Archive for Sacred Feminine

The Return of the Goddesses-in Mysteries!

Notes on a Depth Discussion between Susan Rowland and Bonnie Bright

detective_blogIf you are an avid reader, the mystery genre is likely a familiar presence in the pleasures of your pastime. Those who love detective fiction really love it, as author and scholar Susan Rowland insists to me in a recent interview, and there is a strong ritual element in the reading and writing of mysteries. There are certain consistencies in every story that one may begin to expect; and yet they continue to enthrall us even as they unfold. Mystery novels hold a place for ritual in our culture, and a sense of wanting to repeat something we already know about, things we expect each time we pick one up.

Rituals allow the sacred to be embodied, as Rowland argues in her latest book, The Sleuth and the Goddess: Hestia, Artemis, Athena and Aphrodite in Women’s Detective Fiction. In the reading and writing of mysteries, the sacred is enacted, creating a space which is inhabited by the goddesses.

Jungian and archetypal psychologies point out that there is never just one god, Rowland asserts; there can’t be just “Hermes” in hermeneutics (the study of texts, and especially written texts). He is not the only god of writing. While our culture has primarily been influenced by a tradition that is masculine-focused, one must ask: Where are the feminine gods in writing? If they are in our psyche as depth psychology suggests, then they are going to be in what our psyche does—including reading and writing.

Susan relates that all her work has been interested in the feminine and in depth psychology, and she has always been interested in detective fiction. Upon moving to the U.S. from England a couple of years ago, she wanted to understand what it meant to be a woman in America. She began to notice archetypal patterns that emerged from the work of women mystery writers, which, in turn, coincided with the work of depth scholars Christine Downing and Ginette Paris, who were writing about the goddesses, and with Susan’s own longtime, ongoing interest in detective fiction.

Susan points out that detective fiction was born around the same time as depth psychology. Culturally, she notes, the genre emerged as a response to some of the same kinds of cultural pressures as depth psychology did, beginning in the time of Freud. Since the beginning, women writers have been looking at what it means to be a woman hero. These goddesses are returning through women-authored mysteries because the “mysteries” are, well—“mysteries”—especially in the ancient sense, like the Dionysian mysteries and the Eleusinian mysteries. This is true for all detective fiction and anywhere the imagination is cultivated.

thesleuthandthegoddessIn the book, Rowland takes a detailed look at each of four ancient Greek goddesses: Hestia, Athena, Aphrodite, Artemis, and gives examples of how these goddesses have influenced the Western world and how they show up in specific characters and settings in novels from women writers. Artemis and Aphrodite, for example, are both goddesses of nature and of human nature. As such, they may be seen as ways of knowing.

The origins of depth psychology and detective fiction are both rooted in problems about “knowledge,” Susan insists. Depth psychology recognizes there is a problem because so much of the psyche is not being acknowledged in the modern world, and that creates a problem.

Rowland offers the notion that there is often a lot of humor to be found in detective fiction, as well as in Jung, citing examples of Jung’s humorous treatment of certain material. These exemplify how humor is a way of engaging and processing the material.

In the interview, Susan reveals to me that one of the reasons she wrote the book is that there is so much potential in bringing a depth psychology polytheistic lens to a topic. Detective fiction begins in America, with Edgar Allen Poe, who has been a fascination for depth psychology especially with Lacan. The figure, the detective, knows knowledge is problem—like the psychoanalyst does, Rowland insists. The detective needs to find and identify clues and track them back to something that cannot be known fully—the mystery of life death. Ultimately, there is an urgent cultural need to become the figure who will search for the bigger clues that will reveal the mysteries of the psyche, and this profound archetypal notion is truly at the heart of Rowland’s new The Sleuth and the Goddess.

You may access this informative interview, “The Return of the Goddesses—in Mysteries!”—Susan Rowland in conversation with Bonnie Bright about Susan’s book, The Sleuth and the Goddess: Hestia, Artemis, Athena and Aphrodite in Women’s Detective Fiction here (as well as find info to download a free chapter of the book).

