Friday, May 7, 2021

"If Women Rose Rooted": Women, Myth and a Conversant Land



"This is the core of our task:  to remake the world in the image of those ancient   stories.  To respect and revere ourselves, and so bring about a world in which women are respected and revered, recognized once again as holding the life-giving power of the Earth itself.  We can reclaim that image in each of us:  the creative, ecstatic, powerful feminine that each of us embodies in her own unique way.  Lacking it, it is no wonder that we are grieving, alienated, imbalanced - that we cannot find a way to belong to a world that teaches us to cover up not just our bodies but our feelings, our dreams, our intuition.  There comes a point in each of our lives when we face a choice.  Will we stay as we are, embracing the pale shadow of womanhood permitted us by the patriarchy?  Or will we sink deep into the heart of the boglands, and find in the depths what it is to reclaim our creative power as women? 

As always, the stories show us the way.  The old stories, the ones which tell us that women are the land, the Body of the Earth Mother.  The old stories, the ones in which the Earth is sacred, and so women are sacred too:  the force of creation, the givers of life.  The stories in which women are the bearers of the Grail, the keepers of the cauldron of inspiration and rebirth. "

Sharon Blackie, IF WOMEN ROSE ROOTED (2016)

In 2018 I went to the Gatekeeper's Conference in Pewsey, in the U.K.  It was also my delight to visit a number of prehistoric sacred sites, including Avebury, Silbury, the Chalice Well in Glastonbury, the  great (fallen) Stones and Henge of Arbor Lowe in Derbyshire, the Nine Maidens, also in Derbyshire,  and others.  Truly, as I sit here in my urban home, I reflect that it has often seemed,  among these ancient Mysteries, that I feel most at home.  

I was also introduced to Sharon Blackie's book  IF WOMEN ROSE ROOTED   which I enthusiastically read throughout my visit, feeling that it resonated greatly with me.  The author lives in rural Ireland, close to the   beloved land she writes about, and speaks with passion,  and the bitter/sweet  story-teller lilt of an Irish Bard, about an instinctual need women women have to return to mythic (and actual) roots in the land. 

In some ways she reminds me of  Clarissa Pinkola Estes, as she urges women to regain, and celebrate the creative power of the life-giving  Divine Feminine in mythology. and speaks of  an essence deeply rooted in nature because we ARE nature. 

 She  returns again and again to the need to be ROOTED in the Earth as well as a mythic and conversant landscape that is also woman affirming;  the Heroine's journey, she writes, is not the same as the classical  Hero's journey proposed by Joseph Campbell -  because it is a journey of interconnection, relationships, co-creative and co-experienced cycles, and finally, the journey of belonging to the Great Mother, the great "conversation" of the planet.  The Heroine's journey, in a new and yet ancient sense, is perhaps now  the journey of the Eco-heroine.

Ms. Blackie speaks with passion because she believes it is urgent for all to "rise rooted",  as the death dealing forces of  patriarchy and sociopathic,  unlimited capitalism  are  quite literally destroying the future for not only humans, but all children of Mother Earth.

The title is a poem in itself, and as an artist who compulsively for decades has been putting roots on  faces and  hands and  bodies........well, it jumped off the shelf at me!  Yes, all my work has been "rooted" for a long time, even if I haven't always consciously been so............ but like many Americans with a life of bewildering change and movement, I have always  wanted to be rooted, attuned to the essence of place, without always  knowing how or why.  I look at 45 years of art, and always the Tree is there.  The Tree that is Asherah, the Tree of Life, the union of Above and Below.  For me, intuitively a quest to find identity within the those  vital roots, found in the  living, composting dirt, and  among the twining vines, flying webbed among the branches with the sparrows.  
 
Silbury Hill, Avebury, Wiltshire, UK - believed to 
represent the pregnant belly of the Great Mother

When did we lose our roots?  When did the separation between nature and human happen?  When did the Great Earth Mother, eternally birthing and growing and dying and returning again...........when did She disappear under the weight of myth and patriarchal cultures?  When did the processes of nature and the cycles of nature cease to be sacred and became profane?  A question I many have sought to answer as we move fully now into ecological crisis. 


