Monday, July 23, 2012

The missing symbol

"[I]n fairy tales, to loosen the girdle, undo the knot means to begin to understand something previously closed to us, to understand its applications and uses, to become mage-like, a knowing soul."

When it comes to aspects of the temple, there are many symbols that I have pondered over for years. I was first endowed in 2004 and have gone back to the temple to do proxy-work but also because I have enjoyed the process of pondering and figuring out the symbols there. Recently, I posted about insights regarding the veil worn by women as well as the hearken covenant. As I was reading WWRWW, I came across the meaning of a symbol that I had been missing an explanation for--that of the girdle. Right there on page 156.

I have to think that this symbol might have been more easily understood of nineteenth century Latter-day Saints who were likely more versed in fairy tales than their current day counterparts. Another reason to educate people from the classics rather than textbooks...

Of particular interest is the concept of becoming "mage-like, a knowing soul" because that is the purpose of the temple ceremony: to know God, in fact to know so much about the nature of God that one is prepared to be like God, priests and priestesses, kings and queens. When tying the girdle on the second time in the temple, it then becomes a symbol of advancing light and knowledge, moving from one level of understanding and ability to another. Once that change has been made, one is prepared to enter into the presence of God.

I love that I am at a place in my spirituality where I am unlocking these symbols and ideas. I had always wondered how it had been done. My approach may be unconventional but I'm so glad that it is working for me. 

Welcoming the New Girl

I am remiss that I did not post this here earlier but it has come up in recent days. I heard that there is going to be a gathering of LDS women to talk about ways to plan and execute a blessing ceremony like the one I did and then the topic came up again over at the Exponent about ways that LDS women can be priestesses in their homes and lives. Here on my blog I tell a more personal journey to priestesshood that is separate from the church. The opportunity to welcoming a my new baby girl into my family was one of the first I've had since I started walking that path.

Originally, her blessing party was supposed to happen with her still inside me and it was going to be a mother's blessing for me in preparation to childbirth. Alas, she was born a little earlier than I anticipated. I was pleased to still have the party and with the help of some wonderful friends, I did very little in preparation for it (i.e. I showered and fed a baby, and made a phone call or two to order things for the party).

The prayer circle was so touching that I wanted a way to record it and share the words spoken with Elizabeth as she grew up. Click on the link below to view the book I look forward to sharing it with her as she grows older.

Welcoming the New Girl: a Photo Book and Slideshow

Thank you for being a part of welcoming my newest daughter as a reader of my blog. I hope you will add a hope/prayer/blessing/wish for her in the comments.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Evidenced by my earlier post, I am reading the book Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. The author of it says, "Because the work cannot be read in a week or a month, it lends itself to being studied. Take your time reading it. Most people read it the way it was written. A little at a time, then go away, think about it and come back again."

Much like scripture, I dare to say. Due to the nature of the book, I am finding that I am indeed reading it like a great influential work that requires note taking, reflection and recording quotes. This what I intend this post to be, much like I did with the Book of Jenne and Carolyn--I will record thoughts and feelings I wish to retain. I will also be able to use the link here to share my thoughts with the book club I'll be participating in.

The book is structured as a compilation of stories  followed by the author's analysis and interpretation of the symbols in the story. For this reason I will put a bolded heading with the name of the story at the top, followed by links to posts with my reflections on that story and quotes that inspire those reflections.


An uncomfortable parallel
The dark man

Gnashing of Teeth
Witchy Women
Life and Death Natures


Skeleton Woman
The missing symbol

Life and Death natures

One of the aspects of observing the moon that I like to investigate is the symbolism of the dark and light phases of the moon. Just as there is a wild and a tame side to women, there are dark and light aspects of ourselves as well. In magic or mystical thought, one can meditate on the dark aspects of themselves around the new moon or on the light aspects around the full moon.

