Friday, September 26, 2014

7 Goddesses You've Never Heard Of

There are thousands of Goddesses across the world. Some of them get a lot of attention with a few that could even be considered main stream. The gods of the Greek and Egyptian pantheon come to mind. (Even a non-pagan person has heard of Aphrodite.) Television shows like Hercules, Merlin, and Witches of East End, and movies like Thor, have brought names of the old gods back into the world. Although these modern retellings are a bit off, the old ones are being remembered. However, there are more deities than the ones that most people know, like Aphrodite, Isis, Hecate, and Brigid (no offense dear Ladies!). I thought that it might be time to share a few of the more obscure Goddesses out in the world who you should really know about.

(And in writing this I know that there are people out there who do know these names, these stories, and these energies. Please feel free to share their stories as you know them!)

~Tiamat (Sumerian) - She is the primordial ooze that existed before anything else on this planet. In some stories Tiamat is described as a monster and early dipictions paint her as a dragon or sea serpent. She gives birth to the first creatures and later her body is broken into pieces to create the heavens and earth. We all come from the seas and Tiamat is the energy of that roiling place of creation. She is deep, dark, powerful, and her true form is beyond human conception.  Why you should know her: There are many origin stories across the world and many of them feature water, after all humans did evolve from the sea and Tiamat can help to bring you back to that place of origin. She is the grandmother who remembers you from before you were born. Her voice is deep and shakes the earth and with that voice Tiamat can bring you back into connection with the most primal forces that already exist within you.

~Sulis (Celtic) - This Celtic Goddess of healing was centrally located in Bath, England. Her life force and spirit could be found in the living and sacred thermal pools and flowing waters around Bath. Her worship goes well beyond recorded history. When the Romans came to England they connected Sulis to their Goddess Minerva and created great temples and healing centers dedicated to Sulis-Minerva in the same places where the indigenous people of the British Isles had been coming for millennia. Sulis is a Goddess that brings health, vitality, and healing, but she was also called upon for her cursing powers and prayers have been found asking for her to bring swift vengeance. After all the Celts believed in order to now how to heal you also must know how to harm. Why you should know her: Sulis understands the balance of illness and wellness. She offers healing waters, but also wasting illness if you should do wrong. The balance of illness and wellness is interesting in our modern culture. We take on illness as if it is a part of who we are and Sulis offers a different potential. How is it to honor illness or wellness as something part of our system, our body, and not our "self". How is it to dance with your wellness as something outside of you and treat any illness in the same manner? This is the power that Sulis can bring to your life.

~Skadi (Norse) - This Goddess of the north brings the power of winter in the Norse traditions and she rules over skiing and hunting. But more than that, Skadi is a giantess who was brave enough to put on warriors armor and take up weapons against the Gods who had killed her father. Although she did not kill the Norse Gods, they did offer her recompense for the death and offered her marriage to any of them in turn. Through this process she ends up married to the God of the sea, Njord, but there is also evidence of her relations with many other Gods including the Allfather, Odin. She is called the 'shining bride of the Gods' and she rules over the mountains and the cold. Her independence, her love of the mountains, and her desire to be free, leaves her life with her husband lacking something. This desire to be in her rightful place and her need to do what is right for her, led her to leave Njord and return to the mountain ranges. Why you should know her: Skadi says what she needs. She not only talks the talk, but she also walks the walk. She is strong, independent, and brave. Skadi can help you to tap into your own independence and find your strong voice. She can show you the way to your rightful place in the world where you feel at home.

