Tag Archives: wolf

Iktome and the Ducks

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Iktome and the Ducks_0001_NEW

Hi everyone we got off to a slow start on this final May Trickster story, but then working with this guy is never easy.  Trickster will trick you one way or another whenever he is invoked.  When Michelle and I decided to give a shadow workshop using Coyote as our guide, I spent a long time figuring out how to as call him in safely as possible.  My research uncovered the fact that he is a very good father so when I called in the directions and welcomed him in from the south, I asked him to treat us as his pups with gentle tricks and small lessons.  Which, he did.  It’s very important to honor these powerful spirits and treat them with careful respect because they come both as clown and creator.

Iktome the Spider man belongs mostly to the folk of the plains, particularly the Dakota.  If you’ve read the story, you know that Iktomi the shape-shifter likes to dress like a Dakota in the paint and deerskin leggings and beaded tunic of a brave.  Nevertheless, my collage uses a totem pole from a northwestern tribe – it portrays Raven, our other Trickster, but the bill reminded me of a duckbill and the face beneath the bird seemed to be painted as a spider.  Originally, I planted a big teepee where the totem pole now sits.  I painted it with black encircled eyes, red and yellow stripes and filled the corners with spider webs.  However, while searching my files for duck pictures I came across this other image and regrouped.  I wanted to show that the Earth gives birth to and is home to gods and guides as well as spiders, ravens, rabbits, coyotes and humans.

One of the things Trickster stories teach us is to be flexible and try alternative ways to solve our problems.  The stories don’t necessarily say this directly instead they show us trickery is a never-ending part of life.   Whatever we do, as ducks or Trickster, something will happen to change our circumstances suddenly and unexpectedly whether or not we are minding our own business, being “good”or “bad.”

These teaching stories are difficult to figure out and often carry multiple meanings – they remind me of Buddhist koans.  A koan is a short anecdote, usually recording an encounter between student and teacher.  It poses a question requiring more than intellect to figure out (i.e.  “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”)  The idea is to arouse the student to a state of exaggerated inquiry or “Great Doubt”.  A koan builds up “strong internal pressure (gidan), never stopping knocking from within at the door of [the] mind, demanding to be resolved.”

Trickster stories do the same thing,  Why does the tree catch hold of Iktome?  The ducks are prey animals anyway.  Is it so bad to go in an ecstatic dance?  Does the story warn us about the dangers of using trance without the proper ritual?   Why does Iktomi act so stupid in the presence of the wolves?  His behavior makes no sense, especially when he repeats his “mistake”.  We know that repetition in a story, poem or song points to something important, but I still haven’t figured it out and it won’t “stop knocking.”

Usually the point of a koan is to teach the concept of non-duality.  I think Native American stories also center on the connection of all things and our common existence as parts of Great Spirit.  Perhaps the wolves need feeding for some larger purpose we are not privy too.  Sounds too much like blind faith to me, but what if it’s something about our own wolf nature, which needs feeding?  That rings more true.  At least it’s a starting place…

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Week Four: Light

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Light is the prompt that Leah Piken Kolidas chose for this month. I was having a hard time connecting Red Riding Hood to the concept except in the most abstract way. Then I discovered this interesting quote in John Thackery Bunce’s Fairy Tales, Their Origin and Meaning. It still seems a bit of a stretch to me, but at least I’ve got something to go on.

