Category Archives: Myth

The Dark Lord

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I’ll be on vacation next week without my studio, so Michelle will have to twitch the first prompt of our next tale herself.  I really loved working with this Hindu myth.  As always, I learned and was nourished from the deep interaction with story our process  provides.  Krishna inspires me; for that I am deeply grateful and leave you with this poem in his honor.  ~   Christine

His couch lies ready

linen strewn with marigolds

bedposts hung with silk

Where is the Dark Lord?

 

In the wet grass – footprints;

forgotten bracelets,

Where is the Dark Lord?

 

Laughter light as spider silk

spun to snare a blue-skinned god

floats fragrant on the dusky air

slides like an errant wisp

of perfumed hair across his lips

burns like whip-lash, bends

the sacred mouth and strings

it with desire.

 

Echoes fade.

Cows low

nightingale sings.

The Dark Lord lifts his pipe.

 

Notes fan out like soft-nosed ferrets

quartering the grazing ground, dodging

clumsy hooves to nose past crimson saris;

ride streams of spurting foaming cream,

flash cobalt sparks round a brass-rimmed milking bowl.

Cream spills white across the black-churned earth.

 

Gopis desert their lowing cattle, beating

up-turned jars like drums.

 

Constellations shift and shimmer

Universes disappear.

 

Krishna blows sweet longing down his flute

 

Worlds reorder.

Brass-bound jars set up a timpani

each milkmaid drops her gold embroidered hem

into a sister’s calloused palm and spins.

 

Red silk settles in circles.

The naked god comes forth.

©2013 Christine Irving

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Arousal

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Krisna and the Gopi_0001_NEW

“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.” 
― Rumi

Krishna grows from a child into a young man still craving forbidden fruit.  One evening, enchanted by the nubile grace of the village milkmaids as they go about their work currying and milking the sacred cows, he picks up his flute and walks through the gloaming, pouring his yearning into the notes he plays.  The music floats on the evening breeze, slides over garden walls, slips between shutters, drifts down the chimneys.  His tender air piggybacks on the breath of every woman, permeating her lung’s alveoli, seeping into the corpuscles of her blood until each cell yearns toward his call. The chaste women of Braj leave their tasks unfinished.  Buckets splash back into the well, brooms clatter to the ground; soft puffs of dust rise from beneath their pattering feet.  Night falls, the moon rises, still his flute plays on.  Women dance, circling round the god. Tightly wound saris unravel, floating on the breeze.  Krishna multiplies himself sixteen thousand times, temporarily gratifying each woman’s desires.  When dawn breaks, he disappears leaving them longing for the god.

I think these stories say something about desire being the beginning of awakening (another word for arousal) Krishna stirs – he stirs up his mother, he stirs the dirt, he steals butter which comes from stirring milk, he stirs the milkmaids, he stirs the air, his own body stirs. He mixes things up, turns them on their head, confuses and enchants.  Out of this great stirring comes desire.

Desire heightens every sense – smell, touch, taste, sight, hearing all go into overdrive, become sensitive to nuance and swoon from a surfeit of delight.  Consummation – the fulfillment of desire – consuming, having, obtaining, owning –  is a completely different thing.  Blissful as it may be, attaining is not as delight-full as wanting because in getting the one thing we want, we shut down all the other potentialities.

This is why Rumi and the other mystics of every religion stress the importance of longing as an attribute of devotion and prayer.  Stay in the place of desire and everything you see belongs to you.  Pluck the peach, consume it and your hunger is gone.  Plums, apricots, pears and pomegranates, all so enticing moments ago, all so alive and delicious to the imagination, lose their appeal.  That’s not to say we shouldn’t eat or make love – just, when we are blessed with ineffable yearning, we should take the time to revel in it and linger awhile in that place of infinite possibility.

The longing Krishna evokes is inchoate – it has no actual object because as soon as we make the god into an object he disappears.  There are no instructions, no directions, just a longing which we can barely voice and then only in metaphor. The gift lies in the disappearance, the nothingness, the void he leaves behind.  Our questions: What is the gift in nothingness? From whence comes our awakening?

“We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust.”
― Rumi

The Dirt Eater

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I’m still mulling over this month’s story – thinking of the difficulties of parenting, which are really about the difficulties we have with engaging respectfully with anyone we meet.  I even wrote a an essay to post on my other blog , only to realize it was a diatribe and I’d basically said it all here, so why repeat? Instead I turned to poetry, forgot the struggle with words like discipline, punishment and consequence and returned to story, which is the whole point of this exercise.

