Tag Archives: Divine Feminine

WE WOKE, WE ROSE AND WE ARE WOMEN ON FIRE

INNANA Goddess on Earth / MYTHICA photography by Lisa Levart

INNANA
from the series MYTHICA/Goddess on Earth
Photo Collage by Lisa Levart

This year’s International Women’s Day falls forty-six days after women and men around the world made history, staging the largest one-day demonstration on record.

For years, while the Tea Party galvanized its grass roots, the left fell into a slumber. But women are used to acting fast, from grabbing precious moments of sleep between feedings to juggling home and work; to snatching little hands from a hot stove before they burn. On January 21st, we women woke in a fury and went to work. Wearing knitted Pussy hats, we began marching, joining circles of resistance, boycotting stores, relentlessly hounding public officials, chastising politicians on for their lack of leadership and outrage; and standing up to the bully-in-chief.

Women's March, D.C. Photographs by Lisa Levart

Women’s March on Washington
Photograph by Lisa Levart

This mammoth, tidal wave of energy surprises no one who knows his or her Goddess myths. For over a decade, I have worked on a project entitled Goddess on Earth. Through photography, I portray powerful female archetypes embodied in contemporary women. All kinds of women have participated: actors, writers and musicians; non-profit warriors, entrepreneurs, and CEOs. And they have interpreted formidable myths from around the world; Hindu Warrior Goddesses who slay demons and hold their bloody heads for all to see (Kali); Hawaiian Goddesses who spew fiery lava at a moment’s notice (Pele); and African Goddesses who whip up destructive storms to destroy the old and bring in the new (Oya), to name just a few.

Which brings me to Inanna, the Sumerian Goddess of the Heavens. In this ancient myth, Inanna descends into the bowels of the earth to visit her sister, Ereshkigal, the Queen of the underworld. On her journey, Inanna passes through seven gates, where she must disrobe and leave behind her royal jewels, until she is standing naked in front of her sister. She dies in the underworld kingdom and is left hanging from a hook on the wall, but after three days and three nights, Inanna is reborn and returns from the underworld. Spiritually transformed, she no longer fears death, and is truly empowered.

Leonore Tjia was 13 years old when I photographed her for Goddess on Earth as Mnemosyne, the Greek Goddess of Memory.

Mnemosyne Photographs by Lisa Levart

Mnemosyne (from the book Goddess on Earth)
Photograph by Lisa Levart

Now, a 27-year-old activist, she has grown into to a fierce and vivacious poet and sexuality educator, working with renowned sexual empowerment expert Amy Jo Goddard (author of Woman on Fire: 9 Elements to Wake Up Your Erotic Energy.) It was Leonore’s choice to portray Inanna, in our second photo session -14 years later.

About her Inanna portrait, Leonore wrote:

 As a sexuality educator my work involves helping people to step bravely towards what has long been considered taboo, dangerous or off-limits. So many people avoid working on their sexual issues out of fear of what they’ll find if they take the lid off the box. The ironic thing is that if you never do it, you will never have the pleasure, or power, or intimacy, or richness of life you desire.

The crux of Inanna’s story is that transformation does not come through peaceful meditation, but through violent confrontation with our buried shadow aspects. The Trump regime offers us this opportunity— the lid is off the box now when it comes to facing the American legacy of racism, classism and xenophobia. I also see it drawing out the shadowed aspects of liberalism and progressivism — mainstream feminism is being taken to task for excluding women of color, and it’s important for white feminists to face this and acknowledge the racism we all inherit from white supremacy. I hope all of us who are called to activist work in these times can feel inspired by the ferocious story of this goddess.

My life’s work is creating art that celebrates the feminine face of God. Through Goddess on Earth, I have come to truly honor the innate power, fortitude and fearsome drive of women. In my bones, I am confident we will survive this upside down, dark time because of the strength and determination of women. We, with our beloveds by our sides, will use everything we have – our creativity, passion and self-knowledge to burn hot- like boiling lava- until we have ascended – reborn and transformed- from this dark underworld we currently reside in.

Posted in Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I Just Want To Have Fun!

In his 1991 pre-TED Talk  “talk”, John Cleese, of Monty Python fame, delivers countless “light bulb” jokes, all while detailing ways to foster creativity. The main take-away for me is that creativity is not a talent or ability. Creativity flows, Cleese believes, when you are in an open, expansive and relaxed state. And the more playful you are, the longer you can maintain this state.

