This is a performance then interview by Leslene della Madre on her TV show WildFire, Tell-a-Vision for a vision for Womyn.
For many of us, death is something we would rather not think about. Why is this? Why do we not want to understand the deepest mystery of life? Why are we so afraid to die? These are some of the questions that beckoned me on a journey to learn about the true nature of death, resulting in a recently published book, Midwifing Death: Returning to the Arms of the Ancient Mother, weaving together knowledge about how our pre-patriarchal ancestors viewed life and death with modem stories telling how the sacred passage of death and dying can be midwifed in grace, love and beauty, which are all aspects of the sacred feminine in women’s spirituality–the oldest spirituality on the planet. What I have discovered, or rather, uncovered, from the forgotten realms of our ancestors is a deep and profound wisdom of the nature of life, death and regeneration. In order to understand aspects of women’s spirituality and their pertinence to death and dying, I feel it is important to have an overview and body-centered sense of what women’s spirituality actually is.
[Editor’s Note: This was first proposed in The Mago Circle, Facebook Group, on March 6, 2014. We have our voices together below and publish them in sequels. It is an ongoing project and we encourage our reader to join us! Submit yours today to Helen Hwang (email@example.com). Or visit and contact someone in Return to Mago’s Partner Organizations.]
Annie Finch For me, Goddess is completely different from God–Goddess means acceptance of the sacred WITHIN the physical instead of transcending the physical; acceptance of death and life as equally sacred; and the holiness of changing cycles….
Annie Finch, Maine
Digging deep into her rich, musty moist darkness
Searching for my roots,
I encounter the memory of my ancient grandmothers,
Their hands reaching to clasp mine in remembrance of what once was.
Buried by the lies and layers of heavy domination and violence,
Sitting in sacred cave by liquid fire,
Pouring stars into teacups,
Laughing amongst themselves,
They patiently wait
To see who will come through the mysterious vulva/opening of birth and death, though, both illusions in the great Round, we are beckoned into initiation, dancing with Form and Space.
They look at me, full of life, glistening cosmic eyes of the YoniVerse that know no violence against women and children, no rape of womanheart, womanmind, womanlotus and sacred womanearth…
Hearts full of earthy love, joy and wisdom.
And yet, their diamond tears stream down ancient earth-carved craggy creeks in cheeks
They tell me we have been foolish to think
That fruition only comes from straining to reach the light of the hegod, enlightenment as we have called it…
They say you cannot reach the light without dancing in the dark,
Without curling your pristine delicate roots deep into her immense heart, breast and womb of lush, velvety soil, the very core of your soil/soul.
Endarkenment they call it.
You have forgotten about endarkenment, they say, eyes on fire and hearts nearly bursting with purple, ripe passion…
If you reach for the light without your roots firmly held in Her ground of all being, you will perish, they say, as their hands paint the darkness with sapphire and emerald sparks, gently piercing my heart.
For far too long you have arrogantly assumed that awakening means turning away from my darkness, my mountain womb/cauldron of transformation.
You have taken my name Hel and twisted it into what you call hell-a place of fear, desolation and pain.
Hel speaks….she says “I am the Norse Goddess of regeneration. I take all departed souls unto me, in my sacred earth mountain, and hold and rock them, soothing their fears. I love them into newness, into new life. There is no violence here. I am taking my name back. You can no longer use my name. Hell, as you have named it, is a reversal of all that is good and kind. I am Hel, Mother Goddess of transformation. Do not forget.”
Demeter speaks….she says, “I am the grain Mother, she who gives life and nourishment. My daughter, Persephone heard the call of her grandmother, Hecate, from the inner earthworld to come and learn her secrets of transformation and regeneration, what you call death. Yes, I was sad when she left, for I love her beyond all measure. But Baubo, Goddess of the Wise Crack, came along and made me laugh. But I tell you now with all the passion of a mother SheBear, that nowhere, nowhere is there a raping god named Hades in my story. You have taught your children in your books about raping gods. Why do you do this? Gods who rape their mothers, sisters and daughters? This is abominable. You must stop teaching the children these stories. And retell the story of love between mother and daughter that sustains all life—stories that create beauty. For too long, you have sown seeds of sorrow, hopelessness and despair in your innocent children. If you want peace, as many of you say you do, you must tell new stories that reflect the deeper truth of a time when the Mother Goddess prevailed and all was well. Give your children hope, encouragement and wisdom so that they may grow strong, kind and respectful of all life.
