Winter Solstice: Mary, Mother Earth, and the Stories that We Tell

In the end, all we have is nature.

My teacher offered this wisdom during my healing class a few weeks ago, and only by going in the opposite direction, by dipping into myth and stories and ideas have I begun to understand the profundity of this statement.

I was blessed with the most incredible, nourishing Winter Solstice I could have possibly prayed for. The snow continued to fall while the Christmas lights glowed all day in the cozy house. I had the luxury of spending hours in my sacred little room: lighting my Advent candles, meditating, drawing, writing, discovering new territory in the realm of spirit.

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This December has offered me previously unimagined insight into the power of both the Solstice and Christmas.

For some time now, I have been experiencing visions of Mary. In them, she tells me that she is not just that silent, blue veiled vessel with the alabaster brow. She is the Mother who carried the weight of the world between her hips and who gave birth to a God. She is not some distant creature to be locked up in churches. She is a vital ally, a friend to all life. Mary is the supreme realization of the Divine Feminine.

Never before would I allow myself to get close to Jesus’s mom. A girl who got tangled up in all that Biblical stuff just because she was passively filled with angel dust? Not my style. Instead, I sought the Goddess in myth and legend, rock formations and prehistoric art. The statues of the blessed virgin that graced the churches I passed were just dull marble decorations that helped other kinds of people through their day.

But Mary has been insistent, and I realize how foolish I have been to refuse her. I now allow myself to drink deep her story.

Two phenomenal posts that I came across today, both based on today’s Gospel reading about the Annunciation, opened new doors of understanding for me: Christine at Abbey of the Arts and a blog that’s new to me, Magdalene’s Musings.

The more deeply I fall into the stories of the Annunciation and Jesus’s birth, the more overcome I am by their power. Suddenly it makes sense that these events would form the basis of a faith that endures 2,000 years later.

At the same time, my understanding of these miraculous moments is colored by the new “relationship” that I have with Mary herself. As she becomes something other than an iconic character for me, and instead emerges as a face of the feminine aspect of God, I realize how the stories that bind her to history are just that: stories.dsc01518

The time I spent soaking in Paganism and Celtic magic left me with a strong understanding of the way the Church strategically scheduled Christmas to coincide with a holiday as old as the earth itself: the celebration of sun’s return around December 21. The overlapping events and the connections between them are becoming increasingly clear to me:

The earth is tilting back on its axis so that the sun shines longer in the sky each day.

Mother Earth is offering up her Child, the Sun.

The Feminine Divine is making way in order to give us the Divine in human form.

Mary gives birth to the infant Jesus in a manger.

When I fully realize that the nativity story is not about shepherds and stars, but is instead a beautiful allegory for the cycles of the seasons, I arrive on a new plane of respect for Christianity and for all of nature. The interconnectedness of humanity’s stories with the basic laws of this earth make me stop and allow tears to fill my eyes for the incredible beauty we are all permitted to be a part of.

Did those events in Bethlehem really happen? I would not deny it. And if they did, I believe it was because God knew humanity needed to watch the power of his love enacted in human form. The passing of the seasons and the miracle of the earth’s rebirth of the seasons is too abstract a miracle for us to understand. What genius and power, to give us these holy beings, Mary and Jesus, to guide our story-loving souls.

solstice sun setI stood outside as the sun set on this shortest day, and I understood completely that the only sure thing is the natural world. The ideas, the living beings, the manufactured things, they will all fade away. Only the mountains and the seas, the sun and the moon will remain.

But still, I know I feel more connected to God and to the rest of this beautiful world better by holding in my heart these stories that we tell.

Tearing the Dress Off the Divine

To talk about Wise Woman Working is a bold thing. It’s about unifying the stuff that we know we ought to know and the daily, lived practice of putting such ideas into action. It’s about living with a sense of discipline that keeps us from sliding back into pettiness, despair, and ego driven defensiveness. At the same time, it is about living with a profound sense of compassion for our own frailties and those of the ones we love, and so often, the ones that we believe it impossible to love. Nothing I am talking about is a great departure from what we have all heard before in church or from a bag of Yogi Tea or a book by Caroline Myss or Eckhart Tolle.

Poised at the beginning this enterprise, I do not want to fall victim to losing track of Wisdom before I even have a chance to dip a foot into her still pool. I definitely do not think that wisdom is strictly a woman’s realm, and even if the face of the Divine that I am most likely to understand is marked by great goddesses and soft bellies and nurturing breasts I recognize that I should widen my stock of metaphors to encompass the masculine as well.

I call it Wise Woman Working for many reasons: my need to shroud language in as much poetry as possible (Wise Person Working sounds awkward); my sense of being human is completely influenced by my having two X chromosomes; and my renewed sense of respect for the Divine Feminine as a particular aspect of the One. My need to find “The Goddess” as I fled from the Catholicism of my childhood lead me to identify exclusively with the feminine expression of the creator. In addition to missing some essential parts of spiritual experience, this left me in a place of confused narcissism as I found myself in the thrall of people who peddled self-help pablum that equated woman with goddess and left out all of the vital bits about humility and service and cultivating awareness.

When I was finally able to tear the dress off the Divine I was able to reenter a relationship with Catholicism and Christianity. I can begin to welcome visions of Mary because I can separate her from my objections to patriarchal oppression. Now, I can find empowerment in specifically womanish images, but I believe that much of their potency comes from the play of opposites between feminine and masculine.

The claws of my college feminism have dulled and I am a much less fervent guardian of some mythical woman club. I hope that as I have redefined the nature of the feminine in matters of the spirit, the feminine can be re-envisioned in the pursuit of being awake to this world. Call this path what you will, I can only dream that it can resonate for all people, regardless of gender.