- earth, moon, star, courtesy of simu and morgueFile
Equality and Pluralism in the Divine Embodied: An Exegesis of The Charge of the Goddess Part III
This article continues the exegesis of the Charge of the Goddess that was begun in prior issues of Matrifocus (Part I, Part II). I hope that I have convinced readers that working with this text can be an enlightening activity, giving us an opportunity to understand ourselves more fully. We are an integral part of every interpretive act that we undertake. Therefore, in my reading of the Charge, I reveal what truly matters to me and what values I bring to this process. Before beginning the exegesis, I note here that this section is shorter than the others due to the shorter verses. However, they yield as rich interpretations as the previous verses.
Continuing on then, we come to the next verse:
Hear the words of the star Goddess, the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven, whose body encircles the universe.
In this verse, we are enjoined again to listen to the speech of the Goddess. But here, before we come to the first-person narrative, there is a description. Once again, there is a mirroring of Christian liturgy which contains references to "hosts of heaven". In this context, however, we can move away from the notion that heaven is a place that we go after we die and have been judged. Rather, the clauses must be read together. This seems to me to be a description of the all-encompassing nature of the Goddess, indicating that she is the universe, and that all matter is indeed either an emanation from her (dust of her feet) or part of her body.
Now, here is an interesting paradox. Generally, it is unusual to find these two ideas co-existing. Either philosophers/theologians have argued that we are the same stuff as the Divine spirit, or that we are a creation/emanation of that spirit, but not both. Here, we have a concept of being both the same and separate. Yes, we are the very body of the Goddess ourselves, just as the earth and all creation are, yet we are not the Goddess herself. She is a sum greater than her parts. This then gives us a possibility that in joining together, we create something greater than ourselves even while we understand ourselves to be important and divine. The following verse confirms this interpretation.
I who am the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars and the mysteries of the waters, I call upon your soul to arise and come unto Me. For I am the soul of nature that gives life to the universe.
In this verse, we are first presented with Goddess as parts of the earth. While they in themselves are separate and our experience of the green earth is different than our experience of the white moon, they are also, nevertheless, only a part of the Goddess. It ought to be noted here that, in fact, Goddess claims not only that she is these physical elements of the earth and the sky, but also that she is the beauty of the green earth and the mysteries of the water. This indicates that the Goddess is also in our perceptions of beauty and mystery and other qualities such as patience and compassion, anger and vengeance. In the final lines, She calls upon our soul to rejoin her.
The notion of soul is somewhat hard to understand from a pagan perspective. Different traditions have divergent understandings of this concept. In my opinion, it doesn't make sense to argue about whether there is one soul or many souls and which soul is being referred to. Frankly, it doesn't seem to matter much. I think in this case, She is speaking to the soul that is part of Her. Most traditions agree that there is a divinity to the soul or a divine soul.
There is an idea too of the separation of humanity from Goddess and from Nature (which is Goddess in our physical reality). Most of us in earth-based religions are still laboring under the years of socialization that trains us to see our self as extra-natural, or not integrated into Nature. We distinguish between humans and animals and plants. We distinguish between human-made and nature-made, between urban and rural. But is this really helpful? Arguably, to some extent it is helpful in order to pinpoint the genesis of the ills in Nature. Particularly when the point of origin of something dangerous is human-made, it is useful to separate it out because it forces us to take accountability. At the same time, however, the notion that we are separate from nature also has caused us to "use" nature is ways that are harmful without seeing that we are implicated deeply in the consequences. So, in this line, there is a sense of return, a sense of needing to mend the rift between our "human" selves and our "Nature/Divine" selves. And we note here that She welcomes us, tells us to join her again. For she is the soul of nature, the cauldron in which we all float, in which we are held. The universe is Nature and we are a part of that, certainly.
In these verses, we are once again enjoined to see ourselves as deeply interconnected, interwoven, and part of each other. In a world where thousands are dying in the name of some cause or the other, it is important to remember that seeing ourselves in each other, reuniting with each other as well as the Divine, rising above the distinctions and taking ownership for the consequences we wreak is a feminist, matrifocal value. Goddess is Life and it is our duty to respect, love and nurture that Life in all its forms.