Medusa as Shamanic Guide to Reclaiming Feminine Serpent Wisdom

Medusa – Serpent Goddess of female wisdom whose name means “I come from myself”, may have a lot to teach us in reclaiming our wise woman- but we have to reach behind the mask… a very scary thing for us modern women to do, as the mask has kept us, if not entirely connected to our feminine wisdom and power, then at least alive in a culture that has largely rejected these aspects of the feminine.

In the beginning the mask of Medusa was a protection to guard the feminine mysteries from those who had no ‘rite’ to know them, or those who could misuse, damage or destroy this sacred knowledge. Unfortunately, as women became less sourced in their feminine power, the mask of stone that could be turned turned either outward or inward, replaced the true face of feminine power.

Medusa- serpent headed monster, once priestess, primordial sea nymph, stony-eyed death giver, cave dweller on the edge of the world…

What can the myth of Medusa mean for modern women?

Like all myths the Myth of Medusa is a living entity, morphing into new shapes and interpretations with the continual unfolding of human consciousness.

The most commonly known version of the myth is that Medusa was a priestess in the temple of Athena, goddess of wisdom before her terrible transformation. In this myth we witness Medusa very much as the victim, rather like Persephone whose journey of initiation is also corrupted to portray the feminine in a passive state. In both cases, the myth of Medusa and the myth of Persephone may instead be read as journeys of initiation in claiming our Queendom by accepting our true essence.

Originally a sea nymph, her beauty was beyond compare and men travelled far and wide just to catch a glimpse of her- though in her vows of chastity appropriate for Athena’s temple she would give herself to no man. But the mighty sea god Poseidon had other ideas… so enraptured was he by Medusa’s beauty that he vowed to have her by hook or by crook. Poseidon raped Medusa in the temple precincts thus enraging the chaste and virtuous Athena who, rather than avenge Poseidon, instead punishes Medusa by changing her beautiful tresses into hissing serpents.

Medusa at once is banished from the temple taking up residence with her two gorgon sisters, Sthenno and Euryale, in a cave on the edge of the world, on the ocean’s edge near to the border of night and death. So horrifying was Medusa’s monstrous appearance that any mortal who dared to look upon her was immediately turned to stone- stories spead far and wide about the lands and caverns in the area being strewn with pertified men.

Of the three hideous gorgons, Medusa was the only one who could die and the solar hero Perseus on a mission contrived by King Polydectes set out on a mission to slay the head of Medusa. The gods were on his side… donning a mirrored shield given by Athena, golden winged sandals from Hermes, a sword form Hephaestus, and a helmet of invisibility from Pluto, the young demi-god son of Zeus and the mortal Danaë, was invincible.

Taking care not to look at Medusa directly, Perseus captures her reflection in his mirror as he slowly steps backwards, then with one fell swoop cuts of her head. From her severed body spring the winged horse Pegasus and the golden sword wielding giant Chrysaor. The other two gorgon sisters arrive on the scene, but Perseus escapes wearing the helmet of invisibility given to him by Pluto. Some people say that he flew away on the back of Pegasus holding in his hand the grotesque head of Medusa and that wherever the drops of blood fell to the earth, flowers, plants and other verdant life sprung forth.

Thereafter the goddess of wisdom Athena wore a breast plate of the Medusa’s head on her person as a symbol of protection. She gifted the blood of Medusa to the great healer Asclepius who separated it into two vials- the right vial it was said had great healing properties- even the power to bring back the dead- while the blood of the left vial was said to destroy and kill.

The Myth of Medusa is immensely rich with its origins rooted in north Africa and the Egyptian goddess Neith, who was known as Anatha in Libya, and Athena in Greece. In her book, ‘Mysteries of the Dark Moon’, Demetra George tells us that Neith emerged from the primeval floodwaters, and her name means, “I have come from myself”. As part of a triple goddess figure with Neith/Anatha, and Metis, Medusa embodies the third dark aspect of the destroyer/crone, and was revered as the Queen of the Libyan Amazons, the Serpent Goddess of female wisdom.

Feminist and Jungian scholars have made much of the layers of symbolism embedded within the story. For George, “Medusa in her association wit the serpent and the menstrual blood that could both heal and destroy, embodies the dark moon mysteries of the goddess. In her red-faced gorgon mask mounted by a crown of snakes, Medusa in women signifies a source of feminine wisdom that is connected to their sexuality.”

