Wednesday, April 8, 2015

“In the Temples of Aphrodite and Hera” - A “Mytho-therapeutic”, Transcendental Movement Journey Into the Archetypal Divide Between “Lover” and “Queen”

The telling and re-telling of the great myths has always been a powerful form of folk therapy.  “The story you are looking for is also looking for you,” wrote Dr. Robert Svoboda in The Greatness of Saturn – a Therapeutic Mythic, his recounting of the Vedic tale of the Father of Time and Limitations.  Like Joseph Campbell, he holds the myths to be living narratives who need us to engage them as much as we need their healing potential.  To interact with a myth is to participate in an egregore – a thought form whose power grows over the eons as countless individual stories weave into and out of them.

The legendary narratives of Greek mythology have handed down a rich cast of characters and archetypes that still live vibrantly in our imagination and culture.  Two Goddesses are in the great inner circle of Olympus. Both are beautiful and powerful, but in distinctly different ways.  Hera is the wife of Zeus, the Queen of Heaven and Earth.  Aphrodite is the Goddess of Love and Beauty, born of the Sea fully formed.  One is the regent of power and dominion, while the other embodies the primal forces of attraction and creativity.

To engage the myths is to embark upon a journey into the great Human Spirit, with the maps and symbols left behind by storytellers like Homer, Hesiod, or Eurypides.  In the ancient Greeks began a flowering of humanist western culture, with the gods cast as super-humans possessed of powerful traits both positive and negative.   To these archetypes generations of human consciousness have been aggregated in a timeless, undying dialogue which continues to teach us valuable lessons about the human spirit and its divine counterparts.  The truths of mythos are not literal so much as they are metaphorical; they carry echoes of universal qualities which inspire our cultures, arts, and values.  Aphrodite, for example, has been the most depicted, painted, sculpted, filmed, photographed, sung, sonneted, lamented woman of all time!  Hera, her regal counterpart (and mother-in-law in the soap opera of Olympus) is lesser-known but for how she was depicted by the (male) authors of Greek history.  In "The Temples of Aphrodite and Hera", we delve through history, myth, poetry, image, and dance to the cores of both of these potent emanations of the Divine Feminine.

There were various inspirations for this work, but one source has been essential, and that is the book The Goddess Within by Jennifer and Roger Woolger.  In it, the authors present their theory of modern feminine archetypal psychology through the six primary Greek goddess archetypes:  Athena (wisdom), Aphrodite (love), Artemis (nature), Demeter (mother), Hera (power) and Persephone (the unconscious).  All women carry aspects of these goddesses hard-wired into their psyches to varying degrees.  We identify with them much like zodiac signs or any other symbols; they are maps of consciousness that help us understand ourselves and our dramas in the light of their Universal principles.  The following website summarizes the book quite neatly, and is a good preparative read for the workshop:

We are the Goddess and She is Us.  Between us is an unfolding dialogue that reveals us to ourselves more fully and to Her as reflections of Her Divinity.  Through ritual, movement, and conscious gesture, we journey to the Temples of Aphrodite and Hera within.  We commune with the Goddess consciousness and in the process encounter deeply-held beliefs, truths, illusions, and inspirations.  We have the opportunity to examine these and understand them in order to alchemize them – to deconstruct them and to separate the gold from the lead.

This workshop encourages women to “flip the script” and experiment with the creation of a new direction for the narrative that not only suggests that these two Godesses can get along, but that they can become a very powerful partnership – Love and Sovereignty, Passion and Duty, Attraction and Power working in service of the New Woman, the one envisioned by Isadora Duncan as being “the highest intelligence in the freest body.” Who doesn’t want both?  Doesn't it seem natural that we should embody both?  Doesn't it seem obvious that divided from each other and divided within ourselves we are easier to dominate?

How do they meet?  What are their gestures?  How can they help each other heal their wounds? In the Temples of Aphrodite and Hera, they meet in mythic time/space.  They dialogue.  They forgive.  Hera places the crown of legitimacy on Aphrodite's head, thereby healing her wound as the "outcast" object of suspicion, envy, and lust.  In return, Aphrodite opens Hera's heart - the often caged, cold, and lonely heart of the conquered Princess forced into a marriage of duty.  No Madonna/Whore complex can curtail the power unleashed by this mighty fusion!

More than ever, women are looking inward and starting to unpack the levels of cultural conditioning we’ve inherited and constructed.  We are looking across at each other and joining in the effort to grasp, define, and re-define our realities within the rapidly-spiraling chaos of our age.  There’s a lot of energy out there, and one way to navigate it is through these timeless ideas and thought-forms like the archetypes and the cosmic forces they represent.

