Of Hearth and Shadow: A Vision of a Goddess by Gwynne Michele
Notes From Black Stone Sanctuary, March 2020
Magic works in mysterious ways.
It’s been a lucky Friday the 13th at the Sanctuary. Yet this week it also felt like the general zeitgeist in the US suddenly shifted into high gear. It went from “OK, this coronavirus is a thing” to “OMG DEFCON 1 CLOSE ALL THE THINGS AND EVERYBODY STAY THE F*CK HOME” in the space of a day or two.
Fortunately, I (Danica) am safe, sound, and in seclusion, with full cupboards and the ability to work remotely. I will thus be self-quarantined at the Sanctuary until further notice.
I got to thinking about what I might do with the Sanctuary's newsletter to help those more immediately impacted than I. In the process I contacted Gwynne Michele, a fellow polytheistic hermit whose work I’ve followed for a few years now.
Gwynne, who is a devotee of the Roman goddess Juno Moneta, wrote a very moving story about her vision of Juno that inspired me to set up a new shrine and introduce myself to Her in the summer of 2019. At the time I was struggling mightily with financial issues and burnout at my day job. I was exhausted nearly all the time, but didn’t see any other way to get by.
I’ve long been enraged at the way a tiny handful of people in the U.S. are allowed to hoard enormous wealth, and dole it out in tiny trickles only to those who do the bidding of “job creators.” Meanwhile, money for even the most basic survival needs is cruelly withheld from anyone who isn’t in a position to serve employers, and can’t jump through all the ridiculous hoops required to qualify for (measly) benefits. This country makes it exorbitantly expensive just to live - just to acquire food, shelter, and basic healthcare. For many of us it’s also enormously difficult and exhausting to earn enough money to pay what we’re charged to keep ourselves alive.
I decided to approach Juno about it.
I knew the struggles weren’t my own fault; the problems are systemic. Yet I also knew that if I could somehow find a way to “put on my own oxygen mask,” financially speaking, then I’d be better able to assist others.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much. As a long-time devotee whose practice has been “all Norse, all the time,” I wasn’t even sure I could approach Juno appropriately. I had no idea if She’d even hear me at all, let alone respond to my petitions in a way that would actually improve the Sanctuary’s financial situation specifically. I had no previous relationship with Her, so it felt audacious to approach Her with such a request.
Historically I've been ignored by non-Norse deities, almost as if I had a stamp on my head that reads "Back off, other gods. Danica is one of Ours and We've got dibs on her time." That’s one of the reasons I started calling myself a Norse polytheist. Plus, the Sanctuary's space was originally consecrated to Skaði and other Ásynjur, so They always hold the final say over Who else might take up residence here, even temporarily.
But Juno was very open to it; She responded clearly and quickly. A few weeks after I approached Her, I got a long-coveted promotion to an editorial role. I still have that job today. And that job not only improved the Sanctuary’s financial flow, but freed up enough time and energy to write more, which is why you’re reading this right now.
And Everyone who occupies shrine space at the Sanctuary seems to be getting along just fine.
I don’t mean to make it sound as if things were all peachy keen, though. Over the past 6-9 months, many things and people have fallen away (or, perhaps, been removed?) from my life in sudden, unforeseen, and mysterious ways. While I’ll probably never know the reasons behind this series of changes, or if Juno played a part in it all, I do know that inviting Someone new into the Sanctuary’s sacred space always carries risks.
One of those changes is the “extended hibernation” of the Polytheist Monastic discussion forum, and the loss of the religious alliance that enabled me to co-found Black Stone Abbey as a religious order.
I’m sad about these losses. I wish I could explain why they happened, but I truly don’t know. I tried many times to find out, but I got no answers.
So for whatever reason, it’s back to just me, Danica, the resident hermit, and the deities and spirits I serve now.
I don’t know what will become of the Polytheist Monastic discussion forum. Unfortunately I have no control over it. If there are any threads there you wish to preserve, I recommend you take the time to copy them elsewhere and save them, because I have no idea how much longer the forum will remain online.
(The upcoming anthology, however, is proceeding as planned; Janet Munin is in charge of that project, and I’ve provided developmental editing.)
OK, enough of that. Let’s get to the main reason I’m posting this: to publicly thank and praise Juno for improving the monetary flow for Black Stone Sanctuary.
Last summer I thanked Gwynne profusely for telling her story and introducing me to Juno Moneta. I asked Gwynne if I could re-publish the tale in the newsletter one day, and she graciously agreed. So, at long last and with her permission, read on for Gwynne’s original tale - the one that led me to knock on Juno’s door.
~ Danica Swanson, resident hermit
A Vision of a Goddess
by Gwynne Michele
It starts with a Vision that I had several years ago:
A goddess is on her knees, her wrists in shackles that are connected to the walls at the head of a marble room with floor to ceiling windows along the opposite end of the room. Filling the room are just a few powerful men, laughing and reveling as the goddess shrinks, her power beginning to drain from her after so many years of bondage.
As these men laugh and party, they don’t realize that this goddess, who they claim to have chained for her protection, but really, they chained because they wanted to make sure they always had her, is now fading away, and that soon, all her power will leave their temple completely.
They believe that their shackles and chains and their temple of marble and glass will hold this goddess, this great power, this spirit that nourishes the world.
I look closer at the shackles and chains, and I see that they are words, letters, numbers, symbols. In spots, it looks like a stock market ticker! Which tells me what these chains really are, and who these men really are, which I knew when I saw the goddess, because I know the goddess. Well.