Kundalini serpent power is the life-force, prana or chi that lays dormant at the base of the spine until such time that it is activated and begins its journey up the spinal, passing through and activating the chakras (power centres) before arriving at the crown chakra. At which point cosmic consciousness is awakened. This force can then be used for regenerative healing and renewal, open doors of creativity, oracular wisdom and spiritual power.

Like Demetra, I see the hissing crown of the Medusa as feminine serpent power that once activated moves one beyond the constrictions of duality into a cosmic consciousness where there is a union between human and divine. Another way to say this is that the human body becomes the earthen vessel able to be penetrated by and hold divine energy.

This power has been repressed and punished by centuries of culture that have feared it, and women themselves have become cut off from the root of their feminine grounding. The monstrous aspect of Medusa is the mask we wear to protect ourselves from the vulnerability that we feel in being cut off at the root. Either we turn the mask out toward those we feel we must protect ourselves from- and in the case of modern women this often translates as many aspects of culture. If we turn the mask inward on ourselves, we despise all that makes us powerful and feminine- our menstruation- shamanic birthing- sexuality- magic, and Dark Goddess wisdom. This power has been so feared and so rejected in our culture that we have learned to disown it in ourselves and punish it in others.

Rather than see the myth of Medusa as another story of female disempowerment and victimisation, I see Medusa as a shamanic guide who can lead us to the places where we have blocked Dark Goddess power in ourselves. One way to do this is to acknowledge the mask of bitterness we wear, and the situations where we can petrify others and ourselves in our stony rigidity and insecurity.

However, this tale comes with a huge caution- these mysteries must be approached carefully and with great respect, and at the right time. Like a kundalini awakening the serpent power must not be unleashed prematurely or in ways that are dangerous, for then it can kill.

The clue to approaching the feminine mysteries lies in the fact that Perseus, or anyone else for that matter, cannot look directly at Medusa. With a lot of help from the gods in the form of magical tools, and by only looking upon the reflection of medusa rather than her actual person, is Perseus able to slay her.

This tells us that the feminine mysteries cannot be approached in a rational way, and that we must seek the help of the gods to contact the divine. That is why we need ritual, ceremony, initiation, rites of passage and prayer, and return to our bio-mystical rites.

It is said that at one time Athena and Medusa, along with the sea goddess Metis were all part of the tripe goddess archetype- from Athena we receive wisdom, intellect, valour and courage, from Metis intuition and creative expression, and from Medusa sexual power, magic and psychic abilities. Before patriarchal consciousness separated these aspects of femininity, this trilogy of power and attributes was the bedrock of the feminine wisdom and essence.

If you would like to work with Medusa and begin to see behind the mask in your own life, looking at the placement of asteroid Medusa in your chart can point to the area of your life and rulership under whose power Medusa operates.

Contact me if you would like a consultation.

Shamanic Mask Work for Personal Liberation.

Using masks as a shamanic practice is deeply powerful and healing. In last night’s Sun & Moon lodge, wearing a mask gave me permission to be more theatrical, more confident, and removed from my usual persona so that I was able to open and channel an energy that is both me and at the same time is the point where I meet the gods. Mask wearing as a shamanic practice grants us access into the transpersonal realms where we are liberated from the burden of our conditioning.

In shamanic mask work the ego is silenced, our normal persona falls away and something else comes in- latent parts of ourselves, shadow parts, gifts, sacred insights… we become a transmission for something much larger than our ego identified self and beliefs about who we and others think we are.

Wearing a mask also has a strong effect on those around us… their preconceptions of us drop away, they can no longer hold onto who they think we are- which in turn challenges them to also redefine who they are. They are brought in that moment into a new space of knowing nothing about us or who we might become. And they are not sure who they will become in this new dynamic.

Last night we worked with the mask of Medusa which as a symbol is more than the myth of the terrifying gorgon abandoned in the cave at the edge of the western world. The mask of Medusa was donned by priestesses who worked with dark moon magic and wished to keep their workings secret from the uninitiated. The serpent headed crowns and monstrous masks were an emblem of the serpent rites and mysteries.

When considering the mask in a modern context and working with it for collective and psychological healing, it is interesting to consider the many masks we wear in our lives and the expectations that we fulfil for others. By refusing to accept the masks, by refusing to wear them, and instead explore hidden parts of ourselves by dropping our persona and stepping into something new is so liberating!

