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My Story

We live in a world gone awry, a violence riddled world. It is a warring patriarchal world, where the characteristics of mothering, i.e. nurturing, compassion, kindness, protection of life, are absent. Underneath war and all other forms of violence lies a single cause: the absence of the sacred feminine, exampled by the denigration of the mother and her love, the denial of the wisdom of the grandmother.

In order to effect a change, we must look carefully at the roots of violence to become aware of how it is perpetuated, in this dominator, power-over world. Riane Eisler's work (1) explores this process with great attention and detail.

My education in psychology, along with my own life experience as a mother and a grandmother, and my spiritual awakening to the feminine thirty years ago are the source of my wisdom. I express this awakening through music and art and sculpture, in fact, all of my life, which is dedicated to heralding the return of the Mother, the Great Ancestress, from the depth of soul into awakening consciousness.

I call myself a feminist spiritual warrior, and write about my own extraordinary journey in the hopes that other women may not only be touched and encouraged in their own awakening, but emboldened to take a stand and say, "no more!"

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My name is Janie Rezner. I also write and paint under the Indian name "Oquawka," which means "yellow banks." This name is taken from the little town nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River, where my mother and her mother before her, for four generations, grew up. I am a mother, a daughter, and a grandmother, and this story speaks to my awakening to the pain and horror of the world, and the reemergence of the sacred feminine.

I have been singing all of my life, for as a child I was inspired by listening to my mother's beautiful alto voice. I was born in 1933, and grew up on a 160 acre farm in Illinois. Our comfortable two-story home, built by my parents in 1918, was on land that had been in my dad's family for four generations as well. My roots run deep into prairie land.

We raised corn and soybeans and alfalfa to feed our cattle and hogs. My mother raised chickens each year; I fed and watered the chickens and gathered eggs after school. And, rode my Shetland pony, "Blackie," into our grassy back pastures to bring up the cows for milking, with "Tippy," my little beagle hound, trailing along behind.

I 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. I remember when I was eleven or twelve, feeling a great tenderness toward my dad as I helped him shovel wheat from our wagon into a boxcar, after his sobering diagnosis of angina heart disease by our doctor.

I have always felt connected to the earth and very Indian in my heart. I remember feeling outraged by acts of injustice and heartlessness as a child; for example when someone ran over our dog in his car. Again and again I stood in front of our bathroom mirror, looking into my own eyes, saying with great outrage, "And, he didn't even stop!"

My mother was extraordinarily talented and capable, and beautiful. Everything she touched was made beautiful by her hand. And, she called a spade a spade. She modeled a lot to me. She took care of a big garden in the summer, and canned, and made butter, and cooked delicious meals, and fed the hired men at harvest time, and raised chickens, and hosted elegant dinner parties.

I spent much of my time alone since my only sibling, my brother, was twelve years older than me. I loved books and read a lot. I roamed the forty acre pasture we called "down south" with Tippy, my beloved companion. I waded our creek under hot summer sun, dragon flies lighting on the water beside me. I listened to cold wind whistling through rows of corn stubble on a snow-covered prairie field in the dead of winter, as I walked with my dad out to feed the cattle. I remember standing up on a gate on summer evening looking to the heavens, wondering where God was.

It was all Paradise, and I deeply felt my connection to nature.

I had very little sexual experience. I was only slightly sexually abused, on the scale of such things, once, by an uncle who came up behind me and put his hands up under my blouse to fondle my scarcely discernable nine year old breasts, as we stood behind a bush at twilight in his back yard, my parents sitting less than fifty feet away. I have always wondered about his audacity. How did he know I wouldn't call out? He whispered an incomprehensible "let me love you," in my ear as his hands began to slide down my body. His intentions brought me out of my shock; I stopped his hand and pulled away. He didn't persist.

