Monday, July 21, 2014

Goddesses in the Dust: How an Archaeologist is like Persephone

An archaeologist unearths the divine feminine, one archetype at a time...
Throughout my childhood I've loved being close to the earth.

But since I was a girl I've had a nightmare of being pulled into a hole in the ground.

In the myth of Persephone, the goddess was abducted against her will into the lair of Hades, King of the Underworld. Before she was returned to the aboveworld and to her mother, the grain goddess, Demeter, she had eaten three pomegranate seeds ~ the food of the dead. For each seed she ate, she was destined to return to the Underworld for a month each year, and for those three months Demeter let nothing grow ~ the three months of winter.

In my nightmare, I also fell into an Underworld against my will. But like Persephone, I soon learned to see in the darkness, and now I go willingly.

 I have eaten many pomegranate seeds. and I return again and again to this soil.

At excavations I have stood at the edge and looked out over the site, aware that the holes are getting deeper by the day. 


Remembering how, the deeper I go into the earth

the more I can hear Persephone speak to me, telling me not to be afraid to pass through thresholds 

because - as in the earth - it is often in the hidden parts of our selves that we find our treasure.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mia


Crossed the Rainbow Bridge on her 17th birthday, July 12, 2014. 

We will miss you Mia, our most beloved Airedale. 

You will live in our hearts forever.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Goddesses in the Dust: The Last Girls' Class Reunion

An archaeologist unearths the divine feminine, one archetype at a time...

Thirty six of us stood on the steps of our school that June day. The sun beat down on our white gowns and mortarboards, that virginal color so many girls wear to graduation. The last girl's class to graduate before our school merged with the boy's school. The new school took the boy's school's name, as Northrop Collegiate School was too much of a mouthful to swallow. 

I've spent all my life in girl's schools. After attending a convent school in England, my parents needed to find me a new school when we returned to the States.
Me in uniform, Oaklawn, Silverdale Avenue, Walton-on-Thames
The English educational system had moved me a couple grades ahead, and my parents didn't want to send a nerdy, socially clueless, tortoiseshell-glasses-wearing prepubescent girl into an American public high school where I would have been eaten alive.
My younger sister and me in uniform, Walton-on-Thames, England
So they chose this private girl's school. This is where I came of age. I could continue to study Latin and enjoy my favorite subject - math - without worrying about being distracted by boys in the class. As an all girls' school we didn't seem to care as much how we looked, never learning how to use makeup and rarely wearing a bra. Friends took Tampax to class, the paper wrapped tubes tucked into the breast pocket of their navy blue uniform jumpers. 

In some ways, it was an idyllic situation. We came to know boys, eventually — but not too early — not before we came to know ourselves. We were too busy enjoying the company of other girls, building up - and occasionally tearing down - each other's self-esteem, in the way only girls know. But because our class was small, it was important to be a friend.

And here I learned how to be a friend.


Last weekend we gathered again. I enjoyed catching up with these beautiful and strong women and learning about their lives. The adage: the more things change, the more they stay the same would be true, as is the old song we used to sing at Girl Scouts:

Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Postcards from the Underworld: Somewhere in Central Georgia


I wasn't aware you could go to school for this.....

Monday, June 23, 2014

Goddesses in the Dust: Invidia and Nemesis - The Goddesses of Envy

An archaeologist unearths the divine feminine, one archetype at a time...
Envy Plucking the Wings of Fame, Francois-Guillaume Menageot, 1806
Have you ever been jealous of another? Of course you have, but it's tough to admit, isn't it?

In our world today, there are more and more opportunities for jealousy to rear its proverbial ugly head. We have the internet and modern media to thank for that. 

In days of old, we could look across the neighbor's fence and covet their garden, their herd of cattle, their wife. We could be envious of the King if we were a serf. But we could always head in another direction and focus on something else, not staring at the object of envy all day. Today, with so many screens in our lives, it is very difficult to get away from it. Television, laptops, smart phones, and movie screens bring unceasing images that entertain us and educate us. But these same screens can often deliver messages that make us feel that we are not smart enough, beautiful enough, popular enough, healthy enough, rich enough...the list is endless.

In ancient Greece, the goddess of Envy was known as Nemesis. She personified the resentment humans felt towards others who had an abundance of good fortune and her energy was directed towards maintaining equilibrium. Her name means she who distributes or to "give what is due" and the term is often used to describe one's worst enemy.
Nemesis and Tyche, Red Figure Vase, ca. 430 B.C. 
In Roman times the goddess was referred to as Invidia. 
Invidia, by Jacques Caillot
She is seen as one who looks upon others with a sense of jealousy and her name is rooted in the word invidere, "to look against, to look at in a hostile manner." Associated with the evil eye, people would wear an amulet to protect against her spells. In ancient times this was called a fascinus, and in modern Greece, people still use such amulets in the form of a blue eye. Another way to ward off the evil eye is to faux spit on someone you wish to protect.

With the internet, we had blogs at first, then came other social networks, such as My Space, then Facebook happened. Then Twitter, then Pinterest, then Google Plus...you name it. We now have a full battalion of places where we can go and enjoy fascinating peeks into other people's lives -- and in doing so we have choices: we can be joyous and celebrate the wonderful things they share with us, or be moved by their difficulties, feel compassion....or oftentimes, we can feel jealous. 
Ovid's Metamorphosis Looking at Envy
It's like junior high all over again. People clamor for more readers, for more followers, for more...you name it. With envy, it's never enough - it's like having a stomach that never fills, an appetite that is never satiated: no matter how much it consumes, it is still empty. We eat junk food, we show the results. We consume junk culture, the results also show. 

This is not meant to be a diatribe against social media. I enjoy blogging - I've met some incredible people and have made friendships that have transcended the silver screen between us. Like anything, it can be used for positive or negative purposes. A car can take us to visit our grandmother, or it can be used by a homicidal maniac to drive through a storefront window. A glass of wine is a pleasure with dinner, drinking the whole bottle because you need to numb yourself is another thing. 

As E. M. Forster said, "Only connect." Social media allows us to do that, only even on a larger scale and more instantaneously than ever before. As long as it remains a enjoyable thing, I will continue to use it. But we would do well to keep a careful eye on how it affects us emotionally, and remember to not compare ourselves to others. Often we present not our true selves through social media, but our masks - how we want ourselves to be seen by others. It is becoming harder and harder to be who we really are, and stay true to ourselves. In the 18th century, Ralph Waldo Emerson captured how difficult it is to be who we are without always looking towards others to compare ourselves:

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. 

and e.e. cummings' quote is even more true today:

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight: and never stop fighting.