Women with Wings

 

 

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(magpie visiting at dawn)

 

What does it mean when the Black Birds Come?

 

First it was the magpie

Black and White

shivering iridescent

feathers flashing

in every conceivable hue –

warning about extremes.

 

Next the raven took up

residence in in the upper crown

of the Russian Olive

outside my window

quorking his threat

hoarsely at dawn.

 

But when the red – wings arrived

in outrageous numbers

flocking to the ground

a hundred or so at a time

I imagined I heard a Red Bird’s song

rising from the sea…

 

A river of birds around

and over my head cry out

that Nature is always listening

appearing in times of calamitous need

supporting by Presence

a tangible truth

in the midst of

alcoholic delusion.

 

The Great Goddess

comes to life through

trees and birds –

thriving on the edges

of disaster –

offering Comfort

when there is none.

 

Women with Wings

are ancient female spirits

appearing in the guise

of birds whose Love

intervenes

when Fire threatens

to annihilate

just as Gimbutas intuitively

understood.

 

 

 

Working notes:

 

This morning I read Carol Christ’s most recent article on scholar and archeologist Marija Gimbutas whose work has informed my writing for the last thirty years ( Carol P. Christ feminismandreligion.com).

 

Understanding intuitively that Marija spoke truths no one else had dared to utter, I read, wrote, sculpted and listened to Nature with secret relief having finally found a context in which I could find comfort and a reason to go on…

 

Instead of paraphrasing I will quote Christ’s words directly because this woman is a scholar perhaps equal only to Gimbutas herself.

Responding to the backlash against her theories, Gimbutas is said to have told a female colleague that it might take decades, but eventually the value of her work would be recognized. It is now more than twenty years since Marija Gimbutas died in 1994, and the value of her work is beginning to be recognized by (at least some of) her colleagues—including one of her harshest critics. In a lecture titled “Marija Rediviva: DNA and Indo-European Origins,” renowned archaeologist Lord Colin Renfrew (allied with the British Conservative Party**), who had been one of Gimbutas’s most vociferous antagonists and a powerful gate-keeper, concluded the inaugural Marija Gimbutas Lecture at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago with these words: “Marija [Gimbutas]’s Kurgan hypothesis has been magnificently vindicated.”

In the lecture, Colin* explains Gimbutas’s Kurgan hypothesis about the spread of Indo-European languages from the steppes north of the Black Sea by invaders she called “Kurgans,” from a word of Slavic origin which refers to their characteristic burial mounds. Gimbutas spoke of these as “big man” graves, arguing that they marked the appearance of a new cultural group into Europe—one that was patriarchal, patrilineal, and warlike. Before their arrival, the people Gimbutas called “Old Europeans” buried their dead in communal graves, with grave offerings indicating no great difference in wealth or status and no domination of one sex over the other. Gimbutas argued that the “Kurgan” people introduced Indo-European languages into the lands they conquered, as well as new cultural systems based on domination of warriors and kings over the general populace and the domination of men over women. She stated that the Kurgan invasions of Europe began about 4400 BCE and lasted for several millennia.

Colin* dismissed the Kurgan theory, advancing his alternative hypothesis that Indo-European languages were introduced into Europe through the spread of agriculture from the Middle East after 7000 BCE. While Gimbutas spoke of a “clash of cultures” between the peaceful, sedentary, matrifocal cultures of Old Europe and the new culture of the Kurgan warriors, Colin* preferred the theory that cultures change through processes of internal evolution, rather than by violent overthrow.

In his lecture, Colin* discussed the different theories about the diffusion of the Indo-European languages across most of Europe and large parts of the Middle East and South Asia. He cited new evidence based on analysis of DNA in ancient bones that has been published in the last several years, acknowledging that this evidence definitively proves that a group called the “Yamnaya” people entered Europe in large numbers from their homeland north of the Black Sea. Colin* stated that he believed this evidence to be scientifically valid and thus to have proved Gimbutas’s Kurgan hypothesis. Stating that little work had been done on DNA of ancient bones from the area of modern Turkey he postulated as the Indo-Eurpoean homeland, he said that his hypothesis had not been disproved and held out the hope that it too might be proved to be correct. (Most scholars consider this unlikely.)

