Monday, October 17, 2011

Goddesses in the Dirt: Our Lady of Perpetual Fear, Pain and Suffering... just to name a few

I was raised Catholic...sitting Sunday after Sunday surrounded by images of beaten, bleeding saints. And terribly sad women. Most of the images of the Virgin Mary were morose, like this one.


For the first 18 years of my life I heard, over and over again: Lord, I am not worthy to receive thy word. I was taught to beat my chest. Was told I was full of sin before I was even born. Was marinated in all the shame, the sense of being doomed, the pervading sense of unworthiness. I really, really had trouble with that.


As kids, all we know is what we are taught - from our families, our religion, our culture. Yet hearing messages that beat you down long enough will have an effect on you...and they're not always positive. In my case, I felt silenced. And while the church may not have been the source of this, it didn't exactly boost my sense of self esteem either.


There have been many times in life when I lacked the confidence to use my voice. Like singing or speaking in public. Or anything that has to do with being in front of a crowd. For some reason a part of myself shut down. 


Because this undermined my confidence, I've had to work really hard with this part. Sometimes it has made me angry: why do we feel the need to cover up what we perceive as our shortcomings? Why do we fear using our voice? Why do we wear masks and hide parts of ourselves? Is it because we are ashamed of those parts...that if someone found out about them, we would be rejected?


In a very strange way, traveling to Greece over the years has brought these issues to the surface. On several occasions in the past I experienced panic attacks while there, which made me ask: what was it about this place that had that effect on me? And I think I've learned the answer: Greece is home to the god Pan. As the root of the word panic, he is the god who wreaks havoc - not at nighttime - but at the height of the noonday sun.


In the intervening years I've realized that bright light, of which there is so much in Greece, casts the deepest shadows. If you are afraid of your own shadow, then the light will feel unbearable. In a strange way, this country has prodded me to realize that our shadow is where our strength and creativity is hidden. And unlike the church, it has modeled the Divine Feminine in a very different way, in the guise of Athena, Aphrodite, Artemis and Persephone...who embrace all aspects of the feminine, including many the church overlooks or erases: women who are fierce, wise, sexual, assertive, vocal, powerful, solitary, fearless.


So after all those years of staring into the faces of female saints and seeing fear, pain, and endless suffering I realized...



We are long overdue for a new version of the Divine Feminine — one that casts a gentle light, encouraging us to embrace our vulnerabilities, perceived failings and shortcomings. Most of us are taught to fear our own shadow - but what if we learned the opposite? That instead of chasing our shadow away, we could embrace it.... and in so doing find our own strength?  


So this post is dedicated to a new goddess. I have named her:


Our Lady of Perpetual Self-Love and Self-Acceptance (and her irreverent and unselfconscious sister, Our Lady of Perpetual Love Handles, Unbridled Self-Expression and I Really Don't Give a Shit What Anyone Thinks of Me)


Who - instead of shedding a vale of tears - is laughing uproariously.


I wish you all the opportunity to find the courage to look at your own shadow and the wisdom to embrace what you find.


Now go in peace...and live it up. Amen.


P.S. here is her baby photo ;-)

Photos courtesy of Google images

27 comments:

  1. Amanda, this post made me smile and cry at the same time.

    'Was marinated in all the shame,'

    !

    'If you are afraid of your own shadow, then the light will feel unbearable.'

    !!

    We do walk the same path, esteemed friend. I feel frustration that we are divided by a screen.

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  2. I so agree with you!I have always been amazed at women who follow catholicism...it is so negative! Women are full of fun and mischief....and have the ability to nurture and love fearlessly. We are so strong and capable, so when men tell us such drivel and dogma, i can only wonder,....who listens and believes this shit? Follow the laughter and love....and the food will be fabulous too!

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  3. What a cute baby :)))
    You know, I totally agree with you - I don't accept sad and crying pictures of saints either. I became a Catholic just one year ago, but in my city all the polish priests that I know learn us to be happy, joyful, purposeful and throw away all the sadness, laziness etc - (I've never heard such things from our orthodox priests). It's a strange thing, perhaps it happens because of our slavic mentality, I don't know. Usually I don't discuss my religious experience with people, but as for me - I'm trying to get from catholic church all the best things I can find there, 'cause I like it :)

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  4. Beautiful baby fitting of all the newness and hope life has to bring. As a former Catholic (now a Buddhist for 7 years)I agree with every single word you have so eloquently spoken here. I always come here and leave wiser and happier. Thank you.

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  5. ... this should be mandatory reading for women young and old!

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  6. i think this extends well past gender though, amanda. just speaking with a man i know, he was asking, why do we do these very same things, hide, pretend, exert, retreat? we need to admit that this human experience is a difficult one. we need to reinvent the idea of perfection. we need to admit that arriving at the end/being a certain for of completion, is not the goal, but that the journey is paramount. and we need to see the beauty in all forms of oscillating of being. hell yes, for us women. and hell yes, for the men, too. we are all terribly flawed and shimmering points of light.

    much love!
    xo
    erin

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  7. I was not raised in the Catholic faith, but here in my southern culture religion seems to be based on fear. The fear of hell. To me not what religion is about at all, but very prevalent. I really enjoyed this post and agree totally and we need to embrace life and who we are!

