Return from the Underworld, a Journey to Feminine Empowerment

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a new Feminine movement afoot.  Women have been awakened around the world by the political pomposity of patriarchal governments and the debasement of decency, compassion and equality.  Still, despite the rage they feel, many women are caught up in a dual need to take action against injustice and remain in their feminine roles as mothers, wives, daughters, sisters.  Transitioning into a warrior role is impossible for most women while they tend to the needs of their families.  Women are acculturated to be the caretakers and nurturers.  It is, after all, the sacred function of the Feminine, to provide the soft place to land for their husbands and children. Millions of women have suffered their own, private atrocities at the hands of the dominant male culture.  For some, the suffering has been of a traumatic, abusive nature.  For others, more subtle forms of suffering in the forms of oppression such as not being granted equality or acknowledgment, merely for being born female.  Women have struggled to find their voices in a world steered by male egos and when they do, they are met with criticisms that they are overstepping their boundaries or being unreasonable.  Society has a need to view them either as “nice girls” or “aggressive bitches”.  Having been held back, they learn to suppress their own needs, providing what others need instead.

It was that way for Regina who followed her father around on a Midwest farm as a little girl.  While she learned that her gender didn’t dictate her strength or abilities as he challenged her to do a man’s work, there were opposite, oppressive messages that overrode any sense of strength she could have gained from being her father’s sidekick.  Even as her father taught her to ride a horse (probably so that she could come in useful when the cows got out); mend a barbed wire fence; catch a fish in the pond; castrate a calf; milk a cow; drive a tractor; mow hay, stack hay bails in the barn and till a garden, she was being taught to be timid, keep her mouth shut, be nearly unseen.  Her father was rageful and abusive and so the message was mixed.  He would say “You can do anything you think you’re big enough to do,” and when she did, he’d pull out his belt and let her have it.

His abuse did not end with her, but extended to her mother. Regina would cower in her closet while her father raged against her mother, hurling insults and blows in an unleashed, self-indulgent fury over some perceived slight.  Her mother would plead for him to calm down, which only enraged him further.  She seemed to know that nothing she could say or do would derail the oncoming train and soon she’d submit, in silence.

No one was there to save children and women, in those days.  No Child Protective Service stepped in to break the cycle. Society considered domestic abuse to be no more than marital squabbles.  No laws existed to protect the wives of millions of men, emboldened by the misogynist principle that a man’s property included the sentient beings living under his roof.  Emergency Room physicians administered care without asking “How did this happen?” Women hid their bruises behind sunglasses or stayed home until the marks were faded sufficiently to allow public appearance with a minimum of shame.

To this day, the laws protecting children are woefully inadequate or inadequately enforced.  In the U.S., where 1 in 6 women are raped in the span of their lifetime (www.rainn.org) and 1 in 4 women will be the victims of severe, domestic violence (www.ncadv.org), it’s hard to imagine how a little girl could grow up to feel empowered.  Instead, girls like Regina learn to keep their mouths shut, be good girls, do exactly as told and suffer in silence. They learned that men will tell you it’s great if you are in your power only in so much as you are useful to them and express no differing opinions or desires.  Little girls grow up in this way, all over the world and many in much harsher conditions.  Even here in the so-called “greatest country in the world”, the law more often turns its back on girls like Regina and women like her mother.  Rape victims are questioned as if they caused their own attack; domestic violence victims are given no protection from their abusers other than ineffective and unenforced protective orders that require breaking before anything more can be done to contain the violence.

It should be said, though, that abuse doesn’t always come in the more overt, dramatic way, but in more subtle and sometimes even unspoken ways.  In the workplace, women are sexually harassed at a high rate.  A 2015 survey done by Cosmopolitan Magazine of 2,235 women revealed at 1/3 women have been sexually harassed at work and only 29% reported it due to fear of retaliation or not being taken seriously.

Millions of girls are growing up in the archetypal myth of Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and his consort, Demeter.

She spent her days wandering in the fields of flowers, lost in her thoughts until the earth cracked open and she was abducted into the Underworld by Hades.  Raped and oppressed by Hades, she learned the ways of the Underworld.  She learned to find her way through the tortured and lost souls there.  She ministered to their emotional wounds and soothed their fears.  In doing this, she overcame her fears, learning that power began where her fear ended.  Persephone emerged from the Underworld transformed into a powerful Goddess who brought the Springtime flowers to the Earth while ruling over the Underworld as the guide and minister to souls entering there.  She continued to contain the beauty of the maiden but embodied the power of one who has survived walking through hell and back. 

The real life Persephones of this world often become the emotional caretakers of their mother and siblings.  Regina often had to listen, sympathetically to her mother’s complaints of dreams lost; love lost and the sordid details of her parents’ sad relationship.  No one was there to comfort this child whose childhood was traded in by both of her parents for their own needs. No one was there to protect her when the storm raged.

She learned that the best defense was to be hyperaware of the emotional winds blowing, no matter how subtle.  She learned that by sensing the oncoming storm, she could at least brace for its onslaught as shelter was nowhere to be found.  Sometimes, she even called the storm to relieve the sense of foreboding and get it over with.  She learned that by being a timid pleaser, she could sometimes avert the storm.

As she grew, others saw her as the one who never spoke her mind, but was always there for others.  Because of her own struggles in the Underworld, she had a special wisdom to impart to those walking through similar hells.  Her peers turned to her, as her mother did.  She knew how to comfort, but did not know how to counsel them into their power.  She knew what their pain felt like and often comforted herself with the thoughts that at least her pain was not as bad as some who confided in her.

Then, one day, she felt it.  A rush of power came up from within her at an unexpected moment when yet another man had the audacity to lay his hand on her.  In one smooth and swift move, Regina whirled, fist flying into the face of the man who picked the wrong moment to incite her.  It was the moment Regina emerged from the Underworld as an embodiment of terror-transformed into vindication. The old Regina would have been horrified at her actions and immediately fearful of retribution.  Instead, this new woman standing over a stunned oppressor, felt oddly numb.

The new Regina became empowered that day.  It took time to rein in her anger.  She had to learn how to use it constructively and without violence.  It required years, but the full embodiment of Feminine power came to her.  She became an advocate for abused women and children; gained a degree in psychology and used her experience in the Underworld to assist others while empowering them.

And so it will be with the collective Feminine in this new onslaught of unadulterated, impertinent, male persecution.  The Feminine is rising with a vengeance, but will find its way back to a new, rarely explored embodiment of justice; strength and compassion.  The Feminine is emerging from the Underworld as a powerful warrior for those who suffer.  She will become the leader of today and tomorrow.  She will be the one taking action at the Town Hall; volunteering to care for the homeless and abused and she will build housing; develop clinics; change laws and bring humanity back to balance.  She will find her strength through an alchemical transformation that blends the creativity, compassion, fierceness and strength to create a new Feminine that will heal the wounds inflicted by a distorted patriarchy.

 

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