I won’t drag us through all the arguments I’ve witnessed with this issue; rather, let’s just get right to it. Men (and I’m one) and like being one, need to step aside and allow more space for the restoration of the feminine in our shared engagement with Spirit.
I know there are exceptions, but there’s still too little room at the top for the feminine, and this is not only in orthodox Western religion. We have shrines to Mary, but her role is still subservience. And as compassionate and beatific as her presence is, she still doesn’t get equal billing. She’s not at the same pay grade—so to speak.
This is not a call for radical feminism or another exercise to bash patriarchy or men’s role in such matters. Nor is this a plea for mere compensatory honoring of the Sacred Feminine. We’ve heard all these arguments for decades and recounted the tragic injustices women have suffered throughout history, which is as important to acknowledge as the Holocaust, but let’s not get stuck in these worn polemics. We need—our planet needs—rebalancing, with both genders co-participating—a sharing of the bandwidth and podium.
The traditional revisioning of this issue sends us back into prehistory, before the constructs of patriarchy, to the age of the Great Goddess—to shamans and priestess cults. And those responding to this call have generated a modern revival in women’s spirituality. But this revival has tended to be a segregated path without male involvement. While a “women only” presence may have been essential to protect or even cloister these early phases of the movement, I feel we’ve arrived at a time where the genders need to work together more.
For this integration to happen, both genders need to take responsibility, however, the lion’s share of the work falls on the shoulders of us men. Simply put, for men, this ain’t easy.
We’re programmed to be dominant. It’s not really our fault; our culture has conditioned men to believe we must be dominant—more relevant! And it’s my belief that it’s our relevance that’s at the core of the dilemma. It’s what I and other men feel in our gut when we sense Spirit just might operate perfectly fine without us. That it doesn’t require masculine approval or sanction.
Over the years, I’ve attended numerous talks, performances, and rituals dedicated to the Great Mother in Her myriad forms. Usually these are conducted by women and primarily for the benefit of women. While I’m typically moved by these occasions, privileged to have been present, I, too, often come away with a sense of having completed an obligation rather than an authentic integration.
I’m not alone in this experience. I find this feeling reflected among my male colleagues. I’ve had many conversations about this with them. We think we’re supporting the feminine, while in truth, we’re experiencing a range of awkward emotions: shame, demotion, embarrassed forbearance, impatience, and perhaps even subconscious calculations as to whether our presence might help us get laid later that night. But underneath it all, it’s a question of preserving our relevance. And that’s why we have such difficulty sharing room at the top, permitting equal space for the feminine in Spirit.
My motivation for writing this piece comes from a recent critique of my trilogy, The Forbidden Way where my reviewer pointed out that I had veered away from carrying my novels’ narrative through my protagonist, a man, of course. As a writer, I was scolded for this literary faux pas. When in fact, I had gradually built the story more around his partner, Rhiannon. These are shamanic-themed novels, and while Rhiannon has maintained a growing role in the books, by the time I got to writing the third book she had taken over the main role. This happened subconsciously within the writing, and the reason was that she was, in fact, the more dynamic and, in effect, more interesting character.
Now, I consider myself an advocate of the feminine. As such, I have even taken a course in women’s spirituality in graduate school, but, naturally for me, I resonate from my male mindset and worldview. And therefore, again subconsciously, I placed a man in the central role when I began creating this trilogy.
From a literary perspective, I wasn’t supposed to usurp my male protagonist. It’s somewhat embarrassing to acknowledge what I’ve done, but according to literary principals, I wasn’t in full command of my writing.
However, something subconsciously required I evolve my book so that the more complex and intuitive gender became the driving force in the narrative. Suddenly, I was having to recognize that my heroine was, in fact, the essential presence in the over-arching narrative of this trilogy. She was the core on which the stories unfolded and the one who held the rebalancing power.
There are, of course, other major characters of both genders in my works, and indeed, it requires a mutual engagement of both sexes to combat their challenges. Yet, if it weren’t for these complex and wise female characters, the entire trilogy would be vacuous.
I should back up a bit and disclose that this literary reviewer is a woman. Her observation wasn’t made with a feminist agenda, but rather from a literary perspective. I was leaving Tarzan in the jungle to continue doing his thing while Jane had advanced to become the key character. Evidently, that’s not supposed to happen.
What I believe occurs with us men who consider ourselves supportive of the feminine, even devotees of the goddess, is that we subconsciously believe we’re giving space and honoring the feminine while unwittingly still packaging it through centuries of embedded male programming. This is natural of course. Regardless of gender, we all carry threads of programmed agendas that are culturally embedded, and these are by no means limited only to gender issues.
I don’t claim to have an answer here; maybe there isn’t one? No, this question demands work. While I assumed my worldview was holding equal space for the feminine it was done through my male filter. That, of course, is natural, too. Yet somehow, albeit from literary construct, that is a faux pas—I had allowed my heroine to outperform my hero.
I have always loved women, especially making love with them, and perhaps the power of that mystery is as far as I’ve gotten with my soul’s understanding. Maybe this is how it’s supposed to be, men finding the feminine such a mystery, something sacred and mysterious that causes us men to other them in ways we simply don’t recognize, even those of us who think we’re supportive.
I’ve discussed this issue numerous times with both men’s and coed groups, and while assuming we’ve arrived at some place of honoring and acceptance, I know the field is still not leveled. I think this is perfectly reflected in one of Patty Griffin’s songs, “Mary”:
“While the angels are singin’ his praises in a blaze of glory
Mary stays behind and starts cleaning up the place.”
I hope some of you will find Rhiannon’s role in Call of the Forbidden Way to be a call for reclaiming and restoring this essential feminine role in Spirit. Further, I hope my male colleagues come to support our sisters in this endeavor—we need you!
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