Women and Power

Yesterday, 8th March, was International Women’s Day.  We all know about it, we’ve all heard of it but what are its origins?  How come there is such a day?  A day that is officially celebrated in countries such as Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Mongolia, Turkey, Uganda, Russia, Vietnam, Zambia and elsewhere.  There are no western European countries on the list  and nor is America on the list , (a list supplied by the internationalwomensday.com web site) which strikes me as rather strange.

At the beginning of the 20th century women around the world who were being  exploited in low paid jobs and who had only limited opportunities marched and/or went on strike to draw attention to the inequality of their time.  In 1917 , in Russia, women campaigning for peace and for an end to the 1st World War marched and went on strike for four days until the government acceded and allowed them the right to vote.  They were joining with women in New Zealand, Australia, Armenia and Latvia who already had this right.

One hundred years ago women HAD to campaign for better working conditions and better pay and it seems that despite one hundred years of legislation, many women still have this battle to face. Apparently, the UK has just announced that self-employed women will no longer be able to access Maternity benefits!!!???  This tends to be the case in the U.S as well – maternity benefit being down to the whim of the employer.   Despite the statement that IWD celebrates the “social, economic, cultural and political achievements” of women,  how does this transfer to ordinary women?  I am concerned that this annual celebration is very narrow in its focus. I am NOT saying, but I AM questioning if the definition of women’s success is based on how well they succeed in a man’s world.  It is absolutely brilliant that women are now CEOs, are involved in politics or are top athletes – no doubt about it.  However, I would ask what about celebrating the ordinary woman who is not high achieving on these terms?

I know it sounds old-fashioned – but what about celebrating women as creators of life?  For simply being a mother?  Yes, we have Mother’s Day, (which is purely commercial) but it does not champion  the bond between a mother and her child.  A majority of women are made to feel like pariahs if they do not go straight back to work; if they do not leave their child with strangers and pretend it is normal; if they feel sad and stressed about this.  Surely in a civilised society we should know the importance of the role of the mother and how beneficial it is to both mother and child to have time together.  Not every woman is ambitious in the work place – many being there for economic reasons only – and I think that to place so much emphasis upon women being in the workplace  rather than upon their caring for their young children is to denigrate this role.

Equality is a fine goal to strive for – I definitely agree that everyone,  – regardless of gender, race, religion, age, ethnicity, – should receive the same treatment, opportunities and courtesies under the Law.  I also believe in Equity which brings a different aspect to women’s rights.  Equity is defined as being fair and just, impartial and free from bias.  Do women really want to be treated exactly like men?  Is it fair that new mothers must return to work?  Is it right that women who work creatively or domestically or who do a type of work that is not seen to have an economic value should be viewed as inferior or as pariahs?

What is women’s role?  Why are we different to men?  Should we celebrate that difference or should we strive to become more like men?  I am not au fait with current feminist thought and philosophy, I am simply musing here; but I believe that the whole notion of Equality means we should all be celebrating our differences and yet enjoy equity for all.  Equality and equity of respect for women has been necessary for a very long time.  Do we know why there has been and is such imbalance in this area?

I (respectively) suggest that a fear of women’s power was inculcated by various religious leaders of all types throughout history.  Women, with their more emotional bodies and their intuition and their ability to bring forth life were seen to be as wild and as unpredictable as Nature  herself  –  Nature that was feared as being powerful and that had to be placated and appeased and controlled.  One way to control women was to denigrate their work.  Spinners for example, according to Max Dachau, were used to working together , chanting over their work; calling on the unseen powers of the Universe as they created cloth and garments.  Their chanting, in the ears of religious men,  (men disconnected from the Earth), became enchanting, thus making those women dangerous and, in later centuries, not just dangerous but witches and devil-worshippers.  Any domestic activity where women came together was suspect;  activities which connected  women to the Earth through their use of herbs and plants  was suspect and eventually led down through the years to the witch hunts and the many burnings of the medieval and renaissance times.  Today we use the word spinster to refer to unmarried women – those who are left on the shelf!

