Words are a fundamental part of our humanity. The physiology of our brains is designed to make sense of ourselves and our world through language. We name things with words, and then load value and meaning onto these names. Every aspect of our shared society, interpersonal relationships and inner self-talk are dictated by these word-names.
There’s immense power in names. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the names people give to us, and the ones we give to ourselves. This naming can either narrow or expand who we are, and how we engage others and our greater environment.
Oppressors, those who conquer, dominate and control others, have used this power in names throughout history. Take away the names people give to themselves — taint and distort them, make these names a weapon — replace them with other, socially acceptable, domesticating names — and you’ve set up a system of control that becomes a normal, entrenched part of our social fabric. And not just names are taken away, but also language, story, dance, art, and other forms of culture, self-identity and expression.
All marginalized groups — on the outside of the white, male, heteronormative, Judeo-Christian ethos that dominates our Western society — have been impacted by this system of control through names.My Story of Names
I’m a white woman of British descent, born into a working class family of moderate means, and raised in a middle-of-the-road city in the eastern part of Canada. My upbringing was mainstream, banal and seemingly innocuous. And this is my story of names.
If I had the conscious awareness to name myself in my youth, I would have called myself a good girl.
I was a domesticated creature — nice, sweet, pretty, and well behaved. I did what I was supposed to do: work hard at school, follow the rules, hang out with other nice girls, date boys that my parents approved of, and keep a smile on my face, even when boys and men said and did not nice things to me.
No one in particular, and everything around me, gave me this name and the very narrow band of personhood that went with it.
In my early adult years, I named myself professional woman.
This was just another form of my good-girl domestication, set by a hyper-masculine corporate environment.
I had the right qualifications to excel: an MBA, competitive instincts and workaholic drive. The price of admission was to mask my womanhood in an androgynous wardrobe of black, gray and navy suits, to emulate the work-hard, play-hard ethos of the successful man, and to keep a smile on my face, even when men diminished and sexualized me.
Like so many women, these straitjacket names of good girl and professional woman squeezed my bigness of being into a half-life dictated by rules that I had no say in, and that were designed to keep me small, tame, fearful and disconnected from my true nature.
In my late twenties, something woke up in me and I found a new name for myself: feminist.
I rebelled. I wanted to live an authentic life, in alignment with my undomesticated womanhood and my true, deep Self, outside of the dictates of a male-dominated, woman-negating society.
With this new name came seismic shifts. I left my corporate career and returned to graduate school to become a feminist academic, studying power, change and organizational gender issues. I became educated about the deep-rooted and daily discrimination faced by women, and the negation and undervaluing of the qualities and skills we bring to society and the workplace; and I made a commitment to myself to become an agent of positive change.
In my early thirties, as this journey of claiming my true, undomesticated womanhood deepened, I found another new name for myself: witch.
Again, this new name came with immense transformation. I discovered the Goddess and Wicca, and with them a whole, hidden story of feminine Divinity and power, and a wild, delicious, empowering, life-centered reality that was the antithesis of my years of domestication.
My world became infinitely bigger and more nourishing. For the first time in my life, I felt whole, inside-out powerful, and my Self.
Now in my early sixties, I fully inhabit my reclaimed name: woman.
Piece by piece, I’ve been reclaiming the lost fragments of my true, untamed womanhood, until I’ve come to know and honor my Self as woman, outside of the strictures of a society that fears and distorts women and feminine-based power.
I now know that my womanhood is a complex thing, woven of many, diverse threads: feminist, witch, writer, dreamer, dancer, wild thing, mother, partner, friend, ally, and so many other things that are too big and mysterious to name.
I’m whole, sacred, a being of infinite love and resilience, honed and evolved through my personal story and shared woman history of light and shadow, beauty and wounding, and the wonders and horrors of this mundane and magical world.
The outer voices have lost their control over me and there’s no squeezing me back into the half-person I’ve been. Woman I am, and woman I will be, on a journey of self-discovery and evolution that will last all the days of my life.The Power and Shadow of Names
In my journey of names, my life and womanhood were profoundly, positively transformed when I shifted from the names of good girl, and its adult variant of professional woman, to feminist and witch. Yet I was discouraged from claiming these names for myself by well-meaning friends and family members.
