Sunday, June 30, 2013

Gaia's Agony

Upon the iron ground she lies
hands grasping the earth
to hold what cannot
be held or bound.
For what is sought
cannot be found
beneath this iron land.

She lies unmoving, blind
her face upwards
searching the sky
where in her darkness
no light breaks through.

Nor where the wings of prey
cut through the air
to scream
A sacrifice
from herself to herself
sustaining her being
with her own body.

In the space between the earth, 
hard, unyielding
and the space between the sky, 
predatory, unforgiving
she must forge her shield
from the fires of her own

Upon the iron ground
beneath the iron sky.

Photo credit: Selma Sevenhuijsen

Monday, June 24, 2013


For one brief day
my misty blue
fluttering veils
reflect the sky
in which I dance

Velvet blue
I wander midst
the flowers of
the realm of death

First egg am I
nymph am I

In pearl grey light
urgently quivering
with life, with death
I tear myself free
from the earth

I glide the land
through rings
of light and shade
and sense
the twilight calling

Knowing my time
is ending soon
I will fly north
lay off my wings
become a soul once more

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dazzling Darkness

The author Ursula Le Guin describes how she was once given a box by her young daughter. Without opening it, she asked her daughter what the box contained. ‘Darkness’, was the secretive reply! 

If we think of God in terms of either light or darkness, then we are almost sure to think of God as light. But to the Gnostics, God was described by the term ‘Dazzling Darkness’. To us the term seems self-contradictory, for surely it is light which is ‘dazzling’? This description of the Gnostics seems to function partly in the same way as a Zen koan – a contradictory statement the contemplation of which pushes us towards new enlightened realities. ‘What is the sound of one hand clapping?’ is perhaps the best-known koan.

For the Gnostics, God is not the Christian creator god - the ‘God the father’. God is beyond this, something truly immeasurable, unknowable. If we even describe what God is, then what God ‘is’, is already changed by our attempts at some sort of a description. To describe this unknowable form of God, this ‘God which is beyond’, we perhaps need one word only. That word is ‘potential’. Think of darkness. Like the box which Ursula Le Guin’s daughter presented to her, we cannot see what it might contain. It might contain anything – and everything. We can neither describe nor limit what we cannot see, what we cannot know. Now we can understand the way in which God can be described as ‘Darkness’.

But why is darkness - of all things! - ‘dazzling’? ‘Dazzling’ describes the limitless potential which the darkness of God contains. To the mystics, this ‘holy dark’ was truly perceived as dazzling: something scintillating with rich creative possibilities. The mystics witnessed this glittering darkness in their contemplations (we would use the term ‘meditations’). God is indeed a ‘dazzling darkness’ out of which all else flows. Our inability to imagine what that darkness is, and what it contains, says something about our own limitations. But we ourselves emerged from that darkness.   

Glass perfume bottle 'Dans la Nuit' by René Jules Lalique

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Sanctuary of Emptiness

We tend to think of a sanctuary as being a place. Even when we talk of our own inner sanctuary, it is still thought of as being a place inside ourselves. But what if we as women find ourselves with no other refuge than emptiness? What if we feel that emptiness is all which we have left? But there is nowhere that is not in some way a sanctuary – even emptiness. And finding the courage to take refuge in this emptiness can become the greatest bond of solidarity between women.

The very fabric of our physical being – our DNA – is passed predominantly through the female mitochondrial DNA from one generation to the next. And yet in so-called developed societies it is the male side which is the recognised lineage. Australian Aboriginal society recognises its lineage from mother to daughter. Did these wise people instinctively know something which Western culture has suppressed for the sake of preserving male dominance?

So much of Western thinking has been deeply influenced by religious standards found in the so-called ‘religions of the Book’, taken to be Christianity, Judaism and Islam. All three of these religions are male-dominant, even to the extent of erasing any traces of female deities from their scriptures. Judaism grew out of beliefs which had both male and female creative deities, with female deities such as Ashtoreth sharing creative powers. But a reading of the Old Testament will now only reveal vague glimpses of this goddess. All direct references to her have been deleted by subsequent male hands. And in spite of a contemporary shift to explain the deity as being gender-neutral, God is still very much ‘God the Father’.

Where is Ashtoreth? Where is Sophia? Where is Shekinah? The shift to monotheism has only succeeded in deifying a supreme being who is unmistakably male. But Jesus himself sought to break the mould of his day by including women among his disciples. Salome and Martha were among his circle – and Mary Magdalene occupied a principal place at his side.

But the spirit endures, and the Spirit is female. It was Eve in her wisdom who caused Adam to fall. For how can the soul progress without knowing life and death? How can the soul gain ground without experiencing a human life, with all its joys and its pain? A blissful existence in Eden had little to offer the soul, and Eve knew it, even if Adam did not. And yet for millennia it is Eve who has shouldered the blame for the expulsion from Eden. In the eyes of male thinking, it is the woman who prompted the fall into sin. But it is the spirit – Eve – who showed the soul – Adam – the way to progress. 

