An International Conference of the Divine Feminine
By Mary Kern, President of the Shamanic Astrology Mystery School
This article features insights on the Goddess, the seasonal energies as Goddesses, the phases of life, the power of 8 and 12, and the nine Morgens.
May 2019 found me in Barcelona joining my friend, Sarah, a kindred seeker who moved abroad to enjoy a simpler life. Our destination was the Portuguese International Conference of the Divine Feminine. After a brief stay in Spain we traveled to Lisbon with much help from Cristina Moreira, a SAMS’ associate in Portugal who extended a warm welcome and helped make every step of the trip perfect. (Much gratitude for all her help.)
The conference venue was surrounded by vineyards and forests in the countryside outside the ancient hill town of Sintra, Portugal on property once original headquarters for the ancient Druids. This ancient ceremonial site is in a lower meadow where a large geodesic dome was specially erected for this event. The Almma Hostel on the adjacent hilltop provided lodging for many of the guests as well as an outdoor eating area overlooking vineyards and vistas with glowing sunsets. A medieval tavern sat alongside the hostel, its upstairs once a Druid meeting place—now a shop for mystical books and gemstones.
An auspicious stage was set for this sacred Beltane celebration and conference themed Lifting the Veil.
Adorned in white garments and garland crowns, woman gathered from many countries to honor and celebrate the Goddess culture in the “Goddess dimension” — the ancient goddess Brigida of Ireland (Iria-Bridida) the Goddess of all arts, healing and of sacred wells and springs and the Maiden Hesperides, sacred to Sintra, the land and waters of the Divine Feminine (as explained in the English translation heralding the event).
So, lift the veil we did as we ventured, communing for three beautiful days reclaiming lost traditions and rituals of the ancient Celtic celebration of the Great Mother to open space for the feminine spirit to rise, restore, and revivify — creating freedom from the past to welcome this sacred new beginning.
My intent is to provide you details and perhaps new information sharing the excitement I felt receiving this. The talented speakers were too numerous to cover here so I selected three presentations to share here.
Joan Marie Cichon provided a summary of the contributions of Marija Gimbutas, the Lithuanian scholar who blended her expertise in linguistics, mythology, history of religion, folklore and archaeology to form a new discipline called “archeomythology”.
With much primary research and keen insight Gimbutas developed theories on Neolithic and pre-Bronze Age culture in Europe providing a new window into the past to better understand earlier ages on the Great Wheel of evolution.
Cichon, of the California Institute of the Integral Studies, in 2013 developed her own thesis on Matriarchy in Minoan Crete using Gimbutas’ methodology to create her own compelling case that in Bronze Age Crete the primary deity worshiped was a Mother Goddess and this era was a Goddess-centered culture.
SAMS founder, Daniel Giamario was influenced by Marija’s writing in describing the “Triple Aberration” (hierarchical patriarchy, patrilineal family structure, and fundamentalist monotheism). Daniel aligns with the idea that our way of life over 6500 years ago was matrilineal, polytheistic and matrifocal. I have summarized what I found significant from Cichon’s presentation adding commentary from her cited documentary.
Gimbutas became well known for her work on the European Bronze Age (3000 to 1200 BCE) in the 1950s while a scholar at Harvard. Her early work was well received by academia though Harvard did not then offer professorships to women nor payment for publishing her book The Prehistory of Eastern Europe.
A professorship at UCLA in 1963 brought Marija to California. Enlivened, Gimbutas participated in five, Neolithic-focused, excavations in Yugoslavia, Greece, and Italy later in that same decade. Her work in the field lead her to radical new ideas and theory. She published her first findings in 1974 after some 15 years of research. The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe was first, followed by Language of the Goddess, 1989, Civilization of the Goddess, 1991, and after her death, The Living Goddess, 1999.
Marija re-interpreted Neolithic or Old Europe culture, a time when hunter-gatherers settled down and women were establishing a strong social role by developing weaving, agriculture and pottery. Based on her research, as an archeologist, as a folklorist, as a linguist, and a historian of religion, Gimbutas asserted that Old Europe was a civilization that was peaceful, egalitarian, matrilineal and artistic. She developed her understanding, from the archeological material she excavated and artifacts excavated by other archeologist, that a female Divine was worshiped in Old Europe and this goddess was understood as Earth Mother, one with nature. She manifested as a “triple goddess; as life giver — creatrix (energy and unfoldment), sustainer, death welder and regeneratrix”.
