Mystic woman: Melanie Landau celebrates the divine and empowers others

She and her husband initially came to Israel 20 years ago to learn Torah together.

A woman’s circle at the Red Tent Retreat. (photo credit: JAMIE GORDON)
A woman’s circle at the Red Tent Retreat.
(photo credit: JAMIE GORDON)
Melanie Landau believes that the body is divine and the divine is the body. When Landau speaks about her life’s journey, it is with a powerful vulnerability. She smiles and tears up simultaneously. This is a woman fully in herself, fully present; alive.
Landau grew up in Melbourne, Australia in a traditional Jewish home. “I didn’t know then that the tradition could speak to my insides,” she recalls. She and her husband initially came to Israel 20 years ago to learn Torah together, but returned to Australia. After eight years, they were longing for Israel again, and have been here for the past six years.
“When I look back, the way that I see my journey and transformation in general is like the line from Psalms, ‘The stone that was despised by the builders becomes the cornerstone,’ Landau shares. “The thing that made us think maybe there was something wrong with us, or maybe it was something to be ashamed of; contexts change, understandings deepen, the world turns upside down and we come to see that that is our gift. For me, part of that was my sensitivity. I felt like I didn’t belong in this world. I experienced a lot of isolation. I realized that this sensitivity is the thing that I can lead with, and more than that, I can use it to support other people so that they can enter into new paradigms.”
Landau is a woman of many hats. She attended Melbourne University, earned a master’s degree from Latrobe University in psychoanalytic studies, focusing on Carl Jung’s writings about the divine feminine, and a PhD from Monash University in Religious Feminism and Law. Landau is trained in yoga, massage and healing arts. She is the founder of Mystic Body and Kol Isha, a midrasha that is run out of her home in Jerusalem’s Baka neighborhood. She also works as a teacher, counselor and intimacy coach with individuals, couples and groups.
Through Mystic Body, she offers courses, women’s circles, and events based on her philosophy of promoting access to the infinite, divine flow of energy through deepening the presence in the body, thereby enabling personal agency and social change. Much of what she teaches and practices has to do with her understanding of what she calls the sacred feminine.
“As I started learning Torah, it was like I was feeling the hurt of the feminine being repressed and controlled in my womb,” she explains.
“I didn’t really know what it was at the time. But I was also feeling the beauty of it and going deeper. Around that same time, I did this amazing work called The Unveiled, where the women in the group went into an almost trance state and danced and moved these qualities inside themselves. I touched this sweetness and softness inside of me. Obviously everyone has to take responsibility for what they do and I’m not excusing any bad things that people do to us, but for me, the more I open the pathways inside myself of love and tenderness, the more that comes to me. I can’t receive that without having done the work to open those pathways. After Unveiled, I started leading women’s circles about connecting to this sweetness; of sisters and of the divine feminine.”
Landau began hosting Rosh Hodesh groups and other events to further her sacred work. She believes that opening ourselves to receiving divine love has to do with the earth, embodiment, and even what she terms “the divine dark,” which is the spirit in matter and in the body. She teaches that we can activate our capacity to receive so that our flesh is infused with divinity. Opening up the body, being in nature and feeling the body taking in the vibrations of the life force are principles she practices with devotion.
“As we awaken that inside us, that’s what we want to take in,” she says. “Anything less just doesn’t feel like food. It’s like that yoga pose where the more we ground our feet, the more we can lift up.”
Landau relates this embodiment to working in the world and being able to go into the dark places without shying away from them. In this way, she believes that we can be of more service to others and tap into our incredible capacity to receive that infinite flow which is constantly available to us. She has been focusing recently on how we use our bodies to open up fully to this spiritual nourishment and also how we use our sexual energy. She emphasizes that this is not only something private, done in a limited way with a partner. It is our creative power.
“For me, first and foremost, our sexual energy does not have to be something that we do with someone else. It’s our relationship with ourselves and our capacity to open up the body. I used to have separation anxiety whenever I was close with someone and we separated. One of my teachers said to always keep the opening and the love with the divine at the center.
