Sunday, September 6, 2020

Do you really want to meet your Inner Goddess?

luidger | Wikimedia Commons | CC3

This week, I ran across an article on the Patheos Pagan channel about the idea of women having an inner goddess. The author, Astrea, is a polytheist witch, and she has some strong opinions on the subject. 

But first, let's meet our charming lady to the right. She is Coatlicue, the Aztec mother goddess. Here, let me excerpt myself; this description of Coatlicue is from A Billion Gods and Goddesses, my mythological companion volume to the Pipe Woman Chronicles.


You have to give the Aztecs props for one thing: They don’t have much in the way of cuddly deities. Two serpents, facing each other and made of blood, form Coatlicue’s head. Her skirt, too, is made of serpents, and She wears a necklace of human skulls, hearts and hands. Her taloned feet clutch a root of the Aztec world tree.
Coatlicue was a sacrificial mother figure: the goddess who birthed, or rebirthed, Huitzilapochtli, the god who led the Aztec people from their original homeland of Aztl├ín to Mexico. As Coatlicue was sweeping out a temple at Coatepec in Mexico, She caught a ball of feathers and tucked it inside Her shirt. When She was done sweeping, the feathers had disappeared, and She realized they had impregnated Her. Her other children – four hundred sons and a daughter – were so upset with Their mother that They plotted to kill Her. But when They cut off Coatlicue’s head, Huitzilapochtli sprang from Her body, dismembered His sister, and killed nearly all of His brothers.
Experts speculate this tale of the rebirth of Huitzilapochtli may relate to the ascendance of a new, very human leader of the Aztecs who may have been seen as the second coming of the god. But it also shows Coatlicue as a figure in the spirit of the Hindu goddess Kali – both creator and destroyer. Just like the Earth itself.


Wouldn't you just love to have Coatlicue as your inner goddess? With her responsibility for birth, death, and rebirth? Snake heads and all?

I admit I'm being snarky. Indulge me while I unpack this.

The concept of human women having an inner goddess has been around for quite a while. I can't find anything online to back this up, but my gut tells me it started as part of the backlash against patriarchal religions like, say, Christianity. According to New Age theory, Woman embodies the Divine Feminine, in all her Jungian archetypal glory -- from  Maiden to Mother to Wise Woman, with stops at Warrior, Lover, Queen, and yes, Goddess. The idea is that every woman contains each of those archetypes, and integrating them all into her Self -- embracing both the Light and the Dark, and manifesting them all -- is the only way to self-actualize and self-integrate and basically become the best woman she could be.

And then the author of 50 Shades of Grey got hold of the concept and "inner goddess" work became nothing but a BDSM romp. Imagine -- our inner goddess had been Aphrodite all along!

When that happened, the marketers saw an opportunity. This is one of the arguments Astrea employs in her post, and I think she's on to something. Any time someone can sell you on the idea that you're not quite perfect -- no matter how hard you have tried -- they can sell you on the idea that only they can get you where you want to go. And if they can't, well, the problem isn't with them -- it's with you

That, my friends, is the recipe for low self-esteem in a nutshell.

I asked Mama Google for info on finding your inner goddess, and she gave me So. Many. Listicles. And. OMG. Quizzes. (I'm told my inner goddess is a Sphinx, by the way). There's even a WikiHow listicle on "How to Find Your Inner Goddess," complete with two methods: through balance, or through doing nothing. Number two on the "balance" list is to smile often. Gee -- which of us hasn't had a guy tell us to smile more? Maybe they're on to something! But then the do-nothing (or Taoist) approach says that to allow your inner goddess out, one thing you ought to do is "drop your false smiles." Hmm. So which is it -- smile more or smile less?

Are Coatlicue's snake heads smiling? 

Which brings me to Astrea's other main argument: The gods are real, and they don't live inside us. 

I know a lot of folks aren't going to buy this, but if you're a polytheist it ought to at least give you pause. If the gods are real, they're independent beings with their own agendas. They may ask us humans (or demand) that we do what they want us to do. They may even take over a specific human in a ritual setting. But they don't leave crumbs of themselves behind. 

And if you're on the fence about whether the gods are real? Or what if you've decided they don't exist at all? No problem -- because all those Jungian archetypes inside you are human. There are certainly sound, healthy reasons to integrate all the parts of your personality, and to embrace the Dark along with the Light. But the idea that we are flawed from birth is a myth, guys. Excising that myth is actually part of the self-actualization process.

The idea that we've been created in God's image is a Christian belief. The idea that we're all born with something lacking is also a Christian belief. There's no idealized Someone inside of us that we need to let out -- or live up to. We're all just human.

Personally, I find that a great relief. I wasn't nuts about finding either Coatlicue or Aphrodite lurking inside me. Or, for that matter, the Sphinx.


These moments of archetypal blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Social distance! Wear a mask! Wash your hands!


Unknown said...

Interesting take. It brought to mind the Baha'i Hidden word, (or part of it), "Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting". Not so different is it?

Lynne Cantwell said...

As long as we're talking metaphorically, it's not. But if a Baha'i expects to find the actual god within him/herself, or some piece of that god, then no - unless we're talking about literal possession, which is a very different thing. Does that make sense? I feel a little like I've waded into a minefield with this post, lol.

Unknown said...

I did take it metaphorically.I don't think we mean it literally.As in spiritual guidance.

Lynne Cantwell said...

That's fair. :)

Unknown said...

There is very little in the Faith that can't be looked at in more than one way. It can get confusing but also encourages critical questioning and thinking.I find most religious writings are like that if we care to look deeply enough, no matter what religion it is.

Lynne Cantwell said...

Sure. And a religion that encourages critical thinking is 100% better than one that insists its followers take everything on faith alone,