I’d like to share my recent talk in honour of Women’s Day this year, 2017, with those who would like to have attended but couldn’t.
Organised and hosted by Alternatives, St. James’s Piccadilly on 13th March 2017, I joined three, inspiring women speakers for their Short Talks, Big Message, which was an International Women’s Day themed evening.
At first I declined the kind invitation to speak as I usually reserve my communications for songs and their introductions but upon reflection I thought…. “Well what would you say?”
I sat on my bed and for the next twelve days and nights what follows is what flowed from me.
‘Good evening ladies and gentlemen, fellow wayfarers.
It’s such a great honour for me to be here tonight to share some of my journey with you.
When I invited a friend of mine to this event last week, he asked me if he’d have to wear a skirt. Emm, I thought later, when I started my first job aged 16, ………they told me I had to!
I’d like to play Warrior Woman for you tonight which I wrote back in 1989.and dedicate it to the two women in my life who inspired it….my sister Leonora and my sister in spirit, Samantha, both of whom I’m delighted to say are here tonight, but of course, it’s also for you, for all my sisters and brothers.’
After singing Warrior Woman and reciting my poem Woman:
‘Hello again…My chosen subject tonight is:
Strategies for overcoming the war between the sexes.
What war? a couple of men said to me this week.
I wrote Warrior Woman and the poem Woman in my 30’s whilst living in almost solitary confinement with a beautiful chocolate point Persian cat called Mastermind. I’ve always had close relationships with cats. Not because I’m a witch, (though I may be) but because I needed companionship and had almost given up on men. So I was a warrior alright….of loneliness and in the end sadly of childlessness. Many women of my generation, waiting for the post 60’s paradigm shift in intimate relationships, waited so long we missed out on children. We were holding out for something different. We were women of the new age…the Age of Aquarius, when we hoped to see the end of all war by healing all our wounds and conflicts, with love.
Some of my friends became single mothers, one way or another; they wanted children but also wished to retain their newly found sense of self and not get lost in what they were beginning to see as compromising entrapments, where domination and financial dependency were often in the mix. Rape within marriage became a criminal offence in the U.K. only in 1991. A freely chosen marriage of equals has never been tried said one renowned, brave, American Bishop, on British television in the 90’s.
I believe that the so called war between the sexes is really a creation of the ego and the false self…reflecting an internal battle and a war with love itself. I think the state of the world reflects us. Whilst the masculine and feminine live separate lives within us, they will continue to do so on the outside. And we’ll continue to create a veritable battle of wills, born of a mixture of desire and fear. We seek attention and approval, especially from the opposite sex and if we are spurned or rejected either in childhood, or indeed as adults, this can lead to chronic anger and despair. If we look to another to fill our deficits we become dependent and disempowered. We must find and marry our true selves first and connect with our own souls, our anima and animus in Jungian alchemical terms, before we can truly connect with another The war won’t end until we do,….. because we don’t really want it to. What would we do with all of our self-hatred if it was not projected occasionally or indeed often on to our loved ones, and others? When we need nothing from the other but just want to be with them, we’ll know that we’re home and dry. It would be wonderful to replace our begging bowls with the sacred offering of our true unified selves. … but this requires a death…..the death of the false self.
In the meantime there is much work to be done. It’s in humanity’s interests to empower all women, but also to really empower all men, so none are compelled to misuse their physical strength to act out their rage, internal impotency or lack of self-esteem on others. We need to encourage tenderness in men who may have been taught that it is a weakness, so that they never have to use women as a ‘tenderness fix,’ or indeed as a counterpoint to their own brutality or numbness. And when, as a woman, I’m angry or wounded, I too must find a way to return to compassion, rather than lashing out.
And mothers need our support, for they are the very container of life, and the initial nurturer that shapes the psyches of both sexes at its foundation. We need tender and compassionate mothers who have not been traumatised. With our ‘binary egoic operating system’, that the Rev.Dr.Cynthia Bourgeault speaks about in her writing, that sees everything double, which we developed in order to live here on earth, we were able to discern and differentiate everything into opposites. This was necessary for survival and also to make sense of our environment but I think it has plunged us into a veritable dungeon of duality in which we live.….I’m right …you’re wrong I’m good…you’re bad. My god’s great yours is the devil. And if you’re a man and I’m a woman, we can’t possibly ever agree.