It is important to note that when Colin* said that Gimbutas’s Kurgan hypothesis has been proved, he was saying only that there is now convincing DNA evidence to uphold her idea that a new population element most likely speaking an Indo-European language entered into Europe at the times she postulated. He did not evaluate or endorse Gimbutas’s theory of a “clash of cultures” between peaceful, sedentary, matrifocal cultures of Old Europe and invading nomadic, warlike, patriarchal cultures of the Indo-Europeans. Nonetheless, in declaring Marija Gimbutas’s Kurgan hypothesis “magnificently vindicated,” Lord Colin Renfrew, considered by many to be “the grand old man” of his field, opened the floodgates. He implicitly gave permission to other scholars to reconsider all of Gimbutas’s theories and perhaps eventually to restore her to her rightful place as one of the most–if not the most–creative, scientific, ground-breaking archaeologists of the twentieth century, “the grand old lady” of her field.”

 The Women with Wings are hidden

among the boughs of the trees that love them,

biding their time until Her Collective Voice rises out of the ashes of a civilization crumbling in collapse.

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The Abuser was someone I loved

Dedication: I dedicate this writing to all animals, women, children who have been violated, brutalized or murdered by men.

 

The Abuser was someone I loved.

 

I will never forget

the look in her eyes

when he kicked her

the ugly brown shoe

smashing the domed

brown skull –

the daze – vacant

uncomprehending

falling to the floor

her eyes glazed

still find mine

“What did I do?”

 

Is death stalking us both

Will she die?

 

I scoop her in

my arms

and flee

slamming a door

to get away

from him –

my terror – her fright

a matrix of confusion

 

Is death stalking us both

Will she die?

 

I cannot comfort her

or me

shock waves

pass through this animal body

rocking her in my arms

keening,

I beg her for forgiveness.

 

Is death stalking us both

Will she die?

 

I scream into the silence

He will never

touch her again.

My thundering heart

replays the scene in my mind

how could he?

In seconds he shattered

the bond between us.

I believed.

I’ll never trust him again.

 

Is death stalking us both

will she die?

 

I cradle six

pounds of silky fur

and fragile bones

in equally fragile arms,

 

she growls

shaking convulsively

shivering with fear

tears of white anguish

fall on soft skin.

“I’m sorry

I didn’t protect you”

The fault was mine.

 

Is death stalking us both

Will she die?

 

Carved out of stone

raging with fury

I spit out words

a fiery forked tongue

“If you touch her again

I am gone”

Her life is my life…

(And this he doesn’t yet know)

“I would rather

you murder me than harm her

DO you understand?

don’t get near her again”

In a frenzy

Truths tumble incoherently

filling a dead room

(that moments ago seemed to be filled

with peace)

But the promise I make

to us both,

this dog I love

more than my life

is one

that I will not break,

this much I know.

 

Is death stalking us both

Will she die?

 

And meanwhile

concussions take time

To resolve – or not

I can’t wait

I must get her into the

Night, let her walk beside me

feel her body

moving against mine

let the air calm my

racing, rabid heart

let the stars return me

to the woman

I was before

I witnessed this threat

to her life.

 

Is death stalking us both

Will she die?

 

When I look up

at the stars

I see the Great Bear

circumnavigating the sky

feel Nature’s arms

close around me,

the only real comfort

I have ever known.

 

When I return to the house

she jumps up next to him – the man

who could have killed her

with a single blow –

circling back to her abuser.

I know, I once did this too.

 

Is there a concussion still waiting

to strike in the wings?

 

The Sphinx is silent.

 

My god I am sickened by the specter

of bullying, violence, abuse.

 

But I will not live with it.

This I know.

 

 

Working Notes:

 

Veterans Day Weekend 2017 – the weekend we celebrate having “almighty power over” at the cost of human lives.

“Plant Your Gun”

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Working Notes:

When I first saw this powerful image I thought “That’s exactly what we have to do.” There is something about containing a lethal weapon under glass and earthing it that speaks to the need to bury these guns once and for all before they destroy  us.

