We are often confused about what we must do to begin holding ourselves and others accountable.
We have this idea that in order to create change, we must prove how someone has been wrong and demand immediate punishment.
This is a roadblock to our change. This is what blocks us from being better people.
When we know that we will punish ourselves, or be punished, in a way that is unforgiving and without mercy, we become unwilling to look at ourselves and the ways in which we may have caused harm.
Instead, we cling to denial. We push away anything that would make us stop and pause to examine our behavior, for fear of the pain or destruction to self this would entail.
Compassion is NOT an avoidance of accountability. It is the the PRECURSOR to accountability.
When we are able to look at the ways in which we have harmed ourselves or others in a way that accepts the context of where we were at, that acknowledge our full humanity and the limitations of our perception, only then we have the capacity to do better.
You can create space for your full complexity to exist, even while acknowleging ways in which harm was done.
No one is ever entirely good or bad. No thing exists in a vacuum.
When we hold each other tenderly, it creates space for change. It nurtures accountability. It is a source of continual growth & evolution.
Today, you can practice seeing without rushing to judgement. You can practice understanding with care & concern. You can practice seeking justice without demanding destruction.
Justice without mercy is not justice. Accountability requires faith in our shared humanity. Let’s do this with care & concern, from today forward.
Most people are familiar with the story of Oedipus Rex, the ill-fated king who murdered his own father and married and bore children with his own mother.
Freud famously interpreted this as a tale which shows man’s secret, repressed desires to kill his father and take his place as lover to his mother. This fits into his narrative about our discontents as members of civilization. He would have us believe that men have a savage primal instinct, an id that lusts for power and sexual dominance so much that it is only society’s control by way of the superego that stops them all from committing fratricide and incest.
It’s an interesting take on this myth, if only for what it tells us about the state of the psyche of Freud and modern man.
When the Oedipus Rex begins, we find that a plague has fallen on Thebes. Sickness and death are everywhere, and after receiving word from the oracle that the plague is the result of a curse, or “religious pollution,” due to the murder of the previous King Laius, whose murderer was never found.
Oedipus rants and rages, demanding that the murderer be found. He vents his anger on anyone who will hear it. When he hears news that he does not like from Tiresias, then Creon, then his wife, Jocasta, he accuses each of deliberately undermining his authority, of plotting to destroy him, and wants them to be killed or banished for treason.
But soon, events start to unfold that reveal the truth of his past, and the nature of the curse upon the city.
Before Oedipus was born, his father, Laius, received a message from an oracle which said that his newborn son would grow up to murder his father and marry his mother.
Laius knew this, and upon the born of his son handed the infant back to his wife, Jocasta, ordering him to be killed. Unable to do so, she hands the boy over to a servant with the same orders that her husband had given her.
The servant takes Oedipus to the countryside, and leaves him exposed on a mountaintop. A shepherd, Polybus, takes him and adopts him as his own son. Once grown, Oedipus begins to suspect he has been adopted, and goes to the oracle to ask about his parentage.
The oracle repeats the same terrible prophecy: that Oedipus is fated to kill his father and marry his own mother.
Horrified, Oedipus flees the town where he has grown up and heads towards Thebes. On the way, he encounters Laius on the road to the city, and when Laius refuses to let him pass first, Oedipus strikes and kills his own father.
Outside the city of Thebes he meets the feared Sphinx, guardian of the city, who demands he answer her famous riddle or suffer death. She asks him, “Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?”
Oedipus answers: “Man.”
He crawls as a child, walks as an adult, and uses a cane into old age.
When the Sphinx hears his answer, she devours herself, and Oedipus enters the city, victorious.
Most scholars have unquestioningly assumed that the Sphinx committed suicide because Oedipus was correct. He gave the “right” answer.
But many others have started to question this interpretation, myself included.
We can start by asking ourselves more about the Sphinx, and what she represented.
According to Apollodorus, the Sphinx was a creature having the face of a woman, the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle and a tail bearing a serpent’s head at the end.
