This book is a companion to Goddess Afoot! and Goddess Alive! I do not have these first two books, but found Goddess Aloud! on sale for Summer in January.
This book and (I’m assuming) its companions, are books about Goddess spirituality or what some call Goddess Worship. This book may have been what I was looking for years ago, when I was at the height of my “Goddess” phase but mainly interests me from an academic perspective. Although I still practice Goddess Spirituality in the form of (mostly) Dark Goddess work, God work is included alongside it with Gods like Anubis, Thoth, Khepri, Sobek, Set, Horus and Osiris to name a few (all of whom funnily enough come from the Egyptian Pantheon).
I recognise that as a third wave feminist my understandings have been pushed and threaded differently than 4 years ago when I first started using feminist theory to analyse and critique media, art and literature, so my understanding of Goddess work is different to before. When I was 18 I was still, to all intents and purposes, a second wave informed feminist. Of course as my studies deepened both academically and spiritually I realised that my views were beginning to change and thus a little third wave feminist was born.
Many people understand feminism to be the fight to end “patriarchy and male domination”, this however is not 100% the case. According to bell hooks, Feminism is the fight to end sexist oppression. A key voice in the Post-colonial feminist movement, hooks brought an understanding of the intersecting oppressions of class, race, gender and sexual orientation to the table, critiquing (along with many others), the second wave feminists and the exclusions of their struggle. Second wave feminism was a movement of largely middle class, white women, and those who fell outside of that criteria were still oppressed in great ways, and in today’s world, many still are.
It is from this perspective, one which critiques classifications, dominance by a heteronormative system of capitalism that I come, and it is from this perspective that I will look at this book.
I think that Goddess work is incredibly beneficial. In our society where bodies are now plasticised and airbrushed, controlled and classified violently, celebrating what is becomes incredibly important to heal the sickness of the “mainstream ideal”. Goddess work is not only beneficial for those identifying as women (ALL women now, not just those who were born with a vagina), it is beneficial for those who identify as men as well.
In a post-feminist society where many women feel that the fight to end sexist oppression is over, that all feminists are lesbian “butch” and man haters, women are forgetting that through advertising and all media, bodies are controlled by distortions. The Media is creating an ideal, one that doesn’t include imperfections. We are never allowed to just be who we are, we are forced from the time we are born into models of what our parents, society and the media want us to be, and we are labelled as boys and girls due to genitalia and because of our genitalia and/or chromosomes we are told to like pink, like blue, play with dolls, play with cars, be demure, be strong and not cry. We are never allowed to just be people in our own rights with our own interests. Luckily for me, I didn’t have much gender coaching from my parents, I was allowed to like blue, wear pants, play with cowboy guns and racing cars. I was allowed to decide for myself whether Barbie should be with Ken or with a Biker mouse from Mars, or just remain an independent lady. I was what people call a “tomboy” but I really loathe that term.
Goddess work is incredibly beneficial for all, so that we may heal. Men are suffering under the system as much as women have because now women are apparently displacing men. In The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West, patriarchy is determined to be just as mortifying, soul-crushing and oppressive toward men as it is women, and so I recommend working with Goddesses regardless of your gender, sex, and sexual orientation. *
Goddesses, teach us their struggles through their mythology, some Goddesses, are raped and oppressed by Patriarchy, some goddesses are maidens with independence. Some goddesses are mothers and daughters. Some are lovers and warriors. Some are Queens and some have lost their sovereignty. They can all teach us something about being ourselves. God work is also beneficial, they also teach us lessons, and it is important IMO to work with Gods as well in order to fully heal, rather than just heal one part of ourselves. But since this book is about Goddesses I’ll keep on that for now.
“You are an expression of the divine Feminine. You love like Freyja, Norse Goddess of passion and sex; Heal Like Uzume, Shinto Goddess of Laughter and Shadow, and celebrate your power like Isis, Egyptian Goddess of magic and motherhood” -from the blurb
This book goes over 27 different goddesses, who demonstrate the 9 fundamental spiritual principles which according to Skye are: Peace, Caring for the Environment, Love, Self Love, Forgiveness, Healing, Growth, hope and Spirituality.
Each of the 9 principles is accompanied by three goddesses who Skye associates with those principles, these goddesses include:
Peace: Pax, Our Lady of Fatima, Branwen
Caring for the environment: Asase Yaa, Pachamama, Eriu
Love: Venus, Caelia, Freyja
Self Love: Venus of Willendorf, Hina, Cessair
Forgiveness: Tlazolteotl, Mary Magdalene, Arianrhod
Healing: Uzume, Sulis, Airmid
Growth: Heqet, Pomona, Blodeuwedd
Hope: Demeter, Persephone, Sunna
Spirituality: The Pleiades, Isis, Rhiannon
To be honest I really only connect with four of them on a personal level, and those are Demeter, Persephone, Isis and Heqet.
