When I was young She appeared to me in flowing robes of green, ever-pregnant, as the mother-lover-consort archetype. She offered me a safe place to explore my budding femininity as a young adult. Later, as I discovered I could not myself become a mother, I sought out other aspects of Her and I found She could also be a wise old crone; I sought to cultivate the traits of the benevolent guide. Yet something in this omnipresent benevolence still felt strained, like I was only peeking under Her veil and had not experienced the fullness of Her. I became obsessed, moving rapidly through the Greek pantheon; even as I was intrigued by the rages of Hera and the bitter frost of Demeter I was still dissatisfied by the reception of these attributes as tragic faults, and was tempted to dismiss these as merely fragments of some greater whole. I hungered for more; a fuller version of Her that could venerate the fullness of my own experiences as a woman, now aged 30+ years.
I stumbled upon the Sumerian goddesses and was in awe of the power of Ereshkigal; I saw the parallels between Inanna’s journey into the Underworld and Persephone’s, but here the former was rent, limb from limb, by the unrepenting rage of the Goddess until all that was left of her was bones. While Persephone was seduced by a man Inanna was challenged by a woman. Archetypally, I found the Sumerian version more satisfying and I sat with it for a while, writing and making some paintings about this descent. I sought to reconcile the rages of my early 20s, moving to forgive the boldness of youth.
Later, I became aware all the contradictions in myself; I was alarmed and intrigued to find that I could be and hold so many conflicting traits inside of myself. As I was certain many of these traits were imposed by the outside world I spent the better part of my life struggling to reconcile them, rejecting these and elevating those, until I was nearly driven mad with the effort to box up all the traits I saw as ugly, undesirable, shameful, or as originating outside of myself. I moved further into the realm of the Dark Goddess, relishing the ruthlessness of Kali and the raw reverence in the poetry written about her awesome power; I wanted to harness her cutting power to remove those things which I hated about myself, once and for all.
I hacked and I slashed, telling myself it was good to “let go” of my indignant, impotent rage, my freakishly wild nature and my “too sweet,” people-pleasing demeanor, reasoning that the crooked edges and rampant vines in the garden of the mind needed a good chopping from time to time. In the cutting I was even more lost than before and I began to see how the docile female model of the Mother Mary and the Goddess of the Green Earth NEEDED this aggressive nature as a foil to all that sweetness. I soon understood that, I too, needed these complimentary components within my psyche in order to really achieve wholeness. I learned about the Shadow and the concept of naming and integrating those energies and I was abashed to see that I had approached the Dark Goddess for perhaps the wrong reasons. Where I wanted to disconnect myself from undesirable traits I really needed to embrace these; Ereshkigal peels back the layers of the overculture so that we can recreate ourselves from our very Soul.
Thus began my search for a Whole and Complete image of the Goddess, one who well and truly venerates the ugly-beauty, the demure-aggression, the wild freedom that is my experience of my female soul…and I may have found her in perhaps an unlikely place: the Baba Yaga. A wild witch of Russian folklore I see in Her a demoted but powerful Goddess. She maintains dominion over life as the Killer-Regeneratrix (M. Gimbutas) while she keeps the sun, moon and stars under her command in a trunk by the foot of her bed (C. P. Estes). She protects and guides young adventurers while also meting out punishment to those who defy Her order; she is the very nature, the power of it all at once. She can appear as a fetching maiden, peasant woman or a terrifying crone and her role is that of Donor and Villain both (V. Propp). She kills and gives birth in equal measure, empowered to make and use whatever tools she requires to accomplish ends known only to her; she apologizes to no one, never asking permission as she dances wildly or sails across the sky in her cauldron.
While her ambiguous, multi-facted nature beguiles folklorists I am reveling in it all.