Originally published 18 May 2015
The very first thought that brahman had when it realized itself was, "I" (atman).¹ Along with this realization also came the first feeling: fear. The symbol of this first feeling is the logo of Books of the Southwest, that of the wolf: the symbol of "the fear of the passage of time" (Goddesses 259). It is, as Joseph Campbell told it in a lecture on "Amor," the first and deepest fear, the "fear of what one has being taken away." A symbol of fear might be a strange symbol to have as one's sign, but that actually depends on which side of the wolf one is on—which way one is facing: the wolf head-on, or behind the wolf, through having become voluntary food, taken on its instinctual strengths, and returned, so to speak, with the powers of understanding the unrelenting and unchangeable ravages of time and in that a realization of the ultimate tragedy and beauty: the passing of time that will never come again, the expression of that which is beyond time, visible and knowable in the here and now, but that intensely difficult realization hard won with one's own life. There is no way to get to the other side of the wolf without first coming face to face with it, even knowing that it can and will rip one apart and eat the remains. This is the nature of life, its destruction will and must happen, and in this the fear is true: everything on earth gets devoured, even the most beautiful things. In all the world's mythology and for very good reason, the barrier marked by this fear is one that humans rarely dare to pass.
The second thought of atman, as Campbell describes from the Indian Brhadaranyaka Upanisad in this lecture on Amor, is the realization that since there is no one else, what is there to fear? With this awareness about being alone, however, comes the feeling of solitude. This immediately gives rise to desire and hope for the future which is symbolized by the dog (259). In classical art these creatures of fear and desire mark the guarded barriers to human thought that usually stands on the threshold of the definitions and boundaries of life, and more particularly, between what was thought of as celestial or as an underworld, both places where humans do not enter. The symbols in such forms are unrelenting in the passageways that they guard. These first and constant feelings drive human endeavors because they cannot be faced to get beyond them. It is nearly impossible to overcome them or get past them and there seems to be little reward for trying and more like death. One does not kill the wolf or the dog, but whatever it is within oneself that is not allowed passage. The through-way is always blocked for very important reasons. In the art, practices and religions of culture after culture one will find the path on this boundary of knowledge and understanding stopped in many different forms.
This is the beginning of the transformation into full life where inspired, spirited creativity happens, of coming into the world with awareness, coming into the possibilities of one's own being—not of one's own limited, rational design—but of finding the absolute soul of what one already is and that to which it is already inconceivably connected. Having been born with the perfect explosion of DNA firing on all points that was freely given, this is the further transformation of growth, the bringing out, the full blooming of that true nature and through being true to this core that is already eternal and by this realization, opening up the spirit to true, inspired co-composition of participation in life. The passageway to it is extremely difficult and "shocking" (210) and it has to be. It cannot happen any other way because it has to bring an irreversible internal change. This is the trial coming into the realization of what lies beyond time and place, and through this crush of radical change in perspective that opens all new worlds, joining with those natural forces and design and letting infinite beauty pour into the world through one's own co-participation—into a dance and a song of eternal magnitude. Because it is not limited to the small human will, it requires getting past all the barriers and traps of that will. This is a common message throughout mythology (the stories of "the landscape of the human spirit"): transformation is intense but it must be in order to hear the natural "song of the universe" which is perfect order in all things, even the momentarily misunderstood. It is, through this intense change from a tied-up being that has demands and grasps, to a being that sees and intensely feels its gift of place in being in the universe and the immense awe and gratitude that comes with that realization, replacing knotted fear, hope, and desire. It is a participation in such a completeness that the exquisite harmony of the entire universe becomes the harmony by which one listens and lives and is able to infinitely give instead of take. The center becomes one of abundance. This sounds like promises of happiness when it isn't. Realizations are deeper. The mythology, the rites and transformative acts show how to be from a different place inside oneself that is much larger than oneself and is a deep inexhaustible well. It first requires facing the most intense fears and sorrows, the horrendous-ness of the nature of life. It requires laughing with the joy past this "terror" in the profound realization of what is. In western thought the expression of the individual has become the highest attainment while the rest of the world waits, but there is further. In all the ways, this is about connecting together those disparaging parts. Connecting one part leads naturally to the connection of another. Art, in the individual experience, is the only thing that can create past boundaries and also, phenomenally, transform and connect broken parts by a different way of seeing. The right to create those transitions belongs to the artists, to the ones who see something else. A wildly interesting thing happens when combinations come together (as can be seen in creating): they cause growth, expansion and generation of the new. The new creation becomes the new boundary that opens and transforms ahead of itself and behind it. This process is also that of seeing the many parts that for so long have been perceived as separate, move together: male to female, religion to religion, culture to culture, humans to elements, earth to sky, distance to intimacy. Art reveals a broader, deeper design and this makes a broader, deeper life possible. It is already here, but this is how it comes into creation.
Transformation has to be in itself an experience, personally and culturally speaking. Transformation has remained at a distance for the history of humanity for this reason, Campbell states, and this is shown as pivotal in the stories of mythology—sudden glimpses of what is, outside the safe constructs, shatter the psyche or is simply defiled by the destructive mind. In some myths it is shown that when a diety is spied upon, as Diana was, it is to the destruction of the viewer, that "profane eye," as Actaeon is turned into a stag and devoured by his own hounds. (Such is the ego who looks on with "lust" in order to consume. That is the world of humans and why it is requires internal transformation to see.) It cannot be "seen" any other way. Transformation isn't something given or told; experience by its nature cannot be. It is an internal/external happening that alters the self. No one can do it for someone else. There is no transformation by proxy. Being born is coming into life, but coming into depth of realization—past constructed beliefs—requires a passage, a psychological shift and an opening up. Art is the mover of that cultural and personal shift capable of delivering that natural "radiance" of the cosmos. The art, then, created in this vein is to be an experience in itself, not for mere consumption nor for personal agenda—those intentions are informed by the world of lust and "appetite," and driven by fear and desire which does not allow for any other way of seeing to exist. James Joyce went so far as to say that a thing created for consumption or to be didactic is pornography. This difference is the total nature of being able to see differently and thus see one's own place and true being in the universe. This is the opposite of wanting; it is the deepest gratitude and sense of awe that cannot be revealed until fear and desire to have or even hope are diminished to something greater. To steal that experience from someone by talking about the details of the art (in the mystery initiations) that is the catalyst as if it is mundane for consumption was punishable by death because it is driven by the ego to control, own and consume and does not hold in high esteem anything but self. The self has to be transcended to the experience.
The art is about freeing oneself to experience, to new insight and understanding, to being open to being alive; it is the participation in the experience itself. In his lecture Campbell described:
The character of initiation is shock, so that one never forgets it. Jacob Epstein, the great English sculptor, made this point—every work of art must be a shock. It must not be something where you say, 'Oh, gee, is it like this?' or 'Does it belong to such-and-such a school?' or something like that. It must be a shock. The shock puts a frame around it, and the frame gives you the initial, unique, timeless experience of that piece, not that piece in relation to other times, objects, or concepts. The whole sense of the aesthetic experience is that it is an experience in and of itself, not related to something else. Consequently, portrait painting can be so clumsy. The definition of a portrait is a picture with something wrong around the mouth. You look at it and say, 'Well, that doesn't look like Bill'—and so you've ruined the picture. But if you just see a picture as a picture—not as a picture of something that's somewhere else—it may come as a shock, and in order that you may see it that way it has to surprise.
An initiation is a shock. Birth is a shock; rebirth is a shock. All that is transformative must be experienced as if for the first time (210).
The goal is through the experience to arrive at an internal state mostly foreign in the modern waking world as Campbell describes:
The heart in such an environment is at home, as it were, in its own place: removed from the chaotic spectacle of the world of waking consciousness, at rest and at peace in the recognition of a harmony (which is of one's own nature) informing the whole terrible scene of lives forever consuming lives. And the function, then, of the ritual is to bring one's manner of life into accord with this nonjudgmental perspective, in the way, not of crude ego-maintenance in a world one never made, but of synergetic participation in a phantasmagoric rapture (Historical Atlas of World Mythology xvii).
Those who know this internal value of the inspired creation protect that experience from which it was created from any trashing of it because it is priceless for each human. The alternative is to live without knowing. The intense experience is in the discovery. It is the true experience of being alive. It is the coming into one's own. For those who aren't ready, the blocks are firmly in place. The barriers—whether they be comic or entertaining, frightening or threatening—lead while also creating space and time outside of those boundaries for the freedom to be and create. They buffer transition. They heal. In Native American mythology, as in the trickster in mythologies across the planet, it is the Coyote who operates on that borderland, going between the worlds. Being both the barrier and the changer, Coyote creates intelligence², creates new worlds, flips the old worlds upside down, causes the gods themselves to be altered, altering even the operation of the cosmos, to the delight of the cosmos, for it is the ultimate humor, the ultimate entertainment, facing the ultimate fears to defy all boundaries and to celebrate life in the face of the greatest terror: non-existence. When that is faced, the true nature of existence is revealed. (The delight of the Cosmos can be known because the forces can be seen to act with it.) The universe takes on the attributes of the carnivalesque, the Dionysian, known through the female aspects of being alive (because she is life in this form—and forms do get shattered), coming to match that Apollonian illuminated mind that is the sun and the universe itself.
