Category Archives: Maiden/Mother/Crone Threefold Aspect of the Sacred Feminine

Brigid: Cailleach and Midwife to a New World Part Two

  We continue this week with Dolores Whelan’s article on Brigid:

As we consider the qualities embodied by Brigid as reflected in the stories of her life as abbess of Kildare Ireland, it is obvious that these qualities are similar to those present in her incarnation as pre-Christian goddess.

Brigid is considered a threshold person, one who can straddle both sides and remain detached. This quality, which is central in her life, is highlighted in the stories of her birth, which attest that she was born on the threshold of the house, neither within nor without; that her father was a noble man, her mother a slave; and that he was a pagan, her mother a Christian. From her origins, she has this ability to stand in the void and remain centred within it, while holding the creative tension between two opposite perspectives. Many stories from her life portray her as a person capable of resolving conflicts in a healthy manner. Being centred and aligned within herself, she is detached and can grasp the energies of both sides clearly, thereby facilitating a resolution. She has the ability to stand still and remain focused, in spite of the uncertainty present in the outer world.

 the ability to stand still and remain focused

As a child and a young woman Brigid constantly challenged the accepted norms of her society, especially those expressed by her father when they opposed to her own values. This reflects Brigid as a person who lives her life from a place of deep inner knowing and inner authority. She also refused to marry any of the suitors that her father arranged for her, because she had chosen a different life path and destiny. She would not compromise her soul journey!

absolute faith in the abundance of the universe

Brigid’s generosity is legendary and is related in numerous stories of her giving away food and clothes to people who came to her monastery or whom she met along the way. This generosity was, it seems, based on her absolute faith in the abundance of the universe to provide all that was needed in each moment. Each time she gave away the butter or meat needed for the next meal it miraculously reappeared in time for that meal!

Brigid’s capacity to bring forth new life, to nourish, to create plenty in the crops or an abundance of the milk from cows, and to manifest or create ex nihilo is a reflection of the true abundance and with the prosperity of the society, living in relationship with the land , created by her. Her life and work thrived because of her deep trust and an absence of fear.

ability to be aligned heaven to earth

It is said that from the moment Brigid learned to know God her mind remained ever focused on God. She remained connected to God and the heavens while living on the earthly plane. Her power of manifestation was a result of this ability to be aligned heaven to earth. The strong connection between her inner and outer worlds allowed her to focus her energy onto a particular intention and ensure its manifestation.

The story how Brigid got the land for her monastery in Kildare is a wonderful example of her ability to manifest what is needed. She states clearly what she needs and asks the local lord for land. First he refused but she is not deterred by this. She pursues her request in a different way by asking, “Give me what land my mantle will cover.”

 a woman who can hold her intention clearly

He says yes! When she placed the mantle on the ground it grew until it covered enough land for the monastery .This reflects a woman who can hold her intention clearly, even when on the surface it seems that her request will not be met!! These inspiring stories of Brigid relate to her active life in the world, where she embodies and live true spiritual power! But what and where is the source of this power?

To fully understand the power and the qualities that Brigid embodied, as reflected in the many stories about her life, we need to begin with an exploration of the role of Brigid as Cailleach, the aspect of the Divine Feminine, that rules during the season of Samhain (winter) at the beginning of the Celtic year. This I believe is the wellspring from which Brigid’s power manifests in the world emerges.

the embodiment of tough mother love

What then is the energy associated with the hag, crone, or cailleach aspect of the divine feminine? The cailleach is the embodiment of the tough mother-love that challenges its children to stop acting in destructive ways. It is the energy that refuses to indulge in inappropriate personal or societal dreams. It is the energy that will bring death to those dreams and fantasies that are not aligned with our highest good.

the cailleach energy….will hold us safely

Yet, this cailleach energy also will support the emergence and manifestation in the world of the highest and deepest within us. It will hold us safely as we embrace the darkness within ourselves and our society. It is an energy that insists that we stand still, open our hearts, and feel our own pain and the pain of the earth. This is the energy that teaches us how to stay with the process when things are difficult. This energy will not allow us to run away!

20180129 Bhrigid Well Kildare.jpg

Her way of being is a slow, inwardly focused way, with minimum outward activity: a way that values times of active waiting that pays attention and allows life to unfold.

embracing the energy of surrender

An essential part of the journey that all the great heroes and heroines in world mythologies undertake includes facing and embracing the energy of surrender, darkness, and death. The hero or heroine learns the next step required in their outer world journey only by submitting to and being initiated into the dark world of the cailleach.

Through this initiation the mature masculine power can emerge and lead each one to find their true path. When this happens the action that follows will be in the service of the true feminine and bring forth wisdom and compassion creating new life, vitality, and sustainability.

However because western society is currently dominated by the young masculine energy, present in both men and women, characterised by its “can do” attitude, there is an urgent need for each of us to make this heroic journey with the cailleach, so that we will become agents for the transformation of our society.

