Embodied Heart

Who Is a Woman Without Family?

Single. Estranged. Childless/child-free. No one word sums up my experience living as an adult woman without being in relationship with my family of origin, a romantic partner and without having had a child. It is a formless, unutterable identity that consumes me and yet I nearly never give it voice, mostly because I’ve allowed it to cause me shame. For today’s #EmbodiedHeart post, I explore some possible answers to the question my title posed.

An Orphan to be Pitied

What does a woman without family feel? In my case, lots of loneliness and longing. Desire and rejection. It is hard to fully articulate the bittersweet tang of watching others for whom I care start new relationships and give birth. I wouldn’t call my feelings jealousy in most cases, as I also often feel contentment on the path on which I’m walking, but I do experience sadness mixed in with the joy.

At times, I’ve received pity as a response when I’ve shared my identity. Usually followed by a rush to wish things would be healed with my family or that I’d find love. I think I’ve internalized a deep bucket of shame around this way of being in the world, one to which scoops are only added when people pity me. Not only do I experience shame, but I also distance myself from my own wishes for family. If I don’t “want” it, it won’t hurt not to have it.

People are often surprised at the ease with which I interact with children, perhaps mistaking my lack of energy towards producing or procuring one of my own through adoption as a lack of desire. In truth, I think I’ve simply given up on love stories and tiny toes. I’ve failed repeatedly when it comes to familying and it’s failed me. I believe the only rational responses to defeat, once one acknowledges its existence, are to try again after altering some variable, or to come into a place of acceptance of it. Right now I am noticing and being with my failure, rather than trying to turn it into a success.

A Witch to be Feared

Being too different, being too loud, not following the rules enough. These are the charges often hurled at women society sees as “witches.” Women whose eccentrics show a smidge too much of their own defined sense of being. As I’ve begun to move from young into middle adulthood, this is the place I find myself sitting more and more. I am no longer only a shy teen with downcast eyes waiting for someone to notice her, I am also a warrior singing her call regardless of who approves.

I cannot tell how much this impulse comes from within me and how much it is projected on to me by others, but I sense a woman alone after a certain age somehow appears more threatening. All the caretaking roles I “should” be fulfilling are going unanswered. There isn’t an easy shelf on which to place me of mother, devoted daughter or wife. My oddity feels like a cloak in which I wrap myself to hide but by which I instead end up revealing more than I intended.

A Spinster to be Discarded

As I age, I anticipate moving into the role of the old maid if I stay unfamilied. As such, I will eventually be in a place of  needing instead of giving. Can I endure coming physical frailty without acquiescing or diminishing? Our society expects those who are old to silence their cries. What if I do not behave this way?

Several books I’ve read lately, including Belonging and The Body is Not an Apology, allude to the question of whether we have worth if we are unable to contribute anything of value to others. I struggle with this query from both sides, as I anticipate judgment of my failure to caretake my abusive, aging parents, and as I must also face changes in how others perceive me as I get older. Shame again takes hold. I feel a frequent need to apologize to my wizened crone self for my family failure, and to gift her an offering of my sovereignty as a person, won at a terrible price.

A Person to be Humanized

The themes I’ve identified—abandonment, eccentricity and worth—are by no means limited to individuals who fall into my particular demographic. Rather, I think nearly everyone who has an honest and deep relationship with themselves could connect to aspects of them. I so often feel apart from being a “regular human” when in fact I am a part of being a regular human. That is who I think a woman without family is; she is simply one blend of pigment in the rainbow of the human heart. She has every right to exist, to voice, and to move the world as best she can.

Inspiration Fanatic

Five Favorite Goddess Spirituality-Themed Tarot and Oracle Cards

For today’s #InspirationFanatic Friday, I decided to review five of my favorite sets of guidance cards (in no particular order) that I find to be relevant to Goddess spirituality. I chose to cover this topic in regards to inspiration as the artwork in particular in these decks is very meaningful and fuels my creativity. Not only do these cards feel affirming to me from a Goddess spirituality perspective, I also find the cards themselves and the guidebooks with which they come to be supportive to me as a trauma survivor. Sometimes the messages are difficult to hear, but I do not find myself triggered by them on a regular basis. The impact they have on me feels at its most intense like a gentle nudge instead of a shove or a harsh word. This reaction could of course vary from person to person.

I am not a professional tarot reader nor do I claim to have particular skill or insight into interpreting cards. For me, the use of such cards is primarily as a means of inner work, not as a way to divine the future. I tend to ask specific questions of Goddess before I pull cards and often journal about my interpretations.

My list is limited to the cards I’ve personally purchased, so I am very eager to hear your recommendations for additional resources. I do not have an affiliate relationship with any of the creators, so my insights are not unduly influenced. I’ve also included a list at the end of my post of cards I hope to soon add to my collection.

