From Patriarchy to Partnership

April 12, 2008

I am revisiting my experiences of the wounded masculine as I stand at this crossroads – Hecate by my side. I fully understand that I cannot choose the wrong direction – whatever step I take will be the right one – I truly cannot think of one mistep in my life that didn’t have meaning and mending for me.

Is it my I/ego/everyday consciousness that is struggling here? yes! and is it some deeper part of my self longing to connect to my Self who is seeking wisdom? yes!


Both my ego and my potentials are straining against the confines of the container this spring morning.

As part of my re-membering, I reread Licia Berry’s delicious essay on the divinity of both masculine AND feminine energies. She invokes Clarissa Pinkola Estes’s practice of gathering the bones and singing over them – but the bones she sings over are the wounded masculine of herself. It is this part of herself that she sings flesh onto so that she may join him in loving communion. And what better time of year to celebrate that union than May Day – Beltane.

I think it is more useful to use the idea of “dominant culture” than “patriarchy.”

[I left off here several days ago and have been ruminating on it since]

For those who know my work, have worked with me in a wisdom circle, or are familiar with the archetype of The Shadow, this post will make sense. If you are not sure what shadow work is… well it might be something you would like to know more about :)

So… back to the idea of the “dominant culture.”

Clarissa was the first person who talked of not using the term patriarchy. Her poignant tales of what it is like to grow up in an immigrant family, let’s us hear what it was like to be part of the underclass. Both men and women suffer when there is a group of people who use power over other people. Some feminists label that the patriarchy – with the implication that men are predators and women are victims – men have power and women are powerless.

Yet there is always an underclass, and it isn’t always males over and females under. By nature, we create us/them splits – whether it is haves and have nots, immigrants and citizens, angels and devils, black and white – that is the human condition to create the split.

The work of individuation is the work of bringing up the disowned parts of ourselves from our own shadowy depths. We do this by projecting our shadow onto others. The proverbial monster under the bed waiting to get us doesn’t want to kill our Self, it wants to kill our I/ego/everyday self. When we surrender to this ego death, we are able to reclaim hidden parts of ourselves and the energy spent in repression is now released as potential. I am ALL about potential in the work that I do. I think that is why I am so drawn to Jean Houston’s work of transforming our wounds into gifts.

In the workshop I attended several weeks ago on personality disorders, Dr. Noel Larson presented a powerful model for the patterns of perpetrators and victims and how to work with those energies.

Victims feel! but they cannot act. A victim will sit in your group and talk endlessly and share deeply of her pain and evoke your sympathies and attempt to get you to take care of him or her.

A perpetrator can act on her pain, but doesn’t have access to the emotions that create the pain. Someone coming from the perpetrator stance reduces a someone in the victim stance to emotional rubble.

In Dr. Larson’s work, she runs separate groups. In victims groups, she works with moving beyond feelings into action. In perpetrator groups, she works on accessing emotion. Of course it is much more complicated than the simple part I share here, but the connection I am making is with the idea that some powerful group – MEN have harmed some powerless group WOMEN – and we label and lump that entity as the patriarchy.

This is dangerous and destructive and divisive.

As long as we project power onto others, we cannot act from our own healthy warrior stance. As long as we have a scapegoat to blame, we don’t have to take responsibility for standing up for ourselves and claiming our own power in the world. This belief of a patriarchy moves us toward a split – not toward unity.

I read an essay this morning on Beltane – May Day – and the ritual that unites male and female energy. I also received an invitation a few days ago to join a group of women who are forming a new group to pick up where the suffragettes left off. Two levels of self awareness looking at the same issue.

One essay is about unity and joining as equal partners – the both/and approach. The other is about either/or – either you are for me or against me – it is either me or you – and one of us is going to win.

What gets lost in this second approach is that we are not a partnership if we are giving away our power.

I think the phrase from Patriarchy to Partnership comes from Jean Houston. Does anyone know where that phrase comes from?

All this is coming together for me right now because of the Temptation I wrote about the other day. I have decided to not follow that bliss… instead, I am going to stay here and face my very own Baba Yaga.

I am told that I will have a rough go of it. That I don’t need to go. That I can instead choose a safer path – going to the cave of the mountain sage instead. I know the sage – he is a wise man – and in his wisdom, there is a fierceness couched in gentleness. And if I choose that – I am choosing safety. I know how to sit with the sage. Salmon boy is a sage. Weaver is a sage.

The hag, crone, witch on the other hand, devours young women and spits them out in little pieces! Years from now, they will appreciate the lesson, but for now, it is just painful and something to be avoided. They counsel me to avoid the cranky woman in the dark forest. I have been told that if go see this Baba, that I better not challenge her. My task is to get her to give me fire without challenging her wisdom.

Is that something I can do? I have no idea – but she is the dragon that guards that gate. Either she will slay me, and I will enter the underworld dismembered, or I will slay her and I will enter the underworld intact and have to be hung on a meat hook by Erishkegal. Either way, it is an ego death waiting to happen.

I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to this experience! <sarcasm dripping from my lips>

Interesting that the Tower shows up in my reading under “is there anything else I need to consider?” Grace of The Wild Pomegranate shared a most generous gift with me in her recent reading from the Lover’s Path Tarot. In the seven card spread, the last three cards are all archetypal tests or dilemmas – challenges to my ego defenses and reorganizing my personality, merging of my conscious and unconscious self, and the outcome – Grace. In the Spiritual Tarot, this card signals a time of healing and new directions.

I know how to suffer, I know how to test myself, I know how to ascend the mountain to meet the wise man who is me. I know how to go into the moist, dark depths of myself, stripped bare and bowed low. What I don’t know how to do is look in the mirror and see the Baba Yaga who is me reflected back.

It is the Baba Yaga of me who terrifies me. She is the one I will face this spring.

I have much more to say about male/female duality – but I will save that for another post.

Stay tuned…



  1. WWRWTWs is an amazing piece of work and one that I have gone back to over and over.

    It will be a real gift to read about your journey, and your meeting with the Baba Yaga. Blessings for your trip…

  2. I love this post – have read it three times now.

  3. I just came back from a trip to India. I was really amazed, as from being your dedicated suffragette, I suddenly understood the man/woman relationship in Orient -(the principles, not the sometimes grim reality). I saw that being a man can be quite different from what we are accustomed over here ; it can mean smiling, crying, protecting and many other things. I understood “real” feminine power. In the plane that flew me home I was actually pained by the dry energy coming out of westernized men. Very disturbing.

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