Friday, November 22, 2019

UNDER LAND - The Rooted Intelligence of Trees and the World Below

"Earth Icon IV" Lauren Raine

“Deep time” is the chronology of the under land. Deep time is the dizzying expanses of Earth history  that stretch away from the present moment. Deep time is measured in units that humble the human instant: epochs and aeons, instead of minutes and years.   Deep time is kept by stone, ice,  stalactites, seabed sediments and the drift of tectonic plates."
I have always been fascinated with "the World Below", and many of my personal Icons that I make over and over and over again seem to be about roots, being rooted, entwined, webbed, linked.  Looking at my many "rooted" images I see that truly my "deep self" does not seek to leave the  Earth, rather, I seek to go into the Earth, to participate more deeply with all the Beings, visible and invisible, that I share this em-bodied, in-carnate  life with.  Hands represent the creative power, as well as what we "touch" the Earth and each other with.  Eyes represent  the intelligence of nature, the Eyes of Gaia, and also, the innate intuitive consciousness within us that allows us to "see" a greater belonging.   

Here is a painting I did a long time ago, the winter of  1993 to be exact.  It's name is "Past Desire, Hope or Chance I Rest in You a Seed".  I have always loved this painting, which to me is about the sanctity of our roots in the alchemy of the planet, as a part of the Earth Herself, the cycles of arising and falling.  

One of my favorite online journals is Brainpickings - this article, summarizing and extracting from a  book by Robert Macfarlane that eloquently explores the Underland, the great mystery of life just below our feet, ,  begged to be archived where I would remember to come back to it, again and again..........where better but in my journal/blog? 

WelcomeFrom 11/21/2019 edition of newsletter by Maria Popova.

Relationship Lessons from Trees

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way,” William Blake wrote in his most beautiful letter. “As a man is, so he sees.” Walt Whitman saw trees as the wisest of teachers; Hermann Hesse as our mightiest consolation for mortality. Wangari Maathai rooted in them a colossal act of resistance that earned her the Nobel Peace Prize. Poets have elegized their wisdom, artists have drawn from their form resonance with our human emotions, scientists are only just beginning to uncover their own secret language.
Robert Macfarlane — a rare enchanter who entwines the scientific and the poetic in his lyrical explorations of the natural world — offers a crowning curio in the canon of wisdom on human life drawn from trees in a passage from Underland: A Deep Time Journey (public library) — his magnificent soul-guided, science-lit tour of the hidden universe beneath our feet.

"Touching"  Lauren Raine

Macfarlane writes:
2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngLying there among the trees, despite a learned wariness towards anthropomorphism, I find it hard not to imagine these arboreal relations in terms of tenderness, generosity and even love: the respectful distance of their shy crowns, the kissing branches that have pleached with one another, the unseen connections forged by root and hyphae between seemingly distant trees. I remember something Louis de Bernières has written about a relationship that endured into old age: “we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.” As someone lucky to live in a long love, I recognize that gradual growing-towards and subterranean intertwining; the things that do not need to be said between us, the unspoken communication which can sometimes tilt troublingly towards silence, and the sharing of both happiness and pain. I think of good love as something that roots, not rots, over time, and of the hyphae that are weaving through the ground below me, reaching out through the soil in search of mergings. Theirs, too, seems to me then a version of love’s work.

"Nest Icon III"  Lauren Raine
Beneath the canopy, Macfarlane marvels at the slim contour of empty space around each tree’s crown — a phenomenon known as crown shyness, “whereby individual forest trees respect each other’s space, leaving slender running gaps between the end of one tree’s outermost leaves and the start of another’s.”
In this, too, I see a poignant lesson in love, evocative of Rilke and what may be the greatest relationship advice ever committed to words: “I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other.”

Couple this tiny fragment of the sweepingly wondrous Underland with Amanda Palmer’s lovely reading of Mary Oliver’s poem “When I Am Among the Trees,” then revisit Kahlil Gibran on the difficult balance of intimacy and independence in love.

Please consider supporting BRAINPICKINGS with a donation .  THANK YOU.