Then there was the time when I was ten, walking home from where the school bus let me off, when two drunken young men, driving by in their car, stopped and wanted me to get in. I declined. The youth on the passenger side opened his door and started toward me. And, the driver opened his door as well. I saw by the bright hard look in their eyes that they meant no good. I darted down into the ditch beside the road toward a familiar culvert where I knew there was an opening in the fence, for my dad and I had mowed weeks along that road. With heart pounding, I climbed through the hole in the fence into our field, then over a gate, and ran across the pasture toward the back of our house, while they stood on the road swearing at me. My mother met me at the back door, took one look at me and knew exactly what had happened, for she had just seen them drive by, weaving back and forth across the road. We cried in each other's arms. It was a close call from a certain shattering experience, had I survived it.

There was another time in my childhood when the sexual abuse of vulnerable ones by perverted men reared it's ugly head. One winter night my mother picked me up after high school play practice. On our way home, driving down the dark, isolated highway toward our farm, the car ran out of gas. My mother guided the car to the shoulder, parked it and we began walking up the highway toward our gravel road turnoff. Presently a car appeared out of the night, coming toward us and stopped, with two men inside. The driver politely asked if he could help. My mother firmly said, "No, our house is just ahead on the road, where my husband is waiting." They drove on. My mother said, "Run! I smelled liquor on his breath!" We frantically ran up the road, reaching our gravel road just as we saw their car lights stop and turn around, coming back toward us. We turned the corner and fled down the icy road a ways, then crouched in the ditch beside the road. Soon their car lights turned down our road. We held our breath. Seeing on one on the road, they backed out and went their way. We were saved by my mother's quick thinking.

Sadly leaving home after high school, I graduated from Monmouth College, a Presbyterian school, with a degree in music. I married and in four years, by the age of twenty-four, I had three children with Duane, a physician, also a musician. For twenty years I raised by three lovely children in the mid-west, and sang and performed in churches, women's clubs, hospitals and nursing homes. I even sang on a local weekly television show. But things were not as they looked.

I knew no on personally who had gotten a divorce, and I had no one to share my fears with, for I was afraid of this man's temper and extreme jealousies and interrogations. I dare not say no to his sexual advances. And, I had no home to return to with my children, for my dad had died of a coronary and my mother left the farm when I was twenty-one, a few months after my daughter, Lynn, was born.

I witnessed my three little children suffer great emotional abuse at the hands of their impatient, critical and emotionally immature father, and I was powerless to do anything about it, for I had no voice, no words. I could only weep and rage to myself behind closed doors. And, that was true after our divorce, as he continued to see them.

It took enormous determination, coupled with the brief but essential help of an intuitive psychiatrist in Iowa City, Iowa who skillfully intervened and directed me toward separation, to find the courage to file for divorce, after twelve awful years. My mother helped my financially; otherwise, I couldnt have made it. How do other mothers do it without any help at all?

Getting away from my husband, a well-known doctor in our city, was very hard, for he initially contested the divorce. I had no power in the situation. Duane was manipulative with his little children when he saw them, blaming me for the separation. He also displayed violent behavior from time to time, once tearing off the front screen door in a fit of rage when he came to pick up our eleven year old daughter for her birthday dinner. How different from my relationship with my dad!

Duane also threw a chair at me, a few months earlier, as we sat in the psychiatrist's office after I, with great encouragement from Bill, the psychiatrist, dared to tell my husband of twelve years that I didn't love him. Bill had previously said to me in our private meeting, "This will be the time to "lay our cards on the table." And, I understood from what he was saying that I was to tell the truth. I felt protected by his understanding of the situation. He was 'encouraging me.' Dr. William Moeller, Head of the Psychiatric Outpatient Clinic at the University of Iowa University Hospitals, got me out of the volatile situation in two meetings, after initially spending ONE hour with my husband, and then three hours with me on our first meeting. I'm sure he could smell danger in this situation and wasted no time in bringing it to a head.