To get into this “Open Mode” Cleese recommends these conditions:

Space: a secluded oasis of quiet where you are sealed off from the pressures of daily life
Time: limit the time in your space to a pre determined beginning and end
Time: allow yourself enough time to ponder before accepting your creative choice
Confidence: while you are experimenting, nothing is wrong.
Humor: humor is an essential part of spontaneity and helps get you into the Open Mode

2016-01-03-1451860776-8575207-KarenLorre_Lila359C.jpg
John Cleese also spoke of another condition that resonated with me. He recommends that your “play friends” be people you like and trust; individuals who will support and encourage you during your unedited exploration. Which brings me to Karen Lorre, actress, love goddess, and founder of Yummy Meditations. I met Karen serendipitously two years ago in a Santa Monica restaurant and immediately felt a divine connection. Several days later, an Aphrodite portrait emerged from the foamy waves of Malibu. (You can read about the making of her Goddess on Earth Aphrodite portrait here!). Karen inspires me deeply; she lives life with an abundance of joy, unconditional love and vibrant spontaneity. Her trust in me always fosters my creativity.

On a recent trip to Los Angeles, Karen and I mused about making another Goddess portrait. The result of our play time together is “Lila.” In the Hindu tradition, Lila is a way of describing our human reality and the result of spontaneous, divine play.

2016-01-03-1451861502-2631853-_LLB3731K.jpg
On portraying Lila, Karen wrote;

When I look at the wildly innovative creativity that is in nature, I see how much this divine universe loves to play in new and fresh ways! Being playful allows me to be an open conduit for this unbounded, novel, ingenious divine, and feels fun, effortless, exciting, and full of laughter and wisdom! Being playful makes everything easy. Being playful brings out the best in me and in everyone I encounter. I love embodying the essence of Lila! I love you! ”

During the process of creating Karen’s Lila portrait, were John Cleese’s conditions present? Indeed they were. Our creative space was nestled in the magical Hollywood Hills, perched high above the din of Sunset Boulevard. The end time was pre-determined; we were going to a dinner party together AND the sun was setting! We gave ourselves extra time the next day once we had a clearer concept of the Lila image. Karen’s unconditional love and support gave me the confidence to try anything. And humor? Adorned with a tutu around her neck and a Mad Hatter’s hat floating on her head, our sense of humor was in full throttle.

Which reminds me; how many Goddesses does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer: None….. they are already enlightened!

Posted in Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Lessons from a Goddess of Compassion: Live With Joy, Even While Grieving

White Tara- Dianne Gray Fort Meyers, Florida www.goddessonearth.com

Dianne Gray, the President of the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation and founder of Hospice and Healthcare Communications has known grief. When Dianne was only nine years old, her father died of a sudden heart attack at age 39. Years later, following several miscarriages, she gave birth to a son only to have him diagnosed at age four with a rare neurological disorder, NBIA Disorders. Her son Austin suffered profoundly throughout his life and died at age 14, leading Dianne back to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ teachings.

The renown psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, wrote her seminal book on grieving “On Death and Dying” in 1969. She believed we process grief in five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Her theory was meant to apply to those dying, but I believe (and others concur) these universal stages can refer to any loss: a loved one, a marriage, one’s health, a home, a pet.

I met Dianne two years ago during a photo session with her good friend, writer and activist, Kathy Eldon. Serendipitously, we reconnected in Florida two months ago.

White Tara_smACompassion and generosity flow through Dianne like a gentle river. Over the course of a two-hour breakfast, she imparted several important lessons: the first of which was how to let go of feelings of guilt.

Let me explain. In January, my family had come to realize we could no longer care at home for my mother, who has advanced Alzheimer’s disease. This is a painful decision many loving families may have to make, but it also comes with a healthy dose of guilt.

Dianne saw it from a different perspective. With my mother’s day-to-day needs now being taken care of by the nursing home staff, she counseled, I could give her what no was else could – a daughter’s love. I could hold her hand, stroke her hair, caress her face, gaze into her eyes with love. This, I could do whole-heartedly.

Dianne further asked what I was getting by holding onto the guilt, suggesting that it was a barrier to being fully present with my mother while she was still alive. Guilt, she said, can be an emotional placeholder, beckoning us to live in the past, not the present. About my decision to place my mother in a care facility, she asked “Did you do everything you could, at that time, with the information you had?”

