Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Butterflies in my Garden........


Quite the gathering of butterflies in my garden!  

Sunday, October 14, 2018

James Swan on the Presence of Place


Avebury

“There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”

― Wendell Berry

I've been thinking about what my life long passions are of late, and what course I  might set for myself as an artist now.  I find that what I keep coming back to is that deep sense of the living Earth, the sense of presence I have always felt when in nature, or in the garden.  The Great Conversation.   In November I'm going to England, near Avebury, to attend a Conference called "Dreaming the Land:  Working with the Consciousness of Nature" .  I want to walk among the Stones of Avebury, re-visit the White Spring and Red Springs of Glastonbury, renew my aquaintance.  And talk with as many people as I can about what the living Earth means to them.  I hope to bring that inspiration home, and speak, as an artist, about it.  Gathering voices to help me understand how the Earth speaks to us, and how people have spoken to the Earth in the past.  

I think about a conversation I had once in a coffee shop in Brooklyn, N.Y,, with an artist named Caroline Beasley Baker.   She spoke about the Dreaming Earth:

"I once had a wonderful dream. I dreamed I was riding across the Australian desert at night. I was on a bus, and everyone was asleep. I looked out, across the dark, and saw, rising up out of the desert floor, these incredibly beautiful murals, in huge caverns lit by firelight. I knew they had been made by some consciousness predating humanity, that they had been here for millennia. They had never been seen in the world before, and were now rising up to the surface of the Earth.  Those paintings were more glorious than anything I've ever seen in my life! At the end of the dream, a voice said to me, "Caroline, that's the Earth dreaming".  The Aborigines believe that everything rises from the Earth, everything rests in the Earth and emerges when its time. That's what my dream was about: the Earth dreaming and awakening."1.

I felt like sharing here an article here by James Swan, who has written extensively about the  intelligence of the land, and has been a continual inspiration to me over the years.   Dr. Swan has published numerous books about the Spirit of Place.   His book "The Power of Place" draws on  26 presentations drawn from the five year Spirit of Place symposium  held in the US and Japan between 1988 and 1993.  I wish the symposium was still happening, because I believe it is vitally important that we learn again how to have communion with the Earth again.  How to regain our experience of being a part of the Conversation.    






The Spirit of Place Symposiums: 
 Seeking The Modern Relevance of Ancient Wisdom

By James A. Swan, Ph.D
________________________________________
"Modern man will never find peace until he comes
into harmony with the place where he lives." 

Carl Jung (Pantheon, 1964)
________________________________________

Introduction

The ancient Greeks spoke of the "genus loci," or spirit of a place. They sited a shrine to honor the Earth Goddess Gaia at Delphi in Greece because the unique personality or spirit of that place was divined to be especially suited to Gaia residing there. Understanding the forces that drew the early Greeks to reach that decision may well be a concept that is at the very root of developing sustainable human societies on earth and creating tourism programs that maximize the unique values of each destination.

Like trees, the human spirit needs roots, and a primary root of the psyche is in the land. Psychiatrist Carl Jung was an explorer of those deeper regions of the mind, the unconscious, where symbols and primal energies originate. Jung declared there were two types of unconscious: personal, which is unique to each person, and collective, which is shared by all humans, and seems to have loose boundaries with other objects and creatures (Dell, 1968). In our sleep, the unconscious comes to the forefront, and Jung observed that people tended to have dreams of a similar archetypal nature when sleeping at certain places. Jung called such place perception "psychic localization," and asserted that it was an important part of human nature.

East Indian scholar Ananda Coomaraswamy agreed with Jung about the unique association between place and consciousness and noted that myths were frequently linked to certain places. He coined the phrase "land-nam," a term derived from the Icelandic tradition of claiming ownership of a place through weaving together a mythic metaphor of plants, animals and geography of a place into a unique mythic story (Luzac, 1935).

The spirit of place plays a strong role in traditional societies, where it is commonly held that each place has a personality and some places are associated with spiritual sentiments. Ancient wisdom deserves respect and preservation, but what additional value may such concepts as the spirit of place have for modern society?