I did find out in the course of my research that Indian mothers begin to worry if their young children (boys and girls) don’t exhibit a little  saitani (devilishness).

The Dirt Eater

Mother!  Mummy!  Mom!”

All day long, a constant

teasing litany –

complaints, tattles, whines

“He did this.” “She did that”

“No I didn’t!” “Yes you did!”

Ignorance is bliss, I think

ignore, rise above,

find my center, ground…

“Krish’s eating dirt again, Mummy.”

Damn! It’s true.

Mud dribbles from baby lips

streaking towards his chin

like old man wrinkles.

Pica they call it,

eating disorder common

in toddlers, obscurely named

from the Latin for “magpie”

though actually, the word is older.

Long time gone, before Olympus

Picus ruled – Woodpecker God/King

holy shaman, rattler, shape-shifter.

He comes to me some nights;

ancient figurehead of myth and memory;

He-Who-Haunts-My-Dreams, now

locked between closed pages,

boxed books, another life, a previous

consideration, a different vision …

Krish twists away,

impatient to escape my grasp.

Snapped from reverie,

 I jerk him back

squeeze his tiny jaw until

clenched teeth release.

The stubborn pretty mouth I love to kiss

opens wide, becomes a portal, doorway

to creation.  Constellations form from chaos;

dance celestial rounds then fade,

while all around, in between

and through that cosmic

firework display, new avatars

arise and melt in turn.

Awe stuck, I stare

bemused, mystified

but somehow, not surprised.  I think

I’ve always known divinity

resides within each child –

each individual life

a universe –

burning stars, reeling galaxies

impossible to fathom

rich, mysterious, arcane

endlessly fascinating, curiously

accessible, infinitely

out of reach.

Mud, I think.

Alpha, omega;

question and answer

melded in paradox.

I scoop up soil

mound it in my hand

pick out a pebble,

dried leaves, a twig.

Krish licks his thumb, rolls

it in the dirt I offer, cuddles

in my lap and sucks.  Tears

drip through my smile;

all around us

stand his brothers

waiting for the scold.

They’ll wait forever.

And a Child Shall Lead Them

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And A Child Shall Lead Them_NEW

Besides motherhood, this story seems (to me) to be about doorways and the insouciance of children.   There’s something about it that keeps me making these very simple compositions with only one or two images.  I keep trying to make it more complex and layered, but when I do it all looks like a muddle to me and again I’m reduced to the child and the universe.

Doorways to me are about choice. Do we pass through them or pass them by? Do we slam them shut or fling them open?  Where do they lead?

Krishna’s mouth offers  infinite possibility.

In fairy tales doorways generally lead one into a different reality, another kingdom, an alternative universe.  Portals challenge us to change – our minds, our attitudes, our perceptions and assumptions.  Change is at the heart of all fairy tales.  And change is the core of the life force.  Someone once told me,”Change or die!”  I took her advice, and the new growth deriving from the changes I made continues to thrive and grow to this day. I think my collage says- “Don’t be afraid.  Look at me.  I’m a child, yet I step out without fear.

I think the name of this piece is, And a Child Shall Lead Them.

Motherly Love

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Krishnawk#2aMotherly Love

Krishna and the Fruit  Week #2 The Positive Aspects

 The deep connection between a mother and her child is illustrated in this story. An example from the story, “Krishna! 0 Krishna!” she whispered, snatching up her boy in her arms. … Who are You?” she said softly, nuzzling His baby curls with her lips.This isan act of a devoted, loving mother. I agree with what Christine has written in her essay, “… I say motherhood lies in the quality of the love she brings to bear on the world.”

 I have two children and one of the things that struck me about motherhood is how each of my children came to me “factory wired.”

That is, each had their uniqueness built-in. They didn’t come as blank slate waiting for me, the parent to write upon. I wasn’t there to create or  mold them as I saw fit. In fact, they entered the world like the Prophet’s poem describes. “as sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”  Instead of thinking you are molding the child, you need to ask, “Who has come to live with me. Who are you?” For in time you will discover this other being who learns, and grows, but arrived here with their spark, their spirit already whole. They have come, like each of us, to have a human experience.

 I was listening to a TED Talk by Antonia Damasio, a Neuroscientist. The title of the talk,  The Quest to understand consciousness. He believes that the brain stem holds the conscious self. That part of us that is the observer of self,  is the aware one that is thinking, learning and experiencing. It is in the brainstem that we are connected from the body to the mind and from the mind to the body.

