Beliefnet
The Queen of My Self

A huge proportion of the world’s people are living in the vicinity of a volcano. Waiting for the second shoe to drop, as it were. Always aware of danger. Under the constant threat of fire — an uneasy truce at best. It must be like living with an abusive parent or spouse. Never knowing when they might just go off. Knowing you can’t control the situation. Yet not wanting to leave because of love, loyalty, tradition, lack of support, procrastination, a thousand reasons. Pretty scary to contemplate. Conciliation might seem the only protection.

Fire, out of fear, out of deference, is always treated with utmost respect. And the deities who personify a fickle, fiery omnipotence inspire worship of particular passion, for the smallest lapse of attentive reverence could result in wretched disaster. There is clear understanding that She who grants life could also, at the slightest whim, take it away again. Better not to take any chances of incurring the flaming wrath.

Pele, the Hawaiian Volcano Goddess, is notorious for Her capricious temper. Her lusts and desires are enormous and Her sexual appetite is legendary. She is said to appear in the form of a beautiful woman right before an eruption. She likes to pick up sailors. Any rejection or imagined slight infuriates Her. So special care is taken to appease Her. One walks very carefully around Lady Pele. You don’t mess with Mama Lava. You really don’t want to upset Her. When She is pleased, She rewards you with life in paradise. And if She’s pissed she blows her top.

Alas, there’s no stay to the smoke

I must die mid the quenchless flame

Deed of the hag who snores in her sleep,

Bedded on lava plate oven-hot.

— The Saga of Pele

The priestesses who served Pele wore robes whose hems and sleeves had been singed in a fire, and they carried digging sticks, which represented the sturdy digging stick which Pele employed to create the volcanic craters. Pigs used to be offered to Her, and the songs and dances of the hula. Today practitioners of the old religion still bring Her gifts of flowers, incense, the Ohelo berries which She loves, and, of course gin or a bottle of brandy.

The worship of Pele has been discouraged since the early Nineteenth Century when the Hawaiian Queen Kaahumanu converted to Christianity. Later, in a public display, Kapiolani, the woman chief of the Puna District, challenged Pele to punish her. She taunted the goddess by throwing rocks into the sacred crater. Her answer was an eruption of Mouna Loa. Luckily all the old lore was not lost.

Princess Ruth Keelikolani, who was sixty-three years old at the time, climbed to the edge of the threatening lava flow. She bore gifts of silk and brandy, and was, most importantly, able to offer the ancient chants of obeisance to placate Pele. The disturbances stopped the very next day, saving the town of Hilo. When the village of Kapoho was jeopardized in 1955, people offered food and tobacco to the smoking mountain with the same results. The lava stream stopped the next day before doing any damage.

Every year the National Park Service is inundated with packages containing small bits of rock and volcanic glass accompanied by a plea to the rangers to return them to their proper place — Mount Kilauea, the dwelling place and seat of power of Lady Pele. These souvenirs had been taken by hapless tourists who either became racked with guilt and foreboding, or had suffered a series of calamities which they grew to attribute to the punishing fury of Pele. One such anguished note reads, “Five years later, ten car accidents later, two unsuccessful business ventures later and twice broken heart later, I admit the place for the enclosed rock of lava is there where it belongs.”

Pele’s capricious counterparts, the Flaming Furies, the Volcanic Valkyries of other cultures, portray almost identical attributes, and their ceremonies, too, are similar. She is Fuji who sits on Her mountain throne, Fujiyama, on the Japanese main Island of Honshu. She is the Goddess Apo Namallari who rules Mount Pinituba in the Philippines. To the Maori people of New Zealand, She is the goddess Mahuea, She Who Keeps Fire in Her Fingertips. And to the Aztecs, She is Coatlicue, Mother of All Deities, Lady of the Lava Altar.

