GODDESS: EMBODYING THE DIVINE FEMININE
In the beginning, there was no God, only ‘Goddess’.
The earliest human images are carved figures made during the Paleolithic period known as ‘Venus’ figures. They are super-feminine figures, showing the female figure with all the gender features of breasts, tummy, hips and triangular pudenda exaggerated.
The earliest male images seem to show either hunters or Shamans, often half man and half animal beings.
In this early reality, there are Humans and there is the Earth, Land and Nature, and collectively, they are 'Goddess'. There is, as yet, no concept of a masculine Creator being, since the role of creation belongs within the realm of Female Energy. Nature blossoms and gives birth to flowers and fruit as woman gives birth to the child. This is the world of the Goddess and the Shaman.
Nature is alive.
Nature encompasses trees, plants, animals, birds, fish, creepy crawlies, weather, stars, sun, moon, planets, galaxies, clouds, rain, rainbows, lightning, rivers, sea, coastline, hills, rocks, stones, crystals, minerals, valleys, mountains, forests and the seasons of the year. And, of course, people. And anything and everything else not mentioned!
There is only Nature. Everything is Nature. We humans are part of Nature even though we tend to separate ourselves from it.
Everything we make; houses, roads, planes, cities, computers, plastic bags, all are made from Nature, from raw materials given to us by the Earth, for there is nothing else. Just us, the Earth, and the things we make from it.
‘The Land’ relates to Nature with a specific sense of place. Each part of the Earth, each region or continent, has differing seasons, flora and fauna.
The green circle, circle 1 represents The Land, Nature and the concepts of ‘Place’.
The yellow circle, circle 2 represents the Seasons, the Weather and the concepts of ‘Time’ and the ‘Cycles of Life’, including ‘The Wheel of the Year’.
These two circles are inseparable, for Nature, the Seasons and weather cannot exist without each other. Together, they become ‘Goddess’, Sovereignty and the Divine Feminine (the white bit of the diagram above, area 3).
This energetic concept represents the Goddess, and She is manifested in the form of female characters such as Gaia, Rhiannon, Brid, who are individual aspects of Place, Being and Cycles of Time.
All of this exists inside the large circle 4, which includes both the physical and non-physical worlds, both everyday life and the Shaman’s Other-world, two sides of the same coin.
The Goddess has four aspects; Maiden, Bride, Mother and Wise Woman. These correspond to the seasons of the British year; Winter (Maiden), Spring (Bride), Summer (Mother) and Autumn (Wise Woman).
Most people are familiar with the Triple Nature of the Goddess. The number Three is synonymous with manifestation, (Female = one, Male = two,
Magical Child = three) and thus with Divine Nature.
Each of the four aspects of Goddess (Maiden, Bride, Mother and Wise Woman) have three faces or 'energies';
Bearer/passive - similar energy to 'Maiden' Teacher/assertive - similar energy to 'Mother' Challenger/aggressive - similar energy to 'Wise Woman'.
'Bride' appears equally as passive (Branwen) or aggressive (Blodeuwedd).
These three faces occur according to each of the three moon phases (monthly) within the quarters in the Wheel of the Year, see below:-
November - Maiden - Bearer - passive
December - Maiden - Teacher - assertive
January - Maiden - Challenger - aggressive
February - Bride - Bearer - passive
March - Bride - Teacher - assertive
April - Bride - Challenger - aggressive
May - Mother - Bearer - passive
June - Mother - Teacher - assertive
July - Mother - Challenger - aggressive
August - Wise Woman - Bearer - passive
September - Wise Woman - Teacher - assertive
October - Wise Woman - Challenger - aggressive
The Maiden Goddess is a symbol for Winter, the season of dormancy and snow, the season when the landscape is waiting to fulfill its full potential, just as a maiden is a female yet
to come into her full womanhood. Every time you come across a maiden in folktale or creation myth, she is the Goddess in this aspect.
Consider Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, their stories are depictions of the Goddess as Maiden. Both maidens fall into a deep sleep, just as the Winter landscape sleeps under a blanket of snow. Their names, ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and ‘Snow White’ are descriptions of a Winter landscape. They are woken by a Prince (Shaman/consort) to become the Bride (the next phase of the Goddess in the Wheel of the Year, as Winter becomes Spring).
The stories keep the old lore alive and remind us that we are all part of the Cycle and The Divine. They also remind us of our current human condition, for, like the Maiden and the Winter's landscape, humanity as a whole has not yet activated its inner wisdom and true potential as Divine beings, which is what we truly are.
