Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Mirabai Starr on Art and the Need for Fallow Time

Fallow Time
by Mirabai Starr
Tuesday, November 12, 2019

When speaking of art, we most often think of the finished product whether it be a painting, a drawing, a performance, a sculpture, a poem, or another expression of creativity. Today, I invite you to consider the evolving process of creation as described by my friend Mirabai Starr who believes, as I do, that each of has the capacity to offer something new to the world. It does not come quickly or easily, but few things of any depth or value ever do. Mirabai writes:
A miraculous event unfolds when we throw the lead of our personal story into the transformative flames of creativity. Our hardship is transmuted into something golden. With that gold we heal ourselves and redeem the world. As with any spiritual practice, this creative alchemy requires a leap of faith. When we show up to make art, we need to first get still enough to hear what wants to be expressed through us, and then we need to step out of the way and let it. We must be willing to abide in a space of not knowing before we can settle into knowing. Such a space is sacred. It is liminal, and it’s numinous. It is frightening and enlivening. It demands no less than everything, and it gives back tenfold.
There is a vital connection between creativity and mysticism. To engage with the creative impulse is to agree to take a voyage into the heart of the Mystery. Creativity bypasses the discursive mind and delivers us to the source of our being. When we allow ourselves to be a conduit for creative energy, we experience direct apprehension of that energy. We become a channel for grace. To make art is to make love with the sacred. It is a naked encounter, authentic and risky, vulnerable and erotically charged.
The muse rarely behaves the way we would like her to, and yet every artist knows she cannot be controlled. Artistic self-expression necessitates periods of quietude in which it appears that nothing is happening. Like a tree in winter whose roots are doing important work deep inside the dark earth, the creative process needs fallow time. We have to incubate inspiration. We need empty spaces for musing and preparing, experimenting and reflecting. Society does not value its artists, partly because of the apparent lack of productivity that comes with the creative life. This societal emphasis on goods and services is an artifact of the male drive to erect and protect, to engineer and execute, to produce and control. Art begins with receptivity. Every artist, in a way, is feminine, just as every artist is a mystic. And a political creature. Making art can be a subversive act, an act of resistance against the deadening lure of consumption, an act of unbridled peacemaking disguised as a poem or a song or an abstract rendering of an aspen leaf swirling in a stream. 
Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.
Article from Richard Rohr and Center for Action and Contemplation,
 Nov. 12, 2019.  

Adapted from Mirabai Starr, Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics (Sounds True: 2019) 159-160.
Image credit: Marion Greenwood (standing in front of mural painted for the WPA Federal Art Project, detail), Archives of American Art, Washington, DC, June 4, 1940. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

"Aphrodite in Brooklyn and Other Mythic Voices" - Illustrated Collection of Poems 1970 - 2010

I stopped writing poetry somewhere in my late 50's (and as I write this, I am recently entered into my 7th decade). I still keep a Blog, and I still make art..........but I don't know where the Muse of poetry went, it seems She abandoned me somewhere along the road. So this is the trail of my poetry, all I have really, from the early 1970's to the last poems.

I find these poems are touchstones along the path, lucid and sometimes numinous artifacts that, by touching them again, enable me to renew my acquaintance with those luminous moments of insight, love, loss, and above all, the sheer beauty of being alive. Beyond that, there is a pattern, a woven pentimento that glitters  beneath each seeming surface, a pattern that enfolds me from young adulthood to old age and belongs to all and none of those "identities". There is a voice here  I recognize as uniquely my own. Archiving these poems in this little collection, even better, having the pleasure of illustrating them............. has allowed me to hear that voice again.

I believe that it is important to cherish, archive, and share those moments, those touchstones, in whatever form they may be expressed, be it storytelling, poetry, visual arts, music.............. they are a Gift to the world we each can make, uniquely rising from each unique life.  I have no extended family now, no parents or siblings or children or grandchildren who would value my work or thoughts, so I make this Collection for myself, and as a Gift or Offering to any of my friends who happen to like poetry, and to any fellow Wayfarer who may chance upon it as well. If you find a resonance here with your own voice, I am pleased indeed.


Love is Saraswati's river
flowing through our lands.

She will feed the rice fields,
She will accept our woven offerings.
She will bear our ashes
and the fires of Kintamani
to the sea.

she neither takes nor gives:

we impose these significances
upon the flowers we cast in her.

From birth to death,
Saraswati's river sustains us to the sea.


