Nurturing the Divine Feminine into Being

“Eve” from “Lovers of Creation” Triptych, ©Amy Livingstone

I bow to all mothers on this day. . . past present and future and for all of those (women and men) who are nurturing the Divine Feminine into being. I gave this talk five years ago and am sharing again with you today.

Nurturing the Divine Feminine into Being
Abundant Life Center, Vancouver, WA
Mother’s Day. May 13, 2012

Happy Mother’s Day. It’s fitting that that the talk today is on the Divine Feminine. A day when we honor, celebrate, and remember mothers. What better symbol of the divine feminine than that of the mother. She who nurtures a new life into being. Who BIRTHS…FEEDS from her own body, LOVES, and NURTURES the soul of a child into adulthood. From the late Irish philosopher and poet, John O’Donohue

Your voice learning to soothe
Your new child
Was the first home-sound
We heard before we could see.

Your young eyes
Gazing on us
Was the first mirror
Where we glimpsed
What to be seen
Could mean.

Your nearness tilled the air,
An umbilical garden for all the seeds
Of thought that stirred in our infant hearts.
You nurtured and fostered this space
To root all our quietly gathering intensity
That could grow nowhere else.

Formed from the depths beneath your heart,
You know us from the inside out.
No deeds or seas or others
Could ever erase that.

Mother…. Symbol of LOVE. For me, this is the heart of the Divine Feminine. Remembering and nurturing the Divine Feminine into being is a journey from head-to-heart. From hatred to love. From power over to power with. From meaningless consumption to a renewed sense of reverence for life and beauty. This will require a radical shift in consciousness to a new way of being in relationship to each other and our world….to the Earth.

There’s a lot being written about the Divine Feminine these days. One of the many voices contributing to this conversation, is spiritual teacher Andrew Harvey. He writes: “The Divine Feminine is initiating a crucial new phase in our evolution: urging us to discover a new ethic of responsibility toward the planet; bringing us a new vision of the sacredness and unity of life.” I believe that without THIS vision…this evolution…our planet remains in peril, and our very survival is at risk. Most of us know that we are facing ecological, economic and social crises around the world. Climate change, species extinction, threats of nuclear war, toxic food sources, and the list goes on. Social thinker David Korten, calls this the ‘great unraveling.’

What we are experiencing is the result of a dominant masculine paradigm, that emerged alongside the rise of monotheistic religions that placed one male God in a position of authority over all humanity and creation. Attempting to extinguish the Goddess in all her incarnations, the Abrahamic traditions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam suppressed the feminine and subjected women to an inferior position beginning with our first archetypal Mother, Eve. However, what I have discovered through my own spiritual explorations and graduate studies in religion is the way in which these original sacred texts have been subjectively interpreted over the millennia to serve those in power.

For example, the Creation story is believed to have been written during and after the Israelite’s exile in Babylon (what is Iraq today). The ancient creation myths—Enuma Elish and Gilgamesh—were part of the oral tradition in that region. Theologians believe that in an attempt to understand the source of their own suffering and place in the cosmos, the early writers of the Torah borrowed from these ancient myths to write their own story of origin. Therefore, the notion that we are born into original sin, as we have been indoctrinated to believe in Christianity, was not the intention behind the Garden of Eden story. Those of the Jewish faith don’t believe they are born into original sin but original goodness. But without the notion of the Fall and original sin, what is the role of Christ as redeemer?

What is the role of the Catholic Church? For me, Christ’s message of love, service, compassion, inclusivity, and a willingness to challenge the military authority of his time, is a beautiful example of the Divine Feminine in practice. Love. Compassion. Inclusiveness. Unity…all lie at the heart of the Divine Feminine. What has excited me in researching these sacred texts, is that we also have the opportunity to rethink, and reinterpret, scriptures in a way that is reflective of our own time…and in support of a more progressive spirituality that IS inclusive.

Although most of our religious traditions have worshiped male deities over the millennia—Yahweh, Christ, Allah, Buddha, Krishna, etc., the feminine face of god has existed alongside them all along and are now becoming more recognized and gaining in popularity…certainly in the West where the Judeo-Christian tradition has been dominant in our culture. Women and men are seeking out alternatives to traditional religions that are more inclusive and less dogmatic.