The name Sphinx is said from the Greek word meaning “to squeeze”, “to tighten up.” This could refer to the fact that, in a pride of lions, the females are the hunters, and they kill their prey by strangulation, biting the throat of prey and holding them down until they die.
Another interpretation, from the historian Susan Wise Bauer, suggests that the word “sphinx” was instead a Greek corruption of the Egyptian name “shesepankh”, which meant “living image.”
It’s possible that this could mean “the living image of God.” The Sphinx may well be a representation of the divine. She is connected to the old mystery cults that existed before the incursion of the male-dominated Olympian gods.
The Sphinx is a manifestation of the divine in her forms, according the ancient feminine religions.
The lion represents the animal consciousness, or the libido or life force within the physical body.
The next step in this evolution is represented by the face of the woman. When we are able to able to consciously work with and harness our life force (which is intimately connected with our sexual energy), we are at the stage represented by woman. The capacity to use reason and our minds to direct our desires is truly what makes us human.
The final stage in this development involves the snake and the eagle. We can look to ancient Egypt for more insights regarding the meaning of the snake. Uraeus was a coiled or rising serpent representing the force of Kundalini in the body. This was the divine energy, which, when properly awakened and utilized, would allow one to transcend our human condition and soar (as if on the wings of an Eagle) and reach the heights of heaven.
We can see here that the answer to the riddle of the Sphinx could well be the Sphinx herself. She walks with four feet (of the Lion) in the morning, two feet (of a woman) in the afternoon, and three in the evening (the eagle & the snake).
It is interesting to note that this play, Oedipus the King, was written at a time when the ancient Earth Goddesses were losing prominence and being replaced by the male-dominated Olympian gods. These feminine, chthonic goddesses of Life-Death-Rebirth were overthrown, sometimes violently (through the destruction of temples and killings of priestesses & adherents), to be replaced by male-dominated gods led by Zeus and other violent & often predatory gods.
So we must ask the question: what happens when Man becomes the center of all things?
What happens when we do not honor or respect the interconnected roles which we must play in our families, our communities, our world? When the Ego takes over and crowns himself king, ignoring his Nature and his higher Self?
Laius sealed his own fate by sending his infant son to be killed. He bequeathed his cursed self-centeredness and violent disregard for innocent others to his son Oedipus. And we, us modern men and women, have inherited this curse.
Lest we be too quick to pity Oedipus, we must remember his role in fulfilling the prophecy: he kills his father not in self-defense, but in an incident of road rage, when his father does not let him pass first.
As king, he looks to everyone but himself for the evil which has been done. He rants and he rages at the plague, at his people, at the Gods for what has befallen him. But we must not forget that it is his own blindness to the evil done by his very hand that creates his destiny.
What happens when we crown our ego King, and stay committed to ruling and dominating others, ethics and consequences be damned?
We end up here: blindly imposing our violence on the world around us.
We end up here: denying our own shadow, projecting it out onto whatever we happen to encounter outside of us.
When we crown our Ego self King, limited our sense of self to the conscious rational mind only, we become blind to the evil that is done by our own hands. And here, the left hand knows not what the right is doing. In demanding that our Ego’s sovereignty is the only thing which matters, has value or exists, we violently repress all of us (and all of the others) which we do not identify with the False Self.
This inevitably leads to violence, against self and others. It is a violence that starts from within, with the disconnection from our shadow and our true selves, and this violence and destruction seeps outward to contaminate all it touches.
This points to the part of work that we must do. We need to recognize that evil is not just a thing “out there” to be violently controlled, eliminated, or crushed in others.
Evil is a poisonous weed whose seed first sprouts from within. Left to grow unchecked, its tendrils snake outwards, wrapping themselves around whatever and whomever it comes into contact with.
But I have hope that we can do this work of transformation. There was a second riddle of the Sphinx which was left behind for us.
According to Theodectes, the riddle goes like this: “There are two sisters. One gives birth to the other, then that one gives birth to the first. The answer is Night and Day.”
