Do you ever doubt yourself? Wonder whether you're worthy? Think about how you are accepted by family and friends? Do you see your friends doing the same and wonder why? I have had those doubts myself throughout my entire life. To be honest, society planted some of those insecurities within me. I couldn't light the candles on our church's altar because I was a girl. Every man I knew, from the janitor at my grammar school to a contractor who's currently doing work on my house, has called me dear/honey/sweetie and thought me dumb because of the color of my hair. I believed that I was inferior and dumb, and I believed the strong parts of my personality—my tendency to speak my mind about social justice issues and my blunt honesty (open mouth/insert foot)—should be squelched, because they weren't nice. I never truly accepted myself, all the parts of me, the ones that society deemed "good" and "bad." But now, I believe that most of us experience insecurities and that knowing and celebrating the world's goddesses can help alleviate those negative thoughts.
Conducting the research for my latest book, You Are Divine: Searching for the Goddess in All of Us, was an intrepid inward journey, because I discovered that being divine doesn't mean you have sprouted wings and can change water into wine. Instead, it means you embrace the feminine aspects of your personality and that you respect those traits in others, as well. I found pieces of myself in several goddesses, and that discovery finally helped me celebrate all of the aspects of myself.
Here are six ways that you, too, can find and celebrate the goddesses within you.
- Celebrate Nature
All cultures believe in a creation myth, and in most, the being that gives birth to the earth is female. Gaia, the Greek goddess of the earth, is celebrated in the Roman world as Terra. She gave birth to the heavens, the mountains, the ocean, and all the beings that inhabited them. Other cultures might call her Mother Earth, Mother Nature, or Spider Grandmother, but one thing remains the same: a feminine deity is the earliest face of religion in most ancient cultures.
One way to invoke these mother/nature goddesses is to find your spot in nature. Whether you're an ocean person, you find peace on a mountaintop, you dig your time in a garden, or you love looking at a starlit sky from the roof of a tall building, go there. Sit and give yourself time. A day or two is great, but an hour is enough to get you back in tune with your natural self.
As you sit in that natural space, let your eyes close, your breathing deepen and your thoughts drift. Think about the power it takes to give birth to anything natural: a flower, a wave, a lion in the savannah. Now, think about the power it takes to develop an entire universe, to build oceans and land masses, to design weather patterns and to designate where animals will live. Reflect on that power. Know that the power is divinely feminine, as you are. Breathe deeply and slowly bring your awareness back to your surroundings. When you open your eyes, sit still for a few more moments and let your senses be filled with the sounds, smells, and sights. Once you're full, slowly and mindfully make your way back to reality, knowing that the power to create is one that you, also, embody.
- Celebrate Creativity
Most of the world's divinities that are connected with the arts are women. The Muses, the group of nine daughters of the Greek god Zeus and Mnemosyne, the Titan goddess of memory and time, inspire those who sing, dance, write, play musical instruments, paint, sculpt, and, basically, create artistic works. They are not the only goddesses in the world who act as inspiration for creative people, however.
The Celtic goddess, Brigit, is known as the goddess of art and inspiration, and specializes in offering inspiration to blacksmiths. As a result of that connection with fire and art, she defined the term "fire in the head." If you’re one of those dynamic artists/writers/playwrights/singers, you have a bit of Brigit in you.
My personal favorite goddess of creativity is Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of arts, crafts, and creativity. Whenever she is personified, she holds a sitar in one of her four arms, holds a scroll in the other, and beads in yet another. The sitar and scroll represent the arts, but the beads indicate her spirituality. It's that link of the arts and spirituality that appeals to me.
If you are artistic or creative in any way, the next time you lift the paintbrush or open your mouth to sing or place your fingers on your guitar's frets, take a moment to invoke one of the many goddesses who have inspired people for centuries. Breathe in a moment of gratitude for the art you are about to make. Dedicate your work to your chosen goddess and ask her to guide your hand/mouth/foot. Exhale a complete release and allow your body to sink into relaxation before beginning. Know that surrendering to that goddess will give you more creative strength.
- Celebrate Children/Family
Many goddesses who are known for protecting children or mothers in childbirth exist throughout the world's major religions. Buddhist goddesses like Karitemo, Suijin, and Kannon are only three of the Japanese goddesses who are patrons of women and children. In Greek mythology, Artemis is the Mistress of Animals and guardian of children (often bringing down enemies with her bow and arrow). To me, she represents those mothers who will do anything to save their children.
Ixchel, of the ancient Mayan tradition, was known as the goddess of fertility, harvests, love, and pregnancy. Women recognized the jaguar-shaped goddess as a powerful ally during a difficult conception or birth. Because of her midwifery connections, Ixchel also embodies medical knowledge.
