Celebrate Your Woman’s Soul with Juno

In ancient Roman times, a woman’s soul was called her “juno,” after the goddess of the same name.  A man’s soul was his “genius.”  These weren’t simply two words for the same thing, but rather a “genius” had a masculine aspect and “juno” a feminine one.  Well, we all know what happened.  The word “juno” disappeared, leaving women without their souls.  While the word “soul” is supposedly not for one gender or the other, the subservient place of women in many religions does seem to argue that perhaps the idea of our souls still lingers in obscurity.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing.  I mean, we all know that we really DO have souls, and many of us do feel as if our souls do have a uniquely feminine aspect.  But, when we lost the word for them, we also left behind perhaps outdated notions of what our souls are like and what we should be doing with them.  And as long as no one was thinking about our junos, no negative connotations could be attached to them in the media or society in general, as they have to other feminine aspects of ourselves.

Which leaves us with an opportunity.  We can imagine our “junos” in any way we wish, in any form that expresses our truest and deepest feelings about this essential aspect of ourselves.  We can bring them into our lives however is most meaningful to us. We can give our daughters their “junos” from the youngest age as they watch us celebrate ours. 

Let’s get started envisioning and celebrating our “junos” this coming month, June, the month sacred to the goddess Juno.  Here are some things I plan to do:

Spend time thinking of an image or montage of images to use when I think of my juno.  Of course, my juno already exists and I am quite familiar with her, having lived in close quarters for half a century.  But sometimes, when we let our minds roam freely and pick up on what images wander past, we can find out things about parts of us that we did not consciously know.  We might also want to periodically re-imagine our junos.  I would think that my Summer Solstice season juno will be different from that I imagine on the Winter Solstice.  For some reason, a butterfly has come into my mind this morning, so, for today, my juno looks like a butterfly.  I’ll think about what that means.

Give my juno an opportunity to connect with other junos by going for a nature walk today.  That way she can make friends with the junos of birds, animals, fish, and a wide variety of native wildflowers and trees.  She will become part of them and they will become part of her, and thus me.

Express my juno’s passion for a better world by doing at least one activist thing (hopefully more).  I do believe that most of our commitment to social activism comes from our junos.  Our junos “hear the cries of the world” and need to do something.  When we don’t answer their call to action, our junos become frustrated, sad, and depressed.

Celebrate the emerging junos of other women by going to a graduation party and a baby shower.  I don’t have any June weddings to go to this month, but my friends and their daughters are making many new beginnings.  Their junos are delighted and my juno wants to be part of the merriment.

Give my juno the mission of helping me get to know her better.  As a 21st century woman who has just been introduced to the idea of my soul as a specifically feminine aspect, I haven’t had much time to contemplate all that this means.  But the implications are vast – women are uniquely sacred (just as men are also uniquely sacred); women must be represented in all endeavors because we are the holders of the junos without which the world is unbalanced; when I explore my juno, I also come to understand my own spirituality and creativity in a way I could not have before, since both these come, I believe, from our junos.

If you have ideas about your junos I would love to hear them.

                                                                              ~ Carolyn Lee Boyd

Source:
Monaghan, Patrician.  The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines.  St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2000.

Snow for the Winter of Life

The older I get, the more I love the snow.  This winter, as more snow has fallen than in almost any winter on record, I hated what it did to the convenience in my life at first.  But now I see that each flake is a kiss from the hag, the Spirit of Winter, the old woman who presides over the deepening times of life, whenever they may occur.  She blesses us as we struggle with truths that become visible in the stark bone essence of the winter landscape, whether of the environment or of our souls.  She is the midwife of necessary endings and promises the hope of beginnings, however much they may or not be welcomed.  

 

Whether you are in the spring of life or nearing its end, snow has a message for you, for we all have times when we need the blessings of the Winter Hag.  She could leave us to our fates, but instead, like the good Mother that She is, she is present and makes herself known in these tiny drops of water, the very substance of life.

 

Snow is healing – it calms and quiets.  It has a soothing wisdom that does not proclaim, but instead drifts silently into consciousness, like a first snowfall on the grass.  When we are aching from loss, snow shows us how to be a balm for ourselves and others.

 

Snow honors and comforts the poorest.  Its beauty is for all.  It makes next spring’s crops grow as it brings nutrients to the soil of every farmer.   No one’s sorrows or needs, even our own, are too meager for snow’s ministrations.

