Author Myron J. Clifton shared with Journalist, Kali Persall, about the inspiration behind writing and creating his new book, “Her Legend Lives In You: The Untold Creation Story Honoring The Goddess And Our Daughters.”
The book was officially released on Mother’s Day, May 13, 2018 and is currently available in select stores, and online on Amazon in both paperback and kindle editions.
If you could trace the inspiration for this story back to a particular moment or event, what would you say sparked it?
There were a series of stories that happened around the world–there was a suicide bombing, a mass shooting; there was a story about a spouse killing his wife…A minister talked about men exclusively being representative of God and not living up to their calling and these things were all turning in the back of my head. In the history of the world, 99.999 percent of all wars have been started by men. These religious organizations say men are representative of God on earth and everyone should listen to them. I just thought hard about that–if you could do a scientific study…the evidence would show men are murderers and have killed billions. All humans and all life on earth comes from women or the female species of plants and animals and such; there’s few instances where that’s not true, of course. And if the universe was started, why would we say there’s an explosion, which sounds very much like a male ejaculation? It was an explosion into nothing and all life is created which again sounds like a man’s view of birth. It’s crazy but you think, well maybe it wasn’t an explosion. Why wouldn’t we say that it’s a birth? In the early chapters I try to write about the actual creating of creation that’s not that man-centered version; the Goddess version is curved and smooth. I tried to make it strictly as best I could, writing as a man, make it sound and read as a woman giving birth. I reject that male-dominated notion with everything having to do with creation. [God] is a woman; I’m going to have to go with that.
How does this story reflect your own beliefs and ideas about religion?
My very first subtitle says “all of religion is merely men mansplaining God.” That’s my view right there. We’ve heard what [men] have to say, and I do recognize the irony in that–it’s a man writing this–but that’s how I feel about religion. I think that religion, as it’s practiced worldwide today, is all men-led, while a high percentage of followers are women. The Christian bible as taught in America, teaches that women are the origin of all sin and the reason men had a downfall–even Mary, who birthed their very God–they refer to her as merely a “vessel.”
Do you subscribe to a specific religion? Why or why not?
I was raised in a fundamentalist Pentecostal church, the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) headquartered in Tennessee probably 100 years ago. [In this religion] the Bible is the absolute infallible word of God, everything in it is “historically accurate and true.” Humans are born in sin unless they reconcile to God, whether it be through baptism or confessing sins…then they’ll be saved and somehow raptured into the air. As a child until age 18, I was in church six days a week. Bible study on Monday, Tuesday and probably Wednesday; choir on Friday, church on Friday, and all day Sunday. It’s hardcore conservative religious indoctrination.
I’ve written a series that came out in February (on this site), called Church Stories. Everything in there is true even though I used fictitious names, a lot of it is in stories that I was exposed to from being around my grandfather, who was a local leader in that church. I was with him when he was around may of his peers, and got to see them do a lot of things that men tend to do when left to their own devices. I saw all of that–lying, abuse, affairs; men of God representative of God on earth doing decidedly ungodly things. I always loved to read, so even as I was being indoctrinated, I was reading to try to understand what they were teaching. I came to a different conclusion than what I’d been taught. It was very cult-like, we were warned not to be “part of the world”. “Be with the Church or the devil.” [In the book] when the Daughter tells humans that the Goddess doesn’t want structures or tributes–she doesn’t even want worship, she just wants you to live a good life…It’s in that part right there where I slammed the door on that type of church.
Why did you feel compelled to write a story that reimagines the Biblical creation?
One of my dear friends told me after reading it that, ”this is your repudiation of the ultra conservative, religious upbringing you had.” I hadn’t thought of that and I didn’t write it with that in mind, but upon hearing her say that and rereading it a few times since then, I do see that. So I think that it’s a part of it, probably subconsciously. But consciously what triggered me to write it was I lost my mom at an early age and I think of my mom often. I have a daughter and I think of my daughter’s relation to my mom, and I was thinking about the universe and creation and that everything comes from women. So the Goddess and the Daughter have parts of them that represent all the women in my life in some form or fashion. The Goddess–her base is mostly my mother–but when I get to the Daughter and I start describing her attributes, her attributes are different qualities from almost all of the grown women friends that I have [around 9 or 10]. So I put many of their attributes in the Daughter. Even some of the things she said were things my friends said. In the ninth chapter when the Daughter has taken all the women and girls off the orb and they ask her questions…the answers were ones I got from my friends when I asked “what advice would you give a young women?” I tried to achieve that authenticity because I couldn’t speak as a woman to young women. So I put their words in there.
Women are central to your story. Was the exclusion of men as main characters intentional?