"Green Hands"  Lauren Raine (2005)

Underland:  An Enchanting Journey into the Hidden Universe

 Beneath Our Feet

“To sense this world of waters known to the creatures of the sea we must shed our human perceptions of length and breadth and time and place, and enter vicariously into a universe of all-pervading water,” the great marine biologist and environmental hero Rachel Carson wrote in her 1937 masterpiece Undersea — a lyrical journey to what Walt Whitman had called “the world below the brine,” a world then more mysterious than the Moon — as she pioneered a new aesthetic of poetic prose illuminating science and the natural world.
Nearly a century later, Robert Macfarlane — a rare writer of Carson’s sensibility, who rises to the level of enchanter — extends a lyrical invitation to a vicarious journey into another mysterious earthly universe of all-pervading darkness with Underland: A Deep Time Journey (public library).

Macfarlane writes:
We know so little of the worlds beneath our feet. Look up on a cloudless night and you might see the light from a star thousands of trillions of miles away, or pick out the craters left by asteroid strikes on the moon’s face. Look down and your sight stops at topsoil, tarmac, toe. I have rarely felt as far from the human realm as when only ten yards below it, caught in the shining jaws of a limestone bedding plane first formed on the floor of an ancient sea.
Enshrined in the layers of the underland, in the layered dust of cultures and epochs, are traces of our abiding need for shelter and sacrament, our age-old hunger for knowledge encoded in the stone tablets of dead languages and the rusted instruments of annealed curiosity, radiating a reminder that we are creatures not only of place but of time. Plunging into the time-warping wonderland beneath the surface through the riven trunk of an old ash tree, Macfarlane writes:
Beneath the ash tree, a labyrinth unfurls.
Down between roots to a passage of stone that deepens steeply into the earth. Colour depletes to greys, browns, black. Cold air pushes past. Above is solid rock, utter matter. The surface is scarcely thinkable… Direction is difficult to keep. Space is behaving strangely — and so too is time. Time moves differently here in the underland. It thickens, pools, flows, rushes, slows.
The same three tasks recur across cultures and epochs: to shelter what is precious, to yield what is valuable, and to dispose of what is harmful.
Shelter (memories, precious matter, messages, fragile lives).
Yield (information, wealth, metaphors, minerals, visions).
Dispose (waste, trauma, poison, secrets).
Into the underland we have long placed that which we fear and wish to lose, and that which we love and wish to save.
Echoing Oliver Sacks’s lovely case for nature’s beauty as a lens on deep time and the interleaving of the universe, Macfarlane writes:
“Deep time” is the chronology of the underland. Deep time is the dizzying expanses of Earth history that stretch away from the present moment. Deep time is measured in units that humble the human instant: epochs and aeons, instead of minutes and years. Deep time is kept by stone, ice, stalactites, seabed sediments and the drift of tectonic plates. Deep time opens into the future as well as the past. The Earth will fall dark when the sun exhausts its fuel in around 5 billion years. We stand with our toes, as well as our heels, on a brink.
But for all its consolations, such a dilation of the telescopic perspective can be deeply disquieting in alerting us to our own helpless insignificance — motes of matter in a blink of time, adrift amid the unfeeling emptiness of pure spacetime. It takes especial existential courage to inhabit this physical fact with unflinching psychic agency, with the insistence that however brief our earthly time may be, however small our impact relative to the vast scales of time and civilization, we can still leave a worthy mark on an ancient world. Macfarlane cautions against the defeatist cowardice of taking the scale of deep time for permission to squander our precious allotment:
We should resist such inertial thinking; indeed, we should urge its opposite – deep time as a radical perspective, provoking us to action not apathy. For to think in deep time can be a means not of escaping our troubled present, but rather of re-imagining it; countermanding its quick greeds and furies with older, slower stories of making and unmaking. At its best, a deep time awareness might help us see ourselves as part of a web of gift, inheritance and legacy stretching over millions of years past and millions to come, bringing us to consider what we are leaving behind for the epochs and beings that will follow us.