Of course, when it came to page 107 in Women Who Run With the Wolves, I geeked out when it came to the description of the life and death natures of the colors used symbolically in the story depicting the horsemen in the story of Vasalisa.

The black, red and white horsemen symbolize the ancient colors connoting birth, life and death. These colors also represent old ideas of descent, death and rebirth--the black or dissolving one's old values, the red for the sacrifice of one's preciously held illusions, and the white as the new light, the new knowing that comes from having experienced the first two.
First off, baptism symbolism= cool. Secondly, the connection between more Eastern thought of enlightenment being attained through a spiritual journey= also cool.

Continuing on with page 107,

The colors in the tale are extremely precious, for each has its death nature and its life nature. Black is the color of mud, the fertile, the basic stuff into which ideas are sewn. Yet black is also the color of death, the blackening of the light. And black has even a third aspect. it is also the color associated with the world between the world which La Loba [who you will remember from Chapter 1] stands upon--for black is the color of descent. Black is the promise that you will soon know something you did not know before.
She goes on to describe red as the color of spilled blood and the draining of life from a body, but on the light side, it is the color of arousal, sensuality and desire.

My favorite aspect of the color red she describes is the red mother, "She is the watcher of "things coming through" She is especially propitiated by those who are about to give birth, for whosoever leaves this world or comes into this world has to pass through her red river. Red is the promise that a rising up or a borning is soon too come."

For this aspiring midwife and birth geek, yes. Yes. Red is sacred, red is life. Its for that reason that I incorporated the color into the first quilt I made for my son. It is also why I love this verse from the Pearl of Great Price so much, "inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten (Moses 6:59)." It is seen that birth symbolized by our mother Eve is the balance or foil of our re-birth through Christ. That together, the male and and female bring us to eternal life (as the verse goes onto state). Together, both are worthy of honor and remembrance.

To round it out, the light side of white is likely the most familiar. From WWRWW,

"It is the pure, the pristine. But it is also the color of soul free from the body, the spirit unencumbered by the physical . It is the color of essential nourishment, mother's milk. Conversely, it is the color of the dead, of things that have lost their rosiness, their flush of vitality. When there is white, everything is, for the moment, tabula rasa, unwritten upon...."

I learned the dark side of the color white when I was a youth and I was asked what my initial impressions are of being in a white room with blank walls and no windows. While others around me named peace, comfort as their response, mine was panic. The white felt oppressive, blank and like death. White made me think of nothing, non-attachment and the thought was terrifying. While Eastern thought would say that the goal is non-attachment, I'm still not sold on the idea. I believe too fiercly that life is about forming attachments through love, with spouse, with children, with friends, with family. Otherwise, life is a waste of loneliness. I do not see how coming to earth to be unattached makes any sense. If anything it is a distinctly male perception that cannot hold true for the women those men relied upon  to perpetuate their existence.

The author also states the colors red, black and white are elemental colors, used in alchemy. It makes curious to learn of other light/dark dualities for other colors. Green's dark nature isn't coming to me quickly, though blue does. The sky evidences to me of the light blue of day and the dark blue of night and all the attendant symbols associated with night and day.

Witchy women

In the story of Vasalisa, Baba Yaga is a witch the young girl encounters in the woods. I'm a fan of witches (big surprise!) In fact, when I saw the movie Brave, I was very happy to see the witch character as an archetype of wisdom with the power to lead a naive young person to greater awareness. Pixar is getting deep in the wild woman lore....

In the chapter from Women Who Run with the Wolves, I especially like this description of witches:

Baba Yaga is instinctive nature in the guise of the witch. Like the word wild, the word witch has come to be understood as a pejorative, but long ago it was an appellation given to both old and young women healers, the word witch deriving from the word wit, meaning wise."

Just as many translations of the word midwife mean wise woman (e.g. French is sage-femme), witch is a concept that I have aspired to since I was a young girl. I was 13 years old that I felt the truth within me speak that I am here on this earth to become a wise woman. No wonder that years down the road, midwifery and herbalism would speak to me.