Brigid: Cailleach and Midwife to a New World

This is the first of a three part article on Brigid and her importance to us at this crucial time, written by Dolores Whelan and used with her permission. 

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Dolores Whelan

Reflecting on the turmoil present in the world today it is clear to all, but those steeped in denial, that all is not well. It seems that something ails us humans; something that causes us to live in ways that disrespect our mother, the living earth, and all our relatives. We ask what is it in us humans that creates such a restless world where there is little sense of belonging, nurture or home and which causes so many of the species with which we share this planet to suffer?

The exclusion of the Feminine energy in our naming and understanding of the Divine is reflected in a corresponding absence and valuing of feminine energy in all aspects of life in western society. The devaluing and exclusion of the feminine energy over the past centuries has created a distorted story about life which has resulted in a world whose shape and vibration create disharmony.

So how do we find our way back to a more harmonious way of life? If we know what is missing and what ails us, it may be possible for us to make the journey back towards wholeness and health.

In times of great danger and challenges, cultures often seek the wisdom for the journey ahead in the stories and myths that sustained them in an earlier time. However as Poet Nuala Ni Dhomhnail suggests this requires an understanding that “actual myths and stories themselves soar way above any uses to which they may have been put to already and can and must be retranslated by each generation in terms of their own need and thus liberated into a new consciousness.” (1)

 

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At the present time there is a wonderful re-emergence of aspects of ancient spiritual traditions by people all over the world. The reconnection and embodiment of these ancient spiritual traditions, myths and stories has the potential to release the spiritual power needed for us to become agents of transformation within our society.

At this time many people are becoming aware of the wisdom of the feminine. As this happens, the absence of genuine feminine energy present in most institutions, both religious and secular, throughout western culture, becomes obvious. To include the presence of the divine feminine energy in creating a world whose shape is more wholesome requires a fundamental reclaiming of the essential role of the feminine in all aspects of life. In order to create change within the physical world and in our society it is necessary to change the dreams and stories held within the imagination of a society.

My own journey over the past 25 years has been primarily within the Celtic spiritual tradition. This tradition has emerged over many millennia and continues to evolve. It includes the wisdom of the megalithic, the pre-Christian Celtic and the Christian Celtic traditions as they met and engaged with each other through the ages. I believe the rekindling of the flames of this tradition, which have lain dormant for many centuries, “like coals under the smooring awaiting a new kindling” holds a key to the recovery of the wisdom needed to create a more sane society.

“God is good and he has a great mother!” a statement sometimes heard in Ireland, reflects an important truth at the heart of the Celtic spiritual tradition, one that honours the presence of the divine feminine and understands that even God emerges out of the feminine energy of being-ness. The Divine Feminine is present at the heart of this spiritual tradition and plays a central role in both Celtic spirituality and Celtic culture. There are many goddesses within Celtic mythology; however Brigid, as both goddess and saint, occupies a central place as representative of the Divine Feminine within Celtic tradition. 20180129 Bhrigid statue at Solas Bhride

statue of Brigid at Solas Bhride, Kildare

Reconnecting with and re-membering the spirit and archetypal energy of Brigid, in both her Goddess and saint manifestations, is an essential task of this renaissance. Brigid, although normally associated with the maiden and mother aspects of feminine energy, is also expressed in the cailleach form, as indicated in the prayer “Molamid Brid an mhaighean; Molamid Brid an mhathair; Molamid Brid an cailleach” (Praise to Brigid, the maiden, the mother, and the crone).

 

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the maiden, the mother, the crone

 

These three different, but related manifestations, the maiden, the mother, and the cailleach, or crone, together create a divine feminine trinity. Each aspect of this trinity occupies a different role within the life, death, and rebirth continuum. The Feminine energy is both the harbinger and the birther of new life and is the destroyer of life that has been spent. It is experienced at the thresholds of life and death and rebirth.
In the past 20 years there has been a new awakening of the importance of Brigid and her place within our lives and our world. Her Feastday at Imbolc in now celebrated in many places in Ireland and all over the world. There is an understanding perhaps it is time for us individually and collectively to recover the qualities that Brigid embodied in her lifetime, marking her as a woman of true spiritual power.

 

1   Amergin  Jan  de Fouw   Amergin   Wolfhound Press  Dublin 2000  ( afterword )  no page number

Sophia in Egypt: Twenty

 

 

Note to the reader: If you wonder how Sophia, the Wisdom presence of the Holy in the Hebrew Scriptures, relates to the ancient Egyptian story of Isis and Osiris, or how she is part of this 21st century  journey to Egypt, this segment may begin to offer enlightenment. Isis, Hathor, Ma’at and Sehkmet are aspects of the Sophia, the Sacred Feminine presence who is making herself known in our time.