According to some scholars, this points to an even more ancient riddle from the Basque region of Europe. It states: “The brother is white, the sister is black. Every morning, the brother kills the sister. Every evening, the sister kills the brother. Nevertheless, the brother and the sister never die.”
I see the sunset coming. The time has come for this long day to journey into night.
The moon is rising, and she will shine on this long-delayed night, and we will rest.
Harmony can return to the earth. Day and night, night and day, they will live and die endlessly, again in balance with the law of nature & the will of life.
In the Garden of Eden, there stood two trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil.
The Tree of Life is that of direct experience, life as we perceive it through the five senses. It is felt through the body, and the center of its intelligence is the heart.
The second tree perceived solely through the mind, and through the tool of language & logic.
Language is a tool which divides. Each word cuts through the real, splitting it into binaries. Hot & cold, men & women, light & dark, and of course, good & evil.
Another name for this tree could well be the Tree of Death. We need look no further than the fruits it often bears.
When we begin to label one element of binary as “good” and it’s opposite as “evil”, we know we are dealing with the fruit of this tree. In reality, nothing is wholly good or wholly evil. Humanity, and the universe of which we are a part, is a complex, multi-dimensional reality impossible to encapsulate in one word or phrase.
Too often, when we crown ourselves or our egos the arbiter of all that is Good, we dissociate from the messy reality of being a human being in interconnected web of relationships and roles. This often leads to the violence we see in the world around us. Convinced of our essential goodness, we turn a blind eye to the evil we can do.
It is for eating from this Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil that we were cast from the garden.
To return is not as difficult as we may have been told. We can always return to the Tree of Life. It has never stopped bearing fruit; all we need to do is look towards the sky and reach for it.
Centered in our hearts, with our eyes toward heaven and our feet on the ground, we can begin to live again. We can live with love, with connection, beyond the mind and into the beautiful, messy complexity of what it means to be a human in this vast, infinite universe.
The Tree of Knowledge is not our enemy. When we are in right relationship to it, it can often lead us in the direction of truth. But the final step is often to reach and jumó into the void, that space between thoughts and beyond words.
It is in this space that we can feel the divinity of spirit and the force of life. It is a choice we can make, every second of every day.
When in doubt, you can ask choose to step outside of yourself and ask your mind what it believe to be true.
You can then repeat this process, and ask yourself, “What does my heart know is true? What are the sensations in my body telling me? How do my five senses contribute to this?”
There’s no need to commit to any outcome ahead of time. Just practice switching between centers of awareness. Experiment with it, and see what happens. Move towards life, and watch as your experience begins to shift. You might be amazed at what you see.
Recently, I woke up in the morning with an image of this tarot card in my mind. Along with this image came the words, “Tie yourself to the Wheel of Life.”
As the day went on, I thought more deeply about what this meant.
There are many meanings surrounding card 10 of the Major Arcana. The central theme of this key revolves around change and the passing of time. It is the turning of the wheel of life, which churns ceaselessly on, paying no mind to our individual desires.
Another name for this card is the Rota Fortuna. “Rota” means wheel in Latin, while Fortuna refers to the Roman goddess of chance & luck.
In more ancient imagery, the goddess is depicted turning the wheel of fate. On this wheel sit men in various positions of favor. At the top of the wheel is the king. As Fortuna spins her wheel, each man changes position. The king moves to the right, and will eventually lose his crown. The man on the far left looks toward the king, hoping he will one day assume his position.
The favors of Fortuna are impersonal, and have little to do with the character or will of the men involved. In some older portrayals, she is even depicted with a blindfold, as her sister Lady Justice.
I’ve recently been contending the events that are unfolding in the United States, and all of the uncertainty and anxiety that they are provoking. I’ve wondered where I can even look to anymore for a sense of certainty. Nothing seems safe in a country ravaged by disease and seemingly on the brink of authoritarianism.
I desperately looked for something to cling to outside of myself to make me feel at ease. And that was when I thought of this card, the Wheel of Fortune.
Then I remembered the phrase “tie your self to the wheel of life” from my tarot training.
