“Love revealed itself to me as being the free flow of energy, and loving being like breathing. If you do it properly you will remain connected to your divinity, if you stifle and force, or fear it, you contract and slowly die.” Shantara Mu Khalsa.
The Omphalos, for the Greeks, was the navel of the world; connected by a loving umbilical cord to the source of all life. A long way back, the OM was removed and we ended up with phallus, ruling the world.
As I open and I am penetrated by the bittersweetness of all life, I am incredibly, profoundly sad. How did this happen? Once upon a time I know that we lived in love, that it flowed between all of us like between a mother and child. This must have been before the Fall, for afterwards men clearly ruled. For many, many years I pondered how the phallus came to rule the world. There are two sexes, surely they are meant to compliment each other?
In my teenage world I saw no complementarity. The girls around me were competing to be the most beautiful, or the smartest, copying what we saw in magazines and pop vids. The boys were hard and mean and had no interest in me. The adults were busy destroying the planet.
It was my constant question: how did we arrive at such a lopsided place; contracted, fearful, polarised to survive, and not truly alive?
So I joined the rebels. We were smart and we were in love with the earth. She became the complimentary opposite. We were white knights and we were gonna rescue her. As I loved the earth, I sought earthy paths to enlightenment, Wicca and tribal spirituality. While I was at university, crystals came alive, I talked to the trees, I bought rare herbs and small vials of rose oil. I began environment groups, I marched for hemp, I dressed in op shop clothing. I joined a flock of black sheep and we ran all over the big stinking city like an adventure playground. We held mainstream in disdain. We found Avalon in psychedelic nights at underground clubs and danced in the train stations, coming down amidst the suited morning commuters, whom we despised. This was our protest to patriarchy.
It was not the answer. We found more alienation, more to fight, more desperation, and some found addiction and death this way. The brink of ecological chaos on which my world teetered was evident all around me. I knew exactly how many megacubicmetres of waste went into landfill in this city every day. I knew what poisons were in the air I breathed. I witnessed no one caring, old trees falling to skyscrapers rising, political perfidy and always the threatening hand of order and taxes controlling me.
My parents bought a house I could rent-to-own in the city. But where was she?
Nature, she was not here. Only in pieces – a pot plant, a park all mown, a small backyard veggie garden. I longed to be embraced by her, surrounded by her perfume and greenery. I thought that would make me whole. So I chose adventure over career, I dodged the trap, I shot the gap, and I landed in a tipi by a river in the sub-tropical rainforests of a caldera. I could breathe.
Here, I was sure I would find the tribe who coud heal me, the spells cast which would make me free.
This is the altarnation. Once upon a time integrated power was alive and well here on this planet, but in the twenty frst century this is close as I could get to a golden age. Northern NSW. Affectionately known as “the shire,” alternative is the mainstream. In here Hine Ti Tama, maiden of dawn – the empowered feminine, before her split and the Fall – became my inspiration. How Hine Ti Tama became Hine Nui Te Po – woman of dark, smothered by a colonialism too ancient to remember, I sought to know. The world outside my tipi haven had mastered masculine power. I knew it was filled with shiny bright things, but the glamour was lost on me. All I could see was rape and pillage. So I stayed with the earth mother in the rainforests. Got dirty.
We have forgotten what it is like in here (we’re so out there) finding jewels in a dark womb full of life.
In my womb-like tipi, just as in tribes anciently, life was magical. Simple but abundant. Indigenous people tell me they were rich. Once the forest was like living in a supermarket with the doors always open, said one to me, take what you like. Always enough. Documented by missionaries, tribes have supernatural abilities we now call magic, like tracking, telepathy, shamanic healing, transmutation and influencing the weather. 80% of tribal time is leisure, just like the very rich. Pre-history, the original paths connecting spirit and matter were well known and tribes lived as an integrated complimentary whole. Stories were sacred oral secrets. Tribal women did not tell their stories to men. Not today, and not when missionary men arrived to document their culture. It is ‘women’s business.’
My love of earth and journey to reclaim my tribal nature took me into the ramshackle wilds of Australian aboriginal community. When I lived with original tribes above the Daintree, how femininity fell into darkness dawned on me. Men only tell men mens’ stories. I am a woman, so there the original women shared their barely remembered womens’ business with me.