In classical Greek mythology Hermes is the trickster while also being the creator of the first music, the maker of the first lyre. It should be no surprise that by some accounts he is the father of Isis, that powerfully transforming goddess through time. While being the "messenger of the gods" he is also that transporter to radiance, that first movement of the muses that becomes evident in seeing the radiance in history and inspires new history and historical writing, raising what is earthly and of the historic changing tides to spiritual matters. He is the carrier to illumination. When he is in his chariot, his horses names are Psyche and Eros: the transformation of both love and the mind, body and soul as leading to illumination. He is the one who brings Persephone back to Demeter from the underworld—all aspects of the one feminine—being brought back from the dark regenerative place and to the mourning mother. Trickster is no simple clown nor a mere blocker of paths, although he does that also.
When medicine women such as Mabel McKay would get spied on, or when Native Americans are asked questions about their religions and beliefs, a natural barrier is present. What a perpetrator doesn't know is that he or she is looking at a different way of being in the world, and thus, a different kind of being. The barriers are first internal in the trespasser: ego, ignorance, arrogance, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, etc. Mabel McKay, for one, felt no obligation to answer to those approaching her in that manner. The most common approach of Anglos to the Native Americans has been to rape and pillage their bodies, the lands, the waters, as well as their ancient culture, judged as primitive, weak and naive, for anything of extrinsic, material "value." In one account on the Mescalero Apache, "During the last part of the military campaign to destroy the Apaches, one group of soldiers was said to have destroyed" the winter's supply of venison jerky and mescal that took endless hours and weeks of hard labor to prepare (Sanchez 28) and the most valuable thing on the planet could never be touched. The intruder was completely unaware and even denigrating of the beings who knew a harmony foreign to greed. It is the history and nature of humanity. The Mescalero Apache ceremonies year after year seek to heal and protect the tribe and Anglos may even watch and see the clown be funny or fearsome, but what is of most value is still and has always been behind the barriers no human can cross. What is most surprising to realize is that it is the clown who is showing, buffering and blocking it.
Even if prying eyes spied continuously, tracking and hacking, he or she would never actually know what is being viewed because it isn't recognizable in the current ego state (where all energy is directed towards constant feeding and ego-maintenance through dominance and control.) The trespasser only wants to pillage the thing of "market value" that immediately feeds the self, passing up the most precious sought knowledge of all time because it holds a vastly different value that is not recognized. Even if the perpetrator water boarded the clown, the clown could never give it away. It is an awareness, what is realized. He or she leads. The feminine heroic written about here is about altering this completely turned upside down valuing with a power that is not recognized. Transformation is an imperative part of culture. The needs across the planet call violently for a different way. "The feminine heroic "challenges the compulsions of aggressivity and conquest, subvert's patriarchy's structures, levels hierarchy's endless ranks . . . redefines culture, society, and self, producing a new synthesis of values" (Edwards 5). It is only in that way that an individual or a culture would be ready and able to see what life is with the illumined mind. The trickster, then, is in this in-between space, creating, transforming and nurturing worlds. This is the role of the artist. It is directly inspired by the feminine principles that are brought to life through recognition and celebration of the entirety of being.
The "breaking through" this kind of insulated self and destructive "valuing" in one way is done through tragedy. Because life is an illusion that hides that fact in the waking hours, the truths about existence stay hidden, tucked away from realization. The shock of a tragic event or a tragic ending, evident in both classical Greek tragedy—as in Medea and Antigone—and in Shakespeare's plays, breaks through the psychological walls built up to disquietingly break the constructed idea of self and society in the viewing audience. In American consciousness, tragedy is blocked out by the focus on getting more, living longer, and looking younger, and this neglects the truth of existence—that we will inevitably face (and have all along) the most horrific losses anyone could imagine—the loss of parents, children, friends, animals who have dearly loved us, youth, homes, the loss of ideals, hopes, dreams, freedom. Steve Jobs, who both created and navigated the heights of "success" wanted more time with his wife and children. Michael Jackson put himself in an incubator to stay young forever, likely extremely lonely. Whitney Houston, who was known for singing "The Greatest Love of All" used millions of dollars worth of drugs while children went hungry. We gloss over the truths that come through tragedy as if it isn't the real breaking through into consciousness. The American spirit doesn't like to focus on the tragic, but move on to more positive outlooks. So we call them heroic in their "achievements" as if life itself doesn't rate on the hierarchy of values. Tragedy is a necessary part of transformation. On the other side of it is a deeper realization that cannot be had before. There is a connection to all that is that is never felt or known otherwise. What happens on the other side of it is also different from what happens in the constructed world view. In the mystery rites the initiate would be shown his or her own image and then, in that same mirror reflection shown a very aged face, reflecting back the truth that we are not here to stay fixed in one moment, holding on and our true identity is not this. The transformation isn't toward depression, but an acceptance of the true nature of being in order to more fully comprehend what is beyond the individual self. For the Navajo, the realization of changing across time in life, never staying one age and therefore not identifying with that age, is known as "the long body," that each passing moment is a "cross-section" of life (Goddesses 208). Deep in realization, after transformation, one realizes and feels the truth: on the inside we do not age. In realization we become deeper and deeper part of the entirety until there is no self or need or desire for it. And so realization is something completely different than what is expected or understood in a society built solely on accomplishment of the self. Returning to the role of daily life is then actually hard because it is an accepting of the wild passing phenomenon of what one was born (or dreamt) into.
American tragedies are seen as "other," that they happen to someone else. We stand in judgement mode, aloof and still unaware, unmoved, and continue on doing the exact same thing. Tragedy has to come as a shock to the system to wake us over and over. The basis of reality is tragedy. If one wants to truly know any other aspect of it, it is first through that shock of realization.
In tragedy forms are broken on stage so that something else—radiance—shines through, and as well, the forms are broken in the audience. Only then can the gorgeous gift of the personal expression of being a unique individual be seen for the miracle and extreme beauty that it is: a passing opportunity to Be in the phenomenal world. Otherwise it is an ugly gob of ego wanting more—on stage and in the audience. It never blooms. The universe moves to realize itself. Freed, to Be is an expression of the consciousness and intelligence of the universe—with ultimate harmony and balance. When that balance is perceived, it is the state that silences all else. It's that unfathomable moment of recognition of being a part of an intelligent, alive, working, harmonious cosmos in which we get to be alive and know it and each other and nature and the stars in the sky for a brief moment.
The shock of realization of being is revealed, the truths of existence opened to see: that it is changing, passing away, coming around in phenomenal time again, that it operates without us, that the forms do not change over time. The forms are eternal truths: archetypes, planets, the stars, the human truths that the illumined mind can see for the miracles of expression of the universe that they are. Individual expression can grow from those classically understood forms in the expression and beauty that is life and the individual, but first with understanding that the individual self is not the be all, end all of existence but a small part. The tragic cannot celebrate: the self, encapsulated, is alone, isolated, always marked for dying and death. Weddings that have become spectacles of the self instead of understood unions (with everything that is) can't actually be true celebrations of connection, of community, because community takes away the construct of self and all are united in the realization of that moment of delighting in the miracle of it. Spectacles of self are uninspired performances—actually already dead. The realization of the Dionysian aspects of life are missing. Life is inspired without us. The celebration of life, the breaking through, comes from first the tragic realization and into something far grander to be brought into balance within this being alive. While fame of self for American society appears to be immortal, this kind of deeply realized art—based on the universal depth from where it comes internally speaking (and therefore the furthest reaches), is the thing that is inspired and takes on life. Furthermore, it speaks to the immortality of the depth of Being while the constructed self passes away. What is inspired comes on its own and lives on.
