Reflections of Aphrodite

Spring Mysteries Festival is now over for another year. Life returns to its slightly less frantic pace. I’m home, mostly rested, and falling back into my regular routine.

There’s a bit of post-festival let-down, for sure. Being in that magical space, with amazing people – most of whom I only get to see once or twice a year – and helping to facilitate transformation is exhilarating and incredibly rewarding. It’s my other real world.

Peter Paul Rubens Venus (Aphrodite) at a mirror ca 615Looking back on the past few months, I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to work so closely with Aphrodite. She has challenged me on so many levels. And so I have grown in a lot of ways.

Our modern society portrays Aphrodite as a bubble-headed bombshell who only cares about sex. I had the chance to discover that she is so much more than that.

The Goddess of Love and Beauty and Pleasure sees the bigger picture. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. Growth requires change. It requires stepping outside your comfort zone. And yes, sometimes that means you may get hurt. But it’s better than dying.

The message that Aphrodite shared most often this weekend (and therefore, the message that was also meant for me) is that you have to love yourself before you can truly love others and receive love from others. Look in the mirror and say, “Hello, beautiful, Goddess (or handsome God). I love you!” Do it even if you don’t believe it – ESPECIALLY if you don’t believe it – repeat it daily until you do. Have fun, enjoy the pleasures of this physical form: the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and touch. And yes, even the pain has something to teach you.

I received many compliments last weekend that have helped reinforce the work I have done. I thought perhaps I might miss the compliments after the festival, and I don’t really. I feel so much more confident and comfortable in my body as it is than I did at the start of this journey. And I am so very grateful.

Though I will not be working as closely with Aphrodite, I know She will always be there if I need her. I am familiar with her energy, and I can recognize it and call upon it.

For all of you who have been afraid of working with Aphrodite, like I was, I encourage you to continue. She is gentle and compassionate when needed, saucy and irreverent when needed, and pushy as all get out if you don’t listen the first time! The growth is worth the effort, though.

Blessings,

Mary

Gratitudes – Journey to Eleusis

As this is published, I am still at the festival site, but the event is over. Today is the day of letting go, saying goodbye, and traveling home.

A lot of people helped me get to Eleusis this year, and I am so very grateful.

To David, my husband, who kept my tight schedule, driving me to the ferry, picking me up, having meals ready, getting up and driving the children to school when I got in at 3 in the morning, and putting up with me being away for almost every weekend in the last 3 months. I love you, and I appreciate you!

To Barb, who many weeks picked me up from the last ferry of the night and drove me home safely and let me sleep on the way.

To all the people who let me, or me and my son, sleep at your house: Russ and Gina, Joy, Shawna and Eman, Mary and Gabriel.

To Joy and Liz who let me carpool with them.

To Dawne, who has helped take over some of the Circle administration while I’ve been preoccupied.

To Karen and Marybeth, who helped with donations to make my travel easier.

To all of the ritual presenting team for supporting and encouraging me to stretch outside my comfort zone.

To Aphrodite, for helping me see beauty and love, in myself and others.

And to everyone else who has offered encouragement and support along the way.

Thank you roseBlessings,

Mary

 

In the Home Stretch

Yesterday was our last rehearsal for Spring Mysteries Festival. We’re in the final leg of our Journey to Eleusis.

It felt weird coming home yesterday after rehearsal, knowing that in less than 3 days I would be traveling to Fort Flagler, the site of the Festival, where Eleusis has been created every Easter weekend for 29 years.

Spring Mysteries Festival Parade to the SeaAnd events seemed to be conspiring against me actually making it home. Rehearsal ran a bit over time as we did our best to pack as much into the last rehearsal as possible. And then it took a while to say farewells and finalize last minute details before actually leaving.

After dropping my son’s girlfriend off, I somehow managed to miss part of an exit – I know I took the exit for 405 North, and somehow I managed to end up on 522 East. Thankfully my other passenger had GPS on her phone, which I don’t on my US phone and I prefer not to pay hideous roaming charges on my Canadian phone. She was able to navigate us back to I5 north, after a detour some distance to the northeast.