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Samhain 2019

I'm getting ready for my annual "Feast of Samhain", and as I do I remember all of those I've loved, all the people who are invited in spirit to the Feast, all the people who have given me my life and its experiences, and all those, whose names are lost yet live inside our blood and our genes, all of those who came before us to bring us here, in this time, in this moment.   

 Walking, I am listening.   Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the fruit of the love and labor of  thousands.

-Linda Hogan*

As always,  I grouse at the loss of  the sanctity of "Hallowed Eve" replaced with scary ghosts - although, costume balls and trick or treating is something I remember with a lot of affection.  But.... Witches on brooms!  Hah!  The meaning of the broom was an ancient folk tradition of "sweeping away the Bad", sweeping out of the house the bad energies, evil spirits, and illness.  And the ghosts...........well, that's what the Feast, like Dia de los Muertos, made very memorable Tucson's All Souls Procession, is all about:  inviting the Beloved Dead to the party, setting the place of honor at the head of the table for them, drinking their favorite wine and preparing their favorite dishes, and lovingly telling their stories, jokes, and singing their songs. Mexicans often set up their celebrations in graveyards.

Among those I remember are my mother, father, grandparents,  my brother Glenn, and my two oldest friends, Joanna Brouk the composer and Felicia Miller, poet and writer.  I so often think of them wondering how it's possible I have out lived them.   Abby Willowroot, Priestess of the Goddess and creator of the Goddess 2000 Project, and Jeff Rosenbaum, a prime creator of the Starwood Festival and A.C.E.  Nanci Nelson, a friend in a time of need, and Norman Rogers, a faithless yet memorable lover. 

And my good friend Charlie Spillar, who left us just this month.  And so many more...............Thank you, all, for gracing my life.  Come to the Feast all!

"The Sixth Extinction"
And I remember all of those fellow Beings who are leaving and have been lost to us, the Extinct and Vanishing Species, in this terrible time of loss, the Sixth Extinction.  May they not be forgotten.  The litany is long, and grows longer every day.

I always leave Pomegranates for Persephone on my Alter.  Every  year this time I remember a poem I wrote for Persephone that I still love, that is perhaps about the Feast of Samhain as well.  


When all the names are gone
when there is nothing left
for memory to feed upon
November hides
an unborn  promise.

All the wastes of love and time
Become, at last, alchemy.
To ferment their healing, here
in these nigrado depths,
becoming  albedo,
the medicine.

    I offer now bread, red fruit, red wine.
    To life.

To the harvest that was,
the  kisses of summer past
fragrant  as  petals on the wind,
 to the poet and the bard, the mother  and husband,
laughter of children, the confidence
of  bountiful fortune.

And to those outcast as well -
the inarticulate, the lost,  the hungry  and fallen.
To every transparent lover
wandering these bardos in their solitude.

To age and youth, light and dark,
Tenderly entwined in their embrace:

Come to the table, all.

Here is a rich conversation
harvested from the last living garden.
A dappled pear, an apple, a ripe pomegranate
A butterfly in its chrysalis, sleeping.

The slow rebirth of color
    deep in the depths of this dream.

The sundial will circle once more,
The wheat has new life in it yet.

    The blessing will be given.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

"Circles" by Black Elk

You have
noticed that everything
an Indian does is in a circle, and that
is because the Power of the World always
works in circles, and everything tries to be round. In
the old days when we were a strong and happy people, all
our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation, and
as long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished. The
flowering tree was the living center of the hoop and the circle of the
four  quarters nourished it.  The east gave peace and light,   the south
gave warmth, the west gave rain, and the north with its cold and mighty
wind gave strength and endurance. Everything the Power of the World does
is in a circle. The sky is round and I have heard that the Earth is round like a
ball,   and so are all the stars.   The wind in its greatest power whirls.  Birds
make their nests in circles. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a
circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons
form a great Circle in their changing, and always come back again
to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood
to childhood, and so is everything where Power moves. Our
teepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were
always set in a circle, the nation's hoop, a nest of
many nests, where the Great Spirit meant
for us to hatch our children.
----Black Elk

Bird's Nest 
by Keith Taylor

Robert Kohler and Partnership With Mother Earth

A few years ago  I posted an article by Robert Koehler titled "Calling All Pagans - Your Mother Earth Needs You" and wrote to the author in appreciation for his article.  I was surprised when he wrote back, and we had an exchange of ideas.  I felt like revisiting the article in my Blog today.