The Nine Maidens,  Derbyshire (Henge and Processional in background)
"For it was no peasant, but calm and cunning wizards, ruling and pegging out in granite  the windings of the dragon track  that writhes unseen in  marsh and moss and meadowland,  that twines in stellar gravity among the eaves of the cubic sky.   So they, upon the veins of Anu,  print a spell of glory in our blinks of lives.   Rightness of the world Self seen:  the green, the garden.  
Older yet and wiser far, and I will not forget."
.....Robin Williamson, "Five Denials on Merlin's Grave"

Speaking With the Land

In so many  rural areas of the UK  the 21st Century seems like it is just another layer atop a continually emergent pentimento, the patterns of  a much older landscape.   Of course this is true everywhere, but it is so much in daily evidence in the UK and Europe.

That "pentimento" is like an ancient tattoo - circular, serpentine, full of  standing  stones, henges, magic wells, pregnant "harvest hills",  and geomantic ley lines.   For me,  when I was able to walk and explore this overlay my vision expanded  to a  broader vista, a panorama that  opened in my mind  as  I imagined the world of those who walked there so long ago.  And that very faint yet vibrant Pentimento gave me a vision as well of what,  as myth makers and "geologians" for the future, we might re-invent from the dreaming Earth. 

As far as these energized, ley crossed sites go, what poet and Bard Robin Williamson called the "veins of Anu and the windings of the Serpent Track",  I agree with those scholars who believe that once upon a time the  very lands the people walked on, the land they grew their food and marked the Solstices and Equinoxes and the movements of the moon and the stars  upon, was  the "temple"  itself,  The Deity was beneath their feet, and all around them. 

As   Marija Gimbutas, and later Michael Dames, have argued, these sites mark a sacred landscape that was once viewed  literally as  the Body of the the  Great Mother from which the blessings of abundance came, and ultimately to which, in the great cycles of the year , all return.    Here, and in ubiquitous similar sites in Southern and Central England, Ireland, Scotland, the Orkney Islands, the Hebrides, the Isle of Man, Brittany..........perhaps as well in the mysterious realms of the great Temples of Malta,  or the barely excavated, and truly ancient circles of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey as well, we see the remnants of a worship of the Earth as Great Mother that lasted for a very, very long time.    

According to  Michael Dames in his book the Silbury Treasure, Silbury,  which I visited in 2018 along with other similar "harvest hills" (there is one along the Processional to Arbor Lowe as well)  literally represented the pregnant belly of the Great Mother, and were associated with certain times of the agricultural cycles.  In the Neolithic and early Iron Age he makes a significant argument that there was a universal religion which regarded the LAND ITSELF AS THE DEITY.    Situated just south of Avebury, Silbury Hill in Wiltshire is Europe's tallest prehistoric structure.  When his  book was first published in 1976,  archaeological investigations sponsored by the BBC  had demonstrated that the hill was not, as had previously been believed, a burial mound, nor did it have any buriel remains connected with its antiquity. Dames surveys the history of earlier digs at the hill, then uses comparative archaeological evidence, astronomy, ethnography, folklore, mythology, mathematics and place-name research to argue that the shape of the site is designed to represent the pregnant Belly of the Goddess.  

As with the ditch/henges that surround stone circles, Silbury would have been at certain times of the year surrounded by a human made body of water, which Dames believed not only was fundamental to the "temples" that these ceremonial sites represented, but in the case of Silbury, actually formed the shape of a squatting (birthing) woman.  He believes that Silbury was a sacred mound that was part of the Avebury ceremonial landscape.  He likens the "Goddess form" of the henge surrounding Silbury to similar pregnant Goddess sculptures and icons found throughout Europe during the Neolithic.  


As a child, I had great conversations with flowers and squirrels.  And, of course, my cats. Even earthworms were not immune to my words of concern for them.  Much later, I read avidly of the Findhorn Community, or Perelandra, or the Sirious Community,  the conversations members of these communities had  between the Devas of the plant kingdoms and those who came to learn and grow amazing vegetables, healing herbs, and magical gardens in conscious collaboration with them.  

 We need to learn to "speak with the Earth" again.   This impresses itself on me again, and again.  Not in some removed, abstract, distant way, but intimately, beneath our rooted feet, in our creative hands rooted in a great collaboration with the planet that stands aside, protects,  and at best shepards  the land.  That releases for good the outmoded concept of "domination" of nature.  Humanity must become friends again with the family of planetary life, the "Covenant" of the Garden.  I believe that our next  evolution as a planetary humanity is not out in space, but right here, on the Earth.   There will be many new innovations, but there will also be many, many re-discoveries of what was once known and understood.  This is indisputable  in the face of climate change,  and a technology that is advancing much more rapidly than we are evolving as a global humanity  to meet it. 

