Rise of the Dark Maiden

December 28, 2007

The Dark
Maiden’s season is fall, when shadows lengthen towards winter. She
wraps Her purple cloak around Her and descends into the cave of the
Mother. She is Persephone, Morgan La Fay, the Sorceress, Lady of the
Lake, the Mermaid, the Silkie Woman, the waning crescent of the moon.
Menopause is the woman’s mystery passage connected to the Dark Maiden,
a time when we shed our mother-skins and begin our croning journey.
Opposite Her on the Wheel of the Year is spring, time of Ascent,
Rebirth, and the Bright Maiden. The Bright Maiden dances into the arms
of Mother Summer, the Dark Maiden goes alone to meet the Winter Crone.
The Bright Maiden is the waxing crescent, strong, physical, assertive,
focused, solar, courageous, active, willful, fast-moving, powerful,
external, playful, left brain, smart, practical. She is Diana, Artemis,
Xena, Durga, Oya, Warrior Womon, Amazon. The Dark Maiden is tender,
compassionate, sensitive, magical, receptive, psychic, contemplative,
right brain, intuitive, artistic, flowing, muse-ical, lunar, internal,
mystical, dreamy, poetic.

All womyn have both of these
archetypes affecting our psyches, as well as others of the Mother and
Crone aspects of the Goddess. Yet each of us is unique and will express
the traits of one or some archetypes more than others. Some women are
primarily Bright Maidens, and some Dark. Some are combinations of both.
This is not to imply that the archetypes are psychological alone. I
agree with R.J. Stewart and Luisah Teish on this; that they are Beings
who reside on the inner planes, influencing us and manifesting through
body, mind and spirit, or through the physical, emotional, mental,
energetic and spiritual aspects of ourselves and our multiverse.

Because we are acclimated to the dominant patriarchal culture, we have
been taught to mold our Dark and Bright Maiden selves in its
masculine/feminine frame. We urgently need to befriend these archetypes
in their original woman-identified forms.

In the patriarchal
paradigm Bright Maiden qualities fall under the category of "masculine"
and Dark Maiden qualities under the category of "feminine." By
extension into the gay community’s paradigm, Bright Maiden becomes
"butch" and Dark Maiden "femme." Butch/femme mirrors the dominator
culture’s "masculine/feminine," delegating roles and qualities to each.
Because of this socialization, women who express Bright Maiden
qualities are expected to be "masculine," and are expected to dress and
act like men of the dominant cuture. Women who express Dark Maiden
qualities are expected to dress and act like women of the dominant
culture, and be submissive to their "masters." As a result, the powers
of both Maidens become afflicted. (See Maiden cycle in my book
Ariadne’s Thread.) Strength becomes competition and conquest, magic
becomes manipulation. A class system results with the usual power
dynamics; the dominators and the dominated.

Over the years I
have become aware of some negative attitudes towards anyone who
expresses qualities we have come to know as "feminine" in our culture.
Despite frequent protestations that "butch/femme" is a mirror of
masculine/feminine models of hetero-sexual patriarchy, that it should
be discarded as "old hat" or "not P.C." or "uncool…" despite all this
seemingly enlightened awareness, I still hear people being labelled
"femme" and being put down for it. I myself have been treated
disrespectfully, rejected, ignored, exploited and victimized for what
others perceive as my "feminine" qualities. This has happened to me in
both gay and straight communities, so it seems nobody likes the Dark
Maiden very much these days. "Masculine" qualities, on the other hand,
are very much in demand everywhere.

What are these qualities
everyone seems to dislike so much? I believe they are the psychic and
watery parts of the five-pointed star, and include receptivity, deep
emotions, vulnerability, responsiveness, cooperativeness,
supportiveness, nurturance, caring, giving, sweetness, gentleness,
perceptiveness, empathy, and so on.

For years I have been
exploring the theary that the old masculine/feminine model could easily
be replaced by a new symbol system based on the five pointed star and
the five elements. If both womyn and men could understand themselves as
varying degrees of airy, fiery, watery, earthy and psychic energies,
then it wouldn’t matter so much which gender one is, or what gender
one’s mate might be

Or, we could understand ourselves as
having five genders. My mother always used to joke that all our
problems come from having only two sexes, and she proposed having five
in some of her sillier moods. Looking back, I am amazed that in a way I
have found a viable belief system that was once merely foolish
conjecture. Now in the movement towards gender freedom, we find
recognition of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transexuals, and
heterosexuals… and so we do have five indeed!

