For almost 40 years, my feminist activism has been accomplished primarily through writing in the English language, until the day I learned that I was even more fluent in the Goddess language of being. During a drumming practice not long ago I was thinking about something my teacher had said — “All musical instruments come from drums” — and I thought, “When I play my drum, I speak the oldest of languages, the heartbeat of our mother in the womb,” a language that all share. But this language was older than that, beginning with the Big Bang and continuing in the waves that make up the reality of our universe, the masterpiece of She Who Creates. This was a language I profoundly knew but never thought of as a language till that moment. It is the language of being simply who we are, in all our sacred glory, in the most elemental way beginning with the most basic rhythm of our lives.
The next day I was walking in the woods and heard a racket, frogs in a pond all warbling at once, then all silent, then all warbling again. Down the trail was a tree full of birds all chirping as they flew from branch to branch in a kind of syncopated rhythm. I suddenly thought of them as speaking to each other in their own language — “Let’s make some babies!” “There’s a human down there!” — but also to me in a language we both understood that came from our instincts to come alive in the season’s warmth and the return of abundance and life — “It’s spring! Time for renewal!”
When I wandered down to my garden to see what plants were beginning to pop through the soil, the violet flowers of the periwinkle — that had come and gone on the same hillside for decades since, most likely, before my own childhood — spoke of the constancy of nature even as I move from youth to middle age to elderhood. Bloodroot has a red sap that is poisonous, but is traditionally used as a crimson dye, and small, simple, white flowers that have always reminded me that the new life of spring comes from blood and the hard work of giving birth, whether to baby beings, art works, relationships or anything else. The first leaves of the healing herbs in my garden assure me of the benevolence of the universe. All of these messages came from the plants’ expression of their gift of themselves, whether their beauty, their sap and simplicity of their flowers, or their healing properties.
These beings, through their effect on me and other beings who encounter them, have an impact on the world just by expressing who they most essentially are. Do humans do the same?
I began to think of my ancestors, especially my female ancestors, and wonder, what did they tell me through the language of their lives? Each of them, in her own way and within the constraints of her time and place, expresses to me that life is to be lived as an adventure on my own terms. My grandmother went to college at age 40 with small children at home at a time when women simply did not do that. My mother learned to fly an airplane in midlife because she wanted to see the world from heaven’s viewpoint. As I sat by my mother’s bedside as she died, and we looked into each other’s eyes, she traced a tear down her cheek with her finger and I knew that she was saying that she would miss being on this plane with me, but that love is eternal. All these actions that came deeply from the heart transformed me more than only words ever could.
As I considered, I realized that the revolutions that shake the world come not just from what we say, but our expressions in deed that show the effects on ourselves of the changes we are making in the world. On my 25th birthday, I heard Merlin Stone speak about her experience writing “When God Was a Woman” and for the first time I understood that Divinity could look, and for most of human history had looked, like me, a woman. A few months later I witnessed Diane Wolkstein performing “Inanna” at the Museum of Natural History in New York City and I knew that the stories of Goddess had meaning for my own life and that I could center my spirituality around Her.
Their words were important, but more essential to my new life-changing understanding was who Merlin and Diane were as women — Merlin’s passion and sureness that she was a messenger for the Goddess who was ready to re-emerge in the world and Diane’s willingness to move Goddess through her body and voice to speak again to the women of the world. Their language of being was what remade me by showing me that Goddess is alive and that I am part of Her just as they were. In the decades since then I have known many women who have changed the world, sometimes one person at a time, sometimes in ways that have moved society as a whole forward. In each case, it is not what they said or wrote alone, but rather who they were and how they affected those who came into contact with them that was their most effective activism.
What will my true Goddess activism be? Will my life echo what I have comprehended Goddess saying to me — “Be free!”, “Know that you are loved always for who you are,” “Respect all beings, the Earth, and the universe,” “Understand in the deepest womb of your soul that you are sacred and deserving of happiness, joy, and peace”? How will I “be” to convey these things so that others see the Goddess within themselves who do not now?
Now I know that every moment is precious and not to be wasted. Everything I do that expresses who I most essentially am is Goddess activism. Every time I interact with someone and offer them the truth of my experience of life, that is Goddess activism. When I am no longer on Earth, my legacy will not be the words I have written, but the memories that exist in the minds, hearts and souls of those who have seen something of the face of the Goddess within me, and then themselves.
But this activism that comes from ourselves being our best selves cannot just happen on an individual level, but also as a community. What do we, the Goddess community, say to others who witness how we treat each other and those who do not consider themselves to be part of our community, how respectful of the Earth and the Universe are we, how joyful are we in our spirituality, how do we express our spirituality in group acts of kindness and compassion? When people go home after a ritual or event we create, do they say “I know the Goddess within myself better”? What we do as a community that reflects our deepest selves is also activism.
As I contemplate all this, I sit again at my drum. I know that my rhythm is a unique part of the Goddess community’s rhythm, part of humanity’s rhythm, part of the universal rhythm. I begin a simple beat. No one is in the room. No one can hear. But today, right now, I am being most essentially myself by playing, and because of that, in some way, the universe will be different. This becoming my truer self does not, in itself, create change in others or in society, but because of it I am braver in my actions like Inanna descending to the underworld, more compassionate in my manner like Kuan Yin, more determined to speak up when I see injustice like Sedna, more passionate in my actions to make the world anew like Kali. I will continue to do all the more traditional activism that I did before and more, but this time in a way that, I hope, evokes the most effective transformation, that of showing others the Goddess within myself, and themselves. That is my truest activism.
Editor’s Note: This is also published in SHE RISES :How Goddess Feminism, Activism, and Spirituality? (Volume 2)