Mesopotamian Goddesses

In December of 2017, I gave a talk about Priestesses and Goddesses of Ancient Mesopotamia at the Theosophical Society, which was filled with an engaging audience who listened to me speak about an important aspect of my ancestry that is often omitted from history – the women who helped build the cradle of civilization, now called Iraq.

We’re all connected to our past. So it’s important to know what it was like in ancient Mesopotamia when females and males had a more equal status and cuneiform scripts were filled with poetry of love stories rather than wars. How did women go from being writers and poets, queens, physicians, and priestesses to, thousands of years later, being sex slaves?

I’ll recap a little history from passages from my memoir, Healing Wisdom for a Wounded World: My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School (pg 164-165):

What history books say regarding the role of women in ancient Mesopotamia is true. Most girls were trained from childhood for the traditional roles of wife, mother, and housekeeper. They learned how to grind grain, how to cook and make beverages, especially beer, and how to spin and weave cloth for clothing. But in early periods, women could own, purchase, and inherit property and engage in business for themselves. High status women, such as priestesses and members of royal families, were taught to read and write and were given significant administrative authority. A number of powerful goddesses were worshiped, and in some city states they were the primary deities.

Kubaba, a Sumerian Queen, is the world’s first recorded woman ruler in history. She was a former tavern-keeper, one of many occupations that were open to women in Mesopotamia. Kubaba was said to have reigned peacefully for one hundred years. Her symbols were the mirror and the pomegranate.

Enheduanna is the world’s first recorded writer. She wrote and taught about three centuries before the earliest Sanskrit texts, 2000 years before Aristotle and 1,700 before Confucius. She was the daughter of the great Mesopotamian king Sargon of Akkad and the high priestess of the temple of Innana, known as Ishtar, and Nanna, the Akkadian moon god, in the center of her father’s empire, the city-state of Ur.

Enheduanna had a considerable political and religious role in Ur. She wrote during the rise of the agricultural civilization, when gathering territory and wealth, warfare, and patriarchy were making their marks. She offers a first-person perspective on the last times women in Western society held religious and civil power. After her father’s death, the new ruler of Ur removed her from her position as high priestess. She turned to the goddess Inanna to regain her position through a poem that mentions her carrying the ritual basket:

It was in your service that I first entered the holy temple,
I, Enheduanna, the highest priestess. I carried the ritual basket,
I chanted your praise.
Now I have been cast out to the place of lepers.
Day comes and the brightness is hidden around me.
Shadows cover the light, drape it in sandstorms.
My beautiful mouth knows only confusion.
Even my sex is dust.

Enheduanna lived at a time of rising patriarchy. It has been written that, as secular males acquired more power, religious beliefs had evolved from what was probably a central female deity in Neolithic times to a central male deity by the Bronze Age. Female power and freedom sharply diminished during the Assyrian era, the period in which the first evidence of laws requiring the public veiling of elite women was made.

I also shared my ancestor’s history of rich powerful females. This includes Inanna, the goddess of Sumerians who is known as Ishtar for Babylonians and Assyrians. She honored her femininity and used her power to do good for her people. She chose to leave all her possessions behind to go to the underworld which her sister was goddess of. To do so, she had to pass the seven gates (kundalini chakras) to meet her death and return to life.

There’s Ninkasi, the ancient Sumerian goddess of beer. She symbolizes the role of women in brewing and preparation of beverages in ancient Mesopotamia. But this was not a light matter. Beer consumption was an important marker for societal and civilized virtues. Did you know that the oldest recipe for brewing beer comes from the land of Mesopotamia and that the straw was first developed by the Babylonians?

Back to Kubaba – the only queen on the Sumerian King list and one of very few women to have ever ruled in their own right in Iraqi history. She is believed to have fortified the city against invaders and made it strong. After her death she was worshiped as a goddess. Yet in later generations, Mesopotamians decided it was unnatural for a woman to uphold traditional men’s roles and provided this omen to make sure no other woman dares to so improperly cross that line again: “If an androgyny is born, with both rod and vagina – omen of Kubaba, who ruled the country. The country of the king shall be ruined.”

