Claiming our Power at Summer Solstice – The Mystery of Ishtar Enthroned

According to astro-physicists the star-sun that centres our solar system is utterly immense – it makes up 99% of the mass of our entire solar system. You could fit 1.3 million Earths inside the Sun with room to spare. Similarly, the Goddess in her red power as exalted Queen of Heaven is a force to be reckoned with.

The arrival of the summer solstice calls us to step into our full power and authority as women. There is no room here for any notion of womanhood as dependent on our menfolk for our political or economic survival or sexual satisfaction. Rather, this is an invitation to stand on our own feet, to stand up for ourselves, to take a stand about issues we care about in our communities. We are asked to know what we want, and be willing to do what it takes to make it so.

“Unless we include a job as part of every citizen’s right to autonomy and personal fulfillment, women will continue to be vulnerable to someone else’s idea of what need is.” Gloria Steinem

Just imagine how different your passage to womanhood would have been if, on graduating from school / turning eighteen you had been explicitly welcomed into the circle of woman-power by the older women in your community. If this was not your personal experience, imagine how it might have been if you had been explicitly supported, as you made your transition to womanhood, to make a personal vision quest, to discover the contribution you most wished to make in the world through the development of your innate gifts and talents (– recognising that a woman might have more than one vocation in the course of her long life). And imagining that this was greeted with enthusiasm and empowered with gifts of insight as well as tangible practical support to continue to educate yourself in your first chosen field of endeavour. What would it be like to have had your vocations recognised and celebrated, to have been given the ‘tools of your trade’ to help you on your way to true independence as a self-supporting, productive member of your community?

In the Dances of Universal Peaces which I lead there is a dance chant inspired by the writings of Mechthild von Magdeburg which goes ‘God has given me the power to change my ways.. heal the broken, loose the bound…’ This sense of taking up the power to make a change in our own lives, as part of our desire and commitment for a positive vision of hope for our world, can come through very strongly as we tune into the mystery of Ishtar Enthroned. In our summer solstice ritual of 2006 I had an awesome experience of the power that women’s voices chanting in harmony can generate. Focussed by the energy of the sacred temple space, threads of inspiration that had been playing in my mind wove themselves together into a power chant “For our lives, for ourselves, moving on, moving on.. For the sake of the Earth, moving on, moving on.. To the heart of the Goddess, to the heart of our power, for we are the people, and now.. now is the hour!” As those around me took up the chant and harmonised, it grew in strength and beauty, becoming an affirmation of ourselves, of each woman in the room, of the power that we hold in our lives to make a difference, of our will, our desire and our capacity to make possible the changes that will preserve our precious planet.

Ishtar Enthroned, seated in majesty on her throne on the red altar of the north, calls us to claim our innate power and authority as women. The authority of our own bodily experience. The authority that comes from knowing what we think, what we feel, what we want. Nor Hall, in her book The Moon and The Virgin describes the word ‘virgin’as meaning ‘belonging to no man’, ‘one in herself’. It ‘does not mean to be chaste, but rather to be true to nature and instinct’. In a similar way, Ishtar Enthroned calls us into a deeper experience of our own autonomy.

Nor Hall says of the feminine principle: “In women she is asking for reverence, that we see our selves ‘with a dry eye’ – capable of the turn from tenderness to the mad devouring of our own creations. … To know our natures, to be ‘self-housed’ or self-contained, giving over to the love of children and of women friends and men when our instinct demands it. She asks us to carry our dark sides with us as surely as the moon does – to see that we carry death on our backs and the green brightness of morning out in front” (Nor Hall, the Moon and the Virgin , p 16)

Autonomy = self-direction, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, personal independence. This is not an endpoint, to be won and held against all comers, but a station on the great wheel of our creative lives as women that we cycle through again and again. The more we are able to claim and embody our autonomy as women, the richer our experience of relationship, with our lovers, with our children, and as interconnected members of our wider circles of community. Similarly, the insights that we glimpse in the mirrors of relationship must be brought home, integrated, made our own, if they are to serve our full empowerment as women and priestesses and enable us to realise our full potential as ambassadors of the Goddess in the contemporary world.

What does it take to be able to fully claim and hold our own radiant red creative power? Ironically, a willingness to face and even befriend the dark is a large part of it.

Claiming the fullness of ourselves, our power, generally involves a process of recovery. We must be willing to take the dark road into the shadows of our personal and collective unconscious, to discover where we have given our power away or had it taken from us – and claim it back. We must be prepared to listen to the voice of Lilith, where she dwells in her cave by the Red Sea, refusing to lie passively back and accept her lot as woman. At times, like Lilith, may have to wander exiled in the wilderness on our road to the full recovery of our deep instincts and capacity for self-trust.

For many of us, our true fear is not in fact that we are powerless, but rather that we indeed are, in the famous words of Marianne Williamson, ‘powerful beyond measure’. We fear that were we to claim our full power we might exercise it in immoderate ways, becoming just like the ones who have wounded or oppressed us in the past, a reflection of the collective wounds of our culture and the way it twists and distorts our goddess-given power to co-create our lives and our world. Again, the only real way forward is to be willing to embrace the healing journey, to have the courage to simply be present to the fear and shame that inevitably erupts out of our cellular memories as we go to get bigger and start to step forward into our greater fulfilment. We may well find ourselves called to follow the descent of Inanna-Ishtar into the dark realm which is below presided over by the Queen of the Dead in order to become truly safe for ourselves and others, returning with a new wholeness and a new degree of living authority to the throne of power in our own lives.

That being said, the energy of the summer solstice mystery is most centrally one which calls us to celebrate our own brightness, to rejoice in the bigness of our souls and allow them direct and passionate expression in the world. And so my sisters, let us come together this solstice in sacred women spaces – to worship her, to dance and sing, in praise of the immense goodness of life and the indomitable power of womanhood.

“Day breaks: the first rays of the rising Sun, stretching her arms.

Day breaks, as the Sun rises to her feet.

Sun rising, scattering the darkness, lighting the land.

With disc shining, bringing daylight, as birds whistle and call.

People are moving about, talking, feeling the warmth.

Burning through the Gorge, she rises, walking westward, wearing her waistband of human hair.

She shines on the blossoming coolabah tree, with sprawling roots, shady branches spreading.”

Sacred song from the Dulngulg cycle of Australia’s Mudbara tribe cited by Patricia Monaghan in ‘O Mother Sun!’

“The Sun never takes back its rays, its spending has no end. And so should we learn to love. It is the Sun’s agape, the love spoken of by the avatars.”
Alice Howell, Jungian Symbolism in Astrology


December 02, 2009