Tuesday, July 31, 2012
The Moon is the Mistress of the Waters of the Collective Unconscious
There is one last connection to make in our discussion of lunar consciousness: the connection between the Moon and the waters of the Earth. We know the Moon causes the tides, both in ourselves (composed of 80% salt water) and in the seas and oceans. In my dream, there is a connection between the Moon and the giant wave. This giant wave is a recurring motif in the dreams of many people today, and I think it symbolizes an important aspect of the psychic changes that are occurring in the collective unconscious.
Right now, the equinox position in the sky is shifting from the astrological sign of Pisces the Fish to the sign of Aquarius, the Waterbearer, who empties the water of life out onto us all. Jung saw Aquarius' image as a symbol of the outpouring of the images of the collective unconscious - an opening to the imagination which could renew our culture. Some people feel that this will be an age in which humanity will become holy, when we incarnate the Divine Spirit within our humanness, so that the "Godhead might be made manifest in Nature, and all of Nature would become the self-expression of the Godhead."20
The wave, though potentially destructive, can also give us the energy of the water of new life. The waters of the Earth are the most ancient creation, the closest to the Primordial Spirit of creation, for everything is born of the waters, whether rivers, springs, wells, lakes or seas. The ancient Greeks imagined there was a river of live waters surrounding the earth like a serpent swallowing its own tail. Jung felt that the ocean symbolizes the vastness of the collective unconscious, out of which the individual ego consciousness emerges. The waters of the collective unconscious are stirring, and the wave, as an image of the new age, is bringing these images to us for conscious realization.
But the sea itself is formless, and the Moon is the Mistress of the Seas, for it is the magnetic pull of the Moon that creates the tides and gives form to the life of the waters.21 One of the most precious forms that the waters give birth to is Aphrodite, the Goddess of Beauty and Love, who in turn awakens psyche, or soul, within each of us.
The waters of the Earth move to the rhythms of the Moon, just as our inner waters, including our feelings and emotions, are influenced by the Moon's force. In astrology, the Moon rules these inner tides, for they are the flow of psychic energy which moves us through life. Psychologically, it is our lunar, feminine consciousness, our subliminal consciousness that comes and goes which magnetizes the unconscious and creates the images of our instinctual needs and desires. If we can tune into these images consciously, we pick up the information we need to live well and wisely.
The Moon, the ancient symbol of feminine spirit as psyche or soul, mediates between spirit [Sun] and body [Earth]. It is through soul-making that we become conscious of our individual lives; through our souls we express the spirit here on Earth as we live out our individual destinies. If we are to become whole, we need to bring into balance the forces of the masculine and feminine energies at play in the universe. And that balance is achieved within the soul.
The path of individuation and individual creativity is a journey that each of us must take if we want to transform the way we live on this precious Earth. Like the Grail knights, we must enter the forest off the beaten track and make our own way to the initiation that awaits us deep within. As women, we have the great gift of our bodies through which we can experience the rhythmic energies of creation. When we listen to and trust our body as it responds to the energies of the Moon, we can access the transformative powers of the universe. As we once again learn to live within the Moon, we will come to understand and honor her light. The vision and consciousness of this light that manifests in dreams, fantasies and imagination, in the voices of our feelings, our intuitions and our bodies will create the balance that our culture so desperately needs.
When we take our standpoint on the Moon, it is a commitment to live consciously within the rhythms of the transformation of life, constantly changing, eternally becoming. Then we can discover a spirituality that encompasses the world we live in and the many worlds beyond.
Monday, July 30, 2012
Women's Dreaming Power
In Carlos Castaneda's book, The Second Ring of Power, we meet don Juan's women pupils. Carlos learns things from them that not even don Juan can give to him - for he works out don Juan's teachings through his relationship with them, and grows into his power by coming up against them. La Gorda, that most marvelous of women warriors, tells him a secret about dreaming, which is the ability to go consciously into the Nagual, or in Jungian terms, the collective unconscious.
"The Nagual [don Juan] told me and the little sisters that during our menstrual periods DREAMING becomes power. I get a little crazy for one thing. I become more daring. And like the Nagual showed us, a crack opens in front of us during those days. You're not a woman so it can't make any sense to you, but two days before her period a woman can open that crack and step through it into another world."
