What are the ancient roots of Goddess culture in which our modern Goddess spirituality is based?

 

 

            I see the ancient roots of Goddess culture as being based in the Neolithic times.  Obviously this was a time before microscope and knowledge of things such as sperm cells and so men of that time saw women getting pregnant and had no idea how this was happening and the part that they played in the process so they saw it as something magical.  This led Neolithic men to perceive women as sacred.  Women were life-bringers; men could death but only women could create life.  Also, I believe, that is was women who invented farming and the raising of crops because in most indigenous tribes that exist nowadays it is the men who hunt but the women who forage for berries and roots and grains.  With the women’s knowledge of grains they could easily have figured out how to harvest the seeds and plant them.  Therefore, I believe that women helped early civilizations to prosper and grow and may have prevented starvation.

            When I did my degree in history I studied the history of the Native Americans and they were a people who held women to be sacred so much so that George Armstrong Custer once escaped encirclement by Native American warriors by holding their women captive for he knew the warriors would never endanger their women. 

            In the nineteenth century there was a commonly held belief that early societies were barbaric and with the arrival of Christianity they became civilized.  Obviously I don’t agree with that and most historians would take a dim view of that theory now.  I think that Neolithic society was very complex and civilized.  I believe they had writing and education and temples for Goddess worship.  Their raising of crops and living close to the land would have kept them in touch with the seasons and the many faces of Goddess at different times of the year.

            I also see the roots of Goddess culture in the lives of elephants because they are an entirely matriarchal society.  The oldest female elephant is the matriarch of the tribe and the others follow her lead.  The male elephants have to stay away; they only come around the main herd for breeding purposes and then they get kicked out again.  The only males in the main herd are the little babies still being cared for by their mothers.  Sometimes I can’t help thinking (particularly when Gary is getting on my nerves!) that this would be a great way for us to organise our own society.

            Gary and I went on holiday to Athens in February and I went to the Acropolis and other sacred sites.  In the museums there were lots of statues of Athena and Demeter and Persephone and Aphrodite.  I see these Goddesses as all being different faces of the Mother Goddess of the World.  We also took a day trip to Delphi which was a beautiful place.  The scenery alone was incredible.  It was one of those places that had an aura about it of other-worldliness.  I found it interesting that even in an extremely patriarchal society like Ancient Greece the visionaries and scryers were all women.  This speaks to me of the idea that only women were/are sacred enough vessels to embody a deity.  Of course, the priests interpreted what the Pythoness said but the fact that this sacred task was reserved for women says to me that this was a vestige of Goddess worship which the men did not feel confident enough to throw out.

            With other religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam I think they are quite scholarly religions based around books and thoughts but I see Goddess worship as being more natural and more in tune with nature.  Again, the idea that as civilisation progresses things move away from nature and in to the realms of thought has influenced society a lot in the past but now I think that people are realising that in many ways nature is smarter and wiser than people and that is one of the things that is drawing people back to Goddess.

            I also believe that feminism has lead many people back to Goddess because feminism questions old patriarchal beliefs including religious belief and why does God have to be an old man with a beard anyway?  Give him a sack and he could pass for Santa.  The deities people believe in are linked to their views about power and control and when society was defined by patriarchal beliefs then all deities had to be male.  But as we now, it is nonsense that only men are or can be spiritual beings.  Now more and more women are taking control of their own lives the Goddess is returning.  In Neolithic times I believe women were more powerful than they are now and that society then was a lot fairer.  As a historian I do not believe in the concept of ‘the good old days’ and we have to be careful about mythologizing the past but in a society where men and women were equals and Goddess worshipping people it’s hard not to wish that society was like that now.

            But if you look carefully you can see the roots of Goddess culture all over the world.  It is quite obvious in Greece with museums full of statues of Goddesses but in places like New Grange in Ireland it is also evident with people who have eyes to see it.  The cave is shaped like a womb.  My mother is Irish and when I was little she used to tell me stories of fairies and heroes and giants that were part of the Irish mythology.  I abandoned that sort of thing when I got older because it felt silly to still believe in fairies but now I see it was part of my heritage as a Goddess loving woman.  The ancient songs and stories often speak of Goddess even if She has been disguised because most of the stories were written down by monks.  I feel like Goddess exists just below the surface of real life.  In the past I think She was much closer to people’s day to day existence.  She may have been pushed back but She has never gone away. 

