woensdag 2 oktober 2013

Sophia , Mother of Wisdom

It seems that once there was only the Fore-Creation, invisible, without form or gender, all-pervasive, filling the depths and heights of what was and which, desiring to manifest an inward potential gave birth to many holy dyads...that is, pairs, the first of which were the Abyss and Fore-thought. Then a desire arose in Fore-thought and it meditated on Silence who conceived and gave birth to twins: the first visible female form called Truth and the first visible male form called Mind, in turn they together gave birth to Life and Word...Life was the form-mother of the Pleroma and Word was the form-father of those manifest within the Pleroma. The Pleroma is the fullness of the spiritual world, uninfluenced by matter, energy or light.
Many other dyads were born, called Aeons, or sacred powers, the last of which was the divine Sophia, or Holy Wisdom. Of all the Aeons, the divine Sophia desired most intensely to know the origins of Her own creation, that is, the nature of the Fore-Creator. Though Mind told Her that such knowledge was impossible, nevertheless, Sophia began to search high and low, after Mind was restrained by Silence. None of the Aeons comprehended the Fore-Creation other than Truth whose perfect reflection was a transparent presence invisible to Sophia. She separated Herself from Her consort, ranged the vastness of the uncreated Immensity, and far out- distanced all the other Aeons.
Sensing her separation from the other Aeons, and lacking a clear knowledge of the Fore-Creator, She felt pain and sorrow, She wept and grieved deeply, She desired with all Her Heart to comprehend the vast, unending totality of the Fore-Creator, also called the Abyss. But the Abyss was vast beyond comprehending, and Her sorrow increased and Her passions flowed out of Her in waves and She risked utter dissolution into the Abyss as She radiated forth a turbulence into the stillness of Immensity. Then, suddenly, She encountered Horos, the Limit, Boundary, and understood that the Fore-Creation was unknowable, holy and profound, beyond the comprehension of Mind, Word or even Truth. This was the First Gnosis.
But now, the manifestations of Her intentions and passions remained as viable presences in the Immensity, they overflowed the Pleroma and began to take on a more substantive appearance. Sophia beheld these manifestations, the consequences of Her passions, and was again stirred with grief, fear, uncertainty and sorrow because She understood that these were the manifestations of Her own ignorance concerning the Fore-creation. A dim, barely light-like haze began to appear, first manifestation in the Primal Void, the concatenation of passion and desire unfulfilled, slowly evolving into manifest forms--the stirrings of light, energy and chaos.
All the Aeons together were concerned about the appearance of Chaos and so they, with the divine Sophia, prayed in depth and a new dyad was manifested: Christos and the Holy Spirit, his female counterpart. Together, they calmed the Aeons and soothed their fears, also instructing them in the unknowableness of the Fore-Creation while simultaneously revealing to them the inner unity, harmony and illumination of the Pleroma--this was the Second Gnosis. Yet, the haze and proto-forms of Chaos remained and among these emerging forms was an image of Sophia, called the Lower Wisdom, for She had divided Herself in the passion of her search and now, the Lower Wisdom abided in the midst of Chaos.
This Lower Wisdom desired to return and be united with Her own Higher Self, rather than remain trapped in Her passions and desires and when She felt the emmanations of the Holy Spirit and the Christos, when they manifest their healing and harmony within the Pleroma, She began to seek a way to return to the primal harmony and illumination of the Second Gnosis. And when Lower Wisdom discovered that She was bound by Limit and could not return or ascend to the Pleroma, She once again grieved and sorrowed. And from this second grief, from the waves and energy of that sorrow, the first material substances began to form, divide and align themselves in patterns of light, dimness and darkening matter. Then the Aeons together ask the Christos to assist the Lower Sophia and He manifested in the lower world of proto-matter as Yeshu'a, and soothed Her and comforted Her and revealed to Her all the many luminous beings that manifested in the Void as their spiritual companions.
But the proto-matter of the Void was now mixed with passion, desire and sorrow, and the luminous lights of the Void were the spiritual presences inherent to the newly forming matter, inherent to each and every elemental substance, the combinations and the consequent appearances. Thus the spiritual qualities of matter are the inherent emmanations of Wisdom stimulated through the manifestation of Christos and the Holy Spirit. And Wisdom was reunited with Her own Higher Self, and perceiving the holiness of the manifestation, and seeing clearly both the psychic and material character of those manifestations, gave birth to one last entity--called "Father of the Material Realm" or the Maker and creator of the Lower Visible Realms.
This Father God created then, seven realms, each more material than the last, until finally this human world was formed and the beings of this world rose and walked, crawled or flew through the skies. But the Father God was vain and jealous, angry and forbidding, not knowing the power of the higher Aeons, nor of the Pleroma, nor even of his own Mother, the Divine Sophia. And when the Divine Sophia instructed him and opened his mind to Truth, he was amazed and refused to divulge these mysteries to those of his own creation. Being a god of the material, social and psychic order, it was not possible for him to be a teacher of the higher mysteries, and Sophia was dismayed by his wrath, anger and jealousy. So when he created the first human beings, She was there and secretly, without his knowing, She gave to them the gift of the Holy Spirit as a divine spark in every human heart.
And it is said, that in the Garden of Eden, created by the lower Father God, that Eve was the manifestation of the Lower Wisdom and that the serpent or snake of the tree, was actually the Christos who urged Eve to eat the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge that she might attain the true Gnosis or knowledge of her origins and realize the Higher Sophia in perfect illumination and bliss. But the Father God, discovering that this secret teaching was disturbing his supremacy in the lower realms grew angry and cast them out of the garden and into the suffering of the world. Yet each and every descendent has this spark and the potential to recover the true Gnosis.
It is also said that it was for this reason that the Christos manifest as a human being, to bring the gift of the Holy Spirit, in all its female power and capacity, to liberate those who cast free from the illusions of the material and psychic realms and to ascend through visions of power and knowledge to the Higher Gnosis, to reunite the lower and higher self, to attain to visionary truth and perfect transparency. The Divine Sophia is the manifest presence of that vision, and this tale, one of Her symbolic forms. And the snake, an image of Higher Wisdom, is a true teacher that reconciles the desires and passions of knowledge with higher insight, overcomes the limitations of a jealous and demanding lesser god and transmits the teachings of the Divine Sophia. In this way, it is said, the faithful attain peace and the passionate, union, holiness and joy.
Let those who have ears, hear. May the Divine Sophia inspire our understanding and our prayers ascend to the threshold of the true awakening.