With her left hand she followed the contour of an invisible line that seemed to run vertically in front of her at arm's length.
"During that time a woman, if she wants to, can let go of the images of the world," la Gorda went on. "That's the crack between the worlds, and as the Nagual said, it is right in front of all of us women."
"The reason the Nagual believes women are better sorcerers than men is because they always have the crack in front of them, while a man has to make it." 14
This dark Moon power is this ability to let go of our everyday world and step through it into other realms. We can go within to see visions, feel feelings, grasp intuitions, then come back with knowledge. Reflect on this knowledge; see it through the eyes of love and you will find Wisdom. This is the transformative power that the knights were searching for in the Grail.
There is a rhythm and a personal form to every woman's menstrual cycle. If each of us can become conscious of our own rhythms, we can gain the knowledge of our sensual and feeling life that will help us reclaim our personal power as woman-in-herself, and not as daughters of the patriarchy. Much of our power lies hidden in the realm of the unconscious.
As we know, the menstrual cycle is four-fold like the moon's phases. And just as most women's menstrual cycle averages out to about 28 days, the moon's cycle from new moon to new moon is 29.53 days.15 Even the name menstrual cycle comes from the Latin MENS/moon and MENSIS/month. The idea of measure is connected to these words, and the measurement of time by the return of the moon reflects the measured effects of a woman's monthly cycle on the people around her. In turn, the ebb and flow of feminine consciousness gives time a qualitative texture, periodic and rhythmic, waxing and waning, opened or closed. It mixes fullness and leanness, light and dark, and a woman experiences this "in the blood tides of her menstrual cycle and its attendant psychological effects."16
There is a basic rhythm that is measured by the moon and the menstrual cycle. There is the waxing and waning of the two crescent phases, the building up (or out) and the drawing down (or in). Then there are the two poles of the full and new Moon, or in the menstrual cycle, ovulation and menstruation. Ovulation, when the ripe egg is shed into the fallopian tube, is the more culturally accepted side of the cycle, for literal fertility and childbearing are honored in a woman of the patriarchy. In the same way, women gladly accept the possibility of full Moon consciousness in their lives.
At ovulation, a woman's body is receptive and fertile. She may feel then an emotional expansiveness, an abundance of sexual energy, a new potency in her creative ideas and insights. . . .If she is related to what is happening to her body and psyche, this time of the month can give her increased confidence and new certainty in her own capacities. Because this sense of herself is rooted in psychosomatic reality, it does not lead to inflation or a drive for power, but to stabilization, and a real sense of her own strength. 17
The other end of the pole, the blood flow itself, is viewed less favorably by society. Menstruation, symbolized by the dark of the Moon, is the time when the thick, built-up lining of the womb is shed and its wall becomes thin and exquisitely sensitive, like a wound. This can often be a time of pain and separation, and some women still view it as a bother. Nevertheless, it is a time to get in touch with a deeper and more fundamental layer of ourselves, when we touch ground with our instinctual nature. It is an in-gathering of psychic energy, a time when the unconscious is especially constellated and open to us. This makes it a time "in which the imaginative and interpretive energies are released in body language and symbolic form."18
This is a time when a woman can become a shamaness; it is a time when we feel the need to dream and meditate, to withdraw to the other world, to go deep within. At such a time, we can go through the crack in the world and re-emerge with new riches for our lives and our world. Many women dream powerful dreams during this time. Today's women who have PMS often have terrifying dreams during this time, and yet who is to say that these dreams do not reflect a negative sense of self which takes on bodily symptoms during this part of the cycle.
In ancient cultures, women went away to be by themselves during their menstrual period, for this time was considered dangerous and powerful. This was true of ancient Semites as well as Native American women. The women went off by themselves during their moon-time, and dreamed dreams for the tribe. In some tribes and cultures, they were forced to go off for fear that they would 'contaminate' the men, the food, the ceremonies. But in most situations, the women chose to separate themselves to explore the feminine mysteries and to bring back to their people the power of their dreams and journeys to the spirit world. We know that when women live and work together, their menstrual cycles come into sync. If nothing else, a group of women got away from the normal life of the tribe for a time each month!