A deeply moving memorial to the death of gun violence and war.

My companion Bruce notes that bullets are made of lead and even if the gun is discharged, lead is being returned to its source.

Thank you Iren for creating images that speak to us from the depths of our hopeful hearts.

 

 

Lupita

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Lupita,

Your points of light

glow in grave darkness.

 

Hecate’s Moon was red.

The raven sliced the sky into shards.

The river caught shivering stars.

 

We remember our First Mother…a She Bear

Patiently, painfully,

we return broken parts to the Whole.

 

See the Wolf who hides behind the Tree?

Welcome her in.

Only then can we begin…

Again.

 

Working Notes:

Last night I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine that addressed the non- generative aspects of darkness. Just in this last week we have covered the problems of both envy and hatred. Yesterday I spent much of the day struggling with negative feelings, knowing from experience that these would pass. Sometimes, we need permission from others to feel what we feel, and validation that our feelings no matter how fiery are temporary.

When my friend’s partner (who is called Mr. Bear) heard the wolf singing, he came in to get her and she went outdoors with him to listen to the iconic cry of the wilderness. It was All Hallows Eve. Later I learned that when she heard the wolf howl, she howled back, and also howled for me!

Both generative and non generative aspects belong to this dark time of the year which in some traditions begins with the Feast of the Dead, the honoring of the Ancestors, and our own journeying through the dark. Late fall is an uncomfortable time for many.

The above poem was written last year at this time to acknowledge the importance of creating space for the wolf in us and her wild wolf feelings, both positive and negative. Animals incorporate both positive and negative attributes without fear and live out their lives in a state of wholeness that we humans can only imagine.

To think about what it would be like to feel naturally whole I personally am drawn to the ancient image of the Great Bear who circumnavigates the skies, and whose son provides direction helping humans to navigate the dark and the unknown. The celestial bear meets the bears on earth who are preparing for hibernation underground or under the snow. In January, mothers will give birth to cubs, beginning a new life cycle. Together these earth and sky images of the Great Bear offer comfort and remind me that the cycles of living, dying, and birthing are One.

Is this why the Great Bear was worshiped by Neanderthals at the dawn of humankind and later by other humans? These peoples looked to the stars and saw patterns that helped them navigate, and could easily see the shifting seasons on earth mirrored by stars in the sky. More than 50 thousand years ago bear skulls adorned cave walls in Europe and elsewhere. Although we continue to speculate how bear skulls, bones, and later bear effigies were used (in spite of Marija Gimbutas’s scholarly work), attests to our refusal to align ourselves with the Power’s of Nature as wolf, bear, bird or frog. I wonder about this obsessive need to substitute a human image for an animal when it comes to the divine. I think it reveals the terrible split that allows humans to cry out for peace and continue to wage war. We are a broken species that has lost touch with our bodies and that of our mother, the Earth.

 

(Lupita, by the way, translates as Little Wolf in Spanish.)

 

Orion’s Defeat*

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Ursa Major, the Great Bear, and her son.

 

Orion rises over the mountain

The Great Bear races towards the northwest –

Deer are stalked in grim silence.

Bear pad soundlessly through bruised leaves,

dead branches, hyper – aware.

The birds are still except for black crows

whose shrill warnings track madmen.

 

The She Bear circumnavigates the night.

Her son is a compass pointing North.

The Circle of Life, Guidance,

Clarity and Compassion

are gifts offered by patterns

written into the stars overhead.

 

But where are the men who once gazed skyward?

Men who ritualized the story

of the hunter and his prey

taking only what was needed,

begging forgiveness from the animal

that died, people who gave thanks

for the gift of an animal body?

 

Today no one reads the night skies in November.

Instead, a human induced re-enactment –

blood orange and grim

plays out on the stage of the forest floor.

Humility has been replaced by Hubris.

Deer and bear are stalked and shot

not so that others might live, but

to demonstrate the loss

of human compassion and dignity –

to celebrate the sovereignty

of the right to kill.

 

The air is split by shrill blasts of gunshot.