I truly believe that I have a witch ancestor in my family tree and she whispers to me that anger that comes from centuries of oppression of women's wildish natures. Still midwifery is an oppressed religion. It almost disappeared in the United States and still has a tenuous hold on not even 2% of birth attendance in this country and the medical establishment is still seeking to eliminated midwives, when the medical literature, common sense, history and other countries point to the fact that midwives could be the primary care providers for healthy pregnant women.

A similar kind of rant can be made for plant medicine, another area that I am very drawn to. So if today, you take a woman who is drawn to birth and herbs (and death if you keep looking close enough--and then read Chapter 5), you can look back 500 years and find the witches of the day who were stoned, drowned and burned for being true to themselves.

Its no wonder that women today do not feel safe being themselves. History has shown them that they cannot. Yet, I have faith that the time is coming when the full power and abilities of women will be understood, accepted and put to work by the human race. I believe that good will come out of it. And it will be the witchy women who bring it pass.

Gnashing of Teeth

I couldn't help by be impressed by this chapter. The analysis and exposition on a simple story was very adept and insightful. Its amazing to me that so many symbols with so much meaning could be woven into what I was familiar with as a childhood tale. On my children's bookshelf even, we have a beautifully illustrated version of the story of Vasalisa. Without Dr. Estes and this book, I doubt I ever would have been able to find that much meaning on my own.

The story once understood as a type of parable illucidates nine essential tasks in developing one's intuition or inner guide.

They are as follows:
  1. Allowing the Too-Good Mother to Die
  2. Exposing the Crude Shadow
  3. Navigating in the Dark
  4. Facing the Wild Hag
  5. Serving the Non-rational
  6. Separating This from That
  7. Asking the Mysteries
  8. Standing on All Fours
  9. Recasting the Shadows
In my personal life, I am currently facing a situation where like Vasalisa I am trying to break free from whatever is holding me back and bringing a degree of unhappiness and damnation (as in feeling dammed, unable to progress, stuck in patterns I want to escape). Already, on my own, I find that I am somewhere between stage 4 and 5 of the above outline.

To me, serving the non-rational is one way to say what I find myself having to go through in order to find freedom and peace.  No matter how hard I try or may wish, emotions are not rational or logical. The best I can come up with is appealing once again to my left brain which constantly asks, "What does the research say?" Well, the research says that its perfectly normal and understandable for various emotions to manifest after various life experiences. Therefore, if my emotions are following a rather well established pattern, then its obviously okay to feel completely irrational in that moment of need. This line of reasoning has actually helped me to accept and embrace my emotional needs, to connect with whatever action that I would typically consider non-essential for its lack of logic. As I am able to embrace those needs, I find that can ride the wave of whatever is needed at the time. Just going with it helps me now that I won't always be in that place and that something better is on the other side. Like the experience of giving birth, there's a paradox of "relax into the pain and the pain will go away." On the surface that makes no sense. But it works. So I go with it.

I say that there is a big part of my in stage 4 here because it was many lines from that stage in the chapter that I found myself receiving insights into my own pysche. This one in particular did that for me:

"Many women are in recovery from their Nice-Nice complexes wherein no matter how they felt, no matter what assailed them, they responded so sweetly as to be positively fattening." [My thoughts inserted here, I was never very good at that though I may have tried....] Though they may have smiled kindly during the day, at night they gnashed their teeth like brutes--the Yaga in their psyches were fighting for expression."

That could explain one of the my last trips to the dentist. He asked me when I ground my teeth. I told that I didn't or didn't know that I did. He explained that he saw evidence on my teeth that I frequently clamped my jaw. It was after that point that I realized that at night, when I'm unaware, I tend to tightly clamp my jaw so that my teeth press against each other all night. I'm hoping that I as go on a year and day quest to find freedom from what is plaguing me that the jaw clamping will improve as well. Its a simple wish that would speak volumes to me if it were to happen.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


I know a number of women who are put off by the sexism in the temple ceremony. I didn't give it much thought for many years.