I got her safely home and stopped as briefly as I could for fuel for body and vehicle. We were still an hour behind our normal schedule, and the border wait was over an hour long. I was very grateful that it was only my son and I crossing the border. We both have NEXUS passes, and so I was able to cut through town and get to the NEXUS lane, bypassing the line and getting through the border in about 5 minutes. (NEXUS FTW!)

Still, it didn’t make up for the earlier delays. As we were heading to the airport to return the rental car, I realized that we were not going to make the transit connection to get us out to the last ferry of the night.

I started frantically going through the list of people I know in or around Vancouver who have a vehicle and might be willing to help drive us. My son made the calls, and we found a rescuer. (Have I mentioned that I have AMAZING friends?) We returned the rental car, and I looked for my wallet so I could give my friend some gas money.

It wasn’t in my purse.

Panic began – that’s how I was going to pay for the ferry as well. I emptied my purse, and it wasn’t there. Had it fallen out at the rehearsal hall, or at our friend’s house where we stayed the night?

Thankfully, my son went back and checked the rental car – it was there! It still took a bit for the adrenalin rush to subside.

We made it to the ferry in plenty of time, and I am home to be able to make my final preparations. I have a mixture of feelings – excitement, nervousness, sadness, relief, gratitude. Next time I write, it will be all over. It’s been a huge commitment, both of time and resources. It has challenged me physically, mentally and spiritually. I don’t regret it, though. And I’m already making plans for next year.

Blessings,

Mary

Bumps in the Road

We’re in the home stretch for Spring Mysteries. There’s only one more rehearsal, and then we’re on site.

ATC SMF 2014Yesterday’s rehearsal had some interesting challenges. Quite a number of people were not able to be there, due to work or health or other unexpected circumstances. When we arrived at the rehearsal location, we found out that we were not on the schedule for the day, and the whole building was booked! Thankfully, some of the other cast members live nearby, and we were able to go to their home to run lines. And there are still several people who are struggling with their lines.

When you are this close to production, all of that can lead to a little anxiety.

I’m pretty calm, though (at least about that). I know my lines. I trust that the people who are struggling will spend the next week and a half buckling down and working on memorization.

This is the test of faith. Are you still willing to keep going when it gets challenging? Will you see it through to the end, or throw in the towel?

I’m one of the “I’ve come this far, and I’m going to see it through until the end” kind of people. So despite the fact that I’m really tired, despite the extra challenges at work, despite not seeing as much of my family as I would like, I’m excited for the main event.

I still have my own work to do. I don’t know everything there is to know about Aphrodite. I still have a ritual to prepare. And I am honored to be doing this work, and to serve the Gods and my fellow pilgrims to Eleusis.

Blessings,

Mary

PS. There is still space to register – room and board is included in the registration cost! Join me in Eleusis!

Aphrodite Today: Kylie Minogue, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga

As I prepare for the Spring Mysteries Festival, a lot of my research is focused on ancient writings – the Homeric Hymns, Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Hesiod’s Theogeny.

I’m also reading some more modern fiction and scholarly works about Aphrodite. Laurelei Black’s Temple of Love, a well researched fiction about the life of the poet Sappho, was especially enjoyable.

Aphrodite from the TV Series Hercules The Legendary Journeys and Xena Warrior Princess Photo credit: http://hercxena.wikia.com

Aphrodite from the TV Series Hercules The Legendary Journeys and Xena Warrior Princess
Photo credit: http://hercxena.wikia.com

Greek culture has heavily influenced Western Civilization. Though there are some that would say that the Hellenic faith is dead, I would disagree. There are Hellenic Reconstructionist groups practicing all over the world, even in Greece once again. And Aphrodite in particular shows her face in pop culture.

On television, we’ve seen her in shows like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. Greek myths have found a resurgence in the young adult novels by Rick Riordan about Percy Jackson. Films like Clash of the Titans have also taken advantage of our love of the Olympians.

And then there is the music.

Lots of modern music references Aphrodite, and more than just by being love songs.