So where does religion come into this?  To be honest, I am not a religious person, although I have an abiding interest in  and experience of spirituality.  But I am a mythologist, and religions are founded upon myths, upon world and creation stories, which are ever revised and co-opted throughout history within  different cultures.  

The change that must occur within western religious systems is that we cannot continue with a  patriarchal, tribal  alpha male centered mythos.  Nor  can we continue to worship deities that are founded upon ancient warrior sky gods -  wifeless, daughterless, motherless, preoccupied with with dominance,  however they are packaged.  We can't continue with religions that are "Renunciate" either, not if we wish to make our way back to a "conversation" with the land that sustains us.  Dissociative religions that teach that divinity and sanctity lie somewhere other than here,  whether that be conceived of as Heaven, Paradise,  some elusive "Enlightenment" or Nirvana,  or, as various New Age groups teach, that life is "not real", and hence we must reject its "unreality". ..... will not serve our children, or all the many other forms of consciousness that are co-evolving on planet Earth with us. 

Enough.  It is time for the  Return of the Goddess.  Not as neolithic peoples understood Her, but as people of the 21st Century urgently need to understand Her.     Not as some hierarchical deity that replaces a tyrannical, misogynist  sky god with an equally "dominating" and merciless  matriarch -  but as, scientists James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis demonstrated in their Gaia Theor,  the Body of the Earth itself, which we are living IN.  Not ON, but IN.  And what we do to Her, we are doing to ourselves.  

 I respond deeply to Sharon Blackie's call to women to  "rise rooted" .  For those of us who have been rooting about in the shards and buried roots of prehistory and mythology........while we cannot really know what the ancients did or believed, we can sense it with our feet, divining rods,  instincts and imaginations, and (gnow)  that it is something that points toward a different way of being.  One we can invent, re-invent, and re-member ourselves into.


REFERENCES:

Blackie, Sharon,  If Women Rose Rooted:  The Journey to Authenticity and Belonging  2016, September Publishing 

The Gatekeepers Annual Conference, “Dreaming the Land” November 2018, Pewsey, Wiltshire, UK..   https://gatekeeper.org.uk/2018/05/dreaming-the-land-annual-conference-2018

3 Estes, Clarissa Pinkola,  Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype,  November 27th 1996,   Ballantine Books

4 Williamson, Robin, “Five Denials on Merlin’s  Grave” from A Glint At The Kindling & Selected Writings 1980-83    

https://youtu.be/iuRUVzqAfgk (to hear the performance)

http://www.songlyrics.com/robin-williamson/five-denials-on-merlin-s-grave-lyrics/  (lyrics)

 Gimbutas, Marija,  The Language of the Goddess,  (1989)  (and other writings), see also Old Europe Excavations and Kurgan Theory,   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marija_Gimbutas

6 Dames, Michael,  The Silbury Treasure: The Great Goddess Rediscovered November 20th 1978 by Thames & Hudson

7 Findhorn Community of Scotland: https://www.findhorn.org/

8 Sirius Community of Massachusetts:  http://siriuscommunity.org/ 

9 Perelandra Center & Michaela Wright:   https://www.perelandra-ltd.com/ 

10 Lovelock, James and Margulis, Lynn ,   The Gaia Hypothesis AKA  Gaia Theory, Earth Sciences, first published 1972  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaia_hypothesis

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Happy May Day!

 http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/47747000/jpg/_47747661_3545725022_de4f589a17_o.jpg

Happy May Day to all!

Since Beltane (May 1) is an auspicious day with a truly ancient precedent, I can't resist a bit of his & herstory to honor the day, and a few May Pole pictures.   May the  RITES OF SPRING quicken the weary sap of all, may you find a bonfire to dance around, may the May Queen bless you!

The origins of the May Queen,  and agrarian celebration of the Rites of Spring throughout Merrie Old England and Europe are very ancient indeed, and probably go  back to the "sacred marriage", whereby a couple, representing the young Goddess and God, would make love in the fields, encouraging and participating in the fertility of the world. 

In villages throughout England, a procession would bear flowers, all the while capering around the new Maypole chosen for the celebration. Only unmarried girls would be allowed to plant the phallic Maypole into the fertile Earth........a lovely dance and ritual based upon pagan practices of sympathetic magic.   In other words, "the world is waking up and making love, so we too wake up and make love, and all will bear fruit".