(Approx. 36 mins)

NOTE: This blog was originally posted on the Pacifica Post at http://www.pacificapost.com/the-return-of-the-goddesses-in-mysteries

Regarding Change: Holding the Tension Even When it Hurts

When challenges arise for each of us, it is easier to turn to denial or distraction rather than holding the tension of what’s arising long enough to allow the self-regulating function of the psyche to take over. C.G. Jung suggested that the opposing attitudes of the ego (which gets us through some tight spots, usually by choosing the path of least resistance) and the unconscious or greater “Self” (which has our personal growth and spiritual awakening at heart) can be mitigated and even transcended if we are willing to regard the reality of our struggle and hold the tension long enough for some kind of insight and movement–a transition–to occur.
Employing or maintaining a state of “disregard” in daily life is quick, easy, and painless: almost a default mode of survival in our western consumer-based culture where everything moves faster and faster with each passing moment. In a world where we are focused on meeting deadlines, following timelines, achieving goals, and taking action, we are often are unwilling to make the time to find value in things, people, or ideas that arise around us.
In our haste, we often disregard our health, our emotions, our memories, and our loved ones. We dismiss the natural world, the earth, the landscape around us. We ignore famine, violence, and disease if it’s not in our own backyard. And we judge and disregard “others”: other races, other cultures, the “other” gender, and other beliefs.

Worst, we disregard the profound feelings of loss and longing that run like deep currents beneath our intensity and our frenzied pace, relegating them to the dark shadowy realms of the unconscious where we are not willing to look. In fact, we have ignored so much and so many of our true deep needs and emotions, we individually and as a whole, feel like something is missing. And indeed it is: pieces of ourselves and our collective humanity have become atrophied and dropped away like lost pieces of our souls, leaving us wounded and fragmented. Both universally and personally, this soul loss is a byproduct of the tremendous capacity we have developed to disregard.

Disregard drains the life force of every living thing, and those who do, in fact, make an effort to regard the liminal, the elements that are not front and center, the “non-mainstream” if you will, know that everything is alive. By judging something to have no value (or only monetary value), we dishonor it, kill it, objectify it: turn it into an dead, inanimate object which we feel justified to use, control, manipulate, or destroy. We have done this collectively with Mother Nature, Mother Earth and all of her natural resources. We have done this with animals we raise for consumption in unnatural ways pumping them full of steroids or genetically modifying supplements along with genetically modified fruits, grains, and vegetables.

In fact, in many cultures and a multitude of ways over the past few millennia, we have disregarded the sacred power of the feminine itself from whom all life comes, and a feminine “way of being” which is more receptive and creative rather than forceful, attached, and driven. This sacred feminine aspect is the force that allows us to tenderly hold and sustain the fallout during a difficult situation, patiently nurturing a creative space in which the difficulty can be transmuted and refined.

Evidence from ancient cultures indicates sublime reverence of the Divine Feminine, a life-giving mother who created all things. Goddess-imaged figurines with ripe breasts and bellies said to represent her fertile presence and power have been found from as far back as 30,000 years ago. Cave drawings, art, and pottery from as recently as 6000 to 3000 BCE depict her enlivening force.

As the Great Mother of nature, life, and indeed, all creation, she oversaw the transition from birth to life, then to the realm of death. Our ancestors were embedded in the web she wove. They understood that all things are born into life and light; then fade into the dark of a new phase of being. The goddess has long been associated with the moon. Our indigenous predecessors, who lived in a more profound state of regard for the world around them, traced the infinite circle of life, death, and rebirth through the cycles of nature. Just as the moon died to the sun each night, or faded each month to three days of darkness of the new moon, then was born again, the “people” understood the infinite rhythms of being. We are all born, and we will all die, returning to the earth from whence we came. Systems–sometimes cultures–will eventually collapse and new shoots will arise from the deadwood and debris. Our ability to regard the inevitable, and to surrender to and even embrace the change, will free some of the psychic energy around transition that often makes the transition itself difficult for us as humans.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell suggested that when a deity (or nature or the process of our own individuation and becoming–whatever that “something bigger” is to you) wants to open us up and we are too ego-centered, too attached to let go of our fixed beliefs and desires, we perceive the deity as wrathful and the experience as painful. If we are able to let go and open, we perceive the same deity, the same process, as compassionate and kind. If we are NOT able to surrender to the coming death in what ever form it presents itself–the loss of a job, the decline of health, the passing of a loved one–to dance with it, grieve with it, open to it, then we will suffer, interpreting the process as wrath coming from God or from nature, or from somewhere outside ourselves.

If you are in transition, there are many depth perspectives and techniques that can help you hold the reality of what is happening, and to regard the coming change with compassion and self-love, with awe, respect and hope. Be sure to check for depth-oriented therapists, Jungian analysts, art therapists, shamanic practitioners, dreamworkers, somatic therapists and other practicing individuals on DepthPsychologyList.com to help you regard and to hold the very human process of change until something new can emerge. In this way, you risk less the act of disregarding the beauty and value of the insights to be gained with all change in life, large or small, and the joy of becoming to which they lead.