In the last post I described myself as nothing more than ‘a jumbled mess of preconceived ideas’. The other day one of these preconceived ideas popped out again. M and I were discussing the likelihood of there being incarnated extant Masters with the Golden Dawn / RR et AC tradition. I opined that there could be such a Master, but he would keep himself hidden. Naturally M and I both picked up the sexist assumption of the Master being a man.
*Sigh* these things happen; despite being an ex-SNAG and delving into some serious feminist, revisionist politics, theology and herstory when young, my preconceptions are always there. This is why Buddhists and Hindus assert we never see the actual world, but only a illusion of the world, Maya, created by our personal interaction with the world. This is why Christians remind us we are born of Original Sin; meaning that which keeps us separate from God.
And, sadly sexism is still rife within the western traditions. Even those feminine focused Goddess traditions such as Wicca. It seems to have changed a bit recently, but the last empirical analysis I did still had male Pagan authors and leaders of traditions outweighing female. And just looking at this humble blog – where are the women?
So, to redress a little, just a few personal heroines and women of inspiration:
Firstly, of course, my mother.
Without going into detail here I am appreciating my mum more and more as I get older. As a young army wife she found herself with four boys under the age of five living in a foreign country with her husband almost perpetually away on exercise. Yet still she raised us and loved us, and this alone commends respect and admiration.
Dion was simply the most significant Priestess and magician of the 20th century. In terms of volume her influence may be less than the naughty boy Crowley, but it exceeds all in terms of quality. As a Priestess she was magnificent, as an author she wrote the only magical novels of note, even now 80 years later. As a magician she developed and promoted the Three-Fold Path which sought to encompass several mystery approaches as one. As a medium she was one of the greatest; her ability to bring the presence of the Masters into this world was beyond par.
However, the main gift Dion has taught me is her very human honesty. She never speculated beyond her own experience. When she assumed something, she told us. She never created any false lineages or other little ‘fibs’ magicians are fond of. And even in death she continued to guide her school, which is the only long standing non-schismatic public esoteric school in the west. Today the ‘Dion Fortune’ contact is still very strong and available for those serving and working along her wavelength.
I first read Starhawk on a Monday. I remember it clearly. I had spent the last week and weekend devouring a mass of magical and Witch books I purchased from a Wiccan ditching her collection (see this post). On Monday morning I wandered into Wisdom Books and found ‘The Spiral Dance‘. Reading on the bus back home I died and went to heaven.
Starhawk was a radiant beacon. It was like she wrote the Spiral Dance for me: it combined my politics, my new found spirituality and my personal therapy work into one. I loved her. Back then I would have crawled naked over cut glass to meet her (today I’d wear some clothes).
Now Starhawk is probably the most influential witch in the world today, and with good reason. As an activist, poet, visionary and practical magician she still inspires and I see her and the Reclaiming Collective as continuing the spirit of the work Dion began in the 1920s. Her work has been highly valuable for so many reasons it’s hard to repeat here. To know more go to her website or her blog.
Sister Veronica Brady
Sister Veronica was my one of my early introductions to that face of Christianity that is so compassionate yet so strong it leaves an indelible mark. One of the first Australian nuns to teach in universities Sr Veronica’s politics is firmly based in compassionate socialism and she has butted heads with the church authorities over issues like contraception and homosexuality. I first came across Sr Veronica at a ‘Conference on Spirituality’ when I was 21.
Throughout the morning we heard from Witches and Sufis, green activists and bishops. Then Sister Veronica spoke: ‘Everyone’s been talking about spirituality’, she said, ‘but we have to realise there is good spirituality and there is bad spirituality. Good spirituality is obedient to God, and bad spirituality isn’t’. This was wonderful, and she went on to explain what obedience to God meant; the surrender of our individual petty concerns for the sake of others, seeing all equally. She is apparently still bouncing around inspiring and writing in Melbourne. You can see a transcript of an interview with her here.
Moina was the wife of Golden Dawn founder, Samuel Mathers. Her life should have been overshadowed by his genius and madness, but she shone like the stars herself. Early in her life she sacrificed a promising artistic career to birth and maintain the esoteric work she and her husband were called to do. The more psychically gifted of the two she developed her abilities to the point where the couple were able to contact the Inner Plane Masters and bring through much of the Golden Dawn’ s Inner Order material. Most of this has still not been published; some of its existence not even suspected by narrow occult historians and modern magicians.
Moina was a Priestess of Isis, and every modern Priestess owes her a debt; for she was the ground breaker in the reinstallation of Isis into the western consciousness through the Rites of Isis conducted in Paris. Her life, magic and contribution to the esoteric (along with three other women) is detailed in Mary K Greer’s ‘Women of the Golden Dawn‘ – well worth reading J
See the Tarot image here? These and others have been reproduced millions of times across the globe, in books, decks, magazines and the Net. Now, Pixie was the artist, writer, mystic and magician who illustrated this ‘Waite’ Tarot deck. Uncredited, she took Waite’s basic black and white designs and transformed them with her own insights and colour. She also appears to have been the originator of the unique images for the Minor Arcana – previously having been little more than an image of the appropriate number of symbols. Never receiving credit or financial reward she is often overlooked today when the deck is referred to as the ‘Waite-Rider’ deck, Rider being the publisher.
Pixie was a gifted artist and storyteller, and while not much is known (publically) about her inner spiritual life it is known she was devoted to service. She maintained active esoteric links and work until her death. She also devoted much of her resources and time to offering a retreat space to ‘burnt out’ priests at a time when such things were rarely acknowledged to exist.
Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
Ven. Tenzin started out life as a London girl in the 1940s. At 18 she had a profound spiritual realisation and became one of the earliest western Theravadan Buddhist nuns. Within two years however, her desire to be of compassionate help to all beings saw her move into the Mahayana path with its Bodhisattva ideal and she became the second western woman to be ordained in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
She devoted herself to her path and retired to a cave for meditation and study for 12 years, the last three in full retreat (see Cave in the Snow for more information). Since returning to the world she has worked tirelessly to both teach the Dharma and promote the path of women in Buddhism, giving them the opportunities to study and practice the full Dharma. The Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery she founded has been one of our favourite charitable causes to support. You can too, if you would like by clicking here.
The Tara Vow
The ideal of the Bodhisattva Vow is pretty well known now; to develop oneself for the aid of all sentient beings and never to rest, incarnation after incarnation, until all beings reach an end of suffering. There is another tradition in Tibetan Buddhism that addresses somewhat the hidden sexism I am speaking of. It is part of the Tara Vow, named after the deity or Buddha, Tara. Here we not only take the Bodhisattva Vow but we also vow to continually return in female form to work for the aid of all beings. I am not sure how well this ideal will catch on in the West, but it is a wonderful thought…:)