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Awakening to the Mother

Talk given August 2009, Living Light Vibrant Expo


My thesis is  that once upon a time we lived in peace and harmony on Mother Earth, in gratitude for the gift of life.  Although that time has been erased from our conscious memory and most of our history books,  it did exist.   We see the  desperate state of our world today. How did we get here?  Where does violence come from?   Exploring  these questions I propose that  we can  dare to   reclaim our birthright of peace on earth,  thus finding our way back into the wisdom of the Mother.
I heard a black activist elder the other day eloquently speak of  the importance of  holding the suffering and abused  peoples (and creatures) of the world always in the center of your world vision.  As we move toward new/old ways  to heal our earth, it is important that we  be aware that much suffering is going on at this very moment.  This suffering must be acknowledged.   Think how we would feel if the shoe were on the other foot.
I believe change is happening  here and there,  and will finally come together in  a grand culmination,   making us realize  that an extraordinary wisdom has brought us  together, a wisdom beyond all that we could fathom,  a wisdom  that continues to expand before our eyes and hearts.
My name is Janie Rezner.
I also write and paint under the Indian name, Oquawka, which means “yellow banks,” the name of the little Illinois town nestled on the banks of the Mississippi river, where my mother and her mother before her, for four generations, grew up.
I have been singing all of my life, inspired by listening to my mother’s beautiful alto voice.  My mother, Zelda, who was 40 when I was born, was extraordinarily talented and capable—and beautiful.  Everything she touched was made beautiful by her hand.
My dad, Jay,  was a farmer and  I walked and rode the tractor as a child beside my gentle and silent dad, a dad who never said a mean thing to me, who never scolded me.   We farmed 160 acres on the same land that his father, and his father before him, for four generations, farmed. I would have been a fifth generation farmer if I had stayed on the land.
After graduating from Monmouth College, majoring in music,   I  married and raised my three children in Davenport, Iowa, at a time when neither the words “relationship” nor “sexual abuse” existed, and where much was suffered, especially by my children.
After forty-six years in the mid-west I moved to Berkeley California, and received a master’s degree in clinical psychology, 1983, from John F. Kennedy University.  I was searching for healing for my children and myself  . .  and expecting to be a healer in the world.  Instead, I began a profound spiritual journey inward, initiated by the heart wrenching separation from a man I had come to deeply loved,  Ed Jackson,  a man  I  recognized as my soul mate.
          The loss of the Mother, the sacred feminine, crushed by the patriarchal domination of the maternal spirit—a spirit that once filled our world with wisdom and compassion—and the subsequent devastating abuse of our planet Earth and all her inhabitants, was powerfully revealed to me through that “crack in the cosmic egg.”
Art in many forms emerged from that painful opening and my journey continues.  My life  is devoted to  the return of our Great Ancestress,  from the depths of each of our  souls  into awakening consciousness.      I share  my  journey in the hopes that other women and men may not only be encouraged in your own awakening, but emboldened to take a stand and say “no more!” And mean it.    I   call to the Grandmothers  to step forward and claim our  rightful place as the Keepers  of Wisdom, by virtue of our life experience!
We live in a world gone awry, a violence ridden world.  A  world  where all it‘s creatures great and small, along with the air and water and soil are poisoned and dying,  where greed, violence and perversion reign.  We find ourselves at the logical conclusion of patriarchy:  the suffocation of life on earth.
           Underneath war and all other forms of violence lies a single cause: the absence of the sacred feminine, exemplified by the denigration of the mother and her love, the denial of the wisdom of the grandmother.
I have been thinking a lot about the continuation  of life on earth —worrying about it, actually.  Haven’t you?