One of the fancies in the most ancient Aryan or Hindu stories was that there was a great dragon that was trying to devour the sun, and to prevent him from shining upon the earth and filling it with brightness and life and beauty, and that Indra, the sun-god, killed the dragon. Now this is the meaning of Little Red Riding Hood, as it is told in our nursery tales.
Little Red Riding Hood is the evening sun, which is always described as red or golden; the old Grandmother is the earth, to whom the rays of the sun bring warmth and comfort. The Wolf–which is a well-known figure for the clouds and blackness of night–is the dragon in another form; first he devours the grandmother, that is, he wraps the earth in thick clouds, which the evening sun is not strong enough to pierce through. Then, with the darkness of night he swallows up the evening sun itself, and all is dark and desolate. Then, as in the German tale, the night-thunder and the storm winds are represented by the loud snoring of the Wolf; and then the Huntsman, the morning sun, comes in all his strength and majesty, and chases away the night-clouds and kills the Wolf, and revives old Grandmother Earth, and brings Little Red Riding Hood to life again.
Or another explanation may be that the Wolf is the dark and dreary winter that kills the earth with frost, and hides the sun with fog and mist; and then the Spring comes, with the huntsman, and drives winter down to his ice-caves again, and brings the Earth and the Sun back to life.

~John Thackery Bunce Fairy Tales, Their Origin and Meaning

In the Shadow of the Forest

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Waiting in the Shadow

To me, the scariest part of the Red Riding Hood story comes when the wolf dresses up in Grandmother’s clothes. He pretends to be something he’s not in order to fool Red while intending her harm. It’s pretty easy to figure out why this is my negative – I grew up with a mother prone to fits of rage – she could turn on a dime from ordinary mom to a raging fury. Scary. The huntsman could easily be a stand-in for the dad meant to protect me. Although he never approved of her angry outbursts, he believed parents should “present a united front.” Their behavior left me with a lifelong aversion to hypocrisy and a desperate (at least for the first couple of decades) need both to understand how things work and to see them for what they really are. All in all, not such a negative legacy. Both traits stood me in good stead. The drive to understand is a blessing, for as I’ve come to learn, understanding engenders forgiveness and provides the ground from which compassion may arise.

Much has changed since my childhood – more relevantly, much has expanded – mind, heart, memory, information, compassion and comprehension have all increased in capacity. The space taken up in my interior landscape by childhood trauma is decreasing proportionally. In fact, I can now fit it onto an 8×10 piece of canvas covered cardboard. Not that the over-size fangs, preternatural hearing and x-ray vision don’t still lurk in the shadows. Of course, they do. The evidence of their power is right here; captured in the imagery I chose to use.

But let’s go back to the benefits of my shadowy legacy. Not only was I frightened of those huge teeth, ears and eyes – I wanted their power for myself. Just now, writing these words I didn’t expect to say, that have never even occurred to me before, I begin to understand. I used to think I owed my talent for acute observation to the need to gauge my mother’s moods quickly. Probably true, but also (also being one of my most favorite words), I now see that I probably sharpened the acuity of my own senses in order to acquire some of the power those amplified sense organs could bestow.

See how this process works? I could have sworn I’d figured out everything about the dynamic between my young mother and the girl-child I once was. Yet, the collage has revealed a new piece of information. I understand more about why I am what I am. Once again I get to marvel at the interrelatedness of the universe, the prevalence of synchronicity and the elegance of cosmic timing. I am more connected; more humble, easier than I was when I started. Halleluiah.

They got it all wrong

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Little Red picks flowers and enjoys the forest..

Little Red picks flowers and enjoys the forest..

They Got It All Wrong

What the story doesn’t tell you, the information they (the Brothers Grimm) left out is … The wolf and Little Red had met before. They were already friends. See, what the brothers didn’t know was Red Riding Hood often snuck off to the forest and played under the tall trees and along the small stream. She was a wild spirit, that’s right, Red was wild at heart. She loved watching the animals and being in nature. In fact, that’s how she had met Mr. Wolf in the first place.

During that faithful visit to the woods, Mr. Wolf had just had a big meal where he stuffed himself, and I mean stuffed. He had eaten a whole deer, granted it was a bit on the small side. He had also had several rodents and a good size bird that flew into a tree trunk and practically dropped dead on Wolf’s head. Mr. Wolf had waddled over and fallen sound to sleep under a shady bush. Little Red was playing hide and seek with a raccoon when she tripped over Wolf. They got to talking and discovered they both loved the wilderness and disliked rodents. Wolf wisely didn’t mention the ill-fated deer he just ate. So you see there was no reason for Little Red Riding Hood to be afraid of Mr.Wolf.

