Friday, September 7, 2012

Butterfly Woman Synchronicity

 "Butterfly Woman mends the erroneous idea that transformation is only for the tortured, the saintly, or only for the fabulously strong. The Self need not carry mountains to transform. A little is enough. A little goes a long way. A little changes much. The fertilizing force replaces the moving of mountains.  Butterfly Maiden pollinates the souls of the earth: It is easier that you think, she says. She is shaking her feather fan, and she’s hopping, for she is spilling spiritual pollen all over the people who are there, Native Americans, little children, visitors, everyone. This is the translator of the instinctual, the fertilizing force, the mender, the rememberer of old ideas."

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, "Women Who Run With The Wolves
I had a strange synchronicity that has personal meaning for me, although I am not sure I can convey it well to others.  When things like this happen I consider them not to be dismissed as  if i get that "ah ha" feeling. The power of the message has to do with what is going on in one's life at the time, as well as one's personal symbol system.  Interpreting synchronicities is much like interpreting dreams to me, both universal and very personal.  I've written about this before. This one, for me, is a reminder.

Click to preview bookIn 2003 I started gathering materials for my book about the Masks of the Goddess, their travels throughout the U.S., and the stories and people who told them and danced them. I was writing about two masks, the  amazing story of the Cornmother mask, and another mask I made, Butterfly Woman, based on readings of Clarissa Pinkola Estes about the Hopi.  I remembered that Christy Salo  (whose story is below) told me that she had, in the course of gathering materials for her performance as Selu, met a Hopi woman who was visiting Isis Oasis, and that she had given her some 300 year old sacred cornmeal to bless her performance.  

I wrote to Katherine** in 2003.  She has worked with Hopi elders and activists, and founded a non-profit in San Diego called "Touch The Earth Foundation" back in 1993.  I hoped she would tell me more about why she felt moved to offer that corn meal, and also hoping she would tell me about the Hopi Butterfly Woman.  I never heard from her, and the book was eventually finished. And then, out of the blue, almost 10 years later, she answers me!

 (I have to add that I just closed my AOL email account, and if the email had come a month from now it would have bounced back to her.)

Reading Katherines words about her foundation work just today (I knew nothing about her other than that she gave corn to Christy and was Hopi) I was surprised to see that she wrote about "rainbow hoop" work with diversity groups - and her  logo is at right.  That concept of the "rainbow corn", like the coming "rainbow tribe"  was why I painted a rainbow on my mask.....but until this month, I have never seen her logo or read anything by her.   I feel heartened by this, because it remembers me to the interwoven threads that connect us all beneath the surfaces of things. It encourages me in mythic work, and that of my colleagues, women and men.  And I thank the Goddess, in all of Her many forms, for weaving these messages through us all.

Corn Mother (Selu to the Cherokee) sustains us. Butterfly Woman  bears the important job of pollinating the corn so that it will bear fruit and feed and sustain the next generation......(traditionally she was performed by an old woman, because it was believed that a woman with experience and "weight" was suited to do the job.  I like that....)

Butterflies are not only ephemeral creatures that embody the perfect metaphor for transformation. They are  the final life stage of the caterpillar, responsible for laying the eggs that will ensure future generations of butterflies. They are  generators of the future, because as Pollinators  they must also see to it that not only caterpillars, but many other kinds of life are able to have a future. Just as diminishing populations of honey bees threaten the food crops, so too are these creatures potent. 

What is the pollen?  The pollen that generates new civilizations, and new paradigms......that pollen is made of stories.
"And here too come visitors to the dance, some of whom are very starved of their geno-myths, detached from the spiritual placenta. They have forgotten their ancient Gods. They come to watch the ones who have not forgotten."
In  "Women Who Run With the Wolves", Estes tells of  the Butterfly Dancer, slow, sure, with her traditional tokens of empowerment.
"Her heavy body and her very skinny legs made her look like a hopping spider wrapped in a tamale. She hops on one foot and then on the other. She waves her feather fan to and fro. She is The Butterfly arrived to strengthen the weak. She is that which most think of as not strong: age, the butterfly, the feminine."
 "She is La voz mitol√≥gica" Estes reminds us, the "Mythic Voice". 

What's a mask?  A mask is a way to invite a persona, or to "invoke" (join with) an archetypal being, to  express within oneself and within the collective experience of ritual and theatre.  In the early days of theatre, whether in Greece or Japan,  all actors used masks.  To wear a mask that is deeply archetypal, such as the mask of a Goddess or God or an animal power (as contemporary participants did with the masks in my "Masks of the Goddess" collection) is, within indigenous traditions, to "bring the deity to Earth" to bless, prophesy, and instruct, to tell the sacred stories and legends, and to enliven and "seed" the imaginations of those present.  
So back to my book about masks, and my 9 year old email to  Katherine,  just now answered.
So here's the email.........

