Written by Angela L. Todd, Guest Contributor
All opinions expressed in this article are the sole perception/experience of the writer, and may not necessarily be shared by Michelle Lewis – The Blessings Butterfly. All Rights Reserved.
I love goddess imagery.
I’m getting to be a big girl and I have started to really tap into the power of that imagery and correlate it to my new size. I say I’m big and strong and I won’t blow away in the wind!
I’m seeing goddesses showing up everywhere, and recently I’ve also been feeling a new important link between goddess culture and my work as a family historian. I am so grateful to Michelle Lewis for inspiring me to explore this spiritual aspect of my work.
I specialize in histories and archives (papers and photos saved for public research) centered on: women, historically excluded populations, and special needs kids.
My way into this work is usually through the much more popular idea of family history. That’s where the non-dominant folks seem to be allowed to be.
Unearthing a matriarchy is my dream job! I feel so lucky, so blessed, so called… to do this important work that I hope will shift the path of patriarchal cultures around the world. Seems reasonable, haha.
My first goddess
In the 1980s I did some family systems healing work with John Bradshaw for a weekend.
Barely past my teens, I was a little Maine girl in a huge California auditorium being led through my first guided visualization.
We spent a lot of time getting in touch with our inner child. Bradshaw asked us to imagine an unshakable supporter of that inner child — a fierce defender. A thing that we could always call up and call on.
I imagined a great grandmother … A big white woman with a sack dress, a grimace, and a huge pitchfork! She doesn’t have a name but this woman still comes to me and I love the look of her in my mind and I feel her strength. She is unfuckwithable – and bigger than this stock image.
No, I didn’t go on to find this specific woman in my family history — but some version of her is in all of our long histories.
I propose the goddess imagery that I’ve grown to love actually stands in for them, for all the amazing women in our lineage whose stories we do not know.
Yes every woman does seem heroic to me. Let me share some of the amazing women I’ve “met” with you:
- A Black woman who started her local NAACP chapter, and rose through its ranks to become president. She was a force for justice in her community and she saved everything: meeting minutes, her letters to the editor, a copy of her letter to the local emergency room about her racist encounter (25 years later, she was on the board of directors of that hospital). She even saved her hate mail. Her documents show real truths about the power of women, the insidiousness of racism and the constancy required to combat it. Happily, this collection is now safely housed at a university, so future historians can know all of it.
- A Jewish woman emigrated from Russia in 1919. Her spouse lived hours away at a camp to perpetuate their heritage; she remained in the big city. She raised four daughters mostly alone, working three jobs long before “women entered the workforce” during World War II. This collection, including 100 years of photos, is headed to a repository for Jewish families.
- A white rural grandmother did double the work during the 8 weeks of fall harvest. All day she worked in the fields; at night she was doing housework (hearty packed lunches for the next day, women nightly meals, and laundry). And she still said “we loved it because we all got to be together; it was so much less lonely.”
- A Black sharecropper’s daughter was recruited to teach and write for the newspaper and sent each of her ten children to college. She was a devoted wife, a consistent poll worker, and represented her church (both the first one, and the second one that replaced it after it was burned down) at mostly white regional and national events: a pillar in the community. Hundreds attended her funeral in the deep south.
- One Italian family came to me suspecting a devious past had led to their material comfort… As it turns out the wealth came down the maternal line and was not recognizable in traditional gender roles. Nobody had ever spoken of it.
- A white divorced mom brave enough to take jobs she wasn’t quite qualified for so she could both escape a current handsy boss and put food on the table for her kids.
- Most families that I’ve worked with have strong, driven women who never married and gave themselves wholly to the church, the Navy, or to helping other families. Sometimes they tell me “I think she was a lesbian — but don’t put that in there!”
I know you’re feeling how remarkable our female ancestors are. Every woman I’ve uncovered has endured, overcome, or succeeded. You’re probably also feeling the thoroughness with which these women have been neglected over time.
And in history, neglect is synonymous with erasure. They are not included in our global, national, local, or even family histories most of the time.
I believe that we have been replacing our own forgotten foremothers with a much more abstract goddess image. When you trace your history, you will see the goddesses emerging. You will see your divine connection. Connections
Our mutual friend Michelle Lewis says: “People’s stories from generations past are pieces of us that we carry forward.” And I agree wholeheartedly.
Once we uncover the women from generations past, we start to see where we fit in the path. And where we are in the path is so powerful.
The more we look, the deeper we drill, we see the power in the present: “I’m the piece that’s bringing it all back together. You may go through thinking you’re the one that’s wrong, you’re the one that’s out of stuff. But actually it’s like no honey, you’re bringing everybody back in. You’re healing pieces from before you that weren’t able to be in their fullest expression.”
If this is resonating and you are goddess-curious, I invite you to consider joining me to uncover one of the goddesses in your lineage. The program is called Finding A Foremother: For Women Who Want to Save the Story of A Woman Who Came Before. I have a special discount for friends of The Blessings Butterfly, available HERE. We meet Wednesdays at 7pm Eastern, and the next session begins January 5.
History doesn’t just happen, it is actually made by saving — and researching — the records of what happened. Let’s make history together!
Angela L. Todd
Archivist, Historian, Activist
I have always been THAT girl — the one talking to little old ladies in the grocery store; the one reading a parade of women’s biographies, autobiographies, and history; the one asking my kid where the women are and where are they going to live on that Lego space ship… I’m always looking for where the women are, and what their stories are. I say it, and I believe it: every woman has a story worth saving.
I love having long white hair and I LOVE being in my 50s.
I’m on a mission to capture women’s stories.
I am working to save stories usually relegated to the sidelines of history — especially those of women, but also workers, activists, community groups, or salons.
I spent 18 years as “archivist and senior research scholar” in a science archive at a top research university: curating 30,000 portraits from daguerrotype to digital and ferreting out women to add to the biographical files. I gave up on dead people and now I help living women make history. That means you.
Connect with Angela: www.angelaltodd.com
Want some more good reads about empowerment through spirituality? Try these: The 4th Pillar: Explore [Your] Divinity (Part 1: The Bigger Picture) The 4th Pillar: Explore [Your] Divinity (Part 2- Holding a More Expansive View) The 4th Pillar: Explore [Your] Divinity (Pt 3- Divine Character)