What a better way to deal with this issue, actually honoring the transformative time of the cycle. What would happen if we legislated 'sick' time for our periods and we had the luxury of going within unhampered by worry or work. The dark Goddess and the Christian Black Madonna were equally venerated for their healing powers, especially during this time in a woman's cycle, because it is this cycle which creates life.
Psychologically, this cycle which creates the physical possibility of life also symbolizes the potential for continual change and creative development in our life. Women have the immeasurable advantage of a monthly rebirth of our ego, a monthly renewal of energy and instinctual power in the body that helps us meet life in a more immediate, conscious and soul-full way. Consciously attuning to the moon's cycles can put us in touch with the great healing and transformative powers of this Goddess. Each month as the Moon tracks through its cycle, we can go through the process of Virgin, Mother and Crone - experiencing, choosing and understanding life. And then rest and get recharged before another phase begins.
Remember my dream about the wounded lion and the great wave? All the elements of the regenerative powers of the Moon are there if we know how to look for them. The dream suggests that there is a wound to my instinctual nature that developed during my childhood. It was a wound of self-confidence and creativity (the Lion). Many people in my generation have experienced these wounds. It should be noted that the baby-boomers have the planet Pluto in the sign of Leo, the Lion. Astrologically it means that our task is to discover the wound to our 'royal' nature and awaken the greater passions of the heart. Our generation has to discover that our creativity is meant for the greater good of all, not just ourselves. It is our task to heal the passion of matter. The lion is regarded as the King of the Beasts and so came to symbolize our natural passions and desires. The lion is associated with pride, and emotionality, and healthy, aggressive impulses. In the most profound sense, kingship/queenship is connected with the capacity to wrestle with the passions, for no one can govern or serve as an example to others who has not first governed her/his own impulses. The lion is also very much associated with the Goddess, who ruled the natural world of instinct, intuition and feeling. This lion's wound symbolizes how my generation has to grapple with our passionate nature. It is a call to go deeper into life, for only the wounded healer can heal.
In the dream as in real life, I am trying to protect my daughter from a similar wound. Knowing my wound, and not wanting to see my children wounded in the same way, gave me the courage to confront the lion (my foolhardy friend from college!). At the time of this dream, I did not fully understand the power and sacredness of my feminine, instinctual nature. My spirituality was learned from the Father and so I was cut off from my body. It was this dream that led me along the path to feminine wisdom, and helped me become conscious of a more earthy standpoint and spirituality.
I am always amazed at how the symbolism in dreams is woven together! When I had this dream, I was just beginning my study of the ancient goddesses, and it was not until years later that I finally understood the full meaning of the images of the dream. After the dream shows me that I am becoming conscious of this wound to my instinctual nature, it shows me the next step in the process - how it will be healed. The triple crossroad, a form of the world axis, was sacred to the Greek goddess Hecate, the Old Crone or Wise Woman. As guardian of the crossroads, where the traveler is faced with three choices, the Wise One offers the possibility of going beyond dualism, to that third possibility which Jung calls the transcendent function. By this, he means that if you can bear the tension of the opposites (hold on to two opposing ideas, feelings, energies) until a new, third way appears, this new path will be the perfect, balanced response to the situation.
Hecate's objective eye sees into the underworld of the dead and repressed, while her magic and Sight understand what is needed for new life. Hecate never lived on Mt. Olympus with the other Greek deities, but chose to live in this world, where she had great power over earth, sea and the heavens. She had many positive attributes which were discarded and repressed when we lost our understanding of the dark side of the Goddess. She has come down to us through Christianity as the Queen of the Witches and of the Dead, and we caricature her image every Halloween. She helped Demeter discover that her daughter Persephone had been ravished away by Hades. She gives us the gift of intuitive knowing and her symbol is a torch. She is the one who lights up the darkness of the Unconscious and reveals its treasures. She is Lady Wisdom.
