coding. I mean it to speak of imaginal fertility.
Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous. NY: Vintage Books, 1997.
Durdin-Robertson, Lawrence. The Year of the Goddess. Wellingborough: Aquarian Press, 1990.
Livingstone, Glenys. PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion. Lincoln NE: iUniverse, 2005.
Swimme, Brian. Canticle to the Cosmos. (Video series). CA: Tides Foundation, 1990.