Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Betraying The Feminine

I wrote this piece twenty years ago. Some might wonder if the tone is self-condemning but honestly I felt then, as I do now- that there is liberation in recognizing the ways in which we unconsciously collude with that which dulls or buries awareness of our inherent beauty and power. What I call here “the Goddess” is also known as the divine Feminine that lives within us all- men and women. There is no self-blame here, only a sense of what we must unlearn if we are to embody the sacred marriage of the Feminine and the Masculine in ourselves and in our communities.

For me, the line that breaks my heart open is the one I have highlighted. it reminds me that what I was taught- what sadly many young men and women are still taught- is a lie. For surely, what is done to each one, does matter. 

A culture based on a principle of power-over does not encourage men or women to know the deep power and beauty of what we are. We are all, beginning again and again, the long walk home together.

I am Oriah and I have betrayed the Goddess.

Each time I have given away my power
reshaping myself to please another
taking care not to speak the unspeakable
not to move too fast, too wildly, too wisely, or too strongly

I have betrayed the Goddess.
Each time I have sacrificed myself to please the Father
each time I have opened my body to another
as my heart remained closed to myself
each time I have been quiet 
when I wanted to scream NO to the violation
each time I have been quiet 
when I wanted to shout YES to the moon and life
I have betrayed the Goddess.

I have been raped and I have been beaten.
And each time I have gotten up, like all the women before me
moving slower than before
to take a bath and wash from my body
what could not be removed from my heart and soul,
to bandage my own head and heart where they are torn
to soak my muscles as bruises rise
an ache to the bone.

I have betrayed the Goddess each time I thought:
It doesn't matter
It doesn't matter what you do to me.

I have betrayed the Goddess in my forgetfulness of her name.
And now I turn to walk to her
unsure of the journey
unsure of my welcome
Can you forgive me?
Can I learn to forgive myself?

I walk, and I am encouraged by the faces,
however scared, however unsure and nervous
of sisters also on the road home
I know the journey will be hard,
and it will be a healing
not just for me and my sisters
but for my sons
and the other children, and for this tiny green planet.

But I also know- for the first time- 
that I cannot walk this road to save this Earth
or even for my children
as much as I love each of these.

I must learn to walk the path home to the Great Mother, 
first, for myself.

Grandmothers, help me.
I need your song to keep me from slipping into forgetfulness,
as I begin, again.

Oriah © 2012 (This prose poem first appeared in Confessions of A Spiritual Thrillseeker: Medicine Teachings from the Grandmothers by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, © 1991)


  1. This VERY much speaks to me.

    I have been in this place time and time again, and have said similar prayers. We betray the feminine (and the healthy masculine), because it doesn’t feel safe yet – literally and figuratively. Survival has meant betraying these parts of ourselves, and ironically our survival now depends on no longer turning away or abandoning Her. When we abandon Her we abandon ourselves for certain and leave the world bereft in the wake of this denial. She is waiting for us always…for when we come and go away again, for when we come to stay and even if some of us never come. I picture a grandmother in a rocking chair whose lap is there for us to crawl up onto anytime we want, whose arms are always open, who’s always happy to see us when we show up, and is ready to impart her ancient wisdom to our eager ears, hungry for the stories that give us meaning, context…that make us matter.

    She is the opening that never closes even when we are in lock down. She waits. I know this because I’ve gone back to meet her time and time again, and each time I do, I bring more of her back with me, weaving her into my consciousness and embodying her wisdom, letting her live inside of me - where she belongs, inside of all of us.

    Thank you for this beautiful writing and reminder Oriah.


    1. Beautifully said Jessica- and yes, whenever I turn my face to the Grandmothers, they are always there- welcoming, supporting, asking me to be true to myself, to honour the Feminine in all that is alive.

  2. This makes me cry and I do not cry easily. I have been very deeply betrayed and violated in my life. However, at midlife, it is the learning to forgive myself for the many myriad of ways I have neglected and abandoned myself that stirs me. I learned how to do this so I know I can unlearn. But, it's humbling to think myself wise and aware and to know that on the list of people who have let me down I am included. And this isn't self-hate or self-blame, just an awareness that the concept of self-awareness and compassion and advocacy come much sooner, for me at least, that the actual moment-to-moment practice, especially in relationships of all kinds, but even when alone. It's a brave post and great writing. Thank you. Cissy

    1. Cissy, yes, self-forgiveness seems to be key- although I tend to think of forgiveness as that which naturally arises when I do the work of healing- and I am guessing this is true for forgiving self as well as others. When we know that our self-betrayal is driven by fear that we are unacceptable, that we honestly believed it did not matter what was done to us. . . . well, the heart fills with compassion for that suffering.