Long ago, as Johannes Kepler — the first true astrophysicist — was revolutionizing our understanding of the universe, he envisioned the Earth as an ensouled body that has digestion, that suffers illness, that inhales and exhales like a living organism. He was ridiculed for it. Three centuries later, Rachel Carson made ecology a household word. Picking up where Kepler and Carson left off, Macfarlane adds:
When viewed in deep time, things come alive that seemed inert. New responsibilities declare themselves. A conviviality of being leaps to mind and eye. The world becomes eerily various and vibrant again. Ice breathes. Rock has tides. Mountains ebb and flow. Stone pulses. We live on a restless Earth.
To probe the mysteries of this largely unfathomed underland, Macfarlane explores mines and railway tunnels, catacombs and particle colliders, seeks answers from a spectrum of scientists and indigenous cultures, contemplates the relationship between landscape and language, and draws on the work of pioneers like forest ecologist Suzanne Simard, who uncovered the astonishing science of how trees communicate, and evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis, who championed the interconnectedness of life across time, space, and species.

Perhaps the underland’s richest and most dimensional lens on deep time — and space, and self — comes from some of Earth’s most poorly understood yet most essential organisms: fungi. Besides serving as a kind of central nervous system for the forest, fungi account for a quarter of Earth’s biomass and furnish the world’s largest organism — the colossal honeycomb fungus of Oregon’s Blue Mountains, dwarfing the blue whale with its mycelial span of nearly four square miles and its girth of two and a half miles. Four decades after Lewis Thomas wrote about how a jellyfish and a sea slug illuminate the mystery of the self — the most exquisite thing I’ve ever read on the subject, from one of the most poetic science writers who ever lived — Macfarlane draws kindred revelations from the underdog kingdom:
All taxonomies crumble, but fungi leave many of our fundamental categories in ruin. Fungi thwart our usual senses of what is whole and singular, of what defines an organism, and of what descent or inheritance means. They do strange things to time, because it is not easy to say where a fungus ends or begins, when it is born or when it dies. To fungi, our world of light and air is their underland, into which they tentatively ascend here and there, now and then.

Masters at the long view of survival, fungi offer a model of unparalleled grit — they were among the first organisms to return to the site of atomic devastation in Hiroshima and their soil presence is an indicator of a forest’s resilience. With an eye to the wisdom of the more-than-human world, to which native cultures have been attuned for millennia and modern science is only just beginning to awaken, Macfarlane considers how fungi challenge us to reconceive some of our basic human constructs:
Orthodox “Western” understandings of nature feel inadequate to the kinds of world-making that fungi perform. As our historical narratives of progress have come to be questioned, so the notion of history itself has become remodelled. History no longer feels figurable as a forwards-flighting arrow or a self-intersecting spiral; better, perhaps, seen as a network branching and conjoining in many directions. Nature, too, seems increasingly better understood in fungal terms: not as a single gleaming snow-peak or tumbling river in which we might find redemption, nor as a diorama that we deplore or adore from a distance — but rather as an assemblage of entanglements of which we are messily part. We are coming to understand our bodies as habitats for hundreds of species of which Homo sapiens is only one, our guts as jungles of bacterial flora, our skins as blooming fantastically with fungi.
A century and a half after Whitman’s famed observation that we contain multitudes, Macfarlane roots the metaphysical insight in the physical reality of our creaturely nature, entwined with other natures:
We are beginning to encounter ourselves — not always comfortably or pleasantly — as multi-species beings already partaking in timescales that are fabulously more complex than the onwards-driving version of history many of us still imagine ourselves to inhabit.
Given that we have hard enough a time living with full awareness of our belonging to the web of life, of our intricate connection to other living beings, it takes a special wakefulness to fathom our connection to nonliving matter. Even if we know that we are made of dead stars, it is only an abstract knowledge. We so easily forget “the singularity we once were,” as the poet Marie Howe so splendidly captured our cosmic belonging. In the underland, moving through the time-stamped bedrock of being, Macfarlane finds a powerful reminder:
We tend to imagine stone as inert matter, obdurate in its fixity. But here in the rift it feels instead like a liquid briefly paused in its flow. Seen in deep time, stone folds as strata, gouts as lava, floats as plates, shifts as shingle. Over aeons, rock absorbs, transforms, levitates from seabed to summit...............We are part mineral beings too — our teeth are reefs, our bones are stones — and there is a geology of the body as well as of the land. It is mineralization — the ability to convert calcium into bone — that allows us to walk upright, to be vertebrate, to fashion the skulls that shield our brains.
"Sow" Icon  Lauren Raine

