There is a shrine in the Dagara tradition that falls under the category of the Saazumwin. She is called The One-Breasted Woman.
The Saazumwin are the ones who stretch between the Earth and the stars. They are the beings from the space above, the light beings, the star beings. They are cosmic and benevolent and can often be seen as what many call angels. (To learn more about the Saazumwin, see chapter 10 of my book, Notes from a Diviner in the Postmodern World: A Handbook for Spirit Workers)
I was told very little about this shrine when I was first told to make it. I was told to make a Saazumwin shrine with the form of a seated woman holding a child. I was told to make her whole but then, after I completed it, to cut off half of her body. “Do not cut the child, only the woman. Cut off one breast, one arm, one half of her torso.”
I thought this was very strange. When I inquired about why this shrine needed to be cut, the person who gave me this prescription said they not know why, that was just the way she was always made. They had very little information on this entity and did not understand her, but I was being asked to make her nonetheless.
In this tradition, when a diviner make a shrine, it is considered a very big ritual. They gather all the “ingredients” that will go in the shrine and then sit in ritual space and invoke, offering their hands to the entity that will be housed on the shrine, the one who has asked for the shrine. The diviner allows them to use their hands to build the shrine.
The shrines are made of clay dug from the Earth. Once created and activated, they become powerful energy portals in the shrine room where the diviner goes to interact with the entities housed there, making offerings and prayers in this space.
I had learned through the experience with the previous shrines that I would understand more about the entity residing on the shrine as I went through the process of building the shrine, and that I would learn even more as I continued to interact with it. So, knowing very little about the One-Breasted Woman, I embarked on this request with an open mind and heart.
I was prompted to include many seashells and a necklace I had procured years before which featured the Goddess Inanna. My Grandmother’s rosary was requested as well.
As I worked the clay, I was guided to make the head of both the woman and child in the shape of a star. Onto the edges of these star points I was told to put golden glitter. The seashells on and around her body and star head evoked the feeling of a star emerging from the deep ocean, a star emerging from the primordial waters of the cosmos. She was a star being that was also part of the ocean in a very compelling way—a star with the briny smell of the ocean, like the womb. My One-Breasted Woman was built as a star woman with a star child.
To cut into the figure of a woman was very difficult for me. It brought to mind many associations that were disturbing to me. I could not bring myself to cut the head or face but gently cut into her body. I succeeded in cutting off one breast, one arm and half of her torso. It was an odd feeling. I sat holding the parts of clay I had cut off wondering what to do with them. I offered them back to Source. As I did this, I understood why I was cutting part of her off, to remind me that, like her, part of myself always remains with Source.
I settled her into my shrine room and activated her as I had been instructed. And then I went about my business. But when the Winter Solstice came around, the One-Breasted Woman began to speak more loudly. She wanted to be moved to the center of the shrine room and be adorned with small white lights and boughs from evergreen trees.
Then this One-Breasted Woman began to show me who she truly was: the one who births light from Source through the darkness to the Earth. She is the one whom many cultures celebrate at the Winter Solstice, the time of utter darkness in the turn of our planet’s year. In our most dark time is birthed the light. This was a Dark Goddess in my shrine room holding the light deep within her body. This is the Cosmic Womb Mother, the one who births us from source into embodied form. The midwife to light and life. She is the one who births us into our mortal lifetimes. Through her carnal womb are we born into embodiment.
As I have moved along in this tradition, I have learned that the One-Breasted Woman, this Cosmic Womb Mother, holds all the codes and patterns of our souls within her. She knows who we are, what our potentialities are, what we chose to do when we came into this life. She holds the memory of us, for us, within her womb. As all mothers do. When we die, we journey back through womb to Source, be reborn again as whomever and whenever we wish to. She is a kind and compassionate mother. She has the memory of all of us stamped into her womb.
It is the time of Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere again. I have just now moved my One-Breasted Woman shrine to the center of my shrine room. In this dark time, to let her re-emerge through the ocean of the lifewaters, reminding us of who we are and what we came to do. Honoring the birth of the light through the darkness of her star body, her cosmic womb, feeding her and caring for her as we welcome the light once again.
~Theresa C. Dintino
©Theresa C. Dintino