Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Defining the Dark Goddess

It seems appropriate to start this blog with some musings on who exactly the dark Goddess is.  She is the Washer at the Ford, keening while she washes the bloody cloths of those destined to die, the terrifying Kali, who dances with abandon on the corpses of her enemies, wearing their severed heads as ornamentation, and she is Sekhmet who drinks blood like wine.  She is queen of the underworld, mistress of death, a warrioress, and a ferrier of souls.  But do we really know her?  
   More often than not the dark Goddess is treated with fear.  Sometimes we are simply afraid to welcome change into our lives and to let go of our fears.  After all there is nothing that scares us more than change.  We may recognize that change is necessary, but humans have a tendency to cling to the way things are.  Others fear that working with this aspect of the Goddess will bring out the darkest or worst parts of themselves.  This concept that the dark Goddess is “evil” or “harmful” in any way is simply not true.  While working with the darker aspect of the Goddess may make you face things about yourself you would rather ignore, her path is ultimately one of healing.  Her destructive aspects teach us that there is death within life, that we are constantly changing and evolving. 
   For many the dark Goddess has become synonymous with the crone.  When we think of the darker mysteries we immediately connect them to “death” (whether that be physical or symbolic) and therefore relegate them to the realm of the crone.  But not every dark Goddesses is a crone.  In fact many of them are maidens and mothers.  The dark mysteries are embodied within all the aspects of the Goddess.  Ultimately the dark Goddess embodies transformation, whether that be the process of physical death and rebirth, or the ending of one phase of life and the beginning of a new one.  She teaches us that change is a constant process.    
   The dark maiden teaches us to be true to our selves.  As Persephone she begins as a Goddess of spring.  When she leaves her mother’s side and travels to the realm of spirits, she becomes queen of the underworld.  She is a light in the darkness.  It is not until she leaves her comfort zone (being with her mother) that she truly comes into her own power.  When Persephone was in the underworld the earth above remained barren.  Her life giving energies are centered within, nourishing the Goddess instead of the soil and plants. 
   The maiden Blodeuwedd was magically created from flowers to be the husband of the god Llew.  When she dared to love another she is punished by being transformed into an owl, banished to the night for asserting her independence.  As the beautiful Sedna she refuses to marry any of the suitors her father picks for her.  Angered her father threw her over the side of his boat, chopping her fingers off as she attempted to climb back in.  Her severed limbs transformed into seals, and other sea creatures.  Again the dark maiden is punished for her independence.  Hecate who in modern times is almost always portrayed as a crone, often appeared as a maiden.  Several Greek statues show her as a youth in triple form.
   There is no Goddess fiercer in the Hindu pantheon than Kali.  She wears severed head and limbs as necklaces and fights demons, yet she is also hailed in traditional prayers as a ‘divine mother’ or ‘mother Kali’.  One time Kali became so lost in blood lust during a battle that she was in danger of destroying all mankind.  In one version of the myth the god Shiva transformed into a baby and throws himself in the raging Goddess’ path.  Once she heard the child’s cries her motherly instinct kicked in and she snapped out of her killing rage. 
   One would assume that all crone Goddess where by definition dark Goddesses, but this is not necessarily true.  At times she is the hag brimming with wisdom earned by experience, but other time she is the wild black-winged Morrigan, who takes pleasure in shattering our egos and forcing us to face our inner demons.
   The dark Goddess teaches us to dance in the void, to delve into our own darkness and emerge renewed.  She is a vital and powerful force, a face of the Goddess we should explore and embrace.  Sometimes we fear her, but without her mysteries life could not exist.  If nothing changed, if nothing died, there could be no rebirth, no continuation of life.  She hands us the cup of truth, allowing us to gaze upon our true selves.  She tears us apart, but only so she may lead us to rebirth and renewal.  No matter what we have been through in our lives we can rise from the ashes, and like Kali dance ecstatically on the ruins of our old selves toward rebirth.


  1. I really liked this post, thank you for sharing. All these things I have already believed in, but I haven't actually put too much conscious thought into all that, it just was stored deep in the back of my mind, where I suppose the Dark Goddess most commonly operates in when it comes to our minds.
    Again, thank you for this post.
    (btw, I found that part with Blodeuwedd very intriguing).

  2. Stephanie WoodfieldAugust 2, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    Thanks Isidorus! I've always found Blodeuwedd's myth inspiring. She's told she has to fit into a certain mold, the role she was created for, but she finds the courage to follow her own heart- something I hope we are all brave enough to do!

  3. I love this. Embracing the dark, appreciating the side of things that is further than we can see through the dark mists (so to speak) - pushing through the fear, the dankness of our egos. Very well written and insightful. Thank you! ME