Ironically, the country of “the king” was ruined because of her absence. The thirst to wipe away the feminine energy, “her story”, in the Middle East has succeeded, causing that region to become so imbalanced that, no matter how much U.S. and international intervention, it seems unable to heal.

Yet I believe what the Dalai Lama once said, that “the Western women will save the world.” Yes, she will bring her story back to life.

After that talk at the Theosophical Society, I dug deeper into my history, retrieved more stories about queens, priestesses and goddesses from that region, and decided to incorporate them into a book. Mesopotamian Goddesses: Unveiling Your Feminine Power not only shares the stories of these women, but it’s a transformed understanding of feminine consciousness, helping you, through powerful yet practical exercises, to manifest your dreams and create a healthy marriage within yourself, your home, and society.

You can preorder your book, or learn how you can be part of this history by visiting this link:  https://www.publishizer.com/mesopotamian-goddesses

FRONT COVER (LATEST)

The Beauty of Farming

My grandparents, from both my parents’ side, were farmers in Telkaif, a town in northern Iraq where, not long ago, Chaldeans [Christian Iraqis] lived a fairly peaceful life. My maternal-grandfather woke up every morning before the break of dawn, attended church, came home to eat a fresh breakfast he’d grown on his land, and worked in his farm until evening. Then he was off to church once again before having supper and calling it a day. They enjoyed good clean air, exercise, and a quiet time with nature. 

In 2012, I went to the home of a 111-year-old Chaldean woman, Warina Zaya Bashou, who lived in my neighborhood, to interview her for an article. She had just become the second oldest person to be granted citizenship to the United States. I asked her what was the secret to her longevity and she said:

  1. work
  2. don’t go to the doctors
  3. drink lots of tea

She too was from the village of Telkaif and, like my grandparents, had worked a great deal on the farm. Over the years, we’ve lost that relationship with the land and with eating foods grown on local farms rather than delivered in trucks from far away. But we’re trying to bring this relationship back. 

One person who’s helping do that is Diane Dovico, who I interviewed on my show. Diane spent 21 years as the Executive Director of the Royal Oak Community Coalition, a 501(c)3 non-profit and currently, she serves Oakland County working as a Wellness Program Administer at the Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities by designing and facilitating original programs, initiatives, and campaigns. She started So You Want to be a Farmer?  which is a free event she had for kids at the Royal Oak Farmers Market. 

My niece and I took our children to the event yesterday where kids had the chance to play games and do activities such as animal yoga poses, planting vegetable seeds to take home, designing your own farm, story book time, making a healthy snack, and pretending to grocery shop and to learn how to make health food choices. 

I try, whenever possible – meaning when there’s the least resistance from my children – to get them involved in the meal’s preparation or to take them grocer shopping with me. Sometimes the easiest way to get them to eat healthier is by being an example, biting your tongue (kids love to rebel) and limit the types of snacks that enter your home. 

It’s also important to support local farmers. Small farms renew a connection between the food people eat and the land they live on. They help create jobs, improve the health of the land and the people, and they provide a foundation for a more resilient local food system. As people become more conscientious, they understand the beauty and necessity of farming. They want to know where their food comes from, how it is produced, and that it is produced in a way that isn’t damaging the environment. It is this consciousness that will shift the economic attitude to “what’s good for the world is what’s right for the company” for the rewards of brand loyalty and profits.

What’s your relationship to food and the land?

The Women of WISDOM

In response to the divisions that emerged during the recent elections, many women have come together to form unity and a more peaceful world. They began taking on leadership roles, with over 25,000 women contacting Emily’s List about running for office. This is one small example.