Dominion! * Nature belongs to us, to suck dry and toss away. And thus we moved out of the circle of life and became its conquerors, an attitude at the core of the Agricultural Revolution and the rise of civilization. The momentum of this attitude is still driving us. We don’t know how to stop, even though most people now grasp that we’re wrecking the environmental commons that sustains life.

Addressing the verse and the idea of “dominion,” Phil Miller, a minister, wrote: “Some of us understand that word to mean ‘stewardship’ or ‘responsibility.’” And David Cameron wrote: “One has to wonder what would have ensued had the translation said  ‘stewardship’ rather than ‘dominion’? Almost incomprehensible that our future and the future of so many and so much may have hinged on that one word.”

If in one of the most defining religious-political texts of the human species we’d been charged with stewardship of the natural world, not some sort of adolescent, consequence-free control over it, what sort of spiritual understanding would have evolved over the millennia? What sort of technology? What would our civilizations look like if we believed in the depths of our beings that they were not distinct from but part of nature? What if, instead of organizing ourselves around the concept that we have enemies to subdue — “survival of the fittest” — we explored the complexity of our connectedness to one another and the whole of creation, even when the connections were barely visible?

What I am coming to learn, as I ask such questions, is that this understanding is already vibrantly present in the collective human consciousness, drowned out as it may be by the special interests that run our world. These interests, which serve war and money, have belittled complex understanding as “paganism” and colonized, enslaved and slaughtered its primary keepers: the tribal and indigenous people of the world. 
Listen to the words of Rupert Ross, from his remarkable book Returning to the Teachings, as he describes his dawning understanding of the aboriginal culture of northern Ontario: 

 “The word ‘connecting’ leapt at me. It captured not only the dynamics I imagined in that room, but also the key feature of all the traditional teachings I had been exposed to thus far. Until then, I had somehow missed it. It involved a double obligation, requiring first that you learn to see all things as interconnected and second that you dedicate yourself to connecting yourself, in respectful and caring ways, to everything around you, at every instant, in every activity.“. . . (Children) had to learn to see themselves not as separate, individual beings but as active participants in webs of complex interdependencies with the animals, the plants, the earth and the waters.”

Indeed, Ross and many others have pointed out that indigenous science has always known what Western science has only recently relearned: that the universe is energy and dynamic flux, that there’s no such thing as objectivity and separation. 

“Like Western science, indigenous science relies upon direct observation for forecasting and generating predictions,” according to the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network. “. . . Unlike Western science, the data from indigenous science are not used to control the forces of nature; instead, tell us the ways and the means of accommodating nature.”   Among other critical distinctions, according to the website: “All of nature is considered to be intelligent and alive, thus an active research partner.”

 I note these ideas not to throw rocks around in some “debate” about who’s right, but to open up the national and global conversation about who we are. We can let these ideas sit in our imaginations. What might stewardship of nature mean if we regarded the relationship as a partnership? What might a celebration of Earth Day (April 22) look like?

“We need to re-myth culture, to re-sanctify nature before it’s too late,” Lauren Raine (“a longtime advocate and practitioner of neo-pagan theology and resident artist for Cherry Hill Seminary, “the only accredited Pagan seminary in the U.S”) wrote to me last week.  “Earth-based spirituality is to be found in all cultures, including many rich traditions from Europe and Great Britain. The evolution of our strange, life-denying religious backdrop has much to do with the evolution of patriarchal culture and values. We need to get rid of the war gods, and return . . . to honoring the Mother.

We also need to put our lives on the line, or at least honor those who do. One of the many responses I got to last week’s column was from environmental activist Jessica Clark, who faces jail time for sitting in a tree last fall. 
In September, she and other members of the Michiana Coalition Against Tar Sands, or MICATS, temporarily blocked Enbridge Inc.’s tar sands pipeline expansion through Michigan. This was an expansion of the same pipeline that ruptured in 2010, badly polluting the Kalamazoo River; it was the largest and costliest inland oil spill in history. 

One night the protesters climbed trees at the construction site in central Michigan and anchored their platform to the company’s construction equipment. If the ropes had been moved, the protesters’ platform would have tipped, dropping them 50 feet to the ground. That didn’t happen, but they were arrested and convicted of trespassing — for the crime of stewardship. It’s the price of growing up.

 Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available.  V
isit his website at www.commonwonders.com.

*My bold.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Hildegard Von Bingham at Samhain...........