To start to understand what this means, it’s helpful to imagine yourself as if you were in one of the images of the Rota Fortuna. Think of yourself as the King or Queen at the top of the wheel. As it begins to turn, what do you do?
For many of us, our first instinct is to look outside of ourselves for something to cling to. We grab money, power, possessions, anything that we think can keep us on top.
But what happens when, from our position on the wheel, we cling to things in our external environment? As the wheel turns, we are torn apart. Our arms reach out to grasp for stability, but as time marches forward and the wheel turns, we move with the wheel downward towards our fate. The harder we cling to what is outside, the more we suffer.
I saw that the only solution was to center myself in my true and only source of power, that which is inside of myself.
This doesn’t mean ignoring what is going on around you. What this does mean is remembering that you are the only thing you can truly count on. In times of crisis, we will do well to look inside of ourselves for the resources that will ensure our endurance in trying times.
For me, this means meditating daily, reading & reflecting, and being in right relationship to my work and my surroundings.
Earlier this week I was reading more about alchemy in my new book, “The Emerald Tablet.” I learned about the concept of the rejected stone, or what manifests from the parts of ourselves we have not accepted and integrated. It comes from the persistance of what we keep in the shadows, unwilling to recognize and transmute.
So I said, in my mind, “I want to see my shadow. I want to know what I’m hiding from myself, so that I can work with it, and stop the cycle of manifestation into my life.” I didn’t really expect much of an answer; it was more of like, “I’ll put that on my to-do list for later.”
But I did get an answer. I entered the field of Hermes, I know that for sure. I was shown a lot of things that made me uncomfortable. That I didn’t want to accept. That even still, I tried to deny, or justify, or rationalize.
I knew that I was in the presence of Hermes, because of the play of language that was fighting it’s self in my mind.
One of my attempted justifications was, “Well, you didn’t know better. It’s understandable that you would act that way based on your past experiences & what you’ve been taught.”
Then I heard myself answer, “Okay well you are an adult now, and every day you have the choice to do differently. You don’t have to live as an extension of your past; you have a responsibility to do better now.”
I attempted to deny those words, too, but I couldn’t: they were the same things I had just said the day before about my parents. I could acknowledge that, yes, it would make sense for them to act as they did & do, but that’s never an excuse.
“Music is the space between the notes.”
So I kept going. I kept seeing. I kept accepting. I kept staying in that space between understanding and questioning. Of accepting and knowing I could do better. This space in between in where the magic is.
I’m working on staying grounded in this liminal space. At the border between two truths, between the inner and the outer, at the crossroads of above and below, the masculine and the feminine, of my light and my own darkness. To look both ways as I leap into this infinite void, the place of all possibility and of true presence.
It’s an ever-changing dance, a beautiful and delicate stepping into the future, a jump divinely inspired and grounded in truth.
Step by step, I’m here, and I’m ready for whatever may come.
In this dream, I was in a war zone. This war zone was contained within a massive warehouse, which extended out as far as I could see.
After a time, I came upon a wooden staircase, and ascended up into an attic. It seemed to be a workshop where many scribes were writing in bound books of various shapes and sizes.
There, I found a nun, a saint whose name I recognized (but can no longer remember now). She spoke to me, and asked me of my many fears. Of what I thought about my own power. And of the fears she knew I had surrounding this power.
Before we parted, she handed me a notebook of my own, and pointed toward a black wrought-iron spiral starecase at the back of the attic workshop. She gave me one question I was to reflect and write on: “What purpose does your rage serve?”
I walked past the many scribes and ascended to the next level, and then the next. As I walked from room to room, in an unending spiral moving towards the sky, I encountered scenes from my past, and some from a possible future.
In each room, I would find a different pen, each a different shape with a different kind of ink, and here I would set down my notes. Here was my rage. Here was my purpose. Here was my power.
I’ve been reflecting on this dream during these past three days, days which have been filled with anxiety, turmoil and unrest.
