The Author's Corner
Fire of the Goddess
Fire of the Goddess
TWPT: What does the term spirituality mean to you?
KK: To me, spirituality is connected to the word sacred which I feel is being in the presence of all things interconnected. As I cultivate certain qualities of gratitude, compassion, joy and love I open up to touching what is sacred, thus feeling my own spirituality. I also feel after years of following the ‘spiritual’ path, that although it may be expressed differently, we are all in the sea of the universe together, as you might say, ‘spirited form.’ In my view, we are all beings of spirit and are learning to access this through varied layers of form, depending on the person. I find it interesting that in some cultures in Africa, they believe trees are actually more evolved than humans, because they simply be, they ARE spirit expressing itself as form…where we seem to take or need a lot more steps to get back to the simplicity of that experience.
TWPT: Is there a difference between being religious and being spiritual? How so?
KK: Yes, I do believe there is a big difference, actually. To me, being religious means following a set of rules and considerations laid down by people who were attempting to mimic either an authentic spiritual experience or spiritual person. An authentic spiritual person has no need to follow the ten commandments for example. If someone is living in touch with the sacred on a daily basis, they will naturally follow their heart which will always guide us to act compassionately and for the benefit of others. Yet, most of us do not access this pure heart wisdom and might need a few rules or regulations to go by, which is great!
But another major difference I find is the need to convert or convince others that this one particular way is the only way to access the sacred. You find this a lot in monotheism, in the belief in one god; that if the main teacher did it a certain way, then we must all do it this way. The Buddha said there are as many ways to enlightenment as there are people on earth, which sounds more like being spiritual, connecting with our inner sacred, then having to say a certain prayer that holds very little meaning for us.
Indigenous people have connected with the sacred very spontaneously, thus expressing what I would call spiritual. This connection is a process, like breathing or dancing or singing. It is not something prescribed; when we set something in stone we get away from that spontaneity and away from the sacred and into the religious. We see this shift when the role of the priests became important, and people had to follow the priest to connect to god or the spiritual.
TWPT: Tell me about your own spiritual journey and the different paths you have walked while you searched various alternatives.
KK: I was raised Catholic and although I remember loving the ceremony of some of the masses, I also often felt bored and restless in church. I was seeking some kind of community and found that with a group of practicing Wiccan/Pagans when I was 20. I remember so clearly the first time we did a Drawing Down the Moon ceremony and just feeling so amazing to dance wildly under the moonlight, barefoot, calling on the goddess. I don’t think I had ever imagined god as a feminine face before and this moved me deeply. After that I couldn’t bear the church …once I started really researching the history I became passionate to practice Wicca.
At that time I also learned Reiki and was beginning to practice on others and then teach, passing Reiki attunements as I traveled around. I also became interested in Buddhism and eastern philosophy and when I met my now husband, he turned me onto a lot of different kinds of thought. When we traveled to India, I was still practicing Wicca, and still continue (to this day) to celebrate some of the festivals, especially Winter Solstice.
In India I studied Yoga, Zen Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism. I learned meditation from an Ammachi devotee, I did a few retreats at the Bodhizendo in south India but the most powerful teachings by far were the Tibetan Buddhist ones. Not only was the dharma, or Buddhist teachings, incredibly profound and helpful for everyday life, there is a lot of magic around Tibetans and some of the teachers are very advanced, so you get a taste of intense compassion, love, even enlightenment I would say. I was not lucky enough to spend one on one time with a teacher, but I received many public teachings and interestingly had many dreams and visions that guided and supported my practice. And I also continued my Reiki practice, which I feel taught me so much; the continued years of practicing so much healing was such a great groundwork for more advanced practices…it also led to spontaneous shamanic experiences which I now use in my healing work.
At the same time, I continued to passionately call in Goddess to my ceremony. There was a local Goddess in the village temple where we lived who we gave offerings to. The stories abound throughout India of Saraswati, Parvati, Kali, all goddesses with different qualities and I would use them to inspire this kind of mix of Wicca/Tantric practice. I was also very inspired by the Dakini in Tibetan Buddhism and feel a strong connection to certain practices associated with her. She is a wisdom keeper in Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism and protects the inner teachings. I tried off and on to really stay with one tradition; I did take refuge with H.H. Karmapa of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and although I don’t have a personal relationship with him, I consider him my heart teacher. I was so deeply moved by just being in his presence and that continues to inspire me to be more compassionate. And still, I am an eclectic woman! As a shamanic practitioner I use what is immediate to help others, to create ceremony, to do the healing work, to honor the earth. I have a lot of tools in my kit now.
TWPT: What is it that you are looking for as you explore earth stories?
KK: To me earth stories, are the mythic stories of indigenous people, but that means all of us. We are all indigenous to the earth, even if we don’t have specific traditions that come from the earth. Earth stories are our stories of creation, of how and where we came from, of the elements, the oceans, how the trees grow. Earth stories come in the form of myths and legends and they hold keys as to how we can be in balance with our home. For example, one of the stories in my book, ‘Fire of the Goddess’ is the Coming of Corn by the Cherokee nation. In that story, a boy’s grandmother dies and he drags her body across the earth. Where blood falls, corn sprouts and grows into food for the people. It is a story of death, rebirth, life and nourishment. I think these stories are meaningful because they work on our soul level, or our subconscious and remind us what is important. When I told this story to my four year old daughter (at the time), she loved it and when a friend of ours died, she spent days wondering which plants his body was turning into. It felt good to connect her to the life cycle in a way that is real yet also beautiful.
TWPT: How much women’s mysteries and wisdom has disappeared over the centuries as patriarchal systems became the dominate social structure?
KK: I don’t know if we even know the answer to that one… a LOT! That’s for sure. If we consider that anywhere from 300,000 up to 9 million women were killed, burned, tortured, and so on for hundreds of years, we know that not only women’s mysteries and wisdom was gone, but even the simple stories of women. I imagine women had all kinds of clever ways to pass some of the knowledge on surreptitiously yet much has been lost. Another aspect of this issue is that for hundreds of years all that was recorded in written, syllabic language was written by men and mostly for men; we don’t really know what women were up to. There is some mention in the Vedas, the ancient texts of India, of scholars visiting women priestesses in India, and leaving completely enlightened. According to them, the women refused to reveal their secret wisdom…leaving us to wonder many centuries later what was going on in those temples.
TWPT: Can these mysteries ever be restored to what they once were? Can they overcome centuries of psychological conditioning that women have been subjected to? How?
KK: I don’t think going back to the past is the way we can heal and move forward. It is impossible to know from the perspective of thoughts in ordinary reality what kinds of mysteries happened exactly. I think we are creating new mysteries, and that a major part of that is recognizing the male role in this too; that not only women, but men have been victims of this conditioning, as well as all sorts of creative people, homosexuals, indigenous people, non-white people and so forth.
Yet, I wonder if, at the same time, if these mysteries are within us, in our blood and bones even. We carry so much information in our bodies and when we quiet our minds and use our hearts to experience, we can access huge amounts of information. I think its important to remember that humans worshipped a goddess figure for many thousands of years before the patriarch, that the last 2—4000 years is a small part of our 50,000 or even 70,000 years of humans making art, making ceremony. That we are the descendants of people who have worked intimately with this earth and her stories for so long that in a way, the mysteries haven’t really gone anywhere, its just up to us to boldly rediscover them.
TWPT: In your workshops what is it that you are trying to teach those who come in regards to women’s mysteries, wisdom and spirituality? Do you see a hunger in attendees to reclaim these attributes in modern society?
KK: In my workshops I provide ways for women to begin accessing their spirituality, their power, inner love and wisdom. I use some specific tools, tools that have been around a long time to do this: nature, ceremony or ritual, creating myth, storytelling, making art, dance as well as meditation, contemplation and cultivating a disciplined practice. We also use shamanic methods such as journeying with the drum and working with dreams to help us explore our inner worlds and discover wisdom, spirituality within.
I do see a hunger, and sometimes frustration as we try to redefine ourselves against the backdrop of a very disconnected modern world. I also see an immense amount of joy, wildness, natural beauty. Women so naturally make altars, create little ceremonies for themselves in daily life and when we focus on those things that we are already doing, reframe them in the context of the sacred, we feel very alive and suddenly we are connected in more.
