Sunday, April 25, 2010

Black Tara


Ture, Dark Mother of Bones & Blood
Silent night and smoldering ruins
Teach us the Sorrow path of letting go
Of howling pain & rage
releasing
the Wheel always turning
Black heart center
of understanding.
Grant the art of Letting-go
in the still silence
of your dark smile
Om tare tuttare ture soha

Silverstar

I've begun work on a new sacred mask. I haven't made a sacred mask in years, although I've made a lot of commercial masks.

"Sacred" is a word with lots of meanings, but to me it means making a mask through a process that is "In-vocational". Invoke comes from the same root as "yoke" and "yoga", to join with , unite. In my experience, when intent is given to create a sacred mask, it becomes an invitation and a prayer to the deity (ancestor, power animal, or for those who are uncomfortable with anything touching on religion or shamanism, "archetypal power") to enter this world. To interact with, inform, bless, and transform in some way, the maker, those who use the mask, and ultimately, the audience as well. This was well understood in indigenous cultures, where masks are regarded as power objects, and are not used lightly. But because we've lost so many of our shamanic/magical traditions, the idea is generally not understood in today's world.

In my own experience, like in Kevin Costner's 1989 movie Field of Dreams, "If you build it, they will come".

This mask may be the first of 21 masks for Prema Dasara and the "21 Praises to Tara", the beautiful Mandala Blessing Dance that she has been creating with groups of women for many years. It will be an honor to meet this dedicated spiritual teacher.

Sending Tara's light into the world
Sending Tara's light into the world , Kauai, Hawaii 2004

Engaging in the spirit of the dance she has devoted her life to, making these masks will be, for me, also a devotional meditation for Tara, who is the female Bodhisattva of Compassion in Tibetan Buddhism. More on this later......there is far too much to say to write about Tara and Prema in passing.

To share with fellow devotees a sacred invocation, a ritual dance, the creation of sacred and devotional art, can be transformative, a great blessing.

Tara is celebrated with a long prayer called "The 21 Praises to Tara". The Goddess has 21 manifestations - peaceful and wrathful - all different expressions of divine mercy and wisdom. In the painting below, Tara is surrounded by smaller figures, each representing a different aspect of the Goddess (such as "White Tara", "Red Tara", etc.)Black Tara is a wrathful manifestation, identical in form and, no doubt, source, to Hindu Kali. Like Kali, she has a headdress of grinning skulls, like Kali, she is black, like Kali she has three eyes. Like many Tibetan deities in the wrathful aspect, she has the fangs of a tiger, symbolizing ferocity, a ferocious appetite to devour the demons of the mind. Her aura or halo is fiery, energetic, full of smoke symbolizing the transformation of fire.

Kali is the great Dark Mother of India. In Hindu mythology, when the world was being devoured by demons, there came a time when even the great Gods couldn't battle them. And so Kali the terrible manifested, the "last ditch savioress". Kali is the One who brings the forest fire, levelling the ground so new growth can occur, the surgeon who cuts cleanly away morbid tissue so flesh can heal.

The icon of Kali, dancing on the prostrate body of Shiva, is a strange and horrific image to the western sensibility. Christian theology is dualistic, but Hinduism and Buddhism are not. In Bali, the curbs of Ubud are all painted like a checker board, black and white, as are the altar clothes. This is to remind those who walk down the street continuously of Sekala and Neskala, the continuing balance of Dark and Light, the yin/yang of life. Kali appears in Bali as the dreadful, fanged, bloodthirsty Rangda. Battles with her are always fought by the benign dragon, the Barong, in dreadful graveyards. But no one ultimately wins. Because, perhaps, the battle must continually be fought. And Rangda, work done, often then returns to the heaven realms, to become beautiful, peaceful Uma, wife of their version of Lord Shiva. Kali, whose name means "Time" (Kala) lives beyond form, beyond the pairs of opposites, the truth beyond the skeins of karma and time................

So, what can happen when we, even unconsciously, In-Voke a great Deity, an Archetypal Power.............a Goddess? Well, as I said, "if you build it, they will come". These things really shouldn't be done lightly.

Tara has been my revered and mysterious divine teacher for many years. I won't presume to say I can understand a Goddess ......... their purposes being collective and far beyond my personal understanding..........but if I was going to make a tenuous statement, it would be when you call on a Goddess, She's not going to give you a polite reply that's been spell-checked. The ineffable work with us in the arena of energy, in the field of dreams and soul language.

So, I began work on a mask for Black Tara..........not really thinking about why I chose that particular manifestation, just drawn to the image. Without going into particulars, I've been miserable. Too much death, overwhelming family needs, feeling trapped, loss of what I consider personal integrity. I've been resigned, paralyzed by it all, unable to see the necessary changes. So, a few days ago, I became a lunatic. It was nothing I planned....