In our shared culture, feminist and witch are dangerous names, weighed down by negative projections and horrific histories. Good girls — nice, sweet, pretty, and well behaved — are safe, happy, and well-adjusted. Free-spirited, empowered women — feminist, witch, or any other name you choose to give yourself outside of the dictates of a male-centered society — are an aberration, heretical and dangerous.
This negation of uppity women has been burned into our collective psyche, literally. During the Burning Times of the 14th to the 18th century, the name of witch was demonized by the Church and used to justify the brutal rape, torture and murder of an estimated sixty to hundred thousand people, predominantly women — healers, practitioners of witchcraft, community leaders, independent women and other marginalized people caught up in the madness. Any indication of women’s spirituality, feminine-based power or an uppity nature could condemn you as a witch.
These horrific events have left a deep scar and shadow on our human psyche through our fear and distrust of women and feminine-based power.
Call yourself a feminist and you tar yourself with the societal stereotype of the feminazi: an angry, aggressive, male-hating woman battling for female supremacy.
Call yourself a witch and you conjure up the frightening specter of the wicked witch: an evil, devil-worshipper who uses their power to harm others.
These are lies and distortions that feed on our fear and distrust of women and feminine-based power. To use these names is to risk misunderstanding, discrediting, censure, and rejection. But to not use them when they speak to your soul and true Self is to remain small, silenced, powerless and domesticated.
What my story of names taught me is that there’s only one way to release the power in a name, be it feminist, witch or whatever power names we claim for ourselves and community: confront and step past the shadow in these names, and claim them as our own, not just for ourselves, but also in service of our greater society.Your Story of Names
How we name ourselves and others matters deeply. These names can either trap and diminish us, or heal and free us to become more fully, deeply our Selves.
You can start by exploring your own name story and those that apply to the groups you’re part of. Consider the defining features of your humanity, for example: your biological gender and gender identity, skin color, sexual orientation, ethnic and cultural heritage, religion or spiritual practice, socio-economic status, and the history of your people.
What names have been used to domesticate and marginalize you and the groups you’re part of? What names have empowered you and helped you grow and evolve? What names do you choose for yourself? What are the shadow and power in these names? How can you heal and reclaim these names? How can you support others, especially marginalized groups, in healing and evolving our collective names and language?
Your journey of names is a lifetime in the making. The more consciousness you bring to this journey, the more you can find and claim the names that capture your true, deep Self, and heal the shadow in the names that can set you and others free. And perhaps someday, names will be used to connect us to ourselves and each other in power and beauty, and in the making of a better, kinder, saner world of acceptance, love and justice for all.
Artwork by Nick Gentry
The Goddess is calling you home.
Long, long ago, in the unfolding of humanity, She was lost to us — Goddess, Great Mother — priestess, healer, wise one — the Divine Feminine within.
We became the lost daughters, cut off from one half of the Universe, our humanity, self esteem and our true Self: She who is wild, confident and untameable; She who is liquid sensuality and earthly pleasure; She who wields the powers of magic and mystery; She whose laws are love and the nurturance of all life.
And we have been wounded, hungry, incomplete, ever since.
Yet what has been lost can be refound.
Sarah Ashby, a rising, young financial executive, is a lost daughter.
Sarah appears to have it all: good looks, a fantastic career and affluent lifestyle. But, in the secret recesses of her inner world, she’s not happy or well, anxiety and depression lurk beneath her polished exterior. Then one fateful evening, Sarah has an emotional breakdown that jolts her awake to the longings of her soul, and propels her on a spiritual adventure to a remote, rugged island on the Canadian West Coast.
Here Sarah discovers a pagan world of magic, ritual and the Goddess, and the lost mysteries and beauty of her divine-feminine nature. What is lost can be refound. But Sarah must choose to step beyond the everyday, corporate world that she knows, and on to this new path of the Goddess, the Path of She. And by this choice, her life will be forever changed.
Let Sarah be your inspiration and guide.
Journey with Sarah as she dives deep into the healing powers of magic and the mysteries of Hecate, an ancient Goddess whose lost tales of She can return the life-giving ways of the Divine Feminine to the waking world.