In the dream, it is under the protection of this wise energy that I realize I will give birth to a savior. The Sight comes over me just as the giant wave does. The savior, in one sense, is that virginal aspect of myself that is imaged in the waxing moon that appears after the wave washes over me. The regeneration, from old waning moon to new crescent, occurs with a rebirth of feminine consciousness. This rebirth is occurring on many levels in many people. We are living in a time of great upheaval and change, and the world as we know it will be vastly different in the future. Already, people are fighting injustice and corruption; more people are getting involved and learning how to stop the illogical and destructive forces that run our society. Like the Swiss people in my dream, it is time for dreamers to become practical and bring their visions into the world. The rebirth of spirit, of the feminine, and of our culture can only take hold if we let it root itself in our everyday lives, and we must cultivate and work with it so the seeds will grow. It is the moon's rhythms, which we can see nightly, which bring about concrete change and growth.
I had this dream right before my period, and as you can see, it put me in touch with deep feminine wisdom. Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove, who wrote The Wise Wound, feel that this wisdom is recoverable by any woman who turns to it.
The strange fact about this moon knowledge . . . is that it is knowledge that is recoverable from age to age wherever women menstruate and wonder how their own interior changes are related to the changes of the moon and the tides. It is not like masculine knowledge, that is built up from painful generation to generation, and which can be lost utterly if the chain is broken. Women's knowledge is available to them if they will only look inwards and give themselves trust, and not be afraid to personify with (for example) goddess' names, those forces greater than their own selves that move them; and not be afraid to learn from themselves rather than from men who abuse their "credulity" which is their openness, and their "impressionability" which is their ability to take what is happening and what is communicated to them, even by men, deep within. 19
Sunday, July 29, 2012
The Grail Mysteries
The mysteries of the dark side of the Goddess, which in ancient cultures was seen as the moon's menstruation, were described again in the medieval myths of the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail is the cup that contained the sacred blood of Christ, used by Him at the Last Supper. In the Middle Ages, a body of stories grew up around this legend, and were incorporated into the Arthurian literature. There was a period in the Middle Ages when the feminine principle tried to emerge into the collective consciousness. Emma Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz, in their book on The Holy Grail,13 see these stories, as well as the emergence of alchemy, as an attempt to re-integrate the feminine spirit back into the collective Christian consciousness of the times, the very issue we are faced with again today. Although the attempt seems to have failed on a large scale, there was a resurgence of interest in the more magical consciousness of the feminine imagination. The Grail stories, which also incorporate some ancient Celtic lore about the goddess Cerridwen's cauldron of plenty, tell of the great quest of the knights of Arthur's court. The Grail appears in a vision to them, and all the knights set out on a quest to find the Grail. They go off alone, making sure not to take the usual tracks into the forest. Only a virtuous knight can even hope to find the Grail, and not many of them succeed. When the Grail hero, whether Gawain, Perceval, or Galahad, finally comes to the Grail castle, he must ask the question, "What is the meaning of this?" or "Whom does this Grail serve?" When the question is finally asked, the wounded Fisher King is restored to health, and the land, which had become a wasteland because of the wound, blooms again. The Grail serves Life, and these knights learn that their purpose is to serve life as well. It is the Grail hero's attitude to the mystery of life, the very fact that he asks the question, which works the magic. Psychologically, this signifies an ego attitude that isn't afraid to look to feminine consciousness for meaning. It is a willingness to ask what meaning our dreams and fantasies have in order to live a balanced and more soul-full life.
One of the earliest versions of this story is The Maidens of the Wells, which you read at in the beginning of this book. Because the feminine spirit has been ravished and robbed of its nurturing capacity, the land is laid waste. The medieval stories of the Grail speak of the Cup as the renewal of life, and though associated with the Christian mysteries, it was also about the quest for the hidden mystery of the feminine principle, which is concretely available to women in our own bleeding.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
The Moon's Initiation: The Descent to the Underworld
Sylvia Brinton Perera describes this descent in her marvelous book, Descent to the Goddess.11 Using the Sumerian myth of the goddess Inanna's descent to the underworld realm of her dark sister Ereshkigal, her death and rebirth and eventual return to the heavens, Perera describes our need to descend into the underworld of the unconscious and stand before the dark, repressed feminine that rules there within our psyches. If we can allow ourselves to make that dark journey, leaving behind our everyday attitudes as Inanna left behind her power in her clothes and jewels at the seven gates of the underworld, we will confront a feminine side of ourselves that has been relegated to the darkness by our collective consciousness of the light. We can regain the lost knowledge of the feminine from this dark sister, the wild woman in our psyches, Allerleirauh wearing her mantle of furs, if we have the courage to look on her and honor her, which means honoring our deep wounds, our fears, our despair as well as our intuitive knowing and vision. Then we can begin to bring some of her power back up into the light of everyday reality. I believe that this is the renewal we are all searching for, for from this death and rebirth a new spirit is available to us, and we will be able to see, with our dark sister's eye of death, what it is that we really want and what is demanded of us by our destiny.