The Spirit of Place Symposiums

From 1988 to 1993 my wife Roberta and I produced a five-year series of annual symposiums -- The Spirit of Place: The Modern Relevance of An Ancient Concept -- seeking to help restore the wisdom of the past about the significance of place and explore its meaning to modern times.

Each symposium was begun with an open call for papers, inviting people from all disciplines and cultural heritage backgrounds to share in a common quest for understanding the subtle power of place. Nearly 300 speakers participated in the programs, four of which were held in the United States -- University of California at Davis, Grace Cathedral, Mesa Verde National Park, and at the San Rafael, CA, Marin Civic Center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright -- and one was held in Sendai, Japan. Speakers represented disciplines as diverse as aerospace engineering, biophysics, psychology, architecture, biology, law, history, anthropology, music, dance and art. Members of 20 different American Indian tribes participated with speeches, music singing and dancing, along with others from Eskimo, African, Polynesian, and Oriental ethnic backgrounds. The rule that was used to organize such a diverse group was that they had to participate as peers, equal experts in whatever their profession. 

Thus panels blending a salmon fisherman with a physicist and an aerospace engineer with priest and a farmer became a common search for truth where many new alliances were forged. At each program, we concluded with a performance inspired by special places. Artists who performed included flutists Paul Horn and R. Carlos Nakai, dancer-choreographer Anna Halpern, keyboard artist Steven Halpern, Japanese recording artist Jun Hirose, and the rock-fusion band Earth Spirit.

Lessons of The Spirit of Place

In producing these programs our principle goal was to explore the modern validity of this ancient concept. We did not to try to start a spirit of place movement. Rather, we hope that what has taken place will set the stage for others to conduct programs that will advance our understanding of the power of places everywhere.  In these five programs, listening to nearly 300 speakers, formally and informally, we heard common themes emerge. The following are some of these shared areas of agreement:

1)Among indigenous cultures all around the world, the belief in the existence of special places of power and spirit seems universal. It is commonly believed that some places have spiritual powers, and these places are normally seen as cornerstones of traditional cultural belief systems. Modern society has often not paid much attention to sacred places, which is a source of great concern to traditional cultures. Another concern is that modern cultures tend to see places as only having value to the past or to other cultures, rather than to society in general.

2) At each of the five Spirit of Place symposiums researchers and designers from many disciplines agreed that gaining a sense of place is a very important part of their work, yet there is very little research on this topic or professional organizations seriously investigating the topic. Modern people are often aware of the unique spirit of a place, but do not have a vocabulary to express their feelings, except through art.

3) A characteristic style of art seems to arise from a geographic region; it is a voice that speaks to us through indigenous art of the spirit of that place. Drawings, paintings, carving, sculpture, stories, songs, poetry and dances, are all fed by the spirit of a place. The artist's mind is not so encumbered by the constraints of intellectual reasoning and so it becomes a more clear channel for the unconscious to expressed. He or she gives voice and form to the spirit of the land.

4)The experience of place is multi-faceted and influenced by culture, personal uniqueness and modality of awareness. There may be many more sensory processes by which we perceive the earth and nature than modern science and psychology are willing to admit. Ancient traditions such as Chinese Feng Shui assert that we have at least 100 senses to perceive place. The needs of modern society for ecologically conscious design suggests that in the training of designers we should seek to cultivate the inner designer as well as training professional skills.

5) Each place has a unique quality which in turn influences what can best be done there.
The built environment can serve as an amplifier of the powers of a place, or it can negate the influence of locality, yielding what Frank Lloyd Wright called "cash and carry architecture." Architecture and design that honors the spirit of place and gives it meaning and form expresses beauty and nourishes health and creativity. Architecture is ultimately a ritual in structural materials.

6)The act of making a pilgrimage to special places is among the oldest acts of human respect for nature and spirit, and one of the least understood and appreciated by modern society, despite the facts that we undertake pilgrimages by the millions each year. Psychology needs to better understand the value of pilgrimage to human life as it may be one of the most important ways that we can discover our meaning, find health, and be inspired, as well as build reverence for nature.