Marija deciphered the language of the goddess from studying for decades artifacts and their symbolic icons. These icons were pictographs she interpreted. She understood from prolonged and constant study of a vast number of artifacts that she was looking at a visual language. She realized that our ancestors encoded their belief systems in their art. They seemed to understand the interwoven patterns of birth, growth, death, and regeneration as the human events that tie the world together. The pubic triangle found often on artifacts, (seen also as chevrons and “V’s) represented the center of birth, pleasure and regeneration. Decoding this primary language created much controversy when she published The Language of the Goddess.
Her Kurgan Theory explained where the Proto-Indo-Europeans originated and how in three different waves of invasions over 2000 years the Kurgans subverted, suppressed and in many instances eliminated the civilization of the goddess that subsequently immersed underground — beneath the veil.
We are still continuing to rediscover, re-value, reconnect, reanimate, and revivify this Divine Goddess that we are finding disguised in folklore, pagan myths and hidden by Christian overlays as well as experiencing Her in ancient megalithic sites and sacred landscapes around the world like in Portugal where 4000 years ago the Celts and Lusitans lived in harmony in a matrilineal social structure.
Aligning with this work, SAMS founder Daniel Giamario teaches:
“It is time for us to again reconnect to our pre-patriarchal and pre-hierarchical gylanic and egalitarian ancient heritage, that is so much vaster and deeper than what has been delivered by the – triple aberration. The Shamanic Astrology Mystery School is committed to a renaissance of gylany and an egalitarian world where men and women love and respect each other as collaborative allies and equals.”
Marija Gimbutas is the modern scholar most responsible for knowledge of and renewed interest in the goddess. She was the only scholar who in the 1960s and 70s studied the symbols left behind in the fragments of pottery and sculpture excavated by herself and others and she laboriously cross-checked her findings using multiple disciplines. Shamanic Astrology is indebted to her groundbreaking work.
From her documentary, Signs out of Time, by Donna Reed and Starhawk, and other sources we further know there was a dramatic shift in religion in the third millennium BC when the horseback-riding Kurgans swept across Europe. The correlating mythology, art and language of this time reflected that these newcomers were hierarchical, male-dominated and weapon carrying. They worshiped a sky god, created a stratified culture with both rich and poor segments seen in the vast differences between tombs left from this later time. They spoke an ancestral Indo-European language that spread as they migrated and their presence spurred the fortification of villages that previously had none. New myths and values were a foot with these invasions.
Colin Renfrew, the British archeologist who along with many of his contemporaries, denounced Marija Gimbutas’ theories that Old Europe was originally matrifocal and Goddess venerating. Following her death, he conceded to her findings based on more recent DNA evidence illuminated in the Human Genome Project. See Video, Marija Gimbutas, Memorial Lecture.
Marija left this life on Feb 2, 1994, the annual celebration day of St. Brigit, or Imbolc, that honors the growing first light following the long darkness of winter. I find this synchronicity so beautifully and elegantly befitting the contribution of Marija’s life. Marija’s new story of Old Europe was a story of a civilization that lived in co-operation, peace and harmony.
Our awareness of this is a “first light” — a dawning or re-imagining to inspire and hopefully spawn a new sacred way of living on planet Earth. Her work was also a light to the possibility and potentiality of a self-empowered, culture leading, and equality sharing modern woman. Over the past 30 years we have witnessed the re-emergence of what Marija discovered to be our authentic divine feminine heritage.
For a more complete look at Marija’s life watch Marija Gimbutas, Sign Out of Time, by Canadian producer, Donna Reed at this site.
The Pacifica Institute in Santa Barbara preserves Marija’s archives in the Joseph Campbell Marija Gimbutus Library.
The Great Mother is everywhere we look as far back as humankind remembers….