Whether Maori, Mohican or Mongol, the juicy mystery of gender polarity is revered in this secretive way. Vive la difference, right? Female colonialists bound by conservative christianity had no freedom to venture into the wilds where the tribal women made ceremony and circle. No opportunity to pass on sacred womens’ mysteries arose. So where we find the heroic deeds of men, like Tane, Maui or Jesus, we lack complimentary tales of heroic women.
Womens’ mysteries fell through a twist in history.
The process of global colonisation by patriarchy occurred between 300 and 2000 CE. Colonised cultures benefitted from economic growth, but lost their health, culture, community, natural resources and gender expressions (some Turtle Island tribes had seven genders). Heterosexual men were exhalted according to the Christian model, and females became their ribs. We could make a long list of all the cultures which have been recently colonised, but it is just easier to say – everywhere.
Have you seen first hand what it looks like to be a colonised tribe? With Uncle Lewis, a Wahrbal elder on the Australian Great Divide, and white fellas from the altarnation, I lived for 9 months creating a reconciliation festival – Rainbow Corroboree. We began with no budget and manifest a three day event where 800 people came (even as the local council was trying to remove us all from Uncle Lewis’ tribal land). It was the first of many.
The Wahr-bal people, a strong and proud tribe, live in poverty in a suburb built for them, and partially demolished by them, on the other side of the river. They have a Christian focus, little traditional wisdom, and speak mostly English. They have television but not internet, and many are alcohol and drug addicted. This is the usual story of colonised people. It is stamped all over the planet.
In the 1960’s, as a child, Uncle Lewis was stolen from his tribe. His grandmothers had the foresight and courage to steal him back and he was raised in caves and camps beside the Rocky River, where his tribe lived from the Dreamtime for over 40,000 years. There he learned the stories, language and tribal ways and returned to empower his people with their traditional knowledge.
The Wahrbal survived. Many tribes did not, and many tribes lost all their knowledge, language, customs and spiritual power on the way to surviving.
Now imagine this has happened to all women. Imagine this has happened to that part of our psyche we idenitfy as feminine; our creative, nuturing, intuitive, interconnected side.
Over 1500 years ago the Celtic tribes of Western Europe were conquered by the Roman Catholic Church and Anglo Saxons. Celtic stories survive to describe the bright and brilliant deeds of powerful women. Such stories share how magical and integrated spirit and matter was before the Fall. After the Romans and Saxons succeeded, life was drear and often deadly for the descendants of Eve.
The Romans gained supremacy in the 6th century CE. Our political idol, the Athenian democracy, circa 500 BCE, comes via these dudes. The Athenian ‘democracy’ excluded women and slaves. Before the Romans, the Greeks; before the Greeks, the Myceneans, and what did they do? They overran the most recent documented example of equanimous civilisation we have, Minoan Crete, around 1400 BCE.
Colonialists of the modern era have used pretty much the same formula as the Roman Empire did throughout Europe: forcefully remove tribe from the land to which they belong; send in religious missionaries, disease, doctors and drugs; organise tribe into accommodation; ban their language and rituals; and attempt to assimilate those willing (and unwilling) into positions of servitude, especially the hybrid children – steal them if necessary. Through recent and ongoing colonialisation (such as in the Amazon) we can witness the fate of heretics to the conquerers’ state; what happens to those whose rituals and herbal lore was banned, who were organised into servitude, whose ‘illegitimate’ children were adopted or orphaned, and whose very bodies became subject to the conquerers’ authority.
This is what happened to femininity when we were subject to Christianity.
However, it is not described like this in history class. We unearthed it from other sources, the multitude of us who are alternative historians, amateur political commentators, and eye witnesses to the injustice of incorporations, and the misreporting of media. History is a fiction written by the victors, and we share that truth all over the inernet every day, with our independent photos and words. Not so in the Dark Ages. After Celtia fell, King Arthur ruled, and Avalon disappeared into the mists, the victors who arose were the priestly caste of the Roman Empire. They were not really Romans, but Anglo Saxons, who wrote history in Latin.