            And the roots of Goddess culture exist in the land itself; in the way it has been shaped and formed with standing stones amongst other things.  And in the names that places have been given such as Bride’s mound which they tell us is named after a saint but we know it is Goddess.

            I remember just after I signed up to do spiral one that I had a row with my sister, who is a church going Christian, because she was unhappy about the choice I had made and she warned that the Goddess Temple in Glastonbury was probably a cult that was after my money but what offended me most of all was when she said “You know that your religion was just made up in the nineteenth century.”  My sister and I are both historians and I knew what she was referring to.  Of course, she meant Gerald Gardner and the Golden Dawn and Dion Fortune and Crowley and all of that, which was early twentieth century, not the nineteenth as she had said.  But I thought she was ignoring the century’s old tradition of the wise woman and healer who lived in the village that treated everybody’s wounds and doled out sensible advice to all who needed it.  It wasn’t until the seventeenth/eighteenth century that doctors became all male and patriarchy took over the healing arts.  And I knew that the Goddess tradition was much older than she (my sister) knew.  I had studied it; she hadn’t.  It wasn’t just what she said but the dismissive tone she had used that really annoyed me and I didn’t speak to her or phone her for about three weeks until she apologised.

            But in conclusion I would say that I see the ancient roots of the Goddess culture in the miracle of birth, the magic of the wise woman and healer, the elderly matriarch who gives out the best advice speaking exactly the right words at exactly the right time.  I see Goddess in what I call ordinary magic where you drive into the car park just as a space becomes available or you walk up to the checkout just as they open another till right in front of you; things that seem so ordinary most people take them for granted.  This is the sort of magic that priestesses have been doing since the dawn of time.  The serendipities of life, the coincidences where everything falls into place at exactly the right moment.  This is divine feminine magic and it always will be.

 

 

Visiting Stonehenge.

Stonehenge 5

Me at Stonehenge

Stonehenge 4

Gary and I went to Stonehenge yesterday. I’d never been there before but I’d been driven past it and seen it from the road. A new visitor centre and exhibition has just been opened there. There’s a museum all about Neolithic life and possible theories about how and why the stones were built. There’s been a lot of archaeology on the site so there are lots of artefacts on display. It was all quite interesting.

You can’t go right up to the stones because of the delicate nature of the archaeology and they’re still digging there but you can get pretty close. I can understand why they don’t let most people up there because a few silly people will always think ‘let’s chip a bit off and take it home’. It’s the idiots that spoil it for the rest of us.

If I look cold and windswept in the photo, it’s because I was! I insisted of having a nice hot cup of tea in the tea shop when we came back from the stones. I didn’t particularly find it a spiritual experience but with a lot of tourists around clicking cameras and the usual exit through the gift shop I thought it was more an educational and commercial experience than a spiritual one.

ROW80 Check-In 12/05/2013

sitting-bull

I was thinking last time that I posted that I hadn’t done very much but I realised the other day that in my research for my specialist subject on Mastermind I have filled two notebooks with notes on Sitting Bull in the last four to five weeks! I haven’t written any fiction but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. As usual I’m being too hard on myself again.

And when the Mastermind ordeal is over I can use my notes for the book on Sitting Bull I have been planning to write for the last five years or more!

Other than that, I haven’t done very much because all reading and writing is Sitting Bull related at the moment so this check-in is very brief.

I won an award!

Ooh exciting!  For the second time I have been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award.  I’m not sure if my swelled head will fit through the doorway now!

So thank you Shah Wharton for nominating me!

Now for this you’re supposed to nominate fifteen other bloggers to receive the award but I’m going to cheat and nominate everyone who’s a member of the ROW80 writing group (excluding myself).  So if you’re a fellow ROWer, then congratulations you’ve won the Versatile Blogger Award!

Now I have to say seven things about me.  Hmmm.

