Emergence: Poem to a Plant Goddess

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Her name is Datura.

Delicate fluted deep-throated trumpets open to

hungry honey bees and summer rains.

She communicates through scent.

 

In the fall I collect her sharp-needled pods.

They rattle like dry bones.

I chill them.

In the spring I coax seeds to sprout

wrapping each in papery white cloth,

sing love songs – siren calls

to rouse each root from winter’s sleep.

 

I am patient…

a woman in waiting for the heat of the sun

and the mystery of becoming

that is re-acted in spring.

Only seeds know when to swell and burst.

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Wooly hairs branch out from a single root.

Curling themselves into screw like shapes,

They leave it to me to untangle head from foot!

 

I hear the Old Ones call her Sacred

West wind whips red sand into my face,

as I place each sprout in well dampened soil.

 

Within a week green wings unfold

– twin leafed plantlets

lean into the fierce light of a golden eye.

 

Each seedling seeks its own form.

DNA meets the pattern of becoming

held by cosmic forces in a spiral round.

 

I imagine a bush of sensuous pearl white trumpets

– lacy lavender tipped edges unfurling at dusk.

Datura converses with the Hawk moth under a blossoming moon.

 

An ancient plant with unknown origins

Datura bridges continents,

passed on by Indigenous story and feet.

A muse full of secrets

she is known by those

(who have been initiated into her ways)

as “Grandmother,” whose poison is deadly.

She is also a visionary and healer.

 

She comes to some through dreams.

The un- initiated fear her.

 

They call her devil, thorn apple,

witches wildflower, in woeful ignorance

of the breadth of her power.

 

“Dementia!” they sling arrows of ignorance,

accuse her as one who would kill or maim.

 

As well she might.

 

To those who would use her

without respect or care,

she mutters a warning:

Beware.

 

Working Notes:

Datura flowers are startling, huge, trumpet shaped – pearl white and luminous, tinted with pale to deep lavender around the edges – and in northern Mexico, intensely fragrant after rain. Last summer, like the bees that hummed around the flowers from dawn to dusk, I too couldn’t get enough of the sweet scent of literally hundreds of undulating lace edged trumpets that opened each morning or evening after a rain. These wild plants are also known as devil’s trumpet, moonflowers, devil’s weed and thorn apple.

 

Late last fall I collected prickly seed pods and stored them over the winter. This spring I coaxed seeds to sprout, planting them here and there, imagining a summer desert filled with clumps of fragrant blossoms.

 

Datura has the ability to shapeshift – literally. Depending upon growing conditions this plant can develop into a large four or five foot bush, or spread its small umbrella of pointed leaves and flowers over a dry desert wash, barely reaching twelve inches in height. The plant can change its shape as well as the amount of its toxicity which confused botanists for years!

 

In service to Life Datura removes lead from the soil and stores it in her roots and leaves. While the plant provides nectar for bees and other insectivores it forms an intimate partnership (mutualism) with the Hawk moth, an insect almost as large as the human hand. Datura furnishes the moth with nectar and shelters its eggs (newly hatched larvae are served a tasty leafy meal by this mothering plant). But in return pollen is transferred from moth to flower enabling fertilization to take place. With the help of the moth, Datura can then produce fruit and seeds for another year.

 

Datura belongs to the classic “witches weeds” according to Wikipedia, along with deadly nightshade, henbane, mandrake, hemlock and other toxic plants. “It was well known as an essential ingredient of potions and witches brews,” according to this  source.

 

Indigenous peoples across the globe have been using this plant for millennia to seek spirit helpers through visioning. All parts of this plant are lethal and only those that are initiated through the (secret) oral traditions know how to neutralize the poison.

Spring on the Wing

 

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Northern Flicker

 

Three long- necked Sand -hill cranes fly over the house.

V shaped flocks of geese sound a collective cry.

Woodpeckers drum.

 

Magical flying dragons are stirring….

 

All who listen hear that that the skies are shifting, avian travelers are underway.