I’m learning not to fear my own power. I’m learning how deeply I had internalized the message that my power is not welcome. That my passion is not allowed. That my presence is one which should be diminished.
I see these messages for what they are, tools of control, methods of oppression that have kept me small, that have kept me serving the needs of the patriarchal capitalist (+ colonist + white supremacist + beyond) society in which I was born.
And I see the purpose of my rage.
After a lifetime of being told that anger, not to mention rage, was “not allowed” for a person in my position, I am welcoming it. I am feeling it. And I am listening to it.
I am asking my anger, “What are you here to tell me?”
I ask my rage, “What do I need to do to honor you?”
I am listening. I am open to answers. Now I know that my darkness is my fuel. This is what will light my way forward. And I am ready to carry the torch into a new future.
“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house … My fullest concentration of energy is available to me only when I integrate all the parts of who I am, openly, allowing power from the particular sources of my living to flow back and forth freely through all my different selves, without the restrictions of externally imposed definition.”
This is my work, and I am commited to doing it without apology. I’m done exiling all the parts of my self that made others around me uncomfortable. I’m done feeling “too much” or “not enough.” I’m done criticizing, shaming, denying the fullness of my being in an effort to make myself an object of mass consumption easy for others to digest.
And I urge you women, you people of color, you with different abilities, all of you who have been told you are somehow not deserving to join me here now. We can do this work with compassion, curiousity, understanding & love.
We can reclaim our selves, and reclaim our world. Join me.
Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of graduating from Mama Gena’s Virtual Pleasure Boot Camp at the School of Womanly Arts.
I feel so blessed, grateful and proud to have been one of over 500 Sister Goddesses to take part in this class and the final graduating ceremony, which took place over a Zoom call Monday morning.
After speaking about the final art, “the Womanly Art of Inviting Abundance,” Mama Gena put on music and invited us to dance for ourselves and the other Sister Goddesses present.
Not only was it so much sexy fun, it was a testament to my progress and growth that I even danced at all! I know that at the beginning of the class I was barely able to even get myself moving for the dance breaks in the middle of class. Now, here I was, feeling sensual and powerful enough to join the other SG’s in our graduation striptease dance break.
Participating in this class has been a pure pleasure. It is also once of the most healing things I have ever done for myself.
I first read “Pussy” by Regena Thomashauer (aka “Mama Gena) around two years ago, and then moved on to reading her “School of Womanly Arts” as well as “Owning and Operating Men” shortly afterwards.
I was deeply touched and impressed by her work. I wholeheartedly agreed that pleasure is power, and that our desires are the gateway to our dreams.
But then life (or inertia or resistance to change etc.) took over, and I kept on living my life as usual. Great ideas, sure, but…. [insert excuses here]
Signing up for the class, I approached it from a business-as-usual kind of way, meaning: I tried to understand everything intellectually as quickly as possible without really putting anything into practice in my actual life.
The power of this class was that it challenged me to go beyond my resistance and to begin truly embodying these principles.
First of all, Mama Gena herself is an absolute powerhouse. Her turn-on and magnetic energy is palpable and high contagious, even when experienced solely through the Zoom calls.
I know that I felt super-charged and excited after every session, connected to my power and ready to go after what I wanted. Her presence is like a candle that, touching other woman, lights them up so they can shine with all the brightness they may have been holding in for so long.
Equally important to Mama Gena’s powerful presence was the role of community among the other Sister Goddesses (as we call our classmates and fellow empowered women).
We had a private Facebook group where we could practice each of the arts, and receive praise and “uprides” from other SG’s.
We were also encouraged to find a Fitness Partner to Spring Clean and share our Trinities with. I had the pleasure of working with 3 different women from all over the world (based in New York, Canada and India).
This what was truly took this work to the next level. In the process of working through each of the Womanly Arts, I was able to get clear on some of my own internal processes and thoughts around pleasure and more. I felt heard and seen by strong, beautiful and powerful women I respected and admired. And I was able to learn from what each of these women shared with me, from their own struggles and shame, as well as their triumphs and victories.
