Category Archives: Wisdom

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

Cinderella

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Cinderella dances

Cinderella dances

Cinderella

 

This fairy tale seems to be told, at least some variation of it, by different peoples all around the world. It is an old tale going back as far as the Greek’s telling of a maiden who is bathing and a bird steals one of her sandals and drops it in the lap of the king. The king thinks it’s an omen and goes in search of the owner. When he finds her they marry and the sandal owner becomes the queen.

 The story we’ve selected is a bit different than the Walt Disney version of Cinderella. We selected the Bros. Grimm telling because it is richer and more detailed. In this telling Cinderella is helped by her mother’s tree and a white bird. The magic comes from them. The tree symbol suggests that her mother’s spirit with the help of the white bird is watching and taking care of her. In the Walt Disney version it is Cinderella’s fairy god mother who is the magic maker.

In my collage I show the Prince’s castle. The Prince and Cinderella are dancing at the Prince’s Ball. I show the wicked step-mother who does everything she can to prevent Cinderella from going to the Ball.

There is an enlarged photo of Cinderella in the background. In the photo you can see just how beautiful she is. Even in her rags and wooden shoes her beauty shines through. Just before her mother dies she tells Cinderella “…remain pious and good … and I will look down from heaven and be near you.” And as the story goes Cinderella goes daily to her mother’s grave. She plants a twig that turns into a tree. It is that tree and the white bird that perform the magic in this story. They make it possible for Cinderella to have a beautiful dress and shoes for the Prince’s Ball…

The step-mother is blinded to Cinderella’s character and beauty by her jealousy. She wants her new husband to focus on her and hers, i.e.: the step-sisters. Because of Cinderella’s grief at the loss of her mother and the rejection of her step mother, step sisters and the loss of her father’s attention she lives a cold and bleak existence. The fact that she is turned into a scullery maid just emphasizes the change of her status. However; Cinderella does as her mother requested. Her reward for remaining pious and good is that the Prince recognizes these qualities along with her beauty and falls madly love and marries her.

I think most folk and fairy tales are teaching tales. They reflect the community’s belief of right over comes wrong, good conquers evil that justice will prevail, that greed, selfishness and jealousy are punished and that goodness is recognized and rewarded. This story is a classic tale because it so wonderfully illustrates the reward for piousness and good.  You get the love of a Prince. //

Calling the Muses

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Calling the Muses July Week #1

Calling the Muses
July Week #1

*The Month of July has 5 Wednesdays in it. This first week Christine is away traveling with her husband. I decided to do a single Post using a one entry Tale. Next week we will have a regular Tale for the month of July.
This first week, Calling the Muses, is a collage inspired by the myth … King Pierus and his Nine Daughters. In this tale the King is so full of pride that he calls the Muses to compete in a singing contest. He claims that his daughters who have been named after the nine Muses are even more talented than the actual Muses. In my collage I have three of the Muses listening to the King’s call.

When the daughters fail to best the Muses they are turned into chattering Magpies. Another tale about the Muses tells how the seven-tone musical scale was the Muses invention. They took the scale from the Music of the Seven Spheres. In modern English usage, Muses are implicit in words and phrases such as “amuse, museum, music, musing upon. Today authors, artists, poets, musicians, and other creative people call or invoke the Muses for help or inspiration.

Homer, In book 1 of the Odyssey wrote, “Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns, driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy.”

I have experienced the presence of a Muse when creating.
It is the feeling the work came through you but not necessarily of your doing. You remember doing the work but it feels like it is being done by another more knowing or talented being. When this has happened I am in awe of the work as much as any other viewer. You feel blessed my the Muses.

