Once, long ago, a goddess, born of the Moon and equal in glory to all other deities, ruled an ancient city. In her youth, she planted a tree on the banks of a life-giving river that flowed through her Garden. The wood of this tree was strong yet flexible, and it grew alongside the goddess until they both reached maturity. When the goddess in her was ready to claim her sovereignty, she went to her tree to make the emblems of her power, the throne from which she would rule and the bed from which her sacred sexuality and fertility would be celebrated.
But when she got to the tree she found that others had made it their home. A great snake, representing the oldest chthonic deities of life, death, and rebirth, had made its home in the roots of her tree. In the tree’s soaring branches, a great bird of wind and storm had made its nest. In the very center of the tree was a dark maid, who was the young goddess’s shadow self, embodying an insatiable sexuality.
In order for her to claim her sovereignty, she would have to conquer these beings.
This goddess is, of course, beloved Inanna, she of great power, beauty and wisdom. A goddess who was perhaps the very first target and the first weapon, of patriarchy.
I suspect that originally, Inanna herself faced the beings whom had taken up residence in her tree. Alternately driving away chaos, taming the snake and thereby assimilating the old shamanic religions and bravely facing her shadow until it no longer held power over her. Then she was free to create her throne and royal bed.
However, over time the stories changed. First the goddess seems to lose her power and must rely on others to help her. A demi-god becomes more powerful than the goddess, defeating the beings in the tree for her. As a reward, he receives the gifts and authority of a mortal ruler.
In another story, we see the beautiful young goddess seated in glory in her garden against an apple tree and celebrating her sacred sexuality and the power of her life-giving vulva. Whilst there, she decides to visit her uncle, who is the god of wisdom. In his house, she is received as an equal and honored in her own right. During the feasting and drinking her uncle gives her all the gifts of wisdom and civilization, but next morning he begins to regret his impulsiveness and wants the gifts returned to him. But Inanna has already left for her home. The god makes several attempts to get them back but ultimately fails. Instead the goddess reaches the shores of her city and gifts this wisdom to her people so they can thrive. As the story now reads Inanna appears to be deciteful and intentionally gets her uncle drunk and then tricks him into giving her these gifts. However, that part could also be an addition that is meant to vilify her. Perhaps in the same way as we see when the goddess's story becomes even more twisted to fit into the themes of the rising patriarchy.
In this story, everything is claimed by god the father. The garden, no longer the goddess’s sanctuary, also belongs to the god. The apple tree where the goddess celebrated her miraculous, life-giving womanhood has now become a forbidden source of wisdom. What’s more, the powerful sexuality and independence represented by the dark maid has now literally been demonized and driven away rather than faced and understood. The great snake that symbolizes rebirth and regeneration has also become a demon and is now a liar and a trickster that preys on the humans that once honored him.
And the goddess? She has ‘fallen’ the furthest of all. No longer is Inanna birthed of the Moon, instead she (now Eve) is 'taken from man' to be his possession. She can no longer approach god in her own glory and strength but instead is now given to man by god. Poor, weak willed woman that she is, she is deceived by the ancient wisdom that she conquered long ago, and she eats of that which was really hers all along. Man then has his strength, his love and desire for the goddess turned against him when he follows the demoted goddess's lead and 'eats of the fruit of original sin'.
Wisdom, once embodied in Inanna’s uncle and then in her was now something that only father god should have. That same wisdom and knowledge brought back to humanity by the goddess has become a sin and the beauty and desire felt in the human body becomes a source of shame. In this way men suffer a critical soul wound as their sexuality becomes the enemy, and simultaneously their power is stripped as punishment for trusting women.
This is an important turn of events that at first looks like a clash between the sexes, but ultimately reveals itself as a bid for control over society.
Consider: A man's self-esteem and confidence are so closely tied in with his sexual identity that controlling a man's sexuality often means controlling the man himself. For example, when a man has a deeply satisfying sexual experience, his overall confidence increases and his own connection to the divine in himself is strengthened. But as shame and guilt enter into the process, supplanting that connection with the male divine, the result is a man who can no longer connect to god within himself. Therefore he must rely on another to make that connection for him. Enter some of the earliest forms of the patriarchal priesthood. Sadly it has become plain in our world today that this is still the goal as new laws are passed by patriarchal religious fanatics. They teach hate and fear against any who would attempt to live and love freely in our societies. In response, violence grows against anyone seeking to express any form of alternative sexuality.
This is the soul wound that leads to 'rape culture’ and the degradation of women at every level. And because it separates, even by its own account: man from woman, man from the earth and its fertility, and man from god and his own divine nature, it disrupts the natural cycle that feeds the fertility of the Earth and encourages man to use up the resources around him faster than they can be regenerated.
However, if we look to the old ways we begin to see that there is already a vehicle for beginning to heal this ancient soul wound. Women who chose to follow the path of the virgin priestess were the sexual alchemists of their time. Consecrated to the goddess, they would act to transform the energy of the divine masculine into a fertility and creativity that benefited all. Sending it out into the living land, the virgin priestess was the vehicle through which the divine masculine could remain in balance with the goddess and all creation.
But what does that mean for us today? Is the role of the vrgin still relevant or even possible to follow? This beautiful passage gives us a glimpse into possibilities that we can all embrace:
The true tradition of the virgin was she who could enter each experience as if new, untouched by previous experience. What that means is: no baggage, no pain tapes, no comparisons of past lovers, no judgments of performance, no guilt, blame, shame in the experience, so she was fully free and present to be with this wounded male to provide healing, so the goddess could birth the god.
The role of the virgin priestess has the potential to address that soul wound and to reintroduce the man to the god within. This passage gives a perfect description of the attributes that a priestess would need to embody in order to facilitate reconnection of the man with the male divine. Once that modern soul wound is healed the entire life cycle begins to heal.
Those of us who choose male partners have the potential to become modern-day alchemists that transform the pain of these collective soul wounds every time we make love to our partners. But this is not restricted to those dedicated as priestesses. Anyone who wishes can be a modern-day virgin, bringing the qualities described above to every encounter with their lovers. In this way, the magic and healing that occurs within sacred sexual love making belongs to us all.