Awakening the Priestess archetype

Women are collectively, individually and across the world waking up to their own spiritual power. They may come from all walks of life, from many spiritual and professional paths but they share the common desire to express their inner world, their soul's purpose and most of all, to serve their communities.
Many modern women, if not all women called to be guides for healing, empowerment, leadership and personal development have a strong PRIESTESS archetype.
They are connecting to a force and power within and not to a power vested only through marriage, by culture, academia or traditional institutions.
Women are listening to their inner voice, to their inner desire more than ever before. Women today are courageously taking what has often been: the road less traveled. They are seeking answers within and with supportive sisterhoods.
What is a priestess, many ask?
Webster’s definition: a priestess is a woman who officiates in sacred rites. A priestess officiates sacred rites and serves the spiritual needs of the community.
Priestesses may have existed from the beginning of time. The priestesses in ancient communities around the world carefully observed the rhythms and patterns of Nature.
Attuned to earth’s cycles, they honored the Great Mother by performing sacred rituals for each season.
Women, seen as an embodiment of the Great Mother, were deeply revered, honored and celebrated. Like the earth and nature, a woman was able to create life within her.
Later in history, Roman, Greek, and Egyptian priestesses lived, trained and served together in holy temples. They served the Great Mother, the Goddess in Her many forms. They served the spiritual needs of the community as well and were also held in highly regarded and respected.
As the sword triumphed over the chalice (symbol of the womb), warring tribes began to conquer lands and their peoples. They also conquered their connection to nature and destroyed their religious/spiritual beliefs.
The invaders began to fear the power of priestesses. Religions rose that forbade women the power to guide sacred rites.
The natural spiritual and mystical practices of priestesses were recast as evil. Their power, deeply misunderstood, was thought to be a dark, poisonous force that needed to be eradicated. The fear of the unknown, the dark and of sexuality, included a domination of women's expression of wisdom, sensuality, spirit and intuition.
Thousands of priestesses were persecuted, tortured and murdered for their beliefs and spiritual practices. Those managing to escape death fled their holy temples, went into hiding or joined the religion of their culture.
The priestess has never gone away. She lives brightly in our inner landscape.
An archetype is a pattern or prototype in psychology. In Jungian psychology, archetypes refer to a collectively inherited unconscious concept, pattern of thought, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches.
The Priestess archetype is perhaps the least known and most misunderstood, especially in the present patriarchal culture, which has rejected women‘s spirituality and individual spiritual expression throughout history.
The Priestess archetype is the inner domain of intuitive awareness and deep insight. It is the portal to secret or “occult” (that which is hidden) knowledge of the invisible realms.

