These days, when I want to get into the zone to write about the re-emerging Feminine, or work on one of my new Feminine Mojo projects, I go prowling Google images for inspiration. Imagery goes under the radar of the intellect, into the body to awaken some long-sleeping insight there.
This morning, as always, I found some evocative gems. Thanks to the nature of the web, I linked my way to new imagery finds as well.
Imagery & the Feminine
Leonard Shlain, in the Alphabet Versus the Goddess, wrote that the ascendancy of the printed alphabet 'rewired our brains' and set us on a course of the dominance of intellect and reason, sans Feminine wisdom.
While there are those who question this, saying that alphabet was used in 'Goddess centered' cultures for a long time, it seems to make sense that as reliance on alphabet increased, we became oriented away from the more visual, imaginal, embodied-intuitive capacities. Kind of like what a recent flurry of research is showing now about how our hyper-technology immersion is rewiring our brains.
Stirring the Feminine with Athena, Minerva & the Famed Sybil of Cumae
So as I began my own long trek from the over-dominance on my Masculine, analytical nature to a remembrance of 'the other' -- that associated with the Feminine 'right brained' capacities -- I found the use of imagery essential, whether the ancient symbolism presented in the more beautifully crafted tarot decks to the art of the masters, or even just 'adding more color'.
Gustav Klimt's Goddess Athena
I've always loved Gustav Klimt's painting of Athena, decked in the armor she donned in an increasingly martial culture. But unlike many of the statues of creamy colored stone, Klimt's Athena is golden. Where the Feminine has often been associated with symbols like moon, water, and silver -- the lunar, flowing essence of Yin/Feminine -- the Golden Athena hints at the more Masculinized nature given Athena, now a Goddess of War and Reason as well as Feminine Wisdom. She's formidable, to be sure.
Browsing further, the work of Franz Stuck (pronounced 'shtook') introduced itself to me. Stook's work seems darker, moodier, as if he's exploring into the Mysterious nature of the Feminine (which his work often depicted).
His version of Athena is darker, donned in black clothing (which can either symbolize conformity, or the depth of Mystery and Night). Stook's Athena still has her traditional symbolism -- the owl and snake, the Medusa head, that hint at her earlier existence as a creatrix Great Goddess.
The Magic of Elihu Vedder - Minerva & the Sybil of Cumae
Continued browsing led to a meeting with Elihu Vedder, and his beautiful mosaic Athena that appears in the U.S. Library of Congress (image at the beginning of this post). This Athena uses her Roman name, Minerva. Vedder's Athena-Minerva is exquisite, depicting the martial 'chain mail' along with a more Feminine quality as well, with flowing clothes, the hint of the snake, and the Medusa at her heart. The statue of winged Nike stands nearby.
And then I saw Vedder's Sybillia of Cumae, based on the story (history, I'm guessing) of an elder wise-woman prophetess, or Sybil, who brought nine books of sybilline prophecies to sell to King Lucius Tarquinias. He declined to buy them, so she burned three; he declined again, and she burned another three; and finally he purchased the remaining three, wherein the emerging Christians interpreted prophecy of Christ. Many other great masters depicted the Sybil of Cumae, and other sybils (or oracles, like those of Delphi) as well.
Sybils and such priestesses were also guardians of the gates to the Underworld, that 'place' and Mystery that the Hero and Heroine must travel in order to become initiated into true Wisdom. The peril of this journey, and why one needs such wise, lantern-holding guides (those who have already done the journey) is hinted at in the Aeneid:
- Trojan, Anchises' son, the descent of Avernus is easy.
- All night long, all day, the doors of Hades stand open.
- But to retrace the path, to come up to the sweet air of heaven,
- That is labour indeed. (Aeneid 6.10.)
Renegade Communications of the Suppressed Feminine
Imagery, fairy tale, and poetic verse became the few ways that the 'heretical' suppressed Wisdom, the history and essence of the Goddess, could still be depicted and shared. And shared it was. Think of the symbolic imagery 'hidden' in the works of DaVinci or others, for example, or the tarot themselves -- the journey of life, the evolution of the soul, passed along as 'mere playing cards', for awhile at least.
When I look at such paintings, in museums or via imagery on the web, something deeper is stirred. Not just the 'lost history', but of the gifts of seeing and prophecy -- those Feminine gifts -- themselves are awakened from slumber.
Join me to explore, remember, and strengthen these and other stories and gifts of the Feminine, in the Autumn session of the Feminine Mojo Mystery School.
Image Credits: Pallas-Athena by Gustav Klimt, Minerva by Franz Stuck, and Athena by Elihu Vedder (WikiCommons); Sybillia of Cumae by Elihu Vedder (Library of Congress, United States)