I think of Tal Bachman’s She’s So High:

‘Cause she’s so high
High above me, she’s so lovely
She’s so high, like Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, or Aphrodite
She’s so high, high above me

He’s not the only one to compare Cleopatra and Aphrodite. Katy Perry’s latest, Dark Horse, is set in Egypt, and she says:

Make me your Aphrodite
Make me your one and only
But don’t make me your enemy, your enemy, your enemy

(She makes a very good point about not making Her [Aphrodite] your enemy. She was known for some pretty nasty consequences for those who defied her.)

Kylie Minogue released an entire album in 2011 called Aphrodite. You can watch the whole Aphrodite Les Folies concert, complete with Greek inspired set and costumes.

And then there’s Lady Gaga. Her videos are provocative and sensual. They are mini-films unto themselves. And her latest, G.U.Y., is replete with lyrics and visual references to the Goddess of Love:

But when it comes to putting me in the Aphrodite energy, nothing does it as well as this masterful blend of Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long: Skin/Sexual Healing. The video isn’t the best, but the song is, well… hot. Enjoy!

What are your favorite Aphrodite references in modern culture?

Blessings,

Mary

The Things I Do for (the Goddess of) Beauty

We are less than a month away from Spring Mysteries now – getting ever closer to Eleusis. Most of my costumes are ready. There are just a few finishing touches still to be done. Now I’m down to accessories, and hair.

Oh, the hair.

In my mind, Aphrodite has beautiful wavy tresses. Curly even. My hair is not so curly. It waves when it is wet, but not as much when it dries. And not at all once I brush it.

Mary with curlsSo I have been on the search for a way to curl my hair that is not permanent, and doesn’t involve copious amounts of chemicals. For the Aphrodite and Eros dance at The Tab, I did it the “old-fashioned” way – with a curling iron. It took me an hour and a half, and a ton of hair spray. It still didn’t stay that long. The ringlets were gone the next morning, though I did have a certain sexy just-got-out-of-bed look. Which still didn’t last past the brush. Not to mention that I don’t want to be spending an hour and a half at the festival (each day!) curling my hair.

I’ve watched some videos on different types of (really expensive) curling irons, and really cool braids. I know how to french-braid my hair, though I don’t think I could do some of the fancier patterns on my own head. And french braids is one of my options for the wavy look.

I had my eye on some interesting looking ringlet curlers on ebay for a while, and I finally broke down and ordered some. They arrived this week, so I had to try them out. They are pretty simple to use. (If you want an interesting experience, check out the promo video.)

I put them in Friday morning after my shower before work. It took me longer than I expected, so I thought I would use my hair dryer to speed up the process. I didn’t have enough time, and I was going to be late for work if I stuck with it, so I pulled them out. Although my hair was still very damp, I could see that it should create the ringlet look. I decided to try again that night and leave them in over night.

FYI, they are NOT conducive to sleep like it shows in the video, although I had them much closer to my scalp. I slept very lightly all night, because they did not compress. I woke up with a sore neck from my head being lifted the extra bit off my pillow.

But I had perfect ringlets when I took them out in the morning. I put a bit of gel in my damp hair to see how long they would last without hairspray.

By the end of the day, the back had pulled down a lot, but the front curls were still good. Even after sleeping on it (though I did tuck it all up under a hat), it looked ok. So this will work. I just won’t be sleeping on them!

What are some crazy things you have done in the name of beauty? Post your beauty tips and traumas in the comments below!

Blessings,

Mary

There is Strength in Vulnerability

Most people think that being vulnerable means you are weak. Our society shows us over and over that the strong prey on the weak. If you show any signs of vulnerability, any cracks in your armor, someone bigger and stronger will exploit those cracks to their advantage.

Yet my experience has been that being vulnerable is actually a way of being strong, of being courageous.

Let me give you an example.

Me on the hike on the way in to the waterfall, with ginger flowers in my hair.

Me on the hike on the way in to the waterfall, with ginger flowers in my hair.

Several years ago, when I went on my first retreat with The Peaceful Woman, we had hiked in to a beautiful waterfall. There was a deep pool, and the cool water was exceptionally refreshing after the heat of the hike in. There were several women who chose to go topless in the pool, and our guides made sure that our group was safe – there were no other tourists around.

