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The Handless Maiden - living the myth

Updated: Sep 7, 2021

The handless maiden – venturing off into the woods

The following deep share forms the basis of an invitation to a women’s retreat, in the forest, on the weekend of 14 May 2021:

Beloved friends, after being off-line for an entire four-month period of being initiated into higher octaves of myself, I am finally sitting down, attempting to capture and distill the essence of one of the most profound and deep adventures, if not the most, I have ever experienced, when in fact, no words can do it justice…

Exactly one year ago, I discovered deep sisterhood in the true sense of the word: daily and intimate sharing with like-minded women, while working shamanically with the Elementals. We worked with calling in more sisters sharing a similar outlook on life, and towards a common goal of co-creating our dreams (what we envision for the future). Ironically, I found this level of relating and support with sisters on-line, when previous attempts to create sisterhood on an in-person basis, have failed in the past. Ninety percent of my dreams which I wrote down at the time, has already realised, some of which I shall delve into in the following paragraphs.

The way in which this sisterhood movement found me, was also (obviously) very synchronistic at the time, and even though the majority of my work focusses on the healing and empowerment of women, and strengthening their relationship to the feminine principle within and without, I have only been able to grasp the full extent of the magic (in the sense of the creative potential) which women can hone, when coming together in circle and ceremony. Along with this notion, is also the accountability with which we hold each other in our dreams. In my case at the time, and more towards end of 2020, this focus on my dreams rang especially true when I could no longer ignore the signs pointing towards incompatibility and a miss-match in readiness for a new life (albeit with shared dreams), with my partner at the time. I could also feel myself shifting radically from the embodiment of the archetype of the vulnerable, devoted-to-marriage goddess Hera, to that of the virgin goddess Artemis, goddess of the hunt and Moon. It was literally a shift considered in Jungian psychology to be from one “class” of goddess archetype, to another, that being from Vulnerable to Virgin goddess:

The Vulnerable goddesses are relationship-orientated where the focus is on others (rather than on an inner state, an achievement, autonomy or a new experience), and represent the traditional roles of wife, mother, and daughter. Their identities and wellbeing depend on having a significant relationship and they are attentive and receptive to others. They were raped, abducted, dominated, or humiliated by male gods. Each suffered in her characteristic way when an attachment was broken or dishonoured, and showed symptoms that resembled psychological illnesses.

In contrast, the Virgin/independent goddesses represent the independent, self-sufficient, competent goddesses and they were never overcome by their emotions. Women who embody these goddesses developed their talents, pursue interests, solve problems, compete with others, express themselves through word or art forms, put their surroundings in order, they exhibit goal-seeking qualities and lead contemplative lives. The virgin goddesses are characterized by “single-pointed focus”: concentrating on one element to the exclusion of everything else. Emotional attachments did not divert them from what they considered to be important. They were not victimized and did not suffer. As archetypes, they express the need in woman for autonomy, and the capacity woman have to focus their consciousness on what is personally meaningful. The virgin goddess aspect is that part of a woman that is unowned or unpenetrated by a man – that is untouched by her need for a man or need to be validated by him. A woman who is a virgin does what she does – not because of any desire to please, not to be liked, or to be approved, even by herself, not because of any desire to gain power over another, but because what she does is true for her. She will be motivated to follow her own inner values, to do what has meaning or fulfils herself, apart from what other people think. Psychologically, the virgin goddess is that part of a woman that has not been worked on by the collective cultural and social expectations of what a woman should be or by an individual male’s judgement of her.

I would believe that I can speak on behalf of other women, when referring to this undeniable force that possesses one, when a specific archetype takes hold. This shift was also accentuated when I synchronictically came across (again), the age-old story of “The handless maiden”. To my knowledge, the most comprehensive layout as well as interpretation of this story can be found in “Women who run with wolves” (by Dr Clarissa Pinkoles Estes) – it also happens to be one of the longer fairy tales as captured by the Brothers Grimm, in that the story represents 7-year periods across a woman’s entire life span. I saw clearly where I was at in the trajectory of this story, with having left behind the seven-year-long, soul forging period constituting my relationship with my partner and entering the next seven-year-long chapter: the part where the maiden, whose hands were chopped off due to a bargaining with the Devil (now married and having given birth to a beautiful child), had to leave the home of her husband and mother-in-law, with her baby strapped to her breast, making her way into the forest. Her husband, the king, was away at war and the devil was at work again with wanting her child dead.