That was my coping mechanism for a number of years in the church--I experienced a type of spiritual paralysis due to constraints I felt were placed on my religious practice. It was a process of deciding how orthodox I would be. Would I believe that scripture study only comprised reading and annotating the scriptures, church magazines and writings of church leaders? I tried to be obedient to that but got very frustrated by the closed feedback loop. I was hearing the same thing over and over again and not gaining any new insights. After that stage, I entered a phase of becoming apathetic. I knew I was done studying repetition but I did not where to turn to study next. It felt like I was spinning my wheels. In 2009, eight years after I joined the church, that all changed when I found the alternative Mormon community. Not only did I find a wealth of study opportunities to give me new insights and perspectives into correlated gospel material, I learned the skill of listening to the heartaches of others. In some ways, their burdens became my own as I listened (or read as the case may be) how aspects of the church caused them to mourn and be burdened with concerns about the morality of certain characteristics.

Due to this willing absorption of whatever new perspectives I could take in, I began to look at aspects of church culture and practice that would have bothered me if I had given myself permission to look critically. On my blog, my readers have watched me puzzle through obedience to church leaders, the cultural silence on Heavenly Mother. Recently my attentions have turned to making sense of the temple in regards to its apparent sexism.

When it came to the hearken covenant in the temple, where Eve is commanded to covenant to listen to the counsels of her husband and all women in the temple by extension make the same covenant for themselves, I mentally reworded the implied "and Adam will hearken to the counsel of his wife."

The more I listened to the upset from those who cried that the missing implication was a glaring issue, I too realized how mentally writing it in was unsatisfactory.

It was with interest that I listened to the Mormon Matters episode on Ritual In Mormonism. I knew that Chelsea Shields Strayer would articulate the position of the injustice of making women hearken to men without reciprocity. I then learned that Chelsea Robarge Fife had given serious consideration to the issue for many months, zealously attending the temple to make sense of the hearken covenant. She came to an impression that stripped Adam and Eve of their genders and put them as mystical symbols of something else--symbols of the body and the spirit--the two essential parts of the human soul, which are both necessary for a person (regardless of gender) to enter into the presence of God as an exalted being.

I have pondered on that perspective and I get it in the context of Mormonism and its belief that the "natural man must yield to the enticing of the spirit"(Mosiah 3:19) and become subject to it. Its pretty appalling, as well as contradictory to the honor heaped upon Eve for her choice made in Eden, to see Eve equated as "an enemy to God" since by extension the temple context would then say all women were seen as enemies of God. That's just not acceptable to me.

This idea is further debunked by church leaders such as Dallin H. Oaks who is quoted as saying:

Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall.

Furthermore, the scriptures make clear that there are times in a person's life when it is not wise to give wholly over to the spirit and to ignore the needs and abilities of the body (Mosiah 4:27). Therefore, it seems that reciprocity is still lacking to state that the human family must completely subject the body to the spirit when there are needful times when the spirit must hearken to the body.

Due to these objections, I continued searching for meaning in the symbols of Adam and Eve. Reading Women Who Run With the Wolves, I stumbled across another possible interpretation.

Copied from my previous post:

In the story of Bluebeard, the older sister plays the role of Eve, awakening her naive counterpart (the wife and Adam respectively) to the danger of staying naive and unknowing of the true nature of the situation in which they find themselves. In this way, Eve portrays the Wild Woman.

"Whatever dilemma [the pysche] finds [itself] in, the voices of the older sister in [the] psyche urge [one] to consciousness and to be wise in [ones] choices. They represent those voices in the back of the mind that whisper the truths that [one] may wish to [seek]" (p.49-50) in order to escape the false Paradise Found and to find the true Paradise available to the wise and aware.