 This bit of knowledge suggests to me that this part of our self that is innate to our individuality is built-in. It is what makes each of us so very unique. In our story of Krishna there is the passage that reads … “and the lord who had become a human child out of sport, without any loss of his divine powers …”  I suspect that that is how we all come into this world.

We are all like Krishna. We arrive here whole and equipped to have the experiences that best serves our higher self.  Giving love and getting love are wonderful gifts.  Having a loving Mother is surely one of the greatest gifts of all.

Yashoda and Krishna

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I’ve loved this story ever since the first time I heard it – maybe because giving birth seemed like such a cosmic event to me.  For me this story is about motherhood.  I’ve always felt so entrusted with my children-not in any way proprietary, but rather as if some awesome power had delivered them into my care – mine to love, but never own.  Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese poet/philosopher said it more eloquently than I ever could:

“Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”

(Sweet Honey in the Rock sings The Prophet’s lyrics)

There’s another story in the Krishna cannon in which Yashoda becomes completely frustrated with her son and tries to catch him and tie him up – to no avail.  In this story too she must come to terms the fact that though her child looks like a little boy, he is in truth a divine being over which she has no power. Reading these stories again, I am struck by the similarity to the stories about Mary as a young mother found in the Apocrypha.  Mary, too, has problems raising her baby god, who insisted on going his own way to the point of actually killing other children who harmed him.

Power may well be the operative word here.  We’ve all heard the saying “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The child parent relationship can be viewed as a power struggle from day one.  The danger of corruption inherent in this situation between large functioning adult and tiny helpless infant is obvious.  The danger is equally obvious when we see large functioning adults emotionally in thrall to a tiny scrap of humanity.  Happily for us in many families these two situations balance out  into a fairly equitable balance of power.  Still this doesn’t solve the problem of corruption.  That can only be dealt with by a different  kind of power – power that comes from within and is connected to the universe of all -that-is.

These stories seem to question the usefulness of punishment as a teaching tool; especially in the face of that inner power.  We can of course get many human children to shut-up by punishing them, we can even get them to stop acting in certain ways, but are their minds changed, have they actually learned anything?  Or have we really taught cunning, resentment, stealth and prevarication? These stories seem to be saying that the only effective energy one can bring to relationship is love.

They also teach that the sacred is all around us – the Kingdom of Heaven i.e. the cosmos, exists within every speck of dirt and inside every child.

I am Raven.

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I am Raven

I Upset Things. It’s my job, it’s what I do!

This story comes from the people of the Pacific Northwest. A people closely linked with the sea. It is a tale that explains the tides.  My favorite parts of the story are when the lines, “It’s my job. It’s what I do!” are said by Fog man, The Man who sits on the Tide, and finally by Raven. Each character knows their part in the over all plan. Each of us also wants to fit in and be part of an over all plan.  For some of us, knowing what our job is isn’t the easiest thing to figure out.

The seagull in my collage symbolizes “not knowing.” He is about to land on top of the head of the giant that sits on the tide. In the Tale, Raven asks Seagull if he knows how to move the water out of the way, but Seagull does not reply because he is busy searching for answers himself.

In some indigenous cultures, you are given a name that explains what you do.  In our Tale, the person who makes fog is called the Fog Man. Early on, many surnames came from what the person did. For an example, Shoemaker,  Schumacher, let us know that the person made shoes. The person named Fletcher was the individual who puts the feathers on arrows so they fly straight. Today, our name rarely represents how we fit in. Today we have to decide for our self. Yet, we are still judged by what we do. Most of us realize that there is more to who we are than how we earn a living.

Raven and Seagull are the main characters in another story. When the great creator created things, he kept them separate in Cedar boxes. The boxes contained such things as mountains, fire, water, wind and seeds for all the plants. One of the boxes was given to Seagull who decided not to open his box. All the animals tried to get him to do so but he refused. The animals called upon Raven to get Seagull’s box open. Raven tried reasoning with Seagull, but that didn’t work. Next he tried to trick Seagull into releasing the box, that to failed.  Finally, Raven was so angry that he stuck a thorn in Seagull’s foot.  Seagull dropped the box and the lid fell off. Out came the Sun, the moon and the stars. This brought light to the world and allowed the first day to begin.

Raven is an old friend to me.  I wrote a story that had Raven as an important character. He acted as a go between people and the gods.  He is the one that blithely goes forward believing in the  future and his role of happily discovering it.  I loved the trickster.

