Feminine Rage and Dancing with Power
I began observing the world around me at a very young age. Ever since then, I've known that something is very wrong with the way life is lived on this beautiful, violent planet on which we find ourselves. Some of us are artists, musicians, intellectuals, scientists, helping professionals of all kinds—people who live in a reality in which sharing images, sounds, insights, thoughts, knowledge, healing and empathy with others appears to be a driving force. People who affirm and nurture the souls of those with whom they share life on earth. A great many of us lead simple lives, working hard to survive and provide for our loved ones; people who live in a reality in which their labor provides for the needs and desires of others through their work; people who live their lives largely unseen, unnoticed, and unappreciated by their fellows. People who make the world a safer place for others with their enormous contributions of the labor that enables the survival of humanity as a whole. But then we also have the scammers and the grifters; the woman-hating misogynists; the rapists, murderers, domestic abusers, and bullies; the shooters, terrorists, and war mongers, and the vicious gossipers, the verbal assaulters, whose words wound the souls of others—people who live in a very different reality from those who care for humankind; people who live in a reality in which a wide range of violent behaviors meant to control and harm others, rather than caring for them, is seen as the means to survival.
It was in my youth, when I began trying to think my way towards an explanation of this disturbing state of affairs, that I first experienced feminine rage, because my observations had made it clear to me that women bore the brunt of the violence in the world while doing the vast majority of the labor and providing the vast majority of the love that kept it turning. Was the problem really one of Good vs. Evil? Was the Catholic explanation of this dilemma I had been taught to believe as a child actually true? Did the human dilemma consist of nothing more than being tossed hither and yon in the battle royal between Satan and God, as Satan tried to lead people into evil while God desired to lead them into good? I didn't know. Each time I thought about the issue, I was unable to discern a satisfactory explanation of what was wrong, and I became even more angry. So I acted out. I drove too fast. I became a member of one of the loosely organized prank-oriented girl's gangs that sprang up at school one fall. I yelled loudly at disrespectful boys, wore slacks to school, and then skipped school instead of going home to change as I was ordered to to. I argued with teachers, and deliberately failed algebra because I hated its rigid rules, which grated against my free-spirited nature, and my tendency to think all over the place at once, rather than in a straight line.
Today, all these years later, I was faced with having to once more confront my perpetually unresolved existential dilemma. According to a recent article in the New York Times, Covid diagnoses in the sparsely populated rural Maine county in which I live have increased 88% over the past two weeks. Every time I leave my home now, I must deal with that awareness, and with what I perceive to be passively attempted suicidal/homicidal murder by those who refuse to wear masks to protect themselves and others during a deadly pandemic that appears to be spiraling out of control. Recently, the same kind of anger surge I had felt so often as a young woman arose during a trip to the grocery store. Muttering "eff you, idiots," as I tried to avoid coming into contact with several unmasked passive aggressive wannabe murderers stalking us with their death breath, I wanted to open my carton of eggs and begin throwing them at the offending parties. I even fantasized about charging them with my grocery cart if they didn't move six feet away from me.
Of course, having learned some modicum of self control over the years, I restrained myself while shopping...except for loudly telling anyone without a mask on to get six feet away from me and STAY six feet away from me. Later, noticing that I was driving home at breakneck speed, I realized that the old, familiar, wild anger energy of my youth was still there; that it still lived somewhere within my psyche, in spite of my valiant attempts to tamp it down over the course of a long life.
The difference between then and now is that today I was aware that my anger was way too intense to only be about unmasked idiots in the grocery store; that it was also being triggered by having experienced a lifetime of insults, disrespect, verbal, emotional and financial abuse, and threats of physical and sexual harm from males simply because I’m female. I know intellectually what this rage is. It’s energy. Powerful, available energy I can direct in any way I wish, although in this case, because it was almost overwhelmingly intense, I wasn't sure how to actually accomplish that feat. I slowed down. Continuing homeward at a sedate pace, having once more braved potential lethal infection in order to get a few groceries, a gamble whose outcome wouldn't be known for a week or so, when I'd have to risk my life yet again in order to feed myself, a vision of my youthful self came to me. In the vision, I'm dancing wildly, furiously, upon the broad back of the great female Sea Turtle who holds the shamanic world in balance from her place at the center of the feminist shamanic medicine wheel mandala.
Ever since then, Sea Turtle has been calling to me to journey into shamanic reality; to encounter that wildly dancing youthful self; to seek guidance about how to handle the enormous energy of the feminine rage I've kept...mostly...under control my entire life.
Now the sun is disappearing as twilight rises from deep within the earth, and the shapes, textures, and colors of the physical world are fading. It's time to attempt the journey, for it's always twilight in the shamanic West, the place where, among many other things, one learns to accept and handle wild, powerful emotions like the feminine rage I've felt all my life; the place where the feminine shamanic archetype known as She Who Dances with Power dances like a wild woman in perfect harmony with thunder and lightning; with storms and towering whirlwinds. Before I even enter shamanic reality, she begins to appear to me, embodying the power of feminine sexuality and emotion as she dances, yet powerfully grounded at the same time. In her wild state, she consciously creates chaos as she dances, and then pulls the truth, pure and clean, out of that chaos.
