Impressions of Julie Loar’s Goddesses for Everyday
by Ted Denmark
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This delightful new early 2011 edition from New World Library of Goddesses for Everyday by southern Colorado writer, lecturer, astrologer and tour-guide Julie Loar, may be the most engaging and well-written book on ancient goddess wisdom and lore (she is aptly named) you will ever find, even if you have been previously deflected from the subject or didn’t think you were really interested in something this “airy-fairy” or theologically suspect. It is a “day book” that associates and encapsulates a goddess description from the cross-cultural annals of mostly ancient world history, a page for each day, based on the author’s seasoned understanding and sense of the cyclic flow of the year—a kind of astrological mandala of lovely, fascinating and perhaps forbidding goddess figures, some familiar and some obscure, and a piquant taste of the essential archetypal meaning they held in their day and time, telegraphed to benefit a more contemporary awareness and understanding befitting our modern fractured world … that mostly does not have much (any?) real goddess awareness, Hollywood and royal families not withstanding.
. Julie as Hera
The basic organizational concept is innovative and brilliant; the material is rich and evocative and the follow-through maintains its continuous well-written tempo and does not disappoint. That, at least, is my conclusion after keeping this handbook, attractive in size and appearance, on my main reading table for the last six months or so … and reading the goddess portrait each morning with breakfast—a far less dreary way to start the day than with the latest “lamestream” newscast. This book may appeal more to women than men, perhaps, initially in a “feminist” way to help rehabilitate the gender discount given contemporary women in a world still mostly customized for a more masculine style of individuality and achievement. But it would be a foolish man who has no interest in this subject since it is so much his natural alter ego as well as the heart of the female existence in the world that he will likely seek to navigate and complement at some stage along life’s way. If he has ever wondered in the inner sanctum of his mind, “What does woman want?” This would be the place to get a very good graduate level course outline on the subject.
Women, of course, will learn a lot more about what they might want or seek as well, based upon the archetypal aspirations of their female forebears from misty past aeons of human cultures spread far and wide. But who were these goddesses, anyway? That is the assigned question for any thoughtful person emerging from the undertow of the familiar masculine-deity religions, based on legendary “creator gods,” whose beliefs appear to have sprung solely from the heads of dueling (male) prophets, apostles, prelates and theologians from the dawn of recorded history, with hardly a supporting female saint or martyr to be found … who is not suspect. In many ways it is the sad saga of a barbarian planet whose often troubled history has perhaps mostly been hammered out through the ages in a weary and frustrated struggle for existence and sustenance in a hostile world, requiring the true grit of masculine dominance—or so we or “they” may think. Whether it only remains for this same looped theme to continuously and relentlessly play out in our contemporary world with increasingly destructive high-tech weapons of war, remains to be seen—and currently, it is not looking so good, as you have probably noticed. We can only hope the feminine spirit, more naturally inclined to loving understanding, can eventually lift us to a higher level of our now world-class cultural conflicts.
The earliest entry I can remember reading with interest and serious attentiveness as I dipped into Goddesses was that for November 29th: Pandora, with keyword “Possibilities.” We can quickly note the recent appropriation of this archetype for the blockbuster 3D sci-fi movie Avatar as the name of the planet on which the elusive element “Unobtainium” was to be mined (from the sublime to the silly), with all its unexpected consequences. As Julie tells us, “[Pandora] was also an ancient title of the Cretan Goddess Rhea, whose body was seen to provide sustenance to all creatures.” Indeed, as she relates, Hesiod tells us that Pandora was the first mortal woman sent to Earth as punishment by no less than Zeus himself for Prometheus’ theft of godly fire for the benefit of humanity. “She was very beautiful, but her hidden mission was to bring misery to the human race.” Sound familiar? Ah, the tracks of misogyny run deep and wide, even in ancient Greece, where enlightened denizens strove so hard to distinguish themselves from neighboring barbarian hordes.
