Wind Chime of the Feminine Divine

IMG_0132By Jenny

At the end of last summer, my husband bought a wind chime on clearance.  I love it.  I love the beautiful sound it makes as the wind travels through it.  One afternoon just after we hung it over our deck, my kids and I were sitting at the table eating lunch.  A gentle breeze swayed the wind chime to chant an unfamiliar melody.  Instantly, my kids were standing on their chairs yelling, “Ice cream truck!  Ice cream truck!”  I have to admit that I laughed at their ignorant reaction.  Their ears were not yet accustomed to the wind chime, so they associated its sound with something more familiar to them.

But I was humbled later in the afternoon when I heard the wind chime’s tune and walked into the kitchen to see who had left the refrigerator door open.  No, it was not the familiar warning that the fridge had been left open.  Through all of this, I started thinking about how our ears become accustomed to certain sounds and it feels safe to have those familiar sounds around us.  But if a new sound arises, it feels unsettling.  Like Pavlov’s dogs, it is an automatic reaction to grab your phone as soon as you hear the familiar tone. But the first time your phone rings after you have changed your ring tone, you are the last to realize that it is your phone.

One familiar sound for me has been the preference for male pronouns at church.  It sounds natural to say, “brethren and sisters,” “male and female,” “sons of man,” “all mankind,” etc.  The scriptures were written by men, interpreted by men, and most of the main characters are men.  Even our male God, who has just enough doctrinal room for female pronouns, is always referred to as “He,” “Heavenly Father,” “the Lord.”

My ears were so accustomed to these male pronouns that it was as if they didn’t exist at all.  I went to church, I heard the familiar comfortable language that I had been conditioned from infancy to hear, and I acted like a Pavlovian dog, eating up the message right on cue.  When I started hearing new sounds that came from a mother language, it was unsettling and a bit confusing, much like my new wind chime.  I started hearing about the “divine feminine,” “Sophia,” “Heavenly Mother,” She, She, She…I started thinking about They, God the Mother and the Father.  What a beautiful and powerful melody!

It was hard not to retain my natural inclination to the familiar sounds of my youth.  But with practice, the words began to flow naturally from my mouth.  Now I can say, “sisters and brothers,” without cringing.  “Female and male” no longer sounds backward in its order.  Most importantly, “Heavenly Parents” is the title that naturally comes out of my mouth without faltering over “Heavenly Fa-.”  Now when other people use male only titles or pronouns, it sounds like a cacophony to my ears.  But when I hear the familiar language of a feminist awakening, I have a natural reaction to it.  When someone says, “Heavenly Parents,” I am naturally inclined toward them.

So I can understand why members of my ward were uncomfortable when the mother tongue came out in my sharing time lessons.  I can understand why it so unnerved my bishop and Stake President that they took immediate and painfully devastating actions against me.  Just as I thought the new chimes were only a warning on my fridge, they thought my new words were a warning for a slippery slope to apostasy.  I spoke of Heavenly Mother and they silenced me because the sounds unnerved them.  Instead of listening and trying to understand where the sound was coming from, instead of attuning their ears to the beautiful music of the divine feminine, they instantly smashed my new wind chime to the ground.

Jesus often said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”  In Church I have always heard that those who have “ears to hear” are those who are spiritually attuned to hear and understand Christ’s messages.    I think the same principle applies here.  Knowing and understanding the beautiful and powerful messages of the divine feminine requires us to become spiritually attuned to it.  Because these are not sounds we are used to, it takes practice, patience, and understanding.  My hope is that the words which describe the spiritual experience of women will someday be welcome and even commonplace in our Church.  I hope that someday our youth will grow up being perfectly comfortable and familiar with the sounds made by the wind chime of the divine feminine.  I hope that our leaders, who have heard the same familiar tune for so long, will listen and try to understand, before they silence.  There is a beautiful new melody waiting to be heard by those who have “ears to hear.”

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Guest Post: Absent Mother?

by Sangeeta Charan

by Astell

My 4-year-year old daughter asked at the dinner table why we don’t talk much about Mother in Heaven. Good Question. I said we should talk about her more.

Shortly after this conversation with my youngest daughter, I was reading an essay about why there are no mothers in classic fairy tales, girls’ literature, and by extension girls’ films. I disagreed with just about all of it. The typical male-dominated argument about the desirable female being center stage, free to develop on her own, for the pleasure of the male gaze. Really? Is that the best we can do? Can’t we develop the critique any further? From another perspective?

