Monday, May 28, 2018

It Begins with a Call - Part 4

When Athena sprang from Zeus’s head, She emerged fully formed.  In stories, what is missing may be very important.  Often, in fairy tales, it is the feminine; there is no queen, or the queen has died. That tells you something right away.

Here is what isn’t spoken of in the context of Athena’s birth, at least not that I have found: Zeus’ head, splitting open to bear a wise, snake-handling warrior woman goddess, must have caused Him a colossal headache. 
 A woman in black sits between Zeus and his daughter Athena.  They are at Dodona, the place where, in ancient times, the rustling leaves of the sacred oak delivered oracles.  In my SoulCollage® card, the woman in black pushes her elbow firmly into the back of Zeus’ head.  (This is the beauty of SoulCollage® - often you don’t really see what you’ve made until afterwards.)

“Headache,” she wordlessly prods.  “More headache.” Endlessly.  She is untroubled.  She comes from the underworld.  

I cannot hear what the leaves speak, but there is a whispering in my ear.
Another dream comes.  In it, I cross a bridge over a raging river on my way to the basement workshop of an Asian man, a wood worker.  He speaks to a small group of us, saying that the river we crossed is magical; drinking its water would add five years to your life.  He steps on blocks of wood and leads us to another area in this large underground workshop.  This is the studio of a very old Chinese craftsman, dressed in ancient, stereotypical Chinese dress.  He has just had a grandchild born to him.  He shows us a small box that he has made.  It is open in the front, like a diorama, and has small pieces, perhaps chairs, inside.  He tells us he has named his piece The Gifts of Oya.
I know Oya is an African goddess, but I don’t remember anything about Her, so I look Her up.  She is the goddess of tempests and wind, the goddess of transformation, death and rebirth.  A dark sister to Persephone.  But why would a Chinese man honor an African goddess?

I come to understand that the underworld is more than the land of the dead; it is the realm of the ancestral.  I intuit that I am to look to the ancestral, but not only the ancestors of my family.  There may be a council of ancestors who come from many cultures, some of whom are not even human.  This council may include trees, rocks, water. 
Did I think I was out of the underworld?  That was premature, wishful thinking.  The light is diffuse here.  I must be wandering around in the underworld still.

I have no question for the teacher, though I wish I did.  I want to ask something, but I don’t know what.  She says to me, “I know what your question is.” 
“What is it?” I ask.
“How do you bring your work into the dark?”

Saturday, May 19, 2018

It Begins with a Call - Part 3

As I have said, this is a story without an end, at least for now. The teacher warns me to reject easy resolutions and happily ever after endings.  It is not a story like that (once again, you don’t just get the flower-picking girl).  I apologize for not providing that, for don’t we all want it?  Wrapped up in a neat little package with a bow on top?  We want – I want – the heroine’s journey that resolves with a return, bringing wisdom and gifts back to the community.  I do not know if I will return.  I don’t say this to be melodramatic; I say it because I need to hear myself say it.  I need to admit it, accept it, endure it, maybe even say yes to it.
Persephone tells me that She herself is at peace now in the land of the dead, that She can fully hold and offer this gift.  She says, “Gifting is everything.  What is in this box will change you.  You will have to die again, and if you are lucky, love will bring you back to life as it did for Psyche. This is a gift concerning memory, ancestral and personal.  You must open the box.”
“Not yet!”  I cannot bear to open it now.  The teacher has also told me,
“Go down, go down, go down.”  Yes, her, too.  I resist.  I will hold the box, but I’m not ready to open it.  Psyche did and it killed her.
And so, the call.  Here is what it was, at least this time.  I had a dream unlike any dream I’d ever had.  In the dream, I am discussing with another person the healing properties of a plant, perhaps marijuana.  I am given a symbol and some words.  The symbol is the hub of a wheel-like form, with spokes radiating out.  The edge of it is not round, but instead more segmented.  The words went something like this: Fix the hub of the wheel and healing will radiate to the whole structure through the spokes. 
In addition to the dream, I harbored a question rooted in longing:  How do I maintain a deep and true connection to Spirit?
I took this question and this dream south, to the teacher. 
Smoke from the Santa Barbara fires filled the air, obscuring the ground, as my plane landed in Burbank.  June in Topanga.  A few days later, another fire in the canyon almost caused us to have to evacuate.  Solstice arrived at 3:30 PM and 112 degrees.  We did ritual then in the courtyard, in the heat of that day, the times, our personal and collective heartbreak, and our commitments.