But the pattern of women stepping up to create harmony during difficult times is not a new phenomenon. Many women around the world have worked hard to help provide equal opportunities and healthier environments so that individuals, families, communities, and nations can strive. Over a decade ago, Gail Katz, a Jew, Shahina Begg, a Muslim, and Trish Harris, a Catholic, reached out and brought other women together to form WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in Metro Detroit) which officially became a 501 (c) 3 in May 2007.

The 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War had caused a polarization as turmoil escalated in the world between and among the various faith traditions. In the belief that women could come together and form an interfaith movement where we could listen to each other, respect each other’s differences, and then take action towards change, these inspiring women started a beautiful circle of sisterhood that has gone on to present many empowering programs.

Wisdom

I met one of WISDOM’s co-founders, Trish Harris, through Padma Kuppa, who’s running for a seat in the Michigan House of Representatives. Trish is a Catholic like myself, and she definitely has a lot of wisdom to contribute to the world. In the book Friendship & Wisdom, she writes, “There is something distinctive about how women work together. We tend to take the time to build the relationships first, and then work on solving the problem.”

Friendship & Wisdom features true stories from over 50 remarkable women. One of the woman who shares her story in the book is Padma. Padma is a Hindu American and community activist working for social justice and understanding. Born in India, she arrived to the U.S. to start kindergarten in 1970 on Long Island. Returning to India with her family in 1981, she finished high school and college while living in a mainstream Hindu culture. Returning to New York in 1988 as a foreign student, she, her husband, and their two children have made Troy, Michigan their home since 1998. Padma is a founding member of the Troy-area Interfaith Group, as well as the Bharatiya Temple’s Outreach Committee.

Padma starts her story with profound words (page 89):

One of my favorite Bible verses from 1 Corinthians: “Faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” This is a lot like passages in Hindu scriptures, including these words from the Maha Upanishad: “The whole world is a family.” There also is a prayer of peace in the Rig Veda that reads, in English: “May all be happy. May all be healthy. May all be prosperous. Let no one suffer.”

The Foreword by Barbara Mahany was also touching:

Day after day I wake up with my chest feeling hollowed. The space in my heart hurts so much, so immeasurable, I can’t fathom how to contain it. I shuffle down the stairs of my old shingled house, look out the windows into the quiet dawn, into the leafy arbors, and wonder how in the world can I stitch a single thread into the tatters of this world, this oozing brokenness all around?

And then the stories of this book landed on my desk. This, I knew right away, is where the answer lies: In ordinary-extraordinary stories of women who reach across doorways, and hallways, and kitchen counters – who see beyond burkas and veils and prayer beads and venerations.

Being in the presence of these women, you know there’s something special at work that you want to be a part of. Wisdom received from anyone is very important. With women, their wisdom allows them to see in another woman what she herself might not be able to see or articulate so clearly. When I opened the book that Trish had gifted me, I saw these words: “Weam, thanks for helping to change the world – one relationship at a time.”

I’m grateful for women like Trish and Padma and others who help make communities a better place. May their sisterhood circle continue to grow, prosper, and embrace the whole world.

To learn more about Wisdom, click here:

To learn more about Padma Kuppa, click here

One of the Best-Kept Secrets

One beautiful sunny morning in March 2014, I drove to Colombiere Conference and Retreat Center to cover a story for The Chaldean News about a women’s Lenten retreat. It was a Friday and my son, a preschooler, didn’t have school that day. One of the directors of the retreat encouraged me to bring him along so I did.

Colombiere is nestled on acres of towering pines and oaks in Clarkston, Michigan. I remember upon entering the long road that leads to the building, I felt a sudden disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Inside, my son stopped to view some of the statues and look out the window at the walking trails and gardens. We took the elevators to an upper floor and went into a most lovely chapel with bluish décor. Father Sameem Balius was performing mass. He talked about the importance of retreats, how they renew peoples’ faith and help them experience the loving presence of God and to seek the wisdom necessary for good daily living.

