Goddess of the Week: Kali

Out with the old, in with the new.  As the new year approaches, it is best to remember Kali, the Hindu goddess of death and rebirth. 

With a sword in one of her four hands, the head of a demon in the second, two dead heads for earrings, a skull necklace, red eyes, and blood-doused face and breasts, it is easy to see why Kali is one of the most feared of the goddesses.  Indeed, you don't want to mess with this mama.  In one battle, this fierce warrior became so enraged that she began destroying everything in her path, which included far more than her own enemies.

But like all powerful women, she is a bit misunderstood.  The name Kali is derived from Kal, which means change.  And, more than anything, Kali is the goddess of change and time.  Things change.  Times change.  Deal with it, says Kali.  Her real enemies are false consciousness and ego, the enemies inside us that keep us from enlightenment.  Facing any enemy is not pleasant, and it is not easy.  Sometimes you must be brutal, even with yourself, if you are to move on.  Fortunately, Kali's other two hands (that's half of her hands!) are raised in compassion, which is Kali's way of reminding us that even as you face the toughest demons inside you, even as those demons cling to the past or tell you lies about yourself, you must hold yourself in compassion and forgiveness, for forgiveness, too, is the key to rebirth.

Channel this goddess: When faced with destruction and decay and with bad endings and unhappy endings.  These are the things that make new beginnings possible.  


Wise Women Friday: Eleanor Roosevelt

Words of wisdom from Eleanor Roosevelt:

You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

I love Eleanor Roosevelt.  Did you know that she had a lifelong fear of water after surviving the sinking of an ocean liner when she was a child?  Did you know that she learned how to swim when she was in her fifties so that she could finally conquer that fear?  She did the thing she thought she could not do.  She spent her life doing the things she thought -- that everyone thought -- she could not do.  And the world is all the better for it.  

I'm facing my fear of math.  It won't change the world, but I'm kind of proud of myself.  How about you?  What must you do that you think you cannot do?


Goddess of the Week: Holda

Getting ready for Santa Claus? Thank Holda. This Teutonic goddess, depicted as a gorgeous blond in a flowing red and white gown, governed many realms. It all depended upon who you asked and where you asked them. She was known variously as goddess of the

Captioned as Image via Wikipedia

weather, goddess of winter, goddess of wealth and prosperity, and the goddess of generosity.

She flew through the night on December 24th, which was known as Mother Night, bringing gifts and happiness to all she encountered. She was especially fond of children and was known to drop down chimneys and bring them presents.

To thank Holda for her generosity, people often left milk and food out for her on her special night of gift giving.

Now doesn't this sound familiar?

Channel this goddess when: Aren't you channeling her already? Or are you one of those smarty pants who's already finished her Christmas shopping. Ho, ho, ho.

Need a goddess? Of course you do! Leave me a comment telling me what you need her for and I'll see what I can do.


Wise Women Friday: Helen Keller

Words of wisdom from Helen Keller:

Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature, 
nor do the children of humans as a whole experience it.  
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.  
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

American Helen Keller became blind as the result of a serious childhood illness.  With the help of her devoted teacher Annie Sullivan, she went to become one of the twentieth-century's most inspirational writers, as well as a champion for the disabled, women, and human rights.

Search long and hard, but you will be hard pressed a more risk aversive soul than me.  That's why I like this quote.  It reminds the scared rabbits among us that we can't really run or hide from life's risks.  They will find us, and we must face them.  Better the daring adventure than the dull, lonely cower.  

So be bold.  Be brave.  And hold on tight.


Twilight, Girl Culture, Boy Culture, and What it Says About Us

Last week I mentioned how, to me, Twilight seems to tap into a part of girl culture that is obsessed with self control, especially in regards to food and appearance.  But now I'm wondering if I've just been duped by a popular culture narrative that pits the idea of over-achieving, ambitious, hyper-focused girls against slacker boys.  Think of the movies by Judd Apatow and his many imitators, movies like "Knocked Up" and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."  (Movies that I thought were pretty funny, by the way.)   In these films, girls tend to be depicted as gorgeous successful professionals while the men are definitely not gorgeous as well as unambitious and proud of it.  But in a twist of the traditional romantic comedy tradition, the slacker boy gets the up-and-coming woman, and even if he doesn't get her, he gets the chance to reject her.  

