Category Archives: Shamanism

Wanderlust

Standard

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Advertisements

Groking the Goose

Standard

The Goose girl

As a child, one of my favorite stories was The Goose GirlGruesome as it may seem, the character I loved best and remember most clearly is the faithful horse Falada, whose head gets chopped off.  Even in death he remaines a faithful helpmeet.  Of course, Falada was a magical horse and the magic was always my favorite part.  I also liked stories with blood in them.  I think there may be arcane bits of knowledge we’re born with or are privy to through the collective unconscious.  Or maybe, the deep knowledge of blood mysteries is part of a woman’s heritage, encoded in her DNA from birth.  The magic associated with blood runs like a red thread through fairy tales and myth.  In The Goose Girl the mother pierces her finger and lets three drops of blood fall on a handkerchief which she gives to her departing daughter as a magic talisman.

Then, there’s geese.  Geese have always been great favorites of mine – possibly because I liked this story so much and read it so often.  In ancient Egypt the goose was thought to have laid the primordial cosmic egg, but also to have hatched from it as the sun.  Geb the Earth god was sometimes called The Great Cackler!  (Egyptian mythology is terribly confusing – mostly because we don’t know enough and try to interpret things according to current cultural sensibilities.)  In north Africa it is still (4,500 years later!) customary to sacrifice a solar goose at the solstice.

Egyptian Geese

In Rome a sacred flock of geese lived in the grounds of Juno’s temple.  Their duty was to raise an alarm if and when the city was attacked.  Indeed, in 390 C.E. they did foil a stealthy night raid by enemy Gauls.  To this day people use geese to protect their property.  In my collage a large goose stands behind the girl in a protective stance.  It “has her back.”

Obviously, geese represent return journeys and thus the “heroine/hero’s journey” of Campbell fame.  The journey for the quest of self includes leaving home, descending into the dark, facing one’s demons and returning to the community with a treasure.  The Goose Girl story follows this formula, taking our heroine through an initiation from childhood to adulthood.  Like so many of these stories, this one served me well.  The Goose Girl taught me to value courage, perseverance, and ingenuity.  I wanted to make them my own.

I didn’t realize how much she meant to me until years later, well into my fourth decade, I encountered a terracotta sculpture called Gaia Goose Girl.  I wish I knew the name of the sculptress.  Her goose girl was a near life-size figure of a lovely young woman with a face full of strength and character accompanied by a goose.  Seeing it brought back every feeling of identification, love and longing I felt when first reading this tale.  That kind of experience is what makes art so important.  The art piece acts like a catalyst, constellating a host of amorphous feelings and associations in a way that captures both memory and significance, but at the same time, allows new insights to unfold.Goose GirlGöttingen_Gänseliesel_März06

My sculptress is not the only one to find inspiration in the goose girl. In Göttingen town, famous for its old university (Georgia Augusta, or “Georg-August-Universität”), which was founded in 1737 stands a decorative fountain whose main figure is called the Gänseliesel (Goose Girl).  On the day they are awarded their doctorate degrees, students are drawn in handcarts from the Great Hall of the university to the Gänseliesel-Fountain in front of the Old Town Hall.  There they have to climb the fountain and kiss the statue of the Gänseliesel. This practice is actually forbidden, but the law is not enforced. She is considered the most kissed girl in the world.  The students remind me of Little Conrad (Kürdchen) in our story.

Most interesting, in light of the conjunction of horse and geese in our story, is a report by Vasily Vasilievich Radlov that in the Altai mountains (mountain range in East-Central Asia, where Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan come together), after the ritual sacrifice of a horse, the shaman ascends on the back of a goose in pursuit of its soul.

All the bits and pieces, hints and allegations are what truly fascinate me about these tales.  This story has everything – wise elders, a nefarious villainess, a faithful spirit guide, a sacrifice, a mistaken identity, importunate young men, a charming prince, restoration and retribution, but other fairy tales are often thin on plot and sometimes appear simplistic on the surface.  However, no matter how simple, the  tale usually contains a detail or two rich in association and resonant with meaning.  For me, it isn’t so much about deciphering that meaning as relishing its presence.  It’s the ambiance of the stories that make them so endlessly fascinating.  The grok is everything.

goosetrack

Spider’s Sonnet

Standard

spider web+

I want to shift my shape and stalk

across a jeweled dew-dropped web

spinning a spiral tunnel as I walk

all corners anchored firm to fight the ebb

and push of errant breeze or stormy blow

snug against all tricks Fate might deliver.