But all of this is blocked in a world that is based, as author Lewis Hyde describes, solely on "appetite" and furthermore, on control. Appetite is one of the exclusionary limits that holds one in, barring opening and transformation to one's true self and thus to the cosmos at large. Appetite is unrelenting. It doesn't take a break even though the human spirit knows intuitively it is made of something else. The concept of sacrifice is a lost, misunderstood world view deemed archaic. These other worlds—the dark "underworld" of the psyche where dreams and archetypes and the collective conscious inform us—and where regenerative power comes from; the vast expansiveness of the illumined mind; the liminal field where rules are broken and change occurs and things are in incredible flux, all are blocked out—a self-imposed exile. And so, there are the personally and culturally dividing lines. One can see, then, why the artist would not want to create from vulnerability within that culture of self-aggrandizement since it leads only to feeding for more gain that can never be satiated by the consumer or the consumed and focuses the art for attention and gain within that restricted world, a mirage within its own prison. The illusion that keeps one trapped sells exactly self (with all its fears and desires intact) as the limits of being. This isolation of self as sovereign is the basis of tragedy because life in the body is by very definition tragic. The Coyote, instead, alters that world. The vitality of art will always be necessary. Art sees past those transitory illusions. The nature of the world is always to feed on itself, and as Campbell states, that will not change: "Life feeds on life." Art has to expand beyond that boundary and lead in a broader way, deepening the experience of being alive. This is part of what Virginia Woolf meant when she was discussing the idea of "a room of one's own"—to be free from the demands of restricted consciousness surrounding one in order to think freely and create, not from a bias or in a reaction to the surrounding circumstances or in a dependent fashion. What this means culturally is that crossing the dividing lines—by creating that new space—importantly is how change and creation can happen. A Room of One's Own is about creating a liminal space where completely free creation is possible and then mastering that art internally.
These "spaces" that are marked by these transition/dividing/barrier cultural lines operate in different ways while also being that incredible fluid movement of the whole. In order to experience truth and create depth, one must be able to see the cosmos as the whole that it naturally is. Artists, causers of experience, insight and change, have to be able to move freely among those "spaces." What they create then opens the experience to the eternal song and dance. It then becomes an intense release to participate in what he or she has created. The feminine in particular, has to flow into creation. She is transformed by art and culture is transformed. That time recognizably has played a visible role in this shows it to be animated: Isis, as art, frozen in time in the Catholic church transformed into Mary was also the freezing of the female role in society in time: two thousand years of Greek thought caught in the coming of age of the male western mind. The "church" remained as "bride" waiting for the bridegroom. The female wakes when consciousness wakes, just like the dreamer. Humans did not write these forms nor play them out in time on purpose—no one could have planned such a feat. The story is an alive universe waiting to be expressed in transformation. Proof of an existence of an intelligent universe and being a part of it is cause for ultimate celebration. It is the marriage of human expression to the eternal.
In one work of art that Campbell discusses, the Practica Musicae, a printed book from Italy's Renaissance in 1496, the head of the wolf and the head of the dog are on each side blocking the entryway, with the middle being the head of the lion. They block entry into that inner landscape which is illumination and limitless inspired creativity that is so enlivened by the universe as to be miracles, eternally planned. The lion is that vitality of the universe. As Campbell writes, it is
. . . the fire of the sun, the threatening fire of today, the present, and the fear of yielding ourselves to the present. Are you going to try to hang onto what you have been, or are you going to let today burn you into something else?
You are living in terms of the past, and the adventure consists in throwing yourself open and becoming vulnerable to what this moment has in store for you in the way of shattering what you thought you were and bringing forth what you might be.
'. . . Let the serpent of death bite your heel, do hear the song of the universe and then the Muses sing.' When you have died to your ego and rational consciousness, there opens the intuition, that is to say, you hear the song of the Muse and this is the female power again (Goddesses 259).
One remarkable aspect of what this drawing illustrates is that while in one direction (through the muses) this is the process of the particular way Radiance—alive inspiration—actually flows through art into culture—how in specific forms; together it is the energy coming out of the highest of all individual possibilities reached: that "illumined" Apollonian mind (as being and as a co-participant of the cosmos), the particular heroic individual as signified by Apollo holding his lyre, playing the music of the universe. Through this relationship with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, she is defined as the way this radiance of being comes into life and informs the arts. Aphrodite—who has been absent from our culture, now transformed through these universal forces and arts, embodied as the Three Graces, faces towards Apollo as Splendor—brilliant and gorgeous and "with magnificence" and grandeur. She is the experience of this illumination in time and place. Towards culture she is Radiance. In James Joyce's definition, radiance is the idea/soul conceived in the artist's imagination, that feeling the artist feels when it is first conceived . . . and that brings about a spiritual state (World Atlas xvii). Campbell writes that it is,
The instant wherein that supreme quality of beauty, the clear radiance of the esthetic image, is apprehended luminously by the mind which has been arrested by its wholeness and fascinated by its harmony is the luminous silent stasis of esthetic pleasure, a spiritual state very like to that cardiac condition which the Italian physiologist Luigi Galvani, using a phrase almost as beautiful as Shelley's, called the enchantment of the heart (xvii).
This is the experience her transformation brings. Splendor and Radiance are then bridged by a center of Abundance—the most obvious elemental difference from the former center of "fear of no self" and desire for more than what is. This Abundance is the former "silent poet" of natural things who is outside the lion's mouth and is not inspired or enabled internally to speak, silent in art and life for centuries. The transformation demonstrated within the diagram is necessary to bring her out. The entire illustration is "the joy of the radiance" of illumination of the goddess of love, transformed in herself and in the mind of culture, and through her relationships and new aspects of the "Graces" (the female principles) she comes new through life and art. The illustration is how she does it.
In the upward direction of the diagram is the transformative process to illumination in conjunction with the natural forces at work shown through planetary and archetypal triads and their relations to the arts of the muses. It is the path the individual takes to experience the realization that all these forces are at work to illumination through the arts. In its completeness, it is an illustration of the role of the goddess in culture as experienced through the transformative process and made knowable through the arts. Essentially, according to Campbell, it is the role and return of the female principle (259). This is how she expresses her connection to the natural universe which is both defining of her character and imperative for her reintegration with the broken parts. These aspects of her are the forms through which the eternal speaks. When viewed in action it is a remarkable, alive phenomenon. When it comes to life what becomes evident is that all of history, all of literature, tragedy, dance, music, the planets, the classical archetypes, the constellations work together in this way with her towards this illumination and uniting.
In order, the muses are doing specifics acts in art and thereby revealing these truths, bringing her and it to life through inspiration to be re-understood as alive as conception and birth. First is historical writing showing the changes of the tides, the effects on humans and the changes in history—her transformation is evident and it must be created, made visible. It is the seeing of history as provably alive. The moon is brought to life, too, re-inspired in the imagination and therefore given back its life and animation, showing the eternalness of change, rebirth, evidently ordained by the natural order of the universe—change and rebirth hangs nightly in our sky and moves the tides of our oceans, the blood in our bodies, our impulses towards life and expression. In other words, the first muse inspires this historical movement/transformation to be written, lived and created. In the working archetypes, with the triad of the Moon and Earth is Mercury, Hermes pointing upwards. Next he is in his chariot, ready to carry towards illumination, and it corresponds with the writing of epic poetry such as The Odyssey, which also brings about the return of the feminine in her newly visible, redefined heroic roles by showing the universal feminine at work in protecting, guiding, creating, in deeper loving and loyalty than is defined or imagined by humans as sufficient. Hermes is also the trickster, like that of Odysseus, Athena and Penelope in the epic tale who create liminal spaces in order to recreate and redefine what is demanded of them in the human world, thereby freeing themselves for a deeper way of being and by doing so, making a path for different, hard-won values. Next in the illustration is the question of Venus—not yet transformed but a working archetype nonetheless—with a baby Eros and birds to take them on their flight, but this is the level of the tragic: the dance of Mrs. Dalloway's party—"the tragic center" embracing life because it must in greatest form accept it. The tragic is burned by the triad: untransformed Love, the Sun, and Mars—meaning War, the main characters of the drama that bring about the tragic moment into expression. This is the stage of the "shattering of the ego" and the "release from the bondage to the historic personality" (261). The muse inspires tragedy and tragic poetry leading to purely spiritual experience. Past this burning internally of the Sun, from that War, the next muse then inspires erotic poetry, that elevated experience of being fully alive in the body with all of the senses, awakening to being.
Next is the lone, pure song of the individual at the level of Zeus/Jupiter who rules the world, the muse voice that emerges in purity, no longer earthly. Past now even the eternal, the voices are then joined together of the choral sacred song. After this, the last muse is one with and gives voice to the "orderly, unchanging stability" of the stars, the constellations, "the ultimate emporium" and inspires the new view of enlivened astronomy—the universe alive—where the constellations above are alive among us. (For the Navajo the constellations are placed in the sky by Coyote, the rest strewn by him, the Milky Way made of pollen—the condensed power of nature joined in the sky.) (Thus the trickster, the Coyote, Hermes, is the transporter all the way to illumination and recreation, one with the universe with transformation viewable in these forms.) It is the arrival at the feet of Apollo, the maker of the universal music that flows through each of them. Aphrodite is transformed and her abundance flows through the art with the face of a lion, backed on each side by the wolf and dog, and being herself expression of life in its fullest form.