Although this class will formally be ending in just a few days, I’m looking forward to continuing to practice each of the Womanly Arts and everything else that I learned during this time. I’m also looking forward to staying in touch with the friends that I made here, and to living my life in a new, more expansive and empowered way, as a Sister Goddess should.
I’m writing about this ritual now, even though it’s something I did almost two months ago, on March 23.
But I still wanted to share some of what I learned here. In some ways, it feels like a turning point when it comes to how I conceptualize and relate to my ritual practices.
So I’ll start by saying that I was NOT looking forward to this one. I am not a big fan of Saturn. I’ve always felt uncomfortable when thinking about how the Saturnian energies of rules, limits and responsibilities manifest themselves in my life.
I had a very simple set-up for my altar that night. It was all black everything: black altar cloth, black obsidian pyramid, and a tall black taper candle in the center.
I started this ritual the way I usually do, by calling in the four directions, casting a circle, and then finally, evoking Saturn.
I asked that Saturn be here with me now, and in offering thanks for this presence and assistance in my ritual (and beyond), I vowed to honor and respect Saturn and all that this archetype represents.
That’s when it occured to me: I have never, ever done this before.
I’ve never had any respect for limitations or honored the role of boundaries in my life.
I saw that I’ve spent 30+ years fearing, and running from, any and all kinds of rules, limitations, and boundaries.
Maybe I’ve never really understood what these things were truly about. It seems to me I’ve usually understood myself as a victim of these things. Rules were meant to make me obey, to make me submit, to make me suffer. Limitations were all the places I could never go, all the things I could never be, everything I could never have.
What I’d failed to see was that these things did not have to be about my own weakness. In fact, rules, limits, boundaries could all become my friend. If I wanted to, I could learn to make them serve me.
In that moment, I saw how deeply I had done msyelf a disservice in not respecting these elements that Saturn rules. In fearing them, I had let them and others take control of my life. Now, in honoring them, I could take my power back and make my life my own.
At the time, I had attributed this shift in understanding as my own personal growth (and prior misunderstanding of Saturn’s qualities). But looking back, I’m starting to think that it’s like I was actually picking up on this shift in cosmic energies that was occuring as Saturn moved into Aquarius.
Saturn had been in Capricorn (which it rules) for the past 26 years, the majority of my life. Capricorn is an earth sign, known for being stubborn and rigid, resistant to change, and associated with authoritarian leadership and even oppressive circumstances.
Saturn is also the ruler of Aquarius, according to traditional astrology (while modern astrology gives that role to Uranus). These two zodiac signs do share some things in common: they shy away from emotional expression, are concerned with rules & norms, and focus on society and how it’s structured.
But while Capricorn brings a very heavy hand to these matters, Aquarius swings to the opposite side of the spectrum. Aquarius is progressive, original, and independent. This sign expresses its concern for the structures of society with a focus not on what has been (like Capricorn), but about what could be.
Aquarius is humanitarian and egalitarian; an air sign, it uses its intellectual force and vigor to imagine a better world. It is a sign that would reform and re-make everything that Capricorn has put in place, seeking to bring freedom and independence for those within its orbit.
I now think that this ritual was so powerful because I somehow managed to tap in to exactly that shift in energy represented by this zodiacal transition.
It was only natural for me to have experienced Saturn’s energies in the past as oppressive and punishing: in Capricorn, that is what they were.
Moving into Aquarius, I had the opportunity to experience all these rules and limits in a healthier way, one which ultimately benefits me.
I’ve been thinking about boundaries and limits and discipline so often the past months. I’ve been able to set new boundaries with family and friends, as well my self. It’s made me a better daughter, dog mom, friend, and person. It’s helped me focus on what I do want to allow into my life, instead of my discomfort with the parts of my life I don’t.
How are you feeling this transition of Saturn into Aquarius? I’d love to hear from you about what you’ve noticed so far. Tell me about how you viewed Saturn’s rules and limits in the past versus today. I’m looking forward to reading about all of your insights in the comments below.