I thought about it for a minute, while taking a large sip of orange juice. She was right, there was no reason to carry around the heavy burden of guilt because I truly love my mother to the best of my ability — and continue to make the best care decisions I can each and every time we cross a new bridge together.

The guilt began to recede.

Dianne also shared the philosophy she lives by: live life to the fullest. While I couldn’t change my mother’s condition, I could still experience life with exuberance. One thing led to another and the next day we were creating a White Tara portrait for Goddess on Earth at Lover’s Key State Park, a barrier island near Fort Myers. I was in ecstasy.

White Tara, the Tibetan Goddess of Compassion was a natural choice for Dianne to embody. This Goddess is often depicted with seven eyes, one on each hand and foot, and three on the face (the third eye being on the forehead). With her extraordinary vision, White Tara perceives human’s suffering and her compassion encompasses all.

We photographed during a lull in a deluge of fierce thunderstorms. Two dolphins, a manatee, a double rainbow and a flying pelican visited us. Without a doubt, we were in the midst of a magical day.

To accompany her White Tara portrait, Dianne wrote;

Being in the presence of profound suffering for a protracted period of time, such as that endured by both my son and in a different way, my healthy daughter, has gifted me with an additional “eye for seeing, heart for feeling and a soul for loving unconditionally” the unspoken pain of others. We all have this ability — and hopefully as we observe suffering both seen and unseen, we will remember the essence of White Tara, the beautiful gift of shared compassion. On a lighter note— it’s no surprise that my favorite color is white. It is to me, all things Light with infinite possibilities for shared Love.

After I left Florida’s warm waters behind, I made a promise to myself. While I will still mourn for my mother, I will also ask myself often, “Am I loving her enough? Am I living my life with joy? Am I seeing the beauty and magic that surrounds me?” If my answer is yes – and I hope it will be more often than not -my guilt will be lessened, my depression less pronounced. My heart will remain open and I will look forward to tomorrow, even while I grieve.
White Tara- Dianne Gray Fort Meyers, Florida www.goddessonearth.com

Posted in Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Women, Power and the Rule of Three

2014-11-15-Sherawali.jpg
My personal relationship with power is fraught with anxiety, self-doubt and fear of conflict. As a woman, I doubt I am alone in this, yet as I struggle with this confounding reality, I wonder what my ideal relationship to power should be?

As an artist with ancient mythology embedded in my DNA, I have examined this issue before. I have photographed prominent feminist leaders such as Gloria Feldt, (who portrayed the strong-willed Lilith, Adam’s first wife), and Starhawk (who portrayedMaeve, the Celtic Goddess of Sovereignty). Both women advocate re-envisioning women’s connection to power.

Other ancient myths reflect our contemporary relationships to power as well. Durga is a fearless Hindu Goddess who symbolizes power in all its forms. Durga — whose name means “invincible” — is a ferocious protectress against injustice and all human suffering. Traditionally she is depicted astride a tiger or lion: symbols of her unlimited power. Often illustrated with eight arms, her capacity for action speaks for itself. Durga also has three eyes: her left eye represents the desire to act, her central eye the capacity to follow through with one’s desires, and her right eye, action itself.

 

DURGA’S LEFT EYE REPRESENTS A STRONG FEELING OF WANTING, OR THE DESIRE TO ACT.

2014-11-15-SherawaliDurgaDesire.jpg
I was introduced to Francesca Kelly this past summer on Martha’s Vineyard, and returned to photograph her several weeks later. Francesca is a pioneer rescuer of the Marwari, a rare and indigenous Indian horse breed. After a twenty year battle with the Indian Government to lift the export ban of the Marwari, Francesca and her partner Raghuvendra Singh Dundlod have helped resurrect this threatened breed.

 

DURGA’S CENTER EYE REPRESENTS THE CAPACITY TO FOLLOW THROUGH WITH ONE’S DESIRES.

2014-11-15-SherawaliDurgacapacity.jpg
Francesca quickly identified with Sherawali, the warrior incarnation of Durga, and chose to portray her for the Goddess on Earth series. Surrounded by marshes on Chappaquidick Island, we created a commanding image of Sherawali. To accompany her portrait, Francesca wrote:

“It has been my privilege to be a key protagonist in the renaissance of the Marwari. The confidence to actualize ideals, to remain unimpeachable, to incorporate if you will, at the best of times, the qualities of Sherawali, is a battle and sacrifice all must experience.”

