“There are goddesses in every woman” Jean Shinoda Bolen
For my May monthly Active Dreaming circle, Carol Paddock presented a special program entitled “Journey to Malta and the Sacred Feminine,” an area of the world she has studied and visited. Carol began her presentation with words from Chapter 5 of The Odyssey with references to Calypso of Malta. Using The Language of the Goddess by Marija Gimbutas and several of Carol’s own books and photos of temples, tombs, and ruins, we engaged the symbols of the spiral, bird goddess, womb, tomb, egg, bull, cave, and hedgehog. We drummed and journeyed to discover our connections to these Sacred Feminine symbols. We shared journeys rich in personal associations using the Lightning Dreamwork Process. For a closing it was time for bibliomancy from Here, Everything is Dreaming by Robert Moss. And what better poem could we have opened to than “Proteus?” In addition, I was grateful for a lovely visit from dreaming friend, Teresa, who made a long drive from northern Indiana to join the magic of our sharing.
This Active Dreaming circle continued to have an impact upon how I experienced the wisdom of the goddess energies. The first thing I did that evening was to reread Chapter 5 of Homer’s Odyssey, translation by Robert Fitzgerald. And then I opened Goddesses in Everywoman by Jean Shinoda Bolen. She writes that “in myths about Greek goddesses, every goddess has different qualities and values, and as a whole they include the full panorama of human attributes such as competiveness and intelligence.” In her book and in a presentation I recently heard on the Shift Network she informs her audience about the influence of archetypes on personality traits and how these traits can be expressed through the stages of each woman’s life. She reminds us that our experiences of goddess energy and her archetypes are subjective. And that “to live a meaningful life has to do with what matters personally: love of what we do, who we love and are loved by, and living by our values.” And on a similar note, perhaps for each woman there is a different perspective about how she experiences the nature of the goddess in her many forms.
In my reading I was reminded that through the legends of the goddess tradition, we can discover our personal myths and find a deeper meaning for our lives. Tracking the travels of Odysseus in The Odyssey, the reader follows the hero’s ten-year voyage, returning to his home island of Ithaka after the grueling ten-year Trojan War. During our Active Dreaming circle journey and discussion I spiraled deep into the cave of the Malta goddess in search of her sacred symbols and qualities. Calypso was source of some of those qualities. But there were others in Chapter 5 of The Odyssey.
In the first part of the chapter, Athena intervenes upon the hero’s behalf, when she makes a plea to Zeus that Odysseus be allowed to leave the cave of Calypso. Hermes, messenger of the gods, is sent to her island with instructions that the hero be helped to leave for home. And that he be gifted with assistance, food stores and supplies for building a raft. Calypso knows what every goddess understands about divine intervention. She does what is asked of her by greater powers than herself.
Later in the chapter, Poseidon, god of the sea, sends a storm upending Odysseus’s raft, and he nearly drowns. But he is rescued by Ino, a sea nymph, with her gift of a veil which keeps him safe as he swims toward the shore of the island belonging to the Phaeacians. Athene controls the winds and guides him to a safe place to climb ashore. Ultimately, it is the will, determination and strength of the hero who survives the ordeal. But it is the presence of the goddess who knows his heart and gives the assistance he needs during the defining moments of his struggles.
During that dream circle, I wrote in my journal the following words about my journey concerning the aspects of the goddess in this tale, and the resiliency and will of the hero.
When the goddess releases her desires to what is the highest well-being of herself and others, she makes decisions that represent her highest values. And while her ego resists, her soul knows it must answer the call from its sacred source. For in the cave of the wise heart of the goddess is stored the deepest healing for both the hero and goddess, and the truest form of love. In The Odyssey were my story, when the sacred goddess releases the small parts of her herself, the hero is rescued by compassion and love. Certainly an active dream that resonates with many of us.
There are other lessons in the tale. When the goddess and hero are asked to do things by powers greater than themselves, with trust and faith they will receive the assistance by those same powers in order to face their challenges. In the end, the choices made by the goddess determine her experience of a personal heroine’s journey. For she is the hero of her own story, “shaped by her capacity for love.” True also, the hero holds the energy of the goddess in his own heart, enabling him to surmount the most difficult of life’s waves. The greater meaning in this story for me: Each of us, man or woman, is part goddess, part hero and of course part ordinary person. And maybe on a deeper level, every person is a bit like Odysseus, sailing a raft through the currents of a sometimes stormy voyage of life, grateful for the assistance of sacred interventions.
“A man in a distant field, no hearthfires near,
Will hide a fresh brand in his bed of embers
To keep a spark alive for the next day;
So in the leaves Odysseus hid himself,
While over him Athena showered sleep
That his distress should end, and soon, soon.
In quiet sleep she sealed his cherished eyes.”
The Odyssey “Sweet Nymph and the Open Sea” (Translation Robert Fitzgerald)
A special Thank You to Carol A. Paddock, a goddess in my life.