Amy Palko: Tracing the Green Shoots of Goddess Wisdom

Amy Palko lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, where goddesses and fairy folk have been mingling with humans for centuries.

It’s no wonder then, that, given the challenge to write from her own particular wisdom, Amy has taken a page from the Great Mother herself.

I asked Amy to be a part of The Wisdom Series a bit late in the game, when another writer had to drop out. She jumped in, as she does everything, it seems – eagerly, passionately, generously. For me, Amy’s is a wisdom cultivated from a lifetime of study – and of her own experience of the divine feminine that lives in the world today.

I am pleased and proud to introduce her to you:

* * *

In a time before time existed, there was the great goddess. She was formed from the great swirling darkness and chaos, and gave birth to the heavens, to the planets & stars, to the earth & the seas, the jungles & grasslands, to the animals & the people.

She held within her all aspects of femininity. She was as light as she was dark. She was as great as she was terrible. She gave life and took it away. She was compassionate and angry, fertile and sterile, young and old. She was all of these contradictions and more.

And because of these contradictions, she did not fit into humankind’s framework of knowledge. She was simply incomprehensible, always evading the grasp of enquiring minds. So, to help us in understanding her better, we disassembled her and tried to understand the fragments instead: the individual goddesses as they are described in various cultural pantheons across the globe… Ishtar, Freya, Athena, Isis, Kali, Hecate, Diana, Brigid, Kwan Yin, Demeter, Bast, Frigg, Ceridwin, Venus.

For a long time, these fragments were under threat as they began to disappear under the influence of a patriarchal culture. However, there has been a resurgence in those who seek to trace the edges of these fragments, to feel into their shapes and, perhaps, at some point in the future, to reassemble the goddess in all her glorious contradictory nature.

As one of these seekers of the sacred feminine, I have been exploring the concept of the feminine archetypes most associated with lifestages as represented through the world’s goddess narratives. Primarily these are the stories of maiden, the lover, the mother and the crone, and we can see their presence in the life journeys of women as they progress from innocent girls to wise women.

However, the wisdom of these goddesses is not limited to those who are most obviously experiencing any particular lifestage, rather it is applicable at any point on our journeys through womanhood. A teenager caring for her younger siblings may call on the wisdom of the mother, while the 60year old who has begun dating again may be more attracted to the wisdom of the lover than the crone, and the 40year old career woman will have more in common with the maiden than she may expect.

In order to understand these goddess narratives better, we can use the wheel of the year as we move from spring through to winter. The natural cycle of the seasons provides the perfect structure to explore our own feminine cycles of energy, relationships, realizations…. of wisdom.

As we find ourselves in full Spring, the maiden goddess is the first we encounter on our journey through the year. She is youth and innocence and everything that is shiny and new. She is that clean sweep that we promise ourselves as we set aside another winter and open our arms to embrace the lengthening of the days.

But perhaps the greatest wisdom that the maiden goddess brings us is the wisdom that this too shall pass. She brings the wisdom of hope as we transition from the winter months back into the spring. We can draw on this wisdom at any point through our lives when we’ve experienced the darker side of life. The maiden promises renewal, rebirth and revival. She is the light that bathes us when we have all but given ourselves up to the dark.

When we see this wisdom embodied in the bright green shoots that are pushing their way up through the dark earth, or in the sound of baby birds that tweet sweetly from their precarious nests, or in the warming rays gently kissing our pale sun-starved skin, it becomes easier to access. It becomes easier to own the maiden aspect as a part of our truth.

So this Spring I invite you to throw open your front door and step out into the cool fresh air and breathe in deep.  I ask that you open your eyes, your mind, your heart, your soul to the signs of infinite hope that the cycle of life continues.

What do you see? Swelling buds on the dark branches of the trees. The long waxy white petals of an early flowering magnolia. Earthworms slowly making their way through the softening soil. A host of daffodils nodding their golden heads to the arrival of warmer days.

What do you touch? The new soft blades of grass that tickle your ankles. Fluffy catkins just waiting to shed their skin and thrust their leaves forth. A fine mist of rain that gently dresses your hair in a web of crystalline droplets. Warmth that seeps into your skin till it warms your very bones.

What do you smell? The thick yellow perfume of pollen dancing on the breeze. Mineral tang from lake water now melted. The warm earthy smell of thick mud that fights to hold the impression of a footprint. A green scent of new growth everywhere.

What do you hear? The plaintive bleat of newborn lambs calling for their mothers. A rustling breeze as a rush of air brushes past new lime green leaves. A dawn chorus of birdsong heralding the morning light. Incessant babbling from water released from its icy prison.

What do you know? The supple strength of those that bend and sway. The speed of fleet-footed active creation. The independent selfishness of personal growth. Tender potential encased in a thin egg-shell layer of protective separation.

The wisdom of the goddess is all around us – we need only awaken to its presence. How are you experiencing this beautiful maiden energy of Spring newly sprung?