 

DURGA’S THIRD EYE IS ACTION ITSELF.

2014-11-15-SherawaliDurgaaction.jpg
 

Francesca’s embodiment of Sherawali in the photographs we created portray the symbolic trinity of Durga’s spiritual stages of power.

Far from being archaic, ancient symbolism continues to influence the necessary re-envisioning of feminine power. Durga demonstrates how modern women can use power in its multiple, generous forms as the manifestation of reflection, intent, and capability. Sherawali and Francesca are role models for contemporary women warriors (my conflicted self included) who are looking to add layers of empowerment to their lives. With mythical and ancient symbolism to guide me, I will continue to nurture my passions, practice and embrace tools for empowerment, and take action to achieve my desires.

(Francesca Kelly is seen with Sushil Kumar, a horse trainer and tent-pegger from Dundlod, India.)

Posted in Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Men and the Divine Feminine

A few days ago, I came home from a woman’s festival celebrating the Goddess at the Where Womyn Gather retreat in Pennsylvania. These precious four days were spent healing wounds, laughing, crying and being present with our authentic selves. By honoring the divine feminine we became spiritually rejuvenated, reconnected with the patterns of nature and better able to trust in our inherent power.

Several times over the long weekend, I talked with women who, while relishing their time in a safe, all-girl environment, felt that the men in their lives could benefit from this type of experience. As we women learn to embrace our power to lead, create a better world and manifest change, the men in our lives are also an integral part of this equation. Fathers, brothers, lovers, husbands and sons; these men are with us on our journeys yet often don’t have the opportunity, emotional freedom or interest to allow themselves the benefit of being informed by a spirituality that practices a balance between the feminine and masculine divine.

 

Read the rest of the blog on the Huffington Post!

Posted in Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

How to FInd the Creative Balance

Individuals gathering in circles, fostering unity and co-creation is a powerful concept. And yet there is another paradigm for inspiration just as important — the need for quiet introspection and time spent alone. Susan Cain wrote in The New York Times (The Rise of the New GroupThink) “people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption.”

This didn’t come as news to me. “Goddess on Earth” took over 10 years to realize. I’m pretty sure that I could not have sustained the focus needed if it’s creation had been dispersed among a large group. I was blessed with enthusiastic support in circles and wrote about it in a past blog entitled Women Sustaining Each Other. Many wonderful opportunities availed themselves along the way, and these deep connections kept me going for the long haul. The other side of this coin is that a lot of time was spent working alone; editing photographic images, educating myself about sacred myths and allowing the project’s creation to slowly reveal itself to me.

Read the rest of the Huff Po blog here
and like, comment, email and share!

Posted in Uncategorized Also tagged , , , |

Women Sustaining Each Other

In a study reported by ScienceDaily, researchers from MIT, Carnegie Mellon University and Union College examined levels of collective intelligence in groups and found that those containing more women demonstrated greater “social sensitivity “– the ability to perceive other members’ emotions — and thus performed better in complex undertakings.

Sounds like the feminist principle of co-creation to me. As Gloria Steinem wrote in “Revolution From Within”: “progress means interdependence.” Joining a women’s group and participating in goddess retreats can help connect creative collaborators and foster radical personal transformation. Ten years ago, I joined a women’s circle and attended my first goddess retreat. When I made space for my own personal and spiritual growth in these environments, I was showered with support and grew in ways I never could have imagined.

 

Read the rest of the Huff Po blog and like, comment, email and share!

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , |

A Path to Power and Wholeness: Finding Inspiration in the Goddess

Why do so many young women and girls in today’s society feel disempowered? “You can’t be what you can’t see,” Jennifer Siebel tells us in her new documentary “Miss Representation,” which explores how mainstream media portrays women in limited ways. Namely, that womanhood means being young, beautiful and thin. Without realistic role models, is it really surprising that so many young women are confused, isolated and deeply depressed?

In the course of working on my book “Goddess on Earth,” I encountered women from a diverse range of backgrounds and vocations with a variety of appearances and life paths. They did, however, all have one thing in common: they cultivated their own empowerment by identifying with a goddess and invoking her symbolic qualities.