TWPT: Your new book is called Fire of the Goddess: Nine Paths to Ignite the Sacred Feminine. Why is it important for women to find this sacred feminine within themselves?
KK: I feel it is crucial for both men and women to reconnect to the sacred feminine, because that is our earth, our own well being depends on listening to the earth and creating a world that is more sustainable. We all know that things are pretty amuck these days, and the sacred feminine is our reminder that we have a way to deal with these things: that nature has been evolving and coexisting with humans for millions of years and we don’t have to foul our own nest. Some of the principles in the sacred feminine are interconnectedness, cultivating gratitude can help us to become more aware of our consumerism, our depression all the symptoms of a world that is out of touch with what is sacred and beautiful and wholesome.
Another important aspect of this work, is that the ‘feminine’ has been long defined by the West as something passive, objectified by men, sexual in a very specific way and I strongly believe that if women want this changed, all over the world, it’s up to us to redefine feminine. When we connect with our feminine through story, myth, ceremony, we often find oh…we aren’t a passive, or bitchy, or shameful, or willful (as often told to girls…especially in the obscenity of molestation and rape), but instead we are powerful, we are intelligent, we are strong, we are quiet too. It is a redefining of the sacred in the shape of a woman. This can often require a lot of healing too, especially in the cases of sexual and psychological abuse. But this is important because most of us have held the concept of the divine as a male image, often a white male image and this just isn’t relevant for half the population! Redefining the sacred feminine as well as reclaiming images that make sense to us who are women and those who are non-white is important to first reconnect with the sacred within, and then be able to connect with those around us; to honor diversity and differences.
TWPT: What has happened to the image of the sacred feminine over the years?
KK: This is a fascinating question, which could warrant writing an entire book on this! During the writing of my book, I used this fabulous timeline of goddess imagery, called ‘The Goddess Timeline” which I ordered from the Internet at: www.goddesstimeline.com I have this timeline on my wall and it has been a constant source of inspiration and reminder of how human cultures have viewed the sacred feminine over the last 30,000 years. For thousands and thousands of those years, up until 4-5000 B.C.E. most art images were of a feminine form, usually an round feminine image of breasts and belly sometimes with an exaggerated vulva. These images evoke nourishment and earthiness. I spent hours pouring over Marija Gimbutas’ books, a pre-eminent archeologist that spent decades working with Neolithic art and documenting the Venus’ of Neolithic art. So many images consist of eggs and swirls, snakes and owls, breasts and vulva, circles and lines, birds, and eyes and she felt these images were a kind of language that spoke about the natural world. We still see this kind of work in indigenous crafts such as pottery, weaving, etc.
For thousands of years we have art that mirrors the earth…then we see that change and I found it fascinating that as the patriarch grew in the west, a culture of dominion and control, the images of the goddess went from being rotund to very slim, bird like, narrow and long…almost more masculine you might say! We see that the prevalence of owls and snakes in old imagery become associated with demonic or devilish qualities both in art and myth. Another aspect of the change is the role of the sacred feminine…she was often portrayed as a sexual, sensual, earthy, musical, wild being and later became much more covered and cloaked, passive and having qualities of a passive kind of mother or virgin. The sexual, spiritual parts were carved out so that the sacred feminine might fit the dominant qualities that wished to repress and control society.
As recent as 1970, Monica Sjoo’s artwork, ‘God Giving Birth’ was banned from a show. The image depicts a woman giving birth…but we certainly have come a ways from that in the U.S…although we have a long way to go here and other areas in the world. It is still astonishing to me how men and women are still disturbed by images of birth, how breastfeeding is still unaccepted in this country…these very nourishing realities of where we come from and eating food made for an infant actually still bother us! Yet, in recent years, we see a lot of these kinds of images returning, such as in the We’moon calendar, the sacred feminine art that is being reborn. We as women, have to keep making art, keep writing our stories and celebrating ourselves as ways to continuously open up to the sacred.
TWPT: For your book where do you draw on for the images of how the sacred feminine should look and how it is still practiced in some cultures?