7)The lack of feeling connected to a place, especially a place where one lives and works, can be an important source of mental and physical stress. People need to feel peaceful where they are, and maintain a psychic connection with a place of natural beauty if they do not reside in one. Actor James Earl Jones, who gained his awareness of the power of place by growing up on a dirt farm in northern Michigan has observed: "I have always thought it quite wonderful and necessary to keep connected to nature, to a place in the country landscape where one can rest and muse and listen" (Chas. Scribner's Sons, 1993).

8) Geomancy is the spiritual parent of modern design. Many ancient geomancies understand the importance of the relationship between place and personal experience and take elaborate measures to insure people are harmonized with the spirit of a place. When principles of design from Feng Shui and other geomancies are applied to modern buildings and communities, positive results occur. We need to set aside our limiting beliefs and appreciate the power of such approaches in the same fashion that western science has acknowledged the healing values of acupuncture, even though modern science cannot prove the existence of the life force chi and other geomantic concepts.

9)Modern science is beginning to measure the subtle properties of place. We now know that air ions, electrical and electromagnetic fields do influence health and well-being. More research needs to be devoted to the study of subtle environmental fields. Documenting the existence and value of these fields, may well lead to a whole new art and science of design with modern science and ancient wisdom working together.

10) In a Spirit of Place keynote, psychologist Robert Sommer observed that people can become "a voice" for the spirit of that region as much as for a human community or a relationship. John Muir, for example, seemed to embody the spirit of Yosemite Valley. The Lakota holy man Black Elk was a voice for the Black Hills of South Dakota. Rachel Carson was inspired by Cape Cod to write about "the sense of wonder" in nature as well as the dangers of pesticides to ecological balance. Becoming a voice for the land creates a "psychic anchor" that seems to be important to mental health.

11) The spirit of place concept is less understood by modern society, and one result is that conflicts about the value of place can and do arise between traditional and modern cultures.It is easy to flame the fires of conflict in such situations, creating enemies to raise funds to wage wars that should never have to exist. This kind of self-righteous scapegoating is as exploitive as developers who wish to commercialize sacred places for the sake of pure profit. The more difficult task is to build bridges of respect and cooperation between traditional and modern cultures, but it is the only path that can lead us to greater harmony and understanding.

12) We need new laws and land-use categories that facilitate honoring the power of place, including recognition of sacred places. Creating the public policies that yield such laws will require cross-cultural communication, cooperation and understanding unprecedented in modern society.

Conclusion

The consensus among participants in the Spirit of Place Symposiums is that we must rediscover the wisdom about the power of place and turn it into practical concepts that will guide modern people to live in harmony with the earth, as well as show respect for ancient traditions. Learning to plan and design with respect for the unique spirit of each place is a touchstone of responsible eco-tourism that respects traditional cultures and provides important benefits to modern culture as well.

________________________________________

This paper is drawn from Dialogues With The Living Earth  by James and Roberta Swan (1996)

Bibliography

Coomaraswamy, Ananda. 1935 
Jones, James Earl. 1993 Voices and Silences. New York, NY: Chas. Scribner's Sons, p.358.
Jung, Carl 1964 Civilization In Transition: Vol. 10 Collective Works of Carl Jung New York, NY: Pantheon.
Jung, Carl 1968 Man and His Symbols New York, NY: Dell.
Lawrence, D.H. 1923 Studies In Classical American Literature. New York, NY: Thomas Seltzer and Sons, p.8-9.
Swan, James 1990 Sacred Places: How The Living Earth Seeks Our Friendship Santa Fe, NM: Bear and Company.
Swan, James ed. 1991 The Power of Place Wheaton, IL: Quest Books.
Swan, James and Swan, Roberta 1996 Dialogues With The Living Earth Wheaton, IL: Quest.
     

Monday, October 1, 2018

Creativity and Divinity........Reflections


One of the things I have been thinking about is what kind of world would it be if our value system revolved around Creativity and Co-operation, instead of power, money, and dominance.  What kind of world..............Well, a world that could endure and be sustainable, among other things.  A world children could grow to their potential in.  A world where the resources of the collective and the planet went to something other than war and violence.  

