Part of our work as neopagans is to help reinstate the divine feminine and respect for the natural world. Those of us who study the old religions know that the old myths were rewritten as the patriarchs claimed rule over all aspects of life. The change in societal customs, through the systematic stripping of female power, include the loss of the sacred groves, the healing temples and respect for Mother Nature.
Modern people, instead of understanding ourselves as part of nature, undervalue its importance and insulate ourselves from it. We are so focused on what technology can bring us that we, not fed by nature’s vital life force, suffer from what has been termed “nature deficiency.” Never before have we lived such unnatural lives. This separation is the result of worshipping only male gods with masculine sensibilities, as the main drives of testosterone is to be independent and to have pride in conquering.
In contrast, the study of the main drive of the hormone estrogen is “carer.” This is nature’s way of insuring the continuation of the species. How would children fare if mothers didn’t care for them enough to expend the tremendous thought, time and energy required to raise them right from the start?
I noted this drive in myself as a young mother, when, as another pushed the carriage with my newborn in it, I walked out into the street so that oncoming cars would need to drive around me, and so stay further away from the carriage. This protective act was not something I had thought out but was instinctual – driven by the estrogen flowing through my body. Estrogen runs through all women, their caring bestowed on what is focused on: family, friend, parent, pet, garden, home, etc. For women, the drive to care is a biochemical imperative.
As part of reclaiming the sacred in the feminine, lets examine our approach to health and healing. Back in the sixties people who ate a healthy diet were called health food “nuts.” This derision was often done by the very people who paid more to put cleaner (unleaded) gas in their car. The truth about nutrition has been obfuscated by the manufacturers of processed food along with government officials who receive contributions from this highly profitable industry.
The mocking that healthy eaters experienced is similar to the response received when saying that more natural healthcare modalities are preferred. Even though the obscenely profitable, western medicine is in control of all governmental healthcare regulations, hopefully, it will not take society as long to realize the benefits of natural healthcare as it did for us to realize the benefits of natural food.
As more women enter healthcare we see changes. First was the addition of the clitoris in medical texts. Then came improved birthing practices as we begin to understand that pregnancy and birth are not illnesses and, in most instances, do not belong in hospitals. Isn’t it common sense that women should not be lying down to give birth? But years ago, I was strapped down on my back, my hands cuffed onto the steel table for birth-giving without one minute of instruction during the entirety of my pregnancy. As women take feminine power back all aspects of healthcare will improve.
To contribute to our consciousness about women and healing I have been researching the lost Greek healing goddesses. For instance, Hygieia and Panacea were included in the original 5th century BCE Hippocratic Oath. Maybe that is why these two goddesses are more familiar to us then their mother Epione and their sisters, Akeso, Iaso and Aglaia. The oath begins:
“I swear by Apollo the physician, and Asclepius, and Hygieia and Panacea and all
the gods and goddesses as my witnesses, that, according to my ability and
judgement, I will keep this Oath and this contract.”
In Greek mythology there were many god/desses, demi gods and mortals with healing attributes but Asclepius was the main healer. There exists different accounts and confusion as to who was an actual god, parentage and who was married to who. For example, some accounts say that Panacea was the mother of Hygieia, fathered by Panacea’s own father Asclepius. Some accounts say that Panacea and Hygieia were sisters, born to Epione. One thing we can count on is that the myths, as we were taught, are inaccurate. I pose here a more logical accounting.
Consistent with the drives of estrogen, I believe it was Epione and her five daughters, each having different healing powers, who, pre-patriarchal takeover, were worshipped in the healing temples. In order to help restore these goddesses, with limited info on them, I have written prayers to them with what we do know. I have arranged them in the order of an invoking pentagram with radiant health at the center.
The Goddess Hygieia
Point one on the pentagram is the Goddess Hygieia (hi-JEE-uh). Hygieia has two powers. First is the prevention of disease by maintaining health through “natural hygiene” or practices that keep the body and mind clean. Intermittent fasting and meditation fall into this category. The principals of natural hygiene reflect the argument: is illness caused by the ground or the seed, the immune system or the germ. Hygieia helps keep us clean so there is nothing for the seed to grow in.
Hygieia also has the power to cleanse, as is accomplished with Ayurveda. Currently, instead of complying with nature and embracing natural hygiene to stay healthy, polluted, we wait until we are sick before seeking care.
It is probable that the original holy waters came from goddess temples and groves built around sacred springs. Hygieia rules over the life-giving and cleansing water as is signified by her holy cup (or bowl), now a symbol of pharmacy. Anyone drinking or being anointed with Hygieia’s water would receive Her blessings.
Prayer to Hygieia
I call to Hygieia of the healing temple.
Sister hear my prayer to you.
Let me sip from your cup of purity,
Snake of knowledge wound around you,
wound around your cup and your staff, (rod / wand)
let it wind around my absolution.
