Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Empress

The Empress is the archetypal mother. She who nurtures, feeds, embraces and loves us. She who honours the interconnectedness of All.

Metis was a goddess of wisdom, a divinity worshipped long before Zeus and the Olympians. She was Zeus’ first consort and it was predicted that she would have two children, a daughter with courage and clarity equal to any man, and a son, ‘a boy of all-conquering heart, who would become king of gods and men.’ When Metis became pregnant, Zeus feared that the child she was carrying was the predicted son who would unseat him. He therefore tricked her into becoming small and then swallowed her.

As it turned out the child she was carrying was not the son, but the daughter, Athena, who emerged out of Zeus’s head, as a full-grown woman. Athena had no memory of her mother, and considered Zeus her sole parent.

Metis, as divine feminine wisdom, was indeed swallowed by the patriarchy, and disappeared from the Western world. The myth reflects what happened historically as successive waves of Indo-European invaders, with their warrior gods and father-based theologies, subjugated the people of old Europe, who for 25,000 years had followed mother-based religions and developed peaceful, culturally advanced civilizations that were unstratified, agricultural and egalitarian. Because their cities were unfortified and exposed and because they lacked military skills, they were conquered by the horse-riding, sky god-worshiping invaders who imposed their patriarchal culture and religion on the defeated people.

The Goddess became the subservient consort of the invader gods, and her attributes and powers were absorbed or came under the domination of a male deity. Even the power of giving birth or creating life, which had been the natural realm of women and the Goddess, became co-opted, and the sky gods now created life through their words and will, or gave birth through the head.

Women forgot her, thus resembling Athena, who was born as a fully grown woman out of Zeus’s head, with no recollection of her mother Metis. Like Athena, most women are daughters of the patriarchy, who have recognized the divinity only of God the Father. Women have not (until recently) remembered a time ‘when God was a woman.’ Lost to memory was the existence of God the Mother, the Goddess, the feminine face of God. In the last few decades, ‘Metis’ is re-emerging and being remembered In a contemporary women’s journal, Women of Power, this renaissance is described:

The ancient spiritual voice of woman now speaks its long-hidden wisdom and becomes an active force for the conscious evolution of the interconnectedness of all life; the awareness that everything has consciousness and is sacred; the re-membering of our selves as sacred beings, and the loving of our psyches, bodies and emotions; the empowerment of women and all oppressed peoples; the creation of world peace, social justice, and environmental harmony; the activation of spiritual and psychic powers; the honouring of women’s divinity; and reverence for the earth, and the celebration of her seasons and cycles, and those of our lives.

Thus The Empress card today serves to remind us to recollect and to honour our connection to spirit, to the earth and to one another. As the great mother nurtures all, we too – men and women alike – should reaffirm our commitment to these feminine qualities, our intuition, our natural urge to birth and nurture life in our projects, work and relationships so that this archetypal goddess of wisdom may once again find a home within each of us.

 From: Gods in Everyman, by Jean Shinoda Bolen

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