To the brave women of America, with love

A month ago, I embarked on my first trip to America in eleven years, for a series of teaching and lecturing engagements. Those of you who are readers of my books will know that I lived in the USA for over five years, leaving at the end of 2001. And it was a strange thing, to think of being back after so long in a country which I once thought of as home – but which, over the years since I’d left, had become utterly incomprehensible to me.

But the reason I decided to accept some of the invitations I’ve increasingly found myself receiving is that a surprisingly large percentage of the people who take my courses and sign up for my retreats are from the USA and Canada: to my surprise, I find that it’s close to 80%. There’s such a strong yearning there, it seems, for a sense of continuity; for an authentic exploration of ancestral roots and the wisdom of the old ways. And that’s something I’m very passionate about: connecting people back to their old lineages, and showing them how to bring that tradition home and incorporate it into the wisdom which emerges from the very different places where their feet are actually planted. And so there’s still a link, it seems, between me and that big old island out west which isn’t going to be broken any time soon.

Before travelling, I found myself filled with a curious mixture of excitement and trepidation at the idea of being back in America again. Excitement, because my time there gave me so much that was rich, and because so many of the people I met there have remained in my heart. This is a country which once nourished me in innumerable ways; I wanted above all to sit in some wild places and tell them a few good stories about what’s happened to me since I left. I was hoping that the land would think I’ve made good use of those gifts it gave me, so many years ago. Because, as those of you who’ve read my novel The Long Delirious Burning Blue will know, it was in America that I finally learned – in every way that matters – to fly.

And trepidation? Well, for reasons that are undoubtedly very obvious, given the current political climate. I left America horrified at the fact that George W Bush had been elected president; I was going back to a country that had voted in Donald Trump. Like many others with attachments to the USA, I was both horrified and angry – at the same time as feeling dismayed on behalf of all the good people I know over there, who were utterly distraught at the way their country seemed to be heading.

But over the past several months I’ve been filled with immense admiration at the way the women of America, in particular, have begun to really fight back. And please understand – that’s not to say that men haven’t been resisting too. But we women still find ourselves living in intensely perilous times – times that are uniquely perilous for those of us who inhabit a woman’s body. And when we see the ugly misogyny which is still so blatant in the popular discourse, so entrenched in the mindsets of the old white men in black suits who hold almost all the power, then we know all too well that the world of The Handmaid’s Tale is only a few steps away. And that’s not just true for America. I live in a country which is still controlled by white men in black suits – or black frocks with lily-white collars. But women are slowly regaining their voices here, too. This year’s vote on abortion rights is evidence of that.

Over the past few days, just as distraught as you all are by the ongoing series of spectacles in the Senate, by the words of Donald Trump, by the fact that anyone like Brett Kavanaugh could ever be considered to be suitable as a supreme court judge – I’ve been heartened by report after of report about all the women who refuse to give up. Who resist, each of them in their own ways. By marching, by sitting in, by organising politically and drumming up votes for people who espouse alternative politics. By writing and shaming and telling their truths and refusing to go quietly. By, more than ever before, showing just how resolute American women can be.

I firmly believe that, in order for real and lasting change to happen, things have to get really bad first. Because then, we know what’s actually at stake – and it’s everything we care about, everything we want to be. Then we see the people who hold the power for who they really are; we see not only the structures but the individuals who hold us back. And when that happens, the veil gets so badly torn that no-one can stitch it back together again. Thank god. The brave women of America for sure understand that now. And they’re simply not having it any more. Hold on, sisters – we’re with you.

A couple of years ago, I had one of those Big Dreams that Carl Jung liked to talk about. The ones that you know matter, even if you can’t always figure out why at the time. I had it while I was leading a women’s retreat on the Beara Peninsula, in the south-west of Ireland. Beara is the country of the Cailleach Bhéarra, the local representation of the ancient figure known as the Cailleach: the maker and shaper of the land in the Gaelic (Irish, Scottish and Manx) mythic tradition. In my dream, I was part of a raggle-taggle band of people who represented the resistance against some vicious patriarchy or other. There were men and women in my group of freedom fighters, but it was an all-male military which captured us and locked us all up in a seemingly impenetrable prison.

As he turned the key and locked us in, I said to the prison guard, ‘You’d better watch out. She’s coming.’ He laughed. I nodded. ‘She’s coming,’ I said. ‘And when she does, she’ll walk right through these walls, and they’ll crumble round your feet.’ He laughed again, but then a distant sound, like the sound of thunder, began to grow closer, and louder. We all looked up to an open sky that had once been a roof (in that wonderful way which happens in dreams), and a giant woman in a black, hooded cloak loomed suddenly over the prison. The military clustered around the gates, reinforcing the locks – but that old woman just walked right through them. And all the prison walls fell down.

She’s coming. Can you feel the archetypes rising, calling out to us? Can you feel the return of the Old Woman of the World, the one who won’t be denied any more? And the brave women of America are going to walk alongside her, and pull the damn walls down.

21 thoughts on “To the brave women of America, with love

  1. Thank you Sharon for writing this. When I read about women protesting again yesterday, I felt a sense of deep gratitude. Gratitude for their bravery on my behalf. I lived in America for 15 years and have many dear women friends who share with me their frustration and fears. As you say, hold on sisters, she’s coming!

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  2. A beautiful reflection, Sharon. I got goosebumps when I read your dream. She is certainly strong and mighty and coming up and out of caves with things to say. I think this is one of the tricks of the patriarchy, finding ways to divide us and keep us separate from ourselves and our sisters. We’ve participated in it willingly, but, the spell is breaking. I keep thinking back to those lines in David Whyte’s poem “The Fire in the Song,”

    He said, “If you only
    stop singing
    I’ll make you safe.”