When her mother told her “Don’t talk to strangers” and “Stay on the path, go straight to Granny’s cottage”, Red knew it was a hard directive to follow but planned to do her best. She struggled to ignore the two deer, the four blue jays and eight butterflies that scurried past her and disappeared into the trees. When she unexpectedly ran into Mr. Wolf of course she told him where she was going and why, he wasn’t a stranger, he was her friend. When Wolfy learned that Granny was ill he suggested a bouquet of wildflowers as the perfect gift to cheer the old gal up. It is then that Little Red lost her self, mentally pictured the bouquet and ran off on a flower-picking quest.

But, you might say … what about Mr. Wolf gobbling up Granny? Or you might ask … Didn’t he eat Little Red? See, they got that part wrong too. All that stuff is an out-and-out lie … he never ate Little Red. In fact, he didn’t even growl at her. The truth be told, As Wolfy explained it was the whole incident was caused by his unresolved hunger issues. He hadn’t eaten in several days. He was out of his mind ravenous. Wolves get ravenous. When he got to Granny’s cottage Granny was a lot sicker than any one knew. She was very, very sick … at death’s door… likely to die soon, very soon. She even said she wished she were dead. Now while Wolf was explaining the Granny excuse his posture changed. His head hung lower and lower, he tucked his tail between his legs… He even rolled over onto his back, wincing and crying. Well, the Woodsman and Little Red took pity on him. He was so pathetic. He clearly had lost control of himself. They agreed to let him go back to his pack.

But, Little Red cried and cried about Granny because she loved her so. The Woodsman suggested that she demand that Wolf pledge with a cross your heart and hope to die promise, to never, ever eat people again and Wolf promised. He hated to see Little Red so unhappy. He told her no matter how hungry he was he would leave people off his menu. However, later he told me that eating Granny had helped satisfy his hunger, and for that he was grateful but… he also said she really tasted awful and in fact had put him off people meat forever.

So you see the Brothers Grimm and a lot of their stories about wolves eating people and stupid little girls blindly embracing danger just doesn’t jive with the facts. The Grimm boys just got it wrong, all wrong.

Shape-shifter

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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.

Michelle’s thoughts about Little Red Riding Hood

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Red Riding Hood tells the Wolf she is going to Granny's

Red Riding Hood tells the Wolf she is going to Granny’s

Chris and I decided to post thoughts about the artwork and prompt after we finish our artwork. Here are some of my thoughts.

Little Red Riding Hood

Week #1 The Big Picture: Illustrate the story … Little Red Riding Hood, its theme or significance. I have chosen to illustrate the story. One of the things that her mother had said to Little Red Riding Hood before she left for Granny’s house is …”Don’t talk to strangers”. Little Red not only speaks to the wolf but she tells him where she is going. That is what I illustrated.

Since this is an old tale, I decided to include the illuminated letter “R” which was used in old times to beautify hand written manuscripts. I wanted to give the piece a “Once Upon a Time Feel.”  Little Red Riding Hood is instructed to take a basket of goodies to her grandmother who is not feeling well. Granny lives in the forest. The forest is a scary place. The trees are tall and dense and they block out much of the sunlight. You cannot see what is up ahead. There are wild and dangerous creatures living among the trees. Red’s mother tells her to stay on the path. This is another admonishment little Red fails to heed … she does not listen to advice.

Originally, this fairy tale was a cautionary one. There were packs of wolves that did attack and kill people. The forest could be dangerous. People did get lost and disappear. Predatory animals do pry on the weak, the young and the very old.

The story however has many other meanings. The big bad wolf could represent a man who takes advantage of younger women. Red Riding Hood could be a woman who brings out the beast in men. Granny is frail and helpless. The woodsman is the good guy, the hero who saves the day.

