Part of my personal quest in delving into the mysteries of the Sacred Feminine, is simultaneously honoring the role of the Sacred Masculine. I do not ascribe to the idea that one must be over the other…nor do I ascribe to the idea that in order to gain power, one must take power from the other. Learning what belongs to each and how they mesh has been my desire for quite some time.

While traveling recently, my flight was delayed…several times. Such situations are always dangerous for me because inevitably, I find myself in a book shop…itching to part with money in exchange for something much more valuable…someone else’s thoughts.

This time, I promised myself that I would limit my purchases to two, and that only the books most likely to make a life-long impact on me would be allowed to be considered. At that point, I turned on my intuition and connected with my guides. One book that leapt into my hand was “Aleph” by Paolo Coelho. The book is a mere 270 pages…a number I would have easily devoured in a matter of hours under usual circumstances. It has been two-and-a-half weeks, and I’m on page 219. Here is what I’m compelled to share with you today:

In Ancient times, there were always two dominant figures in a tribe. The first was the leader. He would be the bravest member of the tribe, strong enough to defeat any challengers and intelligent enough to foil any conspiracies–power struggles are nothing new; they have been with us since the dawn of time. Once he was established in his position, he became responsible for the protection and well-being of his people in the physical world. With time, what had been a matter of natural selection became subject to corruption, and leadership began to be passed down from father to son, giving way to the principle of perpetuation of power from which emperors, kings, and dictators spring.

More important than the leader, however, was the shaman. Even at the very dawn of humanity, men were already aware of some greater power capable of both giving life and taking it away, although where exactly that power came from they didn’t know. Along with the birth of love came a need to find an answer to the mystery of existence. The first shamans were women, the source of life. Since they did not have to go hunting or fishing, they could devote themselves to contemplation and immerse themselves in the sacred mysteries. The Tradition was always passed on to those who were most able, who lived alone in isolation, and who were usually virgins. They worked on a different plane, balancing the forces of the spiritual world with those of the physical world.

The process was nearly always the same: the shaman used music (usually percussion) to go into a trance, and then would drink and administer potions made from natural substances. Her soul would leave her body and enter the parallel universe. There it would meet with the spirits of plants, animals, the dead, the living, all existing in a single time that Yao calls qi and I call the Aleph. There, too, she would encounter her guides and be able to balance energies, cure illnesses, bring rain, restore peace, decipher the symbols and signs sent by nature, and punish any individual who was getting in the way of the tribe’s contact with the All. At that time, when tribes had to keep traveling in their constant search for food, it was impossible to build temples or altars. There was only the All, in whose womb the tribe journeyed ever onward.

Like the role of the leader, that of the shaman also became corrupted. Since the health and protection of the group depended on being in harmony with the forest, the countryside, and nature, the women responsible for that spiritual contact–the soul of the tribe–were invested with great authority, often more even than the leader. At some undefined moment in history (probably after the discovery of agriculture, which brought an end to nomadism), the female gift was usurped by men. Force won out over harmony. The natural qualities of those women were ignored; what mattered was their power.

The next step was to organize shamanism–now entirely male–into a social structure. The first religions came into being. Society had changed and was no longer nomadic, but respect for and fear of the leader and the shaman were rooted in the human soul and would remain so forever. Aware of this, the priests joined ranks with the tribal leaders in order to keep the people in submission. Anyone who defied the governors would be threatened with punishment by the gods. Then came a time when women started demanding the return of their role as shamans, because without them the world was heading for conflict. Whenever they put themselves forward, however, they were treated as heretics and prostitutes. If the system felt threatened by them, it did not hesitate to punish them with burnings, stonings, and, in milder instances, exile. Female religions were erased from the history of civilization; we know only that the most ancient magical objects so far uncovered by archaeologists are images of goddesses. They, however, were lost in the sands of time, just as magical powers, when used only for earthly ends, became diluted and lost their potency. All that remained was the fear of divine punishment.