How did the Goddess become disempowered?

If you want to be spiritual, ask uncomfortable questions,’ Goddess News, Spiritual Blog, Divine Feminine,

Dr Joanna Kujawa, Spiritual Detective :).

The idea for this blog came to me as an amalgamation of several topics that interest me and which I intend to write as separate blogs. But this particular take on my blog has called upon me because last weekend I returned to my novel, which I have not touched in any serious way since 2014 and which I completely abandoned in 2016 after some attempts at a quick fix (which does not exist) and out of a lack of time due to professional demands.

Last weekend, after a brave revisiting of the novel, I realised that the main and undercurrent movement of the theme there is a shift from disempowerment to the empowerment of the heroine.  This is not, however, disempowerment in some general terms that I am exploring there, but, rather her sensual and emotional disempowerment within a romantic and sexually addictive relationship. As I read a few chapters of my novel, I quickly realised that the theme is not about the relationship with the male protagonist who stays very much in the shadows, but about the heroine’s relationship with herself and her own power. The central questions are probably: ‘How did she lose her power?  And how can she regain it?’

This is a very important point to emphasise (I will elaborate later), as it is entirely up to her. It is not dependant on her circumstances. And not up to the man – who would be all too easy to blame, but dependant on her own power and how she chooses to give it away (at least in the beginning). This led me to reflect on how women generally give up their power in relationships, how young girls lose this power around puberty and regain it often only as older women after menopause. Most importantly, I wonder how the concept of the Goddess had been diminished in history. 

Essentially, ‘what the hell has happened?’

So, let me share my reflections and observations here, not necessarily in a systematic way, but organically and intuitively, as I look at some of my beloved spiritual and cultural traditions: Tantra, Ancient Greek mythology, Christianity and Gnosticism, in particular.

Even after many years, I still remember the moment when, about 15-or-so years ago, I was attending a private study group lead by a Sanskrit and Tantric Scholar, a swami and a Tibetan Buddhist monk.  I was the only woman in the group and I was honoured also as such. As we were delving into chapter 29 of the 10th century Tantric text describing the use of women in sexual ritual for spiritual attainment, I asked the translator of the work, ‘What happened to the women after the ritual? And, ‘what if they got pregnant?’ The man threw his arms in the air with a ‘Who knows?’ expression. This was the first sign for me that something was amiss. The book that we were discussing sensually depicted the women invited to the ritual as slim-waisted with breasts like the fruit of bimba trees, and ideally from low societal strata. The reason for the last requirement was that the men performing the ritual wanted to attain enlightenment by breaking the rigid rules of Hindu dogma and all its restrictions. The rebellious part of the Tantra appealed to the heretic and rebel in me to such a degree that I did not even notice that I was identifying with the rebellious spirit of the men and up to that point had not considered the women! That is, until I asked the crucial question: ‘what happens to them and what if they got pregnant?’ To which nobody had an answer.

To be fair, the women in the ritual were worshipped as the personification of the Goddess Shakti and the ritual itself was beautiful and sensual – and I have no doubt was sexually enjoyable. At the end the Brahmins (men from the highest cast and priests) said a prayer to their sexual partners, ‘I worship you oh Goddess.’ The purpose of the ritual was for male and female to merge not only sexually but also psychologically and spiritually and attain spiritual enlightenment or at least gain a deep spiritual experience. In itself, this was a revolutionary idea and appealed to my interest in sexuality as a spiritual experience. That part was a great discovery for me.

However, it does not take much research or observation to notice that Tantra, which was initially intended as a worship of the Goddess, in this case had become a  tool for the upper-class Brahmins, while the female participants, after being worshipped for a couple of hours, were discarded in the name of non-attachment. Let me rephrase this: the Brahmins got their spiritual experience by breaking all the rules and the women were tools which were disposed of (also in the name of some spiritual virtue of non-attachment).

Do you see my point?

