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The Queen of My Self

The Queen of My Self

De Sancta Maria

posted by Donna Henes

Hail to you, O greenest, most fertile branch!
You budded forth amidst breezes and winds
in search of the knowledge of all that is holy.
When the time was ripe
your own branch brought forth blossoms.
Hail greetings to you!
The heat of the sun exudes sweat from you
like the balsam’s perfume.
In you, the most stunning flower has blossomed
and gives off its sweet odor to all the herbs and roots,
which were dry and thirsting before your arrival.
Because of you, the heavens give dew to the grass,
the whole Earth rejoices;
abundance of grain comes from Earth’s womb
and on its stalks and branches birds nest.
And, because of you, nourishment is given the human family
and great rejoicing to those gathered around the table.
And so, in you O gentle Virgin,
is every fullness of joy, everything that Eve rejected.
Now let endless praise resound to the Most High!

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–Hildegard of Bingen
11th Century German Mystic

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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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Nature, Our Mother

posted by Donna Henes

In the beginning, there was woman. And she was versatile. She breathed, she stretched, she strode, she sat, she foraged, she trapped, she planted, she cooked, she ate, she bled, she danced, she laughed, she slept, she dreamed, she played, she prayed. She made art, she made ceremonies, she made love, she made babies. Our modern minds automatically make a connection between these last two activities. But this is only a relatively recent conception, if you’ll pardon my pun.

Woman, like the female of every species, produces young. And she appears to do so with out any particular help. Parthenogenic. Of course, we now know that this feat is accomplished with a certain modest participation by the male, but the outcome of copulation was not always apparent. What was perfectly clear and obvious, was that she was somehow able to fashion from herself the stuff of life. To bear from her own blood and body a new generation. And, as if that wasn’t wondrous enough, she could also manufacture the substance of sustenance so that she could continue to nurture her consummate creations.

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She was prolific, capable of repeating the entire miraculous process again and again. In fact it was — and still is in large parts of the world today — quite common for a woman to wean one child only to immediately conceive the next. Our own grandparents commonly came from families with eight, ten, twelve children. Mme. Vassilet, a nineteenth century Russian peasant is the undefeated record holder in the World Fertility Cup. It is well documented that her twenty-seven full term pregnancies produced sixty-nine children, most of whom grew to adulthood. She gave birth to sixteen pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets. Mother Vassilet was well known in her time and was honored at the imperial court of Czar Alexander II.

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Is this not the way of Nature Herself? Does She not constantly produce and provide? Reproduce and recycle? Engender and embrace? The Earth is alive with the fruit of Her fecundity — nconceivable multitudes of animals, vegetables and minerals. There are more than a million species of animals, 4,000 species of mammals alone. There are more than 350,000 species of plants, 100,000 species of fungi, 100,000 species of protista (algae and the like) and 10,000 species of monera, including bacteria. Each species made up of how many families, how many individuals?

Nature, then, must be female: Mother Nature, Mother Earth. Father Earth was a totally nonexistent concept and has forever remained so. I have never heard, read or dreamed even one reference to him. Have you? Herodotus wrote that all of the known names for the Earth were female. “Nature is our mother,” the Latin proverb proclaims. The Gypsies say, “The Earth is our mother. . .the secret of life comes from the ground.” Asase Ya is the Earth Mother of the African Ashanti. They tell, “We got everything from Asase Ya, food, water: we rest upon Her when we die.”

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The land is a mother that never dies.
- Maori Proverb

Humankind, in its infancy, clung to the primal comprehension of a maternal Earth, in the same way that any completely dependent child hangs onto her mother’s hip. The reality of our utter reliance incontrovertible, we held on for dear life.

Until only five, six thousand years ago, the archetypal Great Mother, creatrix of all existence, matriarch of the races of god/desses, reigned supreme everywhere. Homer sang her praises, “I shall sing of Gaia, Universal Mother, firmly founded, Oldest of all the Holy Ones.” Foremost in all early religions, She was personified and identified in many ways, but always everywhere She was regarded with reverence and deference as a living mother.

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But now, we, her naughty children, have managed to deface Her every surface and sully her beneficent life-giving gifts. Have we no shame? Like bad seed, humankind seems hell-bent on matricide. Unless we — the Mothers, the Grandmothers, the Queens — have our say and demand our way. It is up to us. W have the whole world in our hands.
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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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Spring Cleaning

posted by Donna Henes

Happy Spring!

In winter, we spend inordinate amounts of time inside, dwelling, stewing, stagnating in enforced inactivity. When our hibernating energy finally re-awakens in the spring, it is with a pronounced case of morning breath. After the dust, the must, the rust of winter, a thorough spring cleaning is called for.

