Birth, for both the woman giving it and the child experiencing it, is a messy process. It is bloody, rhythmically painful, exhilarating, and frightening. A mother cannot be who she was before she gave birth—she can retain who she was and augment her understanding of self, but she cannot be exactly as she was. She has entered into a lifelong dance with the child she has birthed, and the child must learn to grow within this dance. Rebirth—which is by definition metaphysical and metaphorical rather than physical and literal—shares these characteristics. And like birth, rebirth is facilitated by a feminine presence, a divine energy that enters into a lifelong dance with the new self.
This, perhaps, seems a strange thing for a Christian to say during Holy Week, as I await the celebration of the risen Christ. The story of the death and resurrection of Christ includes human women, but no feminine divine presence is celebrated as bringing about Jesus’ rebirth. He is that He is, and so He is risen. As a Christian, this spiritual truth nurtures me, and augments my understanding of self.
As a woman who has been undergoing a feminist awakening—a spiritual feminist awakening—for quite some time now, I also know: She is that She is. Divine energy is neither male nor female, and it is both male and female. And yet to experience divine energy within a human body while naming the energy as only male—as God the Father, and the Son, and a Holy Spirit that is not often named as female—is to close ourselves to half of humanity, to half of divinity. We need the divine feminine to bring about rebirth, just as we need Her to bring about birth. This truth does not diminish the risen Christ—it allows Christians to experience Him more fully.
We live in an ever-renewing cycle of birth, death, and rebirth—a cycle that is mourned and celebrated within Christianity in the life of Jesus, and that was mourned and celebrated for many centuries in religions that worshipped the Goddess, ritualizing the annual death and rebirth of Her son. As Merlin Stone, Riane Eisler, and others discuss, the Goddess’ symbols were all about rebirth—the butterfly, the double-bladed axe (with blades like a butterfly’s wings), and, most notoriously, the serpent, which renews itself by shedding old skin.
This Easter, as I celebrate the rebirth within myself and seek to understand how it augments who I was in the time before I awoke, I will also seek patience with the painful parts of the process. No one was ever born of woman who didn’t have to figure out how to breathe anew, how to stand and crawl and walk. No one was ever born of Her that didn’t have to learn the dance steps, to find harmony among seeming discord, and integration between seeming opposites. This, my friends, is the crux of rebirth, the joy and pain of it. Within Christianity, this metaphorical rebirth can be understood within the context of the Easter story.
For He is a risen God, and She rises even now.