goddess spirituality, pagan

Why Goddess Spirituality Matters for Trauma Survivors

I want to consider the specific benefits those of us who are trauma survivors and who are interested in Goddess Spirituality may glean as we grow in our practice for this #SurvivingnThriving Tuesday. Some individuals, myself included, see Goddess Spirituality as their spiritual home in and of itself. Others incorporate aspects of it into their own religion or spiritual beliefs. I think there is something incredibly powerful and raw about seeking the Divine Feminine, practicing her rites and embodying her strength, love, compassion and wisdom.

Centered in the Body

For many people who practice Goddess Spirituality, one of the aspects of it that is vitally uplifting is the emphasis it places on our bodies. They are not viewed the seat of our sin or impurities, instead, they are the very source of our strength. Instead of molding them to fit society’s expectation for our weight, appearance or gender expression, we can define our own positive relationship with them. Female biological processes like menstruation and bearing children are elevated to spiritual acts. Death is not something to be feared or defeated; it is a passageway back into the Universe, back into the ether, with new beginnings just around the corner.

When we cease to be alienated from our bodies, when we connect with each cell and celebrate its connection to Source, we can shed so much struggle. I spent decades trying to conform my body into what it “should” look like and judged my behaviors as “good” or “bad.” I still categorize my actions as healthy or unhealthy at times, but the strict dichotomy with which I approached myself and others has diminished.

Non-Linear Thinking

Goddess Spirituality, at least as I practice it, allows for dialectics and contradictions, letting them blur rather than insisting on The Truth. This feels like a much more honest way to live my life and honors the traumatic past through which I struggled. Many of us with trauma histories were hurt by those who were supposed to love and protect us. The tender moments were interspersed with horrors. I think this is very difficult to resolve psychologically. We do not live in a just world where karma or action-consequence are clearly delineated.

I’ve gotten riled up when others have tried to paint the world as composed of people who are basically the same, just “flawed” in their own unique ways. There’s flawed and then there’s flawed. And still, I know that the people that harmed me are not completely evil 24/7. The sense of Goddess being, at the same time, triple in form, or revealing Herself through many myths and legends, none of which fully capture Her Essence, helps me release some of this struggle into the unknown, in the vastness of our collective consciousness, from which it returns to me in a new form with a new layer of understanding. The cycle, like the moon cycle, repeats.

Many Representations of Universal Love

Goddess shows Herself to us as we search to understand Her. Many of the individuals I know who practice Goddess Spirituality and/or paganism describe feeling called by a certain expression of Goddess Energy. I’m working my way towards this. I am continually energized each time I learn about another Goddess or another Divine Feminine practice. I do not think there is one way to “do” Goddess Spirituality, nor is there one representation which fully captures Source. Many Goddess myths include experiences that could easily be conceptualized as traumatic in nature, which may speak to survivors at different parts of his or her recovery.

Meaningful Ritual and Ceremony

Group ritual that celebrates Goddess is sometimes tied to female biological processes such as a girl’s first menstrual cycle or pregnancy. It can also be expanded to inner moments of transformation, such as when an individual chooses to dedicate himself or herself to a particular Deity or embarks on a new creative undertaking. Some individuals who practice Goddess Spirituality consider themselves Pagans and conduct ritual to mark the Pagan Wheel of the Year. I’m ambivalent about specific group ceremony directly related to healing for trauma survivors as I think there is a very high bar in terms of education, training, experience and safety for trauma survivors to benefit from this type of work.

One can also be a Solitary Practitioner of Goddess Spirituality. This is what I consider myself to me, although I do participate in some Pagan holiday celebrations. As a Solitary, I am able to fully tap into my creative energies to create healing spiritual practice. I also benefit from access to many online and written resources that I tailor to my specific situation. I intend to more fully flesh out specific rituals for healing from trauma that I can adapt to my own needs, again, I think this is best sought after a survivor has an established therapy relationship and sufficient support in place in order to avoid accidental re-traumatization.

Goddess Spirituality is a dynamic, growing practice and body of knowledge with ancient roots. Trauma survivors looking to incorporate it into their spiritual practice may find the rituals, Goddess representations, and thealogy inspiring. Please feel free to share how the two topics have been integrated into your experience.

goddess spirituality, pagan

Self-Growth and Exploration Through Oracle Cards

The first oracle cards are thought to have been created by Madame Lenormand in the 1800’s in France. Oracle decks contain fewer cards than Tarot decks. The artwork and images are often the central focus of the card. I like using them because I find them easy to interpret and because there are certain decks that I think are very positive and uplifting.

