Author Archives: Christine Irving

Wanderlust

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Journeys

I loved the images Michelle sent me last time.  They included the suitcase, camel and art deco woman as well as the serrated map border.  The drummer was an image I sent her, which came back to me.  I suppose she picked the suitcase because I’ve been traveling this summer to Ireland. And thought there doesn’t seem to be anything Irish in the picture it does speak directly to many things about the journey.

It’s been a while since I’ve traveled anywhere unfamiliar or outside of the boundaries of the US.  I’d been getting restless and plagued with wanderlust so the opportunity to go to Ireland came at just the right time.  I went with a group of ten amazing women- strangers to me, but not unknown. They are all represented in the central figure of the young woman. There is a lovely camaraderie that occurs between women of a certain age who have worked hard all their lives seeking to know themselves.  We envision life as a journey of possibilities and value  it holistically, good,bad, ugly, sublime and ordinary all accepted as part of the whole. As within, so without. Once one accepts the inner journey than the outer journeys become full of metaphors and vice versa.  When the inner and outer journey merge and the lines between them become fluid magic occurs. It’s that feeling I wanted to convey here for indeed, my Irish trip was in all senses a magical journey.

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Paps of Danu

Specifically Irish, are the two matching hills in the scene behind the drummer’s head.  They look like two breast-shaped mountains located near Killarney in County Kerry.  These are the Paps of Anu long considered sacred first to the mother goddess Anu or Danu as she was known on the continent. Our trip was actually a pilgrimage to ancient sacred sites.  In the collage, you see this reflected in these hills and also in the  post card in the lower right hand corner depicting the ruins at Chaco Canyon in the American southwest, which resembles an aerial photograph of The City an ancient settlement at the foot of The Paps.citySatelliteThumb

A mythical Asian creature guards the corner. He and the camel represent the animal spirits whose protection and guidance we sought for our travels.  Along the way we journeyed shamanically  guided by the amazing Amantha Murphy and her equally delightful assistant Rose Mummery who patiently and mindfully drummed for us.  The vivid colors in the collage represent the intense exhilaration surrounding this adventure.

Finally, I can never think of traveling without thinking of my friend Naomi Bristol.  She was an inveterate traveler who welcomed new experiences without fear or judgement.  Naomi collected images of camels, a beast identified closely with long exotic journeys. Many years ago I wrote this poem for her, which seems to fit here as well…

THE CAMEL’S CARD(for Naomi Bristol)

 Camel as totem

is hard to define,

exceedingly helpful,

not always benign;

if, in your cards, she

appears on this day,

journey and travelling

will hold you in sway.

~

Camel can teach you

to walk shifting sands,

carry loads lithely,

state your demands;

garner resources,

reserving and holding

interior wisdom

for later unfolding.

~

Contrary camel,

who stubbornly spits,

hoarding her genius

to strike with her wits,

appears in the cards

to warn against waste

of talent and temper

squandered in haste.

~

Feminine creature,

long lashes, soft eyes,

deceptively docile,

inscrutably wise,

guide to the desserts

which hide in the soul,

uncovering well-springs

to keep you heart-whole.

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The Flower Seller and the Angel

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I sent Michelle the half photo of that beautiful man in the background, but it didn’t fit her composition so she sent it back. I really hated to cover any of his face, but sacrificed it for art’s sake.  It represents the face of the omnipotent all-seeing God who originally animates both Floabunda, the flower seller and Phrunel, the angel.  Of course when I started I didn’t have a god or an angel or Floribunda.  I had a man casting his eyes sideways toward someone and holding up an expostulatory hand and I had a woman with an attitude looking back at someone.  I saw immediately that they went together.  Michelle had given me a chair, but it was a little dull.  Chairs and tigers go together so I put the chair on the back of the tiger and voila!  When I used M.’s big basket of tulips to cover up the line of demarcation where the old man ended I realized the woman sold flowers and added a bunch more from my own stock.  I also had a wing like sculpture back from Michele.  I colored it, it turned the old man into Phrunel the angel and there was my story- half unfolded before a single image had been pasted down.  (I admit I wanted a real angel name and so went googling.  Phrunel was obscure and fairly benign – most of the higher orders are quite terrifying.) The pot in Phrunel’s hand had to be added once the story was over.  Originally I wanted something in that hand but nothing fit.  I decided to keep it empty and thought of it as a gesture of speech, which resulted in the necessity for dialog.  The pot arrived as an image at the very end of the composition because now the story demanded it.  It’s so interesting to me how the picture and story play with and against each other creating a virtual picture of right and left brain collaborations.