~Nu Kua (Chinese) - This Goddess is the creatrix of the world in Chinese myth. She is both gendered, neither gendered, and gender fluid; with her form shifting and changing and often appearing as a serpent or dragon. Her body is never one thing for very long, often being seen as human, bull, dragon, or a combination of these. The world before humans was a difficult and inhospitable place. It was dangerous with the landscape in constant flux and change. This is when Nu Kua came. She created order and put an end to the chaos. In story after story in Chinese myth she appears and brings order, repairs what has been broken, and fixes the mistakes that other gods have  made. Why you should know her: Nu Kua can be a calming force in the midst of chaos. When you are in times of trouble, feeling overwhelmed, or trapped in a mess, Nu Kua can show you the way out. She can help you to put things in order and heal the things that have been broken. She does this with a gentle nature and a warriors heart,

~Pachamama (Incan) - Pachamama is more than a Goddess or energy that has been anthropomorphized into human form. She is the literal earth. She is the plants, the earthquakes, the land, the animals, and humans as well. Her children are the sun and the moon and she is self-sustaining, as she is the earth, she feeds herself of herself. Pachamama requires balance because she is the living earth. Once upon a time she was considered cruel and even violent, most don't hold her that way any longer, but it is believed that if she is treated poorly it will lead to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and failed crops. Some think of her as the energy of Mother Earth, but she is bigger than that, she is the World Mother; not a guardian spirit, but the actual energy of the planet. Why you should know her: Pachamama is the earth and she is the creatures that walk the earth, therefore, she is you. There is no better way to recognize and remember that we are all connected than through communion with Pachamama. The foods that you eat, the animals you care for, the people that you love are all emanations of this Goddess and of yourself. It is hard to treat others poorly when you remember that we are all one.

~Cessair (Irish) - Many lands have a matronesses; in England it is Brigantia, in the United States it is Lady Liberty, and so on. Ireland's matroness is considered to be Eire (or Erin), and she is the Goddess of the Land, but there is an older tale of the founder of Ireland, whose name was Cessair (pronounced KAH-seer). When the world was flooding the grand-daughter of Noah was not invited on to boat. Instead of allowing her people to die in the waters, Cessair lead her people by boat to the Irish islands in order to escape Yahweh's wrath. Through this process she decided to no longer worship Him, who would so angrily destroy all his creations. In one of the oldest books of Irish tales, the Book of Invasions, she is described as the first inhabitant of the land. She turned her back on what she had been told was her lot in life and fought for something more, even creating a new god for her people to worship and call upon for help. Why you should know her: Cessair did what, for many, would be impossible she stood up and turned away from the life she was told she had to have. In order to make this leap she had to find the courage to do something different no matter what. This bravery and risk taking energy is something that many of us need. Cessair can be called on when you need to take a risk that feels scary, impossible, or too much to hold. She can show you the way to your future, bravely and boldly.

~Nepthys (Egyptian) - Last, but most certainly not least, we come to the Egyptian Goddess Nepthys (pronounced NEP this) (or Nebet Het in hieroglyphs) who is the twin sister of Isis. The sky goddess Nut gave birth to four children; Osiris, Set, Isis, and Nepthys. These four had their lives mixed together in twisted fate, but Nepthys became the dark side of Isis, the hidden one, the dark of the moon. She often got lost in the shadow of her bright sister and because of this, she often forgot that her own light shone just as brightly. Where Isis holds rebirth, Nepthys holds death. These two sisters need each other, and yet, Nepthys often finds herself in the supporting role instead of the star. She helped Isis to resurrect her sister's dead husband Orisis, she was nursemaid to their son Horus, she gave birth to Osiris's son Anubis guardian of the underworld, but often was forgotten.  Why you should know her: Nepthys is the dark Goddess to the light of Isis. She sometimes struggles to see her own worth and value because she is lost in her envy of her sister. When you struggle to find your own value, when you feel like you have nothing to offer, when you are only seeing the accomplishments of others and not your own, Nepthys can help you to connect back to your own light. She can help you to step out of the shadows and remember to shine like the star that you are.

