Having finished the first round of cards for Meggan Watterson's upcoming Oracle of the Divine Feminine, I felt a call to show and tell a little something.
This is the Esther we are not using (and to be fair, I love the Esther currently in place). However, this woman called, and I answered - and after leaning into her a little more, I have discovered that She is, in fact, Vashti, the deposed and rebellious queen that Esther replaces.
"I was first," She notes. "And I have lessons."
HIStorically, Vashti was the first wife of King Ahasuerus. The King had the equivalent of a weeklong drunkenfest to show off his kingdom to princes and rulers of the land. On the seventh day of the banquet, when the king's heart was "merry with wine," he summons Vashti, via a eunuch, to come before him and his guests wearing only her royal crown. Vashti refused, and the infuriated king deposed her, issued an royal edict that men should dominate in their households. and held a beauty pageant to find another queen. (Enter Esther).
Vashti is my sort. Definitely my tribe. I want to be her. I am not quite.
Even in the sparse mention of her, we glean fascinating clues: She was extraordinarily beautiful. Intelligent. She was self-aware and strong-willed, and not about to be treated as a prostitute. She was politically astute - simultaneously holding a banquet for the wives of the King's guests privately, thus assuring her 1) hostages, in the event of a political incident and 2) privacy, so that no man's folly could be made witness to the women and thus be a cause for bloodshed. She reveals that she was fully aware of the price, and still stood her ground. No apologies, no regrets.
While the traditional message of Purim focuses on Esther, it is within the words that the Divine Feminine hides in plain sight. Both Vashti and Esther stood their ground in different ways - Vashti refused to fit herself within the context of rules, and willingly paid the price. Esther manipulated the end game to emerge victorious - although, in the end, being released from a King that uncertain and given over to folly may have been Vashti's ultimate gain. King Ahasuerus - also known as Xerxes 1 - went on to suffer immeasurable loss in trying to overthrow Greece, and was assassinated just a few years later, at the hands of his royal bodyguard and a singular eunuch. If women were to retell this tale, you could entertain how his decision ultimately brought about the ruin of his empire, and his violent demise.
Vashti and Esther's story mirrors the tale of Lilith and Eve as well. Duality-thinking may favor Esther, but consciousness evokes that both women - and their lessons - have not only merit, but a power that shines even beyond the patriarchal mindset. With dignity and conviction, Vashti stood firm and forfeited her position, as did Lilith. And if this story were retold in a matriarchal mindset - I'm not convinced the winner would be Esther any more than was Eve. There are simply consequences to actions that, depending on your position, can be retold as either victories or defeats. Let the reader discern.
Vashti's conviction also becomes increasingly relevant as we strip off the veneers of patriarchal interpretation to find a deeper truth - a hint of the Divine Feminine ankle: Disobedience of man to align with a higher obedience to the Divine. She is heroine in that she honored her own body first - and saw her full worth. As early as the 19th century, this resistance to her husband's wish to use her as a sex object made her an icon. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote in 1878 that Vashti's decision was a "first stand for woman's rights" and that "we shall stand amazed that there was a woman found at the head of the Persian empire that dared to disobey the command even of a drunken monarch." About 20 years later, the Woman's Bible commentary put together by suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton called Vashti "a sublime representative of self-centered womanhood" who rises "to the heights of self-consciousness and of self-respect."
So I've created a small altar in her homage, a candle burning to thank her for the lesson of standing firm in what you believe, even where the price is the corporeal loss of everything the world holds dear. But mostly, of knowing your own worth, regardless of consequence In the face of it all, there isn't one among us who doesn't need that lesson in us deep.
We know nothing more of her fate post-exile, but I hope and trust her unwritten journey brought her gifts and pleasure to the end of her days. And beyond.