 

After last night’s visit to the Luxor Temple, I fell asleep with columns of hieroglyphs on yellow sandstone moving across my eyelids. Then a clear image of Hathor appeared, goddess of love and joy. I awaken to this new day thinking of the light of Ra, the gift of love that shines equally on all.

goddess-hathor

Hathor: Goddess of Love and Joy

After breakfast, some of us gather on the upper deck of the Moon Goddess where Marjorie and Paul, a married couple in our group, lead us in Chi-Gong movements. Afterwards, I sit cooling my feet in the pool, looking over at the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank.

In the peace of the moment, remembered words of Jesus rise up within me:

John was a lamp, alight and shining,and for a time you were content to rest in his light.

There is a hint of something here. This light, in which I am just learning to rest, is only for a time. But I don’t follow the thought where it might lead. I cling instead to this present moment, wanting it to last, not looking beyond this day, our final one on the Moon Goddess.

At ten o’clock in the Captain’s Lounge, we re-enter the story, find ourselves in the midst of the eighty-year battle waged by Horus against Seth, the principle of entrapment and limitation. Jean Houston invites us to see how we need to activate the inner muscular Horus within us to stand up to recalcitrance, both within and outside of us, and do battle. People who are entrapped by, limited to the status quo, are living out of their reptilian brains. If we remain working with them, we can only become assistant dinosaurs. To advance the world, the individuated wilful Horus must emerge.

Within ourselves the opposites, the Seth principle of limitation and the Horus principle of abundance, are often at war. We enact a ritual battle between the Seth and the Horus within us, partnering with another to give voice to each aspect of the self. Denise, the woman from Ireland, offers to play Seth to my Horus. I tell her of wanting to travel the earth, working with women to help them find their deep spirit.

“Do you think you can be like Jean Houston?” she mocks. Our role play, as fierce on my side as on hers, leads us into a deep sharing about the need we have both felt for inner guidance, the longing of a woman who feels herself unmothered.

In their epic battle, Seth and Horus shape-shift, become hippos and bears and lions, enduring terrible wounds. Such battles arise, in our time, Jean believes, in cultures that lack guiding principles. Yeats describes it in “The Second Coming”:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

the ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity….

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

That rough beast is Seth, Jean suggests.

As in the Iliad, the gods take sides in this great battle. Ma’at, the principle of truth, withdraws, goes underground and lives with Osiris. She chooses to leave the battle to go into the higher order of the unconscious. We, too, when we cannot make sense of things, retreat into the unconscious, taking Ma’at with us.

After the battle, when Isis realizes that she cannot kill Seth, Horus seizes her crown, tearing it from head. Later, he repents and recrowns his mother, giving her the cow-headed crown of the goddess Hathor.

Seth tries to seduce Horus. Jean comments that even after we think we’ve won the battle, we keep meeting our same old issues, again and again, but at increasingly complex levels. We are seduced by our own Seth, given these struggles to strengthen us. Each time we find ourselves in these same old patterns, we might think of them as trenches in the brain, something we need to over-ride. Dealing with these as fractals of the eternal return, old ditches we must cross, helps us to get on with the new story.

The ancient story concludes with Isis tricking the ferryman into taking her to the council of the gods on Elephantine Island. Disguising herself as a beautiful woman, Isis persuades Seth to acknowledge his crime and make restitution. The gods order him to create a barge that will carry the high spirit of Osiris into the depth world.

Rather than what traps us in time, our Seth principle of appropriate limitation becomes the vehicle to carry us into eternity.

The story became a transformational ritual in Egypt, a ritual of the soul. In it, the four principles of movement, fertility (Isis), inspiration (Osiris), limitation (Seth), and growth (Horus) are engaged in the big turn-around and fall becomes resurrection. What is destroyed is transmuted into a deepened quality, rising like the djed pillar in us as compassion, as empathy.

The transformational journey of the soul is the basis of the Mystery Rituals. In a Hellenized version, the Mysteries of Isis and Osiris were celebrated throughout the Graeco-Roman world. Many themes of the Isis/Osiris/Seth/ Horus story reappear in Christianity: the woman, impregnated by a father in the spiritual world; the threat that the newborn child will be destroyed; the tree as vehicle of death. Isis is the virgin/mother /crone who was worshipped in Greece and Rome for centuries. Some ancient black madonnas are actually Isis with Horus in her lap. Many qualities of Isis are subsumed into Mary.

Jesus was like Osiris, living out the Egyptian mystery of the dying/rising God, taking on the full ancient archetypal myth of the Mystery Religions while existing in space and time. No wonder, Jean concludes, he became Jesus Christ Superstar!

After the story, we take time to reflect more deeply on its meaning for our lives.

What vulnerable quality within us can be transformed from a negative Sethian glitch to a deeper potential, as the barge of Seth became transformative for Osiris?

I sit in silence with this question, wondering how my longing for a particular love can be transformed into a love that overflows from within me to others. It is for me the fractal of the eternal return, the question that continues to arise in my life, always from a deeper place, ever more complex.

( excerpt from Called to Egypt on the Back fo the Wind Anne Kathleen McLaughlin Borealis Press, Ottawa, 2013 http://borealispress.com )