In ‘Mysteries of the Dark Moon’, Demetra George says that in order to transform the mask, we must recognise and acknowledge the wrathful face that we present to others. In working with Medusa, we must recall her from her banishment and reclaim the serpent headed Queen by honouring the dark moon wisdom that arises from our sexuality. Medusa is the source of our deep, regenerative healing power. The menstrual blood of the Serpent Goddess that could heal or kill, and even raise the dead is reflected in the twin serpents of Life and Death twinning about the winged staff of the caduceus- today the emblem of the medical profession.

Finding the point where asteroid Medusa is placed in our natal birth chart offers clues to understanding how this power may be activated in our lives and the ways in which we wear masks to deny and supress this power in ourselves, or project it on to others.

Please contact me if you would like an astro-shamanic consultation.

Samhain and the Stars of Secret Knowledge.

Image by Annelie Solis

October is a time when the veils between the worlds are thinnest, gifting us an opportunity to merge the world of matter and spirit, life and death. At the threshold of Samhain, we may transition more easily beyond the usual restrictions of duality.

For the ancient Celts, Samhain marked the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year, holding for a moment the past and present in one eternal continuum.

It is traditionally a time to honour our ancestors, the ones who walked before us, and all our relations in the cycle of life. As embodied expressions of our lineage, we walk with, and sow the seeds of their consciousness.

This year, the October new moon happens on 28th, 3 days before Samhain. This adds double availability in accessing liminal states as dark of the moon is also a time when the veils are thin… a time when the workings of the goddess are being woven within the mystery of Her darkness. At the balsamic moon, in the void of creation, the old is being released, returned to the womb of creation while the new, not yet known, is being dreamed, or birthed, into being.

At this time we also have an opportunity to release that which has served its purpose and dream ourselves into being.

At the end of October, we stand before the threshold of the old and the new not just as a spiritual ideal but also as a natural phenomenon. All around nature is retreating into herself, into her centre, deep within the earth, releasing the harvest of the old year, composting the energy in order to fertilize the seeds of the new… seeds that are not yet realised on the physical level for they are transiting from the world of spirit to the world of matter.

And this is the secret of Samhain.

What is it that we need to compost from our past to fertilise our future? As a sacred substance compost cannot just be disregarded, forgotten or disposed of in a vacuum, for it contains the essence and power of all that has gone before. This is our lessons learned, our wisdom gained, and our evolving consciousness.

We cannot forget our ancestors; they have learned much and have much to teach us. They have a seed intention and in spite of the wounds that may have afflicted them, the essence of that intention wants to be realised.

The process of transformation is not only witnessed in the world of matter it is also reflected in the dance of the cosmos in the stars… ‘As above so below’.

On October 27th, just before Samhain the fixed star Symra joins the Sun at 4 degrees of Scorpio, one day before the sun/moon conjunction of the new moon on the 28th. Three days later, and one day before Samhain, fixed star Khambalia joins the Sun.

Both stars are within the constellation of Virgo, the Virgin, whose esoteric knowledge has to do with the mysterious secrets of life-death, and renewal, and spirit in matter.

The configuration of Symra and Khambalia conjunct the sun and moon just before the threshold of Samhain reflects the occult workings that take place behind the scenes- ‘beneath the skirts of the virgin’, or the mysterious processes of nature that the alchemists have long attempted to know and master.

Symra, which means the ‘train of the skirt of the goddess’ relates to the 3rd tarot, the Empress who is the gateway to source, and keeper of a secret knowledge, available to us if we know how to access it.

Other archetypes that hold the key to this wisdom are the Virgin Mary, Inanna, Ishtar, Demeter, Persephone, Kali/Shakti and Gaia.

While Symra is located at the left shine of the Virgo constellation, Khambalia is located on the left foot and is an old Coptic word meaning ‘crooked claw’.

Khambalia has connections with the swastika, which far from the corrupted meaning imposed upon it by the Third Reich, is in truth an ancient symbol of life, power and the sun. It is a visual depiction of the harmony and equilibrium of the changing seasons and the innate wisdom of nature.

The word ‘Shambala’ has a similar root to Khambalia, as has the pentagram and the Arabic word for five, ‘Khamsa’. For the ancient Arabs these were the most auspicious of stars.

