(Book excerpt) Celebrating Her/My/Our Everyday Sacred Journey Around Sun by Glenys Livingstone Ph.D.

This essay is from She Rises: How Goddess Feminism, Activism and Spirituality? Volume 2 edited by Helen Hye-Sook Hwang, Mary Ann Beavis and Nicole Shaw, Mago Books, 2016.

adyar-altar-ii
A poetic map or Her seasonal wheel

My Goddess devotional practice of celebrating Her in the Seasonal wheel of the year grew over decades, from small humble occasional affairs to elaborate consistent well-planned events; as I came to be aware of the power of conversing with Her in this way, and also with others who desired to participate.

Participation in the annual Seasonal wheel process, particularly when practised as a whole year-long experience and over the period of years, re-identifies one’s small self with the larger Gaia-Self. It is a practice of coming to know Her … it may be at times “playing like we know, until we know”.[1] It is the experience of many indigenous cultures that their communal ceremony and prayer, along with their daily activities, participate “in acts that evoke the ongoing creation of the cosmos”;[2] and increasingly, as I continue to practise this wheel of the year process – celebrating the real world of our everyday journey around Sun, I come to understand how we create the Cosmos, whether conscious or not. I did not know this when I began; this awareness has grown in the practice of identifying with the Creativity of Gaia Herself, through the whole cycle of the “manifest” and the “manifesting”, the light and the dark, the differentiation and the transformation. Gradually I came to understand ever more deeply how these seasonal ceremonies are a response to awakened relationship with Cosmos – thus in some sense, the celebrations become a

responsibility to the cosmos … to know grace, to know as intimately as possible the mysterious interrelatedness and spiritual powers that infuse being and to live our lives accordingly.”[3]

 

Perhaps the central/essential significance of the Seasonal Moments (as I have named the Sabbats, Earth’s holy days in the Western tradition) is that they are points of expression of relationship with Gaia, who is a phenomenon – the Phenomenum – of storied events: She is “a text without a context”.[4] These events are not accomplished and “located in some finished past”, but are “the very depth of the experiential present”, as David Abram describes, when expressing his understanding of the Indigenous Australian notion of “Dreamtime”.[5] Abram understands the “Dreamtime” – as the indigenous term has been commonly translated[6] – to refer to the “implicit life” of a place, the storied events that “crouch within” a place, that the human may rejuvenate with “en-chant-ment” and action.[7] The human is thus enchanted and rejuvenated simultaneously – human and Habitat know relationship, intimacy. This seems resonant with what I have called “sacred awareness” of the Universe we live in, which may be conjured by the ceremonies of the wheel of the year. After celebrating the seasonal ceremonies for a period of time, I came to have a clear sense, at each Seasonal Moment, as I/we prepared to celebrate the ceremony, of the uniqueness and depth of this space-time moment in the history of the Universe; I understand this as “sacred awareness”. It is a sense of the deep time and space of the moment, and that it is significant Cosmically.[8] The moment becomes a Moment, as actually all moments are; this sense then was often carried over into my life at other moments.

I have been graced with the opportunity to document my Goddess devotional practice of celebrating Her in the Seasonal wheel of the year in the form of a Ph.D. in the School of Social Ecology.[9] This was pivotal for me, fostering a deepening of knowing, and for developing Her work: and I was conscious of contributing to new forms of academically acceptable knowledge for others to come. Below is the thesis abstract as it was presented:

female-metaphor
The Female Metaphor – a Dynamic of Creativity

“This research is a study of the Female Metaphor in her three aspects of Virgin, Mother and Crone. It is an interpretation of these three faces as representing the Dynamic by which the Cosmos unfolds, that is, the extant Creativity that is in continual transformation and has always been so. Accordingly, as this thesis takes the Cosmos to be a seamless whole, the conscious alignment of one’s being with this Creativity would be a more complete alignment with the continual process of transformation innate to Being.

This research re-stories the Female Metaphor in her three aspects, as an image and dynamic of Ultimacy, and this re-storying is enhanced by an identification of Her three faces with Thomas Berry’s three faces of Cosmogenesis – differentiation, communion, and autopoiesis – which he and Brian Swimme describe as “the cosmological orderings of the creative display of energy everywhere and at any time throughout the history of the universe”.[10] Brian Swimme has named the composition of these three, “cosmic grammar”.[11]

The ritual celebration of seasonal points are then developed as a method of embodying and sensualizing, and “speaking” this deep Dynamic of Creativity – as a method of aligning one’s being with the continual cosmological unfolding. These ritual celebrations are based in ancient Western spiritual practice that relates with Earth’s cyclical transitions. Presented here is a convergence of such Earth-based spiritual practice with a Western scientific cosmology.