I just saw  the documentary, “The Sea Change” in which they disclose the increasing acidification of the ocean, the lungs of the earth.  This rise in CO2 is impairing  marine animals ability to build protective shells, without which they will die, and are dying.  The building blocks of the feeding chain in the ocean are in critical trouble.  Additionally, there is a huge floating  island twice the size of Texas, made of  discarded plastic which is emitting toxins, and is ingested by and killing birds and precious sea creatures.    In the U.S. we  use 2 million water bottles every 5 minutes --seas of water bottles.[1]
          And, the Navy wants to have full out, war-games (bombing, torpedoes, mines, sonar)   in our oceans,  right here just off the  coast lines of Mendocino and Humboldt Counties, and Oregon, and  Idaho, to name a few of the many places around the world where this obscenity  is rapidly  expanding.   Here,  one of the few abundant feeding grounds in the world, where sea creatures, attracted by the nutrients brought up by the upwelling of the ocean, come from all over.  This is where the Navy wants to  conduct war games for five years,  killing  an estimated eleven million sea creatures, including whales and dolphins, seals, sharks, sea birds,  poisoning our already very stressed  oceans with depleted uraniun, red and white phosphorus, to name a few ingredients in their toxic soup; contaminating air, water and soil,  starting soon.  Their detailed horrifying document along with  a petition to stop Navy Warfare Test Program can be found  at  www.californiaskywatch.com   and www.oceanprotection.org   This is very sobering for the Navy is  doing this all over the world.
A brave woman from our community went to Washington to speak with as many  congress people as she could.  The thing she heard  over and  over again  was “ you can’t control the Navy.  They do what they want to do.  They don’t have to observe environmental laws.” (After all this is about terrorism.   We can poison and destroy life on earth all in the service of “terrorism.”   We begin to see who the terrorists really are.  This is the new catch-word in patriarchy—giving  power-hungry men bent on controlling the world, a free hand to do anything.)
          Have you seen the videos and pictures going around on the internet:   videos of animals  mothering babies of other species:  a baby hippo being mothered by a  100 yr old male sea turtle,  a  polar bear and a dog cuddling with each other, a fawn and a kitten nuzzling each other, curled up together?
          We see wild animals responding to human attention, a  falcon nuzzling  the man who saved his life,  the whale who thanked the diver who freed him from the mass of ropes he was entangled in.   We see the grief of a swallow over  the death of his mate who had been hit by a car, we may remember the poems about a dog who wouldn’t leave his master’s grave  after his death.
          We deny the animals have feelings, but  all sentient beings  have feelings, all creatures with a brain experience feelings,  deep feelings in fact.  Where did our feelings come from?   We emerged from that same chain of mammals, didn’t we?  It is thought that animals probably experience feelings more deeply than we do—because we have coping mechanisms like denial and ability to distract ourselves.   This fact might  give some of  us pause regarding all the animals  that men  turn into cash crops, their bodies plundered again and again,  torn from their natural habitat, suffering brutalized lives lived in  hell, and  violent  deaths.  Check out the documentary, “Food, Inc.”  Seventy-eight million innocent animals  are killed  DAILY, with no regard to their well-being.   Vulnerable beings, with acute nerve endings, just like us, with physical and heart-centered feelings,   violently and cruelly dealt with.
          Shark finning, an obscene practice of removing a shark's fin at sea and tossing the still living animal overboard,  is decimating shark populations across the globe, and causes horrific pain and a  slow death through starvation to the animal. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, an estimated seventy three million sharks around the world are killed every year, primarily for their fins, which are used in the Asian delicacy shark fin soup.  I scream silently  against the  horror of it all.
I recently watched a video by Dr. Gabriel Cousins in which he reported that we are in for some difficult times ahead.  He stated that we are in severe imbalance with the planet.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbroNPvR3XI
It is clear that life simply has no meaning in this patriarchal world.  The earth  and it’s creatures  can be poisoned, torn apart, bombed,  mountain tops blown off, contaminated with depleted uranium and a myriad of other poisons designed by “their” crazed minds—and it is just “ok” with these folks.    Our food supply, laced with harmful and addictive additives and pesticides, fumes from gasoline, our  clothing, almost every item that surrounds us in  daily life,  from shampoos to sheets,  plastic refrigerator dishes, water bottles,  IV hospital bags, have been drenched in or emit  poisonous chemicals, and each one of us carries a high load of them.  We are surrounded by  electronic devices that  deliver another type of wounding to our already overloaded immune systems.   We are dropping dead from cancers of all types and other diseases. Almost 30,000   children starve daily and their mothers with them. American children suffer in poverty.  “Oh well.”
