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Dark Maiden Writings
DARK MAIDEN WRITINGS
The world needs the Dark Maiden- not in
her watered down patriarchal state of victim and prey...but in her ancient power
as sorceress, prophet, nurturer and muse...
Today's feminist movement has been
mobilized primarily by the Amazon archetype (the Bright Maiden), and Goddess knows, we have needed
Her too. But because we are so entangled with the patriarchal dualisms of
butch/femme, masculine/feminine, dominator/dominated, the Amazon and the Dark
Maiden have gotten overlaid with typical gender roles. Since the dominant is
always valued more and seen as male, Amazon women get more respect than dark
maidens. Dark Maidens have been kept in the background, seen as weak, blamed for
being victimized, told to toughen up, and kept ignorant of our important and
powerful legacy. It may be that the revolution for world change will only happen
when the Dark Maidens are reinstated in society and in our psyches... for it is
Her qualities that are most needed- compassion, gentleness, cherishing of the
tender, nurturing of life, feeling the connectedness of all things, sharing
rather than competing, channelling truth and vision through deep sensitivity,
and openness to ecstasy...
The world and even our own women's world, have shown disapproval of these
qualities, and ignored them. I didn't even realize how many other dark maidens
there were out there who were feeling these things, until the Thread came out
and I started getting mail, thanking me for validating them!
THE RISE OF THE DARK MAIDENS
by Shekhinah Mountainwater
The Dark Maiden's season is fall, when shadows lengthen towards winter. She
wraps Her purple cloak around Her and descends into the cave of the Mother. She
is Persephone, Morgan La Fay, the Sorceress, Lady of the Lake, the Mermaid, the Silkie Woman, the waning crescent of the moon. Menopause is the woman's mystery
passage connected to the Dark Maiden, a time when we shed our mother-skins and
begin our croning journey.
Opposite Her on the Wheel of the Year is spring, time of Ascent, Rebirth, and
the Bright Maiden. The Bright Maiden dances into the arms of Mother Summer, the
Dark Maiden goes alone to meet the Winter Crone. The Bright Maiden is the waxing
crescent, strong, physical, assertive, focused, solar, courageous, active, willful,
fast-moving, powerful, external, playful, left brain, smart, practical. She is
Diana, Artemis, Xena, Durga, Oya, Warrior Womon, Amazon. The Dark Maiden is
tender, compassionate, sensitive, magical, receptive, psychic, contemplative,
right brain, intuitive, artistic, flowing, muse-ical, lunar, internal,
mystical, dreamy, poetic.
All womyn have both of these archetypes affecting our psyches, as well as others
of the Mother and Crone aspects of the Goddess. Yet each of us is unique and
will express the traits of one or some archetypes more than others. Some women
are primarily Bright Maidens, and some Dark. Some are combinations of both. This
is not to imply that the archetypes are psychological alone. I agree with R.J.
Stewart and Luisah Teish on this; that they are Beings who reside on the inner
planes, influencing us and manifesting through body, mind and spirit, or through
the physical, emotional, mental, energetic and spiritual aspects of ourselves
and our multiverse.
Because we are acclimated to the dominant patriarchal culture, we have been
taught to mold our Dark and Bright Maiden selves in its masculine/feminine
frame. We urgently need to befriend these archetypes in their original
In the patriarchal paradigm Bright Maiden qualities fall under the category of
"masculine" and Dark Maiden qualities under the category of "feminine." By
extension into the gay community's paradigm, Bright Maiden becomes "butch" and
Dark Maiden "femme." Butch/femme mirrors the dominator culture's
"masculine/feminine," delegating roles and qualities to each. Because of this
socialization, women who express Bright Maiden qualities are expected to be
"masculine," and are expected to dress and act like men of the dominant cuture.
Women who express Dark Maiden qualities are expected to dress and act like women
of the dominant culture, and be submissive to their "masters." As a result, the
powers of both Maidens become afflicted. (See Maiden cycle in my book Ariadne's
Thread.) Strength becomes competition and conquest, magic becomes manipulation.
