I want to describe a 1-day workshop I attended with a very dear friend of mine. We are both over 65 and searching for something to uplift our self-esteem in a culture which likes to diminish older women. We are drawn to the title of the workshop: “Sacred Sexuality.” We have a long drive to the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, OH, all the way from Buffalo NY. We waste little time on the road. We are rife with excitement and we want to miss not a moment of this mysteriously titled workshop. We are welcomed warmly by the two workshop leaders, Mary Ann and Roseanna, into a cellar room, with the feeling that we are entering the womb of the Great Goddess. This cellar underpins a beautiful Victorian home that contains the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. The floor of this womb is covered with a soft rug and in the center are all sorts of accoutrements conducive to the ritual expression of Love to and from the Great Goddess. It holds large candles in glass, a huge egg-shaped stone, rattles and drums and shells—all ready to be scooped up into our eager hands and embraced by our hearts. The seminar students include women of varied ages and in various stages of life transition. Several are survivors of some kind of childhood abuse, but all are seeking something…. we’re not sure what. The leaders teach us many things about the long era of Goddess worship that guided and encouraged humankind. They describe the loss of love for the female body, mind and spirit that accompanied the gradual replacement of the matriarchal cultures with patriarchy. Patriarchy, with its emphasis on hierarchy, valuing spirit over body, male over female, and encouraging aggressiveness and competition over nurturance and cooperation, left humanity with disdain for woman’s body (the temptress) and especially for her sexuality. This workshop, therefor, is an opportunity for healing the wound of our denigrated sexuality: this 9 hours of exposure to our “Sacred Sexuality.” Our leaders encourage us to use movement: shape-shifting into many different animals to feel the energy and power of our animal spirit guides. We writhe, slither, soar and prowl around the room, responding to the urges from our animal brain. We honor the qualities of our sensuality and sexuality: our wetness, our earthiness, our nurturing breastiness. As we name these qualities, one of our leaders fills a profuse number of poster papers with our glorious female characteristics and tapes them to the walls which are already decorated with Goddess pictures from many cultures of ancient times. We peruse the room to pick out Goddess pictures which attract us according to our individual and unique qualities. I choose Ix Cell, the Goddess of Creativity to encourage my writing, and an unnamed Goddess who sits within an egg with her egg-shaped vagina mirroring the larger egg that surrounds her. After lunch, we dance to vibrant animistic music. I lose myself in its invigorating animation, until I realize that I have a sore knee and need to sit down. As I continue to throb with the music while, paradoxically, sit quietly, I think of the sea turtle. The turtle moves with patience, yet determination, to cross the hazardous roads of patriarchy, and though buffeted about by the indifferent traffic of commerce, I, as turtle, pull into my shell, long enough to survive. I struggle my way to the sea, lay my eggs in the sandy shore, protect my young until they are strong enough to stand on their own, and then return to the sea: the oceanic archetype of the Great Goddess. Now She includes me and contains me. I have fulfilled my purpose and returned to the “Womb” of All That Is. My friend and I leave the workshop tired, but enlivened, sensing some healing from our acculturated shame from many centuries of Patriarchal degradation of our female bodies. We are now experiencing the value of our “Sacred Sexuality.” We feel much gratitude to the two courageous and thoughtful women who scraped together some precious time from their busy schedules to give us new hope for life in our feminine bodies, and a brighter future for our minds and spirits. Barbara L. Weeks 9/8/02
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