“After years of research specializing in history and religion, I have come to a colourful and what could seem, to some, uncomfortable conclusion that God had a wife.” Francesca Stavrakopoulou.
In the beginning… what beginning? The concepts of beginning and end belong to the linear world view promoted by German monks in the Dark Ages. Priestesses know circular, or rather, spiral existence that acknowledges the quantumn perpetuity of non-linear reality in which we presently dwell. If we could just forget about beginnings and ends!
In the tantirc world view all this somethingness is Shakti and this nothingness is Shiva. Both are necessary reflections of each other or nothing would exist. It is through contemplation of the glory and gory of Shakti that we come to know our inner essence as still abiding consciousness beyond, beyond…
If we want to know what was beyond the beginning, and what was behind it, we can seek out allegories in ancient stories.
In the official Maori beginning, Tane formed the first woman, Hine Ahu One, from clay and breathed life into her. Then he impregnated her and their daughter Hine Ti Tama. When Hine Ti Tama became a woman her father made love with her and they also bore children.
When Hine Ti Tama (maiden of the dawn) discovered she was the daughter of her children’s father, she ran away.
“Te Kuwatawata consented to allow Hine Titama to descend to Rarohenga (the underworld). Then Hine turned and looked back to this world, where she saw Tane following her, wailing as he came. Then Hine called to him, “O Tane! Return to our offspring. The region of the upper world (Aoturoa) shall be allotted by me to you; to myself, the region of Po.”… It was then that the path of death from this world down to Te Reinga (the underworld) was opened by Hine.”
Hine Ti Tama, Maiden of Dawn, became Hine Nui Te Po, Woman of Darkness. Indeed an archetypal male god sent her to the underworld, so did he not, either accidentally or through his lust, create the beginning, and therefore the end? Like so many feminine archetypes, she is framed by culture as an agent of separation from grace. In a complete backflip from reverence of the female ability to create life, she is now blamed for mortality. Like Persephone, who caused winter, or Pandora, who brought curses on the world, or evil Eve.
It seemed like the beginning was beautiful, and then a woman ruined it. Or is this simply a tale telling us our inner separation, our internal divorce from femininity, is the source of our downfall? Perhaps this is so.
Nukbah is an ancient word used to represent feminine in Hebrew, translated in the modern language as ‘groove’ or ‘hole’. Nukbah stars in the Nesirah myth from the ancient Kabbalist scrolls. Here she is not a hole but, undeniably, a goddess. If we go further back, into Egyptian mythology, we find a deeper layer of her story. Nuk Ba Het Heru translates as ‘I am the soul of Hathor’. Similar to the Greek “Psyche,” Nukbah means ‘I am soul’ in hieroglyphic texts from ancient Egypt. Just like a pregnant woman, she has the mysterious power of penetrating matter with spirit and giving life soul. We see again and again that the original feminine was aligned with the soul in humans. So why is it always the masculine who is the champion of the spirit and the feminine which causes the fall from grace? This popular political practise I call ‘flipping the myth.’ So let’s flip it back, what do we find?
We find that peaceful, sustainable, ecstatic cultures thrived on equanimity between the sexes, on integration of opposites, on mens’ business and womens’ business.
Our cultural stories are consciously created to shape the way the world is now, born in a time when men already ruled. Strong male alliances shaped society through allegiances to prophets and visionaries, and reactions against them. Great men fished up whole islands, slew giants and commanded lightening. King men flew in the skies shaping heavens and earth. Fortunately, I didn’t believe them. The sacred union was long lost to such storytellers, so how could these tales be whole? This truism of male supremacy claims the right to rule, an illusion woven into our consciousness as seamlessly as the pagan pantheon is woven into Christian festivals. When Pan became Jesus, the goddess Oestre became His resurrection at Easter. Disembodied, she became an event.
Oestre became Easter.
Birgit became the Bride.
Ceres became cereal.
Magdalena became a prostitute.
Avalon disappeared in the mists.
Shekinah turned into an essence.
Mary conceived without carnal knowledge.
Virgins who needed no man to support them became coveted economic assets, or else.
Separation of is a myth. The goddess is always making love with the god. That’s life.
To my utmost joy my seeking revealed to me alliances of equanimous societies rich with interwoven masculine and feminine archetypes. There were truly tantric unions of communities which embraced integration and thrived, sustainably, for centuries. If it was so in the distant past, so it can be once more. Reclaiming our femininity brings hope for our future.
In the Jewish world there was the Asherah. Orthodox Jews think the Asherah are groves of trees, or poles of wood, where they may go to worship Yahweh (Jehovah). In the last sixty years revisionist historians uncovered that, in ancient Hebraic lore, Asherah is Yaweh’s female partner in creation.
“People in biblical times were worshiping YHWH the male god in union with his beloved goddess – the Asherah. But they were not the only deities worshipped – it is said that King Solomon built four temples and shrines in Jerusalem, one was for YHWH the God of Israel, but the other three were built to honour different deities, including Ashtoret, the goddess of fertility. The editors of the Bible condemn Solomon for what he did, and put him down, saying that he was just told by his wives to worship their deities. But I doubt if this is the whole truth. I think that Solomon, who, as described in the bible, was deeply learned in eastern and Egyptian wisdom, had some different ideas about the meaning of the Hebrew religion. These ideas were quite different to those which were accepted later into the official Jewish tradition.” Ohad Ezrahi.