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  8. I'll fit your new Goddess Lady right into my Pantheon.

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  9. your words spoke to me much more than you will ever know dear Amanda. I too have faced, and still face, so many of your same fears. And it is time to let go.

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  10. outstanding !


    please have a good tuesday you all.

    daily athens photo

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  11. Yeahhhh!
    I love how you're thinking!

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  12. What shall I say Amanda... I agree with you!

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  13. Hahaha. Touché and congrats to another who has put away the 'hair shirt' and stopped beating on herself. HUGS

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  14. With one thing I agree for sure, Greece makes the life always brighter in comparsion to what we see when we are not in a sunny country:)

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  15. You really opened up in this post and made me sense the effects of religion on a child growing up. My husband was also raised Catholic and I read parts of what you said to him. He agreed. I also said, "I wonder what % of people who seek therapy are Catholic?" Also today's society is always talking about kids having "self-esteem" and I wonder how this must conflict with church. Very interesting post Amanda.

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  16. i love the new Goddess - yes! and truly it is time for her to step forwards.
    beautiful sensitive inspiring post, thanks x

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  17. suze - ah that damn screen....but i'm also happy for it because it connected us in the first place!

    sue - amen sister. i like your brand of dogma
    ;-)

    konstantin - from the sound of it, my church could have used some polish priests!

    yoli - i appreciate your kind comment ....... after i left the church i read all i could about buddhism. i felt like at that time of life - finally, something made sense to me. for that i will always be grateful.

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  18. lori ~ amen indeed♡

    helen - ha! if only that were true!

    erin - terribly flawed shimmering points of light is the best description of the human condition i've heard yet. and you are correct - the message is meant for both men and women - to face one's shadow and embrace all therein. but the issue with the catholic church remains the same - that women are invisible. that's tough to get one's head around.

    p.s. the journey is paramount. yes.

    farmchick - fear of hell, fear of being ourselves.... fear porn is how another blogger referred to it, and i agree. time to start doing something different - and embracing life and who we are is a great start.

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  19. paul - i love it! just like the greeks!

    loree - it is time to let go. this is a big lesson for me right now. thank you xo

    robert - you too - efharisto ;-)

    rosaria - hey, it's always a good time for a new goddess, eh?

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  20. philip - being in greece, you know a lot about goddesses, eh?!

    catfish - haha!!! yeah. it's been a long time since i've pounded my chest but think it probably takes folks a bit longer to get over the internal self flagellation. sigh. hey - thanks for visiting and following catfish! xo

    ola - not sure why that is so, but it is. the light in greece is just more penetrating, no two ways about it.

    sonia - your husband asks a very interesting question. i think the same could be asked of any similar upbringing with all the rigidity and sense of guilt.

    val - thanks dear. i love her too ;-)

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  21. I am so sorry to learn how difficult it was for you to find your voice. For you have certainly done that, in your writing, if not in your speaking.
    Not being Roman Catholic, I cannot begin to identify anything in your experiences. But a "pervading sense of worthlessness" and doom is NOT what I understand my faith to be. I tend to think in terms of blessing, and encouragement, and even (gasp) joy!

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  22. Oh yes...I am a *Catholic Girl* as well...I dutifully followed it all (as both Irish and Croatian parents were Catholics)....but, as my wee self began to think independently and as I began to read and discover more of the world, I began to question... I was fortunate enough to have some Priests who would discuss things with me and not condemn me for my *unpious thoughts*.....when they could not come up with a suitable answer as to why I needed an emissary to relay my repentance to God...I stopped going to confession many years ago. That's just one of many things I drove *my Priests* crazy with...

    Now days, I am my own breed of *Catholic*....which incorporates so much more...some Buddist, some old world Gods and Goddesses...I confess to God on my own....I still attend a Mass now and again, and my favourite place to just sit and pray is a real, cloistered , Carmelite Convent. My Mum took me there as a child....and it is there, I feel my prayers are heard.
    But then again, I am equally at home praying on a Mountain Top or in a Forest....or on my rooftop!

    It should be all about blessings, strength, joy and love....

    Sending you, dearest Amanda, much love and many hugs....I hope one day, we will meet in person. Perhaps when you come to CA AGAIN!

    Love,

    ♥ Robin ♥

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  23. Dear Amanda, this is so true, all your words made me think about my childhood , too.
    I still have so much to learn! This was absolutely a great post.
    Warm wishes from your Brazilian friend.

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  24. The goddess of self-acceptance: I love that! So many women struggle with self confidence. It sounds like you have found your inner peace through self-realization. Perhaps more than gods, what people need is to believe in is themselves.

    Sorry to be so slow to visit. This was the last week of soccer and next week is the opening of my son's play. We are now driving him into school 7 days a week. I caught up on work today in the empty computer lab during his rehearsal. Maybe the reason women don't put themselves first is their kids take priority.

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  25. Oh Amanda, what a great post. I think we all, as we grow older, start to question that which has been instigated in us since childhood. We question our fears and shortcomings and we realize how endlessly strong we are, just because we are vulnerable. Embracing the light and the darkness with the same token is the only way to live.;)
    Lovely reading as always,
    xoxo

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  26. Ditto on this. sooo.... ditto! really!

    I've newly discovered your blog! I love it!

    Welcome to my Google reader subscription list. LOL

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