A Renaissance of Personal Sacredness
from the book Goddess Consciousness: Women’s Mysticism and Sacred Arts
by Marlaina Donato
What is Goddess? Who is She? There are many answers to these questions, but in simplest terms, Goddess is the creative aspect of Deity; Her body is manifested in the physical world as our planet Earth. Her soul is the productive mystery of the universe and the infinite capacity to conjure life from the void. She is autonomy within every living being in its purest and most uncompromised form. The Divine Feminine Force is not all flowers, light and beauty, but also the blood of birth, the fierce heart of the tempest, and the dance of survival. Her force is simultaneously creative and destructive. This law of opposing equals is seen in the lava that destroys all life in its path but fertilizes soil for new growth. She is an artist who paints over an old canvas to begin anew. She gives her children the courage to cut through dense illusions about self and find the jewel of immeasurable value, the pearl that sleeps inside each of us and is ultimately our most valuable currency for evolvement.
From the Hindu Durga to the Gnostic Sophia, the Christian Blessed Mother to the Wiccan Triple Goddess, the feminine aspect of Deity is an ancient model that runs through all cultures around the globe. Her worship pervaded Europe, the Middle East, Northern Africa, India, and Pakistan, and according to some sources, can be traced to 30,000 BC. Civilizations up until 6,000 BC. saw Deity primarily as feminine, the male principle a later model that eventually extinguished the Sacred Feminine. Until then, ancient cultures saw nature in all of its fierce majesty as female and women as Her embodiments. Early matriarchal societies celebrated the Sacred Feminine and observed this force in the earth’s fertility, woman’s capacity to bring forth life, and in the cyclic, lunar correspondence of menstruation. Humankind’s earliest calendars were created by women who tracked their menses along with the moon’s phases. Our foremothers in long buried cultures knew the connection between themselves and the earth’s cycles of abundance. Ancient structures of community honored the feminine divine in many aspects of living and revered women as incarnations of the feminine aspect of God, the all-encompassing Great Mother. These societies preferred peace over strife, nurtured female empowerment, and honored the fruitful earth. Still used today, the term Mother Nature is one of the few linguistic remnants of these matriarchal times.
According to recent, extensive archeological findings and contrary to previous assumptions, ancient priestesses of the Hellenic world held honored positions both spiritually and politically in patriarchal Greek society. And there was a time in early Christianity when women officiated as respected priests who baptized, blessed, and prophesized as dedicated followers of Christ.
Once war-centered patriarchal peoples fragmented matriarchal ethos and organized religions restructured or snuffed out former spiritual cultures, women and the Goddess were demoted to inferior rank. Eventually, Her significance was forgotten, save for a precious few who kept Her presence and rituals alive by going underground or disguising them in plain sight within the confines of established religion.
The Creative Life Force manifests in patterns of regeneration and degeneration, birth and death, and the cellular workings of the body’s metabolism seen in the second-to-second balancing act of anabolism and catabolism. Whether we acknowledge this energy in spiritual terms or scientific explanation, it affects all living beings on this planet and is present in the seasons, tides, elements, light and dark, and female and male. Women’s biological rhythms mirror the earth’s fertility—our monthly blood comes with each lunar cycle; our genitalia clearly resemble the anatomical structures of fruits and flowers; our hormones ebb and flow like the tides. When we observe these biological synchronicities, it is easy to understand how ancient peoples saw the female body reflected in the macrocosm. Parts of the body held symbolic significance and related to the mystical workings of nature and the universe.
Today in our modern age we, as women, hunger for connection to something wild and beautiful—to unearth the sanctity of our bodies and help us to remember our lineage as priestesses and healers. In our age of rampant feminine self-hatred, eating disorders, addiction, and body dysmorphia, this cultivation of Goddess consciousness is needed now more than any other time in history. What if we could rise above the demons of society and see ourselves not through cultural whim but through the eyes of the Goddess? What if we raised our daughters to see the Goddess in the mirror rather than someone else’s shallow ideal or criticisms? What if we raised our sons to honor the value of the earth and women?