After Duane threw the chair at me, hitting me in the leg, he ran out of the room. Both Bill and I were standing by this time. Duane ran down the hall and out of the clinic. I was totally shaken, totally frightened and totally jubilant! I sat down in the chair. For suddenly it came to me, jolting me, awakening me. "I have been living in a prison and didn't know it."

I drove pell mell back to our city and with help from a friend went directly to an attorney, filling for divorce and a restraining order at the same time. The thought that carried me through that time of sickening, frightening, not knowing what was going to happen next, extreme insecurity was that "I was getting away and I could go through anything to get there."

On a scale of stressful events my children and I were over the top. After a violent, traumatizing nine month divorce, a move into another house, a change in schools, my children were left alone in the mornings to get themselves off to school. I began working for someone else, for the first time in my adult life, spending eight hours away from home, leaving early in the morning, coming back at five o'clock. Me, with three little children at home who needed their mother.

We were all overwhelmed. I felt a black cloud hanging over me. And, soon after, had an emergency appendectomy. I needed to be taken care of for a little while.

It was a most difficult time and I was desperate to remarry and be able to stay at home as a mother, which I did two years later. Carl was more emotionally stable than my first husband, but with a streak of mean sarcasm, which he directed toward my wounded and very sweet children. Again, I was powerless, with no words even to comfort.

At the end of my twenty year imprisonment, about to climb out of the confines of my second abusive marriage, I started selling real estate in a small office, and found friendship and support from several wonderful older women in the office. They were 'higher consciousness' women. One had done Silva mind control, two others belonged to Unity church; I had stumbled into a center of New Thought. Such important council, when I needed it!

About this time, I also awakened to the fact that marriage "wasn't the answer" although I didn't know what was! I reconnected with the psychiatrist who had helped me break free from my first marriage, nine years earlier. Bill was facilitating a self-esteem course fifty miles from the town in which I lived. For a year, I drove once a week to Iowa City to spend three hours with him, talking, exploring . . . and it was the beginning of my healing and coming into my own power. I began to break free from the bonds of patriarchal conditioning and discovered I had a self of my own. Through working with Bill, I realized that I wanted to help others discover the same relief and insight that I was experiencing through the self-esteem work.

At the end of the course, Bill opened the door to another new experience, encouraging a young women from his self-esteem program who was my daughter's age, and I to enroll in a Social Therapist's Training Program in a private psychiatric hospital, located outside of Chicago. It was part of a master's program. I rented out my house, my youngest son now in college, and with Kathy moved into an apartment in Des Plaines, Illinois.

We began an amazing process. We were a group of fourteen enrolled in a unique experiential learning program in humanistic psychology, affiliated with Forest Hospital, a private psychiatric hospital. We met in a large carpeted room five days a week, from nine to five, and some week-ends. too, doing nothing but therapy; Bioenergetics and Gestalt and Psychodrama, and Jungian and Rogerian therapy, and Group Process and Pool Therapy and Family Systems Therapy.

It was a wonderful training, and never before or since have I felt such a concentration of new awarenesses. It added another layer to my understanding of family dynamics and the human psyche, as I explored my past, and began to open to spiritual realms and the wisdom of the body.

I remember getting up in the mornings in Kathy's and my sunny apartment, where we talked and processed incessantly and played music and burned incense, thinking how could I be so lucky that my life led me to this place! This was after twenty years in two abusive marriages. No wonder I felt liberated; I felt as if I were starting over in my life! And it was in Chicago that looking to California as a place of greater learning and higher consciousness came into my mind, inspired by a visit to our program from Rabbi David Zeller, from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology.

My joy was tempered by the suffering of my children. My daughter was in a physically abusive relationship, my youngest son was experiencing extreme anxiety.