--Original Message-----
From: katherine cheshire
To: Laurenraine ; kc4bepeace
Sent: Thu, Aug 30, 2012 1:36 pm
Subject: Re: Butterfly Woman/Selu

Dear I do remember you. I even remember the hosts of the gathering were a tad miffed at my blessing the spirit of the Mask and your lovely
dance.  I can not address your issues at the time as i am off to to
South Dakota at Crazy Horse, When i return let us re-connect and in the
mean time rest assured i will help you if i can.
Blessings and Balance,
In Peace, 
Dee See Mana-Ma
Katherine Cheshire

Original message:
From: ""
Sent: Monday, December 1, 2003 1:57 PM
Subject: Butterfly Woman/Selu
Dear Katherine,

I know you don't remember me, but I met you in the Spring of 2002 when I was organizing, with others,  an event with my Masks of the Goddess in Oakland.  I write for two reasons:  one is gratitude, because you gifted a dancer with some sacred corn, which was used, as a blessing, in a performance devoted to Selu, Corn Mother.  I take the liberty of copying below this quite magical story, which is included in the book I'm writing.

The other is that I have made a Butterfly Woman mask.  It was inspired by Clarissa Pinkola Estes story of the Butterfly Dancer among the Hopi.  I know nothing about the story of this Goddess.  I know you are a very busy woman, but I thought I might as well ask if you have any interest in writing something about Her story, or meaning?  I have no publisher as yet, but am submitting my book, and have good faith that it will find a publisher, and I can offer contributors publication, exposure, and referral when that happens.

With gratitude for what you contributed to the magic of our Dance,

Lauren Raine

Excerpted from "CORNMOTHER"..........
"Indigenous people have always known corn metaphorically in two or more of the four senses, mother, enabler, transformer, healer; that I use throughout this weaving.  Although early European settlers took the grain only, there is evidence in America today that the Corn-Mother has taken barriers of culture and language in stride and intimated her spirit to those who will listen, even if they don't know her story or call her by name."

   Marilou Awiakta, "The Corn-Mother Incognito.  Or Is She?"
   from SELU - Seeking the Corn-Mother's Wisdom

Corn is the staff of life for the people of the Americas, and Corn Mother has many names.
Among the Cherokee, Corn Mother is Selu.  Selu's very body is the sustaining grain.
The story of Selu, like the myth of Demeter/Persephone, is the death and resurrection cycle of the grain mother.  But it is also, from the wisdom of the Cherokee, about understanding the reciprocal nature of being in right relationship with the Earth.

Selu's sons, being ignorant, fearful young men, discover her secret.  Selu knows this, and nevertheless compassionately teaches them to preserve the seed corn, her very essence. 
Selu's immature sons witness a mystery they are not able to understand, and make arrogant assumptions that bring disaster - the same human immaturity expressed by the forces of modernism that today bring destruction to the environment.  The  Mysteries of the Earth Mother are shared through reverence, cooperation, and a willingness to listen.  In loving generosity,  Selu offers her children another chance,  to atone,  to bring themselves back into alignment with the natural order.  Perhaps, even now, Selu compassionately holds out to us the opportunity to weave our understanding back into "good relationship" with the elemental and diverse intelligences that are the vast web of life we participate within, the past, and the future we co-create.     

Indigenous cultures understand that we are engaged in a quiet, mythic, and miraculous Conversation with nature.  There is a message in the sudden flight of a bird, an answer to their questions in the vision granted by a sacred place, or synchronicities that guide the way to an important revelation.  At times, we are "seeded", we are generously given kernels to nurture us, and to pass on.  I like to think the rainbow mask of Corn Mother was such a seed from the hand of  Selu, graciously instructing us on how to dance.

I had given masks to choreographer Manna Youngbear, who was directing a ritual performance at a theatre in Oakland.  Several weeks before her event, I attended a group meditation.  As I sat cross-legged on the floor, I found myself absorbed by a vision that had nothing to do with the ceremony I was participating in.  When I closed my eyes I saw a Native American woman wearing a deerskin costume. She was dancing with an ear of corn in each hand.  I opened my eyes to a room full of meditating people, then closed my eyes to again see her dancing to a chant I could almost hear, ears of multi-colored corn shining in her hands.  When I returned to my studio, I made a mask, and placed ears of corn on each side of the face.

A friend had just given me a little prism, and as I worked on my new mask, it cast lovely rainbows around the studio.  I had been reading about Black Elk, the great  Lakota shaman.  As a young boy, he foresaw the destruction of his people, the "hoop" of the Lakota nation.  But he also prophesized a future "hoop of the nations":  a great circle, composed of many interlocking circles. A  Rainbow Tribe encompassing people of all colors.  It seemed to me that Corn Mother, who nurtures all of Her diverse children on Turtle Island, was at the very center of Black Elk's vision, and so I painted a rainbow on the mask's forehead.

