(Prose) The Activist Goddess by Jennifer Powell

shield2Activism came early in my life, precipitated by Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war; I was in my mid-teens, passionate, driven and wearing my heart on my sleeve. In those years despite a great love of Mythology I had not formed any attachment to the Goddess. Quite the opposite in fact, my sense of justice and morality were totally at odds with what I had read about these so-called divine beings. It wasn’t until my thirties that the Goddess started to take form in my life. However, it was while I was working for People For Nuclear Disarmament and it was a fellow activist who managed to trigger what was to become a life-long love affair with the Divine Feminine.

As my activism broadened out to include environmental issues, Gaia, Artemis and even Demeter had some degree of influence on my feelings in the early days. However, my greatest influence sprang from my Shamanic nature and practice. I did, however, take personal solace from the Goddess when I found myself in despair. When fear or anger overtook me I would take it to Artemis and pour out my horror at the mass slaughter of dolphins or whales, or the brutal clearing of old growth forests. Feelings that shame wouldn’t let me take to the strength and tender comfort of the ancient she-bear who has been one of my totems for so long. So up until quite recently, I would have said that while the Goddess might to some degree inform my thinking she is not what I would have said to have been central to my activism.

In the last nine months, however, the divine feminine has opened a huge new chapter in my life where she and my activism are completely intertwined. I wouldn’t even in my wildest dreams have imagined this powerful new direction would be focused by the Goddess. Or that the unlikely candidate would be none other than the Crone.

The Crone had been at the forefront of my mind this year as I had been putting together a couple of workshops focusing on that archetype. As I was coming off a bit of a hiatus from workshops I felt the need to really immerse myself in the topic, reacquainting myself with her myths and symbols. This meant that I was confronted as always with the common concept of the crone, that of her being known as nothing more than an ugly old woman. This has always distressed me; how did the power and wisdom of the Crone get to be distorted to this grotesque shell of a woman? The word Crone is derived from the word ‘crown’, as in being crowned with the shining light of wisdom; a Crone was a mature powerful wise woman. They were a crucial part of the balance and health of ancient civilisations. So what happened, how has she been so dismissed and diminished?

It just so happens at this time I was also reading a book called “The Memory Code” by Lynne Kelly, a book drawn from her PhD on ways indigenous peoples have encoded massive amounts of information. The Australian Aboriginal songlines, dances and images contain an encyclopaedic knowledge of flora, fauna, genealogy, astrology and so much more that records back some twenty thousand years and is still accessible to their elders today. It had so intrigued me that I found myself looking at the Goddess myths, songs and carvings with a whole new set of eyes. I had turned those eyes to the familiar tales of the Scottish Cailleach and I was blown away by what I found. There are in Aboriginal songlines what you would call sung maps that could be used to help you navigate across great distances. To my amazement, I saw them there in Cailleach tales, how she dropped stones from her apron as she strode over the land, piling some here, standing one there. These were stories that if you knew them well would allow you to orient yourself in the landscape like a map. There were so many fragments but I did not have time to gather them because the enormity of what I was reading was beginning to overwhelm me. What had been lost was more the shining crown of the Crone Goddess; it was all that information that helped us orient in life, helped us understand the rhythm of the seasons, of our bodies. That made us one with the earth and with each other, that illuminated the complex patterns of existence. I am not sure how this breaking down of the balance occurred, I certainly don’t think it was some gigantic global conspiracy because it happened at different rates around the world and over a great period of time. I assume it was a matter of many many small increments that managed to disconnect us from our roots and has so diminished the feminine that the masculine has risen so much as to expose its shadow side.

I don’t think there has been a time where the inequity of life wasn’t more glaringly obvious than today. So I was asking myself what do I do, what is my role, how do I help correct the terrible imbalance that exists now in everything and everywhere. That isolates us from ourselves, each other and the natural world. Well, long ago a group of older wiser women of the peace movement told me the real change comes from changing the hearts and minds of the grassroots and that makes the groundswell you really need. If I could help any mature woman realise her well earned innate power, then starting with ourselves we could make real change. We need to pick up our crowns and make them shine, to become part of that groundswell that says “ENOUGH”. So this now is the focus of my activism: to embody the Crone to the best of my ability and to hopefully inspire others to do the same.

The shield

This is a task I set at my workshop so we could read them over and over and remember. My Crone shield can’t protect me from a blow but it can help me link into my greatest strengths and that is the best protection of all. The colour blue I associate with Isis the Egyptian Goddess of Wisdom and my first great love. The pearls are also about wisdom and the acknowledgement that much was earned through pain. The figure is modelled on the ancient stone figurine of what I think of as the ecstatic Goddess and like me has only one breast to remind me I am not diminished by it. The leather, bone, shells and leaf are about my Shamanic skills and my honouring of the four elements. The silver sequins are of course my shining crown and the little white quartz heart shaped stone was a gift to me from the elements on my shield preparation walk. It reminds me what I chose to let guide me in life. These are only some of the stories encoded into it that I can read and be empowered by every day. I intend to add to it over time until it becomes a whole library to remind me when memory dims.

Meet Mago Contributor Jennifer Powell.

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2 thoughts on “(Prose) The Activist Goddess by Jennifer Powell

  1. Like you I have been embedded in the Shamanic tradition for many many years although i choose to call it earth based ritual. I have had a love affair with stones since I was in my late thirties and they continue to call me, so I found this essay fascinating. As women we have been torn away again and again from our roots. I think because this is the case that stones can speak to us. Living for a time here in the northern mountains of Mexico I am surrounded by rocks and never tire of the sight of them, or their tenacity in the face of wild nature and her wind as well as their ability to move when the time is right… With the women gathering for the coming protest/march in Washington I am wishing each one of them to feel the power of stone to move mountains from within.

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  2. Dear Jennifer,

    It’s interesting that you mention Lynne Kelly’s book, that one and her previous book are both fascinating and they backed up my intuitions about how stones and rocks are so integral to feminist interpretations of prehistory. I have incorporated these ideas into several of my books, most particularly my novel, The Falling Woman (1992) and also my poetry colletcion Lupa and Lamb (2014). Also, I note that rocks continue to be ta the centre even of patriarchal religions: the Dome of the Rock for Muslims and the Church of the Holy Sepuchre both in Jerusalem come to mind. All over India are rocks sacred within the Hindu religion and of course rocks are aboslutely central to goddess and animist traditions.

    I was recently in Chile and in the Pre-Columbian Museum in Santiago I saw the Quipu that Lynne Kelly writes about. They are similarly complex mnemonic systems.

    Thanks for your post,
    Susan

    Liked by 1 person

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