As one continues the epic journey to the celestial kingdom, the people of the world are called to "re-surface from their naivete" and as they do so, "they draw with them and to themselves something unexplored." Life, you could say. Eve through her choice made in Eden  is now a wiser woman who draws an internal masculine energy to her aid (p. 63) which Dr. Estes defines as the Jungian concept of the animus

In the Garden of Eden, Eve is now established as the masculine energy of the story and Adam the young maiden filled with naivete who, one could say, needs "someone older and wiser telling [him] what to do."

Which then, kind of turns on the whole Eve hearkening covenant on its head, doesn't it? If you follow, what I am saying is this: when Eve covenants to listen to the counsels of her husband Adam, it is actually the male, older, wiser part of oneself who is hearkening to the newly aware stereotypical maiden who is discovering the world, making innovative inferences to understand the world in novel and fresh ways. Thus, in the temple one can choose to believe in a scenario where the male energy hearkens to female energy just as one sees the female hearken to the male. Perhaps there is reciprocity where people have struggled to find it, after all.
As I continued pondering on that vein, the metaphor can be extended to further--after Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden to enter the lone and dreary world, Eve once again takes on her assigned gender as woman in the story. However, it must be remembered that the hearken covenant is made before Adam and Eve leave the Garden, so she is still portrayed as the masculine energy and Adam still exhibits the female energy. When Eve hearkens to listen to the masculine energy of her husband (in preparation for the ejection from the Garden), she can also, by extension, be covenanting to hearken to her internal masculine energy, the animus, the part of her psyche that led her to make the choice made in Eden. 

In this way, as we revert to viewing Eve as a woman, we can see that through that dual covenant--both to a mortal male and Elohim (and please remember every time I think of that word as the name of God that I necessarily draw on the translation which includes Mother God with Father God--Elohim is not singular) that she is actually covenanting in three ways. Listing them in order of importance, she covenants firstly to follow the Spirit of her Parents in Heaven, then to follow the counsel of her inner wise woman who manifests then stereotypical male behavior of the animus and then finally, to her life partner.

On that wise, Adam is both himself and Eve until they leave the Garden when he once again assumes the male gender. Before that point, the hearken covenant is made and he covenants to hearken to the inner newly initiated, eyes wide open maiden that he is himself, which then also extends to listening to his life partner who (as evidenced by the leadership role Eve portrayed in Garden) at times takes on the role of the older and wiser leader of the partnership.

I must say that I find this sort of study much more enriching than the study I felt compelled to do in past years and it leaves me wondering how would I have ever continued progressing spiritually without discovering a broader world of interacting with gospel truths?

Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Not only am I working on learning this to myself, but also to my children.  

An uncomfortable parallel

As I read the chapter analyzing the tale of Bluebeard in WWRWW, my mind drew an uncomfortable parallel between the Bluebeard scenario and the Garden of Eden mythos.

The two stories have one thing in common: an external power who states a rule that invites the rule being broken. Its a classic tale: "You can do whatever you want. Except this."

And always, the response of the characters given the direction is to do exactly what they were told not to do. Its the classic story of curiosity killed the cat, yet Dr. Estes interprets the symbols in the story of Bluebeard differently.
"The problem posed in the Bluebeard tale is that rather than empowering the light of the young feminine forces of the psyche, he is instead filled with hatred and desires to kill the lights of the psyche." (p. 45)
That there is the main difference between Bluebeard and Elohim (remember that every time I think of that word as the name of God that I necessarily draw on the translation which includes Mother God with Father God--Elohim is not singular). In the Garden of Eden, the purpose of the ultimatum is not to destroy the psyche but to give the psyche the opportunity to move out of naivete and into awareness and knowledge.

Why it had to be structured as a transgression, I still don't understand. I have to believe though that an Eternally Loving God would not seek to destroy their creation through threatening them with death for seeking that which is "virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy." While the process of maturity and gaining awareness necessarily required the people of the world to experience death as part of the natural order, the end goal in the whole scenario is to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of people"--"black and white, bond and free, male and female."