The Goddess as Bride is synonymous with a woman who is fertile and in her menstrual cycle. Her monthly cycle of bleeding is her power. Like Spring, she is capable of creating new life. As the bee fertilises the flowers, so the Bride requires the intervention of the Shaman to empower the Land and enable the fecundity of Nature. At Beltane she is impregnated, and becomes the Mother.
The Great Mother Goddess symbolises the abundance of Summer and reflects the process of womanhood when a woman gives birth and brings up a family. This may be the birth of projects and creative endeavours just as much as a child. The woman eventually reaches the menopause, when the fertility system switches off.
The fourth phase is synonymous with Autumn as the leaves fall from the trees and sap begins to slow. At this point of her life she is enjoying the fruits of all she has learnt and is now in a position to share this with the younger generation. Here is the Wise Woman or Elder, also called the Crone, and her role is to transmit her wisdom to the Maiden for the completion and regeneration of the cycle, for the benefit of the next generation and the continuance of Life.
Many sources speak of the Triple Goddess and name her as Maiden/Mother/Crone. As we have said, on the cycle of the Wheel of the Year of the Land, there are four Goddess aspects, Maiden, Bride, Mother and Crone, and each has three faces as they each reign within the Wheel of the Year for a period of three moons or months.
The three faces, one for each of the moons of their quarter, are Passive (The Bearer), Assertive (The Teacher) and Aggressive (The Challenger).
'The Bearer' holds the Power of Sovereignty, but does not act, she is passive, like Branwen and Goewin. In later story, she can be depicted as a Cup-bearer. She is the quiet one who appears to be under the power of another, but whose power is hidden, or later, suppressed. As such, she is identified mostly with the Maiden.
'The Teacher' guides and teaches, as Rhiannon guides Pwyll to enable him to come into his power as her consort. She is the active helper and is assertive in her actions for the benefit of empowering the energetic quality of Sovereignty for benefit of the tribe.
'The Challenger' provides difficulties and trials, as do Ceridwen, Arianrhod and Blodeuwedd. Their challenges can be aggressive but they enable the transformation of those they
influence, often through death and rebirth. More often than not, in the stories they appear as the villain who is trying to destroy the hero or heroine, but really She is testing, she is
saying; "If you don't survive my challenges then you don't deserve my support." Equally, it is the challenges and difficulties that life brings to each of us that leads us to
grow. This is 'that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger' logic.
'The Challenger' is mostly associated with the Crone or Wise Woman for She is the wisest and most powerful Goddess archetype as she contains the experience of all the other elements, the culmination of Maiden, Bride and Mother.
The Bride is also associated with Challenger energy. Blodeuwedd, as Bride Goddess, creates challenges for Lleu Llaw Gyffes when she conspires for him to be killed, thus enabling his rebirth to an enlightened state.
In the same way, Nature, the weather and landscape, as sea, storm, mountain, can be passive, supportive or challenging towards us.
Each of the four Goddess aspects of Maiden, Bride, Mother and Crone can present themselves in any one of these three faces.
THE HIDDEN FACE OF THE GODDESS:
There is another overlay, another Goddess aspect that can be placed on the Wheel of the Year, the Dark or Hidden Face of the Goddess.
This face can present itself at any point of the Wheel of the Year and appears with the 'blue moon'.
Usually, there are twelve moons within a solar year but since the sun and moon's cycles do not coincide, sometimes there is an extra moon in the year. This can happen because a calendar month is longer than a lunar cycle, so if a full moon occurs very early in the month there can be a second full moon at the end of the same month. The thirteenth full moon of the year, the second within the same month, is associated with the Dark or Hidden face of the Goddess.
At this time, we can really connect to our own Hidden, Dark or Shadow Self. It is a mistake to associate this with negativity, we are all part of the world of duality, so we do well to embrace both the shadow and light from which we are made, the yin and the yang, for without one the other does not exist. Embracing this part of ourself and working with the Goddess in this mysterious and deep aspect is extremely valuable. It can be difficult as She is likely to bring challenges, but hugely rewarding in the longer term.
I associate this face of the Goddess with the energy of Sheela Na Gig, however, depending upon which quarter of the year the extra moon falls, She can be Maiden, Bride, Mother or Crone and also Bearer, Teacher or Challenger. Whichever she is, She comes to reveal elements about ourselves that we may be consciously or unconsciously trying to hide.
The Goddess within:
There is a fifth Goddess who stands on the Wheel of the Year and you will find her standing in the centre, at the Hub. If you desire to see her face, look in the mirror, it matters not whether you are man or woman, her face is your face, for you are Divine and the Goddess exists within you.