MatriFocus, a Cross-Quarterly eZine for Goddess Women Near & Far
Decorating the Temple Walls
I left my first visit to a tattoo artist with an image of a rose emblazoned on my left hip and a bumper sticker proclaiming the shop's motto: "Your Body is a Temple, We Help You Decorate the Walls." In the decade following that first visit, the rose became a sun and I lost the bumper sticker, but I remember the motto.
Through feminism and women's spirituality, I slowly learned to accept my body shape and treat my physical being with kindness. I gradually began to view getting enough rest, eating the right foods, and suffering through physical exercise as caring for the temple which housed my spirit and the Goddess within. I thanked the Goddess before I ate a meal and I chose the products that I used to cleanse and groom with care. But while I imbued organic produce and cruelty-free toiletries with spiritual significance, I ignored my clothing and jewelry.
I did not advocate nudism or other minimalist philosophies and I did visit the mall frequently, but I never considered my clothing -- even my ritual garb -- to be other than secular. I could appreciate the texture, color, or weave of a fabric, the cut or drape of a dress, and the intricacy of a silver wire pendant, but as a purely sensual or aesthetic, not spiritual, experience. I did not yet realize that clothing, jewelry, and other accessories could be spiritual accouterment decorating my temple walls.
In the summer of 1999, I received my second Reiki attunement at Womongathering, an annual festival of women's spirituality held in rural Pennsylvania. Reiki is an energetic healing modality, and attunements are the ritual process through which a person becomes a channel for Reiki energy. At the conclusion of the Reiki class, before passing the attunements, the teachers explained that anything a woman was wearing while she received the attunements would absorb some of the Reiki energy. They cautioned that Reiki energy could be detrimental to watches and other mechanical devices, but recommended that we keep on any other jewelry because Reiki-infused jewelry could serve as an amplifier if we wore it later when we wanted to channel Reiki energy. I kept my jewelry on.
After receiving the attunement, I went outside and walked to the field where a labyrinth had been constructed. I entered the labyrinth and began walking slowly, my sense of connection to the universe increasing with each step. When I reached the center, I removed all of my clothing and jewelry, so that I could lie down and be in full contact with Gaia. I lost track of time as I lay on my back, watching the clouds dance in the blue sky.
Eventually I got up and began to dress myself. Sliding my amber ring onto my right index finger, I felt a crackle of energy. Energy swirled around me as I stood up and pulled my dress on. As I finished dressing, I recited the Reiki Principles that I had just learned: "Just for today I will give thanks for my many blessings. Just for today I will not worry. Just for today I will not be angry. Just for today I will do my work honestly. Just for today I will be kind to my neighbor and every living thing. Just for today I will respect the Oneness of all life." (1)
Transitioning from Womongathering into the mundane world, without losing the peace and centeredness I had acquired, was difficult. I began wearing my amber ring daily, reciting the Reiki Principles each morning as I put the ring on. My amber ring felt magical, much more so than any of the pentacles or Goddess images that I wore as pendants, and I realized that it had been consecrated as a magical tool when I received my attunements. Unlike my chalice and sickle, however, the amber ring became a magical tool for a corporeal temple.
I wanted to transform some of my other jewelry into magical tools for my temple. I began by meditating on the individual image of each of my pendants. I then asked each pendant to speak to me and looked for a prayer, blessing, affirmation, or other writing that I could recite to invoke the energy of the pendant as I wore it. For some, the writing was obvious. I linked the "Affirmation of Women's Spirituality" with my RCGI triple crescent pendant and the "Goddess 2000 Project Chant" with my spiral Goddess 2000 pendant. Other pendants required more meditation before I uncovered an appropriate invocation. I purchased a small, handmade book with a Goddess image on the cover and copied each invocation into the book, which I keep with my pendants on my altar. Each day I select a different pendant, sometimes at random -- by asking the Goddess to direct my hand to the pendant which symbolizes the energy I need for that day -- and sometimes by deliberate choice. As I put the pendant on a silver chain and the chain around my neck, I recite the invocation.
This ritual helps me carry the positive energy of my home around with me and maintain and renew a daily connection with the Goddess. As time passed, I wanted to expand this ritual and I contemplated the act of dressing. I did not want to consecrate my clothing, at least not my daily attire. Rather, I wanted to find a way to use my clothing to help me remember that my body is sacred, even as I travel through a world that so often profanes women's bodies. I wanted to make getting dressed a spiritual act.
In the Jewish tradition, there is a practice of brukhot or blessing. There are Jewish blessings for almost every event and occasion, from eating and drinking, to waking up in the morning, to blessing children, students, teachers, birds, rainbows, and trees. While many modern Jews do not routinely recite blessings, aside from an occasional blessing before breaking bread or drinking wine on a religious holiday, there is a growing movement to reclaim this practice.
Reciting a blessing -- just like any other prayer or affirmation -- marks the moment or action as sacred. In the words of Rabbi Marcia Prager: "When we offer 'blessing' to the Source of Blessing, we offer our gratitude not only for a particular gift but for the opportunity to experience our connection with the whole of life. Our brukha open us to the . . . divine goodness moving through us, filling us, and flowing back to God[dess]. We partake of the world and are invited to experience God[dess] within everything." (2)
After a couple of phone calls to a local synagogue, I found a traditional Jewish blessing for clothing oneself. I revised the masculine language to reflect my Goddess-based perspective: "Brukha ata Shekinah, Elohateinu Malkat ha-Olamim, malbish arumim. Blessed are You, Goddess of All the Worlds, who clothes the naked." I similarly revised a blessing for donning shoes, symbols of the Goddess's protection: "Brukha ata Shekinah, Elohateinu Malkat ha-Olamim, sheh'asah li kol tzorki. Blessed are You, Goddess of All the Worlds, who provides me with all I need." By taking time to offer blessings while getting dressed, rather than just throwing on whatever is clean and bolting out the door, I infuse my clothing with positive energy and bedeck myself in the fabrics of the Goddess.
Bodily temples require care and feeding, as do the altars and temples built in homes and communities. I drape my home altars with beautiful cloths and cover them with silver and stone Goddess images and tools; I exercise the same deliberate care and intention when dressing and adorning myself. By recognizing that I am decorating my temple walls, I am working to transform a potentially mindless and mundane activity into a mindful spiritual practice.
Labyrinth © Labyrinthina