The moon is always female and so am I although often in this vale of razorblades I have wished I could put on and take off my sex like a dress and why not? Do men always wear their sex always? The priest, the doctor, the teacher all tell us they come to their professions neuter as clams and the truth is when I work I am pure as an angel tiger and clear is my eye and hot my brain and silent all the whining grunting piglets of the appetites. For we were priests to the goddesses to whom were fashioned the first altars of clumsy stone on stone and leaping animal in the wombdark caves, long before men put on skirts and masks to scare babies. For we were healers with herbs and poultices with our milk and careful fingers long before they began learning to cut up the living by making jokes at corpses. For we were making sounds from our throats and lips to warn and encourage the helpless young long before schools were built to teach boys to obey and be bored and kill.
I wake in a strange slack empty bed of a motel, shaking like dry leaves the wind rips loose, and in my head is bound a girl of twelve whose female organs all but the numb womb are being cut from her with a knife. Clitoridectomy, whatever Latin name you call it, in a quarter of the world girl children are so maimed and I think of her and I cannot stop. And I think of her and I cannot stop.
If you are a woman you feel the knife in the words. If you are a man, then at age four or else at twelve you are seized and held down and your penis is cut off. You are left your testicles but they are sewed to your crotch. When your spouse buys you, you are torn or cut open so that your precious semen can be siphoned out, but of course you feel nothing. But pain. But pain.
For the uses of men we have been butchered and crippled and shut up and carved open under the moon that swells and shines and shrinks again into nothingness, pregnant and then waning toward its little monthly death. The moon is always female but the sun is female only in lands where females are let into the sun to run and climb.
A woman is screaming and I hear her. A woman is bleeding and I see her bleeding from the mouth, the womb, the breasts in a fountain of dark blood of dismal daily tedious sorrow quite palatable to the taste of the mighty and taken for granted that the bread of domesticity be baked of our flesh, that the hearth be built of our bones of animals kept for meat and milk, that we open and lie under and weep. I want to say over the names of my mothers like the stones of a path I am climbing rock by slippery rock into the mists. Never even at knife point have I wanted or been willing to be or become a man. I want only to be myself and free.
I am waiting for the moon to rise. Here I squat, the whole country with its steel mills and its coal mines and its prisons at my back and the continent tilting up into mountains and torn by shining lakes all behind me on this scythe of straw, a sand bar cast on the ocean waves, and I wait for the moon to rise red and heavy in my eyes. Chilled, cranky, fearful in the dark I wait and I am all the time climbing slippery rocks in a mist while far below the waves crash in the sea caves; I am descending a stairway under the groaning sea while the black waters buffet me like rockweed to and fro.
I have swum the upper waters leaping in dolphin's skin for joy equally into the nec- cessary air and the tumult of the powerful wave. I am entering the chambers I have visited. I have floated through them sleeping and sleep- walking and waking, drowning in passion festooned with green bladderwrack of misery. I have wandered these chambers in the rock where the moon freezes the air and all hair is black or silver. Now I will tell you what I have learned lying under the moon naked as women do: now I will tell you the changes of the high and lower moon. Out of necessity's hard stones we suck what water we can and so we have survived, women born of women. There is knowing with the teeth as well as knowing with the tongue and knowing with the fingertips as well as knowing with words and with all the fine flickering hungers of the brain.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."