I am a woman who abandoned her own children, leaving them with their equally non-nurturing father in Massachusetts when I moved to California in 1972 to take a teaching position at New College of California. I was 29; our sons were seven and nine years old. My Saturn return had arrived, simultaneously ending the first Saturn cycle and initiating the second. At the time, despite my knowledge that this heinous act separated me from my own innate nurturing female nature, in truth, I had been separated from, and antagonistic to, my own bodily instincts, for most of my life.
From that time on, I saw my children only for two months a year, in summers. Our unnatural separation did not even begin to heal until 1987, and has been ongoing ever since.
This then, is the troubled underlying context for the following essay, written a few years later and published in Crone Chronicles, Winter 1991-92.
BTW: My story, and the deep feelings of both fury and pain that it evokes, echoes the stories of millions of other women who, ever since the emergence of patriarchy, and its domination of female energy and Mother Earth, have attempted, and failed, to hold our own primal natures in check. Very few of us have actually abandoned our own children; were that the case, the chaos that threatens to disintegrate whatever is left of our warmongering civilization would have destroyed Mother Earth long ago. How other mothers manage to hold onto and continuously express their most essential nurturing qualities, despite cultural devaluation, has long been of intense fascination to me. Deeply grateful to these millions of women, down through the ages, who have held, and who continue to hold, the space for human and planetary regeneration.
MY MOON, MY MEDUSA
Dream: I am sitting with my friend Tina in a forest, next to exposed tree roots. Suddenly one of the roots moves, and is revealed as a lizard! Tina off-handedly tosses the lizard into a glass of a thick milk-like substance that I have been saving. I am upset that she did this and think with distaste of trying to pluck it out when the level of the liquid goes down to zero. The lizard has sucked it all in, becoming swollen in the process, its body now filling the glass.
I awaken, notice that the swelling and tenderness in my breasts are still there, have been there for months now…. This dream is my first clue to the spiritual situation underlying these physical symptoms. I do not understand the dream. The dream resonates; it creates and opens a new psychic space within. I am glad.
The journey has begun, the long awaited, long feared transit of the planet Pluto opposite my natal Moon at 23° Taurus. I pray that my 17 years in training as an astrologer has prepared me for this ordeal. I pray that my nearly 49 years of experience as a woman in this culture has prepared me to plunge, headfirst, into Persephone’s realm, Erish-kigal’s realm, the dark underground cave of our collective unconscious fears.
The position of the Moon at the time of one’s birth is connected to female energy, the deep female energy of Earth. Each woman — and each man — was born with the Moon at a particular point in the zodiac, in a certain phase relationship with Earth. This point symbolizes one’s link to the Earth, especially as that link is felt through one’s body. One’s body is literally one’s individual portion of Earth energy. The extent to which we consciously experience our own embodied being is the extent to which we are in touch with Earth energy.
This is no small connection. This may be the most difficult connection you and I may ever realize. Indeed, this reinhabitation of our own bodies may be the single most important collective task facing the generations currently living on this planet.
My Moon in the sign of Taurus is said to be “exalted,” because it stabilizes the emotions. Taurus is simultaneously the most earthy Moon possible and yet, because of this, it is also the most dense, stubborn, resistant to change.
While the Sun in our birthcharts symbolizes our more expressive, conscious aspect, and is thought of as male, or “yang,” the Moon is the more receptive, subconscious aspect; it is “yin.” Like the positions of all the planets in one’s birthchart, the point in the zodiac occupied by the Moon at birth is sensitized for life. Any planet crossing — “transiting” — through this point or in certain angular relationships to this point (90°, called a “square” and 180°, “opposition”) will activate the energies of the Moon.
Planets are continuously crossing and recrossing the Moon’s original position in the birthchart, their frequency relative to differing cycle lengths. The cycles of most planets are short enough to be experienced over and over again in one life. With time, we become comfortable with their effects; their transits no longer disturb us. The transit Moon, for example, crosses over the original Moon’s position for the first time only one month after birth, and each month after that throughout life. This is why astrologers link the Moon to one’s earliest experiences, subconscious memories of childhood, and our most deeply rooted emotional habits.