In my vision, I was dancing like a wild thing, like a woman wild with anger, not with her confident power, for unlike her, I didn't know in my youth, and sometimes still don't know how to gather and direct the raw energy of feminine rage with purpose and intent. I will journey to She Who Dances with Power to seek guidance regarding that difficulty.
I leave ego consciousness behind while singing Mother Light, the shamanic song that calls up earth light to protect and inspire women who venture into the potent archetypal world of shamanic reality. As the light comes up around my home, She Who Dances with Power appears once more, waiting for me, beckoning. I leave the body and venture out into the darkening evening. As I approach her, she reaches out and touches my heart, sending a powerful electrical charge throughout my body. At her touch, rainbow-hued lightning energy flows into me, and my body is limned with its crackling light, just as it was when I was struck by lightning many years ago.
Now the sound of my journey drumming is amplified by the deep booming of what sounds like many additional drums, drawing me ever deeper into mythic world of shamanic consciousness. It's the primal sound of the shamanic West; the heartbeat of the earth.
She Who Dances with Power announces that she will now offer me a “body teaching,” a dance that will teach me the shape and the form my anger must take; a dance for harnessing its energy so that it can support efforts to free oneself from the things that trigger it. It's not what I expect. Facing West, she leans forward, calling the wind, which whips at her long unruly hair and the black shawl with which she dances. “Like this!” she says, shouting to be heard above the wind, which carries the shawl away as she speaks. She extends both of her arms fully, wrists bent upwards, palms facing out, and begins a heavy-footed dance in which she tilts precariously from side to side. She leans dangerously far to the left on her left foot, lifting her right foot, then steps solidly on her right foot as her whole body leans dangerously to the right. Yet she maintains her balance. She doesn’t fall, although by any laws of physical balance I’m aware of, anyone tilting like that should indeed fall over.
“Do it!” she shouts, as thunder crashes and lightning illuminates the path to my forest medicine wheel. I fall into place behind her, doing my best to master this strange, heavy dance, which somehow carries us into the forest outside my home, where we enter the opening to the medicine wheel that's concealed there. It's odd, I think, to be expressing anger energy in this manner, for our progress is stately, not at all wild or out of control.
Once at the medicine wheel, we enter it through the East, and She Who Dances with Power climbs up onto the large, turtle-shaped stone at its center. I follow. Once more she turns to face West, and I stand behind her. “Now!” she shouts, as the great stone becomes a living archetype in the form of Sea Turtle, and begins her dance again. Sea Turtle's great back is rounded. We could easily slide off as we perform this tilting dance, but strangely, we do not, and as the forest medicine wheel gradually becomes shamanic reality, Sea Turtle glides smoothly over the emerald green sea of the shamanic center towards the West, carrying us with her.
“Do you see?” asks She Who Dances with Power. “If you stand always upon Turtle's back, you can safely feel and direct this overwhelming anger you feel. You can contain it, and you can direct it towards whatever pursuit is yours...towards whatever your life’s calling has charged you to do.”
As we move steadily towards the shamanic West, we cross the roiling boundary between the Green Sea of the shamanic Center and the wild Black Sea of the West. But Sea Turtle moves as smoothly through that wild sea as she moved through the emerald sea of the center, never wavering as she navigates rough water, pelting rain, strong winds, lightning and thunder, as we dance upon her broad back. With each flash of lightning, the iridescent atmosphere of the shamanic West is shattered, explosions of light flashing in great bursts of energy all around us, yet Turtle swims on, steady and calm. We keep dancing our slow, tilting dance, ignoring the tumultuous weather and wild sea through which we're moving. At last we arrive safely at the black sand beach that forms the boundary between sea and land in the shamanic West.
We leap down from Sea Turtle's back. We ask her to wait for us there in the shallows, and resume our dance, moving onto the desert plain beyond the beach as the sound of great drums increases, causing the iridescent atmosphere of the twilit desert plain to shimmer. Huge bolts of lightning flash towards earth from the thunderous clouds above, illuminating the entire landscape. Each illumination reveals that countless grizzlies are moving in a slow, thunderous procession down towards the desert plain where we dance. They move towards us from the spine of the earth; from the great ridge that runs along the top of the Dark Mountains at the heart of this wild landscape.
Slowly, ponderously, they move. They move slowly, dreaming. The earth's heart responds to their steady rhythmic steps as though it is a great drum. Along the spine of the earth the bears walk, dreaming the echoing heartbeats of our ancestors, dreaming the fearful heartbeats of all who now draw breath, and they dream the sweet, faint heartbeats of all those who wait within the Great Mystery to draw breath anew. They walk gently along the earth's spine. They walk with reverence upon the earth's heart towards the desert plain on which we dance. Slowly, ponderously, they move. They move slowly, dreaming.