The pentagram has associations with Venus and again points to the mysteries of merging spirit and matter. It is no coincidence that ‘crossing into the dark’ time of year is presided over by the goddess, the crone and her feminine mysteries of renewal. This myth is an analogy of the cycle of Venus in the sky from Morning Star to Evening Star.

The solar gods having expressed their energy and brought forth the harvest, like Dumuzi, now descend into the underworld for 6 months of the year where he will be transformed ready to take up his sovereignty again with the return of the light.

While the Empress wears a starry crown her throne is placed firmly in the material world- in a field of corn. Traditionally associated with matter, the Empress has dominion over all growing things. Manifesting spirit in the material world is the deep mystery known to the Empress, Virgo, the Virgin Mary, and many of the feminine archetypes who operate in the occult knowledge of renewal.

The birth of Christ, birthing Christ consciousness are the processes that happen in the mystery of the goddess. It is She who births solar consciousness by an occult process that is beyond the bounds of rationality. It is magic.

Women have the capacity to experience something of this wisdom every lunar cycle in the process of menstruation.

As women we can connect to this wisdom through our womb, the alembic from which we create our lives, and affect the lives of those around us, and in the world. The womb is the living chalice that when cleared and opened has the potential to connect us with the  divine and empower us to be creators and leaders of our world.

If we are cut off from our womb – the seat of our power- the portal, or doorway, to source is blocked and our ability to create and manifest is lost or weakened.

Samhain, the teachings of the dark moon, the secret wisdom of the goddess, the bio-mystical experience of menstruation and birthing, and the womb as cosmic portal between spirit and matter are the teaching that are open us- as men and women- as we enter into the dark of the year.

The teachings are below our feet in the earth and above our heads in the stars, and we, conduits of spirit and matter are creators far beyond what many of us have been led to believe.

We are part of the same cycle of renewal and in this process we have potential to grow and evolve, carrying the most sacred seed of our ancestors forward so that it flowers and blooms in us.

Samhain teaches us that while everything changes, everything is circulated in the great cosmic womb, returned to the earth as primordial matter and recycled as energy to rebirth the new. By honouring and accepting the past, and by understanding that it is all part of one eternal continuum, we too free ourselves to be renewed in the cycle of life.

 

October Full Moon: The Mother’s Body

Sacred-Relationship Inner Ecology

As the moon reaches her fullness at 20° Aries, somewhere in the region of 30 000 people are actively protesting what many feel is our extinction crisis.

Extinction rebellion, or XR as it is known is a socio-political movement actively engaged in civil disobedience, and non- violent disruption to confront the potential, if not likely, social and ecological collapse.

An article in last Thursday’s Guardian revealed the 20 firms behind a third of all global carbon emissions. Not surprisingly they were oil, petroleum, gas, energy and other mining companies. Some were listed as ‘state owned’, while most are shareholder owned with CEOs reaping yearly salaries in the region of $20 million plus.

Mining deep into the earth’s body the mantra of corporate growth is “more” and, not content with trawling the depths of her flesh we have created ever more sophisticated technologies to suck the marrow from her bones.

And what is it for? A breakdown of world spending reveals total military expenditure by all 29 NATO members was $963 billion in 2018, accounting for 53 percent of world spending, while the global market for pharmaceuticals reached $1.2 trillion in 2018. These figures were taken from a quick google search and may not be entirely accurate, however it is clear that many of the earth resources are fueling these giants.

In the full moon chart, the sun- what is conscious- is at 20° Libra. The sabian symbol for this degree is:

“A revivifying contact with the Mother-force of nature and of social togetherness”

It continues:

“It is very good and healthful to become revitalized by collective experiences and deep feelings of undifferentiated unity as they merge in the vast refreshment of the planetary “Mother” where “she” is most dynamic, unlimited and unconfined by boundaries.”

This is the deep longing of the soul, to merge with the Mother, and yet, in the age of shareholder led corporatocracy, military-pharma-culture, and the unlimited harvesting of the earth’s resources where do we witness the “Mother” in her unlimited and unconfined boundaries?

It seems that every part of her body is cut up, fenced off, mined, or built upon.

As the hermetic principle states: “As within, so without; as without, so within”. We might ask ourselves where can we witness the Mother in ourselves? Where can we merge with the vast refreshment of our inner planet? And are not the two inextricably linked so as to be one in the same?

With asteroid Bacchus exactly conjunct the Sun, we may find illuminated pathways to the wild places within ourselves.

