How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also If I am to be whole. C.G. Jung
Sometimes I wish my brain had a flip-top and I could lift the lid and just pour in all the wisdom of the ages. That, or a plug-in upload, Matrix-style.
I know, I know my brain would explode, my mind would be fried…
It’s just, sometimes, let’s face it, most of the time, when I go to write a blog post, I feel so fired up about the subject, and yet so awed and humbled by all that I don’t know. It’s almost enough to stop me from writing. Almost, but not quite.
My time is limited, as a working mum, running a small business, writing blogs, and studying online courses, my research is dillentantish at best. I know, I know, I could just do less and research one thing and not get fascinated by new aspects of my journey every week, but, pfffft… Have you met me?
This is the pile of books I’m trying to absorb by osmosis as I write…
As such, I find myself madly trying to absorb information and write and meditate on my subjects. I’m sure in time I’ll reflect back on this mess and chaos in bemusement, I hope I’ll be kind to myself for attempting all that I am, and remember that from chaos all things are born.
In fact, many of the dark mother goddesses, Sekhmet, Lilith, Hecate, and Kali were ‘born’ from variations of the concept/deity/state of Chaos. It is a force present at the conception of most ancient creation stories. Chaos is the great void, the un-manifest. All potential but no form. (Much like this post.)
So please accept my mental meanderings, they are definitely not the results of years of scholarly research and practice. They are the musings of a woman on fire.
A woman who has glimpsed her true nature and power. A woman who intends to waste no more time being small and meek and silent. A woman who is not afraid to get things wrong and make mistakes and ask obvious questions, or even write ill-conceived blog posts, if it opens a sacred door inside her and others. (Okay, well maybe she is sometimes afraid, but she’s doing it anyway.)
the way to create art is to burn and destroy ordinary concepts and to substitute them with new truths that run down from the top of the head and out of the heart. Charles Bukowski
So in my quest to understand the dark mother archetype, I plead to the goddesses for mercy, I mean no offence, my heart is pure. I want to know you better.
Chthonic “in, under, or beneath the earth”, from “earth,” The literal translation is ‘subterranean’. The translation of meaning discusses deities or spirits of the underworld, especially in Greek religion. The Greek word khthon is one of several for “earth”; it typically refers to the interior of the soil, rather than the living surface of the land (as Gaia or Ge does) or the land as territory (as khora (χώρα) does). It evokes at once abundance and the grave. Wikipedia
Chthonic. One of my most favourite words. That conglomerate of consonants sounds so dense and seductive. Like the earth herself. The wisdom that comes from deep, within the earth. We all come from the earth, from the raw materials that make all of life.
We are all mothers, creators. Even if we don’t reproduce actual humans, even if we don’t consciously create, every thought, breath and action is co-creating, contributing to the world.
And we are destroyers too. We bring death and destruction with our every breath, as our body shifts and transforms, cells die and are jettisoned to make way for new life.
Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction. Pablo Picasso
Why then do so many of us deny this aspect of humanity? And what effect is this denial having in the world?
The distinctions between the ideal attributes of the mother, and the attributes of the dark goddess seem, to me, to be a by-product of civilisation, of taming the natural cycles of life into nice, neat pigeon-holes. This delineation is certainly exaggerated in modern western culture, to the point where we whitewash, malign, or deny the dark mother archetype entirely.
Whatever is rejected from the self, appears in the world as an event. Carl Jung
Yes. It’s a repeat of the first picture, I know. Just to save you have to scroll to look at it again…
Look at Kali Ma, isn’t she sexy? Can you imagine thinking the Virgin Mary was sexy? How many hail Marys and eternal damnations would that invoke?
Many religions have completely separated the ideal of the ‘good’ mother from the real woman, who actually has sex, who must balance light and dark, who may be loving and nurturing but also ready to destroy and battle at the drop of a hat. The mother who has a libido, who is lusty, luscious, and lascivious, whose sexual energy pours forth from her innermost being.
And when I say mother, I think of her in the sense of the maiden-mother-crone archetype. She is indicative of a phase of the feminine psyche, not the direct result of bearing children as such, although those attributes may also come into it.