We can study the hard-earned wisdom of saints and sages, but the journey is ours alone to take. The path of the mystic is a solitary one, and there are still shreds of belief that it must be a tortuous one—that only self-sacrifice, asceticism, celibacy, or severe consciousness can earn God’s blessings, forgiveness, and a place in a heavenly afterlife. The Hindu mystic endured years of self-deprivation while the Christian mystic lashed the body into agony. St. Catherine of Siena, one example—despite profound mystical experiences—whipped herself three times daily to earn her visions.
Even though we no longer live in such brutally religious times here in the Western world, the human psyche, particularly the female psyche, is still haunted with inhibition, guilt, and fear of pleasure. Yet in early childhood, we knew the rapture of our ancestors who entered trance or looked to the stars to know the divine. The natural instincts of the child are also the same longings of the mystic—to experience Deity in the manifested world directly through our physical and spiritual senses. The entire concept of mysticism—the goal to know Deity directly—has been achieved by both sexes throughout history, but when most of us think of mystics, we immediately envision medieval monastics, physically deformed ascetics, or tribal Medicine Men uttering the language of the spirits. Though some of these images are rooted in fact, the most common mystic is the one who fits into society without speculation and without dramatics. Save for a few female Hindu, Sufi, and Christian saints, the female visionary has been lost beneath the dusts of history. Due to the patriarchal ravages of the Spanish Inquisition and subsequent witch hunts, female spirituality came to be associated with evil. In later times, during the surge of occult interest in the nineteenth century, many women came into view as powerful mediums, but it was short-lived. Many were proved to be hoaxes, and no matter how convincing or genuine the “table tapping”, female mystics lost credibility and fell into the hollow confines of entertainment. Despite the current commercial flurry of psychic hotlines, reality show mediums, and blockbuster books, the mainstream stereotype of women’s spirituality is a shadow of its reality and deepest potential.
Female and male are two halves of the divine whole; life could not exist without these two equally powerful forces. The Ultimate Deity is genderless as is the individual soul, but in order to know our true selves, we must find the taproot of our spirits. This taproot is often found by discovering the spiritual power of our own gender. In order to do this, we must sift through ages of preconceived ideas about feminine spirituality and reclaim the uniqueness of our visions. We do not need churches, temples, sacred ground, elaborate and complex ritual, or magical invocations to experience Deity or to remember our mystical birthright. We only need to know ourselves beneath centuries of cultural dogma. In our modern, youth-obsessed world, we often forget the value of maturity. Earth is a beautiful role model; the fruit would never exist if not for the withering of the blossom. Many of us are taught to believe that youth or the ways of seduction are the essence of feminine power, but in ancient matriarchal societies, a woman who healed, created art, or bridged the worlds was the most respected among her gender but considered unfit to be a spiritual teacher until she reached a certain age. The essence and cultivation of Goddess consciousness is to understand our unique power and grow into it joyfully.
Many of us come to know the Goddess without ever putting a label on our experiences. When I was ten years old I had a secret ritual that I shared with no one. Whenever I was outside at sundown, I stopped whatever I was doing to watch the day descend into dusk. I imagined the last rays of the sun as the outstretched arms of a shining goddess. As the sun’s amber light pierced through the web of branches behind my swing set, I felt blessed by this goddess that seemed more real to me than anything else. Ten years later, through books and women’s spiritual circles, I discovered the world of the Sacred Feminine and the history of Goddess-centered cultures. I knew then that the feminine presence I felt at sunset during my childhood was not fantasy. I studied, prayed, and invoked Her for a decade, but these years of quiet yet sometimes profound spiritual communion did not prepare me for the moment when She would literally change my consciousness.
One summer morning at dawn, I was startled out of deep sleep. There had been no noise or other intrusion, yet I had been awakened suddenly. I was alert but could not find it in my power to move my body. Beginning at my feet, accompanied by a diffused light, energy began to move through me. I knew this soft light was not coming from the window—the curtains were closed; the sun had not yet broken through the haze. As this energy ascended toward my head, every cell of my physical body became conscious almost to the point of pain. I had never felt more alive, awake, or aware. Even more profound was the overwhelming feminine Presence at the heart of this energy. I felt so deeply embraced, so nurtured, I was dissolved to tears. There was a complete loss of identity, and only my bare essence and this Presence existed. I heard a female voice echo as the energy reached my head, an exquisite singing voice that was also the collective voices of flutes, humming bees, wind, and breaking surf set to a steady heartbeat. Within seconds, the primal self deep in the wilderness of my own spirit recognized this voice. I knew it was Her, and that we are all part of Her vastness. Deep, earthy scents of forests and flowers both familiar and unknown to me filled my nostrils as the energy reached the rim of my skull. For an infinite few moments, I drifted into the deepest peace I had ever hoped to know.