The promise of renewed life prompts us to prepare a sacred and auspicious way for its anticipated arrival. We are moved to purge and purify ourselves, to cleanse and make our selves worthy of the grace implied in a fresh start. We make a clean sweep of our surroundings — internal and external, body and soul.

In washing, we symbolically shed the old, discard the past, toss it out with the bath water. Thus removed of any spiritual pollution, we emerge refreshed, restored and recharged. Our slates are wiped clean. Naked and pure, purged and protected, we stand sanctified, ready to step confidently into the new season.

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We come to this world awash in saline womb waters and are greeted upon the moment of our first breath with a warm bath. When we die we are bathed again. We wash before we eat, before we sleep, before we pray. Most cultures, in fact, require washing before worship. Here, the ablution marks the transition from the profane sector of life to the sacred.

Islam requires the worshipper to wash before each of the five daily prayers performed facing toward Mecca. Muslims cleanse their mouths so that their prayers will be sanctified, and their ears so that they might better hear the will of Allah.

The Sweat Lodge Ceremony, the Inipi, as it is known to the peoples of the Great Plains, was prevalent throughout Native North America. It was, and still is, undertaken as a preparatory ritual of purification before a major spiritual endeavor, such as the Vision Quest, the Sun Dance or the Spirit-calling Ceremonies.

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Water is considered to be the most efficacious purifying agent by Hindus because when it runs, it absorbs and it carries away pollution. For this reason, rivers and other moving waters are considered to be especially cleansing. The Ganges, although filthy, is the most holy of all. It is the intention of every devout pilgrim to wash in its soul-cleansing substance.

The priestesses and priests of Babylonia cleansed themselves with water from the Tigris or Euphrates rivers before performing their religious functions. In ancient Egypt, as well, the pharaoh would purify his body for prayer by sprinkling himself with the “water of life and good fortune.” Ceremonial ablutions in the sea were used to initiate participants in a process of spiritual rebirth during the Eleusinian Mysteries, the oldest of the Greco-Roman Goddess mystery cults.

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Proselytes to Judaism were bathed as an initiation rite, which sanctified the start of their new lives, reborn as true believers, members of the chosen people of the God of Israel, Yahweh. It was essential for the candidate to be completely immersed so that s/he might be truly cleansed of heathenish worship.

The Baptism rites of Protestant and Catholic alike, cleanse the way for a worshipper to move from the polluted world to the holy church, from the earthly plane to grace, from sin to salvation. Ultimately it is an initiation into the kingdom of God.

…I guess I feel about a hot bath the way those
religious people feel about holy water… The longer
I lay there in the clear hot water the purer I felt,
and when I stepped out at last and wrapped myself
in one of those big, soft, white, hotel bath towels
I felt pure and sweet, as a new baby.”
– Sylvia Plath

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Cleanliness is widely perceived as being next to Godliness. The Christian concept of heaven, like the paradise envisioned by Zoroastrians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims, is a place of absolute purity and brilliant cleanliness, while hell is seen as a stinking foul pit.

People have always used clean water to prepare for reverent engagement with the divine. But these days, really clean water is in shockingly short supply. We have sullied our rich resources with obtuse abuse, and the very elements, which have the power to cleanse and purify have now, themselves, been poisoned.

Picture this: In the Arctic Ocean there is an uninhabited — never been inhabited — island. In the center of the island is a lake. Can you possibly imagine a more pristine image? A recent water sample from that lake revealed the presence of fifty-two chemicals. There is, after all, no wall underground to ward off contamination. And there is no such place as Away.

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It’s time to clean up our act, don’t you think? In fact, let’s start this spring.

He had a mania for washing and disinfecting
himself…. For him the only danger came from
the microbes which attack the body. He had
not studied the microbe of conscience which
eats into the soul.
- Anaïs Nin

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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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Friends for Life

posted by Donna Henes

I love working and playing in groups of women. I was never in a college sorority, so my first experience was in the feminist consciousness-raising group that I joined in the late 1960s. And what an eye-opening, empowering experience it was.

We were a very diverse group brought together by our Bohemian, politically radicalized lifestyle. Our backgrounds could not have been different: the Detroit ghetto, patrician Manhattan, an Israeli kibbutz, the suburbs of the Midwest. We were artists, academics, shop girls, political activists. We were married, single, mothers, lesbians. And the more we talked, the more we shared, the more we realized that our upbringing and current status as women was virtually the same.

Our group stayed together for well over a decade. We shared each other’s struggles, sorrows and victories. We helped each other overcome obstacles and achieve goals. We saw each other through advanced degrees, first books, childbirth, divorce, love affairs, coming out, mental breakdowns, addiction, abuse, illness and death. These women have a very special place in my heart.

