The Healing Journey is a series born out of the reality that we all have our own individual path to healing. When we share our journey two things tend to happen, we often find freedom in sharing our stories and we always inspire others. There is power in speaking up and it is time to tap into that power.
The mission of The Healing Journey is to provide a platform for women to connect, inspire one another and empower each other. Together we will stimulate conversation, create awareness, healing and stand together knowing that each and every one of us are unique, gifted and powerful.
April’s Healing Journey feature blows me away with her awe-inspiring poetry and prose. Kohenet Hebrew Priestess, Songstress, Spiritual Leader and Mama, her commitment to healing and to the Divine Feminine is both moving and uplifting . She’s incredibly courageous and gifted, her work is so desperately needed and a vital part of the healing necessary in both the Divine Feminine and Masculine. I am honoured to introduce you to Annie Matan.
For those who don’t know you, what’s your story?
I am a Priestess, a Mama, a Songstress, and a Freelance Spiritual Leader, specializing in facilitating sacred experiences, through a Jewish lens. I got here as a seeker, a lover and a mama. I have survived abandonments, traumas and transformations. I hope I am always evolving. One of my coping mechanisms as a child was tuning into my imagination through song writing and poetry. I was very unpopular and bullied terribly. I wrote songs and poetry and would sing whenever I walked home from school or around the schoolyard at recess. And at home and in private moments, I dreamed of magic and divination. I remember a ring that had three large, reflective stones in it. I used to look deeply into the stones and imagine I could see the future. Or the past. Or life in another universe altogether.
In English class, I wrote stories about time travel, magic, and other worlds. There has always been a part of me that believes all these things are real. As a teenager, I read the Mists of Avalon books by Marion Zimmer Bradley and felt enlivened by the idea of a priestesshood. Their sisterhood, divination rituals, belief in intuition and earthy practices spoke deeply to me.
Most of my work lately has been supporting couples and families through wedding and baby welcoming life spiral transitions and facilitating intergenerational Jewish education for families with young children. I specialize in tailoring rituals, learning, and transitional support to folks who haven’t found their needs met in typical spaces. I use chants and a mix of original and traditional liturgy and melodies to (Paraphrasing Rav Kook, the first Rabbi of Israel) make the old feel new and the new feel holy. My hope is that every time I hold space for someone(s), they find more spaciousness to breathe, be present, feel empowered and return to their most selves. And when I am not developing or working on my offerings outside of my home, I am supporting my 2-year- old daughter, Grace Esther in becoming her most self and practicing Love as a verb with my husband Stuart as he navigates vision loss and being a PhD student. Life is very full!
What does the wombspace represent to you?
My wombspace represents the epicentre of my power and capacity for creation and at the same time, a place of tenderness, vulnerability, trauma and recovery. Lately, it’s also where the Divine speaks from in me. I love connecting to the wombspace of the Divine in my prayers. One of the Jewish names of God is Rahamim, which comes from the root of the word for womb. It’s usually translated as Compassionate One, but I like to remember this name of God as a Mama and Her wombspace as a place for healing, recovery, and rebirth for me. Here is prayer I wrote a few years ago that expresses this well.
Holy Rahamim, who holds all of creation
I long for comfort.
Your deep, warm womb
The feather-caress of Your great, white wing against my cheek
Your whispered promises in my ear
in my heart
*Shechina, **Tzimtzumai, Who birthed all my ancestors and me
I yearn to come home to You
held in You in each moment
tethered from my centre to Yours
fed on love and life and holiness
able to see the world
through the veil of Your body
that my own sharp edges
my bones be cushioned
my tender heart be coddled
so it can rest
assured of new days, and moments of wonder and blessing to come.
Mama, bless my tears with Your warm hand
help me to feel cleansed, refreshed, renewed
to face the world on my own feet
grounded in Your earth
on this and every dawning day.
– Annie Matan
*Shechina is a Jewish name for God/dess in Hebrew, which is most often used to refer to the Divine feminine in her nurturing, imminent attributes (in contrast to Adonai, which is most often translated as Lord and refers to the Divine masculine and his transcendent and omnipotent attributes.)
**Tzimtzumai is a Jewish name for God/dess in Hebrew, which can be translated as She Who Contracts to make space and refers to a Kabbalistic creation story in which the Divine contracts themself to make room for creation.
What experiences have been a catalyst of change in your healing journey?