Years ago  I performed a ritual invocation at Samhain with this haunting, visionary rendition of Hildegard Von Bingham's  "O Successores Fortissimi Leonis" by the group Vox, recorded in the early 1990's.  The invocation was done at my "Rites of Passage" Gallery in Berkeley, California, in honor of the approach of Samhain, the last harvest festival, the time to homor the Beloved Dead, and also the time when "the veils between the Worlds are thin".  The Invocatioin was done with 4 women in a circle,  turning the circle with gestures of offering.  It was one of the most beautiful performances I've done, well remembered.

I recently  played the piece again and was delighted to find it had been uploaded on UTube.  Von Bingham's vision and prayers reach across the ages to touch me again, on the unimaginable Internet.  I just felt like sharing it again, here.

From "The Dinner Party" by Judy Chicago

Hildegard von Bingen.jpg
Illumination from the Liber Scivias 
showing Hildegard  receiving a vision
 and dictating to her scribe and secretary

"Hildegarde of Bingen, also known as St. Hildegard and the Sybil of the Rhine, was an enormously influential and spiritual woman, who paved the way for other women to succeed in a number of fields from theology to music. She was a mystic writer, who completed three books of her visions. During a time when members of the Catholic Church accorded women little respect, Hildegarde was consulted by bishops and consorted with the Pope, exerting influence over them.

She wrote on topics ranging from philosophy to natural healing with a critical expertise praised by both German advice-seekers and the highest-ranking figure in the Church, Pope Eugenius III. An esteemed advocate for scientific research, Hildegarde was one of the earliest promoters of the use of herbal medicine to treat ailments. She wrote several books on medicine, including Physica, circa 1150, which was primarily concerned with the use of herbs in medicinal treatment.
Hildegarde may be best known as a composer. 

Stemming from the traditional incantations of Church music, Hildegarde’s compositions took the form of a single chant-like, melodic line. These compositions are called antiphons and are a single line of music sung before and after a psalm. Hildegarde combined all of her music into a cycle called Symphonia Armonie Celestium Revelationum, circa 1151, orThe Symphony of the Harmony of the Heavenly Revelations, which reflects her belief that music was the highest praise to God.

Hildegarde herself created a drawing, or illumination, in her manuscript Scivias (Know the Ways), circa 1140–50, of her defining vision, in which the great span of the universe revealed itself to her in a trance as “round and shadowy…pointed at the top, like an egg…its outermost layer of a bright fire.”**

** "The Dinner Party" by Judy Chicago, Brooklyn Museum of Art   https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/dinner_party/place_settings/hildegarde_of_bingen

Saturday, October 12, 2019



Santa Tierra, Pachamama, giver of beauties
gentle as raindrops or the claws of tigers,
red as the eyes of ancient tortoises,
redolent as coffees in the damp cool night,
round as ferns glowing green in dark forest,
thunderous as moth wings, rainbows, still pools…

You crack open our hearts
with feather-soft fingers,
flood us loose from our fears with such force
we can only be healed of our bitter tears.

we feed you, Pachamama,
our shell shards and offerings,
nestle down in your warm sands
to nurture our new becoming
the whispering lullabies of Mama Cocha.

we dream lavender and roses, 

sunlight fluttering on leaves,
lightning rippling on violet hills.
we wrap our roots deep in your fiery heart,
open owl eyes within your dark womb,
to radiant crystals, gushing fountains,
sweet-grass and sage, swift merlins, yellow lotus,
the crawling glory of beetles.

You are blood and bone of all, Nuestra Mama,
birther and healer, bringer of death,
we cherish you, Nuestra Amada,
as saguaro cherishes water,
as aspen cherishes sunlight,
as the dying cherish mercy;

and we bless you, Sagrada Mama,
in our hearts, our words, our deeds;
we aid your precious children,
and we grow your sacred seeds.

~Leslie Morris Britt ©2009

 Judy Chicago "The Birth Project"

We have a beautiful mother
Her hills
are buffaloes
Her buffaloes

We have a beautiful
Her oceans
are wombs
Her wombs

We have a beautiful
Her teeth
the white stones
at the edge
of the water
the summer
her plentiful

We have a beautiful
Her green lap
Her brown embrace
Her blue body
everything we know.

Alice Walker

Friday, September 27, 2019

Endarkenment: The Dark Goddess in Art and Myth

It's moving toward the dark time of the year, and I pulled out this article from 2015 to look at again.  I've been considering what  kind of opportunities for self and cultural growth "going into the Dark" might mean.  One rather poetic thought was considering the "dark matter" that is believed to be the backdrop of the universe, the "Dark Mother/Matter".  So it could be said that "endarkenment" is  a form of going home.  This was a talk I gave at the Claremont School of Theology for the Pagan Studies Conference, and I still like it......