If asking for protection for your children or for yourself as you give birth, invoking any one of the many goddesses known for this purpose gives you a female face, one who knows the birthing cycle. Throughout religious history, women have invoked the name of one of the goddesses mentioned above (or any of the dozens of others throughout the world) when in need of support.
In yoga, there's a strengthening pose that's called Goddess pose. Whenever you are feeling that you need to build your womb power, this stance will make you feel that you can hold the world on your shoulders. Whether you're trying to become pregnant, are getting ready for birth, or have children in need of your power, sinking into Goddess pose (squatting with your feet turned out, knees bent, and arms held above you as if holding a giant beach ball) helps you connect with those goddesses known for protecting you and your children. Hold the pose as long as you are able, then straighten your legs and slowly forward bend. Hang out for a breath or two, then get back into that Goddess pose, feeling stronger in your womb area. As you breathe, concentrate on feeling the female power of giving birth. As you exhale, know that your internal goddess will fiercely defend your body and your children's.
- Celebrate Human Rights
Most of us know the Goddess of Justice, Themis, whose blindfolded statue holds a set of scales and stands in front of many courtrooms. This Greek goddess was one of the world's first families, born to Gaia, that original creator of the world. Themis personifies justice, law, divine order, and custom. In other words, if you are having troubles legally or feel that you're battling the world, Themis is the one you need on your side.
In early Sumeria, Nanshe was known as the goddess of social justice, fertility, and fishing (her father was Enki, the water god, and her mother was Ninhursag, the earth goddess). Every year at Nanshe's temple, people gathered to seek her wisdom and guidance in settling disputes. She was so well-known for her advice that even the god of war asked for it.
Maat, the Egyptian goddess of all concepts of truth, order and justice, brought chaos to order according to ancient texts. She determined whether the souls of the dead would reach the afterworld. A powerful position to be in! Egyptians definitely worked hard to keep Maat happy. When living by Maat's principles, one follows ancient writings, such as this passage from the Instructions of Ptahotep:
Be generous as long as you live
What leaves the storehouse does not return;
It is the food to be shared which is coveted,
One whose belly is empty is an accuser;
One deprived becomes an opponent,
Don't have him for a neighbor.
Kindness is a man's memorial
For the years after the function.
So many of us have experienced injustices throughout our lives, that we might welcome knowing these goddesses and what they represent. The divine feminine has always been able to calm and advise.
To honor the goddesses of justice, think of them when you're settling a dispute among children or when you're considering standing up for someone who's dealt an inequality or when you volunteer to raise funds for a local charity. The very act of either meting out justice or of fighting against injustices should remind you that you have the same powers that those goddesses do. Remind yourself that you do these things in the name of Themis or Maat or Nanshe or whoever else you desire.
- Celebrate Caring and Compassion
Nothing beats having a caring and compassionate friend. We all need to be that friend, both to ourselves, as well as to others. As my yoga instructor says, "You can't pour from an empty cup."
Many of the goddesses throughout the world employ caring and compassion; however, there are few more recognizable than Kuan Yin, the Buddhist goddess known for mercy, kindness, and compassion. You've probably seen her serene figure all over the world. She graces almost as many gardens and parks as Buddha does. Why? Because she is known to rescue anyone who calls out her name.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, the Green Goddess Tara is known as a compassionate healer and some equate her in power with the Buddha. A supreme savior, she is often depicted standing, her hand held out, palm up. She's an extremely powerful protector and is revered by Tibetan Buddhists.
Mary, Mother of Jesus, is a spiritual leader that fits the definition of goddess. As a compassionate woman, she also fought valiantly for her son. Her followers see her benevolent qualities, asking for solace in her arms, where her compassion shines through.
Often we human beings are fine with offering compassion to our family members and loved ones. It's not difficult to feel that immediate warmth when we know we've done the right thing for those closest to us. It becomes more difficult to offer compassion to those we have problems with or those we might barely know. But the hardest is to offer compassion to ourselves.
Sit with yourself and wrap your arms around you. Hold onto your shoulders with your hands. Imagine that the hug is coming from your compassionate goddess. She holds you tight, offers you a warm embrace, then slowly releases you. Carry that hug with you throughout the day. Pass it along to whoever looks like they might need one.
- Celebrate Yourself
If you love yourself, that doesn't mean you have to stop loving others. On the contrary, when you choose to see yourself as divine, the respect you give yourself enables you to share more of yourself, freely and respectfully with others. Period.
For this celebration, write down the comparable traits you share with the goddesses we've discussed (and maybe some others you might know). Three to five traits are good. Read those traits aloud. Three times.
Now, more than ever, is the right time to celebrate those goddesses and heavenly beings that have been part of most cultures (though often ignored) for centuries, some for thousands of years. The chatter I hear from women about the world around us tells me that I am not alone in wanting to recognize a power that is more aligned with my emotions and beliefs and sensitivities.
Think about the traits you share with goddesses. Those traits are divinely feminine and you are the goddess. You are divine.