Discovering the Divine Feminine has been the greatest catalyst of change in my healing journey. As a recovering depressed person, (I liken depression with alcoholism in this way. I never feel fully cured and wouldn’t even know what that would look like.) the moments that have changed my trajectory from loneliness, suicidal thoughts and hopelessness to hope and the ability to reach out have almost all been linked to feeling like there is a Great Mama looking out for me. I have dreamt of her, written her into my poetry, hoped to emulate her for my daughter and prayed to her when I am lost and when I am praiseful. Tuning into my knowing of her existence has saved and changed me over and over again.
Here’s one example:
When I was twenty and in university, I had been diagnosed with mild depression and put on a SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) called Paxil while I was put on a waiting list for therapy. Within 2 weeks, I was not sleeping (so I was prescribed Atavan, a sedative), had become agoraphobic and had extreme anxiety. I found myself on the window ledge of my dorm room twice in a week. Both times, my contemplations of jumping were interrupted. At the time, I didn’t know why. I went to my RA and had myself checked into the local hospital on a 72 hour hold to prevent me from trying again. 10 years later, I was in a creative writing class in seminary in Jerusalem and we were given the prompt lech lecha, which means something like “go to yourself”. The poem that came out of me was called Come. I channelled it. A few weeks later, when in one of my seminary classes, I was asked to share my spiritual story, I shared this poem and tried to explain that it was a tikkun a reparation of the lonely experience I had had in university. Now, since this poem came out of me, I knew I wasn’t alone.
Take my hand.
This cotton-mouth darkness you wear
And huddle inside
And hide underneath
Doesn’t serve you.
Come away from that peaceful view.
The icy river, the red brick path, the powder-dusted trees.
I see that view through your sea-green eyes.
I see all that white. Those soft, snow-covered bushes beneath this window.
4 storeys down.
I know you’re lost.
Oh, honey, I see your weariness.
I see those sagging bones right through your threadbare robe.
Right through your flannel Pjs.
I follow the map of your sorrow in the blue veins behind your transparent skin.
I see your flapping-bird heart, on fire in your too-tight rib cage.
I know your thoughts. I hear your prayers.
Your tears taste salty as I kiss your cheeks.
Baby, sister, love – Come away with me.
Turn away from the window.
The snow is not as soft as it looks. Your lips are turning purple in the cold.
Silly girl! The answer is not out there in the falling. The falling is over too soon.
And then there is only brokenness and regret.
Speak! Breathe! Sob!
When you breathe in, you’ll feel that crisp, blue sky
And be awakened.
If you must fall, fall into Me.
Let’s be together. Take my warm hand.
Peace is right here
Inside, on this hard, firm linoleum floor.
Oh sweet love, let me show you the way.
We’ll go there together.
One foot. That’s it.
One red, sheepskin slipper.
Then the other.
Here now. In you go.
There you are. Here you are.
You’re safe now. Let me look at you.
Let me hold you.
You take a breath now.
Cry your tears.
Come darling. Precious child. Cry on my shoulder. I’ll hold you.
My arms are strong and my breast is soft.
Let me hold you. Let me carry you down.
Let me wash your face with my warm washcloth and wide mama-hands.
There now, good as new.
Here now, you can tell me everything.
You just keep telling me and you just keep breathing in and out, you hear? I’m right here with you.
Those hot tears will be your salvation.
Come with Me.
I see your fear –
This way is not the easy way.
You will stumble
And you may fall
But I will hold your hand.
You feel jagged but you are whole.
You are whole and I am here.
– Annie Matan
What is a Kohenet Hebrew Priestess?
A Kohenet Hebrew Priestess is a Jewish clergy person who specializes in feminine, earth-based, embodied, experiential Jewish leadership and practice. In a three-year, low-residency training program, we study the history of Jewish women’s spiritual leadership from pre-Israelite through to modern time, using archaeology, biblical and rabbinic texts, contemporary scholars and ritual practice. We follow the evolution and disappearance of women’s work in this field and pull the threads of women’s Jewish sacred wisdom from even when it was underground. As we study to become initiates, we explore the texts and teachings through a lens of 13 priestessing archetypes: Maiden, mother, matriarch, midwife, wise woman, mourning woman, sacred fool, prophetess, shrine keeper, shamaness, seeker, lover, and weaver.
