So, you've turned on your favorite meditation music, lit some incense, turned off all the phones, and locked all the doors and windows. Safe and secure in your little cocoon of calmness, it is time to meditate. And miraculously, despite all the chores and worries and lists running through your head, you do. You meet a winsome, lithe young girl or a stooped old woman or a big bosomed, bountiful mother. Huzzah! She gives you insight into your life and, maybe, even offers to heal various wounds that you have carried around for quite some time. You are ecstatic! Life is wondrous! Until you return from your meditation, ready to offer praise to your generous Goddess, and you realize that you forgot to ask her name. In fact you have absolutely no idea which Goddess came to your aid so readily. What do you do?
The most obvious answer, of course, is to return to your meditative state and ask for the Goddess to visit you again. This may or may not work for various reasons. You might be tired from your previous journeywork experience. You might not have the time to perform a whole meditation sequence and, thus, try to rush through sections, causing confusion and anxiety. You might forget exactly how you came to meet this Goddess and, so, may not be able to replicate the experience. If you do manage to find the time, the right mindset, a reasonable amount of energy, and the same meditation sequence, the Goddess may still not show up, for her own inexplicable reasons. So now you're stuck, trying to figure out the identity of the Goddess with nothing more than your meditation for clues. This is why it is so important to write down your meditations and journeys after each and every experience. Details are the key to finding out the identity of your Goddess and, most likely, you will have forgotten most of them fifteen minutes after returning from meditation. Make sure you write down everything that you remember—feelings, colors, sounds, etc. The most miniscule detail can hold a wealth of information.
Now that you've got a written account of your meditation experience, it is time to read and re-read it, culling valuable information that can be used to figure out which Goddess visited you. The information in your meditation may have come to you in one of four ways: visually, orally, kinesthetically, or intuitively. Most people assume that meditations will appear before their eyes visually, like a movie or a series of snapshots. This is probably the most common form of meditation, but there are other ways to get information that are equally valid. Some people hear most of the meditation, seeing little or nothing at all. Others will feel the meditation experience, either physically in their bodies or emotionally within their feelings. Still other people will not see, hear, or feel anything. These people will intuitively know what is happening but have very little "background" information concerning their meditation experience. Your first step in locating the identity of your Goddess is to figure out how you experienced your meditation. This knowledge will guide you in your quest to find out the name of your Goddess as you will be able to decipher your meditation based on your own meditation style.
Once you've determined your meditation style (and it can change from meditation to meditation, so don't assume anything), it is time to really look at the information you gathered. Below, you will find a list that can aid you in organizing the (oftentimes) scattered information gathered in a meditation. It is by no means comprehensive but it should start you off on your journey to discover your Goddess' name. As always, feel free to modify this list to accommodate your own needs.
Appearance ~ Feelings ~ Actions
Take a look at your own descriptions of the Goddess. One person's Isis (Egyptian) might be another person's Hathor (Egyptian). The Goddess is coming to you in ways that make sense to you as an individual. She is using your mind, your memories, and your knowledge as a vehicle to project her sacred nature. Therefore, you need to figure out exactly how you experienced her. First focus on her physical appearance. If you don’t meditate visually, don't worry! You probably got a sense of her age through her voice and mannerisms. Perhaps you saw colors or intuitively knew she was a redhead. Perhaps you felt her long hair brush your arm or her flowing robes wind around your legs. No matter how you received your information, you probably know more about her physical appearance than you think you do.
Next, turn to any emotions that you felt in connection to this Goddess. Look at how the Goddess expressed her personality to you and examine any feelings that you experienced in the presence of the Goddess. Both of these sets of information are important to ascertain the identity of your Goddess. While both Rhiannon (Welsh) and Frigga (Scandinavian) are queenly, mother Goddesses, they are completely different in temperament and personality. They will evoke different feelings within you and they will exhibit different emotions to you. Did you see a smile or feel a wink? Was there some sassiness or impertinence to your Goddess? Perhaps she was all-business, and wasted little time on pleasantries. However she expressed herself to you, don't underestimate the importance of your personal emotional experience.
Finally, write down any actions that the Goddess did. If she performed a healing, did she use her hands? Her breath? Her hair? How did the Goddess move around in your meditation? Did you see her running, walking, riding a horse, sitting in a carriage? Perhaps she was simply lying still and trailing her hands in the water. Perhaps you simply got a feeling of rapid motion or calm serenity or jerky, fragmented movement. The movement and action of the Goddess is one more important clue to her identity. Really take your time and focus on any and all movement, no matter how small. Be sure to write down key phrases on the appearance, the emotional response, and the actions of the Goddess on a separate piece of paper. You don't need to write a novella; just jot down key phrases that seem important to you.
Weather ~ Time ~ Landmarks
Once you've discovered all the details you can about your Goddess, it is time to turn to the location in which you met her. If you met her in your traditional relaxation spot (i.e. the beach near your home or the giant tree in your backyard), this section will not be especially helpful in determining your Goddess. However, you will know that your Goddess is one who feels comfortable slipping between worlds and is accommodating and helpful when being called on by humans. Traditionally, when you meet with a deity, you will be seeing them in their preferred surroundings, where they feel most comfortable. Therefore, the location in which you met your Goddess holds a wealth of hidden knowledge as to her identity.