Creativity.  Personally, my notion of a Deity, or Deities, is that She is an artist.  And a Mother.  That is a very different way of looking at the Divine from a great deal of what I see often.    We all have instrinsic expressive and communicative gifts in life, which I think come down to the same thing:    One is the eternal, seamless creative and receptive source, the other the mortal (and hence not immortal)  means.  When we are creating, the Divine expresses through each of us, whether we're making a mathematical theorem or a new recipe for lemon cake.  We're engaged in the Long Dance.


How can anyone look at an orchid, shamelessly pretending, in the hope of being pollinated, that it is a bevy of  magenta tipped butterflies in flight......without seeing the Goddess/God  at Her easel?  Without appreciating, indeed being in awe, of  the gorgeous humor, and creative intelligence, behind all things visible?  How miraculous is a spider in its perfect web?  The extraordinary way in which a sage plant knows exactly when to send up purple flowers, along with every other sage plant in the garden?  I do not believe any gardener who loves his or her work could fail to see that "nature" is both intelligent, responsive to love and appreciation, and communicative.  It's not a human language, but language it is.  

When I was a kid in a long-ago confusing Bible classes, I had an early  "ah-ha" experience. In fact, that might have been at the root of what became my personal quest in life.  I was told, over and over, that "God loves us".  Yet  I could not understand how this  "God" that was so often described to me as we plowed through the Book, could be so cruel if He really "loved us".  He seemed a God of terrible vengence and capricious cruelty.   Even now, I shudder to think of children, like the child I was,  internalizing some of these stories as "divinely inspired". How about this, for example, from the Holy Book?

"And  the Lord spake unto Moses, saying "Avenge the children of Israel"..............and Moses said unto them, "Have ye saved all the women alive?.......Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.  But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."   
  Num. XXXI, 1-18
I remember reading this, and trying to fathom how the noble Moses, made so visible by Charleton Heston delivering the 10 Commandments......could be involved in what was actually being described here.  

All those women, old ladies, babies  and little boys hacked up with swords,  the little girls carried off to be raped, sanctified by "God" and His prophet.   How could I reconcile this horror?   Other options were needed.  And I never failed to try to find them in future years.  I am fortunate that I've come up with some pretty good answers.

And how sad, and conflicting, that a fragmented history of the bloody genocide practiced in ancient battles, fought beneath the banner of a tribal war god sometimes called Yahwah........should appear within the same book as  "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you" (Luke 6:27)


Or, and this passage, a favorite of mine, which is not from the Bible at all, but rather from the long hidden and lost  Nag Hammedi Gospels, attributed to Jesus from the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas (the Twin)*** :
"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.  If you do not bring forth what is within you,  what you do not bring forth will destroy you." 

There it is!  The Divine Creative Force, expressing in everything and everyone. Early Christians called it "gnosis", knowledge of God within.   Joseph Campbell called it your personal  "bliss"......... it's the joy of creation,  and if we bring it forth, it energizes and informs and expands our lives and our vision, a ripple that spreads out not only from our lives but in a circle to the lives of many others.  If not expressed or known, the same reservoir of energy contracts, turns self-destructive, dark, stagnant.  Maybe, that's even one of the places tumors can come from. 

Be that as it may, I think it's so important to not "give your power away" as the popular saying goes, alhtough it can take time and the growth of self-awareness  to learn how not to do  that.  It's important to appreciate, in fact thoroughly enjoy,  the gifts that life has put on your banquet plate.

There's a wonderful passage in the ancient Sumarian stories of the goddess Inanna where she goes to visit Enki, the head of the Gods.  In a celebratory mood, he calls forth some heavenly beer, and the two get drunk together.   Enki gives Inanna many empowerments or gifts (called a "me") -  from the art of sexual seduction to the governing of cities to the making of cheese. At an event I attended in the 90's I saw this  cycle was enacted in participatory ritual theatre.  As  Enki offered each "me" (I always found that word for gift or power interesting), Starhawk, who led the group  in the role of Inanna, said loudly with conviction and gusto:  "I'll take it!"



Inanna with lion, ancient Sumarian tablet
We so often are afraid to say "I'll take it!"    Life continually gives us opportunities, afirmations, passions for making and creating, for "bringing forth that which is within".  But we are "embarroused", we decline because we think we're not "worthy", we don't want to seem "selfish".  And before you know it, the opportunities are gone, the well has dried up, passion has become something else.  