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Hopi Prophecy and the "Fifth World"

Old Father Storyteller by Pablita Velarde (Santa Clara Pueblo Tewa)

"The Emergence to the future Fifth World has begun. It is being made by the humble people of little nations, tribes, and racial minorities. You can read this in the earth itself. Plant forms from previous worlds are beginning to spring up as seeds. This could start a new study of botany if people were wise enough to read them. The same kinds of seeds are being planted in the sky as stars. The same kinds of seeds are being planted in our hearts. All these are the same, depending how you look at them."
 from The Book of the Hopi, by Frank Waters (1963)
As we approach both a time of Thanksgiving, and then the Winter Solstice, I felt like re-visiting an article I posted at the advent of  2012 about  Hopi prophecy, which seems to me more relevant than ever.  They believe the "4th World" is ending, and the 5th World is now beginning. In Hopi cosmology, there were four previous Worlds, all of which were destroyed as each New Age began. We are entering the Fifth Age.  As we evolve into a global society, with a profound global crisis,  as a neo-Pagan practitioner I find it interesting that the Fifth Element, or the Fifth Direction is Center, represented by white, the essence of all the other elements.  

Hopi cosmology, as are all Pueblo cosmologies, is complex, varies from Pueblo to Pueblo,  and has many variations. There is no doubt that there was trade and exchange between the Pueblo peoples and the Maya, and indeed Hopi language shares commonalities with the Aztec language.   So it is not surprising that the Hopi and Mayan calendars coincide in some ways, and also that certain mythological figures are shared in common.  But I am far from an expert, and I can only speak of what I know in the most general sense. 

Hopi "Prophecy rock"
My particular fascination with the Pueblo "previous worlds" stories has to do with Spider Woman (called Tse Che Nako, the "Thought Woman" as well).  As an artist, I feel Grandmother Spider Woman, the unifying Creatrix figure at the Center of the great Web of life, who teaches us to weave the worlds, as She does, with the stories we imagine and an especially important myth for our time.   What stories are we telling about the World? 

Spider Woman is, in Pueblo stories, the one who leads the "new people" into the next Age, in most stories (although not all)  through the Sipapu, or entrance hole into  the  Kiva, which can be seen as a symbolic womb and emergence from the  birth canal into the new World.

The Hopi have been an oral culture, which means that the prophecies, myths, and ceremonies have been passed on from generation to generation, changing and being influenced by external events.    It's also important, in reading the many popular accounts of the Hopi prophecies on the Web, to realize  that:  

 1) The Hopi are traditionally very secretive about their sacred traditions and do not readily  share them with outsiders - conversely, they may intentionally mislead informants, as a means of protecting their traditional wisdom from exploitation.

2) None of the Prophecies that have been circulating, including the well known work of Frank Waters who wrote "The Book of the Hopi" in the 1950's (as far as I can determine)  were written by Hopi people.

3) There is much hype, co-option, disrespect, and fantasizing of the Hopi prophesies, and Native Americans in general on the part of popular culture, that it's hard to wade through and find what the truth is.

The  "Nine Signs" of the Hopi written by Frank Waters in his The Book of the Hopi, is very famous and continues to circulate widely.  The book, however, is controversial, and rejected by many Hopi traditionalists.  Waters reportedly  interviewed over 30 Hopi elders, who chose to share their cosmology and philosophy with the writer.   The "Nine Signs", he wrote, were given to a white minister, who happened to give a ride to a Hopi elder.  The Minister conveniently died in the 70's, and the Elder, who told him his name was "White Feather of the Bear Clan", has never been traced.  As many have pointed out, the Hopi usually have an Anglo first name, and then their last name is in their own native language.  It may also be pointed out that everything in the "prophecies" could have been observed in the 50's, from the widespread terror of nuclear war to "the sea turning black and living things dying" (oil spills).  The West has had, under Christianity, a very long fascination with the Apocalypse, and many groups for a thousand years  have awaited the "Rapture" when "Christ would return and the sinful world would be destroyed." While it is certainly true that the Hopi have prophecies that concern their Five Worlds cosmology, the  "prophecies" supposedly given by a mysterious dying  "White Feather" are generally regarded as fictional.  