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Krishna’s Flute

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Krishna'sflutewk#3,4

Krishna’s Flute
Little Krishna & the Fruit
Week# 3, 4

The flute of Krishna means the flute of revelation. Krishna lived like a human and he was a prophet. His story is told in the Epic Mahabharata. Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute, is based on Krishna’s life.
The Bansuri is a transverse flute made from a single hollow shaft of bamboo with six or seven finger holes. It is an ancient instrument associated with cowherds and pastoral life in India. Krishna was a master at his flute, enchanting every living creature to dance to his tune. In the tale of the Women of Braj, who became spell bound and danced their love and devotion while listening to Krishna play. (see Christine’s essay.)
Krishna’s flute teaches love. “Ah! How alluring is the melody of your music! It seems you are not a flute, but a magic wand.” When the Gopi women asked the flute about its magic the flute replied, “I am but a lowly reed, hollow inside. I know neither magic nor any arts of attraction. I am simply a forest reed, all hollow within and bereft of any beauty. Krishna, my lord, lover and bearer, calls this attitude of mine the greatest virtue and is extremely pleased with it. He over and over whispers into my ear-hole this excellent teaching: ‘Empty your self and I will fill you.’ I have realized its truth, and I obey it to the very letter. This is magic, if magic you will call it. This is my strength. It is he who sings through me and enchants you all. My dear friends, if you too empty yourselves … he will fill every nerve and atom of your body with his love and life. Does the pervading air not fill a jar when it is emptied of other stuff? He will not leave you even for a moment, and will sing through you the sweet melodies of harmony and peace to the whole world.”
In paintings of Krishna he is often shown playing his flute. I show in my collage the young Krishna playing his flute, standing at the portal of his temple which is the universe. He is surrounded by other children. He is also attracting cow herds and sheep. He revels in the affection and love of his mother.
“Stop it! Stop!” all of them shouted from the top of the tree. All the little heads popped out from among the branches … in my collage, I have the heads of his brothers around the right side of his temple’s doorway. They symbolize the brothers outraged by Krishna eating the fruit. As children often do, they run to the mother to tattle on their sibling. Much to their disappointment the mother does not punish Krishna. In fact, she hugs and kisses him.
In this collage I include the heavens because Krishna is the avatar of Vishnu the maintainer of the universe. This is shown in the story when Little Krishna is asked to open his mouth. His two brothers are by his side. Even the little girl on the pillar of his temple is hoping to catch stars to put into her basket. When Krishna plays his flute all is right with the world. Some say that Krishna’s Flute is the “Voice of eternity crying to the dwellers in time.”

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.

Purple Fruit

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Krishna#1

The Universe in Krishna

Young Krishna and the Purple Fruit

 I read and re-read the story.  I asked myself, “What is this story really about?”  My immediate answer … I don’t know.  Perhaps, it will come to me as I work on my Collage.

As I looked through my images, I have boxes and boxes of cut images that I’ve collected over the 15 years that I have been doing collage art, I realize there are no images of Krishna as a child. In fact, there are only a few Hindu images period.  Hindu Mythology is a subject with which I am only casually acquainted.

I know a little bit about a few of the Hindu deities. I know Ganesha, the elephant headed god that removes obstacles, Hanuman, the Monkey headed God that helped recover a stolen Goddess, Kali, the Goddess who slays the demons, and Shiva, the lord of the dance. Otherwise, the many myths and epic stories that make up the religion of Hinduism are foreign to me.

Finally, I found a picture of a child playing the flute. I decided I would make it into a Young Krishna. Therefore, my collage will start with that image.

I looked up Krishna on the internet and read about Him on the Wikipedia website. I have many images of the Universe so I will include a few. I discover Krishna is a simple herdsman using his flute to bring the animals together. When I finish the collage and complete the Wikipedia article, I feel like I know a little more about Krishna

The Universe is Krishna, and Krishna maintains the Universe. Each of us are the Universe, we are it and we are Krishna. The divine spark is in each of us. What about the Purple Fruit. Krishna gobbles the purple fruit. I decided the purple fruits are plums.
However, after I re-read the story again, I change my mind and decide the fruits are cherries.

