Samsara, a visual exploration of Native American and Pagan beliefs about the feminine force within creation, nature, and the circle of life. Through the lens of Paul de Luna, who captures Serafima in this shoot inspired by ancient women and the power of femininity. Styling by Edda Gudman for the fall/winter 2013 issue of WestEast Magazine. Makeup by Hazuki Matsushita; hair by Damian Monzillo.
By Feanne & Anne
In their book ‘Myths of the Female Divine’, authors David Leeming & Jake Page describe researchers earliest understanding of the Goddess:
Like the human fetus in its early form, Goddess was thoroughly female; she preceded any differentiation into God and Goddess. She seems to have been absolute and parthenogenetic — born of herself — the foundation of all being. She was the All-Giving and the All-Taking, the source of life and death and regeneration. More than a mother goddess or fertility goddess, she appears to have been earth and nature herself, an immense organic, ecological, and conscious whole — one with which we humans would eventually lose touch.
Evidence of Goddess mythology is pervasive around the globe. Scholars studying the ‘sacred feminine’ believe that by the time the great civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt flourished, the Goddess had dominated human consciousness for 25,000 years.
Over thousands of years a power struggle ensued between the primacy of the feminine and the growing influence of the masculine — with feminine principles losing influence as the patriarchy gained power. Once powerful goddess creation myths were replaced by new ones in which gods were now male and male values dominant.
In the beginning, according to a Native American creation myth, there was a woman who fell from the hole in the sky. In fact, she had been ill, and it was an angry man who had kicked her down that hole, sending her plunging into this world. There was no Earth at that time, only a great expanse of water populated by animals, who gathered to break her fall and carry about her as she lay incapacitated. One of the creatures dove to bring up soil from the bottom of that primal sea, and out of this soil was created the Earth, as a home for the woman to live in.
This is a very old narrative— surely predating the era of colonization— and yet it tells our present story very well. Over the centuries, civilizations with military might expanded ruthlessly — crushing, conquering and assimilating advanced cultures and indigenous tribes alike.
Man’s pursuit of the dreams of Icarus and a desire to conquer nature replaced respect for her. Women became enslaved and often, victims of rape and kidnapping. With the rise of monotheism, the feminine principles made a pact with the devil, resulting in the searing guilt of original sin and expulsion from paradise. Woman was now responsible for the endless suffering of humankind, more often a witch or demon than a goddess.
In the 21st century, the state of women worldwide and the state of the environment are in grave need of healing.
It is our task now to dive deep into the sea— the sea of memory and history’s lessons, the ocean of our own subconscious, the flowing energy of our communal willpower— and to restore the Earth:
The degradation of nature is partially a result of the subjugation of women and earth-based spiritual systems. The collapse of humanity’s sustainable relationship with the earth is due in part to the rise of patriarchal religions that suggest the destiny of humanity to be “a paradise elsewhere”.
- Anthony Hegarty
This disconnect— our loss of the Earth and the downfall of women— has carried a terrible price. Those of us fortunate enough to have been born into a life of privilege have been somewhat sheltered from the horrors of environmental degradation and women’s enslavement in the developing countries. And yet, even in America, the damage and disregard brought on by the pursuit of purely masculine principles of conquering, winning and controlling at any cost, leaves deep scars on our social structure and our environment.
We are soaking all life forms with poisons, changing rivers into lethal sewage, and hurling millions of tons of noxious gases into the respiratory system of the Earth. As scientific as we claim to be, we have yet to realize that babies do not come from storks. The simplest, most empirical fact is that babies of every species are created out of soil, air, rain, food, and rivers. If we change all of these into poison, we must accept the fact that we change our unborn into poison as well. What materials will be used for their arms but the minerals of the poisoned continents? Of what stuff will their eyes be fashioned but the water of our lethal rivers? What will those wet fleshy brains be made of but noxious gases and acid rain?
Our agricultural processes poison our water and destroy four billion tons of topsoil on the American continent each year, and still we keep at it. We are captivated by our consumer lives, addicted, and apparently nothing can break through. Unable to see the simple sadness of our way of life, sunk into our addictions, we overstuff our homes and garages, carrying on, unmoved by the smoke rising over the burnt-out lives of fifty other nations and a million other species.
- Brian Swimme
Feminism is dated? Yes, for privileged women… but not for most of our sisters in the rest of the world who are still forced into premature marriage, prostitution, forced labor— they have children that they don’t want or they cannot feed. They have no control over their bodies or their lives. They have no education and no freedom. They are raped, beaten up and sometimes killed with impunity.
Millions of women live like this today. They are the poorest of the poor. Although women do two-thirds of the world’s labor, they own less than one percent of the world’s assets. They are paid less than men for the same work if they’re paid at all, and they remain vulnerable because they have no economic independence, and they are constantly threatened by exploitation, violence and abuse… Even the most destitute of men have someone they can abuse— a woman or a child.
- Isabel Allende
Earth-based spiritual systems emphasize connection. We are connected to each other and to the Earth. When we think of ourselves as connected to others, it becomes difficult to cause suffering. It becomes easy to do things that benefit others and contribute to the whole.