Sacred Flesh

"But this dark is deep: now I warm you with my blood, listen to this flesh. It is far truer than poems." -- Marina Tsvetaya


As I love the Goddess so I love the earth

Traveling With the Muse: My Journey to Gaia's Womb

by Shekhinah Mountainwater

My life has been a journey with the Muse. I have experienced Her as my inspiration, a Goddess-Source of ecstatic vision, discovery of beauty, awakening to truth, the rush to the guitar or the typewriter to capture Her when She appears...the soar of song making me feel joyfully sung...the exquisite dance of words that become poems...the astonishing birth of an image on a page that becomes a tarot card or altar icon...the mythic revelation that becomes transforming ceremony...the connections She makes through this astonishment and soaring to my sisters' Muses. So that ultimately our Musings become circles of shared inspiration, shared power, shared ecstasy.

I have dedicated my life to Her. Like Sappho and Isadora I have lived in devotion to this Goddess of many names. She is also Aphrodite, the liminal passions of sacred love (Summer Solstice). She is the Faery Queen, the darksome deeps of magic (Autumn Equinox). To celebrate Her Muse aspect annually, I have declared February 1st and 2nd as Her holiday, giving this time a variation on Her name, Musea (mu-ZAY-uh). In recent years I have felt a strong pull to the Celtic Goddess Brigid, She Who is widely celebrated as Muse at this season. I sense deep correlations here, between the Season, the Goddesses, and the Mystery.

It isn't always easy to live in full-time service to the Muse. Our society does not necessarily encourage this, and most sisters are wounded in this aspect of our spirits. Some of us, like myself, have fought long and hard to stay on Her path. Some of us have been the lucky ones who still bloom with Her flowers of inspiration, who still manage to find the time and the energy to devote to our creativity. Many more have been forced by our lives and the responsibilities of our lives to give up our creativity, or "postpone" it indefinitely. I pray often to my Muse for the strength, energy and discipline to keep Her alive in me despite the resistance.

Yet I have experienced so many magical times when She came through loud and clear, when Her powers flowed for all to see and feel and hear. Sometimes She will break through even the most solid of patriarchal restrictions, and show up in the most unexpected fields - as She has with the advent of Harry Potter or the appearance of genius street musicians. And sometimes She will show up in the most usual settings...a concert hall or theatre or film. But She can always show up in a circle of loving sisters, when we "hear each other into being," as Sonia Johnson says...when we honor and adore each and every creative voice. Such circles are rare. I have worked to help create many of them, but have long wished there were more priestesses out there who understood.

Reclaiming the Commons has been happening in several places around the US. Thousands of folks at home have been supporting the Reclaiming efforts with magical activism. Protestors have been gathering on Georgia Sea Island to demonstrate human concerns in the face of military might and administrative governmental corruption. The death of Ronald Reagan marked the end of an era and the beginning of the new. It feels to me like something opened in our energy field and in our collective archetypal awakening has occurred. Her influence is everywhere.

Becoming the Muse was brainstormed and dreamed up by Angie and her friend Teresa, supported and manifested with the help of many sisters in the Gaia's Womb community. Everything in the weekend was framed by these brilliant and profound women to invite and nurture the creative expression of each woman there.

On the drive home from the airport the magic began. Angie explained her concept for the Saturday night ritual, to be held in the labyrinth. She said she wanted me to be the Muse at the center, holding up a mirror to each woman as she arrived. I was delighted because I happen to have a chant and a bit of ceremony that coincides beautifully with Angie's vision:

I met this Crone with an apple and a mirror
She said she'd shake those blues for me
She said take these with you when you get to the crossroads
Taste the wisdom and yourself you will see,
Taste the wisdom and yourself you will see...
I described circles I'd led in the past in which we would be chanting the above words while I went round to each woman holding up a mirror and inviting them to take a bite of apple...

"I'm getting chills," said Angie, driving. We decided to use the last part of the chant, and Angie declared that she would have to get some apples. I love when synchronicities happen! Then I remembered my labyrinth chant:

Into the labyrinth we are led
Ariadne give us the Thread
Seven twists and seven turns
To the center my heart yearns
Fire water earth and air
Open your heart and you'll be there...

Angie adopted this chant immediately. She asked me to teach it during the afternoon workshop, so that it would be familiar to the sisters for the ritual that night. Without revealing to them that they would be using it for this, or what else was planned for them. Yes! I understand so well the element of surprise in ritual initiations - again that flash of recognition, a sister who frames ritual in ways so similar to my own.

The magic continued with a midnight trip to the movies, to see the showing of the new Harry Potter film, along with a big group of Angie's friends. What fun! I loved the film but that is a topic for another place and time. It was wonderful to be informal with Angie and her gang of Witchy friends, to feel welcomed, and to relish together the crazy wonders of Harry Potter. And Buckbeak!

Next morning we packed up, loaded the car with piles of practical and magical stuff, and drove off to the Pilgrim Park retreat center where our weekend gathering was to take place. This beautiful center is owned by a Christian church group. "They love us," Angie exclaimed, as we wound through highways flanked in bright green. Times are really changing, I thought. There was a time when they were burning us at the stake.

I began the afternoon workshop with the Ma chant and the Rainbow Cone Meditation. We chanted the sound of Ma, on and on, with higher and higher notes, up through the chakras, spinning rainbow colors as we went, creating the Cone. I swirled round the center as women stood and held the rim, held each other, eyes closed, mouths open in the oldest invocation. When the last Ma faded, we held the vibrating silence that followed...deafening.