The planting of the May Pole, and the union of the May Queen with the May King (or the Green Man) probably has its origins in very ancient traditions of the Sacred Marriage, going back as far as Sumeria and the marriage of Inanna and Dumuzi - or probably farther even than that, into unknown origins in prehistory.   In ancient times, the spring ritual union of the King with the priestess (representing the Earth Mother) was a very significant rite; in later times, even in Christian Europe, church morality may have been suspended for Beltane, as couples went out into the fields to participate in the ripening fertility.

This celebration of the fecundity of Spring no doubt made many of the early churchmen nervous. In the late 19th century,  May 1 became associated with the growing labor movement, and since then many countries have celebrated May Day as International Workers' Day.  In 1955, Pope Pius XII instituted May 1 as the "feast of St. Joseph the Worker" with the intention of emphasizing the spiritual aspect of labor.........I'm sure the advent of this secondary meaning to May Day came as a belated relief to the Catholic Church, bypassing the phenomenon of sexuality altogether.

For myself, I think the re-sacralization of sexuality, in tandem with the blossoming of the world, that was the original meaning of May Day.....is a wonderful Holy Day, and am often surprised by how few people today know of it's origins.  This  has to do with the de-sacralization of sexuality that has followed closely behind the monotheistic Judeo-Christian-Islamic God - who apparently does not approve of sex, or the raucous  turning of the natural year that becomes spring's fertility.   Not a bad argument for polytheism, where, when there is a multiplicity of Gods and Goddesses, things are a bit more tolerant, people could pick and choose their Deities.

Traditionally, the Maypole was hung with garlands and streamers. Dancers took hold of the ends in a weaving courtship dance.
http://i71.photobucket.com/albums/i121/CopiousSilverBirch/Maypole.jpg

Boys would dance in one direction and the girls in another, and so flower-clad ribbons were woven around the pole in the form of a braid. There might also be a procession led by Jack O' the Green (a variant of the Green Man), fantastically arrayed with flowers, leaves and ribbons, and followed by Morris Dancers with bells jangling on their ankles. Last, there would be the choosing of the May Queen.
 

http://www.mauiceltic.com/img/MaypoleDance.jpg

  

Flora was the Roman Goddess of Flowers and it’s not surprising that her festival was held on the first day of May, which also has a lot to do with the May Day of European lore. The May Dance festivals of Europe have many of their origins in the ancient “Feast of Flora”, the ecstatic Roman Rites of Spring. 
"Whitman says, "And your very flesh shall be a great poem."............That is the message I'd like to offer on Beltane.  Our flesh is a symbol, a microcosm of the earth we inhabit. Our flesh is what connects us to the seasons; it is where we feel the cold of winter, and -- more and more in the Northern Hemisphere -- the warmth of the sun. It is in and through our flesh that we experience our emotions. We feel love in the flesh; anger in the flesh; exuberance in the flesh. The body is a treasure trove of sensation, and our sensations inform our temporal existence. Sensation may not be all of what life is, and the experiences of the flesh may be subjective and passing. But subjectivity and impermanence do not make a thing meaningless. Flowers bloom for but a short time, and when they do they are beautiful.  We bloom, too. 

We are a body full of color and fragrance. We are a cycle of life unto ourselves, and we have good cause to celebrate our body -- our flesh -- for we have no knowledge of what is to come beyond this moment, this life, this body. We are here, alive, and we can, on the day and in the season of Beltane, choose to celebrate the life that we are living. We can choose to honor our flesh, and honor the flesh of others.  (What a world we would live in if the flesh was not seen as evil, but rather a manifestation of something holy and worthy of respect. I wonder if violence would be so commonplace if we recognized the flesh as sacred.)

Love the body you are in! Love your flesh! Celebrate this High Day with a fullness of being!!"
 Teo Bishop on Beltane, 5-1-2013




Tuesday, April 20, 2021

"Our Lady of the Shards"..............Remembering Buried Lives

"The Memory Keeper" and "Our Lady of the Forgotten Midwives" (2019)

For quite a long time now I go into the studio faithfully just about every day, and I sit there, sometimes I fool around on the computer, mostly I look at all the terrifying blank white  canvases or the neatly stacked bags of clay or the big pile of leather I have next to the plaster casts of faces, also neatly stacked and displayed on a shelf ...... then I go get some coffee, pat the cats, pull some weeds,  check my email,  and somehow, the day is pretty much gone and I haven't done anything.  I wish I could say that I am an engine of new ideas and creativity these days, but I am not.  I am, perhaps, dormant, incubational, etc.  More of my own words coming back to haunt me.  