The Dark Goddess in Art and Myth

Presented at the Pagan Studies Conference,
 Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, California 2015 

Because of the limited time for this presentation, I would like to concentrate primarily on two "Dark Goddesses" that occupy a profound place in the developmental mythos of Western culture, both in the past and as an underlying template within the present as well.  They are Hecate, the Greek Goddess of the  underground and of the Crossroads, and Lilith, the Biblical first wife of Adam.
“Hecate” by William Blake

Here is Hecate, the Crone or Old Age aspect of the ancient Triple Goddess in her underworld, with the other aspects of the Triple Goddess behind her, holding, perhaps, the book of fate, painted by the English visionary William Blake.  To me, this painting also suggests the prehistoric painted caves of the Paleolithic underworld”, which archeologist Marija Gimbutas and her colleagues believed represented the underworld womb of the primal Great Mother. Although I am sure it was not his intention, still, the animals Blake includes in his underworld could be imagined as including those vibrant prehistoric creatures those ancient artists and hunters painted, deep within the earth.  It is very possible that they did so to symbolically and ritualistically incubate, within the womb/tomb of the cavenew re-birth in the spring. 

This idea may be related to the fact that, although there are many magnificent paintings of animals and birds in the caves of Lascaux and Chauvet in France, the earliest known painted (as opposed to sculpted) representation of a human being is the truncated vulva form found deep within the caves at Chauvet-Pont d'Arc in FranceIt has been determined that this is among the earliest of the paintings in the site, and the bull form was apparently painted above the original painting at a later date. The paintings at Chauvet are from 28 to 32 thousand years old, and these magnificent recently discovered caves were the subject of an award winning documentary in 2011"Cave of Forgotten Dreams"by Werner Herzog. 

Perhaps the first, and last, Dark Goddess is thus Gaia, Anima Mundi, the Great Mother Earth.  Eco-feminist and art historian Gloria Orenstein, in speaking of a theology of Endarkenmentcommented that it is:

“bonding with the Earth and the invisible to reestablish our experience of interconnectedness with all things, phenomenal and spiritual, that make up the totality of our life in our cosmos. Eco-feminist arts do not maintain that analytical, rational knowledge is superior to other forms of knowing. They honor Gaia’s Earth intelligence and the stored memories of her plants, rocks, soil, and creatures."

The dark is the place of creative becoming and unbecoming, the "dark matter" (Dark Mater) from which beginnings form and to which endings go, the serpentine, cyclical, circular intelligence of nature.  Could the “dark matter” physicists theorize is the ultimate backdrop to the creative potential of the universe, be thus symbolized as the cosmic womb of the Great Mother, incubating and birthing galaxies, particles, stars and planets?

 The dark, which is symbolized by caves, a hidden underground realm, and night, is the realm of the primordial Dark Goddesses that occur throughout human mythologies.  Before the advent of patriarchal monotheism in Western culture there were many dark goddesses, often also associated with the Moon, weaving, fate, oracular powers, and of course death and rebirth.  And snakes - everywhere one encounters the sacred, spiraling symbol of the serpent, which represents a seasonal cosmology that dies and is reborn - because the snake continually sheds its skin.  Among such Goddesses are found Hella, Nordic underworld Goddess, the Norns or fates, Persephone, Nyx, Spider Woman when she leads each age through the birth Kiva, Dewi Sri, Rangda, and the Inuit Sedna, to name just a few.

In earthly terms, they are the composters of souls. "Compost" is another, organic word for the "Transmutation" that goes on within the depths of the soil of our planet, wherein the "gold" of renewed  fertile life is distilled from rotting garbage. 

Composting is the alchemy of life.  

Who is the Dark Goddess as a psychological entity?  In Fire of the Goddess by Katalin Koda, she writes that: 
"The feminine qualities of darkness, moistness, birth, and blood symbolize the dark mother and our inner Initiate……When we face our shadow, we are initiated into our deepest powers. We may be afraid of these parts; these howling, undernourished, repressed, and rage-filled aspects of ourselves that demand to be heard, but which we cannot bear to face." 
Working with the shadow means we are mining that internal psychic darkness for the evolutionary jewels that reside in the caves, and there are mythological stories that symbolize that quest and passage to wholeness. Among the shadow Goddesses” that have been re-discovered, Ereshkigal, the Dark Twin sister of the Sumerian Great Goddess Inanna is one of the most ancient recorded myths about the eternal transmutation of life. It is also a potent tale of the journey into the unconscious to seek healing and wholeness. 

