Alive is a new magazine of Goddess celebration with news, research, artwork,
photos, personal experiences and ritual. We aim to reflect the diverse
community of Goddess spirituality reclaimed from the past and alive in
the world today. The magazine is primarily British- oriented, yet it aims
to include Goddess articles, news and events from around the world.
We invite news
items, letters and articles which are Goddess-focused. If you would like
to contribute an article to GA! please write to us first with an outline
of the article (enclose SAE for reply), or email the editor.
for the next mailed issue is 31st March 2003.
Every townland, every parish, every barony in Ireland
is beautiful, each in its own way. But everyone knows Kerry is most
beautiful. And so its valleys become tourist-loud glades each summer,
crowded beyond bearing. Once I missed a meeting in Dingle because, after
a half-hour on one quarter-mile of Goat Street, I spied an open lane
and fled. Kerry is beautiful, no question. But sometimes in summer,
it looks like Chicago with scenery.
That road through the Derrynasaggarts is a different
story. It offers no fabulous vistas, no midnight peaks beside a sapphire
sea, no mirror lakes under a changeful sky. If you pass that way just
once, odds are you will see only an unremarkable stretch of road. But
north of Ballyvourney, if the wind lifts the clouds for just a momentthere
where the road curves sharply to the east before beginning a steep rise
to the southeastthere, I promise you, if you stop by that lonely
heritage sight and look back to the northeast, you will see something
you will never forget.
On the map, two tiny triangles mark The Paps.
The word, no longer in general use, once indicated paired mountains:
Scotlands Paps of Jura, the Paps of the Mórrígan
near Newgrange. Its a baby word of untraceable ancestry, supposedly
evolved from the lip-smacking sounds (what my mother used to call blowing
bubbles) of hungry infants,a word that in the singular means a
mild baby-pleasing porridge. In Irish, the hills marked by those wee
triangles are called Dhá Chíoche Dhanann, Danus
Two Breasts. The Irish word for breasts is, not surprisingly
related, to hungry (ciocrach) and craving (ciocras),
but not to any other Indo-European word for mammaries.
Those languages share words for many thingsfor
sister and birch, for instancebut not
for breasts. Our English word births daughters (breastless
and breastfeeding) but is of unclear parentage. It is easy,
by contrast, to trace the heritage of those abundant euphemisms: bosom,
like its relative fathom, is a measurement word that indicates
how much your arms can embrace; bust descends from the vocabulary
of sculpture; chest, a storage unit, comes from the language
But none of those apparent synonyms captures the meaning
of paps, which describes not the whole breast but just the
nipple (another untraceable word, related to nip and nibble).
While the Irish word draws attention to the hills shape, their
English name emphasizes a different endowment. For lest you fail, some
fine day when wind lifts the cloud-veil, to note the hills breasty
roundness, the ancient Irish offered a visual aid: from earth and rock
they erected mounds and cairns, positioned as anatomically correct aureoles
and nipples. In the process, they transformed the wild landscape into
a gigantic sculpture of a womans body, immobile under the moving
Munster has other such mountains: Knockainy
with a naval-cairn on its pregnant belly, a one-teated Mother Mountain.
That line of nippled hills near Ballyferriter called the Three Sisters,
the ones Fiona painted while eight months pregnant, the ones she calls
perfect renditions of our Mother's body. With or without
cairns, Munster mountains bear goddess names: Slieve Mish, for the wildwoman
Mis; Dunmore Head, for Mór, daughter of the sun; Slievenamon,
mountain of women; Cnoc Gréine, hill of the bright goddess.
Anu and her Paps - Geraldine Andrew
And the Paps of Danu, rising so splendidly beside the
Killarney-Cork road, named for a goddess both famous and obscure. Famous,
because her name appears in so many place-names and texts. Obscure,
because not even its form is definite. It is a reconstructed word, derived
backwards from the Irish Danann, presumably meaning of
Danu. Miriam Dexter has traced Danu to an even older hypothesized
Donu shared by all Indo-European cultures. The name, which also appears
as Dana and Dón and Danand, has been linked to the Old Celtic
dan, knowledge and to a goddess who gave her name to Englands
Dane Hills and Europes great river Danube.
Obscure, for despite frequent references, few narratives
are told of Danu, daughter of a sorceress, granddaughter of the god
of poetry, herself a poet. The Book of Invasions describes Danu as one
of a trinity of sisters - although her siblings names vary from
manuscript to manuscript. Danu was the mate either of Bile, an equally
obscure god, or of Bres whose usual spouse is Eithne. Her children are
better known: the Tuatha Dé Danann, tribe of the goddess Danu,
those magical divinities long ago banished to fairy hills. She
nursed the gods well, says Cormac the glossarist, emphasizing
Danus maternity without telling us much more about her.
Sometimes the hills are called the Paps of Anu, a goddess named by the
ninth-century writer Coir Anmnan as the mother of Munsters wealth.
Some see the names as variants of each other, while others claim that
Anu (Ana, Anand, Áine) is not Danu at all. Further complic- ating
the quest- ion is the fact that six millennia have passed since a stone-enchanted
people trained the suns eye into the cave at Newgrange, carved
spirals on Loughcrews granite, and erected the Paps paps.