KK: I used several cultures in my book to portray various aspects and qualities of the sacred feminine including Native American, ancient Sumerian, Hawaiian, African, Indian. I deliberately chose goddesses who worked with the 9 archetypes AND had a myth that felt empowering. This was not easy! For example, I wanted to include a South American goddess but did not find a feminine myth that felt accessible. I’m certain there are many out there…and I found a lot of amazing masculine imagery, but wanted something that was ancient, yet could be related to contemporary women.
I feel the sacred feminine looks as many different ways as there are people out there…yet, I do feel we need to examine the stories that are told in reference to women, men, etc. I really wanted to find stories that women could relate to in a way that feels nourishing…so many myths for so long feature the goddess being raped, molested, dominated…and since stories have a powerful effect on our psyche, I think it is crucial to find stories of women who are powerful, loving, balanced and wise as well.
TWPT: Do you find that the west tends to resist the idea of powerful feminine sacred images or is that resistance more widespread?
KK: This is definitely a widespread phenomenon. In my research, I actually discovered many, many myths and stories that speak of women who first held the power of fire, or community, storytelling, weaving, and so on..and then it was stolen by men, or captured or taken over. I found this in Aboriginal myth, Native American myth, and ancient Babylonia. One of the very first stories ever written in the clay tablets of Sumer (around 2500 BCE) was the destruction of the very powerful and feminine sea serpent by Marduk, the male human warrior and his establishment of a city. Over and over again in myth, we find that women or goddesses with incredible powers and gifts which were taken over by warriors, gods, or men. Of course, that was my lens and focus. No doubt men had certain roles that shifted and changed for them especially in the changes from hunter/gatherer societies to agrarian to modern civilization.
Yet many powerful sacred feminine images exist still, especially in India where the Goddess is daily worshipped. For example, Kali is worshipped there, the fierce goddess of destruction, time and chaos (who can also be quite loving as well). So they have kept alive the Goddess and yet there are so many women’s issues in India! I actually see the sacred feminine opening up strongly in the west, as so many women now run businesses, create art, write, etc. Just a hundred years ago, women were mainly contributing in the home and now that has changed completely. This is a rare opportunity for women (and men) in the west to redefine what they feel is sacred, how to reconnect with the earth in sustainable ways.
TWPT: Tell me about the premise of Fire of the Goddess and how you structured the book to help women to discover the sacred feminine aspects of themselves?
KK: The premise of Fire of the Goddess is to provide a way for women to connect with their inner power, love and wisdom and define the sacred feminine for themselves. I structured the book on the basis of nine archetypes which I relate to as aspects of the sacred feminine. These are reflections of women, specifically and how we connect with ourselves, the earth, and our communities. As a woman, I feel we relate to the world in a specific way that is unique from men. I know that it was important for feminists of the last decades to assimilate into a kind of male oriented approach to the world…but I do think women have a tendency toward a different focus, and that needs to be explored, honored and celebrated so that we can make some changes on earth. For example, time and time again, my work with women’s groups in south India revealed that when we gave microloans to women, they would pay them back…but if the money ended up in the men’s hands…they would drink up all the money. Because women give birth and often (worldwide) do most of the domestic raising of children, they tend to think for the community and beyond.
In the west, women have the same opportunities as men, but this needs to be balanced with a sacred approach. By tapping into our inner sacred feminine, we remember certain qualities that actually promote well being and sustainability: qualities such as gratitude, mindfulness and interconnectedness.
TWPT: Why is it important for women to open up to their inner masculine?
KK: Two reasons, one we need to redefine the sacred masculine, just as we are reclaiming and redefining the sacred feminine. Carl Jung defined feminine as passive and masculine as active…yet in Indian thought, the feminine is active and dynamic while the masculine is passive and inert. When these genders get projected onto real men and women, we run into problems. If women are ‘generally’ passive we have to ask ourselves if issues of rape and domestic violence spring from this internalized view of women? (The U.S. has one of the highest rape rates in the west). I feel that if we begin to examine our views of masculine and feminine we can dissolve some of the harmful outcomes of these associations.
Secondly, balancing these within helps us to have a more grounded approach to the world. In essence, I feel that our spirit is not masculine or feminine, these are societal, cultural constructs. Yet we are contained in these bodies that express male and female and by exploring both aspects within I think we can help to heal ourselves. Often these parts of us are our parents internalized and when we start to examine what we perceive as feminine and masculine, we can change what is not working for us and support what is.