• In Judaism, and the mystical teachings of Kabbalah, Shekinah is the feminine divine presence.

• In Christianity, Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, and also Eve as first Mother, are all now being honored as representatives of the divine feminine 

• In Islam and Sufism, Fatima, wife to the Prophet Mohammed, and the Beloved

• In Buddhism, Kuan Yin, Goddess of Compassion, is worshipped all over world including the United States.

• In Hinduism, there are 330 million gods and goddesses. Although Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu are the three primary male deities, in the pantheon of goddesses, Shakti, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Kali, Durga to name a few all represents aspects of the divine feminine.

• Of course, there is also a whole pantheon of Greek and Roman goddesses, so we are not lacking for images that represent the feminine face of god but we are now at a point in history where the recognition of their own Divinity can support us in bringing back into balance the masculine and feminine energies. We need the masculine as much as the feminine but as we have experienced the scale has been tipped too far towards the masculine–causing wars and ecological degradation around the world. This is why it is so important to nurture the divine feminine into being.

Outside of these religious traditions there has also been, since the feminist movement of the 70s, the revival of the most ancient goddess of all…that of Gaia. Mother Earth. What our indigenous brothers and sisters have always known, is that the Earth is our first Mother. The embodiment of the divine feminine, she is the giver of life. Sustainer of life and worthy of our reverence and devotion. Unfortunately, this hasn’t always been the case given the first commandment to have no other gods than the one god of the Abrahamic traditions.

And there are those who strongly hold to their beliefs that those who honor the Earth are pagan, devil-worshippers, and will go to some version of hell. It’s part of the conversation, too, but I feel hopefully that many of our religious leaders are now embracing and encouraging good stewardship of the Creation among their followers. Through a number of mystical experiences, I have come to a deep awareness that no matter who or what we worship (be it a god, goddess, or science)—we are all interconnected and we are all of the Earth.

I want to mindful of not painting an idealized portrait of the Divine Feminine. Love may be the heart of the divine feminine. And yes, a mother’s love is tender and nurturing but it is also a fierce love. This is the marriage of light and shadow. The Goddess, as Gaia, is a giver and sustainer of life, but she is also the destroyer of life as we have been witness to in the large-scale natural disasters that have become more prevalent. And all of you who are mothers know you would protect your young at all costs.

When Marianne Williamson speaks she often uses the story of the hyena mother who guards against the rest of the den of hyenas until all her young are fed. In her analysis, females are anthropologically wired to protect their young. For me, the emergent Divine Feminine is likewise asking that we harness both the tender love and fierce love to awaken, heal, and transform our world from one that is unsustainable to one that is life-sustaining—where our children are fed and bombs are no longer necessary.

We now know that the Divine Feminine has been present throughout history but how do we nurture it fully into being? Through us? How do we mid-wife this new era into consciousness? As I stated in the opening, this is a journey from the head to the heart for all of us—men and women. What I’ve learned is that it requires us to break open our hearts to each other and our world. To compassion. To love. To Oneness. Those attributes of the Divine Feminine.

I know what it feels like to have my heart broken wide open from my own experience through loss and grief when I was 30. Today is Mother’s Day and I’m thinking about my mother, Jane. She died unexpectedly 22 years ago. Nine months after my brother died from AIDS. It was a very dark time in my life but through my suffering, the dark night of the soul to quote St John of the Cross, I was able to open my heart to compassion for others, for all life. There were many gifts that came out of this period in my life for which am now grateful, though it was hell on earth for a time.

Breaking open our hearts doesn’t have to happen to so tragically, though it often does happen that way, doesn’t it? But let us not wait for a catastrophe to open or hearts to our world. In my workshops, the first step I offer on this journey of the heart is to slow down, take time for silence and stillness. Contemplation. Coming into awareness of the revelatory miracle of Creation. Mother Earth. There is so much beauty around us at any given moment, if we would we allow ourselves the time to simply BE. Beauty breaks open our heart. Think of a time when you became aware of this. ……

In “Urgent Message from Mother: Gather the Women, Save the World,” author and Jungian Jean Shinoda Bolen writes: “Seeing beauty, loving what is beautiful, and nurturing and sustaining it all go together. It is also the ability to sense or intuit potential beauty and, through love, encourage it into existence.” Sounds like the Divine Feminine to me.  

Beauty is available to us everywhere even when we’re stuck in traffic. Last Saturday morning, I was crossing the Vancouver bridge to lead a workshop at the Unitarian. It was the first time in 19 years of living in Portland, that I got the bridge lift. Though concerned for a moment at being late, I just turned off  my engine and sat, watching the birds play  in the rafters above me. Listening to their bird song, I breathed deeply into the present moment. I had no control over the situation, so I just allowed everything to be as it was.

Allowing ourselves to be more present to life—being with both with the joy and the grief that may emerge when we finally step off the speeding train that is contemporary life—is key to breaking open our hearts and inviting in the Divine Feminine. I believe the most radical thing we can do is to slow down. In this way, we are better able to be present to beauty, to our feelings, to the people in our lives, to God, to bear witness to what is happening in our world and then take action from a place of LOVE.

As an artist, of course, one of the primary expressions for me to nurture the divine feminine into being is through my artwork. First, in the creation of clay sculptures, primarily of the feminine form, much like our ancestors who sculpted the goddess during the Neolithic period. For example, I’m currently completing a series of ceremonial sculptures that represent three seasons of a woman’s life—the Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Painting has been my primary medium since my teens and although at one time my work emerged out of the darkness and disappointment in my life,  I now create sacred art that draws from the holy well of all spiritual traditions.

Today it is beauty that is my gateway to the Divine. Over the past year, I completed a large-scale, three-panel painting that re-visions the Garden of Eden narrative through an indigenous lens. The overarching theme for the piece became “the Garden is right here, right now.” Paradise is not in some unknowable future, but right here on this glorious planet…we need only remember the holiness of this place we call home. Bringing together symbolism from both the Genesis narrative and those of our earth-honoring ancestors, the painting is a visual scripture that reveals our innate interconnectedness in the web of Creation. Here, Adam and Eve representing the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine, reclaim their roles as stewards of Creation.   

The creative process brings us into the present moment and I believe with all my heart, that we each have a creative gift to bring to the world what ever that may look like for you. I’m awed by people who make art in their kitchen. Fruits and vegetables are so gorgeous. Creativity is our sacred inheritance. As we are born into a creative universe, so we are all co-creators in our evolutionary history. To quote theologian and founder of Creation Spirituality, Matthew Fox:

To allow creativity its appropriate place in our lives and our culture, our education and our family relationships, is to allow healing to happen at a profound level. The intimacy of creativity corresponds to the mystical experience itself. Mysticism bespeaks union, and there is an ongoing union of us and the Divine (Feminine) precisely during the process of giving birth in any form whatsoever.”

Creating life, being a mother… a parent….is one of the most creative acts a human being can undertake. And I bow to you all on this Mother’s Day. Our indigenous teachers say this is the remembering time. A time to remember our relationship to the Earth, our first Mother… that we are all interconnected in the web of life. I also believe it’s a time for remembering your innate creativity in whatever form that may take to serve the healing of our own hearts…our families…our world.

We may be living amidst the great unraveling according to David Korten, but in the words of my teacher, environmentalist Joanna Macy, we are also in the midst of the Great Turning. This is a time of great transformation foretold by many ancient prophecies when the divine feminine and masculine will come into balance again after a period of near extinction and initiate a new phase of evolution ushering in a renewed vision that honors the sacredness of all life on Earth. May it be so.

In closing, a poem that speaks to me of the emerging Divine Feminine:

Beauty is the Messenger

Beauty is the messenger
Calling love out from forgotten places
Hidden by worry and fear,
And misplaced under the illusion of scarcity.

War, pain and conflict are all too evident
Between border towns, strangers and commuters.
But LOVE grows exponentially faster.
It IS the speed of light.

So, kindness reaches its destination
Infinitely faster than the time it takes
For the heaviness of cruelty
To chafe across toughened skin.

Beauty is the messenger
Waking up the sense of wonder,
Rounding up our wholeness into connection beyond ourselves
And increasing our capacity for limitless love.

Beauty is the messenger
Proving the incompatibility
Of splendor and malice;
Showing simply by example…

What is possible.

-Deb Rodney

May all beings know peace. May all beings be loved.