And it is that progress which now needs to be heeded. All things serve their purpose, and the suppression of millennia is one side of the coin which is now beginning to show its other face. “Look” says the Spirit, “the new world has arrived. The landscape is changing around you.” And it is changing because women took refuge in their emptiness: in the last place which had been left to them.  Because in the end soul needs spirit, and spirit needs soul, and this is the true marriage, the sacred union.   

Wednesday, June 5, 2013



In the cracked and barren wastes
that always must be passed through
to reach the Promised Land,
we invoke you, we call to you:
Light of Darkness, Solace of Light,
Moon which guides us, Sun which blesses us,
Giver of Life, we beseech you.

In this land dry without relief
we give thanks to you
for the waters beneath these sands.
We give thanks that you are those waters.
in this land without trees
we give thanks in gratitude 
for the unexpected fruit plucked from nothing.
In this land without sustenance
we give thanks that you are the fruit
which nourishes and sustains us.
In this land without shade
we give thanks that you are the shade
which shelters and cools us.

Through your grace we discover
that this waste land bears its own seeds of liberation
before even the Promised Land is reached;
before even the taste of the old land left far behind
with its towers and temples, its fields and vineyards,
its giving wells of water, has faded from our memory.

We invoke you, Blessed One of the water-jar,
of the amphora, of the wine-press,
of the wheat, of the grain,
of the songs and laughter of our children’s games
as they played in the fields,
of the smiles of our elders
who once watched them playing
and whose smiles remain in our hearts
even though they themselves are faded into air.

In the desert of emancipation we call on you, Blessed Shekinah.
Give your breath to the breathless ones
who feel that they cannot journey farther.
Grant your sanctuary to those women
who are forced to leave their homes,
who are fleeing with their children
to seek refuge in tents and shelters.
Give your blessings to those women
who bury their own talents away for the sake of others.
Light the way for those women who search for themselves,
and imagine that they search in vain.
Enfold these women in your compassionate light,
give them their own voice once more
give them the power to sing
give them the power to believe that they can do so.

It is to Your spirit that we pray, Blessed Shekinah.
We pray for all women who are captive and long for release,
we pray for all women who are suffering through their race,
or through abuse, or through violation,
or through social or religious customs
which deny them their voice, and even their very femininity.
We pray for all women who are suffering for their beliefs,
or because of the beliefs of others.
We pray for all women who are suffering for their ideals,
or for their dreams unable to be realised,
or for no other reason than that they are female.

We commend all these women to your grace, Blessed Shekinah,
may they find solace in the shadow of your shining wings.

This Invocation has  been created as a video, set to the music of Hildegard von Bingen and can now be seen on my post:

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Ecstasy of Icarus

Daedalus has already created a legend. He has engineered and built an ingenious mechanical cow for Pasiphae, queen of Crete, to climb inside and couple with her favourite bull. He has designed the famed Labyrinth: that bewildering maze of passageways and corridors in which callous Theseus, hero in deed but deserting the fair Ariadne who had provided him with the means to carry out that deed, had slain Pasiphae’s grotesque progeny, the monstrous Minotaur.

This master craftsman is already a legend. But to create a myth, he needs his son Icarus. To create a myth, he needs something which Icarus possesses but which he himself lacks. To create a myth, it will take an extreme bravura gesture: a gesture of bold youth which calculating, rational, cautious old Daedalus is incapable of making.

And so Daedalus busies himself with the preparations for his most ambitious invention. He stitches and glues. He fashions feathers and wooden struts and wax. He makes wings for mortal man to fly like the gods. And when these great wings are ready, he and his beloved son strap them on, march to the edge of the Cretan cliffs, and launch themselves into the blue unknown.

Choose the safety of the middle way, the craftsman tells his son. Too low, and the waves will claim you. Too high, and the fierce sun will melt the wax, and you will tumble to earth. Choose the middle way. But it is the nature of youth to be impetuous. And it is the nature of Icarus to go beyond, to seek an ecstasy of knowing which his cautious father is forever denied.

Higher, ever higher, flies Icarus in the ecstasy of this cruel light. He wants to know the sun’s bright secrets, to know the waves’ restless turmoil, to understand the flames’ voices, and to feel their tongues lick his face. He knows a passion beyond the experience of any middle way as he begins to fall upwards, ever upwards, for ecstasy knows neither up nor down. He wants to go beyond. There, at the apogee of his flight, he becomes just another spark of light thrown out by the sun. And far below he will learn all which the journeying waves have to teach him.

Do not mourn for Icarus. His body will be carried safely to shore by the waiting sea nymphs who, themselves being immortal, recognise this fallen son as one of their own.

   'Icarus' by Herbert James Draper