After working briefly as a therapist at Forest Psychiatric Hospital, I returned to Iowa and in 1979 left the mid-west and moved to California for a masters degree in psychology. My youngest son, David, followed. We came to magical Berkeley where people gathered to watch the sun set and often clapped after it went down; where I could walk down a perfumed and blossom-laden tree-lined streed and hear flute music wafting from someone's open window. I shared a flat in charming north Berkeley with a young woman my daughter's age, my son lived nearby. I thought I had found heaven.

I received a master's degree in clinical psychology in 1983. I attended many workshops and read many books. I was looking for a way to heal my children and myself and expected to be a healer for others. Instead, I began a profound spiritual journey inward, initiated by the heartbreaking separation from Ed Jackson, Reichian therapist and medical doctor, whom I had come to deeply love--a man I recognized as my soul mate.

The words "soul mate," were not part of my vocabulary, the concept was not in my head when I met Ed, a man firmly connected to a deeper reality. My relationship with him was a troubled one; however, through the trauma of our connection much was revealed to me.

As a therapist, Ed listened to many stories from his clients of sexual abuse. His own daughter had been gang raped at age 16. Another daughter barely excaped a similar fate. None of these incidents were ever statistics because they were never reported.

As a result Ed becan a search in his mind, asking "Where does this violence come from?" He and I both knew that a child does not come into the world in violence; there is only love and innocence in the heart of a child. He concluded, following in the footsteps of Freud and those before him, including the makers of the Bible, that it was the mother's fault--laying all blame at the feet of women. I was stunned by his conclusion.

In my heart of hearts I knew his theory was wrong, but strangely enough, in spite of evidence all around me, I didn't know who was to blame for creating violence in the child. It was a new question for me. I was still under the influence of the patriarchal taboo. I couldn't see the elephant in the room.

The important thing is that he brought that question into my consciousness. For it set me on the elemental path of finding the Mother within, the Mother that embraces the world and all its living creatures. I discovered how the domination and perversion of natural life by patriarchal thought and action has poisoned the planet. When Ed ended our relationship in November of 1984 I thought my heart would break and I would die. Instead, I was taken on a profound journey of the soul.

I grew up in the Presbyterian church. My images of God were male, God was he; I hadn't even noticed my exclusion as a female from the godhead. And, men seemed to know more than women. Except in my mother and her women friend's case. They seemed to know quite a bit, and didn't mince words as they stood in our kitchen talking.

I didn't have a thought of the sacred feminine when I began writing and singing and painting. I was, however, awakening to the pain in the world caused by the cultural degradation of a mother's love and her attempts to protect her own children; scorned, called "over-protective," "controlling," "suffocating," "needy," by the patriarchal men/therapists in the world, ever furthering the repression of the maternal instinct.

Once Ed and I parted I bought a computer and began writing. Music and art flowed out of me as well. I went back to Iowa, and recorded ninety minutes of music at the University of Iowa Recording Studios. I sat in a darkened 800 seat recital hall, singing my music and playing a nine foot Steinway piano. I was in a strange and powerful place at the time. As I listened to the recording, I was swept away by it's power and beauty. I had found my voice! I wanted this voice to go out to the world; thus my CD Oquawka Speaks the Words and Music of Mother God came into being.

Returning to California, I who had never been an artist, continued to paint large archetypal paintings; The Tree of Life, She Walks Upon the Earth, The Hands of God, Our Home in the Garden, The Warrior of Love, never correcting a painting, never starting over, not knowing what I was painting until I saw it before me on the canvas.I learned of Mother God from my work, from the lyrics of my music, from the things I was writing, from my powerful and colorful feminine images with their descriptive poems that came to me whole.

One of my first paintings was a life sized colorful figure, arms outstretched, bare breasts and feet called The Renaissiance Woman. Her feet planted firmly on the ground, her breasts and womb for all to see, her left hand holding the moon and stars, her right arm strong and earthy, her Motherly side, cutting through the chaos as She rises up out of Hell! It reflected my own journey so vividly!