Animals, young and old stagger and fall –

the wounded will suffer and starve in silence.

Others, more fortunate, lie dead.

Stuffed animal heads with horns appear on living room walls –

mirrors for crumbling egos – fractured self images.

 

The trees are keening for animals they lost.

Sapling children bend low in grief.

Frightening Old Women appear as Furies

turning red blood

into haunted night shrieks for Justice.

I screech obscenities or weep,

mimic the screams of

Great Horned owls.

 

When are these stupid men going to get it

that hunting is a “tradition” that is dead?

 

*Although the Great She Bear is chased by Orion as he rises in the eastern sky in the Northeast, he is never destined to catch Her. And as the season passes, Orion descends below the horizon while the She Bear continues her cyclic round.

 

Working notes:

 

Last week I was walking up a familiar wood’s road and noticed a tent – like structure hidden in low brush. When I went over to investigate I discovered to my profound distress that deer grain had been placed on the forest floor to lure deer to the spot. Worse, I knew that deer routinely crossed at this point. Then I saw the camera.

 

I concluded that a man I knew erected this tent as a blind for his seven year old son to help the boy shoot his first spikehorn (a young buck) because he told me that he was tracking the young buck’s movements for his son with a camera. But what stunned me the most was the presence of grain that was being used as bait.

 

Revolted, I kept my feelings to myself. This man’s grandfather was my friend, now 101, and when Roy was young he hunted to put food on the table retaining a hunting ethic of fair chase that I had grudgingly come to respect (my respect was forever tarnished when I learned of the white deer but that is another story). I believed up until last week that Roy’s hunting ethic had been passed on to his grandson. I was wrong.

 

Once, the hunter’s idea of fair chase pitted man against the animal without stacking the deck. Today, all hunting techniques do stack the deck. Web cams have become the eyes of the hunter. The masking of human scent is routinely practiced. An impressive array of technological gadgets are used to help the hunter achieve his goal. Instead of walking, men use four wheelers to reach more inaccessible places where animals might be hiding out. Every hunting season opens when the animals are at their most vulnerable either needing food in order to survive hibernation/winter, as is the case for bears, or during mating season when animals like moose, elk, deer are distracted by their own hormones. Bear hunters use bait, hounds and steel traps to ensure a kill. “Just knowing I can shoot an animal makes me high” one hunter told me without apology.

 

Gradually, as the knowledge of the use of deer baiting to satisfy a seven year old’s pleasure in his first kill seeped into my body, I began to boil with anger. It was illegal to bait deer with grain or food of any kind. Abruptly, I slammed the door on the circle I had once opened with such difficulty. I was a naturalist who loved all animals, wild or tame. When I moved to these mountains thirty years ago I was confronted by the realities of routine animal slaughter each fall. Deer and moose hung outside hunters’ homes on nearby trees bleeding out. Stunned and repelled on a visceral level, I struggled hard not to become as militant as these men apparently were. I made friends with hunters and tried to see their point of view. I learned to respect some although as an animal lover I never surrendered my personal stance. I continued to side with the animals, but I also created space for the hunter’s perspective and in that process surrendered my hatred for these men choosing tolerance instead.

 

With this vignette I come full circle returning to my original position that killing of wild animals is morally and ethically wrong. But what I had learned by painfully traversing the circle is that although I could feel rage without censor on a temporary basis, I couldn’t allow myself to stay there. To do so would align me with animal killers, inside and out, albeit unconsciously (it takes two halves of love/hatred to make a whole). I needed to open and step outside that circle long enough to attempt to include the “other,”

 

While the hunting season continues I feel hopeless rage and grief that so many will die to boost faltering male egos. I make the choice to create space for my hatred of these egregious practices and when the time comes I will also let that hatred go – not for them but for me. This is perhaps the most important lesson I have learned from living in these mountains.

 

I hold the following position without apology:

There is absolutely no reason for any person to kill an animal or bird even to put food on the table. We have supermarkets for food and programs to assist those who need help with feeding their families (unless that changes no one has an excuse to hunt). Killing any animal for “sport”(a euphemism for fun) or the hunter’s addictive “high” is totally unacceptable because it supports the belief that humans can kill without negative consequences, including the development of potentially lethal addictions the most serious of which is an addiction to war.

