Two dreams, thirty years apart — a modern Goddess tale for these times.
I’m in my mid-twenties, with a business degree and a promising career in a blue chip company. My desires are purely materialistic — I want power and success in a man’s world. I don’t know any better, and I’ve no idea how immensely unhappy I am.
I have a dream that I don’t remember until many years later, yet my life is changed forever.
It’s a Winter Solstice eve, in the darkest hours of the night. Outside my apartment window, the world nestles down under a crystalline blanket of fresh-fallen snow. I dream of a silver shining path, as if hewn of moonlight, that leads me down, down, down to Hecate’s realm — the Goddess who is the Mistress of the crossroads, and guardian of our human destiny.
Deep in the belly of the Earth, Hecate directs me to Her magic cauldron and shows me the raw, naked truth of my life story — the beauty and the wounding — all that I’ve forgotten and denied, the very things I’ve been running hard from, and undreamed of possibilities sleeping just below the veneer of my waking reality.
Hecate gifts me with this crossroads moment, with my life laid bare before me, and asks me to choose how I will live for the rest of my days. I make a vow: to wake up, to remember, and to find my way home to my Self, my womanhood, and Her sacred ways.
By my choice, my destiny is woven.
Now, thirty years later, I’m lost no more. I’ve found my way home to my Self and the Goddess. I live nestled in the forest on a magical island with my beloved family and community, writing and teaching the life-changing ways of the Goddess that are now as natural to me as breathing.
I have another dream, within days of co-priestessing a community Samhain ritual to honor the beloved dead and the blessed newborn.
The same message — one that seems simplistic and naïve at a quick glance — comes to me over and over again: to mend our soul and heal our world, we need only show up to the love that is Goddess, that is life, that is here, now, all around and within us.
This message first came to me in a group trance led by Starhawk at a spiritual retreat focused on being a positive agent of change in these turbulent, evolutionary times:
Our intention for the trance is to seek guidance from the Mysteries on how to shift the destructive ways of humanity. A sense of urgency and despair fuels our magic. The human world is a mess. We are destroying the planet. And time is running out.
As we close our eyes and begin to visualize together, someone suggests we head to the East, the direction of new beginnings. A path appears that leads to a broken-down stone castle, overrun with vines and weeds. People see and name what appears to them in this desolate place.
But I see only one thing: a voluptuous, naked Goddess floats above the ruins, on Her back, Her legs spread wide, with a river of golden honey flowing from Her yoni — down through the broken castle, down the path we have traveled, and out into the waking world. The image is so unexpected and outrageous that I have to push myself to share with the group.
I have no idea what this vision means. There’s a sense of disappointment with some group members. When you’re looking for practical, concrete spiritual guidance, what do you do with a larger-than-life, honey-gifting yoni?
Yet the peace and grace in this vision stays with me — a seed of wisdom, of power, of hope, of ease — gestating in the secret depths of my inner landscape.Waking to Her Golden Love
Fast-forward several years, and many powerful magical and life experiences later — the vision returns to me, and this time I get it:
I’ll be totally honest with you; I was a reluctant recruit to the notions that men too are wounded by our patriarchal world and the negation of the feminine aspects of our human nature, and that they need women’s empathy and support in their healing.
Then one day, my best female friend challenged me. I’d been sharing with her my exploration of the Goddess, the sacred feminine and magic, and my recent healing work with my mother and feminine nature. She stopped me midstream and asked, “What about men and their wounding, Karen? How are you going to help them heal?”
My response was something along the lines of, “Not my problem. Let them figure it out on their own.”
Not long afterwards, the Goddess came to me in a dream and gave me my marching orders, “I want my Beloved back.” And from there, many dreams and healing moments later, I realized that the tear in the outside culture between men and women was inside of me. And that I could only mend this tear, inner and outer, by extending the same loving concern and compassion for the wounding and pain of men as I did for myself and for my women kin.
Man or woman, gay, trans or straight, victim or privileged, we’re all born into a misogynist world that force feeds and constrains us within narrow, damaging male and female stereotypes and roles. For some the harm is direct and brutal, for others it’s more subtle and subtext, and none of us can escape the ever-present cultural negation of women’s ways, values and spirituality, and the mirror distortion and limitation of men and masculinity.Your Gendered Tear
In this exercise, I invite you to explore the gendered tear inside of you, but gently so.
This week marks the two year anniversary of the UN’s HeForShe Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality. HeForShe invites men to join and support women in the fight for women’s equality and strives to reframe feminism from its man-hating stigma to a movement that seeks to benefit men and women alike by embracing the feminine side of our humanity.
My soul responds to this initiative and its mandate with a big yes! In the many seasons of my life — from my academic studies of feminism, gender issues and Goddess theology, my work as a gender equity consultant, my perilous healing journey with my own woman’s story in a misogynist world, my travels with the Goddess into the mysteries of the sacred feminine, and my Path of She writings — I’ve been on the trail of the lost powers and ways of the feminine elements of our humanity.
In my journey, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: what ails humanity, men and women alike, is the degradation and repression of the feminine half our nature that holds not only our nurturing and emotive capacities, but also our anchor in Mother/matter: our bodies, the natural world and the mysteries of the Divine feminine.
I would add that we women have to reach back, SheForHe, so we can heal our world together.Walking in the Other’s Shoes
The saying goes that we can’t understand another person until we walk a mile in his/her shoes. This most definitely holds true in the case of men and women. Only by actively increasing our awareness of the other gender can we begin to understand the world through their eyes and experiences.
A circle of candlelit faces gather around the center altar at a community ritual. We each speak our vows to the Goddess. I say simply, “I vow to be myself; to show up naked and unafraid.”
The path that led me to this vow began after a wake-up call many years ago. I was in my mid-twenties, totally lost in the mainstream culture, with a business education and a corporate career, living a material, achievement-driven life that neither fed my soul nor gave me joy.
My wake-up call was not gentle: a collision on a ski hill that fractured my skull and cracked my world open. I woke up four days later with a facial palsy that severely disfigured the right side of my face. For the next eight months, I found myself on the fringe, exposed to the ugly underbelly of our social order reserved for those deemed unworthy and undesirable; a place where strangers felt at liberty to cruelly ridicule, harass and repulse me.
As odd as this may seem, the experience was tremendously freeing and empowering. I had been roughly pushed out of the safe world that I knew into a harsh and abusive one, and I found that I was unafraid and undiminished. The stripping away of my outer beauty made me consciously aware of my inner beauty and strength, and of the profound circle of love and support of my family and friends.
My travels with the Goddess had begun. Like the tales of Inanna and Persephone, my awakening soul led me inward and downward, into the mysteries that underlie everyday reality and the shadowy recesses of my psyche. Layer by layer, I was stripped bare of my waking world masks, conditioning and wounding. Change came, constant and unrelenting. Anything that stood between me and my soul-based essence, what I came to know as my Deep Self, had to go.