Could you share your journey to becoming an ordained Kohenet Hebrew Priestess?
When I found out about Kohenet, it felt like a dream come true. I was yearning for more Jewish connection in my life and had met a man on Jdate who seemed tuned in to everything I was looking for but could only imagine. He referred me to a website for a Jewish spiritual retreat centre in upstate New York. It described a Jewish priestess training program and in my mind’s eye, I saw Avalon. Scrying bowls, women in spiritual community, mysticism and magic. And I couldn’t believe such a thing could be real. I was still living in my home town of Toronto then and couldn’t fathom going to rural New York. Kohenet seemed like a far-off dream. This same man also told me about a job opening at an outdoor environmental education program for Jewish school kids in the Berkshires where the staff live in intentional community, play music, and keep Jewish traditions together.
The universe supported me every step of the way. I was hired as Office Manager for the education program and negotiated to live and work on site so I could be part of the teaching community. I had no idea that a week later, the retreat centre that hosted the Kohenet training would merge with the one that housed this education program. Kohenet came to me. With the support of some colleagues, I applied late to Kohenet, got to meet one of the founders and interview with her in person and I was accepted before my cohort met for our first conference call. It felt like a bit of a whirlwind. I was 27 and entering my Saturn return and soon could see that this whole experience was changing the trajectory of my life.
It was here that I learned of the Jewish names for the feminine Divine and how to speak and write Hebrew prayers in the feminine so they included me. It was here that I first experienced dancing to drumbeats in a yurt and in a circle of women. The songs we sang were interpretations and translations of the liturgy I had been raised with. This was our daily prayer practice. It was in the Kohenet community that I found sisterhood. And my sisters, all older than me, took care of me like family.
I could own my voice, my creativity, my gifts, and my unknowings in ways I never felt permitted to in my family of origin. Even though I was eight years younger than the next youngest woman in my cohort, I was respected for my wisdom. I felt like a sister, daughter, mother, aunt, and friend all at once. The women became my family and my tribe. With them, I felt seen and supported and special. I love them deeply. We were the first cohort of Jewish priestesses ordained in 2000 years. There were 11 of us who received ordination. One died shortly after and we honour her as our Kohenet on the other side. We call our cohort Rishonah, which means first. Since then, the Kohenet community has grown by 4 more cohorts of ordained priestesses and there are now more than 50 of us in the world today with more than 40 more on track for ordination in the next 2 years and a new cohort beginning this summer. This is a powerful movement and it’s growing.
This experience taught me what wombspace was. A place of magic, creation, dark incubation, moon and stars and power. We learned in Kohenet that the deep waters and the black velvet sky need not be feared. We claimed our wombs, cervixes, miscarriages, births, and voices as connected and sacred. Our learning and prayers all took place inside a yurt and in the second year, one of our sisters wove an umbilical cord and hung it from the ceiling to fall into the copper bowl on our altar in the centre. We learn in the womb and birth and midwife the wisdom of women into the world everywhere we go. In preparation for our ordination, we choose our Priestess names, which represent our mission in the world. I chose to raise up the Hebrew name that my parents gave me: Tziporah (Bird) Laila (Night). At the time, I was singing semi-professionally in bars and clubs and I also used my songwriting as a way to explore and process injustices and imbalances in my life and the world around me. I claimed my full priestess name at ordination as Tziporah Laila, Singer in the Dark. Part of my priestess mission is to sing light into dark places.
More recently, I have returned to women’s and feminist space by way of Shecosystem, a coworking community in Toronto. There I get to co-facilitate a monthly red tent circle, for the new moon with the fantabulous Tasha Jade. And I also get to participate in and facilitate daily opening and closing circles for the coworking community. I have come to realize that I am most myself, most in my power, most connected and most at home in circles of women. It was Kohenet that first brought me there and knowing now how essential these spaces are to me, I am committed to staying in them and continuing to co-create them.
How did your pregnancy and the birth of your daughter shape your connection to self and your womb?