I don’t mean to say that believing in or identifying with the Goddess makes young girls immune to societal pressures of beauty, attractiveness or self-worth. But I do think that the world of goddess spirituality offers an alternative to our cultural climate, which is so focused on women’s limitations — how they look versus how they should look, how they act versus how they should act, and so forth.

Read the rest of the Huff Po blog and like, comment, email and share!

Posted in Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , |

Am I Ready To be a Crone?

I have always loved autumn. It feels like new beginnings; a new grade at school, a new semester at college, a fresh start, and not surprisingly, my only child was born in October. It is also the time of the Autumn Equinox, a day when the duration of light and dark are equal, before the tipping point of summer turning into fall. This year, I still feel that excitement, a tingling in the air, but I am also reflective; musing about my life as I inch ever closer to the crone.

The Goddess, worshiped for at least 5,000 years before Christianity, encompasses the concept of a trinity: the maiden, mother and crone. Barbara Walker wrote in her seminal book The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, “From the earliest ages, the concept of the Great Goddess was a trinity and the model for all subsequent trinities, female, male or mixed.” I’ve struggled as a maiden, loved being a mother, but at 55, am I ready to be a crone?

The maiden aspect of the Goddess is symbolic of new beginnings, youthful enthusiasm, independence, and a time when a girl is growing into the woman she is to become. When I photographed Maya for the Artemis portrait in Goddess on Earth, she was just 12 years old, and beginning to deal with all the newness that comes with growing into your own skin. In her statement to accompany her photograph, she wrote: “Artemis represents strength, independence, self-reliance, and courage — all qualities I wish I had.” Here Maya was, on the cusp of adulthood; I could feel her power but also her fear. I too remember a confidence at that time, but underneath it, what I really wanted was approval that I was doing things “right”.

The characteristics of the mother stage are creativity, balance, and fullness of life, being pregnant with possibilities, as well as loving and receiving love. Rha Goddess, the renowned hip-hop performance artist, social entrepreneur and activist had no trouble choosing which Goddess to embody: Lakshmi, the Indian Goddess of wealth and prosperity clearly spoke to her. “It is our Goddess-given birthright to be healthy, wealthy and wise. The divine mother Lakshmi belongs to all of us; she moves in the hood just as she moves on Wall Street, challenging us to bring new consciousness to all our resources.” With light streaming into a dark Brooklyn stairwell, Rha glowed with a magical life force.

2011-09-23-amiacroneimg.jpg

To read the rest of the blog go to the Huffington Post.

 

Posted in Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , |

Lessons Learned from Everyday Goddesses

In a few weeks, I will give birth to an eight year-old — or that is what self-publishing my first book feels like. When first conceived, I thought the path to publishing Goddess on Earth would be fairly complex but straightforward. Instead, it took me to unknown lands, introduced me to wondrous individuals and in general, carried me on a great adventure.

Eight years ago, suffering during a night of insomnia and depression, I picked up Jean Shinoda Bolen’s book Goddess in Everywomen and couldn’t put it down. Though thoroughly enthralled by the subject matter, one of the Goddesses seemed to leap off the page and speak to me. Her name was Demeter, the Greek Goddess of the Bountiful Harvest.

Demeter was a nurturer and a mother (as I was), and when Hades (the Greek God of the Underworld) abducted her daughter Persephone, she was devastated. Demeter’s grief caused the land to became barren. While reading this myth, I saw myself reflected in this universal archetype. With this knowledge, I felt strengthened and empowered: I knew that I would eventually crawl out of my cave and return to the world of light, creativity and passion, just as Demeter had done when Persephone returned to her for six months out of the year.

My journey had begun and I began photographing women as Goddesses to see if sacred myths spoke to other contemporary women. I wanted to explore how resilient, complex and multi faceted present-day women were — just like the goddesses of ancient myths. I chose women of all ages and from all walks of life, and for some, the idea of their lives resembling a universal archetype was a new and thrilling concept. The choice of sacred myth wasn’t necessarily easy, or straightforward, but it always revealed deep personal insight.

When I first approached Jodie Evans and Dana Balicki from the political organization Code Pink about a portrait, Jodie immediately identified with the fierce Hindu Goddess Kali. For Dana, it was a personal moment of truth — she believed in change and transformation, but had to dig deep to find the raw anger and rage necessary to embody the bold, giver and destroyer of life: Kali.

To read the rest of the blog go to the Huffington Post.

Posted in Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , , |