WomanChrist (4 of 8)
Myths and victims
Mythically speaking, this revelation holds true as well, at least in the stories I know of. The entire saga of the Old Norse The Nibelungenlied explores the destructive, generation-spanning violence perpetuated by the violent greed for cursed treasure. None of the people involved could think of confronting the continuing savagery with anything but more aggression, and entire families were destroyed as a result. I’ve always wondered if that series of stories was a cautionary tale to explain the emergence of weregild rather than the traditional “eye for an eye” blood-feuds which had existed before then.
weregild (or wergild): In Anglo-Saxon and Germanic law, a price set upon a person’s life on the basis of rank, and paid as compensation by the family of a slayer to the kindred or lord of a slain person to free the culprit of further punishment or obligation and to prevent a blood feud. (from the on-line American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language)
We see similar issues in many other myth cycles: Greek, Arthurian, Indian; I do not doubt there are more which I am either unfamiliar with or cannot currently recall. Jason and the Argonauts is a myth which is part of another multi-generational saga of violence and greed for power where almost everyone ends up dead, much like the Norse saga mentioned above. In the Arthurian mythos the over-proud knightly quest for the Holy Grail eventually ends the momentary beauty and justice of Camelot. The Ramayana relates another story of the arrogant aggression of greed and violence spanning generations and destroying almost an entire nation of rakshasa, while in The Tale of an Anklet: An Epic of South India: The Cilappatikaram of Ilanko Atikal it is the aggression of repeated injustice against a righteous woman which eventually causes an entire city to go up in purging flames. I see these tales as examples of what happens when the “transforming agent” is seized violently through arrogance or greed.
Interestingly, there are Indian tales where aggressive violence is successfully met and defeated with the gift of peace and enlightenment. For example, in the Pali Canon is a story where a rakshasa harasses the Buddha. His serene responses and teachings eventually convince the rakshasa to become a follower. I believe the myth of Jesus’ seasonal murder-and-return, as willing sacrifice for his community, would fall under this category of ‘gifted transforming agent’ as well. Weber ties that kind of mythic and archetypal story closely to the current victimized state of women in the Catholic church, in fact, noting:
If women are to remain within the Church and not be victims, we must be willing to engage in the tasks of Psyche in relationship to that institution. We must sort out the immense confusion. We must gather the golden fleece (the Pearl of Great Price, the Kingdom of Heaven) from those who hold all the power…. finally, we must be willing to descend to the depths and to bring the wise and powerful beauty of Persephone back to the surface of the world. In other words, we must take responsibility for the unique gift of ourselves and not dissolve into the collective by sacrificing ourselves for the continuation of an abusive system. We must become ourselves and commit our love and courage, our power and feeling, to renewal and the ongoing creation of the Christian community. (99)
She discusses the emotional pain and hardships of such a journey, noting poignantly that the very cause of these heroic trials, the Church itself, will likely refuse and reject those efforts, turning away the women who have its well-being at heart to effectively “wander in the wilderness.” But, she continues,
We have always been in diaspora within the Church because the wholeness of who we are as women has been rejected – because we have never been allowed full participation. Only a commitment to erotic justice can redeem the Christian community and heal the division that has been so abusive to women. This kind of justice requires a love that includes but transcends those loves represented by Eros, Aphrodite, and Persephone. This is a love that brings a person to full actualization – to wholeness – and at the same time inspires the gift of everything to God. (99)
This last statement gave me serious pause. First, why was she categorizing the love of goddesses as somehow less than that of the diasporic woman? She was not, in comparison, so characterizing the love of “God.” Also, why is it our job to “redeem” and “heal” the Christian community? Haven’t we earned a little nurturing, a little cherishing from the men who’ve done the abusing? And if they will not clean up their act – why should we stay for their abuse?