The image of The Old Man of the Mountain* depicts most aptly the inaccessibility of God to a small girl. I grew up under this awesome profile. May my story recall the subtle and not-so-subtle victimization that girls and women have suffered under the patriarchy, but most importantly, may this story inspire us to mentor our daughters with powerful and loving images of the feminine divine. His awesomeness is an established paradigm. Her awesomeness has drawn women into circles in the past and will continue to draw them in the future, if we pronounce the need. Yet, images of the sacred feminine must be brought forth for our daughters and our sons both, our children need the balance, the sense of loving kindness, and the essential valuing of life.
At the time this photo was taken, the girl in this photo already knew
that she had entered a man's world. She already understood herself to
be "less than". She longed for acceptance by that Great Power
(even if it meant to have been born a manchild) but she was not. What
happens to such innocence? What can a girl do with her precious longing?
When I first began my formal spiritual journey in my 30's, an experienced mentor led me (through trance) to my life inside the womb. I felt myself tightly enclosed, hearing my mother's words through myriad muted sounds. I recall vivid excitement that I would be bringing Light to my new location, yet when I opened out into air at the birth, this precious Light dispersed into a million 'irretrievable' specs. I felt pain and confusion. 'Did this world not want my soul's gift? If not, then of what worth would I be? How would I remember who I was? I must not loose myself. I must not forget.'
My early life saw mother managing the farm alone, since father was at
war. At five, a lightning bolt down off Mount Washington, came through
our kitchen, broke the lamp over my head and drove a five-inch shard into
the top of my head. As my mother drove wildy off to the hospital, and
I looked back on our house, I knew that my world had radically changed.
In the moment, I accepted that I was different, and that from then on
I would belong to something bigger than my family.
"You need to claim the events of your life to
make you life yours"
As a student of Carl Jung's psychoanalytic theory, I began to understand God in a new light; that is, in the way of the wholeness of a thing, like myself. What a challenge to know oneself! I had no idea what I was undertaking when, in my 40's, I left a psychotherapy/channeling practice in Camden, Maine to journey to Findhorn, Scotland, and to undergo Jungian analysis in London. The task was to draw in parts of myself, to accept them, and to file them as either useful or not, all-the-while holding to the sense of wholeness. I had a long way to go. I still do. Wholeness, requires balance; thus, for a woman, the masculine, warrior side is to be developed. Did this mean to emulate the father? On the contrary, for me, it meant first to locate and integrate the mother-my own as well as Her awesomeness. But where was She?
At the family level, I sought her in my travels. I went with my children to my matriarchal homeland, Scotland. I searched the microfiche in Edinburgh for my grandmother's story. It popped-up dramatically in a form entirely contradictory to what my grandmother had reported during her lifetime. Her mother had been alive (though the whole family, including my mother thought she was dead) during my growing up, as had an aunt whom we never knew. Ghosts in our closets... claiming, integrating, mourning, atoning, releasing.
I returned to the land of my birth. Spontaneously, on a Saturday, I jumped in the car to get myself to Franconia (over three hours from Portland, Maine). I needed to see The Old Man. I wanted to connect to the place where, 56 years ago, I entered this earth plane. Here in poetry, are the words describing that journey.
These hills are my own hills. This valley, my own.
Can they have walked these exact same steps, my parents?
These pines, and this needle-scattered earth, mine.
This very old birch tree, Her legs parted over a hatch door,
The process of claiming myself has meant staying with myself in boggy dark places. It has meant taking myself by the hand and marching myself through places from which I would rather have retreated. It has meant diligence and unerring determination. It has been hard work. The wonder is that others have shared the road. The awe is that some intelligence, some mysterious truth imbues my way. It is there. It is there for us all to find.
The dreams have informed my journey. As I was preparing to go to the CG Jung Institute to become an analyst, the dream showed a man face masked in white. That image changed the course of my life. With help from my analyst, I moved toward theatre instead of psychoanalytic study. Theatre.
Where to begin? I did know that acting in someone else' play was not for me. My theatre would have to be linked to nature, since I had learned deeply from listening to nature and hearing spirit there (in the woods of New Hampshire, in the hills of Scotland). I had developed earth-spirit leanings. As a teller, in 1992, I had taken stories of nature to Brazil, to the World Conference on Environment and Development. I told of the goddesses, two female deities from Japan and from the Innuit tradition, who symbolized aspects of nature. I developed eight elemental masks of nature (see products). The goddess, Artemis continued to entwine herself in my works. She was my tallness, my conviction, my link to the woods. I had become a champion of nature, of women and women's stories. In 1993, I formed a theatre troupe of women to perform at the Parliament of the World's Religions. I was finding Her whom I sought, and I was recreating Her in poems and stories.
Recently, I have been spiraling round through the flames of my questing to ask myself: "have I been serious enough about what I know? Do I yet understand what purpose I am to fulfill?" Somewhere in the layers of my being is a particular thing I am to bring. "How do I gain enough consciousness to stand in my own acceptance and in my own authority? How can I dig in to it and grapple with what life is asking of me?" I have raised my children, acquired my degrees, founded and directed two theatre troupes, studied and tried to follow my dreams, but have I faced my core truth?
I observed the repeating pattern of attempting to enter the church tradition and failing. The dreams, nevertheless, have shown me to be an integral part of the life of the church. In one dream, I experienced walking in a specific church sanctuary holding a basket of apples. I puzzled over how I was to interface with the church, the hierarchies and with God? I was a performer who had found God in nature. The vision came of bringing women's dancing and song to the churches and cathedrals. It would be simple and beautiful, though I understood that we could be dismissed as "feminist". We could be cast out. It was a dilemma. So many voices said "you're crazy". But it depended; to what voice would I choose to listen?
"Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions
of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act
for yourself. Face the truth."
I founded Veronica Sacred Theatre, a professional touring company of women. I wrote and produced an archetypal story of a girl entering womanhood, then titled, "Faces in the Stone: Remembering a Woman's Story of God". The faces in this work referred to the carved faces of Mary, of angels, and the women saints which had spoken to me from the walls of my life's places of worship. I have needed women's faces. I have needed their perpetual grace to link me to spirit. (The male God in the Stone had neglected to include me-it was simply "the script" that I had inadvertently entered into in this life). At the time, I was still unclear as to how I would bring this work to the churches.
Mathew Fox has said of Hildegard von Bingen, the twelfth century abbess, that had she been a man, this profoundly creative woman would have been known as the greatest mystic of all time. Hildegard espoused the greening spirit of God. She implored us to become co-creators with God, to imagine and create as does God in springtime. Ah, God and Nature as one! I realized that this was common ground through which I could acceptably enter the church, and I gladly embraced Hildegard's music and thought into the performance, "Faces in the Stone".
At the time we needed a name for our the theatre company, the name, Veronica came to me in a dream. In Latin, Veronica means true image, vera iconica. To be a veronica, we have since realized, is to be the true image of who you really are. It is the very idea of wholeness, fulfillment; of becoming an instrument of God, of greening oneself, or of growing into co-creatorship with God (Hildegard). Why? Because to be one's unique self requires courage, intention and focus toward accomplishment (which is the warrior, masculine side). The seven women who make the theatre company portray the feminine through the performance, and we equally embody the masculine in our courage as artists and mentors to the girls, women and men whom we meet. A joyful circle, we range in age from 13 to 76 years and are true-spirited sisters in our devotional work together.
Another wonderful group of women by the name of Dragon Farm helped our company achieve non-profit status They first offered me a circle for gaining clarity of vision. Later, they assisted me in gathering my own circle of support, otherwise known as a Board of Directors. Our Board has sat in circle since 1998, we have meditated together and called in the feminine spirits of Veronica, Hildegard, Saint Brigid of the Flame, and Blessed Mary. It has helped to name different aspects of the feminine divine as we have moved forward over the years. In the spring of '98, our guidance urged us to go to Kildare, Ireland to Sister Mary Minehan, a Brigantine nun, to bless our touring work and our first performance. At that time, we performed in Brigid's church and visited Saint Brigid's Well. Of the Celtic tradition, She represents the passionate and eternal flame in us, and our kind and generous hearts, especially toward women, children and animals.
"Each human being represents a place of transformation
The moon, the sea, the well, the goddesses, the vessels, nature, herself-all are deeply held representations of the flowing, changing, nurturing, connecting aspect of ourselves that is feminine. I am understanding that by bringing sacred drama to churches, schools and universities, we are not only educating people about the feminine spirit, but we are breaking new ground with administrators by demonstrating the importance of women having a spiritually connected life.
"Let This Face"
Let this face be not the face of one woman
Of woman who comes, Grows from the seed
Where is she now? Look, she is born
At an archetypal level, the three faces of woman: the maiden, mother, and crone are portrayed in "Faces in the Stone". We dance in "stone" masks (linking us to the stone well) to represent the universal nature of the archetype. The princess, our heroine must waken the archetype in herself by following her spirit (the Owl) to the woods, finding the well, and courageously making her entrance to womanhood. The many faces of woman. . .
Women are our greatest hope for the necessary emergence of the sacred feminine. I wrote the poem, "Let This Face" 10 years ago and I have let it sleep. Now it makes more sense to me, since faces seem to be the theme of my work. Faces have been my teachers; some have drawn me in, some have been masked and misleading, some have held temporary truth, and some have enduringly informed my life. It is women's faces which I have been seeking-faces to balance the men's faces so prevalent in our world. I must speak for women; for women's identity and for their offerings to the world. I know that this is a global thing; that women are oppressed in one way or another the world over, and cannot get to the creative offerings they bring.
May this article be a prayer that we women, who are able, do our work. May we gather ourselves in. May we connect to ourselves. Few of our young women are connected. Few of our young mothers are connected. Few have awe for the new souls they birth. Few are connected to themselves, to their children, to their families. We have connection to offer, and connection to teach. If we have not received this sense of connection from our own mothers, then we must work to fill our vessels enough to find it, and to find the passionate gift that each of our souls brings. We must pass this on to the children as mothers and as mentors.
I wish that I had been cherished for what my soul brought, but I have had to work to grasp the meaning of cherish. What a blessing to begin to know the grace flowing through the vessel and to feel it continually filling and emptying like the moon.
Today, Veronica Sacred Theatre has become Veronica Women's Theatre for the sake of greater accessibility, and the drama title, "Faces in the Stone" has evolved to become "The Princess and The Old Goddess". This is because, this summer, I learned of an 800 year-old prequel to the Grail legend! The "Damsels of the Wells" who had blessed the Celtic lands and peoples with sustenance and peace were raped, we are told, and their golden vessels stolen. A moment in the history of Western civilization that dishonored the feminine spirit, severed the human relationship to Mother Earth, and according to the legend, turned what had been a lush paradise into a barren wasteland. ...The information startled me since, inspired by descriptive dreams, our theatre company had been performing the re-awakening of the Damsels, the women of the well, for 5 years! I cannot but think that Veronica Women's Theatre is serving a mystery that is bubbling up from the unconscious to aid humanity in this dire time.
* The Old Man of the Mountain, Franconia Notch, New Hampshire.
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