Amy Taylor-Kabbaz speaks to Meggan Watterson about theology, divinity, and the ancient teachings around the sacred feminine.
There is a lot of talk at present about the ‘divine feminine’. For some, there is a stirring of interest in what this means, and how to bring it into our everyday lives. But what does the divine feminine really mean? Is it all about separating from the masculine? Or is it, in fact, a returning to an ancient understanding about the two sexes and their energies? Meggan Watterson has spent her whole life asking these questions, travelling the world, and embedding herself in the study of theology, divinity and the ancient feminine. She is a Hay House author based in New York and runs events specialising in passing on these divine teachings. Here she talks about bringing these ancient teachings into the modern world, and giving the sacred feminine a voice again.
How did you come to be so fascinated with the divine feminine? It started somewhat comically because of the fact that I broke out in hives when I first read the Bible as a little girl! I was about 10 or 11 years old, and although I couldn’t articulate it at the time, I just had this visceral reaction to how women were portrayed and treated in the Bible. There was a part of me that was screaming inside, and I basically ran out of my Sunday School class, never to return.
I had such a strong, strong reaction but something in me knew, with that little girl clarity, that this wasn’t right. Where were the stories of women as priestesses and goddesses? It made me feel like I'm in danger being female in this world, because this is a world that hasn’t remembered that I am sacred too, and that my voice is sacred too. That maybe, just as there's a Pope, there should be Popess; just as there are cardinals, there should be priestesses and priests equally.
I mean it really terrified me, and I literally spent the rest of my young adulthood and then my 20s learning, unearthing, delving as much as possible into stories that counterbalanced that exposure of God is just male. I read about female mystics and saints. I studied religion and women's studies at an all women's college and just dived into stories of the goddess. To me, it was the only thing that could heal the rift that had opened up in me when I encountered the Bible. I started with a degree in Comparative Religion and a Masters in theological studies, which was a profound way to reclaim and remember all these stories from different world religions throughout all of time about the divine feminine and her multiple expressions. Then later - when I felt my own spiritual being was strong enough and I also had gone on several pilgrimages to parts of the world to connect with the divine feminine, including the sacred site of Mary Magdalene in the South of France and the Black Madonna in Switzerland outside of Zurich - I then felt strong enough to return to the Bible and to understand why I had such a powerful reaction as a little girl. That's when I went to Divinity School and got my Masters in divinity.
What does the divine feminine mean now, especially in our very masculine-energy society? For me, all of that searching, whether it was through ancient texts and academic work or through travel and bringing myself into the energies of these sacred sites of the divine feminine, ultimately it all allowed me to remember my own spiritual voice, my own capacity to reclaim my body, and to be the author of my own story. On a daily basis, this means remembering that the divine is within me and that the answers that I sought so desperately outside of me are actually within. To find a way to cultivate the truth that I am my own guru: I am my own oracle. And how I do that practically is with a very powerful meditation I call the ‘soul voice meditation’. This is the most concrete thing I can offer anyone who's coming across my work for the first time. The soul voice meditation is a very simple meditation that I came up with for myself, to integrate not just these teachings of the divine feminine that I was learning, but also to really be able to become that love that I mentioned that I knew I was as a little girl.
When I was in divinity school, I came across these desert fathers, called the Hesychasts, and it totally changed my life. What they would do is they would curl forward in an effort to allow all of their presence to abide in the heart, and their goal was something called theosis, which is to be constantly, constantly, constantly in dialogue with the divine, from within. To have this open stream of communication with divine love. So even as they sleep, their heart would remain awake. And all throughout their day, no matter what was happening, or what was going on, their heart was one with the divine. So their soul, the consciousness, the essence of who they are is in union with the divine.
So how I interpreted this is that I can be absolutely, completely, fully human, fall-down human, and also at the same time, at that exact same time, I can be led from within from this radiant, undiluted source of love that is my soul, that is God. And so I can be both at once, at the same time. And it blew me away, and I loved it. And I wanted to connect with that in my own life.