Bless and guide me
that I am cleansed body and soul,
strong, healthy, balanced.
Those of us who live by the ways of nature
rebirth ourselves anew.
So has it always been and so it is.
Hygieia Cleansing Rite
A simple blessing / cleansing rite I used to do was to make holy water with water drawn when both the sun and moon were in water signs. When cooled, the holy water went into a glass cauldron (bowl.) Participants having washed their hands before the circle was cast (I like to wash my hands before circle always but especially for Hygieia.)
Cast and cleanse the circle and participants as usual. Invoke Hygieia to join you and to bless the holy water. Start the chant slowly and quietly, with everyone joining in.
Hygieia, we rinse in your cup of purity,
that we are cleansed body, mind and soul.
We rebirth ourselves anew.
HPS rinses her hands in the cauldron filled with holy water, while the chanting continues, then moves the cauldron in front of the woman to her left. The HPS blesses / rinses the woman to her left’s hands. That woman, now blessed and cleansed, moves the cauldron to her left and blesses / rinses the hands of that woman. Repeat until all in the circle have been cleansed / blessed.
Interestingly, no matter how well we had washed our hands before the rite, at the end, the water in the cauldron became murky and seemed thicker, almost heavier.
With Hygieia’s blessing the third eye can be anointed with the Holy water for clarity in seeing as well as cleansing. It can also be sipped. The holy water can be sprinkled onto the women or a crowd with the use of a wand (rod/staff). It also can be poured into the goddesses chalice as well as used to cleanse the circle during the casting. It’s uses are endless.
The Goddess Panacea
Point two is the Goddess Panacea (pan-uh-SEE-uh,) the all-healer. A true remedy from the divine Panacea does not suppress or palliate symptoms but cures the imbalance at it’s source. It does not pollute us or the natural world, otherwise it could not be divine. Prey to Panacea to send you the right remedy and ask Her to bless it and you before using it.
Prayer to Panacea
Hear me compassionate Panacea
and heed my call for healing
Be glorified by my reverence
for I remember who you are.
I ask that I might feel your grace.
Awaken within me the link with my energy body
and the healing inherent in union.
Panacea, send me a remedy, that I may heal.
The Goddess Akeso
Point three is the Goddess Akeso (a-KEY-so,) who allots the healing action, whether through cleansing or remedy. Without the energy to employ the healing, it cannot happen. For instance, in order to burn out a virus, the body’s immune system runs a fever. If the energy necessary to run a fever is not present, true healing doesn’t happen. Akeso provides that healing energy. Akeso’s energy heats up the hands of a bodyworker / healer.
Akeso is also known for healing wounds, which include incisions from surgery and injuries caused by accidents.
Prayer to Akeso
AKeso, healing Goddess,
I remember and invoke you.
Hear my call.
Divine sister, heal my illness/wounds
that I am restored,
and full of life.
I call your name and by your grace,
I am whole, well, vital.
I am healed.
The Goddess Iaso
Point four is the Goddess Iaso (ee-aa-s-AW.) who dispenses recovery, or mending, once the healing action has been accomplished. Iaso was known for wearing white and many bracelets, some high up on her arm.
Prayer to Iaso
Iaso, divine sister in white,
hear my prayer for recovery
asked in your name.
I am here, connecting, transforming.
Be glorified by my reverence.
I ask that you bless me,
that I may feel your grace,
for my renewal
and the freedom
to live my life in strength.
The Goddess Epione
Point five is the Mother Goddess Epione (eh-pee-AW-nee.) Epione, as all healthy mothers do, has the power to comfort, calm and sooth.
Prayer to Epione
Epione, mother of healers,
I call you forth.
Bring your soothing grace.
Alleviate my pain
and calm my fear.
Lost matriarch, among the gods most high,
take your rightful place
in the healing temples
and the sacred groves.
Kind Mother, may you smile on me.
The Goddess Aglaia
At the center of the pentagram is the Goddess Aglaia (a-GLIE-a.) To embody the divine Aglaia is the goal of healing. She is health. True health is the ability to function at our highest, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Prayer to Aglaia
Aglaia, personification of Grace,
radiant sister, kind, loving, divine,
glowing with health and beauty,
I call you forth.
I ask that you bestow upon me
the Glory of all the Graces.
Shine your magnificence,
that I may reflect your splendor.
The Grace, embodiment of all the charities,
with gratitude for my healing and vitality,
may I carry your brilliance.
I open myself to you.
I have written a blessing for my sisters and brothers who give care. With the grace of the caring divine feminine, lets help in the return of natural healing, the healing temples and the sacred groves of our mother.
Blessing for Care Givers
We call the goddesses of the healing temple.
O merciful, hear our call and prayers to you.
We pray you sanctify all you have called to give care.
Strengthen and protect us body and soul.
Bless and guide our work
that we may help ease suffering.
So mote it be!