Here, Julie’s sympathetic insight and scholarship come to aid our unavoidable confusion about myth as she provides the link for this story to still earlier mythic remnants:
In earlier myths, Pandora was married to Prometheus, and she dispensed only good gifts to humanity. The identification of the box was a mistake in translation. The container was really a honey jar, a pithos, that poured sweet blessings upon the world. The pithos was an earthen vessel, suggesting that Pandora was the earth itself, offering all good gifts to her children. Blaming all the world’s ills on female curiosity was a late invention of Greek myth, and her story bears resemblance to that of Eve, who was blamed for all the sins of humanity.
And even if you may have gained a moderately literate base in traditional Western culture, the schematic meaning of whom or what, for example, an encountered “Cassandra” reference might be … could easily have escaped you. Julie Loar’s entry for December 20 on Cassandra, keyword “Foreshadowing,” would likely quickly provide the notion of this archetypal Greek story—almost a female version of the more generic “boy who cried wolf,” i.e., someone who is not believed, even when they are telling the truth. We, in our modern guise, often do not retain these old stories that were the morality tales and poetic toasts of centuries past, since we have so much additional, and likely more immediately relevant, information and knowledge to maintain, so a careful and authoritative summary guide to mythic stories that uncovers the often hopelessly alloyed layers, becomes the essential tutorial.
For my part, as someone with one foot in science and one foot tentatively in the “humanities,” I never really quite got the distinction, for example, among many others, between the Titans and the Olympians, and Goddesses greatly helps us sort them out in their various guises, mostly from the point of view of female genealogy, surely the most natural approach. Whoever we may think these gods and goddesses were, we will at least find the trail of breadcrumbs here to come closer to the territory of these puzzling personages. Such is the case for Hekate, chosen for December 22, very close to the Winter Solstice, whose watch word is “Convergence,” currently one of my own favorite terms favoring wider use. She is the daughter of Titans Asteria and Perses, “… both symbols of scintillating light,” not unlike Winter Solstice candles. The Titans appear to have been the more ancient gods of the ancient world itself, something Webster’s does not so easily deign to acknowledge. But this story tends to diffuse out into the dark Saturnalia of this underworld goddess as expected.
We might also benefit from getting some shorthand on the sometimes inscrutable Hindu Pantheon from our tour-guide author. Julie assigns Kali Ma, the Dark Mother (key word = Resurrection), to the last day of the year, who, though beloved, is “… complex and can be frightening at first glance, when we see her wearing a necklace of fifty-two skulls, holding a severed head, and dancing on the corpse of her consort, Shiva, the Destroyer. Kali is both womb and tomb, reveling in the eternal dance of transformation. She also represents the death of the ego …” But as the last word of the emblematic “Contemplation” for this page—a wisdom distillation following each goddess story thoughtfully composed by Julie—states, to finally bring it back into focus, “Death is an illusion. The form dissolves, but life is eternal, and tomorrow we are born again.”
Was there ever a Goddess who uniquely and monotheistically held center stage as a true “universal” deity the way “God” does in the Abrahamic faiths? The Etruscan Uni may have been such a “One” (key word = Wholeness): “the one who contains everything and is the source for all.” Julie also tells us that, “Uni, her husband and their son formed a great trinity.” Wow (!), this so little used trinitarian archetype of male, female and offspring, is so natural, so obvious and … so little used. Why? The Christian theologians had to wave their arms mightily to come up with an all masculine trinity (I’m not so sure about the “Holy Spirit” whatever that was, and they fought over it for many centuries). This sky goddess also hurled thunderbolts (unlike her husband who is not named) as well as gave blessings on the occasions of new births. Julie can’t restrain herself here from mentioning that scholars have noted that Uni sounds like yoni, the Hindu term for the female sexual and birth canal, which by way of the Beatles, adds an echo chorus, “… now we know how many holes (= Wholeness = holiness?) it takes to fill the Albert Hall” (Smiley safe territory).