A class system results with the usual power dynamics; the dominators and the
Over the years I have become aware of some negative attitudes towards anyone who
expresses qualities we have come to know as "feminine" in our culture. Despite
frequent protestations that "butch/femme" is a mirror of masculine/feminine
models of hetero-sexual patriarchy, that it should be discarded as "old hat" or
"not P.C." or "uncool..." despite all this seemingly enlightened awareness, I
still hear people being labelled "femme" and being put down for it. I myself
have been treated disrespectfully, rejected, ignored, exploited and victimized
for what others perceive as my "feminine" qualities. This has happened to me in
both gay and straight communities, so it seems nobody likes the Dark Maiden very
much these days. "Masculine" qualities, on the other hand, are very much in
What are these qualities everyone seems to dislike so much? I believe they are
the psychic and watery parts of the five-pointed star, and include receptivity,
deep emotions, vulnerability, responsiveness, cooperativeness, supportiveness,
nurturance, caring, giving, sweetness, gentleness, perceptiveness, empathy, and
For years I have been exploring the theary that the old masculine/feminine model
could easily be replaced by a new symbol system based on the five pointed star
and the five elements. If both womyn and men could understand themselves as
varying degrees of airy, fiery, watery, earthy and psychic energies, then it
wouldn't matter so much which gender one is, or what gender one's mate might be
Or, we could understand ourselves as having five genders. My mother always used
to joke that all our problems come from having only two sexes, and she proposed
having five in some of her sillier moods. Looking back, I am amazed that in a
way I have found a viable belief system that was once merely foolish conjecture.
Now in the movement towards gender freedom, we find recognition of lesbians,
gays, bisexuals, transexuals, and heterosexuals... and so we do have five
Or, we cold understand ourselves as one gender: s/he. "There is only one gender,
She," a lesbian friend of mine likes to proclaim. After all, we know now that
men have vestigial breasts and wombs, that their Y chromosome is a broken
version of the female X chromosome, that human embryos are always female first,
that parthenogenesis exists (birth without sperm), that mitochondrial DNA is
passed down only through womyn, that the "feminine" right brain is the older
brain, and numerous other facts that indicate the primacy of the female form.
In this view, all of our qualities come from the One, with infinite possible
variations on the theme. We are all combinations of fire (energy, will, power),
air (mental, communicative, intelligent), water(emotional, loving, connecting),
earth (physical, sensual, practical), and spirit (psychic, soulful, telepathic).
The Bright and Dark Maidens can be understood as aspects of the five arms of the
I have mused that women can polarize as Bright and Dark Maidens, as well as
Mothers and Daughters, Priestesses and Crones, and so on. And, with polarization
often comes sexual attraction. Lovers of all genders do polarize across the arms
of the pentacle: airy people love earthy people, watery people love fiery
people, earthy/watery/psychic people love airy/fiery people, and so on. In this
view our two-fold lover flows can still be understood within the larger
five-fold framework, thus creating an atmosphere of acceptance towards all our
But why, with all the seeming sexual revolutions and awakenings of our times, is
there persistent prejudice? "Masculine" or "butchy" qualities are exalted and
adored. Everyone wants tough, lean, aggressive, fast-moving, smart, competitive,
and a little mean- for themselves, as well as for their mates. Het men want this
in their women nowadays. ("Why can't a woman be more like a man?" sang Henry
Higgins in My Fair Lady.) Lesbians insist on it for everyone and gay men seem to
adore it... and of course the old boys' ranks, where such values were born,
still determine the whole.
"Feminine" qualities on the other hand, have become contemptible. Wimpy,
passive-aggressive, manipulative, and victim are some of the insults hurled. In
a "butch/femme" magazine I once read the protests of a "femme" lesbian, who said
that the butch/femme split is dividing the women's spirituality movement. Hah! I
thought... I am not alone, it seems.