1.  I’m a witch/shaman/practising occultist/astrologer/into all things mystical and magical.

2.  I did my degree in history and my dissertation was on George Armstrong Custer and The Little Bighorn.

3. I’m planning (some day) to write a book about Sitting Bull.

4. I have the loveliest husband in the world and his name is Gary.

5. My lovely hubby and I are the staff of our diabetic cat and her name is Widget.

6. My favourite band is Led Zeppelin.

7. The first book I read that I really loved was A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuinn.

Magic Monday – Days of the Week

Most of you probably know a bit about where the names of the days of the week come from but in case you don’t I can fill you in now.  Monday is rather obviously from Moon Day, Tuesday is one of the Saxon/Norse one named after the Viking God of Justice, Tyr.  Wednesday is another Viking one; named after Odin or Woden as the Saxon’s named him.  Thursday is those pesky Vikings again with Thor’s Day and Friday is the last Viking entry as Odin’s wife was Freeya, she is the Viking Goddess of home, marriage and childbirth amongst other things.  The Viking equivalent of the Greek Goddess Hera.  Saturday is short for Saturn’s Day, after the planet and Sunday has to be the most obvious of the lot!

In magical and occult workings different days of the week are ruled by different planets and have different energies.  Monday is ruled by the Moon and is good for anything to do with pregnancy (the Moon rules the womb), Tuesday is ruled by the planet Mars so it’s a good day to compete in sporting events, Wednesday is ruled by the planet Mercury so it’s the best day to communicate.  Thursday is ruled by the planet Jupiter so it’s the luckiest day of the week and Friday is ruled by Venus so it’s the best day for that romantic candle dinner.  Saturday is ruled by Saturn so it’s a good day to see something through to completion and Sunday is a great day to sun bathe!

The Film “J Edgar”.

This afternoon Gary and I went to see the film “J. Edgar” about J. Edgar Hoover and it was pretty good.  It was a bit slow and not exactly action packed but with a lot of todays films you get conditioned into expecting big explosions, car chases and gun battles and there was none of that here.  The acting was great; particularly Leonardo Di Caprio in the lead role.  Gary and I agreed that we didn’t like him that much when he was younger (except in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?) but he seems to have got better now he’s a bit older.  To my mind, he’s matured in all the right ways.

Judi Dench played his mother and she was as stunningly briliiant as she always is.  The film is directed by Clint Eastwood.

From a historical point of view it seemed pretty accurate to me and the historical detail was probably the most interesting thing.  Hoover was a very flawed individual; racist and a total conspiracy theorist who blackmailed everyone to stay in power and lied about his part in capturing famous criminals to glamorise himself.  But some of his ideas were good and even ahead of his time.  He introduced a central government system for storing fingerprints and helped bring science into crime solving so he wasn’t all bad.

I would say that this is a good film but not a great one.

Writing and motivation

Some days (rarely, I must admit) I race to the typewriter and can’t wait to get started on my writing but more often than not I sit at the computer and think of all the things I’d rather do and then tell myself off for a bit and finally get on with it.  And some days I don’t even do that; I just sit around like an Apathetic Annie and do sweet FA!  Of course, then I hate myself afterwards for being lazy and useless and then I get depressed and so I do nothing again.  I go in fits and spurts with my writing depending on my mood and lately I’ve been doing nothing again.

I have, since mid December last year, edited about thirty pages so that’s not too bad but I always think I should have done more.  I literally threw away my first chapter because when I read it back I realised it was slower than a snail on valium!  I have expanded the sub-plots a bit as well because in the first draft I just went with the main story line and although I think that’s obviously important, I feel the sub-plots add texture and depth to the whole thing.  My research threw up difficulties because I was writing about naval contracts in 1816, only to find that they didn’t really have naval contracts in those days and ship’s pursers bought supplies individually for each ship which made a difference to my plot and meant I had to re-write a lot of the beginning.  Sometimes research can be a nuisance as well as a blessing.

The most fun you can have with your clothes on!

In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about, the answer is …research!  For a historian like myself research is one of the most absorbing and interesting things it’s possible to do.  The novel I’m writing, entitled Emily Swann, is set in the Regency period and has sparked off a lot of research.  For things I don’t know much about and the Regency period used to qualify, I start on the Internet.  The net is good for an overview but you have to, as ever, be very careful about where the information comes from.