Asherah and Yahweh are referred to in the Old Testament and in 8th century BCE inscriptions on pottery found in Sinai. Francesca Stavrakopoulou’s claim that god had a wife is based on ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed in and around the ancient Canaanite city Ugarit, in Syria. She is not the only one claiming such outrageous things, of course.
Archaeology is full of the goddess.
Speaking of outrageous claims, I heard that Eve was created from Adam’s rib. In an alternative translation, the Hebrew word tzela tells us she comes from Adam’s side. If we interpret side as ‘aspect,’ we can begin to penetrate the ancient truth recognised in the tantras as Shakti and Shiva – Eve and Adam are two aspects of creation. Complimentary opposites, in fact.
Again featuring Nukbah, the Lurianic Kabbalah tale of the Nesirah describes the evolution of an integrated god/dess.
“The Lurianic Kabbalah (16th century) speaks about a process, which can be seen as a historical process, a psychological process, [and] a divine process… The Nesirah myth is a description of a process that takes place between the major symbols of masculinity and femininity in the language of Kabalah: Z’A is the term for the masculine, and Nukbah is the name for the feminine.
“The first stage is when Z’A and Nukbah do not face each other. They turn their backs to each other, but they cannot separate. Like Siamese twins, they share the same back skin. Nukbah is very small compared to Z’A.
“The second stage is when things are changing: Z’A is falling asleep, becoming unconscious, and Nukbah is growing. She no longer receives her abundance from Z’A. Instead, she receives it directly from above. Her mind is being opened; she gets her nourishment in body, mind and spirit directly. In this stage Nukbah is separating from Z’A. She becomes independent. She builds her own back and grows to the same height as Z’A. In order to separate, Nukbah uses a tough and sharp energy, known as Din. In order to unfold as an autonomous being Nukbah rebels against Z’A.
“The third stage it is described that Z’A, the masculine, wakes up. Simultaneously, Nukbah no longer needs the energy of Din, and the two turn around to face each other. They meet again, but now they are equal – actually, Nukbah is a bit higher than Z’A. They are independent beings, discovering that they are different, yet equal to the other. They can look eye-to-eye, face-to-face, soul-to-soul (in Hebrew ‘face’ is ‘panim’ and it is written the same as ‘the inner’ – ‘pnim’. So in Kabbalah, saying ‘face to face’ means to express that they share their inner world and meet soul to soul).” Ohad Ezrahi.
In an uncanny tale, the Nesirah myth describes the journey of women (as the most obvious embodiment of femininity) through history.
Ohad says that the Nesirah is the journey of women after the Fall. Many pieces fell into place when we learn that Eve was the second woman created in Eden, only after the first woman, Lilith, disagreed with Adam about who was on top and ran away to Sinai.
In order to divide and conquer, Eve, the sinful and therefore atoning aspect of the feminine, is exalted and Lilith, the free thinking wildwoman is demonised. The patriarchal paradigm grows more obedient economic units if it demands we atone for imaginary sins, like eating apples, and are fed promises of a glorious afterworld, if we are good. This splits us humans from nature, man from woman, and then divides us inside ourselves. So if our world view opens to integration of these polarities we reconcile within us and no longer heed external control. Mature humans, who have aligned with their innate spirituality, do not need external governance. This is one advantage of the tantric path, and why it worked so well for Kashmir.
No matter how much my parents and teachers punished me, I never repented. I just could not buy into the belief system that we were born with sins to atone for. We are deeply entitled to explore life – experiment with boundaries, be open, creative, rebellious, perceptive. Believing this, I was much more free than anyone else in the suburban environment of my childhood. Having not internalised the idea that I was guilty for living, I stuck out like erect nipples. Nobody ever mentioned Lilith, the other woman, because feminine freethinkers are very dangerous to the dominant paradigm. We won’t work consume die.
So many of us have run away – to Sinai, Wollumbin, Portugal, a Pacific Isle – unable to face, or even know, our shadow of despair around our desecrated feminine power. We are driven by our intuition that the divisiveness of this masculinised cuture is tearing us in two, and must escape. No one told us about Lilith, but we feel the wild calling of nature, she who wants to love us whole. If you, as I, refused to submit to the split, you are able to escape. You have a lot less work to do before you are free. Discovering beauty and magic with tribes of runaways coalescing around sacred mountains and forgotten beaches, we become neophytes on a spiritual path taking us back to ourselves, into our body temples, and deeper into the darkness beyond. Deep in the dominant paradigm, those experiencing cognitive dissonance upon encountering alternative lifestyles, do not realise what makes them jitter is freedom calling. This is the power of embodied femininity. Those who can embody her, become a siren song calling armoured ships to break open on the shores of awakening and crawl into the warm fertile embrace of the jungle goddesses.
Who secretly wishes you were a runaway too? Take a step outside, take a leap and land in the bosom of your own salvation, of who you are, whole.