Global hunger is on a terrifying rise.  Food riots rocked India, Indonesia, Haiti and other countries last year.  Lack of water in India  is a deadly issue, and in many other countries as well.
And there is another whole  level of violence . . .  toward women and their children.   Woman, Mother, Earth,  Dark,  Life,   are all part of the same paradigm, and  give a patriarchal man the shivers.   Anything connected with woman is “contaminated” and to be hated and feared, or at the very least, scorned.  And, heaven forbid should a feisty woman appear on the scene.
The violence  we see in some men, not all, is not due to levels of testosterone.   We’ve lived for at least 45 thousand years without violence.  Little boy baby’s hearts are filled with the same love as little girl baby’s.   So what happened?  Why are women so feared and hated by some—not all—men?   I have  an  answer.   If you were running a world culture purposefully  maintained by  violence, fear, power-over and greed, you wouldn’t want anyone to come along and suggest that loving each other and sharing would be a better way to go, would you?  Of course not.
So, that “heart centered world of the mother, ” of kindness and love and protection,  natural feelings for any mammal, I might add, must be made bad.     The little  boy is shamed for needing his mother, anguished soldiers  are taunted  by their superiors for needing help,   The male child is  shamed every moment in his young adult life should his   vulnerability peek out among the guys.    “What  a Mama’s boy!”  “oh, look at the crybaby, crying like a girl!” Being like a girl is very bad.   A common Jewish daily prayer is/was “ thank you God for not making me a woman.”
The young boy  must deny his  need for his OWN mother.  He must cover his heart,  he can’t allow himself to be nurtured, for fear of being shamed, and of being hurt.  And since he has internalized the shaming, he will feel ashamed himself for  having vulnerable  feelings,  not realizing that his feelings of need  are  natural  and appropriate. ( Think about the rough and heartless environment of so many of our children.)  And, so the little boy  learns to hide his deeper heart-felt  feelings, including outrage at his abusive treatment . . . and for his own preservation, to stop feeling.
The rage doesn’t go away, however, but since it can’t be expressed to his abusers, eventually   it is  vented on those who are considered “lesser than” and weaker,  like women and gays and blacks—anyone perceived to be different.
And, when you don’t feel your own feelings, you don’t feel other people’s feelings, and then you can DO ANYTHING.  There aren’t many loving feelings in this patriarchal life, are there?  Our world  has become horrifyingly violent and militarized.  All we need to do is read the news. Or see a movie.
“The early church fathers purposefully depicted women as evil—in order to maintain their domination.  Keeping women repressed is the cornerstone of fundamentalist/ dominator  systems.” [2]Riane Eisler
          The churchmen  of long ago worked very hard to make love and our natural sexuality  wrong, rather than allow it to continue to be the fountain of  great joy and passion between people who deeply love each other--which is how it was in the thousands of years  before patriarchy.  Then,  making love  was a sacred act.
It is estimated that at least 9 million women and men, but mostly women, were horrifically tortured and burned alive over three centuries in the middle ages.   There were  villages in Europe completely devoid of women.   No mothers, no sisters, no grandmothers, no aunts.  No women.  My  God!    And, there are many men in the world today who harbor those same socio/psychopathic  tendencies.  It hasn’t gone away.    Witness  the millions of rapes, accompanied by  horrific torture, and massacres  perpetrated on huge numbers of women and children. . . and men.  Rape,  a weapon of war!!  SHAME!
One million children across Latin America have been entrapped by child prostitution and pornography.  In many cases the children are offered to wealthy business men and politicians.    Two million children  worldwide are enslaved into prostitution in a market that is worth billions of dollars.   The Femicide in Juarez Mexico continues, and along  Mexico’s border with Guatemala over 200,000 migrant women and  underage girls are sexually assaulted with impunity each year with absolutely no Mexican law enforcement response whatsoever.  Many of them are enslaved and sold to brothels around the world.[3] 
Mexican President Felipe Calderon and  conservative allies in the   Church have declared that women were “themselves to blame  because they were  immodest women who wear short skirts.” Serial killers working as long-haul lorry drivers have murdered at least 500 women along the highways of  America,   the FBI reports.   And this is the short list of atrocities committed against women and their children.  One out of four women has been raped, one of three children have been sexually abused.  And, the horrific multi-billion dollar pornography  industry showing violent sexual torture of women and children sometimes even to death, grows ever larger.  Who watches this stuff?