To make the story even stranger, historically the Tantra came to life as a rebellious response to the traditional Hinduism and all its prohibitions. Tantra was intended to include all and everything (including women). Indeed, one the prominent mothers of this tradition was Ardha-Tryambaka – a woman. In scholarly terms, her tradition was called adhyusta-pitha or the ‘three-and-a-half tradition’ (after her name). The whole Kula tradition comes from her. And yet, somehow within a few generations the tradition had become again about the attainment of the upper-class men (the Brahmins) and not the women. I truly doubt that this was the original intention of Ardha-Tryambaka, a woman.

In my opinion, this use of ‘Tantra’ still disadvantages, rather than empowers, women because it has a long history of doing so. Somewhere along the way it was appropriated to serve the needs of the privileged, although its initial intention was to include and liberate the rejected (including women).   

Before I had even heard about Tantra (in its original or corrupted versions), I had been enamoured with the Ancient Greek myths. As a young girl, I loved reading about the Greek Goddesses and fantasising about which one I would like to be. It usually came down to some unorthodox mix between Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love and Beauty, and Artemis, the Goddess of the Woods (who was very independent and adventurous). Although my first choice was always Athena, I also loved the sensuality of Aphrodite and the independence of Artemis. And this is where the problem lies; in the strict delineation in Greek mythology between wisdom, feminine beauty and sexuality, and feminine independence. Somehow, they could not exist in the one entity which I created for myself: a woman/Goddess who is wise, sexy and independent. 

This changed a little when I read my favourite book of all time, The Odyssey. But even that reading was riddled with complications. First of all, I did not give a hoot about the faithful Penelope who waited for Odysseus for 20 years. Secondly, for me the main characters of the Odyssey were the gorgeous, sexy and cunning nymphs, such as Calypso and Circe. Thirdly, I, too, wanted to have adventures like Odysseus and I thought that Penelope, his wife, should have her own, instead of waiting for him. I thought then and still think she is a bore! So, as a young girl, I quickly decided I wanted to be a nymph. Why not? As a nymph you are independent, you live on a private island which is under your rule and you are free to go on adventures. However, I was quickly told, in voices intended to shush me, how inappropriate my ideas were about being a nymph. Nymphs … well … were nymphomaniacs and had a very negative connotation. I could not comprehend for the life of me how these intelligent, independent Goddesses of nature could be portrayed as being constantly sexually starved, stupid and ridiculous. 

Only many years later, after I began to study Mary Magdalene, did I notice that the same happened to her. The wise, beautiful and sensual companion of Jesus has been demeaned as a whore in mainstream Christianity and conveniently replaced by the other, virginal, Mary.

Do you see the pattern?

The same has happened with other empowered Goddess of the past, be they Inanna, Ishtar, or Hathor (you can read this in my blog http://www.joannakujawa.com/inanna-ishtar-isis-mary-magdalene-recovering-the-lineage-of-the-lost-goddess-and-other-stolen-stories/).

Very recently, also, I was asked by Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio to comment on a wonderful interview with Celene Lillie, the author of The Rape of Eve: The Transformation of Roman Ideology in Three Early Christian Retellings of Genesis. In her book, Lillie draws our attention to the themes of sexual violence in Ancient Rome and in the Judeo-Christian scriptures. For me, however, the most interesting part of the interview and the book is her insights into three Gnostic sources discovered in 1945 in Nag Hammadi: On the Origin of the World, The Reality of the Rulers, and the Secret Revelation of John. Although, in these sources, Eve (symbolising the feminine) is also portrayed as abused ‘and humiliated by cosmic powers. She, however, recovers with Adam by her side. And even though this is not exactly a story of empowerment, it is a brave attempt at retelling the story of Eve, acknowledging her trials and giving her hope. Another element of this retelling I like is the placement of Adam by her side, as he, too, is victimised, not by Eve’s deception as the orthodox traditions would have it but by the villainous powers of the world.

And together they rise. 