If that’s at the core, then anyone else who comes in is a bonus. I would feel a sense of abandonment because I was abandoning myself and projecting power onto someone else. Whatever experiences we have with someone else, are actually our experiences inside us, and we can keep grounding ourselves in our bodies, in our lived experiences and our connection with the divine; it’s a way of having agency.”
Landau takes a hermeneutic approach to what she terms the dark feminine making love to the patriarchal tradition. If this seems esoteric, that’s because it is – but Landau makes it accessible. She explains that the “dark feminine” making love with something can be whatever we may want to push away; whatever is difficult or painful. As we open ourselves, we activate a transmutational capacity within. Whenever the adjective “dark” accompanies a word, it tends to tinge it with a sinister quality, but she wants to reclaim the darkness. The dark is an active invitation to receive; to dance with those things we would normally shy away from, or be fearful of, and thereby be transformed.
“We can activate the womb space, which doesn’t have to be only for people who have a physical womb, it’s that quality that every cell has; that void. The womb is emblematic of it, but it doesn’t have to be physical. When there is an awareness brought to that and we bring something in, it gets changed in a way that our head and our heart don’t know what it’s going to be yet. But something new has been formed. We have incredible energetic power to open ourselves in both receiving and transmitting. There’s that kabbalistic idea about the divine having a body, which is called the tree of life. Then there is the way that our bodies are also divine. It’s almost like through our openness, we enliven the divine that is our body. I’ve done different workshops on this concept of the dark feminine making love to the patriarchal tradition. It’s like whatever is hard, instead of having to defend against it, we let it in, feel what it evokes, and in that welcoming, something gets shifted. But we have to consent to that. If we do, it can be really transformational.”
Many spiritual traditions that are patriarchal have male prophets, or male terms for God at the pinnacle. An image of a bearded man with extended hands comes to mind, but Landau teaches that this is not the whole story. There is a receiving that can be done in the body where the full power of the divine comes from below in the earth. This, too, is the dark feminine. When the receiving from the depths occurs, direction is irrelevant; it comes from within. “The transmutational quality of the dark feminine is that our body is like a cosmic composter,” she explains. “Everything can be let in and everything can be transformed. There is something powerful about not having to defend against things. We don’t get to feel our power if we’re busy defending all the time. Rashi has a commentary in the Torah episode about the spies. The weak cities have the highest walls.”
Landau always wanted to be of service with her whole being, but it took a long time to understand what that really meant. Over Yom Kippur, she led a workshop called Original Innocence at Nava Tehila, an egalitarian minyan in Baka. She led about 50 people through movements and other exercises in dispelling their fears and tapping into their original innocence.
“As I was leading, I noticed the tendency in myself, which is this thing that tells us to be careful because we might look crazy,” she shares. “We can’t show too much feeling. It’s really about letting go and normalizing the showing of emotion, and allowing others to show themselves. There is not just one acceptable way. To be able to hold where people are is itself a cauldron of transformation. It means that you can hold what someone else is giving you, even when it negates you. Original innocence relates to that because I don’t have to be a victim to someone else’s darkness that they’re projecting onto me.”
Landau has two upcoming workshops. On November 15 from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., she will lead an event on sacred sexuality at the First Station. It’s an opportunity to learn more and experience her philosophy of being fully in the body and exploring the gift of openness to the lifeforce energy all around and within us. She will also help with what she calls de-armoring; releasing walls and blockages that we put up because of past hurts, which will help to connect in an intimate way to those close to us, to the divine, and to ourselves. Landau will also be offering a workshop beginning in mid-November on Wednesdays, titled “Dancing the Divine Fire” about celebrating the power of the sacred feminine.
“What’s important in all of the work I do is that others gain a sense of agency,” she explains.
“It’s about helping others open up that capacity inside themselves.
We’re always receiving and transmitting. The secret of the angels is sharing authority. What does it mean for everyone to be in their power? When we show ourselves and vibrate at a certain frequency, someone else connects to that because that’s theirs as well. Then they ground themselves back in their own experience.”