Why would psychic watery qualities be deemed undesirable? Doesn't the
world need these qualities? Has anyone else out there noticed how brutal,
violent, unfriendly and unsafe the world has become? How can we expect to heal
this without introducing some compassion and caring? Not that I am attempting to
reverse the grid and put watery qualities above all others. I agree that it is
good to be strong, fiery, and free. Goddess knows we womyn have fought long and
hard to reclaim these. But when we discard any essential part of ourselves we
lose out. And when we discard the soft and gentle sisters, we are doing untold
damage to our movement and to our future hopes.
In fact, Dark Maiden energy is not weak at all. It is the power of pull, of
inspiration and ecstatic states, of suction and the undertow, of gravity, of the
pull of the moon, the wisdom of dreamtime and magic. A woman who swoons and
weeps openly when her lover wants her is a woman of profound power. A woman who
can be vulnerable and care and love is a woman of health and natural strength.
Without such women- and men too- our world will wither and die.
And why should we limit ourselves? We are given all five points of the star; we
are all different versions of its expression. Whether a womon wields a needle or
a saw, holds her lover close or builds a building, sings a song or organizes a
trek in the wilderness, nurtures a child or leads a revolution; all her
abilities are good and beautiful and needed.
So my sisters, I propose, therefore, an uprising; a revolution of mermaids, of
the gentle and sensitive ones, of the "power femmes" as Alice Malloy, owner of
Mama Bear's bookstore in Oakland, CA once wrote.
We have a responsibility, after all. Feminists do have a point when they
criticise womyn who acquiesce to domination. Whether we do so by coercion,
unconscious programming, or deliberate purpose; wittingly or unwittingly we
become the underpinnings of the dominator system. What would happen if the
dominators no longer had anyone to dominate?
And, in all fairness, Bright Maidens have complied in a different way, by taking
on the trappings and values of the power-over system and abandoning the Dark
Maiden. I believe that many of us are each other's lost lovers, caught and
blinded by the patriarch's program.
So my Dark Maiden sisters, throw off those chains of oppressive victimization;
they are not yours. Disregard the insults and put-downs; they are not true. You
are beautiful and good and deserve to be honored and cherished. Don't give in to
the use and abuse of your sweetness, your supportiveness. Insist you be treated
well, or walk away from anyone who does not do so. Let us stand together in
conviction and mutual recognition. Own and celebrate who you are. And when in
need of strengthening vision we can think on the old tale of the seal maiden,
the Silkie woman who walked away from her human lover when he was abusive to her
one day, and dove back into the sea:
THE RON KING'S DAUGHTER
Supplement to the article Rise of the Dark Maidens
A Scottish Folk Legend
Retold by Shekhinah
Once beneath the great Northern Sea dwelt the Silkies, in their underwater land
called Sul Skerie. The Silkies are the ancient seal people. They are of human
form beneath their sealskins, which they can shed at will. Silkies have been
known to walk disguised among humans, and even to dwell for a time upon the
land. Woe be to any Silkie who leaves her skin unguarded, for if it should fall
into the wrong hands,she will be unable to return to Undersea. Many are the
legends of human men who stole the furry wet skins of Silkie women when they
came to unveil and play upon the shore. This would give them the power to force
these beautiful creatures to stay on land, sometimes for years.
But woe to the man whose Silkie wife should happen to find her skin where he had
hidden it. For in a flash of dark fur and a silver splash she would be gone,
back to Sul Skerie. And he would be left ashore with an aching heart and a
lonely soul. Better to leave her to her freedom from the start, and perhaps she
would come of her own will to stay and be a friend or lover.
Such was the tale of one such Silkie woman who gave her heart to an earthling.
Silvera was the daughter of the Ron King, ruler of the Silkies in Sul Skerie.
