January 26th, 2011, 02:30 AM
Pregnancy, childbirth, midwifery, Venuses and the goddess
Eleven years ago I had the privilege of tending to a friend of mine as she labored and gave birth to her daughter. During the course of that day, two very memorable things happened for me (well three, of course, we can't forget the birth of the baby!).
The first thing happened at the time my friend transitioned into hard labor. She was soaking in the whirlpool in the bathroom of the hospital suite, and as this was a natural birth, she had been moaning her way through the contractions until that point. But hard labor hit and suddenly the contractions became more unmanageable. Her voice began to go higher with each contraction and to waver, and it sounded as if she were about to lose control. At that point her doula went to her, tapped her own throat, and very simply said, "Take your voice lower".
So my friend did, but she also did much more than that. When she took her voice lower, she did so by chanting the syllable "O". On every out-breath, on every contraction, for the next seven hours she chanted. It was a strong, deep that never once wavered. I felt like I was in a monastery--it was so close to (and you know how hospital acoustics are ~ the sound was bouncing all over the place).
When she first hit on that note I was floored. The thought flashed through my mindÔ€”Wow, she's rediscovered some ancient birthing song! It was just the most amazing thing. Now, obviously, we can'y know if women in ancient times ever used this chant to manage labor. Perhaps my friend was the first woman ever to discover it.
We know there are many traditions that use toning, or the chanting of sacred vowels, in their spiritual traditions, right? And today the idea that sound played a significant role in ancient cultures seems to be gaining traction, too. The use of chanting has to be incredibly ancient, so I don't rule out the possibility at all.
What I find especially intriguing about it it's vibrational pattern. When vowel sounds are focused on a plate of sand or salt, their vibrations create interesting geometric patterns. The pattern that O makes on the sand is ~ but of course ~ concentric circles! Ever expanding Os, it turns out, are all about opening, which is exactly what the cervix is trying to do in hard labor. Do you think a mere sound vibration could actually assist in labor? Whether it did or didn't help my friend's labor along, I know for certain it helped her manage her contractions. It's just interesting to ponder whether this really might be ancient wisdom she was able to tap into.
Then the second amazing thing happened (and I don't think it ever would have happened if she hadn't discovered that "O", because listening to that "O"shifted me into an altered state of perception). After she got out of the whirlpool she went to the bed, which was in a semi-upright position.
She was sprawled there, naked, big-bellied, and resting between contractions. Her chest and breasts looked so solid and powerful, you know during pregnancy it's not just the breasts that get bigger, but the whole chest cavity. I stood there thinking how wildly and beautifully Amazonian she looked. And then in a flash I had a vision. I saw a thick laser beam of light shoot from her chest out to the very ends of the universe. In that moment she wasn't human at all. Goddess is the only word I could come up with, but it wasn't quite right. The impression was of the very life force of the universe zapping through her in all its power and awesomeness, something far, far beyond the human-scale. It was like being cudgeled by a power beyond all imagining. Afterwards I kept trying to come up with the right words and they were never right. The closest I could come was to marvel at the ferocity at which the universe desired to be made manifest. Ferocity, determination, the full force of creation passed through my friend.
I was just today reading Ishtar's comment (on wodr's Arghhh thread) about the four kinds of fire, and it clicked ~ the laser beam was the Secret Fire. I've always referred to that laser beam as the life force, but it never clicked that I might also call it the kundalini of the whole universe.
So after I regained my senses, this thought flashed in my mind: Aha, so all those Venus figurines aren't goddesses at all, they're actively laboring women!
In other words, if ancient people saw what I saw when a woman was laboring, if they had a vision of that life force shooting through her, well yes, in that moment she would have been a goddess, something far beyond a mere human, but she also would have been in the end just a woman laboring. So could those Venus figurines depict this?
Perhaps the time when a woman is in labor is one of the only times this force is visible to us mere mortals. If the ancients witnessed this, then birth would have been an incredibly sacred event, it would have allowed them to peek through to the very fabric of the universe almost. And witnessing such power, what would they do with that? A laboring woman would be revered. She would be sacred--half-woman, half-goddess. And it wouldn't be obvious that all people possess this Secret Fire. It would seem to belong just to the laboring woman. (Well ~ and probably to some very advanced shamanic-types.)
I've often wondered about all the taboos surrounding childbirth with some women sent off to birth alone (although usually with helpers) and men most definitely excluded. Were the taboos really only about cleanliness and protecting the mother and child or was something deeper going on? Was childbirth viewed as almost too dangerously powerful? Too sacred?
There's more I want to touch on regarding this topic, but how's this for starters?
Last edited by Ishtar Babilu Dingir; January 18th, 2012 at 11:51 PM.
January 18th, 2012, 04:45 PM
For starters? It's a beautiful story and thank you for sharing. I will come back again for the meantime I am going to go away and reflect. Thank you.
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Ishtar Babilu Dingir (January 18th, 2012)