Unfortunately, when psychopaths  rule the day, they keep the psychopathic behavior going, for  they abuse their children and other people’s children and anybody else they can get their hands on.   The statement from the Bible,  “the sins of the fathers visited upon the sons,”   is absolutely true.      Are we aware of how  many children are abused—sexually and physically and emotionally?  Willis Harmon writes in his book, Global  Mind Change   “real progress can only come as people begin to awaken from the “social trance” that is in vital part produced by what we are today beginning to recognize as traditions of child abuse.”
This abuse  leaves us with a world citizenry of neurotic, fearful humans, easily addicted, easily brainwashed and manipulated, with an enraged male species given to assault, violence, sadism, and war.
Riane Eisler, cultural historian, eminent social scientist, attorney, and tireless worker at age 78,  is one of our wise elders.  Dr. Eisler  is  author of the  ground breaking  book, “The Chalice and the Blade” with it ‘s model of dominator vs. partnership relationships, where she presents her  Cultural Transformation Theory. She is truly one of the world-changers among us.
Riane writes in The Power of Partnership that “our beliefs about what is or is not valuable are largely unconscious assumptions we inherited from earlier times—and that the devaluing of traits and activities stereotypically associated with women is a hidden system of valuations that is integral to domination systems. “ [4] (We think of the little boy being shamed for “being like a girl.”)  I  believe  most men  disregard women to some degree  on an almost unconscious basis, and as  women living in this culture  we  certainly devalue ourselves.  How could it be otherwise?  We are  swimming in a sea of  patriarchial brainwashing.
          The Mother is still within, no matter what.    Barbara G. Walker, author of The Crone writes:  “The next phase of revelation must pass through men’s rediscovery of the Mother archetype, which lies deep within the unconscious of every woman-born human being.” [5] We all begin life in our mother’s womb . . . she is our Creator.
In “Dark Mother, African Origins and Godmothers,   Dr.  Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum states, “Tracing our history from 100,000 years ago when peaceful modern humans first appeared  in Africa, until  the cultural shift into a patriarchal model about 5,000 years ago,  harmony between humans and animals characterized ancient Africa, as did harmony between men and women, a contentment visible in many depictions (in cave paintings, rock engravings and other art) of embracing couples.
Lucia writes, "I find the dark mother's values--justice with compassion, equality, and transformation--in everyday and celebratory rituals of the world's subaltern cultures,  and  I suggest that the images  and values are in the submerged memories of everyone." [6]  Dark Mother, P.13
We started out living in harmony and in a world of abundance rather than scarcity.   All matrist societies practiced the gift economy.  Check out  Genevive Vaughan’s book, For Giving, a Feminist Critique of Exchange.[7]  and  Dr. Barbara Alice Mann’s book,  Iroquoian Women/the Gantowises   (the wise elders).  We didn’t use money or barter.  We shared with other clans and they with us.  The concept of exchange and the idea that who had the most was “better than,” simply didn’t exist.  The focus was on the well-being of those around us, rather than  this egoist world we now inhabit, which  must change if we are to survive.