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The Flower Seller and the Angel

 There was once a flower seller named Floribunda who dabbled in scents during the winter months. In summertime she gathered and grew, always remembering to thank to each plant and leaving a pinch of sage or a strand of her own hair in return.  As soon as the last bloom was harvested Floribunda dashed for her still room. There she chopped crushed, ground, muddled, mixed and distilled the dried flowers she’d set aside during spring and summer creating potions, balms, perfumes and tinctures to sell at the big Kris Kringle market in December.

You can see by now, Floribunda was an unusual woman.  Her analytical mind and discerning eye had been fine-tuned by years of wild crafting and floriculture. Nature’s innate complexity had tempered her loving heart with wisdom.  Hours of solitude in field, forest, marsh and meadow had complemented long days haggling and gossiping in the market place in honing her intuition.  Integrity was her watchword, Floribunda never answered a question with a question and she never minced words.

Her three constant companions were the serpent Sly, a slender garden snake inadvertently dropped on Floribunda’s toes by the barn cat; Jezebel the rabbit, who’d leapt into her arms from the middle of a flower bed where she’d been busy munching tulip bulbs; and Fredji, a liberated Bengal tiger.  Floribunda had discovered him, skinny, mangy and reeking of dung, huddled in the far corner of a filthy circus wagon.  In her righteous wrath she’d bent the bars apart and pulled him out.  When the ringmaster interfered, she flung a vial of distilled mangrove leaves at his feet.  After the noxious stench had inundated every stitch of canvas in the big top the circus pulled stakes and left, never to return.  It took months to mend Fredji’s wounds and heal his rage, but now he never for a second left her side.

Sly’s talent was to sense falsehood.  He lived in the left pocket of Florabunda’s skirts.  When he sensed dishonesty, pretense or deceitfulness he slithered in and out of her fingers.  Honesty sent him twining rapturously around thumb and wrist.  Jezebel recognized a loving heart, no matter how cleverly disguised.  She was drawn to love like a magnet.   Fredji was simply himself—fierce, loyal, dispassionate—his glacial blue stare warning enough to keep his beloved mistress from any harm..

The angel Phrunel appeared on the first day of the Christmas Fair.  He was a Lesser Angel of Redemption and Hope, who appeared as a benign old man, dressed in green robes.  Jezebel made a giant leap into his arms and snuggled into his chest, ears pressed blissfully against his angel heart.

The huge rainbow wings caused admiration and alarm among the shopkeepers.  Though he folded them carefully, they knocked down a pyramid of tangerines and sent them rolling in ten directions.  While street urchins scrambled for free fruit, their more respectable elders scrabbled after a flurry of  green, gold and blue pin feathers loosed in the elaborate folding of Phrunel’s wings.  He stood twice as wide as Florabunda’s stall and thrice as high.  She reached behind the counter for her chair.  Balancing on patient Fredji’s back she climbed up to where Phrunel could hear her.

“What do you want?” she yelled.  “Have I displeased the Almighty somehow?”

“No, no!” exclaimed Phrunel.  “Quite the opposite. He wants his creatures to amplify their talents.  That’s why he created you. It’s me, I need some help.  There’s a backlog in Heaven and this is so minor, I hesitate to bother Him.

