(Prose) My Thanks to Dolasilla by Claire French

It must have been around my twelfth year when I found the Saga of the Kingdom of Fanes in the local almanac of the South Tyrolean city of Bozen/Bolzano. It was illustrated by a pen-drawing of the legendary princess Dolasilla mounted on a black horse, wearing a blue Rayeta Stone in her tiara and glowering against her enemies.

It was this woman on horseback who never left my mind. In those moments of truth that decided my life she appeared to me again and again.

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

On my arrival in Melbourne, a young migrant without money or connections, I was ready to return to my Tyrolean mountains, when I suddenly found myself in front of the equestrian statue of the State Library: this image of my heroine Joan of Arc changed my mind. Many years later, the altar of Epona at the museum of Stuttgart (Stuttgart means Garden of the Mare!) touched me just as much as the image of Australian saint Blessed Mary McKillop, riding in nun’s garb through the endless solitudes of Australia to bring the blessings of literacy to lonely farmers’ children.

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(Essay) Deeper Down Under: and Moonwalking on Uluru, by Taffy (Robert) Seaborne

This essay was originally written by the author in Spring of 2006, and was published in Gaian Voices Volume 4, Number 3 & 4

Uluru - sacred centerAustralia

Uluru – sacred centre Australia

Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park is a World Heritage Area listed for both its natural and cultural values, yet many living outside Australia still only know it by its European name – Ayers Rock. Here, even during a brief stay of only a few days, visitors can and do experience a profound sense of being in a sacred place. For the Anangu, traditional owners of Uluru, and for others who are fortunate enough to live in its presence, and who choose to dwell there in a receptive manner, it can be a place for deepening awareness of the manta – the Earth, as sacred.

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(Essay) Women and Religion – What’s Happening by Glenys Livingstone (1980)

This is the third in a three part series of old articles and papers by Glenys Livingstone Ph.D. that were written in the 1980’s and 1990’s, two of which were published at that time. The first in the series was “Notes on Leaving Christianity”, and the second was “Exodus 1980 Revisited”. This essay presented at the Women and Labour Conference in Melbourne Australia 1980, was not published in conference proceedings due largely to feminist prejudice at the time about women in religion, but it received media attention, being publicised on p.3 of The Age, p.17 of the Sydney Morning Herald, and full page in a regional newspaper with follow up letters to the editor.

Feminist analysis that stops short of religion, stops prematurely. It is in religion that we find the central office – the sacred male precincts that have given that final touch of authority to the oppression of women.

In this paper, I will largely be talking of women from the christian traditions, since this is the one I know – however I do know that the experience of these women resonates with women of other religious traditions. Patriarchy has been widespread, one might say! though of course each tradition is particular, in that women have either been allowed or not allowed more freedoms and “rights”, or shall I say more qualifications of the human person.

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(Essay) Exodus 1980 Revisited by Glenys Livingstone (1994)

This is the second in a three part series of old articles and papers by Glenys Livingstone Ph.D. that were written in the 1980’s and 1990’s, two of which were published at that time. The first in the series was “Notes on Leaving Christianity”, and this second essay is a very personal story of the journey out – some of what was involved for the author. The story is told and set within the context of a ceremonial meal, named as “Passout”, and imagined as a traditional annual restorative event, invoking Goddess whom all present were seeking.

This essay was originally published in Women-Church: An Australian Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Issue 15, Spring 1994.

 

It was “Passout” 1994, the night when women friends gather to celebrate their exodus (when others around them are celebrating Holy Thursday/Passover).The women light candles, anoint each other with oil, and play women’s music that has helped birth them. Sometimes they get up and dance as the Spirit takes them. They share a meal of flatbread, bitter greens, vegetables and roast pork; finishing with a dessert that uses milk and honey. They drink lots of wine throughout the evening, as they tell their exodus stories.

This was one of the women’s stories:

a simple country girl,

who got lost on the big freeways of the world

and thought she was someone else…

hopped in a big american car and went on a tour.