“In the 12th century ancient manuscript scrolls were being written into books with a simple readable Latin script. These books pretend to be collections from separate individual documents – none of which can be found. This was the opportunity for the Ottonian dynasty (of German kings 919-1024) and the church to create ‘phantom history’ to their own advantage. This was an illiterate time, only the highest aristocrats and a few church people could read. There are practically no books from the 11th and 12th centuries, and the ones pertaining to Germany’s ‘Dark Ages’ period come from only a handful of monasteries in Germany. Yes, the creation of phantom history would have been easy,” Georg Dehn.
The entire culture which emerged from the European Dark Age was organised around this fictional history, written by monks.
“It was the woman that you gave me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 3:12 Genesis
Dark Age manuscripts written by German monks became the cornerstones of European political thought. They are the source of both the King James Bible and the Westminster political system. The Bible was translated to English in 1385 by John Wycliffe and associates. The first authorised version was signed off by Elizabeth I of England in 1611. The lens for translation was the dominant paradigm of white male supremacy (sorry guys, it’s history). We were remade in the image of God, only one god. A male god.
“So the Roman Catholic Church is the filter through which global history passed; “the predominant mythic of the Dark Age – the god without a goddess – continues to perpetuate and support the oppositional and mechanical paradigm that science itself refutes.” Laura Knight Jadczyk.
Who were the last devotees of the goddess? We are presented to children as ugly crones with warty noses and have been written into history as Witch. We all know what happened to witches during the time of Queen Elizabeth l and her predesessors. Today we are still undoing the ancestral trauma of burning on a stake. We may want to live as love; as we walk into the shadows of forgotten stories we find that what closes our hearts is the fear in our cells which was laid down in the Burning Times. This is the modern name for the pogrom of fear conducted by church, state and community between 1300 and 1800 CE in the name of a Lord. It was not only women who burned.
“Beginning in 1022, the Church started executing ‘heretics’, people who disagreed with its teachings. So when the Burning Times began, Europeans were accustomed to murdering religious dissidents. In fact the traditional method of killing a Witch (burning her at the stake) was the ‘normal’ way of executing heretics.” The last witch was executed in Europe in 1793.
Sad but true.
The Crusades (11th to 13th centuries) and the Inquisition (16th century) were the way to silence heretical world views (today we call this ‘terrorism’). For the gory story please view The Burning Times by Donna Read (National Film Board of Canada 1990) or read The Heart of the Fire by Cerridwen Fallingstar (1990). The Burning Times had a huge impact in our collective unconscious. Here we buried feminine power deep, in our culture, our politics, and in our personal underworlds. Surviving today, are the children of the witches who did not burn. Which goes to show, feminine power is still around.
Witchcraft fascinated the Middle Ages. Witch hunting was a popular sport in Europe and America. Peasants and common folk initiated most of the trials. Members of a community could seek revenge against a woman by labelling her a witch. Perhaps they believed she had cursed their livestock or brought illness upon their household. Perhaps they wanted to her to wed their son and she had declined. Trials were public spectacles, often well attended. When the Spanish Inquisition killed six witches in 1610, over 30,000 people came to watch. Books on witch hunting, like Malleus Maleficarium, by Inquisitor Heinrich Kramer, sold like hot cakes. They were among the earliest books printed in England.
How would it feel to live in a time where woman was set against woman within community, often battling for life and death with her sisters? This ancestral battle is played out in shopping malls and soapies to this very day.
“During the Middle Ages, Christians thought that Witches worked alone or in isolated, small groups. Witches were ‘misguided’ victims of ‘Pagan superstitions’ but they weren’t particularly dangerous. In the early modern period, however, Christian intellectuals theorized that all witches worked together, that they were an organized, murderous [satanic] conspiracy — the deadly enemies of Christianity. Fear of this non-existent conspiracy grew slowly over the next 150 years, and the number of Witch trials gradually increased during the 14th and 15th centuries.”
What else was burnt at the stake? Feminine joy, our wisdom, our love of the mother, our nurturing essence, and our reliance on community. If we cannot trust our community we are forced to rely on external authority. That external authority is most often embodied by men.
The estimate of witches burned varies between 60,000 and 9 million. Whatever the human cost, it is clear that the circle was broken. The circle where women and men found their femininity nurtured, informed and increased, was penetrated by the sword of external-god- seeking and rent asunder. During these centuries polarised archetypes of Eve and Lilith were firmly embedded in our collective unconscious. The niches and groves of the world where the goddess still played were sought out and purged. No more singing and dancing in the stone circles. No more lovemaking in the forest at Beltane. Our repression of ecstatic self- expression is a cultural norm relieved only by addiction to intoxicating substances which release us from this fear.