"Our Lady of the Shards" (2013)

So, at least,  I can look back at this rather huge body of work(s) that surround me (and if I were wealthy I would have a gallery again, where I and others would have  badly needed space to share our art, and we could do the teaching and community  creation that an arts district provides)..... but, I don't live in a place where art districts are much valued, except by real estate developers.   Tucson's so called "Art and Warehouse District", having once been lively, should now be called the "Fancy Wine Bar and Pretentious Restaurant" district, most of the galleries being now extinct.  Well.  If wishes were fishes.................

The Memory Keeper I (2018)

I don't know about other artists, but I always have about 3 to 5 series of works going at a time, and can't really say where one series ends and another begins.  Sometimes they begin with me just playing with a shape or a color, and the work itself tells me where it wants to go.  Magical, that experience of "Flow".  Stories themselves don't have an end, they just find new expressions -  they become a "trilogy", or a side character demands attention because it has developed a voice, or there is an undiscovered country beyond the borders that has sent out an exploration party, etc.  That is true in other art forms as well.

"The Weaver" (2018)


The Bone Goddess (2018)
I really love my continuing  series of ceramic ICONS "Our Lady of the Shards"  that evolved when I found myself staring at a pile of  beautiful shards of broken pots from the Clay Coop where I sometimes work.  They were half buried in the mound of recycled clay, and I thought of  
how archeologists might feel, sorting through the buried fragments  of lives and cultures  long lost, long buried, long forgotten.  Piecing shards together like a jigsaw puzzle to find the stories and see again the hands that made those artifacts?   How would it be, to see the faces of the forgotten rising from the buried past?  And, for me,  particularly the voices of the women, silenced in the long advance of "his-story" - the forgotten Midwives who brought our ancestors into the world, the Wise Women and the Weavers and Spinners of lives, the Goddesses cast aside in patriarchal monotheism?   The  tangible and communicative Spirits of Place, the "Numina", rising from the buried places, from the dry and broken soil of desert arroyos where they continue to sustain us,  or revealed by a storm or a sudden flood.  The Memory Keepers who keep the essential and sustaining stories, the "Water from Another Time"  that generates and informs the present?  Whether buried intentionally or not, these faces rise from the dreaming Earth, from the clay and the stone,  their eyes opening as they wake again. 

"Hecate" (2019)

What might they look like?  What might they tell us as we plunge into a future that seems so  uncertain in the face of ecological and social crisis?   I have been making works about "surfacing" for a long time.   Along with my colleagues I reflect that some of us are  "spiritual archeologists".  Faces, Myths, Presence:  surfacing from among the shards.  




"The Black Madonna" (2019)
 
"Our Lady of the Waters" (2014)


Saturday, April 17, 2021

She Who Hears the Cries of the World

Mana Youngbear as "White Tara" in Restoring the Balance (2004)

        https://soundcloud.com/user-972033003/white-tara-by-lauren-raine

SOUND POEM BY LAUREN RAINE (2019)

White Tara is the manifestation of complete Compassion, She is the Bodlhissatva who will assist the suffering of the world, assist us to move through the suffering to love, and the reealization that we are not alone, that we all belong to the great Circle.  Quon Yin, Tara, Mother Mary.............. all manifestations or archetypes of the Divine Mother, and the expansion of unconditional compassion and love.  I wrote this spoken word poem in 1997, when I was going through  loss of a home/dream/community that eventually led me to create a new life on the other side of the continent.  

I reflect, as I try to recall the experience from which this poem arose, that the opening of the heart that grief and loss can bring can also be a path into profound evolutionary change, but in my experience, to grow one must first go through it, one must experience the pain and the loss.

Which is something very fearful to do, and can take a long time to do.  Because the heart does not know or reason in sequential time like the intellect does! Having just lost a beloved cat, I am experiencing this right now.  The emotional body, it seems to me, suffers all the losses at once as each loss arises.  And the heart also partakes in a greater  Mystery that somehow knows all beings are One, remembering all experiences of  love and belonging within the Circle dance of life.  Grief can be a great teacher.