Translating this in relation to my personal journey, this part of the story signified me having had to let go of all the comfort and safety my relationship provided (which also came at a cost of me becoming handless), and, with my baby (my calling/dreams) strapped to my bosom where it can be fed, then make my way into the uncharted territory of the woods. In the story, on the maiden’s journey walking through the forest (representing the unconscious mind), the maiden eventually encountered an inn, where the lovely inn-keepers took her and baby in, providing a safe space for them to be nourished: baby grew up to be seven years old, and in that time, the maiden grew her hands back. This part of the story of meeting with the inn-keepers represents the dream I have of living in community within an eco-village set-up, nourishing my baby -my Shadow Illumination Yoga business-, and growing back my hands –my ability to grasp things, protect myself, grow and create things and feel/see in the dark.

To be more specific as to how this part of the story has and is currently unfolding, after having let go of my relationship, I firstly experienced a kundalini awakening via a Shakti pat experience with an experienced tantra practitioner, which ever since resulted in a rippling of ecstasy, shaking/tremoring and sometimes undulations and sound moving through my body, whenever I am in awe of something, or during ritual or ceremony, or during ecstatic dance, or with some of my tantric solo practices, or through sacred touch and intimacy with another. This phenomenon, in and of itself, was also already speaking to another of my dreams, in that I wished for a more tantric-rich relationship with life and other. After spending two months by the ocean, nurturing my broken heart, I then decided to pack up my life, taking with me only what is required for a new-found gypsy life. With my whole life packed up in my golf 4, I headed out to go live in a community situated in a literal forest called the “Forest of dreams”, with the name not being a coincidence, of course….

Part 2: The handless maiden – growing my hands back

For two months now, I have fully immersed myself in what it means to live in a semi-self-sustainable community: to share almost everything, to grow food together, doing community hours (cleaning the communal area, collecting and chopping wood, fetching mulch and topsoil, turning compost, collecting tinder for the fire, setting up for events, participating in community wellbeing events, ect), to host events together based on healing and self-sustainable living, to cook and share meals together, to hold weekly meetings and discuss and invent new ways forward, to work through our triggers, also together, to name only a few. All of this occurring on the back-drop of a life of forest dwelling: being bare feet all the time, running around with a pack of resident dogs, movie nights using a projector, experiencing facilitated conscious dance or yoga in the morning, in the forest, and secret sunset dance with headphones, leading sisterhood circles and ceremonies while the men do their wild man gatherings or discussions, swimming in our resident goddess pool with its mini waterfall from the mountain stream which we use as our water supply, going on hikes in the mountain and swimming in the rock pools, sitting around the fire in the evenings and creating sound journeys together using our voices, drums and other musical instruments, going on plant medicine journeys and ceremonies, together, bringing back the medicine to the tribe, and sitting in sweat lodge and singing medicine songs, facilitated by our resident medicine man.

I also take such pleasure in the simple things such as decorating my home space (consisting of a canvas tent and dining shelter, and an outdoor yoga area under a tarp) using logs, stones, flowers and ferns from the indigenous mountain area right our doorstep, and pine needles and pine cones from the surrounding forest, and even including the creation of a fairy corner. In the evenings I then relish in the beauty and textures of all of these natural aesthetics, by star-or candle light. The slower pace of the process of entraining with Nature, as well as all the spontaneous conversations with community members and visitors, really facilitates the much needed increase in capacity to flow through the day in a very feminine way. I still feel like I am on a perpetual “high” wondering when the honeymoon phase is going to pass, with an abundance of energy, so much so that I find it difficult to sleep at night (which I attribute to the continues earthing connection to Nature, and lack of electromagnetic radiation, as well as being around like-minded people who became family). Finally, I find such relief in the limited reception we have available here, on a hill which we need to climb first, as I now limit my cell phone time to an hour a day, maximum. However, this set-up where the hydro and solar power station is only available in the no reception zone, proves to be quite challenging with regard to having to get my sessions, workshops and retreats up and running again. This too shall be remedied soon, together in a community.