“So you thought you’d bother me!  Well, us actually.”  She pointed at the chaotic mob swirling around them.

“Er, yes.”  The angel nodded.  His eyes filled with tears.  Florabunda gasped and hopped down from her perch to grab an empty green bottle.  She handed it to the angel who carefully guided his huge teardrops into the vial.  Everyone knew how rare and efficacious angel tears were.

“What’s the problem? she asked, climbing back aboard her chair.

He held out a large and shapely hand.  “Wart on my harp finger,” he whispered.  “I can’t play a single note correctly.  I’m so ashamed.”  Tears threatened again, but to Florabunda’s regret he blinked them back.

Once again Florabunda clambered down the makeshift ladder, rummaged in her stores and returned.  She placed a stoppered jar into his outstretched hand.  “Twice a day beginning with the new moon, afterwards bathe the finger in moonlight for three nights running.  The wart will disappear, not a trace left, I promise.”

Phrunel stored the pot in his pocket and carefully plucked a feather out of his wing.  Florabundi gasped with pleasure and hid it under her cloak.

“Time to go,” she said to the animals. “Come on Jez.”

Jezebel simply sighed and snuggled closer to Phrunel.  He smiled and shrugged, unfurled his wings and disappeared.

Sly curled around her left wrist.  Fredji lapped at her right with his sandpiper tongue.  “Tomorrow,  “Florabunda called to the gaping crowd.  “An angel feather!” she thought to herself.  “What will I make with that!”

Prompted

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While waiting for my new images to arrive by snail mail, I’ve been using my collage as a prompt for poetry. So far I’m finding that without a pre-determined focus in the making, my writing is moving more in its own direction and less in mine. I don’t feel so compelled to wring meaning from every image.

In other words I’m stepping off the path and wandering off. I can see I’m still more attracted to purple flowers than blue ones, but at least I am not setting out to pick a bouquet of purely lavender hues. In fact I can pass the violets by without a glance while chasing butterflies…

Reality

Aromatic coffee wakes me.

Scent from the steaming cup creeps

into my dream, slips beneath closed doors,

between tight-locked window panes

and brings me back to bedsheets and sunshine,                                                         prompt 1 chris_0001_NEW

crisp-folded napkins, and the morning news.

I blink, changing worlds each time eyes

shut open, open shut.

Staring across the threshold of my tray

into mystic daimon worlds where mystery

manifests in different forms

from native prophets’, I wonder

why familiarity breeds contempt.  How

we fail to honor miracles that surge

like restless crowds beyond the nictitating eyelid

with which we veil second sight, third eye, active

imagination. We notice

the fluttering moth, but fail

to perceive the prescient mites

migrating toward its ear; grab

a fistful of mixed nuts, but never ponder

the strange collaboration between bee,

flood, and fish that lets Brazil nuts propagate.

We scorn connection at our peril.

One wing flapping

can wreck a world

or save it.

This is another piece that came. As I reread it just now, I realized I was unconsciously applying the “I Am One Who” SoulCollage® method of dialog, in which an image in the card is allowed to speak through the artist about itself.

Fusion

She is the old one, grass green,green elf

shot through with veriditas, wearing

serpent as succubus, confidant, familiar—

ancient chthonic companion, Jezebel

of Eden. The one who tempts us

to love what we are.

Key word for the year- sponteneity

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Spon·ta·ne·i·ty

spän(t)əˈnēədē,ˌspän(t)əˈnāədē/

Noun: the condition of being spontaneous; spontaneous behavior or action.

          “she occasionally tore up her usual dress in favor of spontaneity”

Hello, aloha, zdrastuyte, ahoj,

Please forgive our long silence, in the intervening months we have been searching for a new mutually compatible prompt to spur us on or, more accurately, lure us in another direction. I finally came up with the idea, which I doubt is original, of exchanging images as prompt. We’ll each send the other a package of 7 – 10 images. The recipient may discard up to three but must use the rest in a collage. The discarded ones will be returned to donor and she must use at least 1 in her next collage. the idea is to make something which does not attempt to illustrate a theme or an idea and is created simply as a spontaneous act of creation.