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In the mid 70s I served on the Heresies magazine collective that published the groundbreaking issue on The Great Goddess. A group of us who first met working on that amazing seminal issue still meet monthly for wine and sushi, continuing Goddess research and mutual cheerleading.

In the late 70s I joined DISBAND, a group of women artists who couldn’t play instruments. Our collaboration, fun, argumentative and mutually respectful, produced many clever, ironic, prescient and powerful performances of social commentary and feminist pride. Today, 30 years later, we are still invited to perform.

I also belong to two long lasting groups of women who came together through our work, one a non-profit arts education organization where I used to teach and the other the cemetery where I am still the ritualist. Each of these groups of women meet quarterly to share fabulous dinners and revel in each other’s company.

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In 1971 I hitch hiked through Europe with my best friend, Donna Manganello. We were video taping interviews with women in the nascent Women’s Liberation movement in Holland, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy. In addition to all of the pamphlets we collected, my reading material was The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, the perfect accompaniment to our project.

I have not reread it in all these decades, so my memory may be cloudy, but the theme that has stuck with me most over these past four decades was her portrayal of women’s friendships. It was the friendship between her women characters that provided the continuity of support for each other through the ups and downs of their studies, careers, love affairs, marriages and divorces.

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You know, whenever women make imaginary female kingdoms in literature, they are always very permissive, to use the jargon word, and easy and generous and self-indulgent, like the relationships between women when there are no men around. They make each other presents, and they have little feasts, and nobody punishes anyone else. This is the female way of going along when there are no men about or when men are not in the ascendant.
- Doris Lessing

Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City agreed when she speculated,

“Maybe our girlfriends are our soul mates, and guys are just people to have fun with.”

New research bears this out. A study just published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reports a considerable connection between the number of friends and the psychological wellbeing for both men and women in midlife. However, the impact of a dependable support system of friends was much greater for women.

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The study authors surveyed 6,500 Brits born in 1958 when they were 42, 45 and 50 years old. When they first entered the study, the participants self-reported on their psychological wellbeing, whether they were married, the age they left school and whether they currently held a job. Most people said they were pretty content with their life and happily married.

When they turned 45, the researchers asked the same people how many times per month they met up with friends or family. Around 40 percent of men and 33 percent of women said they had six or more friends they met up with regularly. Sadly, about 10 percent said they had no friends.

When the researchers assessed their subjects’ happiness and friendship statuses again at the age of 50, the results showed a significant association between an active network of friends and psychological wellbeing, especially for women. These findings held up regardless of whether a person was married, had a job or had mental health issues in the past.

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The British study isn’t the first to emphasize the importance of adult friendships. An Australian study even found that a thriving social life can lengthen a person’s lifespan, after studying seniors living in community and residential care facilities.

But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one’s deepest as well as one’s most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort – the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
- Dinah Maria Mulock Craik

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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.

 

 

Previous Posts

De Sancta Maria
Hail to you, O greenest, most fertile branch! You budded forth amidst breezes and winds in search of the knowledge of all that is holy. When the time was ripe your own branch brought forth blossoms. Hail greetings to you! The heat of the sun exudes sweat from you like the balsam’s perfume.

posted 6:00:55am Mar. 25, 2015 | read full post »

Nature, Our Mother
In the beginning, there was woman. And she was versatile. She breathed, she stretched, she strode, she sat, she foraged, she trapped, she planted, she cooked, she ate, she bled, she danced, she laughed, she slept, she dreamed, she played, she prayed. She made art, she made ceremonies, she made love,

posted 6:00:25am Mar. 23, 2015 | read full post »

Spring Cleaning
Happy Spring! In winter, we spend inordinate amounts of time inside, dwelling, stewing, stagnating in enforced inactivity. When our hibernating energy finally re-awakens in the spring, it is with a pronounced case of morning breath. After the dust, the must, the rust of winter, a thorough spring

posted 6:00:14am Mar. 20, 2015 | read full post »

Friends for Life
I love working and playing in groups of women. I was never in a college sorority, so my first experience was in the feminist consciousness-raising group that I joined in the late 1960s. And what an eye-opening, empowering experience it was. We were a very diverse group brought together by our Boh

posted 6:00:39am Mar. 18, 2015 | read full post »

Friends Keep Us Healthy
What mid-life crisis? How quality time with the girls makes women more optimistic about their future than men By Tamara Abraham Daily Mail, U.K. Most women treasure the time they spend with their closest girlfriends. And according to new research, it is exactly this that makes women in mi

posted 6:00:46am Mar. 16, 2015 | read full post »

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