My recent Goddess Photoshoot with Francesca Bliss was the culmination of several important themes in my life. For many years, I’ve studied Women’s Spirituality and Goddess Archetypes as a way to access the innate divinity in myself and other women. I believe that what you worship and what you defile say a lot about a person. For instance, in Western culture, why is God a man, and woman his submissive? This dynamic shapes not only religion, but the relationship between the sexes, and the relationship between humans and the earth. Both the earth and women are currently seen as expendable resources, and thus, often used and defiled. But what if we changed this paradigm—if we started seeing women (ourselves!) as sacred? Earth based religions see men AND women as divine, and the earth itself as a Goddess. Mother Earth, or Gaia, nourishes all of us, and must be treated gently.
Secondly, a big part of my journey towards accessing my inner goddess has been intertwined with my relationship with my body and sexuality. I have always been a curvy girl—ever since middle school, I had wide hips and generous breasts. Even at my smallest and most fit, I was a size 6. My hips and breasts just naturally wouldn’t get any smaller. When I was 15, I began to gain weight. I struggled with my weight and body image constantly since puberty, in a world that defined thinness as beautiful. In college, I started to see myself as beautiful again, but was the victim of sexual assault that taught me that my body was an object and was dirty and shameful. I spent much of the next decade trying to find value by making myself beautiful enough, sexy enough to please men.
During my pregnancy and postpartum, I gained a lot of weight. I was in an abusive relationship and suffered severe postpartum depression. When my daughter was 2, I decided that I hated myself because I was fat, and embarked on a year and a half weight loss journey. Yet I was more miserable than ever. And along the way—somewhere in the midst of obsessive diet and exercise—I developed an eating disorder. Since my desire to lose weight was motivated by self-hatred, I quickly became addicted to the attention I got when I became smaller and smaller. I was so addicted to the love of others that I found myself starving, spending hours at the gym, and engaged in multiple affairs. I couldn’t get enough of anything. I was empty inside.
Thankfully my family, therapist, and friends recognized that I was in pain and rallied to support me. I spent the next year trying to get back to some sense of self. Naturally, once I stopped starving myself and compulsively exercising, I gained some weight back. This made me feel unworthy. But I was determined to approach self-love a new way. I decided to be kind to my heart and my body. This meant regular exercise, but this time long walks outside, yoga, meditation and dancing. Self-love also meant eating clean, but also allowing myself chocolate and the occasional splurge. I committed to only positive self talk and to loving myself no matter my size. For truly—whose body is static? Our bodies ebb and flow with the seasons, and women in particular, flow with the moon, with the rise and fall of pregnancy, motherhood, menstruation and menopause. It’s okay to take up space and to be dynamic.
I met Francesca Bliss at a new moon women’s circle at our local Red Tent. I was entranced by her sparkle—her inner glow. We connected over goddesses and the importance of women’s empowerment. We want our daughters to love themselves and we know that work begins with us. Thus, the idea for the inner goddess photoshoot was born. We decided we wanted to do a Wild Woman/Nature Goddess photoshoot, centered around the Goddess Diana, who is the patron Goddess of wild women everywhere. Diana/Artemis runs freely through the forest, bow and arrow slung over her shoulder. She dances under the full moon and muses and bleeds under the new moon.
Reclaiming my wild goddess self through photography was a scary but important step for me. I knew that I had done a lot of “inner” goddess work—but in truth, I was still struggling to love my curvy, dimpled, size 14 frame. I wanted to embrace not just my soul, but also my flesh. I debated—maybe I should lose more weight—do I really want people to see me like this (I hadn’t posted many full body shots since I went into eating disorder recovery)? I didn’t like my short hair. Maybe I should wait to grow it out? No! I decided that THIS was exactly what it was about—loving myself right here, right now, short hair, size 14, blemishes and all!
Francesca Bliss was a dream to work with. She understood my vision and helped me see myself as a goddess every step of the way. Some of the most powerful shots from the session were very different—a soft, romantic shot with flowers in my hair (more like the goddess Venus/Aphrodite), and one with a powerful look on my face as I stare into the camera with a crown of twigs in my hair. I learned from this experience that I am a goddess in all my forms—soft, sensual, strong, playful, powerful. I represent many Goddesses—the goddess Diana of the wild, Venus of the magic of desire, and even the power of the dark goddesses.
Written by Mary Reid Bogue (email@example.com, Mary Reid Bogue on Facebook)