Goddess Thealogy

Walking the Labyrinth: Cycles and Circles of Existence

Have you ever watched a group of people as they move through a labyrinth? Their movements are very different from how we normally travel through the world when we focus on getting from point A to point B. They weave in and out, moving sideways in a cadence reminiscent of the flow of a river. They seem to be getting farther from their destination, only to make a turn and appear significantly closer. Labyrinths are physical manifestations of natural and internal phenomena; the cycles that bring us to life and lead us downward toward our demise also transition us into new phases of existence. In today’s #Thealogy Thursday, we’ll examine the concept of circles and cycles within Goddess Spirituality as well as within our own lives.

Cycles within Goddess Spirituality

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always imagined the year as a circle, like a clock face. July is at 12 o’clock, October at 3, the New Year at 6, and March at 9 (realizing as I write this it isn’t evenly divided!). I assumed everyone else had the same general layout and was surprised when the people to whom I spoke about it gave me weird looks. Not everyone sees time as a loop! Cycles and circles are everywhere in Goddess Spirituality, so it’s no wonder it had an innate appeal to me.

Some of the main processes that are viewed as metaphors within Goddess Spirituality include the moon, the menstrual cycle, seasonal changes, and the life-death-rebirth paradigm. Life emerges, transforms, undergoes entropy and then recasts itself in a new form. I sometimes think the purpose of life is to grapple with the fact of its eventual ending; it is in realizing our finite nature that our existence become a precious community.

As someone who struggles with mental health concerns, it has been helpful to see that, through this lens, the current focus on keeping one’s thoughts tuned only to high vibrations falls flat in defining the full context of our biological and psychological cycles. We may have experiences where we rightfully resist unnecessary negativity, but expecting everything to come up roses if we just keep our focus on the positive is simply unworkable in my opinion. There are moments we exist in full thrall dancing in sunlight and swirling with energy, but it is antithetical to the basic nature of existence to expect bliss to last or that we will arrive at it as a destination.

“Circle Within A Circle”

With these dynamics in mind, how then can we make sense of the unfolding of our own lives? I’d started this blog post as it related to thealogy; I then read a great article by updownflight on recovery and mental health. The dialogue we had regarding that post sparked a realization in me that there is an intimate connection between Goddess’ cycles and the long-term cycles of our own lives.

I’ve begun to visualize the labyrinth when I consider my own growth and development. This viewpoint allows me to see how far I’ve come in an area, but also feel connected to the “layers” below or adjacent to my journey that inform where I’m at right now. The word “meandering” keeps coming to mind in the sense that I might not make it straight from A to B, but I’ll get there eventually.

I wrote a previous post regarding finding my spiritual home. As I deepen my understanding of my spiritual walk, I see that there are transition points where I do see progress. This image below of the triple labyrinth speaks to me as it connotes an ongoing pathway that transitions from one realm to the next. Something shifts, but we’re still connected to who we were and who we will become.

triple map

I spent a lot of time in the past 5 years or so envisioning my “future self,” knowing that a shift was going to happen eventually. Writing this blog has been that shift, as I see myself making manifest the inner work I’ve been doing. “Future self” dreaming has taken a backseat for now, as I’m living in the next version of who I am. I’m certain that this is yet another cycle, one that will eventually restart with a sense that something is going to be birthed in me followed by movement into another spiral.

I do not want to imply here that movement is always positive. I see the spiral as existing in three dimensions, so that there are times of decent and times of ascent throughout our journeys, even as we traverse another layer. Moments can snag us so strongly that we are convinced there is no way out, or we can reach peaks that we are certain have permanently elevated us beyond the earthly plane. And yet, there is that moment where we look back and see it was high or a low point in our journey, rather than something separate from the rest of our existence. Mythology is ripe with images of Goddess descending to the underworld or rising to the sky as she makes manifest her will and destiny, and, at times, as fate unfolds beyond her control.