More from Lucia, “The harmony of ancient mother-centered civilizations is shown in that in Paleolithic Africa there was no division between sacred and profane and no division of self and other—the mother and her nurture of all life were one.  The concept of “the other” seems to have emerged in Europe with invasions of indo-european speakers after 4300BCE.  P.6
Africa south of the Sahara, where we emerged, contains  the world’s richest rock art.  Red ochre, (a symbol of the Mother, signifying blood of childbirth and menstruation, along with the sign of the pubic V, which has been found on all continents, carried by Africans as they migrated out of Africa) is the predominant color of the cave art in that region -  with about 300 walls painted with 2700 figures.  Figures dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, engaging in initiation rituals, with body decorations and masks, characterize the art of the entire heterogeneous African continent.  Their ancient art  suggests that they venerated their ancestors, considered animals and all life sacred, and that they lived without violence.  Ancient Africa abounding with fantastic creatures evokes contemporary surrealist art, notably that of Marc  Chagall.”  P.7
“Paintings of animals dated 30,000 BCE are sketched in red ochre, charcoal, and hematite.  Stunning in their grace and beauty, art historians consider that the artistic level of these ancient cave paintings has never since been equaled.”  P.8
“L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza, major world geneticist and Emanuel Anaati, archeologist, z  have confirmed Marija Gimbutas finding that the civilization of Old Europe before 4000 BCE was harmonious, that beliefs evident in cave and cliff art circled a woman as the progenitor of life and metaphor of the fecundity of the earth, and that prehistoric peoples lived co-operatively without wars, fortress, or slavery.  According to Gimbutas’ theory, (confirmed by L.Luca Cavalli-Sforza) after 4000 BCE. violent warriors from the Eurasian Steppes, overtook these peaceful Mother-centered civilizations.  These Indo-european speakers, called kurgans after their burial mounds, are also known as Aryans.” [8] P.10
They  snuffed out our ancient past, and we forget that once  we lived in a world that honored the Mother, and  the gift of life.  However,  the Bible does speak to that  world.  “When God was a Woman”  by Merlin Stone sites  many such references made in the Bible regarding the Great Mother, always unflattering.  One particularly damning remark in the Bible goes something like, referring to those evil pagans, “and they worship women!”
Dr.  Angeleen  Campra in her essay She is Everywhere…And Always Has Been, writes,   “The divine   generative force,  that which brings forth life,  illustrates an understanding of the world as a place that nurtures life and the interconnectedness of all things.   This concept of sacred female generative energy is firmly established within our historical Judaic and Christian theological traditions.
Although the evidence for this is widespread and can be traced back 50,000 years, it has largely been ignored or denied in the relatively recent process of re-imagining divinity as exclusively male.
In fact, the process of setting male deities over female deities as the source of generativity appears to have begun only about 4000 years ago, with the appearance of male creator deities in Egypt and Sumer. About that same time, coming out of the poly-theism of the Sumerian-Mesopotamian region, the Hebrew patriarchs developed their monotheistic concept of the deity Yahweh, and identification with this image of the divine has been sustained to the present within Judaism.
Almost 1300 years later, that is, c.2700 years ago, the Greek Olympian pantheon  emerged  with Zeus and other male deities placed in a superior position to that of the earlier Gaia, Hera, and other archaic female deities. And, during the past 1600-1700 years, the western Christological perspective was solidified and has gained significant dominance.  These Yahwah-, Olympian-, and Christ-centric worldviews are indeed recent when compared to evidence of female deities that go back continuously for 50,000 years or more.
Our contemporary culture looks back mainly to the era of Classical Greece, only 2500 years ago, or when we stretch our imaginations, as far back as the era of the Hebrew Patriarchs, c.4000 years ago.  Mainstream contemporary Euro-centric culture has been reluctant to acknowledge our connection to Mesopotamia or to Africa, in spite of the evidence that corroborates those connections.
Iconographic evidence of female deity can be traced back to the Upper Paleolithic Era, c.50,000 B.C.E.  The historic record presents abundant representations of human concepts of divinity expressed through nature images, such as sea, earth, and vegetation deities;  animal images, such as fish, birds, and snakes; and human female images.  A characteristic which commonly connects these ancient, diverse images is generativity, the ability to manifest or bring forth life.
In contrast,   it is only during a relatively short period,--approximately 4,000 years—that dominant western culture has focused its attention on, and invested with superior status, the concept of an exclusively male anthro-po-morphized (attributing human characteristics to non-human beings)  deity.  My point is not the superiority of female images, but rather their enduring significance for 46,000 years until the relatively late collapse of that ancient understanding of generative power as located in nature and expressed as sacred female . . . into the more limiting image of sacred male.  In the process, the nature-centered locus of generativity was further constricted into a human-centered concept of creativity."[9]
Dr. Campra continues, “ . . because we are a text-oriented culture, we tend to regard the  time before writing as “pre-history”  calling it “primitive.”   We give greater value and weight to the written record, despite the fact that our written record was often dictated by the “winners” in any struggle of competing worldviews and usually is partial at best.