 

Snow demands respect.  If its power in an avalanche or blizzard is ignored or belittled, its destruction can be devastating.  But these maelstroms are part of the earth and its atmosphere, just as upheaval is necessary in our own lives at times.  Snow requires us to honor all aspects of Her nature, and we learn that we must also honor our own. 

 

Snow knows how to be solitary – the single flake wafting down from the sky – and also one of many as a storm.  Especially in times of emotional winter, we must be alone to meet ourselves but also be able to then re-emerge into the company of others and begin to live again.

 

If you are lucky enough to live where it snows, go outside the next time the Hag of Winter breathes her blessings upon you.  Let her surround and embrace you with her cooling, strengthening, mysterious presence.  Learn from her.  If you live in a warmer climate, seek her anyway.  She is there for you.

Every Woman Is a Storyteller

The myth of Demeter and Persephone, as it is generally retold, goes something like this:

Persephone, the maiden daughter of the Earth Goddess Demeter, was joyfully picking flowers with her friends when Hades kidnapped her and took her to his Underworld realm.  Demeter wandered the earth in despair seeking her daughter, rendering the land barren so that the people starved and the gods and goddesses of Olympus had to do  without their sacrifices.  Finally, the gods and goddesses decreed that Persephone would return to her mother, but only if she had not eaten of the food of the underworld.  But, alas, Hades had tempted her and she had eaten pomegranate seeds.  Thus, she was forced to remain the Underworld, Hades’ captive wife, for four months of the year – winter – when the land would be bare and desolate, but come back to earth the other eight when Demeter would again make the land fruitful.

I have always loved and hated this story.  It is full of violence against women and the Earth is the unwilling object to be abundant or not at the gods and goddesses’ whim. Yet it also has a beauty and meaning that always eluded, yet attracted me.  Because it was written down millennia ago, this is the story that we hear.  Of course, it is not the only version.  In other renditions of it, Persephone journeys to the Underworld of her own accord and, with her mother, is a powerful goddess of life and death and rebirth.  How different the story and its meaning for women becomes when we change just a few things here and there.

Let us begin to think differently about our stories.  Instead of myths, folktales and other stories that have grown up by the retelling over time being frozen at the moment they were written down, maybe we can think of stories differently.  Maybe these stories belong to each of us, ordinary women and men, and it is our right and our gift from our ancestors, to reinterpret them to meet our own needs from generation to generation.  Many times I feel as if there are no myths or folktales that speak to me – they relate to lives long ago and few have come along that truly enlighten and inspire my own life.  Maybe it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here is another version of the Persephone and Demeter tale.

Persephone was the maiden daughter of the powerful Earth Goddess Demeter.  She and her mother loved one another dearly, and her mother knew that the time had come for her daughter to become the woman she was meant to be, in all her strength and wisdom and bright joy.  Demeter also knew that it was time for humans and the Earth they lived on to evolve, too.  Humans lived in eternal summer, with abundant food and shelter, but no time to think, to contemplate and create, to honor that within themselves that was deep and rich.  Demeter was deeply bereft to give up her daughter to her daughter’s destiny, but she knew that she had no choice.   

So, Demeter called Persephone to her and told her it was time for her to go on an important journey.  She was to sojourn to the Underworld and become a part of it.  She was to be the link between the upper world of light, activity, and outward growth and the underworld of darkness, thought and inner enrichment.  Through Persephone, humans would learn to become not just the willing servants of the gods and goddesses, but creative and immortal in their ability to think beyond their daily lives and become like the gods and goddesses. 

Persephone willingly ventured down to the Underworld, though her heart was filled with sadness at leaving her mother and the beauty of the Upperworld and fear at what she would find in the Underworld.  When she arrived, however, she met and fell in love with Hades, whose realm she had entered.  In time, he brought her the gifts of the pomegranate, that fruit of fertility and holiness, and She brought him the joy and  pleasure of the Upperworld.  Yet, Persephone knew that her destiny was not to live in the Underworld all the time either.  So, again with grief at leaving her new-found partner, she returned to the Upperworld and come to a decision with her mother about what to do. Together with Demeter and a willing earth, Persephone and Hades helped bring the world into balance, with Persephone spending a third of her time in the Underworld and two-thirds in the Upperworld, in correct proportion for the Earth to allow humans to both be nourished through the fruits of the land and to dive deep into the restful contemplative cave of their own souls.  And so it is even to our own time.