My intention here for #InnerWork Wednesday is to describe a few ways in which you can use oracle cards, as well as some topics to consider at a reading and specific layouts you can use. I am not a professional card reader, so please view this as informational only.

Styles of Use

Oracle cards can be used as a part of inner work, during a formal ritual, or as a source of daily inspiration. The layouts I’ve included would work best during inner work, but the “questions to ponder” section could be relevant during a daily card pull as well. If you are developing a formal ritual, you can incorporate a specific focus into your reading and record the results so that you can process them over time.

Questions to Ponder

Some questions you can ask yourself as you create your sacred space in which you will draw your cards:

  • What do I want to gain from today’s inner work?
  • Which spiritual need do I have right now that I’d like to address?
  • What’s my intuition telling me to consider?
  • How am I showing up in my life, and how can my inner work right now impact that?

Card Layouts for Hope and Inspiration

I encourage you to research different card layouts that you can use for specific purposes. Be sure the oracle cards you are using make sense with these types of questions; some decks are more conducive to this type of work than others.

Hope for Healing From Trauma Card Layout

The process of healing from past traumas is often non-linear, with continued layers of self-discovery and change. The card layout here is a spin on the classic past-present-future reading. If you are working with mental health professionals or spiritual coaches, consider sharing any insights you gain with them.

Draw three cards and place them on top of each other. Uncover one at a time, and line up from left to right.

 

Inkedoracle_LI
Soulful Woman Guidance Cards by Shushann Movsessian and Gemma Summers.

 

Card 1: What is the wisdom that have you gained from your past experiences that can function as your gift to the world?

Card 2: Which resource can you access in the present moment in order to assist you in your healing process?

Card 3: Which area of growth remains for you to discover or access in the future?

 Creative Endeavors Layout

This layout is intended to represent guidance when you are either considering a new creative endeavor or feeling stuck in your process in terms of inspiration. Pull cards and lay out in the following arrangement:

inkedoracle 2

Card 1: What do you need to cultivate in your life in order to drive your creative enterprise?

Card 2: On what trait or behavior may you be focusing too heavily, so much so that it may get in the way of your ability to be creative?

Card 3: Other people often serve as a wellspring of our own creativity. Which trait or behavior could you seek in others in order to boost your endeavor?

Card 4: What trait or behavior do the products of your creativity inspire in others?

Card 5: Which resource do you have that serves as a foundation for your creativity?

goddess spirituality, pagan

Natural Communication

Did you know that the trees are talking to each other via fungi “email?” Dr. Suzanne Simard uncovered a network of communication that trees use not only to let each other know how they are doing, but also to release and share some of their excess nutrients. In addition, they seem to be able to tell which of the other trees near them are related to them! The oldest trees in the forest have many connections through their roots to surrounding trees and appear to give an extra boost to their own seedlings.

Many practitioners of Earth-based spirituality incorporate communication with the natural world into their sacred work. This can include communicating with plants and wild animals. I’ve left pets out of this conversation because I think they deserve their own post! If we are going to engage in communication with wild beings, I think it’s best for it to be in a way that honors the Earth’s diversity and resources.

Plant Ears

Part of my inspiration for this blog came from The Goddess Attainable’s post about talking to trees. In her writing, she describes her relationship with a particular tree. I hope I can meet a tree companion with whom I develop a long-standing friendship!

I did have an interesting experience with a dying ash tree in my local park. I’d walked by it for years, and for some reason felt it calling out to me earlier this year. I started sitting underneath it most day reading with my dog. My intention was one of mourning as I sensed its time was short, and I wanted to honor it by being at least one human who paid attention to it. Within a few weeks, the local Parks Department cut it down. I feel a sense of loss and emptiness going by the space where it was and have started trying to get my town to replant a new one.

Throughout human history, various groups of people have believed that humans can communicate with plants in a way that benefits their growth. I’m not aware of a scientific explanation for the sense of being able to communicate with plants, but, like the fungus tree root network, it’s possible it’s something we just haven’t yet uncovered. I have come across theories that if we engage in activities like singing to plants on a regular basis, we are releasing carbon dioxide which they can turn into oxygen, and we are subjecting them to small vibrations which could affect their growth patterns. Although I think my singing would cause most plants to curl up in fright!

