About KHOLKHAL, or 'The Woman on the Moon'
When I was a child and when I still had a lot of time to do many things, I used to enjoy spending long hours lying on my back on the grass on summer nights to contemplate the moon. During those hours, my sisters sometimes joined me, and we would find a great resemblance between the moon and a woman’s face, especially on days when it was full. When the moon was not full, the face of the woman would look slightly bent on one side, with sad eyes and a mouth curved with grief. We used to call it ‘The Crying Woman’ and though we knew even at that age that the moon is merely a desert planet orbiting around the earth, we used to see in that semblance a doorway onto a greater mystery. Until this day, I still see that face, even though looking at the moon is a ritual that I do less and less frequently.
The word moon in standard Arabic is a masculine word, yet in my vernacular mother tongue it is feminine, "gamra”. We compare a beautiful woman to the moon, never a handsome man, it is a strictly feminine comparison. Maybe my ancestors identified the same resemblance that I and my sisters used to see after all. But this is not all. The association of the moon with the feminine side is very old as you may know, for the moon was the mother goddess who, before any other mighty father god became prevalent, was responsible for bringing life and fertility to both women and the earth, harmony and balance to all living creatures and natural cycles.
But the tales that were handed down to us from generation to generation, told by our very grandmothers full of wisdom, were surprisingly about evil mother goddesses. When children disobeyed their parents, I remember that they would be told that God would hang them in the heavens as He did with the woman who disobeyed Him. In the folk beliefs of my culture, that story was believed to be true by some stubborn adults who did not trust science. That woman, we were told, was still there, and we were still able to see her and learn from her story a lesson in obedience: she was the moon. I heard and read many other similar stories from cultures from all over the world.
As I grew up and started reading more about the mother goddess, I discovered the remains of an old, dying world that existed at a time when women once lived in harmony not only with their world, but also with their woman-ness, that very woman-ness which women bore as a badge of shame throughout different stages of history, as patriarchy suckled them with stories about their fallen nature since early childhood.
The woman on the moon was punished by being taken to a faraway forgotten prison and left there, locked in her silence. The moon, which, once upon a time, had been the natural home of the woman, her nurturing soul, has now become her prison. The old wisdoms that were once part of matriarchal societies and which reconciled women to their nature and prepared them for the different challenges of life, became part of a shameful past that women struggle to smother; that which has once constituted the golden age of womanhood has become their disgrace.
Throughout different stages of their lives, whether it is the promises of young age or the challenges of old age, that wisdom accompanied them and put a hand on their shoulders and told them to look at the world through the eyes of a woman without being afraid or ashamed. Things became different after women started being fed the wrong stories about themselves, stories which they believed most of the time. Under the influence of these stories, they comply when they are asked to stay at home and do nothing but housework and taking care of children because they are told they cannot do jobs predestined for men, they are asked to do their best to remain sexy and to push away the ghost of old age as best as they could, and they are even pushed into a harsh world of wild competition and asked to be part of a rat race in the name of female liberalism that does not at all answer her personal sense of success.
I am not against women who strive to reach professional success, nor against those women who identify with a life of a housewife, but I am against the mass manipulation of women to drive them into one of those categories against their choices, and most of all, against the creed that they should sacrifice one vision of life at the expense of another.
Through this blog, I am answering a gnawing urge and an old call that has been living inside me for a long time, to unearth the golden bust lost and buried in the mud, to bring to the modern women the essence of their grandmother’s wisdom, in order to give them power, strength and insight to face today’s challenges, and to make them aware of the multiple dimensional source from which they originated.
My deepest gratitude to my twin sisters for their love and support, for being the first two women who lied on the grass with me to contemplate the crying woman on summer nights, for unleashing their imaginations and refusing to believe that the woman on the moon was evil, for being the first two persons who shared with me the compassion instead of disparagement for the first fallen woman we met, and finally for their patience and ingenuity during our long conversations.
For encouraging me to write, I am profoundly indebted to my sister Bibo.