There are so many forces that discourage both creativity and talent  - one does not necessarily get love or acceptance for being "gifted".   I think of my own family, and the kind of "dumbing down" or "becoming invisible" dynamics I had to do in order to avoid my fathers abuse, or to be  tolerated by my envious brothers, who felt that any form of success on my part somehow diminished them. It was a way to survive as a child  that became a great disadvantage as an adult.   I still can witness myself going into  "invisibility" mode when encountering a field of competition or jealousy.


I've seen this operate in groups as well, groups that do not know how to facilitate or address this unconscious collective shadow aspect (a friend who prefers to remain anonymous calls it the "mediocrity prerequisite" for membership).    I do not mean to sound harsh, but many people live in toxic spheres where they are being energetically rewarded for being stupid, uncreative, or a "victim", and punished for not being so.  For not using their divine "Me"'s.   And I guarantee that if you live that way long enough, you will forget your "me"'s and begin to  demand the same currency from others.   It can take a long time to heal.........

Well.........I am grateful indeed to know so many  inspiring people  who are busy expressing the Divine Creative Force  joyfully - may we all, like Inanna, loudly proclaim:  "I'll take it!"


Here is an old interview with my favorite writer, Ursula Kroeber Leguin, on writing and creativity.  Indeed,  Leguin is one who held out both hands in her extraordinary creative life to "take it".  
"I certainly wasn't happy. Happiness has to do with reason, and only reason earns it. What I was given was the thing you can't earn, and can't keep, and often don't even recognize at the time; I mean joy."          (Ursula K. LeGuin)

 https://youtu.be/M73cyc9lhhI

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Control of Female Sexuality, Rape, War and Art

"Judith Slaying Holofernes" by Artemisia Gentilachi
"Control of female sexuality is fundamental to the patriarchal system.  This explains why there is so much controversy about the “simple matter” of access to birth control and abortion and so much anger directed at single mothers. "
~Carol Christ
I never cease to be amazed that the contemporary versions of Biblical Patriarchs continue to fight for control the bodies and lives  of the female population, even as they attempt to remove virtually all infrastructure to support or assist poor and single mothers.  Or the "right to rape" that is  so much in evidence in the power structure of our society, especially now with the so called President and his cronies  virtually celebrating their  sexual predations publicly. 

As a long time student of art and literature, the celebration of rape and war is found everywhere. The rape of young women is a prime theme in contemporary television drama, over and over and over.  And if you look back at the history of Western art, it's all over the place as well.  In fact, much of it is on plain view in our most distinguished institutions of art and culture such as the Metropolitan Museum or the Smithsonian.  High Art, High Rape, rarely examined for the message under all those pretty colors and plump, seemingly  acquiescent women.*

I remember all those paintings, for example, of the rape of various mortal women  by those manly, if naughty, Greek gods.  A perfect  co-option of myth turned religion  to justify the violence of men - the gods rape  just the same as they do, with the head god, Zeus, leading the pack.  In a popular  Renaissance theme like the painting below, "The Rape of Europa"  by Luca Giordano, the  abduction of a young girl is positively a party for all!   

"The Rape of Europa" by Luca Giordano
Or the "Rape of the Sabine Women", or the "Rape of the Trojan Women", or "the Rape of Persephone" or so on............it was  only years later, after all that Classic Arts Education, that  I finally understood that those paintings amounted to pornography for wealthy men of the time.

Here's a more recent painting from the end of the 19th Century:  our proud warrior sits atop his "loot" - lots of gold, spoils, and several passive, helpless  women as "loot" too, one appropriately nude with a good pair of breasts exposed.  Oh, and we have a weeping, but worthless,  old woman on the side, just to show the artist's recognition that there is a bit of suffering in war.



And then there is Atemisia Gentileschi"s "Judith Slaying Holofernes".  The daughter of a famous painter who was raped herself  as a young girl and publicly humiliated, I somehow don't think she found the subject at all sexy.   Her brilliant and disturbing painting of a powerful Judith and her maid servant severing the head of Holofernes strikes a cord in the heart of any woman who has known the suffering of sexual assault.  

