Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Samhain!

The veil between the worlds is thin today. I'm wishing you a wonderful, heart-spirited Samhain!

Eva :-)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

All you need is Aphrodite

Some months ago, Laurelei Dabrielle--High Priestess of Dragon's Eye Coven--sent me an invitation to review her book, In Her Service: Reflections from a Priestess of Aphrodite (Magic Woods Publishing, 2007). I was in the middle of one of the busiest times in both my personal and professional life. It was sent in the form of an e-book, which usually makes me leery--quality being a gamble there. I took a look at the stack of pages emerging from my printer, took a quick flip through ("Chapter 1: Priestess or Prostitute?") and thought, "Right...I'll get around to this someday..."

Someday--coincidentally?--turned out to be July 22, which is the Great Lady Mary Magdalene's day and, as I learned from Dabrielle's text, deep into Hekatombaion, the first month of the Athenian calendar, during which fell the bathing feast known as Aphrodisia. I also discovered that there was much to admire and enjoy in Dabrielle's well-written account of this little-publicized aspect of pagan practice.

Raised a Baptist in the Midwest, Dabrielle began to explore neopagan paths through the Internet and some covens and eventually felt most called to service of the One she calls "the violet-crowned Kyprian" and many other expressive honorifics. She interprets and honors Aphrodite in a way that makes sense to her, and she's not out to convert anyone to her particular approach. She is, by her own admission, a "hodge-podge," and I can certainly identify with her eclecticism and avoidance of dogma. She does not take herself too seriously, and her voice, throughout the book, is conversational even when authoritative.

If you have never considered Aphrodite (a.k.a. Venus) a serious goddess, then read this book, and the scales will fall from your eyes. I remember once hearing someone opine that the reason so many ancient statues of Aphrodite are armless is because they were deliberately ordered de-armed by the testosterone-fueled, but highly threatened, powers that be. I can't say if that's historically accurate, but Dabrielle underscores the formidable power of Aphrodite as more than a beneficent, even lightweight and easily-trivialized, goddess of romance and sensuality. The Lady should be understood as a Great Goddess archetype--Mother Creator, Majestic Harlot and Fierce Avenger. In Her Service relates the interwoven myths that show Aphrodite in all of these powerful roles.

Okay, so what about the nervous-making "prostitution" angle? Dabrielle includes an extensive discussion of the historical practice of "temple prostitution" or "sacred sex" and its problem for modern sensibilities and United States law but argues that "sex is only one aspect of Her service" and, indeed, an aspect that can be omitted if does not suit you. Priestesses did then and do now invoke, contact and often embody the Goddess, enabling supplicants to benefit from Her energy, whether it be through simple, compassionate acts of warmth and kindness or through actual ritual copulation as in the neopagan Great Rite (physically uniting the embodied Goddess and God). While Dabrielle notes the many ways in which Aphrodite worship may be expressed, she has her personal limits and counsels readers to decide what's best for them and respect their own boundaries, too.

"At its essence," she writes, "the force at work is that of Love," and goes on to speak about the priestess (and Goddess) as healer in a way that reminds me of the wonderful role Ann Margaret played in the movie Grumpy Old Men! Really! Rent that very funny movie, and you'll see what I mean!

Besides the personal and historical material, Dabrielle offers examples of ritual procedure, a mytho-history of the Venusian idea, some lovely description of the Three Graces (considered by some to be daughters of Aphrodite and ideal models for us) and the Oreads, mountain nymphs (who gift Aphrodite with unpolished gems and wildflowers, appealing to Her wilder side). She previews a book she's working on which should please potential lesbian and bisexual fans of The Goddess who might otherwise wonder what all of this has to do with them.

Dabrielle also lists and translates numerous names for Aphrodite, breathtaking in their diversity. Some of them are:
  • Eurynome: Creatress who rose from Chaos and danced all creation into being
  • Moira: Fate
  • Ambologera: Postponer of Old Age
  • Chrysheie: Radiant Like Gold
  • Euploios: Fair Voyage
  • Praxis: Action
  • Epitymbria: She of The Tombs
  • Callipygos: Beautiful Buttocks
and the inevitable
  • Porne: Goddess of Lust and Patroness of Prostitutes
The message of Aphrodite meditations and rituals seem always to be thus: Find beauty within oneself and love it fiercely. I certainly can't argue with that!

Find In Her Service on

(c)2008, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Below, in the precious dark

I recommend The Prosodic Body: Building A Perineum, the new project that Daria Fain (choreographer) has been presenting with Robert Kocik (poet/architect) in association with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's Swing Space program.

Yesterday--after getting an orientation to the project--I spent an hour in Fain and Kocik's Anechoic Darkroom, a comfortable, tiny womb they've created below ground in a bank vault in a Wall Street skyscraper. Imagine that!

Sealed off from light and stretched out on a bench with two pillows beneath my head, I opened my eyes to the velvety darkness and mentally chanted Hindu mantras to calm my racing brain and to fully open to the experience. I heard the subway rumbling nearby and had a profound and abiding sense of the verticality of the building. Although I maintained awareness of my body--especially the beating of my heart--all sense of my body's boundaries vanished. At once, I felt aligned with the building and its nervous system and protected and nurtured by the dark. I remembered that some years ago I had experimented with using psychic practices in pitch darkness and found that very powerful.

Fain imposes no directions about what to do in this chamber. Each visitor is on his or her own, and everyone's experience will be unique. Once my brain settled down, I merely enjoyed relaxing into the dark, sensing the faint odor of its wall's wool padding, and connecting to the reality of the building. On two occasions, clairvoyant and clairsentient information came to me, and I experienced a sensation of my legs and feet being stretched from within, followed by the immediate relief of one foot's chronic ache.

I lost conscious sense of time in the darkroom, but I'm used to waking up in the morning on time without an alarm clock. So, no surprise: at a certain point, my body suddenly signaled that it was time to shift around, stretch and sit up. No sooner did I do that than I heard Fain making small noises outside the chamber so that she would not startle me. Soon after, she asked permission to open the door, and she interviewed me about my experiences. We chatted about the creative and healing potential of this chamber and various parallels with ritual practices across cultures.

Sorry to say, this darkroom will be dismantled after tomorrow, Friday, but Fain and Kocik hope to find ways to further develop their work with it and with other aspects of The Prosodic Body.

Click here for complete details about the Anechoic Darkroom. You can also schedule time in the darkroom and receive the full schedule of activities of the Prosodic Body--including a talk this evening at 6:30--by calling 718-450-1356 or emailing All events require reservation.

Goddess on the Hudson

This episode--from an essay that I wrote in 1999 for a radio show--is about sacred imagery and how it moves us, how we perceive and become affected by inner archetypes across cultures--the universal dream of the collective unconscious.

(c)2008, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

This material may not be reproduced in any way, either in part or in its entirety, without the expressed written permission of Eva Yaa Asantewaa.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I'm back!

Yes, I know! It's been quite a while since my last post!

My dance-related work took over my life for a while. But, in 2008, I'm committed to putting more time into all things metaphysical. In fact, I've been experimenting with a podcast for this blog. I've just submitted it to iTunes, and I hope it will be ready for you to download and subscribe to within the next day or so.

hummingwitch podcast is still a work-in-progress. Please bear with me as I get it together and support me as I strive to make it wonderful! Thanks!