On March 8, 1911, Europe celebrated the first International Women’s Day. More than 70 years later, in 1987, the U.S. Congress officially declared March to be Women’s History Month.
Schools around the country have dedicated March to recognizing women’s historic accomplishments for decades, and this year, on the 8th, posts and Tweets from women the world over celebrating women’s accomplishments flooded social networks. There were images of trailblazing women—campaigning for equality, powerful world leaders, record-breaking athletes, inventors, explorers, creators who’ve made it easier for women in many, but sadly not all countries, to fully realize their potential. These images and articles made me think, What about going deeper, even into prehistoric times and looking at the Goddesses who were the original role models? By this, I mean: the Earth mothers who protected and nurtured us; the warrior women, who were fearless activists and defenders of rights; and the healers, who sourced out disease and cured it.
These women all emerged from creation stories, legends and myths to become universal archetypes—powerhouses who, to this day, are present in our consciousness. We name our daughters and businesses after them (e.g. Venus Williams, who’s named after Venus, the Goddess of Beauty and Love; Tannis, my name, and yes, it is my given name, is the Greek spelling (no, I’m not Greek like Joe) of Tanit, which means serpent lady). No, none of these Goddess names were picked intentionally. But the Goddess presence has deep roots in all cultures.
For fun, I’ve compiled a sampling of Goddesses—some famous and some obscure—from different origins. They’re divided into the following categories: MOTHER, WARRIOR and HEALER (although many Goddesses do fit in more than one category). I’ve listed extra ones in HEALER, because they’re so abundant in every culture. All of these Goddesses possess qualities applicable to Pilates. And here’s the fun part: As you read, think about this:
WHICH GODDESS, OR GODDESS-COMBO ARE YOU?
HOW DOES THIS INFORM YOUR PILATES PRACTICE?
Isis: Egyptian; mother of all goddesses. Goddess of birth, death and rebirth. Her love never dies. She shows us the ways of creation and destruction. Call on Isis as a midwife, teacher, physician and friend.
Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé: Navaho; “The woman who changes.” She helped create the sky and earth. The second word in her name connotes one “who changes” or literally translates that she is hermaphroditic.
Tanit: Phoenician; Goddess of Fertility and unifier of Earth and sky. Known as the Serpent Lady.
Nike: Greek; and, yes, Nike is named after this Goddess of strength, speed, and victory. She’s admired for her wings and ankles and know to run very fast. She’s the one in that famous Winged Victory statue.
Athen: Youthful and idealistic, this intellectual strategist warrior dedicated to defending culture and a higher purpose. She’s the protector, and willing to enter the male arena and battle against injustices. Tall, sword baring, armor-clad virgin amazon, often depicted with an owl (wise) and intwined snakes (the Caduceus or Hippocratic Oath symbol).
Morrigan: Irish goddess of battle, victory and also fertility. She’s known for her courage and fierce emotions in battle that evoke fear in the enemy. Her totem animal is the raven or crow.
Brigid: Celtic; Goddess of inspiration. A healing muse that brings peace, inspiration, and wisdom. Known as the Bright One and also Bride.
Wóȟp: Lakota—Later known as White Buffalo Calf Woman. Goddess of Peace, in terms of harmony, meditation and cycles of time. Her name means meteor. Her sacred healing stone is turquoise.
Mamacocha: INKA or Q’ERO—Goddess of the ocean, she’s a source of health and food, and represents the largest source of water energy and sustenance. Sometimes depicted as a Whale Goddess.
Tara: Hindu; Goddess of Inner Wisdom and Mysticism. She guides us to our center and stillness. Tara offers strength, compassion and self mastery through understanding.
Hebe: Greek; her name means youth or “in the prime of life”. Her role was to serve the nectar and ambrosia to the Gods and Goddesses that prevented them from aging.
Sekhmet: Egyptian; Warrior goddess and goddess of healing. She both brought and cured disease. Her name became synonymous with physicians. She’s depicted as The Lioness, a ferocious huntress.
Oshun Ibu Anya – Oshun of the Drums: Yoruba Nigerian. The patron of dancing and the Anya drums. She dances ceaselessly to forget her troubles. She rules love, beauty, and the arts—especially dance. Her voice is in the rush and flow of streams, rivers, lakes and waterfalls.
QUESTIONS FOR ALL PILATES GODDESSES:
1. In terms of your Pilates practice or teaching approach, which Goddess best personifies you?
2. What made you chose this Goddess as your Archetype?
3. What Pilates exercise best suits this Goddess?
4. In relationship to Pilates, if you could be another goddess, which one would you choose and why?
5. What blend of Goddesses do you think makes for the ideal Pilates Goddess, and why?