The beautiful and powerful Queen Inanna must descend into the dark underworld realm of Ereshkigal, to encounter and heal the rift with the sorrowing and angry Queen of the Underworld.  In order to do so she must give up at each of 7 gates as she descends one of her powers, arriving at last naked and utterly divested of all her symbols of rank and authority - her tokens of life. Like the story of Persephone, the Descent of Inanna may also be seen as about the integration of dark and light aspects of self that are necessary to achieve mature wholeness and empowerment, just as in the life of the earth all things die and them return.  As playwright Elizabeth Fuller commented in a 2002 interview about her 2001 play “The Descent of Inanna”: 
"Persephone's myth is about moving into a new state of being.  All the soul riches, the knowledge, the art, everything was running down the drain into Hades and it stayed there.  It stopped circulating.  This was the myth of Inanna as well; everything went down to Ereshkigal, the keeper of the Underworld, and got stuck there in the universal unconscious.  Ereshkigal, the mind of the underworld, was on strike - she refused to process, which could be said of our collective predicament today.  We can look at the stories of Persephone and Inanna and see that they are pathfinders.  Pathfinders to the unconscious.  That's a very important myth for our time."

Hecate is often shown with two torches that guide the maiden Kore out of Hades, to become the creative force of spring, the mature Persephone. 

One torch is the past, the other the future.  In that liminal place at the crossroads of time stands Hecate, the Goddess of the Crossroads, guide through the underworld.  She is often identified with the moon as well, particularly the dark moon. 

One of my favorite contemporary images of Hecate is by Lydia Ruhle, whose Goddess Banners travelled to conferences throughout the world.   Notice the ever ubiquitous snake, found throughout the artwork in this presentation.   While the snake is usually shown in the hand of Demeter, here Lydia has placed the snakes at the foot of Hecate, which to me represent the serpentine energies of nature, the Earth, the cycles of life/death/life.  Hecate's Wheel also represents this continual cycling and reforming of life, the three aspects of the Goddess represented by the spokes of the wheel.   

Contemporary artist Hrana Janto's Hecate stands at the crossroads with Cerebus, the three headed dog, holding the snake entwined staff and with a halo that represents the dark of the moon. Below is also shown a symbol called “Hecate’s Wheel”, which is associated with the Goddess, and the three aspects  or Trinity represented by Hecate/Demeter/Persephone. 

In 2002 an actress and ritualist named Damira Norris chose to invoke Hecate as a performance in a ritual theatre event that utilized the Masks of the Goddess collection.  For her, working with the archetype of Hecate served as a guide through a very difficult transitional passage in her life.

As she described it,

"I remember lighting a candle each day to symbolize my commitment to my journey through the despair I felt at menopause.  That's Hecate to me.  She will not help you to avoid a thing, but She will bear a light for you on the path, which is really the path to mature empowerment and integration.  I believe at certain passages in our lives our souls cry out "I want to get rid of this, I want to move on".  And it's not easy."


Lilith is a Dark Goddess who has fascinated many artists.  Her journey from the night time aspect of the Sumerian Inanna, from the owl-footed midwife who helps women to birth at night, into the feared succubus and demon of Jewish and Christian lore is a mythological journey that reflects the degradation of the sacred feminine, as well as the de-sacralization of sexuality  in patriarchal monotheism.  In medieval art she is often shown as a woman with the body of a snake, as she is also interpreted by the Renaissance artist Michelangelo.  It is interesting to also note that by this time the life-affirming, healing symbol of the snake, so deeply associated with the ancient Goddesses, has become a symbol of evil.

According to various Biblical texts, Lilith was the first wife of Adam, made from the same clay.  Because she would not submit to Adam she was banished from Eden, and God created another, presumably more compliant wife for the first man.   But apparently Lilith occasionally managed to sneak back, and is often shown as the snake that offers the fatal fruit to na├»ve Eve.

But if so, what did Lilith really offer?  Knowledge, the means to achieve self-hood within an understanding of the eternal, serpentine, cycles of life - the serpent of the ancient Great Mother.  Alas for both Lilith and Eve, who in attempting self-hood became the penultimate Biblical scapegoats.