Well, this is a good start. There are hundreds of others that could be on this list. No doubt you could name a few. As I've often been heard to say; what is remembered lives, therefore it is our responsibility to remember these Goddesses and keep them alive.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Girl Known as Danielle

Danielle...I've written that name hundreds, probably even thousands, of times over the years. But I have to admit that it's never felt like it was mine. I know that my mom will hate this but, Danielle never felt like me. It's a beautiful name and one that I passed on to my daughter, but somehow, I've never fit into the shape of Danielle. It's always felt slightly off, slightly uncomfortable.

My family always called me Dani, or Danie depending on who you ask. This was better. And as I got older I started asking others to call me Dani too. On that first day of school when the teacher went through the roll and asked what you wanted to be called I finally got the nerve to request being called Dani, right about the 8th grade. I quickly became Dani and Danielle became a formality, my legal responsibility.

But then, at some point I can't quite pin down, Dani also started to feel odd. My life was changing and that name wasn't. For a moment I considered going back to Danielle, but it was clear that was totally wrong. I was growing as a human, becoming more connected to spirit, remembering my connection to the earth and the rest of humanity. I was in a transition and I didn't think that Dani was going to make it out the other side. She did make it, but not quite completely, she had changed. However, it's still my name, many people still use that name, I still respond to it, but it isn't quite right.

Working on my spiritual self was (and still is) hard work. It is like giving birth to yourself over and over again (see what I did there?). In the first of my conscious rebirths I took my own name. It was at a Brigid ritual that I said this name out loud in public for the first time. I stood in a circle and as we went around each taking our turn to introduce ourselves I said, "I'm Phoenix" and it was done.

It was scary, sharing that piece of myself with others, but it was a name that fit so perfectly. There is a long history on the origins of Phoenix for me. This wasn't some hippie, new age, woo-woo name that I just decided on from flipping through a new agey name book. It was a name that was in my heart and soul going back to an early age when I first stepped into my power. Phoenix was born when I was 15 years old. I just wasn't ready to fully become her until much later.

As I may have mentioned in the past, I went to a non-traditional high school called Phoenix High (yes, Phoenix the bird, not the city). In this school we learned about personal power, non-violent communication, emotional triggers and how to deal with them, and so much more. It was through this school I learn who I was and what I wanted to do with that. It was through this education that I stepped more into my own power. It was through this school that I first became Phoenix; although it took another ten years to realize it...

I have considered taking steps to legally change my name, but not only is it expensive, it seems unnecessary. However, with recent social media changes maybe it isn't such a bad idea. I have been known as Phoenix for several years now. There are people in my life that don't know Dani. There are people in my life that once knew Dani, but don't see her in me anymore.

Taking the name Phoenix was never about hiding who I really am, but rather, stepping fully into myself.

Art by
Names are more than what our parents put on our birth certificates. Names hold power. They make us who we are and naming another individual is serious business. However, names don't always fit right. Names get worn out. Names need changing sometimes. Who is anyone else to tell you what you name should or shouldn't be.

I am Phoenix. Nice to meet you.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Finding My Ancestors

I am a white American female. I think I know what it means to be an American, at least my version of it, but I've always been interested in where my family came from *before*, as if that holds more value. Sometimes being an American feels watered down or uninteresting. Sometimes I feel a bit homeless, like a girl without a country - lacking in identity. How many other Americans feel this lacking? How many of us carry a sense of National pride for a country we've never been to.

For me, and I'm sure for many Americans, the origins of my family are muddled, confusing, and a bit lost. Some lines can be traced, but after just a few generations back and the trail goes cold. I have bits of information, but these bits just leave me with more questions. (And how much of these stories and tracings are accurate anyway?) I have been led to believe there is French on one side and Norwegian on the other, but that's it. The rest of my story is that of an American mutt.

It's not enough for me, I want to know more; where exactly did my ancestors live, what are their stories, what were their lives like, how can I better connect with them?