The selection of the birth of Jesus to represent “The Year One,” as the beginning of counted time, is at the very least arbitrary and Christian-centric.  It privileges and establishes as normative the western Christian worldview and history over all cultures from all times and all geographic regions.”
Angeleen then includes an alternative  dating system by Merlin Stone, who suggests that it begin “with the development of agriculture,   a time that  is already accepted  as the beginning of the Neolithic Era.  In this system, the year 8001 B.C.E. becomes the year 1 A.D.A. (After the Development of Agriculture) and the year 2004 of the Christian calendar becomes the year 10,004 A.D.A. of a calendar with a longer view of history.
This acknowledgement of a  more substantial history provides us with a way to rethink our human story and reclaim the significance of those more ancient historical pieces.  It also invites us to become more aware of the distorted perception we hold of a past that so privileges only the last 2000 years of our history.”[10]  Indeed!
Using this system our date today would be 10,009 ADA .   What a different feeling it gives me the minute I envision  that  longer view,   that includes more of our history.  Hooray!!   We have something beside war in our past!
“We see  the representation of divine generative energy as female, from the Early Paleolithic Era through the Neolithic Era, into the Bronze Age, and --despite the rise of patriarchy and its redefinitions of divinity and authority—into the present.”  She Is Everywhere P.10”
This feels like such an important piece to the puzzle we are putting together.   . . .
I believe we all know  in our deepest heart,  that a land of peace and love is how it is supposed to be.  The tiniest child knows that.  Little children draw hearts and the sun with rays emanating from it.
          We came in peacefully and treasured our time here - - -our ruins and graves and our amazing art and sacred  rituals of those earlier days are a window into another life, another time, when we lived in peace.    It was a time  without money or a clock.    A time when we deeply felt our connection to the sacred earth,  when we were fully present to our surroundings, not distracted and over stimulated by a myriad of sounds, and schedules, and anxieties, all designed to dull the pain of a world gone awry, a world without love and compassion.
Riane Eisler writes, “It is not coincidental that prehistoric images of women’s bodies, and even more specifically of women’s sexuality, communicate to us a reverence for life and pleasure rather than an obsession with domination and pain.  For the fact that sexuality was once associated with the sacred rather than with the sordid and obscene, also did not happen in a vacuum.  It evolved in societies where women and men had a more equal partnership:  where the highest power in the universe was still seen as the power to give, nurture, and illuminate life, rather than the power to dominate and destroy.” [11]”
Leslene della Madre, author of Midwifing Death  writes:  “When the Goddess is left out, what is taking place is a denial of our ancestors. I feel in my bones that until our spiritual heritage is really seen for what it is, that the original fact of spirit from the earliest times was female—not relating to genitals, as many people think—but primally female, as the moving and emanating force in the universe that brings forth life.  Until that happens we are not quite awake to the truth of who we  really are”[12]
Awakening to the Mother ‘within’  is a an organic process that is being called into being,  within each of us—from the deepest regions of our deepest selves.  It is process of awakening  to our own divinity, and to the divinity of this precious earth .   We  see our beautiful place, a gift from the Mother, and we are grateful  for it, and with profound conviction,  rise up to protect  and heal it!   We reawaken to our place, our destiny on earth.
Janie “Oquawka” Rezner, MA
Spiritual Feminist Warrior
www.janierezner.com  jrezner@mcn.org
[1] http://culturechange.org/go.html?488
2  Riane Eisler,   The Chalice and the Blade    www.rianeeisler.org
3 www.libertadlatina.org

4  Riane Eisler, Power of Partnership, The Real Wealth of Nations

5 Barbara G. Walker, The Crone, The Womans  Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets

6  Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum, Dark Mother, African Origins and Godmothers

7  Genevive Vaughan, For Giving, A Feminist Critique of Exchange,  www.gift-economy.com

8  Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum
9 Dr.  Angeleen Campra, She is Everywhere and Always Has Been, www.iuniverse.com

10  Dr. Angeleen Campra

11 Riane Eisler, Power of Partnership.

12 Leslene della Madre, Midwifing Death into the Arms of the Ancient Mother , www.midwifingdeath.com