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The Queen of My Self

The Queen of My Self

Midwinter Purification Rites

posted by Donna Henes

February 2 marks the exact halfway point of winter. Along with the two equinoxes, two solstices and the three other seasonal midpoints, it is one of the eight energy-filled sacred days in the pagan calendar.

Purification is the recurrent mythic and symbolic theme of midwinter festivals in many places. Purification suggests the cleansing of our spirits as part of the careful preparations for the coming of the springtime light. Clearing the way with the fiery brilliance of insight, which comes from visiting the deep, dark internal winter of our souls and seeing therein our own part in the constant and continually changing cycles of life.

It is in midwinter when the land is gripped in death that Ceres, the old Goddess of Good Grain and All Fertility (who later became Demeter in Greek mythology) descends to the underworld in pursuit of Her dear lost daughter, Persephone. Disconsolate, Ceres explores the far reaches of the territories of Hades and Her own private hell; Her journey lit by a single candle. The impassioned determination of Her search and Her ultimate discovery sheds the first glimmer of light in the indelible dark of winter. It is the creative spark of full consciousness. With the light from Her candle we can begin to see the spiritual direction of the new cycle.

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In Greece there is an underground sanctuary dedicated to Hades, God of the Underworld, and Persephone, his stolen bride. For millennia, pilgrims have made their way to the Nekyomanteion of Ephra, a labyrinthine arrangement of spiral-shaped rooms and passageways carved into the belly of Mother Earth. Manteionmeans “a place in which one hears prophesy” and nekyo or necro, refers to the dead.

Petitioners descend deep into the divine womb by way of a serpentine tunnel leading to a cavernous dark chamber, which sits above a crypt. There, encouraged by Cere’s resolve, in the unsteady light of just one torch, they consult the oracles of the dead for inspiration, for direction. “It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness,” their motto.

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Midwinter was celebrated as Imbolc by the ancient Celts, and also as an early Gaelic fire festival. Both were held in honor of Bridget, a.k.a. Brigid, Bride, Brigetis, the Northern White Goddess, guardian of the home fire and hearth. Fire was the symbol of Her white-hot mystic magic. The intense heat of the flame represents Her fervent faith in the return of the light to the world. Today, the day belongs to Her spiritual daughter, Saint Brigid, adored patron saint of Ireland.

The hagiographic accounts of St. Brigid are few, flimsy and quite transparent. She was allegedly Ireland’s first convert to Christianity and the founder of that country’s first convent in the fifth century. She continued to be honored just as the Goddess was before her and the worship practice of Her devotees did not change over the centuries.

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A holy fire, reminiscent of those kept constantly burning by the worshippers of her earlier goddess incarnation, was maintained at Her shrine in Kildare until it was finally ordered doused by the Church in the thirteenth century. Until not so long ago, domestic fires were routinely extinguished on Her day, February 1, and then rekindled and blessed in a preparatory act of purification.

In Rome, the midwinter day belonged to Juno Februata, virgin mother of Mars. Februare, in Latin, means “to expiate, to purify.” Here, too, fires were lit, and candles were blessed and burned in Her honor. Women also continued to carry candles in street processions at this same time of year in memory of Ceres’ candle-lit search below ground.

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Determined to stem this irritating and irrepressible goddess worship, Pope Sergius claimed this pagan holiday for the Church. Renamed, Candlemas, February 2, was to be celebrated as the feast of the purification of the Virgin Mary forty days after She had given birth. The observance, however, remained the same — the blessing and burning of candles for Our Lady of Light.

Two indigenous New World celebrations echo this practice. In Aztec Mexico, all fires were extinguished at the winter midpoint. There followed five dark days during which there was a period of inactivity and sorrowing. Then the Aztec New Year was ushered in with the ritual relighting of the fires, feasting, and festing.

The Iroquois celebrate a six-day midwinter New Year ceremony during which members of the False Face Society visit every home in the community. They put out the fire in each stove, stir up the ashes and then blow them onto the inhabitants as a curative rite.

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All of these purification ceremonies of renewed fire suggest a clearing of humanity’s earthly orientation in order to be open to the growing divine light of the coming spring, the reassuring light at the end of the long, dark winter tunnel.

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

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers 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.

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Heart and Hearth

posted by Donna Henes

Winners of a copy of The Queen of My Self:

Kathy Elkind, MA
Joanna Matherson, WI
Yvette Rivera, CA

Enjoy!

Let us take a break from our ongoing explorations of women’s relationship to power. This week the posts will focus on the power of the season and how it impacts on our lives.

Heart and Hearth

In the stark dark of the season in the dark of the long night we are compelled to turn inward toward the center. Drawn by an irresistible magnetic force, we are pulled inside of ourselves, inside of our homes, inside of our relationships for the comfort, warmth, love, safety and peace that we seek.

We need to dig deep to feel the heat just now. The sun is absent. The air is chilled. The Earth, Herself, is cold as death. The only heat left is locked deep inside the molten core in the middle.