Juncos, cactus wrens, sparrows, doves, towhees, peep and scratch

in a tangle of vines, rosy willows, and old papery leaves that tumble around under bare –leafed trees.

 

Magpie replies to inquiries made about his health,

a study in black and white, he mimics Katchinas

who have been biding their time in volcanic hills and calderas, conversing with deer…

 

I leap out of bed to glimpse an orange globe rising

Lily, my house dove, Lily rings in the hour.

 

Delicate sea green rosettes appear, mandalas spiraling on the desert floor.

Tufts of fury gray blue sage emerge – still wrinkled from sleep.

 

Red Willow River sings her love song of life bringing water

to the fierce white heat of a morning sun.

 

3/4/17

 

Working notes:

I wrote this prose after seeing the Sand –hill cranes flying over sand colored earth and the blue – green river while I fed my birds yesterday morning. Birds always usher in spring before anyone else seems to notice with their songs and also because many of our bird species migrate. This year I just learned that the northern flicker that migrates from here in the Mountains of Northern Mexico is not the same one that comes to Maine! Northern flickers that fly east have bright yellow underwings, while those that go west are painted a brilliant orange.

After too many long Maine winters I am delighted to be experiencing spring –like temperatures in early March. Here in New Mexico the first buds are swelling and desert perennials (some with spikes!) are greening up from red, buff, or sand colored earth. As an earth person, by which I mean a woman whose body/mind is exquisitely tuned to the nuances of each season, I am particularly grateful to be experiencing a warming sun, buds swelling, a river flowing, and birds singing during this “Month of the Mothers” without a thick white crusty blanket of snow covering the ground.

March is the month when the waters begin to rise… In ancient times The first Mother’s Day was celebrated March 25th, just after the spring equinox when longer days and increasingly intense light awakens plants and animals from their winter sleep.

 

Below: Artist Iren Schio’s partial rendering of a dragon… his long body is hidden from sight.

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In the Beginning

A Day In Santa Fe

 

Indescribable Art.

 

Roxanne Swentzell is a contemporary pueblo artist who “focuses on interpretive female portraits attempting to bring back the balance of power between male and female (that is) inherently recognized in her own culture.”

 

Photographs are forbidden in the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture but I copied down this Creation story that was written on the wall behind one of Roxanne’s sculptures. Roxanne comes from the pueblo of Santa Clara, a Tewa speaking people.

 

In the beginning

tucked in the dark womb

of Our Mother,

the urge struck us that we

might venture out.

At the same moment

Our Mother tilted the bowl

of Life, and poured us

Forward into our lives.

The Journey begins.

 

Flowers on Tsikumu*

are calling us.

We step forward.

The birds’ wings

Fan our feelings

We step forward.

Tracks in soft dirt

of antelope, bear and lion.

We step forward,

our breath joins all there is.

We joyfully step forward.

Mother of all things,

Bless our journey,

as we step forward.

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* Sacred Mountain

Thank you Bruce.

 

Mother Daughter Betrayal

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(1)

 Today is my mother’s birthday and although she has been dead for more than a decade I still think of her almost every day. At the time of her death I had not seen her for twelve years. Not by choice. After my father’s sudden demise my mother chose my children, her two adult grandsons to be her protectors, and dismissed me from her life, permanently.

When she died, my mother divided her assets evenly between my children and me, forcing her only daughter to live beneath the poverty level for the remainder of her life.

The final betrayal.

At the time of her death I was teaching Women’s Studies at the University.

(2)

 As a child I adored my very distant mother and did everything I could to please her, including becoming a second mother to my baby brother at four years old. I remember tenderly holding him and giving him his bottles.

Is that why I became so devoted to the divine image of Mary, Queen of Heaven the moment I was exposed to her at the convent garden that I secretly visited each day on my way home from kindergarten?

Three years later my parents went to Europe for a year leaving me in the care of my great aunts. “Baba Anna” allowed me to stay with my very devout Catholic grandmother for two days (the only time I was ever allowed to stay with my father’s mother – my mother disliked Italian Catholics, though she married one named Mario). My very Italian grandmother told me stories about Mary…

When my parents returned from Europe my mother brought me a silver plated triptych of Mary holding Jesus.