Expectantly, and alternatively to my prior impetus to embody the goddess Artemis in the forest, Aphrodite (my predominant archetype since childhood) got the upperhand upon my arrival in the forest. Perhaps this unanticipated switch is not such a strange phenomenon after all, seeing that I work with seven Greek goddess archetypes in my sessions with women, and I am fully aware of their influence, often times being unconscious, and with each of these archetypes having specific and often conflicting needs/desires/motivations. And so my forest dwelling saw the likes of many male community members, dropping by on a frequent basis, for delicious and deep conversation. Aphrodite falls within yet another class of goddesses – the alchemical goddess, creating love and beauty, as well as exalting encounters with others to that of a transcendental Nature. Her presence also allows for the transforming of shadow aspects into that of light, through the alchemical cauldron of the womb space. However, when in my experience, the man does not take ownership for what he needs to tend to and take responsibility for himself, coming to me and expecting me to take on the therapist role, I feel myself becoming energetically drained and distracted from my goal – to grow my hands back.

In a metaphorical sense, this depletion occurs when a man comes to a women’s well to drink deep, without honouring of the sacred waters and/or allowing for the well to be replenished before drinking again. And so the time arrived to lay down boundaries around assumed roles and the honouring my sacred need for me-time and sisterhood-time. Thankfully, Artemis was still very much lurking around behind the scenes to assist in this shift, reminding me that I belong to myself only, and that I have dreams to “hunt”. This archetype is also helping me navigate the inevitable shadow sides arising within community, in relation to our intentions of co-creation, communion and contribution, especially with being an empath and “light worker”, and often having to process energy presented within these difficult scenarios or when large groups of people arrive here with unprocessed energy from the city. When we embody, for example, the softer, gentler archetypes like the lover, or the bodhisattva, which are forthcoming and all about having a beautiful sensual time and are more about opening, resolving things and feeling amazing, during scenarios which require discernment and the sword (firmness), we can potentially get ourselves into trouble. There will be conflict in these experiences and what they call forth.

The archetypes that need to be invoked when you face something that, for example angers you, are the warrior and the heroine. Drawing on the warrior organises how you deal with a situation of injustice and facilitates one's anger to do what it needs to do, using the sword: neutral precision and differentiation. I learned yet again (and often in hindsight) that some sometimes it is quite necessary to embrace the warrior arts and work with the element of fire - protecting one’s own energy/power and not just giving it away and noticing or recognising what is in one’s range of control and what is not, upon which our resulting actions are then based. This journey of the warrior or hero/heroine is all about what/who one is becoming along the way, and not so much about whether we actually get to slay the dragon or retrieve the mythological golden fleece (the end goal).

In line with me now giving more expression to the archetypes of Artemis and the Wild woman, in general, is the easiness with which one gets to work with the elements of fire, water, earth, air and ether here, merely by way of one’s survival literally depending on the understanding, and working with the elements here. For example, aside from using the elements in a resource-based context, things become real when confronted by the mountain stream running low, or the river being so high that we cannot leave for town, or the nearest hospital being an hour’s drive away, or the wind blowing trees over in the forest, or the potential danger of a veld fire breaking out or reaching us. My direct line of communion with the earth, with being surrounded by Her all the time and bare footed and often sitting directly on the earth, also greatly facilitates the expansion of my relating to and refining of my Shakti – this notion is also evident during, for example, my free dancing here, where I now so easily channel mudras (sacred hand gestures) and snake-like movements with my body. In fact, another one of my dreams of teaching women temple dance, goddess worship and the goddess arts has already started manifesting without me even driving it, in my starting to lead conscious dance and teach belly dance-based classes here.

With this, dear wild woman, I invite you to a Goddess retreat in this beautiful setting over the weekend of 14 May 2021. More details will be provided in the next few days.

May we re-wild and un-tame ourselves, and call forth those goddess archetypes which will support us in this heroine’s journey!

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