Also, this book moves toward a shamanic perspective, which calls for a lot of crossing over. We find a lot of male shamans in the past who dressed in women’s clothing, or what we might consider feminine garb to help them get out of their identity and be able to activate healing and power. When we open up to our inner masculine, we too can loosen our fixed identity and open up to a broader way of expressing ourselves.
TWPT: Why is it so difficult for us as a society to bring the sacred into our everyday lives? How is it that your book will help women to bring this sacred feminine into their daily lives?
KK: I don’t think it is difficult actually…it’s a very simple thing to bring the sacred into everyday lives…we just forget about it. My book is a reminder and offers several suggestions as to how to go about bringing in the sacred. For example, cultivating a sense of gratitude helps us to connect with the sacred. We can do this by giving an offering. Native peoples everywhere give offerings all the time to the earth…the earth sustains us completely. Many of us don’t think about that, but it only takes two minutes to consider and make a gesture. The gesture is important, as it communicates to our soul, or you could say our subconscious which connects us immediately with the sacred. If we just say it in our minds, it is not nearly as powerful as giving an offering, such as sprinkling water on the earth, or laying a flower under our favorite tree. I recently spoke with a friend who was admiring me for my ‘openness’ and how I connect with nature. I told her, she can too, I said just go outside and sit with the tree and breathe with it. Again, she said, no, I couldn’t do that…I wouldn’t ‘feel’ anything. This really portrays the issue, we block ourselves from the simplicity of connecting. When we sit outside with a tree, we all know that our oxygen comes from the tree and our carbon dioxide gives back to that tree…it is just the matter of sitting there and breathing. We can all feel our breath, we can all feel the air, the grass, see the sky above, Connecting with the sacred is not a dramatic thing, it is quite simple really.
TWPT: Why did you choose the nine particular Goddess archetypes that you used for the nine paths in your book?
KK: Great question! In all honesty, I feel they chose me! I have these moments, where energies or spirits you might say seem to hover about and give me information and the list of these archetypes was one of those moments. The final nine did vary from the original seven or so, but they really fell into place with the goddesses that wanted to be represented and their myths. I felt a lot of guidance throughout this process and for sure certain stories were longing to be heard and retold in this book. Also, I deliberately chose not to use maiden or mother, as I felt we have so much of that already, the virgin and the mother are the patriarch’s main depiction of the sacred feminine and we are definitely needing more than that!
As the goddesses fell into place, I began co-leading a Sacred Feminine workshop with one of my contemporaries, Jill Walton…we ended up devising the course to run over four months, focusing on four themes of: Power, Love, Wisdom and Integration. I remember coming home that day, after one of our first meetings, looking over my list of goddesses and the archetypes and realizing they fell into those exact categories, in that order! So, that was a clear sign.
TWPT: Do you ever foresee a time when the concept of Goddess and the sacred feminine will be accepted once again by society in general? What will it take to make that concept a reality?
KK: Yes, I do think the sacred feminine is re-emerging, I feel it’s impossible for it not to be if we are to maintain harmony with our earth. During a medicine journey, I clearly experienced what I would call the sacred feminine, the “mind of nature” or the indigenous voice of the earth…and it was so obvious that the goddess has never left, the earth is so feminine in my experience, where could she possibly have gone?
Certainly there has been immense suppression and continues to be…yet the more we repress something as many of us know, the more it rears its head in some form or another. I feel that not only has the feminine been repressed, but also all indigenous knowledge, and non-white people. For me, this is all connected to the dark mother, who is the dark feminine wisdom of the earth which I discuss in the Initiate chapter in my book. In order for the sacred feminine to rise up again fully, we will have to embrace this dark mother, our fears, our limitations and transform them into power.
TWPT: What would you like to see happen for those women who pick up your book and work through it sincerely?
KK: I would like to see women be able to use this to change their lives..to access their inner power, love and wisdom and come to a place of authenticity. I would like to see more women working together, working with nature, finding continuous ways to benefit each other and our communities. I feel women are so natural at this and if their lives are more deeply connected to the sacred, this will have such a positive effect on their choices, their families, their neighborhoods.
