Remember, once you register for this free event, you’re on your way to receiving two gifts I’m offering, each complementing The Woman’s Belly Book: a $5 discount on the Honoring Your Belly instructional DVD and a 20% discount on the full-color illustrated paperback, Rite for Invoking the Sacred Feminine.
Now, to the movies:
Early on in my career as Belly Queen — championing women’s bellies as sacred, not shameful — a woman showed me a poem she had written. The piece included the words: “first scar, mother scar.”
David Hewitt’s gem of a 10-minute film, “Belly Button,” offers its own take on that theme. The cast includes Sharon Small and Don Gilet, two of my favorite British actors.
Hewitt describes the story this way: “Six strangers are drawn together at one moment in time, but with different dreams.”
Click on the images above or here to see the film on YouTube.
How do you tap into your center’s ancient wisdom?
How do you nourish the roots of the feminine?
Twelve women share exquisite responses to these questions in a free telesummit hosted by Barbara Hanneloré, author of The Moon and You: A Woman’s Guide to an Easier Monthly Cycle.
You can read about each presenter and their expertise at nourishthefeminine.com
I’m honored to be taking part in this event. My conversation with Barbara, available on April 22, focuses on connecting with the Sacred Feminine.
What’s more: When you register for the telesummit at nourishthefeminine.com, you’re on your way to receiving gifts from each of the twelve presenters.
What’s their role in every-human liberation? In creating and sustaining loving relationships?
People often ask me “What about men?” as I’m praising women’s bellies as sacred, not shameful. Praising our body’s center as home to the soul-power kin to the Source Energy creating, sustaining, and renewing the world.
What about men? Don’t they have soul-power too?
What about men? That’s also the title of a chapter my editor chose not to include in The Woman’s Belly Book, a book on women’s multi-dimensional empowerment. You can read the full text of that chapter here.
The chapter’s major point: As a man enters into his own wholeness, integrating feminine and masculine polarities,
he begins to perceive a woman as a person, informed by her own purpose. His need to control her diminishes. He becomes more capable of entering into a relationship of mutual respect.
As men increasingly live and breathe from center, they prepare themselves to enter into the egalitarian relationships many women desire, and which we deserve. Truly loving relationships can develop as the partners each live from their inner source of being and support each other in returning to their core wisdom, again and again. In this way the relationship takes its strength from the shared center that emerges in the partners’ midst.
As men and women support each other in coming home to ourselves, we can engender a more peaceful, just, and sustainable way of being human together on this planet.
Loving relationships? There’s a story, its origin said to be circa 1450, that — by my lights — holds the key to loving relationships between women and men.
I came across this story as I was preparing The Woman’s Belly Book and its companion, the Rite For Reconsecrating Our Womanhood. As part of my research, I delved into Maureen Murdock’s book, The Heroine’s Journey.
Murdock tells the story of Lady Ragnell and Sir Gawain. The story is part and parcel of Arthurian legend; it relates to other tales of transformation as well.
You can read the original in Middle English here and adaptations into modern English here and here. In brief, the story demonstrates just what restores women’s beauty and balance: Men perceiving women as persons, informed by our own purpose. Men recognizing, respecting, and supporting our autonomy, our sovereignty.
Respecting our sovereignty? A man by the name of Padma Aon Prakasha copied the text of my “What About Men?” chapter into his own book — without ever asking my permission. In his “note to the reader” he asserts his entitlement to appropriate others’ words. That’s either amusing or appalling, or maybe both.
But here’s something much more interesting, and a thrill: My friend Denise Ostler (a.k.a. Merri Beacon) has of her own accord, without any previous inkling of Lady Ragnell’s story, written her own and up-to-date version as part of her Fairytale Medicine series.
Her Goals & Dreams tale begins:
Once upon a time, in a tiny kingdom, there dwelt a sweet princess who cared for injured animals. She created a special place in the royal stables where she could tend to her patients. She loved her work, but alas, it was time for her to marry.
The king narrowed her suitors down to three eligible princes. Each prince was invited to dine at the castle and give a speech about why he would be the best match for the princess. On the first night, a very handsome and confident prince stood to address the royal assembly….
The story continues here. Enjoy!
The story begins years ago, when I sprained my left ankle, really badly.
The chiropractor suggested I go to the physical therapy supply store and buy a wobble board. The idea was to step side-to-side on this miniature see-saw, a wooden plank perched upon a cylinder, strengthening the tendons in the ankle I had damaged.
Reluctant to pay the high-end price for this gizmo, I stepped into the nearest toy store and found a toy balance board brightly colored in blue and red, complete with a built-in maze game, actually a simple labyrinth.