Before I started on my fertility journey, I was not very connected to my body. I was alternatingly ashamed or proud of its shape, and I have wrestled with its capabilities (or lack thereof) since I was a child. The beginning of this pregnancy journey held important learning and revelation for me around agency over my body. When I didn’t get pregnant in our first year of trying, many well-meaning friends urged me to seek medical attention and if needed, intervention. I was 35 and subjected to a lot of fear-mongering about the impending expiration date of my reproductive organs. I sought out friends who had gone the medical route and listened to the stories of their experiences of ultrasounds, pelvic exams, having their uterus and fallopian tubes flushed with liquid and of feeling like they were putting their bodies in the hands of the “professionals.” To be honest, these stories terrified me and felt very far from what I wanted. I wanted to own and have control over what happened to my body. I did have one pelvic ultrasound, recommended by my family doctor, and I hated everything about the experience.
The invasion, the impersonal technician who administers the test but cannot discuss results so silently probed my womb with technical efficiency and no warmth. When no barrier to pregnancy was discovered, I decided to take my time, learn what I could about how my fertility cycle works and seek a less invasive approach before considering more invasive options. This decision led me to a holistic fertility specialist at an organization called Red Tent Sisters, which felt meant to be. I signed up to learn the Justisse method of fertility tracking and learned to touch and decode my own cervical discharge, take my temperature vaginally and put colourful stickers on a chart to create a visual map of my fertility cycle, which my specialist would interpret with me. On the margins of my charts each month, I wrote prayers for my journey, praying for the unification of sperm, egg and divine intervention. During this process, I learned how my diet was affecting my fertility and made changes. I had 2 miscarriages and was relieved to learn my husband and I could conceive and felt intuitively that these experiences were preparing the way for the pregnancy that would make it.
In preparation for the birth, I faced my fears about interventions and complications by seeking out and reading and hearing the stories of mothers who had been there. I asked about epidurals, episiotomies and caesarean sections, hospital transfers, stitches, swaddling, medicating, and monitoring. I practiced letting the stories of these healthy mamas teach me that even if I didn’t have my dream birth experience, I would be ok. I read and coloured birth affirmations, asked for a received a Blessing Way ceremony from a group of women in my community where I received blessings and sat back while they made a plaster mold of my pregnant belly. I painted our bedroom, the room in which I planned to birth, red and put a giant tree of life on the wall, bedecked with the blessings of friends and family and the colourful affirmations I had been practicing.
We put up colourful, glowing lights and red curtains. I was already calling the bedroom the womb room. I ordered a birthing pool. I was so tuned in to my wombspace throughout this process. I honestly marvelled at this embodied woman and priestess I had become. My birth was a dream and when I held my daughter for the first time, I felt like a super hero.
My Birthing Story
(written for this healing journey post!)
I waded into waters, unsure but confident
Surrounded by womby red and sheltered
By a blessed
Tree of life
You were coming
I was ready
Ready as I could be
That we are held
In Her hand
“I am opening up in sweet surrender to the luminous lovelight of the one”
Had my belly hennaed
With a message for you and for Her
Blessed is the one who comes
Your father and I prepared our home
With amulets of protection
In every room
We turned off all the glowing lights
Lay down for one more sleep
For the last time as only two
And so soon (20 minutes later)
I was awake
Were awake in me
Stretching and pushing
Making your way into the world
After a day of easeful
I could not sit still
I moved and moaned
On hands and knees
On bed and floor
I sipped herbs and remedies
To help you arrive
To help me thrive
I called for help
And my doula came
Massaged and held me
And I breathed
And breathed some more
And soon again
I was calling out
And the midwife said
You are not ready
Take a bath
This is a common rookie mistake
You have 10-12 more hours
So I climbed into the enamel tub
In the dark bathroom
While the pool with its soft edges
Was being filled up with air in the womb room
While the hose wouldn’t fit on the faucet
And had to be run along the hallway floor
All the way from the kitchen
And while the pool filled up slowly, slowly
My bath cooled
I filled up with you
My thoughts became so focused
And your body
Their own ebb and flow
Bringing you closer and
When the water was cool
And my body aching from labouring
On a hard surface
The pool still twenty minutes from readiness
I stood up
Hoping for comfort from
Warm shower water
But cold water surprised me
I slipped back down
Hit the tub floor
While a power surge of your presence
Washed over me
I arose (unscathed)
And resumed my breath
Breathing you closer
In and out
Moaning and chanting you nearer
In deep, low tones
And oh, I could feel you, feel you
Opening me up from the inside
Rushing to arrive
We called the midwife
And she listened
And she knew she was too late
So we called 911
And they listened
And they recorded your first cry (brief and clear)
As I panted to slow you down
(to no avail)
And you slipped into the world
And into our hands (My doula’s and mine)
Just on the floor of the tub
From which I had arisen
While your father paced
Just outside the open bathroom door
Celebrating your arrival
With the 911 dispatch
You were my whole world
I was sore and tired, yes
But all I could think was
I marveled at our newfound
I held you
And worried that I had hurt you
And you looked at me wide-eyed
We melted back into each other
So when the paramedics arrived
You and I were back on the floor of the tub
You were suckling at my breast
We were wrapped together in a towel
Skin to skin
And you were still attached to me
From your centre
The paramedics celebrated us
Who had birthed you, my daughter
Squatting in my bathtub
While the birthing pool lay half-empty
In the room I had prepared for your arrival
I was a super hero
I was present
And clear and stronger than I
Ever believed possible
And now I was your mama
The midwives arrived and helped me
And first diaper
And my doula cleaned the tub
And you and your father and I
We got into bed
And slept together
Skin to skin
You nursing yourself
To life, health and wholeness
While my nipples felt pinched
And I worried that I would have to be
To manage breastfeeding
There were plenty of challenges to come
And myriad mooning moments, too
And you were here
– Annie Matan
What does your relationship with your wombspace look like now?