I heard a joke recently which was:
If a man is alone in a forest and there’s no woman listening and he speaks, is he still wrong?
They say that the mind that creates a problem can’t solve it, so we’ve got to get out of our minds and into our hearts where love and inner knowing resides. For we came to think that the opposite of a man is a woman, but isn’t it more about 60/40 each way? In wisdom and unity consciousness both sexes are made up of masculine and feminine energies on every level of their being; body, mind/soul and spirit. So there’ll always be men and women but as Jesus said in the Gospel of Thomas: “When your eye is single there shall be neither male nor female.” For the spiritual eye discerns the oneness of all being.So we’re men and women, I believe, in order to be known….and I imagine that’s the case in every dimension.
Deep inside my mother was a longing to be known. Deep inside my father was a world of his very own; both parts of the un-manifest first cause; the yin and yang.
So with men and women there’s just enough difference to create mystery and attraction and the incentive to continue our life on earth and to learn through trial and error, and suffering, the essential necessity of balance.
Brought up in the Christian tradition and later becoming a follower of Jesus myself, I’ve suffered through the years of feeling a bit under-represented by the all-male Trinity. I’d like to see ‘Parity in the Godhead’. When Jesus referred to God as Father he had a pure heart. I feel he knew that the Father also contained the Mother. But it’s too open to abuse in the institutional arena; where sacred, living and beautiful insight has a tendency to become twisted into a rope of dogma that hangs half of us out to dry. It is rather tempting though isn’t it, to want the Almighty, Omniscient invisible creator to be male…… if you are?
“You’re just a girl, you can’t fix things”, I was told throughout my childhood. I wanted to help decorate my bedroom and my dad said “No you’re just a little girl now go out and play”….so I did ….for about the next twenty five years.
By the way whatever your beliefs, Judeo/Christian mythology has saturated our culture, so I believe it’s imperative to really examine these myths.
By the year 200 AD most of the writings that spoke of the sacred feminine had been rounded up and destroyed, but luckily someone went to the trouble of hiding some of them in caves, in large earthenware jars ..it all sounds so feminine, and thankfully some were found in the mid 1940’s. I’ll get to one of these texts n a minute.The main women in the New Testament, though not part of the Godhead, are the two Mary’s.
Jesus’s Mother Mary is constantly being called a virgin. In wisdom teaching, virgin means the pure of heart….one cleansed by the Holy Spirit ready to birth Christ or Christ- consciousness. Whether or not God would, or could make a woman pregnant without a man’s involvement, isn’t the issue. The point here is that Virginity was then promoted for all women and associated with goodness, purity and the sacred. Losing one’s virginity became such a compound loss. Marriage of course, was supposed to mitigate this sense of loss.
From the book Womanspirit Rising,( edited by Carol P. Christ & Judith Plaskow, 1992 edition), Professor Elaine Pagels, the American religious historian, refers to one of the newly found hidden writings; the Gospel of Philip and says that it makes a radical suggestion concerning the doctrine of the virgin birth. Here the Spirit is praised as both Mother and Virgin the counterpart and consort of the Heavenly Father: It says “ If I may utter a mystery the Father of the All, united with the Virgin who came down” that is united with the Holy Spirit. Yet because this process is to be understood symbolically and not literally, the Spirit always remains a virgin! The author explains that “for this reason, Christ was born of a virgin," – that is, of the Spirit, His divine Mother.”
The other Mary in Jesus’ life was Mary Magdalene. For centuries she became known as the penitent prostitute that helped to create the Virgin/Whore complex that has created so much suffering for both sexes through the years. Men were encouraged to marry virgins and use the ‘other type of woman’, merely for sexual gratification. Paradoxically it became sex in marriage that then seemed sinful and after their virgin bride became a mother, sex with her, for some men, conscious of this or not, felt almost like incest. They were family now and you don’t have sex with a mother. Then sex outside of marriage for some, felt more normal; strangely less sinful….less desecrating.
