Tag Archives: Greek Mythology

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.

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Kathy Eldon: From Chaos to Creativity

Kathy Eldon Goddess KhaosAnarchy. Pandemonium. Disarray. These are just a few of the synonyms for the word, “chaos.” But buried even deeper in chaos’s etymology is a sacred myth — that of the Goddess Khaos. Khaos (or Chaos) was one the Greek primeval goddesses and gods to emerge at the creation of the world — her name literally meaning, “the gap, the space between heaven and earth.” The universe was born, this story tells us, out of a chaotic mix of primeval elements. Perhaps it is this fundamental commotion that Friedrich Nietzsche referred to when he wrote, “One must still have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star.” He could equally have been channeling the forces that have inspired the life and work of activist/journalist Kathy Eldon.

I was made aware of Kathy’s work by watching a video of her addressing the Forbes Women’s Summit of 2013. She spoke of the period of time after her 22-year-old son Dan, a photojournalist working for Reuters in Somalia, was stoned to death by an angry mob. She was broken. But from this dark place of anarchy, she found the strength and power to establish, in his honor, the Creative Visions Foundation — an organization that fosters activists and artists who shine light on social causes. It’s not about the individual, she said in the Forbes talk, it’s about collectively coming together: “When we listen, we cooperate, we collaborate and we co-create.”

Kathy’s boundless energy, vibrant passion and deep reservoir of humanity radiate out of every pore in her body. When I later heard her speak at The Herb Albert Educational Center in Santa Monica, her authenticity brought the audience into a cohesive tribe of creative brethren. Kathy’s ceaseless excitement for life has helped enable, with Creative Visions, the realization of over 200 trailblazing projects through the provision of resources and critical guidance.

We met to co-create Kathy’s goddess portrait at a beach near the Creative Visions offices in Malibu, California. On choosing to portray the Goddess Khaos for Goddess on Earth, Kathy wrote:

To the distress of those around me, I often appear to be surrounded by chaos. Until I read the Nietzsche quote, I thought this was a terrible thing. Now I embrace the disorder as a vibrant space of pure potential, perfectly suitable for birthing a dancing star.

In the Heart of Life is Kathy’s new, soon-to-be-published memoir. Comedian and actress Rosie O’Donnell writes of the book: “Kathy inspires women to believe that they can do more than simply survive: they can thrive and passionately create the lives of their choice.” Indeed, let us all be inspired by Kathy’s vision and the powerful Goddess she has chosen to embody — and hold a space for the potential that lies within disorder and chaos for unbounded creativity, inspiration and transformation.

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Aphrodite’s Love

Last month, in an attempt to escape the last legs of this dreary New York winter, I went to Los Angeles in search of sunlight. I found light, warmth and stunning flowers in vibrant colors — but most surprisingly, I found love.

“Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow; a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them — we can only love others as much as we love ourselves,” wrote the researcher and author Brené Brown in her book The Gifts of Imperfections. Love, according to Ms. Brown, is nurtured through interpersonal connections and allowing our authentic selves to be deeply seen and known.

Serendipitously, this kind of connection began at a neighborhood restaurant in Santa Monica. There I met Karen Lorre, a television actress. She chose to sit next to me at a large communal table, and we immediately began talking, finding mutual ties and a common philosophy toward life. The synchronistic bonds, however, were just a starting point. The joy for life that flowed from Karen seemed to vibrate around the room. Like a radio signal on a high frequency, I was getting the message loud and clear: A Goddess portrait was being born!

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Several days later, when asked what sacred myth she most resonated with, Karen revealed she felt aligned with two Goddesses, White Tara, the Tibetan Goddess of compassion, healing and serenity, and Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love. Both had deep meaning for her, but love won out.

The women I photograph for the Goddess on Earth series are extraordinary in their willingness to be entirely wholehearted and open to experiencing the playfulness of co-creating. In turn, I feel deeply honored by their belief in me and empowered by their trust. My internal work during any photo shoot is to get out of my own way, and let the joy flow, secure in the knowledge that all is well. I now realize that during this creative process, love is being nurtured. I’m sure this is why I feel my happiest, most alive self when I am making a Goddess portrait.

Aphrodite, who in Greek mythology arose from the foam of the elemental waters, celebrates love and sexuality as an embodied divinity. She helps us cultivate sensuality, and the desire to live in harmony with the natural world. On my last day in California, we created Karen’s Goddess portrait on a beach in Malibu under the blanket of soft grey clouds.

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On choosing to portray Aphrodite, Karen wrote:

“I know love is our true nature and an infinite supply flows into us from this divine universe if we allow it. We allow it by focusing on what we appreciate and what makes us happy. Seeing wellbeing in everyone and everything is pure love. Seeing wellbeing in everyone and everything is pure fun! “

Blessed be!

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Creativity and the Three Graces

Creativity is like a spark of electricity. In ancient Greece this catalyst was believed to have been a wondrous gift from the Gods and Goddesses, the Muses in particular. The Three Graces were ancient Rome’s artistic benefactors. Today, it’s generally believed that our creativity lies within ourselves rather than being a gift from outside. Scientists studying the brain call this powerful force, “fluid intelligence” or the imaginative ability to solve new problems independent of previous knowledge.

Steve Jobs, in Wired Magazine said: “Creativity is just connecting things”. True, but these connections usually come after tirelessly working at one’s craft. In Meredith Moran’s new book Why We Write, the Chilean writer Isabel Allende shared her philosophy on inspiration; “Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too. If she doesn’t show up invited, eventually she just shows up”.

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Sometimes these muses, or connections, occur when we take a break from our routine and let our minds wander freely. When I was a dancer in my twenties, the choreographer Twyla Tharp was an inspiration to me, so it wasn’t surprising to connect with the wisdom in her book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. She wrote; “Reading, conversation, environment, culture, heroes, mentors, nature – all are lottery tickets for creativity. Scratch away at them and you’ll find out how big a prize you’ve won.”

For my friend, the painter Natasha Rabin, an inspired moment occured at an art exhibition which included her work, as well as that of the artist Grace Knowlton, known for her earthly spherical forms. From their chance meeting, a connection was made and Grace became a muse for Natasha’s new series ” States of Grace”. When I saw Natasha’s vibrant new paintings, I was inspired by her inspiration – and the electricity flowed.

On a recent, chilly winter afternoon, the three of us met at Grace’s magical home. Clay, concrete and painted steel spheres dotted the landscape as though they had rolled down the hill in some prehistoric era, settling in gentle clumps. We gathered, Grace, Natasha and I amongst these organic forms, contained, protected and joined in spirit. Entitled “The Three Graces” this image expresses the interconnectivity of inspiration and how we feed and nourish one another in our creative pursuits.

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