We do understand how very tricky the unconscious can be. Coyote is always prowling around our borderlands. Our clamoring minds as well always want to play- so we will write something about our what we think it might all mean or else create a poem or story to go with it. Hopefully calming both sides of our minds will calm things down and make room for other voices to emerge. The question we want to use is: What has this collage got to tell me that I don’t already know?

To add a further twist, Michelle made us both beautiful books with twelve, gorgeous, blank, pristine pages on which to create our masterpieces. They will be a kind of art journal, underscoring the fact we are not producing these collages for an audience. (You know how in the Music Man Professor Harold Hill says, “I always think there’s a band, kid?” It’s one of my all-time favorite lines, along with Archangel Michael’s, “And you just gotta remember, Sparky – no matter what they tell you – you can never have too much sugar.. .”For me, there’s always an audience. Hence the sop, which includes this blog.

Here’s my new collage, happily ensconced on the first page of my beautiful journal.  It’s made of watercolor paper, with several flaps, pockets and interjections to make it more interesting. I’m hoping Michelle will tell you how to make it or at least give out a link. All the images except for the background, elfish female, green plant and the persimmons are ones Michelle sent to me.  The green elf in the center is a picture of mine she sent back.  She found my elf creepy and ugly. She seems winsome, bold and magical to me- no accounting for all the mysterious associations lurking beneath the surface of our psyches.  The mythic always pops up in my collage and here, once again,  The Triple Goddess. I’ve been reading about Ireland so maybe that’s why this fey green creature appeals so much.  I think she’s the crone of the trio; because she’s fairy folk her five hundred odd years sit easy on her. The doors interest me- perhaps they lead to another world- theirs or ours, which one do the viewers inhabit?  And I just love that spiral pillar though I had to chop off the static bronze flame it originally held, and add a bit of ” green fuse.”  The buttons are cut from a larger strip of paper, itself cut from a printed page.  I couldn’t figure out where to put them so I pasted them on the peacock’s eyes.  There’s a rich vein of meaning to plunge!  Actually, I was thinking of the Neil Gaiman based movie, Coraline, in which the bad mother substitutes buttons for real eyes.. Scary, creepy and clever,clever metaphor.  This collage holds an air of expectancy for me.  Like the moment when the heroine hovers on the top  step of the basement stairs before continuing her descent. Hhmmm…

 

Change and the River

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For our new prompt, Michelle and I are changing our focus from the Moon to rivers. I began with the previous post, which still included a big old full moon.  Writing this I began to wonder about the meaning of that Moon in relation to the subject of compassionate acts. I remembered the way Islam divides charitable deeds in several categories – zakah, which is an obligatory giving incumbent on all Muslims and sadaqah, which is private giving over and beyond one’s obligatory tithe. Sadaqah itself has two components -an open-handed kind where one is seen to be doing good works (inspiring other to do the same) and a secret kind, even more meritorious, in which the gift is given anonymously (so secretly that “the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing”). In my previous collage, no one except the Moon is witness to the monk’s act of compassion. I like the idea of anonymous giving because it seems cleaner, somehow.  On the other hand public acts inspire and inform others.  I think its wise to promote both kinds.

Zakah is derived from the verb zaka, “to thrive,” “to be wholesome,” “to be pure.”  Charitable giving is seen as a way to purify oneself from the pollution of greed.  Which brings us back to rivers and flowing waters. Rivers have long been associated with purification.  Partly, I think, because they represent change. Heraclitus said it many centuries ago, “You cannot step twice into the same river.”