The Priestess has a magical connection to the unknown and a guide of souls. A trans-connector, she facilitates between the material and the spiritual. She is the mediator of the psyche.
The Priestess invokes, transmutes and guides energies between unconscious and conscious awareness which can impact our material and spiritual existence.
Toni Wolff, Carl Jung’s patient, student and colleague (one of the most respected Jungian analysts of her time) refers to this aspect as the Medial Woman.
The medial woman is naturally in tune with her environment and with her intuitive abilities. This is an aspect that has been mostly ignored as the Mother, Hetaira (companion & lover) and Amazon have been idealized in our culture.
If you have often felt like you stand between the inner and outer worlds of the conscious and unconscious…perhaps you are an unaware Priestess.
What this means is that you've always been called to see beyond what the eye can see. You've intuitively known things before they have occurred.
  • Often you have healed and supported men/women energetically through your love and sensual/sexual healing.
  • You've been someone others look to for guidance and you've weathered intense tests of faith, health and love.
  • You may have been rejected as “too much” or overlooked as “not enough.” Your light has been often sought after and at other times been smothered and shut down due to fear, jealousy and negativity. This energy pattern that resides within you is calling for healing at this time.
For hundreds of years, the PRIESTESS has been in the shadows.
She has been desired for her secret knowledge and chastised for the unknown. The secrets of the void of creation have often invoked terror in cultures around the world.
She has guided and inspired Kings, artists, craftsmen, warriors and noble men.
Many women I know who carry this archetype have woken up to the deep call of bringing forth Soul Work.
They are often burdened with fears of being seen, being outspoken, going public, of being vulnerable in love, having children, of creating poetry, works of art, of loving whoever they want freely.
Perhaps they have struggled with achieving a deep, long lasting connection in relationship. Struggled with financial success and even sabotaged themselves from at giving attention to their artistic talents. At other times, she has hidden her true vocation and desires under the responsibilities of marriage, children, career or addictions.
This transformative pattern of great power has lain dormant and has woken up. Women are rising and expanding.
When a woman is not aware that this archetype is strongly living within her, she keeps thinking she can push, muscle or "think" her way out of it.
You may have aligned with the traditional beliefs in “martyrdom, sacrifice and self-denial.” You may have been taught to be everything to everyone…but yourself. You may have allowed the waters to overflow and have undefined boundaries and lack of self-love.
Both extremes do not allow you full access to who you are and what you bring to the world.
It is only by growing in awareness and incarnating that beautiful energy into a world that you can step into WHO YOU ARE.
This world needs this aspect as it needs its own air, water, fire and earth...for this aspect INCARNATES the SPIRIT into the world.
This incarnates and invites SOPHIA, sacred wisdom into the mundane world.
A woman who owns her connection to the sacred AND the mundane is an EMBODIMENT of the Divine Feminine.
Women own your inner WISDOM.
Call on your elements of power and RISE.
As we do so we engage the STRENGTH, LOVE and SUPPORT of our brothers who are evolving and reclaiming their essence as MAGICIAN, PRIEST, WARRIOR, POET, MYSTIC and LOVER.
As we OWN our power freely we can experience our genius in the world and our truest faith and love are manifest.
I believe the promise was made long ago. I have felt the echoes of it’s manifestation in my soul and in the everyday world I live and breathe in.
I believe that it is our time to learn to become love-based rather than fear-based. It is time to be mermaids, go deep and return with the treasures that ONLY your Soul can offer you.
Be BRAVE. Listen to the CALL. Your Soul is waiting...
RISE Priestess. The world is in need of healing and you are the midwives of transformation and sacred community.