“A straight line, one that has a beginning and an end, is a symbol of a target-oriented mind. It immediately appears as a scale that can measure and judge between each two points – determining which one is closer and which one is farther from the source. In the circle, all of the points are simply equal. There is no beginning and no end to the circle. Yet the circle is blocked within itself when the line is breaking through to infinity.” Ohad Ezrahi.
The round of life which incorporated woman, man and nature was penetrated by the linear drive to claim the power of an abstract Lord God. In the search for higher principles and transcendent realities women and men ignored its compliment – unconditional love. In the drive for control, the circle of community was broken, and broken again.
This Machiavellian strategy – gaining obedience to the church/state through fear, amounted to a form of eugenics against all that is feminine; healers, herbalists, mid-wives, druids, ecstatic dancers, and the girl down the lane who refused sex.
If I have trouble opening up in intimacy, if I over-give or submit myself to passive-aggressive, or outright violent manipulation, I am living the repercussions of the Burning times. If I condemn my sisters for their openness or their wildness, I perpetuate this tragedy of women burning. The broken circle rolls stumbling onwards, affecting whole populations and global ecosystems.
Violence equals fear equals contraction. We can know this with our breath, is it not so with our femininity? Holding our breath is a normal response to shock, it is a term used to describe tension and suspense. Violence is the tool of masculine domination since the goddess cultures were destroyed. Violence is something we have to acknowledge within ourselves if we want to practice tantra, in a safe and secure space, for it is a part of the whole. It exists in our shadow and we need to bring it to the light of our awareness. Embracing the whole is a tantric practice, and opening to the history of violence is a necessary part of this.
Nowadays we have clear scientific evidence that violence affects our development.
I picked up a pamphlet at my local childcare centre. It is entitled: “Seeing, hearing and feeling violence changes the way your child’s brain grows.”22 I look at this pamphlet and imagine the generations of children who grew up fearing that their mother could be burned at the stake, slaughtered by an invading tribe from the north, stolen from them by a missionary, or raped by her family members. I imagine a lot of our ancestors witnessed such events regularly. The pamphlet says “family violence, it’s not ok!”
Children of the modern era, offspring of the Feminist revolution, offspring of the World War generations, offspring of Victorian capital punishment, offspring of the Burning Times, show an exponential increase in all forms of craziness and cancer. These alarming and largely ignored cultural tendencies are listed in the pamphlet; “children who grow up in a violent environment can develop: learning difficulties, problems with controlling anger and emotions, a tendency towards criminal activities, mental health issues, abusive relationships, addictions to drugs and alcohol, suicidal thoughts.”
Many of us grow up with violence. Not necesarily physical violence, but more likely emotional and psychological violence. The silent, socially acceptable kind. I don’t know many people of my generation who were not damaged in this way.
As a teen I would call my mother a control freak, a dragon lady, draconian. My friends were too scared to come for sleepovers. When I attracted a certified bi-polar boyfriend, I perceived many similarities between him and my mother. Somehow she had also been damaged and she was living out of post traumatic stress disorder. As I child I just experienced her as sociopathic – she threatened, she belittled me, she threw tantrums and kept moving the goal posts, she hid letters to and from my friends, and she lied.
When I was about seven I left a safety pin undone on the bench. My mother told me that if a baby had swallowed that and died that she would be sent to prison and executed. This was decades after capital punishment had been banned. Here was my first philosophical dilemna – would I let my mother die? I decided that I would give myself up and, instead of her, I would die. I remember how that felt. Not long after I did start to die.
I thought that every night would be my last, and I would die in my sleep. I did my best drawing on a block of wood and wrote loving words to my parents, so they would find it in the morning, after I was dead. I hid it every morning and put it out at night when the lights were out. I got very sick. I couldn’t go to school. I stayed at home for six months before I rejoined the world. It was all psychosomatic. It changed my life.
Giving them the benefit of the doubt, the Roman Catholic Church probably did not know that it was institutionalising the devolution of the human species by popularising violence against heretics. We know this now because we have neuroscience. We will not be burned for raising our children with loving kindness in our chosen lineage today. Criticized, yes. Punished by our parents, perhaps. We may suffer the ridicule of our friends, who place their c-sectioned infants in childcare so they can continue to earn a fashionable wage, but we can respond by accusing them of devolution.