 "I went to meet that savage creature I have run from,  lifetime after lifetime,

 the shape within the shadows, huge, a creature of smoke and bared fangs. "

This line arose from a dream I had many times, in which I was being pursued by a vampire.  Always it almost got me, or was a shadowy presence just behind me, and I would wake up. I suppose Jungians would call this the "denial of the shadow" or some such.    I was always too afraid to confront the creature that pursued me in those dreams, because I was sure it would kill me.  Finally I had a dream in which I became tired of running, and a I stopped to face the pursuing monster.   And when, at last, the horror embraced me it turned into a young boy,  vulnerable, with tears in his eyes. 



   


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Saraswati Synchronicity (and a poem)


I've been having a lot of synchronicities lately, and sometimes I feel like my guides or higher self or even the pixies are trying to tell me something.  Sometimes, as anyone who studies synchronicities knows, they are rather funny, sometimes they are very helpful, and sometimes they seem like a riddle I need time to figure out, if I ever do.

I recently purchased a book by Bernard Beitman MD on synchronicity called Connecting with Coincidence - the New Science for Using Synchronicity and Serendipity in Your Life.    I learned about the book from a Blog I follow on Synchronicity and Consciousness by Trish and Rob MacGregor - I have, over the years, shared some of my synchronicities with them.  I am somewhat embarroused to say that when I encounter a new non-fiction book, I often will open it at random, reading parts before I commit to reading the book from the beginning.  Which is exactly what I did with this book, opening to a section called "Internet Angels".   

The first sentence I read was "Raine believed an outside agency was helping her to find what she needed.  Her need was helping to create the response shee sought from someone tuned to wanting to share and help." 

I thought "Huh, someone with the same name as me."  I read on, and then realized that it was me!

"Author Lauren Raine wrote, 'I've often had the experience, especially with the Internet, of having information I needed come to me.  I even am not surprised any more, having faith in some kind of invisible means of support.  I remember in 2000 when I was working on descriptions of Goddesses for my book, receiving several emails out of the blue, from someone I didn't know, that discussed eloquently the Goddess Saraswati.  Which was information I needed.  I still have no idea of who that person was who sent me those articles, or why, or even where they got my email address from.' " (page 139)

I had completely forgotten about that, but it's true that often I received help with my Goddess projects that did seem to come from "an invisible means of support".  I must have emailed the story to the MacGregors,  and they shared it with Dr. Beitman.  But what are the odds of  opening my new book to the exact place where my own 20 year old story of synchronicity is?

So, I have been thinking about it ever since, and felt like sharing it here. Specifically I've been thinking about Saraswati,  Her presence in Bali which I strongly felt when I was there, the masks I've made for Her over the years, and what gifts the Goddess brings to those who ask.

Saraswati is the Hindu Goddess of Art, Language, Communication, Knowledge, Learning,  and creative Inspiration.  She is often portrayed with instruments in her hands, demonstrating the tools of art and expression.  In India the Goddess is sometimes invoked at the birth of a child,  and a bit of honey is placed on the infant's tongue so he or she will be "blessed with good speech".  When I was in Bali (which is also when I wrote the below poem)  I understood that Saraswati was very important to the Balinese people.  I remember once seeing a flock of geese making their way up a street,  with a whole line of mopeds behind them.  When I asked a Balinese friend why no one moved them out of the way, she responded:  "Sacred to Saraswati".  That was apparently answer enough.

According to Wikipedia, Saraswati is:

"Originally associated with the great river known as Saraswati..........(the name) also means "she who has water"  and  "she who possesses speech". It is also a Sanskrit composite word of surasa-vati (सरसु+अति) which means "one with plenty of water".  The word Saraswati appears both as a reference to a river and as a significant deity in the Rigveda. In initial passages, the word refers to the Sarasvati River .................the Rigveda describes Saraswati as the best of mothers, of rivers, of goddesses."

".......Her importance grows in Vedas composed after Rigveda and in Brahmanas, and the word evolves in its meaning from "waters that purify", to "that which purifies", to "vach (speech) that purifies", to "knowledge that purifies", and ultimately into a spiritual concept of a goddess that embodies knowledge, arts, music, melody, muse, language, rhetoric, eloquence, creative work and anything whose flow purifies the essence and self of a person. In Upanishads and Dharma Sastras, Saraswati is invoked to remind the reader to meditate on virtue, virtuous emoluments, the meaning and the very essence of one's activity, one's action."