Kathy Jones awakened my “quiryosity” and immense interest with Remembering The Nine Morgens, the Nine Sisters of Avalon, both her presentation title and the title of her book (2018). (summarized here with additional material from Stuart McHardy’s earlier book, The Quest of the Nine Maidens, 2003)
Kathy tells us this group of nine was first written about in the 12th century. In other legends Morgen is known as Morgana or Morg-ana, the great Ana — one of the earliest, pre-Celtic Goddesses. Her name was likely derived from the Irish meaning Great Queen. In Welsh Morgen means “mother”. The Nine Morgens of Avalon are but one of many variations on myths found all over European telling of nine sisters, nine maidens, nine goddesses, nine divine beings, nine mythical women, nine sorceresses, nine Druidesses, nine saints and Nine Priestesses of the Mother Goddess. The myths of these Nine are often found guarded by one male and quite often he avenges their untimely deaths at the hand of a monster.
They showed up with King Arthur in Avalon, with Apollo in Greek mythology as well as in Britain, Ireland, Norway, Iceland, Gaul, Greece, Africa, and South America tied to both Christian and Pagan traditions, according to Stuart McHardy. McHardy researched these stories for more than 30 years unpacking the folklore, legends and myths going back 15,000 years. He found them to represent perhaps one of the world’s oldest institutions.
Why have I never heard of them and what underpins their stories?
Symbolically, Neolithic stone circles and wells throughout Britain and Scotland are named for the nine maidens. Portugal has its own version, the Nine Priestesses of Hesperides. These Priestesses of Hesperides are said to be to Sintra as the Morgens of Avalon are to Glastonbury. Both Hesperides and Avalon are mystical places beneath the veil, aligning to a specific location in the physical world. This parallel story of Hesperides is documented by Luiza Farzao (creator of this Portuguese conference) in her book, The Goddess of the Garden of Hesperides. She views the Goddess culture as a land of plenty with sustainability, beauty, love, pleasure, joy, sisterhood and brotherhood. (available in Portuguese, 2017)
These energies were celebrated for centuries as the Essence of the Feminine, found in womanhood. They represent the eight phases of womanhood, the eight phases of the Moon and the eight ancient seasonal celebrations as well as eight locations on the Ecliptic or plane of the Solar System.
March Equinox at the seasonal location of 0 Aries (where the Sun currently rises between the Zodiacal constellations of the Fish and the Water Bearer), reflects the energy of the First Quarter Moon
June Solstice, June 21 at 0 Cancer (where the Sun currently rises between the constellation of the Bull and the Twin), reflects the energy of the Full Moon.
September Equinox, Sept 21 at 0 Libra, (where the Sun currently rises between the constellations of the Lion and Virgin Priestess), reflects the energy of the Last Quarter Moon
December Solstice, Dec 21at 0 Capricorn (where the Sun currently rises between the Archer and the Scorpion), reflects the energy of the New Moon)
The Four Cross Quarters
Rather than secular or Christian holidays that overlaid them, originally these were important days marking the cross-quarters or halfway points between the Solstices and Equinoxes.
Imbolc or St. Bridgit’s, February 1-2, overlaid by Groundhog’s Day, seasonally reflects the stirring energy of first light of the Crescent Moon (Imbolc means “in the belly of the Mother”)
Beltane, May 1, overlaid by May Day, seasonally reflects the blossoming robust energy of the waxing Gibbous Moon
Lummas or Lughnasadh, August 1st, overlaid by the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, reflects seasonally the harvest energy of the releasing light of the Disseminating Moon
Samhain, October 31, overlaid by Halloween, seasonally reflects the waning energy of the Balsamic Shamanic Moon.
Why so much ceremony and celebrations for specific points on the annual seasonal calendar? Aren’t they just days in the year?
These holy days celebrate the changing seasons or phases of an evolving Earth Mother, they are echoed in the physical life of all women, and as SAMS cosmology informs, the Equinox and Solstices are one of the components of a cosmic clock moving counter-clockwise or “precessing” over long periods of time (one degree every 72 years) through the 12 constellations of the zodiac, ticking through an every changing evolution of human history and consciousness.
We can see similar patterns of the cosmos replicated in the planetary cycles, the phases of the Moon, pattern of our seasonal points, and in the pattern of a human lifespan as we see the energies of the 12 zodiacal constellations mirrored in the 12 archetypal energies of the human psyche and 12 seasonal signs on Earth.