Through Sarah’s tale, discover the lost parts of your own divine-feminine nature, and those awakening moments that can change your life forever. Like Sarah, the Goddess and your own soul will guide your way home to the things you hunger for: your wild, untamed, self-confident nature; sensuality, spiritual enlightentment and connection to the living Earth; the powers of magic and mystery; and the love and nurturance that are the essence of the Goddess.
The Tale of the Lost Daughter is calling to you. Come. It’s time. You are ready. You are ripe.
What Readers Are Saying:
I suggest everyone reads this book! First time read this book like the beautiful story it is. Then read it a second time slowly to start transforming your life. Kathleen
I’ve read Tale of the Lost Daughter two times, and will read it again. Sarah is me, or at least that’s how I felt as I followed her through her adventures. She is a businesswoman and a spiritual woman at the same time, and she learns to listen to her heart rather than just her head. I didn’t want to put the book down. Sherry
This is one of those books that makes the outside world disappear and you are completely immersed in the story, feeling every feeling as the story goes! Then suddenly you realize that sometime during the story, something so deep had been awoken in you, and you know, without a doubt, that you will never be the same! Jody
It is my belief that this book has come at a time when our planet is crying out for our love, and attention, and also the Divine Feminine is calling to us. It is time to heal our world, ourselves, and find a better way to move our world forward. The times of division, and hatred and greed are coming to an end. I highly recommend this to anyone who is feeling lost, disconnected, depressed, or who is searching for something elusive something you know you need but just cannot define. You may just find it here. Kelly
“Tale of the Lost Daughter” belongs alongside Starhawk’s “The Fifth Sacred Thing”, Marge Piercy’s “Woman on the Edge of Time”, and Alice Walker’s “Temple of My Familiar”. In a world aching for the sacred and a deeper connection to ourselves, community and our Earth, “Tale of the Lost Daughter” brings us an enchanted weaving of the universal story of the archetypal journey home. So too is it a beautifully crafted modern day myth of the return of the Sacred Feminine. Christina
Artwork by Brad Kunkle
When I sat down to write this article, I consulted Wikipedia’s glossary of spiritual terms and discovered God but no Goddess under “G”. Although one of my readers immediately added a definition of the Goddess, I was deeply impacted by this omission. It verified what I’ve always known: in our modern sensibilities, God is the fundamental construct for Divinity, and the Goddess doesn’t even make the list. That’s not to say that the Goddess isn’t recognized and honored by many, but collectively we don’t identify with or adhere to a feminine concept of the Divine.
You may ask yourself: why does this matter? What do we gain from a feminine concept of the Divine? I could answer these questions from an intellectual perspective, but that doesn’t sit well with me. It’s like talking about someone in the third-person when they’re standing right beside you.
Beneath our everyday existence is a vast realm of mystery that is the between-the-worlds home of those we have named God and Goddess. We humans have always known this and have given voice to our connection to these otherworld beings by conceiving and naming their qualities, powers and gifts through our mythic storytelling and spiritual and religious practices. But the Gods and Goddesses exist in their own right, independent of our human conceptions.
Let’s return to the questions of why the Goddess matters, and what we gain from a feminine conception of the Divine. But rather than me answering these questions, I will do my best to get out of the way and let the Goddess speak for Herself:
I am the shining light in your cells and the beating love in your heart. My ethos is one of creation, of life giving birth to and nurturing life. Your body and soul are woven of my sacred essence, and the material world is the outer expression of my presence.
Consider for a moment that there are two versions of the everyday: the status quo where you live mostly on autopilot, following your regular routines and the outer dictates of family, work and culture; and the sacred feminine where you live from your deep, beautiful Self outward, connected to your soul-based needs and desires, the rhythms of the natural world and your body, and the self-chosen demands of your outer life.
Artist: Amanda Sage
If you’re like most people, the status quo version best reflects your everyday reality. You may get tastes of the sacred feminine through your spiritual beliefs and practice, and in special circumstances like a weekend retreat. But to live your day to day from this ethos may seem impossible given the hectic demands of the modern world where practicality, not soul, reigns supreme.
The sacred feminine is the feminine face of divinity. She is the Goddess, the love- and life-centered ethos that infuses all of creation, and the sacred matter of your human body and of the living Earth. How does this more esoteric understanding of the sacred feminine translate into your everyday life? And how can you access Her presence on a daily basis?