Nothing represents change more than a river. They move constantly undulating across the plains and carving furrows through mountains. A river is by definition moving water, unlike a sea, lake, pond or puddle it cannot be defined as a body because it is polymorphous, continually changing shape. It is change that purifies us and redeems us, for the past can never be erased or changed – all we can do is make the present count.   To do that we need to do it differently.  Even if it was good before,  we must accept that we cannot duplicate it.  Attempts to stop change result in stagnation.  We tend to think of dams as good things, ways to control nature (read “change”), but in fact dams kill ecosystems, reduce the fertility of the land and create the possibility for flooding larger by many degrees of magnitude than nature creates on its own.  We are a metaphor of the river.  Our own emotions and psyche reflect the same phenomena; dammed thought and feelings damn us to all sorts of ills, some long-lasting, some so insidious their effects don’t appear for years.

We go down to the river to pray, to wash, cleanse, refresh, renew.  Stepping into the current we become current, we become relevant.

Standing in the river, I am continuously present to what is, instead of what was or will be.

 

 

Fish Releasing Ceremony of Compassion

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Monk and fishC Series 12-3-2010 1;55;08 PM

The people of Han-tan presented doves to Chao Chien-tzu on New Year’s

morning. He was delighted and richly rewarded them. When a visitor asked the

reason, Chien-tzu explained: ‘We release living things on New Year’s Day as a

gesture of kindness.’ [The visitor replied]: ‘The people know you wish to release

them, so they vie with each other to catch them, and many of the doves die.

If you wish to keep them alive, it would be better to forbid the people to catch

them. When you release doves after catching them, the kindness does not make

up for the mistake.’ ‘You are right,’ said Chien-tzu.

~From the Taoist text, Liezi, dated to the third century CE.

 

The release of fish into a river or birds into the air is a practice common to all schools of Buddhism. Actually it predates Buddhism and seems to be a Chinese practice well established in Taoist practice by its first recorded written mention. Though modern ecologists argue against the practice – introduction of invasive species, trauma and harm to wild animals during their capture for release, pollution spread of disease, etc. – it is easy to understand why the practice caught on and became so widespread. I first encountered it in Thailand where vendors sell birds for small amounts of money so people ca release them. I have a sneaking suspicion the pigeons simply return to their dovecots and are sold repeatedly. Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful feeling to release a caged creature and watch it fly away. My own heart fluttered in response and I entered the temple in a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving. I can’t help but think it enhanced the sincerity, if not the efficacy on my prayers.

 

In Thailand, many households keep large ceramic jars beside the front door to hold the living fish that will become their supper at some point. In a land without refrigeration this makes perfect sense, especially since the best time to fish is at dawn, before work starts, when fish rise to feed on insects. On special days, particularly on Buddha’s birthday, saffron is added to the water to sanctify it and the fish are released back into the rivers from whence they came.

 

One of the things that rivers represent is “universal potentiality” and the “fluidity of form” and the fish is seen in many cultures as a symbol of death and rebirth; the continuous cycle of life. It makes sense symbolically that to release a fish would be to enhance the effects of one compassionate act giving the consequences of that act a chance to morph and change form and spread in effect.

 

Sacred and magical as rivers may be, they are probably more associated with human endeavor, history, and culture than any other natural phenomenon. They flow through every kind of environment and have been since the beginning humanity’s road to distant places. We settle by rivers, our cities depend on them. They are nature’s highways and we have used them through all the days of being human and before.

 FREDERICCHURCHSMALL

Rivers live in our hearts, our poetry, our art and music –Handel’s Water Music , the Hudson River painters, the River Alph. They drain the land so plants may grow and move the waters back to the sea where they become refreshed, cleansed and reusable. They are the veins and arteries of Gaia and carry her lifeblood within their banks. To return life to the rivers is a sacred and profound act when done symbolically and even more so when actually accomplished as the completion of a physical task.