Kali is the goddess of empowerment, or shakti. It is said that after drinking the blood of Raktaveeja, Kali was so aroused by the battle that she could not stop her dance of destruction. The only way Shiva could stop her from destroying the whole universe was by lying down in her path.
In one version, as Kali stepped on his chest, he was in her way after all, she managed to arouse him enough to receive his seed and bring about his rebirth. In other versions he appears as a baby to arouse her maternal instincts and placate her.
Some say Shiva here represents the manifest, the stable. Kali comes along to destroy the status quo allowing change, transformation, regeneration. Kali is the creator of life, the destroyer of that which has served its purpose, and the re-creator of new life from the seeds of the old. Like a bushfire burning out old growth and triggering dormant seeds to grow.
Other interpretations read the scene as Kali and Shiva – the masculine and feminine energies – needing each other for balance. Gopi Krishna proposed that Kali standing on the dead Shiva symbolised the helplessness of a person undergoing the changing process (psychologically and physiologically) in the body when the Kundalini Shakti energy is awakened.
The urge to destroy is also a creative urge. Pablo Picasso
Mother and destroyer. Nurturer, life-giver, and the taker of life. How do we reconcile these extremes of the dark goddess?
Perhaps they are only extreme to the modern reader.
In ancient times the great mother birthed us, we took refuge in her womb-like caves, and then returned to her earth when we died. Life and death were not seen as distinct and separate things, life to be sought after and death to be avoided, they were part of the natural cycle.
The human body is not a thing or substance, given, but a continuous creation. The human body is an energy system which is never a complete structure; never static; is in perpetual inner self-construction and self-destruction; we destroy in order to make it new. Norman O. Brown
Many of these ancient goddesses were conceptualised as triple-goddesses, manifestations of the various aspects of the feminine life-cycle and attributes, usually in the form of the maiden-mother-crone archetypes.
I’ve been afraid of the dark. I have been raised to associated dark with evil. But that’s a dirty, rotten lie. We came from the dark of the womb and we return to the dark of the earth when we die.
And as I get older I am more fascinated with the dark goddess. Not satisfied at a soul level by just being a ‘good’ wife, mother, daughter. I feel compelled to investigate the full depth and breadth of my being. And I need to find a way to integrate and honour all aspects of being in a spirit of wholeness.
Life is fury, he’d thought. Fury — sexual, Oedipal, political, magical, brutal — drives us to our finest heights and coarsest depths. Out of furia comes creation, inspiration, originality, passion, but also violence, pain, pure unafraid destruction, the giving and receiving of blows from which we never recover. The Furies pursue us; Shiva dances his furious dance to create and also to destroy… This is what we are, what we civilize ourselves to disguise — the terrifying human animal in us, the exalted, transcendent, self-destructive, untramelled lord of creation. Salman Rushdie
Darkness can be beautiful, whilst excessive light can bleach out all nuance, shadows play with light to create the otherworld. It is only in the dark that we can see the spirit world, in the light there are too many distractions. In the dark our inner eye, our third eye, or ‘strong eye’ as the Australian aboriginals call it, can see with clarity.
As someone who has been conditioned to believe in the light, in goodness, it has been a challenge for me to acknowledge, let alone accept, my shadow aspects.
Yet as I spend time in a darkened room journeying by candlelight, dancing the dance of the base chakra, following the roots of trees into the moist, dark earth, dancing with spirit animals in caves, and sitting in quiet meditation in the dark, I have been pleasantly surprised to find deep solace and respite there.
Think of the taoist concept of yin and yang. The nature of change, constant interaction, balanced in an infinite manner due to its relative nature.
I know, I know, I’m drawing on a hotch-potch of cultural influences here. But my point is that all traditional cultures recognised the natural way of balancing the energies of dark and light. There is not judgement about what is ‘better’ merely the recognition that balance is essential to the flow of life.
When people see things as beautiful,
ugliness is created.
When people see things as good,
evil is created.
Being and non-being produce each other.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low oppose each other.
Fore and aft follow each other. Tao Te Ching
And as I research this blog, as I tried to find meditations and affirmations of embracing the darkness, I was not surprised to find a dearth of such things. There’s plenty of stuff about turning darkness and shadows into light, but what of embracing the dark and the shadows, of seeing what it has to teach us. Not so much of that…
If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth. Carl Sagan
I have been drawn to the images and stories of the dark goddesses; Sekmet, Kali, Morrígan, goddesses who revelled in blood and battle, and the fiery transformation of death.
