The Shaper of All and Her Ninefold Aspects

from The Elements of the Goddess,
by Caitlin Matthews

Visualise far above you, a distant source of light which shines like a great star in the darkness. As it shimmers above you, the star seems to spin, sending off a Catherine wheel of sparks. It is as though the star has sent nine satellites of itself down through the night sky, which hang perfectly constellated below the central star, yet millions of miles above your head. Feel the intensity of light which the star and its satellite constellation beams down upon you. You are experiencing the full illumination of the Goddess in a visualised image, for the central star is none other than the Goddess as the Shaper of All, the originator of all things, and the ninefold constellation shining below the star are her Ninefold Aspects. Imagine that you are looking directly above at the shape that this makes.

The star which is the Shaper of All has nine aspects, each of which has a function. Very basically expressed, they work in this way:

1. THE ENERGISER gets things moving.
2. THE MEASURER defines the limits.
3. THE PROTECTOR guards those limits.
4. THE INITLATOR deepens experience, re-creating things.
5. THE CHALLENGER opposes and questions in order to get things growing, but also destroys what is stale and outworn.
6. THE DELIVERER brings liberation.
7. THEWEAVER makes connections.
8. THE PRESERVER feeds and nourishes.
9. THE EMPOWERER brings wisdom.

To give us some notion of the way in which these aspects appear, I have enumerated below the many aspects of Mary, the Blessed Virgin. While some may consider this either blasphemous or inappropriate to a study of the Goddess, Mary is a valid form in which the Divine Feminine has been appearing continuously since the Goddess was last officially venerated in the West and this makes her a valuable link with our heritage. Even if one is not Christian, these aspects of Mary are sufficiently part of the living Western tradition for most people to understand. Both Mary and the Egyptian Goddess Isis are linked by sympathetic cords of story and circumstance, some of which we will be discovering as we proceed through the Temple of Light. They are both helpful to us, for they portray the full range of aspects which we will be encountering in the following pages. Because they are both well known and established forms of the Divine Feminine (regardless of the official Christian view), they show us a coherent pattern.


SHAPER OF ALL: Within medieval tradition there are many statues of the kind called Vierge Ouvrunte. These represent the Blessed Virgin as a wooden statue, the front of her body opening, like a pair of doors, to reveal the Trinity inside her, so that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit appear to have originated from her substance.

ENERGISER: At the wedding of Cana, Mary is the one responsible for the manifestation of her son's first public ministry. She points out that the wine has run out and asks him to accomplish the miracle of turning water into wine.

MEASURER: According to the non-canonical Proto-Evangelium, Mary and her companions are chosen to weave the new veil for the temple. Lots are cast, and she draws the red and purple - the royal colours - indicative of her destiny.

PROTECTOR: The most common representation of Mary as Protector is under her title of Mater Misericordia, which shows her holding out her mantle under which shelter her suppliants. She shows herself as Protector also in the flight into Egypt, when she escapes with her son and St Joseph from Herod's soldiers.

INITIATOR: As the Virgin of the Nativity, Mary shows herself as Initiator, that is she bestows on Jesus her own mortality, teaching him its ways, in order to bring about the Redemption.

CHALLENGER: A little-known folk-hymn, The Bitter Withy, which draws upon a Gnostic tradition, tells how Jesus was taunted by rich men's children for his humble birth in a stable. In retaliation he demonstrated his superior abilities by making a bridge out of sunlight over which the children ran and drowned. The consequence of this was:
So Mary mild fetched home her child,
And placed him across her knee.
And with a bunch of green withy twigs
She gave him lashes three.

This unpopular face of Mary also emerges in her many apparitions over the last hundred years in which she has admonished sinners and called upon all people to live better lives.

DELlVERER: Although the doctrine of Mary as Co-Redemptrix has long been discussed, it has never been officially ratified by the Church. As the Virgin of the Annunciation, Mary assents to being the mother of Jesus, an action which is seen as redemptive on behalf of all humanity.

WEAVER: There are many apocryphal legends in which Mary demonstrates magical powers. The aspect of Weaver is well represented by the many statues of the Black Virgin throughout the world, many of which are deemed to be wonder-working.

PRESERVER: Mary sustains and nourishes the natural order. Her many shrines, such as at Lourdes, testify to her continuing role of Preserver.

EMPOWERER: As Virgin of the Apocalypse, Mary is depicted as clothed with the sun and with the moon under her feet. She is shown as the great Empowerer, whose wisdom is her gift, both to her son and to all living beings.