 

Hercules is portrayed in myth as cleansing the Aegean stables by rerouting the beds of the rivers Alpheus and Peneus to wash out the filth. Pete Seeger brought us full circle when he attempted the Herculean task of cleaning the Hudson River which had been receiving the waste of human lives and their factories for hundreds of years. Thanks to his leadership the Hudson once again has sturgeon fish swimming up its rivers and tributaries to breed. I can think of no greater act of compassion.

Lunescence

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Drawing Down the Moon

The Moon has long been linked to women’s mysteries, particularly their menstrual cycles. The twenty-eight days of a woman’s cycle correspond to the Moon’s own waxing and waning. She is mistress of the dark night whose ebony depths are echoed in the wombs of women and the underground caverns of Earth. In our culture and many other’s the Moon is considered feminine with strong links to a host of goddesses – Artemis, Hecate, Áine, Sefkhet, Cerridwen, Selene, Chang-o, Ishtar, Hina Hine, Mama Quilla ‑ the list is long and comes from around the world.

moon worshipper

Most of the moon goddesses are associated with fertility, childbirth or the protection of women. While scientific data assures us the old stories linking moon and madness have no basis in reality; other studies confirm what women have always known – the Moon can affects their production of hormones and the onset of menses.

Little if any scientific research has been devoted to determining if the Moon actually affects the way plants grow but the amount of anecdotal evidence is enormous. There are over five million references on the web to planting by moonlight. Moon gardening continues to have Goddess knows how many hundreds of thousands of adherents as it has for millennia. Fertility is her watchword.

Women have always gathered on the full moon to perform their rites and practice their mysteries. To this day circles of women meet in circles at the full moon to seek sisterhood, counsel and support from each other.

DrawMoon

My collage shows a Mycenae priestess engaged in the rite of drawing Down the Moon, a ritual in which women gather together to focus their attention on invoking the Goddess while their priestess opens herself to the Goddess’s presence and allows Her to speak through her. The priestess holds a snake – powerful symbol of feminine life, renewal and transformation. The snake sheds its skin just as a woman once a month sheds the soft inner lining of her uterine wall.

I can’t mention this rite without pausing to remember Margot Adler who died this year on my birthday.  She is was just my age.  Below you can see a copy of her original well-thumbed and much-loved book. In 1979 we were just beginning to re-member the feminine divine and revive Her mysteries.

Margot Adler 1946-2014 Author of "Drawing Down the Moon"

Margot Adler 1946-2014
Author of “Drawing Down the Moon”

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A small catlike form perches on the priestess’s head. Cats were once considered sacred and revered in their own right. Cats are nocturnal creatures, prowling the night with luminous round eyes. They too have a long association with birth, fecundity, motherhood and milk.

People see different things in the Moon – rabbits, faces, buffalo and sometimes a beautiful woman with long dark hair.  My moon is based on medieval Celtic design. It contains a woman tangled in her own hair and surrounded by ancient symbols. She represents the strange and prophetic nature of dreams, visions and intuitions sent by the Moon to those who seek her counsel.  She also stands for the danger inherent in stepping between worlds to engage with either the numinous  or one’s own unconscious.  The gods can drive you mad if you strive to penetrate their mysteries to vigorously, tangling you in a labyrinth of self-reflecting thoughts and imaginings.

Artemisia_vulgaris_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-016

If you look closely, you will find several flakes of mugwort incorporated in the design of the background. Mugwort is a common name for several species of aromatic plants in the genus Artemisia, named after the moon goddess Artemis. Mugwort can be used as a sacred smoking or smudging herb for protection or divination. Used in a ritual context it may enhance astral projection, lucid dreaming and altered states of consciousness. Keeping mugwort under your pillow or in your bedroom encourages prophetic dreams.

Luna’s Hare

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Luna's Hare_NEW_0001“Sometimes, when you’re deep in the countryside, you meet three girls, walking along the hill tracks in the dusk, spinning. They each have a spindle, and on to these they are spinning their wool, milk-white, like the moonlight. In fact, it is the moonlight, the moon itself, which is why they don’t carry a distaff. They’re not Fates, or anything terrible; they don’t affect the lives of men; all they have to do is to see that the world gets its hours of darkness, and they do this by spinning the moon down out of the sky. Night after night, you can see the moon getting less and less, the ball of light waning, while it grown on the spindles of the maidens. Then, at length, the moon is gone, and the world has darkness, and rest…..