The first, most recognizable aspect of your Goddess location is the weather. Was it sunny, rainy, windy, snowy? None of the above? All of the above? And, along with the weather comes the time of day. You might have been able to figure out the exact time through looking at a sundial or hearing the chimes of a clock or church. If the exact time escapes you, don't worry about it. Try to figure out a general time, such as morning or afternoon or night. At the very least, you probably know if you met your Goddess during the day or during the night. The sounds and air temperature should have tipped you off, if you do not meditate visually. The weather will help to determine the pantheon to which your Goddess belongs. A snowy day would be the perfect playground for the snowshoe Goddess Skadi (Scandinavian) but would be inappropriate for the volcano Goddess Pele (Hawaiian). The time element will help to determine the personality of the Goddess you met. Nighttime Goddesses tend to be concerned with magic, mystery, battle, shadows, and other things we prefer not to discuss in public. They relate to the seasons of autumn and winter and are often thought, in modern times, to be connected to the crone or hag Goddess. Daytime Goddesses, on the other hand, are usually fruitful and bountiful Goddesses, connected to the sun, growth, family, harvest, festivities, fertility, abundance, and all the happy things in life. They relate to the seasons of spring and summer and are usually considered to be maiden and mother Goddesses.
While the weather and the time can give you a general overview of your Goddess, the landmarks at your location can help to pinpoint her exact cultural background. You might know that you met your Goddess in a forest, near water, or in a city. But, it is time to look beyond that limited description. Maybe you saw the shape of a pyramid rising above the horizon. Or perhaps your finger traced the spirals of Newgrange. Was there a rounded heath nearby? Did you smell a plethora of flowers from the hanging gardens of Babylon? Only you can know what was revealed to you. Don't be content with your first original, limited view. Explore all the possibilities. If, after reading through your meditation notes, you can find no other information to expand your original location, don't worry. That, too, is a window into the identity of your Goddess. Perhaps she is older than civilizations or perhaps she is such a woodland Goddess or a sea Goddess that cultures and societies hold no sway over her. Add all of your new information pertaining to your Goddess location to your written list. Once again, don't go overboard. Just write down the key phrases.
Symbols ~ Elements ~ Helpers
Details are the last items of interest that will aid you in determining the identity of your Goddess. Every last little image, sound, or feeling that you remember can help in determining the name of your Goddess. First, take a look at any symbols that were apparent to you. You may have seen them or simply known they were there. They could show themselves to you as cave art, carvings, or petroglyphs. They might have hung in the air around the Goddess or along the insides of your closed eyelids. They might be on her clothes, in the night sky, or forming patterns from fallen leaves. This particular set of details really works best with those who meditate using visual or intuitive methods. You might sense a symbol through your physical or emotional feelings but it probably would be difficult to hear a symbol. This is not to say that it can't be done, just that you may have overlooked such a clue. The symbol connects you to an aspect of the Goddess, as well as to a specific culture and society. The clinking of the scales of justice may indicate the Goddess Athena (Greek) or the Goddess Maat (Egyptian), just as a riot of flowers may be indicative of Blodeuwedd (Welsh) and roses may be a symbol of Aphrodite (Greek). Anything can be a symbol, as long as you notice it and it appears to have meaning to the Goddess.
Taking a look at the elements—earth, air, fire, and water—as specific, magically-charged symbols also helps to determine the personality of your Goddess. Not all Goddesses are associated with one of these elements; however, if an element plays a big part in your meditation, you can be sure that it is an important symbol of your Goddess. Could anyone imagine Brigid (Irish) or Vesta (Roman) without fire, Tiamat (Babylonian) without water, or Asherah (Canaanite) without her tree? Probably not. So, if your Goddess seems to love playing with one of the four elements, pay attention!
Finally, it is important to notice any animals, helper spirits, or other deities who traveled with your Goddess. There are numerous Goddesses who hold affinities for certain animals. Artemis (Greek) has her deer, Epona (Celtic) has her horses, Morrighan (Irish) has her crows. The animals indicate the personalities of the Goddesses, as well as the facets of life over which they hold sway. Therefore, don't discount them! Some Goddesses may travel with a retinue of Otherworldly folk, such as faeries, mermaids, ancestral bards or priestesses, or even deceased members of your own family. These are also clues to the personality of your Goddess. If you saw your Uncle Albie, who loved to garden, standing behind a Goddess with a grass-stained apron full of herbs, it's a good bet that your Goddess is connected to gardening. This is important information that your Goddess may not impart to you in any other way. Finally, Goddesses sometimes show up with their consorts or their sisters as well. Some of these deities may be more recognizable to you than the Goddess, herself. They can help you ascertain the identity of your Goddess. Write down all of your findings concerning the symbols, elements, and animals, helper spirits, and deities on your piece of paper.
Synthesizing the Information
Looking at your piece of paper, you're probably noticing that it's quite full of information. As you read through it, use a different color pen to underline the aspects that seem most important to you and seem to be consistent throughout the information. You'll probably find that a specific element seems to run through all your information. Or, perhaps, you realize that your Goddess is very family-oriented or loves the outdoors. You might have a general idea of the culture from whence she sprang or a favorite item or symbol. At this point, you may only have a pantheon to go on or a general feeling for a specific aspect or personality or magical interest. No matter! There are tons of places you can go to further your research.
The Internet has numerous mythology sites (my favorite is www.pantheon.org) that can help to steer you in the right direction. Goddess books abound (including Goddess Alive! and Goddess Afoot!), so you should be able to find one at your local bookseller or at your library. The variety of Goddess books is astonishing so look around! Finally, if you are a visual person, you may enjoy using one (or several) of the Goddess oracle and tarot decks that are on the market, such as the Goddess Inspiration Oracle. They are very handy for determining the difference between various Goddesses that seem to have similar attributes. Although not detailed, they are a great and fun way to narrow down your choices in determining the identity of your Goddess.
These tips and tricks can be used to figure out any unknown entity encountered during a meditation or journey. Simply keep your eyes, ears, heart, and mind open and you'll be amazed by the amount of information given to you. Of course, never discount the easiest and fastest way to find out who is visiting with you… Just Ask!