Another, Mother Earth, is a very angry face rising up out of the green earth with a upheld hand beside her, "STOP" written across the palm. And, the poem: The rain is acid, the ground water is contaminated. We are killing each other and the BUYING and SELLING goes on. Incensed by the destruction she sees in every area of life, She commands, "STOP!"

I felt as though a flood was raging through me--everything that had happened in my life was converging and being expressed through music and art and writing. During this period I wrote my first book, The Book of Life.

I moved to San Geranimo Valley, Marin, where I lived for three years in solitude without phone or radio, creating with great intention twenty hours a day, sending each day's writing and music and art out in the afternoon mail. It was of a single piece, the words and music of Mother God; an awakening of the Deep Feminine within me. I sometimes saw a vision of Her as I created my profound music. I began to realize I was speaking for She whose voice has not been heard for thousands of years, except in the hearts of mothers. When I wrote my angry letters I was Her. I felt her rage pulsing through my words and images; they were Her words, Her images. I began to feel that I might be a prophet or a mystic and that this was a journey like none other. I had been thrust into another dimension.

I wrote letters often in the strong angry voice of the Deep Feminine, to many people including the Pope and Ronald Reagan. I was outraged by the suffering and war caused by greedy, heartless men, who dared disdain the sacredness of life. I wrote my piercing comments boldly on the outside of the envelopes--for all to see along the way! I was suddenly highly political. My eyes had opened, and the pieces were falling into place. I sent out hundreds of tapes of freshly created music, and beautifully decorated letters during that three year period to many people, including my children and Ed, proclaiming my awakening and insights!

I spent my inheritance to support my journey, trusting I would be taken care of. After my money ran out, I lived in my car for two weeks, and then on Welfare. This was not about making money but fully trusting my inner widsom and process, as frightening as that time was.

Since then my life has been devoted, through my music and art and writing, to not only expose the loss of the sacred feminine, but to point out it's necessary return if we are to bring peace to earth. I call to a world suffocating under the black cloud of patriarchal rule. We are on the wrong track. Something very precious has been lost. We can assume that we "came in love" in the beginning.  Research shows that we women and men lived for thousands of years in harmony and integrity with the earth and with each other, feeling our Mother's love surrounding us. Something happened to change that way of life.

Archeological findings show that around 4000BC a great shift occurred in family life in a place which came to be called the Saharasia Desert, because of a severe climate change that turned a green lush land into a dry desert. Starvation and forced migrations, severe desertification took their toll. Mothers couldn't nurture their children. No longer was the sacred bond between mother and child honored. Men sometimes banded together.

After the severe climate change in the Sahara desert, where patrist, (patriarchal) behaviour first appeared, it spread over more and more of the land. Cruel men over several centuries wiped out the non-warring religions of the Mother in all places.[4

Violence and perversion of the natural sexual drive opened the door to evil; the patriarchy, a system based on fear, violence and power-over the other, came into being with their harsh god Yahweh. They erased women's gentle, wise and organic ways and turned they and their children into property to be owned, violating the sacredness of life, carried by the mother.

We remain in this state today, brainwashed into obedience by the 'laws' and 'truths' of their patriarchal religions which shape our thinking, and maintain the status quo. In these perilous times their ministers continue their work, preaching forgiveness rather than outrage, long suffering rather than action, preaching about "sins of the soul" and "attachment" rather than the real sins being committed by the men in their congregations and in the world; keeping women's mouths shut. [5]

In today's world, the child is separated from it's mother at birth, due to man's intrusion into one of life's most sacred events. The cycle continues, with day care and school, rushed, anxious working mothers and endless activity; little time for skin to skin closeness and lazy days together, the natural cmponents of a mother and her child.

Particularly the male child's need of his mother is not allowed, his need to be comforted in times of stress is not permitted to be expressed. The male child must deny his need and love for his own mother. His feminine side must be denied. This creates a deep wound.