The planet Pluto, however, has a cycle of 248 years, much longer than a lifetime. This means that transiting Pluto only moves through a portion of the zodiac in one’s entire life. It also means that whatever Pluto does, it does only once; it does so thoroughly, crisscrossing back and forth over a single point for a duration of about three years. The longer it takes for a planet to cross over a planet, the more it penetrates into that point, forcing us down through the buried layers of habit. Thus, the times when Pluto works on a very personal point like the Moon are bound to be profoundly unsettling. What can be more personal than one’s own body — especially memories which, though we do not remember, have left their traces in structural distortions — of muscles and tendons, of nervous, digestive and reproductive systems.
Once we do re-member them, previously unremembered memories are largely associated with pain. The original experiences, which they signify, were emotionally or physically painful; that is why we do not remember them. Instead, we pushed them down into the unconscious, where they became locked into structural distortions of our bodies. When, during a transit of Pluto over the Moon, our bodies begin to unlock, they release enormous amounts of energy. This energy is experienced, especially in initial stages of the process, as pain.
For the first time in my life my lower back has seized up. Constant aching and stiffness. The pain responds to heat, and visits to the chiropractor are helping. As is Trager bodywork. But the pain goes on and on.
Two dreams in one night. The first: I am carefully breaking wine glasses in half, at the stem. Carefully washing them out, making sure there is no obstruction in the channel of each stem. Then carefully gluing them back together again. I am at a loss as to what this dream means. My lover Jeffrey is not. “Your femininity needs to be taken apart, cleaned, put back together again….” Aha! The back as the stem of the wineglass….
The second: I am shitting enormous masses of shit, of many different consistencies and shades of brown. The shit is all going into the stainless steel kitchen sink of my childhood. I am trying desperately to either put the shit in the dishwasher or flush it down the garbage disposal. It builds up faster than I can get rid of it. Here and there amidst the shit, colorful little toy soldiers . . .
Until I was 40 years old, I spent my life trying to be a man in a man’s world. Drawing on my Sagittarian Sun and Ascendant. Covering up the Taurus Moon. Now, nine years later, throughout which I have been over backwards to accept Moon, to embrace and honor her, I am still shitting toy soldiers?
The Moon, since it represents one’s body and the past, refers to everything stored inside, one’s security basis, the structure of one’s needs around which certain habits are built. Habits are, by their very nature, resistant to change. Pluto forces change. Pluto fires change at a cellular level, the level at which we don’t want to go. It is too frightening; it disturbs us at the root, threatening our survival. Pluto’s issues are bottom-line. Can we live through what is happening?
One night, while making love, my body opens suddenly into orgasm. It is as if the perineal cavity shifts suddenly into a large “O.” As if I am giving birth, the cervix suddenly dilating to capacity. Very different from my usual orgasm, which feels like a shower of light, and which I may or may not reach after pushing through a long tunnel.
The next day, as the chiropractor was penetrating deeply in the muscles of my lower back and buttocks, I notice my mouth opening wide, into that same “O.” The deeper she manipulates, the more the pain, the wider my mouth opens. “Good,” she says, noticing this, “that means your body is willing to release. Most people tighten their jaw and grit their teeth when I work down there.”
Pluto in Scorpio symbolizes first chakra (survival) and second chakra (sex, creativity) energies. It opposes my Moon, in Taurus, symbolizing the throat, the neck. The openings at both ends of my bodily being are expanding, releasing at once . . .
Astrology can be utilized for research into one’s personal history — and beyond. To use astrology in this way is to both explore and amplify the particular process one is undergoing. In my case, “Transit Pluto opposite Moon,” I began to explore it astrologically by looking up the last time Pluto worked on my Moon, when it was “square” or 90° away. This was a long time ago, when I was between eight and ten years old.
I wanted a horse so badly that after a year of begging, my father finally gave in, said I could get a horse if I did the dishes for one full year. (That was a lot of dishes, as I was the first of many children.) I agreed, drew a calendar with 365 days, did the dishes daily, crossed the days off one by one. At the end of that year I had my horse. Goldie saved my life. I had been a scared little girl, obedient. Now, bareback astride, hair streaming, I galloped her headlong into the dawn. My horse and I were one. She was my freedom, my power, my wilderness.
I wonder now, where is my horse?