I had started to really identify with the ancestry that I has been told. The truth is I started to embellish a bit, create stories, and fill in missing pieces with my own desires. I started to own this Norwegian identity. I started to create an image and idea of what my ancestors would have been like. I read the myths of those lands, I studied the lore of my people. I found myself becoming really proud of my ancestors even though I wasn't really sure who they were.

And so I took a DNA test to learn more...

My results came in with a whopping 3% Scandinavian ancestry. Wait, what? 3%?? How can that be? How is that possible if 25% of my blood supposedly comes from Norway? What the hell?

This is how my test breaks out: 70% Western European (mainly French, German, Danish), 15% Ireland, and 8% Iberian Peninsula; all the rest are only trace amounts, with the largest of these being 3% Scandinavian.

I have to admit that this was difficult news and I am still processing it.

My ancestors are not who I thought they were. Now I am trying to rectify who I am with who I thought I was and where my blood actually comes from. On some level I feel broken hearted over the fact that there is only a trace amount of Norwegian blood in there, as if I've lost something that was never mine to begin with. Who am I? Why is this so hard?

The bottom line is my blood isn't what I thought. My ancestors are not who I thought they were. On some level this may not matter, but on another level it really does. I actually feel like I am not who I thought I was. The stories of my ancestors are important. I always imagined walking on the land that they came from and feeling at home on some deep blood, breath, and bone, level. Tracing my roots was going to show me where that land might be. And it has, but it such a surprising way.

At this point my search continues. I now have a new culture to dig into, a new culture to learn about, and people to connect with. I feel like I have to. I need to know, both for myself and for the ancestors that made my life possible.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Pros and Cons of Being Seen

Lately I've been thinking thoughts, which is a dangerous business. Thoughts lead to ideas and ideas lead to action. And I just don't think I have the time (or energy) to deal with all of that at this point. But I've learned over the years that I need to get these things out or they take over my brain. So that's what this is all about.

These thoughts are about being seen...

Having a desire to be seen is a normal, healthy part of human nature. We all have a desire to be seen. This might be the longing for a parent, lover, friend, to see you or it might be on a bigger scale; for your home, community, or the whole damn world to know your name. On whatever scale you want to be seen is your special unique need, but all of us humans have this desire on some level.

When it comes to being seen there are good things about it and not-so-good things.

PRO: Validation - Being seen can help you feel validated in all of the hard work you've done. When I kick-ass on a project and a colleague notices this, points it out, and congratulates me, it helps me feel validated. I didn't just complete my work for a quota, but for real humans. There is a sense of satisfaction that comes with that validation.

CON: Projection - Stepping into leadership, being seen, putting yourself out there also means that you get the projection of those looking at you. People will make assumptions about who you are and what you believe, these assumptions may or may not be true, but you get to be a big movie screen that holds all of the ideas other people are creating about you. There really isn't anything that you can do about it, except remain humble.

PRO: Purpose - After spending hours, days, months, or years putting your energy towards a goal being seen can help to solidify your purpose; your direction. Yes, you have a purpose and it is clear that you've done the hard work to put you in a place of honoring that. Well done!

CON: Imbalance of Power - Being seen often means that people are giving you power. This is partly projection, but if left unchecked it can quickly turn into an imbalance of power. If you don't have a firm grasp of your own identity this can easily lead to trouble, inflated egos, and interpersonal troubles.

PRO: Opportunity - When you are noticed, and seen, for doing an excellent job, having good skills, or being a talent, it will open up more doors for you to do more of an excellent job. Opportunities will follow you when your skills are seen and noticed by others.

CON: Loss of Privacy - As you are seen you also lose some of your privacy. When you step into the limelight people are likely to overstep their bounds, ask more of you, expect more of your time and attention, and push your boundaries.

Putting yourself into the front of the pack, letting your skills shine, and stepping out into leadership comes with challenges, but ultimately if you have gifts to share you just gotta do it! The goal is to stay grounded, calm, humble, and let your light shine.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The KKK Defense Backpack

I was pretty young when my parents got divorced. I don't remember how they broke the news to me and my little sister, but my mom tells me that they tried to make it sound like everything was going to be just fine and these changes would be an adventure for us. "Daddy is moving out and mommy's best friend and her kids are moving in! Won't that be fun?"