When it’s finished I will back on tip-toe

down my chute, stop to sever silken thread

curb my hunger patiently, crouch in a

waiting trance, anticipating nothing.

I rely on heaven-sent sweet manna.

Some hasty flighty creature on the wing

will bumble in my net and stick there fast

to offer me refreshment and repast.

©2000 Christine Irving

Rabbit as Totem

Standard

Rabbit came down from the moon

and entered my life with a vengeance.

 

A cosmic kick-in-the-butt

delivered by strong Jack-rabbit thighs,

sent me flying, head-over-posterior,

across the landscape of my psyche.

 

Even in the midst

of stomach floating

flip-flops, I saw clearly

how my shadow,

tumbling overhead,

should send me

racing towards a burrow,

I froze instead;

quivering nose

my sole response

to imminent disaster.

 

So Rabbit lent

a leveret-skin; soft give-away

of  babies’ bunting, meant

to line moccasins and lie fuzzy

along the soft contours

of school-girls.

 

Disguised,

I danced to March’s mad fandango,

leapt high beneath a Harvest moon

and browsed sweetly on the dew-freshed

Brussels sprouts of Mr. Mc Gregor, forgetting

my fears till his dog Pluto drove me

down a rabbit hole.

 

Trapped within the Earth’s dim warren,

my ego abdicated, leaving behind

its creature heart whose animal eyes

descried a hidden message

among an emblematic mass

of hieroglyphic roots. Intent

upon unearthing that charactery, I

followed my nose into the briar patch, where

seduced by Luna’s luminescent glow,

I left behind the thorn-entangled fur,

sprang upward to embrace the Moon

and found myself.

 

 

©2000 Christine Irving

Shape-shifter

Standard

Werewolf RRh-300

I wish I’d originated the idea of Red Riding Hood as a Werewolf, but I came across it watching Once Upon A Time, a TV show about fairy tales. It appealed to my dark sense of humor and spoke to my abiding interest in all things shamanic. Also I love werewolves. Synchronisticaly, I’ve been re-reading Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ s book, Women Who Run With the Wolves (if you’ve never read it run don’t walk to the nearest bookstore or keyboard). So when I found a red cape with an empty cowl all I could think of was a snarling wolf head.

The idea of drastic transformation into another species in order to gain perspective on your own is one of my favorite story motifs. Lots of contemporary fantasy writers of the werewolf and vampire genre use it, but my favorite example is still The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White. In it young Arthur Pendragon (Arthur means “bear”) is changed into a series of animals (fish, hawk, ant, goose, and badger) by Merlin the magician.

This collage shows Little Red Riding Hood turned into a large imposing figure of a snarling wolf draped in a long red cape. By transforming into a wolf, she is claiming her inherent wildness the part of her that cannot be contained by culture. We forget so much of the time that we are animals- the same creatures as the ones we watch in nature documentaries with such avidity, love and longing. Their beauty is our beauty; their cunning our cunning; their endurance our endurance. But we forget.

As a wolf, Red Riding Hood is restored to her senses- nose, ears, eyes, mouth regain their direct access to her brain, their messages undiluted , uncensored by the strictures and caveats of her brain. As a human girl she is terribly vulnerable. Basically blind, deaf and dumb, she goes into the dangerous forest bereft of her natural resources. No one has taught her how to move with caution, hide in plain sight or fight. Naiveté is her only protection.

She wears her cloak to remind her to return to the human world- she cannot be wholly herself as just wolf. Civilization restricts but it also offers freedoms the wolf cannot comprehend. Butterflies flutter around her, symbols of transformation. There is one fly. Flies and butterflies are pollinators and thus symbols of fertility. Sex is the underlying theme of the Red Riding Hood story. The girl stands on the cusp of womanhood wooed by both the wolf and huntsman, stalked by her own burgeoning sexuality. The wolf picks her own mate and explores sexual feelings without shame.

Flies are also psychopomp- they convey souls safely into the afterlife. The fly reminds us that death always lurks nearby; the huntsman still patrols the forest. Transformation is a tricky thing- will Red forget her human self, will she be able to change back? Will she remember and learn or continue to cling to innocence? Lots of questions. No answers except your own.