Category Archives: Sunflower

The Goddess in the Details

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TerebinthI couldn’t help noticing while researching this story and reading the passages in Genesis over and over, how often the word terebinth appeared.  I wasn’t even sure what a terebinth was, though it seemed like some kind of tree.  And then there was the Oak of Mamre, named as if it were a landmark of some kind.  The inclusion of these details fascinates me.  The centuries act like sandpaper on stories; planing and refining away extraneous detail until only their essence survives.  Ergo propter hoc,the details must hold some significance.

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Terebinth of Hebron in today’s Israel

The Oak of Mamre mentioned in Genesis may in fact be a terebinth.  There seems to be much confusion in translation around oaks and terebinths. Both trees are found in Palestine with the terebinth filling the oak’s niche in the south and east where the climate is warmer and more arid.  The terebinth, of which there are many species, is a gnarly tree with a full bushy canopy. The leaves can be used medicinally, as a culinary seasoning, the shoots may be eaten as vegetables and its bark oozes aromatic resin and may be tapped for turpentine. Galls, produced on the leaves as a result of insect bites, were once used for tanning leather. “As ordinarily met with today, the terebinth attains the stature of thirty or thirty-five feet. The root is substantial, and penetrates deeply into the ground; the boughs spread widely, and at a considerable angle, and being clothed, except in winter, with dark and shining foliage, the tree presents, during the larger portion of the year, a beautiful and conspicuous spectacle. The reddish hue of the branches and of the petioles, especially while the parts are young, contributes to the pleasing effect.” The trees usually stand alone, providing recognizable landmarks in the stark landscapes they prefer. To this day terebinths are often chosen to mark the graves of nomads who die in the desert.

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Terebinth in full glory – notice the resemblance to pomegranate seeds. The pomegranate figured prominently in Temple decor and is another ancient symbol of feminine spirituality.

Terebinths, including those at Mamre, have long been associated with cultic sites and have a venerable association with concepts of death and rebirth across eastern Mediterranean lands possibly because of their deep roots, regenerative properties and red inflorescence.  In ancient Israel the terebinth was associated with Asherah, a Hebrew goddess thought by some scholars to be the consort of Yahweh, by others as the feminine aspect of God.

Asherah is always identified with trees; sometimes she is the living tree and sometimes pillars of wood, called Asherah poles, or carved wooden images represent her.  The pillars of the Temple are said by some to originate in her worship. Trees are closely associated with the Tree of Life and the Menorah, both powerful symbols in Judaism to this day.  Taken together, these symbols with their deep deep roots (like the terebinth) in Jewish culture, hint at a lost tradition of  feminine spirituality that could explain why the stories of Hagar and Sophia with their references to women’s mysteries (fertility, sexuality, childbirth, blood) resonate so strongly to this day.

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Votive figures thought to represent Asherah, found in the hundreds along with their molds indicating their widespread use and popularity

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Little Red Riding Hood and the Light

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"The morning sun begins to bloom."

“The morning sun begins to bloom.”


Little Red Riding Hood and the Light
(Week #4, prompt Light)
February 25, 2013 by Michelle O. Anglin

As a solar story, Little Red Riding Hood is the sun. The Wolf is the night and he swallows the sun. Once the Huntsman cuts open the wolf, night, darkness, danger and evil is out in the light. Grandmother and Little Red escape death; resurrected, they can bring us the morning sun. There is even a Norwegian Folk Tale about the Wolf swallowing the sun, which the night seems to do every evening.

I had a hard time figuring out what to do with the images I’d selected for this week’s project. I arranged and rearranged them repeatedly. Nothing seemed to suggest the prompt Light. Finally I added the piece depicting the night sky and the rest of the symbols worked. The three women, grandmother, mother and maiden are grouped together. The Huntsman with his rifle is standing over the up-turned wolf. The sunflower stem with the opening bloom reaches up for the light.

In my project the main players of the fairy tale, the Wolf, the Huntsman, the Mother, the Grandmother and Little Red Riding Hood are all present. Little Red Riding Hood says, “it was dark and cold” inside the Wolf’s belly. Once Granny and Little Red are free to jump out into the light, they are wiser for the experience. This part of the story reminds me of the “dark night of the soul”. The experience of being devoured is the crisis needed to change our heroine’s perspective of danger and awakens her to the power of her mother’s wisdom, “Don’t talk to strangers and be cautious if you leave the trail.”

The golden Sunflower in the collage represents the seeds of potential, the beauty of the sun and the glory of mature growth. The dark at the bottom, the upturned wolf and the heavenly cosmos fill the picture frame. At the top is the new day dawning and new possibilities. Grandmother sewing, Mother watching, and Little Red
starting out once again on a new adventure.