Creation myths imagined in a Dark Age create the culture that surrounds us and will do so until we collectively stop running and stand for love. Love of our selves just as we are, messy and unwhole, love of our inherent wildness and animal nature, love of this earth, love for all living things, love for all dead and gone, love for those who confront us with their ignorance, love for life as it is. Here and now and in all ways may we be penetrated by beautiful life, and learn to penetrate life with love unbroken.
Let’s flip the myth again and see that Eve and Adam ate the apple from the tree of knowledge and became ‘like god.’ Like Yahweh they now saw good and evil. They came out of their wholeness, stepped into duality, and like Yahweh now they existed in separation. They could judge. In their opinion there was good and bad. Right there, in claiming the consciousness of the single male god, divide and conquer began. The cult of god without goddess.
Where is she, where did she go?
To the underworld, to the dark fecund earth, to the shadows of Psyche. As there is an above, there must be a below, or the tree would not stand. Nothing we are told in the modern world comes from a time of integration, however the hidden paths of power are still written in the old texts, in the tantras, in the sculptures and potteries, in the ancient ways of this world, for those who seek them there.
In the Kabbalist ‘tree of life,’ the nine Sephiroth ‘above’ show the masculine journey. The tenth Sephirah, Malkuth, at the roots of the tree represents the feminine, earthly world. Her journey is not shown. It is hidden.
“The Sephirah of Yesod serves as a connection between the Sephiroth above it, which represents alma di dekorah (the world of maleness), and the Sephirah below it, alma de nukbah (the world of femaleness).” Moshe Hallamish.
It is not, as modern Judaism describes, that the feminine is beneath the masculine, thus inferior. Every Friday shabbat rituals across the planet try to escape her. This is a futile search for wholeness within separation and holds this polarised vibration on the planet. The tree must have roots, these are nurtured in the dark earth and watered by the tears of mothers over dying children. I wish we would create powerful rituals every shabbat to honour our integrated selves, to reclaim our femininity and marry her to our masculinised minds. Flip the myth and see the tenth sephiroth, Malkuth, as the source. See all things emanating from her. Then you will see that the Crown (incorporated) as Kether, is farthest from the source. Then you will wonder how can he be stable if he has not roots of this tree?
He is not stable. It seems crazy that only a few decades ago it was ok by the Courts to rape a woman because she was wearing a skirt and out at night. This is the extent of our separation from source.
Recently revealed photographs of the ancient murals inside the Dalai Lama’s private chamber in a stolen temple in Tibet, show all buddhist creation birthing from a female vagina. Welcome to the yoniverse.
Complemented by unbroken circles, nourished by the mysteries of the dark earth, the magical qualities of integrated humanity still exist in shamanic traditions. In Aboriginal, Maori, Native American, Asian, African and South American culture there is much evidence of conscious abilities to predict and influence the future, commune with psychic realms, shapeshift and heal. Their roots are firmly and consciously connected deeply in nature. Their sacred flow is occasionaly rent asunder by the sword of direct action, their sexuality is openly acnowledged, their crime and depression nearly negative, and there is significantly less specialisation in gender roles. Shamanic cultures inhabit the mythic realms where the god and the goddess are united in matrimony: our heritage and our potential.
The practices of eastern tantra evolved directly from such a culture, incubated in a fertile valley in India. Here the intensity of Indian philosophy wrought a golden cult, alchemically, which rigourously practised sacred union, scientifically.
Modern tantra is a fusion path. Mainly because on all paths we find elements of tantra, so neotantra seems to encompass it all. The trick on this path is to not get obsessed with the masculine side, in the polarised ascetic and sexual predator streams, but to balance with grace, purity and the feet-in-the-earth of the feminine side.
For us atheistic modern humans, myths of magic from times of the integrated psyche are just fairy stories. Fairy stories, like legends, have deep roots in truth. Walt Disney claimed these stories and turned them into pixie dust. Real magic is natural, sans fireworks. It comes naturally on the path of integration. An integrated psyche is tune with nature in a way that is beyond the comprehension of the rational mind. With pattern awareness we follow mystic signs which deliver us to places beyond our wildest dreams. It is conscious manifestation of our desires and needs, no pixie dust required.
The naturally heroic act of reclaiming our personal power as we slowly reintegrate our inner feminine and masculine is enough. Thus we offer others a radiant practical alternative to the media-manipulated cult of disembodied gods. Hierosgamos beckons – it will make you whole.
Once I was living on the shores of economic rationalism, wondering where the magic was. How did I get to this foreign place where the people are talking my language but no one makes any sense? When my spirit came into matter I was excited by the journey, fully open to love and a blissful embodiment. As a child I was sure magic existed, sure that life was wonderful. Beached by consumer capitalism, I never lost this faith. My culture tried to trick me into believing lies, but I made it through to the other side where their rules no longer apply. Now I am blown open by the majesty of living. No matter if it’s grand or if it’s sad – I’m in love with life. And life loves me. We are happily married, come whatever! What it took to bring me wholeness was an angle of escape, a trajectory outside the dominant paradigm, a faithful leap into the unknown, a kiss from Lilith… to find the path to heaven which is within us.