Author Manly P. Hall describes the front of Isis' temple in Sais as having the inscription "I, Isis, am all that has been, that is or shall be; no mortal Man hath ever unveiled me" (121). The truth in this statement is that a mortal man can't unveil her. It takes a transformed consciousness to know her. The "unveiling" is the process by which one comes to know that all one formerly held onto, thought and believed as ultimately real—all the fears, values, hopes and desires and constructed beliefs—were only as real as a dream and that life disappears as if it never were, no matter how hard anyone tries. Past the forms things start to become real.
She comes as a shock because she is first illusion that leads to the real. She has to reveal illusion first, that tragic realization because it begins the transformation. Illusion can come as temptress, however, as a barrier instead of a maker of ways, the set-up of being trapped in tragedy, never allowed to transform into full life. The temptress of self works to set up barriers in the mind and diversions so that one will believe she, and self, is real. She is a "restriction of consciousness" and the sign of her are the creation of barriers. The path is first to shatter all illusion. Beyond that is where all barriers come down, which is the goddesses' purpose, role, her true forte—and her greatest strength, much more powerful than the illusion of self where all divisions occur. That is another reason why the goddess is the face of a lion first, where truth has to be faced. Campbell writes,
Life is something that should not have been! But if we have undergone the initiation and realize the play of eternal forms through the temporal inflections, we experience the radiance through the sorrow (223).
What one will find upon looking is that these eternal truths do not change and most crucial of all, what is come to be known is true culture after culture. It is this understanding of the immense realizations of the commonalities and the whole that she is capable of creating that makes all the difference. Her ability to connect the whole is her strongest and most powerful characteristic. This, Joseph Campbell says, is the most important thing that can be said about the goddess (251). While it can be seen how she will create from the whole in an enlightened, powerful and timeless manner in the illustration, the effects of her ability to bring together into a whole also happens in powerful ways. The "biggest statement you can make of the Goddess" Campbell says, is her ability to unite the previous divisive cultural fragments back to the one source of that "great, ageless tradition" because their commonalities and their histories of development and teachings historically come from a timeless, primary source, primary to all the world's divided factions. She is the sakti of what is universal, the knowable and experienceable form in time. Through her own illumination, her connectedness, she is the connector of how it fits together. Uniting the whole is done through her own relationships, insights, abilities and her own being and form that has transformed through time, just as the traditions have, and ultimately through being engaged through the universal principles always at work. In discussing the transformation of Io into Isis, Campbell shows the example of a painting that hangs in the Vatican in which Isis is teaching both Hermes Trismegistus and Moses. "Here we have it in the Vatican—that the one teaching is shared by the Hebrew Prophets and Greek sages, derived, moreover, not from Moses's God, but from that goddess of whom we read in the words of her most famous initiate, Lucius Apuleius" (251-252).³
The ability to do this is through her own understanding and illumination and is made possible and active by the structure, the relationships and the transition demonstrated in the drawing. What is more and just as important, the epiphany has had to be elusive because the entire scope, like art, is a coming to know. There is a certain way that it comes into the world. The creation and its effects of wholeness come from an internal place of splendor, abundance and radiance. Her voice, then, when it speaks in the forms, is infused by and is "the song of the universe," the song that Apollo plays on his lyre (257). Transformation to this is also this natural fluid process of creativity that strongly moves past boundaries. These "liminal spaces" where openings and transformations occur are actually created, informed by the ultimate realizations, operating at a distance but affecting the whole. The completion of the whole is one big dynamic.
Once the realization comes to life of this piece of artwork, of art itself as the mode of expression, and that this way of being is shared by all humanity, one is then able to see the immense transformation it is, art being the natural transformative process itself. Once it is understood by artists, the combining of what was separated—even within ourselves—it causes an explosion of creativity because of its nature. It is both Dionysian—that carnivalesque, boundary-less transformation of life, and also the undoing of the repression of the feminine. This reignited power of creativity alters the social structures that have subdued it from existence. Joseph Campbell goes so far as to say that it erupts into a social explosion because any force that has been repressed comes out in full force (Goddesses 218). The difference for our time is the opportunity of the uniting and balancing of the parts: the western Apollonian achievement, which freedom has made possible, with the repressed wilder forces of natural existence.4 The difference now is the arrival of a time in which the breaking of barriers and the subsequent combinations to the whole, this coming together and the balance forms new creation and has welled through history and human expression into the now imminent possibilities of the individual creating and getting to celebrate in the immense collective. It happens from the creation of coyote. The moment coyote is recognized the path he or she created is seen, as if for the first time, and this is when the entire story comes together viewable by all the worlds.
Coyote is of both worlds, that transformative in-between—that of illumination and radiance, and of the earthly realm wanting and needing nourishment. Neither, however, are fully realized realms without the flow between and he cannot stay in either until both are altered. (Most often coyote is personified as male because of metaphorical qualities but identity is a mask. Lewis Hyde also shows how this is because what is created is a different kind of birth other than procreative.) He is the son or daughter of the Sun, full of unrecognized vitality. The universe, unrealized, dies to humans. The stars aren't recognized; sculptures stare out to blank realization "without the fluency of new inspiration" (Goddesses 217), their truths lost, unable to be spoken. They are silent like the silent poet before she is transformed into Abundance. The flow is unseen. On the other side life only feeds on itself. Few are grateful. Rare sacrifices are made. There his existence is only to consume and be consumed. Without an inspired connection to what life is, humans are likewise alone and tragic. To remove himself, he has had to alter his own physical composition in limiting his appetite in order to step out of the current situation and into new possibilities. Author Lewis Hyde writes, "an immortal being is by definition one who is free from the odious stomach; the muses have it that immortal truths cannot be uttered except by those who are similarly free" (67). In this way he frees himself to be able to create and to alter the situation that is a ravenous, death-filled continuous cycle to let something greater flow into the world. Hyde explains:
. . . the opening lines of the Theogony 'can be taken as a manifesto of pan-Hellenic poetry, in that the poet Hesiod is to be freed from being a mere 'belly'—one who owes his survival to his local audience with its local traditions: all such local traditions are pseudea 'falsehoods' in face of the alethea 'true things' that the muses impart specially to Hesoid.' In this Theogony, 'the many local theogonies of the various city-states are to be superseded by one grand Olympian scheme' (68).
Coyote steps out of the role of human consumption and human laws, removes himself temporarily by his own willingness to forgo his own hunger because something else is of greater value and significance and furthermore, more true. It remains out of view. He has to follow his own true nature. Human laws say he has to participate and the manner in which it must be done, and while they cannot see it, he knows there is something else for which he is born and it requires sacrifice on his own part to remove himself from their grasps. By breaking those requirements he has to buy himself time and space that is never freely granted; rigidity never allows for it and therefore it cannot be done openly. He is to meet the social requirements and to not do so puts them on his trail. To the humans there are no deeper designs to be discovered, all is considered to be known, finite, and on the other side, the gods only love the transformed and the heroic.
In The Odyssey, Athena is a coyote, a trickster, in brilliant defiance and creation, disguising her identity whenever necessary (she appears to Odysseus as a shepherd, one of many identities) and changing definitions because it is her right to do so. She can love Odysseus if she wants to, or not love, it is her choice and in how she does it, freedoms that throughout the story have not been allowed to Odysseus or Penelope—who must also steal and create the way to their own lives which is also to create something new with an important new balance that has been forbidden. Odysseus is caught in traps and requires Athena's help which comes because she loves and admires him. She intervenes and assists and her cunning and intelligence matches his. She finds joy and amusement in his brilliance, entertained by his intelligence and heroic spirit. Athena obscures clear-cut distinctions, traverses boundaries, she supports Odysseus in his necessary lies and alters his identity. Both of them take the opportunity to "remake the truth on [their] own terms" (Hyde 73) to evade traps and negotiate new ways to stay out of the grasps of those who seek to limit, control, use and kill him. Hyde writes that this kind of action "provokes doubt" and "draws adversaries into [their] own uncanny territory." It is reversals to get out of traps, taking it into "a traveler's space where everything is on the road, cut loose from any clear locale" into something broader and more true. By pulling it into their own liminal spaces, all is in flux: identities, language as no longer fixed, and also what constitutes heroism of both the male and female. Hyde writes, it "belongs to a class of statements that double back to subvert their own contexts . . . it undercuts the situation from which it takes it meaning" thereby not being restricted to those limited and un-insightful boundaries that would get Odysseus trapped and killed—ending all the possibilities of a new world. The world would die with the wars and enslavements of the Iliad. If Odysseus does not make it through, what is at stake is not only his own death and no inspiration flowing into the world—that opening he creates, but also Penelope's enslavement to societal rules and punishments as female in the form of social definitions and requirements that devalue and erase her and furthermore, there could be no valuing of her imperative heroic actions which also alters the worlds wherein creation itself becomes an heroic act. Athena, as the feminine force protecting and weaving Odysseus's path, is rewriting what it means to be female and redefining power on her own terms that is not for self gain but for a greater whole. Not only is she creating story across the boundaries of what a female can do, namely creating a different kind of story wherein the male and female powers are equal and defining those new qualities and roles, she is literally intervening in a world that requires change—moving the story on purpose with her actions. Barbara Clayton writes, "Athena is also a navigator of both narrative journeys and literal journeys within the narrative. Considered in terms of her mêtis, she is a “plotter” par excellence: a schemer as well as the character primarily responsible for plotting the course of the poem" (25-26). In doing so, she is a powerful creator (as opposed to the former heroic of embattlement) that redefines and alters through the inspired power of writing an epic poetic path wherein heroism is possible and the flow outside of human endeavors comes in to reshape ideas and ways of being. She does it with both her intelligence—an important new characteristic of heroism—and with her inspired actions. Her representation of the feminine heroic shows the natural balance in action. Her actions tell her internal scape. In that Penelope is "in person" throughout the epic and therefore her character and dynamics can only be known through her actions, (the immense action of creating instead of warring) this dual dynamic with the spiritual aspect of feminine heroism actually moving the plot exemplifies qualities of the feminine that get overlooked, underestimated and most important for change, undervalued.