Colombiere

 

Later we moved the cafeteria, which was surrounded by large windows. My son and I observed the green acres of land. A few nuns were doing their morning walks. I interviewed the priests and organizers of the retreat, who initially started it years prior “to combine prayer, meditation and spiritual education”, and went home feeling blessed to have had the opportunity to visit this place, especially with my young son. (I included below a link of the article I wrote in 2014).

Two years later, my family and I went to Cancun, Mexico and I ended up participating in a spiritual ceremony that had me thinking to bring home the experience I enjoyed in the Riviera Maya. As an author of 12 books, I wanted to also combine writing workshops with it. I’ve worked with many writers and have found that oftentimes, there are spiritual blocks preventing them from moving forward in their career. I’ve also worked with many people who have healed several issues in their lives through the process of writing. I decided to start a writing and spiritual retreat and named it The Path of Consciousness, based on the sign welcoming patrons to the spiritual ceremony in Mexico. Last year, Reverend Barbara Yarnell of the Center of Enlightenment and another dear friend Lisa Argo offered to help me find the right venue and prepare other necessary work.

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Someone suggested we visit Colombiere. The name didn’t ring a bell but when we arrived to the building, upon driving into the long road, I immediately remembered the day my son and I went there, the peace that enveloped me and I’m sure him as well since he was so good throughout the day, allowing me to enjoy mass and interview people. From that one visit, we agreed this is the perfect place for the writing and spiritual retreat and didn’t end up touring other retreats. Later, I discovered that Colombiere is said to be “one of the best-kept secrets.”

Chapel

 

As someone who loves history, when I learned of the story behind Colombiere, I invited Janice Seeley, director of conferences and retreats, to come on my show and share it. Colombiere opened as a Jesuit training facility in 1959. It is named after Claude de la Colombiere, a Jesuit teacher, orator and spiritual director, who lived in France from 1641 to 1682 and was canonized May 31, 1992. In the course of preparation for the priesthood, the young Jesuit undergoes fifteen years of training, years of formation. Some examples of the classes offered in liberal arts were English, Latin, Greek, French, Literature, History, Education, and Speech. This rich background prepares the young Jesuit for further studies in philosophy and theology.

From the beginning, the Jesuit Healthcare Center for retired priests and brothers has been located there, as well as a large community of Jesuits involved in the operation of Colombiere. After the number of seminarians declined by the late 70s and 80s, they decided to open up an infirmary/retirement center for the Jesuit priests. In addition, the remainder of the building opened up as a retreat center. Although the facilities reflect the Jesuit influence, they are not limited to those of the Catholic faith. Colombiere hosts a wide spectrum of non-profit and for profit groups and is available for educational, religious, and governmental day and overnight programs, as well as both corporate and religious retreats.

Aside from having the writing and spiritual retreat there, I’m also considering having the Girl Scout troop which I lead to spend a night or two there, where mothers and daughters can enjoy quiet time without the interruption of electronics or television. If you want to check out the spiritual and writing conference and retreat which will be from October 5 to 7, visit this link The Path of Consciousness
Read Article about Chaldean Women’s Retreat

Continue reading “One of the Best-Kept Secrets”

An Extraordinary Doctor

 

This time last year, I flew to Los Angeles to participate in an incredible documentary called The Staff of Mercury, which is produced by Dr. Homayoun Sadeghi, MD.  It is a visionary film intended to transform people’s lives around the world, especially with regards to health and wellness. It launches in 99 days and recently, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Sadeghi on my show. It’s always wonderful to reconnect with him as he has a wealth of useful information and enormous positive energy. Furthermore, his story is truly fascinating.

For the longest time, Dr. Sadeghi dreamt about being a healer, but it was years of hard work and persistence before he found his true purpose in life. In his 20s, he felt a calling to be a healer, to do something greater than himself. He went back to school to become a doctor. After he attained his license, he realized that being a doctor didn’t necessarily make him a healer. He was helpless in trying to cure chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Little did he know that this is the beginning of his “Medicine Man” journey.  