* * *

Amy Palko is a writer, photographer, academic, teacher, spiritual seeker, home-educating mother of 3.  She plays many roles in life, but the thread that runs through each is the sacred feminine. She writes at  www.amypalko.com, is the creatrix behind Bloom by Moon, the co-host of Reclaiming Delphi goddess playshops and she tweets (prolifically) from @amypalko

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Showing 24 comments
  • Amy Palko
    Reply

    I find it hugely rewarding to explore a goddess path, Erin. Highly recommend it! Never fails to amaze me just how relevant these ancient stories are to our contemporary everyday lives 🙂
    Amy
    xx

  • erin margolin
    Reply

    This was a treat to read! I will tell you how I am experiencing this Spring in my post at Amy’s that goes up tomorrow!
    😉

    I have always wanted to do more reading/research on goddesses. Such a fun and interesting topic, and one that I know so little about.

  • Amy Palko
    Reply

    How fabulous, Kim! Hope your workshop goes wonderfully – I’m sure it will. Photographing the signs of spring is so very magical 🙂
    Amy
    xx

  • Kim
    Reply

    Beautifully written and thought-provoking. I am doing a workshop locally on photographing spring and your words about the experience of spring through the senses are just so true.

  • Amy Palko
    Reply

    Do you know the story of Bride and the Cailleach, Kelly? When winter seems to be clinging on, it’s a good story to explore 🙂
    Amy
    xx

  • kelly
    Reply

    What a lovely post, filled with hope and the promise of this season that lags behind this year, teasing me with its promise. But slowly, little signs are appearing, and I am noticing, with all my senses, the wisdom that earth has to offer.

  • Sally
    Reply

    Good morning Amy! So sorry for arriving late to your wisdom.

    This is such a beautiful post ~ I felt like a traveller with the great good fortune to come upon a series of paths, knowing that any one of them will lead me to something wonderful – and choosing instead to just sit with that feeling and enjoy the anticipation a little longer.

    I’m Glaswegian by birth ~ so I connect immediately with the Scottish aspects of your sharing. I’ve also recently been introduced to Hecate and all the beautiful wonder she has within her to teach.

    I mentioned in Rebecca’s post that I recently had the great good fortune to read Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd. On page 71, I was struck by this paragraph:

    “For a long time, Hecate was a powerful divinity in the Greek pantheon, but gradually as patriarchy took hold, her status deteriorated. She went from magnificent Crone Goddess to gargoyley-y hag, the harbinger of nightmares. By the time Homer wrote the myth, the metamorphosis was already underway. I gaze at the ravages of time on her lost temple and wonder if there are any divine, post-menopausal figures left anywhere.”

    This book was my Book Club’s selection for January/February. During our discussion, I spoke to my attraction to the Crone Goddess and the beautiful energy she holds. Two women in the group were visibly repulsed. ‘Crone Goddess? Why would you want to connect to a Crone?!? Who wants to be thought of as old, dried up and mean?’ While a Feminine shift is most definitely in process ~ there is also much educating to be done. (Not to mention, did they actual READ the book?)

    I had invited members of my Book Club to determine which Goddess they felt best represented who they are now – or who they’ve been, over time. Only two out of the eight of us participated ~ and we both found the process, and the result, enlightening.

    I chose Ceridwen (Celtic) – the Keeper of the Cauldron. She represents the transformative power of magic, wisdom, rebirth and creative inspiration – embodying wisdom, power and resourcefulness.

    I also love that she’s a Shape Shifter – and a symbolic representation of all three aspects of the Triple Goddess Trinity (Maiden/Mother/Crone).

    And finally ~ your invitation to see Spring’s arrival as a beautiful awakening from the heart of Spring’s Wisdom. I now know why we seem to have been tossed back into Winter where I live (Ontario, Canada) in spite of the calendar’s date: it’s because I did not yet know what I know now – and knowing this will change the way I look at this Season’s arrival forever.

    Thank you …

    • Amy Palko
      Reply

      Oh Hecate is one of my absolute favourite goddesses, and yes, I would completely agree that she has indeed been much diminished, reduced to this hag-like status.

      I read the most amazing book last year, which you might enjoy. It’s called Kissing the Hag and it’s by a wonderful woman called Emma Restall Orr. It inspired a post that I wrote for Liz Scherer’s site Flash Free: http://is.gd/udm9rM

      The other post that you want to check out is one on my own site about embracing the crone: http://is.gd/xuj7Bk
      Enjoy!
      Amy
      xx

  • Taryn
    Reply

    Thank you, Amy O, for directing me to pay particular attention to this post. You will appreciate that just a few days ago I bought an earth mother goddess pendant while I was away–and then came home to your message about this post. And thank you, Amy P, for your post. I am so glad to hear you express that the feminine archetypes are not limited to specific life stages. I’ve long balked at the notion that women are locked into one phase based solely on age. I’ve seen glimmers of all of the feminine archetypes in the woman I know and have known. Let us not limit ourselves anymore than we’ve already been limited by a patriarchy that continues to try and suppress us. And Spring has yet to show herself here in the northeastern U.S. I eagerly await her appearance!

