When I was 17 I read Robert Graves’ White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth and it caused a radical awakening in me. It’s a truly amazing treatise on the Moon, the Muse and Matriarchal Culture. I realised I wasn’t imprisoned by the false controlling values of my family, as I perceived them at the time. In fact, I was imprisoned by an entire Patriarchal Culture! I didn’t know that she, in all her majesty, was the guardian at the gate readying me for my journey to the Black Goddess.
This was the time when it was beginning to be noted in Western culture that the Goddess was absent from the proceedings. The expression of her essence was bound and gagged while she was off in the wild beauty with the mystics and indigenous peoples, waiting for the rest to wake up to the sacredness of all life. Feeling illumined and bereft, I had to find her.
In my 20’s the Re-Emergence of the Great Goddess began to take hold. You could say it was the spiritual aspect of feminism. So many of us were having dreams and visions and awakenings and this was being expressed in music, poetry, theatre, art and large cultural shifts. I remember dragging my stoic cowboy artist boyfriend to a ‘wimmin’s’ gathering, typical of the mid 70’s. We stood three circles deep and called the sun out from behind the clouds three times.
Lucky coincidence? My boyfriend did look a little impressed. In earlier times, we would have been burned as witches for daring to suggest an intimate dialogue with nature. At a poetry convention in the wilds of Michigan many moons later, a few of us blew the clouds off the moon. A concerted Whoosh and they moved away. Coincidence again? This is the shiny bit of the Goddess in action.
The profound and deeper bit is guardianship of women and children, reverence for nature and all life, the deep magical power to manifest, limitless transformational creativity, wisdom and Unconditional Love. You don’t need to be a woman to call in the Goddess, by the way. But call her in we women did. Remembrances came of ecstatic times when a grain of wheat grew in the night in the Eleusinian Mysteries, or travelling across the stars on the back of noble Pegasus, or healing a wound with the energies of our hands.
When there is no vision the people perish.
~ Proverbs 29:18
I sought her in many diverse places, catching glimpses–as well as admonishments for my own absence. With the grandmother Shipibo shamans taking the sacred medicine of the vine in the Peruvian Amazon. In the Mohave Desert near Joshua Tree when the Great Rock split, signalling for the Navaho the return of the Great Mother. At the Chalice Well where the water runs red and the hidden underground candlelit White Spring at Glastonbury. Montserrat rising out of the mists of the mountains of Northern Spain. All the expressions of Divine Mother emerged to stimulate my consciousness and lead me home.
Mother Meera, Ananda Mayi Ma, Mary, Kwan Yin, Papatūānuku, White Buffalo Calf Woman, Durga, Mab, Nephthys, Cerridwen. Graves’ book continued to be a bible. But, it was his little-known book, Mammon and the Black Goddess, a collection of 8 essays introducing the Black Goddess, that really began a lifelong journey.
The Black Goddess is so far hardly more than a word of hope whispered among those who have served their apprentice with the White Goddess…the Black Goddess has experienced good and evil, love and hate, truth and falsehood…she will lead men back to that sure instinct of love which he long ago forfeited by intellectual pride.
~ Robert Graves
I began to seek her continually, humbly, insistently, through my art and intuition, allowing my painting to take me on a journey from the concrete to the invisible in reverse of ancient theories of manifestation. The Realm of the Emotion reigned. Archetypes of my childhood rose to haunt me, as did world events. The idea of evil plagued me and the reality of it. These paintings were dark and fiery. Something was giving way but I was still in the realm of the intellect. The process of naming, defining.
Wanting to sidestep the cultural ‘will to power” that creates a personality oriented egocentric worldview, I began experimenting with Kabbalistic methods to alter perceptions. I was becoming increasingly aware of the causal nature of thought and the possibilities of using thought as a tool. A flying carpet to transport me to the inner realms. The work became a means to explore intuitive processes and to develop an imagistic way of thinking that was more potent and less confined.
Ean Begg’s The Cult of the Black Virgin and The Black Madonna and the Sixth Sense by Peter Redgrove fueled my search. My Black Goddess was emerging as an ancient archetype. She who relates to the hidden part, the underworld. Mary Magdalene, Hecate, Kali, Lilith. Shamanistic anima, the goddess Isis, the transformer, the alchemist. Causer of lunacy and giver of visions. Guardian of Hieros Gamos, sacred sexuality. Soul of the world and the true archetype for the coming age.
Think of coming to our senses.
In The Opening of Vision by David Michael Levin, there is a description of what he calls the Primordial Body that best describes my perception of the personification of energies represented in the Black Goddess.
The Primordial Body…is the wild body, the dreambody, the vegetative body rooted in the earth. This body can be evoked with the language of metaphors, symbols, stories, legends, fairy-tales, myths, poetry and dreams. This body is pre-ecological and pre-ontological. It carries around with it a dark, implicate pre-understanding of Being.
She is the end of isms, the High Priestess of Presence and ruthless, even brutal honesty. Her limbic field encompasses the planet exposing the inauthentic, daring us to take off the masks we have created for ourselves. The broken record of fixed memory by which we define ourselves. She will destroy the litany of characteristics we wear like gaudy jewels and strip us to our core.
For me personally, these experiences marked a reconnection with a part of me that had been all but lost in the modern civilisation process. The significance of this archetype is its representation of a pantheistic worldview of total interconnectedness. She is an expression of the mystical power of the body. The hidden mystery of night, the cyclic moon that pulls on the tides—and on us. The Thirteenth Fairy who causes Sleeping Beauty to sleep until she is awakened by love–the merging of opposites that symbolises the journey from duality to unity.
Joseph Campbell writes that the visions and dreams of youth are prophetic of the whole life dynamic. Years ago, as a teenager attending a dance school in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, I was startled awake by a massive full moon flooding the sky. I rose out of bed, ecstatic that night had turned to day and danced in the lunar light in a mountain field with sleepy horses and silver birch.
Afterwards, in the florid prose of youth wrote:
…With a jackal’s howl, I bucked and reared, stood stallion in a noble stance, grew wide and imposing bellowing bear, then breaking into a wild romp I growled in a canine fashion so true to the species a pugly beastie may have been fooled had one been near…
Later I found an enormous similarity of my moon madness and wild transformational dance with the rituals of Hecate, the Greek goddess of magic, the moon and night. I have become aware that the language of the spirit is sensorial and the experience of the spirit is visceral. In the flow of interconnectedness, an ancient moon ritual had emerged.
I once felt that painting was my stolen pleasure. A deeper understanding has brought me to feel the act of creating anything is an antidote to chaos and destruction. My interest in the potential of painting as an expression of alchemy persists but is accompanied by a deep desire to surrender into the arms of the Black Goddess and let the images carry me. I look to what the Shinto priest said when asked to explain his ideology.
I have no ideology. I just dance.
By the way, I did find her in the end. They are both with me. The White Goddess, guardian of the seen, and the Black Goddess, guardian of the unseen. She will terrify and bemuse those in disconnect from their hearts and those who suffer intellectual pride. Her presence is cathartic and those who can’t bear it will hate.
But if you are ready to fearlessly explore the deepest places and be initiated into the mysteries, she will be your guide. She is waiting for you. To bring you back to love.
PS Metaphysical Musings is a non-denominational site. I respect, honour and love all paths. Metaphysics is the science of understanding reality. In other words, figuring out stuff. Its corollary is quantum physics which is slowly proving what was once considered miracle or magic. It is the time of integration, acceptance and surrender to a higher purpose.
There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle
~ Albert Einstein
Kindness is the greatest wisdom
The Metaphysical Muse