I had read about the dark feminine extensively...
I’ve always been pulled towards the mystic; to the goddesses and priestesses whose gifts went beyond the qualities valued in women in societies warped by patriarchy. I’d heard that the Western mind struggled to wrap itself around the complexities of goddesses like Kali; that we showed disrespect to her by imagining her outwardly terrifying appearance to symbolise only wrath and destruction. That we were too blinded by our own disconnection and disavowal of the darkness to see her as the divine mother whose love knows no bounds. Yes, I’d read about the dark feminine extensively, but it wasn’t until my first time in ceremony with the grandmother plant Ayahuasca that I truly met her.
A Call From Beyond
Looking back on my life, I now see she’d been trying to reach me since my earliest years:
In the myths and fables I devoured as a little girl.
In my fascination with the bad girls of the Old Testament – the stories (that now I see were disfigured by the many pens of the men they’d passed through) of the whores and temptresses and badly behaved wives.
In my visitations from her during my years of teenage rebellion and pre-menstrual syndrome.
In the deep-seated rage I felt at the injustices experienced by women and girls throughout history.
In my holy heartbreaks and the way they seemed to plunge me into a way of walking on the earth that was closer to the magic of life, raw and unbridled.
Meeting the Dark Mother
In that first meeting with Mother Ayahuasca in 2014, as I closed my eyes, I saw a naked woman with dark brown skin, which as she came closer towards me, I could see was made of infinite swirling vines.
She beckoned me towards her.
She was the earth herself. I could smell her – a fragrance somewhere between sweetness and compost. There was a clarity and honesty in the way her body moved that made me instantly soften. This was earth wisdom. She held the ancient codes of the feminine.
Through her I felt into a time before the human psyche had been split by forced fixation on the binaries of good and evil; light and dark.
Over the course of the next hours, she conducted what many people describing their experience with Ayahuasca call ‘psychic surgery’ – something I can only describe as her pulling the demons out of me. She showed me all that was within me that was not of me, she held a mirror up to my festering psychic wounds and, without flinching, she bade me to look at them.
Seeing my own inner-poison up close brought feelings of bone-deep sickness. The need to void and vomit it out was a feeling like no other. It was as if my bowls and guts extended into the depths of the earth and through my body I was being asked to empty out all the poison and hatred and sickness held within it.
In the morning after the ceremony, I looked in the bucket I had purged into, expecting it to be full. It was empty, except for a few drops of thick tar-like liquid.
Since this meeting with the Dark Feminine at eye level. Her presence has never left me. And I have never forgotten to offer her thanks or to cultivate this relationship – without which my life would have a gaping hole in.
Without this meeting, I'd still be looking for her.
The Dark Feminine in History
We can trace the fear of the Dark Feminine back to the end of the Neolithic period when, between 4000 and 25000 BCE, proto-Indo-European tribes from the north of Europe and central Asia invaded western Europe and India. These warring peoples worshipped a male sun god. To them the moon- and Goddess-worshipping cultures were anathema. They destroyed their culture and imposed on them the fixation on solar consciousness. With the rise in patriarchal monotheistic religion and the intersecting oppressive structures of capitalism and racism, fear of the darkness and fear of the wild aspects of the feminine prevailed. The dark feminine as the lunar, Yin counterpart to the solar, Yang masculine aspect was no more. She was vilified. All the fears and insecurities about women's erotic and life-giving powers were projected onto her.
What is the Dark Feminine?
The Dark Feminine is an energy pattern found both in humans, spirit and the world of plants, weather and animals.
We meet her in the deep, dark, moist earth – where all life begins.
We meet her in the moments of frenetic natural energy in thunderstorms, floods and hurricanes.
We meet her within our own psyches in the raw, wild emotions of deep grief, holy rage and profound longing.
She is there in the cycles of life, death and rebirth.
She is there when everything falls apart.
Bangladeshi Hindu devotees perform rituals to celebrate Maha Shivaratri.
The Dark Feminine and Women
Women who grew up under patriarchy are taught to be nice girls.
Nice girls are taught to keep their dark feminine parts hidden.
They’re told that in order to be loved, they mustn’t be:
🖤 Too much
🖤 Too sexy/sexual
🖤 Too big/fat/curvy
🖤 (For women of colour) too dark
🖤 Too soft/slow 🖤 Too powerful 🖤 Too spiritual 🖤 Too magical 🖤 Too angry 🖤 Too sad 🖤 Too ugly
The dark feminine is kryptonite to systems of oppression. To win at the game of power under patriarchy, the rules are clear:
"Keep that deep, earthy, raw, wild magic tame. Put the dark feminine back in her cage!"
'Nice' girls can struggle to grow up to become empowered women.
Many of us get stuck in what Sarah Durham Wilson calls "the wounded maiden archetype" – they've been so primed for their role under patriarchy that passing through the necessary initiations into mature womanhood is not possible for them.
They stay small; their darkness disowned.
Learning to work consciously with the dark feminine allows us to integrate these disowned parts of ourselves.
Welcoming our disowned dark feminine parts back home is medicine for a wild woman’s soul.
By learning how to work with and love these parts of Self that are not deemed worthy by a warped culture, we can return to wholeness.
The Four Healing Keys of the Dark Feminine
In making this vast and complex work more accessible, I’ve found that there are four simple keys we can focus on when beginning to integrate the potent healing wisdom of the dark feminine.
1. Learn to work consciously with challenging emotions.
Rage, jealousy, grief, longing, sadness, fear, abandonment – all are doorways to the Dark Goddess. Don't let emotions swallow you; learn how to work with them.
2. Regulate your nervous system.
In parasympathetic nervous system overdrive, we are reactive. Learning to self-regulate builds a foundation on which we can work with our more challenging emotions.
3. Re-inhabit your lower body.
Your root, gut & sex – your connection with the earth and your ancestors: this is Dark Goddess territory. Reconnection to these parts brings you closer to Her wisdom.
4. Cultivate a relationship with the Dark Goddess.
Don’t wait until life is hard, build a relationship with the dark goddess when life is good. See the regenerative power in symbolic death and endings. Make offerings to Her.
The Dark Feminine & Healing
For those of us women who are invested in the work of reclaiming what has been lost to us through patriarchy and other intersecting systems of oppression (racism, ableism, homophobia – and all other oppressive systems under the umbrella of kyriarchy) – the dark feminine holds the key to our healing.
Through her love and grace we can begin to do the work of facing our repressed material, regaining the power wasted on hiding and suppressing our denied parts and beginning to walk in the world as whole and mature women, connected to earth, ancestors and ready to be part of important conversations happening in the world right now about who we are and where we are going.
An Invitation to Begin Your Own Work With the Dark Feminine
For many of us 2020 has been a year of chaos and endings.