A T-square with Pluto at 20° Capricorn, moon at 20° Aries, and sun at 20° Libra- points to the great transformation underway reflected in the Saturn/Pluto conjunction culminating in January 2020.

Pluto, the great revealer has left his calling card, Saturn lord of karma, time and structure is ready to do his books- the collective checks and balances, and an appraisal of how on or off track we are for the next step of our evolution.

It might be said that the Pluto Saturn conjunction is a collective Saturn return.

Pluto associated with the resources and riches of the earth, squaring the sun and moon reveals a truth about both our conscious reality- the story we tell ourselves- and the unseen workings of the situation.

Asteroid Gaea in a trine with expansive Jupiter and the full moon illuminates the bigger picture coming into focus, binging us a step closer to genuine insight beyond the polarisation and splintering of surface level distraction, inward to the divine cells of our body and the wise guidance of the heart.

‘As Above So Below’- October 2019 News.

artwork by Jarah Tree
artwork by Jarah Tree

“That which is above is like to that which is below, and that which is below is like to that which is above, to accomplish the miracles of the one thing.”

-Hermes Trismegistus

Wheel of the Year Celebrations and Gatherings

Red Spiral offers Wheel of the Year ceremonies 8 times a year to celebrate the ‘sabbats’- the 4 cross quarter days, the 2 solstices, and the 2 equinoxes.

The next community celebration is on Thursday 31st October from 7-9 PM in Concorde House to celebrate Samhain. In the Celtic calendar Samhain marks both the end and the beginning of the yearly cycle. It is the Celtic new year marking a time when all of nature is withdrawing inside itself to release the old and prepare for the new.

It is a time to honour our ancestors as we pay homage to those who walked before us, giving thanks for their lives and remembering them in their death. The veils between the world of matter and the world of spirit is now at its thinnest, offering connection with realms beyond the everyday world, dreaming the future into being and letting go of attachments to the past.

Wheel of the Year festivals are an opportunity to mark points of transition within the sacred circle of our community and the natural world. It is an invitation to be witnessed… to voice your gratitude, hopes, and intentions in a ceremonial space… to let go of the old and invite in the new.

Our ancestors and many indigenous people across the world possessed a greater awareness of the need to mark the passing the time and the cycles of nature. In this way they were embedded into a matrix of a cosmic consciousness, in the knowledge they were part of something bigger than the personal dramas and minutiae of everyday life.

The sense of interconnectedness to an infinite creative intelligence allowed for the possibility of renewal, rites of passage, growth, and development through the natural phases of life. To belong to something larger than oneself offered power and life force through recognizing oneself as an expression of spirit in material form.

Transpersonal psychology and ideas may go some way in exploring and describing the potential for expanded awareness, however there is something magical in experiencing rituals and ceremonies that embody and express divine energies.

In times such as ours when more and more of our energy is spent in virtual worlds, disconnected form the cycles of the moon, the movements of the planets, and the natural rhythms of harvest, life and decay, it is important to pause, reflect and connect with the wider expressions of life and death.

Sun & Moon Lodge-

October also see the birth of a new monthly venture taking place on the on the full moon- the ‘Sun & Moon Lodge’ is a mixed circle that incorporates shamanism, astrology, mythology, and story- telling. The first one happens on Friday 11th October in Canterbury and will be hosted by Karen and Simão Cortes – astrologer, mythologist, and facilitator of astrodrama circles.

The theme of the first circle is Dionysus/Bacchus and the wild gods as on that evening the Sun is conjunct asteroid Bacchus. In ancient Greece, the two main mystery traditions were the Eleusinian mysteries – enacting the descent and return of Persephone – and the Dionysian Mysteries, to remove inhibitions and social constraints, liberating the individual to return to a natural state.

Women’s Moon Lodge-

Continues to meet every new moon and is facilitated by Karen for an exploration of how working with the lunar cycles, archetypes, mythology and shamanism can facilitate greater depth of awareness and connection to our feminine inner wisdom and authority.

Moon Lodge is an opportunity to deeply honor ourselves as we take our place in the community of women to be witnessed, supported and inspired, and to offer our presence as our unique gift to the circle.

This is the way Red Spiral works… an endless weaving of the material, emotional, spiritual, mental and cosmic realms to bridge spirit and matter, or heaven and earth if you like.

It is embodied practice and awareness of the interconnectedness of all things, and upholds the hermetic aphorism-

 “As within so without, as above, so below”.