My mom's best friend was an African-American woman, and so it really goes without saying, but her three kids were too. They had always been around and I don't remember thinking they were different than me, other than the fact that two of them were boys. (And of course, boys were gross.) We lived with them for several years after my parents' divorce, our two families relocating to California together. As far I as was concerned they were my siblings, my family.

One day the five of us kids were downstairs watching TV and the local news came on. They reported on a KKK rally that had created quite a stir in the community. This was the specific moment when I learned that racism still existed. Prior to that I had falsely believe that it was long dead. I was shocked, horrified, and scared. This was the early 1980s, racism was over, right?

I watched this newscast with my brothers and sisters becoming more and more scared and hurt. How could people feel this way. How could they go our in public and preach it?! How disgusting. And I was scared for my siblings. If these horrible people were in our town what if they tried to hurt them? If racism still existed than it was reasonable to believe that they were in danger.

What is the point of sharing this story with you? Well, this is sorta how my month has been. My system has been a little shocked. Humanity has been disappointing me left and right. I wish I could go back to thinking that all people were beyond hating each other. I wish I could go back to thinking that the world had moved beyond intolerance. I wish I could go back to how the world felt before that newscast.

That afternoon my brothers and I went and created a KKK defense backpack. I can't recall all of the items that went into the bag, but I do remember a bat being a key ingredient. We were ready. If the KKK came to the house we would be able to stop them!

I think about that KKK defense backpack often and what I might put in there today. What would help me to get through this rough patch in my relationship with humanity? What could help to shine compassion and tolerance to the people who most need to see it? It seemed so simple back then.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

You Deserve to Be Loved

I've started to write this blog several times and failed. I start to write, but then I get frustrated and then I get mad and then I get exasperated and then I give up. I really believe that what I have to say is so important that I want to say it to every single person on the planet. It is only five words, five little words, but the truth of these words is powerful. Are you ready? Here it is:

You deserve to be loved.

Now hang on, don't roll your eyes. Don't make a gagging sound. Just hear me out and why you're at it tell that mean little voice in your head to shut the hell up.

Here is a truth that you need to know.

You are important and you have value. You deserve to be loved - Period.

Love is what you deserve. Now in case you are wondering here are some things that you DON'T deserve:
  1. To be treated poorly.
  2. To be used
  3. To be abused.
  4. To continually have your heart broken by the same person.
  5. To chase after someone who clearly isn't worth it.
  6. To never give up on a toxic relationship, no matter who it is with.
  7. To hate yourself...
Remember that book that came out several years ago called; He's Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt? This books holds the same message that I am writing about here. If someone treats you poorly, doesn't try to contact you, only comes around for sex, has sex with other people (without your consent or behind your back), and generally hurts you over and over DON'T deserve that and that person just isn't that into you.

My fear is that people fall into this pattern because they actually don't love themsevles. If you loved yourself would you really let youself be treated that way? If someone was repeatedly hurting someone you love (your child, your mother, your best friend) would you allow that kind of behavior to continue? No, I bet you wouldn't.

So why do people allow themselves to be treat like this over and over again?

You deserve to feel whole, fulfilled, and happy. But guess what? No one outside of yourself can ultimately make you feel whole, fulfilled, or happy. Only you can do that. If you spend all your time chasing after someone else to make you feel whole you will be chasing forever. You have to learn how to find these things within yourself first. Like my guru RuPaul says; "If you can't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an Amen?"

Each day I witness people making the same choices over and over again expecting a different result. Each day I hear people crying about the lover that cheated, lied, left. I witness people who are willing to do anything to get that cheater, liar, leaver, to come back. Maybe it's worth it, but really, if someone loved you, really loved you, would they treat you that way?