Bluebeard is a predator yet Elohim (our Father and Mother in Heaven) act as gatekeepers who initiate us into an epic journey leading to eternity and the realization of our fullest-selves--godhood, in fact.

In the story of Bluebeard, the older sister plays the role of Eve, awakening her naive counterpart (the wife and Adam respectively) to the danger of staying naive and unknowing of the true nature of the situation in which they find themselves. In this way, Eve portrays the Wild Woman.

"Whatever dilemma [the pysche] finds [itself] in, the voices of the older sister in [the] psyche urge [one] to consciousness and to be wise in [ones] choices. They represent those voices in the back of the mind that whisper the truths that [one] may wish to [seek]" (p.49-50) in order to escape the false Paradise Found and to find the true Paradise available to the wise and aware.

As one continues the epic journey to the celestial kingdom, the people of the world are called to "re-surface from their naivete" and as they do so, "they draw with them and to themselves something unexplored." Life, you could say. Eve through her choice made in Eden  is now a wiser woman who draws an internal masculine energy to her aid (p. 63) which Dr. Estes defines as the Jungian concept of the animus.

The author goes on to say,

"This psychic figure is particularly valuable because it is invested with qualities that are traditionally bred out of women, aggression being one of the more common...The stronger and more integrally vast the animus (think of the animus as a bridge) the more able, easily and with style the [person] manifests ones' ideas and ones' creative work in the outer world in a concrete way. A [person] with a poorly defined animus has lots of ideas and thoughts but is unable to manifest them in the outer world. One always stops short of the organization or implementation of ones' wonderful images."

This can go in two different ways, so first I will take it here:

In the Garden of Eden, Eve is now established as the masculine energy of the story and Adam the young maiden filled with naivete who, one could say, needs "someone older and wiser telling [him] what to do."

Which then, kind of turns on the whole Eve hearkening covenant on its head, doesn't it? If you follow, what I am saying is this: when Eve covenants to listen to the counsels of her husband Adam, it is actually the male, older, wiser part of oneself who is hearkening to the newly aware stereotypical maiden who is discovering the world, making innovative inferences to understand the world in novel and fresh ways. Thus, in the temple one can choose to believe in a scenario where the male energy hearkens to female energy just as one sees the female hearken to the male. Perhaps there is reciprocity where people have struggled to find it, after all.

I will have to come back to get to the other part. Its not as cool as the first, let me tell you.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Turn Up the Volume: Adjusting Sound Levels in Temple Phraseology

I sat next to my mother in the instruction room as I escorted her through the temple for the first time and listened to the assistant to the matron say, “Some women are put off by the phrasing ‘queen and priestess unto your husband’.”

That was the closest thing to validation of a major feminist objection to LDS temple rites that I had ever heard from an official source. It felt good for this feminist, I will admit.

I joined the church in 2001 as a senior in high school and spent the next 10 years with the hope of converting my widowed mother so my fairy tale could come true. I dreamed of the day when she would be sealed to my deceased father in the temple and I would be sealed to them. I was heartbroken when I stood in the undedicated sealing room of the Sacramento temple with my mother in 2006. By that time, I had given up on her joining the church in my lifetime and had become resigned to performing her temple ordinances for her after her death. At least I had her permission for that.

After my own feminist awakening during which I broke from orthodoxy, I understood better than ever before some of the reasons why she showed little interest in being affiliated with the LDS church. During what I call my crisis of culture, I turned to my mother and she consoled me when I discovered that LDS women had once enjoyed the freedom of anointing and blessing others. She heard my anger and frustration at the sense of betrayal I felt when I learned that Goddess-loving feminists had been excommunicated for writing and speaking about Mother in Heaven.

At that time, I would have been more likely to guess that I would encounter church discipline before I saw the day of her baptism.