Because of her intervention, it is divinely inspired and also altering of all the worlds—a very important emergence for a feminine role. Her power comes from a different internal place than greed, competition or aggression. It comes from eternal truths. Her different abilities based on a broader kind of love and a high intellect create and navigate the narrative and therefore the possibilities of an entirely different way of seeing. Like Cleopatra, Athena "reconstitutes relationships between the worlds of love and war" (Edwards 5), and thereby turning upside down the former values of both, redefining and broadening them to encompass an insight into a deeper way of being and loving. She instead makes love heroic. She redefines what encompasses love. She takes it from the language of humans and reinvigorates it with new boundaries. She makes protecting and nurturing heroic. By doing so, she brings the female hero into new visibility and redefines power. By stepping out of the boundaries set up for her and for Odysseus who is worthy of her attention and energy, Athena flips the previous assumptions that female powers of creation, protection, taking care are not formidable in a world that seeks to endlessly limit and kill for self and control. As a creator, the story and therefore the transformation is not even possible without Athena. Author Barbara Clayton points out that Athena sets the action in motion by intervening with the gods. She writes:
Her longest narrative is the account of Odysseus on Calypso’s island she relates to Zeus and the other assembled gods (1.49-59). Yet this small narrative is among the most important in the Odyssey, since Athena’s description of the captive Odysseus initiates the action of the poem, setting the plot in motion. Not only does Athena launch the narrative, she steers it as well, remaining in control of the plot throughout the poem, up to and including its conclusion. Athena’s directing role in the Odyssey is quite in keeping with a mêtis that is typically hers (24-25).
Her intelligence shines. What is more, it is entertaining, compelling and life-affirming. Her radiance comes through as inspiration, love and admiration. She puts herself into the art that is life. She is Aphrodite in the flow and through her the radiance flows into the world through art. As Barbara Clayton shows, that kind of immortality (kleos or fame) is linked to intellect, to creating, and to poetry in the Greek mind. Whereas in the human world the rules say "this is the way things are and must be" and humans manipulate around those rules for their own purposes, Athena alters the underpinnings and re-imagines what things can be like. In using her cunning, she is the definer and creator of a new feminine heroic previously unknown, erased, repressed and devalued in patriarchal culture. She rewrites the balance of powers. This creation would never have been "allowed" in the human world. No longer about the self, transition requires the divinely-inspired coyote, a conduit of radiance between the worlds connecting the spiritual and the secular through art and the art of her opened self.
Athena takes what would have been dead and static, a return from yet another decimating war, and instead pulls it into a space of motion where the heroic spirit will come to give place to creation and to recognize Penelope's literal creating where she has been forced into creating mode in order to protect and change the whole.
Odysseus and Penelope, as humans, have to set aside need and risk their lives in order to create a different way of being—transformed from mere consumption and in participation of more spiritual matters. This is an important defining characteristic of trickster, not being mere criminal, thief or liar, is involved with the sacred. Lewis Hyde writes, "Most modern thieves and wanderers lack an important element of trickster's world, his sacred context" (13). The connection Odysseus and Penelope have with each other (and likewise with Athena) is not based on lust, control, etc. Their lies—for one, Odysseus has to lie about his identity in order not to be killed and say that he is "no one"; Penelope has to lie about her weaving—have to be told in order to operate and to buy themselves time and space to survive and to create something new. Penelope has to backtrack on her work. She has to work in private. They have to break free and the larger truth is won through in this different way that could never be won in the daylight by normal rules. The completion is not just another marriage or another kingdom, a hierarchy of more rules and restrictions overruling the human spirit. It is social transformation. The feminine is returned as equal, revealed in all her aspects and forms—evident not only in Athena but also in Penelope—and powers and abilities, redefining values and most importantly putting creation back into value. It is through a universal, completed work of art that continues itself to flow and negotiate with new inspiration hard-won worlds and transform to this day proving its human and yet other-worldly still "road-going." It requires both of them, the human and the goddess, to show the span of the unveiling of the feminine. Additionally, there is no story without Odysseus. Odysseus has to bring the transformation about. Coyote's actions both make the way for and create the epic poem which, like coyote, itself as eternal, inspired art, causes transformation.
It has been continuously written that Odysseus is the most fully realized man in literature, something that could not yet be said for contemporary culture before transformation with the unbalance. Penelope, having stayed silent, is able to speak centuries later—upon the return of Athena again who, together, brings it about, openly demonstrating the qualities previously unseen. That is a requirement for Penelope's recognition and especially because she operates in mortal form where the change is desperately needed. The Odyssey, unveiled as a feminine text, unites the two, female and male, in society more than would ever be possible without the inspiration, and time, character, space to create the completed work of art in the privacy of the mind, the human spirit, and in the universe outside of human restrictions. Importantly the inspiration allows the story to come to life beyond the boundaries of what is "allowed," even in this moment.
The epic poem does this in such unfathomable ways that it is a wild, wonderful alive discovery: the creation of epic poetry itself is "on the road" and is literally the flow of music performed by the bards. It epitomizes the characteristics of coyote, of creation and transformation that create and move in their own liminal spaces. The inspiration of epic poetry is very much alive when coyote, recognizes it in the "divine" or from the universe and as his or her own true nature, uncontrolled by human minds but finding, through sacrifice, human expression. The creation of the epic poem is a collective between Athena, Odysseus and Penelope, all three in different "realms" but all in spaces of being "on the road" of the creative in-between. Inspiration flows and gives it life. Odysseus pushes past life-threatening ordeals. Penelope weaves in the face of losing everything, creating everything. Athena is the patron of it all, of weaving, which is poetry, intellect and immortality. What is evidenced is what is in their hearts and souls as guiding factors. Alone in her room Penelope, with Athena's inspiration and with her memories of Odysseus that keep him alive, is in-between her society that tries to control her out of greed and out of that old lording definition of power and the unbreakable soulful, other-worldly connection she shares with Odysseus. It is a true nature that she knows of herself and knows those characteristics in Athena. The entire story is pulled on to the road into liminal space where the divinely-inspired flow of creation happens and gives it life.
The flow between the emergence of human thought, the creation of music and poetry, and the developments deeply important to the realization of the human spirit can be evidenced like the Odyssey in inspired history and also in motion in poetry and in the music of the bards. For one, the beginning of the re-emergence of the feminine principle directly coincides with music of the first troubadour (literally in the same family and feminine court) in (what would become) Provence in the South of France where the American ideal of love began in the 12th century. Music, love, the feminine, and a different kind of rule (Eleanor of Aquitaine and then her daughter Marie de Champagne who "became the queen regent of France from 1181 to 1187, and her court was the heart of the rebirth of humanism that gave rise to the Renaissance") brought about the huge social change of the understanding of "Amor," instead of being social arrangement for the first time in history is "the meeting of the eyes" (241). The story became that of the restrictions on love and the restrictions on the soul being removed to one's true nature and the amazing quest of self-sacrifice devoted to this begins to bring it into being wherein one has to "give up everything for something and stay with it with your mind on where you're going" (Goddesses 250). It is a greater kind of depth and love and individualism, one that reaches into soulful, divinely-inspired territory. It is also where the secular begins to search for the real. One could no longer be told whom they could love or be demanded to do so to fulfill near-sighted social obligation. It is the quest for the completeness of the individual: moving towards total realization. It begins with that realization of the western mind, "the great characteristic of Europe is recognition of personality, of the individual . . . There is deep meaning in the individual" that is a unique development in world history moving into quest. Campbell states,
Marriage in the Middle Ages—as in most of history—was a socially arranged affair wherein the family would make the arrangements for political or financial reasons. In twelfth-century France, there was a protest against this; this protest was enunciated by the troubadours and the whole tradition of Amor. If you spell Amor backward you get Roma; Roma means the Church and the sacrament of marriage, and Amor means the awakening of the heart. The poets or troubadours of southern France were writing in a language called Provencal, and this is the world from which Eleanor of Aquitaine came—her grandfather, William X of Aquitaine, was the very first troubadour (240).