"Judith Slaying Holofernes" by Artemisia Gentilachi

I decided to take the liberty of sharing a  brilliant article (2013) from  Feminism and Religion  by the marvelously articulate feminist scholar, writer,  and theologian  Carol Christ that takes a long look at the issue, so deeply embedded in the violence of our world, and so very crucial to understand if there is ever to be change.  Thank you to Dr. Christ for her words, once again.

And I also share, below, an image of what rape really looks like in war.  Because we need to remember.


  Patriarchy as a System of Male Dominance Created at the Intersection 
  of the Control of Women, Private Property, and War 


 (Part 2), February 25, 2013

by 

Patriarchy is a system of male dominance, rooted in the ethos of war which legitimates violence, sanctified by religious symbols, in which men dominate women through the control of female sexuality, with the intent of passing property to male heirs, and in which men who are heroes of war are told to kill men, and are permitted to rape women, to seize land and treasures, to exploit resources, and to own or otherwise dominate conquered people.*

In last week’s blog, I explained patriarchy as a system in which men dominate women through the control of female sexuality with the intent of passing property to male heirs.

 How did a system that identifies a man’s essence with his property and the ability to pass it on to sons come about? I suggest that the answer to this question is war and the confiscation of “property” by warriors in war. Patriarchy is rooted in the ethos of war which legitimates violence, and in which men who are heroes of war are told to kill men, and are permitted to rape women, seize land and treasures, to exploit resources, and to own or otherwise dominate conquered people.

My argument is that the origin of “private” property, defined as property owned by a single (male) individual, and as that which defines the “essence” of that individual, is the “spoils” of war, which are divided up by victorious warriors.  The “spoils” of war are the tangible treasures “looted” or taken by the victors from the conquered, such as jewelry and sacred objects.  The “spoils” of war include land “taken” as the result of warfare, along with the right to exploit resources, directly or through taxes and levies. The “spoils” of war also includes the right to “take” the women of the defeated enemy and to confirm ownership of them (and humiliate their fathers or husbands) by raping them.  The “spoils” of war also include the right to “take” these raped women and their young children home to serve as slaves and concubines.

Though many people were surprised when the rape victims of the recent war in Bosnia began to speak out about the use of rape as a tool of war by Serbian soldiers, in fact, rape has always been an “ordinary” part of war. In the “great” epic known as The Iliad which is said to be the foundation of western culture,  Achilles and Agamemnon are fighting over which of them has the right to rape a “captured” woman named Briseis.  The term “spear captive” is used to mask the reality that Briseis and other women like her were “rape victims” and that the “heroes” being celebrated were their “rapists” and “jailers.” I believe that the institution of rape and the (twisted) notion that men have a right to rape (certain kinds or types of) women originated with war.

The institution of slavery also originated in war. Both the Bible and the Greek epics testify to the ancient custom of enslaving the women and children of the enemy.  Slave women in every culture, like the slave women on plantations in the Americas, are at the mercy of their owners and his sons, who can rape them if they felt like it. The “custom” of taking slaves from the enemy and the “custom” of also taking enemy women sexually, is deeply intertwined with the history of war.  The Africans who sold other Africans into slavery in the Americas were selling Africans they had taken as the spoils of war.
If we entertain the hypothesis that earlier matriarchal clan systems existed, then we can see that the notion of individual powerful men’s peri-ousia being defined as the treasures, land, and people they “stole” and then claimed to “own” would have involved a massive cultural shift.  The shift to defining men by the property they owned required that men would also ”own” and absolutely control their wives and daughters, who had previously been free.  Such a cultural shift could only have been instituted and maintained through violence.

Patriarchy is a system of male domination, rooted in the ethos of war which legitimates violence. Warriors who have learned the methods of violent domination of other human beings—not only other soldiers, but also the women and children of the people they conquer—bring the methods of violence home.  Violence and the threat of violence can then be used to control “one’s” wife or wives, in order to ensure that “one’s” children really are “one’s” own. Violence and the threat of violence can be used to ensure that “one’s” daughters are virgins who can be “given” to other men to perpetuate the system of patriarchal inheritance.  Violence and the threat of violence can be used to hold enslaved people “in line.”  In addition, violence and the threat of violence can be used to subdue those within one’s own culture who are unwilling to go along with the new system. Women who refuse to let men control their sexuality can be killed with impunity by their male relatives or stoned by communities as a whole.