One of the most interesting aspects of Hopi prophecy Waters wrote about  is that of the  "Blue Star Katchina", in which a spirit appearing as a blue star would signify the beginning of the destruction of the old world.  While this story has never been substantiated, still, it is a meaningful metaphor for our time, by a well respected writer.

"The end of all Hopi ceremonialism will come when  the Blue Star Kachina  removes his mask during a dance in the plaza before uninitiated children [ which has been interpreted to mean the naive or  general public]. For a while there will be no more ceremonies, no more faith. Then Oraibi will be rejuvenated with its faith and ceremonies, marking the start of a new cycle of Hopi life................You will hear of a dwelling-place in the heavens, above the earth, that shall fall with a great crash. It will appear as a blue star."

This has been interpreted (in the 80's and 90's)  to mean the comet Hale Bopp, the destruction of the space station Challenger, even UFOs.  I have to note that there were manned satellites  in the late '50's that could have influenced this.  

Perhaps the closest to truth is reading Dan Evehema, a Hopi  traditional leader (he died in 1999) , who was one of four Hopis (including Thomas Banyacya, David Monongye, and Dan Katchongva) who decided or were appointed to reveal Hopi traditional wisdom and teachings, including the Hopi prophecies for the future, to the general public in 1946, after the use of nuclear weapons against Japan.  Evehema was co-author, with Thomas Mails, of "The Hopi Survival Kit".   The "Hopi Survival Kit" includes a signed affidavit from Dan Evehema approving the book, and is the only written account of the complete Hopi prophecies. Evehema was a member of the Greasewood/Roadrunner Clan.

Hopi legend also apparently has reference to "the  return of Pahena, the white brother".  The legend of  Pahana may be related to the ancient Aztec story of Quetzalcoatl.  In the early 16th century  the Aztecs believed that the coming of the Spanish conquistadors was the return of this mythical  lost white prophet.  Daniel Pinchbeck has written in “The Fifth World and the Hopi Apocalypse” (which I  have taken  the liberty of excerpting from belowthat 
The Hopi prophecies also tell of the return of Pahana, the elder white brother, in a real exchange of knowledge and a true communion, as the Fourth World comes to an end.”   

Which is hopeful.............

Having said all that, I'd like to share a 2005 article by  Daniel Pinchbeck  which I shared back in 2012 as well.   In a later related discussion,  in his 2017  book  How Soon Is Now?  Pinchbeck  explores his idea that the ecological crisis is a rite of passage or initiation for humanity collectively, forcing us to reach the next level of our consciousness as a species. The book outlines the changes to our technical infrastructure - agriculture, energy, industry - and our social, political, and economic system that Pinchbeck believes necessary to avoid the worst consequences of global warming and species extinction.

"The Fifth World and the Hopi Apocalypse" 
by Daniel Pinchbeck

Originally published in Arthur No. 14 (Jan. 2005)

Last summer, I visited the Hopi on their tribal lands in Arizona. The Hopi are thought to be the original inhabitants of the North American continent–this is what their own legends tell us, and archaeologists agree. My initial interest in the Hopi came from reading about their oral prophecies and their “Emergence Myth.” According to the Hopi, we are currently living in the Fourth World, on the verge of transitioning, or emerging, into the Fifth World. In each of the three previous worlds, humanity eventually went berserk, tearing apart the fabric of the world through destructive practices, wars, and ruinous technologies. As the end of one world approaches a small tunnel or inter-dimensional passage —the sipapu—appears, leading the Hopi and other decent people into the next phase, or incarnation, of the Earth.

