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.