The reason I like this interpretation is that it creates a space for gender reconciliation. But this reconciliation can be made possible only by creating and embracing new Archetypes of the Feminine and new Archetypes of the Masculine. Just as I felt when a young girl reading the Ancient Greek myths. The old myths were a bad first draft. The appropriation of the feminine to serve old religious systems has to change. The portrayal of the masculine as abusive patriarchs who somehow are still called ‘men of God’ has to change. Otherwise, all the inter-religious ‘dialogues’ steeped in the old religious traditions with long histories of abuse are just another face of the old system. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this one in your comments.

Workbook:

As you know I love conducting Journaling Workshops and here, I would ask you a few questions:

  1. What was the first moment (that you remember) of your disempowerment?  How did it feel?  And what triggered it?
  2. Where there any other seminal points of disempowerment in your life?  And if so, how did they relate to the first one?
  3. Now, that these moments of disempowerment are brought to your attention, forgive yourself and embrace yourself as you are.  They are our learning points.  It is a mythical story of the descent which proceed the hero/ine’s movement upward and facilitate self-knowledge.
  4. Now, remember the moment of empowerment of taking a brave action or a stand for yourself.  Describe it in detail. The feeling of it.  Notice how different it feels from the previous experiences.
  5. From now on, every time you need to make a decision, check the feeling in your body and go with the action or a thought that brings up the feeling of empowerment and self-love.  When you do, make a note of it.  Physically write it down. Embrace it even if it feels strange at first.  Walk bravely, my friend.  This is the play of Your Consciousness.  Be the narrator of your life.

Sending love,

Dr Joanna Kujawa

Spiritual Detective 

Goddess News

©Joanna Kujawa
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16 Responses to How did the Goddess become disempowered?

  1. Ian Robinson says:

    Just one word Sundar: “WOW”!!!!

  2. Linda McLeod says:

    Bless you Goddess! This is so relevant! As I investigate the goddess in all her known forms more I find this recurring theme of dis-empowerment. As the world is beginning to see the rise of the divine feminine the subject of reconciliation between the sexes becomes more urgent. A number of schools of thought believe that the beginnings of the goddess losing her omnipotence began with the rise of the Greek scholars, who allegedly began changing some of the strong goddess roles into the masculine. The temple of Hera in Olympus has a statue of Hera & Zeus, the figure of Zeus has been dated as more recent which begs the question, ‘Was Hera the ruling power and Zeus her consort?’ Also if we delve into the middle ages, women were killed in their thousands during the witch hunts and the Spanish Inquisition tortured and killed thousands of men and women in an effort to force the people to worship their God. History shows that in early times common folk worshiped the goddess as Gaia, Mother Earth, and this would have been seen as unacceptable as it could not be taxed or controlled by the ruling classes. Just a few of my thoughts, love your writing, always gets me thinking! <3

    • sundari says:

      Linda, I love your passion. What you are saying is true and thank you for sharing it here. I did not actually know about the example of the temple of Hera. It is another example of many. As you know, I have also looked to the ancient goddesses of Sumer, Babylon and Egypt where I have found the same examples. And, the best one and most recent is the discovery of ancient paintings of Asherah – Yahweh’s wife in Israel. Of course, some scholars to prefer to call her El’s wife just to keep things quiet. But these things cannot be disregarded anymore especially when people talk about inter-religious dialogue etc. You speak of inclusion, be inclusive of all.
      Thank you goddess for your wonderful comment.
      Joanna
      Dr Joanna Kujawa

  3. Robyn says:

    Thank you, Dr Joanna. This is one of the reasons I left mainstream Christianity. I discovered that the Divine is both feminine and masculine, but I have come to know Her as strong, sexy, wise, compassionate, gentle, loving, and richly beautiful. My reading of Goddess stories reflects yours – they start strong then get “pulled under”. I like Isis, and Inanna, and the Black Madonna – the secret face of Goddess throughout the middle ages and afterwards, but I am still trying to find a true model of Divine Feminine that has not been disempowered.