Her name is Hel, Hella, Holla, in Northern Europe and Scandinavia, namesake of the Icelandic volcano, Mt. Hekla and its nearby town, Hella. From Her name we also get the root words for holy, heal, hallow, hello, whole, all, halo and holly. She is associated with both the healing hearth fire and the burning fires of the underworld. A split personality writ large, like all of Her sisters — the beautiful princess and the ugly old witch. The nun and the whore. The bimbo and the brain. The damsel and the dyke. (Yike!) Two peas in the same pod. Smooth when stroked. Stormy when provoked. Siamese twin soul sisters joined at the heart.

Our Lady of Lava has been trying to get our attention lately. Trying to tell us something extremely important. She is gesticulating desperately. Her temper’s shot. Her nerves are raw. Her fury is boiling over. She’s furious, overwrought with exhaustion from Her urgent production of enough ash to create enough cloud cover to lower the earth’s temperature enough and in enough time to counteract the coming green house effect.

Perhaps it’s time to listen.

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

Women have long documented their domestic knowledge and experience by keeping written manuscripts of recipes for food, medicines, inks and cleaning supplies, in order to pass it down through the generations of their families.

Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery is such a hand written manuscript cookbook, which was given to her in 1749 and used in her household for fifty years. The Washington manuscript describes cookery from the English Mother Land and includes cuisines of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. It also offerss recipes reflecting America’s produce and colonial history.

Janet Theophano stated in her book, Eat My Words, that cookbooks are celebrations of identity. Connections to people, places and the past are embedded in the recipes women kept and exchanged, transformed, and adapted to the changing world.

Anna Weckerin was the first woman to publish a cookbook. Ein Köstlich New Kochbuch (A Delicious New Cookbook), released in 1598 went through many editions up through the 17th century. Her recipes include a roast salmon with a sour sauce and an eel pie, as well as more familiar German dishes like Bratwurst and Lebkuchen.

In 1727 Eliza Smith authored The Compleat Housewife, She had worked for many years as a cook in upper-class houses where she acquired considerable expertise in preparing and serving fine food. Her writing reveals great self-assurance, for she attacked English attitudes toward food and women cooks. In her Preface, she chides the male culinary writers of her time, and stresses her years of experience as a woman in the kitchen, in order to establish her authority.

The English author Hannah Glasse published The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, which was a staple of American households during the Revolutionary War. Her emphasis on the use of plain language in her Preface was to retrieve cookery from the professional male chefs, who were accused of writing to male professionals with complex techniques. Glasse was a pioneer in giving recipes for ice cream, chocolate and vanilla, which appeared in the family recipes of the Washington, Jefferson and Franklin families.

Another outstanding English author, Isabella Beeton, wrote the Book of Household Management. It represented traditional fare and solid Victorian values. Although it contained a few extravagant recipes, the author devoted many pages to plain family fare. These pages were removed in later editions. Her recipes were the first to list ingredients before the method of preparation. She included information on the management of children, the doctor and legal memoranda. Nearly two million copies of her first book sold by 1868.

In 1796 Amelia Simmons published the first American written cookbook. She was the first to create an awareness of indigenous cookery in America. She printed the first corn, squash, and pumpkin recipes; and she was the first to recommend the use of potash, a forerunner of baking powder. An orphan and domestic worker, she wrote in her Preface, that the book is calculated for “the improvement of the rising generation of females in America, particularly for those females in this country, who by the loss of their parents, or other unfortunate circumstances, are reduced to the necessity of going into families in the line of domestics, or taking refuge with their friends or relations, and doing those things which are really essential to the perfecting them as good wives, and useful members of society.” 

The Virginia House-Wife, published in 1824 by Mary Randolph was the most influential American cookbook of the nineteenth century. It documented the cookery of the early days of the republic and was the most cherished of kitchen manuals. Born into wealth, prominence and status, Mary Randolph introduced a sumptuous cuisine influenced by English, Indian, African and Creole flavors.

Another extremely popular American author of the early nineteenth century was Eliza Leslie. She was introduced anonymously in 1828 as “a lady of Philadelphia” writing Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats. Her second cookbook, Directions for Cookery in its Various Branches was published in 1837 and had fifty printings. She also authored the first book on French Cookery. Her writing made Eliza Leslie a Philadelphia celebrity. She had the reputation of being a brilliant woman with a sarcastic wit and heady opinions.