We do not even know who lived in Ireland then, much less what they called
Whoever they were, whatever they called her, she is beautiful. Photographs
do not do justice to her loveliness: the way the Paps rise from the
Derrynasaggarts, slightly separated from the ridge that curves up to
them like a belly; those breasts pointing skyward, the breasts of a
woman in her prime, not the tender buds of youth or the soft breasts
of age, but full and firm, sensual and motherly at once. The breasts
separate slightly, so you know the woman is languidly stretched out,
not curved into herself so that her reasts press together. There is
no head, nor arms nor legs, only breasts and a belly, but it is enough.
Enough to suggest that somewhere there is a head we might cradle, arms
that might embrace us, and a womb from which we might emerge, children
of the earth.
Did the sculptors of Danu
intend for us to imagine nature as our mother? Or might this gigantic
earthwork mean something else entirely? We can scour archaeological
texts for clues, but archaeologists, happy to list heights and weights,
are slow to explain why people might employ such heights and weights,
instead emitting lectures on how ruins do not reveal what their builders
believed. Infrequently-ventured explanations even less frequently
begin from a womans point of view. And while debate surrounds
Newgrange and similar complex sites, a deafening silence shrouds the
eloquently simple monument that crowns the Derrynasaggarts.
Silence speaks volumes to those who would
hear. So let us return to Danus paps. Specifically, to Danus
nipples. I once took a random and totally unscientific survey of friends
who had seen the Paps. To a man, my male respondents saw nothing notable
about the nipples.
Theyre stone? one
Try again, I said. They
just shook their heads and shrugged.
Women reacted differently. To a woman, they looked side-to-side, then
peered at me a bit suspiciously.
Well... they began. Then
a pause. Well... A long
I finally broke the silence. Theyre
erect, I suggested.
Yes! the women said with
relief. They most certainly are!
There are doubtless men who have noticed Danus hard stone nipples,
but none in my survey nor in the hundreds of books on my shelves.
Those of us who live with nipples day in, day out, realize that if
those ancient builders wanted to simply remark upon the earths
femininity, they could have saved themselves a lot of running up and
down. They could have left the mountains as they were; womens
breasts look like hills most of the time. But there was something
else the ancient builders wanted us to know: that the great earth
grows aroused when loving her mate, when nursing her child. How can
we grasp the breadth and beauty of that vision?
What do we lose when we silence womens private languages? There
is a vast territory that we know, beautiful summer mountains full
of berries that fill the mouth with sweetness, soft blue lakes on
which light shatters into rainbows, valleys filled with countless
blossoms. And storms that blacken brilliant skies, penetrating chill,
hungers beyond endurance. Familiar roads stop short of those secret
lands we know. But we are there, like Danu, to greet the bold ones
who will come.
This article will be form part of a new book on
Ireland by Patricia Monaghan to be published in 2003, provisionally
entitled The Red Haired Girl: Celtic Spiritual Geography.
Paps of Anu - Patricia Monaghan
Reclaiming Hera - Sheila Bright & Cheryl Straffon
Eguski - John McGlynn
Glastonbury Goddess Conference 2002
plus News, Reviews, Rituals & Events
Read articles from previous issues of GA! here
GODDESS WHEEL OF THE YEAR
seasonal ritual drama
Tired of the emphasis
on the heterosexual relationship between The Goddess and the Gods in most
ritual drama cycles which celebrate the seasonal Wheel of the Year, we
have created a mythic cycle which focusses exclusively on different faces
of the Goddess and, sometimes, the interplay between Her different aspects.
Over a year we discussed which Goddesses and their
myths we associate with each festival. From these we selected stories
which lent themselves to ritual drama and created a script
for that festivals ritual, with one or more women being honoured
to carry (literally, to be possessed by) the Goddess. We are also inspired
by the wealth of ancient sites in West Cornwall in which to enact our
Here in the third of our eight-part series we publish
our SPRING EQUINOX ritual, dedicated to Persephone, Brigid and Eostre.
We offer these scripts as our contribution to the myriad creative ways
to celebrate the Goddess at the seasonal festivals.
We started the ritual before
sunrise, so as to go from dark to light, as in the turning from the dark
to the light half of the year. The altar was set with a red cloth, a red
egg, red flowers, daffodils, and a hare figurine. We then marked out a
seven-turn Cretan labyrinth on the ground with white flour.
We purified and blessed each other, then called
the quarters and cast the circle. We invoked the Goddess first into the
woman carrying Persephone, who was dressed in dark red and wore dark lipstick,
a labrys necklace and a crimson cowl, all symbolizing the passion, power
and fertility aspects of the Dark Queen of the Dead. Persephone walked
off and disappeared down the path. The remaining women then invoked the
Maiden Goddess into Brigid, who was dressed all in white.
Brigid and the women called
Persephone up from the underworld, using drums and percussion to build
energy, and chanting Persephone, Return to the earth, Return, return.