  • Womenrunes: The runes on these cards were originally created by Shekhinah Mountainwater and revived by Molly Remer. They are easy to draw and can be combined to provide personalized messages. I’ve inscribed an entire set of them on river stone and a few on my arm! The guidebook is poetic in nature, leaving a lot of room for intuitive interpretation.
  • Soulful Woman Guidance Cards: This deck speaks to me on a regular basis and is one of my “go-to” choices. Part of the reason is that I sometimes dislike having to thumb through a small guidebook in order to figure out what each card means. With this deck, I am able to gain insight quickly as there is both a theme and an affirmation printed directly on the card. The artwork feels accessible and I find the insight I gain from using this deck to be motivational.
  • Sacred Rebels Oracle: These oracle cards contain some of my favorite artwork. The creators of the deck included art from women from across the globe. Each time I draw a card anew, I realize there was something in the image I missed the first time through. The guidebook has plenty of description of how to grow from the meaning of the card without being too prescriptive. I do notice a thread of the “law of attraction” peeking through at moments, of which I am not a fan, but the overall message is positive and uplifting.
  • The Good Tarot: The imagery of this deck is ethereal and soft to me. There are aspects of traditional tarot, but the focus is more on affirming where a person is in the present day instead of forecasting future developments. Additionally, the four elements are represented which I find helps me connect to the meaning of the cards more fully than cups, swords, etc. The guidebook is pretty sparse with a summary paragraph or a few sentences for each card; this is my personal preference as I like to intuit meaning rather than feeling like I’m being restricted by an overly descriptive narration.
  • The Goddess Oracle: I find this deck to be particularly useful when I’m feeling in need of the presence of Goddess in my life. The guidebook to each card invites the reader on an inner journey in which the person communes with the Goddess. I found the writing to be a bit formulaic in its approach here and would have liked a bit more background on the historic and cultural significance of each Goddess. The artwork is beautiful and inviting.

On my wish-list:

  • Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards: I am a huge fan of Judith Shaw’s artwork and writing. There is an elegance and warmth that exudes from her paintings, and in the descriptions she’s shared of her artwork, I can see the thought and research that has gone into her creations. I can’t wait to purchase this 35-card deck!
  • Infuse Your Life with Joy and Delight Inspirational Card Deck: I’ve been following Illisa Millermoon on Instagram for a while, and I find her joy to be contagious! She shares about her daily life, including her Sparkle Quests, and her creative process, and I can see the energy that’s been poured into this 52-card deck (as well as all the beautiful colors!). Can’t wait to have it for myself.

What are your favorite oracle or tarot cards, and why do you prefer them? To what extent do you include decks that “challenge” you in your work? How do you conceptualize your use of the cards? Is it a conversation with Source, divination of the future, inner work, or another process? Do you see the cards themselves as a spiritual entity and/or a conduit through which you can act in relationship with Deity?

Magic & Phrase

Generosity

Be generosity to the weeds embedded in the edge of my heart.

Nurturance and tenderness to their prickly stalks and tiny flowers.

 

Not all memories held within are solid or kind.

 

Unicorn pastels roses lace teacups encircled neatly in the clearing.

Now.

Sharp thorns of musty basement arm shoved down choking shame blindness from fear poke through.

 

Garden gate swings inward.

Here ruins and pretense in sculpted and cultivated ornamental lawns lie.

 

Entrust me my wildness and tangled thickets.

Remain the weak, the poisonous and the brambles of pain.

Spare also the daisies.

 

Devour in earth time all of me.

Now.

No more vines plucking out. No more saving the pretty from the dirty.

 

Heartside welcomes the full shape of my past spiky and curved.

Showers of calm and breezes of affection settle in.

 

Weeds and flowers together run riot in the growth of my remembrances and I belong to all of it.

Goddess Thealogy

Deepening Study and Practice

Roughly the first decade of my life was spent without access to a television. No video games, no cell phone, no computer or tablet. Without electronic distractions, I entertained myself largely through reading books. I could completely lose myself while engrossed in a story. In addition, unlike many of my classmates, the information I learned in school did not bore me, instead, I had a voracious appetite and keen ability to absorb facts and ideas. My love of learning sustained me and persists as a stabilizing element in my life. As I’ve matured, embodied knowledge, that which is practiced instead of mentalized, has become an increasingly vital aspect of my education. For today’s #Thealogy Thursday, I want to share some of the learning experiences which I am pursuing this year that are deepening my spiritual walk and relationship with Goddess. Part of my motivation for doing so is to offer specific resources and ideas for you to consider as well as to open a conversation about what my readers are doing in their lives to enrich their spiritual walks.

Inner Work: Mystery School

I am just starting my second “realm” with the Goddess Mystery School In Her Name. I completed the Realm of Self and am now delving into the Realm of Sacred Balance. It took me significantly longer to complete the first realm that I expected, but it was a good lesson in persistence and provided practice in being gentle with myself. If I continue through all the Realms, the last one will involve a decision regarding as to whether I wish to dedicate myself to a particular form of Goddess. I really appreciate that there is time and energy that has to be produced before making this choice as I do not think it is something that should be rushed.