But curling forward like that, the way they did, it really hurt my neck and my back! It was also very impractical for my life in New York City! So I had to figure out a way to make this work for me as a modern woman, and as a single mum with very little time. I didn’t have the dedication that they had all day, every day, curling forward and chanting the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer of the heart. So I found a way to integrate this soul-voice practice in a way that made sense and in a way that I could be on the subway or standing in line at Whole Foods, or changing my son’s nappy. I tried to find a way to replicate that effort of allowing the heart to always be awake. And that’s how I developed the Soul Voice Meditation.
As a single mum, I use it in moments when everything has gone completely south, and nothing in the day has gone the way I thought. Take very recently: my son caught head lice and I’m sure they were some sort of medieval ancient breed - I could not rid of them! There was a moment in my head when all this pressure was building up, because I have this next project that I'm working on with Hay House and the days are mounting towards my deadline, and all I'm doing basically is nitpicking and barely keeping up with the housework and cooking and cleaning! But luckily, because of this soul voice meditation practice, this daily return to my heart and to love, I knew how to pause and reconnect, and to let everything else go. While there is a very powerful 20-minute version, I’ve scaled it down to a version that is just three breaths. That's all you need because sometimes when we are in those moments, trying to take 20 minutes is impossible. You can download the longer version from my website to go deeper into really engaging with the soul, but three breaths is all we need to begin in those moments.
What about the role of the masculine? In discussions around this topic, it is often said that one is better than the other, but that’s not the point. It's not about in any way suppressing the divine masculine. We all contain these energies within us, the feminine and masculine, the light and the dark.
One of my favourite stories is the story of Kali Ma in the Mahabharata, which is the sacred text from the Vedic tradition. It’s a huge text, but there is a part in it when all the gods freak out because the world is thrown completely out of balance. There are demons running around rampant - we’re given an image of some scary multiple-eyed, multiple-armed, horned entity - but these demons are meant to suggest and represent illusions. They are the illusions that the ego creates, and the imbalance it talks about comes from the incarnated ego illusions, and they know that the only thing that is going to bring the world back into balance is the fierce divine feminine and that's when Kali is born. And so, they cry out for her and call out for her, and she comes out and she just absolutely slays all those demons. Now, the idea is not that then she reigns or she takes over. It’s that she helps bring the world back into balance because the presence of her fierceness can cut through those ego illusions - illusions like the body is separate from the soul, illusions like men are more important than women, or that a girl's body is somehow less sacred than a boy's body. Those are all rampant demons. Those are illusions that are creating great suffering in our world - a world that is still so disproportionately violent towards the female body and disproportionately unaware of the value of the female body - and the divine feminine is meant to restore a sense of balance. The female body reconstitutes the world; the female body reconstitutes the population - and yet there are girls who still can't receive education.
It really is about embracing all parts of ourselves, isn’t it? Absolutely. The point is for us to be fully human and fully divine. It’s not that we're supposed to always be in this place of “Ahhhhhhh” and radiating light. We’re not meant to be a Zen mama when our child throws up on our feet and we burn the pizza because we were trying to write down something that we heard from within us. We’re supposed to be human. It’s the whole point. We're supposed to be human and we are fully divine. The practice is in that loving of ourselves - fiercely. Rather than being hard on ourselves because we've just yelled at our children or thrown a dish across the room or whatever we've done that we’re feeling ashamed of, or we’re feeling like we are so not spiritual because we did that thing, the point is to forgive ourselves faster and faster, to get closer and closer. It's not to not be human. We're going to get angry. We’re going to feel heartbreak. We're going to be frustrated. That's human.