Persephone came up from the underworld, carrying a bowl of menstrual blood,
red flowers and red candles. She motioned to the young virgin Brigid and
to the women to sit.
proceeded to initiate Brigid into womanhood. She showed Brigid the menstrual
mystery with a white flower which she dipped into the bowl of menstrual
blood. Then, taking the bowl, she marked Brigids forehead with blood.
She gave Brigid an extended version of the five-fold kiss, awakening her
sexuality and her power by kissing her lips/shoulders/biceps/heart/
knees/feet, saying a blessing on each.
Persephone sang The
Barge of Heaven (A Reclaiming chant, based on Inannas hymn
of praise to her own vulva from the Enuma Enlil tablets of ancient Sumer)
all the way through once. Then she taught it to Brigid line by line in
a call-and-response style. She painted Brigids little fingernails
scarlet, put her own labrys around Brigids neck, and led her to
the entrance of the labyrinth. There Persephone unplaited Brigids
hair, gave her a red flower, and passed aspect by kissing her passionately
on the mouth. Persephone then left Brigid the bowl of menstrual blood
to meditate upon, and briefly initiated the women, by giving them each
a sexual kiss and a red flower. Persephone then departed and put down
aspect, to return to be another of the women.
she felt ready, Brigid walked the labyrinth. At the centre she transformed
into the Springtime Goddess Eostre, removing her white clothes, stroking,
exploring and celebrating her newly-aroused body. She then put on beautiful
red clothes and the daffodil and carnation crown which she found in the
centre of the labyrinth.
Eostre danced out of the
labyrinth and blessed the women with springtime life-lust. One by one,
they then walked the labyrinth, putting on red clothes and flower crowns
at the centre. Each emerged to dancing, drums, rattles and general celebration,
and Eostre blessed each one, cutting off any red cords worn for protection
through the winter.
was raised by chanting: She changes everything she touches/ And
everything she touches changes (by Starhawk with Lauren Liebling),
and: We are the power in everyone/ We are the dance of the Moon
and Sun/ We are the hope that never hides/We are the turning of the tide.
Eostre then presided over
a feast of red fizzy wine, red grape juice and red food, such as carrot
and beetroot salad, velvety red beetroot soup and strawberries.
Equinox picture by Geraldine Andrew. The next
edition of GA! will feature the Beltane ritual.
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a friend about GA! online!
Issues 1 & 2 - its a great magazine! I have a couple of small
comments on the boxed essay regarding the Brochtorff material (GA2 p.14).
Really its a tiny semantic thing: you say this society changed
and evolved, but the physical remains indicated a deterioration
in the health of the community over a period of a thousand years. It
is fascinating to me (as a healer) to wonder about this - that the bones
and teeth werent as healthy, and perhaps the lives were shorter,
as time went by. I always feel intuitively, from the art and artefacts,
that the earlier cultures were the healthier ones in every way, including
of course the physical. So then the word (and the concept) of evolution
wouldnt exactly fit the picture.
comment concerns the image of the Double Goddess from the Brochtorff
circle. The photograph belies the description of one holding what
may be a baby on her lap. It looks like she is holding an identical
female person as herself, in the same posture and everything. This is
in a similar vein to a mural at Mycenae of a priestess (or Goddess)
carrying a smaller version of herself in her hand as a female figurine.
She is showing us what the female figurines mean in some way, and I
think the Maltese image is like this. Scholars spend so much time wondering
about, denying the significance of, and neutralising the female figures
(calling them anthropomorphic or just figurines,
describing them as dolls for children, etc) that it seems very important
that in at least these two very sacred instances, we have a direct transmission
through art of the prescribed use of the female figurines by females
in a sacred office of some kind, no doubt performing a ritual, and in
the case of the Maltese Double Goddess, perhaps an image of women governing
their community (in dual Queenship).
felt that Vicki Noble, in her article on Çatalhöyük
(GA2 p.2) was setting up an opposition between Mellaarts work
and Hodders. When I heard Hodder speak about recent work a year
or so ago, Mellaart was present, and one of the joys of the occasion
was to see how much affection and respect there was between the two
of them. Hodder, like most archaeologists, is very far from being a
Goddessy person, but he does have a sympathy towards the Goddess movement
which is becoming increasingly common.
The official Çatalhöyük
has an extremely interesting
interchange of views between Hodder and some women, as well as an open
refers to a dagger, for which she suggests a possible use far removed
from Hodders interpretation. I gather that her view is supported
by evidence of known uses of similar daggers in some present-day societies.
It seems to me that she is likely to be correct. Perhaps she could suggest
this in a letter to Hodder? I may be too optimistic, but I believe he
would respond positively.
I appreciate Daniels response to my article and his optimistic
view that Ian Hodder is sympathetic to the Goddess movement
and might actually be interested in my theory about the dagger found
at the site belonging to a female shaman-midwife. I am certainly more
than open to presenting this idea to him. When I was at the site myself,
I felt that there was a very friendly effort to make everything seem
okay, without actually addressing the deeper issues feminists have about
the work there. But I would love to be wrong about this, and so I will
certainly act on Daniels suggestion and write to Dr.Hodder myself.
has asked us to mention that the Glastonbury Conference Report in GA2
was first written for Wood & Water.