Transformation is required. After the quest the individual has proven the intent, fortitude and content of his heart. It requires a noble heart: "The gentle heart is the heart capable of love not simply of lust." The quest was "a mission transcendent of all the values of this world and a pitch into eternity." Our ways of being were here first emerging in the arts as being on the road with the bards and then with the troubadours, not only entertaining, but also creating the way—coyotes between the worlds in poetry and in music but also importantly in quest for what true nature could mean. There in (what would become) Provence began the first tales of the Arthurian knights, emerging in art and quest, for the thing the human spirit sought: the holy grail. Both love and music were on the road moving towards a knowing and a true celebration of life.
As Lewis Hyde writes in his book Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art, "All tricksters are 'on the road . . .They are the lords of in-between." The stories told on the road were on the road themselves, moving, and the story coyote was creating wasn't just an epic poem, but a protecting, nurturing and creation of new boundaries and a building strength to create more. It becomes evident that music and lyrics have not been without this important element: quest, and like coyote, it has been unsuspected because it is done in the internal spaces where freedom to create has to rule. It has been a continuous taking this road, being transformed and transforming as it goes. Music and its subject it covers in poetry shows the path that wasn't realized before, although coyote knew it in his soul, thereby creating it and also creating its imperative in-between spaces that rejects static rigidity and moves on because it must towards realization of life. By recognizing coyote it shows where the human spirit has been going. Hyde writes,
The road that trickster travels is a spirit road as well as a road in fact. He is the adept who can move between heaven and earth, and between the living and the dead. As such, he is sometimes the messenger of the gods and sometimes the guide of souls, carrying the dead into the underworld or opening the tomb to release them when they must walk among us (6).
Coyote has all the inspiration of the muses: he brings history to be an intuitive, moving force. He walks in the path of the epics and they walk again. He composes the lines of the delight of all the senses for which the feminine is the embodiment and a realizable state. He emerges from death and tragedy into the spiritual realm and brings back its flow. "Trickster is a boundary-crosser . . . at the gates of the city and the gates of life, making sure there is commerce . . . the creative idiot . . . the wise fool . . . the speaker of sacred profanities . . . Trickster is the mythic embodiment of ambiguity and ambivalence, doubleness and duplicity, contradiction and paradox" that writes a different world. As Hyde explains, coyote calls into question the concreteness of what was formerly perceived to be absolute truth and by altering the stability of that concreteness, he changes the makeup of the entire system. This doesn't just happen outside the boundaries where he operates, but ripple effects with new truths that overturn the old. What was actual falsehoods before, perceived divisions in thought, are reimagined and the worlds are flipped upside down.
Coyote's existence is of movement and vitality, born to something else, and having to go further than facing off fear and desire, he has to risk himself in the in-between that, because neither have reached their realization and are only broken parts, and therefore neither can he, has to alter both. His realized being depends on this alteration. What he brings is more than the sum of the parts. Through trial and error, his purpose is to unveil and to bring life itself into fuller being. As soon as unveiling coyote begins, however, the flood of realization and connections begin and it is unstoppable. It is a levy breaking that has been created, covered, and nurtured by music, poetry, dance, comedy, tragedy . . . The barrier between the worlds starts to loosen and commonalities not perceived start to emerge, liquifying thought again and making no action barred. He loosens the levy more, carefully, fully aware that creation is first a chaotic thing. What he is doing is for a higher existence but what he causes is a deluge of realization that can be confusion in its first rush because there isn't balance in growth. This is transformation. His existence, however, will bring the balance—he is firmly part of both worlds. He traverses, causing transition—that shock that comes when it is first realized—after the fact of what he has done. The act causes transformation which is disruptive because structures and reality become fluid again. He might have been loved in a tenuous, human way before and written off by the un-insightful and disbelieving or by those who consider time to be the controlling factor, but as in the Odyssey and in the Arthurian tales, he proves by his spirit that he is "the once and future king"—a stabilizing force of harmony. Metaphorically, Hermes creation of music is given to Apollo. The emphasis is where the power of expression is held. What is shocking is not limited only to transformation, to his deeds, but also this: what he reveals and brings into existence is what has been missing.
It is almost impossible to touch on the entirety of what happens, the connections that come together upon inside view, but there are clear truths of certain characteristics of coyote that are his/her will to find the way in often humorous, highly intelligent, intrepid, sometimes audacious ways of which no one else would have thought or dared, a driving spirit and a certain amorality that trumps limited morality and bests it to rise above to a higher truth. Like the natural pushing flow of an inexhaustible waterway, his energy and his drive are of not being stopped, an added dimension to his intelligence and spirit that act as a protecting and guiding wit to a critical goal that no one else yet sees as critical. That insight happens in hindsight. As Arthur Schopenhauer stated, "Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one can see." His spirit won't let him yield to lesser causes, lesser minds or play within the rules of lesser games just because someone says that's the game. He operates outside the bounds because he has to and often then he is considered by the mainstream to be "down and out" which is usually fine by him because it buys him space and time. For example, it could be assumed then that Black America is "down and out" but it is their music and folktales that have historically best demonstrated the often hilarious trickster at work, out of sight finding funnier ways around impossible obstacles. One favorite image is of the trickster rolling around on the ground laughing once the trick outdoes the lesser mind. It's kept on the down-low because publicity during breaks the trick, is an intruder, a nuisance until there's a punch line, but by then it's time to disappear again into inner spaces with no fear of the talent and wit to live on and rise again, as it does through music.
There is a reason Hermes is known as the creator of the first lyre, the first music. Music, like him, is a creation and a transporter, that "prime art of the movement in time and flow" (Goddesses 217) that moves towards union and illumination. He is the "brother" of Apollo, that illumined mind, and it is Apollo overseeing the world who has this new creation—as if the first time—the gift of music that flows through the universe, also a gift to humans who receive it also as if the first time because it was not "seen" before. It becomes a new participation. This is one of the many "truths" of the forms understood in the classical world that would arrive as soon as the realization hits of recognition of what he/she has unveiled in our time. When Lewis Hyde considered where Coyote or trickster is to be found in the modern world, he found it of course in free-thinking poets such as Walt Whitman and beat-poet Allen Ginsberg, in rituals, mythologies and in African and Native American storytelling, but also in that very American great musically transforming trickster, the blues (9). The reason it gets unveiled in our time is because the time and place is conducive to the realization that life and its growth and becoming and in its cycles is the feminine that "represents that which is transcendent, as well as what is potential, what is the future; she is the source and the end" (Goddesses 237). She in herself is a shock of realization because she is "transparent to the transcendent," both real and life as illusion, both life and death, a passageway, shockingly knowable literally and figuratively in the palms of our hands. He brings the rebalance to fruition. The grounding source of the world's mythology, its religions, it rites and rituals are tied at their roots to this commonality: life as we know it in the vast immensity of being that is unfathomably larger than us, is also unimaginably present. It is an awakening that awakens in all the small, unlikely, unexpected places.
Coyote is naturally to be found on American soil, and as well the characteristics of moving into a liminal space describe the nature of movement to this continent. Likewise, American thought itself has been on the road, literally, coming from the depths of the ancient cultures, moving from the "cradles of civilizations" of modern day Iran and Iraq from that first hero of Gilgamesh 20,000 years ago (where the art is now being bulldozed and sledge-hammered by ISIL); from Judaism, from the beginnings of Christianity, from ancient Greece and Rome, the Germanic invasions of the continent of England and Ireland, from Africa up through the Caribbean, from Spain up through Latin America, the Native Americans from the north, through all the wars, emerging on a newly created liminal space. What can be seen now is that it wasn't just towards freedom and prosperity, but further, towards the freedom to be and create past boundaries of thought and that leads to exuberance of spirit. While Americans themselves managed to keep enslaving, manipulating for gain, raping and killing, what stayed ahead at the forefront of thought and movement, necessarily creating new ways and pathways, have unmistakably been writing, literature and the arts, and most visibly and most experienceable, music. The further transformation of expression of that flow would create such a space that further liquifies structures, hierarchies and boundaries, connecting worlds but also nurturing, protecting and growing a balance never before possible by taking out the "walls dividing nature and unconscious life from consciousness and culture" (Edwards 5) and unveiling the difference between what is illusion and what is knowably far more real. The flow moves there. What won't change is that it is created in private spaces while public spaces require transformation—a necessary rite.
