I have been reflecting on my journey into knowing the Sophia, the sacred feminine presence to whom these writings are dedicated. Over many years, I caught glimpses of a sacred holy presence for whom I had no name, about whom I knew nothing.
I first learned of her indirectly, in an English folktale called “Dead Moon”.In Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ retelling, “Stolen Mother Moon”, the moon passionately loves her people in a small English village. Mother Moon learns that some of them are being destroyed by the evil creatures who dwell in a muddy moat that surrounds the village. She determines to come to earth to find out what is happening, and one night, wrapping her brilliance in a dark cloak, she sets out to cross the bog. The evil creatures trap her, beat her to death, bury her deep in the bog, rolling a great stone over the place.
Bereft at the loss of her guiding light, especially on nights when they must cross the dark swamp, the villagers set out to find Mother Moon. After long seeking, guided by a tiny light seeping around it, they find the stone that marks the place where she is buried. They manage to roll the stone away, then watch in wonder as a radiant woman looks upon them with great love before rising into the night sky.
I came upon this story at a time in my life when I felt very much alone, without guidance. I longed for someone to mother my adult years with love, to show me the way through the uncertain pathways that were opening before me. The Moon became a symbol for me of the love and the guidance for which I longed. Slowly, as I worked with the story, guided by the Jungian teachings of Clarissa Pinkola Estes, I learned to look for Mother Moon within myself, to begin to grow an inner mother. This I could do by being a kind mother to myself.
How radical that advice seemed to me, schooled as I was in ignoring my needs and desires, in distrusting the lure of what I longed for, in believing discomfort and suffering must be born heroically. Schooled as I was, in fact, in the masculine way of endurance, of striving after perfection. To be invited, even advised, to grow an inner mother, to be taught that the way was through kindness and caring towards oneself, seemed revolutionary to me. But so great was my need that I began in earnest to practise self-care, kindness. Slowly, slowly, slowly over time a compassionate inner voice began to replace my harsh inner critic. Slowly, over time, I began to feel loved. I began to experience the wise guidance of an inner mother.
But not always. And this is the deep wisdom of the story of Mother Moon. Though we may invite a sacred mother, a holy feminine presence, to make her home within us, there will be times when she will seem to be absent, when we are left in the dark, feeling alone.
We muddle through at such times as best we can. We remember how we are, without her presence. And we do not risk dangerous journeys into the muddy depths of our own souls without her.
Her light within us is a great gift. A treasure. Of all that I have heard or read of this inner presence, I like best the words of Etty Hillesum, the young Jewish woman who wrote so compellingly of her faith journey. She was just twenty-nine years old when she died in Auswitch in 1943.
Here are words Etty Hillesum wrote shortly before her death:
I shall try to help you, God, to stop my strength ebbing away, though I cannot vouch for it in advance. But one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me: that you cannot help us, that we must help you to help ourselves. And that is all we can manage these days, also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of you, God, in ourselves. And in others as well. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much you yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives. Neither do I hold you responsible. You cannot help us but we must help you and defend your dwelling place inside us to the end.
Did you recognize in the tale of Mother Moon one of the great life/death/life stories? The loving Moon, drawn to her people’s suffering, walks into the dark bog where they are being attacked and devoured. Over the years since I first heard this story, it has become clear to me that the Moon must have known the danger she faced in coming to earth, must have taken the risk willingly, out of love.
She was beaten, murdered, buried. A great stone was rolled across her grave.
And then she rose, radiant, loving.
There is still more for us to consider. Can you imagine how perplexed the villagers were when they first determined to seek out the Moon? They had no idea where to begin.
As you yourself must have observed, when the Holy One who loves you is nowhere to be found, when you cannot possibly climb upwards to the sacred sky to seek her, you must instead look deep within yourself. Look into the dark, unpleasant, noisome, hidden recesses of your soul, the very place you are most reluctant to look. For that is where she may be waiting.
I am beginning to understand that the story of Mother Moon tells of the way the feminine aspect of God has been buried deep over the millennia, hidden, with a great stone of masculine power firmly placed on top to prevent her rising. But the stone has at last been rolled away.
The Moon is rising in the hearts and souls and spirits of you and me, in all the women and men who long for her return.