 

when the joyride ended, she came back to the poverty

of her inner landscape… she was dropped off

in the slums of her pain and fear

that she had sought to escape.

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(Interview) with Glenys Livingstone by Michelle Claire White: Seasonal Ritual in Southern Hemisphere

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This interview was done for the Australian Pagan Awareness Network’s magazine The Small Tapestry, Winter (S.H.) 2014.

Glenys Livingstone is a Goddesswoman who facilitates seasonal rituals at her home in the Blue Mountans at Bru-Na-BigTree in Springwood. Her book  entitled PaGaian Cosmology: Reinventing earth based Goddess Religions is the fruit of her Ph.D. thesis completed at the University of Western Sydney: it  offers a unique perspective of a naturalistic pagan that fuses the indigenous traditions of Europe with scientific theory, feminism and a deep poetic relationship with place. Together she and her partner Taffy Seaborne have created the Mooncourt as a sacred space for sharing sacred ceremony and exploring the triple Goddess as a metaphor for cosmic creativity. She is published author, blogger, workshop facilitator and active member of both the Pagan and Goddess Spirituality communities here in Australia.

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(Art essay 2) An experience of the Cailleach Beare, primordial creatrix of ancient Ireland by Frances Guerin

Australian author David Tacey speculates that the power of the Australian land is activating a deep layer of psyche in white Australians that has been overlaid by civilisation…“ in this context a descendant of the Celtic world is likely to discover that a version of ancient Celtic spirituality is awakened… it is as if the psyche, automatically realising that a bridge must be constructed between the colonising consciousness and the primal landscape, reaches back into cultural memory to find an answering image of aboriginality.” (Tacey 2000, p. 139)

To reflect the hybrid state of an Irish person living under the southern cross, I also made works of oak grafted onto eucalyptus branches. Some branches had a snake-like quality that reflected both the Blue Snake of Ireland and the Australian indigenous Rainbow Serpent. Like the Cailleach the rainbow serpent is female and she created passages through rocks and formed waterholes in the Kakadu landscape helping form a habitat for all beings. She is also part of the life cycle of plants animals and seasonal changes.

The Book of Durrow Carpet – Page with interlacing snakes. c.675: 9x5 inches

The Book of Durrow Carpet – Page with interlacing snakes. c.675: 9×5 inches

This connection is lent weight by research which has also found common genes and language between the Dravidians of India and Australian Indigenous people. (Sidharth Gautham Sunder 2013)

The Indo-European words for oak and Pole Star have been traced to the Sanskrit words Daru and Dhurva respectively. The Gaelic word for oak is dair while druida and the Irish draoi refer to the wise man of the oaks. Drui -in is the wren, the little bird of the druid. Several D -R English words include duration, endure and durable. (Meehan 1995, p.17-18).

A monument to the ancestors was based on Grunewald’s Crucifixion. Psychoanalyst and art critic Julia Kristeva used Grunewald to describe the state of abjection a place of primal anguish where borders between self and other dissolve. The women at the foot of Grunewald’s cross arch backward in the Arch of Hysteria, a posture described by Charcot in the 19th C. asylums of Paris. The arch was the subject of many of Louise Bourgeois sculptures that reflect upon to the relationship between the genders, and in Ireland’s story a painful one of violence, alcoholism and multiple pregnancies emerged, as is found in any dispossessed and vilified people. The Catholic Church was both a source of comfort and control especially of women’s rights within marriage in terms of contraception and abortion.

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(Art Essay 1) An experience of the Cailleach Beare, primordial creatrix of ancient Ireland Frances Guerin

I was summoned to Ireland by a crow tapping its beak loudly against my window just after dawn for many months. In frustration I yelled out, “Who are you and what do you want?” Surprisingly, a thought responded, “Mother and grandmother”. Then the crow came no more.

However at night I dreamed of the Gaelic place names of Ireland, and the mysterious words, Cailleach Beare and Fianna, written in the scales of a snake’s back. The great blue snake sped across the south west of Ireland and transformed into a woman in white with a red sun behind her. Then little ceramic figures emerged including one of a woman riding a turtle.

Frances Guerin 2012, Woman riding a Turtle ceramic, raku fired .25mx .9m.12m

Frances Guerin 2012, Woman riding a Turtle ceramic, raku fired .25mx .9m.12m

The great Ah ha moment came when I found other contemporary artists who had made similar works of a woman on a turtle.

Annette Messager, 1988, detail from Le Jardin du Tendre

(a) Annette Messager, 1988 detail from Le Jardin du Tendre (b) Peter Jones,
Louise Skywoman falls to earth ( c) Vishnu’s 2nd incarnation as Kurma the Turtle

French artist Annette Messager drew a constellation in the form of a woman on a live turtle and set them free in the Jardin du Tendre. Peter Jones, an Iriquois Indian, told an old tale of Louise Skywoman falling to earth, off balance as she copes with contemporary life as a drinks waitress. The final discovery was the blue Hindu god Vishnu’s 2nd incarnation as a turtle that bore the earth mountain on his back during a flood similar in ways and times to the biblical Noah.

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(Essay 2) The Terms ‘Feminine’ and ‘Masculine’ by Glenys Livingstone

This essay is the second part of an evolved version of an excerpt from Chapter 2 of her book PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion.

Beltaine flower

Beltaine flower

In the first part of this topic, I described dimensions of what I consider to be confusions about the terms “feminine” and “masculine”, and the general lack of clarity about the popular use of them to qualify aspects of being. I asserted that “wholeness” does not have to be understood in terms of a “feminine” plus “masculine” equation, and that the Universe was apparently not actually formed by “female” plus “male” energy, as is often loosely proclaimed: Cosmic creativity proceeded long before the advent of the male/gender (at about one and a half billion years ago),[i] and even before the advent of the biosphere  – the first cell (at about three point eight billion years ago).[ii] The qualities of femaleness and maleness may be something quite different from any cultural designations of “feminine”and “masculine”,  and do not appear to be essential to the Creativity of the Universe. I spoke for the unfolding of a cosmology wherein the Mother-of-All/Creatrix may be known to be a complete and whole unity of Creativity: characterised by a triplicity – not a duality, a “power of three”, as Marija Gimbutas described the apparently noted Creativity represented in ancient images of female Deity – Goddess.[iii] It is a triplicity that many cultures understood to characterize the essence of Cosmogenesis, and which has been identified frequently – in symbol and in anthropomorphic image – with female metaphor in a myriad of ways.

Another dimension to the confusion about the use of the terms “feminine” and “masculine” is the lack of clarity about the primordial nature of the cosmic power of Allurement – a “Power” that cosmologist Brian Swimme lists among others as “coursing through the Universe and each of us”[iv]: present primordially, before the advent of maleness or gender. Allurement itself, or Holy Lust as it may be termed,[v] unites the Cosmos: Desire itself unites the Cosmos, not the subject/object of the desire, and it is a reduction to imagine/assert that it is simply female plus male that unites the Cosmos, or our psyches. This may be lovely poetry – a metaphor and an experience, where the Power does occur, but it is not bound to this relationship. All being knows it – within the self and in relationship.

Medusa and Green Man

Medusa and Green Man

Masculinity or maleness is a particular physical expression that can give rise to its own symbolism – but the interpretation of that symbolism is something else. For example, the phallus can be passive, vulnerable and flower-like if the mind-frame is shifted. The Green Man metaphor may be developed as a deeply relational story – of “male-referring transformatory powers” as it may be termed[vi]: and there are some who are doing that well in recent times.[vii] The story of maleness as innately “active, dominant, inflexible”, by association with the phallus, is a patriarchal one that can be changed: and perhaps it was different in an earlier mythic era,[viii] and still so in some survivng Indigenous cultures. “Masculinity” and “femininity” are largely cultural developments – developed over time by story, belief systems, even the foods each sex have been allowed to eat in some cultures, the activities they each have been allowed, so that certain styles, physical and psychic, have been bred into and out of maleness and femaleness to suit the mindframe. “Maleness” and “femaleness” may be something quite different and more like a physical kaleidoscope: and it was a very creative move at a relatively recent point in the evolutionary story, that did enhance the Cosmogenetic enterprise of differentiation, communion and autopoiesis/subjectivity – a threefold Creativity unfolding the Cosmos.[ix] Both, and all genders on the kaleidoscope, are embraced and immersed in the  same Creative Dynamic of Being that preceded their evolution, and both and all may be described as exhibiting the three manifesting powers of Cosmogenesis.