Though there are infinite answers to these questions, here are four concrete ways you can begin to weave the sacred feminine into your daily life.
1. Listen to and care for your body.
Your body is sacred. It’s the living expression of the sacred feminine and the home of your shining spirit. There is deep intelligence in your flesh and bones that can guide you in what you need to be healthy, present, joyful and connected to the patterns and energies of your inner landscape and the outer world.
Eat tasty, healthy food. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Make time for play, pleasure, quiet and repose.
Pay attention and respond when your body speaks. Discomfort, illness, pleasure and ease, these are the ways your body lets you know its needs. Love and welcome your body’s messages, no matter their form, and let them guide your healing and self-care.
2. Open to the beauty and rhythms of Nature.
Whether you live in a city or the country, every day and each season Nature gifts you with its beauty and bounty. Fresh air, sunshine, moonlight, rainstorms, snow-brushed landscapes, blossoms, green-growing things, birdsong — these things are food for your body and soul, anchoring your material connection to this Earth, your home.
Turn your awareness to what’s happening outside your doorstep in the natural realm. Spend time in your favorite green space. Breathe in the earthy scents. Feel the kiss of the elements on your skin. Look up at the sky. Bear witness to the wild things around you. Heed your responses. What ignites your wonder and joy? What nourishes you? What gives you delight and discomfort?
Practice gratitude. Honor the gifts and miracles of Nature by expressing your thanks in words and deeds. The best gift you can give back is to walk lightly on this Earth by bringing more consciousness to your environmental footprint and reducing what you consume.
3. Believe in yourself and the gifts you have to offer.
The sacred feminine is immanent. She is everywhere and in everything. You’re a part of Her living form and manifest beauty, a miraculous spark of creation, just as you are. With your struggles and faults, this may feel like a stretch to you. But even the hard, messy parts of your life are reflections of your beauty and true potential. Where you find your wounding, you also find your beauty; both are part of your journey of healing and personal growth.
Seek out your beauty and gifts. Turn your gaze inward to your soul-based desires and dreams. Heed the parts of your outer life that give you joy, satisfaction and a sense of achievement. Ask those closest to you what are you best qualities and skills. These are the markers of your beauty and gifts. Name and own them.
Commit yourself to self-love, self-acceptance and compassion. Your life, with its challenges and imperfections, is the vehicle of your evolution in this lifetime. Embrace your beauty and wounding, and let these things guide your pathwork of self-empowerment and wholeness.
4. Bring the very best of your love and goodness to your encounters with others.
Love, from a sacred feminine perspective, is an energetic, magnetic imperative rather than an emotional state; it is the primal desire of life to seek out, create and nurture life. In the face of the widespread negativity in our human society, both in the greater world and our personal lives, we hunger for goodness, compassion and kindness. These very things reflect the best of your human nature and the primal love at the core of your being.
Realize that love and goodness are always options in your encounters with others. When faced with a negative or challenging situation, or when your judgments and worst instincts arise, stop, breathe deep, and ask yourself: what else is true in this situation? Where are the places that draw out your compassion for the other person? How can you tap into your love and goodness to navigate these tricky interpersonal waters?
Practice simple acts of goodness. Goodness can be a smile, a word of acknowledgement, a gift, a dinner, a helping hand, or any kind act that fits the individual and the moment. Drink in your acts of goodness. Feel their impact on yourself and the other person. Let these encounters mend and expand your heart and your capacity for love.Go Wherever Your Heart Leads You
The sacred feminine teaches us that all aspects of existence are interdependent and interwoven. On a practical level, this means change in one area of your life will naturally infuse and affect other areas. So start small and simple, and see where it leads you.
Name the daily practice you’re ready to follow. Make a commitment to this change, knowing that developing a new mindset and habit can be challenging. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, and what arises from within and outside of you to support or resist your new behaviors. Do your best and be patient and compassionate with yourself.
In these ways, you’re doing the extraordinary work of walking with the Goddess and finding that sweet spot where the sacred feminine naturally informs and guides your everyday existence.
