One of the ideas that originally got me interested in pagan practice was the Goddess, aka the sacred feminine. A feminine conception of the divine is one of those things I didn’t even know I was hungry for, but now that I’ve had a taste I realize I’m starving.
I am currently reading/listening to:
- The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future, by Riane Eisler
- Women Who Run With The Wolves: Myths and stories of the wild woman archetype, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
- Mother Night: Myths, Stories, and Teachings for Learning to See in the Dark, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
- Wild & Wise: Sacred Feminine Meditations, by Amy Bammel Wilding
The Chalice and the Blade is an eye-opening read. I was looking up books related to the sacred feminine and when the title came up it sounded vaguely familiar. As it turns out I’d heard of it before, in connection with Dan Brown’s book The DaVinci Code. But there is a lot more to it than that. The main idea in the book is that history has not always been the story of male domination and the suppression of women, even though that’s all the history we are ever taught, even to the point of thinking this state of affairs is natural and inevitable. The fact that so many historical and scientific achievements by women have been either covered up or taken credit by men and not properly credited until the past couple decades, and the fact that men have dominated historical sciences and kept women out for so very long does give the idea a certain credibility. I’ve heard criticisms of the book from skeptic sources that I would normally trust — mainly that it pushes a feminist agenda — but it was much better argued and cited than I expected. From a layperson’s perspective, it looks to me to be at least as credible as the historical analyses of authors like Jared Diamond and Steven Pinker which I have read and heard frequently cited as authorities. This isn’t anywhere near a full review of the book. I recommend that you read it for yourself.
My older sister gifted me a copy of Women Who Run With The Wolves for my 16th birthday. (I think she knew what I didn’t at the time — that the ‘wild woman’ wasn’t being honored in our family.) Until now I haven’t really read it outside of skipping though and picking out some favorite stories. The story of the Sealskin in particular stuck in my head, the idea of wasting away when your selfhood is taken from you — even by someone who loves you (!) — and only being whole again when you find it again.
Finally, about 22 years later I am actually starting at the start of the book and reading it properly, though this time mostly on audiobook. Listening is think is the best with this book, because the version I have is read by the author, who is an amazing storyteller, and something about listening to the old stories brings them to life in a way that reading does not. Mother Night is in a similar vein, and it is the best for listening to lying in bed late at night while everyone else in the house is asleep. (Oops correction: I purchased WWRWW on Kindle for portability since the hardback is a bit bulky, not on Audiobook. Here I was confusing it with Mother Night, which is pretty similar.)
Estés’s approach is to find the ‘bones’ of the stories, their essence, that is still available to us even after the stories have been rewritten and altered to fit the ideals and sensibilities of Christianity. She then interprets the characters and symbols of the stories as aspects of the female psyche using Jungian psychology. I’m not entirely certain about Jung at this point, but I am keeping an open mind and finding ideas that resonate.
Wild & Wise: Sacred Feminine Meditations, by Amy Bammel Wilding is a set of meditations on the sacred feminine and on healing the damage done to the female psyche by thousands of years of patriarchy. I’m working though these meditations and exercises, and I will write about these when I get further along.