Interestingly, it was partly my culture crisis that led her to seriously entertain thoughts of being baptized LDS. Through organizations like WAVE, Sunstone and Mormon Stories she encountered Mormons like her—feminist, liberal and non-literal believers.  Along with me, she also encountered Dialogue, The Exponent II, Daughters of Mormonism and Feminist Mormon Housewives.  She saw me flourish in a way she had never seen before. In May of last year she was baptized. In preparation for the temple she read Packer’s The Holy Temple and the temple prep manual and also Maxine Hank’s Women and Authority.

As her date of eligibility to attend the temple approached, I had no idea how I would help her prepare or how I was even supposed to feel. With my awareness of the troublesome parts of the temple, I vacillated between warning her about what she would find objectionable there and letting her discover things for herself.

And yet, we still found ourselves sitting side by side in the temple as she pondered her initiatory. The assistant to the matron gave us pause. Her statement was more than I had ever hoped to hear regarding the troublesome subordination of women under their husbands. The matron then went on to stress the supreme importance of women having a strong personal relationship with God.

As she spoke, it was like she was showing me a control panel with levers to adjust sound levels. Language does not come with scales illustrating how certain phrases are more important than others. If the words of the temple were laid down likes tracks of a song, I began to sense that “unto your husband” would be laid down much softer in volume than “hearken to the counsel of God.”

To our ears, it sounds as if the phrases are equal in importance or maybe that hearkening to one’s husband is more important because it is stated first. Maybe it follows the academic tradition of the most important being placed last and the emphasis is really on our relationship with our heavenly parents.  Perhaps the phrasing implies that hearkening to one’s spouse is just as important as hearkening to God. In any case, the statements themselves seem to indicate that it is very much open to personal interpretation when determining the relationship between the two.

I went through the rest of the session thinking of the sound volumes on each phrase and thinking that my responsibility was to remember the primacy of my personal relationship with divinity.

I still wish to someday hear men counseled in the temple to hearken to their wives. Until then, the personal nature of temple attendance allows each person in attendance to determine how loud certain tracks will be when laid down for the final cut. I cannot all together reject outright the value of being a team player and counseling with my husband, but I can choose for myself how loudly I will hear it when I play the message of the temple in my mind.

Thanks to the wise counsel of a temple matron, I choose to turn up the volume of the counsel and direction of God so that the Holy Spirit will be my guide.

The dark man

Clarissa Estes in Women Who Run With the Wolves tells the story of Bluebeard and uses Jungian psychological analysis to draw a parallel between the character of Bluebeard and a common theme in women's dreams--that of the dark man preying on them.

As I read her analysis, I recalled a vivid dream that I had of a man preying on me. It occurred within the last year after my feminist awakening and I became aware of the pitfalls of patriarchy in my church culture. While the patriarchy I most often experience is of the benevolent kind, this dream was my subconscious hitting against the more threatening aspects of a patriarchal church culture.

The dream took place in an LDS church building during an evening activity. The main group of people were in the chapel listening to the speaker. There were some men milling around the foyer talking. I began to sense that I was the only female in the chapel and it was a frightening realization to find that I was not wearing a baby at that moment. I often feel that babywearing is a protection to me as I feel that no man would attempt to assault me if I have a baby attached to me.

The bishop of one of the wards in the building caught me eye and I knew in that instant the malevolent look he was giving me. He started to advance to me and I began to walk away briskly. I began aware that he was actually herding me into a unpopulated area of the church towards a room where he could get me alone. I began to panic and quickly turned down another hallway that had an exit to the outside on it. As I was about to leave the church building, I found my anger and sense of injustice. I turned to face the bishop and defended myself. I ran back toward the men in the lobby, felt the grasping hands of the bishop on my clothes and my body. I yelled that the bishop was attacking me and saw the men run googly-eyed to the scene where I kicked and hit the bishop.

After the dream, I remember waking up feeling satisfied that I had defended myself and that I had it within me to stand and fight against the patriarchal grip symbolized by a man in power.