I like that version much better and what does it teach us?  That women are powerful, that mothers and daughters and women and men together can remake the world, that love creates balance, that we must face our fears and put aside our own sadness at times to fulfill our destiny, that we must both celebrate the abundance of our time in the light and honor the nurturance of our time in the dark, and that we are like the goddesses of old if we will just recognize and use our talents and strengths. 

This is my story of Persephone and Demeter and it belongs to me, an ordinary woman of the 21st century, just as much as to any ancient author or contemporary scholar.  What is your favorite myth or folktale and how do you tell it?

The ABCs of Goddess in Everyday Life

I was just sent a fun meme game by Aerolin in which you are supposed to write 26 things about yourself using the alphabet.  Well, since I love to change rules, I’m going to write instead about 26 things in which  I find Goddess around the house.  Here goes!

A is for apple, that fruit so plentiful at this time of year that it is a perfect symbol of the abundance of Goddess.

B is for basement, the “hermit cave” of my house, that dark warm spot that was scary in childhood, but that I now see as the place of quiet and contemplation, the heart of the home.

C is for cape.  I’ve decided that every woman needs a flowing, billowing, brightly- colored cape to be her wings and to announce her presence to the world wherever she goes.  I have a bright red and purple ruanna from Ireland that I think will need to suffice for right now.

D is for dandelion, that flower that almost no one remembers is full of vitamins and other nutrients and, if it weren’t so common, would be a garden favorite because it is so pretty and cheerful.  The more I look for Goddess around my house, the more I think that perhaps we stopped appreciating Her when we no longer valued things we encountered everyday.  

E is for egg, an outer world symbol of all that is creative and fertile within us.

F is for feline, my black cat who brings some of the wild freedom of nature into my home and who is my constant companion, proof that species is no barrier to caring and understanding.

G is for goodies, of the cakes, cookies, and candy kind.  Remember, in many cultures it has been traditional to make “cakes for the Queen of Heaven” not “plain brown rice and tofu for the Queen of Heaven.”  Brown rice and tofu has an important place in our diet, but goodies do, too, to remind us of the sweetness of life and that Goddess wants us to enjoy living.

H is for Heaven which, if I have my way, will look just like my house, because that’s where I find it.

I is for ice cream.  If I were Goddess – well, we are all Goddess, but you know what I mean – I would say “thank you for the cakes, but I would prefer ‘ice cream for the Queen of Heaven.’ A prime example of co-creation – She made the cows and the sugar cane and the flavorings and the ice and we put them all together to make the perfect food.

J is for Jupiter, the planet.  Just because it is billions of miles away doesn’t mean it is not part of my home.  When I recognize the sacred within myself, I am at home anywhere.

K is for kindness, a virtue too often thought of as nice but not as good as strength or power or even love.  But, kindness is the one thing that makes a house a home and that which will, in my view, transform the world because understanding its essential importance changes how we interact with one another everyday.

L is for love, of course.

M is for music.  Music is spirit that you can hear and feel.

N is for necessary evils, like housework, that become sacred acts when you forget you are supposed to hate them and, instead, find the symbolic and ceremonial in them.

O is for open pit barbecue.  As a vegetarian, I don’t really barbecue, but for those who do, this is about as close to a home-based ancient Goddess fire ritual as you can get, I would think.

P is for peppermint, a wonderful reminder that Goddess has provided remedies for so many ailments in our own gardens.  She does not want us to suffer, but knows that when She gave us bodies, illness would come, too, because that’s part of being in the physical world. 

Q is for questioning, an activity that is essential for a Goddessy life, since this is how we grow as we are meant to.  Home is a wonderful place to question because it is safe and full of love as we experiment and try out different answers.

R is for running and the fun of watching my cat bound around the house, bringing pure joy in living into my home.

S is for snow.  It is so abundant and so beautiful, though few crystals will ever be seen.  Whenever I see it snow, I know Goddess loves me and that it is up to me to express gratitude by being as gentle with others as a snowfall.

T is for teapots.

U is for the Universe, ever-present in even the smallest crystal of sugar or drop of water if I look hard enough.

V is for variegated leaves, yet another unnecessary beauty that illustrates the beauty all around us if we will just look.

W is for water.  How amazing that the substance that brought forth all life runs from my own faucets!  My house truly is a temple!

