Monday, July 16, 2012
The World is Sacred Space
The Rhythms of Life
Rhythm and movement are ways to open ourselves to the power and energy of our instinctual life. Rhythm at its most primal is expressed in drumming, and the ancient Celtic, Arabian and Afro-Cuban rhythms can teach us the patterns of soulful living. Just as birth occurs through the rhythmic contractions of labor, our dancing bodies also learn the rhythms of life and open us to our creative source. The goddess Artemis, leader of the dance and Mistress of Animals, invites a woman to become virginal once again, to belong to herself, to know her own being and instincts through reconnecting to her body and its needs. Once a woman knows herself, she can never lose herself again, even when loving a man. Like Allerleirauh dancing with her King, it is important that we understand how dance centers us in our unique spirit.
Through dancing, a woman can oppose the splitting between the social and the natural, as well as the taming of her wilder self, which can start early in a male-dominated history. A woman thus learns to name and express the being that lives deep inside her, waiting and longing to be discovered. This is her other, hidden self, the one who does not match norms or expectations, the one who widens her nostrils like a horse to suck in the wind, who roars like a lioness and shamelessly tears her clothes from her body. This one lives mostly in the background, in the dark cave, deep inside the belly, and only seldom surfaces. She is usually spotted when a person says or does something she wouldn’t normally allow herself, when something just tumbles out. It happens without one knowing really how it could come to that. Dancing helps you start to heal this inner split. Dancing offers the conscious and the unconscious, the rational and the intuitive, a space in which they may gradually flow into each other. 14
Dancing, we experience a sense of freedom and sexuality, as well as learning the right use of our sexuality. For sexual promiscuity is not sexual freedom, but sexual confusion. Dancing encompasses the realm of the sacred, the artistic, and the joyful, sensual play of self-discovery. Without these knowing rhythms in our lives, we might mistake abusing our bodies for freedom..
When you have writer’s block, or are stuck in any aspect of your life, move! Dance! The movement opens up blockages and allows energy to flow. Dance is a bridge between our inner and outer worlds, opening us to imagination.
"Body knowledge starts by removing attention from the mind and focusing entirely on movement. Independent thinking, thinking with one’s own mind, is learned through thinking in feelings and sensations, and thinking in pictures, free from the rigidity of words. With these two different approaches, a whole world of possibilities opens up."15
There is an ancient form of dancing that specifically expresses women’s power: belly dancing. Any woman can do it. It has nothing to do with how skinny you are or if you have taken dance lessons all your life. Besides being great exercise, you get to play with scarves, expose your belly and feel sensual. It makes you feel like a woman. Belly dancing is a way to express and understand our deepest, sensuous feminine nature.
The movements of belly dancing enable a woman to understand and experience a natural rhythm. In this dance form, she swings her limbs around the center of her body, around the navel of the world, through waves and swinging, rhythmical movements of the pelvis, through movements older than any single woman, indeed older than human civilization. We dance to become one with a rhythm that was here before us and will remain after we are gone. . . .
Belly dancing is a dance of isolation, in which the various parts and centers of the body are moved individually, independently from each other, yet end up forming a unity. The polycentric movements of belly dancing develop the body’s intelligence and capacity to react, finally resulting in a multidimensional body awareness. Just as individual drops unite in the harmonious flow of a river that time and again draws strength from its source, so belly dancing, as suggested by its popular name, finds its source in the belly. Its rhythm originates from inside, from the elemental sound of the heartbeat that we first heard in the cavern of our mother’s belly. If a woman wishes to bring new life into the world, she must have this life force, of which belly dancing is the age-old expression.
Strength for her movements is picked up by the dancer from her belly, the lower part of her body where her balance is centered. She links her lower belly’s center of gravity to the earth on which she dances and embeds it in a greater circle of energy. Even her finger movements draw their energy from her belly. And every single movement, however tiny, longs to return to this center. The whole body swings around this center, the navel of the world.16
The World as Sacred Space
This center, this navel of the world, is also the Earth. Now let the Earth, our planet and the Mother, become World, the psychic component that shapes our experience of life. Let the world become the symbolic womb or vessel where we grow into life and where our death becomes a birth into another place. When we come to understand the world, and the path of our life through it, as a dimension of our psychic reality, we learn that everything that comes to us and everything that we do can be an aid to our growth in life and into death, or that larger life that is a mystery to us now. This is when we can take death as our advisor! The great vessels of transformation - the womb, the breast, the alchemical retort, the cup of the Holy Grail which feeds everyone with the food of their choice - describe the fact of sacred space, the space where the divine and human meet. If we desire it, the World Mother becomes such a sacred space.