Animal Friends

When you happen upon a group of social wild animals, the squawking or chattering you hear might be much more than “Danger! Danger!” Research on prairie dogs suggests they can characterize us by features such as how tall we are, what colors we have on and how fast we are moving. Animals engage in complex communication with each other. Even wild animals are able to let us know what they are thinking.

Birds are one animal that has meaningful interactions with humans. I walked by one of my bushes in my yard and had a robin nearly barrel into me. This happened a few times before I investigated and discovered she’d made a nest with a little brightly colored egg right inside the bush. I tried to reassure her I wasn’t going to mess with it. She then made a habit for a little while of greeting me as I took my dog out first thing in the morning, giving me the side eye and coming up near me, so I think she got the message.

Not all wild animals are cute and cuddly. I met a coyote strolling by my house who was eying my Yorkie like a prized steak. I firmly told it that it wasn’t welcome to him. I was shocked when it stared right back at me and took its sweet time meandering down the sidewalk. We’ve encroached on animal habitat to the point where they look at us like “eh, yeah, you don’t scare me anymore.” The boldness in communication from the animals belies a stark reality of the negative impact of humans failing to recognize our impact on the environment.

Reciprocal Communication

To me, if we are going to spend time in communication with plants and animals, it’s best for it to be a two-way street, meaning we spend at least as much time or even more listening than we do speaking. We can check in with certain plant life and creatures on a regular basis, noting how the seasons and weather affect them. We can ask them what they want to share with us and practice gratitude for their presence. We can also honor their existence by engaging in sustainable, environmentally-friendly behaviors, and advocating for better treatment of our natural resources.

One aspect of this practice of speaking and listening with nature in which I want to grow my ability is to appreciate the richness of the biodiversity around me. For instance, my “talking” with insects is often to threaten to kill them. I don’t intend to start letting the mosquitos treat me like a banquet, but I do want to notice some of the bugs and vines that I might otherwise overlook.

When we tune into the natural world, it can be amazing to discover how much life the small patch of earth we call home contains. I find myself sometimes overwhelmed by where to start, so I’ve decided to choose a specific tree and a type of animal that I will be consistently observing for the next year in order to watch for patterns and changes. I think journaling each day regarding what I see is going to be quite revealing! I would love to hear about your experiences and observations.

goddess spirituality, inspiration

Natural Rhythms and Mental Health

I touched on the relationship between seasons and our inner work not long ago. I wanted to take this exploration a step further and delve into how mental health conditions common to trauma survivors, such as depression and PTSD, are also affected by the rhythms of Mother Nature. I do want to take a moment to note that being a trauma survivor and having a mental health condition are by no means synonymous; one can occur without the other. They do co-exist for many people, and the ways in which they manifest can relate to the earth’s patterns.

Moon Cycles

Words like “lunacy” and “lunatic” date back as far as the Greeks and Romans. These words refer to mental health problems thought to be caused by the moon. Although the scientific evidence for this connection is scant, many people still believe that the full moon brings out something wild and untamed. One explanation I’ve found intriguing is that the brightness of the moon, especially to those living exposed, may have caused problems sleeping, which we know does factor into symptoms of mood disorders and anxiety.

For those of us who are women, our monthly menstrual cycle interrelates strongly to our mental health. For many women, the time just before menstruation involves an uptick in emotional distress, even to the point of full-blown depression symptoms. In her book Witch, Lisa Lister describes this time as one where we may be able to more deeply access our intuition and feel ripe for inner work. Some months this holds true for me; others I am too far gone with depression to be able to do this.

If you are curious about your emotions and mental health problems correspond to monthly cycles, consider tracking the course of your rhythms using resources such as a moondala or moon dreams diary. I’ve been using Molly Remer’s book, the Womanrunes Companion Journal, and have been delighted to see how many days I’m actually feeling good at the start of the day. It is helping me track the specifics of how my cycles affect my viewpoint and vice versa.