I am in a place of reconnecting with my wombspace. Returning to circles of women, I am remembering. Teaching my daughter to love and honour her body with bath songs about how our bodies are the bodies of Shechina, I am remembering. When I seek help from a pelvic floor physiotherapist and sexologist so I can heal from my birth and feel sexual pleasure again, I am remembering. When I dance, when I sing, oh especially when I sing, I am remembering. My relationship with my wombspace is raw and vulnerable and cranky a lot these days. And sometimes easeful and powerful, too. In mamahood, and now choosing to work for myself, I feel reborn. And I am remembering that being a newborn means everything is new, I am vulnerable, wise and filled with wonder. And every moment is full of potential.
As a Kohenet Hebrew Priestess, what tools do you find important in your own healing?
I have learned to use ritual, song, community and stillness, each in their time. Sometimes ritual is as simple as drawing a tarot or oracle card by the light of a single tealight on my kitchen table. And sometimes it’s more complex – a circle of women, with flowers, bath salts, guided sound journey, womb meditation, chanting, asking, offering and receiving. For me, while I often wrestle with feelings alone in my head and in my journal, it isn’t until I can bring my feelings into the light with others that I can really make sense of them. Out loud. Seen and heard and held. I have felt a lot of shame about needing external support and validation since childhood but I have learned this year that the whole spectrum of internal and external are good, healthy and true. I am giving myself permission to ask for help. And when I serve I offer opportunities for all of us to
journey into ourselves with company, figuring that if we are together, it’s company that’s needed.
Do you have any messages for anyone reading this post?
May we all know in our blood, our bones, our wombspaces and in our empty spaces that
we are gifts.
We are Divine. We are each a miracle. Our stories are holy and they matter to someone.
To everyone. We are not alone. We are loveable. We are love. We are enough. And we
Blessings to you Annie, for this magnificent and beautifully described journey! Your poetry and prose, your vulnerability and dedication to your healing and your purpose, it’s inspiring. On behalf of the Healing Journey community, thank you for sharing these pieces of your life and your journey to healing and your becoming!
Connect with Annie Matan
You can connect with Annie Matan by email at contact(at)anniematan.com or on
Facebook, and through the radically inclusive Jewish community that she founded and leads called Matanot Lev (Gifts of the Heart).
On April 15th, 2018, join myself, Annie Matan and other amazing goddesses at SheCoSystem‘s Red Tent Circle. It’s a wonderful, supportive circle where women gather to rest, create, nourish and dream. For more information, visit the Red Tent’s Facebook event page.
Womb Wellness Program
Looking for support in your womb healing journey? Click on over to the Womb Wellness Program. This is a program that requires you to dig deep, to face what is stored in the womb and work with it to heal, release and receive. The program combines integrative health coaching, deep womb work and Reiki to support your healing. Read more…
Want to share your Healing Journey?
If you are interested in sharing your Healing Journey along with Annie Matan and other powerful Goddesses, please email info(at)clarekenty.ca with “The Healing Journey” in the subject line and include a little about yourself and your story, or fill out the form below and I will contact you. Please be aware that The Healing Journey series is primarily about womb healing and womb wellness.