In their dream, the great drum-heart of the Earth beats in perfect rhythm with my heart; in perfect rhythm with the hearts of my brothers and my sisters. In their dream, our hearts all beat in perfect rhythm with the ancient heartbeat of our ancient home. Down and down from the Dark Mountains they come, 'til the vast plain upon which we dance is charged with their presence; with their breath; with the musk of their scent; with the power of their great hearts, and the heart of the earth responds to their steps like a great drum, and we find ourselves at the center of the circle they have formed around us.
The weather calms, the thunderheads float away, taking lightning with them, and the peace of a desert sunset prevails, charging the atmosphere with its deep, rich light. West Grandmother Bear, she who lives deep within those mountains, approaches us. “Once,” she says, “people knew the shapes of things, and the angles at which they tilted towards the sky. Once people knew that the spine of the earth and their spines are one. Once people knew that in the dream, their hearts beat in perfect rhythm with the ancient heartbeat of our ancient home.”
Then she says, “Will you will remember these things? Will you remember these things, and inform others of their importance? That so few remember; that so few are able to inform those now living on earth of the importance of these things is the actual, deep genetic source of your anger. And while you finally said yes to your calling, fear of fully realizing it in this time has stood in your way, for you carry in your genetic memory knowledge of traumatic events caused by unbalanced masculine energy that in times long forgotten forced your ancient spiritual lineage to go into hiding.”
Three more Grandmother Bears approach us from the circle…one from the North, one from the East, and one from the South. Two of the four grandmothers stand to my right, and two of them to the left of She Who Dances with Power, all of us facing the Dark Mountains at the heart of the West. They begin the dance steps, indicating that we should join them.
“You see,” they tell us, “You must begin this dance facing West, the place from which all feminine rage arises, and acknowledge its power as energy. Stand with your right arm extended, palm up, facing North, and your left arm extended with palm up, facing South. Do this dance on Turtle's back, always and only.
“As you lean left, raising your right foot in preparation for firmly placing it back on the earth, pull the power of the feminine authority of the North into yourself through your right palm, for only that power can contain and rightly direct the wild energy you carry. Then step firmly upon Turtle's back with your right foot, and lean to the right, lifting your left foot in preparation for firmly placing it once more on Turtle's back, and pull the creative, life-giving power of the South into yourself through your left palm, for only that power can purify the wild energy you carry. Repeat this sequence until you feel that the empowering, authoritative feminine energy of the North and the purifying, life-giving feminine energy of the South are balanced within you, and that together, they have gained control of and have purified the wild anger energy you carry.
“Now, turn clockwise to the East, acknowledging the creative vision and freedom from internalized patriarchal beliefs about women that await you there. Repeat the steps of the dance, but this time with your left palm facing North and your right palm facing South. Pull the power of the feminine authority of the North into yourself through your left palm, for only that power can imbue your creative visions with the confidence needed to realize them in the realm of physical reality. Then pull the power of life force of the South into yourself through your right palm, for only that power can imbue your creative visions with the energy needed to give birth to them in the realm of physical reality. Repeat this sequence until you feel that the feminine authority of the North and the life-force of the South are balanced within you, and that together, they have empowered and energized the creative visions that are yours realize in physical reality.
“Facing West,” they say, “you gather up the wild anger energy that arises there, and gain control of it with the power of North energy and the purification of South energy, so that it becomes energy that you can direct consciously and with positive purpose in physical reality. Facing East, you gather up the creative visions that are yours to realize, and prepare them for birthing into physical reality with the protection of the feminine authority of North energy, and the creative life force of South energy.
“This dance will teach you how to master the wild anger energy of the West, and transmute it into life affirming creative power and energy, so that you can fulfill your calling, which is to use images and words to give others an experience of shamanic consciousness as you inform them of the events you have witnessed. Master this dance and perform it whenever you're about to attempt to realize a creative vision, and everything will shift for you.”
I bow in each direction to the circle of Bears who have lent their energy to these proceedings, and thank the Grandmother Bears for their teachings, offering them a large pile of apples. Then I turn to She Who Dances with Power, and offer her an obsidian arrow in thanks, which she puts into the pouch at her belted waist. Finally, I return to Turtle, who carries me back to the shamanic Center. Once there, I thank her by drawing a spiral of lightning energy upon her back. Now I return to the body and everyday, ego consciousness, where I begin practicing the Anger Dance that She Who Dances with Power has taught me. When I have mastered it, I'll do it whenever feminine rage surges, and whenever I'm about to work on a creative project, as the grandmothers have instructed me to do.
To take advantage of the studio/gallery clearance sale that will be ongoing until the new year, while both are reorganized to accommodate a new body of work, follow me on Facebook, where I’ll be posting the sale images.