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
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 . . .
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.
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.)
andering 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
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
The Great Comforter
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.
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
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
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
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.
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,
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
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.
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
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
and Remember . . . It's ALL small stuff!
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
:: 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
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,