Egypt, as well, has become quite familiar to students of Western civilization, again almost too much so, even if we never quite got the appropriate details straight—unless we are cultural specialists—as is Julie with Egypt. But it is all very complicated, again creating a basic need for a book of this kind to sort the essential relevant ideas in a clear and simple way, while holding back some of the layers that have become overgrown. So, if were ever inclined to pronounce the Egyptian goddess Nut (Awakening), like the “nut” that we might have had in our breakfast cereal, then this is the book to help our verbal literacy quotient (“noot”), for she was none other than the mother of Isis and Osiris (!) and the unimaginably vast stellar Milky Way. And then there is Tefnut (“tef-noot,” March 20 with keyword, Vision), which in ignorant humor I might have flash associated with Brazil nuts, the “tough nut” even for my mechanical nut cracker. This lady deity was associated with the left eye night vision of the sun god Ra and the Uraes cobra symbol worn on the brow of royalty. And they are also not to be confused with Mut (“moot” with keyword, Return) another Egyptian goddess assigned to May 17 in the book as “ Mother of the Sun, in Whom He Rises.” Mut took the form of a sacred celestial cow and in this role was Queen of Heaven.” … no wonder we were confused.
Not all names will have been previously registered on the reader, if they even seem pronounceable, such as “Ha Hai-I Wuthi,” the “Pour Water Woman” of the Hopi, the mother of the now famous and colorful katsina dancers of Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks, looming to the south of Hopi land. Fortunately Julie provides a key to pronunciation, “hah high-ee WOO-thee,” (shades of Hiawatha), as well as its looming key word, Consciousness. She has obviously also well assimilated this cultural inheritance from the great American Southwest as she renders the Native American mother goddess Water Bearer in its most appropriate astrology sign Aquarius for February 3rd.
As we read through the days, we will encounter numerous unfamiliar divine ladies with their sacred traditions in cultures from Hopi land, to Scandinavia, the Celtic lands, Russia, China, and Iran as well as the much better known figures from Greece and Egypt. Not to leave out another Mediterranean source of images very familiar to westerners, Rome—so much like our modern American culture now—provides numerous well-known images of female dominion and circumstance, such as Psyche, key-worded as “Soul Mates” and assigned to our beloved Valentines Day. Julie’s labor of love for this page is quite evident as she introduces the related characters (Cupid and Venus) that go with the story of Psyche’s extraordinary female beauty as she clarifies and interprets the relationship between the principals as well as that between romantic and spiritual love—heart and soul. Probably there is little more meaningful and “sacred” in the lives of modern secular people than this perennial favorite, even if the over-precious cupid cherubs have become so caricatured. But it is just this sort of one-sided and clichéd excess that Goddesses begins to rescue us from here, which is so needed.
Julie creates a wonderful page for Kwan Yin (February 19, “Compassion”), in which the related Sanskrit root word karuna is rendered as “… a state of intense connection to others in which we feel their sorrows or joys as if they were our own.” She goes on to list the various names of the compassionate lady in numerous Buddhist cultures, as well as the similar symbolic images associating her with the Christian Virgin Mary, evoking a deep archetypal theme that transcends time, tradition and culture.
One of the most subtle and ambiguous concepts of eastern philosophy is that of Maya, and here (March 1, “Illusion”) we find this inscrutable teaching linked to the enchanting goddess figure with the same name, presented in one of Julie’s best pages that bears multiple reads as we attempt to come to terms with this wistful notion.
She is … Mother of Creation and Weaver of the Web of Life. Although the word maya is generally translated as “illusion,” Maya represents the continual exchange of matter and energy, and she is the embodiment of Einstein’s famous equation E=MC2. She embodies the quantum reality that connects all life … Illusion is not the same as deception, and her deeper lesson is that we may choose to identify with our ego and our impermanent lives, or to understand that forms are fleeting and that we are souls moving through eternity.
And then to close this moving and momentous page with a contemplation—usually of her own casting—but here quoting Buddhist scripture cited by Joseph Campbell in a most telling line: “Of all the forms of Maya, woman is the most important.” It is perhaps the summary statement for the book itself (!).