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You can’t be what you can’t see

the-first-vision-82823-printMy seven year old nephew recently announced to his mother that there are more boys than girls on the earth. My sister asked,”Why do you think that?” He explained,

“Because Heavenly Father and Jesus are boys, there must be more boys on the earth.”

My sister said she wasn’t sure if there were more boys than girls, that the numbers were probably near equal. She also reminded him that we have a Mother in Heaven and she is part of our Heavenly Family. My nephew said,

“Yeah, but Heavenly Father and Jesus have powers and stuff.”

Not yet defeated, my sister explained that Heavenly Mother is powerful too, and we probably have sisters up there in heaven that we just don’t know about. Then my nephew wanted to know if he could pray to Heavenly Mother. My sister said, “Well, we’ve been asked not too, but you can think about her and remember her always.”

At the age of seven my nephew understands in the simplest terms that male is more.

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Power in the Name

IMG_9775By Jenny

One evening this month I sat down to read a Christmas picture book with two of my daughters.  “Way up North in the land of ice and snow stands a cozy little house. And beside the front door hangs a neat little sign. S. Claus, says the sign.  Because that is who lives there—Santa Claus.  Mrs. Santa Claus lives there, too, of course.  She keeps house for Santa Claus, and for all the elves who work in Santa’s toy shop.”

The cacophony of sexist words pounded against my head and my heart.  The image of a little old woman tending Santa’s house, cleaning up after his elves, endlessly, endlessly making cookies was enough to drain the energy from my body.    What did Mrs. Claus ever do to inherit an eternal identity as the nameless cleaner and baker for Santa’s busy household?  I say nameless, because that is what was on my mind that particular day.  Mrs. Santa Claus…it isn’t so much a name, as it is a title that causes this mythical female character to be subsumed by her husband’s identity.  We know her not by who she is, but by whom she is married to.  Mrs. Santa Clause.  Who is she?

The reason this was on my mind is because I had been reading earlier in the day from a book called “The Creation of Patriarchy” by Gerda Lerner.  Yes, my husband rolled his eyes when he heard me teaching my daughters about the creation of patriarchy in the middle of reading them a children’s picture book.  “…the divine breath creates, but human naming gives meaning and order….name-giving is a powerful activity, a symbol of sovereignty.  In Biblical times, in line with Oriental tradition, it also had a magical quality, giving meaning and predicting the future.” Pg. 181-182

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Childhood Myths

Childhood Myths

“…and that Mother Earth and Father Sun and Grandmother Universe will take care of us and watch over us…”

That was a line in the prayer my six-year-old gave for our nightly family prayer earlier this week. We go to church every week and my kids get the same standard Primary lessons, but I love how they interpret beliefs for themselves. My daughter has gone to a Waldorf class for over a year now and the teacher likes to tell stories about “Father Sun” and “Mother Earth” and the “star children” (us) who have come down to earth. Earlier this week, we had been discussing the Maya Creation myth and talked about the similarities and differences between it and the Genesis Creation myth. She told me she thinks the Maya myth is wrong and that Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother and Jesus made the earth. I smiled and said that everyone has their own story for how the world was made. While her beliefs have a Mormon base, they have a strand of her own understanding and interpretation.

Mother EarthOn the other hand, my four-year-old believes in a very different vein of Mormonism. Like he’s been taught in Primary, he believes he’ll be with Jesus in heaven after he dies, but that’s not where his vision of the after-life ends. It’s not uncommon for him to start a conversation with, “When I’m born again…” He believes in reincarnation and that after going to heaven, he’ll be reborn back to earth.

Both my daughter’s and son’s beliefs tickle me a lot. It’s amazing to see how the same teachings are interpreted through the minds of children. I know some parents would be quick to “correct” these sorts of thoughts, but I like giving them space to explore their own spiritualities. Why not believe in Grandmother Universe watching over us? Or that we’ll get another lifetime on earth to be with our loved ones? It reminds me of how I used to ask Heavenly Father to hand the prayer receiver to Heavenly Mother so I could talk with her.