    And he repeated the line,
    knowing you would hear
    “I’ll make you safe”

    as the comforting
    sound of a door
    closed on the fear at last

    but his darkness crept
    under your tongue
    and became the dim

    cave where
    you sheltered
    and you grew

    in that small place
    too frightened to remember
    the songs of the world…

    Only we can make ourselves safe.

    Warmly, Kelly

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  3. Wonderful post. Love your dream. It has been said that the Western Woman will transform the world. I have faith that what we are experiencing is part of this awakening. We took a difficult path to get there, facing the darkest aspects of ourselves in the process, but there is incredible strength in the rising of the divine feminine.

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  4. Thank you for this Sharron. I’m sitting here with tears for the first time since all this horror reading your heart felt words…it’s difficult to be here in America these days…and yes the Cailleach wind will being the Feminine into full consciousness….finally!

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  5. Thank you, Sharon. I had hoped that you might share some of the things you saw and felt on your recent trip to America. This is so much more than that, and exactly what I needed to hear right now, today. Late last night I posted this on fb:
    Rosalie O’Leary shared a post.
    “Underneath the pain, the shame, the fear and trauma, the disbelief of this past week or so, there is something fundamental that holds my feelings and gives them context, like a bowl holds the fruit within it. And that context is my undeniable, visceral and intuitive certainty that what is happening is necessary.
    As I have said before, this is the autumn of the patriarchy. Winter is coming.”

    Thanks again. With love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And may I also share this from the incomperable Rebecca Solnit which she posted last night:

      Rebecca Solnit
      12 hrs
      We Are What Will Happen
      (short talk for an anti-Kavanaugh rally in San Francisco)

      This conflict began as a question about the fitness of one man to sit on the Supreme Court. But now it’s about much more. It’s about who this country is for and who matters, who decides, who can be heard, who will be believed and respected. And with that it joins the battles we’ve called Black Lives Matter and #metoo and Dreamers and voting rights that are part of a long, long project of making this a country for everyone, a country that lives up to its old unfilfulled promises of equality.

      This conflict is about that old white male elite versus the voices of women, of immigrants, of people who aren’t rich or straight or white or male or cis-gender. It’s about the refugee children they put in concentration camps. It’s about the Muslim ban. It’s about Standing Rock and indigenous rights. It’s about an old war to keep women silent and out of public life so that men could perpetrate violent crimes against us in private with an impunity some are still shocked to be losing.

      It’s about white patriarchy’s assumption that it controls the truth and the facts and the story. They assume their authority is so great that their assertions will override witnesses, evidence, the written record, that theirs are the only voices that matter. That they can have whatever facts they like and make other facts go away.

      We are facts who will not go away.

      Sexual assault means being stripped of the right to say no, of the right to self-determination and safety and dignity, of the voice that is inseparable from who each of us is. And when sexual assault is denied, trivialized, mocked, or celebrated, when victims are treated as less credible and made less audible than the people who attacked them, that’s exactly the same kind of silencing and dehumanization and devaluation, done by the judicial system or the university or in this case the Trump Administration and half the US Senate.

      Survivors, I hear you, I know your value is beyond measure, I send you our love and our pledge that we will change this world for you and with you. We are changing it. We will not stop. We are claiming our voices. With them we will tell our stories and your stories, we will mourn and we will celebrate and we will open all the doors they nailed shut. We will sing until our voices shatter their windows. We will set free the truths they imprisoned.

      The conflict about the direction of the country is out in the open. We may not win this round. But we are winning the war, which is why they are so angry and so frightened. It is they who are the backlash. Will we go forward to a country that lives up to those dreams and promises of equality and inclusion? Or will we go back to their frat-house nightmare of white men who can rape and lynch and destroy with impunity and keep us silent? I believe that we will win.

      We are the great majority. Our love for each other, for the right of everyone to have a voice and to live in dignity, is stronger than their hate.

      Do not ask what will happen. We are what will happen.

      I believe that we will win.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Like so many others in the US, I, too, want to thank you for telling us we are seen and not alone. I am going to share your post on my blog in an attempt to spread the hope you’ve shared here.

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  7. OMG, this is what I’ve been telling people as well, especially those who are disheartened and feel they have no power to change things. Their misogyny has gone on for too long and they can no longer stop us–and they don’t even see it coming. Too often, I see white male pundits discuss issues and write books without fully taking in the enormity of what women are doing around the country–another example of even liberal men underestimating us.

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  8. Sharon, though I no longer live in the US, what is happening there is happening all over, though not in such public forums. Your dream, not just bing but gianormous, is one I needed to hear. The hammer of the law is coming down hard on those who protest against all sorts of ravages on the earth, though not so hard is seems on the ravaging of women, Yet, yet, the meed is changing, we are remaining silent no longer. She is coming and when she does we had better be ready to do our parts. She may break down the walls, but we need the courage, wisdom and vision to walk through them. Thank you.

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  9. Sharon, You are a force in bringing us together. I, too, had one of those “Big Dreams” some time ago: An ancient, walled city, surrounded by a moat. I was standing at the moat, where the women were on their knees washing the clothes. A lion appeared. He looked starved, and hungry, as if stalking. I went to the center of the walled city, where there was a deep well that supplied the water for everyone. Around the well were gathered lionesses–all female–drinking from the well, thirsty. They were all in their prime.
    I returned to the outer wall where the women were kneeling at their work. The lion was there, and I then realized that he was thin and hungry-looking because he was very old, and nearing the end of his life. Like you, the dream has stayed with me……something much larger than we can see is taking place here. May all of our dreams guide us all.
    Blessings,
    Marcia

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