I am freed from comparing myself to others when I use the cycle, circle and labyrinth models. It may be trite to state that “we are each walking our own path,” but I think it takes on a different meaning when we see it through the visual imagery of the labyrinth. People may seem out of reach during a particularly high or low point in their journey, or during a moment when they are nearing a transition in their life. Accepting that our paths interweave in sometimes unpredictable ways, with strange angles, curves and points of coordination, may allow us to release some of the hold we desire to have over another person’s timeline and progress.

I am very curious to see how you conceptualize the unfolding of your life; the metaphors you use to describe time and the cycles you experience. I plan to unpack more regarding the connection between trauma, mental health and how we see our journey on an upcoming #SurvivingnThriving Tuesday.

Goddess Thealogy

Goddessing Our Personalities

If someone asks you to describe your personality, how do you explain who you are? I tend to discuss my personality from a psychological perspective (introverted, conscientious, etc.), but I’m also beginning to think of who I am and where I’m at in my development from a spiritual viewpoint. I believe the easiest way to do this is to start with an understanding of who Goddess is. For today’s #Thealogy Thursday, I’ll be discussing traditional views of Goddess, as well as newer conceptualizations; I’ll also interweave ways we can see ourselves in Her form.

Traditional View

The most familiar way of viewing Goddess to me is the three-fold model of maiden, mother and crone. I’ve referenced Starhawk’s classic The Spiral Dance for my explanation here. The maiden relates to the beginnings of development. She is free-spirited and filled with possibility. There is knowledge and experience she hasn’t yet tasted.  The mother is found in creativity, in new life, in fullness. She loves and lives out her destiny. She knows herself and satisfies her desires. The crone shows up in wisdom and inner work.  She intuits that which is needed, even if it means loss, because she knows loss leads to renewal and rebirth.

I conceptualize our personalities as consisting of all three at once, in various forms and expressions. I don’t think this viewpoint is consistent across practitioners of Goddess Spirituality, but personally I want to find a balancing point between each expression in me. Others may take these three typologies more directly, focusing their practice within one aspect of Goddess, and conceptualizing themselves in one of the three visages at different points as they age.

Alternative Presentations

In The Spiral Dance, Starhawk also refers to a pentagram of life aspects, including new life, opening, fertility, inner work, and dying. The main difference between this and the three-fold Goddess prototype is the addition of the second stage, which involves self-definition and autonomy. I appreciate this addition because I struggle with Goddess models that place the group above the individual as the ultimate “feminine” way of being in the world.

Goddess can also be seen as nature, not just in nature. She is the very earth itself, and the moon above. I’ve deepened my practice of viewing myself and humanity through the metaphors presented in nature. My understanding of concepts tends towards the practical and the concrete, so this practice is extremely appealing to me because I find myself returning to the stories to make sense of various situations.

Lasara Firefox Allen’s Fivefold model, laid out in Jailbreaking the Goddess, is a way to view Goddess that is less strictly tied to female biological processes than the traditional model. Her typology includes Femella (Goddess as innocent), Potens (Goddess as warrior), Creatrix (Goddess as creator), Sapientia (Goddess as wisdom), and Antiqua (Goddess as aged one). I will need to spend more time with this model to determine how well I think it captures Goddess’ essence.

Goddess Archetypes

We can also use specific archetypes or mythologies to connect to expressions of Goddess at particular moments in our lives. I’ve found correspondence books to be helpful in this regard. I also use Goddess tarot and oracle cards to select the aspects of Goddess that I need to embody to handle specific situations.

Part of the beauty of myth is that it gives us a narrative to which we can attach our own comings and goings. I’ve perused the Women Who Run With the Wolves book by Clarissa Estes, and I’ve found that the story of Baba Yaga pops into my head in some situations. There may be certain stories that you find interweave themselves into your life, perhaps because you identify with one of the characters.

Goddess is much more than our individual personality and characteristics. She exists whether we see Her in ourselves or not. My perspective on Goddess spirituality is that it blends the esoteric and mundane, and that it has meaning for our personal lives. Somewhere in the many myths, visions, and conceptualizations of who She is, we are.