Burning Woman

My new book, Burning Woman, is for all women who burn with passion. Have been burned by shame. And in other places, at other times would have been burned alive for what they do and who they are.

It is written for every woman who has struggled with expressing herself. Every woman filled with burning questions, who longed to give voice to the ideas within her, but was too scared by what might happen if she did. It is dedicated to every woman who is in the process of stepping into her power. And every single woman who has been burned when she did.

In my work with hundreds of women over the past few years a theme has emerged: women’s desperate, unquenchable desire to step into their power, countered by the fear of what will happen if they do. The longing to express the riches inside them, wrestling with the deep terror of being burned by the judgement, hatred or rejection of strangers or loved ones if they do.

This fear of being burned is an oddly female one. It is a fear which keeps us small and scared… but seemingly safe. From the outside this can seem like an overreaction. Both the need, and the fear. But women, it seems, have an innate knowing of what it means to burn… and be burned. They know the dangers in their bones. And it makes them wary.

In the words of one woman:

“I have worked on a fear of being me for so long – an abject terror that being me would equal death.”

I identify completely.

Because I too have learned that who I am, what I do, is dangerous.

Just a couple of months before the idea for this book came to me in full force I had what I can only call a waking dream. I was standing in the kitchen, when suddenly I realised I could burn for my work.

The agony of this almost strangled me from within. I realised I could stand to lose everything – my reputation, my community, my beloved husband, my precious children – simply for doing the work that I burn to do.

About a year before I had had an email, out of the blue, from a woman who warned me that I could be on the radar of the powers that be. She had been hunted out of Ireland, she said, tried at a secret court, found guilty of witchcraft. And she was not as visible as I was. My head swam. What were the consequences of doing my women’s work in a world that felt threatened by it? I tried to put her warnings aside as the paranoid ramblings of a crazy lady.

But this fear – whether a feeling in our bones, or a substantiated threat from outside – keeps most of us caged and small.

I know. Because the women I work with tell me this. They tell me how trapped by terror they are; that their desire to create or speak out is submerged by fear. What is at the root of this, I wondered? And so, as I travelled from my own personal fear, to this more universal female experience of burning for our work or our creativity, the seeds of this book were sown.

For almost a decade I have written words for women – in books and blogs and articles for magazines and newspapers. I have woven ceremonies and led groups, I have taught classes and talked and listened to women around the world. I know that there is a hunger, a yearning, right now. Many, many women can feel something stirring within, and they sense something stirring without. Something far bigger than just their desire to paint or write or start a blog or a business or a protest. There is a collective burning igniting within women. A longing for healing. A deep need to tell our stories and be heard. To heal past hurts, lick our wounds and move beyond them, into something big and bold and fresh and new. Something is changing, we can sense it. And yet when we have this yearning, when we hear this calling, there is still the paralysing fear: will I be burned alive?

Over the past two months I have noticed something else, amongst my Facebook communities – the rise in anger, in frustration. In the feeling that enough is enough. Enough of bitchy competitiveness amongst women, enough internet trolling, and misogynistic social media memes, enough rape threats, enough brutal acts of terrorism, enough bully boy tactics on the international political stage, enough austerity, enough exhausting ourselves trying to be everything to everyone.

We have had enough.

We are emerging from a sense of helpless, numb denial that nothing can be done, into a burning belief that something must be done… and the knowledge that each of us has to act in whatever way we can to help it come about. I have witnessed as women have stepped into their power – organising fundraisers and collections of supplies for refugees, starting or sharing petitions, leaving jobs and abusive relationships, starting businesses and new lives.

We are learning that we are the ones we have been waiting for: it is both thrilling and terrifying. We hear the call, but hold back, unsure as to what it might entail. We have received the invitation to step more fully into ourselves, but do not know if we dare to respond. We fear what comes next. We believe that in order to step into greater worldly power, we must be more powerful. But we don’t know how.

And we have seen in the lives of powerful women in the public eye enough to know that each step we take towards our truth, requires trial by fire – inner and outer – as we find the courage to face down the judgements and restrictions of others and embody ourselves more authentically. We can sense this, and it scares us. We don’t know how to proceed, because the mainstream world does not acknowledge the winds of change that are making our noses twitch. And so we can feel alone, burned out, frustrated, and even a little crazy as we try to work with these massive energies that are shifting within us, and in the world outside.

Incendiary words

I must warn you that the ideas within these covers will be incendiary to many. This is a book of her-say which will contradict so much of the existing paradigm. It is strongly and proudly at variance with the established beliefs, of his-story that we have been taught.

His-story has brought us here. But it cannot save us. His-story is burning us all alive. The temperatures are rising, ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising. These are the burning times. A time of systemic collapse. But within it is the spark of new life: the potential for paradigm shift is rich, ripe and ready. Now the phoenix of humanity can rise out of the flames of the old culture. Now is the time for the return of the Feminine into her full power, to work in partnership with a new, mature Masculine. Now is the time to give birth to a new world. The midwives are being summoned. Burning Women hear the call.

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