Astonished, I decided my mother must have magical powers.

(3)

 I adored Mary just as I adored my mother but Mary, unlike my mother, was always loving and kind…

I feared my mother’s wrath but it was her sphinx –like Silences that paralyzed me, turning me to stone. Medusa, she often called herself in jest.

When I first saw an image of Medusa with writhing snakes in her hair and a demonic look on her face the figure terrified me.

My mother introduced me to this frightening goddess by naming her, by her fear of snakes, and through her actions.

 (4)

 As an adolescent I discovered Mary Magdalene and because my childhood image of Mary as “virgin”* was at odds with my passionate nature, I turned to the “fallen woman” to find an image of myself.

I chose the “dark goddess” and split away from light without understanding what I had done.

My mother judged me harshly but no more harshly than I judged myself. As soon as I could, I married and moved to an island off the coast of Maine.

 (5)

 My first son was born in December two years after I graduated from college. From the beginning he was a difficult baby that had tantrums and screamed for hours – unless I held and nursed him.

My brother killed himself.

Every time I looked at the Botticelli image of the Madonna and child that I had placed on the mantle I wept.

Guilt and Shame dominated my mothering years isolating me and leaving little room for self – development.

I gave up the two Mary’s, god, and Christianity shutting the last door on Hope.

 (6)

 My relationship with my mother remained one –sided with me (desperately) trying to keep the door open between us because I needed her so.

After my brother’s suicide, she turned towards her grandchildren. And I was only too willing to give them to my mother whenever she asked, because I wanted to please her.

Some years she didn’t speak to me at all for reasons she never explained. In between her silences, I would discover that we planted the same flowers…

 (7)

 When my children left home Mary came back into my life. I found comfort in her presence as the Mater Dolorosa and began going to church again.

I also began a quest to seek the Black Madonna and found the first image of her in Italy, my father’s country of origin.

Open conflict now characterized my relationship with my mother who I began to see as a flawed human being.

I blamed my mother for my brother’s death and her abandonment of me. I judged her as harshly as she had judged me. I saw her through the eyes of Athena, the goddess that sprung from Zeus’s neck. (such an unnatural birth) Now what I feared the most was becoming like her…

As Fate would have it Medusa came to life in me as the raging unwanted daughter… I was forced to live through the same pattern that my mother did and to witness the slaying.

I left the church to become a ritual artist. Nature became my Muse.

 (8)

 Years passed. When my mother died I felt relief before the night closed in.

Gradually, painfully, and with great resentment, I learned to hold my mother accountable for her betrayals, and to separate my experience of reality from hers. As I sorted the seeds I learned to deal with my rage by containing it but not denying my feelings; I also discovered the power of humility (My mother had not been a good mother to either of her children but neither had I for the opposite reasons).

 (9)

 My mother’s greatest flaw as a parent and a person was that of entitlement. She lived her life as queen or goddess, “above” the fray, believing that she was better than others and believed that others should serve her. I lived my life below believing I was inherently flawed and therefore not qualified to be much more than a servant. Together, my mother’s life and mine comprise one whole. A sense of entitlement does not guarantee happiness any more than becoming a servant to others does.

 (10)

 I discovered Guadalupe “the Goddess of the Americas.” The Indigenous Guadalupe appeared to an Indian peasant and asked that a church be built on the same hill where Tonantzin, an ancient earth goddess first resided. The request was granted, and it is said that a spring appeared at the site. Many miracles occurred here.

 (11)

I came to the realization that my mother and I both suffered deeply.

Equally.

We both lost children.

Tragically, my mother and I were never able to see each other as two women who had lost access to their female roots, women who chose betrayal of one another out of pain and lack of awareness.

