I can hear soft chanting, sense the flickering of candles through my closed eye lids. I am so deeply in the moment, present in my body, awake to my senses. I have rehearsed this moment so many times. This act of becoming. I have traced the lines of this new self. Memorised the steps, learned each teaching. I am ready I breathe, I am ready. And they answer back. Yes. Yes. Yes. You are ready. You are welcome. You belong. A birth, a death, an initiation.
What a special, joyful moment. Yet empowering another can feel like a giving away of power, a ceding of control. Why are there so many caesarean births? Because the ‘power over’ system feels safer that way. Why does privilege prevail? Because those with privilege empower only their own believing there is not enough to go round. The great cow Audhumla was the first being in the northern tradition. She is the embodiment of empowerment. She suckles every being indiscriminately, gifting life to all. She is the power of Fehu, the first rune, the rune of wealth. She is a reminder that wealth corrupts when hoarded, it must circulate freely where needed.
In our last article on the 3 modes of power I mentioned that Ehwaz, the rune of partnership, is also the rune of speed. One of the reasons we reach so often into ‘power over’ is that it takes time to make decisions using the ‘power with’ mode. If you want a decision to be made quickly the best way to do it is to make it yourself, or to delegate it entirely to someone else. The delegation model is the model of ’empowering others’. Examples of empowering others include:
- Equality, diversity and inclusion movements
- Sustainability focused charitable work
- Holistic healing (combining allopathic and alternative)
- Apprenticeships and applied learning
- Listening without judgement
To Audhumla’s great store of wealth I would add the store of power. Power corrupts when hoarded, it must circulate freely where needed. Ultimately, empowering others should provide us with the opportunity to be more, do more, learn more. When someone steps up into their power and takes on part of the role we once possessed we have a chance at new growth. Scary as it is not to be needed any more. Scary as it might feel to be irrelevant for a little while. Every birth is also a death and a chance for rebirth.
The cycle of power
You can see the way ‘power over’ and ’empowering others’ oscillate in governments and companies that continually veer from centralisation to decentralisation. Power over is necessary – it protects the vulnerable, holds us to our vision and values, and provides the systems and processes we need to manifest effectively. The shift from power over to empowering others is simply a maturation. You can see this in the life of a single human being. If we are lucky we get to make the transition from a safe and protected space where ‘power over’ is the dominant mode into our maturity where we are first empowered and ultimately get to empower others.
Regardless of which mode is used, the strength of the ‘power with’ corner of the power triangle will determine long term success. Imagine what it would be like if, instead of fighting and back-biting, companies and governments stopped wrangling as power shifted from the centre to devolved or vice versa and simply asked ‘what stage in our evolution are we at right now’?