I had a dream a couple of nights ago that I was on a farm. It was connected to another, larger farm, which could be accessed via a door in the wall. The larger farm was richer and owned by someone else. When I opened the door to this farm I saw one cow, standing by itself in a large space. I couldn’t see the owner as he seemed to be working elsewhere.
On the smaller farm they had kept the cow in the cowshed, but they never cleaned it out. It was full of ancient cow-dung which was so thick it lay in piles on the floor and mangers. There were no longer any animals in the shed, just dung. For some reason I was in the cowshed. I was fascinated by the insects which were making their home in the dung but I couldn’t figure out why the people who owned it never cleaned it. It surely couldn’t be good for the animals.
This cowshed also housed 6 dogs. Three of them were mastiffs and three were scruffy, scared dogs, like the usual stray dogs one sees here, roaming the villages. As I looked around the cowshed the three mastiffs growled warnings at me. They were not at all happy that I was in their cowshed, looking at their cow dung. The other three dogs were too scared to growl and kept their distance, having no power at all. Every-time I went to look at some interesting beetle which had made its home in the dung one of the mastiffs growled at me. “This is mine,” he seemed to be saying. “Leave it alone.”
The dogs didn’t seem to be aware that they were both living in, and being protective of shit! They had lived in it for so long that they didn’t see it for what it was and they sure didn’t want me interfering in it either. I ended up having to leave the shed as I was clearly not wanted in it!
That pretty much sums up the experiences of living here. The three scared dogs are the women, who live in the dark shed but who have no power. The mastiffs are MIL and two of the men, who all make it clear how much input they want me to have.
But, for the past couple of days, I have been thinking about this situation with the scared dogs/disempowered women. Their complete dependency on their husbands means they are always living on the edge, having to ask them for everything they need, even if it is only hair cream or soap. They have no independent income, unless their own families give them gifts. So I decided to get each of the women some chickens of their own and give them a lamb, once they are born. We have three ewes now so next year we will have more. If the women have something of their own, which the men have no power over, then maybe it will help them to feel a little more secure. They will keep their animals in with ours so that MIL has no power over them either. She rules the roost…but not in my shed!
Maybe that is also what the dream is about! MIL has her own chicken house, which was once mine but she took it back sneakily! I then had no place to keep my hens. When Omar and I decided to buy the cow he and his brother made a big enclosure so we could keep her, the donkey and the sheep in it. MIL is not allowed into the enclosure anymore after her last stunt with me in there. Her chickens are now also in the house she took from me and do not enter the cow’s enclosure either! So the cow’s enclosure is the ‘large farm’ with the cow in it and the small room, which is full of s**t, is the old one, the one they are all trying to guard so desperately. All of that power over…nothing. Omar has made sure that the cow enclosure is under our jurisdiction so we can do what we like there. I want to share it with the other woman so that they too have something.
The other morning Omar had been up all night, looking after his elderly father. The brothers take it in turns to sleep with him. He was so tired the following morning that I said I would feed the cow and the sheep so that he didn’t have to. I went downstairs;, MIL was nowhere to be seen. One of the other wives was there, sweeping up and collecting the dung for the bread oven. One of the brothers had given some berseem/clover to the animals but it was a snack really! I stood and talked to the kids, trying to decide how to to feed them. I was aware of feeling like ‘I was not allowed’ to feed them because it was not my ‘right’. No-one is ever happy with me when I take the initiative, but then I thought ‘stuff it’. I’ve paid for the damned food and Omar has put all of his time and dedication into growing and harvesting the maize (by hand I might add), so I have every right to feed them if I choose. So I did. Six-year-old Batha, who was babysitting her less-than one-year-old sister, (a whole other blog!), helped me by getting the water, while I took her little sister from her. Needless to say, MIL never said good morning or even acknowledged my presence. When I commented on it to Omar he said she was jealous because he had told her to keep out of the cow enclosure. Hey ho, but good for him. He always supports me in these issues and I just play the game and don’t react to her. I stay friendly and generous no matter what happens, but I do speak honestly to her if she tries to manipulate or con me so she is learning that I have boundaries and I am supported by her son. I am the only woman in this house whose husband supports her!
This issue of power is my Third Gateway initiation, which I experienced at Wayland Smithy. Overcoming male control and acting regardless of their ‘oppression’ and control is one of my challenges, especially as it relates to ‘Mother’ energy, so this issue is one which I have to overcome here. No better place to be sure! But thinking about that particular initiation also gives me the understanding of how the ‘illusion’ of oppression works in reality. Yes oppression can have physically damaging outcomes but often it is what is ‘threatened’ which has the greater effect in stopping us from achieving freedom.
I remember my first experience of this from my first visit to Cairo in 2001, a couple of years before I began to do earthwork. I was attending an ascension workshop with Anrita Melchizadek, and was staying in the Horemheb hotel (Clue there!). After a disastrous taxi drive from the airport to the hotel in the middle of the night I finally got to sleep.
The following morning I awoke and looked out of the window at the busy street outside. It was chaos. Cars driving like crazy things, horns beeping and most of all, women dressed in black, from head to toe. I hated it. The sense of female oppression was terrifying and I thought I would never be able to go onto the street. I had come alone to Egypt and had not yet met any of the other workshop participants. I felt completely alone.
But while I was watching the streets and feeling more and more scared of going outside I suddenly felt very defiant. What was I thinking? I wasn’t going to allow any stupid, weak man to stop me from doing anything! So I got my clothes on and went out for a walk. I had an energy around me that just ‘dared’ any man to touch me or even talk to me. None did! I walked for about a mile and then walked back to the hotel. When I got into the lift in the hotel I met a couple who were also going to the workshop. They asked me what I was doing outside and I said I had a gone for walk. “What…alone? That’s not a good idea, it’s not safe here for women alone you know,” the woman told me, her husband nodding in agreement.
“No shit,” I said to myself. “Too late now”.