Popular culture does not really depict reality, but it often depicts our anxieties about reality, and it's pretty clear by the success of these movies among teenage boys, that boys are worried that they are getting left behind.  Girls outperform boys at school, and they now make up the majority of medical and MBA students.  So clearly young boys are seeing a sort of truth in these films as their own anxieties are worked over and assuaged with each new film.  Girls can outperform you, goes the logic, but they will remain cold-hearted, frigid bitches until they learn to submit and embrace their inner pussy cat.  Wow.  We really haven't come very far if boys need to hear these stories so consistently and if this narrative has become so implicit that we assume its true.  

Because it's not true, is it?  Girls are not models of self restraint.  If they were, we wouldn't have to worry about teenage pregnancy, or drug addiction, or bullying, or any of the million things we worry about when we think of the young girls in our lives.  And boys are not all slackers, as I am daily reminded when I look at the all male student council of my daughter's elementary school.  

So what's in it for us?  What do all of us get from these stereotypes?  I don't know.  But I'm going to think about it.  


Goddess of the Week: Isis

Thinking of going a little bit traditional with this year's holiday card?  Perhaps a lovely Madonna with child?  Thank Isis.

Isis is the Egyptian goddess of motherhood and magic.  Although famous for her virginity, she is the mother of Horus -- the sun god -- and the sister and wife of Osiris.  When the god Seth tried to usurp Osiris's power by chopping him into fourteen pieces and scattering his parts around the world, Isis went searching for all the pieces so that she could resurrect him.  She found only thirteen pieces.  For the life of her she couldn't find his penis anywhere.  Being a creative problem solver she cast a new penis for Osiris out of gold, making him even better than before!

Ancient Egyptians celebrated the birth of Horus, the sun, at the winter solstice as they celebrated the return of longer days.  They gave gifts, gorged on feasts and alcohol, and pretty much had a good ol' pagan time.  

In art, Isis is usually depicted sitting on a throne holding the newborn Horus in her arms: http://www.artgallery.sa.gov.au/MediaCentreEgyptLouvre2007/Isis%20suckling%20Horus.jpg
In later centuries, in an effort to incorporate pagans in into the Christian religion, artists working for the Roman Catholic Church would do the same:  http://www.3dkbottegadartesacra.it/immagini/madonna%20con%20bambino.jpg

 Channel this goddess when: Everything is falling to pieces.  Collect all the ones you can find and improvise the rest.  It will be fabulous.


Wise Women Friday: Ruth Benedict

This is a new feature.  It is based on the theory that, while on Monday we need our goddesses to sustain us,  on Fridays we need words of wisdom to help us relax into the weekend.  So, this weekend, heed the call of Ruth Benedict, who said:

Go!  Live the life you covet for your child.*

*Ruth Benedict wrote this is in her journal when she found out that she was infertile.  She never had children.  But, like many mothers, she wanted more for her (imagined) children than she did for herself.  Childless, she gave herself permission to achieve her greatest ambitions and dreams.  And she did.  She went on to become one of the century's greatest anthropologists.  What dreams have you put on hold?  Is it time to reclaim them?      


Twilight: Will Someone Just Gives Those Vampires a Twinkie.

Much has been written about the phenomenon that is Twilight, the vampire/romance young adult series of novels (the first of which is now a very successful movie).  Many far more hip and industrious writers than me have used their ink to explain its success.  The most current theory in circulation is that teen girls like Twilight because -- unlike their real life experiences -- the responsibility for sexual restraint rests entirely on the boy, Edward, who is also a vampire.  It turns out that Edward refuses to have sex with Bella, the protagonist, because he knows that if he loses his self control he will probably revert to his vampire instincts and kill her.  

That may be true, although since romances are traditionally about women's abilities to civilize untamed men I sort of doubt it.  Bella's very inaccessibility is what tames him.  What strikes me about the books is the almost pathological self control that is glorified in the book.  In fact, the book seems to me a sort of fable about anorexia.  It's a stretch, so hear me out.

Edward lives with a "family" of vampires that refuses to hunts humans and, instead, hunts wild animals, like bears.  They see themselves as being akin to vegetarians.  Bottom line: they "eat" but once every few weeks.  They do not consume any other foods.  They do not even seem to drink water or soda.  Nonetheless, they are repeatedly described as looking like supermodels.  

