Tuesday, March 9, 2010

(Black) Butterflies


who is arguing with the storm
passing over oxen in a field
not me just a butterfly

whose eyes blind my shabby self



"Old Pajamas", 2010



"The Ancient Greek word for “butterfly” is “psuché/psyché”(ψυχή, 1st.declension) which is used in the meaning of ‘butterfly’/ ‘moth’ by Aristotle and Theophrastus, though its usual meanings are breath, spirit, life, soul, departed spirit, ghost, living being, person.  The butterfly was a symbol of the soul, because it changes from caterpillar to a beautiful winged creature. Plus it has a shape of a double ax which was an Minoan  symbol of the Great Goddess. Greek paintings often showed a small butterfly - "soul" - flying free from the mouth of the dead.

I think this is going to be a wandering/wondering post, because what I'm trying to approach with my capture net of words is the magical butterfly, a black one at that, a creature that clearly exists on such an elusive multitude of dimensions and metaphors........that it's impossible to consider her mysterious flight without a "holographic" approach. Butterfly is a creature that flies right into the Dreamtime as she so chooses. So, I'll begin by slipping, momentarily and gratefully, back into mythic time and mythic place, the life-renewing, fluid land of the Fey, the imaginal** (!!!).......for any hour I can spare.

I recently had energy work with a healer. With eyes closed, lying on a table, she did something similar to Reiki, running energy, helping me to connect with different areas of the "subtle body" that are blocked. Within this holistic approach, mind is viewed as being not only in the cranium. We perceive through at least 7 or more different "brains" - energy centers, symbolized by the Chakras, which represent different ways of receiving, experiencing, perceiving, responding to, and expressing consciousness. For example, the Base Chakra, identified with the color Red, is about physicality, the interface with nature and the planet; the Heart Chakra, Green, is associated with the ability to love and experience com-passion; the "Third Eye" Chakra, violet, is associated with psychic perception and visioning.

In energy medicine, practitioners help patients achieve integration between the chakras, the different "brains". Much of the work is surprisingly psychological, and is often concerned with helping clients to identify emotional "blockages", accessing, while in an altered state, old traumas, environmental issues, or erroneous belief systems that have caused an individual to close the heart or the doors of perception.

I had a vivid vision throughout this energy work of butterfly wings (not butterflies, just wings)...........folding, unfolding, before my closed eyes. I cannot help but feel that this was a kind of Grace, the wings offered were, perhaps, mine.

The butterfly has much significance to me, as personal archetype, and a sometimes visitor from the angelic realms, fulfilling the angelic role of messenger. Of course, I'm not alone in this. I've spoken with many people over the years who have had mystical Butterfly stories, among them my friend Fahrusha (her name, in Arabic, actually means Butterfly), who recounts an amazing synchronicity with a black butterfly in her blog.

Out of curiousity, I looked up "Black Butterfly" on Amazon.com recently, and was stunned to find there were 27 books with that title. I think a black butterfly is about the transformation that happens when the Shadow, in Jungian terms, is also given wings, transmuted.

I have met many people who have told me about butterflies appearing in connection with the loss of a loved one, or at times of personal despair. I list below a site that is devoted exclusively to "miraculous butterfly experiences". **To me, and I'm no psyche-ologist .....but to me, butterflies wonderfully participate in the interface between dream and waking life, flickering on the wings of synchronicity with their multi-dimensional messages, disappearing into the field of dreams just as mysteriously. A "Butterfly Experience" can be utterly intimate in the meanings they bear, and equally, universal and impersonal. For me, dealing as I have been for years now with therapy, and caretaking my mother and brother.........there is great personal meaning in my vision, meaning that has to do with karma, long patterns of family dysfunction, the work of emotional and psychic transformation.

Perhaps the most dramatic "butterfly experience" I had occured 10 years ago. Since this experience had to do with both dream and synchronicity, I don't know if I can tell it very cohesively, but I'll try.

It began with a disturbing dream. I dreamed I was on a ship, and on the deck many people sat in deck chairs, all of them playing with masks, taking them on and off. I seemed, in the dream, to be two people at once. I knew that there was, down in the lower decks of the boat, a demon. One of the women that I was was a kind of priestess or missionary - she was about to descend into the depths of the boat, where the demon below would torture and kill her. She thought that if she did so, offering herself as sacrificial victim, she could save the people above.

The other "me" was a cynical observer who thought she was a ridiculous martyr, and knew everyone, especially her, was doomed. I woke up as the "martyr self" began her descent.