One of the first goddess date assignments I looked up, when I first acquired the book, doubtless like many others whose hands the book will fall into, was that of my own birthday, March 2. This would be Amphrite (“am-FRI-tee,” Making Waves), a name I had heard but with little recollection of circumstance. It turns out that this ancient goddess of the sea was “among the chief goddesses in archaic sources” in the Mediterranean cultural basin and according to Julie, “Later Greek myth diminished her by assigning her the role of wife of Poseidon, who married her in order to become god of the sea.” And here we find the notion that the “hero’s journey,” so closely associated with eminent scholar Joseph Campbell, cannot be completed until he becomes bonded to the goddess and transformed … in his arc to become a god. And in the follow-through, as so often happens, sadly enough, the most naturally feminine element, water, becomes assimilated to masculine prerogative.
Then in often wet and stormy Pisces we find Viviane, the “Lady of the Lake” from Celtic lore (March 13) with a bit more detail about this mysterious Arthurian figure who gave the legendary sword Excalibur to her king and tricked Merlin to prolong his mentoring interest—a story given abundant coverage in our modern mythic outlet … of movies. And in a name that I had associated with Japanese culture (more movies), I was surprised to find that Ran (Undercurrents, March 14) was a Scandinavian goddess of the ocean, AKA “Queen of the Drowned,” who was said to love gold, leading sailors of the Viking era to carry a gold coin in case they were swept overboard … so they could quickly be admitted to Paradise.
The list of Aries goddesses is quite rich and varied: Eostre (a Germanic goddess related to the Christian Easter appropriation), the familiar and haunting Persephone figure, Nike (much more than victorious running shoes), Sumerian Inanna, even Joan of Arc, assigned the crucial keyword of Faith—Julie cites the case for a historical woman becoming a goddess through a saga of church conflict and betrayal, which much later is resolved through redemption and canonization. There are some other really troubled and tragic stories here, too: Nemesis, Eris and Medea; all from the enduring small number of essential stories, the “movies” of the ancient oral tradition that have been preserved, well crafted and newly presented in astrological relief by an interpreter well versed and conversant with both realms.
The Taurus chapter leads off with Green Tara (Growth) and then Gaia (Creativity) with quite a lovely series of fertility goddesses suitable for the heart of Spring: Lakshmi, Pomona, Callisto, Cybele, Prakriti, and the White buffalo Calf Woman. Gemini has its own appropriately appealing cast of characters. If you don’t already know them or of them (and many others, a bit, or a lot, more obscure), this is the place to meet them and begin to feel their draw upon your state of mind and feelings, particularly during the season itself, probably the best way to read and use this book. It will take you a year to read it this way, but you will be happy every day of the way, to find this highly appealing volume in either your favorite clean, well-lighted place, most private retreat or outdoor summer reading table—your book bag will love it and so will you if you can begin to allow this projection of kaleidoscopic images to play on your mood and attitude.
To close on a bit more personal if somewhat enigmatic note … My own idea is that this interest in mythic gods and goddesses—this “goddess discovery” theme that Julie Loar has enlivened so well for us—is now dawning again on our world and will have powerful consequences as a precursor for Earthumans … someday—how soon remains uncertain. It would lead too far afield to leave anything more than a hint here (can you say, “real superhuman ETs?”), but I have become increasingly aware, on my own path, of a “transcendent realm,” where such as “real gods and goddesses” exist, confirming experiences as fabulous as any of the mythic scenarios presented here. So I must try to reveal something of the breakthrough attitude of a witness with a now better understanding that the past is not really “over and gone,” that the god and goddess distillation we have in scant remains of ancient fables, will … and in fact already has, returned and will eventually confound our mundane expectations. Watchword … the Creation will provide the love-wisdom nature in Its (Her) own way and has no need to be in a hurry, even if for our own personal benefit, it might behoove us not to dawdle too long with the same old worn-out dysfunctional God-squad sectarian fantasies, now increasingly fading away.
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Dowd’s Hill at Avery
[original text, 6/10/2011, final edits 9/28/2017]