Amsterdam, Netherlands: report by Shinji Kasema
When the Soul of WoMen campaign was launched, I began to study and learn more about the idea of the ‘divine feminine.’ I felt that in the country where I live, the Netherlands, people generally do a good job of addressing women’s issues. There are many social programs to support women, and moreover, Dutch women do not look only to the government for assistance. If there is some matter that needs to be addressed, they often seek out a solution on their own and let others know about it. They also call on men to understand their issues and to work together. They do not see men as enemies, but as friends, partners, and family members, with whom they work together to create a good life.
I also discussed the topic with the religious leaders who would be presenting prayers at our ceremony. They made me aware that older, traditional religious organizations have not touched on feminist and women’s issues much. I asked the presenters to try and include the theme of the divine feminine in their prayers.
Our SOPP ceremony was held this year on May 8, at the Oude Lutherse Kerk (Old Lutheran Church). I did not have a firm plan for incorporating the theme of the divine feminine into the program, but as it turns out, the event was guided in this direction anyway. This year, for the first time, someone asked if children could join the ceremony. My feeling was that it wouldn’t work well for our event, but I ended up saying, “No problem! Bring them along!” As I was thinking about an activity for children, Jenny from Australia sent us A4-size templates for Soul of WoMen mandalas. Our ceremony was held on Mother’s Day, so we could have the children write words of gratitude to their mothers. In previous years I stuck by my own fixed image of what the SOPP should be. This year, I moved into the idea that after we cover the needs of all participants, the SOPP will manifest as it is meant to be. I thought this change of mind might be due to the influence of the divine feminine.
Each year, we hold an art exhibition along the lines of the theme. This year, we asked Irish ceramic artist Deirdre McLoughlin, who lives and works in Amsterdam. Ms. McLoughlin did not go to art college; she studied philosophy and made her own path to her art career. She was twice awarded a big prize at a German ceramics competition, and her work has been depicted on an Irish postage stamp. Ms. McLoughlin has said that destruction and creation always coexist. What is important is keeping a balance, and not leaning too much in either direction. In the simple forms of her work we can see her search for a balance between destruction and creation, guided by the choices and demands of her life. I felt that her attitude and her work fit well with the Soul of WoMen theme.
During the ceremony, we could hear loud city noises outside the church, but it felt like we were sitting by the river in a forest. Even as we concentrated our attention on each program, the ceremony felt very relaxed. In previous years, I have felt that what I experienced at this event is very different from my normal life. But this time, I felt peace prayers echoing very close to our daily life. Maybe the divine feminine filled a gap that existed between daily life and special events like the SOPP. I think many other participants felt the same way. Many people said they would like to join the ceremony again next year.