The Woman’s Belly Book describes how labyrinths relate to the body’s center, the belly’s center:
The labyrinth defines a path into and out from center. As a sacred symbol, it maps a journey from the everyday world to the secret core of existence. It charts a path to the World Navel, the point through which the life force emerges to revitalize the world.
From ancient times, cultures throughout the world from the Arctic to Africa have made labyrinths in a variety of designs. The labyrinth appears on cave walls, stone slabs, grave markers, pottery, coins, and the bellies of clay figurines…. Although many associations accompany the design, in some traditions the labyrinth clearly signifies a woman’s belly. The path through the pattern traces the soul’s return to the womb and its emergence in rebirth.
I recently took my balance board out of its box to exercise my ankles and keep them flexible. Stepping side to side, I tried getting the game’s yellow ball from the labyrinth’s outer channel into the center. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t do it. Swishing as it spun, the ball swung around too fast for me to maneuver it through the narrow gateway into the next inner circle.
So I gave up and just played around with initiating the side-to-side motion with different parts of my body: feet, knees, hips, shoulders. Left, right; left, right.
Left, right; left, right: Initiating the movement with my hips made the motion smooth, almost effortless.
Eventually, I no longer heard the sound of the yellow ball circling around. I looked down and saw the sphere had come to rest in the labyrinth’s center. With absolutely no effort on my part.
A hole in one, so to speak. What are the chances?
Left hip, right hip: Marking the endpoints — the extremes, the opposites — locates the center.
For reasons I’ll tell you another time, I’ve been studying French. But for now, I’ll tell you this: The first meaning of balancer in French is “to swing.”
To swing between left and right. Between this and that. To be the and linking the extremes, to embrace the opposites as complements. To be the whole in one.
As Rainer Maria Rilke has written, translated by Robert Bly in The Winged Energy of Delight:
Take your well disciplined strengths
and stretch them between two
opposing poles. Because inside human beings
is where God learns.
Winter Solstice and Christmas stories are all about birthing: the light returns, the divine becomes human.
Before I continue about Magdalene, Mary, and birth-giving, ending with a prayer for us all, here are four versions of my season’s greetings card for you (including one in French), images celebrating embodiment. Clicking on each thumbnail will take you to a larger display.
The stories surrounding Mary and Magdalene present different versions of birth-giving: one virginal, the other not so much.
Mary’s miracle-style birth-giving is well-reported and classically virginal. Some suggest that spiritually adept women have, through time, prepared themselves to birth parthenogenetically — no male consort required — in order to bring an avatar, a world-changing holy person, into being.
Magdalene’s woman-style birth-giving, Jesus having been her consort, has long been hushed, largely relegated to fiction — yet legends continue in the south of France, Margaret Starbird‘s The Woman with the Alabaster Jar, and Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.
Such legends contend that Magdalene gave birth to Sarah, also known as Sara-la-Kali. The Roma (gypsies) recognize Sarah as their patron saint. Making a yearly pilgrimage to the coastal Saintes-Maries-de-la Mer (Saints Marys of the Sea), they celebrate Sarah’s arrival by boat from Jerusalem.
Sarah arrived with a number of refugees, said to include Mary Magdalene, Mary Jacobe, and Mary Salome; one of the site’s original names is la Ville-des-Trois-Maries (the City of the Three Marys).
Three Marys. I feel such a resonance with the significance of three. Do you? It’s archetypal. I have the sense that something — one or two someones — is missing from the Christmas story as it’s so often told.
Some suggest that the Egyptian story of Isis, Osiris, and Horus presents a parallel to the Christmas story. Briefly, in one of many versions, Isis is sister, wife, and mother to Osiris.
A vengeful rival murders Osiris, cuts his body into pieces, scatters the fragments. Isis gathers the fragments and pieces them together. Having re-membered her husband’s body, she impregnates herself. Giving birth to a child, Horus, she rebirths Osiris. Horus grows up to become Osiris and the cycle continues.
Isis, presented in mythic terms, is sister-wife-mother. She is three-in-one.
Who Lost the Marys?
The conventional Christmas story gives us only one Mary, the parthenogenetic mother Mary. Where are sister Mary and wife Mary?
I suspect that at least two cultural processes have cut them from the scene. One is literalization. One woman as sister and wife and mother? Eew. We really don’t want Oedipus Rex in a Santa Claus suit under the Christmas tree now, do we? We take our stories literally these days, losing the mythic meaning-by-metaphor.
The other is fragmentation and loss. We separate out aspects of the once-whole Great Goddess into distinct representations, then choose to keep some aspects and abandon others.
In this and every season, may we re-member our original wholeness. May we open to and embody the light that surrounds us. May we know ourselves as sacred beings.
Legend has it that, following the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene fled to southern France, spending the last years of her life in the sanctuary of Sainte Baume. Her relics are said to rest in a church in nearby Saint Maximin.
