In Her Image: Manufacturing the Dark Goddess

Humanity has a tendency to create Deity in its own image. We make it what we need it to be to suit our current situation. While spirituality is an instinctively personal experience, and many times personifying Deity can be a valued way to connect, therein lies problems when we forget that nothing is ever really that cut and dry. Especially with a deity as multifaceted as the Great Goddess.

There is a trend among some individuals to use Goddess as a crutch. There are those who choose to work exclusively with personal interpretations of “dark” Goddesses as a way of justifying their harmful actions. It’s almost as though they create a Goddess they believe will carry their banner of anger and allow them to be a jerk for the simple sake of being a jerk. They believe the Goddess hates Christians, men, etc. because they need her to hate them in order to feel righteous.

It’s easy to get lost in a theology that seems to have no hard and fast rules. In Goddess Religion and most of Modern Paganism morality is a very touchy, hotly debated subject most often left up to the individual. There are no commandments, no laws save one. Do no harm.

Self responsibility is a key lesson of the Goddess in general. Everyone is going to cause some amount of harm in their lives. The ability to accept the injury we cause, deal with the consequences, and learn from our experiences is not always so effortless. It’s much easier to create a personal image of Deity that makes us feel better about the choices we’ve made.

Creating Goddess as we see fit in order to validate destructive behavior or misguided beliefs simply shrugs off personal responsibility, much like an oil slick slipping off the hull of a ship. It’s not okay to cause damage simply because we’ve manufactured an image of Goddess that would raise her fist in support of our self-righteous indulgences. She will never stand idly by while we pollute ourselves and the world around us with pain. Karma will inevitably be knocking at the proverbial front door.

Perhaps if there is such a thing as sin, it exists only in the moments when we hurt another. Of course, as was already said, nothing is ever that cut and dry. Some moral concepts are open to debate, with various shades of grey perceptions. Others still are more or less black and white.

It’s difficult to discuss morality as an idea without falling back into the concepts of “right” and “wrong”. While many of us might be trying to escape such polarities, and the polar thought processes that come along with them, it’s nearly impossible to exist in a society without identifying what is considered right and what is considered wrong. On the path of the Goddess these ideas are not determined by society, but by the natural laws of the Goddess. The oneness of the Goddess, being that she is inherently balanced, calls for everything in nature to be in balance as well. As human beings we are no more removed from nature than the tree outside our windows. Even though we may presume to be “civilized” or better than our wild animal kin, we are still of nature and subject to Her laws.

Adultery, as an example of a moral concept with various shades of grey, is not wrong because it leaves us destined to go to some make believe land of fire and torture after death. Nor is it wrong because sex is something to be ashamed of. It is wrong because promises are being broken and there is potential to cause great harm. Goddess doesn’t sneak into bedrooms at night, tip-toeing about the Berber carpet and peeking under the sheets to make sure it’s our spouse we’re sleeping with. She doesn’t care who we choose to share our bodies with so long as no one is getting burned in the wake of our passions.

Indeed our bodies belong to us alone and no one can be “owned” by another. And some people don’t believe in the trappings of marriage, but then why not just not be married? Imagining Goddess as a deity who agrees with sexual liberation and autonomy is one thing, but it is not within our rights to wound another individual without assuming there will be some consequences to deal with.

Then we have to beg the question of love. If you’re in a marriage and either you or your partner fall in love with someone else, is that wrong? Can love ever be wrong? Maybe in such a situation the best thing to do is to cause as little harm as possible while still following your heart. There may be some things that are just not up to us. In certain cases perhaps things are just meant to be. But it is helpful to remember that most matters still contain elements of choice.

Hating, as a black and white example, is wrong not because an old book tells us to love our neighbors. No matter who causes us injury and how unjust it is, hate fills the world with pain and anger like a nasty venereal virus. It’s infectious, destructive, and creates separation. No amount of deity-manufacturing will change that.

Now it’s not being proposed that we should sit around feeling bad for the harm we've caused throughout the course of our lives. It's useless to dwell in the past, wishing we could find the rewind button and make things different. We also shouldn't assume we are bad people by any stretch. Mistakes, accidents, poor choices, etc. are just a part of life. Without them what would there be to learn from? The point is to accept responsibility as opposed to using the Goddess to justify ourselves.