I grew up in San Leandro, CA, which at the time had hundreds, perhaps thousands of Cherry trees. There were cherry orchards and cherry trees lined the streets. In the spring, the entire town glowed with Cherry blossoms. We could hardly wait for the cherries. From time to time we would climb up in the trees and test a cherry or two to see if they were ripe yet. Finally, the cherries would turn a deep purple red. My brother and I would climb up into the trees and pick cherries popping them into our mouths as fast as we could pick them. I know from experience that there is no way you can eat all the cherries off a cherry tree.

In our Tale of the Purple Fruit, the older boys are upset because Krishna is gobbling up all the fruit. They are afraid that he will eat all the fruit and they will get none. He is not doing what they told him to do. Krishna knows that there is plenty of fruit and so he doesn’t worry about what he is doing. Besides, he is still very young and is driven by the taste of the Cherries. They are ripe, juicy and delicious. At some point He will be full.

Krishna, just like my brother and me who had been told Do NOT eat the fruit, we did not follow instructions. We just thought … ripe Cherries ready for the picking … gobble, gobble …Yum!

 

Rabbit Tricksters

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"Good Morning," said Br'er Rabbit.

“Good Morning,” said Br’er Rabbit.

Rabbit Tricksters

May: The Tricksters Week #2

This week we are working with the Trickster Rabbit. The tale we have chosen is from Africa, “‘Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby.” This beloved story became well-known and popular after Walt Disney made the movie “The Song of the South.” In the story, Brer Rabbit out-smarts Br’er Fox by convincing him that being thrown into the Briar Patch would be the cruelest, meanest, and most horrific death anyone could suffer.

Since Fox despises Br’er Rabbit, he can’t wait to toss him into the brambles. Br’er Fox is caught up in the imagery of sharp thorns and twisted tangles. He has forgotten the fact that Br’er Rabbit was born and raised in the Briar patch. So, in the end Br’er Rabbit is able to out “fox” the fox.

Another very popular Rabbit Trickster we all know and love is Warner Bros. cartoon character, Bugs Bunny. Bugs is a wonderful  Trickster.  He is always out smarting, tricking, and making a fool of Elmer Fudd, who is determined to catch the silly “wabbit” and eat him.

The idea that the obsessive predator ends up hurting himself more than the pry is funny. When the pry out-smarts the predator, it reminds us that life is complicated and not always predictable.  In the Trickster Stories we know that the victim will be in serious danger; a huge rock is falling directly above his head, and we know that somehow, someway the victim will escape unharmed. But how? This is the part I love, at the very last-minute, it happens, the victim escapes danger.  I’m surprised by the interception and the way the story goes  sideways.  I love that danger is foiled. I am delighted that the underdog wins.  I realize that thinking  sideways and outside the expected opens up new possibilities.  I always admire the predator’s perseverance. I love the prey’s cleverness and laugh at the surprise appearance of the unforeseen.

There is a story called “Coyote fights a Lump of Pitch,” told by the White Mountain Apache that is very similar to Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby. Once again, the prey out-smarts the predator. (You can read the full tales by clicking on them under Monthly Tales shown on the Menu above.)

In my collage, Br’er Rabbit is greeting the Tar Baby. Trickster Rabbit thinks of himself as a sociable fellow, gracious enough to bless others with a kind word or two.  When Tar Baby doesn’t reply, Br’er Rabbit is taken aback.  Doesn’t Tar Baby realize who has greeted him?  Doesn’t he know that he is in the presence of Br’er Rabbit? How dare he be rude.

On the other hand, Br’er Rabbit did put himself out there, sort of extended a hand in friendship, why is the Tar Baby ignoring his greeting?  The message in this exchange is that when you greet someone and they do not respond in kind it may have nothing to do with you.   In a way,  this exchange, or lack there of, is a reminder to us all that you shouldn’t take other peoples rudeness personally, after all, Tar Baby didn’t speak because he was a “Tar Baby”.

