She Who Dwells Within| March 6, 2022 by Dr. Kathryn Benton
I, Who am the beauty of the green earth and the white moon
among the stars and the mysteries of the waters,
I call upon your soul to arise and come unto me.
For I am the soul of nature that gives life to the universe.
From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.
Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold,
all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.
Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion,
honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.
And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking
and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery:
for if that which you seek,
you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.
For behold, I have been with you from the beginning,
and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.
The opening quote is from Doreen Valiente, a Wiccan Priest, often referred to as the “Mother of Modern Witchcraft”. This, along with the recording from Jennifer Berezan, is a call to return to our origins…the source of our being and the feminine nature of the Earth and indeed the Universe. It is a call to worship, a call to sacrifice, a call to change course.
There is no doubt that this is needed right now. There is, in the words of my teacher, Matthew Fox, a need for “giving up Patriarchy this lent, and then for after lent as well”. Lent, the 40 days before Easter in the Christian calendar began this past Wednesday. It is a time of sacrifice…a time of introspection…a time of coming to the feet of our mother…the Goddess in her many forms. It is a traditionally a time of sacrifice…of “making sacred”…of giving up things that do not serve us. Fox gives us an illuminating background of Patriarchy in our world. He writes:
Patriarchy is that view of the world, around 6500 years old, that holds men superior to women; and control superior to partnership’ and power-over superior to power-with or compassion and justice; and empire-building the purpose of society.
I appreciate this broadening of the definition of Patriarchy. It is not only that men have more power than women…it is not only that men have traditionally controlled women. It is much more than that. Fox continues:
Patriarchy also assumes that the reptilian brain should dominate the mammal brain, thus war should trump interconnectivity and empathy. Currently, on live television and tik-tok and the rest, we are watching war in action and how Patriarchy and the faux masculinity it promulgates is currently invading Ukraine with every intention of destroying it and its inhabitants and culture.
Fox speaks often of the reptilian brain and the mammalian brain…the difference in how we respond to life…the difference in how we work together in community…the difference in how we are able to make room for all on this “pale blue dot”, as Carl Sagan calls it. Fox speaks of the “faux masculinity” as opposed to his description of alternative views of “sacred masculinity”. Speaking of Putin and Trump, he states:
Both of them suffer from the common disease of Patriarchy with its concomitant poisons of self-pity, hatred, unhinged anger that leads to war and violence, and a deeply hidden “fatalistic self-hatred” as well.
Calling Patriarchy a “disease” puts it into perspective. In the context of world events, this disease includes war and violence and indeed, self-pity and ultimately self-hatred, for if we “hate” our neighbor, we also hate ourselves. But Fox is not through with us yet. He continues:
Patriarchy also believes that humans are more important than the survival of a healthy planet, thus it traffics in matricide, the killing of Mother Earth, and, believe it or not, in denial that climate change is happening. (Bad for business, especially fossil fuel business, to admit the truth.)
Of course, this is at the root of our inability to truly honor our Mother Earth. If we feel that we are more important than the other parts of creation, it is impossible for us to rid ourselves of Patriarchy in all of its forms. We forget that we are actually a part of nature…of creation. Instead, we say that we have lost our connection to nature…our intimacy with the sun, the earth, the plants and the animals. But if we truly believe this, then it means that we have lost our connection to ourselves as well. It is this separation that lurks within the mindset of Patriarchy, as well as any kind of system that functions with the same set of values…power-over, empire-building, abuse and discrimination.
And this is why we need the reminder of another way of being…the way of power-with, of compassion and justice. Ushered in by the Goddess and Fox’s view of the Sacred Masculine as well, this is not new. It is ancient wisdom. I have talked again and again about one example of this view of our world, Hildegard of Bingen. Yes, of course I could not deliver a sermon during Women’s History Month that did not include the words of St. Hildegard. She wrote:
She is so bright and glorious that you cannot look at her face or her garments
for the splendor with which she shines. For she is terrible with the terror of the avenging lightning, and gentle with the goodness of the bright sun; and both
her terror and her gentleness are incomprehensible to humans....
But she is with everyone and in everyone, and so beautiful is her secret that
no person can know the sweetness with which she sustains people,
and spares them in inscrutable mercy.
She is of course talking about the Goddess…the Comforting Spirit from which we have come and to which we will return. She is both “terrible with the terror of avenging lightning” and “gentle with the goodness of the bright star”. And she is “with everyone and in everyone”. She “sustains us with her sweetness” and “spares” us with her “inscrutable mercy”. Hildegard was not only a writer of poems, she also wrote songs. The following is a song that is performed in a tunnel underneath a highway. It is haunting and profound.
Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179)
O Comforting Fire of Spirit
O comforting fire of Spirit, Life, within the very Life of all Creation. Holy you are in giving life to All.
Holy you are in anointing those who are not whole; Holy you are in cleansing a festering wound.
O sacred breath, O fire of love, O sweetest taste in my breast which fills my heart with a fine aroma of virtues.
O most pure fountain through whom it is known that God has united strangers and inquired after the lost.
O breastplate of life and hope of uniting all members as One, O sword-belt of honor, enfold those who offer blessing.
Care for those who are imprisoned by the enemy and dissolve the bonds of those whom Divinity wishes to save.
O mightiest path which penetrates All, from the height to every Earthly abyss, you compose All, you unite All.
Through you clouds stream, ether flies, stones gain moisture, waters become streams, and the earth exudes Life.
You always draw out knowledge, bringing joy through Wisdom's inspiration.
Therefore, praise be to you who are the sound of praise and the greatest prize of Life, who are hope and richest honor bequeathing the reward of Light.
The recording, sung by Jess Dandy, is very powerful. It captures the ethereal, deep and loving tone of the song. It has to be heard to truly be experienced. The words are speaking of the Goddess…the feminine aspect of our creator, who can comfort us in times of need…who draws out knowledge that leads to a joyful wisdom…who gives life to All and makes us whole…who unites strangers and inquires after the lost...who is, therefore, worthy of our praise…our respect, our honor and our love. It is the Spirit of Life that carries us through the “storms of life” …that provides support when we think there is none. The following song sung by Jennifer Berezan is one way to meditate on this aspect of the Divine Feminine.
Remembering the feminine nature of divinity…of spirituality is very important, but I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that I feel that all will be well, without any effort or sacrifice on our part. Another witch, Starhawk writes,
Safety and refuge and healing are important aspects of spiritual community. But they are not the whole of spirituality. Feeling good is not the measure by which we should judge our spiritual work.
Ritual is more than self-soothing activity.
Spirituality is also about challenge and disturbance,
about pushing our edges and giving us the support
we need to take great risks.
Starhawk knows something about work in community. She is an author and activist, as well as a witch. She has worked with the help of her own spirituality to address climate change and other social justice issues.
We too, in this community are engaged in “pushing our edges” and certainly in supporting members who are bold enough to “take great risks”. We are in need of the Goddess to support our work of challenge and disturbance, as well as healing, safety and refuge. We are in need of the strength and love, the inspiration and support of She Who Dwells Within.
I will leave you with a song that brought tears of relief and joy to my eyes. It reminded me of the inspiration and support that stands at the ready, calling us to the moments of our high resolve.
A testament to the power of the Goddess…of the nurturing spirit of life to balance our world…to raise us from the depths of our despair…from the delusions of Patriarchy. We are indeed raised up to the mountaintop…we are indeed capable of the strength of the mountains when we are on the shoulders of one we love. We are made whole…ready for the current moment when we recall the inner resources of, She Who Dwells Within.