Things can get a bit sticky when we decide to bypass the qualities of Goddess that we merely find unpleasant or useless, be they of the light or dark variety. It's counterproductive to accept only her "light" qualities or only her "dark" qualities. She’s sort of a packaged deal and stripping her of any one of her innate qualities robs us of her full power and of our full potential as human beings.

Those who are healing from emotional wounds may logically choose to construe an image of Goddess who supports their feelings of being wronged; an image that somehow advocates the revenge brewing inside their hearts. In those cases a dark Goddess (created as a being who detests who we detest) may be a comforting shoulder to lean on and a protector in a daunting, painful world. She is created by our own ego to make us feel right without judging or questioning our motivations. She simply says “You’re righteous. You’re good. I’m here to support you and any harm you feel just in causing.” She allows us to say things like “I am mean to her because she hurt me” or “They deserve it”.

Is embracing a solely dark and vengeful image of Goddess, who picks and chooses which children to love over others, really the road to becoming a whole person? To healing on a soul level? Isn’t that image incomplete? Where is the loving Mother who teaches compassion for all life? Where is the Maiden with her lessons of personal freedom and choice? Where is the old Crone, full of experience and wisdom? Is it she who is hiding inside these personal and convoluted faces of the Dark Goddess?

Images of the Dark Goddess abound throughout time. Many of these dark portrayals are later additions to the pantheon of Female Divinity, contributed by patriarchal influences that wished to demonized the ancient Goddess and strip her of the captivating power she held over the people of the Earth. These patriarchal forces made the Goddess into a demented fear-monger who stole little children away and ate them for supper. All of the qualities that bring us closer to nature and thus to the Goddess were stripped away and turned into bogeymen and monsters.

The point was to make the Goddess something to be terrified of as opposed to something to accept and embrace. They misunderstood her powers of necessary destruction, her connection with the baseness of humanity, and the mysteries of death. They didn’t see that the darkness was a symbol for the forces in the universe that scare us; the unknown, the painful, the things we can’t control.

So why are we believing the hype? Why are we drinking the kool-aid of the patriarchal cults and grabbing a hold of the images they created as our own symbols of power, liberation, and justification? Is it purely to suit our personal agendas of being angry, wronged individuals driven by a self-righteous belief that we are owed something because life just isn’t fair? How does it help to imagine the Goddess as someone who punishes and detests those of her children who wrong the others? How does it help to think of her as a being that delights in the pain of "wrong-doers"? Isn't that the image of God we were trying to escape from in the first place when we chose to leave the war-god mentality behind in favor of the Goddess?

There is a difference between reclaiming a symbol for the purpose of liberation; taking that which was meant to frighten us or degrade us and turning it out onto the unjust systems who created it; and utilizing that symbol to enable injustice ourselves. One is an act of reclaiming personal power. The other is an act of vengeance.

The reality of the Dark Goddess is that she is at times that terrifying, ugly hag. She is not there to fuel our anger or justify the harm we cause, but to teach us of those things that are not often beautiful, that are sometimes unknowable, and that we are not always willing to embrace.

The Dark Goddess calls to us to understand the darkness of death and destruction and know that it is purposeful. She beckons us to look within ourselves, see those dark, scary shadows, and love them. She is the destroyer of egos, not a tool to be used to perpetuate our own secret darkness.

The Goddess is whole and complete, taking us by the hand in order to guide us to our own completion. Listen to all of her voices, gaze upon all of her faces. Only then can we truly know her and love her in her totality.


Picture courtesy of the BBC.

5 comments:

  1. Seriously good post, Lee.
    Love,
    Terri in Joburg

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  2. A really good post and lots of food for thought.

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  3. Thanks guys. I was sort of hoping I tackled it right. :) There are some touchy subjects in there.

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  4. A good post - not much more to say than that. I will certainly think about it

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  5. Thanks Brian. Congrats on your new blog. I'll be reading!

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