"When I held up an ear of calico corn"  Cherokee poet Marilou Awiakta wrote, "we would think about this wisdom of the Corn Mother.  How the different kernels are ranged around the cob, no one more important than the other.  How each kernel respects the space of those on either side, yet remains itself - red, black, white, yellow or combinations of those colors.  How the Corn-Mother, in Her physical being, exemplifies unity in diversity, "from the many one" - democracy."

Just before her performance, I learned there was one dancer in Manna's cast who had no mask.  Christy, who had created a dance for Green Corn Woman.  Now she had a mask - and when Christy danced, she blessed the audience with corn meal she received from a native American teacher.

Interview with Christy Salo (2002):

I made a bouquet of corn for Manna and Stephen's wedding, with a necklace of rainbow beads on it I bought at a garage sale.  I used this same bouquet to dance Green Corn Woman at our performance.

The wedding was at a retreat center in Geyserville, California.  After the ceremony, I met a woman walking about the property.  She told me she really didn't know why she was there!  She had been heading to Oakland, and felt an urge to turn off the road.  When she drove by the sign for the center, she impulsively pulled in as well.  And there she was, in a lovely place with a wedding in progress.  As we talked, I recognized she was the woman I had bought the rainbow beads from, the same beads that were decorating Manna's bouquet, even as we spoke!  She was a touchstone on my "journey to Cornmother".

When Manna cast her show, she asked if I wanted to dance Corn Mother.  Manna is part Cherokee, so perhaps that was what she was thinking about.  I had been making collages with corn in them for years, and it seemed right.  We didn't have a mask for the Corn Goddess, but I was inspired to create a dance anyway.  I  knew very little about the Native American Corn Mother.  I intended to visit the library, but a friend turned up with a wonderful book called BROTHER CROW, SISTER CORN that was full of indigenous corn legends.  I also stopped at a used bookstore, and opening a rather esoteric book at random, discovered I was looking at an article about the Corn Maiden.  I was further stunned to find it was illustrated by Vera Louise Drysdale.  Vera was the first woman I met, years ago, when I lived in Sedona.  I was ready to begin.

Corn Mother among the Cherokee is called Selu, a funny  synchronicity,  as my own last name is Salo.  I felt I was following an invisible thread - and the feeling of familiarity continued as I created a costume.  I was looking for materials I associated with Corn Mother, and a few days later, Manna left me a message. "Christy" she said, "There is a Hopi woman at Isis Oasis you need to meet!  She gave me some 300 year old corn meal to give to you!"

I felt the spirit of Corn Woman encouraging me!  I thought about what She personally meant to me. Corn Mother is about the wealth that comes from the work of forgiveness.  How can we be fed and sustained, how can we create peace, if we cannot learn the lessons of forgiveness,  if we cannot learn tolerance for our differences?  That is the beginning place for the cooperation we will need in order to evolve.

I've always conceived of the Rainbow as actually being a circle.  Half of the rainbow disappears into the ground, into an underworld realm, where it exists beneath the Earth, hidden, but present.  Like the Corn Mother.  And aren't we all Her children?  Especially in America, where we have come together with our mixed bloodlines:  we all have "rainbow blood".  I believe our challenge is to understand our true relationship to each other,  to widen our vision to see the future Black Elk prophesied, the creation of a Rainbow Nation.

We received the new mask around the time of the lunar eclipse, in May of 2002, and decided at that auspicious time to consecrate it with some dried corn.  As we did, a flash of light went off in the room!  At first we thought it was a light bulb that blew out, but looking around, realized there were no electric lights that had been on in that room.  We looked at each other amazed,  and we felt the presence of Corn Mother.

**Touch The Earth Foundation was founded in 1992 to provide education and instruction in cross-cultural customs and beliefs.

"When we open a door, such as a “Medicine Wheel”, we must be mindful that the spirits are of our pure intentions; they are gifted and hosted with corn meal or tobacco in some parts of the world. Then, after the ceremony, give thanks and close the door behind you so mischief will not change your intentions of Universal Balance and Peace. Think of  Brothers from Tibet, they often make Mandalas and often they take many days, even months, to accomplish. And after the ceremony the prayers and divine message and Mirror to the Universe is destroyed and returned to Mother Earth as the Reflection is already in the other worlds. We live in the world of temporality and so it must be destroyed so the intention will not be misused or become stagnant." 

Catherine Cheshire, from Global Meditations (2004)

1 comment:

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

I think of you, Lauren, every time I see a butterfly. To me, they are the most transformative of creatures, magnificent in the instant you see them, flitting about, wings luminescent in the sunlight, and then suddenly they are gone. I would love to see one of your mask performances.