“People do get healed here and there but when they do it’s often not because of what we doctors do but because of the inner resilience and tenacity they themselves must erupt to overcome their challenges,” he said.

He spent the last decade of his life interviewing, experimenting, and researching and studying things like alternative medicine, mind-body approach and the like. He found none of these in and of themselves are 100% effective. The ultimate cure for all these disease probably already exists. We just haven’t found it yet.

“We keep searching for answers in darkness,” he said. “As we touch new sign posts, we keep shifting our beliefs and mindsets.”

Dr. Sadeghi reminds us that there was a time not long ago when we thought the earth was flat; when we gave our soldiers free packs of cigarettes; when doctors endorsed their favorite cigarette brands; when we gave estrogen to even pregnant women. He adds that most doctors who practiced long enough know that many of the treatments they once learned in medical school are now considered acts of gross negligence.

“That’s because we keep learning and shifting our mind sets,” said Dr. Sadeghi. “We constantly keep changing the landscape and growing, evolving.”

He asks, “What if there was a way for you to be healthy and disease free well into your retirement years? What if you can live a much more vibrant and energetic life with just a slight shift in your mindset?”

Over the years, through a lot of ups and downs and trials and errors, he has gained amazing insights and knowledge that he hopes will change and inspire people’s lives. He shares it through these incredible insights through a brilliant mind expanding documentary called The Staff of Mercury.

“Why do I want to share?” he asks. “Because my own life and growth depends on it. Long ago, I realized that my own redemption depends on my ability to give, help, love, and serve others. We are all on the same planet. We breathe the same air and share the same earth grown food. We all depend on each other. I can’t elevate myself unless I help elevate you.”

Dr. Sadeghi is the author of The Art of Healthy Living: A Mind-Body Approach to Inner Balance and Natural Vitality. In it, he explains how health takes effort, and that this effort starts from the inside out. 

To learn more about the Staff of Mercury, visit

 

Women in Ministry

Reverend Barbara Yarnell was in law enforcement for 29 years and retired from the Detroit Police Department with the rank of Executive Lieutenant. After she retired, she decided to be a minister. She was ordained on October 27, 2007 and her earlier studies certified her as a spiritual healer, medium, associate minister and Level One Meta-physician. She works as a minister, teacher, and healer. Her classes include Sacred Space, Pendulums, Comparative Religions, Healing Oils, Shamanism, Life between Lives and Drumming. 

I met Rev Barbara through a mutual friend at the Edgar Casey’s Association for Research and Enlightenment.  Shortly thereafter, she invited me to speak at her church, the Center of Enlightenment in Ferndale. She also wanted us to meet and asked me to recommend a restaurant that served good Iraqi food. I offered that she instead come to my home for a homemade Iraqi meal. We’ve been friends ever since.

Over the years, I’ve given a number of talks at the Center of Enlightenment and I’ve learned so much from Rev Barbara and the other ministers there. I particularly enjoyed my talk last month because my eight-year-old son accompanied me. After service, he and I joined the ministers at a restaurant for breakfast.  He was so intrigued by the service and the conversations we had that he asked to visit again.

Rev Barbara has been a blessing and instrumental in helping me put together The Path of Consciousness, a spiritual and writing conference and retreat, where in the early mornings she will lead service at the beautiful chapel inside the establishment. Aside from providing continuous services, she has led a full and meaningful life, doing the work she enjoys best and traveling the world with her husband. She went to Brazil twice to visit the famous medium and psychic surgeon John of God who has been featured in major news outlets and interviewed by Oprah. She went simply for curiosity’s sake, to watch John of God perform, not for any healing. From that trip, she had an idea to write two books which relate to John of God. He gave her permission to do so and blessed the process. 

