When I woke up this morning, I knew it was International Women’s Day. I found myself at a loss for what to write about. I love all the posts about raising and being strong women. They are so warm and wonderful. However, they are not really my style.
Still, nothing settled on me. So, I opened up Jungian psychologist Dr. Sharon Blackie’s The Enchanted Life. Figured it would come to me eventually. Her writing has inspired quite a bit of my own lately. My work with the ancient Sibyls and ongoing study of goddess-based cultures in the ancient world has drawn me to many incredible women. Blackie, who woke a sleeping giant in me. That’s what women do. We awaken that deep knowing, that ancient, powerful sensibility. It’s that Holy Yes, as Abbess Christine Valters Paintner of Abbey of the Arts calls it, to find our skin, stripped from us generations ago, and know ourselves.
The Holy Yes
Oh, how I would love to write about that for International Women’s Day, I thought. I hesitated. Too woo-woo? It’s really on my mind. What if people think I’ve lost my common sense? Then, I read this from Blackie:
“We might, deep down in our hearts, believe that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed in the empiricists’ philosophy, but most of us probably feel we’d be wise not to talk about them in public . . . I still find myself flinching if ever I should happen to use words like ‘holy’ , ‘sacred’, ‘reverence’, or ‘spiritual.’ I’m not entirely sure I won’t someday be burned at the stake if I confess the there’s something in me which believes the old gods are alive, still, and walk the land, if only you know where to find them . . .”– Sharon Blackie
It was like her story found me and said, “Yeah, well, you don’t get to hide the dichotomy in you any more if you want to do the real work, Rivers. It’s part of who we are.”
Revealing The Power of Women
There are so many ways women my age are coming into ourselves right now. Art, activism, service to name a few. However, for many of us still, our inward knowing and our outward mask are very different. Maybe we deny the inward longings completely. Often we try on versions of ourselves that listen to the calls we hear in certain ways. What is most accepted? That’s the one we lean into. Because who wants the eye rolling and incessant criticism that permeates modern life?
If I leaned all the way into a Holy Yes, what would my friends who have heard me rant about religion for years say? When I tell you I call the Virgin Mary and the dark primal goddess Mokosh of my Polish roots in my daily prayers, would you mutter, “Oh, she’s one of them” and back away? Even as we rise up, we often do it fearfully.
It’s been a huge dilemma for me. It was brought about by the way I grew up (in a devoted Catholic family) and the way I live now (as what I will simply label as open to the divine in everything). I lean hard into my intuition, listen to the wind, call the wards to protect my house. My days are regularly filled with what I will call my spiritual Team Robin. I write novels about lost ancient matriarchal societies. My crew is clearly female. I will never return to church because I simply cannot rationalize the abject evils committed within such a power structure.
Finding My Answers In Women of the Past
However, lately (and all my life, if I am honest) I keep finding myself in front of the Virgin Mary. I cannot release myself from her as the Great Mother. The embodiment of the goddess who comes in so many forms, in so many of us as women. How could I rationalize all of this? Like Blackie, my discomfort with the juxtapositions inside and outside of me is profound. It is also stopping me from making progress on the rich inner life that I’ve diligently carved away at over the last few years.
A Very Personal International Women’s Day
It turns out that some powerful women sorted it out for me. I stood in my parent’s house these last two weeks, a looming diagnosis for Sharon, the deep unknowing for my Dad. We weren’t sure how any of us will cope with loss and grief. I experienced a sort of epiphany. Mary is everywhere in my parent’s house. She’s totally Team Rivers and they infuse her power into their lives every day. I didn’t need to let worry about acceptance, cynicism, judgement about religion or any modern convention creep in. Their house is, legitimately, one of the most sacred and peaceful places I have ever stood. There is a reverence of the divine there, and Mary—for them—is the manifestation of that.
Meeting My Powerful Women
Meanwhile, I had an experience of my own. For many reasons, my Dad and I had not stood in front of one another in ten years. As soon as he told me about Sharon’s situation, I knew I had to go. It was a call, quite literally, to return to a home I had never seen. To rectify the losses and not have the final moments together be of grief instead of joy. The first morning I was there, I sat on a bench across the street from my parent’s house. I sobbed uncontrollably. I had been beside myself with emotion since before I left Vancouver. The world evaporated around me. Everything lost its color in a shocking bright moment. I was surrounded by a cloudy veil.
A tiny woman sat down next to me. I knew who she was, Sharon’s mother who passed several years ago. She sat with me for a long time, then my own mother who passed in 2015 took her place. We talked for almost half an hour. As I walked back to the house, I could barely breathe from the experience. Was I crazy? Had it even happened? When Sharon’s mom showed up again a few days later, I told my parents what Edna said.
“Tell Bob and Sharon that I love the bench.”
Sharon burst into tears. It turned out that, just before her mom died, my dad built her a bench. A bench she often told them she loved. A bench that she sat on in one of the last pictures taken of her and Sharon. It is framed and perched on a shelf in their home. What I experienced was real, we all knew it. Mary, the Great Mother, powerful women. They transformed us and our time together became some of the most meaningful moments of our lives.
Powerful Women with Powerful Messages
So, if I can leave you with anything on this International Women’s Day, it is to believe in the power of women as the weavers of the world. We are the keepers of the stories. The goddess in all of her forms lives in all of us. You don’t have to pick a side or deny it all together. Simply be open to such a presence.
Blackie speaks a truth so many of us already know. There are more things here and beyond this world than the empiricists’ philosophy can even imagine. If only we know where to find them. Happy International Women’s Day.
If you like this feature, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive exclusive content.