X is for my son’s X-Box and the expansion of consciousness that electronics can bring. 

Y is for you, those who read this blog and therefore make it live.

Z is for Xena, (I know that Xena is spelled with an “X” but I have already used “X” and it is pronounced like a “Z”) who brought Goddess-y women into our children’s lives through our tvs, who is strong and uses her power to fight for right, who can make a wonderful, wild sound, and who has many times given me the answer to a dilemma when I would ask myself “What would Xena do?” 

I tag foxchild one of the many women I have met blogging who I would like to know better!

This Old House, Part Two

As I mentioned in the last post, I often think of the women who lived and worked in my house 150 years ago. Though I know nothing about them, I do sometimes wonder what their lives were like and what they thought about the world they lived in.  Occasionally, when I am feeling as if the earth in my time is in too much trouble to ever survive, I imagine the world they saw when they stood at the same kitchen window I gaze out from everyday.

In their time, which was my great-great-great-grandmother’s day, not so far back, really:

• Americans held other Americans in slavery—buying, selling, and killing each other with no remorse.
• Women could not vote, keep their earnings or inheritances if they were married, serve on juries, follow a career of their choosing, or engage in most other activities that we take for granted.
• The genocide against Native Americans was in full swing and would continue for decades and decades.
• If you had a mental illness or a developmental disability, you would receive no treatment, intervention, or education, and may spend your life in an institution.
• You had a good chance of dying a painful, wasting death from tuberculosis and burying one of more of your children from infectious diseases.
• If you became too old or sick to work and had no savings or family, you would spend your last days in a poor farm, if you were lucky.
• And on and on.

When you look at the world from our ancestors’ perspective forward, we have come very far in 150 years.  Perhaps we might come just as far or farther in the next 150 years.   

I also realize that each of the changes has come about because someone or a group of people envisioned a different and better future and made it happen, even though in some cases it took many lifetimes to accomplish.  We live in the utopian dreamworld of our ancestors.  One reason why I may ponder those who changed our ancestors’ world is that I live in a town that is well-known for its Victorian reformers.  Abolition, women’s rights, education, inclusion of those with disabilities, religious reform, labor—all these were passions of people who walked the same streets I do and were not so very different from me. 

So, I have learned from them that it isn’t enough to have faith in the future, but we must also actively envision and create it.  Then, in 150 years, our great-great-great-grandchildren will think about our world and celebrate us just as we do those who brought about a better world so many years ago. 

But, you may ask, what does this really have to do with women’s spirituality?  I believe that real change is only possible when people recognize and honor the sacred within all of us, all beings, and the earth.  Until then, it is acceptable to treat others as less than human and ravage our home.  What we do to bring balance, Goddess, and the Sacred Feminine back into our world is as essential as anything that has happened to make human progress in the past.  The only difference is that now it is up to us.

This Old House, Part One

The house that I live in is more than 150 years old; it was built in about 1850 as housing for workers in the textile mill down the street.  Everyday, when I put my clothes into bins under the bed because there are no closets or stuff the groceries into the cupboards that were built too small for our 21st century abundance, I am reminded that real women spent their lives within these walls, hauling water up the stairs, lighting woodstoves before the sun came up, sending children off to school or war, perhaps feeling content to have some measure of security and love or maybe crying with frustration at how restricted their lives were.  Before the house was built, it may have been an earlier colonist’s farmland and before that may have been a cornfield planted and tended by Algonquin women.  It may have even been the site of their homes. 

I’ve always been fascinated by learning about the women who lived before in the buildings where I reside.  No one lived before my family in the house where I grew up, but when I was in my 20s I moved to an unrenovated tenement building in the East Village of New York City.  It had been immigrant housing built around the turn of the century and I was able to find photographs of apartments just like mine from that time.  I came to feel a kinship with the women who had lived there and who, like me, had left home to find a new life in a strange place.  I believe it helped me feel more at home in NYC than I have ever felt anywhere.

Thinking about how bonded I feel with the women who lived in my present home and that tenement made me wonder about whether we should sometimes think about our kinships and lineage of place as well as of blood.  What if we thought of those who lived on the land where we now dwell as our ancestors, too, and all those who share it with us as our family?  

If we did, we might feel that we were part of a web of existence that includes not only the people who have lived on the land we share, but also the plants and animals and all other beings. Our sense of connection would go not only back in time and include not only people, but also all those who shared our environment with us. 