I don’t know if you’ve experienced the feeling of being ignored by someone you’ve  reached out to, but I certainly have. It causes negative feelings to rear their ugly heads. When it happened to me I remember feeling both embarrassed and very annoyed.  Br’er Rabbit’s reaction to the Tar Baby feels familiar.  However, what is different about Br’er Rabbit’s reactions and mine are, I would not  punch, kick, sock or head-butt anyone.  I probably would have my feeling hurt and go off pouting while grumbling and carping all the way.

There are many sayings that this folktale embraces. For an example … I have felt tarred and feathered … I  have out foxed a fox … I’ve been in thorny situations …  I can get very stuck and I have come-up with ideas that have saved the day.  How about you?

May: “The Trickster”

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This month’s Tale is about the Native American “Trickster.”

For the Month of May we will be working with the Trickster. The Native American character who reminds us to laugh and not take life to seriously. In American Indian tales and legends, the “Trickster” can be several characters.  Often he is Coyote, but Coyote has friends who are sometimes tricksters too. There is Raven, Blue Jay, Beaver, Iktome, (the Spider man), The Great Rabbit, fox and Mink. There are also human tricksters.. Wasichu, a sharp trader, the Old Man of the Blackfoot and Crow.  Even Whisky Jack takes his turn playing the prankster and troublemaker.

We focus this month on different tricksters and their qualities. Sometimes the Trickster is clever, other times he is stupid. He is always chasing after pretty women. He will cheat if it serves his purposes. He lies,  steals and rebels against the rules. He is a prankster and full of paradox. Sometimes he is the hero, sometimes he is the creator and saves the day.

In our first tale, which comes from the White River Sioux, Coyote is the trickster who learns the hard way about the rules of the Giveaway.

“Coyote, Iktome, and the Rock.”

White River Sioux

On a warm day, Coyote and Iktome, (Spider man),  are hiking along and see a big beautiful rock with moss veins. Coyote decides to give his Indian blanket to the Rock. He says, “Why this is a nice-looking rock. I think it has power.”  He places his thick blanket on the rock and says, “Here, Iya, take this as a present. Take this blanket, friend rock, to keep warm so you will not freeze. You must feel cold.”

Coyote turns to his friend Iktome and tells him, “I’m always giving things away. The rock, Iya, looks real nice in my blanket.”
“His blanket, now”, says Iktome.

Later that week when it starts raining, and it is quite cold,  Coyote has second thoughts about his Giveaway. He wants his nice thick blanket back. He and Iktome have gone into a cave to keep dry but Coyote is shivering from the cold.  He tells his friend to go back to Iya and get the blanket.

When Iktome asks the rock for the blanket, the rock says no.  He reminds Iktome, “What is given is given. Iktome goes back and tells Coyote. Coyote is outraged, goes to the Rock, and demands the blanket back.
“No!” says the rock, “What is given is given.”
Coyote jerks the blanket away. “Don’t you care that I am freezing to death? I could catch a cold.” Wrapping the blanket around him self, Coyote says, “There, that’s the end of it.”
The rock says, “By no means is this the end.”

Coyote, wrapped in the blanket, goes back to the Cave and he and Iktome wait out the storm. When the sun comes out Coyote and Iktome, go out side and sun them selves. After a while Iktome says, “What’s that noise?”
“What noise?”
“A crashing, a rumble far off.” says Iktome.
Then they see the great rock rolling, thundering, and crashing down upon them.
“Run,” says Coyote.
They run as the great rock, Iya follows. They swim the river, and Iya follows. They run in the thick forest, and Iya follows. Wherever they go, Iya follows until they run out into the flats.

“Oh no” says Iktome, this is not really my quarrel and he rolls himself into a tiny ball and disappears down a mouse hole. Coyote runs as fast as he can but the big rock is close on his heels. Then Iya, the big rock, rolls right over Coyote, flattening him out altogether.
Iya takes the blanket and rolls back to his own place, saying, “So there!”

