As tulips open they mimic the shape of the female body, the body which in ancient times was honored as a vessel of grace. Yet they, both tulips and women, remain grounded in the earth. I also love tulips because they remind me of chalices.
Recently I was walking among the tulip fields of Skagit Valley, WA, and it felt like being connected to a rainbow assortment of countless chalices or little Goddesses swaying in the afternoon breezes. Many mile-long fields of tulips are scattered throughout the valley as are the many events and activities that comprise a month-long tulip festival. The tulip fields are the crops of RoozenGaarde/Washington Bulb Co. and Tulip Town, and the fields are different each year due to crop rotation.
Every April hundreds of thousands of people enjoy this celebration of spring as millions of tulips burst into bloom. As with all things governed by Mother Nature, the tulips bloom according to their own schedule sometime during the festival. I was there at the very beginning and wasn’t disappointed.
As the festival continues on its journey through spring – now for 32 years, people visit from across the United States and from around the world. The beauty of the these chalice-like flowers truly transcends differences, bringing cultures, ages and diverse lifestyles together to marvel at nature’s abundant colors.
The chalice, a goblet/bowl-shaped cup, is an ancient symbol of the Goddess, the womb and the female reproductive organs. It also represents water, which is a female element, and the feminine qualities of intuition, subconscious, psychic ability and gestation.
For the Sufis, the chalice symbolizes the sharing of blessings for it enables the desert communities to share water, milk and hospitality which are indispensable to their cultures.
For Christians, the chalice is the symbol of the Eucharist, the Meal of Thanksgiving. Using it, Christians commemorate Jesus’ last supper when he encouraged the women and men who gathered in the upper room to remember the meal as a sign and sacrament of a new world order of forgiveness and love. I believe Jesus deliberately raised the chalice to symbolize the divine feminine needed for the redemption of the world.
The end of gender-egalitarian, Goddess-worshipping civilization occurred more than 1500 years before Christianity appeared on the scene, although pockets of goddess worship continued to exist here and there. By the time Christianity fused with the imperialist goals under Constantine, it had become a religion (rather than a movement) that accepted the domination culture of classical antiquity.
Riane Eisler’s study of prehistory and ancient history in “The Chalice and the Blade” shows that the domination of the male gender over the female gender is not an eternal and inevitable feature of human social organization, but that another type of society, a partnership society rooted in gender equality is possible. So tip-toe through the tulips and envision that unfolding world. I am with her!