Lover…Warrior…Mother: All Woman. All Goddess. All Queen.
Several months ago I read Shades of Faith: Minority Voices in Paganism. It is amazing, and the experience of reading each chapter had and continues to have a profound effect on my spiritual development. I recommend it highly, and recommend other works by the contributors as well.
One of the essays in this collection, “Invoking the Queen,” by Heaven Walker, deals with a subject that has come up a few times at the old Slacktiverse and at Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings: Goddess archetypes and the common practice of using a threefold division of same.
(That’s not the only theme of the essay. The opening section powerfully discusses destructive stereotypes employed against African American women, and contrasts them against imagery of power, wisdom, and sovereignty drawn from history, myth, and contemporary culture. Every paragraph rewards close study, rereading, and analysis on different levels.)
Walker discusses three orishas (Yoruba deities, female ones in this case) Oshun, Oya, and Yemaya as embodying different aspects of/approaches to the Divine Queen. She then identifies resonances of these different holy patterns/roles in two works of literature and in an activist life.
Walker first sketches the character of each orisha. (I have a difficult time trying to summarize this. I find it difficult and fruitless to succinctly describe gods. For someone familiar with the deity in question, minimal description or epithets can point toward the complexity of their character, but without that familiarity I feel like the best I can do is link a bunch of sources and perspectives and discussions and artworks and let people absorb them slowly. That goes double in this case because I am just beginning to know these deities on the most basic level.)
Oshun is the Priestess Queen and Lover, “deity of rivers, love, sensuality, and beauty…a woman who loves whom she pleases…and whose sexuality is sacred.” She embodies generosity and healing, but also violence and ferocity.
Oya is the Warrior Queen, with the power of destruction, creation, transformation, catastrophe. She is the “mistress of change and the bringer of wisdom… the death bringer and the life giver.”
And Yemaya, the Queen Mother, is the ocean and the waves, irresistible, mysterious, keeper of the deepest wisdom. She is the “mother of dreams,” Her love “both benevolent and harsh,” Her nurture inexorable, Her embrace inescapable.
I like this way of looking at the roles of woman and goddess because it’s not tied to specific characteristics; instead it’s about your focus and your actions. Any woman/all woman can be a warrior, a nurturer, a lover. Any women/all women sometimes are, or must be, or wish to be, sensual, fierce, creative, protective, intuitive, iconoclastic… maybe not all at once, but at different times and in different circumstances.
Maybe you embody the Priestess Queen on Friday, the Warrior Queen on Wednesday, the Queen Mother on alternate weekends. Maybe you grew up acting as the mother protector to younger siblings, and later had the chance to be the playful, free, self-knowing Queen of Love. Maybe you’ve always been a warrior, a radical, a resister of stasis, stagnation, the oppressive Powers that Be. Or maybe you focused all your energy on creating a family and being a parent, and now the children are grown and its time wield your wisdom and experience as a tool for change. Maybe you follow one of countless other permutations for your Story.
And because these archetypes are all holy, there can never be only one right decision, nor a single correct way to experience womanhood. At every turn of the road of life, with every pain and every joy, every action and thought, there are Powers to reach out to, seeking guidance and strength, and offering praise and communion.