But returning to Mary Magdalene and the prostitute; this was actually a case of mistaken identity. It was Pope Gregory, ……the Great, in a sixth century sermon who first decided that the so called sinner who wiped Jesus’ feet with her tears was Mary Magdalene. Scholars have now debunked this myth. Mary was actually a wise and devoted disciple of Jesus, the first witness to the resurrection and the proclaimer of the ‘good news’ to the other disciples.
Then from the Old Testament, literal interpretation, blames Eve for being duped by the talking snake to eat of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and then offering it to Adam, her husband. It was not long before Eve became synonymous with the snake, and then with all women, joint temptresses with Satan, leading poor men to their suffering, sin and even possibly eternal damnation. “It’s all her fault, she made me do it” Lovely. I think the talking snake is a big hint that this is an allegory laced with deep meaning, and as for “Eternal damnation”, if that’s not a doctrine of demons nothing is. Just before his ascension Jesus said “I go to draw all people to me”. Which part of all have we not understood? Though of course we reap what we sow and we suffer the consequences of all our unkind thoughts and actions.
We have all paid a very high price for literal interpretations of allegories instead of digging deeper for the gold…..
There are two creation accounts in Genesis .that appear to be contradictory but perhaps are not. The second one says that we were formed from the dust…of matter but the first one intimates that we are actually spiritual beings first, created in a spiritual paradise before being seduced into temporary incarnations here, clothed in animal skins, in order to grow wiser, more loving, from experience in a material world… “Until we go out no more” as it says in Revelations And that includes animals and reptiles and all living things, who come up through the chain of earthly beings. In Jeremiah 1 verse 5 God said:“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”. Chapter 5 verse one and two in the King James Bible states: In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; male and female created he them; and blessed them and called their name Adam. (Adam is now mankind in some Bible translations ) So if male and female are called Adam, who or what is Eve? It’s been said that Eve is the mind/soul of man and we know that some kind of thought always precedes action. So Eve feeds Adam; the mind engenders the act.
The name Eve, is from the Hebrew name “Chava” or Chawwah derived from the Hebrew word Chawah “to breathe” or the related word Chayah “to live” It can be interpreted as meaning “life container” or “life-giver” and in my understanding refers to the soul which is the means by which the spirit is able to enter mortal life. The really interesting thing about the Genesis account though is that after God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam; mankind…we are never told that He ever woke us up. Are we all still sleeping here, relative to the spirit world? No wonder Jesus came to wake us up.
Still the war between the sexes is raging. And I believe forgiveness is key to ending the conflict ….forgiving ourselves and each other. And there’s a lot to forgive, for the sins of our ancestors have cast a very long shadow.
I believe that the fear and hatred of women, reached its zenith in the frenzy of the Inquisition and the murder of many European women and some men, over a 300 year period. Some say it was millions, some, just a few hundred thousand. I’d say that just one person being tortured, burnt alive, or hung was an atrocity too many The last burning of a so called witch in the UK was in 1727. It’s been reported that the poor woman was actually suffering from dementia. She’d been accused of witchcraft because her daughter had deformed hands. Mid-wives delivering deformed babies before this time, were often accused of causing these deformities by super-natural means and denounced to the inquisitors. Does our inhuman cruelty know no bounds, when it is fuelled by the trident of superstition, ignorance and fear?
And some others accused of black magic were herbalists and early fore runners of hypnotherapy, healing with ritual, potions and spells and sometimes failing to heal. Jesus himself used mud and spit to heal a blind man Were not many of these rituals attempts to free the psyche before modern psychology had its birth?
Apparently young men during this time were often told by parents or clergy that if they masturbated they’d go to hell. To mitigate their guilt, if they were caught, or confessing, they’d say it was the witches that cast a spell on me.in the night when they were out riding on their broomsticks. Interesting imagery, and fearing a God who might throw them into the fire …they may have thought they’d. .better get in first.
It’s very interesting that the drug centred medical profession appeared so shortly after annihilating so many women healers What a shame so much feminine wisdom was so cruelly destroyed For doesn’t Genesis tell us that the herbs of the field shall be for our healing. Modern medicine emanated from the practices of alchemy and it was Einstein who said that in any advanced technology there’s always an element of magic.