…on the darkest night, the maidens take their spindles down to the sea, to wash their wool. And the wool slips from the spindles into the water, and unravels in long ripples of light from the shore to the horizon, and there is the moon again, rising above the sea….Only when all the wool is washed, and wound again into a white ball in the sky, can the moon-spinners start their work once more….”

Mary Stewart, The Moonspinners

Today, we introduce the Moon, as our symbol for the next few weeks. Though some ancient cultures saw the Sun as feminine and the Moon as masculine, in most minds Moon is equated with the feminine. Rightly so, for she governs conception, pregnancy and birth; sowing, sprouting and reaping – all things fecund begin with her blessing. It’s little wonder that in China, Korea, Japan people see a rabbit in the Moon, rather than a man or woman. The Cree nation also associates the rabbit and the moon as did the Aztecs. Of course some rabbits are white and they all like to come out at night, enhancing their association with the most magical, fascinating and unearthly object this world has ever known. Not that the sun doesn’t command respect and worship – it certainly does, but the elements of enchantment and numinosity are sometimes lost in its penetrating, consistent, brilliance. The Moon changes, wanes and waxes. Her gravitational power links us to her as the water that makes up 60% of our flesh moves to her rhythms, captive as the ocean tides. Whatever her phase, she never fails to stir the human imagination, even in her absence.

Rabbit happens to be my totem animal. She has many many attributes ranging from shameless trickster in her male guise to nourishing mother. Like the Moon, and all of us, Rabbit has a shadow side that complements her brighter aspects. For instance she is fearful and tends to freeze in the face of danger, her escape is swift and erratic and sometimes much too quickly triggered. She has always had much to teach me.

Rabbit also links us to the number three forming a bridge from our study of the last few weeks to this new, not so unrelated topic. Below you see some examples of the three rabbit or three hare motif. The first known representation of this symbol comes from some Chinese Buddhist temples along the Silk Road dating from about 600 B.C.E (obviously, it was already a commonly recognized image or it wouldn’t have been used as a temple decoration). Three rabbits form a lunar circle to share three ears, though each appears to have two. This optical illusion is created by arranging the three ears in a triangle, allowing each pair of adjacent hares to share an ear. In some ways it thus becomes a visual koan.

Buddhist Cave Painting, Silk Road circa 640 B.C.E.

Buddhist Cave Painting, Silk Road, China ca. 640 B.C.E.

Egyptian or Syrian 1200 C.E.

Egyptian or Syrian pottery fragment ca. 1200 C.E.

three hares Paderborn Cathedral

Church window, Paderborn, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany ca.1600

 

 

 

The design must have struck some deep chord in people because it spread through China, and the Middle East and then across Europe, making the transition into Islam and Christianity without losing an iota of its original pattern.

Whichever of Rabbit’s facets we focus on, her long ears and soft fur speak to humans on some deep primal level – that same deep pool of unknowing through which the Moon moves, trailing our psyches behind her.

 

 

 

 

 

Hittite Priest

Hittite Priest Moon Priest

Ring Seal ca. 1600 B.C.E.

Loosening the Literal

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This year the work for me is to try and dislodge the firm hold of the literal.

lit•er•al (lĭt′ər-əl) adj.:
1. a. according with the letter of the scriptures
b. adhering to fact or to the ordinary construction or primary meaning of a term or expression
c. free from exaggeration or embellishment
d. characterized by a concern mainly with facts
2. of, relating to, or expressed in letters
3. reproduced word for word: exact, verbatim

At one time I prided myself on not being a person who took things literally, but honesty eventually compelled me to admit I am bound as tightly as any to adhering to facts.  The problem is that the more we know about the factual the more we discover that there ain’t no such thing.  Of course, that’s actually a double negative and so does not “really” mean what it purports to mean. Catch my drift?

