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The goddess has no face

The goddess has no face

Who is the Goddess of the Beginnings, then, who has genitals but no face?

—Jean Markale, The Great Goddess


One night several years ago, I journeyed down a moonlit inner path to meet the Lady. I found her in a copse of trees, on the edge of a deep forest. She stepped into a clearing and let the silver light fall on her face. She was beautiful.

Then she changed.

Every time I blinked, she wore a different face. Her hair shifted from black to gold to red. Her eyes became dark pools of mystery, then blue as sky. The more I tried to hold a single image of her, the faster her faces slipped away.

In my first encounter with the goddess of the Wica, I learned that she has no face.

You could, of course, just as truthfully say she has many faces. Maid, mother, crone. Star goddess, moon goddess, earth goddess. So many names. So many aspects. You could just as truthfully say she has no face of her own because she wears the face of All.

Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old also called Artemis; Astarte; Diana; Melusine; Aphrodite; Cerridwen; Dana; Arianrhod; Isis; Bride; and by many other names.

—Doreen Valiente, “The Charge of the Goddess”

But I love her best when she has no face.

If you look at paleolithic cave paintings and figurines such as the Venus of Willendorf (above), they often depict a great mother goddess with no face. Anthropologists can make all sorts of guesses as to why. Maybe they depersonalized their images to make it clear they represent transpersonal forces rather than individual people. Maybe those early artists simply couldn’t imagine features beautiful enough to belong to her.

Venus of Laussel, PD-US

To be honest, I don’t often see a goddess statue I like. It’s the faces that bother me. Even when the symbolism is all there, something about the face just isn’t quite right to me. When I mentioned this to a witchy friend, he said the facial features shouldn’t matter. It’s the energy of the piece that counts.

But that was exactly my point. The more rudimentary the image, it seems to me, the more it captures her essence—and the more her energy comes through. More often than not, the face just seems to get in the way.

Having tried to paint her myself, I suspect we just weren’t meant to pin a face to the goddess. Even in myth, she’s always changing. One minute she appears as a hideous hag, the next she’s a beautiful princess. Or an animal. Like Joseph Campbell’s mythic hero, she wears a thousand faces, and she can change them without warning. Beatific mother one moment, merciless devourer the next.

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Chanting for power, chanting for wholeness

Chanting for power, chanting for wholeness

In the beginning was the Word
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.

—John 1:1


Witches know the power of words. Words are carried on the breath, and the breath is the gift life. Words express thoughts, which form the blueprint of the manifest world. Words can change our perception of realityand they can change reality itself.

Chanting combines words with rhythm to induce a trance state, allowing us to change our consciousness at will. It’s a vital part of the Eightfold Path, which comprises a witch’s fundamental magical toolkit. On a more mundane level, chanting has been found to “oxygenate the brain, reduce heart rate, improve blood pressure, and calm brainwave activity. It can even cause the left and right hemispheres of the brain to synchronize,” says writer Alexa Erickson.

Whenever I feel touched by the sublime or experience a wave of unexpected awe, chanting helps me lean into the moment. It lights a spark in the mundane. It bolsters me in moments of darkness. It reminds me of who I am, what I am, what I believe. I’m never far from sacred space.

Chanting reminds me to use my voice.

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From plucked flower to living goddess

From plucked flower to living goddess

So they took the blossoms of the oak, and the blossoms of the broom, and the blossoms of the meadow-sweet, and produced from them a maiden, the fairest and most graceful that man ever saw.

—The Mabinogi


I never cared much for flowers.

They’re too showy. Too perfumy. Too easily bruised.

I prefer the solidity of a tree trunk planted in the earth, or the no-nonsense prickliness of a pine branch. I savor the aroma of fresh sage or mint or lemongrass—not the latest blooms. Where other women might gather bouquets of wildflowers, I come home with my pockets full of rocks.

So when I first read the Fourth Branch of Y Mabinogi, a collection of Welsh tales, I wasn’t much interested in the pretty little maiden named Flower Face, fashioned out of blossoms and magicked to life to serve as the compliant bride of a would-be king.

I had eyes only for Arianrhod. The remote brilliance of the potent Star Goddess who reels at the heart of all creation beckoned me like a flare in the night. Her labyrinthine fortress held me captive as I sought to untangle the threads of her enigmatic nature. Blodeuwedd, her flower-faced daughter-in-law, was to me just a footnote in Arianrhod’s tale of enchantment.

But that was just because I hadn’t met her yet.

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