The Goddess Path Issue #032
In The Wilderness
This Issue: Table of Contents
1. Hard Times
2. Wandering in the Wilderness
3. Goddess Mazu: The Rescuer
4. Yemaya, She Who Comforts
5. Small Stuff
6.The Third Week
7. Digging Deeper
There are but two emotions--love and fear. These are the
base emotions from which all others arise. It is not always easy to keep
them apart. The last few weeks have made that abundantly clear.
Yesterday the first of them arrived in our town, those
who had lost so much yet managed to survive. This will be their home for
a while as they start to reshape their lives. Stunned and weary, they
find themselves in a strange place and on an unknown path.
And so are we. There has been an outpouring of love, but
you can also sense the fear. We know that all our lives have changed in
ways we have yet to comprehend. Understandably, we are afraid.
We hope that love can keep the upper hand should our
fears breed anger and resentment. Time enough later to distribute all
the blame and worry about how deep our pockets will turn out to be. It's
enough for us to hope that Diane DePortiers was right when she said:
"Courage is as often the outcome of despair as hope; in the one case we
have nothing to lose, in the other, everything to gain."
We hope that we can find the meaning of it all as we . .
Wander in the Wilderness
"Wilderness", Sarah Ban Breathnach reminded us,
is "a bleak, numbing word that instantly calls to mind a feeling of
hopelessness, nothingness, barrenness, and most of all a sense of
powerlessness." In her exquisite book, Something More:
Excavating Your Authentic Self, she describes the Wilderness as "a
radical spiritual amputation of the weaker and toxic parts of our
personalities--our neediness, our hubris, our willfulness, our
self-loathing--that are holding us back from manifesting the Divine Plan
of our lives."
She quotes John O'Donohue, the Irish poet, from the
Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, "Sometimes this gift may involve
suffering and pain that can neither be accounted for nor explained."
And then she goes on to say that we "are sent into the Wilderness for
one reason, and one reason only": to find our selves, the persons we
were truly meant to be.
"The Wilderness is tough-love", she says. "A love so
ferocious it's meant to alienate us from others, estrange us from the
world and cut us off from ourselves, if that's what it takes to fully
regain our focus."
There is an ancient story about a woman who sought
healing from the Buddha. Her only child had died, leaving her in abject
grief, unable to find energy or purpose for her life. She asked the
Buddha to heal her heart.
He agreed, but on the condition that she must first
bring him a mustard seed from a home that had never been burdened with
sorrow. She set out, like the grieving Demeter, walking the face of the
earth, never stopping to rest, searching for this simple thing that
would restore her life. But she would not find it, for each home she
entered had known its own grief and pain.
After anguished years of searching, she came to
understand. Though none could offer what she sought, each had given her
their support and encouragement. Each had taken the time to listen and
to share her pain, easing it with their acceptance and compassion.
She returned to the Buddha to tell him what had happened
on her journey. He asked only how she felt now. "My heart feels
strangely full," she replied. "What is this feeling?"
"Sorrow," the Buddha replied. "Like the others now, you
no longer are alone."
Erica Jong once said that surviving means being born
over and over again. This is the challenge of the Wilderness. The life
we once knew is over. Let us begin to find our new way together . . .
with courage and with love.
In these times two great goddesses come to mind. One is
a fascinating mortal who repeatedly rescued her beloved people when
storms threatened them on sea and shore and later became a deity. The
other offers divine comfort; she holds our hands when it is dark and we
are displaced and sorely afraid.
I share with you the stories of the goddesses Mazu and
The Goddess Mazu
It is claimed that the goddess Mazu, a Chinese sea goddess, is the
goddess most celebrated in modern times, with the number of her devotees currently
estimated at over 100 million and more than 1,500 temples devoted to her worship. Her
name, Mazu (Ma Tsu), means mother, and like Kuan Yin she is a goddess of compassion, one
who is willing to intercede on the behalf of those in distress. But she is also revered
for her courage, her willingness to fight for her principles.
Many experts believe that Mazu may have originally been a real woman,
born around 960 A.D. to a devout Buddhist family that lived on a small island. This girl,
Lin Mo, showed an amazing spirit and mind and asked to study with the Buddhist monks who,
aware of her precocity, accepted her as a pupil when she was only thirteen. She blossomed
under their tutelage and soon amazed them by developing a "second sight", an
awareness of events that one usually has no way of knowing. She was also blessed with
extraordinary powers and was known to calm storms and rescue sailors who were in danger.
Some say she was proclaimed a bodhisattava (in Buddhism, a person who has attained
perfection but elects to remain on earth to help others).
