The Bon Buddhists revere a Great Mother deity who is both a powerful protector and a fierce destroyer. The depictions and stories of her remind me of the Amazon shamans’ tales of the female jaguar, a protective force that teaches us not to be afraid of death and destruction, for these are unavoidable parts of the cycle of life. The jaguar fearlessly glides into the waters of the Amazon and adeptly navigates the river’s currents. She shields her cubs from harm and will not hesitate to kill to protect and provide for them.
In the Andean tradition, shamans call the organizing principle in the universe Illa Tici Viracocha: the one who is everywhere and in everything. But somehow, the Sun Father and Earth Mother gave way to the Father and the Son in the traditions of the conquerors of North and South America. Around the world, the power of the feminine can get lost in stories about goddesses serving male deities. They’re often relegated to secondary or tertiary characters. Could that have to do with the gender of the keepers of these tales?
With such mythologies guiding us, we shouldn’t be surprised that we no longer honor both our mother and our father, the masculine and feminine, equally. The divine feminine has many faces, but because she has been driven underground in cultures around the world, we have only hints about the extent of her powers. The story of the conquistadors, who tolerated the women healers who were able to serve the needs of sick and wounded Europeans, has been echoed elsewhere: as long as the medicine women demonstrated that they knew their place in the hierarchy of power, they were allowed to prosper in small ways. But if they showed their ferocity, displayed a wisdom greater than those of the men in power, or defied rules written by the community’s male leaders, they usually paid a steep price.
We see this in the stories from Europe where women were tortured and killed for being “witches” – meaning they followed an Indigenous spiritual tradition that honored the feminine aspect of divine power. The patriarchal diminishing of women and exalting of men can even be felt today, a remnant of the old myths that shape our perceptions in ways we don’t even recognize.
Mother Earth and Father Sky do not have to be at war with each other. The way to mastery and wisdom required that we get them to reconcile. In the traditions of Andean shamans, Mother Earth, or Pachamama, hastens our evolution by helping us shed the past that confines us and let go of our fears – fears of both physical death, but also the death of our preconceived notions about who we are and who we can become. Pachamama helps us become wise and see our lives as part of a larger mythic story as we transcend the limitations of all myths, beliefs, and ideas about what is possible.
Evolution requires awakening to the self that remembers it’s all connected – us, Earth, nature and her creatures, our hearts and our heads, our energy and all the particles that make up the body we inhabit for now. Evolution requires us to go beyond the brain to take off the blinders that we inherited and have worn, unquestioningly, for too long and open our eyes to a far broader view of who we are and who we can become – and how we can heal.
Are you ready to awaken and evolve?