Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chapter 3: Recovering a Feminiine Standpoint: The Rape of Feminine Spirit

The Maidens of the Wells

In ancient times Logres was a rich country but it was turned into a Wasteland so that it was worth scarcely a couple of hazelnuts. For the kingdom lost the voices of the wells and the damsels that were in them. These damsels would offer food and drink to wayfarers. A traveler had only to wish for food and seek out one of the wells and a damsel would appear from out of the well with the food he liked best, a cup of gold in her hand. No wayfarers were excluded from this service.

But King Amangons broke this custom. Although it was his duty to guard the damsels and keep them within his peace, he raped one of them and took away her golden cup for his own service. After that time no damsel was seen issuing from the well and the only service which wayfarers received was done invisibly. The king's vassals followed their king's actions and raped the other damsels also, carrying off the golden cups. And so the service of the wells ceased. The land was laid waste: trees lost their leaves, meadows and plants withered and the waters were dried up so that no man might find the Court of the Rich Fisherman, he that once made the land bright with his treasures.

After this time, King Arthur instituted the Knights of the Round Table, who, when they heard this story, were determined to recover the wells and protect the damsels. They swore they would totally destroy the kindred of Amangons and his men. But though they made vows to God, they could never hear a voice from the wells nor could they find any damsel, for these had been pierced by the swords of Amangons' followers or else hanged.

The Round Table knights found damsels in the forest accompanied by well-armed knights. One of these was captured and brought back to Arthur's court where he told the following tale. "All of us are the children born of the damsels whom Amangons and his men raped. These great wrongs shall never be redeemed in worldly time. We are bound to travel in common, knights and damsels, through this land until God wills that the Court of Joy be found, for that will make the land bright again. Whoever seeks that Court shall find greater adventures than were ever in this land before."

The Round Table knights decided to seek for the Court of the Rich Fisherman, who was a shapeshifter. Although many knights sought it and few found it, none asked the right questions when the Hallows were processed about the hall of the Rich Fisherman who appeared in such splendour that none recognized the fisherman they had seen earlier that day. At that table the Grail appeared by itself and served all who sat there, providing food in great variety.

On the day that the Court of the Rich Fisherman was found, and the correct answers received by the seeker, the waters flowed again, fountains which had been dried up ran into the meadows. Fields were green and fruitful and the forests clothed in green leaf on the day that the Court of Joy was found.1
Recovering A Feminine Standpoint:  A Teaching Story

 Who cannot love herSelf cannot love anybody
who is ashamed of her body is ashamed of all life
who finds dirt or filth in her body is lost
who cannot respect the gifts given even before birth
can never respect anything fully.
                        Susan Cooper, Daughters of Copper Woman

Story opens our hearts, nourishes our souls, awakens our minds, refreshes our spirit. Story is the vehicle we use to pass on wisdom that is so intrinsic to our human nature that story is the only way we can express it. Story is in all times and in all places.
             Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Woman Who Run With The Wolves

The Rape of Feminine Spirit

Like the maidens of the wells, the voices of women's wisdom have been raped away by centuries of masculine domination and rationalism.   We thought we could live without the feeling and intuitive, imaginative and symbolic voices of Feminine Spirit.  But like Logres in this tale, Western culture has become a materialistic Wasteland without the healing presence of the waters of the wells of feminine Wisdom. Wisdom.                                                                                            
 In the last 40 years, we have experienced the return of Feminine Spirit in all her many forms.  Despite the backlash against the women’s movement and the latest ‘war against women’ in the US, women are standing up for financial equality with men and shattering glass ceilings.  Women in business and politics are stepping forward with innovated ideas that come out of their feminine experience, their feminine brain and their feminine imagination.  And those companies who have women CEOs and women in higher management are reaping the financial rewards of their innovative style.   Women's voices are speaking out and being heard, asking the right questions and giving the smart answers.  
As women re-discover our unique powers of love, interconnection, vision and healing, purpose and wisdom, we invariably give our gifts to the people, and the world, we love. Like the Maidens of the Wells, women give freely of our gifts to all who ask. This is our special magic - the more we give, the more we have to give. 

To understand the heroine’s journey in the 21st Century, we have to understand that besides re-learning our mother tongue of the imagination, women need to reclaim our unique feminine standpoint and voice.   For long centuries, a woman’s sense of herself has been undermined by social and religious authorities.  When we look to our sisters in the East, we are justly outraged by their plight in countries like Afghanistan and the brothels of Thailand.  And yet, it was only 300 years ago that women in the West were burnt at the stake for being witches and seductresses, healers or merely old, and it has only been in the last century that Western societies have given women the right to vote.  Women are finally ‘free’ and yet what woman feels free from all the old prejudices and fears that seem to be programmed into our genetic code after thousands of years of repression?  

Our sisters in Afghanistan have had to deal with the Taliban, and women in the West have had to deal with our own inner Taliban - all those nasty voices that judge us, criticize us and put down our self-confidence; that create fear, depression and anxiety and that cover up our truest and best selves. And it appears that there's an American Taliban in office in many states of our Union. We know that the patriarchal demands on women have twisted our feminine natures to conform to masculine standards of behavior and belief.  These inner terrorists are hard to point fingers at because they are invisible tormentors. These inner suicide bombers would rather see us dead than free of their old lies and beliefs.
 It is only by experiencing how we are not really free and equal to men, in the political arena, in the business world and in our personal relationships will women come into our true freedom.   No matter how successful a woman is – which is really a measure of how well she has acclimated herself to the masculine hierarchy – she still has to confront these negative voices, both within herself and also in her environment, for often men still do not understand or validate her standpoint.  That is why we must reclaim a truly feminine standpoint, and know it for what it is.  Perhaps then men will stop expecting us to be, think and act like them and finally take it upon themselves to understand us in our true feminine form.

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