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Long ago, we worshipped the Great Goddess, the Creatrix and the Dark One, the giver and the taker of the breath and sustenance of our mortal existence. Her ever-present love and life-giving ways, like shining silver threads, wove the tapestry of our human society, threads that were passed down from the Great Mother, to the priestesses and women leaders, and to the daughters who were to inherit the red cloak of feminine power.
So it was, for generation after generation, the silver threads of the Mother’s ways continued, shining and undiminished.
Yet nothing lasts forever and the seasons of humanity turn. As the sun overtakes the moon in the shifting of night into day, so the rule of men and their patriarchal Gods eclipsed the leadership of woman and the Great Goddess. Dominion and death overruled creation and the nurturance of life, and the silver threads of the Mother became tarnished and frayed.
Still, within this newer, distorted weaving, the silver threads remained visible for those with eyes to see and a heart to receive.
With each successive generation and in patriarchy’s quest for absolute rule and absolute suppression of the Mother’s ways, Her silver threads faded farther and farther from our human awareness. Fear and disdain replaced love and reverence.
There were no priestesses, no women leaders, and no daughters to pass on our sacred feminine lineage. Only the bravest of our ancestors, the witches and the healers and the wise women, dared to remember and speak of the remnants of the Mother’s silver threads, woven into the Old Religion of the Great Goddess. Then they too became a part of our disappearing herstory, tortured and murdered during the horrors of the Burning Times for the taint of association with She who must be purged from Her stubborn roots in the human psyche.
Yet nothing lasts forever and the seasons of humanity turn. The sun shares the sky with the moon, just as God shares this world with the Goddess, and a male ethos with that of the sacred feminine. One may eclipse the other for a time, but what was lost will be refound and balance will return.
We, the waking daughters and sons of the Great She, stir after lifetimes of a deadening sleep. Piece by broken piece, we remember Her in the shards of pottery, crumbled sanctuaries and fragments of sacred text that have weathered the ravages of time and persecution. Somehow these silver threads, though torn, tangled and disconnected from their original holy weaving, reach through the ages and whisper their secrets to our hungry hearts.
And all around us, Her silver threads shimmy and shine in the outpouring of life and splendor of this planet Earth, and in the mysteries that underlie our waking reality. While we banish Her to the shadowy recesses of our minds, still She walks among us, gifting us always with the abundance and beauty of the green-growing world. Still, we journey by Her side in our dreams and between-the-worlds magic, receiving Her teachings and guidance on our journey of soul.
In these turning times, we must begin again, collecting and weaving Her silver threads into a new tapestry of sacred texts and secular practices that return balance and Her goodness and love to our human psyche and society. While we mourn the destruction and desecration of the ancient weavings that were once the bedrock of our humanity, we must also remember that new times require a new weaving.
Each of us, individually and together, in our personal lives, families and communities, must collect and weave, collect and weave, the silver threads that are everywhere and in everything — in the laughter of children, the heat of our lover’s touch, the smile of a stranger, and the best impulses of our warm beating heart — in the crisp bite of an apple, the comforts of home and hearth in the dead of winter, the glorious scent of a summer rose, and the silver brush of moonlight on a sleeping landscape — in our dreams, intuitions, creative expression and spiritual gatherings, where the Mysteries congregate at our doorstep — and in our big and small choices and actions to right the injustices, environmental damage and human abuses of our troubled world.
In this essential work, we’re going to stir up the brittle, crusted-over places and twisted, tangled threads that hold our personal wounding, and the fears and nay-saying old stories that dig their heels into the status quo in resistance to our forward movement. We’ll come face to face with the worst of our collective, destructive impulses and the tumultuous, terrifying upheaval that mark the ending of one season of our humanity and the birth of the next. Yet we mustn’t waiver nor let these old stories and fears stand in the way of our sacred task of co-creating the new.
In all these things and so much more, She is with us, gathering up our smaller weavings into the greater tapestry that is the template of a better, kinder, more sustainable and loving world. And in this tapestry, we’ll find Her shining ancient threads, the tarnished silver strands when we lost our connection to Her sacred ways, and the new golden threads of our remembering and reclaiming the love and goodness that are Her most precious gifts to us.
I reach out my hand to Her. I reach out my hand to you. We have work to do. Let us begin.
Related Post: Our Collecting and Weaving Task: A Tapestry of Love
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