The beliefs of children underscore the human desire to be connected and cared for by someone greater than us and to know that there is something for us after we die. I have one other child, who is too young to really share her beliefs (or have them?) but I look forward to learning what they are and to watch another person try to reach the divine.

Do you remember what your beliefs were when you were little? How have they shaped you? 

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Birthing My Feminine Soul

I lay in the hospital bed with my legs in the stirrups.  I had given birth four times already, but this time I was both the birther and the birthed.  I was done having babies so I was having a simple procedure done to eliminate the monthly struggle that comes with being a woman.  Everything was going fine until my body suddenly reacted negatively to the pain medication.  It started with numb lips.  I asked if that was normal and the next thing I knew I couldn’t talk.  I knew the words and I could move my mouth, but I couldn’t say what I wanted to say.  Soon my consciousness seemed completely disconnected from my body.  I could think rationally and nod my head in response to questions, but I couldn’t speak.  I could only use my body when the function required one step.  I could move my hand, but I couldn’t do anything with it.

My body shook uncontrollably.  “Are you cold?”

I nodded my head.  I didn’t feel cold, but I knew I probably was.

They moved a heater over to me.  “Can you feel that?”

I shook my head.  All of a sudden I started crying uncontrollably.  Then I was laughing.  Worst of all was my inability to speak.  I wanted to shout and scream and let the doctor know that I was fine and I understood what was going on and I felt nothing, and yes, it was okay if they continued on with the procedure.  But I couldn’t say anything and the doctor and nurse had no idea what to do.  Like a newborn baby, my body was not under my control.  I was simply a consciousness in a body that I didn’t feel fully attached to.  I felt that symbolically I had become a baby, much the way I have spiritually become a baby in the last several months.  Once the effects of the medication wore off and I regained control over my body again, I realized how powerless a newborn baby must feel.  No wonder I see sheer delight on the face of my two year old because she just learned to jump.  That ability to master something that we previously had no power over is amazing.

Giving birth can be an empowering experience, but being birthed feels powerless.  Being the birther of my own feminine soul has been empowering, at the same time that it has made me feel powerless.  When we give birth, we take something precious within us, something we have created, nurtured, and hidden inside, and we send it out into the world.  The life we have brought into existence needs a lot of care, patience, and nurturing at first, but once it grows in its ability to control itself, it has the power to change the world.  This is what happens when we give birth to our feminine souls.  This precious life and power that is hidden in us can awaken through birth.  After a time of nurturing, we send it out into the world to awaken the feminine soul of the world.  It is through our individual births and awakenings that we awaken the collective female consciousness and change the world.

Two years earlier I began the labor pains that would bring about the birth of my feminine soul.  I was in labor with my last child.  It was 1am the night before she was born and I couldn’t sleep because the pain was too great.  I went downstairs and turned on the tv, a dangerous prospect at that time of night.  After flipping through half a dozen infomercials, I came to a documentary on health care for women in Afghanistan.  As the pain swelled in my abdomen I watched women giving birth in dirty run down hospitals, most of them having no hope for their baby’s life.  One woman was asked if she was worried, as the doctor tried to resuscitate her premature baby.  Her eyes bore into mine as she said, “No, she will live or she will die.  That’s the way it is.”   I thought about the life within me and the joy that I felt in between contractions, knowing I would soon meet this new little human who would change me.  I wept for the mothers who were bereft of the hope I felt.  I wept for the women who suffered from fistulas, acid burned faces, and painful infections.

These weren’t just some women on the other side of the earth. They were me and I was them.  For a moment we shared the pain and burden of being a woman on this planet, and I was forever transformed by that moment.  I attribute this power of connection to the Divine Feminine, Heavenly Mother in all her glory.  She is the midwife who patiently, lovingly guides us through our labor pains and helps us to birth our own divine feminine souls.  This experience changed my consciousness, but I felt powerless to do anything for my sisters in developing countries.  The next day I went to a brand new hospital and gave birth to a healthy baby girl.  As I looked into her eyes, I saw the beauty and value that existed in her precious gift of life.  Though she was powerless to do anything for herself at that moment, her birth alone had changed the world around her.  Likewise, though I felt powerless to help my sisters who were suffering in other parts of the world, my birth and awakening to a consciousness in which they resided was one small part of changing the world.   As I nurture my feminine voice and power, it will grow into a precious life that I can send into the world to change the feminine soul of the world and empower women everywhere.

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