Or, we cold
understand ourselves as one gender: s/he. "There is only one gender,
She," a lesbian friend of mine likes to proclaim. After all, we know
now that men have vestigial breasts and wombs, that their Y chromosome
is a broken version of the female X chromosome, that human embryos are
always female first, that parthenogenesis exists (birth without sperm),
that mitochondrial DNA is passed down only through womyn, that the
"feminine" right brain is the older brain, and numerous other facts
that indicate the primacy of the female form.

In this view,
all of our qualities come from the One, with infinite possible
variations on the theme. We are all combinations of fire (energy, will,
power), air (mental, communicative, intelligent), water(emotional,
loving, connecting), earth (physical, sensual, practical), and spirit
(psychic, soulful, telepathic). The Bright and Dark Maidens can be
understood as aspects of the five arms of the star.

I have
mused that women can polarize as Bright and Dark Maidens, as well as
Mothers and Daughters, Priestesses and Crones, and so on. And, with
polarization often comes sexual attraction. Lovers of all genders do
polarize across the arms of the pentacle: airy people love earthy
people, watery people love fiery people, earthy/watery/psychic people
love airy/fiery people, and so on. In this view our two-fold lover
flows can still be understood within the larger five-fold framework,
thus creating an atmosphere of acceptance towards all our variations.

But why, with all the seeming sexual revolutions and awakenings of our
times, is there persistent prejudice? "Masculine" or "butchy" qualities
are exalted and adored. Everyone wants tough, lean, aggressive,
fast-moving, smart, competitive, and a little mean- for themselves, as
well as for their mates. Het men want this in their women nowadays.
("Why can’t a woman be more like a man?" sang Henry Higgins in My Fair
Lady.) Lesbians insist on it for everyone and gay men seem to adore
it… and of course the old boys’ ranks, where such values were born,
still determine the whole.

"Feminine" qualities on the other
hand, have become contemptible. Wimpy, passive-aggressive,
manipulative, and victim are some of the insults hurled. In a
"butch/femme" magazine I once read the protests of a "femme" lesbian,
who said that the butch/femme split is dividing the women’s
spirituality movement. Hah! I thought… I am not alone, it seems.

Why would psychic watery qualities be deemed undesirable? Doesn’t the  world need
these qualities? Has anyone else out there noticed how brutal, violent,
unfriendly and unsafe the world has become? How can we expect to heal
this without introducing some compassion and caring? Not that I am
attempting to reverse the grid and put watery qualities above all
others. I agree that it is good to be strong, fiery, and free. Goddess
knows we womyn have fought long and hard to reclaim these. But when we
discard any essential part of ourselves we lose out. And when we
discard the soft and gentle sisters, we are doing untold damage to our
movement and to our future hopes.

In fact, Dark Maiden energy
is not weak at all. It is the power of pull, of inspiration and
ecstatic states, of suction and the undertow, of gravity, of the pull
of the moon, the wisdom of dreamtime and magic. A woman who swoons and
weeps openly when her lover wants her is a woman of profound power. A
woman who can be vulnerable and care and love is a woman of health and
natural strength. Without such women- and men too- our world will
wither and die.

And why should we limit ourselves? We are
given all five points of the star; we are all different versions of its
expression. Whether a womon wields a needle or a saw, holds her lover
close or builds a building, sings a song or organizes a trek in the
wilderness, nurtures a child or leads a revolution; all her abilities
are good and beautiful and needed.

So my sisters, I propose,
therefore, an uprising; a revolution of mermaids, of the gentle and
sensitive ones, of the "power femmes" as Alice Malloy, owner of Mama
Bear’s bookstore in Oakland, CA once wrote.

We have a
responsibility, after all. Feminists do have a point when they
criticise womyn who acquiesce to domination. Whether we do so by
coercion, unconscious programming, or deliberate purpose; wittingly or
unwittingly we become the underpinnings of the dominator system. What
would happen if the dominators no longer had anyone to dominate?

And, in all fairness, Bright Maidens have complied in a different way,
by taking on the trappings and values of the power-over system and
abandoning the Dark Maiden. I believe that many of us are each other’s
lost lovers, caught and blinded by the patriarch’s program.

my Dark Maiden sisters, throw off those chains of oppressive
victimization; they are not yours. Disregard the insults and put-downs;
they are not true. You are beautiful and good and deserve to be honored
and cherished. Don’t give in to the use and abuse of your sweetness,
your supportiveness. Insist you be treated well, or walk away from
anyone who does not do so.

Let us stand together in conviction and
mutual recognition. Own and celebrate who you are. And when in need of
strengthening vision we can think on the old tale of the seal maiden,
the Silkie woman who walked away from her human lover when he was
abusive to her one day, and dove back into the sea.

From Moonspell Library


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