Group Dynamics: Practical Priestessing Class

I had the pleasure of meeting Molly Remer at a spiritual retreat last year and am so glad I did! She shared with me about a revised Practical Priestessing class she is offering that is a 6-month intensive on priestessing. I am still wrapping my head around the term priestess and debating internally whether it is something I will become comfortable “trying on” but I cannot wait to dig into the ceremony and celebration of spiritual leadership from a Goddess-honoring perspective.

Goddess and Spirituality Books

I have amassed an unsightly number of books related to Goddess Spirituality that I have not yet opened or read. This is unusual for me and I’m not quite sure why my appetite is larger than my “stomach” for reading. If I’m being honest, some of the artwork on the covers has drawn me in just as much as the concept the books convey! The most recent book I’ve read is:

Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home (by Toko-pa Turner) This book is everything. As someone who is estranged from my family, I get very nervous to read books on these topics because I expect judgment and to be told to “forgive.” What I read the brief author biography on the cover and saw that she lives on an small island, I figured it was worth sitting with this book. Her writing is incredibly lyrical; I anticipate many lines from her book becoming mantras by which I live. She facilitates an online course in dreamwork which I may take at some point this year or next.

In addition to readings that I will complete for the classes I’m taking, additional books I’ve moved to the top of my reading list include:

Goddess as Nature: Permaculture Class

Permaculture is a new pursuit for me and one that I have not shared about previously because I am in the early part of the learning phase. In case you are unfamiliar with it, it is a system of design for people that works with nature instead of against it. It is focused on ecology and deep observation of natural patterns.

This is a class I am taking in person; it is not a full permaculture design course but is intended instead as an introduction to permaculture which meets over the course of several months. I love the “hands-on” aspects of this class. We trimmed a pear tree that was sporting some kind of fungus. I got way too excited cutting off all the damaged branches; it felt cleansing! I’m also working to find an area of my backyard where I can start a fruit tree guild.

Connecting with Nature: Forest Bathing

I will be taking part soon in a series of forest bathing sessions. I believe this practice originated in Japan and involves intense observation and mindfulness while walking slowly through the forest. One of the places I feel the presence of Goddess most acutely is in the woods, so I am anticipating this to be an excellent way to be both more fully embodied as well as attuned to nature. Many of the practices espoused by priestesses of Goddess Spirituality include developing a deeply-rooted relationship with nature, so I am particularly encouraged that each session of forest bathing will take place in the same location.

Sacred Women’s Work: Women’s Circle

I recently joined an in-person Wild Woman women’s circle that practices on the new moon. The particular circle I’ve found blends group and individual experiences quite seamlessly. I have taken part in and then moved on from a few women’s circles in the past; there is something incredible about the gathering together of women in an authentic and vulnerable manner that I see as a lived expression of Goddess.

Having listed and described my current pursuits, I feel a bit overwhelmed! These are all experiences I’ve welcomed into my life in addition to the mundanity and stress of everyday life. I struggle deeply with a feeling of alienation, worrying that I am too much in my head and not out living life fully. I also chronically perceive myself as not belonging and not having the same richness of relationships that others experience. What feels amazing in looking over my catalogue of interests is seeing that what I’ve taken on this year is well-balanced in terms of some pursuits being very focused on community and some being more centered in inner work and individual in nature.

I hope to hear from you with anything you are curious about related to my involvements, and especially to learn about the interests in which you are engaging. What goals have you set for yourself related to your spiritual practice, or what needs are speaking to you? What are you pursuing in terms of classes, books and interpersonal experiences to deepen your walk?

Inspiration Fanatic

Chocolate Brownie Soufflé

For today’s #InspirationFanatic Friday, I wanted to share a recipe I created on a whim while craving chocolate. It turned out with so much volume and flavor, despite being gluten-free and having no added sugar, that I decided it had to be shared!

~280 calories, 7.5 grams of fiber and 11 grams of protein per serving.

Makes 4 servings.

4 ripe bananas mashed

4 eggs

4 TBS cocoa powder

4 tsp. Clabber Girl baking powder

½ cup (8 TBS) almond flour

1 tsp. vanilla

I have a hard time with portion control with dessert-type foods, so I originally made a single serving of this. Just divide everything by 4 if you wish to do this. The serving size is quite large, use smaller cups and divide into 8 if you want a lower calorie count.

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

Mix for 1 minute or less—do not over-mix.

Spoon into soufflé cups. Batter should be no more than 1 inch from the top. If your soufflé cups are on the smaller side, you will need more than 4 of them.

Bake at 450 for approximately 20 minutes. Souffle is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Great served warm!