Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sexuality and the Nature of the Dark Goddess





   The dark Goddess's love life is always getting her in trouble or giving her a bad rap.  In this week's blog I wanted to take a little time to discuss the meaning behind the Goddess's troubled love affrairs.
   Sexuality plays a vital, yet often misunderstood, role in the myths of many Dark Goddesses.  While in the stories of other Goddesses sexuality can be a positive attribute, (such as with Goddesses of fertility, love and abundance) the libido of the Dark Goddesses is usually cast in a sinister light.  Many would say the Dark Goddess is connected to sexual indulgence, lust, wantonness, and aggression- but is that the truth?  What purpose does this aspect of the Dark Goddess serve, and what lessons are hidden in her stories? 

   For some Dark Goddesses sexuality becomes a way to assert independence.  The Goddess Blodeuwedd takes a lover after being magickally created from flowers for her husband.  She is created for a single purpose, to be the wife of Llew, regardless of her own personal wishes or feelings.  At first she allows others to make decisions for her.  When she finally asserts her independence, she takes charge of her body, she takes a lover of her own choosing.  Then she attempts to dissolve the marriage and take revenge on her husband.  Lilith similarly leaves Adam when she refused to submit to him sexually. 
   Being in control of one’s sexuality and in turn one’s body is empowering and gives women (and men) a sense of control over their lives.  Losing that sense of personal power is akin to losing control over one’s life. The attempt to control female sexuality within theses myths can also be seen as an attempt to control the power of creation, something inherently female.  Despite the attempts by the males in their lives to control them both of these Goddess find their inner strength and brake free of a negative situation.  Declaring our independence and personal power can be a scary thing.  Both Lilith and Blodeuwedd face consequences for their actions, they are banished for taking control of their bodies, and for declaring their independence.  But no matter the initial consequences, embracing our true feelings, and inner nature, can be a liberating experience.  The dark Goddess teaches us that when we embrace change our world can sometime come tumbling down around us, as Blodeuwedd and Lilith’s did.  But we have to ask ourselves, were they really banished or set free?  Neither Goddess is remorseful at their banishment, they get exactly what they want- a chance at a new life. 
   Another Goddess whose sexual nature is often seen as a negative aspect of her personality is the Morrigan.  She sleeps with many men, both gods and mortals, and is often seen as wonton and spiteful, as when she hinders the Irish hero Cúchulain in battle after he refuses to sleep with her.  Rather than allowing the men in her life to pursue her, the Morrigan initiates relationships with her lovers.  While Cúchulain never becomes her lover, she tries to seduce him, not the other way around.  In her guise as Macha (one of the Morrigan’s three faces) she simply appears in the farmer Crunnchu’s house one day and takes over all the household duties, including warming his bed as if she had always been there.  While Crunnchu is more than pleased with her rather bizarre entrance into his life, she doesn’t exactly give him a choice about their union.  She just shows up and takes over. 
   While many other Celtic goddesses take numerous lovers and participate in elicited affairs, the Morrigan’s sexuality is often described as uncontrolled.  But her sexuality is no different or perverse than her contemporaries.  The Morrigan’s passions are not simply feelings of lust, but instead becomes a powerful creative force within her stories.  Her passion can change the outcome of battles or summon prophetic visions in the throes of ecstasy.  As a woman in control of her own personal power she channels this force just as surely as she channels her magickal energies.  Her love affairs and sexuality are a potent part of her personality.  Yet she is vilified for this power. 
   The Morrigan’s origins point to her originally being a goddess of the land and sovereignty.  That is not to say that battle doesn’t play a role in personality, but simply that it is only one aspect to a very complex Goddess.  She makes her home in the Cave of Cruachan, and it is from here that the Morrigan flies forth to take part in the conflict in battles and conflict.  Her name appears in the name of numerous features of the land such as a pair of hills called The Dá Chich na Morrigna (The Two Breasts of the Morrigan), Gort na Morrigna (Morrigan’s Field), Mur na Morrigna (Mound of the Morrigan) an earthwork found in the Boyne Valley, and “The Bed of the Couple”, a depression in the land beside the river Unius, marks the spot where Morrigan mated with Dagda. 
   To the Celts true kingship required the king to be ritually linked to the land by entering a sacred marriage with the goddess.  This marriage between goddess and king, land and ruler, was not necessarily permanent.  If the king no longer acted to the benefit of the land, was too old, or disfigured, the goddess could leave the marriage and anoint a more suitable leader.  For this reason sovereign goddesses are usually linked to love triangles involving an older king and a younger man who eventually takes the place of the old king.  This love triangle is present in several Celtic myths, and remnants of this theme can be found in Arthurian legend with the relationship between Guinevere, Arthur and Lancelot.  As with Guinevere, many sovereign goddesses were portrayed as lustful and wonton women in later myths.  As Christianity influenced these ancient stories the goddess of sovereignty diminished into mortal queens.  A powerful woman in control of her sexual nature did not appeal to Christian morals.  As women’s sexuality became the property of their husbands, so too did the goddess’ right to choose her sexual partners change, becoming distorted into the image of a sinful woman stripped of her personal power. 
   As a Goddess of sovereignty the Morrigan maintains her right to choose her sexual partners, bestowing those she favors with true kingship.  When we see the Morrigan as a Goddess of sovereignty her sexual nature is no longer fierce and uncontrolled, but holds a deeper purpose.  Refusing her advances becomes a refusal to acknowledge the power of the Goddess.  While Cúchulain was not a king, instead being the champion of Ulster, he acts in much the same way a king would by protecting the land.  By refusing to have sex with the Morrigan, he refuses to acknowledge the power of the goddess who personifies the land.  Fueled by his ego he believes he does not need her favor to win his battles.  After rejecting her offer of a sacred union and her conferred sovereignty she wounds Cúchulain in battle.  When the Túatha Dé Danann attempted to overthrow the Fomorians it was not until the Dagda’s sexual union with the Morrigan that their victory was assured.  As one of the kings of the Túatha Dé Danann, Dagda’s union with the goddess of the earth ensured the Túatha Dé Danann’s sovereignty over the land and established them as the rightful rulers of Ireland.
   While Blodeuwedd and Lilith’s sexuality speak to us of independence and freedom, the Morrigan reminds us of our own inner sovereignty.  When we examine their myths and origins their sexuality takes on new meaning.  They are still dark Goddesses, but their action can inspire us to take control of our own bodies and personal power.  The dark Goddess's sexuality is not out of control or negative, but instead offers us new lessons to learn from her.   


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