Each goddess is accompanied by a lengthy telling of myths and stories that surround them that relate to the corresponding principles. Some of these stories were fascinating, some I found a bit tedious. Each Goddess also has included a pathway to them, or a way in which to connect with them and work with them. Some of these are a bit New Age for me but give them a go if you like New Age Spirituality.
Each chapter is introduced with the basic understanding of the principle. And Each Goddess has a mantra which can be repeated to bring change into your life through inward healing and growth. Some of the Mantra’s are really beautiful and helpful, but others were too specific to Goddesses that I don’t work with, that for me they are unworkable. I have, however, found inspiration to write a few of my own mantras in these cases.
The first chapter of the book goes over the reason why Skye thought this book was necessary in the first place. Skye felt that she had lost her voice, and that this book and working with mantras would help her regain the use of her voice. She details the differences between the masculine and feminine voices which I’m not really comfortable with, as to her the masculine voice is associated with dominance, which is an arbitrary association of a particular culture. She does state on p5 that the Voice of the Feminine as she calls is not male or female but “intrinsic to all life on the planet.” The problem here, is then is either she is mislabelling the Voice, or she is using gendered language intentionally. I would rather call it the “Intrinsic” Voice to avoid gendered language which still evokes problematic associations, in relation to other gendered terms which she uses.
“By refusing to use your voice, you deny your right to be an active participant in life. In your life.” p2 on a Spiritual level I partially agree with this, I also believe that “retreating into silence”, actually may be better in some situations. Sometimes acting like you’re dead, like a lizard’s defence mechanism, may just be what you need in a particular situation. A wise witch knows which battles to pick, when to stand up for herself and which battles are best won with silence. Silence helps us listen to our inner voice too. That voice is important to listen to, it will tell you when to shut up and when to speak. “To keep Silent” is as important as “To speak your truth”.
From a Feminist perspective, we are coming from having our voices oppressed, to having our voices heard, and this is important. The voice can be a weapon, a weapon to end oppression, a weapon to speak against the oppressive forces. Performance poetry is one way in which this is done creatively, and is thriving here in South Africa (I had the wonderful opportunity to help with a performance Poetry competition about sex and sexuality last year.) Zanele Muholi, a black lesbian artistic photographer, makes that which is in-visible, visible. While Voice has always been important in struggling against oppression, Visibility is the concern of many South African Visual Artists, Visual Activism is as important as Vocal activism. “Breaking the silence” around certain issues is exactly what was needed and still needed in order for oppressive systems to collapse.
Whichever way you understand “Voice” it is important for you to acknowledge your own voice (inner or outer). Whether it is to free you from oppression (self-imposed or imposed by others), or to come into yourself, working with mantras can certainly be helpful. Your intrinsic voice, that voice that sings the threads of magic, healing and love, needs to be spoken, needs to be heard and needs to be set free.
At the end of each chapter there is a ritual for each of the principles, I did the one for love, although two others interest me as well. I combined it with a ceremony in celebration of Hathor and found it to be hugely successful. Any resentments I had were now washed away by an understanding of mutual communication and just loving fully and openly.
The Ritual for forgiveness is a Mandala ritual which I’m interested in doing. A quote from this ritual, “Throughout the process, you should be cognizant of the fluidity of life and the change and transformation that occurs every moment of everyday”
A few minor issues with the book: She repeatedly used then instead of than which, even though I know I make many typo’s, still gets under my nails; she equates prayer with pleading, which I find a very one-sided view, as to me Prayer is about communion. It is a way in which for me to commune, love and share with my gods in a formal or non formal manner as the case may be. Lastly her insertion of the Three- fold law in the spirituality section kills me “The Wiccan Three-Fold law states that whatever you do comes back to you, magnified three times. So, if you do something nasty, you’re going to get slammed with nasty stuff. Hello Bankruptcy, divorce, life threatening illness.”
On all counts this is hogwash. Traditionally trained Wiccans interpret the three-fold law thusly: whatever action you do, you will be affected mentally, spiritually and physically. This is not magnified by three rather it demonstrates that we are affected on all levels by the consequences of our actions whatever those actions may be. Newton’s law and balance anyone? Secondly this reeks of the notion of punishment to me, a carry-over from a previous faith. Divorce might happen because you grew apart, that’s not Karma or the three-fold law, that’s life! The same is true for life threatening illness, and Bankruptcy it is life, poor decisions, shit hits the fan life!
I give this book, 3 & 1/2 stars out of 5. It is a great book to get if you are into goddess spirituality and specifically New Age Goddess Worship. It may also be helpful if you are interested in reclaiming your voice, as it were. I think this book can be immensely helpful if you are struggling with your own self, and allowing your “self” to come through. These Goddesses spoken of in the book, showed their flaws, showed their beauty and showed that they were not afraid to be themselves. We need to relearn this, in order to heal ourselves from the growing sickness of the media and other oppressive forms of reality.
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- Please note, that I do not advocate Matriarchy in place of Patriarchy. I don’t have much faith in “archy’s” as it were.