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(Photo Essay) Sisterhood in OZ by Leslene della-Madre

I am so grateful that my four-part essay on Awe/stralia was posted here on the Mago blog. It was such an a-mazing journey in so many ways and will always stay with me as a life-changing event for me. I am delighted to be able now to offer another kind of view of this wonderful adventure. This photo journal is a focus on sisterhood. I was blessed and fortunate to cross paths with over 150 women; this is a tribute to them and is dedicated to the Indigenous Aboriginal women who remain the gatekeepers of the wisdom of the Universal Feminine.  I was so deeply moved by the support, love and presence of the women I had the honor of working with. For me, restoring sisterhood is the medicine that will heal us all.

Elder Indigenous Women Not to be reproduced without permission of the Kapululangu Aboriginal Women's Association.

Kapululangu Indigenous Women Elders
Not to be reproduced without permission of
the Kapululangu Aboriginal Women’s Association.

These are some of the remaining women elders in Balgo in Western Australia of the Kapululango Aboriginal Women’s Association. They are “pre contact” women who were born before the “whitefella” came. While I was not able to go and be with them during Women’s Law Camp after touring in OZ, I still feel a profound connection with them. I encourage any of you lovely women to go and be with them if you can during their annual teaching camps. More about them can be learned here: 
The Red Tent at the School of Shamanic Midwifery in the beautiful mountains outside of Sydney where my journey first began.

The Red Tent at the School of Shamanic Midwifery in the beautiful mountains outside of Sydney where my journey first began.

Embarking on a sacred journey of reclaiming Sacred Womb Wisdom, the Shamanic Path of Re-membering.

Womb Wisdom: Re-membering our Sacred Shamanic Path

Womb Wisdom: Re-membering our Sacred Shamanic Path

Womb Altar

Womb Altar

Co-creating a sacred altar allows us to share our invocations and focuses our attention and intention for our time together. Our altar inside the Red Tent.

In our first workshop, we learned how the body of woman is the holograph of the YoniVerse and how womb wisdom is the root of all knowing.

Sacred Geometry and the Fractal Womb

Sacred Geometry and the Fractal Womb

Women’s shamanic mysteries are the holiest of the holies. While they have been usurped and co-opted for the last 5000 years, the secrets remain in our DNA. It is time to re-member them and to trust our sovereignty as daughters of the Great Mother. Continue reading

(Essay 1) The Terms ”Feminine” and “Masculine” by Glenys Livingstone Ph.D.

This essay is an evolved version of an excerpt from Chapter 2 of her book PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion.

 

It is popular for writers in the area of consciousness to describe different qualities of consciousness as “feminine” and “masculine”, (for example, intuition as feminine and rational thought as masculine), and to describe humanity’s move out of an original participatory mind as “masculine”. The image of St. George (masculine) slaying the dragon (feminine) has been, and is still, commonly understood to speak of a “necessary” move in the evolution of consciousness, both of the collective and of the individual. It is popular to describe the active differentiating force of individuation as masculine. To quote one such writer: “The birth and development of the masculine principle in consciousness revolutionizes humanity’s experience of itself and of the world.”[1] It is implied (and often explicitly stated) that  “maternal” consciousness is simply amorphous and chaotic, and incapable of an evolutionary move. This is often seen as some justification for the patriarchal mind – that humanity needed to “get away from Mother”. Yet the move out of what might be named as “original participation” as a state of non-reflective consciousness[2] and the move into patriarchal mind appears to have been different things. There is now plenty of evidence of sophisticated, complex, matristic Neolithic societies – insights into “Goddess” cultures pioneered by the work of Marija Gimbutas and Merlin Stone in recent times, and developed by many scholars since. There is knowledge of many pre-patriarchal cultures with highly developed reflective awareness: indigenous traditions knowing deep Wisdom. Peter Reason expresses:

Egyptian Triple Goddess

Egyptian Triple Goddess

It is difficult to believe that these complex societies were based on a pure form of original participation: that there must have been a high degree of purpose, planning and reflexiveness. Yet the social organization was articulated in terms of equality and partnership.[3]

Reason also cites Paula Gunn Allen[4] who describes complex and sophisticated gynocratic Native American tribal cultures. He says that these highly developed, self-reflective participative cultures are “not a description of original participation in the sense of being unconscious and unreflective”.[5]

And there is cause to suppose that it may well have been the female mind that instigated the radical changes in the way humans did things, that it was her desire for order, storage, abundance, tools, fire, medicine, art etc. that led to many of humanity’s inventions, settlement in villages, writing, counting and social complexification: as Barbara Walker points out, reflecting  on the historical and mythic view of motherhood.[6] Walker asserts that it was precisely the female as mother who was the original “civilizing” force, who actually initiated the shift from spatial consciousness into time. The assumption that it must have been a “masculine” quality is perhaps part of the patriarchal mind set, which would rob maternity of its essential active creativity. Judy Grahn develops this notion also with her insights into “menstrual mind”, asserting the primal creativity of such a mind.[7] To fall prey to describing the shift in consciousness as “masculine” is rocky territory, and overly simplistic.

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(Essay 4) I Must Call Her Awe/stralia by Leslene della-Madre

I spent my last week in Awe/stralia at Watego Bay in Byron Bay with my daughter. From the autumn chill of Melbourne to the tropical warmth of sun and surf! We were there for R and R, and for me, hopefully some healing from a trauma I had experienced in my adult life with the ocean. While in Hawaii I had been swimming and snorkeling in her crystalline waters and was fairly far from shore looking for sea turtles. Rather suddenly, the wind changed and the swells in the water began to get bigger and stronger. I could see my daughters looking like tiny little dolls on the shore. Fear immediately set in as I found myself no longer feeling safe in the water. And then more fear was generated as my thoughts raced about — could I make it back to them? And then panic. Panic will cause one to drown quicker than the waves. I knew this, and was faced with the fact that my life was in my hands and that I needed to do what I needed to do to stay alive. There is a teaching that says one must want liberation as much as if one is drowning and taking her last breath. I learned the meaning of this teaching that day.  I knew I couldn’t resist the swells. I quickly saw that if I just surrendered to their power, I could ride them into shore, because that is where they were heading. Fortunately there were no crosscurrents. And I was wearing fins. So, I rode. It was like riding the waves of giving birth. And death was right there with me. I had a deep unspeakable gratitude in my heart when I could feel the sand beneath my feet and I could see the precious faces of my beautiful little girls, who had no idea of the drama I had just encountered!

The view from our apartment, Watego Bay

The view from our apartment, Watego Bay

I was not untouched by the trauma of it, however. My relationship with the ocean changed after that and I had a very difficult time getting back into her waters. It took me a number of years to be able to just go back into the waves — and thinking of snorkeling offshore was not even a possibility. While I eventually went back to Hawaii and did go into deep water to snorkel, it was not going out into the water from shore. I went out on a boat with others into calm waters. While in Watego Bay, I found a deeper courage to go back into the waves to dive and play. I felt like I was coming back to myself — to the woman who loves the ocean and is not afraid to allow her once again to embrace me. As my daughter and I were playing together, a pair of dolphins jumped from the waters near us. They were also playing in the surf. I learned that dolphin is the totem of the Aboriginal Arakwal women of that area. I felt blessed by them, by the ancestors and the spirit of the Aboriginal women of that land. It was a perfect way to say goodbye (for now) to Awe/stralia!