Trickster as Creator

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Raven MeetsThe Man Who Sits On The tide

Raven Greets The Man Who Sits On The Tide

Unlike the primary gods who make something out of nothing and get the whole shebang rolling, Tricksters create from prima materia – the primary materials of this Earth.  In this role they are the first artists, fast change artists to be exact, for change is what they create.

This story from the Pacific Northwest is full of fog and the sea.  It tells the tale of how Raven created tides.   The surge and ebb of the sea usually occurs four times a day, though some places experience it only twice.  The Moon’s gravitational pull is the principal mover of tides, but the Sun, deep sea tides, the Coriolis effect and varying depths of water near the shore all contribute to different level s and frequencies.   Yet, even with today’s technology accurate tide depths are not easy to predict.   The sea remains a mysterious fascinating force and so does Raven.  His heavy wing beat and raucous cry never fail to send shivers of awe down my backbone, especially on a foggy beach just as the tide begins to turn.

Fog can be a symbol for doubt and confusion but it can also be a warning that some knowledge is best kept hidden.  It can provide a hiding place or refuge, but it can also facilitate loss or conceal lurking danger.  Fog muffles sound and plays tricks with direction and acoustics.  In films, fog is an ominous harbinger of change for the worse and sometimes symbolizes evil itself.   Fog and Trickster make a very good match.

Personally, I love fog.  I like moving in a magic bubble of air; outside of it, I see nothing, but inside all is revealed.  Fog changes the landscape, alters shapes makes every step a surprise as things emerge and disappear.  For me, fog makes magic almost tangible.  I always greet it with little leap of the heart, excitement and frisson of fear.  Now, anything can happen, “there might be giants.”

And in this story there are.  The Man Who Sits On The Tide is gigantic enough to stopper a hole in the seabed that allows the ocean to empty.  It seems like an important job.  Disturbing him could have grave consequences.  Yet raven attacks this giant with impunity.  He employs two natural resources, fog and pain.  Wielding them with wit and determination he trains the giant like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

This is Trickster at his finest, creating profound change for the benefit of all, including him.

COYOTE

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coyote1Coyote might have gone

the way of buffalo or beaver

but  he learned to smell

strychnine in the snares,

taught himself not to eat

the trappers’ tainted meat.

 

Shifting his boundaries

he followed bulldozers

east through razed woodlands,

skulking into clearings,

foraging the up-turned earth

for insect eggs and baby mice

until he wound up on a truck

farm in New Jersey

gulping down blackberries,

stripping the savory bushes

till his chin ran red.

 

Now he ranges around Boston

Pensacola, and Poughkeepsie

lured into a maze of safe sidewalks

by the pull of painted T-shirts

and carved fetishes of thread-wrapped stone.

 

People should consider who they conjure:

dung-eater, prophet-with-no-honor,

liar, iconoclast, thief; Trickster Coyote

casting moon shadows,

haunting suburban hedges,

beating the odds.

©2000 Christine Irving

Coyote as Trickster

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Coyote says, “RUN!”

In this story of Coyote, we discover that he does not understand the cultural rules about gift giving. When he returns and demands the Rock, Iya, give his blanket back Coyote has disregarded the cultural belief that what is given is given forever.  He is reminded that the blanket is no longer his by Iktome who says, “It is Iya’s blanket now!” Coyote still thinks of the blanket as being his.

When Iya tells Coyote “NO” because he likes having the blanket.” Coyote explains that it is cold out and he needs HIS blanket back. He tells Iya he doesn’t want to catch a cold.  Yet,  Iya still says “NO!” This makes Coyote angry. Coyote just takes the blanket and leaves.  Iya warns him that it is not over.

There have been times in my life when I have not understood the rules or the person I’m dealing with seems to have a different set of rules that I don’t understand.  The whole idea of etiquette or manners is to make social interchanges comfortable and pleasant.

The newspaper columnist Dear Abby or the writer Emily Post are often asked about what manners and/or etiquette rules apply in very specific social situations. Not all rules are written down. In addition, as our society becomes more and more complex new rules have to be established.

My collage this week shows the Rock chasing Iktome and Coyote through the river. Coyote has his blanket flapping behind him. The over all collage depicts a patchwork broader suggesting that the entire piece is a blanket. The reason for the dispute.

Despite the fact that rocks don’t need blankets and Coyote did make the mistake of giving his away, Coyote cannot be an “Indian Giver”.  He cannot expect the Rock to give the blanket back. As the Rock explained, “What is given, is given.”