The Goddesses in Us
Having been in the company of young and adolescent girls and women (in most cases in violent situations and conditions of inequality) who are in varying stages of healing and regaining power in Guatemala, I frequently ask myself . . . “At what point do we women move from being goddesses, sacred beings, sources of wisdom to being oppressed, excluded and abused merely for having been born female?” How were we viewed previously? The power that women have had in diverse ancestral cultures for millennia is contrary to what occurs in our “modern” era — those internal goddesses are being held hostage by a machista culture and misogyny.
Goddesses, warriors, wise women and grandmothers
A variety of mythologies, narratives, legends and histories exist in the different cultures of the world where women appear in a variety of roles. Because the topic is so broad, I will speak only about women and feminine energies which contributed to history through two great civilizations: the Mayan and the Greek.
Greek mythology cites twelve Olympic goddesses and gods of which six are female. According to the Greeks these gods and goddesses were the most powerful. And they called them Olympic because they met to discuss topics on Mt. Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece.
The goddesses of Olympus, as Jean Shinoda Bolen cites in her book, The Goddesses in Every Woman, are Athena, Artemis, Hestia, Aphrodite, Demeter and Hera. They were revered deities above all by the women of ancient Greece. Each one is devoted to a particular aspect or vocation in life.
Athena is the goddess of wisdom, science and strategy. She is personified in logical women who are guided by reason with a balance between emotions and thoughts. She inspires leaders, warriors and strategists who utilize the political, academic, economic and social.
Artemis is the goddess of the hunt and of the moon. She personifies the independence of the feminine spirit, inspiring women to search for their own goals in areas of their own choosing. She was the protector of the young, especially adolescents that suffer continual abuse.
Hestia is the goddess of the home, offering a feeling of harmony. She is the keeper of the fire in the temple, the light of spirituality and feeling in life.
Aphrodite is the goddess of beauty, love and sexuality. She motivates women to be creative and symbolizes the power to transform and the creativity found in love.
Demeter being the protector and the generous one, represents Mother, the one who nourishes the other goddesses. She is mainly associated with nature, agriculture, and fertility of the earth and is the one who brings the seasons.
Hera is the goddess of marriage and birth. Her strength and power lie within happiness and pain. She is concerned about marriage and the union of couples–committed to marriage, the spouse and life as a couple.
The goddesses are our extended family, not only for having human attributes such as emotions, conduct and physical appearance, but also for their archetypal value, i.e. they symbolize models for behavior and accomplishment which we subconsciously recognize as collective. Goddesses represent diversity, power, antagonism, particularity, challenges, and diversions.
The presence of goddesses and/or feminine energy is also found in the narrated cosmology of the Mayan peoples in the Pop Vuh. Three principal goddesses are named in the Sacred Book of the Mayan: Ixmukane, Ixchel and Isquic; each having exercised their talents in the myth about the creation of the earth and the human being. These goddesses are named during Mayan ceremonies, during the process of healing and inclusivity. Many women bring them in through calling them by name.
Ixmukane is the goddess who is the giver of life, the goddess of the maize, good-natured and loving. She is considered the creator of human beings along with her companion Ixpiyacoc. Ixmukane is considered one of the oldest grandmothers in Mayan time.
Ixchel is the goddess of the moon, fertility and water. Her energy governs births, weaves together destinies and she is referred to as the ancient waxing lunar crescent. The Goddess Ischel manifests in four colors: red, brown, yellow and white, colors associated with the four cardinal directions of the universe.
Ixquic represents feminine evolution, strength and vitality. According to the myth of the maiden of the underworld she is personified as the goddess of curiosity, demonstrating the process of germination by ascending from the underworld to the earth’s surface.
Mayan cosmology offers an important vision of duality and complementarity, opposing forces that attract one another and are complementary to each other. Two of these forces are feminine energy and masculine energy, vital for creation, harmony and equilibrium in the universe, and offering a clear premise of equality if we think about it from the point of view of gender.
How did we lose our powers?
Myths and narratives about the lives of goddesses invite us to reflect on existence during the “pre-patriarchal” times when male gods governed the earth, heavens, seas, and the abilities and powers of goddesses were mostly tied to family, sexuality and fertility. Nevertheless, what made these goddesses, grandmothers and feminine energies powerful was their procreative role, not only around fertility, but beyond that, as creative, curious, courageous, strong, blessed and powerful; adaptable to changes in the course of their story.
Many goddesses are found trapped in women due to stereotyping, prejudices, violence and inequality. One or more goddess resides in each woman, yet, the outside misogynist, racist world oppresses and suppresses the powers of each of these goddesses which affects energy, lives and aspirations of women globally. This effect comes from different places — culture, from the social, economic situations, politics, from the professional, from academia and the spiritual.
How can we reconnect ourselves with our internal goddess?
I would like to cite three of many principal ideas which Jean Shinoda Bolen (from her book) attributes to the goddesses in each woman:
“Every woman has a fundamental role in the development of her own life story.” This means that power is regained when one has the right to decide, and that this power becomes stronger when used collectively, to make decisions based on aspirations, dreams and one’s own motivation, collectively, freely without being bound to “what will people say” or the demands of family members or the usual stereotypical and unequal archetypes of being female. In other words, making decisions from one’s own sense of internal power.
“Women are the protagonists and the heroines of the story of their own lives”. Each woman lives the reality and condition of her own distinct life: some as heroines, some as warriors, some as creators, leaders, healers, etc. So it is important to recognize that we can be what we want to be by manifesting our sacred ancestral powers which accompany us through life.
“When women become conscious of the internal powers that influence them, they reach a corresponding level of owning that power.” What female models have influenced you? Are you conscious of the goddess or goddesses that reside in each of you? To recognize our internal goddesses gives us the gift of a transformative and powerful paradigm to understand and see ourselves as sacred beings, courageous, strong . . .
Historically, women have been confronted by difficult times, times of femicide, violence, discrimination, exclusion . . . And so, I invite each one of you, so that together, we change this discourse, as warriors, as strong and powerful individuals, women who take on decision-making, creators and on and on, all the adjectives the permit connection with our internal goddesses.
Karen Segrand-Méndez is a community psychologist who is a frequent collaborator with EntreMundos Magazine.