We learn, among other things, that we are not so small and yet not so big as we once thought.  The big story is also the personal story, the Myth is the public dream, the dream the private Myth, as Joseph Campbell famously wrote. “As above, so below” begins to come into vivid focus as a tool of self-empowerment.  We discover that there isn’t a thing we’ve faced as women that the Goddess Herself hasn’t also conquered. She offers us the power of transformation - of transmutation, and Her therapeutic mythics are the paths to healing and integration, and to those versions of Self that have learned to turn our wounds into medals of honor.

What role do our bodies play?  They carry the imprint of everything we’ve been, done, said, or have experienced individually and collectively. The Body of Woman is the body of all women – its bones and curves and blood and claws – the giver of Life and the dark moon of all returns.  Womens’ sovereignty over their own bodies and their own potential for ecstatic pleasure, for example, is something only recently registered onto the topical radar of our time.  Can you imagine what a Hera/Aphrodite integrated woman could accomplish in that area? Many realizations burst forth when we begin to participate in the "therapeutic mythics" and begin to write our own stories. We find that creativity and sovereignty can co-exist, and that to follow our passion becomes the highest of duties.

To embody one’s knowledge and wisdom is a great challenge of our time.  So many of us are walking heads, caught in a world of work, strategy, traffic, stress, and deadlines.  We are cut off from our bodies and often at the mercy of relentless cultural messaging about them, which we absorb at all levels of consciousness. We are force-fed insidious lies about feminine power, bound by stereotypes that keep us tethered to the post of patriarchal privilege.    Where do we go for sustenance? 

More than ever, we need each other as women.  Our gender has broken many barriers within the last two centuries, and together with our “emancipation” has also come a certain erosion of community as we evolve our way through a male-dominated landscape.  Men are not the enemy.  It’s our ignorance of our own innate power that’s the enemy.  We have to continue to step beyond the boundaries as our foremothers did and cycle around to what is constant in the Divine Feminine Spirit:  Community.  We may no longer all bond over the canning, weaving, or child-rearing, but today we have the time, resources, and freedom of choice to bond on a new platform for unity and healing among women, and I believe that platform is the Dance.

“The Dance of the Future is the Dance of the Past and of all times” wrote Isadora Duncan, who affirmed to the New Woman that the art of the dance must be returned to its rightful place as a sacred art form. When we move through the Goddess, we re-enact Her mysteries and for a brief eternity, we become her.  When we move through the Goddesses in their complementary pairs, we encounter explosive potential for reconciliation, healing and integration of our deepest rifts that separate us from our fully authentic selves.  When we share these experiences with each other, we extend our personal healing into the greater community of women and become catalysts for the transformation of sisterhood.

This was an edition of the workshop for the WAMED festival in Australia.  The only space available for it was a church, so we did it in the community room of the church, and this was Hera's "throne".  When I saw this picture, I thought the white ball overhead was a light fixture.  It wasn't - it was an ORB, concentrated and hovering overhead, like a crown....

We used one of the church pews for Aphrodite's "divan", and although you can't see it, it was draped with her colours and scented pillows.  The orbs in this picture are all around, "embracing" everyone in contrast to the photo above.
Some reflections from women around the world who have experienced

 “In the Temples of Aphrodite and Hera”:

“The Aphrodite/Hera workshop was a personal revelation: I discovered that I was very uncomfortable with leadership roles - the Queen Hera position - yet my life had cast me for many such roles. Learning more about the Goddesses in a safe space penetrated my subconscious in a way that simply reading about them never could: it was a thoughtful and mind shifting experience, one that has impacted one in various spheres of my working and social life.” DR DARLENE MILLER, SENIOR LECTURER, SOCIOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN.

"Aphrodite the eternal lover & Hera the queen. Both with their wounds, both with their power, are incredible & often fundamental archetypes that impart upon the woman psyche. When I first heard of the workshop I was  particularly intrigued in the bringing together of two archetypes that often bring their opposing polarity.

The workshop provided a gentle way for bridging these two archetypes within myself, that I  feel has helped me develop a fuller expression of being a woman. A catalyst that brought me peace & understanding into what it means to be me. I experienced release & found courage in honoring my truth that my sovereignty lies in the following of my heart.

There have been many treasures from this workshop that still continue to unfold months later. For me I felt the workshop unlocked a beautiful process of realization & healing with shifts in many parts of my life. I am utterly grateful to have been part of the experience.

Paola holds the space with love, compassion & strength. I'd recommend it to any woman interested in deepening her connection to herself."

Vanessa Biddulph, Fusion Belly Dance Artist

"This incredible workshop opened my eyes to accepting the many wonderful qualities that I hold within myself.  Through Paola’s guidance, I was welcomed into the realms of Aphrodite and Hera, discovered the beauty and dignity of each goddess then learned how to embrace those qualities.  When I entered the Temples of these magnificent goddesses, I was uncertain what I would find but when I left I felt the sensuality, love and beauty of Aphrodite as well as the dignity, majestic independent qualities of Hera.  I returned home from the workshop as the sensual regal Queen of my own domain able to face the world with confidence.

" - Kelly Garland, Melbourne, AUS

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