Friday, October 30, 2015

Candles for our Ancestors

At this time of year, when the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest, my cousins in Slovenia purchase these candles to put on the graves of their ancestors. Kiosks in the main city of Ljubljana sell these candles, which are glass containers filled with oils in a rainbow of colors.

My cousin, Maja, tends to a grave 

in our family's church graveyard in Metlika.

This year on Halloween, I'll light my favorite pomegranate candle and send the flame of love through the thinning veil to my ancestors. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Walking Reading Woman

I just saw her - the walking reading woman, I call her. She lives in my neighborhood, and for the past almost 30 years I've paid little attention to her eccentricities. I've been too busy raising kids, tending to the dog, doctors appointments, homework, fencing practice, dances lessons. The drill. But now that the kids are grown, I see things in my environment more closely, with a keener eye. And so when I spied her this morning: her hair roped into a single, think braid, with one hand holding a book out in front of her, reading intently as she walked at a brisk pace, I felt compelled to record the moment.

I've often heard of people who do mental activities better when they are in motion. The eminent late physicist Richard Feynman used to say riding a bike helped me to figure out complex problems. Einstein always wondered why he got his best ideas while shaving. And Steven Spielberg has said that inspiration comes to him when he is driving on the freeways of Los Angeles. 

So movement enhances thinking. My son used to fiddle with things while solving math problems. When I finally realized this was actually helping him, I refrained from telling him to stop fidgeting. 

I don't know how she manages to avoid tripping while walking and reading at the same time. As for me, I've got some work to do in this moving and thinking activity - first I have to perfect the art of walking of chewing gum :))

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Goddesses in the Dust: Baubo Revisited - Goddess of Belly Laughs, Sexuality and Shamelessness

Unearthing the Divine Feminine, one archetype at a time...

I've written about Baubo before, but her controversial significance and potent healing power deserve to be revisited from time to time. 

When Persephone, the beloved daughter of the Greek goddess of agriculture, Demeter, was abducted by the god of hell, Hades, into the Underworld, Demeter fell into a deep depression. She proceeded to wander the earth and let nothing grow until her daughter was returned to her. Members of the king's household desperately tried to lift the goddess from her despair, but to no avail.  

One day, while sitting by a well, Demeter was approached by a strange little woman named Baubo. The two women started to chat, and when Baubo slipped a bawdy joke into the conversation, this elicited a slight smile in the goddess. Then Baubo proceeded to lift her skirts, revealing her genitalia and breasts, and began dancing around the goddess in a bawdy and sensual manner. Shocked into hilarity by the preposterous vision, Demeter erupted into laughter - deep belly laughter - which lifted her from her despondency. 

This story describes the power of reconnecting with parts that we have repressed or buried and, by doing so, cause us to become disconnected from our vitality. Baubo's display of her sensual and sexual self both illustrates the power and essence of the feminine as well as eliciting permission to laugh.  When we laugh at something truly and outrageously hilarious, we connect with a source deep within that frees us up, blasting through dense and stuck energies, connecting us with our own essence. As with Demeter's barren world, things come to life again, fertility and greening are restored to our internal landscapes. 

As you can imagine, this story is bound to attract controversy. Anything that smacks of the slightest distastefulness, or that makes us uneasy, is a target for oppression. The innate sexual power of women has long elicited an opposing force that strives to clamp down on anything it condemns as shameful. During the Christian period, the tale of Baubo and Demeter was roundly criticized and censured. Clement of Alexandria was one of the loudest voices who tried his best to vilify and silence the meaning of the story. 

Yet how can we wonder if Tyrrhenians, who are barbarians, are thus consecrated to base passions when Athenians and the rest of Greece – I blush even to speak of it – possess that shameful tale about Demeter? It tells how Demeter, wandering through Eleusis, which is a part of Attica, in search of her daughter the Maiden, becomes exhausted and sits down at a well in deep distress. This display of grief is forbidden, up to the present day, to those who are initiated, lest the worshippers should seem to imitate the goddess in her sorrow. At that time Eleusis was inhabited by aborigines, whose names were Baubo, Dysaules, Triptolemus, and also Eumolpus and Eubouleus. Triptolemus was a herdsman, Eumolpus a shepherd, and Eubouleus and swineherd. These were progenitors of the Eumolpidae and of the Heracles, who form the priestly [hierophantic] clan at Athens. But to continue; for I will not forfear to tell the rest of the story. Baubo, having received Demeter as a guest, offers her a draught of wine and meal. She declines to take it, being unwilling to drink on account of her mourning. Baubo is deeply hurt, thinking she has been slighted, and thereupon uncovers her secret parts and exhibits them to the goddess. Demeter is pleased at the sight, and now at least receives the draught, – delighted by the spectacle! These are the secret mysteries of the Athenians! These are also the subjects of Orpheus’ poems. It will quote you the very lines of Orpheus, in order that you may have the originator of the mysteries as witness of their shamelessness:
This said, she drew aside her robes, and showed a sight of shame; child Iacchus was there, and laughing, plunged his hand below her breasts. Then smiled the goddess, in her heart she smiled, and drank the draught from out the glancing cup.
In spite of commercials we see on TV and the display of sexuality in films, we live in an uptight culture, and women who are fully in touch with their bodies and their own sensual selves often appear to be intimidating. It's no surprise that the Catholic church gave women only two identities: Virgin or Whore. Such is the legacy we are left with in the 21st century. 