If you really loved someone, would you treat them that way?

Relationships (especially romantic ones) aren't what the movies tell us. It isn't all wine, roses, skipping through the park, and running towards each other in slow motion. Yes, relationships take work and work can be hard; and yes work can hurt. But in the end the work should be worth it. In the end there shouldn't be more work and struggle than happiness and good times.

You deserve to have someone see you for what you truly are. You deserve to have someone acknowledge that you are a shining miracle; you are a unique point of light on this planet. You deserve to be loved.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Recovering from Retreat

I've just returned from a week-long intensive retreat.  This retreat happened to be called California Withcamp, but I know that what I am about to express could be connected to any type of spiritual retreat intensive.  What I am referring to is what we at CAWC refer to as "the post-camp blues". 

There are some real, solid, every day, reasons for these blues.  During a retreat we don't have to worry about food, because someone else is taking care of it for us.  We don't have to worry about paying the bills, because in retreat we are "outside" of everyday concerns.  We don't have to worry about entertainment, because there is a schedule to follow and events planned. We don't have to worry about being alone, because we are surrounded by like-minded people.

During a spiritual retreat we have the opportunity to be fully in the present moment.  In the 'regular' world, there are very few opportunities for that.

This Witchcamp was particularily powerful for me.  It was my eighth Witchcamp intensive.  Some of my previous experiences left me forever shifted; like a veil had been removed and I was looking at the world for the first time.  (There is no going back to your previous ways once the veil has been lifted.)  Other camps have been full of challenges and opportunities for me to push my growth; like the years that I was blessed to teach.  And there have been camps where I simply had fun in the woods.  But this year was different.

For the first time in my life I feel like my heart is blown open.  I am experiencing emotions that I don't often allow myself to experience.  I healed some of my wounds.  I connected to people in ways that I didn't think were possible.  I feel totally different than the person I was before.

Camp ended less than a week ago, and yet, it feels like a distant memory.  Now I am left with the daunting task of trying to assimilate the emotional and spiritual processes I went through intellectually.  And yet, even as I write this I recognize that words still don't work.  Words are less than.  All that matters is how my heart feels; full and open.

So, how do I take these feelings, these changes, these experiences, and use them to fuel my regular, every day life.  (Because no matter how much I want it to be different, camp is only SEVEN days of the whole year.)  How do I move through my world with my heart open and keep the connections that were made at camp?  How do I remain open in the outside world, when it can be so harsh and difficult?  These questions are really what "the post-camp blues" are all about.

Yes, it is a bummer that delicious, nutritious, and magical food isn't just waiting for me at mealtimes.  Yes, it sucks that I have to clean the litterbox and dust the living room without a team to help me.  Yes, it is difficult to experience emotions without loved ones to hold witness.  Yes, it is hard to have great distances between myself and those I call beloved. 

Yes, all of these things create the post-camp blues, but more than these things; the ache, the discomfort, and the sadness of "after camp" is really about being different.

At camp, we learn to expand and transform.  This means that we can't always just slip back into the lives that we left seven days earlier.  Sometimes we have to find our new way in our new form.  This can be uncomfortable and difficult.  Sometimes we have to see that what we were no longer fits in the life that we want.  Sometimes this means making big changes and sometimes this means learning to adapt into the newness that is you now.  With big changes comes big adjustments, which can be painful, complicated, and confusing.  And outside of camp, we loose some of the support that was literally right at hand.  We have to learn to navigate the waters in a different way.

And this is hard.

Other people might not look at me and see that something is different, but I know it is, because I can feel it in every breath that I take.  For me, this year at least, recovering from retreat means stepping into myself.  Recovering from retreat means honoring my emotions.  Recovering from retreat means allowing myself to be vulnerable.  Recovering from retreat is a personal acknowledgment that I am not scared anymore.

My heart is full, my heart is open, and I am forever changed.