I have never imagined the seasonal points as goddesses (living energies), who were honorably named by an earlier people and whom happily appreciate our acknowledgment, interaction with, and embodiment of them. These primordial beings or faces of the Divine Mother make up the Earth’s living wheel of life.
The Ninth member of these Morgens is the Divine Feminine, Supreme Mother goddess holding space in the center of the wheel. These annual, seasonal experiences of diverse energies were highly revered because they herald the presence of sacred portals accessing beyond the physical realm. These times were often said to be when the veils between the worlds are thinnest and grant humankind deeper connection with Great Mystery to communicate and co-create. My personal belief and experience is that they still hold these gifts to those wise enough to acknowledge them.
The energy of the Morgens include their gifts of medicinal plants and herbs that provide seasonal antidotes for healing common maladies. Her Divine Presence is observed as well in animal life and is especially linked to the crows.
Here is how these energies are viewed by Kathy Jones who has personally encountered the Morgens on many occasions over many years, communing with them, writing plays about them (like astro-dramas), performing their characters along with other cast members, directing and producing the stories and bringing them more vividly to life in Glastonbury where she has lives and glimpsed them beyond the veil—the “mist of Avalon”.
Imbolc is the Maiden,Thitis, young women of 12 years.
Spring Equinox is the adolescent, Cliton, Mother of Fire, the greening of shoots, women of 13-25 years (the fire that warms the Earth so the green shoots spring forth).
Beltane is the Mother of Lover, Thetis, sovereign women of 26 to early 30 years.
Summer Solstice is Mother of Water, Gliten, wells, springs and lakes, women of 30 to 40 years.
Lammas is Mother Nurturer, Glitonea, women of late 40 to 50 years.
Fall Equinox is Mother of the Earth and Orchards, Moronoe, women in their 60s.
Samhain is the Mother Crone, Mazoe, women in their 70s.
Winter Solstice is Mother of Air, Tyronoe, women in their 80s and 90s.
The Ninth Morgen is the Lady of Avalon who stands in the middle of the wheel.
When I consider these eight seasonal forms of the Goddess informing and sustaining the twelve archetypes of the human psyche, I see an Earth-based version of what is then patterned in the sky by the eight planets, each holding an energetic influence and unique cycle of initiation operating along with the twelve zodiacal constellations. In both the Earth and the Sky there is the system of eight operating with the system of 12, creating a mirror of earth in heaven. Together the Earth and Sky dance and co-create the new dreams to evolve this emerging new world. It is all the Divine Mother.
The Goddess Banners of Lydia Ruyle
A final share are photos of the banners that encircled the entire interior of our three-story conference dome. They are the artwork of printmaker and matriarchal goddess, Lydia Ruyle, an American artist, professor, activist, goddess scholar and Matriarch. At age, 60 Lydia began work creating over 300 Goddess iconic banners from 30 regions of the world. Her banners are testament to our most primal history and honor the diversity of cultural interpretations of the Divine Feminine in her myriad forms in cultures worldwide.
These banners, (holding the energies of so many forms of the Goddess), helped to create and hold the sacred space for this conference gathered together to celebrate Our Great Mother and honoring her fundamental elements, personas, cycles and phases.
The Legacy of Lydia Ruyle was tenderly delivered by her niece, Kathy Hoffner, who was raised by this aunt and traveled with her to personally experience the original art that inspired and is represented on Lydia’s banners.
Kathy also accompanied her aunt to the many exhibits that displayed the fruits of her labors in countries all over the world. Lydia brought to women globally a greater awareness of the Divine Feminine and in many instances participated in sacred processions and events with her banners honoring the Great Mother. Lydia exemplified a life authentically lived and much freed from patriarchal indoctrination. Lydia left this life on March 26, 2016.
For more information see the brief documentary video, Herstory; The Visionary Life of Lydia Ruyle and the Banners of the Divine Feminine
Lydia published two books; Goddess Icons, 2002, and Goddesses of the Americas: Spirit Banners of the Divine, 2016.
With sincere and deep gratitude I thank Luiza Frazao, all the conference presenters, all the Goddesses representing and celebrating the Nine Morgens, the magnificent interpretive dancers who brought to life the Maiden, Mother and Crone, the Melissas, the small group leaders, translators, kitchen staff and chef and all who made this conference a magical, mystical gathering.