PaGaian Water Cosmology (Eileen Haley)
Our theme this month is "Water & Worship." Thanks to Elizabeth McAnally for introducing us to Glenys Livingstone, Ph.D., who says, "Water is always included in the elements acknowledged at PaGaian ceremonies." Read a sample of Dr. Livingstone's work here. Glenys connected us to Eileen Haley, who wrote the beautiful piece featured below.
We All Come
As people of Goddess, we believe – as Zsuzsanna Budapest puts it – that all things come from the Goddess, and to Her they will return, like a drop of rain flowing to the ocean. In other words, the cycle of water is, in our tradition, the core essential analogy for all of life.
It is a very deep and old human impulse to venerate a pool of water. In the folklore of Europe - home of the ancestors of some of us - wells, pools, lakes and rivers are the dwelling places of numinous female presences - Goddesses, nixies, nymphs, naiads, mermaids.
Even in cities which have turned away from Mother Nature, people still throw coins into wishing wells to seek good luck and show appreciation. In doing so they are, consciously or unconsciously, continuing the acts of reverence paid over millennia to those presences known to us as the Goddess Brigid of the Sacred Wells, as the Dame Blanche, as Sulis Minerva and as many other names.
The same flows that course through the land and around the Earth are carried in our own bodies as blood, sweat, tears, breastmilk and amniotic fluid, lubricating our bodies and spirits, satisfying thirst and nourishing life in all its forms.
We stand with those who are taking action to prevent and reverse the poisoning and depletion of the Earth’s freshwater, in particular from extreme forms of mining such as fracking and longwall mining.
The voice of Gaia once spoke through her eldest daughter Themis at Delphi. Themis ruled prophesy: knowing nature and human nature, she could predict outcomes; she could vision the future. The very name of Themis became synonymous with the essence of civilised existence: right custom, proper procedure, balance; divine Law.
Now, Gaia speaks again. Clearly She has had enough of extreme pincushioning invasions of Her holy body, the poisoning of Her sacred lifeblood. At this moment in history, we people of Goddess are called to act as if we truly believe that the Earth is a living, conscious being that we're part of. And join in this great movement that is taking us towards a new paradigm of relationship with Her. We are called upon to lend our strength and determination to the guardians of water - Coventina; Brigid of the clootie wells; and all the others, in all the continents. We are called upon to speak as Themis.
We know that this is urgent work we are called to by Goddess in this place, and at this time, for the preservation of our sacred waters, for the defence of Mother Earth.
We know it in our waters that another world, a rebalanced world, is possible.
You are a child. You are lying on a mat. You have been sleeping. It is morning. You wake and open your eyes. Sunlight is pouring in through an open doorway, and between the slats of the daub-and-wattle walls of the thatched hut where you are lying. You have had a dream that has troubled you. You are glad to see the sunshine, hear the voices of women talking and laughing outside. You rise, you go to join them. A hearthfire is burning outside; an earthenware pot of porridge is suspended over it, yams are roasting in the coals. The women greet you. They are all your kin - mother, sisters, aunts, grandmother, cousins. Because in your world, women do not move away, but remain with their birth kin, in their home village; it is the men who move away when they grow up.
One of the women serves you porridge from the pot into a clay bowl. The bowl is decorated with zig-zags and chevrons. You know that these are shapes beloved by the Great Mother, giver of life and nourishment. You begin to eat the porridge slowly, looking around you. Down the hill, below the village, men and boys are fishing with nets in the wetlands. Women at other hearths are weaving, making fabric with the same designs of zig-zags and chevrons; others are making pottery, great-bellied pots with bird heads. In the distance you can hear the laughter of other children and the singing of a thrush.
The women tell you they have let you sleep so long because they knew that you were dreaming. You tell them the dream that has troubled you: a nightmare of the land dried out and devastated, no sign of green, no sign of life; water grey and poisoned; the air thick with toxins; women's bodies ridiculed or abused, women's culture disparaged and despised. The women exchange glances. They too have dreamt this dream at times. Come, they say, come, we will take you to a place where you will receive something that will enable you to pass on through the centuries, to your descendants, the memory of this world you live in, a world which honours the ancient Mother of us all and of all life; a world which honours the female body as the Goddess Creatrix, which honours the Earth as the body of the Goddess.
Come, they say, come, taking your small hand in theirs. You lay aside your bowl of porridge, you rise and go with them. There is a path, it leads up, away from the village, along a gurgling stream. You pass a pool where the children are diving and jumping. The path continues upward; you are climbing a mountain now. Pine trees whisper in the breeze. Small furry creatures, startled, scurry away into the higher branches. It is hard climbing, and the sun is growing stronger in the clear blue sky; you sweat and pant. The stream is smaller now, tumbling down over stones and between boulders sculpted by water into smooth and elegant shapes. The women ahead look back and smile at you. We are near, they say, come.
You reach a cave in the mountainside; it is spacious, dark and cool after the hot bright sunshine outside. The women beckon you; here, they say, here; this is the source, the source of life, this is She. You enter. From a small cleft in the rocky floor of the cave there issues the tiniest trickle of water. See, they say; this is as ancient as life itself, and as new as a heartbeat ago. All waters are Hers, all lakes, rivers, springs, wells, the great ocean where the waters mingle, however muddied and salted; and whence the sun draws the moisture up to fall as rain and filter through the limestone pores of Her body, to birth here once again, fresh and pure and undefiled. Through our own bodies course Her sacred liquids, Her sacred juices; sacred the amniotic fluid of our wombs, sacred the milk of breasts. This is the wellspring. Drink, the women say, drink. You stoop and cup your hands.
[Celebrant pours a little water into the hands of participants.]
Eileen Haley is a Sydney, Australia-based quilter, poet and crone. In 2005, she made a trip around a world, seeking out magical places and connections. Eileen’s quilt series EarthWomen came out of this experience. It is, amongst other things, a tribute to the long relationship between humans and the fae – an integral part of the world of our ancestors, which still fills our lives with richly-woven imaginative, emotional and even erotic dimensions, and fulfils the deep yearning for mystery and magic which persists in the human heart. A diptych from EarthWomen won the People’s Choice award at the 2014 International Women’s Day exhibition. Another quilt won ‘Judge’s favourite for no judgeable reason’ at the 2010 Braidwood Quilt Event.