Once we have made this initial descent to the dark Goddess and we connect to our repressed feelings, each menstrual period and each cycle of the moon gives us another chance to go within and listen for wisdom. At the dark of the moon, or during our bleeding, the new birth occurs. This is a stage of border crossings, when we have the potential to break into other realities, when our ego consciousness sinks into the depths, and we are bereft of light. Outwardly, it is often a time when we feel distant and cold, unrelated and hidden. Life feels barren, like a dead thing. We experience this as a time of depression, grouchiness, being out of touch, yet touchy. This happens when psychic energy goes into the unconscious, into the experience of being hidden. Our energy is scattered, for there is nothing outside of ourselves that it cares to hold onto. We feel dry and lifeless, for the moist, feeling life has gone through an inner boundary into the darkness of the depths. Usually, we just suffer through it, for we do not realize what is happening to us. But if we can name these times for what they are - a descent to the dark Goddess - we might be able to go into the depths consciously. The way, par excellence, for women to experience this descent, as well as the rebirth of the new cycle, is through our menstrual cycle.
Woman's menstrual cycle is an ebb and flow of energy, a cyclic rhythm we experience in our bodies. If today's ads are any indication, women experience it as a disruption in their lives, having no idea of the inner meaning of its rhythms. We only know that the blood flow is a bother, and the only time we look forward to our periods is when we fear we might be pregnant. How far we have come from honoring the gifts of a female body! How will this affect our instincts when women can take drugs and only have their periods four times a year? The menstrual cycle has an inner dimension whose meaning we have lost, for long ago it was called 'Woman's Friend' and women knew its hidden mystery.12 In losing touch with our bodies and the wisdom of our bodies, women lost the means by which we can consciously partake in the creativity and wisdom of feminine wisdom. For our bleeding wombs are the symbol and the source of life renewed.
Friday, July 27, 2012
The Triple Moon Goddess: Maiden, Mother and Crone
The first face of the Moon goddess, the crescent Moon, is her Maiden aspect, representing youthfulness, expectancy, innocence, newness. She is the dawn, enchantment, seduction and fruitfulness. Through her eyes, we see the freshness and beauty of life and hold reverence and wonder in our hearts. She is open to all experiences for she is unafraid of the unknown.
The Maiden is also called the Virgin. Many of the ancient goddesses were virgin goddesses. A virgin was a woman who 'belonged to no man', a young woman who was unmarried. Possibly this is the meaning of Mary being a virgin when she conceived Jesus. Esther Harding's work on women's mysteries suggests that to be a virgin means to be 'one-in-herself', a woman who accepts her own sovereignty. It did not mean a young woman who is sexually inexperienced. To be virginal means being true to nature and to your instincts rather than giving over to another's needs or demands. Virginity is a creative submission to the demands of instinct, rather than a rejection or denial of those instincts.9 Virgin forests are not barren places, but rather ones that are especially fruitful, for they are unexploited and still totally natural. How many of us, whether woman or man, know how to be virginal in this sense?
The virgin acts according to her own nature. She gives herself to lovers but is never possessed by them; she is never just the counterpart of a male, either god or man. In ancient Greece, this aspect of the Moon was honored as Artemis, goddess of wild things, and leader of the Dance. This Virgin Goddess watched over childbirth and was the womb opener10 because childbirth demands that we surrender to instinctual rhythms. In surrendering to her instinctual nature, a woman becomes creative.
Each month, a woman can become virginal again with each new shedding of menstrual blood which prepares the womb for new life. At this time, a woman stands grounded in her instincts, ready with her creative potential to meet the demands of her life. This stage represents young women through their 20’s, as they go out into the world to work and to prove themselves in the world. This is a time of adventure and exploration, when we learn how to listen to our own natures and learn to be free.
