In my ongoing efforts to understand what this spiraling vortex of energy known as New Orleans is about at the deepest possible levels, I recently wandered off the beaten path and into archetypal and symbolic dimensions of inquiry. In a previous blog I took a look at the city’s astrological chart and Egyptian Love Cards with their unified themes of Wounded Healer and Martyred Saint, respectively.
Last week, I stumbled upon another symbolic clue to the deeper meaning of this place in the ubiquitous Fleur de Lys which is literally everywhere you look here so stumbling upon it really wasn’t that difficult, except for the fact that it was obvious to the point of near invisibility. In addition to being the official symbol for the city, it has been embraced by the people of New Orleans as a much-loved affirmation of post-Katrina rebirth and renewal. Poignantly, in the immediate wake of Katrina, the Fleur de Lys was often spray painted on the exterior walls of flooded out homes and commercial buildings along with messages of recovery and hope. A popular Fleur de Lys bumper sticker has since immortalized such sentiments.
In my research, I discovered that the Fleur de Lys is a stylized representation of the majestic iris which grows in such abundance and variety here that New Orleans (along with the rest of Southern Louisiana) is known internationally as “The Center of the Iris Universe” and locally, at least among horticulturists, as “Iris Heaven.” Recently, while ruminating about all this with Isha Lerner, an expert in the archetypal meaning of flowers and their healing application in the form of flower essences, I was thrilled to learn that irises actually hold the energy of rebirth and renewal through the watery medium of emotion combined with the fiery medium of creative expression.
Isha further explained that the iris is associated with the rainbow, with its beautiful, “iridescent” colors. The rainbow acts as a bridge between the Underworld of darkness, devastation and emotional suffering and the most sublime dimensions of transcendent experience and luminosity. It includes the entire spectrum of human experience, from the deep red associated with issues of physical survival, to the orange of creativity, the yellow of passion and will, the green of love, the blue of communication, and finally, the purple of inspiration and spiritual awakening.
Triumphantly, New Orleans’ world-famous iris fields are currently making a comeback after being killed off in large numbers by the salt water that flooded the city when the levees failed. Much like New Orleans’ human citizens, its iris community is a vibrant and highly-creative melting pot of rainbow colors, having cross-pollinated with one another over the course of many centuries spent in close proximity.
This past April, 2010, the irises were blooming again in the shallow water along the edge of the New Orleans City Park lagoon in the heart of the city. Just as dispossessed and displaced New Orleanians are finding their way back after several years in exile, spent in places that never quite felt like home, New Orleans’ irises are finding their way back, too, to the bayous, marshes, lagoons and other such waterways which are their natural habitat.
According to Isha, after a natural disaster, the first few generations of flowers that return to a devastated area do so with fierce intensity and astonishing creative power. Essences made from such flowers carry a very potent energy of rebirth, along with whatever other qualities they typically embody. How much more so, then, if, as in the case of the irises, they are all about rebirth to begin with? And, if this is true of flowers, perhaps the same can be said of people. The question then might be: How do we capture the essence of such outrageous, audacious, exuberant creativity and resilience in order to share it with the world at this all-important, defining moment in our collective evolution, this birthing moment into a new, “iridescent” way of being?
These are questions to be pondered in later blog, no doubt.
(To be continued…)