I spoke of discovering the Ma chant back in the early 70s when I was finding Goddess, living in the California redwoods in a yurt with my children, and circling there with my first Goddess sisters. I think the Ma was surfacing from deep within the psyches of many women around the world at that time. Now She is chanted everywhere.

Next I shared the Faery Invocation, which I love to use for inviting these beings to join us, invoking the elements, and at the same time casting a pentacle-shaped circle. It's very simple and easy to learn, and soon sisters were singing full and with harmonies too! We called the faeries and they came.

Air Faeries, Air Faeries
If it be thy delight
Please come and be in our circle tonight
Repeat the same for Fire Faeries, Earth Faeries, Water Faeries, and Spirit Faeries.

At the end of the ritual you can sing:
Water Faeries, Water Faeries
It was such a delight
Thank you for being in our circle tonight
And if it's daytime you can sing:
Come and play
Please come and be in our circle today

We then sang thrillingly, with strong chords and rhythms, the declaration of the casting:
The circle is cast, the spell is made fast
Only the good can enter herein
The magic is made so let it begin...
And we were off.
What a glorious afternoon we spent, singing our hearts and souls out, sharing the joy.

We did many kinds of chants - some for magic:
Make for yourself a power spot
Bring you a spoon and a cooking pot
Bring air, bring fire, bring water, bring earth
And you a new universe will birth...

Some for affirming women:
As I love the Goddess, so I love myself
As I love myself, so I love the Goddess
As I love the Goddess so I love the earth
As I love the earth so I love the Goddess
As I love the Goddess so I love my sisters
As I love my sisters, so I love myself...

And some for the ritual later (though I didn't tell). We even did my outrageous ballad Cerridwen's Brew, call and response style, complete with movement and gestures! I had hesitated to do it, wondering if it might be a bit too radical for this group, but the women loved it.

"...well the women had all the world till then
'Cause the Goddess decided to make some men
And the very first man to get the Brew
Would be Cerridwen's baby Affagdu..."

This is an authentic Celtic myth about the passing of matriarchal wisdom (Cerridwen's Brew) from the female to the male line of power. I think it is actually a very loving interpretation of the rise of patriarchy, explaining that there are two kinds of men: the good sons who love the Mother, as Affagdu did, and the ungrateful sons who stole the Mysteries and took over. Cerridwen was preparing the Brew for Her Son, but a different line of power intervened, in the form of Gwion, from whom, it was said, descended the lineage of merlins and bards that henceforth embodied the cultural media of their times, spiritual authority, and magical politics.

The Muse of Comedy played a major role throughout the weekend, and there was so much joy and laughter in our workshop. Cerridwen's Brew and many other ridiculous moments brought hilarious transformations. What better way to change the world than with laughter?

As the afternoon progressed we sang rhapsodies to the Goddess, such as Morning Has Broken with some new Goddess lyrics: "Goddess has risen...!" As well as the Labyrinth, and apple and mirror chants. Women requested a repeat of the Faery Invocation for our closing: "It was such a delight/Thank you for being in our circle tonight..." And:

The circle is open, but never broken
Merry meet and merry part
May the love of the Goddess
Live in your heart...

And we ended with a spiral hug that brought more laughter and howls of celebration. We had soared as one through trancy sounds and awe-inspiring song, and were ready to launch our flight into the magic of the main ritual that night.

I was filled with such joy. Throughout the hours of the workshop I felt lifted, energized, weightless - a hollow reed through which Her Song sang me. The women's hearts and minds and voices opening like flowers all around me...our sounds vibrating the building, singing in our bones, spinning out to embrace the trees. We were the original sacred choir, singing our praises for the wonder and magic of Creation. How hungry I was for moments such as these...and how rare they still are in society today. Becoming the Muse was a moment of transformation, a few days of the future we are working towards, and creating.

By Heart
Why suddenly in this Solstice dark
Have you been brought to my attention?
Friends send me your painted image
Your face staring out at me
From our common past-
Deep-eyed and knowing
Lips curled in sensual wisdom
Hair rich and wild
Hands poised exquisitely
Holding the Apple and the Flame
I hear your name
Do you remember me
As I re - member thee?
Mother of the Muses
They call you
Yet I recall a time
When you were Mother of us all...
Oh Mnemosyne
Help this aging poet
To keep thy covenant
To snatch the Magic back
From Oblivion's jaws...

"Try to remember,"Another poet said
Remember what?That once the Nine of you were One
That once we knew the thousand lines
Of a thousand epics in thy praise
By heart.The Mother Heart
Reminding us again and again
Of Who we are...

Hilaria soon took over again, with further muse shenanigans, and then we did our final opening of the circle. We ended in a group huddle, with Angie speaking eloquently from the center, about remembering who and what we are, and the wonderful magic of this weekend. A chant, "We will always remember..." flowed through us all like a sweet wind:

"We will always remember...we will always remember..."
And our ritual was ended.
May our Musings live on! Blessed Be.

Shekhinah Mountainwater

Shekhinah Mountainwater is a foremother of the womanspirit movement, author of Ariadne's Thread, musician, poet, teacher of women's mysteries, creatrix of Shekhinah's Tarot and Womanrunes.