Under a dwindling sliver of moonlight, I shamble onto the
stage panhandling the mixed blessings of Mad Hettie, the bag
lady, to the response of nervous coughs and whispered questions.
“Who’s that ???? How did she get in here?”
“What is she talking about?” The Crone cackles,
“I’m planting the seeds of renewal from the compost
in my bag over all these many centuries.” And then I
begin to demonstrate the point through a humorous and erotic
strip tease shedding of Mad Hettie’s dingy mismatched
Shocked and amused, the audience begins to perceive the sacred
theatre underlying the spectacle and lends their engagement
in the ongoing transformation. Imagine then, the amazement
and wonder all of us experience when, toward the end of the
striptease, I finally reveal Sofia, who slithers up and around
my neck, as another serpent, Hannah entwines around my fingers.
dance, all three of us, as yet another incarnation of the
Triple Goddess. Serpent, Moon & Goddess energies, as ancient
as time and as new as the moment!
This ritual performance piece titled Shedding a Skin was the
final catalyst for me to fully reunite and heal the Sacred
Feminine within me. I was near the end of a long battle with
endometriosis, which resulted in infertility and ovarian failure
(immediate menopause). I was drowning in rage, grief, and
Shedding a Skin was a dance conceived intuitively, without
a “logical” concept, that only divulged its wisdom
upon completion. The repetition of rehearsals combined with
the inherent contact improvisation of the serpents became
a tangible example to me of the consistently changing phases
of the Moon.
Slowly I realized that in reawakening my connection to the
Moon Goddess through my snakes, I was healing my Triple Goddess
nature, coming into my Crone through the death of Motherhood
and the rebirth of my commitment to living. I made a conscious
choice to dedicate the gifts of my creativity in ritual dance/theatre
and my serpents to the service of Goddess. In return, I’ve
come home to being a whole woman.
In retrospect, I wasn’t always so dissociated from the
Goddess. Born on a Moon-day (Monday), as a child I enjoyed
the bliss of spontaneous movement, dancing around in backyards
or in the woods and was always attracted to snakes, though
I had none as companion animals until I was living on my own.
I have memories of believing I could walk to the ends of
the Earth protected by the full moon, although my knowledge
of the lunar phases and accompanying energies was negligible.
Around the onset of puberty, I, like many young girls developed
a negative body image and mind set that was influenced by
the attitudes of a society that didn’t acknowledge voluptuous
beauty. Physically, I began experiencing painful menstrual
periods and entered an emotional cycle of judgment and defeat.
When I moved out on my own, I began studying the ancient
woman’s art of belly dance and joined a belly dance
troupe. Still, the betrayal I felt, growing into a woman,
was deeply centered within my womb and expressed itself in
all of my actions. In my mid-twenties, I was in so much pain
that I began a short series of dances (in private) that consisted
of beating myself in my belly while spinning. This attempt
to exorcise my femininity through the creative muse was intended
to render me invulnerable to any
further “female troubles.”
Not surprisingly, I didn’t want children at that time
either; I was completely split from my Sacred Feminine and
hardly ever noticed Her in the sky. My childhood years as
a Maiden dancing and dreaming under Luna were submerged as
a woman living under the tyranny of her moon.
Sadly, there was at that time very little knowledge being
disseminated about Goddess; women were still trying to become
“like men” to gain equality.
Many years before my breakthrough ritual dance, I received
my first gift of a red tailed Boa Constrictor. I often danced
improvisationally with that serpent in the privacy of my home,
marveling at its ability to move into any shape, but unaware,
except on a very basic level of the transformational nature
of what I was doing.
As I continued to dance with snakes, I found it was a way
to journey deeply within my own story and the mysteries of
the Universe; an experience that is sensual, cryptic, exhilarating
and profoundly centering at the same time. I refused dancing
with my boa Sofia in public for several years, believing that
to do so was tawdry, gimmicky, and lacking in artistic integrity.
Actually, I was simply unfamiliar with the vast ancient heritage
linking the Serpent with the moon mysteries.