I was in my bathing suit, uncomfortable about disrobing, even under cover of the water. As more time passed, though, I began to work up my courage. I stood on a ledge in the flow of the fall, letting the water cleanse and heal me. I asked one of the leaders to take a picture of me in the falls, as I had recently written Healing Waterfall Guided Meditation.

My bathing suit at the time was black. A picture of a very white me in a black swimsuit against black lava rock would not likely come out well.

And then an image came into my mind – a Goddess with arms up-stretched, receiving the healing pouring down from above. Here was an opportunity for me to push my comfort zone in a safe and supportive space. I swam in the water, and in my fear for quite some time. Finally, I worked up the courage and asked our facilitator if she would take a picture of me standing in the falls in a Goddess pose. Without the bathing suit.

Floating in the waterfall pool

Floating in the waterfall pool

I explained how uncomfortable it was for me, and she was very understanding. I managed to get my suit off in the pool, so that no one would see my ugly body – at least that’s what I thought of it. And then I had to wait my turn for the ledge, while doing my best not to chicken out.

The moment arrived, I gathered my courage, and pushed up onto the ledge. There wasn’t a lot of room, so I couldn’t stand with my arms up for very long before diving back into the pool. It was a relief to be back in the water, covered up once again.

Everyone else in the group told me how beautiful I was. And then they all took turns posing in the falls, in the nude. By being vulnerable and stepping outside my comfort zone, I inspired others to do the same – including one woman who was very afraid of the water. She allowed us to float her across the pool, so she could take her turn in the falls.

I’m finding the same thing working with Aphrodite. I’m being open and vulnerable about my body image, and my mixed feelings about sexiness and sexuality, and I’m hearing from others that they have experienced similar things. Some people are further on the path, and have reached out with tools that have helped them be more comfortable in their bodies, while others are taking inspiration and beginning their own healing journeys.

I’m not in a place of total acceptance and comfort yet. There are days I wake up and look in the mirror, and I think, “Look at that beautiful, curvy body!” And there are other days that I look in the mirror and all I can see is the rolls of fat that I wish weren’t there.

That just means I have to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Like Marianne Williamson says,

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

~ Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

So go ahead. Be vulnerable. And above all, love yourself…just as you are.

Blessings,

Mary

“He Called Me His Venus”

Wow. I want to thank all of you who have commented on Healing with Aphrodite. You encourage me to continue exploring this issue, because it touches so many of us. I am humbled.

Goddess VenusBack when my husband and I were dating, I, of course, felt very conscious about my looks. I wore baggy clothes to hide my body, because it was shameful. Or it would lead men, and me, to sin. I didn’t date a lot of men – I wasn’t asked out much, so of course that meant I wasn’t pretty. At least that’s what my head said. But here was a man that I instantly knew I needed to get to know, and he was interested in me.

He’s been very healing for me. I still have the little tiny green notebook that I had back then that I recorded my favorite quotes and sayings in. One page says, “He called me his Venus!” I still smile and feel wonderful when I read it.

He was telling me he thought I was beautiful, comparing me with the Goddess of Love and Beauty, and telling me that my beauty was timeless. Though I may not fit today’s rigorous standards of beauty, that doesn’t mean I am not beautiful. He saw the goddess in me, way back then.

Once we were married, he gently encouraged me to push my comfort zone. Early on in our marriage, I could not walk the 10 feet from the bedroom to the bathroom without putting a robe on. I was not comfortable being naked. He was totally comfortable in his body, able to walk around the house nude, and even host hot-tub parties that were clothing optional in the tub.

Slowly, with his support, I have become more comfortable in my body. I started wearing clothes that accentuate my curves instead of hiding them. I can now walk around my own house in the nude and not have my head on a swivel worrying about who might see me.

We used to “fight” with compliments – he would call me beautiful, and I would call him handsome, then he would call me intelligent, and I would call him genius… Whoever ran out of compliments, or broke up laughing, first, lost. It is a silly game, and it really helped to boost each other up. I know it helped improve my self-confidence.

I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can participate in mixed company skyclad rituals. For those who don’t know, skyclad literally means clothed in the sky. In other words, nothing. This was a huge healing step for me just over a year ago. I did it at a festival, and my husband wasn’t there. I was on my own.

