"This is the core of our task: to remake the world in the image of those ancient stories. To respect and revere ourselves, and so bring about a world in which women are respected and revered, recognized once again as holding the life-giving power of the Earth itself. We can reclaim that image in each of us: the creative, ecstatic, powerful feminine that each of us embodies in her own unique way. Lacking it, it is no wonder that we are grieving, alienated, imbalanced - that we cannot find a way to belong to a world that teaches us to cover up not just our bodies but our feelings, our dreams, our intuition. There comes a point in each of our lives when we face a choice. Will we stay as we are, embracing the pale shadow of womanhood permitted us by the patriarchy? Or will we sink deep into the heart of the boglands, and find in the depths what it is to reclaim our creative power as women?
As always, the stories show us the way. The old stories, the ones which tell us that women are the land, the Body of the Earth Mother. The old stories, the ones in which the Earth is sacred, and so women are sacred too: the force of creation, the givers of life. The stories in which women are the bearers of the Grail, the keepers of the cauldron of inspiration and rebirth. "
Sharon Blackie, IF WOMEN ROSE ROOTED (2016)
In 2018 I went to the Gatekeeper's Conference in Pewsey, in the U.K. It was also my delight to visit a number of prehistoric sacred sites, including Avebury, Silbury, the Chalice Well in Glastonbury, the great (fallen) Stones and Henge of Arbor Lowe in Derbyshire, the Nine Maidens, also in Derbyshire, and others. Truly, as I sit here in my urban home, I reflect that it has often seemed, among these ancient Mysteries, that I feel most at home.
I was also introduced to Sharon Blackie's book IF WOMEN ROSE ROOTED which I enthusiastically read throughout my visit, feeling that it resonated greatly with me. The author lives in rural Ireland, close to the beloved land she writes about, and speaks with passion, and the bitter/sweet story-teller lilt of an Irish Bard, about an instinctual need women women have to return to mythic (and actual) roots in the land.
In some ways she reminds me of Clarissa Pinkola Estes, as she urges women to regain, and celebrate the creative power of the life-giving Divine Feminine in mythology. and speaks of an essence deeply rooted in nature because we ARE nature.
She returns again and again to the need to be ROOTED in the Earth as well as a mythic and conversant landscape that is also woman affirming; the Heroine's journey, she writes, is not the same as the classical Hero's journey proposed by Joseph Campbell - because it is a journey of interconnection, relationships, co-creative and co-experienced cycles, and finally, the journey of belonging to the Great Mother, the great "conversation" of the planet. The Heroine's journey, in a new and yet ancient sense, is perhaps now the journey of the Eco-heroine.
Ms. Blackie speaks with passion because she believes it is urgent for all to "rise rooted", as the death dealing forces of patriarchy and sociopathic, unlimited capitalism are quite literally destroying the future for not only humans, but all children of Mother Earth.
The title is a poem in itself, and as an artist who compulsively for decades has been putting roots on faces and hands and bodies........well, it jumped off the shelf at me! Yes, all my work has been "rooted" for a long time, even if I haven't always consciously been so............ but like many Americans with a life of bewildering change and movement, I have always wanted to be rooted, attuned to the essence of place, without always knowing how or why. I look at 45 years of art, and always the Tree is there. The Tree that is Asherah, the Tree of Life, the union of Above and Below. For me, intuitively a quest to find identity within the those vital roots, found in the living, composting dirt, and among the twining vines, flying webbed among the branches with the sparrows.
|Silbury Hill, Avebury, Wiltshire, UK - believed to |
represent the pregnant belly of the Great Mother
When did we lose our roots? When did the separation between nature and human happen? When did the Great Earth Mother, eternally birthing and growing and dying and returning again...........when did She disappear under the weight of myth and patriarchal cultures? When did the processes of nature and the cycles of nature cease to be sacred and became profane? A question I many have sought to answer as we move fully now into ecological crisis.
|The Nine Maidens, Derbyshire (Henge and Processional in background)|
"For it was no peasant, but calm and cunning wizards, ruling and pegging out in granite the windings of the dragon track that writhes unseen in marsh and moss and meadowland, that twines in stellar gravity among the eaves of the cubic sky. So they, upon the veins of Anu, print a spell of glory in our blinks of lives. Rightness of the world Self seen: the green, the garden.
Older yet and wiser far, and I will not forget."