How does such a violent system legitimate itself?  By religious symbols.  In Greece, warriors were “in the image” of the “warrior God” Zeus whose rape of Goddesses and nymphs was celebrated.  In Israel, the power of warriors is mirrored in a male God who is called “Lord” and “King” and who achieves his will through violence and destruction. Sadly, this is not an exclusively western problem. In all of the so-called “highly developed” cultures defined by patriarchy and war, symbols of divine warriors justify the violence of men.  Laws said to have a divine source enshrine men’s control the sexuality of their wives, permit some men to rape some women, and allow some people to own other people as slaves.

Patriarchy is not simply the domination of women by men. Patriarchy is an integral system in which men’s control of women’s sexuality, private property, violence, war, and the institutions of conquest, rape, slavery arise and thrive together. The different elements are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate one as the cause of the others.  Patriarchy is an integral system of interlocking oppressions, enforced through violence.  The whole of the patriarchal system is legitimated by patriarchal religions.  This is why changing religious symbols is necessary if we hope to create alternatives to patriarchal systems.


The model of patriarchy I have proposed argues that control of female sexuality is fundamental to the patriarchal system.  This explains why there is so much controversy about the “simple matter” of access to birth control and abortion and so much anger directed at single mothers.  The model of patriarchy as an intergral system can help us to see that in order to end male domination we must also end war–and violence, rape, conquest, and slavery which are sanctioned as part of war.  We must also end the unequal distribution of wealth inherent in the notion of ”private” property, much of it the “spoils” of war, which led to the concept of patriarchal inheritance, which in turn required the control of female sexuality.  As feminists in religion we must identify and challenge the complex interlocking set of religious symbols which have sanctified the integral system of patriarchy–these include but are not limited to the image of God as male.  Ending patriarchy is no small task!

*I am offering a functional definition of patriarchy that does not address the separate question of why it originated.  I will be publishing an expanded version of this dicussion in the future.

This Article is from Feminism and Religion, February, 2013 

Carol P. Christ will be leading life-transforming Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete.  Join her and learn more about prepatriarchal woman-honoring Goddess cultures.   Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions
_______________________________________________________________

*"Rape in warfare is not bound by definitions of which wars are “just” or “unjust.” Rape was a weapon of terror as the German Hun marched through Belgium in World War I. Rape was a weapon of revenge as the Russian Army marched to Berlin in World War II. Rape got out of hand when the Pakistani Army battled Bangladesh. Raped reared its head as American GI’s searched and destroyed in the highland of Vietnam. Rape flourishes in warfare irrespective of nationality or geographic location. Rape was outlawed as a criminal act under the international rules of war. Yet rape persists as a common act of war.

Men who rape in war are ordinary Joes, made unordinary by the entry into the most exclusive male-only club in the world. Victory in arms brings group power undreamed of in civilian life. The unreal situation of a world without women becomes the prime reality. To take a life looms more significant than to make life, and the gun in the hand is power. The sickness of warfare feeds on itself. A certain number of soldiers must prove their newly won superiority – prove it to a woman, to themselves, to other men. In the name of victory and the power of the gun, war provides men with a tacit license to rape. In the act and in the excuse, rape in war reveals the male psyche in its boldest form, without the veneer of ”chivalry” or civilization."

......Against Our Will by Susan Brownmiller, 1975, Excerpts

Sunday, September 23, 2018

"Mask and Myth" - My Masks Website


 Since we're a month or so away from Halloween, I thought I should post about my Masks  WebsitesMASK AND MYTH and RAINWALKER STUDIO.   

I still delight in making all kinds of masks for holidays, Renaissance Faires, and Costuming, and commissions are especially  welcome!









Friday, September 21, 2018

Goddess of the Equinox

Persephone (2016)


Persephone, it seems to me,  is truly the Goddess of the Equinoxes, because She is both symbol  of spring and life's renewal when she returns to her mother Demeter at the turning of the seasonal Wheel, and she is also Goddess of death, wife of Hades, and Queen of the Underworld in the ending and dormant times of  turning of the wheel.  