TWPT: How would a reader need to approach the reading and the exercises to help facilitate this process?
KK: Probably the best way would be to take their time with the book and if possible, to work with other women. Having a circle of women reflect
Also, practicing the ceremonies is crucial. I have found that when we create sacred space and do even the simplest act with intention, we see dramatic changes in our life. Ceremony seems to have the almost instant effect of dissolving our egoic self and opening us up to the larger universe. When we do that, we feel so good! We feel happy, we feel connected to our family, our community as well as our spirit helpers and guides. Suddenly we remember that we are all connected that any separateness is an illusion. There is a real reason that human beings have been practicing ceremony with our earth for up to 70,000 years! It’s in our DNA, our ancestral lines to sing and dance and give offerings to our earth and what helps us along the way.
TWPT: Was your book aimed at a particular type of woman who you felt would benefit the most by reading it? Explain.
KK: My book is aimed at women who are looking for a way to connect with the sacred feminine but just don’t know how and also for women who really want to develop their own personal connection to their sacred path. Also, I wanted this book to be an opening point for women who have not connected with the divine as feminine, but on some level, are yearning for that. We have been honoring the divine as masculine for so long in the west and we need to have images, qualities, stories that are clearly feminine, clearly of black, white, yellow, brown and red. How can we find our own sacred if it is white and male? Our disconnection is a result of that limited imagery.
Also, I wanted to appeal to women who are already practicing the sacred arts and want to deepen their experience. I have met so many women who have been disenchanted by religion, or certain spiritual traditions, or gurus. And even though I have specific teachers, by no means do we need them to make our lives sacred…it's such a simple and wonderful thing to be a human, to be a woman and I wanted to present all the ideas, the stories, the ceremonies that have enabled me to connect with the sacred and the divine. I have to thank dear Bharat Mata (Mother India) and Hawai’i for this, because in both of these places, along with several others I have visited in Asia, the indigenous connection is there and I have had the opportunity to absorb it. I think the more we open ourselves to practicing sacred arts, from our own personal connection to the divine, the better our lives will become.
TWPT: What role does Reiki, chakra healing, indigenous wisdom or shamanic principles play in your work with the sacred feminine? Explain.
KK: Reiki and chakra healing are what I have been practicing for almost fifteen years. I learned this healing work originally with my Reiki Master who is a High Priestess of a Wicca tradition and all of that wove together in my work from the beginning. So, I think for me, healing became associated with the reclaiming of the sacred feminine, the Earth as our Mother, understanding the power of the Dark Mother, the moon cycles, the elements and so on. As I continued to practice healing work, I experienced many things that later turned out to be quite shamanic, visions of peoples spirit helpers, guides and power animals; guidance to suck out illness, or retrieve power for people; seeing illness in the body and so on, and so when I studied shamanism, I found that this was deeper aspect of healing work that really benefits my clients.
So, learning shamanism has been parallel to my constant research into the sacred feminine and at this point I would have to say I can’t really have one without the other. In my mind, the indigenous perspective includes wisdom such as: all things are sacred; we must honor all our relations; all of earth and her living creatures and elements are deeply interconnected; when we harm one thing (ourselves included) we harm all things. I have had several journeys where I encountered the living spirit of this earth and she is Mother to us all. Everything we have is because of her. This is the same as our own human mother. This is very obvious and simple yet many of us forget about it and I feel my work is to continuously re-member this wisdom, to put it back together, assist those who are also re-membering and help awaken those who are still forgetting. It is a wonderful time to be alive, to be part of the re-awakening!
TWPT: Any final thoughts you’d like to share with the readers of The Wiccan/Pagan Times?
KK: I would like to thank all my ancestors and spirit helpers, my teachers, my family and friends, my community and my publisher for their incredible support and guidance. I am now in the mode of traveling and teaching Reiki Warrior workshops, writing a book called ‘Reiki Warrior’ which will be a fusion of my healing arts and work with indigenous wisdom. If anyone is interested, they can see my website: www.katalinkoda.com or email me: email@example.com
TWPT: I would like to thank you for taking the time to talk to me and for your insightful and informed answers. I wish you a fruitful journey in the years to come along your spiritual path.