We inherited the fiction that violence is a natural law. Skim the surface of Darwin’s thesis and you will find that humanity co-operated to evolve. ‘Survival of the fittest’ was promoted by the emerging industrial capitalists of the Victorian era. Offspring of the Burning Times, they wrote a dog-eat-dog scenario into history as the ‘way it had always been.’ This supported the free market illusion. Hunting for profit was institutionalised as more important than peaceful and productive procreation of the species. A patriarchal glamour so good for the economy, and so it remains today.
In highschool, when I became aware of the political world around me, I saw my community entraining me to become an economic unit just like them. I fully awoke when my mother told me I would be free when I got a mortgage (French for ‘death game’) and bought my own house. I realised this was the siren song of a hollow life wrapped in smooth media promises, leading nowhere. Thus began my search for a circle.
“The paradigm shift needs to happen now, before it’s too late. We must take serious steps in embracing and raising the circle-consciousness, including its shadow sides, accepting the wholeness of the feminine, and making deep peace with nature. This will occur only if the right balance between the linear and the circular, masculine and feminine is achieved. From the sacred unification of the two – from the hierosgamos-– the Oneness that is above and beyond binary will appear,” Ohad Ezrahi.
Reunion with the circle of life is a tantric odyssey. Life becomes a journey from circle to circle. Tantra was the path I chose because the god and goddess danced together. So I sought out sacred celebration, tribal gatherings and intentional community, because Shakti is found there, immersing my body, mind and soul in communion with the fecund earth, daily. When I decided to become a mother, we birthed our children in warm pools in tipis, planted their placentas beneath trees in the earth, gave thanks to the sea and the stars, and homeschooled them both for as long as we could before the consensual reality vortex sucked us back into the mainstream.
The sacred circle of sustainable love society is like intermittent static that coalesces magically in glorious spirals, and then moves on back to suburbia, or Bali. Subject to the same cutting masculine paradigm, our homelands – the places we grew up, the places we gave birth to our children – are constantly changing landscapes. The have trespass notices and fines laid on. Childhood fairy forests become suburbs at the whim of local councils. Homely horizons become open cast mines via multinational incorporations. The circle is being broken over and over again, until we are collectively struggling to remember what a circle is.
I am angry that our circles are broken. More than angry, I am desolated that we cannot yet re-member those circles, despite all our wealth, worldly travel, and shiny things. But is it any wonder in a ‘civilised’ society which still burns indigenous villages to the ground?
I am angry that we have all this technology but no safety in our environment. It is a subtle shifting carpet of fear we live on. Neanderthals may have been prey to sabre-tooth tigers and giant snakes, but we are still prey, to other humans.
We can neatly assess the negative impact of colonisation of tribes. The invasion of femininity happened over such a long time and across so many cultures, we do not recognise the cumulative effects. One such effect is the deep mistrust between women. Another is the label ‘bitch.’ Another is the modern idea that ‘feminine essence’ is chaotic and manipulative, as described by David Deida.
This chaotic and manipulative slant is a result of the divorce of the gods. This is the cult of god without goddess. The masculine urge to hunt and conquer, creating win/lose situations, has slain the feminine instinct to encircle and nurture. She lost, and this Pyrrhic victory is taking us all into increasingly fearful and dangerous living situations. With clowns running countries, it is becoming very obvious to everyone that the patriarchal paradigm, like the witch burning pogroms, is archaic and out-of-control.
The way forward is to claim our femininity. We don’t need to rescue mother earth, we can heal by hierosgamos inside ourselves, radiating out through our very lives. We are the circle that is coming together. In our contracted state, can we open up to each other and find satisfaction in the natural circular rhythms of life – the seasons, the solstices, the tides, the moons, our menstruation? Like those labelled witch, who were attuned to the magic of Earth, can we use these to live with presence and power?
If not, then we cannot do tantra. For we must fall in love with the earth, as our guide, our mother, the creator of our body. On this path each contraction is turned into an expansion, and as we pulse our body open with the rhythms of yoga, the seasons, and the love in our heart, so our life opens.
It is Shakti who leads us to Shiva. She is beckoning you with ancient stories of feminine power to tell.