A rancher riding along sees Coyote lying there all flattened out. “What a nice rug.” He says rolling Coyote up. He takes the Coyote rug  home and puts it in front of his fireplace. Whenever Coyote is killed, he can make himself come back to life, but this time Coyote takes the whole night to pull himself up into his usual shape. In the morning, the rancher’s wife tells her husband, “I just saw your rug running away.”

Now, Friends, hear this: Always be generous in heart. If you have something to give, give it forever.

I hope you enjoy this tale.

The Serpent

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Adam & Eve The Serpent

Adam & Eve The Serpent

The Serpent

The Serpent is one of the oldest and most widespread mythological symbols. Its meanings are highly complex. The Serpent is a symbol of life and death, it is solar and lunar, light and darkness, good and evil, wisdom and blind passion, healing and poison, spiritual and physical rebirth. The presence of a serpent is often associated with female deities and the great mother.

In some cultures snakes are fertility symbols, and in others they symbolize the umbilical cord, joining all humans to Mother Earth. The snake is assigned many aspects. It is  shown as a Dragon, a snake twining up a trunk or staff, and as a Naga sheltering the Buddha.

In Christian mythology, the snake acts as tempter. It convinces Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. The snake is evil, the devil himself.  In many religions, the devil is a supernatural entity that is the personification of evil and the enemy of God and humankind.

After Eve and Adam have eaten the fruit, God confronts them. Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the snake. God expels the two of them from the Garden and places a Cherubim at the entrance to keep them out. In his anger, God tells Adam that he will live by his labors, Eve will suffer in childbirth and the snake will forever be the lowest of the low.

In Gnosticism, the snake is thanked for bringing knowledge to Adam and Eve.  With knowledge, Eve and Adam are freed from the Demiurge’s control. I want to give credit to the serpent and to the woman who listened to the snake. Eve took a bite of the apple and a) she didn’t die, except to her old naive self and b) she was wiser and more conscious for having done so. By sharing her discovery with Adam he became wiser too. So instead of seeing the snake as the devil and the apple as sin, we need to be thankful for the disobedience, the curiosity to listen to something outside of the box, explore life’s possibilities, grow beyond childhood and listen to the wisdom within.

Hope is the Thing

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Pandora'shope#2c

Hope is the Thing

Pandora’s Box:  Week #2 Positive Aspect of the Story

Hope is the Thing

Emily Dickinson wrote …

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all.

 Hope gives us a reason to believe. Hope moves us forward, lifts us up, and changes us for the better. In my collage, the woman is offering up Pears, a symbol of hope, in the hopes that the gods will favor her goals. In the Emily Dickinson poem, she uses the metaphor of a songbird as the symbol of hope. The songbird sings his song never really knowing if anyone is listening. By singing out our hopes there is a chance they will come true.

The dictionary defines the word “Hope” as the feeling, “that what is wanted can be had or that “something you want to have happen is likely to happen.”  Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson argues that “hope” comes into play when our circumstances are dire, when things are not going well, and when there is considerable uncertainty about how things will turn out. She states that hope literally opens us up and removes the blinders of fear and despair. It allows us to see the big picture, thus allowing us to become creative and have belief in a better future.

Butterflies and dragonflies are symbols of hope. Psychologist, C.R. Snyder says that hope is cultivated when we have a goal in mind. When we believe the goal is reachable and have a plan on how to reach that goal. We are like “the little engine that could, because we keep telling our self “I think I can, I think I can.”

In the collage, she places her heart on the world axis, opens her self and waits in anticipation. In the human heart, hope endures, defeating despair despite overwhelming circumstances. She sits near her Hope Chest. It is full of needlework, quilts, bed linens, and towels. She is ready to begin a new life and she has Hopes that the desired out come is at least possible.”