Fannie Farmer published her most well-known work, The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, in 1896. She introduced the concept of using standardized measuring spoons and cups, as well as level measurement. This classic American cooking reference contains1,849 recipes, from milk toast to Zigaras à la Russe. She also included essays on housekeeping, cleaning, canning and drying fruits and vegetables, and nutritional information. The book was so popular in America that cooks would refer to later editions simply as the “Fannie Farmer Cookbook,” and it is still a top seller over 100 years later.

Farmer was first a student and then the principal of the Boston Cooking School and later created Mrs. Farmer’s School of Cookery. She began by teaching gentlewomen and housewives the rudiments of plain and fancy cooking, but her interests eventually led her to develop a complete work of diet and nutrition for the ill, titled Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent.

Clementine Paddleford was an American food writer active from the 1920s through the 1960s, writing for several publications, including the New York Herald Tribune, the New York Sun, The New York Telegram, Farm and Fireside, and This Week magazine. She was the first journalist in American history to take food as a serious subject to write about.

She was also a pilot, and flew a Piper Cub around the country to report on America’s many regional cuisines. She traveled more than 800,000 miles between 1948 and 1960 in the pursuit of great food. One of her assignments was to report on the cooking and food aboard a US Navy submarine, which took her aboard the USS Skipjack for a cruise. In 1960 Paddleford published her tome How America Eats, a collection of 12 years of her columns.

Julia Childs discovered a penchant for French cuisine when she moved to Paris at the age of 40 , after spending World War II as a spy. She attended the world-famous Cordon Bleu cooking school for six months and then, with two Fellow graduates, she founded the cooking school L’Ecole de Trois Gourmandes (The School of the Three Gourmands). With a goal of adapting sophisticated French cuisine for mainstream Americans, the trio collaborated on a two-volume cookbook titled Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961). Published in the U.S., the 800-page book was considered a groundbreaking work and has since become a standard guide for the culinary community.

When she later moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, she promoted her book on the Boston public broadcasting station, and prepared an omelet on air exhibiting her delightful, straight-forward, casual demeanor and hearty humor. The response of the public was so immediate and overwhelmingly enthusiastic that she was invited back to tape her own series on cookery for the network.

The French Chef TV series premiered on WGBH in 1962 and succeeded in changing the way Americans related to food, Over the years, the wild and wonderful Julia Child inspired countless home cooks to expand their horizons and make cooking a joyful pleasure. The show was syndicated to 96 stations throughout America and won both a Peabody Award and an Emmy Award in 1966.

Alice Waters has carried the baton of innovative, influential cuisine into the present day where she has updated it to meet the current needs of people and the environment. Her world famous restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California is credited for developing California Cuisine, which emphasizes the use of organic, seasonal, locally grown food prepared simply. The quality of ingredients ensures great taste.

Like Fannie Farmer, Alice Waters believes in the health-giving properties of good food cooked with love. She teaches that the international shipment of mass-produced food is both harmful to the environment and unhealthy for the consumer. She has authored or co-written 41 books that promote her culinary philosophy, including the seminal Chez Panisse Cooking.

A pioneer of the popular Slow Food Movement, she expanded her influence on cooking and eating by creating the Edible Schoolyard program. This innovative curriculum has been introduced into the entire Berkeley school system, and with the current crisis in childhood obesity, has attracted the attention of the national media. Her educational example was the inspiration for Michelle Obama’s White House Garden, which she created with the children from a local school.

Each of these women have introduced an original concept, philosophy or standard to culinary herstory, each one offering more depth and nuance to the art of cookery. They were truly Queens of the kitchen who had their cakes and ate them, too.

Compliments to the chefs.

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

By Carol Tandava

But no matter how much we have learned to suppress, control and deny our expression, rest assured: Each of us has a full complement of these “shunted off ” pieces of unprocessed emotional experience, which can emerge, indeed forcefully erupt, when triggered by experiences that resemble or resonate with the initial experience. And then watch out!