We have the ability to look at our lives psychologically, and see that all the incidents and elements that make up our individual lives, both the good and the bad, are necessary conditions for the birthing of our Selves. Jung's idea of synchronicity, the acausal but meaningful relationship between the nonphysical and the physical, is an example of the outer world and our inner world meeting in such a way as to bring us some insights into our psychological state. The Chinese book of divination, the I Ching, as well as such divination tools as the Runes or Tarot cards, operate with this idea of ultimate correspondence of inner and outer reality. The Hermetic says, “As above, so below” is another example of this truth. Therefore, the task is to find out what the world is demanding of us in the way of growth and creativity and life, which might sometimes demand a death. When we do not deal with our inner life adequately, our problems invariably meet us in the outer world.
When Gaia becomes the psychological World Mother, nurturing us into our next evolution of consciousness, she offers us deep feminine wisdom. Remember the myth? Two important transformations and births take place from the castration of Ouranos. One is the birth of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Aphrodite is a goddess who is clothed with the Sun. Aphrodite is the Goddess of the Body, and as such, has been raped more than any other goddess by the patriarchy. Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, all the many facets of love, is the divine gift of Cosmic Law that has been given to us here on Earth. I believe that Aphrodite, or Venus as the Romans called her, symbolizes the goddess energy that women must reclaim as we become Woman Clothed with the Sun.
The other event is the birth of the Erinyes, the "strong ones." The Erinyes were originally called the Furies, whose name means, "a spirit of anger and revenge." The Furies hound all those who have flouted blood-kinship and the deference due it, especially when a mother is insulted or murdered. With the repression of the feminine aspects of life and spirit, and our disregard for our mother, the Earth, I expect that many of us have been hounded by one thing or another in our lives. This hounding comes from the Furies, snapping at our heels, never letting us rest. But these Furies went through a transformation in the Greek play Orestes by Aeschylus. This is the story of what happened when Orestes, who murdered his mother, Clytemnestra, to avenge the death of his father, Agamemnon, is brought to trial before the gods. Pallas Athena, the original Father’s Daughter, argues his case so persuasively that the Furies agree to become part of the divine order and so become known as the Benevolent Ones.17
This transformation of the Furies into the Benevolent Ones is symbolic of the psychological transformation that takes place when we can see the myriad facets of our lives, especially those aspects which hound us - the image goes so far as to suggest that it is because of a slight or a neglect of a proper attitude to the life source, or to our own creativity - as the very source of our continued growth and development. The Furies become benevolent whenever we meet life's hardness and rockiness (also of the Earth), not with anger and a thirst for revenge, but with the transformative question, "What is this here to teach me?" We also need to ask, "What does this situation say about me and my attitudes?" Asking the questions does not imply that the situation or the other person is right any more than that she/he/it may be wrong. It just means that, like the Grail hero who, when confronted with the appearance of the Grail, must ask, "What does this mean?" life poses us questions and we can seek and find the answers that we need. The asking of the question in the Grail story brings about the cure of the Fisher King and the renewal of the Waste Land. Asking the question implies and acknowledges that the experience itself has a meaning. The question acknowledges the spirit at work in the world, and the essential soul-full quality of life. The Erinyes are the 'strong ones' because in meeting them face to face, they give us the opportunity to develop our own strength.
Just as the world gives birth to each of us as individuals, it presents collective tasks that we have to face as well. And it is women who set the stage for the working out of these tasks. Women quite literally shape the world when we give birth.
"With each generation the entire race passes through the body of its womanhood as through a mold, reappearing with the indelible marks of that mold upon it. The os cervix of woman, through which the head of the human infant passes at birth, forms a ring, determining forever the size at birth of the human head, a size which could only increase if in the course of ages the os cervix of woman should itself slowly expand; and . . . so exactly the intellectual capacity, the physical vigor, the emotional depth of woman, forms also an untranscendable circle, circumscribing with each successive generation the limits of the expansion of the human race."18
When a woman is self-possessed, emotionally mature, stable and secure in her own strength – when she has walked away from being a Father’s Daughter and has become her own woman – she will give birth to a whole new human being – perhaps the divine child of Revelation. We have it in our biological DNA to grow and evolve, and if the mothers evolve, how can they not give birth to children who have evolved as well?
Women, in our attempt to gain individual freedom and equality, are creating new archetypal images for ourselves, which in turn can help create a new world and a new, more balanced culture. We each have the potential to become the Woman Clothed with the Sun who gives birth to the Savior.
I have only detailed a few of the many images of Mother Earth and there are many books that can help you learn more. There are many mysteries associated with the Divine Feminine Spirit: Her fertility, which is experienced within the myths of Demeter and Persephone; Her creative gifts and talents, as bestowed by the Celtic goddesses of the Cauldron, Brigid and Cerridwen; the magic of Isis and Morgan le Fey; the dark moon mysteries of Cybele and Hecate; and the beauty and wisdom of Changing Woman, White Shell Woman and Spider Woman. And yet, all of her aspects speak of the flow of life from one form into another, of life into death and death into life, from seed to flower to fruit to seed again. She speaks to us in the beauty of the life we experience in Nature - Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. The Great Round of Life defines our path through this world as well as our evolution and growth.