What came up for me was …How am I like Little Red Riding Hood … naive and unconscious? How do my actions affect others? Do I listen to good advice? My focus was on “Red’s” red riding hood cape. I spent time creating the cape, I wanted it to be very red … sexy?  I wanted the forest to be dense and the path to be curved.  I wanted the wolf to surprise Red by appearing out of nowhere.

I started out with one idea and ended up with something different. I was going to paint the background and the trees but used collage instead.  I got excited when different parts of the piece came together. I had to remind myself to stay positive through what I call the uglies.  I reminded myself not to compare my work to others or to what I imagined the piece SHOULD look like.  I like my work to evolve. In the end, I told myself, “This is my answer today for Little Red Riding Hood the Big Picture. There are lots of answers and I may have another one tomorrow. I then called this piece done.

That’s all for now, I’m sure I’ll have more to say later.  Michelle

Christine’s Big Picture – Little Red Riding Hood

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I’ve formatted my first piece and am waiting for the YES glue to dry on the various smaller configurations before gluing the whole thing in place.  I use YES because it doesn’t wrinkle the paper, isn’t toxic and doesn’t dry up and let go after a while (like glue sticks).  Also I can use a damp cloth to get rid of residue without harming or staining most papers.  I spread it on with my fingers, which is a pain because I have to keep rinsing them off.  If anyone has a better suggestion I would love to hear it!

It’s been interesting working with Red Riding Hood.  The first prompt suggests making an overall image of the story.  I chose images of the girl, the hood, the picnic basket, the grandmother, the wolf, the huntsman, the bed, the forest, the path and the cottage.  As always, the most interesting lesson collage teaches me is to let go of what doesn’t serve.  I’m sure to elaborate on that idea in future posts!   For now, I’ll just tell you the thing that took the longest time was forcing myself to discard my favorite wolf.  He just wouldn’t come into alignment with the other elements.  I tried changing the background from forest to garden.  That worked really well.  The garden, painted in the impressionist style, holds a suggestion of a house in the background.  I wanted the cottage (Red Riding Hood’s goal) there because it represents stability and safety.  For many, life’s journey (the path) is to find safety and security.  In this case I chose a ‘garden path” as a visual pun hinting at deception and trickery.

Sticking to the original text, my Red Riding Hood shows a bit of attitude, while grandmother seems sad, apathetic and resigned.  The Huntsman is just a sliver of red in the far left corner at the rear of the wolf he’s stalking.  He appears late in the story and has no particular characteristics ascribed to him, yet his presence is vital – hence the color red.   To me he represents the wolf’s shadow; displaying all the characteristics – integrity, protection, kindness, which the wolf lacks.

I placed the bed prominently because of the implied sexuality in the story.  Look at all the songs, bawdy jokes and ribald tales, which have become take-offs on the tale over the years.  Red Riding hood is a young girl, a virgin.  The huntsman and the wolf are both drawn to her.  Wolves are metaphors for predatory males as are huntsmen.  Granny who should act as adequate chaperone is sick and enfeebled.  Mother’s advice been disregarded and Red is on her own.  But the underlying story isn’t spelled out; it’s implied in the imagery – the bed is an acknowledgement that we get it.

The tree represents the wild forest Red Riding Hood has navigated to get to the cottage garden.  It holds a clutch of red seeds inside a narrow cleft in the bark, another reference to Red’s fertility and appeal.  It hints at a future child, but whose – the huntsman’s or the wolf’s?

Speaking of the wolf, he’s very different from the calm beautiful creature I first chose- this one is stalking his prey, jaws open to devour.  He dominates the idyllic garden with his dark presence, though his mottled fur and stealthy stance allow him to fade into the background and seem to disappear.

That’s my story and I’m sticking it together as soon as I say good-bye!  Bye for now.

Chris

Red Riding Hood 100 C

Little Red Rding Hood
The Big Picture
Click for a larger image

Chris