Rebecca Elia's Blog

All about Feminine Health, Healing, and Greece

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are You Artemis or Athena?

Gods or Goddesses?

Wait. Before you answer this, be sure you know these Goddesses.
Our versions of each are quite superficial—and I do want you to make a wise decision. If you read our modern American literature about the Goddesses, you may not get the real scoop. So, when you think Artemis, who do you see? A tough, independent, somewhat masculine Goddess equipped with bow and arrows…Goddess of the Hunt, right? You see her surrounded by animals. You may even see her demanding a bow and arrows from her father Zeus, at the age of three. Anything else?

Did you know that Artemis is connected to the moon and its cycles? Are you aware that she is the protectress (yes, I know, that word doesn’t show up as a real word on spell-check) of pregnant women and of childbirth? The oldest depictions of Artemis portray her with long flowing hair in long flowing (feminine) gowns. She is communing with swans, not tigers.

How about Athena? Wise feminine Goddess? Well, wise, in some ways, yes. Feminine? No. Not very. Even her statues are without curves. And there’s that small matter of her birth…yes, the one that took place without her mother Metis, the Goddess of cunning wisdom. Didn’t know that one? Athena was born from her father Zeus’ brow. This is what happens when a God eats a pregnant Goddess. He ends up with a fetus in his brain. Nice thought, huh? And you thought Athena was feminine…

Here’s an example. Take a look at the pictures above. If you know these statues, then, sorry, your vote doesn’t count. Are these Gods or Goddesses?

How did you determine their gender? They both have similar hair, similar features, almost identical garb.

On the left is the Goddess Athena. On the right is Artemis’ brother, the God Apollo. They look sort-of similar, don’t they?

I had the opportunity to see the Worshiping Women exhibit at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Specifically, the exhibit was about Goddesses, Priestesses and women participating in ritual in Classical Greece. I was struck by how Aphrodite was the only Goddess who was consistently portrayed in a feminine way. Athena was never feminine, and both my Classicist Professor friend and I were dismayed that a more recent (masculine) statue of Artemis appeared on the exhibit’s banner, rather than a more ancient feminine one.

It made me stop and think about our current state and how similar our mindset is to the one present in Classical Greece. It’s as if the influence of Plato and Aristotle has surpassed Socrates, still. What is this strange state in which we find ourselves? When did valued wisdom have to be masculine (even when contained in a Goddess’ body)? When did we trade in the multifaceted nature of Artemis for the highly specific “Goddess of the Hunt?” This is not a modern Greek creation. Ask Greeks, and many will give you a fairly accurate description of Artemis. This is our western interpretation, and it happened a long long time ago. When will we be ready and willing to reclaim our feminine Goddesses, along with their corresponding powers—all of them—not just the erotic, sexual Aphrodite?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bring on the FLOW!

Elissa Stein (in collaboration with Susan Kim) has done the unimaginable. She has written a book about the cultural story of menstruation—the good, the bad, and the ugly—a book that will be released on November 10th.

It seems that the still somewhat predominant view, voiced most recently by REDBOOK, that menstruation and a book about it should best be ignored, has not dampened public interest. After centuries of suppression and abuse of the feminine, including the demonization of the menstrual cycle, I, for one, am excited about the debut of FLOW. As a gynecologist who firmly believes in the power and wisdom of the body’s natural cycles, I am even more thrilled that such a book is seeing the light of day (or should I say night?)

We are in for a rare treat today, as Ms. Stein has agreed to speak with us about her latest creation.

[Rebecca Elia] Tell us about how you came to write FLOW.

Elissa Stein: Years ago, my period stopped. I was both too terrified and embarrassed to say anything to anyone for over a year. When I finally went to a doctor and all checked out, he handed me a pack of birth control pills, patted me on the knee, and said “Honey, we just need to jump start your hormones.” But I didn’t want to be on the pill. Even worse, no one bothered to figure out why my period stopped in the first place. From that point I’ve wanted to put something out into the world that would help women feel more comfortable talking about menstruation without that deep-seated shame we’ve been raised with.

