Friday, May 7, 2021

"If Women Rose Rooted": Women, Myth and a Conversant Land

"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. 

As far as these energized, ley crossed sites go, what poet and Bard Robin Williamson called the "veins of Anu and the windings of the Serpent Track",  I agree with those scholars who believe that once upon a time the  very lands the people walked on, the land they grew their food and marked the Solstices and Equinoxes and the movements of the moon and the stars  upon, was  the "temple"  itself,  The Deity was beneath their feet, and all around them. 

As   Marija Gimbutas, and later Michael Dames, have argued, these sites mark a sacred landscape that was once viewed  literally as  the Body of the the  Great Mother from which the blessings of abundance came, and ultimately to which, in the great cycles of the year , all return.    Here, and in ubiquitous similar sites in Southern and Central England, Ireland, Scotland, the Orkney Islands, the Hebrides, the Isle of Man, Brittany..........perhaps as well in the mysterious realms of the great Temples of Malta,  or the barely excavated, and truly ancient circles of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey as well, we see the remnants of a worship of the Earth as Great Mother that lasted for a very, very long time.    

According to  Michael Dames in his book the Silbury Treasure, Silbury,  which I visited in 2018 along with other similar "harvest hills" (there is one along the Processional to Arbor Lowe as well)  literally represented the pregnant belly of the Great Mother, and were associated with certain times of the agricultural cycles.  In the Neolithic and early Iron Age he makes a significant argument that there was a universal religion which regarded the LAND ITSELF AS THE DEITY.    Situated just south of Avebury, Silbury Hill in Wiltshire is Europe's tallest prehistoric structure.  When his  book was first published in 1976,  archaeological investigations sponsored by the BBC  had demonstrated that the hill was not, as had previously been believed, a burial mound, nor did it have any buriel remains connected with its antiquity. Dames surveys the history of earlier digs at the hill, then uses comparative archaeological evidence, astronomy, ethnography, folklore, mythology, mathematics and place-name research to argue that the shape of the site is designed to represent the pregnant Belly of the Goddess.  

As with the ditch/henges that surround stone circles, Silbury would have been at certain times of the year surrounded by a human made body of water, which Dames believed not only was fundamental to the "temples" that these ceremonial sites represented, but in the case of Silbury, actually formed the shape of a squatting (birthing) woman.  He believes that Silbury was a sacred mound that was part of the Avebury ceremonial landscape.  He likens the "Goddess form" of the henge surrounding Silbury to similar pregnant Goddess sculptures and icons found throughout Europe during the Neolithic.  

As a child, I had great conversations with flowers and squirrels.  And, of course, my cats. Even earthworms were not immune to my words of concern for them.  Much later, I read avidly of the Findhorn Community, or Perelandra, or the Sirious Community,  the conversations members of these communities had  between the Devas of the plant kingdoms and those who came to learn and grow amazing vegetables, healing herbs, and magical gardens in conscious collaboration with them.  

 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.  For  Restoring the Balance in the divided human psyche.  We cannot understand Her perhaps as  neolithic peoples understood Her, but we must facilitate Her rising 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 Theory,  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.


Blackie, Sharon,  If Women Rose Rooted:  The Journey to Authenticity and Belonging  2016, September Publishing 

The Gatekeepers Annual Conference, “Dreaming the Land” November 2018, Pewsey, Wiltshire, UK..

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 (to hear the performance)  (lyrics)

 Gimbutas, Marija,  The Language of the Goddess,  (1989)  (and other writings), see also Old Europe Excavations and Kurgan Theory,

6 Dames, Michael,  The Silbury Treasure: The Great Goddess Rediscovered November 20th 1978 by Thames & Hudson

7 Findhorn Community of Scotland:

8 Sirius Community of Massachusetts: 

9 Perelandra Center & Michaela Wright: 

10 Lovelock, James and Margulis, Lynn ,   The Gaia Hypothesis AKA  Gaia Theory, Earth Sciences, first published 1972


Trish MacGregor said...


Mudpie Maker said...

Hello Lauren,

Such a wonderful and provocative essay and so beautifully annotated. I know what my next book is when I find it. This was a joy to read and ponder and deserves a (reread) or a second go-round which I will give it soon. I've had both my Covid shots -considering myself very blessed and protected and I am looking forward to connecting in the way we are meant in the future. In the meantime, I plan to continue to read from your Blog. And am so thankful to YOU for posting this and welcoming readers like me.

I also wanted to tell you about a book that is a little bit difficult to find (written in the 70's I believe). It was originally at first print called "Why the Green Nigger" which really worked against the author unfortunately and the second and subsequent printings she was forced to changed the Title to Green Paradise Lost : "Remything Genesis" by Elizabeth Dodson Gray.

She deconstructs and re-constructs working with the Male/God dominated dualities set up by religions and even in the Judeo-Christain constructs which were created with the objective of seeking to destroy the Power and rightful place of the Female Goddess. She is a theologian, a writer. And she draws wonderful connections with works that include Native American and other Indigenous Cultures and languages.

Gray does such a beautiful job of weaving cultural and ancestral connections from numerous authors' works. Reading her is like reading poetry. She incorporates (and rightly so) the original Spiritual truths that have been sundered and often lost. She is also very clearly in the '60s and 70's documenting the Lies and tossing the patriarchal texts and religious treaties of a warlike God. Her objective suggests a new Paradigm. Ultimately she is remything the texts that extracted holiness as opposite of WOMAN.

I'll bet you already know of all this, I know you are widely read and reading in this our holy Field of Goddess Remembrance.

An exciting time to be alive. So much to consider.

Lauren Raine said...

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, "Maker". I actually am not familiar with the work of Elizabeth Gray and will now seek her out! These are indeed transformative times, paradigm changing times, to be living in.

Jonathan Best said...

Wow! This so reinvigorates my feeling of connection to the great mother I live inside. The part about the ancient mound being reseen as a pregnant belly rather than a burial site feels transformative. Although birth and death are so intertwined, to put attention on the earth birthing feels so right. Particularly in these times.

Lauren Raine said...

Thanks so much Jonathan! you might enjoy reading Michael Dame's book THE SILBURY TREASURE. I found it transformative, and he is a good writer with a wry English sense of humor.

The Muse In Willits said...

Alive in our work to re member ourselves and reconnect to the source. Calling you soon.

Annie Bee said...

Great one Lauren!! Reading this again, such a full essay, so many facets to consider.
I sent it to my friends, and feel it is a seminal work for the convergence of many pathways, and fresh reminder of our continuing need for balance of Deity. As Lady Loreon Vigne said - "If there is a God, there must be a Goddess. Godd would have wanted it that way" (42 Ideals of Maat - #38)
Looking forward to connecting on your trip west, Blessings.