One begins anywhere, and follows the thread of intuition wherever it may lead. Certain directions beckon, seem illumined by an inner glow; or we are pushed in one direction — sometimes quite roughly! — from within; other times seemingly quite unrelated events will give us the next step. In my case, I happened to be at a weekend workshop on the fixed stars, and the lore connected with them.
I discover that my Moon is near 26° Taurus of the fixed star Algol, otherwise known as “The Medusa’s Head.” “What does that mean?” I ask the teacher. “Were you born in New York City?” he laughs. “Algol sits over New York City.” Then he grows more serious. “It has to do with overcoming fear.” He tells the story of Medusa and how her stare turned people to stone. How Perseus killed her by looking into a mirror so that he didn’t have to see her directly.
A part of me is shocked and upset by my lunar connection to Medusa. Another part of me feels a resonance with her, a sympathy. I want to know more about her. I sense her connection to the goddess in that she has serpents for hair. I want to know the rest of the story. One question haunts me: why is Medusa so angry?
I look up Algol in the book Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, by Richard Hinckley Allen. Algol is also called “The Demon,” “The Blinking Demon,” “The Spectre’s Head,” “Satan’s Head,” and “Lilith.” The Chinese gave it the fearsome title “Piled-Up Corpses.” “Astrologers said that it was the most unfortunate, violent, and dangerous star in the heavens.”
Whew! No wonder I am upset! And yet, what could she have been that she should have been seen as the most malevolent star in the entire heavens? What is going on? According to Greek myth, the goddess Athena sent Perseus to kill Medusa, because she had been making love with Poseidon. Yes, typical patriarchal myth: women killing each other because of jealousy over men!
And yet, visiting Greece last year, I remember seeing a statue of Athena with Medusa’s head embossed on her shield. Why? What is Athena’s real connection with Medusa?
The blood of the slain Medusa’s head was said to be so poisonous, one drop of it could kill. Yet I also learn that the Greek healing god Asclepius was given some of the blood from the slain Medusa’s head. With one drop he could bring someone back to life.
So the Greeks both hated her and made use of her power . . . Then, there it was, traces of the original story, discovered in Barbara Walker’s Women’s Myths and Secrets . . . After reiterating the Greek myth, Walker continues: “Actually, Medusa was the serpent-goddess of the Libyan Amazons…” Amazons. Horse-riding! No wonder I was so determined as a child, no wonder I felt truly alive on my horse!
Medusa represents “female wisdom” (Sanskrit medha, Greek metis, Egyptian metor Maat). “She was the destroyer aspect of the Triple Goddess.” Medusa is the Crone!
She was “called Neith in Egypt, Ath-enna or Athene in North Africa.” Athena descended from Medusa! Patriarchal myth separated Athena from her ancient female wisdom, her truly primal power, “the mother of all the gods,” representing “all that has been, that is, and that will be.” They left Athena only her administrative and executive and military skills — her “little toy soldier skills — and called that the “wisdom” of Zeus, from whose head she was born. Athena, not of woman born. Athena, a man’s woman, woman who had Medusa’s head.
You can imagine the energy released in me as I discovered the real Medusa, reversing the stigma of malevolence she carries with her through the star names. Even star lore stems from patriarchal times.
A final clue, that brings this journey up to the present. I was reading in the astrological journal Welcome to Planet Earth, Scorpio 1991 issue, an article by Mark Lerner about the largest asteroid, Ceres. Ceres, or Demeter, the Earth Mother Goddess, was discovered when its position was at 23° Taurus in the zodiac. Exactly the same degree as my Moon, as Medusa. It’s as if, in the discovery of the asteroid Ceres, humankind was being asked to look behind her in the larger heavens and pick up on the energy of this far-off star Algol again, to see her in a new way, to recognize in her not malevolent power, but the power of all creation.
Through our Moons we link back to memories of early childhood — and beyond. Through our Moons, we become one with the energy of our Mother Earth — and her memories of thousands of years of domination by warring male energy. Through our Moons we identify with Earth as a heavenly body, attuned to the energies of the greater heavens, and the herstory imprinted there, eons ago.
As women, who bear within us the wise-woman Medusa blood, we are called upon to honor and embrace and support Earth as her Body convulses with the pain of remembrance. Only as She is free will we become free.