I am all for women being successful in business, politics, sport or wherever, although I would be happier to see more women demanding Equity and also re-connecting to the Divine Feminine.  There have been thousands of years of imbalance and the planet and people have suffered greatly because of an excess of  an imbalanced, out of control patriarchal system that is raping the planet.  It has been and unfortunately still is, a system that believes we have dominion over the natural world rather than we being the husbanders or guardians of this world.  (Interesting word, husband, as it  means to be a manager or steward.  Perhaps the fact that it also means to be married to a woman comes from ancient societies’ notions that the king should be “married” to the land which was always regarded as female.)  We cannot blame only men for this situation.  We women have stood by and let it happen.  We have been brain-washed over centuries by propaganda to believe that being female is “dirty”, “unclean”, inferior, weaker, less important, less valuable, less intelligent, less able.  We have been persuaded that we need more things to make our lives easier.  Perhaps it is no surprise that those countries that do not officially celebrate International Women’s Day are the main protagonists in destroying our environment. And nowadays, we swallow the propaganda that to succeed in a man’s world we must behave like a man.

I believe that IWD could be about encouraging women to reconnect to Mother Earth, to start growing things, to commune with Nature, to plant, plant, plant.  To  remember our role is to promote peace for people and planet, to balance the strength and action of the male with gentleness and creativity rather than accepting destruction and exploitation.  If we can only remember that our bodies are not “unclean” but are the bringers of life.  We must remember that our bodies are not “dirty” but shed blood as part of a feminine cycle that is repeated over and over and over in Nature.  It genuinely saddens me when I meet younger women who think menstruation and childbirth  are horrible, messy, unpleasant experiences they would rather not have to deal with.  This type of mindset must be changed if we want our planet to survive and if we want the pendulum that swings between masculine and feminine energies to be balanced.

Women have power.  This is true despite centuries and millenia of patriarchal propaganda.  Women and men will continue to suffer until women reclaim that power – a power that is of woman and is based on equity of mutual respect and fairness.  We can use our power to say no to exploitation, extraction, destruction and we can say no – we do not need to consume material goods at the ridiculous rates that are currently consumed.  Our power lies in our connection to Mother Earth, to being creatrixes just like her; in our respect for our own bodies and in our intuitive understanding that ALL beings are equal whether it be a man, a woman, a tree, a piece of land or an animal, a bog, lake or the ocean  Equality, Equity and respect for all stems from a woman’s power.  It is time now to reclaim it.

 

 

 

 

 

An Bhean Feasa – The Power of the Elements

We have all heard of the four Elements – Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Generally we give little thought to them, tending to take them for granted, even though they are part of our bodies and part of life itself.  Medieval herbalists were aware of the impact of the elements on herbs and prescribed accordingly. Each herb or plant is governed or ruled by one of the Elements and as each person is a combination of all the Elements, it is necessary to know something about them. Furthermore, to bring healing to a person it was necessary to bring that person back into balance, thus ensuring that Earth, Air, Fire and Water were balanced within the person.

Take water for example.

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We just turn on the tap and there it is – no effort involved at all.  How lucky are we to be able to do that and get clean water so easily?  The average person, depending on climate, environment and personal health can only survive three to five days, (a week at most) without water and yet we never really think about it, unless we are giving out about the rain. Of course water, being an element, is also wild and unrestrained,

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You can just see the white horses or foam on the waves as they are coming in to shore, blown by strong wind.

The Water Element rules our Emotional Body, our feelings, which can be calm and placid or wild and surging.  On the physical level it corresponds to our kidneys, urinary system, lymph system, mucous membranes, sinus, lungs and reproductive system. For example we may suffer with frequent urination or with congested lungs which might indicate we have an excess of the Water Element.  Alternatively, we might have dry sinuses, dry skin or poor lymph flow which might suggest we have too little of the Water Element.  Various plants can be used to reduce or increase the effects of the Element of Water, plants such as Marshmallow, Calendula, Mugwort and Cleavers.

 

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When it comes to the Element of Air, I personally find it difficult to deal with the strong winds we get here, living on the coast in Connemara.  My husband captured this frustration perfectly in this picture.

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This element tires me out and makes working outside difficult. Look what it can do to the little Hawthorn tree; blown sideways – maybe there’s a metaphorical message there!

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Yet the Element of Air supplies us with the air we need to breathe, flooding our cells with oxygen.  Without air we would be dead within a couple of minutes. Perhaps because breathing is carried out by the autonomous nervous system – we don’t have to think to do it – and because we don’t see air, we don’t think about it.