I read the Christian Bible front-to-back, maybe 10-12 times, the Qur’an maybe two times, the Bhagavad Gita maybe once. In reading those texts, women are an afterthought. Women are very rarely the protagonist in any major story in any religious text or substory, sometimes not mentioned for chapters at a time. [In this story] I thought, I’m not gonna mention men, they’re not consequential to this story. They’re on the planet, they’re doing dumb things. I didn’t want it to be overtly men-bashing…we don’t have to mention men as the primary source of all humanity. [Men] sat in the desert 10,000 years ago and made up some story about how men should be in charge and that’s how God wants it. Women have lived with this for 10,000 years, so you men live with it. In the book during the Great War at the end, the Goddess says “All the women in the world and the men and the boys, come to me.” That’s the only place I put men and the boys and following that, it says these were the caretakers of the orb. They were supporting the Goddess even when they weren’t sure there was a Goddess. That part I loved because I loved the idea that this is the total opposite of the Christian Bible; calling them to her because they were her people, even though they didn’t know the Goddess existed, because they were doing all the things the Goddess wanted them to do.
There’s a lot of symbolism in the way you play with the elements, like rain. Can you explain what you had in mind when you incorporated these?
I love the rain and…I fight depression. As a person who has bipolar disorder, I should like the sunshine, accord to doctors, because it does something for your body chemicals, but I love the rain, and my Goddess is going to love the rain. It’s sort of an old cliche about rain and healing and life, but it heals for me. I also tried to put some science in there about what’s on the planet. When the Goddess came to the orb, she went into the water and when she came out, creatures were following her out of it–that’s an evolution reference. I love to read about the universe, so I thought, the beginning of the universe, what’s happening in it? So in thinking about the Goddess creating the universe, I had fun playing with her, making a garden. She sprinkled galaxies and black holes. I loved that imagery, that she’s creating this beautiful universe, and it sort of follows that pattern and order (how we know things to be created). I wanted to inject more than just whimsical fantasy; I also wanted to inject science because it has to be there.
The demonizing of the woman (when the people call the Goddess “the great Harlot,” “the great whore” and “the great evil”) recalls similar historical attempts to discredit powerful women. Does this have any roots in any particular events or movements or issues at present?
It’s in the last hundred years, 50, and even ten, that women around the world have come a long way–from the Women’s Liberation Movement, Civil Rights, suffrage before that, and even up to Clinton running for president. Different women around the world–prime ministers and presidents–are leading movements and I thought, I should try to capture that. When the Daughter decided to show herself, she became “everything”. She fully embodied all these different versions and attributes of women from different parts of the world. All my friends’ countries of origins are represented in the places she represents. I tried to capture that the Daughter is not an American Goddess, she is a worldwide Goddess. Her look, her hair, her nationality, I was trying to capture that with all these things.
[With the name-calling]I wanted to draw a very clear distinction between what the humans were saying versus what the Daughter and her followers were saying. They never said men words like” kill” or “war.” From my Christian upbringing…all these derogatory terms that have been carried down through history in what people call women–I wanted that to shock and upset [readers] because they have come this far with the beauty of the Goddess and her Daughter. Once the humans decided they were evil, this is how they made them the enemy. It was awful language and imagery. Every time I read that, it makes me upset. I think she needs to kick their asses, teach them a real lesson, and she doesn’t. We the readers are angry for them. We want something to happen but we’re not them, they’re inherently good. That’s one of the reasons why the Daughter, in talking to the women and girls, says you can be happy and still have conflict, disagreements and arguments. I just think that that’s part of the Goddess and the Daughter, that pragmatism. The humans were finally learning to accept this Heaven, whereas the male version of heaven is everything perfect for all eternity, and as a man you mansions, or gold streets, or even 21 virgins. But that’s not heaven for the women, that’s hell for them.
If you could name one theme for this story? What would it be?
I would say that the Goddess loves art and I think there’s a lot of imagery. I’m not a lover of all art, but I appreciate all art…writing, sculpting, painting, music, all these different versions. I just think if we have these things, they would’ve come from the Goddess in the book…she would love those things, pass them on to her creation. [I wanted to ] fuse the importance of art and purpose with the idea of religion. You probably don’t have religion if you don’t have art. That’s the last tag line in the book. The part that moves me the most is when the Daughter draws her mother for the first time and that description–tall, hair black as space, sun and moon, wide eyes–the Goddess said she had never looked at herself through her Daughter’s eyes, though she could’ve, but she respected her boundaries and the agency of her Daughter. I wanted to play with mothers and Daughters and that bond and strength that’s there, and it was reflected in the art. And as a parent, I had some fun with that. She drew that picture for the next 3,000 years. You see a parent’s fridge and that’s what it looks like.
Anything else in the book of noteworthy significance that I didn’t ask you about?
One thing I purposely put in there: I wanted the Goddess to have a loving relationship with the Elf Queen. This was another repudiation of my upbringing; demonization of the feminine. The dichotomy of men wanting to see women make out but demonizing gays. I wanted her to have a loving same sex relationship, wanted an adoption to happen, wanted to have that moment where they were partners and co-raised the Daughter and I wanted to show that it’s okay. There’s a moment of acknowledgment where [the Daughter] called her mother the Goddess “mother” and the Elf Queen “mama.” The moment that [the Elf Queen] had officially adopted the Daughter and they celebrate it and then they hug; it’s a beautiful moment.
This could be interpreted as a feminist text. Was that your intention?
I didn’t write it thinking that and I’d be cautious to say that. I don’t want to be the loud man saying I’m a feminist because I personally think women own that. I can be a quiet ally…I can take a backseat and step back and be the voice.
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