Goddess Gift E-zine

Wandering In The Wilderness

July 2008

This Issue: Table of Contents

1. The Goddess Has A Lesson
2. Wandering in the Wilderness
3. Mazu: The Goddess Who Rescues
4. Yemaya, She Who Comforts
5. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

It's been a weird month for me. . . altogether too many reminders of our vulnerability and mortality. Too much bad news about people I care about.  I've vacillated between my usual even keel (somewhat Pollyanna-ish optimism and self-assurance) and bouts of being somewhat morbid.  

I've tried to put off writing this issue until I 'lightened up a bit', but finally just decided to go ahead and do it anyway.

In ancient Rome the emperors had servants that ran alongside their chariots to whisper the words "Memento Mori"  in their ears. (Loosely translated meaning "Remember you too will die!"  Sometimes  wonder if the world wouldn't be a better place if we reinstituted the practice!)

Anyway, I think the message I'm supposed to get from all this is that I should pay attention because . . .


The Goddess Has a Lesson For Us

There are but two emotions--love and fear. These are the base emotions from which all others arise. But it's not always easy to tell which one is operating at the moment. . .

We hope that love can keep the upper hand should our fears breed anger and resentment. Time enough later to distribute all the blame and worry about how deep our pockets will turn out to be. These days, with all the economic and political uncertainty, it's enough for us to hope that Diane DePortiers was right when she said:

"Courage is as often the outcome of despair as hope; in the one case we have nothing to lose, in the other, everything to gain."

We hope that we can find the meaning of it all as we go . . .


Sometimes it is a brush with despair that brings us to realize what is truly important and meaningful in our lives.  Let me share this beautiful and inspiring video with you: 

Lis and her dog Diva are making their last run together.

Lis has just learned she has only a few weeks to live and her main request to her doctors was that she be allowed to do one more agility trial with Diva.

Lis died on May 6 of this year and asked for this video to be shared. Watch their joy and look for her message at the end of the video! (Note: Have your speakers turned on, but sound doesn't come on at the beginning.)

 


Wandering in the Wilderness

"Wilderness", Sarah Ban Breathnach reminded us, is "a bleak, numbing word that instantly calls to mind a feeling of hopelessness, nothingness, barrenness, and most of all a sense of powerlessness."  In her exquisite book, Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self, she describes the Wilderness as "a radical spiritual amputation of the weaker and toxic parts of our personalities--our neediness, our hubris, our willfulness, our self-loathing--that are holding us back from manifesting the Divine Plan of our lives."

She quotes John O'Donohue from the Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, "Sometimes this gift may involve suffering and pain that can neither be accounted for nor explained."  And then she goes on to say that we "are sent into the Wilderness for one reason, and one reason only": to find our selves, the persons we were truly meant to be.

"The Wilderness is tough-love", she says. "A love so ferocious it's meant to alienate us from others, estrange us from the world and cut us off from ourselves, if that's what it takes to fully regain our focus."

Erica Jong once said that surviving means being born over and over again. This is the challenge of the Wilderness. The life we once knew is over. Let us begin to find our new way together . . . with courage and with love.


Of course there were some goddesses (like Athena, Atalanta, and Artemis) who seem fearless, never doubting that they will prevail. But the goddess myths are populated with others who found themselves in situations that made them quake with fear and uncertainty.

I think of poor Psyche in panic when she is chained to the cliffs awaiting the arrival of the monster who is coming to take her for his wife, knowing she has been betrayed by her parents because she wasn't 'sensible' about marrying any of her many suitors and instead insisted on waiting for someone she could love.

And I also think of the uncertainty and fear involved when one has to grow up and live in the "real world" . . . and of the heart-wrenching pain of letting go that is part of the beautiful myth of Demeter and Persephone.

But two great goddesses of courage also come to mind. One is a fascinating mortal who repeatedly rescued her beloved people when storms at sea threatened their lives and later was deified. The other offers divine comfort; she holds our hands when it is dark and we are displaced and sorely afraid.

So this month I share with you the stories of the goddesses Mazu and Yemaya.


Yemaya, The Great Comforter

Yemaya was a river goddess of the Yoruba in Nigeria, far from the ocean.  When her people were hoarded onto the slave ships, Yemaya left the rivers went with them, thus becoming the Goddess of the Ocean. She traveled with them from Nigeria to distant lands, comforting them in the holds of the slave ships that took them far away from their homeland in Africa.

In the creation myths of the Yoruba, the creator Olodumare first created a mortal god-human,  and gave him a wife. Their children were Yemaya and Aganyu, who had a son together and named him Orungan. As a teenager Orungan rebelled against his father and brutally raped his mother Yemaya.

When he tried to rape Yemaya a second time, the river goddess fled to a nearby mountaintop where she cursed her son until he died.

In deep sorrow she chose to end her own life on the summit of the mountain. As she died she gave birth to fourteen powerful orisha (nature spirits). When her waters broke it caused the great flood that inundated the world and created the seven seas. The first human male and female (and the ancestors of all humans), arose from the bones of Yemaya. Thus, she became the mother of all life on earth.