Then I go to the books; still,for my money, one of the best sources around.  And in the spring Gary and I are going to Portsmouth (where the book is set) and I have just been in communication with one of the librarians at the Naval Museum in Portsmouth and she said I can go up there and look at their archives!  I find this immensely exciting!  Gary and I will obviously look round the museum as well.  He enjoys the research almost as much as I do.  I will probably look round the Victory again but Gary would find that difficult as nineteenth century ships are not known for their disabled access.  It’s a bit of a shame because if he could get round I’m sure he’d enjoy it.

I’ve still got lots of research to do.  I’m going to go to the Jane Austen Museum and the Fashion Museum (both in Bath) and probably the American Museum (just outside Bath) as well.  I’m lucky I live in Bath which has such a wealth of Regency stuff for me to look at.  Good luck to anyone else whose involved in research!

Ignorance is bliss?

There is a trend I have been noticing lately that I find frankly alarming, and that is the idea that it is a good thing to be ignorant.  I don’t expect everyone to be dead keen on studying or to be a bookworm; of course different people are into different things but I would like to think we all have a certain degree of general knowledge.  Unfortunately I have recently discovered that I have been sadly wrong.  In a fairly recent episode of Come Dine With Me some silly bitch declared that she “would rather be streetwise than know the Capital of Rome!”  Don’t you mean the Capital of Italy?  How thick can you be and still be breathing?  Yes, there is a value to being streetwise and it’s not much use to anyone to be an ivory towered scholar who knows nothing of the real world but it doesn’t help to be thick as a brick either!  On a separate programme someone apologised to Katie Price for being “a history nerd” as she put it.  She was immediately thrown off the show.  But what gets me is why did she feel the need to apologise for having an education?  Since when has this become a bad thing?

I realise that some people have dyslexia and other learning disabilities which makes it difficult for them to achieve high standards of education but what appals me is that so many young people today seem to think that education and learning are a waste of time and that any young people who are vaguely intellectual get ridiculed because of it.  Since when has it become a good thing to be ignorant?  How did being thick become cool?  Is this something young people really want to emulate?  God help us all if it is!

Wiiliam Shakespeare

Okay, it’s soapbox time; I’m here today to discuss one of my pet hates and that is the ridiculous idea that anyone, other than Shakespeare himself, wrote Shakespeare’s plays.  It is the biggest load of nonsense going and worse, it is nothing but pure snobbery.  Its just a bunch of stuck up morons who don’t want to believe that some commoner from Stratford could possibly wrote such works of utter genius.  But why not?  The upper classes do not have a monopoly on genius and for that matter Shakespeare himself was not as common as they make him out to be.  His father was mayor of Stratford so he was not an uneducated peasant.

I must give thanks to Bill Bryson because a lot of the facts I’m about to quote come from his book entitled “Shakespeare”.  His last chapter is on the conspiracy theories surrounding the plays authorship and I quote “So it needs to be said that nearly all of the anti-Shakespeare sentiment – actually all of it, every bit – involves manipulative scholarship or sweeping mistatement of fact.” ( Shakespeare, Bill Bryson, p. 180, 2008)

The anti Stratford brigade say that there were no mentions in contemporary documents of Shakespeare as a author but this is just a flat lie.  “In the Master of Revels’ accounts for 1604-5 – that is, the record of plays performed before the King, Shakespeare is named seven times as the author of plays performed before James I.  He is named as author of several quarto editions of his plays and John Webster identifies him as one of the greatest playwrights of his age in his preface to The White Devil.”  (Shakespeare, Bill Bryson, p. 181, 2008)  The number of ridiculous candidates put forward as ‘the real author’ gets sillier with every telling.  Some say Elizabeth I herself was the real author although where she found the time is not explained.  Francis Bacon is a favourite candidate despite the fact that in his private notebooks he repeatedly goes on about how much he hates the theatre.  The Earl of Oxford is another favourite despite the fact that he rather inconveniently died before all the plays were written.

I let Bill Bryson have the final word; “One really must salute the ingenuity of the anti-Stratford enthusiasts who, if they are right, have managed to uncover the greatest literary fraud in history, without the benefit of anything that can be reasonably called evidence, four hundred years after it was perpetrated.” (Shakespeare, Bill Bryson, p. 195, 2008)