Whoever Mary Magdalene was in fact, whether she partnered with Jesus to birth a child, whatever her actual history, the idea of her heartens and strengthens me. For me, and perhaps for you too, she carries the energy of fierce compassion, fearless integrity. A woman interweaving spirit and matter, activating her body-centered power to manifest creation. A gutsy woman par excellence.
This sense of woman integrating heaven and earth, sheltering pro-creative power within her body’s center, may be as old as human consciousness.
Much of what we know about human origins comes to us from southern France, the prehistoric cave paintings and engravings discovered there. Our ancestors’ art, such as the Venus of Laussel, shows our original impulse to revere women and the center of women’s bodies.
Seventeen and one-half inches high, this ochre-stained limestone engraving dates back 25,000 years. Discovered in 1911 in the Dordogne, the engraving has been a central inspiration for The Woman’s Belly Book.
The Venus of Laussel brings forth a full-figured woman. She rests her left hand on her belly, perhaps pointing to her navel. Her head turns over her right shoulder; she’s looking at the horn she’s holding up in her right hand. Thirteen lines scratch the horn’s surface.
Who knows what the sculptors had in mind and heart when they carved out this figure? Who knows what they meant their work to signify?
As I see her, this figure is using her arms and hands to link her belly with the calculation, the calendar, which is the horn she is holding.
The horn’s crescent shape reprises a phase of the moon. With a count of thirteen marks on the horn, the engraving as a whole may be noting the year’s thirteen lunar months as well as women’s annual round of thirteen menstrual cycles.
In effect, this engraving presents the cycles implicit in a woman’s body in relation to the cycles marked by celestial bodies.
More precisely, it presents not only a relationship but also a directionality. With the figure’s head turned toward the horn as one hand remains on her belly, the engraving suggests a directional flow of attention and influence from belly to horn. In this way, it suggests that a generative force flows from the pro-creative power abiding within a woman’s belly to the measured process of time and space in the manifest world.
In southern France, figures such as the Venus of Laussel reveal our ancestors’ appreciation for the pro-creative potency of women’s bodies. Legends and sacred sites rooted there also give us ground for celebrating Mary Magdalene and the provocative inspiration she provides.
The Venus of Laussel, the presence of Mary Magdalene: is one so very different from the other?
After all, what happens when you advocate the state-sanctioned rape of potentially every woman of child-bearing age in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia?
You’re offending quite a few women and our wombs. As maven of The Woman’s Belly Book, I need to look into this.
Here’s the thing: Former governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell has been convicted on eleven counts of public corruption. A jury of seven men and five women found him guilty of exchanging political favors for personal gain.
During the trial, a tawdry picture of the McDonnell family’s mischief emerged. Mischief that in no way matches the Christian family values that McDonnell has been so fond of trumpeting.
On January 6, 2015 McDonnell goes to federal court for sentencing. The maximum prison term for each of the eleven charges is 20 years.
That’s the upshot of the U.S. District Attorney’s probe into McDonnell’s behavior as governor. But there’s another probe winding through this story.
The transvaginal probe.
While he was governor, McDonnell championed a bill that would have required transvaginal probes into women seeking abortions.
McDonnell was all for imposing state-sanctioned medicalized rape … until his advisors pointed out some of the legal implications.
The legislature ended up changing the required ultrasound from internal transvaginal to external abdominal. Commenting on the change, McDonnell seemed to both endorse and regret it:
[W]hat I recommended to the General Assembly, and they adopted the other day, is let’s make the requirement for the abdominal ultrasound…. I also got legal advice from various people, including my Attorney General, that these kinds of mandatory invasive requirements might run afoul of Fourth Amendment law. …But I was certainly supportive of that concept.
The purpose of requiring these ultrasounds, proponents say, is to assure women are giving their informed consent to ending a pregnancy. Yet research reliably documents that seeing an ultrasound does not alter a woman’s choice for an abortion. Imposing the ultrasound only increases the price of the procedure.
Before becoming governor, McDonnell was Virginia’s Attorney General. How could an Attorney General be so vague about the Fourth Amendment, the Constitutional protection we citizens enjoy against government’s unreasonable search and seizure? Why did he need advising that these “mandatory invasive requirements” would be illegal?
After all, he’s a lawyer.
Really? Yes. He earned his law degree — listen to this — at Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network University, rebranded in 1989 as Regent University.
The blatant irony within this series of events, this scandal, this hypocrisy is in no way satisfying. It’s heart-breaking, gut-wrenching.
Bob McDonnell is not the only politician who has been pushing the transvaginal probe. Across the nation, some politicos are so greedy for power that they’ll flatter their ambitions by poking up into women’s vaginas uninvited.
All I can say is: Watch out. That probe may wreak a revenge of its own.