 (12)

 Recently, when I researched the Greek Medusa for an article I need to write, I discovered that she was one of three sisters –the only one that was mortal. In one version this unfortunate Greek goddess born of Earth and Water was a priestess to the goddess of war, Athena. After Medusa was raped by Poseidon, she lost her “virgin” status and was forced to leave Athena’s temple. Athena cursed Medusa, turning her into a monster whose rage turned anyone that looked at her to stone. She also banished Medusa to a desolate island. Later, Perseus killed Medusa, severing her head from her body (and from her female “roots” of earth and water). Perseus then gave her head to Athena who put Medusa’s face on her shield using it to turn others to stone. I was shocked to learn that Medusa was a victim of woman betrayal by a goddess that was often associated with wisdom…

 (13)

 Today, I choose forgiveness, for the mother who birthed me, and for myself.

Today, I choose Earth and Water as the elements that support me.

Today I see myself as a compassionate woman with integrity, one who continues to develop deeper insight as she ages, weaving darkness and light into one multicultural braid.

Today I honor my mother as a woman who loved…

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Today I give thanks for Guadalupe’s light, the light that shines during the darkest days of December, the month my mother was born.

Working Notes:

* The word virgin requires explanation. Patriarchy associates the word virgin with sexual purity because of its need to control women through their sexuality. Feminists know that the word virgin means that a woman is self-contained and whole – one unto herself.

The first picture of the Black Madonna is European. There are hundreds of Black Madonnas in Europe especially in Italy, France Germany and Spain. There is also a startlingly similar Black Madonna here in the Catholic church of Santo Tomas at the  Abiquiu Pueblo. The last picture depicts a “whitened” Guadalupe  who occupies a niche outside my back door. I notice that many Catholic churches whiten their Guadalupe who is an Indios goddess.

This year in my personal life I have experienced three betrayals by women that left me stunned – dumbfounded. As I searched for commonalities between the three I suddenly had an insight. All three of these women suffer from entitlement. It wasn’t until I made this connection that I realized that a sense of entitlement was the primary issue that created the imbalance that doomed the relationship between my mother and me. It’s important to note that entitlement can be well hidden. It is prudent to pay attention to the difference between what a woman says and what she does.  Entitlement guarantees that the woman in question will NOT attempt to work out differences and will block any attempt on your part to do so, probably by blaming you.

Mothers and daughters seem to have a particularly difficult time with betrayal. There are a number of reasons that women betray besides believing they are better than other women. Perhaps envy is the most common. But many women are also male -identified, by which I mean that these women privilege men over women. These women choose “power over” others as a way of being in the world. Patriarchy as a system of power over/dominance supports women who betray for obvious reasons. Women who are severed from their female roots are more vulnerable and more easily controlled… We can’t begin to change this behavior until we see it. My hope is that my mother -daughter story might help other women re-examine the way they treat each other.

Hecate’s Moon

 

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Lupita, Guadalupe –

Your agave points of light glow in grave darkness.

 

Hecate’s Moon is Red.

The Raven slices the sky into shards.

The River catches shivering stars.

 

We remember the First Mother…

Patiently, painfully,

we return the parts to the Whole.

 

See the Wolf who hides behind the Tree?

Welcome him in.

Only then can we begin…

 

Lupita, Guadalupe –

Your agave points of light glow in grave darkness.

 

Photo credits: I took this photograph when visiting the studio of artist Armando – Adrian Lopez whose work in mixed media produced this vision of Guadalupe.

Working notes…

Guadalupe is the Native “Mother of the Americas” – not the Virgin Mary as often suggested but an ancient Earth goddess. She is dark skinned and an Indian. Curiously, Lupita is the diminutive form of Guadalupe. Lupe means wolf. I was surprised to learn that the name Guadalupe means river of black stones or valley of the wolf. I was intrigued by the inclusion of both dark and light (wild and tame) in Guadalupe’s naming. She is a goddess of wholeness whose light continues to shine in a broken patriarchal culture.

Hecate’s moon is the last moon of the year according to some earth based traditions, and here I aspect her as the goddess who ushers in the dark months ahead in the northern hemisphere and the return to chaos.