[Rebecca] If you were given the opportunity to deliver one message to all American girls and women regarding their menstrual cycle, what would it be?

Elissa Stein: THIS IS NORMAL! You’re not going through anything every other girl and woman on the planet hasn’t gone through.

[Rebecca] When researching for FLOW, what fact or bit of information surprised you the most?

Elissa Stein: I had no idea how negatively menstruation had been viewed throughout history. In the Bible, menstruating women are considered unclean. Ancient Greeks thought menstruation was an efficient way for a woman’s body to get rid of “poisoned” blood. The New York Times was against women being given the right to vote because menstruation adversely affected their ability to think. This normal, natural cycle was vilified for thousands of years and, so sadly, we’re still trapped in that mindset.

[Rebecca] Do you have a daughter? If so, what have/will you teach her about menstruation?

Elissa Stein: I have both a daughter (11) and a son (8), who’ve been living with menstruation as a constant topic of conversation for almost three years. They are remarkably open, accepting, curious, and honest about it all. They will go out into the world with such a different mindset than most. When enough people treat menstruation as nothing more, nothing less than what it is, we’ll have made great strides.

[Rebecca] In your opinion, what one step can we take to support women now?

Elissa Stein: Educate. While researching FLOW, it was astonishing at how many old wives’ tales and rumors persist. And when we live in a society that shuns open conversation, they’ll continue to fester.

[Rebecca] What is your greatest hope for FLOW?

Elissa Stein: I want FLOW to start conversation. To encourage women to re-evaluate how they think and feel about their bodies and their cycles—too often we accept negative messages hammered into us by the media and advertisers, instead of looking inside and figuring it out for ourselves. By chipping away at that age-old stigma and shame, we can work towards acceptance and understanding.

Thanks Elissa! I am really looking forward to the arrival of FLOW. We have been waiting for this book for a very long time!

You can pre-order FLOW through Amazon or at Elissa Stein’s websites: and

You can follow Elissa on twitter at: @elissastein or on Facebook.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Free Time!

Here we are. One more daylight savings time has arrived. I don’t know about you, but I always get excited when we get that extra hour. It’s almost…well…like Christmas! And then there’s the opposite, when that hour is taken back again…we’re not going talk about how that affects me.

Linear time has become such a tight sergeant. It rules most American lives. Most of us find ourselves trapped in it, unable to find the escape key. How did this happen? The Greeks have two words for time: Kronos and Kairos. Kronos is the type of time that all of us Americans know too well. Kairos is the one that we’ve forgotten. It’s the time that passes without measurement or awareness. It is also, the Modern Greek word for the weather. It is the time from the biblical passage and the Byrds’ song, “Turn, Turn, Turn…” It’s the time to which we refer when we say, “It’s time to make a change in our lives, to settle down, to find that perfect someone.”

I often wonder what it says about a culture that lives within only one type of time, the drill-sergeant type. No wonder Buddhism, presence meditation, Eckhart Tolle, teaching doctors mindfulness meditation and such, have become so mainstream and necessary to our emotional, spiritual and physical survival.

I am reminded of our rat-race every time I step off the plane in the good old U.S. of A. I try to look into the creased haggard faces rushing by. I try to meet someone else’s eyes…almost impossible. (Certainly the opposite experience that I just had in Greece!) For a few moments—because that’s all I have now that I’m back in America—I feel sorry for all of us. And then slowly, insidiously, over the next few hours or days, or—if I’m lucky—weeks, the sympathy disappears and is replaced with a dull nausea.

Okay! You’ve been given an extra precious hour today. How will you spend it? How about remembering Kairos and inviting him/her back into your life!

Check out this post about time: Lost and Found in Linear Time.

Books about Time and Presence: Leslee Keenan's It's About Time
Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now and A New Earth