BOOK REVIEW: Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes
I have deep respect for those who challenge origin stories. Perhaps because I'm someone who challenges origin stories.
I've learned to shut up because I've often been met with contempt or confusion.
I channel this through research, writing and telling people whom I respect that I am deeply appreciative of their work.
Curiosity has gotten me into trouble more than once. Even when it is approached in a genuine, inquisitive manner.
I love small, old libraries and checking out the new releases section sends tingles down my spine. The hot pink spine of Cassandra Speaks leapt at me and the moment I saw Elizabeth Lesser's name, I knew I was in.
Lesser, co-founder of the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in New York, captivated me when she spoke about her experience of being a mystic on one of my longtime favorite podcasts. Years later I still follow her work and excitedly smile when her name crosses my path.
She struck me because she talked about being, "Ok with the mystery," and I'm paraphrasing there. That was a pivotal thought shift for me, a long time seeker, because this wiser, much more experienced but relatable woman had reflected on accepting the inherent mystery present in life.
I started to realize that I could always seek but the questions only led to more questions and I began to be ok with that.
Lesser's personal reflections illuminate the book while still being anchored in historical accounts of many stories that may remind us of surface truths we've inherited throughout our lifetime.
She makes it clear several times how much she appreciates men and boys and how mothering boys has been a joy in her life. It's a nice balance that illustrates her awareness of bringing more equality to the representation of women throughout story and ritual.
One of my favorite quotes is the following from page 38:
"Actually, "the beginning of time" is a misnomer, at least in the way time is measured in the history books most of us read. History is generally referred to as the time period after the invention of writing. The first written records date back to 3200 BCE, in Egypt, and therefore, history is said to "begin" about five thousand years ago. But anatomically modern humans have been around for two hundred thousand plus years. The planet itself is 4.5 billion years old." (Lesser, 2020, p. 38)
Although not about women and story, I chose this quote to set the stage to prime our brains that we are SO MUCH more than what history books tell us. I've been thinking deeply about this topic for months now ever since I began studying ancient astrology and thinking daily about life during the Hellenistic time period while holding the awareness that there was even so much prior to that time in history.
We are so much more than this moment and than our recorded history. And Lesser illustrates that beautifully with thought-provoking invitations to reframe and reconsider so much of what we think we know.
I am the mother to two beautiful children, one is a son and one is a daughter. My son has been asking me for years what "girl power" is all about and why he sees it on so many t-shirts and why he hears songs about it.
We've been in dialogue on that topic for 4 years now, since he first asked in kindergarten.
After reading Cassandra Speaks, I have a much more articulate vocabulary to answer his questions and go deeper into the meaning and consequences of school books that are required reading, war ridden phrases I've thoughtlessly used and how valuable and strong feminine influences have been put down or excluded and how and why that will change starting with us.
I am a mother to two humans. I am responsible to teach my daughter that she has value and worth and I will share these stories with her to remind her. I am responsible to teach my son that there is more to the human story.
I am responsible to teach my children how to behave in a world that is recalibrating beneath their sneakers.
My curious son is seeking answers. Every time he leaps in the air to catch his football, he lands on yet a new earth...again. Through keeping stories such as the ones contained in this hot pink treasure chest of a book, I promise to take responsibility to answer his questions about why girl power exists and how we can incorporate women more fully into the evolving stories of our lifetime.
Some things will always remain a mystery, and the mystic in me embraces that wholeheartedly.
Some things need clarification. I'm grateful to Elizabeth Lesser for these words and pages.