Faced with pressure from her family to marry, Lin Mo agreed to marry only
if the man seeking her hand could defeat her in a match of Chinese boxing, a skill she had
obviously mastered. She remained undefeated, and unmarried, throughout her brief
life. At the age of 28, Lin Mo told her parents that she must leave them, was
surrounded by a dense fog of clouds that lifted her to a nearby mountaintop where
witnesses saw her transformed into a magnificent rainbow as she was carried into the
You can read her story here:
Yemaya is a
mother goddess, the goddess of home, fertility, love and
family. Like water she represents both change and
constancy--bringing forth life, protecting it, and changing
it as is necessary. She will go to the ends of the earth to
comfort her children.
a river goddess of the Yoruba in Nigeria, far from the
ocean. When her people were hoarded onto the slave ships,
Yemaya left the rivers went with them, thus becoming the
Goddess of the Ocean. She traveled with them from Nigeria to
distant lands, comforting them in the holds of the slave
ships that took them far away from their homeland in Africa.
creation myths of the Yoruba, the creator Olodumare first
created a mortal god-human, Obatala, and gave him a wife.
Their children were Yemaya and Aganyu, who had a son
together. They named him Orungan. As a teenager Orungan
rebelled against his father and brutally raped his mother.
When he tried to rape Yemaya a second time, the river
goddess fled to a nearby mountaintop where she cursed her
son until he died.
she chose to end her own life on the summit of the mountain.
As she died she gave birth to fourteen powerful orisha. When
her waters broke it caused the great flood that inundated
the world and created the seven seas. Obafulom and Lyaa, the
first human male and female (and the ancestors of all
humans), arose from the bones of Yemaya. Thus, Yemaya became the
mother of all life.
first gift to humans was a sea shell in which her voice
could always be heard. To this day we honor Yemaya when we
hold a shell to our ear in order to hear her voice, the
actually shares responsibility for the ocean with another
orisha. Okolun rules the dark and turbulent depths of the
ocean. Okolun, the
orisha of the bottom of the sea where the light does not
shine, inspires respect and fear. His powers of destruction
that can be unleashed from the ocean depths are vast.
Yemaya’s domain is the upper level, the part of the
sea that the light strikes, where water evaporates to be
carried to land by her daughter Oya (the wind) to make rain
for the crops. Yemaya's gentle waves rock the watery cradle
of the abundant life forms of the sea.
Okolun demands respect for his ominous power that is
unbounded. But it is Yemaya that is associated with creation
and with life itself. When each of their dual aspects, (male
and female, power and compassion) is held in proper balance,
these two orisha unite to offer enormous gifts and unlimited
depicted as a mermaid, or simply a beautiful woman standing
amidst the waves, Yemaya is a goddess of comfort and
inspiration. When it comes to caring for others, her
impulses are sincere and comforting. And she has a love for
children that is unequalled.
reminds us that even the worst catastrophes can be endured
and that, with her help, we can learn to negotiate the ebbs
and flows of change in our lives with her wisdom, courage,
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
Now it all seems minor when placed in proper perspective,
but we've had a few challenges at Goddess Gift, the largest
being that our web server fell victim in the big 'worm
attack' on the internet. Associated Press and CNN were up
and running the next day--we're still limping along, having
to rebuild much of the site after being moved to a new (and
less hospitable) web server where few things worked anymore.
(Audible whines and sighs from a weary webmistress!)
Happily the Goddess Quiz and the shopping
cart are both working once again! The bottom
line....apologies for missing last month's edition of the
newsletter and for the backlog in responding to your emails.
There is a term for it--compassion fatigue. It's a well
known phenomenon in some circles. Those of us in the 'helping
professions' see its face in many guises: the dwindling support of
family and friends a few weeks after the catastrophic injury or illness,
the way charitable donations drop off, and the irritable impatience that
greets the suffering who are told to "just get over it and start getting
on with your life."
And sadly, the helpers themselves are not immune.
Overwhelmed and oft defeated, some of us gradually develop calluses
where the concern and caring used to be and become of little use to
those who need us.
So let's fight the compassion fatigue and open our
hearts, again and again. American Red Cross is seeking 40,000 new
volunteers to give respite to those who've been working so hard the last
three weeks. We can clean out our closets, our bookshelves, and
basements. For the ones who survived, well. . . they're going to
need some help. Their homes, cars, clothes, computers, their jobs, and
more importantly- their world as they knew it got swept away.
We can transfer our frequent flyer miles to
one of the airlines' disaster assistance programs, create
jobs for those who need them, adopt a pet who has lost its
humans, or do hundreds of other things to help.
Americares has set up a donation web page
for the victims of the Katrina Hurricane. It's at
http://www.americares.org/domesticrelief. Or you can make a donation at:
American Red Cross,
The Salvation Army or
The United Way to name a few. To help the
animals you can go to the
U.S. Humane Society or the
In the Spirit of the Goddess
Let's light a candle and call on Mazu to give us courage . . . and
Yemaya to help us love.
In closing . . .
Wander when you must but
always keep hope within your heart,
The Goddess Path