Stephanie Pope essay, Stone/Woman/Body: Absence Is Feminine
myth and poetry



Stone, Woman And Body: Absence Is Feminine -Stephanie Pope

It seems established that the earliest object of religious worship was the Great Mother

 -Christine Downing

Images of the Great Mother that form the Mother-Matter-Matrix are numerous and span many ages. These early images reveal the female as having primal power and recognize feminine energy as being transformative invoking cycles of disappearance and reappearance. Goddess as Creatrix, mother of all, and parthenogenic, the Magna Mater is rendered as encompassing both male and female, birth and death, nurturing and devouring (Downing 9-12).  

My search for the feminine has taken me to the mountain. Deeper yet, it has taken me inside a poetics of femininity and stone, a mountain image where like Thomas Merton I have discovered another side.

One night Merton has a dream. He dreams of the Kanchenjunga Mt. of Tibet. In his dream he hears a voice say, "There is another side to the mountain." When he awakens in the morning he writes: "There is another side of Kanchenjunga and of every mountain, the side that has never been photographed and turned into postcards. That is the only side worth seeing" (Journals, vol.7 284).

The paradox for me is that this side of Stone Woman is a side so deep it can only be seen in one way--imaginally. I call this side an Ave Cave; the absence here is what I now may mean when I say 'feminine'. I call this imaginal and feminine ersonified form, Stone Woman. Like a mountain of stone with in-sides, Stone Woman can be likened to the pubic side of woman. The pubic is a side turned away. It is not fully graspable, no matter where your eye lay hold, and this side is both untouchable while it invites penetration; it is something Shakesperean, Ophelia's "O". You can imagine into what you see when I say this--and you will--but your struggle to express what you've experienced will get caught in crevices that disappear between the interstice of your likenesses as the images themselves dissolve back again into the black bottomless, yawning depths. Femininity is a hidden gift; the god re-mains in hiding itself.

Pretty paradoxical, huh? Yet paradox is specific to the feminine world. And, this makes for "it" its own reality. Not a naturalism nor a literal place, this vertical extension into the depths cannot be taken literally although it can, as I said, be approached and apprehended imaginally.

Personified as The Other, She belongs to Herself, is a sex that is "not one", meaning not belonging to one's subjectivity nor only one subjective role within the psyche. But, because she is also wholly other, the feminine is also that which is abjected in subjectivities of expression. Such a "oneness" can not be posited as literally there for the eye to see. She vanishes! But, this "is not" is a self-emersion that has overcome its own self-representation; non-being has be-ing without having to be a being (a subject)to express itself.

appears even farther beyond the attributes of the Magna Mater, an archetype expressing the most materiality and the least embodiment. Yet, she is of this primal feminine root. It is as if femininity lives beyond the eye which is also to say, She lives beyond the "I". If She is not here, femininity can yet reveal herself "as if" She were--and as if She were "as is"; one neither this nor that, She is yet a fundamental principle wholly other. What feminine has come to mean to psychology anticipates a realm of infinite depth.

The image of feminity and the image of mother come to mean, in psyche's way of language, "the most there" as bearer of all that exists and the most "not there", an other, wholly other bearer of all that in-visibly re-mains in what lives remaining here after death. The Mater Delorosa, the Dark Woman & the Black Madonna remember and help us face the experience of absences, enlarging psychic space.

This ultimate side of femininity touches the deathless timeless dimension but not as an opposite sexuality, not as an/other half to masculine forms of expression filling out the conscious side of a picturing. The dimension of reality called feminine is wholly other being. More importantly, this be-ing that does not contain form, can be ab-sensed in the ab-sense of absences. Such likenesses are to which poetic images deeply refer.

Called simply by many differing kinds, "Beyond", femininity is imagined in the mountain woman, the round woman and the woman in the stone.

Like C.G. Jung who worked on his images that did not contain form by giving them the appearance of hard and durable surfaces (Word, 192-205), I have struggled to do the same. My image of Her I call the Magma Mater. Some poems that share of Her are included in this and the following section along with images representing other Great Goddesses.

                                      Works Cited

Downing, Christine. The Goddess: Mythological Images of the Feminine. New York: Continuum, 1999.

Jung, C.G.. Word and Image. Ed. Aniela Jaffe. Bollingen Series XCVII: 2. New Jersey: Princeton,1979.

Merton, Thomas. The Other Side of the Mountain: The Journals of Thomas Merton Vol. 7, 1967-1968. Ed Patrick Hart, O.C.S.O.. New York: Harper San Fransico, 1998.


Persephone's Flower
Ghost Flower

White Lips

Magma Mater

i cannot even

Mountainwoman Passing

mythopoetics mythopoesis
click here for copyright statement