The twin heroes of the Navajo War Ceremonial of Where the Two Came to Their Father, as written about before in Books of the Southwest, the realized heroes have to return to their home to their mountains in order to bring the realization and the balance and power back from their realization of the Sun. It is Odysseus's return. Now what happens at home has to be rite of passage to unveil the new. Penelope's battle has to be won, and she cannot do it without him. Her world has to be changed. In Navajo and Apache ceremonies that are based on this mythology there are Spirit Dancers who invoke the heroic spirits that return with their hard-won illuminations to their mountain and to the tribe. Within the ceremonies is also a clown, a White-Painted Dancer among the four Black representing the spirits of the mountain, the heroes returning from the Sun. The White-Painted Dancer is a trickster, a clown, who disrupts and makes the crowds laugh or causes terror. He is out of order, causing chaos. He is considered the most powerful of the Spirit Dancers.
Over time the clown's role has been seemingly less powerful in his mythological significance, acting on the periphery of American culture, "down and out," masquerading as a clown, but his operations are understood by Native Americans, themselves peripheral and tied to nature. What has to be understood that is pivotal is that it is our western imaginations are the ones that have been limited and precisely, our western heroic, Odysseus has been limited in our own understanding. The Native Americans have to wait on the western mind. It would seem hardly possible that the western realization of the male could have been limited and it is almost sacrilegious to humanity to suggest that this lack of the realization of the western male is tied to the well-being and the lives of Native Americans. But in American culture, Odysseus is considered "down and out." An American culture where greed and imposed arbitrary social restrictions rule (marrying for social gain, for example) is exactly like a court where Penelope has to fend off suitors filled with gluttony, fighting and jealousy who were trying to reduce Odysseus's rightful place. Likewise, when American cinema went to make the movie Troy (2004) the decision was made to leave out the roles of the gods because they didn't know what to do with them. It is precisely those roles of the gods that bring the return of the feminine. (The unseen feminine powers stretch from the spiritual into the regenerative, obviously not ordinarily seen in a being or in the action of a movie.) And it is only after his heroes journey, that "soul's journey toward illumination" that is also and purposefully the journey towards home, that Odysseus is able to come in with the right and the rite to clear his home of illusion and the rite must come before he can be with Penelope. So not only has there been transformation, but there has to be the rite of the return. There was no willingness in the social arena to accept what the transformation would bring, either by his return or by his union of Penelope or what Penelope would decide for herself. Whereas they had both transformed, the social status quo had not. Coyote has to stay in action. Illusion has to be broken. Character is revealed. Odysseus through rite of passage reclaims his newly won place, which is also an unveiling of the feminine. To the end (or the beginning), Athena is altering his identity, testing Penelope's fortitude, character and identity: all internal, spiritual things. Penelope's internal makings link her to the qualities of the immortal and it becomes a question as to whether she is human or has the ancestry of a goddess. At the end of that and only then, Penelope's heroic actions are understood, given social significance, and they, too, like Athena, radically redefine feminine heroism that alters the structures. Importantly, these all, like character, come from internal places. It is only upon his recognition, the unveiling of his identity and the union, that the feminine role is given equal place. Otherwise the feminine remains out of sight, unknown and unrealized. The celebration of life is missing.
Living on the same mountain as the Mescalero Apache Reservation, the Sierra Blanca with its peak clearly in my view, one day, a Tuesday, April 7, 2015, I had been deep in thought about transitions after having written about the Navajo War Ceremonial Where Two Came to Their Father. The date had the significance to me of being also my name and birthdate inscribed in it and a Biblical prophecy, so I decided to spend the day on the reservation at the lake at the Inn of the Mountain Gods at the bottom of the mountain. I stopped at the coffee shop Sacred Grounds on the Rui Ruidoso River on the way because I wanted to buy a cap to wear that would say "Sacred Grounds." They no longer had the black ones I had seen before, but they had caps with wild animals embroidered on them. I looked through trying to find a wolf because of the BSW logo, but the closest thing was a coyote, so I bought that one. At the lake, the winds were extremely high and so I decided to walk my dogs to a cove on the other side across the dam. Being 44 and alone that day, not wishing to be alone, I didn't mind what the winds were doing, but getting out onto the dam where the trees were not blocking any of the wind and there is a steep drop off behind, the harsh winds were nearly blowing me over making it extremely difficult to walk. I carried my little Yorkie, afraid he might blow away. My Bichon loves the ruggedness of the weather and the mountain, so I let him struggle against the winds. (If anyone wants to know, it is the teacup Yorkie who has a wolf heart, an heroic warrior spirit, while the Bichon is reflective and soft-spirited.) I knew the significance of the winds to the Apache, so I wanted them to blow hard against me because I was tired of feeling too alone. The cove was more calm, and there is a concrete water runoff that reminded me of visiting the Fort Worth Water Gardens as a child, a place I loved at the time. I didn't think of it that day, but in the mythology Child Born of Water is conceived in a place with similarities of description. I spent a little while there taking photographs of the lake and trying to use the Periscope app on my iPhone with very little wireless connection. After walking back across the dam and the wind being too much to stay out in, I went to the circle entrance of the Inn of the Mountain Gods where their sculptures of their five Spirit Dancers loom tall against the mountain peak backdrop, standing in ceremonial action. It was the last time I would walk by them without knowing. Inside the entrance of the hotel/casino I stopped to look at a map display and an Apache man was nearby sweeping the floors. I had been still trying to understand the significance of the four bears guarding the entrance to the House of the Sun in the Navajo myth, and the Apaches here on the reservation ask that no sign of a bear be brought or shown to them. What I was wondering about at that moment, though, was whether my new cap might be offensive here, too. The Apache was humble and helpful when I started a conversation with him. I told him I know you aren't supposed to wear a sign of the bear and he kindly and gently explained that no, they don't like that because they call the bear "grandfather or cousin." I recognized the metaphorical significance as well as the literal as he continued to tell me how the bear's tracks look like human tracks and that their skeletons are similar to that of humans. Those facts of uncanny similarity would never be overlooked by them. I repeated "cousin," thinking, and he repeated "grandfather." Now wondering if I was being taboo I asked, what about the wolf? Well, about the coyote, and I pointed to my cap. The Apache's demeanor changed to a little bewildered and hesitant as to what to say. He looked around and said, "We're not sure about him yet." Looking back it is a humorous moment because I didn't realize all that I was evoking with a reference to coyote, let alone what I would have been expressing by wearing it on my new cap. He went off kind of still sweeping, kind of still explaining, telling me about the place, that Club 49 was the comedy club, the gift shop was that way, to the right, and we parted ways. I bought a card of the mountain and one of the Spirit Dancers, a necklace that said "Peace" and after I went back outside I stood looking at the outdoor sculptures. I knew them, the four heroes, the fifth with the most spiritual power. Four painted and dressed in black, one painted white. Here was the ceremony, where was the transition?
The next day I felt like I was in a stupor of thought. It was funny what I had done about the coyote, unknowingly showing up and asking a dumb question, a trickster question. It took about twenty-four hours to piece it all together: the Clown Dancer, Coyote, the White Spirit Dancer being the White Painted Dancer . . . the four heroes returning to the white one, White Painted Woman waiting on the mountain for their return, when I finally saw the significance: what White Painted Spirit Dancer was doing. I looked up my photographs and there it was: the four were fighting for the White one who was the Clown, the Coyote, the Trickster, the one causing the terror and the laughs, but also significantly being the White Painted One, the one to whom the heroes return, here on this mountain, the legend of White Painted Woman.
One of the first scholarly articles that I found was from 1957, the year Books of the Southwest was begun in California and from here on the mountain where it is currently published, in the Mescalero Apache tribe on White Mountain on the Mescalero Reservation where researchers L. Bryce Boyer and Ruth M. Boyer conducted research that was only published later in 1983 as "Additional Data." In the article entitled, "The Sacred Clown of the Chiricahua and Mescalero Apaches: Additional Data" the Boyers recorded:
The fusion of clown and coyote is not unusual among the Indians of North and Central America, but as yet, this fusion has not been recorded for the Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache Indians. In fact, the connection was unknown to us until we had worked with them for more than fifteen years. At the time we learned that both the Coyote and Clown are likewise associated by them with ashes, a connection which, to our knowledge, has been very rarely reported elsewhere (46).
According to Navajo medicine man Jeff King, pollen is the condensed vitality of the natural universe literally and significant metaphorically, the vehicle leading to the understanding of the power in the stars, for example, which are "made of pollen" or of this condensed vitality. The pollen as well has medicinal powers. To walk the pollen path is to walk one's spiritual path, or path of beauty. Ashes, then, being of fire, could be seen in one way as the condensed vitality of the spiritual world (a combination between the earth and the spiritual). The Apaches were also using it for medicinal purposes and these ceremonies. During the ceremony as recorded in this research by the Boyers, the White Painted Dancer, if he weren't already painted that color with clay, would from the dirt and dancing turn the shade of ashes during the ceremony, which were also the colors of the coyote.