"Patriarchy is a system of male dominance, rooted in the ethos of war which legitimates violence, sanctified by religious symbols, in which men dominate women through the control of female sexuality, with the intent of passing property to male heirs, and in which men who are heroes of war are told to kill men, and are permitted to rape women, to seize land and treasures, to exploit resources, and to own or otherwise dominate conquered people." ........ Carol P. Christ 

Of her similar derived painting "Lilith and Eve", artist Linda Garland said:

"In the desert Lilith became the consort of Samael and other fallen
 angels. Fury with Adam and grief for her slaughtered children led Lilith to plot revenge."   

Well yes.  Banished to the wilderness of the seething unconscious, children destroyed, scapegoated for the downfall of man, the very symbol of violent  sexual repression epitomized by such collective hysteria as the Inquisition …….no wonder  Lilith is also portrayed as a screech owl.
She is individually and collectively mighty pissed off.

Lilith is often portrayed as a succubus who comes in the night as a "wet dream", and many talismans were created to protect men from her seductions.  Her offspring also continued to plague Adam's descendants as succubi or vampires.  Some speculate that Lilith is the origin of the Vampire myth.  In symbolic terms, Lilith may represent the female sexual energy that is subverted, repressed, and diabolized in "sky god" patriarchy.  Within the constraints of Judeo/Christian/Islamic ethics, too often sexual expression itself has become sublimated or perverse instead of being regarded as sustaining or generative. Viewed in this light, Lilith is also the collective shadow rage of both women and the denied “feminine aspects of men as well.

It was my privilege to interview a Bay Area artist and musician, David Jeffers, who worked with Lilith as a healer and artistic inspiration. I was very moved by his observations. "The pain of Lilith" he said, 
"is so much about the divinity of human pain.  People often only identify with Lilith's rage, the woman who was cast out because She would not accept inequality. For me She is not that simple. If you can't go beyond Lilith's first door, which is rage, you're going to be stuck; you aren't going to penetrate the emotional mysteries beyond. Lilith is the most intelligent archetypal power to aid in understanding the mechanism that underlies our unconscious motivations, she is about the ability to connect the subconscious to the conscious mind, so that information can become usable in your life and on your path. Lilith is the bridge.   People who are linear in their thinking suddenly find their world shattered when Eros shoots arrows at them. Or when they have an experience that is inexplicable or traumatic, something that cannot fit into the model they've organized their lives around. There are references in the Cabala to what is called "breaking the shell". The mind set of "what you believe" is the shell, and Lilith is about breaking the shell. You have to fall apart  to be put back together; because that's the only way you can be reconstructed. You cannot veneer the teachings of Lilith on top of "who you think you are". (2002) 

In Lilith imagery we see the snake again, and again, and again, the ancient remnants of the once powerful Great Goddess.  Here is a famous Lilith by the English artist John Collier.  And here another by Franz Von Stuck, which he titled "Evil" that clearly derives from Lilith mythos.  But was the snake always, like the seductive sexual potency of Lilith, evil?  In the old kingdom of Egypt the word for snake or cobra was the same symbol as that for Goddess - the snake that represents the endless natural and psychic cycle of life/death/rebirth.  It moves, like the sinuous energies of nature, in a spiral.  The snake is also used in Eastern traditions to represent the  generative force of the Kundalini moving through the chakra system.

But the enlightenment of Apollonian logic and tribal warrior sky gods (such as Yahweh is not serpentine.  It is vertical, illuminated, bright and orderly, and the only way of the Sky god is up. 

Here we have Faust and Lilith by the 17th century artist Richard Westall.  The ubiquitous snake is barely visible in the foreground, and Faust cavorts with an innocent enough looking Lilith while a riotous party is seen going on in the background, one that could surely bring nothing but sheer damnation.  


Here we have several contemporary Liliths interpreted by Roberto Ferri and Alexander Vilichinsky.  They are there with a whole lot of snakes, which could also be viewed as a whole lot of Kundalini rising. The symbol remains potent, even if its original meaning is long lost.

Contemporary British artist Paul Fryer has created a winged wax Lilith, bound like Gulliver to the ground by 24 carat gold wires, bound but perhaps not entirely broken if one looks carefully at her eyes, which seem to hold a deep and vital life force. Lilith is bound, bound by golden threads that perhaps demonstrate her great value to the forces that have bound her wings.  

But she waits to rise again.