It was very interesting to read the Jungian analysis of my dream. Based on Dr. Estes description, my dream had all the elements of a dark man dream.

She writes:
"Dreams are portales, entrances, preparations and practices for the next step in consciousness , the "next day" in the individuation process. So, a woman might have a dream of the predator when her psychic circumstances are too quiescent or complacent. We could say that this occurs in order to raise a storm in the psyche so that an energetic work can be done. But also a dream like this affirms that a woman's life needs to change, that the woman dreamer has gotten caught in some hiatus ennui as regards a difficult choice, that she is reluctant to take the next step, go the next distance, that she is shying away from wresting her own power away from the predator, that she is not used to being/acting/striving at full bore, in all-out capacity.'

'Additionally, dark man dreams are also wake-up calls. They say: Pay attention! Something has gone radically amiss in the outer world, in personal life, or in the outer collective culture."
She continues to on to say that, "...when women dream of the natural predator, it is not always or solely a message about the interior life. Sometimes it is a message about the threatening aspects of the culture one lives in....We find this destructive process exacerbated when the culture surrounding the woman touts, nourishes and protects destructive attitudes toward the deep instinctual and soulful nature. Thusly, these destructive cultural values--to which the predator avidly agrees--grow stronger within the collective psyche of all its members. When a society exhorts its people to be distrustful of and to shun the deep instinctual life, then an auto-predatory element in each individual psyche is strengthened and accelerated."

The answer, then, is for the wild woman within to be allowed to recognize these cultural forces, ask the key questions regarding what is being lost to this cultural predation so she can then "take the world into one's arms and act in a soul-filled and soul-strengthening manner."

Perhaps my favorite line in her essay on the dark man is this:

Wild Woman teaches women when not to act 'nice' about protecting their soulful lives. The wildish nature knows that being 'sweet' in these instances will only make the predator smile." 
As it has been many months since this dream occurred, I can look back and see where I have let my Wild Woman instinct guide me--and how it has preserved for me some powerful moments. It was my Wild Woman that inspired finding analogous ceremonies to honor, bless and sustain myself and my daughters as females at various life stages. While the boys and men of the church receive their many honors, the wild woman within created these ceremonies outside of church culture, draws on traditions that are meaningful to me and not tainted by patriarchal culture. I found sisters who too accept their wild woman within and see the wild woman in our church mothers.  

Even then, while I am pleased for this bastions in a time out of church culture, I know that the predator of patriarchy cannot be allowed to keep infiltrating the lives of LDS church members. There may be a time when the preying will cease and it begins with the bloggers, Sunday school attendees, Relief Society sisters, Young Women's leaders and Primary teachers who are honest and bald-faced in the face of patriarchy, who recognize and see to minimize and where possible remove the patriarchal grip from the classes they teach and the audiences they reach.

There is an online book club being hosted for Women Who Run With the Wolves, or as my friends affectionately refer to as WWRWW (sounds like a growl), by a couple of Mormon feminist women. They have opened up the club to any Mormon woman, who someone sympathetic to Mormon women, to participate.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Veil symbology

A statue covered in a black veil was erected on the presumed tomb of Isis, close to Memphis. On the statue’s pedestal was engraved the following inscription: “I am everything that was, [QUID FUIT], everything that is [QUID EST], that will be [QUID ERIT] and no mortal has yet dared to lift my veil. ”  Beneath this veil are hidden all the mysteries and the knowledge of the past… Pulling back Isis’ veil represents the revelation of the light, and to succeed in doing so is to become immortal.
Evidently one of the most famous instances of a veil being worn in religious mysticism is the Egyptian goddess Isis being veiled. Not only do I find that interesting because I have chosen Isis as my matron goddess, but because of the connection between Mormonism and Egyptian culture (language in the Book of Mormon, papyrus). It seems possible that Joseph Smith might have been awareness of this symbolism and incorporated it into the temple clothing.