Then without warning, as quickly as it had begun, the energy left my body and all went still, dark, and silent. What felt like an eternity had only been a few minutes. The Goddess Force had shifted my consciousness and was gone. Immediately, almost with desperation, I struggled to call Her back, to be within Her heartbeat once again, but all efforts failed. I sobbed and finally understood mystics through the ages who described feeling deep grief after immersion in the Infinite. The separation and return to the finite self was almost intolerable. I likened it to the sadness and confusion a newborn infant must feel when propelled from the mother’s womb into a world of blinding light and noise, the cosmic umbilical cord severed. No wonder Sufis believe that babies cry when they are born because of this separation from the Source.
My sadness eventually settled into deep, multilayered self-awareness in the subsequent days, weeks, months, even years following this extraordinary experience. I knew the possibility of my own being and consequently, saw life through different eyes. I also knew that communion with Spirit was not intended to be weighted with struggle, sacrifice, or manmade creed but imbued with joy. The Goddess energy, in our deepest and most challenging darkness whispers, “Come live with me. My name is Joy, and my face is yours.”
Take a moment to remember if you’ve ever heard a stone whisper a secret to you or if the thunder has ever beckoned you to dance. Remember the last time you made love and tasted fire. You are already a mystic; you only have to remember. No matter your age, vocation, income, or political inclination, I invite you to preserve one of the world’s most endangered resources—your own feminine being with all of its beauty, scars, and perfect imperfection. I invite you to join me in a renaissance of personal sacredness that nourishes your body’s magical and spiritual origins. I invite you to breathe in a new day, to relinquish the burden of existing and embrace the deliciousness of living; to betray what you’ve always done and how you’ve always done it with something designed with more of your happiness in mind. It does not require pain, sacrifice, praying a certain way, being loved by a particular person or living a certain lifestyle. You are invited to come home to your true self. You are female, a spiritual being and powerful beyond measure.
Birthing Energy Meditation: Earth
(for more physical energy or to regain emotional stability)
Find a quiet place and lie on your back, outdoors if you wish. Rub the palms of your hands together vigorously until you feel the burn and immediately place them over your navel. Breathe deeply and consciously, feeling your belly rise and fall beneath your hands.
When you reach a relaxed breathing state, imagine your body sinking into fragrant grasses. Feel yourself becoming one with the soil as if rooted. Once you feel part of the earth, focus your consciousness on your navel. Continue to be aware of the rising and falling of your breath until you can imagine that you are breathing with your belly instead of your lungs. Focus all thought, concentration, and emotion into the area of your womb. Know this is the center of your being, the center of your universe, the center from which you respond to all outside influences.
Now imagine that your navel is a beautiful river rock positioned in perfect stillness, and the waters undulate around this rock, flowing around its curves. You can see this river as the outward distractions of your life and then see that the rock—your ultimate center—is totally unaffected by the waters. Become one with this rock and know you are inviolate and grounded.
Do this meditation as long as you wish until you feel an anchored security in your navel. You are safe, in control. Try to memorize this feeling so you can call upon it later in the day when you need strength or balance.
Give yourself time to come back to full alertness. Claim your path as Seeker, Priestess, and Creator. In this moment, take back any power you have relinquished, denied, or feared. From this moment on, you are vital and awake, a woman co-creating with the Cosmic Creative Force. Be free!
About the Author
Marlaina Donato is a freelance staff writer for the magazine Natural Awakenings as well as regional editions of the publication, a health blogger for Organic Lifestyle Magazine, and the author of several books. She is also a visionary artist and composer.
About the Book
Here your spirit will feast on ways to integrate the Divine Feminine into sacred space, spiritual and psychic arts, beauty and self-care, and sexuality. For women of all ages and walks of life, Goddess Consciousness is deeply meaningful, fun and informative- ancient mysticism formatted for a new millennium. Richly illustrated with the author’s art and photography.
- Paperback: 402 pages
- Publisher: Ekstasis Multimedia (November 23, 2014)
- Language: English
Watch book trailer here.