Wheel of the Year

As a practitioner of Goddess spirituality, I do not follow the Wheel of the Year quite as closely as some Pagan traditions, but I’m fascinated by the richness of each celebration for both community and individual spiritual life. I’m beginning an exploration of how it related to our inner work, using resources like The Great Work. As a strong proponent of self-care, I will be examining more fully how we can resource our needs and respond to the needs of others at each spoke of the wheel. I plan to publish a series with guidance for each of the upcoming celebrations for the next year.

Mental health concerns do wax and wane with the time of year. The manic side of bipolar disorder is sometimes related to excessive sunlight in summer. There is a specific form of major depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder which relates to experiencing depression in the winter when there is a lack of sunlight. Suicidal behavior is highest in the spring and summer. One explanation I’ve heard for this phenomenon is that people who have struggled with seasonal depression may have lingering depression symptoms coupled with their energy escalating as winter lifts. Anxiety issues and PTSD may increase with certain seasons as well, depending on the specific triggers an individual faces.

It is interesting to me that some of the Pagan traditions reflect, in a healthy way, these flows of energy and mood. The summer festivals are full of energy and light, whereas some of the fall and winter ones are centered on contemplation and loss. Our ancestors appear to have recognized the cycles we go through, some of us in a more serious way than others, as the seasons change.

goddess spirituality

Tailoring Self-Care to Season, Energy and Intuition

I once backed into another car at a drive-thru. Yep, that takes some amount of talent to execute. I was mad that the person in front of me wasn’t budging, so I threw it in reverse in order to maneuver into a better spot to see what was going on. A crunching sound alerted me to the fact that I’d now be stuck right where I was for a while. My need for things to go at my pace outweighed all other considerations. I’m striving now to let my intuition, not my impulsiveness (and lead foot), more fully guide me as I access my necessities and respond to the needs of others.

The particular needs we have for self-care can wax and wane over the course of a year, a moon cycle, or even one day. For many, winter and the new moon are a time to draw in, rest and dedicate ourselves to inner work, whereas the summer and full moon are times to make manifest our inner desires and take action. Many people who practice Pagan religions and Goddess Spirituality track the pattern of the moon or follow the Wheel of the Year for guidance in these rhythms. For women of childbearing ages, you may notice shifts in your energy levels and needs based on your menstrual cycle.

“Night owls” and “early birds” are a real phenomenon, with differing biological patterning. Following your own circadian rhythm can allow you to capitalize on your highest energy points. I’m an early riser but tend to find myself too focused on “doing” in the mornings to be able to do a lot of inner work, so evenings are when I tend to pull in and engage in most of my spiritual work.

Sometimes our inner cycles align with our external environment; sometimes they are mismatched. For instance, the few times I’ve had a bad cold in summer jarred me not just because I felt ill, but also because I needed to pull back from what I was doing and lay around instead of my normal busy summer attitude. Some winter days are filled with sunshine and I find myself wanting to spend all day outside (until the air temperature snaps me back to reality!). Attuning to our changing rhythms not only allows us to better meet our needs but also helps us to integrate into the larger patterning and cadence of the natural world.

Our intuition, our Wise Woman and Goddess In Us, can help us check in with ourselves and get real when we are ignoring needs or failing to prioritize. A nagging anxiety that won’t go away or an illness that forces us to take a day off may be a sign that there is a deeper need going unmet. Sometimes we try to change our external circumstances—thinking that will solve our “off” feeling—when really it is our inner being that needs attention.

At times, our inner wisdom takes the form of others in our lives who gently prod us to make that appointment or call in sick when we aren’t feeling well. I think that is one of the most beautiful gifts we can give each other—permission to take care of ourselves when we ourselves are wrapped up in a guilt or shame message that won’t let us stop, won’t let us rest, won’t let us ask for help. If people are consistently telling you that you seem really busy or have a lot going on, it may be a signal to slow down and reassess how well you are meeting your full range of human essentials.

At the same time, each of us is walking our own path, and sometimes we have to let a sister who insists the thorny briers she’s trying to cut through with a pen knife is the only way struggle till she tires, and then step right up with support and care when she finally realizes the futility of her actions. Many of the mistakes I’ve made serve as signposts for those close to me about which paths are worthy, and which ones are dead ends. Our intuitions, our gut messages, are typically there all along. It can feel so good to say yes to that which serves us and no to that which doesn’t. The scrapes and scars left by our rambles in deep thicket are an excellent reminder that help us to hone in on the surest ways forward.