Without going into the many circumstantial and psychological meanings of this important dream, I'll skip ahead in real time. About 6 months after having this dream, I actually found myself, with a lot of actors, and a few masks, on an old decommissioned ocean liner (the "art ship"), which was anchored in the industrial harbor of Oakland. I was acting in a movie, and the writer and director of the film, Antero Alli, had decided to do his filming in the very bottom of this 5 level boat; the old, cold, dark, dank, cargo bay.

Descending into the bottom of the boat brought my dream back vividly, and every superstitious notion of prophetic dreams I ever had came right to the fore. I didn't like it there! Between shoots, the cast hung out in what must have once been the crew's cafeteria - located in a middle deck, it had round portholes, all of which were closed because it was a cold day in March. As we waited, the Director offered everyone a card from his own fascinating deck of oracular cards (with his artist wife, Sylvie Alli), and there was lively interest as each person contemplated his or her card.

I took a card from Antero with trepidation, and sure enough, damn if it wasn't the "DEATH" card.

Not five minutes later, as I stood with the card of doom in hand, a small orange butterfly landed on my shoulder.

There was absolutely no explanation for how that butterfly could have gotten into that closed room. I had lots of witnesses - and after the miracle revealed itself, several of them helped to catch the butterfly and get it upstairs where it could be released.



"La Mariposa" (2010)

As a kind of synchronistic post-script, in 2005 I was back in the Bay Area for a two-person show (with Rye Hudak) at Turn of the Century Gallery, in Berkeley. I was surprised that, of all the works in the show, the gallery owner chose to put on the card announcing the show the one above, "The Butterfly Woman". When I came to hang the show, I went to nearby Cafe Trieste for a cup of coffee. Two stacks of cards were on the table there, side by side.

One was the card for my show with the image above. The flyer next to it was an announcement of the premiere of a new movie by Antero Alli called "The Greater Circulation" (a gorgeous film inspired by the life of poet Rainier Maria Rilke). The image on his announcement was a face encased in a skull - a Death's Head.



***"The caterpillar spins or weaves the cocoon, and in that cocoon, what the caterpillar is creating is his own tomb. We don’t know if he knows that or not. And he crawls into it, and his body liquefies. Complete disintegration of caterpillar. But in that caterpillar soup are these cells that have been in the caterpillar’s body all along, called imaginal cells. Isn’t that a fabulous word? Imaginal cells. It’s called imaginal by botanists because the adult form of that creature, the butterfly, is called imago. So these are imaginal cells, but to me those cells are ‘imagining’ flight. And these imaginal cells know how to take the soup and reconfigure that into a butterfly, an adult. I believe nature has designed us humans to go through a similar experience."

 from  "Imagine your Imago - Liberating the Imaginal Cells of the Human Psyche"   
by Bill Plotkin



THE BLACK BUTTERFLIES

The black butterflies of night
Clipped for sleep to nightshade and widowgrief,
Or in shaking luminous flight
On paired and silver wings, are rare,
And rarely seen by human sight.

Yet, they are there, surfacing
Out of range of neons and streetlights,
Preferring underleaf
And the dark offshores of air
To man and moth-maddening glare of things.
Tonight, As crisis after crisis
Cracks our skies like lightning,
I think of death,
Of different ways of dying,
And of Egypt and the myth
That once held black butterflies
Sacred to Isis.

They lived forever in flight
In her private groves, compelled like
Flickering minutes
Never to touch leaf nor stone,
Never to rest, except upon her nakedness
When she turned to love.
And here is death to be envied;
To be crushed to a personal breast
Between goddess
And whatever bird, beast, lover
Fell to her lips.
We are something else. . .

Myth and love will miss us
When the night is suddenly turned on,
Turned blank white,
And the black butterflies
Appear against that vellum sky
As far, flitting, burnt-out stars.

Frank Polite

4 comments:

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

This is a terrific synchronicity! Could we repost it on our blog, which is on synchronicity? http://www.ofscarabs.blogspot.com

Thanks!
Trish MacGregor

Lauren said...

Of course - I'm going to look forward to seeing your blog. Syncronicity (I call then Spider Woman's Threads) is a deep fascination of mine as well. If you haven't read the works of Dr. Peat (I have a link on my blog), you might enjoy reading his studies as a physicist on syncronicity also........

thanks, Lauren

old pajamas said...

Lauren

You are light years ahead of me in intelligence and dedication. I am a simple fellow of few syllables. Thanks for including the tanka...Best wishes.....pajamas

Anna said...

hi there,
i found your post randomly while searching for resources to interpret my own butterfly experience... thank you for sharing your own thoughts and the Bill Plotkin quotation about imaginal cells and the imago - beautiful, profound, humbling.
blessings,
anna