Her first gift to humans was a sea shell in which her voice could always be heard. To this day we honor her when we hold a shell to our ear in order to hear her voice, the ocean.

Yemaya actually shares responsibility for the ocean with another deity.  Okolun rules the dark and turbulent depths of the ocean -- the bottom of the sea where the light does not shine. He inspires respect and fear. His powers of destruction that can be unleashed from the ocean depths are vast.

Yemaya’s domain is the upper level, the part of the sea that the light strikes, where water evaporates to be carried to land by her daughter Oya (the wind) to make rain for the crops. Her gentle waves rock the watery cradle of the abundant life forms of the sea.

Okolun demands respect for his ominous power that is unbounded. But it is the goddess Yemaya that is associated with creation and with life itself. When each of their dual aspects, (male and female, power and compassion) is held in proper balance, these two deities unite to offer enormous gifts and unlimited energy.

Yemaya is often depicted as a beautiful woman standing amidst the waves of the ocean. She is a goddess of both comfort and inspiration, known for her generous heart and her great compassion.  And she has a love for children that is unparalleled.

Yemaya is both a mother goddess and a water goddess. Like water, she represents both change and constancy--bringing forth life, protecting it, and changing it as is necessary. She will go to the ends of the earth to comfort her children.

Yemaya reminds us that even the worst catastrophes can be endured and that we can learn to negotiate the ebbs and flows of change in our lives with her wisdom, courage, and grace.


The Goddess Mazu (also known as A-ma)

It is said that the Chinese sea goddess Mazu, with more than 1,500 active temples devoted to her worship and over 100 million devotees,  is the goddess most celebrated in contemporary times. Her names, Mazu (Ma Tsu) and A-Ma, mean 'mother'. Like Kuan Yin she is a goddess of compassion, one who is courageously willing to intercede on the behalf of those in distress.

But Mazu is also revered for her courage, her willingness to fight for her principles. Faced with pressure from her family to marry, Lin Mo agreed to marry only if the man seeking her hand could defeat her in a match of Chinese boxing. Proving herself both courageous and skilled by defeating two generals who attempted to rape her. Mazu remained undefeated, and unmarried, throughout her brief life.

Scholars believe that Mazu originally was a real woman, born around 960 A.D. to a devout Buddhist family that lived on a small island in the Chinese Sea. This girl, Lin Mo, showed an amazing spirit and mind and asked to study with the Buddhist monks who, aware of her precocity, accepted her as a pupil when she was only thirteen.

Mazu blossomed under their tutelage and soon amazed them by developing a "second sight", an awareness of events that one usually has no way of knowing. She was also blessed with the ability to calm storms and to rescue sailors from the perils of the sea.

Eventually she was proclaimed a bodhisattava (in Buddhism, a person who has attained perfection but elects to remain on earth to help others).  

When, at the age of 28, Lin Mo told her parents she must leave them, she was lifted by a dense fog of clouds to a nearby mountaintop where witnesses saw her transformed into a magnificent rainbow as she was carried into the heavens.

You can read the fascinating story of the Chinese Sea Goddess Mazu (A-ma) here:
The Myth of Mazu (A-ma)


Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
   and Remember . . . It's ALL small stuff!

Today much does indeed seem like small stuff when placed in proper perspective, but we've had a few challenges at Goddess Gift, a few days when the web server went down and then had the audacity to come back up but changed somehow. For some (still unknown) mysterious reason, some hapless souls couldn't get the Goddess Quiz to work while others just sailed right through and got their reports.

And, making matters worse, it always performed just beautifully on our computers so we didn't stand a chance of finding the problem so we could get it fixed.  (Audible whines and sighs from a weary webmistress!)

Happily (and thanks to the help of an intrepid Inanna type named Crystal) we were able to resurrect the Goddess Quiz by moving it's working parts to another web host! Apologies to those who were inconvenienced during the spell . . . and thanks for hanging in there till we could get you the gift certificates to get in and finally get your reports.

But the month wasn't all spent slaying dragons . . . Sure, there were setbacks but there were also some accomplishments.

:: We completed work on the new, improved main page for the Goddess Quiz and, frankly, we're pretty proud of it. Take a peek at it and let us know what you think:  The Goddess Quiz

:: And for those of you who are anxiously waiting for the page where we answer your burning questions about the quizzes and how they work....we haven't forgotten and are returning to work on it.

:: We're nearing completion on a wonderful surprise for you. Behind schedule, but coming soon!

:: Bursting buttons with pride, after hearing that our version of the myths of Mazu that is at the website is going to be used in a new textbook that two professors in the English Department at the Wenzao Ursuline College of Language are publishing. (We're doubly honored since the college is in Taiwan, Mazu's own stomping ground!)

So, when all is said and done and I total up the accounts, I find myself much more upbeat than when I started this issue.  Thanks for listening!

Sometimes the lessons of the goddess are hard and painful . . .

         and sometimes they are full of hope and joy.
 


In the Spirit of the Goddess

In closing . . .

Wander when you must but
always keep hope within your heart,

Sharon

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