Women have been banned from most high offices in all areas of life except Motherhood, for over 5000 years. In America we still have never had a female president. In the Mormon church women don't go through spiritual initiation into the inner-mysteries of the church, only the men. And it wasn't until the last few decades that women could be initiated into Ifa, in the Ifa-Orisa tradition from Nigeria, and that only because those who wanted the "rule" changed acted differently. Women have had to "fight" for their rights to answer their spiritual calling, many facing being burned, hanged, drowned, beaten, tortured, etc, rather than give up.
Today - we Women can answer our spiritual calling. We can be initiated into our own unique power. We can serve our people as spiritual guides and healers and mystics. We still can't wear the mantle of the Catholic priest/cardinal/pope, nor lead within other large religious organizations, but we can speak out our truth everywhere we go.
The power of the word is not to be taken lightly. Generations of people were told they didn't have it, that only intermediaries had it, such as male priests. If you wanted to talk to the divine, you had to go to a priest. The politics of power have been enacted for so long on this planet, how can we know when it began?
Today - we Humans can reclaim our voices and thus our responsibility to each other and the planet. Our voices are stronger when we sing together in chorus. The time of looking outside ourselves for validation is over. Validation must be an inside process. We must be willing to see the truth of who we are and value that 100%.
As a woman, it is up to me to validate my truth, my voice, my spiritual calling. Others may see my light and encourage me, and that is wonderful. Some may see my wounds and attack me. In the end, it is I who must choose to own my life or not.
For most of my life I couldn't own my calling to be a priest, which I was aware of when I was 8 years old, because the Catholic church said I couldn't be a priest. I looked other places. I found myself in ceremony out in South Dakota with native people. I initiated as a Pipe Carrier and I sun danced and began leading sweat lodges for my community. But even here, there was so much oppression of the feminine. I asked one native young man on one of my trips to Yankton, "Where are your medicine women? Do you know any?" He looked at me with shock and replied, "There are no medicine women. There never have been." I didn't argue with him, though I knew he'd just spoken propaganda that had been ingrained in him. I had read of several powerful Lakota medicine women, their lives briefly documented in the late 1800's by anthropologists before the changing of the tides was complete.
What does a woman do who is called, when there is no one validating her calling? And the organizations welcoming her have a structure that is limiting, as if to control her mystical nature. (See the life story of Juana Inez de la Cruz: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juana_In%C3%A9s_de_la_Cruz ) What I finally came to realize is that it is only I who can validate my spiritual calling, and then, even without elders, an organization or church behind me, live my calling - live my priesthood - everyday.
One major wake up call for me in this arena was Barbara Tedlock's book, "The Woman in the Shaman's Body". In her true to life writing of her accounts with women shamans from all over the world, and her research on women and shamanism, one thing became illuminated for me. Story after story seemed to paint a picture of women who were "called" spontaneously and they answered the call in a very personal way. It was a personal experience. Spirit was calling them. Their ancestors were calling them. The plants were calling them. The Great Mother was calling them. And they answered and their training began. Their training happened through dreams, visions and revelations. Some training with elders, but mostly through nature and spirit realms. And their faith and humility was the key to their medicine being able to help the people who came to them for help.
Perhaps this isn't such a huge realization for every woman, but it was gargantuan for me!
I finally claimed my power, my life, my path, because I realized that it wasn't serving anyone for me to devalue my gifts in fear that others would judge me or think I was crazy.
My dreams, my visions and my experiences traveling between the worlds.... these were and had always been true for me and what guided me. Call me whatever title you want... but I had to start validating my medicine and begin helping people. And so I did.
I did eventually initiate as a priest! I stumbled upon the Ifa-Orisa tradition - Thank Olodomare!! - and was initiated on an Orisa priest in 2011. Still a patriarchal structure, but with movement in the right direction, and based deeply in nature wisdom.
I am writing all of this because I am invested in Women Answering their Calling!! And in women Validating their Visions!
And so, I bow down to the women mystics, priests, healers, visionaries and rabbis who pushed through the obstacles and lies, and answered to the greater truth. Love and praise to our Ancestors who didn't give up, wouldn't shut up, or hid the mysteries to keep them safe!
May the way we walk in our lives honor your sacrifices and names.
Maria Owl Gutierrez