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The heart is the center of our being. It is the buried treasure that rewards us when we dare to travel the dark tunnels that lead to the essence of our soul. It is the furnace from which radiates the heat, the power and passion of our lives. The heart is the most honest manifestation of our authentic self. The seat of our heart’s desire, the grace that lies at the heart of all that matters.

The hearth is the heart of the home. It is the high altar of the art and craft of living. Its central heat fuels the most basic and most profound daily rituals of nurturing, sustenance, support and cheer. The hearth stokes the healthy spirit that comes from physical ease and emotional fulfillment.  

Because it is difficult to see in the dark, our other senses are awakened and called into action to guide us through the gloom. If we pay careful attention, we can smell and taste the flavors of excitement, affection and creativity and. If we listen very carefully, we can hear the buzz of life that surrounds us and if we keep still enough, we can feel the energizing charge that radiates throughout the universe.

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Let us use this time of darkness well. Let us explore our hearts and souls for the insight, inspiration and enlightenment that we may find there. Let us worship at the domestic shrine and share the holy sacraments of soup and stew and mulled cider. Let us open our hearts and our homes to all of the possibilities of love. Let us create peace in our hearts, in our homes and in the world.

heart  hearth
e a r t h
h e a t
hear
art
ah

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

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers 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.

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The Power of a Woman

posted by Donna Henes

We have just surpassed 175 entries!
See below for information about a book give away.**

Here is another response to my call for ideas and stories about women and power. Thank you, Tiffany.

The Power of a Woman
By Tiffany Mitchell

Dedicated to: Women all over the world

The empowerment of a women begins within herself.
She chooses.
The power of a women becomes even stronger
when she finds herself and knows who she is;
and doesn’t let anyone tell her otherwise.
The power of a women can make her strong enough
to stand on her own two feet; and finally that women is independent.
She will not be afraid to ask for help or help herself.
The power of a women is stronger then the grip of a
Lion’s teeth when her prey is in her mouth.
The power of a women is a power no man could live without,
because without a woman there can be no man.
The power of a women is endless;
so stand tall, and represent for all the women in the world.

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* Please send me your thoughts about power. Also stories of your own empowerment. When shared, these ideas and examples are extremely inspiring to others. Thanks.

** For a complimentary copy of The Queen of My Self, just send an email to thequeenofmyself@aol.com and ask for one. It is that simple. Three books will be gifted to the first three women who request one. This offer expires tonight at 12 midnight EST.
    
***
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers 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.

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Pretty (Damn Powerful) in Pink

posted by Donna Henes

I wrote this for the March 2009 issue of The Queen’s Chronicles. It stirred up quite a bit of interest and two goddess temples, The Goddess Temple of Qrange County in California and the Southern Oregon Temple of the Goddess both held fund raising events to send money to the Gulabi Gang. See the May 2009 issue for photographs of these events. I am proud to have facilitated such open-hearted support for these brave women.

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Pretty (Damn Powerful) in Pink

The Gulabi (pink) Gang, is a group of about 10,000 women who have banded together to combat male violence and corruption in one of India’s poorest regions, the Banda district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. These brave and brazen women have become folk sheroes, winning public support with their successful series of militant actions against abusive husbands, corrupt officials and indifferent police.

Their name, Gulabi, means pink. The members of the group wear bright shocking pink saris, because pink is the color of life. Armed with traditional sticks, or lathi these pink vigilantes go after corrupt officials and boorish men, striking fear in the hearts of wrongdoers and earning the grudging respect of officials.

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“Mind you, we are not a gang in the usual sense of the term. We are a gang for justice,” declares the gang’s founder, Sampat Devi Pal, is a 46-year-old mother of five who, like the other women, lives in a mud-brick hut with no running water or electricity, and survives on less than  $1. per day.

In this extremely poor area, women bear the brunt of poverty and discrimination in Banda’s highly caste-ridden, feudalistic and male dominated society. Rough demands for dowries, domestic and sexual violence and child marriages are common — Pal herself was married off at the tender age nine and had her first child at thirteen.  

Queen Pal says, “Village society in India is loaded against women. It refuses to educate them, marries them off too early, barters them for money. Village women need to study and become independent to sort it out themselves.”

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To recruit new members for her group Queen Pal traveled from village to village belting out her repertoire of rousing protest songs urging women to take back their power and “uproot the corrupt and be self reliant.” Her stated goal was “to lift them out of the black hole they’d been pushed into.”  

In the two years after they gave themselves a name and a uniform, the pink sorority sisters have thrashed men who have abandoned or beaten their wives, returned girls who were thrown out of their homes to their spouses with dire warnings against further ill treatment and unearthed fraud in the distribution of grain to the poor.

“Nobody comes to our help in these parts,” states Pal. “The police and officials are corrupt and anti-poor. So sometimes we have to take the law into our own hand. At other times, we prefer to shame the wrongdoers.”

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You go, gals!

* Please send me your thoughts about power. Also stories of your own empowerment. When shared, these ideas and examples are extremely inspiring to others. Thanks.
    
***
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers 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.

 

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