Like many a Silkie maiden, she loved to swim up to the shore and shed her skin
to play on the sunshiny sand. She was dancing there one day when the young
Prince Golden happened by. Soon and soon they fell in love and agreed to be
Back down in Undersea, Silvera approached her father to ask for his blessing.
The Ron King gave it, but with these admonishing words:
"And if there ever comes a time
When your lover speaks to you unkind
Turn your back to the land, your face to the wind
I'll be waiting here with your old sealskin..."
-From Song of the Silkie Woman by Shekhinah
And so Silvera embraced her father and swam away to become a queen upon the
land. She and Golden lived happily for a time, and eventually conceived and
birthed a Silkie child. But one day the prince came into their chamber with a
dark cloud upon his brow. When Silvera asked what troubled him, he snapped at
her angrily, "Stupid woman, leave off!"
Without a word Silvera arose, took up her babe, and walked back into the sea.
She was never seen in that land again.
THE SONG OF THE SILKIE WOMAN
I composed this song in the early days of my Goddess awakening, when my children
were still dancing to my music. We loved acting out this tale with wavelike
movements, deep-sea chords and rocking rhythms. I had long known of the Silkies,
having sung the traditional Scottish ballad of The Great Silkie since the early
1950s. This ballad was later popularized by Joan Baez during folkmusic's heyday
in the late 50s and the 60s. Yet few in our country seemed to be aware of the
legends of the magical seal people until the film Secret of Roan Innish came out
several years ago. What joy to experience this film and its unforgettable
rendition of the beautiful wild Silkie woman shedding her skin.
Soon after the film's release, my son Frey Faust, now a professional dancer
worldwide, came home to dance to the Song of the Silkie Woman, along with his
then partner Andreia Zwicca. They wore brown fuzzy leotards that fit them like
skins and moved in undulant leaps and dives that took the viewers' breath away.
It dawned on me that the Silkie woman is a perfect expression of the Dark Maiden
archetype. As a Dark Maiden woman it has been a great healing to sing this
piece. Since this realization I have woven it into women's ritual circles,
inviting sisters to consider the option the seal woman chose: to firmly and
quietly walk away from abuse.
(In the original Scottish legend I retell above, the parent who guides the
is her father. In my own version told in the song below, I choose to have
it be her mother, which feels more in keeping with my woman-centered approach to this
SONG OF THE SILKIE WOMAN
by Shekhinah Mountainwater
I swim with the sea flowers in my hair
All the Silkies love me here
Now my eyes are turning above
And my heart is tuned to an earthly love
My mother takes me by the hand
To where the waters meet the land
"Go my child, do not fear,
"And know the sea is ever near.
"And if there ever comes a time
"When you lover speaks to you unkind
"Turn your back to the land, your face to the wind
"I'll be waiting here with your old sealskin.
"When you go you will leave your skin behind
"Taking only hand and heart and mind
"Naked you'll stand upon the shore
"To see your own land never more..."
And how will it be when you come for me?
Will I turn and fly back to Sul Skerie?
Will I run to hide in my old sealskin?
Or stay to love Earthkin?
No, I'll not run when you find me here
I'll stand proud, and the wind will take my fear
And I'll walk the land til I come to fly
And be one with the earth, the sea, and sky...
When I go I will leave my skin behind
Taking only hand and heart and mind
Naked I'll stand upon the shore
To see my own lands ever more...
by Shekhinah Mountainwater
All rights reserved
Tales of the Seal People, collected and retold by Duncan Williams
Goddesses in Everywoman, Jean Shinoda Bolen
Ariadne's Thread, Shekhinah Mountainwater
Mysteries of the Dark Moon Goddess, Demetra George
Film: The Secret of Roan Innish
Song of the Seals, recorded by Jean Redpath
The Underworld Initiation, R.J. Stewart
Interview with Luisah Teish, The Beltane Papers
The Chalice and the Blade, Riane Eisler
The Great Cosmic Mother, Barbara Mor and Monica Sjoo
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