    • Amy Palko
      Reply

      Totally agree, Taryn! I’m just not a happy woman when I am pigeon-holed and categorized, my experience limited by others that would really prefer it if I could just fit in where they want me to.

      And so, yes, part of my goddess work is to show people that the lifestage archetypes are applicable on a much grander and a much smaller scale than the life of any one particular individual. So that we recognize then that the lifestages exist within the life of a year, a relationship, a project, a career, a friendship… etc. And that we may feel drawn to different lifestage archetypes in different roles and relationships too.

      Incidentally, you may be interested in my goddess guidance pack on Brigid – it’s partly about the coming of the spring and the last battle of winter 😉
      Amy
      xx

      • Taryn
        Reply

        Amy, I will take at look at Brigid—thanks!

  • Ronna
    Reply

    Stunningly beautiful, Amy. As always. And oh-so-wise. Mmmmm.

    Thank you!

    • Amy Palko
      Reply

      Aw thank you, Ronna! I just adore your writing and your beautiful clear but gentle wisdom.
      Amy
      xx

  • Alexandra
    Reply

    Fantastic.

    Thank you, Amy, for bringing this to us.

    • Amy Palko
      Reply

      So glad you enjoyed it, Alexandra!
      Amy
      xx

  • Rebecca
    Reply

    Oh Amy, so many things came to mind (and senses) when I read this lovely piece.

    The first was how wonderful it would be if this is the kind of bedtime story we told our children–of the time of the Great Mother Goddess.

    The second was how patriarchy (and the mental mind/ego) tends to divide, create dualities where they don’t need to be. Just as we, in conventional medicine divide (to conquer) the different parts of the body, we did the same with the Great Goddess, herself. I have a special interest in the ancient Greek goddesses, and am struck by how we have managed to demote the most ancient ones, such as Demeter, Hecate, and Artemis, into small, linear, lesser versions of themselves. (Drives me crazy!) Part of reintegrating the pieces of ourselves includes reintegrating the Great Goddess within us, reclaiming every part of our feminine nature, which society has so callously divided (to conquer).

    Thank you for this beautiful piece.

    • Amy Palko
      Reply

      Oh Rebecca, you are singing my song!

      One of the things that I offer is an online learning community called Bloom by Moon where I release a certain amount of premium content each new moon. It’s structured around the moon as a way of exploring the cycles of the sacred feminine, so we look at cultural interpretations of each cycle to find out what that moon means to us.

      The other part of the content is much more focused on goddess narratives. So I have a retelling of a goddess story (we’ve done Persephone, Brigid & Artemis so far – April is Freya) and a series of journal prompts, so we can start to explore how that narrative impacts on our own personal experience. There’s also a guided goddess visualization, because I really want to facilitate a much deeper personal connection to the goddess in all her forms. So yes, very much a reintegration and a reclaiming!

      Please do get in touch with me if you’re interested in finding out more!
      Amy
      xx

      • Rebecca
        Reply

        Thank you, Amy.
        You and I are definitely on parallel paths.
        I have been studying the ancient Greek goddesses since my first annual trip to Greece, 21 years ago, and spend a lot of time at Delphi. (Also lived in Greece for two years.) I’m especially interested in the imbalance of feminine and masculine in our American culture, particularly as it manifests in our health (mental, physical, spritual), and write about it on both of my blogs. More about me here: http://www.rebeccaelia.com. Best to you, sister.

      • Amy Palko
        Reply

        Love your work, Rebecca – have now subscribed!

        I must admit, that even though I know I probably should have a closer relationship to the Celtic, or even Norse, goddesses, the Ancient Greek goddesses hold a special place in my heart too. Their stories are so incredibly rich, aren’t they?

        Amy
        xx

      • Rebecca
        Reply

        I know exactly what you mean, Amy. Perhaps it’s because no matter how hard we try to divide the Greek goddesses into neat pieces, they won’t be divided and still reflect the great Mother Goddess. 🙂 I don’t have an ounce of Greek blood in me, but Greece has become my second home.

        Thanks for following my work. Best to you, Amy.

  • Andrea Maurer
    Reply

    I don’t know what it is but this spring, more than any other I can remember, I have been noticing all the subtle signs and small sprouts that emerge daily. And I feel an awakening happening from within as well, almost as subtly. Everyday, something new busts open inside of me and lets just a little bit more light shine through. It’s been a very long winter and I’m ready for just about anything.

    Thank you for you lovely post.

    • Amy Palko
      Reply

      It’s such a special thing to allow yourself to be fully present to the springtime awakening. I’m so glad that you’re in that place of allowing and awareness. All that new growth and budding potential just makes my fingertips tingle as I think about it!
      Amy
      xx

  • Joanna Paterson
    Reply

    Hello Amy and Amy, what a beautiful piece and a delicious invitation – I love the full sensory invite at the end. Well it probably reminds me of the gorgeouness of a Scottish spring 🙂 Thanks Amy!

    • Amy Palko
      Reply

      Don’t you just love springtime in Scotland? I know we’re probably both biased, but truly, the transition of seasons here is exceptionally lovely, isn’t it?
      Amy
      xx

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