I was confused about the vision I received to begin my pilgrimage to reclaim the Divine Feminine in Rome because when I close my eyes and think of this ancient city, my first image is of the Vatican. And my first association with the Vatican is it as one of the main propagators of a patriarchal paradigm. Flashes of Scripture that oppress women's voices and instill ideas of male superiority flood my consciousness, like 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35.
34 Women should remain silent in the churches.
They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.
35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home;
for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
Perhaps my vision was leading me back to the old adage All Roads Lead to Rome. My intention to reclaim the Divine Feminine on an individual and collective level is not about diminishing the masculine perspective, but elevating the feminine voice so that they can become integrated and equal while remaining unique in their own strengths. Think of the yin/yang principle. But how can we even begin to find balance, when the stories that lay the foundation of our major world religions and mythology are undeniably patriarchal?
On a deep psychological level, I have often wondered what the impact is on women who are taught that God is male and that the only access to God is through a male priest, pastor, bishop or rabbi. One of the questions most human beings come across in navigating their life is about their individual relationship to God. And if God and access to God is perceived as having a male gender preference, and God is seen as the power of all things and the ideal within which we desire to emulate, where can a woman find her own map to the divine?
It becomes difficult, if not impossible, for a woman to access one of her deepest powers of intuition -- receiving guidance from the Divine and the courage to follow it -- if she inherently believes that she does not have the capability of doing so. If she has not seen images of women as divine or heard stories of women who have also had a direct connection to spirit, the possibility lives outside of her. With the lack of the Divine Feminine in our history, coupled with the scriptures above instructing women must be kept quiet, a woman is faced with a frightening question in her own heart: Does she acquiesce to the written word that oppresses her in many ways, while bringing comfort in others, or does she venture out of the structure that was created so many years ago to find her own truth?
In the book "The Alphabet and the Goddess," the idea is introduced about the power of language and how the alphabet was used as one of the main ways in which the feminine was oppressed and patriarchy could take and retain power, not only over women, but men over other men. The author Leonard Shlain explains that the Old Testament was one of the first alphabetic written works to influence future ages and the words on its pages anchor the three powerful religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. He proposes the impact of these scriptures depended as much on their being written as the moral lessons they contained. 
Because theses stories and words were written down, they were seen as the ultimate authority of truth. And this written word was used as a way to bring people together in a shared belief system that explains where we came from, why we are here and where we are going after this world. It also helped strengthen the power of the word when anyone who disagreed with this written story was killed, like in the Crusades, Inquisition and other religious wars, many of them which began with the Romans.
All of this was on my mind that first morning, when I stumbled upon one of largest feminine sites in Rome. I had just missed the bus and the next one wasn't coming for 30-40 minutes. It was then I looked up and saw a huge church across the street and decided to explore it. The church was called Santa Maria Maggiore. It's the largest church in Rome dedicated to Mary as the "Mother of God." To my astonishment, I experienced a profound sense of peace in this church and was so moved by the images, each of which portrayed Mary above or next to Jesus, showing and honoring a feminine expression of the Divine that my eyes were so thirsty for.
The synchronicity of finding this large church devoted to Mary on that first day affirmed the vision I had to begin my pilgrimage in Rome. The coincidence of setting out to reclaim the Divine Feminine and finding her the first place I looked, in all her glory, drew me into a deeper place of being able to trust myself. This experience illuminated the first insight from this pilgrimage: one of the core practices in reclaiming the Divine Feminine is the ability to trust one's intuition, vision and gut instincts. One has to be willing to go beyond what has been written about the past to explore and interact with life in present time following your instincts vs. your expectations.
Put any cynicism aside for a moment and imagine the power that you as an individual would feel and could hold if you truly trusted yourself. If you believed that you had a direct connection to God/Goddess/Spirit and that the visions of your highest destiny and next steps you could trust and follow. And then imagine how it would feel if you didn't believe that was true, if that power was outside of you or not available. And lastly, imagine you could choose. Imagine you as an individual could believe that you had a divine spark within you, access to infinite inner wisdom and the capability to decipher it from your ego. Do you already believe that? If not, would your life be different if you chose to believe such a thing?
The best part was coming home from my first day of the pilgrimage with this experience and remembering the importance of trusting myself and honoring my vision and then doing some research about this church, the Santa Maria Maggiore, and learning how it came to be built -- from a vision.
According to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared to Pope Liberius and instructed him to build a church precisely where he saw a patch of snow on the next day. Since Rome was currently experiencing one of their typical hot summers, it was out of the ordinary that he found snow at the summit of the Esquiline Hill the next morning (on Aug. 5) and was thought of as a miracle. In commemoration of this event, every year thousands of white petals are released from the ceiling church to "snow" on the congregation. 
Beyond the words written that define our connection to the Divine, our visions, intuition and instincts are a vital way that each of us can connect with the Divine Feminine. As we each learn to trust our own visions -- and one another's visions -- we can begin to dream a bigger dream. I think of John Lennon's quote, "A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality." May this vision of a Feminine Renaissance expand in our own consciousness, so that it can also expand in our world.
Do you remember a time where you had a powerful vision or felt your intuition? Did you follow it? If so or if not, what did you learn?
Is there a vision that has been tugging at you for awhile? A trip to take? A book to read? A person to reach out to? Why have you not done it? What holds you back?
If you had a vision today? Would you trust it? I hope so.
After I wrote this piece and shared it with a friend, she gave me a book of hers called "Visions of Mary," which is filled with stories of people around the world and large communities, even countries, who have experienced visions of Mary. If you are interested to learn more about how to access your own inner vision, here is a piece about 3 Easy Steps To Learn To Listen To Your Intuition.
1. Leonard Shlain, "The Alphabet and the Goddess," 1998.
2. Karen Tate, "Sacred Places of Goddess: 108 Destinations," 2006.
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