We’re here tonight in honour of International Women’s Day last week,and on November 19th this year it will be International Men’s Day again. How many of you knew that? No one I asked did. Perhaps most men feel they don’t really need a day. After all celebrating just one day out of 365 might feel so self-limiting. But the day began in Trinidad and Tobago in 1998.,partly to improve relations between the sexes and to promote equality. And it spread to many other countries. Excellent.
But is it all working? Perhaps slowly it is, but I wonder if we couldn’t speed things up a bit.
The theme for women’s day this year is to be Bold for Change. I’d like to be bold about something I’d like changed…….. I’d like parity of title. It often ruffles my inner peace, whenever I’m asked, who exactly are you in relation to men? …..are you a Miss, Mrs, or a Ms. Emm I reply quite often if I have the time, strange that we don’t have that equivalent for men, like are you Master, Mr or something else unpronounceable? If women are indeed still second class citizens within patriarchy, it’s quite funny really that men spend so much time with us at all, let alone ever marry us. It must feel like such a punishment having to live with us…….and perhaps it is!
But can we be equals and can love exist without need and fear?
And what is love? I believe it’s the unconditional love that we all long for? The self-emptying love that values the beloved’s well-being above one’s own. Not because one doesn’t love oneself but because one does. I heard a new song recently by the great Willie Nelson singing “A woman’s love goes deeper than a man’s” It’s a lovely song but is it true? Or have men been programed so well as children not to cry or show their feelings that the full expression of their love has hardly been given a chance.
So as women to men I think we need to talk…we may have given you unclear messages through the ages partly because of our enforced dependency that gagged us. Women were not allowed to own property before 1870 in the UK because rather like children, they were property. And formal higher education was also barred. So how can we speed things up for real and lasting change? Well I’ve got a suggestion something I’d like to propose, it’s a new day…… or two: I hope we’re not running out of days.. How about taking one bold step away, from separatist thinking?
What about a Women’s Men’s Day and then a Men’s Women’s Day.
On the Women’s Men’s Day we could spend time expressing to men our gratitude for their existence and tell them what we love and appreciate about them. And then we could ask them what areas they feel they need to work on. Then we could tell them what areas we would like them to work on.
And then on the Men’s Women’s Day they can tell us and ask us the same. This way we can really get engaged…..before we get married. I’d like to thank men from the past for building some cities and breath taking cathedrals and architecture that quite frankly as a woman I’d never have done. I’m uncertain they would exist if it were not for men. Not because women are not capable but because most of us have other interests.
I’d say thank you to my partner for his profound and relentless chivalry both to me, and to everyone. Personally I mourn the loss of chivalry. It seems the struggle for equality has eroded it, because some women, I’ m sure for very good reason, have taken it as patronising and inferring their weakness or dependency and men are now understandably diffident. Could we talk about this please? Because I’ve heard it say that today if a man opens a car door for a woman, it’s because either the car or the woman is new.
And then there’s the things we’d like to see you work on Things that perhaps we all need to work on; the profound dichotomies of life; the skilful need for precision, restraint and balance in all our endeavours. To have ambition, tempered by consideration for others and to not grow rich at all costs, when it will cause another’s poverty and misery, …or plunge whole nations into the same.
Last week I asked a few women their thoughts on men …Here’s some of what they said:
As women we want you strong but we don’t want robots.
We want provision but without all the cruelty to animals and the desecration of nature.
We want protection but not war.
We want children but don’t want “Mother” to be our only role…..
I can still picture my own Nemesis tied to the kitchen sink watching bits of her soul trickle down the plughole with the tea leaves, unable to live out her dreams to be a professional singer.
We like to be transported but we also like to breathe.
Some of us want to work, some of us have to work, and when we do the same job as you we want to be paid the same wage.
We want some medicine but we don’t want you blocking alternative treatments, or giving us drugs you know too little about. Apparently, when the American doctors went on strike for three weeks the death rate fell by 70% What God has joined together let no man cast asunder and this applies to chemicals as well as the Godhead. First do no harm.
We want vaccinations but we don’t want them forced upon us.
We address these things to you because most institutions are still male dominated.
We love you to fix things but perhaps we should learn to fix more things ourselves. Helen Mirren once said in an interview: “Every woman should own her own drill.” Relying on you to fix things may have given you the impression that we wanted you to fix everything but sometimes we just want you to listen.