Very often, when these unprocessed complexes emerge, they overtake the psyche and leave one feeling quite helpless. Worse, the complex is in whatever level of maturity the psyche was in at the time it was created. Have you ever wondered why an otherwise rational, mature, even impressive adult can suddenly become a squalling 5-year-old if, for example, someone cuts in front of them in line? Well, an unprocessed complex is the reason.

Now, as awful and humiliating as it can be to be held in the throes of a complex, we can still be good parents to ourselves and give ourselves the containment that had not been available in our formative years.

Here is my prescription:

If something happens that drives you looney, for whatever reason — and do not judge, try to rationalize, justify, or even figure out the reason — just let it out.  Try, of course, to create a safe space for this. If you are in mixed company, or in a situation where expression could cause undue damage, try to keep the feeling in stasis until you can seclude yourself. But once you are safe, just let it rip.

And when I say rip, I mean RIP.

Wail, scream, cry, punch a pillow (I am a big fan of pillow-bashing) — but most of all trust that as bad as the pain may be, and as ridiculous as you may feel in letting yourself revert to your two-year-old self, if you let it do its thing, you will emerge safely on the other side.

I liken it to the way a pilot brings a plane out of a stall.

When a plane goes into a stall, it starts to nose-down and the pilot loses control. You would think that bringing the nose up would be the right thing to do; but it isn’t. As aviation legend Lincoln Beachy learned, if you push the nose down into the stall, your wings will gather enough lift to recover.

And so it is with the complex-driven tantrum: If you dive straight into it, look squarely into the eye of whatever has got you by the short-and-curlies, and bawl/scream/grieve your face off — in essence, if you let yourself die a little — you will get through it, and you will grow.

So, how do you know that the tantrum did the trick? Usually, I find that whatever had triggered the episode will not bother me as much — or at all.

A good example of this happened in my mid-20s.

I had quit my job to pursue theater as my parents had agreed to let me move back in with them for a few years. One night I came home very late from a show and found my mother had done something that upset me terribly. I don’t recall what it was, but whatever it was triggered something HUGE in me. (As Paul Reiser quips: “Want to know why your parents are so good at pushing your buttons? It’s because they installed them!”)

I wanted to go absolutely ballistic at her, but she was sleeping — and I knew enough by that point to realize that beating up on another person, even the person whom I held responsible for the injury, would resolve nothing.

So I took a moment, stuffed my face in a pillow (so as not to wake anyone) and screamed and cried. My body wrenched and writhed and I found myself biting the pillow… there was something about biting that was important here. Well, I didn’t want to destroy the pillow, so I grabbed the next best thing: a 2-week-old copy of the NY Times Magazine — something no one would miss.

And I shredded it with my teeth!


Yes, I really did that.

There I was… a mature, sensible 25-year-old, ripping, gnashing, tearing saliva-soaked pages with bestial fury. Tears poured down my face as I crumpled fistsfuls of slick tooth-made confetti, mashing them into the living room rug.  A long breath shuddered into me; I gurgled out a few more sobs … until the sobs turned into laughs. And I couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was I was so upset about.

My mind was completely blank for what seemed like several minutes. I had to reach around, fumbling through my thoughts as I was at that moment fumbling through the confetti, trying to clean up the mess. And when I finally remembered what had moments before been my mother’s terrible-horrible-unforgivable act … I laughed again. “That is what upset me?? Damn….”

And the storm was over. I scooped up the mess, chuckling to myself … how silly, small things can loom so large when powered by the grief of a tormented inner-child. Having been given her due, the child was calm, contained, cared for and happy. And my mothers momentous offense had returned to life-size.

It was some oversight … knowing her, she probably meant to do well by me in doing what she did, but guessed wrong as so many parents do. But I can’t say for sure.

Within moments, it was forgotten — processed and integrated — to this day, I can’t tell you what it was.

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

By Carol Tandava 

…continued from yesterday’s post…

I read once that any emotion, fully and honestly experienced, will always return to love (i.e. positive emotion). So if something upsets me, I can usually find something in myself — some belief I have about the world, myself, etc. that says, “You will never be happy/have what you want/etc. because you are/aren’t/have/don’t have such-and-such…” that is causing me to have the negative emotion.