Psychologically, the crescent Moon is an image this new beginning. It stands as a sign of psychic energy emerging out of the darkness of the unconscious, continually evolving, continuing to bring us new life experiences. Each month the new crescent moon stands in the western sky at sunset, shining with fragile beauty, evoking a feeling of hope and new life to come. It is during this part of the Moon cycle that we experience a sense of expectancy, for who knows what experiences are waiting for us. It evokes our youthful sense of independence and individuality that sometimes gets lost in the midst of our hectic lives. Our bodies, our emotions and our thoughts can open to new possibilities, where we think outside the box, start new projects, and permit ourselves new feelings.
As the Moon comes to its fullness, it fully turns to meet the light of the Sun. This second aspect of the Moon is the Mother, a stage that represents the creation and ripening of life, the state of adulthood and parenthood. It is the time to take responsibility for yourself and others, to learn the lessons of patience and self-discipline. As the nurturing mother, this stage knows and teaches the mysteries of Life, just as a mother teaches her children how to grow up to be good human beings. This is the stage where we learn the power of Love as an exchange, the energy that connects us to others. We first learn to love ourselves in the Maiden stage so we can learn to love others in the Mother stage. One without the other doesn't work, because if we can't love ourselves, we won't know how to love someone else. Jesus said, “There are only two commandments: Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” We must be grounded in self-love to do everything else right. And this self-love comes to us through honoring our instinctive knowing.
A mother's love is unconditional and compassionate, and yet not without discipline. We nurture our children to teach them the mysteries of life, and sometimes that means not giving them what they think they need, but letting them learn how to get it for themselves. The mother has the wisdom of life at her core, and she teaches this wisdom by example as well as through any creative endeavor she takes up. The care and nurturing she gives her children, both outer and inner, is reflected in the strength and truth of those creations. Full Moon consciousness nurtures the newly born baby, a new behavior, a new creative project or a relationship in the same way – with love and devotion.
In ancient Greece, Hera was worshiped as the Moon, and as the Full Moon in particular. Although the patriarchy gave her the thankless role of the jealous wife, she originally embodied the power of the union of opposites, the power that comes from the sacred marriage of masculine and feminine energies. As the full Moon, She was known as the Perfect One, and Zeus, Her consort, was called the Perfector. Her virginal aspect was not lost but brought to its perfection by union with the Other. From the myths, we know that the patriarchal mind could not allow women to own their sovereignty, and so this mighty goddess became a stereotype for patriarchal marriage. We can see why in Greek mythology Hera gets so terribly angry with Zeus' sexual escapades, for he does not allow her to be true to her nature as the Perfect One. He refused to complete her. When we are in relationship, we can neither lose ourselves in it nor hold back from it. True relationship is about incorporating two different yet complementary energies, completing each other.
Psychologically, this full Moon experience is the 'rounding out' of an idea, a desire or a feeling by coming into relationship with others or bringing it into the world in some creative fashion. This full Moon consciousness can look at an ego decision, which thinks there is only one truth, and show it another, equally viable, way to see things. It can hold both ideas until the third, transcendent path opens.
A young woman dreamed: I am looking at the sky at night together with my mother. I see two huge full moons and I tell my mom how amazing that is and that it is not possible. My mother tells me that she has no glasses and she can't see it. Somehow I have her old glasses with me and I give them to her and she can see everything clearly.
This woman can suddenly see both side of the issue. It's her inner mother who isn't sure she can see both sides. Our mothers can only give us what they know. And so sometimes we have to show them the way. Like Persephone, this dreamer knows something that she has to share with her mom. Something awesome, something new. A larger, more feminine consciousness. Perhaps her mother, like Allerleirauh's mother, can't get beyond her patriarchal mindset without her daughter's help.
Women in their 30’s and 40’s are in this stage of life. This is the time of motherhood and marriage, where we learn to partner and to parent. We become involved in our schools and our communities as we help our children grow into adulthood. This is when we learn to work with a partner toward a common goal. It is a time when we can be perfected in our sense of ourselves. To really meet the Other entails an openness, a willingness to be totally present in yourself for the Other; it entails an ability to allow new perceptions or awareness so we can meet the world without retreating back to the stability of old habits or values.