  Max Dashú
It’s difficult to define “shaman,” because it is culturally variable in so many ways, but we need a basic general description. I see “shaman” as belonging to a continuum of many names and roles: medicine woman, oracle, prophetess, diviner, dreamer; priestess, raindancer, communicant with ancestors, deities, Nature spirits; trance-dancer, shapeshifter, spirit-rider, cosmonaut. Countless descriptions show ancient priestesses engaging ecstatic incantation, sacred dance, and entranced states. Thus the Cappadocian priestesses of an Anatolian goddess fire-walked across burning coals without being burned. Thus the temple dancers of ancient Egypt with their sistra and hand-drums, the

Syrian priestess with drum

devadasis of India, the Canaanite qadeshot, the Peruvian priestesses who are depicted dancing and drumming. The rain shrine priestesses of Malawi with their python spirits and sacred pools were shamans by any definition of the term.
This shamanic background is why “priestess” calls up ecstatic associations that authoritarian religions regard as illicit and even demonic, and why so many of these religions excluded women from priesthood. Some went so far as to bar women from the altar, from temples or their inner sanctuaries, or from other shrines. The patriarchal lens has also twisted interpretation of sacramental dance and entranced spirit mediums, claiming that they exhibit the “natural,” allegedly “passive” province of women (and queers, and colonized peoples, and other Others). Most notoriously, these doctrines have recast European witches in the mold of magical evildoers—although as late as the 1400s the British were referring to a prophetic woman as The Witch of Eye (an English town).

Spinning witch with magic wands, Scandinavia, from Olaus Magnus, The Northern Peoples, 1555

Shamanism is a subject pervaded by political ramifications, because it represents direct spiritual power, energy that can not be controlled by man-made hierarchies or ranked social systems. It represents contact with Chaos in its original sense of the primordial Vastness, as well as its quite recent scientific sense of quantum physics and meteorology. Shamans connect with the core of being, the whole of beingness, the Source of wisdom and transformative power. This represents a threat to oppressive social orders which set certain classes of people (men, whites, dominant classes, settlers, heterosexuals) over Others. Shamanic cosmologies and ceremonies are also considered a threat, because they emphasize relatedness and delve into the ineffable, timeless, vast cycles of creation and destruction.

Pawnee Ghost Dance robe

No hegemony can withstand that primal power, and so there is a long history of repression. It accounts for the U.S. outlawing and persecuting American Indian religions and why, having militarily defeated the Plains Indians, it was so threatened by the Ghost Dance. Why Chinese mandarins destroyed shrines of the Wu; why European men, with all their laws oppressing women, still feared the witches; and why they feared African Santería, Lucumí, Vodou and Candomblé, and banned the drum in the U.S. slave states. All these categories of shamanic culture, sacramental dance, altered states of consciousness, continue to be feared, demonized — and attacked.

Turkic kam near Tomsk, Altai region

I describe a shaman as someone who receives a calling to commune with spirit / deities / ancestors, who enters ecstatic, unified consciousness. This may come spontaneously or at will by drumming, rattling, chanting, dancing or rhythmic breathing and movements; by singing power songs revealed in visions, dreams or other portal experiences; by fasting, going into wilderness or to other sacred places, calling, crying, and singing; and sometimes, by consuming sacred mushrooms or other sacred plants, such as the daturas and other (often poisonous) herbs.
The shaman often undergoes an initiatory illness, a near-death experience, an attack by a tiger or bear, or other traumatic event that becomes a gateway to transformation. These events act as a trigger for transformation, as the shaman breaks through and overcomes.  Often this experience is described as being consumed or dismembered or boiled, after which she is reconstituted and reconfigured as a shaman, sometimes with a new bone, crystal or other powerful object inserted into her body. Or she experiences a spontaneous breakthrough in which vision and power flood through her, a direct selection by Spirit (which usually cannot be refused).