In reading these myths and stories, it helps me to think of death, not only in the literal physical sense, but also in the sense of a dying to self. That process where we let go of old ideas, old versions of our self, to be transformed into something more vital, more alive with life-force.
In my limited experience with these goddesses, that is the energy they bring. It’s a no holes-barred challenge, are you ready to face your fears, to grow, to let go of life’s detritus, to battle the forces of stasis and entropy?
We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come. Joseph Campbell
A few moons ago a friend asked me to assist in a ritual to The Morrígan. I was a little wary, I mean I’m a white-lighter from way back, give me Brigid or Danu any day, but The Morrígan, she scares me. The ritual was both powerful and enlightening (en-darkening?) for me. I saw that my fear came from the suppression of the very qualities The Morrighan evokes.
The Morrígan is a goddess of battle, strife, and sovereignty. The Irish sidhe (varieties of spirits) were shape shifters. Morrígan sometimes appears in the form of a crow, flying above warriors, and in the Ulster Cycle – one of the main stories that inform Celtic mythology – she also takes the forms of an eel, a wolf, and a cow. She is generally considered a war deity, although her association with a cow also suggests a role connected with the land.
She is often depicted as a trio of goddesses, all sisters, although the names vary, most commonly used are Badb, Macha and Nemain, or Badb, Macha and Anand.
In the Irish tradition, Miranda Green write that there is a very direct relationship between goddesses, sovereignty, and warfare, and that warfare and fertility seem closely aligned, suggesting a concept of giving and taking, birth and death and “the opening and closing of life.”
Attending a Shaktipat ceremony last week, where we performed powerful pranayama (breathing) exercises, followed by an awakening of the kundalini energy, I found myself experiencing a powerful rising of energy from my belly, in a roomful of people who sounded as if they were having spontaneous orgasms! The energy was electrified with primal and ecstatic cries. I have never experienced anything like it, well, maybe once, but we won’t go there right now.
There is a time in my life where this would have completely freaked me out. However my chakra work allowed me to ride these waves of energy, and allow my own waves to undulate with snake-like grace through my energy body. It was truly blissful.
Since then, and with the constant preparation for the base chakra and sacral chakra dances for my Chakradance classes, I have been investigating the ‘belly’ as a primal and vital feminine energy centre.
The belly contains our lower three chakras. The base, our instinctual and primal centre, the sacral our sensual and emotional centre and the solar plexus, our centre of will and power.
Of course, wanting to extend and expand on this experience, I have been reading about the belly, belly-dance, breath work, and tantric exercises. The belly is the birthplace of the body, but also our connection to the earth, to our sensual natures and to our powerful warrior natures.
By awakening the kundalini energy, we can experience flow through these chakras, uniting the earthy, dark, sensuality and fire of the lower chakras with the airy, light and etheric nature of the upper chakras. We can balance our dark and light energy and nature.
Guided cave meditation – take a journey into a cave and see who you meet there…
Affirmations and reflections for embracing the dark goddess
Contemplate the Dark moon, the Great void, places of potential, of creative intention, not so much nothingness, but the space from which all creation comes.
See the darkness as a space of infinite possibilities. Visualise a force that creates, that transforms, and re-creates in a continuous cycle.
Imagine the darkness of a cave, of the womb, as a sacred space to explore hidden aspects of yourself.
What part of self am I denying?
What burdens am I carrying?
What is weighing me down?
What can be burnt or destroyed?
What detritus is lurking in my heart?
Where am I stuck?
What is stopping me from living out loud?
I embrace the darkness within
I am unafraid to bear witness to my shadow self
I honour my pain, my grief, my scars
I am in the natural cycle of death and rebirth
I release all that is no longer needed to the fire of transformation
I honour my sensual, sexual, animal self
More than any other goddess, Kali has the power to free you from what keeps you stuck…. She appears fearsome to those who fear letting go of their veils, but when we’re open to her power, she is the mother, the teacher, the Lover. Sally Kempton