Baring my soul is one thing. That doesn’t bother me. Baring my body is another thing altogether. I was nervous, but everyone was very relaxed (or at least appeared to be), and pretty soon it wasn’t a big deal.

I’ve got another healing/courage step coming up. Traditionally in the ritual drama at Spring Mysteries Festival (which is filling up quickly, so make sure you register soon!), Aphrodite is bare-breasted at one point. This is a bit different from a skyclad ritual in that I will be on display, instead of in a group in which everyone is participating. It will be a huge moment for me to stand tall and be proud of my body as it is.

I’ve come a long way towards body acceptance. It’s still something I struggle with regularly. There are good days and not so good days. Thankfully, I’ve got Aphrodite on my side. And a few friends who are very vocal about accepting bodies as they are. Check out Fat and Not Afraid, The Mundane Mystic, and Gaia Magick Photography for more inspiration.

Blessings,

Mary

PS. Apparently the donation button was not working on my post “The Long Journey to Eleusis”. If you would like to make a donation to help me cover the costs of all my travel for rehearsals, here is a working link:





Healing with Aphrodite

I’m sorry. I’ve been neglecting you, my blog readers.

When I started my crazy schedule in January, I thought I would have time to make more video blog posts. And at the start, I did.

And then I started doing my healing work with Aphrodite – the healing she is pushing me to do. It’s very personal, and emotional, and not the sort of thing I want to be recording a video about on the ferry. So I’ve been putting off the video, which means I’ve also neglected my blog.

So today I decided I need to get something out there, just to let you know I’m still alive, and moderately sane.

Me at the Aphrodite and Eros dance this weekend, pushing my boundaries of self-acceptance.

Me at the Aphrodite and Eros dance this weekend, pushing my boundaries of self-acceptance.

The healing work Aphrodite is doing with me is about body image and body acceptance.

We live in a culture of body shame. As a child, I was taught that our bodies are dirty, our desires are shameful, and we must work to cleanse and purify our bodies and souls. I was molested as a child, which lead to more shame and guilt (though I have forgiven my molester, and, for the most part, don’t let that experience determine how I live my life. Except, apparently, when it comes to accepting my body and my beauty). And I was told when I was 14 that because of my (at the time) tiny pot belly, I looked like I was 3 months pregnant.

I was also a nerd. Being teased for being a nerd definitely does not help one’s self-esteem. Throughout high school, the only time the “cool” kids talked to me was for help with their homework. It’s not that I really wanted to be a “cool” kid. I just wanted to be accepted and acknowledged. But nerd definitely did NOT equal beauty. (Thankfully, geeks and nerds are becoming more accepted now, though high school can still suck.)

Anyway, at rehearsal a few weeks ago, I was told I wasn’t being sexy enough. Not that *I* wasn’t sexy enough, just that I wasn’t letting that come out, I wasn’t letting my beauty and sexiness shine through. And I’m crying again now as I write this. It feels uncomfortable, and embarrassing – that’s not how good girls behave. But why does it have to feel shameful?

I honor and celebrate the Divine Feminine. I see the beauty of the Goddess in ALL her forms. Except mine. I get embarrassed when people tell me how beautiful or attractive or sexy I am. It feels good, and it also brings up a lot of guilt and shame.

We’re told from the time we are little that girls are supposed to be pretty – but not TOO pretty, because then you’re a bimbo. Be sexy – but not TOO sexy, because then you’re a whore. Be attractive to the opposite sex (or the same sex) – but if you flaunt it and don’t “put out” then you’re a tease. The media bombards us with images of beauty that logically I know have been altered, and then sells us all kinds of lotions and potions promising to help us achieve that unattainable image.

This work is not easy. It challenges me, pushes my buttons, and rips me open. Yet I know I need to do this. Not just for me. For every girl and woman who has felt ugly or shameful or otherwise “less than”.

Because the Goddess IS beautiful in all her forms. Including mine.

Blessings,

Mary

 

Journey to Eleusis – On Beauty and Makeup

beautiful even without make up quotes
In working with Aphrodite, I find I’m thinking a lot about beauty. I’m wearing makeup more often, and I’m a bit conflicted about the connection between beauty and makeup.

I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below.

Blessings,
Mary