Thursday, November 29, 2012

Vicki Noble and "the Cassandra complex"


I belong to a group that includes teacher, shaman and artist Vicki Noble, who, along with Karen Vogel, created the Motherpeace Tarot.  She is also the author of numerous books, was the editor of UNCOILING THE SNAKE - Ancient Patterns in Contemporary Women's Lives, was a key presenter at the Goddess Conference I attended in 2011 in Glastonbury, and is on the faculty of the Women's Spirituality Program at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

With the U.N. Conference on Climate change going on, and the article by Chris Hedges I shared in the previous post, I've been feeling overwhelmed and despairingVicki kindly let me share her comments in response to the article, and my own questions.  I find what she said so helpful.  In the final analysis, all we can really do is ease the suffering, in small ways or great, and that suffering has to include ourselves.    Thank you, Vicki, for many years of dedication and inspiration for  so many, for your dedication to the return of the Goddess.

"I heard something about this (new statistics on climate change on NPR last week, and  the part about the anticipated temperature rise. It was so shocking, I thought I hadn’t heard it correctly, especially since there was no analysis or discussion at all, just a passing mention of the 3+ degree rise, and then on to the next item. It’s like a dream I also had last week, in which our whole population was standing at a “fiscal cliff” (I so hate that expression) waiting for an approaching tsunami, as if we were watching a movie. And so it does seem as if we are in a kind of trance state, waiting for the end of the world. (Paralyzed? Disembodied? Stupefied?)

Do you know that they have a medical name for what’s wrong with people like us who keep talking about these frightening possibilities, the inevitable consequences of our actions? It’s called the “Cassandra Complex.” I’ve got it for sure. You know, Cassandra of Troy, the priestess (“seer”) who saw what was coming and tried to warn the inhabitants of her city to no avail; she went crazy with the effort of holding her sight in the face of total denial. At least we’re talking to each other here—a helpful reality check—and taking whatever small steps we can in the direction of awareness, preparation, and change.

It’s a Full Moon Lunar Eclipse tonight, as the Mystery continues to unfold.  

In 1999 I left Berkeley after two decades, to move up into the redwoods near Santa Cruz, where I lived in a small cabin chopping wood and building fires in my wood stove, while I pondered the state of my global despair. I thought at the time that surely I am not the only activist left from the 1970s who thought we were going to change things more dramatically—and we didn’t. It was a crushing disappointment for me at the time and I suppose in all honesty, it still is—although I do my best to maintain peacefulness, rather than constant adrenaline. But when Monsanto makes some new inroad into killing off life on the planet, I am once again thrown into a dark mood.

The spiritual practices that I developed while up in those mountains—invocations to the Tibetan Dakinis of the four cardinal directions and the center—have become a mainstay of my current teachings, and at some point I received an answer to my fervent question of, "What should I be doing???"  The loving and very direct response to my question was: "There is nothing to do but alleviate suffering."  So I agreed to do that and came down from the mountains to teach and engage again. Just trying to stay present in the unflinching reality of Cassandra and the priestesses and prophetesses everywhere. Feminist activist spirituality, blessed be!"
 I felt like sharing another piece of guidance that helps me as well.  I received this many years ago (in 1992 actually) and it also seems timely........I keep the little picture below (that's pretty much its actual size) in a frame on my altar.  Of all the icons and magical objects I've collected over the years, it's one of my most important.

 In the fall of 1992 I was working on my own Tarot deck.  I went to a copy shop to make copies of some of the small paintings I had done for the series, among them my version of the "Hermit" card, which I called "Solitude".  It's actually a self portrait, and what the card means to me has to do with the journey of the soul through the darkness of ignorance, pain, confusion, and sometimes the "dark night of the soul".  When we find the light, kindle the flame, that illuminates the way we emerge from the darkness.  Very often this is a solitary journey.   But to simply illuminate the way for ourselves is not enough - having kindled a flame, I believe it's important to share what has been learned.  Perhaps the light we share, the warmth of the flame we contribute, can illuminate the path of another.  We are all pathfinders, and part of the journey is to share what has been learned along the way to  encourage others.   Even in the darkest nights.  What else, ultimately, is there to do?

Color copiers in 1992 were not as advanced as they are now, they often broke down, and copies were a lot more expensive.  So I wasn't surprised when the machine didn't do anything for a few minutes when I was copying this painting.  Finally it spit out a big piece of paper with only a tiny image in the center - the one above.  I called over the technician, who fiddled with the machine, and I finally got my copies.  It wasn't until I got home that I looked at the "mistake" and realized how extraordinary it was that of all things to focus in on, the machine had focused perfectly on the hand bearing a light.

We do get guidance, truly.  I do not know if I have always been true to this gift of guidance, but I never am without my little xerox "mistake", to remind me.

Blessed be.  May we all "bear a light", no matter how difficult.  What else can we do? 

**The Motherpeace Round Tarot by Vicki Noble and Karen Vogel was one of the first feminine, Goddess-oriented decks, designed to celebrate the Great Mother and Her peaceful, life-loving creatures. It was self-published in 1981 in Berkeley, California and later released in a U. S. Games version in 1984. Like the cyclical ways of nature, the round cards can take on many positions in a reading beyond the usual two choices - upright and reversed.


Gail said...

I look forward everyday to clicking on threads of the spiderwoman and finding a new insight. You do us a great service.

Valerianna said...

Ahhh... thanks, Lauren, good to hear Vicki's words. And I love that wise copier's choice of cropping, how wonderful!

It is alarming, all that we're learning about climage change. But I can't say I'm surprised. Its devastating, but we knew that, so, keep going is all. And, yes, help to alliviate suffering. There are many ways to do this.
I am just keeping at it. Blessings to you.

Lauren said...

Thanks to you both for your good words, and your encouragement. I seem to be setting a new course.

And you're right, there are many ways to aliviate suffering, not the least to create beauty and a loving environment in our circles. I think of the circle, expanding like a ripple around us.

Frank's Corner said...

Thank you!