In Opie Snow's Lilith series, Lilith is a primal, almost purely elemental force, which perhaps, viewed from the perspective of a woman artist, is neither desirable or wicked, but hurt, or possessed of enormous vitality, or both. 

Here is Kiki Smith's Lilith - almost spider like, she observes from the wall, her eyes regarding the viewer with the clarity of a creature banished to the shadows, the hidden places, a creature of pain, pathos, fear and loneliness. 

In Mark Rothko's "Rites of Lilith", I have always felt he spoke of the the desolation of that harsh and hidden landscape within the collective unconscious Lilith has been banned to.

But there is hope today for Lilith, who is increasingly refusing to be hidden, punished, and scapegoated in many sectors of society.  She is rising again, full-bodied and well-lit within the spirits of women and the collective evolving psyche of humanity.  Here, for example, is a painting by Mariam Zakarian called "The Lilith Effect".  The artist has an entirely positive view of Lilith…..the rising Earth Serpent and the Goddess seem to be generative indeed, a virtual cornucopia.

And of course, the Lilith Faire.


Blake, William,  The Night of Enitharmon's Joy, 1795

Gimbutas, Marija, The Language of the Goddess:  Unearthing the Hidden Symbols of Western Civilization, 1989, Thames & Hudson, NY

Vulva cave painting,  Chauvet-Pont d'Arc, France:  

The painting occurs in the deepest of the Chauvet Cave chambers, and is identified  as “the Venus and the Sorcerer”.  It seems that archeologists simply cannot view this female image, or the ubiquitous “Venus” statues of the same period, as being other than a kind of “caveman erotic art”.  As a “Venus” image, the painting is presumed to be in sexual association with a bison head that was painted above the vulva form at a later date, and “must” therefore represent a male “sorceror”.  But viewed from another perspective, this image may have nothing to do with representing a “venus” or love goddess in service to a magical male with the head of a bison.  Rather, it may represent the source of rebirth, the body of the prime Deity.  And the bison, like the other animals, may represent the children of the “Great Mother’s Source” awaiting re-birth.

Herzog, Werner:  “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”, Documentary, 2010

OrensteinGloria, Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism ,

Sierra Club Books, 1990

Koda. Katalin, Fire of the Goddess: Nine Paths to Ignite the Sacred Feminine,

Llewellyn Press, 2011

Fuller, Elizabeth, Interview with Elizabeth Fuller with Lauren Raine, the Independent Eye Theatre,  2002   

Ruhle, Lydia, “Hecate Banner”, 2015

Janto, Hrana, “Hecate” 1996 (http://www.hranajanto.com)

Norris, Damira, “Interview with Damira Norris by Lauren Raine”, 2002

Raine, Lauren, “The Masks of the Goddess” collection, 1999 to 2019 (www.masksofthegoddess.com)

Giachino, Augusto, “The Third Sister”, Film, 2014, http://www.augustogiachino.com/the-third-sister

A contemporary interpretation of the mythical Hecate, the three-bodied goddess that governs human fate, using modern dance choreographed expressly for film. This short is centered on the evocative power of ancient archetypes, their continued relevance in examining our modern lives, and the role they play in addressing human desires and fears.
Michelangelo, di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni“The Temptation of Adam and Eve”,
Sistene Chapel, 1508 - 1512

Christ, Carol P.,

Garland, Linda, "Lilith and Eve", http://www.lindagarland.co.uk/

Jeffers, David, “Interview with David Jeffers by Lauren Raine”, 2002

Collier, John, “Lilith”, 1892

Von Stuck, Franz, "Evil" 1905

Westall, Richard, “Faust and Lilith”, 1831

Ferri, Roberto, “Lilith”, 2009, https://silindro.tumblr.com/tagged/Roberto-Ferri

Vilchinsky, Alexander, “Lilith”, 2010

Snow, Opie, “Lilith”, https://opiesnow.com/portfolio/

Rothko, Mark, "Rites of Lilith", 1945, https://www.mark-rothko.org/rites-of-lilith.jsp

Zakarian, Mariam, "The Lilith Effect", 2010, https://www.mariamzakarian.com/

Lilith Fair:  “Lilith Fair was a concert tour and travelling music festival, founded by Canadian musician Sarah McLachlanNettwerk Music Group's Dan Fraser and Terry McBride, and New York talent agent Marty Diamond. It took place during the summers of 1997 to 1999, and was revived in the summer of 2010. It consisted solely of female solo artists and female-led bands. In its initial three years, Lilith Fair raised over $10M for charity.”