The research project then inquires into the effects of celebrating Earth’s seasons in rituals based on female imagery and into the effects of the use of female imagery for spiritual expression, that is, to speak of Divinity, the Universe, Earth and the deepest parts of the personal self as Female. My inquiry is into the effects of such imagery and seasonal celebration on personal feelings, thoughts, imagination and behaviour; and also into any effects on the participants’ relationships with others, with the culture at large, and with Earth and Cosmos. While I focus on the effects on participants, this thesis is equally an inquiry into such effects on myself, as convenor and facilitator of seasonal ritual and deep identification with the Female Metaphor as a path of spiritual unfolding.

autumn-equinox-ceremony
Ceremonial Space for Celebrating Her: MoonCourt, Australia

Through methods of ritual, meditation, imagination, dance and storytelling, over the period of the annual seasonal cycle, I created a context. It was a context that sought to enable more harmonious relationship with self, other and Cosmos through identification of the self with an organic and primordial process innate to the unfolding Cosmos.

I found it to be a process that catalyzed personal transformation of the participants over time – a transformation that has clear and inevitable cultural implications. While it is not the focus of this thesis to track these cultural changes, such change is implicit in the personal and relational changes experienced and noted, since the personal and the cultural are mutually embedded in a shamanic process like this is.”

I hope this may inspire others to document their Great Goddess Work – work that many have been doing for decades, to feed the present and the future. It may not be in doctoral form, but I encourage you to set the table and serve up your feast.

© Glenys Livingstone 2016.

NOTES:

[1] Zen Roshi Dr. Susan Murphy, who was my doctoral thesis supervisor, is credited with this expression.

[2] Charlene Spretnak, States of Grace, p.95.

[3] Charlene Spretnak, States of Grace, p.100.

[4] Quoting Thomas Berry: he was speaking about the Universe.

[5] The Spell of the Sensuous, p.193.

[6] Some Indigenous Australians are dissatisfied with this translation insofar as it may imply something “not real”. The term is based on a rendition of the indigenous word alcheringa, and has a meaning closer to “eternal, uncreated”. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreamtime

[7] The Spell of the Sensuous, p.193.

[8] Even though the actual Cosmic significance does lie well beyond anyone’s comprehension.

[9] Glenys Livingstone, The Female Metaphor – Virgin, Mother, Crone – of the Dynamic Cosmological Unfolding: Her Embodiment in Seasonal Ritual as a Catalyst for Personal and Cultural Change.

[10] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.72.

[11] Brian Swimme, Canticle to the Cosmos, video #4.

REFERENCES:

Livingstone, Glenys. PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion. NE: iUniverse, 2005.

Livingstone, Glenys. The Female Metaphor – Virgin, Mother, Crone – of the Dynamic Cosmological Unfolding: Her Embodiment in Seasonal Ritual as a Catalyst for Personal and Cultural Change. Ph.D. thesis, University of Western Sydney, 2002.

Spretnak, Charlene. States of Grace: The Recovery of Meaning in the Postmodern Age. SF: HarperCollins, 1993.

Swimme, Brian. Canticle to the Cosmos. (DVD series). CA: Tides Foundation, 1990.

Swimme, Brian and Berry, Thomas. The Universe Story. NY: HarperCollins, 1992.

Glenys Livingstone Ph.D. is the author of PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion, which fuses indigenous tradition of Old Europe with science, feminism and a poetic relationship with placeGlenys has been on a Goddess path since 1979. Glenys contributed to Goddesses in World Culture (ed. Patricia Monaghan), and Foremothers of the Women’s Spirituality Movement (edited by Miriam Robbins Dexter and Vicki Noble). Glenys lives in Australia, where she has facilitated Seasonal ceremony for over two decades, taught classes and mentored apprentices. She teaches a year-long on-line course, and recently produced PaGaian Cosmology Meditations CDs. Glenys’s website is http://pagaian.org

Read Meet Mago Contributor Glenys Livingstone.