 
Which brings us to the third eye or as Hindu’s call it “Shiva’s eye. Eastern thought places the third eye in the middle of the forehead, slightly above brow level.  Western Theosophists associate it with the pineal gland at the back of the head.  In either case this eye is said to open upon a different reality or possibly more of reality than we perceive with normal vision.  It is the eye of non-duality, the place of perception from which we recognize the unity of all things. It allows us to see visions and pierce the veil of time.   New Age thought associates the third eye with enlightenment; a word which could meant ‘to bring light to’ but, I like to think of it as ‘to make lighter’  as in less heavy, as in feather-light on the scales of Ma’at.

 
I really love symbols, love the idea that a (literal) object can provide entrance to a whole field of dynamic tangible and intangible associations and meanings, but when it comes to depicting such abstractions artistically I find it incredibly difficult to jump the tracks and toot around in Rumi’s field.

 
I think it may be related to the extreme near-sightedness that afflicted my eyes most of my life (till laser surgery in my fifties).  Nobody noticed until I was six years old and started school.  I still remember the amazing clarity of that first pair of glasses and how quickly I became frightened of losing them.  I think that fear has made me hold tight to the “facts “of what I see.  Now, I want to loosen that grip a bit.  I once had a mentor who told me “we teach what we need to learn.”  My husband and I teach each other many things.  I taught him to “soften his gaze.”  It took a while for me to explain it clearly and him to understand what I meant.  Now, he has incorporated it so thoroughly he uses it as a teaching tool professionally.  Meanwhile, I am still struggling to learn  the difference between discernment and judgement, to soften the gaze of my inner critic while pulling the veil from in front of that lidless third eye.

 
So here is my depiction of it – the third eye set in an energetic field of non-being.  I don’t really like it.  It doesn’t fit my aesthetic and feels raw and unfinished to me.  I’m uncomfortable with it.  But isn’t that the point?

 

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – 13th century

 

The Egg and I

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Egg and I 2

 

I can’t seem to get birds off my mind. Thinking of the number three in conjunction with them, I realized how closely connected the symbolism of the number three and the egg have in common. The egg like many triple deities found cross-culturally and across time represents birth-death-rebirth.
The Cosmic Egg like the number three is a symbol of wholeness. Of course both egg and three carry multiple meanings The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols devotes four and a half pages of densely packed definitions to both of them. Even within their own categories some of those meanings are very similar, some differ widely, but all agree that both carry attributes of the sacred, the mystical and the magical.
This blog has resulted for me in lots of intentionally created collages, in which the theme drove my choices and composition. This one is almost entirely intuitive. The image of an egg came immediately to mind when I started thinking about a collage inspired by three. It was only as I was wondering why that it occurred to me an egg come in three parts – shell, albumen and yolk.
Maria Prophetissa, a legendary alchemist whose reputation for sagacity and intelligence remains current to this day gave us a famous axiom: “One becomes two; two becomes three; out of the third comes the one as the fourth.” She could well have been speaking of a fertilized egg. Perhaps, Maria kept chickens!
Karl Jung saw Maria’s axiom as a mirror image of the individuation process expressed in alchemical terms. This kind of reversal fits right in with Hermetic wisdom, which tells us “as above so below.” In other words the laws of the universe apply equally to all elements thereof. We all know all things at our deepest level which is why the great masters and teachers all say that to know yourself is to know God/Spirit/Source/etc.
Intuitive expressions of “scientific” facts began long ago with the first creation stories i.e. the Cosmic Egg. Science, as it prods deeper into time and space, is rapidly verifying those ancient intuitions and insights. We are, as we thought, made of stardust.
What all this has to do with this collage, I don’t exactly know- call it a grok.