Wonderful painted pole, Watego Bay

Wonderful painted pole, Watego Bay

My heart is still quite full. I have received feedback that many women feel I brought something new to them, that there is a longing for more. I would love to return, and share with my beautiful new sisters! We came together for a reason, perhaps many reasons. May the unfolding continue! Let us sing and dream together, to bring forth our collective wisdom that we all know is the healing medicine for the planet.  Sacred sisterhood. Womb wisdom. Fierce and wise serpent power. Let our powers be unleashed!

Thank you, thank you, beautiful women, beautiful land, beautiful ancestors!

Read part 1, part 2, and part 3.

(Essay 3) I Must Call Her Awe/stralia By Leslene della-Madre

After a welcoming stay with Glenys, and being able to visit sacred places in the Blue Mountains with her like “The Three Sisters” in what I saw as Awe/stralia’s version of the Grand Canyon, I traveled on to Brisbane to Susan’s lovely home in the bush. The birds, landscape and lushness all nourished my soul! The fact that Awe/stralia’s population is only 22 million people invites one into a spacious, grounded and heart-warming experience of the land. I felt this everywhere I went. I went barefoot as often as I could. (In fact, when I first arrived at Jane’s in the beginning of my adventure, I immediately removed my shoes and grounded into the earth. I believe it is this practice of “Earthing” that kept me from being jet-lagged. I never experienced it after a fifteen-hour plane trip and travel from the past to the future through a time change. Nor did I experience it upon my return.) I spent another lovely time gathering with kindred sisters in the Friday night talk and workshop.

The workshop was particularly a-mazing because a beautiful Sri Lankan woman, a cancer survivor, brought the ashes of her recently deceased sister who also suffered from cancer and placed her ashes on our altar. It was one of those things that could not have been put in a schedule. It was the first time she had brought out her sister’s ashes in the presence of others beyond her family, blessing all of us with her sacred presence. With her ashes on our altar we had twelve women in physical form and one in spirit — a perfect circle of thirteen. We opened our circle sharing a grieving process with her that I felt was held by the ancestors. We bonded immediately in sacred sisterhood — as the circle of women acting as shaman. This particular workshop allowed some women, who had been unsure about coming due to feeling not quite ready because of recent transitions of loved ones in their lives, to feel held by the collective of women and to be witnessed in safe loving space. This is the tribal way of women I feel we are all longing for. Women just know how to love each other. And allow what needs to emerge in the moment. This is the experience that I like to honor as being dreamed together where any agendas of doing are surrendered.

Mothering the Dying workshop, Brisbane

Mothering the Dying workshop, Brisbane

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(Essay 2) I Must Call Her Awe/stralia by Leslene della-Madre

The second stop for me was in the Blue Mountains with Glenys Livingstone at her lovely home and beautiful ritual space, Moon Court, where Glenys holds seasonal rituals as well as different presentations, sharing her moon temple with others of like mind. The topic of the three talks I gave throughout the month as a precursor to my workshops was “Midwifing Death: Revisioning Death and Dying.” The first Friday night talk was at Glenys’. Rather than focusing on the “how tos” and the “what to dos,” I preferred to invoke ancestral wisdom about how early people — from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic, mostly from Old Europe — regarded life and death. I feel our current culture is so fear-based, that if we have some understanding of ancient earth-based and cosmos-based wisdom of our foremothers, perhaps we could be less afraid of death.

Even with “talks” I prefer to sit in circle if possible. At times this wasn’t conducive, so I just went with the flow. I based my offerings on my book, Midwifing Death: Returning to the Arms of the Ancient Mother. Though the book is several years old, I am still learning who the “Ancient Mother” is. I feel the revelation of her essence is a never-ending journey. I was thrilled to meet so many wonderful women already working in the field of conscious death and dying.

Mothering Dying workshop, Moon Court, Blue Mountains

Mothering Dying workshop, Moon Court, Blue Mountains

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