Sofia (at first mistaken for a male snake) was steadfast
and infinitely patient as she imparted her instinctual knowledge
to me through her being. Watching her shed her skin in one
complete piece and renew her vitality emerged as a metaphor
of letting go and beginning anew. From there, I made the cognitive
leap to understanding that the moon was a mirror influence
for my monthly cycle.
me, a woman consumed with menstrual pain and infertility,
this leap was nothing less than miraculous. Finally, I had
found a higher power with which I was aligned; I could offer
prayers to Her and seek answers.
Absorbing the written work of Marija Gimbutas, Demetra George
Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung (among others) provided the
key to unlocking ancient cellular memories within me. I believe
that I have lived previous lives as a Serpentess (snake priestess),
practicing the moon mysteries and honoring the Triple Goddess
in all Her manifestations.
This discovery was significant for me and the simple faith
I grant these memories now helps me to recognize when Goddess
is channeling vision, ritual, or prayer through me.
Viewed from a cosmological perspective, the world of today
is not very different from that of our ancestors. Then as
now, humans have wondered how we got here, how we can survive,
and what happens when we die. Then as now, all of existence
functioned within combinations of individual, overlapping,
and synchronistic cycles of Birth, Life, and Death into Rebirth.
These mysteries are mirrored in the phases of the lunation
cycle, mythologized in the Deities, and can be accessed through
the observation, handling, and actualization of the transfunctional
attributes of the Serpent.
With focus and practice, I have discovered that I am completely
immersed in the law of the cycle, living as a daughter of
the moon with the serpents who are one of Her totem animals.
affinity with snakes, as well as belly dancing, and struggles
with my blood moons, are some of the individual cycles comprising
my personal mythology and connecting me to the collective
The difference is that now I am aware and willing to live
fully in the unknowingness of life. Most of my life's experiences
have been about my rebirth to Goddess within me, coming to
terms with my human and imperfect sacred feminine, embracing
my Triple Goddess journey as Virgin, Woman, and Crone, and
recognizing that I can be of service to Her.
My journey into the healing of my own personal pain, through
the death of my fertility, was somehow necessary in order
for me to understand the truth that the Dark Moon rebirths
as the waxing Crescent Moon.
Coming out on the other side, I am grateful and consider
myself a blessed daughter of Goddess.
I may never have children, yet I have birthed and am nurturing
a career that is soul satisfying--that of being a Serpentess,
a Temple Belly Dancer, and a teacher of these practices that
honor and access the lunar energies. I believe our species
has evolved with a will and a mind that reasons and creates,
so that we can learn to live in reverence on an Earth that
exists within the cyclical paradox of life feeding on life.
This recognition has granted me peace and reinforced my conviction
to express the ancient rituals of the Serpent, the Moon, and
(Gretchen Brown) is a belly dancing Snake Priestess who
has been living with Serpents for over 20 years. Her workshops,
temple belly dance classes, rituals and ritual theatre focus
on reclaiming the Sacred Feminine in mind, body and soul.
Serpentessa lives in gratitude for the bountiful blessings,
lessons, experiences and relationships that enter her life
on a daily level through being a Serpentess and caring for
these wild yet humble, powerful yet peaceful beings who are
her Teachers. Performing with Snakes is a privilege and responsibility
she takes very seriously. She has studied Belly Dance with
Jehan, Serena, the late Ibrahim Farrah and Navida before branching
out into performing other forms of dance and theatre. She
is a member of the highly acclaimed Off-Broadway show GODDESSDANCE.
Her choreography, performances and rituals incorporate a mythological
viewpoint experienced in a current perspective.
Wise Woman Center -- Workshops
Join us this year for spirit healing and herbal
medicine workshops, intensives,
with Susun Weed and other Wise
Woman teachers. The Wise Woman Center in Woodstock NY
exists to re-weave the healing cloak of the Ancients. This
land, this sacred sanctuary for women is a place for the teachings
of the Wise Woman way. The Goddess lives here, as do goats,
fairies, green witches, and elders. Located between Woodstock
and Saugerties, 5 miles from the NYS Thruway, the Wise Woman
Center is easily accessible while private enough for nude
swimming. You'll receive a map and directions when you register.
Nourishing wild-food vegetarian meals are included with all
See the Calendar
of Events & Workshop schedule (and to register) for this
year, click here.