Of course, most modern people would consider this story to be an interesting folktale or fantasy with no particular relevance to our current lives. Even five years ago, I probably would have agreed with them. However, my personal experiences with indigenous cultures and shamanism convinced me, in the interim, that there is more to traditional wisdom than our modern mindset can easily accept. The Hopi themselves say that almost all of the signs have been fulfilled that precede our transition to the Fifth World. These include a “gourd of ashes falling from the sky,” destroying a city, enacted in the atomic blasts obliterating Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and a spider web across the Earth, which they associate with our power grid and telephone lines. According to Frank Waters, who compiled accounts from 30 Hopi elders in his Book of the Hopi (1963), the current Fourth World will end in a war that will be “a spiritual conflict” fought with material means, leading to the destruction of the United States through radiation. Those who survive this conflict will institute a new united world without racial or ideological divisions “under one power, that of the Creator.”

The 12,000 Hopi live in a dry and dramatic landscape strewn with enormous boulders, resembling the surface of an alien planet. Their towns are clustered on three mesas—high, flat cliffs overlooking vast swathes of desert. Traditionally, the Hopi are subsistence farmers; they work with ancient strains of corn and beans that are, almost miraculously, able to grow in that arid environment. For obvious reasons, water is sacred to their culture—many of their rituals are aimed at bringing rain. Each spring, each well, is precious to the Hopi. While I was visiting Hopi land I attended a rain dance in the town of Walpi, on First Mesa. Perhaps 50 men of the town—wearing masks and costumes and feathered headdresses —participated in the dance, which was held in the town’s center. The dancers are dressed as katsinas, the spiritual beings that are thought to control elemental forces. The ceremony is a form of possession trance—the goal is to summon the katsinas to temporarily inhabit the bodies of the dancers. The Hopi believe that their culture can only prosper if they maintain direct contact with the supernatural powers that manifest directly through the natural world.

In his book Rethinking Hopi Anthropology, the Cambridge anthropologist Peter Whitely recalls, with an almost embarrassed reluctance, that during his time with the Hopi in the 1980s, he witnessed repeated demonstrations of their precognitive abilities and their ability to influence natural forces through ritual.*** He was transfixed by his first visit to a Snake Dance in 1980: 

“This was no commodified spectacle of the exotic … its profound religiosity was tangible, sensible. Within half an hour of the dance (which lasts about 45 minutes), a soft rain began to fall from a sky that had been burningly cloudless throughout the day.” When he went to see one of his informants, Harry Kewanimptewa, a septuagenarian member of the Spider clan, he would often find that the elder would answer the questions he had intended to ask before he could vocalize them: “I have no desire to fetishize or exoticize here, but this was something about him and some other, particularly older, Hopis that I have experienced repeatedly and am unable to explain rationally.”

I can sympathize with Whiteley’s plight. Since I started exploring shamanism almost a decade ago, I have found myself living in two worlds simultaneously—the world of Western rationalist discourse with its empirical and materialist emphasis, and the shamanic realm of magical correspondences, supernatural forces, dream messages, and synchronicities. The shamanic realm is one in which human consciousness is not an epiphenomenon or dualistic byproduct of a purely physical evolution, but an inseparable aspect of the world, intertwined with reality at every level. It seems that quantum physics has attained a perspective that is similar to the shamanic view, acknowledging a direct relation between the observer and observed.

I went to the Hopi as part of my research for the book I am writing on prophecies, studying the Mayan and Toltec obsession with the year 2012, the Apocalypse described in the Biblical Book of Revelation, the Hopi foretellings, and various modern Western philosophers and visionaries whose ideas offer a context or system for understanding these predictions. Before I visited the Hopi or even read much about them, I had a few powerful dream experiences that seemed to indicate, to me, the importance of my imminent encounter with this ancient tribe. After seeing the film Naqoyqatsi (“Life as War”)—the last in the trilogy of films beginning with Koyaanisqatsi (“Life out of Balance”), by Godfrey Reggio (appropriating Hopi concepts with no input from the tribe) — I had a dream of fiery demons at computer workstations, and awoke with the sense of a visceral supernatural presence flying through my house. The night before I left for the Southwest, I had an even more specific and frightening nightmare. In this dream, I was killed and dismembered by a disgusting-looking demon—who was simultaneously, in typical dream dislogic, the famous conceptual artist Bruce Naumann. In the dream, I returned to Naumann’s studio or the demon’s home and said, “Great—now that you have killed me, I control you.” I went to a bookcase and picked up a huge leather-bound volume titled “Grimoire” (a Medieval catalogue of imaginary beasts and supernatural creatures) and melted it down over a fire. As I did this, I heard incredibly loud Native American chanting and maniacal laughter. I awoke, once again, with the sense of a powerful presence, a kind of unhinged or wild diabolical force, looming overhead and then soaring away.