.....Robin Williamson, "Five Denials on Merlin's Grave"
Speaking With the Land
In so many rural areas of the UK the 21st Century seems like it is just another layer atop a continually emergent pentimento, the patterns of a much older landscape. Of course this is true everywhere, but it is so much in daily evidence in the UK and Europe.
That "pentimento" is like an ancient tattoo - circular, serpentine, full of standing stones, henges, magic wells, pregnant "harvest hills", and geomantic ley lines. For me, when I was able to walk and explore this overlay my vision expanded to a broader vista, a panorama that opened in my mind as I imagined the world of those who walked there so long ago. And that very faint yet vibrant Pentimento gave me a vision as well of what, as myth makers and "geologians" for the future, we might re-invent from the dreaming Earth.
We need to learn to "speak with the Earth" again. This impresses itself on me again, and again. Not in some removed, abstract, distant way, but intimately, beneath our rooted feet, in our creative hands rooted in a great collaboration with the planet that stands aside, protects, and at best shepards the land. That releases for good the outmoded concept of "domination" of nature. Humanity must become friends again with the family of planetary life, the "Covenant" of the Garden. I believe that our next evolution as a planetary humanity is not out in space, but right here, on the Earth. There will be many new innovations, but there will also be many, many re-discoveries of what was once known and understood. This is indisputable in the face of climate change, and a technology that is advancing much more rapidly than we are evolving as a global humanity to meet it.
So where does religion come into this? To be honest, I am not a religious person, although I have an abiding interest in and experience of spirituality. But I am a mythologist, and religions are founded upon myths, upon world and creation stories, which are ever revised and co-opted throughout history within different cultures.
The change that must occur within western religious systems is that we cannot continue with a patriarchal, tribal alpha male centered mythos. Nor can we continue to worship deities that are founded upon ancient warrior sky gods - wifeless, daughterless, motherless, preoccupied with with dominance, however they are packaged. We can't continue with religions that are "Renunciate" either, not if we wish to make our way back to a "conversation" with the land that sustains us. Dissociative religions that teach that divinity and sanctity lie somewhere other than here, whether that be conceived of as Heaven, Paradise, some elusive "Enlightenment" or Nirvana, or, as various New Age groups teach, that life is "not real", and hence we must reject its "unreality". ..... will not serve our children, or all the many other forms of consciousness that are co-evolving on planet Earth with us.
Enough. It is time for the Return of the Goddess. Not as neolithic peoples understood Her, but as people of the 21st Century urgently need to understand Her. Not as some hierarchical deity that replaces a tyrannical, misogynist sky god with an equally "dominating" and merciless matriarch - but as, scientists James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis demonstrated in their Gaia Theor, the Body of the Earth itself, which we are living IN. Not ON, but IN. And what we do to Her, we are doing to ourselves.
I respond deeply to Sharon Blackie's call to women to "rise rooted" . For those of us who have been rooting about in the shards and buried roots of prehistory and mythology........while we cannot really know what the ancients did or believed, we can sense it with our feet, divining rods, instincts and imaginations, and (gnow) that it is something that points toward a different way of being. One we can invent, re-invent, and re-member ourselves into.
1 Blackie, Sharon, If Women Rose Rooted: The Journey to Authenticity and Belonging 2016, September Publishing
2 The Gatekeepers Annual Conference, “Dreaming the Land” November 2018, Pewsey, Wiltshire, UK.. https://gatekeeper.org.uk/2018/05/dreaming-the-land-annual-conference-2018
3 Estes, Clarissa Pinkola, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, November 27th 1996, Ballantine Books
4 Williamson, Robin, “Five Denials on Merlin’s Grave” from A Glint At The Kindling & Selected Writings 1980-83
https://youtu.be/iuRUVzqAfgk (to hear the performance)
5 Gimbutas, Marija, The Language of the Goddess, (1989) (and other writings), see also Old Europe Excavations and Kurgan Theory, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marija_Gimbutas
6 Dames, Michael, The Silbury Treasure: The Great Goddess Rediscovered, November 20th 1978 by Thames & Hudson
7 Findhorn Community of Scotland: https://www.findhorn.org/
8 Sirius Community of Massachusetts: http://siriuscommunity.org/
9 Perelandra Center & Michaela Wright: https://www.perelandra-ltd.com/
10 Lovelock, James and Margulis, Lynn , The Gaia Hypothesis AKA Gaia Theory, Earth Sciences, first published 1972 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaia_hypothesis