In the story, Allerleirauh experiences this full Moon openness when she appears at the balls. She goes to the festival openly, dressed in splendour, ready to meet the king on her own terms. This is the hardest part - to be in relationship without losing our sense of self. This is the point when we need the Moon's virtues of spirit, heart and courage, for it takes a firm belief in ourselves and the spirit within to meet the demands of life in this way. If women can learn to keep this sense of self in the midst of being in relationship, we will heal the wounds that break our marriages apart. For relationships are in the hands of women, not men, and it is one of the ways we can bring about the change that is needed in the world and between men and women.
The third aspect, the waning Moon, represents the Crone or Wise Woman. This was the most feared, least understood aspect of the Moon goddess. This is the aspect that was called the Hag, the Terrible Mother, the Witch, the Wise One. This aspect of the cycle deals with death, the end of cycles, and the mysteries surrounding re-birth. The more we fear old age, death, and the unknown, the more we fear this aspect of the cycle. But if we can accept this part of the cycle, we will find the treasure of wisdom that we've been seeking: the wisdom that sustains life, the wisdom to evolve our consciousness.
The Crone, whose name means crown, symbolizes the achievement of Wisdom culled from the experience of loving and nurturing that we learned at the full Moon as well as the wisdom of the Virgin who knows herself. Just as we find a peace and harmony within as we grow older - as the fire and impatience of youth is felt but is no longer overwhelming to us - so too the waning Moon is a time of introversion and withdrawal. It teaches us to be alone with ourselves. It teaches when it’s time to let go and let the old die. It is a time to realize what we understand and the wisdom that comes from that knowledge.
No one would ever mistake the waning moon for the waxing moon, for there is a wholly different feel to each of them. I am always struck by the beauty of the waxing crescent, which fills me with hope and excitement, whereas the waning crescent rising after midnight always leaves me with a feeling of mystery, of being far away and alone. You can tell the light is sinking toward death.
This is the aspect that was worshiped – and later feared - as Hecate. In ancient Greece, the power of the Moon also belonged to the goddess Hecate. She was called, like the Moon itself, the ‘most lovely’ and had three aspects: Hecate Selene, the Moon in heaven, Artemis the Huntress on earth and Persephone the Destroyer in the underworld. Hecate originated in Egypt, where she was the midwife or wise woman, who commanded ‘the mother’s Words of Power’. The Greeks finally came to worship her as the Crone who guarded the triple crossroads, the central axis where the different worlds meet. She held the powers of prophecy and magic, as well as the ability to commune with the dead. We no longer fear, as later Christians did, Hecate as the goddess of Witches and Magic, for we know that magic is the power to see the energies of life and direct them with our will, not necessarily the work of evil powers. It can be used for evil, but that depends on the person. We create magic when we use the power of intention and ritual to enhance our lives. This is Crone energy, and it represents the power and wisdom of Moon consciousness. Women in their 50’s and older begin to feel comfortable with this energy, and as healers and wise women they bring healing to their families, their communities and to the world.
It is the wisdom that facing death can bestow, the energy which sinks into the darkness of the new moon, the psychic energy that sinks back into the unconscious to be renewed. The old life must pass away so that new life can come. The wisdom is not lost in that darkness but rather transformed, so that it becomes part of the new virginal energy which re-appears at the crescent moon once again. With each new cycle, we add to our understanding and go deeper within the mysteries of life.
The Goddess also has a fourth aspect, the dark and hidden side of her nature. This is the mystery, her death aspect, the time of her descent into the underworld, the time of the dark of the Moon. In ancient Greece, this dark side of the Moon was ruled by Persephone, the Queen of the Dead, the guardian of the treasures of the underworld. It is why she is also the Spring Maiden, for she comes back to the outer world with the gifts she has wrestled from the darkness of the unknown. The fact that this Goddess was worshiped as life-giving and death-dealing shows that these aspects cannot be separated. But since we have separated them, the terror of death is ever with us. The ancients worshiped this Goddess through the initiation of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which gave them the immediate experience of a death and rebirth which helped them to accept the terror of death and separation from their old life. It is this initiation that we have to undergo if we want to experience the power of feminine wholeness.