I think we should also be aware, that many of the jobs that have traditionally fallen mostly to men, like working in slaughter houses, can shut down finer feelings and result in aggression. A 2010 study by a Canadian criminologist found violent crimes including rape, increase in towns, once an abattoir moves in. Interestingly, there are almost no women slaughterers in the UK, whilst in America they now make up almost half of that workforce. It’s often reported lately, that displays of violence from women are on the increase, and though I am sure there are myriad reasons for this,it would be good to talk and find out why. Talking to each other will take effort but the Internet has made this dialogue between us a real global possibility. It’s taken us years to get into bad habits and locked into believing that things can never change. But we must take heart and garner courage and enthusiasm for the task.
We’ll need to relinquish any compulsion to blame and we’ll need to integrate our shadow selves; our wounded, forsaken, inner children and bring them home to our hearts, so they won’t sabotage any progress we might make because they know no other way to get our attention. Writing to them and letting them answer with our non-dominant hand is a great way to get in touch. It took time and effort but it worked for me.
We need to meditate, do body and breath work, dance, scream, sing and let our energies flow so we can start firing on all cylinders and stop trying to fill the emptiness and brokenness from the outside.
I want us to be able to cry and let go and not see it as a weakness but as an incredible strength. For our tears of sorrow and remorse will form a river to freedom, leading us on to the ocean of forgiveness and joy. Let’s do it for ourselves but also for each other, and remember that for every tear we’re able to release we will lessen the stifled cries of our children, now and in the future.
“Let it be known that I have loved you
Let it be known that I have cared
Let it be known that a time is coming that was long ago prepared.
Let it be known that I have loved you with a passion deep and wide and that I’ve travelled such a great distance to bring good news from the other side.
Let it be known that a time is coming when men and women we will arise
And with the strength of our compassion dispel the fear in our children’s eyes.”
After centuries of often shameful history I think we all know by now what love is not.
Let not the suffering of our ancestors nor indeed our own, be in vain.
I certainly don’t have all the answers but WE do.
Let’s talk, let’s really listen. Let us now unite in healing.
This talk followed on from being asked to sing at the Leonard Cohen musical tribute evening at Alternatives with the inspirational Julie Felix, on February 6th I sang a song I wrote for Leonard back in 1982, entitled Come To Me Darling which concludes my first album, after the following introduction:
‘I imagine that most of us here tonight are here because we love Leonard Cohen as well as the wonderful Julie Felix of course. “We are the witches back from the dead”. I have certainly loved Leonard most of my life since first hearing him on a friend’s car radio when I was 14, not long after my dad died.
Leonard’s was a voice that penetrated my soul and cried out to the broken hearted: “You are not alone…I too have felt your pain.” This was irresistible to me and to many. I was fortunate to have a close friendship with Leonard that spanned two decades and in 1982 whilst on the beautiful island of Maui, in Hawaii, I decided to write a song for him….aspiring to make it the most beautiful song I could write; a song about unconditional love….the love we long for; from our mothers, our fathers, our lovers and friends. A kenotic, self-emptying love which seems only really possible to uphold from the divine realm…..unless you’re a dog. I’m sure that’s why dog is god spelt backwards.
I was in Los Angeles in the early 90’s playing a few gigs and launching my first album there that contained this song I’d written for Leonard called Come to me Darling. I really wanted him to hear it….I’d waited a long time to play it to him. But one day whilst having lunch with him at his home, I told him I’d like to play him a track from my new album and he said: “No, don’t do it, it might put me right off you if it’s not very good”.
Fortunately I’d just been to an isolation tank with a friend and the sense of suffocation that can ensue in one, was ameliorated by my suddenly feeling a trickle of bubbling oxygen in the water to my left, relieving me of the feeling of imminent death. And so now in Leonard’s kitchen with a similar feeling I was fortuitously sitting next to a window he had just opened and taking a deep breath I said: “You’re wrong Leonard, you’re wrong”…..and he said: “Okay put it on”. I sat there quietly confident and was overjoyed with his response.
He told me later that he’d played it one day in the car on his way to the Mount Baldy Centre and then whilst in meditation experienced a vision of the divine feminine whilst thinking of my song.
Precious memories, Leonard.