Basically, they are those girls you worry about when you see them cross the street.  They practice a kind of self control that most of us cannot fathom because they, too, want to look like supermodels.  They don't eat.  Like the vampires in Twilight, they are voyeurs.  They watch other people eat, or they pretend to eat, and then throw away their food when no one is looking. 

For a lot of girls, this extreme sense of self control, whether it manifests itself in anorexia or not, is an important part of girl culture.  

More on this tomorrow.  


Goddess of the Week: Frigga

Is your Yuletide bright?  If so, thank Frigga.  Frigga is the Norse goddess of motherhood and fate.  She was married to Odin, the leader of the Norse gods and was the mother of Baldur, the god of the sun.  

Frigga spent most of her time at her spinning wheel, spinning out the fates of all living things.  The Norse word for wheel is yul, and the Norse called their winter solstice celebration Yule in honor of Frigga's work.  Today's Christmas wreath is also a symbol of Frigga's wheel, and it is reminder of the circularity of the seasons, a reassuring symbol in the deep of winter.  

Of course, Frigga did more than work her spinning wheel.  She also gave birth to light.  Until Frigga gave birth to Baldur -- the god of light -- the world was cast in darkness.  More than anything, this is what the Yule holiday celebrated: the birth of light, which is why it was celebrated with candles and the Yule log.  

Channel this goddess when: You are laboring in the dark.  Remember the light is on its way.  


Two Concepts I Never Thought I'd Link Together: Star Wars and Ladies Underwear

Apropo to yesterday's post.  In his review of Carrie Fisher's new Memoir, Wishful Drinking, Matthew DeBord (LA Times, Dec. 4, 3008), E10) reveals that Carrie Fisher did not wear a bra during the filming of "Star Wars."  Apparently, George Lucas insisted "for ornate reasons, that there was no underwear in space."  

It's a little easier to pull off at nineteen than at forty-something, isn't it Princess Leia?


What You Don't Know About Me, Once I was in Love with Star Wars

I was a Star Wars junkie.  I was one of those weird kids who saw all the movies (the old ones, the classic ones) when they first came out.  I saw them many, many times.  I memorized all the dialogue.  I had Star Wars models, Star Wars jewelry, Star Wars recorss, an original Star Wars movie poster, but my favorite Star Wars possessions were my Star Wars action figures.  I had all of them -- even the Jawa and the Sandperson.  

I kept my Star Wars action figures until eight years ago.  When my oldest daughter was five, she had this friend -- Albert -- who loved Star Wars.  Whenever he came over he would play with my action figures.  One day, I gave him my action figures.  My kids couldn't care less about them, after all, and I had grown into a seemingly mature adult.  

Flash forward to two years ago, the day Albert's mom gave me a little brown box with a letter.  "Dear Margaret: Do you remember those Star Wars action figures you gave me?  It turns out they are worth quite a lot! of money.  I am returning to you the Jawa; it's the most valuable.  It is worth $200.  Your friend, Albert."  

"What a sweet boy," I said.  (And is that not the sweetest, most inspiring thing you've ever heard?)  But -- lets' be honest -- what was I thinking?  $200! For the Jawa!  I had them all.  Everyone.  A complete set.  Still, I kick myself.   


Goddess of the Week: Mawu

Mawu (also known as Mahu) is a creator goddess from what is now Benin Africa.  There are some conflicting stories about Mawu.  In one, she created the world but feared that she made it too heavy so she had the serpent Aido Hwedo fling it into the sky.  In another version of this story, she asked the serpent DA to coil underneath the heavy earth and hold it in place.  It took Mawu four days to make the world.  On the first day, she created the universe.  On the second day, she got the earth ready for people.  On the third day, she gave humans language, senses, and ability to think and reason.  And on the fourth day, she gave them tools to make life easier.  

When making people she asked the monkey Awe -- who she also created -- to help her.  He fashioned a world of unique people out of clay, but he confused fashioning life with giving life and got cocky.  Mawu got angry and gave Awe soup, but in the soup lay the seed of death.  And that's how Awe learned that only Mawu gave the breath of life, and only Mawu could take it away.