In other mythologies, the clown or trickster's actions also act as the buffer that can be seen in other transformative moments such as when Demeter is mourning Persephone and she "refuses all solace until along comes bawdy old Baubo, who puts on an obscene, comical dance and Demeter cannot help but laugh" (Goddesses 200) or when Amaterasu fails to emerge from her "heavenly rock cave" when Uzume "makes merry and likewise the eight millions of gods all laugh" and then Uzume lies and says to Amaterasu "We rejoice and are glad because there is a deity more illustrious than Thine Augustness" (Hero 211). Of Baubo Campbell writes,
Now, this role of the obscene is very interesting—it represents the breaking of rules of decorum and a shattering of one's commitments and attitudes. In the Classical theater presentations there were three tragedies and usually one comedy. The comedy gives another perspective and it releases you from the tragic, and this is what we have here. Remember in Goethe's Faust the Walpurgisnacht line . . . 'Old Baubo comes alone, riding in on the back of a mother pig (Goddesses 9).
Of Uzume he writes,
Then they thought of a wonderful idea: they'd have a wild party outside the rock door. Amaterasu would hear all the noise and want to know what was going on. They had an uproarious time, and again, one of the goddesses did a bawdy, obscene dance with comic gesturing. All the gods began roaring with laughter.
Little Amaterasu in her cave began to wonder what was going on out there. She opened the door a little bit to peek, and the gods said, 'Well, we've got somebody out here who leaves you in the shade' and they held up a mirror so that what she saw was herself (204).
When Hermes has stolen cattle from Apollo in order to alter the hierarchical situation, the softening technique of his actions is laughter. Lewis Hyde writes,
The straight-shooting god of sunlight and order is momentarily charmed out of his anger: 'Far-working Apollo laughed softly then, and said to Hermes: 'My dear boy, what a tricky-hearted cheat you are!'' This is the first of two Olympian chuckles in the Hymn, each of which offers Hermes an opportunity to change the world into which he has been born. In this case, Apollo's laugh marks the moment at which he first loosens his grip on the cattle; his laughter melts his righteous anger and a touch of detachment enters (71).
When discussing that carnivalesque spirit that breaks all the rules and where identities are in flux, the moment of great change, Campbell stated:
This is a period of outbreak, of obscenity, of the smashing of law so that the fecundation, the new generation of the new eon takes place, and that's what this obscene dance motif represents in association with the legend of the quest for Persephone . . . when the world of comely law no longer exists and there is room for play, the obscene moment, and the laugh (Goddesses 204).
He then points out how important this is for creation stating that if the "critical" factor is brought down too early, it kills it "before you have let the lyric factor work." Through the carnivalesque, he states, the opening comes for the new, "the moment of chaos, the moment of breaking all the rules, . . . and then to smash the new generation. That's what's associated with this carnival motif" (205). It is at this moment, he says,
By such means is the goddess relieved, brought back to life through laughter. This is the anodos, or return of the goddess. The seed that was stored in the realm of Plutus for the dry summer now comes up as the wealth of life in the fall sowing . . . [It] represents the energy of life that comes with woman (206).
When the Navajo heroes are first returning to their mountain they are met by Talking God, and this is the first embrace. Notably, the first embrace is not with Changing Woman. It takes something to get to her. Like internal places, there is process and rite. Talking God is a "grandfatherly" figure who also notably has the same description as Changing Woman or White Painted Woman early on as "The people would go to her for advice. She would tell them what to do what not to do, where to go and where not to go" (Where the Two 35). It is with this meeting with Talking God that the returning heroes are given song to have more power, a very different kind of power. And at that moment Talking God also makes a joke "'I am going to go on my way to find something by which to make my living.' (He was fooling.)" (49). Talking God comes down on the white pollen path from the mountain of White Painted Woman. He was also the one who found her as a newborn in the bed of flowers. Their similarity of description shows their commonality: Homer, the singer of the Odyssey and Penelope, its reason, its human weaver. Joseph Campbell, the teller of mythologies the world over, for all of history, saying:
'. . . Let the serpent of death bite your heel, do hear the song of the universe and then the Muses sing.' When you have died to your ego and rational consciousness, there opens the intuition, that is to say, you hear the song of the Muse and this is the female power again (Goddesses 259).
When one can see it, the face of the lion is transformed. The being is transformed. White Painted Woman stands there. The lion is the first embrace, the right of passage, the return, the arrival. It is White Painted Woman to whom the heroes return and their mountain is renewed in strength and power and the world and its thought is altered with its own illumination, its own arrival at the mountain. But it is first in the form of Talking God, teaching them songs and telling jokes, that transformative passage and entity shaping the way, and on the way up their mountain the heroes have to write more songs. White Painted Woman's house becomes the House of the Sun. It is Penelope's home. Western thought and Native American world: one, the coming home; the other, the one to which they finally arrive, seeing it differently as if the first time. The entire tale, the unveiling of the feminine, to the vitality of the cosmos, and all that they are, have done, and the web of life wherein all the connections are known and felt, rests on the completed journey, the music of the bard, who is now Odysseus in his rightful place, Apollo, who holds the first lyre, that guitar, that universal music with the hole of the world navel in the middle resonating its sound with no limitations. Hearing the story, participating in the rite of the music whose beat is the heartbeat of the universe and that matches our own is the coming to know. Then it becomes the rapture of knowing, the arrival, which only comes internally, in finally recognizing what has happened.
Both Coyote and the feminine have the ability to bring fragments together, to bridge the two universes into one in powerful new ways, to enlighten, to inform and ignite the arts, to reignite the symbols and give them life again so that they speak, to cause transition, to be the transformation itself, embodied in dance, music, history and epic tale the incarnation of the image in ceremony, to understand the explosion, to write the story that rebalances the feminine principle, to reunite with the heroic after the era of small-minded war and language and division in a progression thousands of years on this road to enlightenment.
Upon the passing of the great guitarist who played and sang to us of the deep soul of the American spirit, B.B. King, our trickster, our clown, the grandfather of American blues, let us hope the son returns home with a new song.
Shiloh Richter, M.A.
White Mountain, Alto, New Mexico, 2015, at the time of the new May moon
1. Campbell writes in "Art as a Revelation": "The leading reference of the Upanishad here is, of course, to the Self (atman) as identical with the sole, non-dual ground of all being and becoming (brahman), putting forth the phenomenal universe in continuous act of creation" The Historical Atlas of World Mythology: Volume I The Way of the Animal Powers, Part 2 Mythologies of the Great Hunt Page xi.
2. Hyde, Lewis. Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998. Print. Page 20.
3. Campbell quotes Lucius Apuleius' The Golden Ass: "I am she that is the natural mother of all things, mistress and governess of all the elements, the initial progeny of worlds, chief of the powers divine, queen of all that are in hell, the principal of them that dwell in heaven, manifested alone and under one form of all the gods and goddesses. At my will the planets of the sky, the wholesome winds of the seas, and the lamentable silences of hell are disposed; my name, my divinity is adored throughout the world, in divers manners, in variable customs, and by many names.
For the Phrygians that are the first of all men call me the Mother of the gods of Pessinus; the Athenians, which are spring from their own soil, Cecropian Minerva; the Cyprians, which are girt about the sea, Paphian Venus; the Cretans, which bear arrows, Dictynian Diana; the Sicilians, which speak three tongues, infernal Proserpine; the Eleusians their ancient goddess Ceres; some Juno, others Bellona, others Hecate, others Ramnusie, and principally both sort of the Ethiopians, which dwell in the Orient and are enlightened by the morning rays of the sun; and the Egyptians, which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine, and y their proper ceremonies accustomed to worship me, do call me by my true name, Queen Isis" (252).
4. Camille Paglia discusses this at length in her book Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson.
Boyer, L. Bryce and Ruth M. Boyer. "The Sacred Clown of the Chiricahua and Mescalero Apaches: Additional Data" Western Folklore Vol. 42, No. 1 (Jan., 1983), pp. 46-54 Published by: Western States Folklore Society Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1499465.
Campbell, Joseph, and Safron Rossi. Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2013. Print. Joseph Campbell Foundation.
Campbell, Joseph. Historical Atlas of World Mythology: Volume I: The Way of the Animal Powers, Part II Mythologies of the Great Hunt. “Art as a Revelation”. New York: Harper & Row, 1988. Print.
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero With a Thousand Faces. New York, N.Y.: MJF, 1949. Print. Bollingen Foundation.
Clayton, Barbara; Clayton, Barbara (2004-01-29). A Penelopean Poetics: Reweaving the Feminine in Homer's Odyssey (Greek Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches) (pp. 24-25). Lexington Books. Kindle Edition.