We might be less inclined to take up centuries-old grudges based on our blood heritage rather than work together to make where we live now a better place to be.

We might feel more responsibility to be a good steward of our spot on Mother Earth if it was how we defined our family and if we felt a familial obligation to those who would come after us.

Perhaps defining ourselves by our bloodline is a concept more in tune with the past, when it was important to know who should have inheritance and property rights and when some people, especially women and children, were more possessions than loved ones.  I believe that, in many ways, we are moving to a society where your family is who you love, not who shares your DNA.  By including in our family Mother Earth and all those who share the land we dwell on—past, present, and future—we can add another dimension of reverence for She who sustains us now just as surely as our blood families did when we were children.  We can declare our sisterhood with all those who have been nurtured by Her on the land where we are now.  We can always feel that we are not only with “family” but also that we are “home.”
 

Hints from Hera: The Wisdom of Red Peppers

The more time I spend in nature, the more I believe that its essence contains all the wisdom and truth that exists.  All we need to do is look for it, listen to it, and align ourselves with it enough to know what is all around us.  Most often what I find in nature are reminders of the bigger picture, that my small problems are really unimportant compared to the grandeur of what is outside in my garden, a gift given to me for no real reason other than that I was born, or of the overwhelming power of hope that comes with realizing that every morning the sun will rise.

But, I think that we can also find smaller truths in tinier pieces of nature.  I am forever looking at pieces of art to see what messages it holds, what I can learn that I had never even thought of before.  If all of creation is the Creator’s art, then what would happen if I did the same for those creations that I have in my everyday life?  What if I asked what was in my own kitchen for insights?  I am at a crossroads in my life and work.  What answers will my vegetable bin hold?

I love red peppers.  I have always craved red peppers more than anyone should adore a vegetable.  If I stop looking at it as lunch, and instead view it as philosophy, what does it tell me?  Well, first of all, it is chalice-shaped, hollow inside.  It is a tiny little pepper cave, a perfect place for being a hermit.  Being a hermit is my dream job – the hours are flexible, the commute isn’t long, you can wear pretty much what you want to work.  Of course, few people are real hermits anymore, going to live in the wild somewhere, always in contemplation.  And hermitting is not what would be considered a high prestige job.  It is, however, I think, a “Goddess-y” job, by which I mean one in which encountering and respecting your entire inner being, especially your Sacred Feminine, is essential (I mean, there really isn’t anyone else much to talk to if you are a hermit :)).  Someone who is a hermit in a positive way is someone who has as her profession entering into the flow of life, listening to what it says, and reflecting it back to the world.  Positive hermits are the chalices of our world, they take into themselves what the world gives and offers it back, transformed into a nectar that nourishes those who partake of it, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  Sometimes our hermits are poets or musicians or novelists, sometimes the person on the block in whose kitchen everyone sits when they are unnerved or in despair, sometimes just the person who chooses to work alone but who is therefore able to speak or write or act more truthfully and powerfully without compromise.  The value of being a “hermit” in a chalice-like place is a powerful message; one I had forgotten and needed to hear as I think about my next few steps. 

Within the red pepper cave is great fertility — all those seeds just hanging around, waiting to be planted and grow into more red peppers.  A red pepper’s seeds aren’t hidden or protected.  You do need to ask for them by opening up the pepper, but once you have asked, they are there, revealed to you.  Once we have entered our hermit-like place, creativity is like that – abundant, present for the asking, but we do need to ask.  Sometimes, that can be hard.  Sometimes we are afraid to hear what we will say if we let ourselves express what we wish.  We need to crack that shell of the pepper, that shell we cast around our own creativity, but when we do, the gifts we receive are as numerous as those pepper seeds.  Another lesson I needed to hear; my creativity may seem to be lagging, but I need only enter into myself and ask to find it again.

Red peppers are both sweet and peppery.  Always good advice to be a little of both, especially when you are being a hermit who is in pursuit of those seeds – sweet because we really do need other people, even when we are being hermits, and peppery to keep the world on its toes around us.

And so I have my answers – pursue my inner life, alone if need be, and do not be afraid to gather those abundant seeds, but remember to always be a little sweet and peppery, too, along the way.

And so we end this hint about fruit and vegetable divination with the advice that you do not need exotic symbols or special talents to find meaning, just what Goddess has placed all around you.

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 28 other followers