Oshun River Goddess of Love: Honey in the Heart

Many years ago I had a reading with a Babalau who told me that I had a strong connection to Oshun, the river goddess of love and one of the Orishas from the African Yoruba tradition. Throughout my life path, I have encountered the Orishas through friends and in dreams. The Orishas are spirits or deities connected to specific natural energies who are akin to vast archetypical knowledge held by the wisdom of places on earth. I relate to Orishas in a similar way to my deity work in Tibetan Buddhism, as bridges to the divine with helpful methods to work with our daily life. Although I have never been initiated, I love the passion and beauty and also the precision and clarity from such a strong tradition found in the Yoruba system. When I wrote about Mami Wata in Fire of the Goddess, I discovered connections between her and the Orisha goddess of the sea, Yemaya who is like a sister to Oshun. This week Oshun has swum back into my awareness, she who is the beautiful loving goddess of the rivers.  Oshun is the orisha of love, beauty, femininity and sensuality which leads many people to compare her to Venus or Aphrodite. Living in Portland now, a place that is essentially surrounded by rivers, Oshun is wonderful way to connect with the earth. Oshun, as beautiful, sensuous and loving as she is, often times she faced dark and troublesome times as well, like we all do. In one myth, she sees the Orishas are having a difficult time and feels she must fly to Olofi, the orisha of the skies, to talk to him about this problem. Taking the form of a peacock she begins her flight. [...]

Return of Spring: Return of Persephone

Spring is blossoming all over the place in the Pacific Northwest and I am welcoming the new brilliance, the flowers exploding from soft earth, the luminescent green buds forming on previously stark trees.  My heart feels like a tender sprout after navigating so many storms these past months. Clarity is arriving, at long last. In ancient times, the spring equinox marks the time of the return of the goddess Persephone from the Underworld. Persephone is the daughter of Demeter, goddess of the earth and, at the fall equinox, she descends downward into the Underworld to visit with the dead.  In her absence, Demeter searches in vain for her daughter, and becomes consumed by grief, causing all of the earth to wither and die.  The gods later intervene, bringing Persephone back up from the Underworld to reunite with her mother at spring time, thus the blossoming of the earth anew. Grecian history marks the story of Perspehone's descent with an abduction or snatching and later a rape by Hades, Lord of the Underworld. His desire for the beautiful maiden Goddess drives him to pull Persephone down into his Underworld lair. While Persephone is in the Underworld, she eats the ancient fruit of the dead, the pomegranate. Curiously, this fruit is also a fruit of fertility and birth in many cultures, linking the two together. In many traditions, the Goddess is connected to both birth and death, the power of woman being intimately woven with creating new life and tending to the dead in human lives, in the planting of seeds and the fallow of fields. Often portrayed in a triple goddess form, the transition of girl to woman to mother to crone is a powerful reminder to connect [...]

Quan Yin: Goddess of Compassion

For the last year and a half I have been crunching through the thicket of a very intense, emotional breakup.  It has been quite the dharma lesson.  Facing my ex's rage and anger as well as my own has been one of the hardest and intense journeys of my life.  Often I have felt so much pain, confusion and turmoil that I just wanted to give up moving forward altogether.  However, a great many wonderful gifts and blessings surfaced through this intense journey.  I continue to learn about taking accountability for my own choices, facing fears and emotional storms and recognizing over and over again that indeed love prevails all trauma.  One of the many many helpers along the way has been Quan Yin, the inspiring goddess of compassion. Quan Yin's name means She who hearkens to the cries of the world and is one of few goddesses that was once a god.  Originating in Tibet as Avalokiteshvara, the Tibetan Buddhist deity of compassion, as his shrines travel through Tibet, China and into Japan they slowly transform from a masculine deity into the female form now known as Quan Yin. Quan Yin is similar to Mary and also the White Tara of Tibetan Buddhism, a gentle, clear quiet form of the divine feminine.  She hears all the suffering of the realms and is so moved by compassion that she reaches out to touch us with her graceful and loving presence.  Carrying a vase of pure water or divine nectar, she attends to those in need sprinkling them lovingly with drops of compassion. On a recent winter road trip I encountered the beauty and pristine awareness that is embodied by Quan Yin.  As my girlfriend and I traveled across [...]

Courage as an Active Surrender: Inanna Descends

Fall has arrived.  This is my first true relational experience with fall and coming winter in over fifteen years. I realize, it's long overdue!  Sometimes we need to experience death and dying, letting go and dissolving. Of course in the tropics, there are its own kind of seasons, however being back on the mainland, surrounded by leaves coloring, reddening and dripping off trees, traces of the tinge of coolness across my face like winter's coming breath is actually a respite to the perpetual summering of wet and dry seasons. As the days begin to shorten, I reflect on the coming darkness and how to welcome winter. I am inspired by one of my favorite epic Goddess myths, The Descent of Inanna.  This myth is one of the most ancient and powerful tales of initiation, in which Inanna descends down into the Underworld to face the Dark Mother, hang on a hook, die and be reborn.  I have written and worked with this story countless times in my women's groups, reclaiming our own dark times as a powerful time of initiation. In my book, Fire of the Goddess, I write, "When we consciously decide to go to the underworld, sacrificing the outer aspects of our little self, we meet the shadow of our larger self, reclaim her and bring her back, empowered." (p. 32).  This is what Sylvia Brinton Perera calls an Active Surrender  in her book, Descent to the Goddess. Active surrender is when we surrender consciously, willingly with our eyes wide open. This is courage.  This is grace, fierce grace. The fullest time of active surrender were both times I gave birth.  Birth is so active, active like a series of violent earthquakes moving through the body; and yet the [...]