While traveling to Hopiland I scanned several books of Hopi anthropology and folktales and found that the being who had haunted my dreams closely matched descriptions of Maasaw, the complex creator-deity of the Hopi. According to Hopi legend, when the Hopi first emerged from the Third World to the Fourth, they met Maasaw, who gave them the rules of conduct for life on this new land and introduced them to the rudiments of their agricultural system. Maasaw brought the sun into the Fourth World; but once he had accomplished this, he left the daylight world forever to haunt the realm of night and darkness. The name Maasaw literally means “corpse demon” or “death spirit” in the Hopi language, and he is considered to be the ruler of the land of the dead. Maasaw resembles the ambiguous deities found in Hinduism and Tibetan Tantra, who have wrathful and benevolent manifestations. Since his disappearance from the earth, Maasaw often appears to the Hopi in dreams as a terrifying presence, wearing a ghoulish mask. According to some accounts, Maasaw’s deviation began long ago in the Third World, where he became arrogant and defiant. His assignment to rule over the underworld was a kind of demotion. I wondered why—as seemed to be the case—this spirit had introduced himself to me, in my dreams, even before I arrived in Hopiland.

I thought that I needed to learn more about the Hopi prophecies—and indeed, I did manage to visit an elder in that extraordinary desert landscape. Martin Gasheseoma took time off from working on his field of corn and beans, to tell me that the “purification,” as foretold, would soon come to pass, that there was no way to prevent it. “It goes like a movie now,” he said. However, even before I had found my way to this meeting, my perspective had shifted. I had realized that the essence of the prophecy—the solution to the riddle—was not in some transcendent or otherworldly event, but in the very immanent and real world around us.

The Hopi way of life is threatened with imminent extinction. In the 1960s, the Peabody Coal Company was given a concession to mine coal on their land. They were also awarded the right to use water from the aquifer under Black Mesa to slurry the coal down a pipeline, built by the Enron Corporation. This operation wastes 1.3 billion gallons of pure drinking water annually. Of course, there are other ways to transport coal, but this is the cheapest for Peabody, and the company has continually fought against and effectively delayed all efforts to change their destructive practices.

In the 1980s, it was discovered that the lawyer who negotiated the original deal for the Hopi was, at the same time, on the payroll of the Peabody Corporation—and the Hopi have received a tiny fraction of the revenue they deserve, while forfeiting control of their own destiny. According to US Government Geological Surveys, by the year 2011, the aquifer will be finished—already the Hopi are finding that the local springs on which they rely are drying up.

In the middle-class New Age culture and “New Edge” festivals such as Burning Man, much lip service is paid to Native American traditions. Perhaps millions of white people hang dream catchers over their beds and put kachina dolls on their shelves. Despite this sentimental interest in indigenous culture and spirituality, precious little, or nothing, is done by us—those of us with the leisure for yoga and raw food and sweat lodges, who often sanctimoniously consider ourselves to be especially “conscious” or “spiritual” beings—to help the Native Americans on this continent. The indigenous people are resettled next to toxic waste dumps, abandoned to the least arable lands, ignored when the fish in their rivers are poisoned, when their resources are robbed from them. In every way, they continue to be treated with condescension and contempt.

This is also what I intuited from Maasaw’s mocking laughter and deviant presence in my dreams: Some deep schism of the soul remains to be recognized; the wound can only be healed if we work to forge a real relationship with the indigenous world, to expiate our dominator culture’s guilt and denial through pragmatic action in this reality, as it is now. If this is the case, then the Hopi situation represents the perfect place to begin the reversal: They are probably the oldest and perhaps most well-known indigenous group in the US, zealously studied by ethnographers for over a century, while repeatedly and blatantly betrayed by the US government and private corporations.

