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Excerpt from "Unearthing Venus: My Search for the Woman Within"

by Cate Montana

I was a liberated woman.

In fact, I was so liberated I ignored the entire women’s movement right up until I was 49 years old and working as the Northwest editor of the newspaper Indian Country Today. Then, on assignment, I was told a story about the Shuar tribe in the Brazilian rainforest—a story that awakened me forever to the lie of western female “liberation.”

In this Amazonian tribe men and women held equal power and status. Men hunted and fished and women did traditional female jobs like cooking and childrearing. Both sexes had equal say on the tribal council. But the women were so highly regarded for their intuition and empathic abilities that the men looked to the women for guidance regarding the health of the tribe and the environment. Women knew when things were in balance and when they weren’t. When the women said there was enough food stored, the men stopped hunting; when the women said it was time to move, the camp was moved.

The men recognized that Spirit is closer to the surface in women—more easily available because they’re more sensitive than the more mental, “doing oriented” male—and they honored women for their closeness with the Earth and the divine.

The story blew me away.

How different my world was! In western competitive society most men had no interest in cultural health and balance. Most had little interest in Spirit and even less respect for woman as woman. In my “civilized” culture, I held less authority as a woman than any other social position in my tribe. Only when I became something other than a woman—a TV editor or a newspaper reporter—was my status recognized. Most certainly I wasn’t honored because of my feminine nature. I was one of the 25 percent of all women who’d experienced the horror of rape—an act depicted on so many TV shows it was accepted as socially normal.


Here women were blamed for their own abuse. Didn’t our bodies entice men beyond control? Weren’t we naturally sinful creatures needing a strict and Godly hand?

I lay in bed wondering about the power and grace of the women of the Shuar tribe and the wisdom of their men. Autumn air whispered through the open windows with a coolness bordering on cold. On a whim I got up, lit a candle, and stood in front of the large mirror hanging next to my clothes chest. In the light of such thoughts and the candle’s fluttering glow, I studied my reflection, staring in wonder. My face shone with an unexpected ethereal beauty. What was it that scattered the light in such a way that I found myself suddenly beautiful? Surely it must be the Spirit shining from within?

I inhaled the moment, intoxicated, reeling with a new vision. My hands traveled downwards, molding cloth, briefly revealing my woman’s body, round and full beneath the folds of the nightgown. Why hadn’t I seen this before? Had I been so obsessed with my body as just a body, keeping it fit and sexually attractive, that I missed the life flame igniting it?

On impulse I pulled up my nightgown and slipped it over my head, my nipples hardening with the passage of cloth and the touch of cool night air. Thirstily I drank the light, absorbing this transcendent view of myself. Who could deny such a glory as woman? Had this vision been deliberately obscured? Was the light of God too much to bear shining from a woman’s body? Was this why women had been torn from the altars of the Goddess and turned into whores? Declared unclean and unworthy of entering the inner sanctums of men’s temples? Was this why I was stuck with the pale bloodless Mary kneeling at the feet of her dead son? What image of the feminine was that to behold?

The eternal face of the sorrowful victim.

The candle guttered and I turned slowly, watching my wavering reflection. My hair brushed the curve of my shoulders and swept along the shadowed cleft of my spine. I turned full circle, taking in my breasts and belly. Was this unearthly beauty somehow dangerous, even empowered as it was by the divine? Were men so weakened mistaking spirit for flesh that the full vision of the divine feminine had to be buried and destroyed?

He who has the eyes to see, let him see.

Obviously man’s spirit was as weak as his eyes. Why else had women of power, wisdom and grace—women who recognized what I was seeing, who had the temerity to stand up and flaunt the embodied beauty of the Holy Spirit openly—been systematically slaughtered and maligned for over two thousand years? I gazed long and lingeringly in the mirror, etching the vision of my Godliness onto my aching heart. This is what I’ve been looking for!

It was what all my women friends yearned for: to be seen as they really were. Not faces attached to female body parts, not objects of dirty jokes, but God itself radiating forth. I wove my arms across my breasts, embracing my body, weeping, acknowledging the truth banished by my society and so long withheld by my own mind: In this body I am divine.

I breathed in the thought with the night air and let it uplift and restore my soul.

Author of Unearthing Venus: My Search for the Woman Within and co-author of The Heart of the Matter with Dr. Darren Weissman, Cate Montana’s work focuses on self-realization and the global reawakening to feminine heart-based values and sustainable lifestyles. A journalist and former editor for U.S. and foreign networks, including ABC, NBC, CNN and the BBC, she is also a screenwriter and has co-authored Zentropy with Hollywood filmmaker Betsy Chasse. She lives in Washington State. www.unearthingvenus.com

Unearthing Venus ISBN 978-1-78028-597-9 (Watkins Publishing 2013 is available on Amazon.com, BN.com and in bookstores near you.

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