    • sundari says:

      Thank you, Robyn, for your insightful comment. This is also one of the reasons for my disappointment with mainstream religions: their lack of a comprehensive divine feminine, the dogma and the fear-based approach to spirituality. This would have been discouraging personally or a ‘women’s issue’ in the past but now, the same paradigm that disempowered the feminine destroys the planet as well. As I move through my explorations, the suffering of Nature touches me profoundly. I agree with you in that somehow through complex processes the divine feminine in its many forms was dismantled and it is a very difficult task to speak of a archetype of goddess that has not lost her power. That is why, I think, it is important that we create new archetypes even if as an amalgamation of the old ones and make them strong yet feminine. That is a task, a goal worth exploring for our personal, and universal good.
      Much love, Joanna
      Dr Joanna Kujawa

      • John Noack says:

        Your comments indicate that the masculine and feminine aspects of our human existence as both biological males or females and as questers for balanced spiritual polarities, have rarely if ever been in true balance. You have suggested that “we create new archetypes” but Carl Jung would disagree with this. His concepts of the archetypal feminine “anima” and the masculine “animus” at the deep level of natural instincts, impulses and sexual functioning are harmoniously integrated and are in balance. However, the problem arises when these natural, unconscious archetypal impulses and psychical features are subjectively projected out into a culture or into a religion as conscious conflicting conceptual images. The result of this biased projection has mostly been the excessive and unbalanced elevation of the “animus” within patriarchy or the elevation of the “anima” within matriarchy. Many Christians have wondered why the Christian’s concept of God over the past 2,000 years as an all-male trinitarian being, has omitted any mention of the female and feminine half of reality and why many Christian males still insist on having authority over their wives or partners.

        At the same time, we acknowledge that our Mother Earth is seeking to nourish and sustain all of the life-forms on our Planet, while we are turning it into a huge rubbish dump. Clearly, your quest to restore the required balance between the feminine and the masculine is both brave and essential.

        • sundari says:

          Hi John, I have always loved the depth of your comments, they keep me on my toes. And I love to hear a different perspective or eve a similar perspective but form a different point of view and you do is so well. I absolutely agree with the second part of your comment and, I, too seek Balance rather than a replacement of the masculine. Both are needed and both are essential. And yes, for a last few thousand years this balance was seriously disturbed. I love Carl Jung’s anima and animus which, of course transcend biology and gender – we are on the same page with it. However, at the same time, traditional religions attempt of complete control and subjugation of the feminine based on gender and biology. Imagine, you are an independent intelligent woman and are told that you have one choice in life which relates to your biological organs only. Carl Jung was absolutely brilliant when talking about archetypes and Campbell after him I do not question this. However, I personally (and it is my personal take) am a supporter of evolutionary theories. In this case, I do not believe that we should return to some old preordained balance of archetypes but rather that we need to create a new balance of new archetypes. We are evolving so should archetypes by which we live. That’s my take as I also a big supporter of de Chardin and I do not believe we can rich the Omega Point with old archetypes.
          Once again, John, I love your wisdom and depths of your comments and your contribution to this blog in priceless. There are some great things in life and one of them is a good in depth exchange and this is what you provide for this blog.
          Much love,
          Joanna
          Dr Joanna Kujawa
          Goddess News

  4. Glenn Bogue says:

    If you seek the Nymph, then you ought to research the De Vere lineages.
    They are the source of the Water Nymphs and sexual magic. Two De Vere women married Edward III, and the bastard son Edward IV, to ensure the De Vere bloodline continued in both lineages of the British Monarchy.

    The untarnished Goddess is still Ninmah, Creatrix of Eve and Adam.
    It clearly was Enlil, posing as unmentionable YHWH, who tried to tarnish Ninmah after the Wedding at Cana where She married EnKi The Son of Man. Their re-naming as The Magdalene and Jesus is the great deception.

    All that darkness is now abating as The Goddess returns to Her power at the dawn of the Age of Aquarius.