After I returned to the bay area, fire found another home - in the back of my head.  I became aware of another goddess, Kali Ma, who had planted her foot firmly on my neck. I felt and indulged the headache.  I went for cures and healing.  Kali, foot pressed firmly in place, screamed, “You cannot shove everything into the dark recesses of your mind.  The repressed returns.  I come with a vengeance.  You cannot avoid the dark.  You cannot avoid me!”

Go down, go down, go down.

All of this experience – the fires, the headache, the underworld dissolution – all of it was in the context of fixing the hub of the wheel.  What is and must be repaired is connection to Spirit.  I called the teacher.  She asked, “What is your Zeusian headache bringing to bear?”

Monday, May 7, 2018

It Begins with a Call - Part 2

I have heard it said that when a belief system falters or is rejected, another must necessarily replace it.  The realm of the imagination in general and the story of Persephone in particular (along with my night visions) took the seat religion would once have occupied.  A longing filled me, rising and falling over time, now urgent, now quiescent, but always there.  I wanted to hold onto the feeling of communion that I got with the brightness in the dark.
“Go down, go down, go down,” the story urged.  I either didn’t hear it or I disregarded it.  Going down was not high on my list.  A Spring baby, I reveled in Her resurrection.  She didn’t choose to go down, but was forced.  Why should I choose it?
But Her name was truly etched on my heart. Did I think I could get the young flower child and not the Queen of the Dead?  Along with adolescent angst, the dark poems came, the grief poems, the separation poems, and later my Plutonium Ode, which recognized Hades’/Pluto’s dark underworld, double-edged wealth.  As above, so below (or in this case, as below, so above).  Isn’t all wealth in this culture dark and double-edged?
After many, many years (and with the generous help of my son Max, a gifted graphic designer), I made a book of my Persephone poems.  And, much later, in my elder years, family raised, career concluded, years of poems and morning pages written and spiritual experiments conducted, hundreds of rituals done and altars built, the unending longing still tugged and the story still advised, “Go down, go down, go down.”
I wanted to place my trust, finally and unequivocally, in the unseen that had been with me all along and that I had never fully accepted as real.  I wondered where Persephone, my guide and muse, would take me. 

After many years without one, or even wanting one, I found my way to a teacher.  I had enough trust to go with an intuition that the time, the place and the teacher were what I needed.  I prepared to go to her.  I created a SoulCollage® card; SoulCollage® is a process that for years had informed me. I was drawn to an image from a calendar, and I used it to make one of my few single-image cards.  Nothing else could be added to it; it was complete.  The image, from an old calendar, was of a young woman with a calm demeanor, bedecked in jeweled headdress and garments, holding out an equally ornamented box.  After I completed the card, I went back to the calendar to see what the artist called the painting.  It was “Proserpina,” the Roman name for Persephone.  Of course!  The box in her hands is the one Aphrodite sent Psyche to collect.  Trust synchronicities!

The story begins, then, with the gift of the box of mystery that supposedly holds beauty, down in the underworld dark. It begins, as it always has for me, with Persephone.

The Box

They say
nothing was
in the box
that she could see.
They say
something invisible
sank her into a
deathless sleep,
a powerful something,
like a poison gas.
What was really in that box, 
and why was Persephone
its keeper?

The mysteries held
in the dark realms
beneath the surface
always twist our
minds.  They are
never knowable.
It makes no sense
our trying to sort
them out.

So, perhaps we don’t think
of consequences,
or we don’t care to think.
Psyche didn’t, and
look what happened to her.

What happened?
In the end,
love rescued her,
that’s what.
Not so bad.
Persephone must have
known, or at least
suspected that the girl
would lift the lid.
She left her to
her own fate.
I wonder,
did it disturb Her?
Intrigue Her?
What did She
make of this
so-called beauty
in the box?