Artemis speaks….I am she who is whole unto herself, owned by no man. I am not well understood, as I have never chosen to marry and I run through the forest with fleet-footed independence. In your time, woman-centered independence is not cherished. Too many of you flock to men as if they are your salvation. They are not. You are your own salvation. And they are theirs. What is it you are looking for, dear sisters, when you paint yourselves, cut your beautiful bodies to make something bigger or smaller, inserting toxic plastic into your lives? For what? To be more loveable? You are already loved, as the flowers in the field are. The rose does not wish to be a daffodil. The oak tree does not wish to be a redwood. What is it you are wishing to be that you are not already?
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.
Embarking on a sacred journey of reclaiming Sacred Womb Wisdom, the Shamanic Path of Re-membering.
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.
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
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
Soaked in loving sisterhood, I have recently returned from being on tour in a-mazing Australia. After nearly three years of conjuring with the magnificent women of the School of Shamanic Midwifery in Australia, Melinda Whyman, Jane Harwicke Collings and Susan Stark, I spent this past April there in this sacred land that I must call Awe/stralia! The book/workshop tour invitation was an absolute honor and the tour was beautifully planned and mapped. These women are absolute treasures! My other sister hosts, Glenys Livingstone and Brooke Burton, brought me into their homes as if I had been a relative they hadn’t seen in a while! More women treasures! I was also womb and heart connected with Zohl de Isthar, though we only met over the phone. Zohl is Executive Director at the Kapululangu Aboriginal Women’s Association in Balgo, Western Australia. She cares for the elder Law Women there and is holding the Women’s Law Camp as I am writing this piece. Zohl graciously invited me to come and participate in the Women’s Law Camp, which I so fervently wanted to do, but knew I would need a good rest after my extensive travels and had to turn down her most gracious invitation. I knew I could not do the extensive travel required to get to her and to the beautiful Aboriginal women. It was another way I felt deeply honored, even though I couldn’t be there in body with those a-mazing women. But they are all in my heart! Oh, the power and grace of women!!
I have had a deep place in my heart for Awe/stralia for a long time — mainly because the Aboriginal indigenous culture is the oldest continuous shamanic culture on the planet. I have always felt a connection to that reality. Now, after having only recently returned in early May, I realize I was sung there by the ancestors. I was dreamed there. My shamanic work has been connected to the ancestral grandmothers of the cosmos and the planet for a long time. I know the grandmothers of the Dreamtime are part of this vast network, which is something I am coming to understand as a cosmological living mythos pulsing in our cells, in our blood, in our very being — a wisdom, of course, that Aboriginal women have always known. The Dreamtime ancestor world is about the forces of nature and the universe — what I call the YoniVerse — including gravity and electromagnetism as the forces of attraction and repulsion and resonates very well with my recent research into electric universe theory. It is a very different sense of ancestors than what I have been used to in terms of family lineage. However, I feel when one really looks into family lineage, we can find ourselves on a journey that expands into the cosmos. I was called to Awe/stralia because I need to learn what these ancestor grandmothers want me to know. Johanna Lambert, editor of Wise Women of the Dreamtime, writes, “Traditional Aboriginal society is founded on the preeminence of the characteristics of the Universal Feminine.” To have an opportunity to be on the land where women have held this truth for over 50,000 years was profoundly sacred for me — a gift beyond measure. As a devotee of the Sacred She for a long time, and one who is also devoted to uncovering her deep wisdom in any and all ways possible, I feel humbled beyond words by being called, sung and dreamed to this sacred land whose magic I will be integrating for a long time. One trip is not enough!