    • sundari says:

      Hi Glenn and Welcome back. It is good to hear from you and I am always amazed at your commitment to find the truth form alternative sources. Very brave, needed and exciting. It always gives an additional perspective. Thank you. Yes, you are right: Ninmah nobody degraded her and she is coming back. She hid well under different names. Sometimes I think that she managed to survive because of her name-changing and shape-shifting (metaphorically) abilities. Or perhaps, because she is so ancient they forgot about her? As for the nymphs I am still in doubt and still think that it is just a projection of people’s fear of the sexually empowered female. It is still prevalent in society, our collective ambivalence towards sexually empowered woman and societal desire to degrade them.
      I am curious about your most recent adventures and research too.
      Much love,
      Joanna
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News

  5. She was DELETED, that’s what happened to Her. Have y’all seen “The Burning Times”, film put out by the Canadian government in the 80s? You can watch the whole hour or so film on Youtube. But SHE IS RISING again!!!

    • sundari says:

      Hi Colette,
      Thank you for your comment and enthusiasm. Yes, she is rising and the balance will be restored. Now, it is not only women, or even humans that need her but the survival of the Planet is at stake. She is coming back and the sooner the better. In the meantime, lets’ honour her in us, in our own lives. Thank you for the suggestion of the film. No, I have not seen it and I will definitely check it out.
      Much love,
      Joanna
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News

  6. John Noack says:

    “Archetypes” have usually been depicted and explored in two ways: [1] as experiential, primordial, inherited and unconscious mental or psychical impulses or instincts and also [2] as projected and symbolically-expressed images. Evolution has clearly impacted on the contents of the human psyche, as it has evolved and has responded to the external realities and processes in the immediate environment and in the universe at large. The resulting human (and animal) instincts and impulses, which have evolved, have certainly assisted in the task of the nourishment and survival of the Earth’s evolving species.

    However, we humans have both projected outwards as metaphorical images our inner instincts for balance and harmony and we have also retro-jected back as sybolical images the many physical features and processes out in the World and Universe.It is clear that these two outward and inward procedures can create two sets of images: [1] complementing and integrating polarities, as well as [2] opposing and conflicting dualities. A good example is the Sun, which has always provided light for our illumination and heat for the promotion of life and growth in Nature. The Sun has often been matched with the Moon and has been variously assigned to being either masculine or feminine. It has also been imagined and imaged dualistically as light versus darkness and as life versus death, which creates both a positive and a negative state.

    The tragedy for the World’s female population in the past, has been that various cultures and religions have imposed this negative state onto the feminine half or reality. The Sun has also been masculinized and this has influenced early Christianity. Some Bible scholars hold the view that, after the human Jewish Jesus was crucified and his corpse was buried, the Resurection involved the rising of the sun at dawn, which was personified and deified as the Cosmic Christ and as the Lord of the Universe. St Paul certainly experienced this deified Cosmic Christ near Mt Hermon under the mid-day sun during his conversion-experience and Christophany, as depicted in Acts 9, 22 and 26 and Peter, James and John experienced the same personified deification at the Transfiguration in Mark 9 and Matthew 17, when the face of this Cosmic Christ “shone like the sun”. On this basis, the Sun was equated with the previously male and human Jewish Jesus as the Light of the World and the Sun then went on to provide the cosmic solar cycles of resurrection, ascension and descent into the Underworld as the personified male Cosmic Christ. This understanding rests on projected “images” rather than on inherent “impulses”, although it does provide valuable imagery for each human’s Soul -Journey or Individuation Pathway through Life from [1] unconscious wholeness and through [2] conscious unwholeness to [3]conscious wholeness.

    Clearly, archetypal impulses are inherited and can be variously expressed. However, the images produced can be positive or negative and they can therefore have a very deep, long-lasting and often detrimental impact on human culture and on humanity’s many created religions. Your efforts to restore a required balance in the use of our deeply-ingrained and mainly Christian metaphorical images is still much needed, so keep up your important work.