I stayed up all night, pacing the floor. The darkness and solitude was deafening. I walked around and around the block, yelling at the damn yapping ubiquitous dogs. Yelling at the walls. I pulled out cups and plates and shattered them around the house. (Pottery therapy can be very satisfying. White china is especially good.) I screamed at people who fortunately weren't there. I raged, I spit, I cried and wiped my nose on my shirt, I drank too much vodka, I looked in the mirror and called myself a lot of names.

The sun came up, I drove around and around, and screamed some more (in my car), because I felt like I had no where to go. But finally, I looked up a friend.

I didn't clean up the mess on the floor for several days. Visiting my friend, who is also having a hard time these days, sleeping on her couch, talking all the next night...........was more important. I thought it was worth keeping that pile of shattered pottery there for a while, a silent witness to the passing of a storm.

How do I feel now? Actually, I feel great. And, I think I understand some things about myself, and my authentic needs, a lot better now.

Black Tara, dancing Her tough love, crimson lips full of that vast, vast laughter.

There's a great film called "The Shipping News" (with Kevin Spacey). Towards the end of the movie, a storm has destroyed his old family's house, a weary old house haunted with too many secrets, too much ancestral karma. Moored atop a crag, the house has been blown at last into the ocean below to vanish beneath the waves. Confronting the littered place where it once stood, Spacey (who has become a newspaper reporter) comments:

"Headline: House disappears in storm. The view is great."


**
I am embarroused to find this worthy commentary about Kali in my files, and not the credits. I hope, should the author ever find me, he or she will accept my apology, and appreciation for the wise scholarship.

"Kali's black complexion symbolizes her all-embracing nature. Says the Mahanirvana Tantra: "Just as all colors disappear in black, so all names and forms disappear in her".Kali is free from the illusory covering, for she is beyond the all maya or "false consciousness." Her red lolling tongue indicates her omnivorous nature —her indiscriminate enjoyment of all the world's 'flavors'. Her sword is the destroyer of false consciousness.

Her three eyes represent past, present, and future, — the three modes of time — an attribute that lies in the very name Kali ('Kala' in Sanskrit means time). The eminent translator Sir John Woodroffe in Garland of Letters, writes, "Kali is so called because She devours Kala (Time) and then resumes Her own dark formlessness."

Kali's proximity to cremation grounds where the five elements or "Pancha Mahabhuta" come together, and all worldly attachments are absolved, again point to the cycle of birth and death. "


12 comments:

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

FASCINATING POST!

sukipoet said...

wonderful way to work through those angry feelings

Lauren said...

Thanks for your kind words. A little self revealing, but it's a journal......

I've worked with Goddess mythology for many years, and with lots of groups, many I've facilitated. A magical thing happens when we engage/commune with an archetype - any actor can tell you that. I do often feel that theatre, ritual and art are highly appropriate ways to work out intense emotional states.

Valerie said...

Black Tara shows up at my reiki sessions as one of my guiding spirits. How can I learn more about her?

Valerie said...

Black Tara shows up at my reiki sessions. How can I learn more about her?

Lauren said...

Suggest you just do research, Valerie, begin with Tibetan interpretations. I think Black Tara is very much about Kali, breaking through delusion, and also She is a fierce Protector.

Unknown said...

I loved this. And I needed it. Thank you for your honesty and clarity.

Unknown said...

I loved this! And needed it right now. Thank you for your honesty and clarity.

Veronica Spinosi said...

Thank you for your words, thank you kali.

Lee Shawnus said...

Beautiful and hope i find the mask as i go thru yr blog. I have been blessed with empowerments into White Tara and Green Tara and have worked with their source as the tears of Avalokitesvara for decades. I have also run into a similar dark Dakini called Throma Nagmo you can google about. My Vajrakilaya and Rahula practices seem to fit right in with my BTW witchcraft and Native American practices too. In India and Nepal and Tibet the old pagan ways were not wiped out by Hinduism and Buddhism but incorporated woven together, unlike in Europe where xianity just wiped them off the face of the land, at least tried, lol. Blessings.

Lee Shawnus said...

Beautiful and hope i find the mask as i go thru yr blog. I have been blessed with empowerments into White Tara and Green Tara and have worked with their source as the tears of Avalokitesvara for decades. I have also run into a similar dark Dakini called Throma Nagmo you can google about. My Vajrakilaya and Rahula practices seem to fit right in with my BTW witchcraft and Native American practices too. In India and Nepal and Tibet the old pagan ways were not wiped out by Hinduism and Buddhism but incorporated woven together, unlike in Europe where xianity just wiped them off the face of the land, at least tried, lol. Blessings.

lauren raine said...

Thanks so much for your comments. I did in fact make a number of Black Tara masks, all for Prema Dasara, who rejected every one of them (5 in all). I decided that, as much as I admire her, we were not meant to collaborate, and the masks were given to various colleagues of mine, and I'm glad to say are still in circulation and being used.