 

Although hunters rationalize that that many of them eat what they kill I say – so what? When they whine that hunting is an American tradition I state “change is the only constant.” And when they speak of their “right” to kill animals I know that permission has been tacitly given to kill all other forms of life including humans and that permission is passed on inter –generationally from father to son.

 

Think about my closing sentence the next time you support a hunter’s right to slaughter an innocent animal that has as much right to live as the rest of us do.

Root Healer

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Painting by artist Judith Shaw

 

Slipping through the forest

padded paws embrace each leaf

a silent plea for concealment

from those who would harm.

 

I breathe prayers

 

He claws roots,

mouths sweet earthen dirt

digs deep,

to sleep, to image, to dream.

 

I breathe prayers

 

When snow covers

bare ground I will

sing him a secret lullaby –

Love songs that keep us

nose to nose

Underground.

 

Tree Roots bind us-

iridescent vibrating strings,

waves of scent,

pungent pine

night chants –

a bountiful body

His intent to heal

revealed.

 

 

Credits:

*Painting by artist Judith Shaw

http://judithshawart.com/

Working notes:

In circumpolar cultures throughout the Northern Hemisphere the The Great Bear Mother was the most ancient image of Nature/Great Goddess. She led the change of seasons by making a descent into the underworld in the fall, where she gave birth to cubs in winter, brought them into the world of sunlight during the spring to grow and thrive, and in summer she mated and repeated the cycle again. Her image of descent, death, birth and renewal mirror that of  the seasonal round and the Circle of Life. Images of her stretch back 50,000 years or more, She also has a solar aspect because  one of the roots of her name is translated as brightness. (The more recent goddess Brigid, retains that solar aspect and wears a crown of light and stars that spins with the celestial round)  The Great Bear mother was also powerful healer who used roots and plants and is still associated today with root healing by Indigenous peoples, especially in the Americas.

As ancient matrifocal cultures began to shift into Patriarchy, The Great Bear gradually lost power to her Bear Son who became a great hunter. However, there is  ample evidence to support the idea that she also taught her Bear Son to become a great Root Healer, just as she was. And it is to this son, not the hunter, that I dedicate this poem.

It is important to note that all bears are known to be able to heal themselves with roots and plants, applying poultices when needed, and ingesting certain plants to cure themselves when they become ill. Other body healings take place during the bear’s descent into the womb of the earth where bears are able to heal more serious wounds like those from bullets during hibernation. No one knows just how these remarkable, intelligent, empathetic animals do what they do.

The Great She Bear and her Son remind us that this time of gathering darkness is an invitation to us to make our own descents to heal those roots in ourselves that may still be broken.

In closing I would like to say that for me, Judith’s painting illustrates not just the mystical link between bears and humans but the powers that the Great Bear Mother retains today.

 

 

The myth of the hero… naming the face of war.

As Veterans Day approaches I feel the usual hopelessness and dismay as we come round again on celebrating the” fallen heroes of war.”

I lost two uncles and a cousin, two in the Korean War and one in Vietnam so  I have experienced the loss of loved ones to combat firsthand.

Feminist Robin Morgan’s blog voices my distress over this obsession around keeping the myth of the heroes of war alive (at the continued cost of human lives) in a very powerful way.

She writes:

“…it seems to me that in human history, so far at least, just as the family has been made to serve as the ideal hierarchical foundation for patriarchy, so has war functioned as the perfected articulation of patriarchy, defining manliness as the drive for competition and the capacity to dominate and murder best.

To sustain that definition’s power requires the myth of the hero, which in turn necessitates a systemic hypocrisy: flags, parades, anthems, ceremonies, wreaths, medals, gold stars, and other patriotic symbols that nonetheless ring hollow though the 4 AM silence of a widow’s grief or the agony of a woman who has lost her grown child.

“We,” one woman says through the dignity of her tears, “are the ones left behind. We are the collateral damage.”

Those words slice through all the masks of hypocrisy and name the face of war.”

Amen.