  7. John Noack says:

    Mary Magdalene as Sophia: The narrative for Christianity’s recent celebration of Good Friday, depicted the human Jewish Jesus, the Nazarene, who was crucified by the Romans, presumably for challenging the role of the Roman Emperor by claiming to be the “King of the Jews”. His death on Calvary was witnessed by his loyal female friend Mary Magdalene, (Mark 15.40) who also watched the burial of Jesus corpse in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea and noted its location. (Mark 15:47)

    The narrative for Easter Sunday in Mark 15:1-2, which is the earliest Gospel, indicates that, just as the sun was rising, loyal Mary Magdalene came to Jesus’ tomb, in order to anoint his corpse with her spices but his body was no longer there. Instead, there was a “young man in a white robe” seated in the tomb.

    Christians have subsequently sought to determine how the life-less corpse of the physical, human Jewish Jesus transformed into the semi-spiritual or completely spiritualized heavenly Cosmic Christ, who was able to walk through closed doors and could supernaturally ascend up into the sky.

    Readers seeking evidence-based historical facts and empirical, scientific explanations have recently viewed various depicted heavenly beings as projected personifications and deifications. There were Christophanies on Mount Hermon in northern Galilee, which included the Transfiguration of the Sun as the Cosmic Christ in Mark 9:2-8 and the Great Commission and implied Ascension in Matthew 28:16. As a result of these Theophanies, the early rising of the sun in Mark 16:2 is now being interpreted as the Resurrection of the Cosmic Christ as the personified and deified Sun. The young man in the tomb is then the personified constellation Aquarius, the follower whom Jesus loved and Mary Magdalene is the personification of Wisdom or Heavenly Sophia.

    This understanding provides both [1] the earthly Story of the Jewish “Jesus of Nazareth” and his loyal female friend “Mary of Magdala” in first-century Palestine and [2] also the heavenly story or drama (a) of the Cosmic Christ as the Lord of the Universe and (b) of Sophia and her celestial Fall and Redemption. This drama was very popular amongst the early Gnostics, including Valentinus and Basilides, but it was rejected by the developing patriarchal and un-balanced Christianity.

    When the celestial Cosmic Christ takes on his resurrection-role as the Personified and Deified Sun,
    as a result of the Christophanies on Mount Hermon experienced by Peter, James, John and Paul in Mark 9 and Acts 9, 22 and 26, daily risings, ascensions and descents into the Under-world and annual births, deaths, rebirths and resurrections through the four seasons are apparent, as are the many solar-inspired nature-miracles, such as feeding multitudes and walking in water.

    Christians have been unsure about the earthly marriage of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. However, their celestial roles as symbolizing masculine and feminine principles for both our psyches and for our comprehension of our vast cosmos, should not be over-looked or forgotten.

    • sundari says:

      HI John,
      It is always a great pleasure and intellectual delight to receive your comment. I agree with you are saying in your comment and more. Of course, there are other sources outside of the canonical Gospels that make the story even more complex and beautiful and I am gradually addressing it through my blogs – many more to come on this topic. But, essentially, I can say, ‘Yes,’ to your comment and only add that there even more to this story. I love our conversations.
      Sending live,
      Joanna
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News

  8. John Noack says:

    On-going Spiritual Quests: Thank you for your positive response. It is clear that at present, many of our fellow-humans are on quests for personal values and ideals and also for spiritual paths, which feature intellectual integrity, religious honesty and inner, psychical integration and wholeness. The balancing of the earthly Jesus of Nazareth and Mary of Magdala, along with the projection of their masculinity and femininity onto the celestial images of the Cosmic Christ and the Wise Sophia, are an important and ongoing task for the West and for its collective Soul. Carl Jung (1875-1961) observed the need for such spiritual quests and spent almost his whole life exploring and presenting pathways and patterns for their fulfilment.

    I have included a revised paragraph 6 of my above comment, in the interest of clarity: “The celestial Cosmic Christ therefore takes on his resurrection-role as the Personified and Deified Sun, as a result of the solar Christophanies on Mount Hermon, which were experienced and witnessed by Peter, James, John and Paul in Mark 9 and in Acts 9, 22 and 26. Solar cycles, including daily risings, ascensions and descents into the Under-world, as well as annual births, deaths, rebirths and resurrections through the four seasons become apparent, along with the many solar-inspired nature-miracles, such as feeding multitudes of hungry people and walking on water.”

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