The Element of Air corresponds to mental inspiration and is associated with the Mental Body, our thoughts and ideas and as such can affect the brain, the nervous system and the adrenal glands; and physically the large intestine and the joints.  An excess of the Air Element can cause stress and anxiety, insomnia, asthma, mental illness and a deficiency can lead to adrenal fatigue, weakness, lack of motivation and even depression.  Plants that can help to address an imbalance are Borage, Skullcap, Chamomile and Valerian.

Chamaemelum_nobile_001IMG_1907Chamomile and Borage

 

 Earth is the element which represents security, grounding and nourishment

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We need good nourishment for the building of the Physical or Material Body.  The physical structures of the body and some of the organs.  For example, bones, teeth, spine, connective tissue and liver, spleen, skin and intestines. An excess of the Earth element could lead to diabetes, constipation. calcification, tumours, growths and depression.  Too little could result in leaky gut, lethargy, low blood pressure or fluid loss.  Plants associated with the Earth Element are Nettles, Dandelion, Plantain and Yarrow.

IMG_1762 Nettles and Dandelion IMG_1657

 

 

 

 

And what about Fire?  How can we possibly be made up of fire?  Herbalists such as Matthew Wood and others would argue that fire is the plasma in our bodies.  We are also used to metaphorical statements such as “fire in your belly”, “the fire within” which relate to our resolve or our energy.

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The Element of Fire relates to our Spiritual Body and how we motivate ourselves.  On a physical level it governs our cardio vascular system, the heart and the blood, as well as the eyes, (gateway to the soul?), the immune system and the gall bladder.  An excess of fire could cause a person to be angry, self-centred and perhaps bullying and physically would manifest as fevers, inflammatory issues, high blood pressure, auto-immune disease and rashes.  Too little of the Fire Element and a person could be easily led, weak willed, have low self-esteem and physically have low energy, anaemia, adrenal fatigue, low libido and parasites as well as a feeling of being old and past it.

Any flowering plant can assist with an imbalance with this element.  Imagine how good a beautiful show of flowers can make you feel energised and uplifted.  Some plant specifics could be Hawthorn, Ginger, Garlic, Motherwort and Angelica.

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Hawthorn

Of course, there are many other plants that work to balance each element in the body just as there other manifestations of imbalance.  I find it fascinating to make all the little connections between illness and the elements.

Just out of interest there is also a fifth element – Ether or Aether.  To the ancient Greeks, Ether was the container of the four earthly elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water; a Quintessence. To the Celtic Druids, the fifth element was the spirit or soul of all living things.  It is suggested that the fifth element is the first element because all the others come from Ether and that it is above and beyond the four.  Alchemists have  theorised that the pure refinement of the other elements leads to Quintessence or absolute purity.  The fifth element has also been described as “the possible” and as Love, from which all else comes. It all makes sense to me.

In respect of our health, the Fifth Element is associated with our hearts, our sixth sense and our physical senses and our brain.  An excess could be exemplified by too much day dreaming, being “out of it”, being nervous, disassociated and with a lack of presence.  Perhaps the field or aura has been too open and unprotected and cannot facilitate the ethereal information that is coming through.

Rigid thinking and feeling could be seen as a deficiency of Ether as could a lack of connectedness and a lack of meaning in life.  Fortunately our Green Relations, the plants are there to help.  Sage, Cedar, Sacred Basil, (Tulsi) and entheogens or psycho active plants can help to balance this element within the body and psyche.

There is so much more to this than I can explain.  The Four Elements for example were also considered in relation to the Four Humours and the Four Temperaments when herbalists were treating patients in the past.  Modern day herbalists do not learn these methods today although Chinese medicine does recognise the elements.

In my own personal spirituality, I like to seek the Sacred within the mundane and so I try to remember to acknowledge the elements as I go through my day.  Giving thanks with the candle on the table – with a flame. Appreciating the warmth and heat from the fire in the range.

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Loving the Earth for providing the means to food and for the beauty of all plants.

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I also give thanks for the breath when I do a bit of meditation and bless the water of my shower or bath.

Let me know how you find the elements manifesting in your health or personality or how you acknowledge them.