It’s Juno Moneta, literally the goddess from which we derived the word “money.” She is wife of Jupiter, and she was the patroness of the treasury of Rome, shackled by men of power throughout history for fear that if she roamed free, that they wouldn’t have what they wanted.
And what they don’t understand is that the Divine Feminine must be free. She must never be shackled, there must be no restriction on Her. And so for centuries, this shackled goddess has been held by a few, with only trickles of her power reaching others.
And I see this in the tears and wounds in her flesh. They’ve been cutting her, giving out slivers of her power, just enough to keep the people from demanding she be freed. For so long, they’ve been able to hold her, telling the people, “We must do this to protect her. The world is a scary place.” And for so long, the people agreed.
But the Goddess knows the time is coming where she will break free, and all will experience her joyful abundance. But first, she will tear down the temples of marble and glass, and the rumbles are going to be a bit rough. And looking closely, I see that it’s already begun. Those rumbles. Because as those men of power party and revel in their temple of marble and glass, they haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on right under their noses. They’ve started to feel the rumbles, and in their panic, they’ve completely ignored the Goddess they’ve chained.
Money is a Goddess, and she’s getting pissed.
That vision rocked my world and started to shift my perspectives on things in many ways. I’d been sucked deep into six-figure coaching world. Not that I ever made anywhere near six-figures, but I was sure that if I just figured out the secret to it, I would absolutely manage to reach that goal.
Of course, the “secret” was pre-existing privilege rooted in white supremacist patriarchal capitalism.
2015-2016 rocked my worldview, and not just because of the shitstorm 2016 election. A whole fuckton of shit happened for me spirituality that radically altered me.
During those years, I had a few clients who were the kind of women who actually did make six-figures.
I got the behind-the-scenes of quite a few of them.
The ones that weren’t living off trust funds or CEO husbands were so deeply in debt that they were living payment to payment.
It takes a LOT of money to make a lot of money, and the flow of money is controlled by the systems of oppression that started to develop thousands of years ago with the advent of patriarchy.
That’s what the Vision of Juno Moneta was telling me.
That no matter how hard I tried, no matter what I did, no matter how much magic I used, the only way I’d gain access to that kind of money was to sell my soul to the patriarchal powers-that-be.
The Goddess was chained, Her resources being doled out at the whims of a few powerful men. And to access those resources, one had to conform.
Or help set the Goddess free.
All the Goddesses whose images and stories had been co-opted in service to the Patriarchal God and His worldly institutions.
At first, it seemed totally nuts.
It was just my imagination, right?
Of course, now, we’ve had more and more light shining on the ways that just a few people are pulling the strings and controlling the economy of the world.
Revolution is threatening. We’re probably still a few years off from a full-blown revolution, but it’s coming.
And in the meantime, we can work to free the Goddesses, so that we can seek Guidance and Support from Them.
What Juno Moneta taught me – IS teaching me – is that money isn’t the problem. The hoarding of money and resources is the problem.
Believing that money, or anything at all, belongs to us is the problem.
This led to a deepening of my animist beliefs.
Nothing belongs to me because everything belongs to itself because everything has its own soul, is its own, unique being.
Even Money. She’s a Goddess after all.
This takes a radical shift in perspective. It’s hard. I still struggle with it. The “ownership” mentality is deeply conditioned in us.
So how do you free Goddesses?
By reading their stories. By tracing the ways that Patriarchy painted one picture of Them, and seeing how maybe, there’s more to Them than Patriarchy would have us believe.
By creating devotional practices to Goddesses that you resonate with. – this is my task, to teach you how to do that. Devotion is attention and a willing transfer of power. What are you devoted to know? What is your power going to now?
By taking action on the guidance of the Goddesses who come to you. Discernment is key here. Knowing your biases and seeing the White Supremacist Patriarchal Capitalist influences on your mind and choices.
By using your Voice.
Your homework today is to start a shrine.
This can be as simple or elaborate as you like. If there is more than one Goddess calling you, you can have more than one shrine. You can create shrines to ideas, to stories, to projects, too.
A basic shrine might be a candle and an incense burner. Every time you light a candle and incense, you call to mind the subject of the shrine. That’s a devotional practice.
Getting more elaborate, you might add objects that are related to or sacred to the subject of the shrine.
Juno Moneta was the goddess of the treasury, and protectress of funds. Roman coins were made in Her temple and were originally stamped with her image. Adding coins and bills to Her shrine might be appropriate.
Contemplative reflection: What does it mean that our money no longer holds the image of Her, but instead, the images of the men who founded White American Patriarchy? How might She feel about that? Allow Her pain to become Your pain, and then allow it to motivate you.
Follow-up: If you appreciate Gwynne’s story, she could use a boost of her own at the moment. She’s at a pivotal point. She lives in Flint, MI, and has an unprecedented opportunity to outright purchase the house she’s living in if she can just manage to clear the back taxes by the end of the month. She’s already well over halfway to her goal, and she also had a lucky Friday the 13th: Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, donated $1000 to her today.
Money magic works in mysterious ways.
Consider helping a fellow hermit monastic secure her home, Stone Soup Hermitage and Cat Sanctuary, so that she can continue to serve her village as a cat rescue and foster home, and carry out her plans to build contemplative gardens for retreats.
Black Stone Sanctuary contributed to a fundraiser for Gwynne last summer, and the blessing returned many times over. That’s the way Juno’s law of flow works. It’s a pleasure to be able to contribute in return once again, thanks to Juno’s blessings. Thank you, Gwynne. Hail, Juno Moneta!
Facebook fundraiser for Stone Soup Hermitage and Cat Sanctuary
Gofundme for Stone Soup Hermitage and Cat Sanctuary