Mazatec curandera María Sabina, Oaxaca

During her initiatory process, the shaman learns to access profound and exalted states of consciousness. Her spirits, deities, orishas, and very commonly, a shaman-ancestor, teach her through dreams, lucid visions, omens and energetically-charged experiences. She also frequently learns from other shamans in the community, being formally or informally trained by them, sometimes for years. This spiritual and ceremonial education often follows a recognized series of spirit sickness, signs or dreams. There is often a formal initiation, or the shaman may simply begin to gain recognition from the community based on her practice.
Counter to the modern market-driven shaman-fad, the shaman is chosen by the spirits, not self-selected. Initiation cannot be purchased, and boasting is a sure sign of pretense. Instead of self-indulgence and ego-boosting, the medicine woman puts in intensive effort, sacrifice, hardship, and suffering. This is true of any gender. I’ll never forget a video where Credo Mutwa explained to a rather conceited white guy that Zulu people do not seek out this path voluntarily, because they know how difficult it is, and that it involves sacrifice. This principle is alien to marketplace shamanism. Service to the community is part of the picture, though solitariness is paradoxically common too.
The classic Siberian shaman “rides” her drum or staff (often called a “horse”) into deep consciousness. She ascends the World Pillar or Tree which connects all the planes of the upper, middle, and lower worlds, and is able to travel through all the worlds. This idea of the shamanic pillar as a road of spirits is widespread, from the Peach Tree of Immortality in the mountain garden of Xi Wangmu in China to the central pillar of the Haitian vodou sanctuary, along which the loas descend and ascend. Countless other examples exist. These journeys are also described as flight, sometimes on the back of animal helpers, or as riding a spirit boat.
The shaman often paints the drumhead with images of her spirit helpers, her personal visions and power symbols. These drum paintings can be cosmic maps with the directions, the realms of humans and spirits, the various planes (often three) figured upon them. Like all sacred objects, these drums are consecrated, and in some places their spirits are fed with offerings.

Ecstatic dance, zar religion, Ethiopia

In other traditions, the spirit-journey-inducing instrument can be the rattle,  shekere/calabash, clapping sticks, stamping tubes, or sounding the voice alone. This is accompanied by rhythmic movement, trembling, shaking the limbs, rubbing, whirling; rhythmic chanting or breath-huffing with sustained concentration. All this involves vibration, breath, dance. Shamans also carry out a diverse spectrum of ritual acts: washing, anointing with sacred substances (red ochre, white clay, pollen, turmeric, essential oils or fats), touching and brushing and sweeping with stones, eggs, herb bundles, burning of leaves, resins or other incense, or consuming stimulating substances (such as ginger in Indonesia and the Southern Pacific) or entheogenic plants.

Invoking woman, rock mural in Baja California

It all boils down to praying with the body, through the body, in order to deepen and unify consciousness. In medical terms we could say that sacred dance, chanting, and drumming  activates all parts of the brain, entrains with the heartbeat, oxygenates the blood, and affects hormonal secretions. But all this describes only the physiological aspect of what is happening on multiple levels.
What shamanism does, in my view, is align body and soul, mind and spirit, into a state of full awakened consciousness. The shaman is healed by coming into awareness of old traumas, of stuck and trapped energies, and learning to release them. She washes them away, often literally by immersion in living water (this is the Hebrew wisdom of the mikveh, before patriarchal laws of uncleanness entered in). A modern Japanese prophetess who underwent a sudden revelation spent the next fifteen days pouring cold water over her head. (This repeated immersion in often-cold water has older precedents in Japan.) Modern industrial thinking regards these as acts of madness, but for someone undergoing a kundalini surge, they are an eminently sane response, and a liberatory process of clearing and awakening.

Hatsuhana Prays Under a Waterfall (1842) depicting a woman who attained miraculous healing power.

The elements enter in, not only symbolically as body/soul/mind/spirit, but actually, as earth, water, air and fire (plus ether, in some cosmologies). The elements have transformative powers, in the hot steam of the sweat bath, the cool paste of sandalwood on the skin, fanning with feathers or leaf-bunches, or by extended gazing into fire (or clouds, rivers, wind in the trees). Entering into this wisdom-awareness, what the Haudenosaunee call the One Good Mind, leads to understanding the language of birds, of animals and plants, the essence of stones. It is Nature-based wisdom.

The great Pomo Dreamer Essie Parrish
This is just a really the broadest of summaries. There’s so much more: consecration, spiritual philosophies, the spirit-names and arcane languages, sacred tools and regalia, flight, animal doubles or allies. Watch this film Pomo Shaman (it streams online* from the link) which gives far more understanding than any description. It’s about the Kashaya Pomo Dreamer Essie Parrish, who was also known by the title Yomta (“Song”), recognizing her as a wisdom-bearer. In this 1953 recording, she tells us about her medicine in her own words, and shows us its pure, sacred essence.
Copyright 2010 Max Dashu

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