I can't help but think that that provides an excellent description of "Sacred Arts",  which might be viewed (also, along with geese or swans) as "Sacred to Saraswati".  I reflect also that what profoundly impressed me when I was in Bali was the presence, and practice, of art absolutely everywhere, within everyone's lives.  Not in any western sense - all arts there were done as a religious offering, as communal and devotional. Everyone is engaged in some way, whether that is participating in the music or masked dramas, as dancers, making the elaborate offerings for rituals and celebrations, painting.......the making of art is everywhere, a part of daily life.  The Balinese have no idea of the "great alienated artist" and they have no discourse about the "meaning of art".   I remember again what a revelation that was to me,  and that also later inspired me to offer my masks as "Temple Masks for the Goddess"  when I returned from Bali. 

One other word about the "River Saraswati":  there is no actual Saraswati River  in India - the great purifying river of Saraswati is rather a spiritual or metaphorical river that sustains the soul rather than the body.  To bathe in, or seek pilgrimage to, the river Saraswati (like the pilgrimages made to the actual river Ganges) is to be purified, to be given highest inspiration and vision, and to join with the great beauty and mystery of life.  So it seems to me. 

The poem below I wrote when I was in Bali, actually, when I stood looking across a valley at the great volcano Kintamani.  A body of water was beneath it.  For a long time I used a false Balinese name as the author, because it has a Balinese "voice".  But it came from my heart, and my response to this "Land of Saraswati".


Love is Saraswati's river

flowing through our lands.
She will feed the rice fields,
She will accept our woven offerings.

She will bear our ashes
and the fires of Kintamani
to the sea.

Formless, she neither takes nor gives;
we impose these significances
upon the flowers we cast in her.

From birth to death,
Saraswati's river sustains us to the sea.

                                        (2000) 


Monday, March 29, 2021

"The Forest Man" - Real Green Men for the 21st Century

"The Green Man" from 1997 Rites of Spring ritual 

The Green Man is an almost universal archetype of the renewal of life in the spring, and it is, of course, beloved by contemporary neo-Pagans as well, symbolizing manhood as re-newer and re-generator instead of as "warrior", which so often becomes authoritarian  destroyer in a patriarchal, dominator, "alpha male"  based culture (and this includes "dominating" nature, instead of working with nature).  

The Green Man, by whatever name, is so very important for our time, and in considering this, I went looking for "living Green Men".  And boy (excuse the pun) did I find them!  What I learned gave me extraordinary hope, and a vision of the power of the Green Man (and Green Women as well) to bring rebirth to the land and  to the future, if we, as a global humanity,  can only listen to what these contemporary Green Men have dedicated their lives to.

Below is a wonderful documentary that I ran across almost by accident, about a man in India who single handedly, and with extraordinary dedication, planted a thriving forest, beginning his work in 1979.  His story began my search for other "Forest Men".   To watch and listen is to be not only inspired, but to feel hope.  Because I believe that this is what the future civilization will have to look like, these technologies of love, sustainability, Earth based science and spirituality, along with new and old ways for human beings to cooperate and get along with each other.  I believe, instead of vast space stations and digital robots and endless wars, the future will have to look more like a forest, or a garden, if there is to be a future civilization at all.  

And the message Jadav Payeng (and the others I have, through the grace of UTube, been able to share here) carries is that renewal can happen when humans become stewards of the land, and let Nature do what nature does, assisting in simple ways, like planting trees, or allowing environmental diversity to be protected enough to return. These regenerated forests and deserts truly offer us hope.

I am reminded of a book by Alan Weisman called THE WORLD WITHOUT US, in which the author researched areas around the world that had become abandoned or off limits to people, like the neutral or demilitarized zone between North and South Korea - and the extraordinary renewal that took place in such environments. There was also a 2008 television documentary called "Life After People" that explored the same theme.

Since, as I mentioned in the previous post, I can't think of what to say of late, I will let these people speak on this Blog instead. They are true Green Men.

Jadav Payeng, Majuli Island, India

 https://youtu.be/HkZDSqyE1do

Hugh Wilson, Hinewai Nature Reserve, New Zealand



David Bamberger, Selah Preserve, Texas



David Milarch, Redwood Forests of California and Oregon



John D. Liu*,  Re-greening the desert



(for a documentary by John D. Liu, see also




 


 And, of course, Tucson's own 
Brad Lancaster:  Water Harvesting in Arizona