Now, because these processes operate at psychical levels that are far deeper than intellect or will, simply isolating the limiting belief is not enough. You need some serious force to blast it away — or melt it down.

I particularly like the metaphor of melting — of emotion being an intense heat that helps us reform our psyches to grow into what we need to be, what we are meant to be.

Think of it like this:  Imagine the psyche as a portal through which this energy is flowing. In its initial state, it is small and connected strongly to the beings supporting its existence (i.e. the parents), it is open and flowing … until it isn’t. It gets hungry or cranky or it’s not being soothed enough or it’s being discomfited in any number of ways.  Its world is quite literally falling apart; it is in pain and for all it knows will be in pain forever.

The child is in a primitive agony, what pediatric psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott called a state of “unthinkable anxiety” — a dread of annihilation.

In response to this state it writhes and screams and cries. Now, yes, I agree that a tantrum is a method of communication geared towards getting a caretaker’s attention, and therefore the crying can be seen as evolution’s way of guaranteeing survival. But I believe it is more than that…

Tears are to the injured psyche what bleeding is to the injured body.

In a physical injury, blood rushes to the wound and in doing so it cleanses and brings clotting factors that allow the wound to heal.

In a psychical injury — where a young psyche encounters circumstances that tear at its grasp of self and world — the psyche bleeds, and in doing so brings healing factors to the wound.

Imagine the psyche, and in particular the ego (the sense of self that knows itself to be itself — say that three times fast), as a portal-like physical construct composed of beliefs about self and world. As it goes through life experience, it must needs encounter circumstances that confound, contradict or altogether violate those beliefs.

At each such encounter, a “tearing” occurs; the ego construct begins to collapse, indeed a kind of death is experienced as the psyche cracks apart, and so a great force of life energy is needed first to keep the portal open, and second to repair and expand the ego so that it can accommodate the “new” world it has experienced. And the process by which this happens is a tantrum.

So really the parent’s role in a tantrum is to do nothing more than simply contain it; to let the child know that its expression is not destructive, that in fact it is very natural, and that it will resolve itself if it is merely borne through, and that s/he will be loved unconditionally throughout.

If the child comes to believe that this expression is destructive, however (as many of us have), then s/he will try to gain control over it and, in doing so, numb the pain of the body — which is a short-term solution to the pain which ultimately and unfortunately causes greater and more untenable pain in both psyche and body.

Paraplegic yoga teacher Matthew Sanford eloquently describes how this process metes out with his young son (segment starts at 26:05 of this interview in On Being), and the consequence of not allowing pain to be felt and expressed:

There is a reason why when my son — he’s six — is  crying, he needs a hug. It’s not just that he needs my love, he needs boundary around his experience. He needs to know that the pain is contained, and can be housed. And it won’t be limiting his whole being. He gets a hug and he drops into his body.

And when you drop into your body, paradoxically, typically pain gets less. Pain gets more intense … [when you’re afraid and pull out of your body] .. it really denies freedom. And it’s a great short-term strategy. That’s what I did as a thirteen-year-old [in the wake of my accident]. I pulled out of my body to get it, but that’s a short-term strategy and a lot of the process of my life is … embodying again and surrounding what’s going on, so I can be part of the world. 

If the child is not made to feel safe in the trauma of this experience, if s/he is not allowed to “drop into [his/her] body,” then not only does the necessary process of healing, growing and transforming not occur, the unprocessed experience remains in the body. Rather than allowing the psyche to transform to accommodate the experience, the experience and accompanying emotion gets shunted off into the unconscious, leaving the psyche worse than its initial immature state: Not only has it not grown, it has learned to fear the very pain that makes growth possible.

To a psyche in this state (which, to greater and lesser degrees is pretty much everyone in our culture), emotion becomes very dangerous indeed.   As we learn to conform socially, we are taught to further suppress emotion, and indeed may be shamed and rejected for its expression — further compounding the damage done in childhood.

To be continued… Read Part 3 on Friday, July 8th.

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

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