As climate change accelerates along with the global depletion of resources, we are being forced to recognize that our current system is unsustainable, even in the short term. The Hopi situation provides a microcosm of the global crisis—a cruelly ironic situation considering the essential meaning of their culture. As Whiteley notes, “The phrase ‘Hopi environmentalism’ is practically a redundancy. So much of Hopi culture and thought, both religious and secular, revolves around an attention to balance and harmony in the forces of nature that environmental ethics are in many ways critical to the very meaning of the word ‘Hopi.’” Visiting the Hopi, it occurred to me that indigenous prophecy, in itself, arises out of a deep level of attunement to the natural world, rather than anything “spiritual” or immaterial.

According to Vernon Masayesva, of the Black Mesa Trust ( “It is our water ethic that has allowed us to survive and thrive in one of the most arid areas on planet Earth. It is the knowledge and teachings of our elders that have sustained us. This water ethic that has been handed down to us by our ancestors we are eager to share with everyone who will be facing water shortages—and according to some studies, water wars—in the next few decades. When the water is gone from Black Mesa, so will be the traditional cultures that could have taught the world so much about living successfully with less.” The Hopi prophecies also tell of the return of Pahana, the elder white brother, in a real exchange of knowledge and a true communion, as the Fourth World comes to an end.

Like so many manifestations of our neurotic and alienated culture, the Koyaanasqatsi films create a mood of inescapable doom and approaching cataclysm. Personally, I reject this attitude. We still have time to save the Hopi and other indigenous groups — perhaps, by extension, ourselves—if we are willing to learn from them and fight for them, rather then appropriating their spirituality while ignoring the destruction we keep inflicting upon their world.

**"How Soon is Now? by Daniel Pinchbec Watkins Publishing,  March 2018.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

"Aphrodite in Brooklyn and Other Mythic Voices" - Illustrated Collection of Poems

This is the trail of my poetry, all I have really, from the early 1970's to the last poems. While I have been a prolific visual artist, and fairly so with community arts as well, poetry has not poured forth from me except in certain poignant moments.  And myth, it seems, has always been present.

I find these poems are touchstones along the path, lucid and sometimes numinous artifacts that, by touching them again, enable me to renew my acquaintance with those luminous moments of insight, love, loss, and above all, the sheer beauty of being alive. Beyond that, there is a pattern, a woven pentimento that glitters  beneath each seeming surface, a pattern that enfolds me from young adulthood to old age and belongs to all and none of those "identities". There is a voice here  I recognize as uniquely my own. Archiving these poems in this little collection, even better, having the pleasure of illustrating them............. has allowed me to hear that voice again.

I made this Collection for that reason, and as a Gift or Offering to any fellow Wayfarer who may chance upon it as well. If you find a resonance here with your own voice, I am pleased indeed.


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.

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.



Oct. 11th, 2001 
One month after the world ended. 
The little island world we, the privileged few, 
could pretend was safe, forever, and righteous. 
The fallen towers, the fiery messengers 
of unfathomable destruction yet to come. 
Tourists walk here, barefoot on the beach. 
They came here, I imagine, as I have 
to remember, not to forget. 
To remember a red dog and a yellow-haired child 
as they enter the water, their cries of goodly shock 
and honest forevers cold, blue, and always new. 
A white heron stands balanced in perfect equanimity upon one leg. 
Wave forms overlay my feet, transparent hieroglyphs of infinity: 
      Her way of speaking 
      Her manifest, unspoken words. 
A brown man lies spread eagled on the cliff. 
He is cast between sky and sea and land, 
sand sunk, leaf-molten, blackberry thorn, the Green. 
Toes, fingers, flesh reaching into the green redeeming Earth. 
He is rooting himself.   He is taking himself back. 
I lie down in grateful imitation, 
a stranger in companionable human proximity, 
sharing this rite of re-membering. 
I see a girl, walking on this very beach. 
Yesterday, and 30 years ago (how did I get here from there?) 
She is sourcing, sourcing the one who lives here, 
a river Goddess with no name. 
She has made a mermaid offering 
of sand and stick and seaweed. 
I can hear her sand prayers sound here still. 
Wave resonant, purified by fire and time, 
memory rooted, sky seeded, they ring true still, 
here, in Gaia.