Why Pretty Hurts
In my research for Medusa, I’ve been studying ancient religions and spiritual practices quite a bit. I wanted to know more about why and how the archetypes of Greek goddesses seemed to so easily overlap over the centuries not just with one another and the Roman versions later on, but with other deities around the globe. I wanted to know where they came from and what purpose they served in interacting with one another.
I started with the Greeks, for the purposes of the play, and chose to read The Goddess Within: A Guide to the Eternal Myths That Shape Women’s Lives, which includes a quiz where you can see which of the goddesses are most active in your life out of several archetypes. My results were Aphrodite, Persephone, and Athena showing up as the most vocal in my life and the least were Hera and Demeter. That makes sense given my professional, creative, and personal pursuits. But the authors encourage readers to not just look into our most active archetypes. They encourage us to explore who we’re leaving out because that could be the key to creating a more integrated life. The concept of "home-making" was so far removed from me at the time, my house, nine months after I'd moved in, was still mostly unpacked. I stayed there rather than felt like I lived there. Maybe it was the timing of the book along with summer break, but in learning more about what motivated Hera and Demeter, box by box, room by room, my place began to tell me how it wanted to take care of me while I wrote and researched and played with the cats.
I’ve always been attracted to diaspora-based deities like Mami Wata, Yemoja, Oshun, Erzulie. Whenever I incorporate their energy into my work, it feels like a personal relationship. Like they’re my closest friends/aunties/mentors. In recent years, I’ve also come to appreciate Lakshmi and Kali, the original monstrous mother…and how these goddesses, whatever their culture, seem to work together—be parts of a whole. I ordered The Divine Feminine Oracle by Meggan Watterson, and was thrilled by how she included so many real-life women from all over the globe I’d never heard of before in addition to the deities—53 cards in all—including the "Cosmic Egg” which were each thoroughly researched and expertly written about in the accompanying book. It’s a vibrantly illustrated and incredibly potent deck which has helped infuse my writing process with the kaleidoscope of characteristics of the DF I want to imbue into my protagonist. That deck is so lit, I call them the “honeys.”
In When God Was a Woman, which is so much of a page-turner, I assigned it as required reading to my Women & Writing class in the fall, Merlin Stone serves as a time-traveling tour guide, starting around 7500 BCE, to describe how the first organized faith on the planet was that of the Mother Goddess. Another top-notch text is The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth which makes some of the connections I didn’t find with the Stone—in that it’s obvious that the Mother Goddess religion originated on the African continent.
Anyway, all of these texts and more were starting to confirm what I’d been feeling personally, as well as witnessing in the lives of my friends and acquaintances and family members for the last few years. Too, I'd been observing how at the macro level the paradigm shift rebooted with marches and hashtags like #metoo and #wastehistime. This groundswell reaches from the ‘gram to Hollywood to the courtroom is as we speak in the process of reorienting popular opinions about everything from the current presidential administration to reproductivity laws, from the gaps in wages to “F boys,” making it abundantly clear that something is happening to women.
We’re remembering who we were—who we are. The fact that the first religion on the planet situated women not just as head of the church, but also head of the state and household, means the tremendous innate power it took to shape socioeconomic structures and cultures was a given. There's a reason for women's original power being stripped away and most records of this power having been destroyed. For a long time, coitus and conception were not viewed as related, so women were credited with having sole creative and regenerative power. Their status reflected their apparently divine ability to create new life. And when warmongering invaders burst onto the scene to dominate other more agrarian peoples, they brought bloodthirsty male deities with them. Chieftans married high priestesses and over time, their gods began to assume some of the qualities of the Mother Goddess (who represented all of it—creation, destruction, sex, pleasure, grief, prosperity, lack, the environment, cycles of birth and rebirth, ancestry, etc.) were chipped away until only a handful of elements remained to be split into shades of herself. And as she became fragmented, so too did women’s status and power. Thousands of years of subdued women’s voices and subsequently personal and political power, no wonder we are having an identity crisis in the 21st century.
This goes way back beyond our mama and aunties an ‘em. Like—way, way back. The pendulum is swinging in the other direction again, and women are struggling not against men per se, but against outdated narratives and models passed down from thousands of years of disempowerment. But we're waking up at the cellular level. And we’re knitting ourselves back together. Pretty hurts because it’s not enough if all there is is pretty. It’s never been enough to just see ourselves as any one or two things. The reintegration process, however, will not only see fewer restrictions on women, but also relieve restrictions on men who feel they have to hide their vulnerability so they don't expose their own need to seek the strength and grace of surrender and receptivity.
It’s tricky because these are such deeply-seeded neurological trenches, most women I know think they have to do something to earn their keep. They’ve been situated in the position of a codependent for so long, or hoisted up onto a illusion-based pedestal by their parents and partners, they have forgotten that the real power is in being able to compel what they need to them in divine timing. In fact, working so hard to produce a narrow spectrum of material-based results is so completely egoic and antithetical to how the universe actually works, which is mostly to do with flow and frequency, play, and co-creation with other elements, that I think many women make their lives more miserable because they feel love, respect, abundance must always be earned, and if they don’t possess those things and demonstrate them in very specific ways, they are a failure—there’s something wrong with them. But like—what if—there’s nothing wrong with you, Woman?
What if you went an entire day, just as an experiment, pretending like you were the physical embodiment of the Divine Feminine? And your gut, your sacral chakra, is where not just human life but all life originates? How distinct are you from the cosmos and natural world? I mean, really? Just because we are not rooted down like a mountain or tree does not mean we are separate from the pulse of this planet. I feel like embodying this knowing, even if for only a day, would not straighten out a spine so much as it would allow someone the ability to recline—to lean back—to receive. Pretty hurts because pretty is imposed. Imposters only impress other imposters. True freedom is letting go of those sorts of folks along with their misguided projections and expectations of you. Too, the effectiveness of pretty has a shelf life. Certainly, pretty can feel like a person is standing in a kind of power. But that only lasts for so long before the glamour wears off. But sitting in one’s power? That’s so gangster to me. First of all, it means you conserve your energy so you don't exhaust yourself running around after out-of-sight-out-of-mind people. Second, to sit in your power means to be anchored in it. After all—the most powerful people on the planet have always stayed seated while everyone else stands.