Healing Waters, Mami Wata

This summer I have been tuning in deeply with the bountiful beauty of water and all its forms. Water is a precious source of life and I'm remembering to connect with beauty of its simplicity. Especially in these times when much of our water is toxic and filled with chemicals, it is important to remind ourselves that this diminishing necessary vital life force is sacred. Indigenous cultures give thanks to water with such reverence and joy, connecting us back to the waters of being in our mother's womb and the primordial force of our evolution that emerged from the sea waters. Creating our own water ceremony is way to connect back to the healing presence of water in our daily lives.   In honoring and celebrating the waters, I am inspired by Mami Wata, the wild, mysterious water spirit who inhabits oceans, lakes, rivers and streams in a myriad of forms. She has ancient feminine roots from Africa to India to Brazil and yet comes in clothed in contemporary beauty of popular African art forms, sometimes white, sometimes black; sometimes male, often female; sometimes of the huge ocean waters, sometimes of the smaller tiny streams and everything in between. Her form is transracial, transgendered, transcontinental as she swims through the waters of our world reminding us to open the loving healing grace that endlessly supports us.   This summer I told the story of Mami Wata several times. I told the story to my daughter, to my niece and nephew, to sisters in Fire of the Goddess water ceremony, to friends and my beloved.  Each time was beautiful and magical, however the most profound moment was on a small beach in Providence, Rhode Island.  We made our flower offerings [...]

Honoring the Beauty Way

  In many cultures the sun is personified by a masculine, strong willed god and creator. However, in Japan, the sun is seen as a radiant goddess Ameratasu, which means 'shining in heaven.' When her brother the Storm God insulted her, she retreated to a cave. Much to the dismay of the people, she refused to come out and light dwindled on earth, disappearing and fading into perpetual darkness. Disturbed by this, Uzume the bawdy, laughing shaman-goddess called together the people, gods and goddesses. To the delight of the crowd, Uzume danced wildly and cracked outrageous bawdy jokes. Their laughter, hoots and calls intrigued Ameratasu so much that eventually she came out to see what the hoopla was all about. As she peeked her head out, the crowd held up a mirror. Dazzled by her own beauty, she shone radiantly, returning the light and sun back to the world.   Laughter and lightness naturally illuminate our inherent beauty. This also helps us not to take ourselves so seriously. I remember visiting an incredible spiritual teacher, Rashani who lives at South Point on the Big Island of Hawai'i. We were just visiting, however I could not help asking her for advice on some drama I was having with a friend. At that time I had my daughter's star sunglasses with me and would wear them for kicks at the beach. Rashani gave me sage advice to stay present with my friend and really tune into her needs, listen and then share my own. And then, almost as an afterthought, she casually said, "And wear those sunglasses when you talk to her."   What a funny, simple thing to say, and yet the profound effect it had on dissolving all my [...]

Durga: Powerful Warrior, Beloved Mother

Over thirteen and a half years ago I stepped out of the plane of east India for the first time. I landed in Kolkata (Calcutta), one of the most crowded, filthy, wondrous, artistic cities in the world. Lined with markets and bazaars, smoke from small fires and puja (ritual) shrines, women dressed in outrageous colors, I was simultaneously overwhelmed, enthralled and oddly, relieved. I felt like I was home. My arrival, in late September was marked by the annual Durga festival, honoring the great Warrior and Mother Goddess Durga. Images of colorful clay Durgas exploded from every corner of the city. These refined, artistic renderings of the fierce goddess with her 8 or 10 arms, brandishing a variety of weapons atop tigers and lions was enough to get my curiosity crackling. I discovered that every year the people of India, and especially the state of Bengal, Durga festival is the time to celebrate the victory of good over evil a reflection of love conquering negativity or suffering. As I continued my travels and eventually, my many years of living in India, I learned more about Durga and her power.  When my daughter was a tiny girl we would often visit our local village Durga temple to receive blessings and listen to the chants offered to the Mother Goddess. Durga Defeats the Demons The most popular mythic story of Durga tells of her battle against the a great many asuras, or demons who plagued the world and the universe.  At their wits end, the three powerful gods of creation, destruction and perseverance came together to figure out what to do. None of the other gods were able to defeat these demons, especially the great demon Mahisasura. By this [...]

New Moon, New Year 2014

Welcoming in a New Year as the New Moon passes through the turning feels especially divine and auspicious.  This past year has seen a great many changes both personally and collectively. Fire of the Goddess is ready to take our next leap into offering the tools and resources to ignite the flame of passion and change in our hearts as we ring in 2014. This particular New Year, we witness a New Moon.  In the ancient Goddess traditions which honor the divine feminine, the New Moon is a time to let go of the old, shedding our skins, burning up what no longer serves us to make way for the new. The Fire of the Goddess is the active creative power that resides within the divine feminine.  Fire is symbolic of spirit and light embodied and contains within its essence the power to transmute, transform, to burn away the old and make room for the new.  As I prepare to make ceremony and connect with my loving community on the Big Island of Hawaii, I also sit in remembrance of what it means to honor the fire, light and dance of the Fire of the Goddess.  That by celebrating the divine feminine is the work of the Fire of the Goddess, to reclaim our right to view the feminine as sacred.  The New Year is also the time to gather with friends and family, to set intention and clarify once again what is most important to our hearts and life journeys.  As we bring in 2014, we can each ask ourselves what is it the sacred fire that burns in our own hearts?  What will we do this year to benefit others?  It is my prayer that we [...]