The Month of May, most beautiful of all the year, when flowers abound, trees put forth leaves and the air itself is perfumed, was originally named for the Goddess Maia. Other Goddesses in the Celtic, Greek and Roman traditions were also celebrated in May. In the Catholic Tradition May is known as the month of Mary, Mother of Jesus.
Veiled in Mystery, and yet nearer to us than we are to ourselves, the Presence of Love that we are coming to know as the Sacred Feminine wants to be found. “Wild Woman” leaves a trail for us to follow: Perhaps we found her tracks across fresh snow in a dream. Or psychically, we noticed a bent twig here and there, pebbles overturned so that their wet sides faced upwards …we knew that something blessed had passed our way. We sensed within our psyches the sound of a familiar breath from afar, we felt tremors in the ground…we innately knew that something powerful, someone important, some wild freedom within us was on the move.” (C.P. EstesWomen Who Run with the Wolves, Random House, New York, 1992, p.457)
Pursuing this presence, lured by her tracks, we come upon not thick books, but rather small hints: the story of a brief encounter, the way that someone’s life has been upturned into joy by her, powerful clues put together by the wise about the way She manifests.
One such small clue has been a beacon in my own search for years. Jean Shinoda Bolen, Jungian analyst, author of Goddesses in Every Woman, wrote of a moment in her own life. One of her patients had unexpectedly died. She was filled with grief that had to be kept under wraps while she attended to the needs of another patient:
No one supposed that I needed any comforting, including me, until this woman who was my analysand sensed something and reached out with compassion to ask if I was all right. And when my eyes moistened with sudden tears, she broke out of role, got out of the patient’s chair to come over to mine, and held me. At that moment, I felt a much larger presence was there with the two of us. When this woman put her arms around me, I felt as if we were both being cradled in the arms of an invisible, divine presence. I was profoundly comforted and felt a deep ache in the center of my chest. This was before I had ever heard of a heart chakra, which I know now opened widely then. I now also know that this is a way that the Goddess (of whom I had no inkling) may manifest. It differed from the mystical experience I had had of God. Then, no other human presence was necessary… Here, in contrast, the compassion and arms of a woman were the means through which a numinous maternal presence was felt….
I now think of this profound moment as a Grail experience in which the Goddess was the Grail that held us. This, and what others have told me about their experiences of the Goddess in their lives, has made me think of the Goddess as a nurturer and comforter whose presence is evoked through human touch.
After recounting experiences of other women with whom she had been leading rituals and meditation, Bolen concludes: In these moments, when each of us felt held in the arms of the Mother Goddess, a compassionate woman mediated the experience, leading me to understand that this feminine divinity comes through the body and heart of a human woman, created in Her image. (Jean Shinoda Bolen, Crossing to Avalon, Harper Collins, New York1994(73-74, 77)
Almost 20 years after Women Who Run with the Wolves was published, Clarissa Pinkola Estes brought forth a new book: Untie the Strong Woman, SoundsTrue, BoulderColorado, 2011. The powerful mysterious feminine presence is seen by Estes as aligned with titles and qualities given in the Christian story to Mary, yet part of a much longer heritage.
In her opening paragraphs, Estes traces the lineage of THE GREAT MOTHER:
She is known by many names and many images and has appeared in different epochs of time to people across the world, in exactly the shapes and images the soul would most readily understand her, apprehend her, be able to embrace her and be embraced by her.She wears a thousand names, thousands of skin tones, thousands of costumes to represent her being patroness of deserts, mountains, stars, streams and oceans. If there are more than six billion people on earth, then thereby she comes to us in literally billions of images. Yet at her center is only one great Immaculate Heart.
Since we staggered out of the Mist eons ago, we have had irrevocable claim to Great Mother. Since time out of mind, nowhere is there a feminine force of more compassion and understanding about the oddities and lovability of the wild and wondrous variations to be found in human beings.
Nowhere is there found a greater exemplar, teacher, mentor than she who is called amongst many other true names, Seat of Wisdom.(C.P. Estes, Untie the Strong Woman, 2)
The Memorare, an ancient prayer calling on Mary in time of need, was learnt by many of us as children. It takes on richness and depth in this adaptation by Estes:
“Have you forgotten? I am Your Mother. You are under my protection.” There is a promise Holy Mother makes to us, that any soul needing comfort, vision, guidance, or strength can cry out to her, flee to her protection, and Blessed Mother will immediately arrive with veils flying. She will place us under her mantle for refuge, and give us the warmth of her most compassionate touch, and strong guidance about how to go by the soul’s lights. (Untie the Strong Woman, inside cover)
How might our lives be different if we remembered,