  3. I wonder why we keep doing it. Again and again. Why do we let people we love treat us like this? Why do we allow them to treat us like a door-mat and trample all over our body and our heart? Why do we betray the voice inside of us that screams to get the hell away from him and we stay? Even though we know it sucks, but still even those bread-crumbs of love are better than no love at all? Are we crazy? Do we believe in a karmic bond that is much deeper and worth the wait because just maybe one day he gets it? I keep betraying the voice inside of me, I betray the goddess every day and still she loves me, still she patiently waits for me to finally love myself more than him. To finally walk away and not look back and not walk back into the misery.
    Thank you precious Oriah, for another eye opener, another blog that is so dear to me, that nurtures me, that makes me go on when all I want to do is sleep and hide.

    1. Sabine, your comment points to how we often do this self-betrayal in intimate relationship (and I have!) but I think it might be easier to catch and change in less charged situations- sort of starting weight lifting with 5 pound weights instead of 50! - and so catching ourselves when we are silent about something important at work or school or with friends because we are afraid we won't be acceptable if we speak what matters to us most; or not saying "yes" or "no" quickly to any request but giving ourselves time to drop down into our bodies and see what is in alignment with ourselves at this time, in situations that perhaps don't matter as much as they often do in intimate relationships.

      As to why- there are two pieces to this: we are wired for connection. Babies abandoned in the hospital have to be held and rocked and spoken to regularly by staff or their bodies will not take nutritional value from the food they are given and they will die. We know this instinctually- and if connection, belonging, and care were given conditionally (as in- if I find you acceptable in this moment I will touch/hold/feed you) we will automatically (and unconsciously) modify what we show of ourselves (and even what we know of ourselves) in the hopes of maintaining some form of life-sustaining connection. We can unlearn and relearn- but it takes time and a willingness to deeply accept ourselves.

  4. Replies
    1. Robert, I almost did not post this because I honestly do not know what it means. Can you translate or explain? :-)

    2. Hi Oriah, Kwan Seum Bosal is the Korean name of the female bodhisattva (for some even Goddess) of compassion, in Chinese called Guanyin, in Japanese Kannon. - May all women and men who have suffered violence of their divine Feminine heal again, supporting each other and becoming grandmothers for future generations. :-)

    3. Thanks Nora. I know her as Kwan Yin- had not seen it written before as Kwan Seum Bosal :-)

  5. Beautifully said Oriah. So true that we must learn to walk the path home for ourselves first. Only then can we be fully available to others.

  6. What a timely read.
    Only 2 days ago when my mom spoke to me about her sister not speaking out her truth I responded to say that most of us women shuffle our way around our truth because that is what we've been taught. Each generation is getting better. In our generation we learned to say what we didn't want better than the generation before us but we are still deeply afraid to say what we really need.

    When I woke up this morning the first thing I read helped me to realize I was not giving myself space to just be (that is also a betrayal to our divine feminine since the greater part of our creativity comes inside the space of non doing)Sipping on my tea in my non doing moments I felt compelled to write or start a blog about being real (sharing the real moments of my real life day by day - the good the bad and the ugly)- no glossy just realism.
    Then I read your beautiful piece. I felt it confirmed my very thoughts. That we as women need to keep coming out of our shadows and into the light in all aspects of who we are.
    With so many forms of social media we have all learned yet another way to deceive ourselves even more by becoming very glossy and fluffy. I can't speak for the rest of the world but I am craving REAL more than I've ever craved this in my life. I really loved the realness of your beautiful post. Thank you Oriah for bravely speaking your truth into our lives.
    We really do have to stop being afraid of who we are in order to become everything we are.

  7. Hi,

    This is very beautiful. I see in it my own pain and suffering and my own growth and path. I'm so glad the pain has lost it's sting! Thank you for sharing. Sally

  8. Oriah
    The words 'betraying the Goddess' brought up so much grief for me that I have sat with them for several days. Deep,deep in my heart ever since I was a wee girl I have known about betraying the Goddess, betraying myself. What I did not recognize was how this process of denial caused me to become so sick.
    Now I understand that my path to the Goddess/Mother/Me is also my path to Freedom. One which, as you write, unfolds from within, is a felt path rather than a doing way.
    These are big, big understandings for me and your blog arrived in perfect synchronicity so warmest, warmest thank you.
    from Wendy

  9. Wow! Such deep understanding, all I can do is feel humbled to know that others have experienced this as well. Thank you so much for sharing.