Having said this,  I allow myself here to move out of the great universal language of archetype, and will get a bit personal.  The truth of life in nature is that everything is changing, everything dies to become something else, or at least, make way for something else.  As beings embedded in nature, this is true of us as well, whether we like it or not.  The summer ends, and as we feast on the delightful fruits and breads of the harvest, we barely notice, indeed, deny, the slow creep of winter.  And yet that beautiful, or horrific, or both, Leveler is already advancing over the horizon, implacable and indifferent.    

This is true of nature, this is true of biological life, and it's true of our psyches as well.  When Persephone sings at the balance points of the year, at the crossroads, I believe in listening to Her song,  whether it occurs in the bright lit flowering fields, or is an echo issuing from caverns deep in the Underworld.  And that is the point at which Hecate appears with her torch (but that is another story).   We all love the Song of Persephone in the spring, the song that tells us "this is the time to BE", to feel the honey sun on your shoulders, to love, to move away from the lonely tunnels of the mind and into the great Conversation of the fields, of the planet.

When Persephone calls from the caverns, not so easy.  I myself have felt that emotional frailty, anxiety, the "taste of winter" (even in Arizona!) that this time of planetary change brings.   I continue to attempt to allow those feelings to educate me by the process of their arising.   You try to discover the language and content of all the songs the Persephone sings,  what the soul is trying to tell you.  You don't "transcend" the voice of Persephone, you mature and change, you keep on moving, as She does.

This is Persephone's time of Balance, of Equinox, Her Integral being.  Which moving away from psychological jargon simply means realizing that we must, somehow, say "yes" to all of it, and keep moving, keep dancing the light and shadow dance.  Persephone will dance with us, will educate, if one can only accept this Moving Point of Balance.   We are all, in the final analysis, Wanderers.


Persephone the Wanderer
by Louise Glück,

In the first version, Persephone
is taken from her mother
and the goddess of the earth
punishes the earth—this is
consistent with what we know of human behavior,

that human beings take profound satisfaction
in doing harm, particularly
unconscious harm:

we may call this
negative creation.

I am not certain I will
keep this word: is earth
“home” to Persephone? Is she at home, conceivably,
in the bed of the god? Is she
at home nowhere? Is she
a born wanderer, in other words
an existential
replica of her own mother, less
hamstrung by ideas of causality?

You are allowed to like
no one, you know. The characters
are not people.
They are aspects of a dilemma or conflict.

Three parts: just as the soul is divided,
ego, superego, id. Likewise

the three levels of the known world,
a kind of diagram that separates
heaven from earth from hell.

You must ask yourself:
where is it snowing?

White of forgetfulness,
of desecration—

It is snowing on earth; the cold wind says

Persephone is having sex in hell.
Unlike the rest of us, she doesn’t know
what winter is, only that
she is what causes it.

She is lying in the bed of Hades.
What is in her mind?
Is she afraid? Has something
blotted out the idea
of mind?

She does know the earth
is run by mothers, this much
is certain. She also knows
she is not what is called
a girl any longer. Regarding
incarceration, she believes

she has been a prisoner since she has been a daughter.

The terrible reunions in store for her
will take up the rest of her life.
When the passion for expiation
is chronic, fierce, you do not choose
the way you live. You do not live;
you are not allowed to die.

You drift between earth and death
which seem, finally,
strangely alike. Scholars tell us

that there is no point in knowing what you want
when the forces contending over you
could kill you.

White of forgetfulness,
white of safety—

They say
there is a rift in the human soul
which was not constructed to belong
entirely to life. Earth

asks us to deny this rift, a threat
disguised as suggestion—
as we have seen
in the tale of Persephone
which should be read

as an argument between the mother and the lover—
the daughter is just meat.

When death confronts her, she has never seen
the meadow without the daisies.
Suddenly she is no longer
singing her maidenly songs
about her mother’s
beauty and fecundity. Where
the rift is, the break is.

Song of the earth,
song of the mythic vision of eternal life—

My soul
shattered with the strain
of trying to belong to earth—

What will you do,
when it is your turn in the field with the god?

“Persephone the Wanderer” from Averno by Louise Glück.
Copyright © 2006 by Louise Glück.