When I invited her on my show, I didn’t know whether to have her talk about John of God or about women in ministry.  I then figured I’d have her on the show twice because once wasn’t going to be enough. She has a lot of rich information and many delightful stories to share.

barbara-yarnell2.jpg

Regarding women in ministry, women have always played an important role in the growth of the church, even being among the few who witnessed the crucifixion of Christ when most of the disciples had run away (Matthew 27:55; John 19:25). The apostle Paul held women in high regard and in many of his letters to the church he greeted precise women by name. Paul addresses these women as “co-workers” and they evidently served the Lord to the benefit of the church.

Yet women in ministry is an issue which Christians have disagreed upon. The split stems from the passages of Scripture that forbid women to speak in church or “assume authority over a man.” (1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 14:34).  Some say that, since there is neither “Jew nor Greek… male or female… but you are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28), women are free to pursue any field of ministry open to men. Others still say that those passages were relevant only to the era in which they were kept.

During the interview, Rev Barbara quotes Corinthians 12:27-3, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.”

What I hadn’t realized is that the Catholic Church ordained women for nearly 11 centuries. Gary Macy, professor of Theology at Santa Clara University, said in a lecture at Vanderbilt University that until about the mid-12 century, women were ordained as deaconesses, served as bishops, distributed Communion and even heard confessions. He said, “Women were considered to be as ordained as any man… they were considered clergy.”

But, he added, politics led to theological rules that wiped out the practice.  The church by the 12th century sought to protect its property from feudal lords by inventing “a separate clerical class.” Theologians came to view women as “metaphysically different from other people,” so that, by the mere fact of being female, women were considered incapable of being ordained.

From mere observation, it’s obvious that less women leaders in government and religious institutions has not helped make our world a better place. One need only look at the Middle East vs. Norwegian countries as an example of how her absence or presence can either make or break that country.

Watch the 30 minute interview and visit The Path of Consciousness to learn more about the spiritual and writing conference and retreat.

 

A Journalist Serves Through Tarot Reading

I had no idea that my friend’s daughter, Christina Salem, did Tarot readings, but once I found out, I invited her on my show. Aside from all the other aspects that make Christina interesting, I wanted a Tarot reading!

Last year, Christina called me asking for advice about traveling abroad. She was then a senior at Oakland University, majoring in Journalism and Public Relations, and she was getting ready to travel as a PR spokesperson for a study abroad program to teach international journalism while observing the economic and refugee crisis in Greece.

Christina had studied astrology, Tarot reading, and other supernatural phenomena. After venturing the other side of the world and walking in and out of refugee camps as a student journalist, she realized her true calling by helping others along their journey through life’s obstacles. 

As she did more research and history on her Chaldean culture, she came across fascinating information about its history regarding astrology. The Chaldean astrologers were famous for their love and pursuit of knowledge in every branch of science and the basic characteristic of ancient Mesopotamian religion was its view of the numina (spiritual force) behind natural phenomena. 

Christina was gifted The Wild Unknown tarot deck in 2017 after studying tarot for two years and has given readings, clarifications and counsel all around the world. The information and experience she gathered led her to start a Tarot readings business online called Salem’s Vision. 

“After enduring a lifelong battle with confusion, discovering my vision gave me the opportunity to help people understand theirs,” she said.

Most people envision Tarot card reading to be performed by a woman in flowing robes, leaning over a small table with a crystal ball and candlelight, maybe with a little incense smoke too. They think that it’s a form of fortunetelling, but really, it more so helps you look within. Similarly to coffee grain or tea leaf readings, Tarot reading highlights the aspects of your life which you may not be entirely aware of at the moment.

Tarot Cards are a tool used for divination and the reading is usually performed by someone with strong intuition and clairvoyance who uses his or her gifts to provide answers and guidance for people. They help you take a look at what are the influences in your life, what conscious and subconscious control you are exercising on your life, and how these numerous aspects may manifest in the future. It puts specific weight on what blocks are in your way and how to overcome them.

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 

Watch the half-hour segment to learn about Christina’s story and to watch the Tarot reading she did for me which was pretty insightful.  

For more information about Salem’s Vision, visit https://www.salemsvision.com/