I didn't see the pain in the world before I had children. I cannot imagine who I would be, without the expansive experience of mothering my three children. Caring for a child is a profoundly maturing life process. I think of a mother bear or mother elephant protecting her young; standing up to the forces destroying our earth; realizing it is our RIGHT and RESPONSIBILITY as mothers and grandmothers to speak out about what we know is true.

I believe my extraordinary children will come forth with their own poignant life stories. They have very courageous hearts and are loving parents to their own children, breaking the cycle of abuse. I cannot imagine life without them.

I began to read about the statistics of children being abused around the world. When you consider that more than 200 million children has been sexually abused, often by male family members[6], the incidence of domestic violence and rape ,[7] and that millions of suffering children and women are bought and sold, enslaves and tortured to satiate the perverse craving of psychotic men,[8] not to mention what men do to women and children and other men in war, or whenever they can get away with it--you would think this centuries long epidemic of sexual abuse and torture would be the topic of conversation. Not so. There are no comments in the news about this "character flaw" of so many men; no books written about it. The dangers of being alone with men is never mentioned in sermons of Sunday mornings. Or talked about in social studies. We just know to "be careful," that's all.

It is tucked away on the underbelly of life. It is a taboo subject in a world run by men. I often wonder which ones of the men who head up governments or churches, or lead armies, or are judges, or in big business, or stand in front of me at the grocery store line, are perpetrators. Who are the men who rape children, often their own? [9] Who are the men who watch pornographic videos of women and children being sexually violated and tortured and sometimes killed? There must be a lot of them. It is a multibillion-dollar business, I shudder to report, and growing. [10]

The dominator men who have power over the world have lost contact with their hearts, their humanity--and their wisdom. To consider dotting the heavens with weapons of destruction, or waging a war is insane. Drenching our food with poison is insane. And now the newest horror: weapons containing depleted uranium, contaminating all life on earth with radiation. International expert on depleted uranium, Leuren Moret, has been traveling the world to alert us to the dangers of this deadly material.[11] We see who we are dealing with, and wonder what it will take to stop them.

As a grandmother with seventy-nine years on earth, I see the path we must take if we are going to have a future. We must open our eyes and hearts to the suffering of our world's children, to the brutality of life in a patriarchal world. How long can we hold our tongues, and our outrage? This life that molds our loving little boys into hardened war machines, rapists and butcherers must end. It is time for older women to step up to the plate, demanding that life be life affirming, that the vicious cycle of abuse stop!

When the voice of the grandmother is heard throughout the land, we will once again live in peace on earth. This is the time and we are the people!

Oquawka


[1] [1] Eisler, Riane,  Sacred Pleasure  (New York: HarperCollins, 1995), 222-260.

[2] Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum. Dark Mother ( Lincoln , NE , Authors Choice Press, 2001) 3-9.

[3] James DeMeo, Saharasia: The 4000BCE Origins of Child Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence,In the Deserts of the Old World ,  www.SAHARASIA.org, march, 2006 

[4] Merlin Stone, When God was a W oman , (New York and London: Harvest/HBJ Book, 1976), 178-179.

[5] Riane Eisler, The Power of Partnership, ( Novato : New World Library, 2002), 115

[6] UN Study on Violence Against Children, 2006

[7] Mara Lynn Keller, Violence against Women and Children in Religious Scriptures and in the Home, from the Rule of Mars: Readings on the Origins, History and Impact of Patriarchy, edited by Cristina Biaggi ( Manchester , CT : KIT, 2005), 225

[8] Eisler, Sacred Pleasure, 212

[9] Ibid, 19-20

[10] Gudrun Schultz, Large Increase in Porn DVD Sales Indicates Growing Pornography Addiction, www.drjudithreisman.com/archives/2006/01/large_increase.html, 2008 

[11] Leuren Moret, U.S. Nuclear Policy and Depleted Uranium, www.traprockpeace.org/TribTest0628-3.html, 2004