By Chakka Reeves
Representation matters. People who are systematically ignored, marginalized or otherwise left voiceless know the importance of seeing complex, nuanced and full images of ourselves in media. Being represented externally is an important factor in how we shape our identities, especially when we are in the earlier stages of identity development. Another important, though less discussed aspect of representation is how we appear internally and spiritually. Lately, I’ve been on a personal quest to answer the question: What does spiritual representation look like for women who are raised in monotheistic traditions, in which God and all of God's prophets are male?
While conducting research of feminine-centered spirituality, I quickly learned that if I was looking up goddesses and earth-based spirituality, I would come across terms such as “pagan/neo-pagan” and “witch.” I paused, and started to think about the negative connotations that these words have in western culture. When I dressed up as a witch for my first Halloween party at the age of five, I did not put on a jersey cotton-knit maxi dress, put flowers in my hair and arm myself with healing crystals and herbs. I had a pointy hat, a black cloak, darkly rimmed eyes, penciled-in frown lines and my natural, blown-out hair was sprayed with green hair paint.
Although I wanted to keep an open mind, my fear kicked in. Being raised Christian, there were a lot of great things that I associated with being a part of this faith community. There were also a lot of negative things that faith leaders told me about non-Christians in general, especially pagans. I wondered if the desire to see myself in my spirituality would lead me to a place that might not honor how I grew up, or even myself.
A book that helped me reconcile this conflict was “The Goddess Path” by the late Patricia Monaghan. Two aspects of the book that helped guide my journey were these:
1) Goddesses are culturally specific, and one should approach the study of a goddess or a group of goddesses with respect and without appropriation. Be mindful of your motivation to pursue a certain course of goddess study. In other words, goddesses aren’t like Pokémon. We may study and honor them, but the objective is not to collect them all. For example, as much as I may vibe with and honor Greek goddesses like Hera, Artemis and Athena, goddesses that represent my West African lineage, such as the female Orishas of the Yoruba tradition- Yemoya, Oba, Osun, and Oya- represent a more genuine path to study and potentially, to observe. This is in contrast to how monotheistic religions operate, particularly Christianity and Islam, which encourage having as many adherents across cultures as possible.
2) God can be viewed as being outside of us, within us, or both. We can see this polarity in how western traditions think of God as being a male figure above us (Heavenly Father), and the earth as being a feminine figure underneath us (Mother Earth). When incorporating the divine feminine into your life for the first time, it helps to not think of it as giving the representation of divinity that you grew up with a sex change. Rather, the divine feminine works in harmony with masculine divinity, and both work best when they are in balance with each other.
We can think of the polarity of feminine and masculine as it is represented in the Yin and Yang symbol of the Taoist tradition. Ying representing the feminine and yang representing the masculine. Traits often attributed to the feminine include: passivity, intuition, submission and compassion. Traits attributed to the masculine include: aggression, action, analytical thinking and domination.
I realized that many of the things that the women I love and honor did and do were in themselves a way of honoring the divine feminine, activities and behaviors that are revered and encouraged in most cultures and religions.
The following are ways to honor the divine feminine in your everyday life that transcend faith and culture:
Join or start a new moon circle with like-minded women. The website Mysticmamma.com has a great guide to starting and planning a new moon circle. This embodies the feminine need for connection and community.
Take up a craft that uses your hands, such as preparing food, sewing, knitting, scrapbooking or jewelry making. Not only are you honoring the creative aspect that is inherent to feminine energy, research shows that manual activities are beneficial to mental health. Yes, even though typing on a keyboard is technically “manual,” step away from your computer for this one and get all of your senses involved.
Practice allowing. Whether you call it the Law of Attraction, manifesting or creating magic, get into your feminine energy by practicing submission and passivity when it comes to things that you desire. This is one of those areas that calls for a balance of both masculine and feminine in order to work. Hard work and strenuous mental and physical effort to accomplish a goal is an idea that we are culturally very comfortable with, and one of the biggest critiques of the Law of Attraction is that it advocates a passive approach to achieving desires and goals. The masculine energy propels us to take direct action to achieve, and the feminine energy is needed in order to stay detached from outcomes, listen to our inner voice, and be aware of opportunities when they are presented to us. If your goal is a destination, think of the feminine as a map, and the masculine as a car. You need both to get to where you want to go.
Move. Dance, yoga, tai chi, any movement that is non-competitive will conjure and welcome feminine energy into your being. This will also activate your sacral chakra, which is connected to creativity, sex, passion and pleasure.-Meditate. A regular meditation practice can increase our compassion for others. Creating a space for silence also helps to strengthen our intuition.
Ask for help. From men, from women. From the female ancestors who watch over us now. Form a practice of asking and receiving.
Practice loving someone without condition. Forgive and see each person you encounter as a mirror, reflecting either an area of yourself that is growing, or that needs attention.
If I were to list my spiritual status in a personal ad, it would read “Single Black Female seeking divinity in both the external and internal worlds.” I call on my intuition while trusting God/the Source/the Universe to provide me with everything that I don’t block by lacking faith. I meditate and pray. I read the Bible and say affirmations. Similarly to how I want my external representations to be expansive and complete, I want my spiritual life to be the same way.
Chakka Reeves is a writer, educator, filmmaker and media nerd. Primarily, she is the writer and editor of Freedomreeves.com an online publication that looks at the intersections of identity and media. She has also written for Clutch Magazine and TheRoot.com. As the daughter of an expert cook and home economics teacher, wellness through nutrition has always been a part of her life. Emotional wellness became her passion in college, as she studied Psychology in part to gain an understanding of her own struggles with depression and relationships. Currently, her path includes seeking spiritual wellness and cultivating a community that appreciates feminine energy as a necessary and balancing force in the world. Chakka believes that black women intuitively understand the importance of this force, however, this energy has been pathologized by the Western/European world in which we now find ourselves.