A good friend of mine, raised Catholic like myself, was recently visiting her elderly mother during the Pope's visit to the States. Her mother wanted her to watch the Pope's Mass, and out of love for her mother, my friend agreed, but was quickly reminded why she had left the church so long ago. "All I could see was a sea of white haired males," she said,  and wondered out loud when women would be seen as equals in the church. 

Good question. The story of Baubo reminds us that women's sexuality continues to be a controversial subject. Baubo may be just a little wizened old woman, and not one of the marquee level goddesses of the Greek pantheon, but her story rings just as true today as it did three thousand years ago. While her nature has been shamed, her message is one of empowerment: respect your deep and worthy treasures of sensuality, sexuality, laughter, knowing and honor thy self. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Goddesses in the Dust: Of Sharks and Seas

An archaeologist unearths the Divine Feminine, one archetype at a time...

Here in one of my favorite parts of the world, South Carolina. After my run this morning I headed out to the beach for a swim. Strangely, there were no other folks in the water, they were all just standing along the shore. Nonplussed, I headed out into the surf. I love to lie on my back in the water, looking up at the sky, and listen to the sound of Mother Ocean as she lulls me into a light trance. 

Just as I was floating and cooling off, I saw a man yelling at me and waving his arms. As I walked towards him, he told me the reason no one was in the water was that two sharks were sighted. I nodded and thanked him for alerting me - just as I turned around to look back at the ocean, I saw a fin poking up above the waves, gliding directly in the area I was just serenely floating. 

They were two baby black tip sharks. As the life guard said, "they won't take off a limb, but they might bite you."

So noted. In Greek mythology, Amphitrite is the goddess of the sea and consort of Poseidon. The next time I take a dip, I will invoke her protection. In the mean time, looking forward to more of enjoying the ocean...

but maybe from a bit of a distance for now... :))

Monday, August 10, 2015

Goddesses in the Dust: Female Olympians and the Kickass Woman's Manifesto

An archaeologist unearths the Divine Feminine, one archetype at a time...

As an archaeologist who has excavated in Greece, I spend a lot of time contemplating the energies of the goddesses. The goddess who comes to mind when reading the above words is Artemis, because this independent lady lived out her days hunting in the woods with her companion animals and fending off the advances of lascivious gods and mortals. 

But in their own way, each goddess has a kick ass attribute. Take Aphrodite, for example. 

Here she is (on permanent view in the Athens National Archaeological Museum) fending off the advances of horny Pan, with her sandal. This kickass lady doesn't even seem perturbed by this little creep!

Or how about Demeter...

After her daughter, Persephone, was abducted into the Underworld by the god of hell, Hades, Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, vowed to let nothing grow until her daughter was returned to her. After a great outcry, Zeus forced his netherworld dwelling brother to give back the lady's daughter or else - and he did....kick ass!!

Most people don't think old ladies are powerful. But you don't know Hecate.

As goddess of the night, moon, magic and the crossroads, Hecate is the Crone of the Triple Goddess group which includes the Maiden, Persephone, and the Mother (Demeter). Often depicted holding two torches, she is the goddess of transitions, and sees life with an even sense of detachment, developed from a lifetime of experience. As the elder form of Persephone, she is the wise woman, who has gained great wisdom over time, who can now see in the dark, and knows the way to the Underworld and back. Hecate gives the word crone a new kick ass meaning!!

Once again, a housewife doesn't come off sounding very kick ass, either...

As the Greek goddess of the hearth and home, Hestia was actually devoured by her father at birth along with her siblings. As the first to be ingested, she was the last to be ejected, thus making her both the oldest and youngest daughter at the same time - truly a kick ass achievement!

What attributes do you think make a kick ass woman?