Discovering the Goddess Within

by Katherine A. Gleason

You strive to be the best that you can be-physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You go to the gym and workout, or you plan to. You try to break bad habits and cultivate good ones. You contemplate your feelings, analyze them, and strive for better relationships with your friends, partners, family, and coworkers. You read books about spirituality and holistic lifestyles, attend seminars, yoga classes, study groups, or church. Regardless of your religion or faith, you can use goddess energies to empower yourself and facilitate your access to the best that is inside you.

You can think of the goddesses as the love and energy of a powerful deity. But you don't have to believe in a goddess (or a god) to begin to reach your best self, your inner goddess. You can think of your own inner goddess and the many goddesses from world culture as metaphors for the various aspects of the female psyche and personality. Or you can look at the goddesses as powerful symbols or what psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) called archetypes-images, patterns, situations, or metaphors that appear in the cultures of all of humankind. These archetypes connect us to the collective unconscious-the pool of myths and symbols that are understood the world over and throughout time. An understanding of these archetypes and how we relate to them in our day to day lives can help us to feel connected to each other as women, to women from different times and different lands, and to our own best selves.

If you study the stories of the goddesses, you will see that they represent all aspects of a well rounded human being. Goddesses are not confined to the traditional feminine roles of nurturer, provider of food, and mother. Neither are they all associated with the moon and the softer elements of nature. Goddess--such as Oya from the Yoruba pantheon of West Africa and the Hindu Kali-can be fierce warriors who are ruthless in their destruction. Oya is described as the energy of sudden change. She is associated with storms, wind, and the Amazon and Niger Rivers. In stories, she is personified as a warrior who fights alongside her husband. Do you remember in your day-to-day life that you have the ability to instigate change? Why not let Oya remind you and make a commitment to yourself to take one small step toward improving your life? Pick something small, start on it today, and feel your Oya power. Kali sprang, full-grown and ready for battle, from the forehead of another deity. If you study the goddess some more, you will learn that there are also sun goddesses like Amaterasu, the Shinto Goddess of the sun, worshipped throughout Japan as the supreme deity. Amaterasu, whose name means "she who shines in the heavens," is also said to be the divine ancestor of Japan's royal family. Once Amaterasu got upset at the misbehavior of her brother and hid in her cave, leaving the world in darkness and threatening the survival of the planet. Despite the pleas of all the other deities, Amaterasu refused to come out. Finally, Uzume, the Goddess of mirth and dancing, began to perform outside the cave. The other gods and goddesses egged her on. Their merriment tempted Amaterasu from her cave, and the world was reborn in her light.

Do you act like an upset Amaterasu? Do you hide your true light in a cave? Many women choose to pretend that they are not as powerful, as smart, or as beautiful as they really are. As Marianne Williamson has written in her book A Return to Love: Reflections on A Course in Miracles (Harper Collins, 1992), "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." Do you let your light shine? Choosing to be your best self, allowing your goddess energies to shine only makes the world a brighter place for everyone. So, do not cower in a cave. Get out there and be a shining example of your own special goddess power. More people are drawn to the goddesses because they want to strengthen their relationship with the feminine divine. This shift in consciousness may be a crucial change, the only way we can heal ourselves and the planet and insure a healthy future for generations to come.

Katherine A. Gleason is a freelance writer. Her most recent book is Releasing the Goddess Within (coauthored with Gail Carr Feldman). Visit Katherine on the Web at www.katherinegleason.com.