However, in my experience the spiritual practice is the capacity of returning to love faster and faster. To know that we have the choice to return to love and truth if we want to. That we don't have to stay in this anger or this place of frustration any longer than we need to. I feel divided so often as a mum between wanting to be fully present to my son and wanting to be fully present to the work that my soul is calling me to do, and so what the practice of integrating the masculine with the feminine inside of me does is allows me to say 'OK, I remember - I have a choice. I don't have to stay here in this frustration if I don't want to, and I can leave it and return to a place that feels a whole lot better whenever I want to'. That's the muscle we have to build up.
I love what you say about not stopping being human - the whole point is not to be perfect, isn't it? That’s right. It’s ultimately about liberation. In my experience, what brings the most fulfilment is that sense of freedom, that sense we are not subject to these unconscious habituated responses, fear responses or ego responses any more. We are not at their mercy. Let me say that fear can be very instructive, and in fact has been a profound teacher in my life. However, the point is not to become fearless. The point is to have a relationship of love with fear, and that changes everything. Many other people might experience different things in being human, but I am afraid most of the time. Fear, for me, is inherent in my experience of being human, and it’s a profound teacher. In my experience, the point is not to eradicate it and try to become someone I’m not. It’s to be in a loving relationship with this aspect of who I am and of what it means to be human, so that I'm not beating myself up but instead learning and listening to it.
So where do we begin to meet the divine feminine? The most concrete and powerful way to begin is to honour what we hear inside us. I think one of the most powerful passages in The Gospel of Mary Magdalene is where she talks about the fact that she sees Jesus in a vision, and she then relates this vision that she sees to the disciples. Now of course, they’re all a bit peeved and bent out of shape, because they’re asking themselves; 'Why is Jesus coming to her and not to us? What makes her so special?' I mean, she’s a woman, and back then women were only just above the status of a slave. So they couldn’t really get why Jesus was coming to her in a vision, but what she relates is that she has this unwavering capacity to meet with what’s inside her, what she sees from within her own heart and to believe it. She does not flinch - she sort of stands unfaltering with it.
So meeting with the divine feminine, for me, in a very concrete way means going inward. It means listening to what we either see in a sort of flash vision, or hear from our inner voice. It’s about going within and hearing that small, still and very unassuming voice of the soul and believing it, and then moving from that out into the world. That, to me, is beginning to honour and recognise the presence of the divine feminine in our lives - that capacity to go inward. Ego illusions - illusions like the body is separate from the soul, or men are more important than women - create great suffering. The divine feminine is meant to restore balance. The female body reconstitutes the world; the female body reconstitutes the population - and yet there are girls who still can't receive education. The point is not to become fearless. The point is to have a relationship of love with fear - and that changes everything.
What is the three-breath soul voice meditation? This is the most bare-bones, scaled-down version of this meditation. It can be done anywhere - and while it is really important to allow yourself to connect with the longer version as well so you can really learn how to hear that soul voice, this is an amazing tool for everyday modern life.
All it entails is closing your eyes, and taking a deep breath. This is the first breath. As you breathe, imagine entering the heart, descending and entering into the heart, moving the breath and awareness down into your heart. As you are taking that breath, you are honouring the fact that you are here. Just that. Sometimes, on certain days, that's all we can be grateful for - that we are here. So take a moment and descend into the heart, and just be aware and grateful that you are here.
The second breath is within the heart. You stay in the heart space and breathe from there. The heart is a mystical chamber, a metaphysical space within us that allows us to be connected to what is so much more than us. So as you enter the heart with your second breath, you take that breath knowing that you are merging with that force of love within you. This is where our truth lies. This is where the soul that never dies resides. We remember that, connect with that, and merge with the highest aspect of our being.
And then with your third breath, bring the energy and awareness and breath up from the heart space, lifting it up through your body again and up through your eyes. Then, as you open your eyes, your intention is that your soul is now seeing out through your eyes. You now see the world through your soul - you are allowing your view of the world to be informed and infused with love. Each next step that you make, each next word that you utter, each next choice or action you take is going to be informed by that love. You are now connected with your soul’s voice, and move through the world from that awareness.