I’ve been in Rome less than 24 hours now and am struggling with the intense process of trying to make sense of a lot of raw data and images as they present themselves one after another in my awareness. I was inspired to make this pilgrimage to Rome at this particular time in late October, 2011, by Mayan scholar Carl Calleman’s assertion that the vertical axis of the planetary Tree of Life runs directly through Rome at 12 degrees longitude and will reach its ultimate point of fruition, namely Unity Consciousness, on October 28, 2011, the very day I sit writing these words on my mini-laptop in my hotel in Rome.
If Calleman is correct, then those who are highly-sensitive to the energy of place should be able to see and feel the energy of the Tree of Life here. It should be something that is tangibly expressed through the language, the art, the culture and the people of the place. And, based on my recent experience, this does seem to be the case. Half way across the Atlantic on my flight from Washington, DC, to Rome, I started seeing pictures in my mind of what this place is about on an esoteric level. It all started with the very fluid, voluptuous sounds of Italian being spoken by the flight attendants over the public address system.
Every time they spoke, I would see trilling, spiraling, curly cues of light in my mind, juxtaposed with Fibonacci spirals and the curly branches of Gustav Klimt’s famous Tree of Life painting.
Once here in Rome, I dug a little deeper with the help of Google Search and was reminded that the brilliant 13th century Italian mathematician Fibonacci had developed his understanding of the inherent mathematical properties of our world, symbolized by his Fibonacci fractal, by observing recurring patterns in nature. Later, Italian Renaissance artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci embedded the sacred geometry of the Fibonacci spiral in their sketches, paintings and sculptures, creating some of the most profoundly beautiful and enduring art the world has ever seen.
In the weeks leading up to the 2012 Tipping Point conference in Vancouver, BC, there was a lot of controversy surrounding the fact that Carl Calleman, a long-time student of the Mayan calendar who has published several very influential books on the subject, was not invited to present at the conference. In response, the Prophets Conference organizers issued a statement which read, in part:
The Prophets Conference is on the receiving end of some very harsh true-believer language for not being party to Carl Calleman’s Conscious Convergence and for not supporting his calling for the end date of the Mayan Calendar to be October 28, 2011…Let us assure you that before launching our 2012 Tipping Point Conferences in Cancun and Vancouver, we put a good deal of study into the subject and decided beyond doubt that in December of 2012 the Mayan Calendar’s Great Cycle will come to an end.
I share this information because I believe Calleman’s work, which was unfortunately omitted from the conference, sheds a great deal of light on the issue of spiritual procreation and the birth of a new species and world. Whether our delivery date is October 28, 2011, or December 21, 2012, seems largely irrelevant to me in the grand scheme of things. In my opinion, the organizers of the conference missed the forest for the trees. Their failure was our loss.
I’ve written about Calleman’s understanding of the Mayan calendar in previous blogs, but the information bears summary here. Calleman believes the Mayan calendar is much more than an astronomical calendar in the usual sense of the word. He sees it as a reflection of fractal wave form patterns emanating from the Cosmic Tree of Life, the organizing and animating principle of life, itself, which resides at the center of our Universe as well as at each point in our space/time continuum. Furthermore, according to Calleman, the calendar describes nine sequential shifts or quantum leaps in consciousness, known to the Mayans as Underworlds, dating from the time of the Big Bang to the present, with each subsequent level twenty times shorter than the one that preceded it. By his calculations, we are currently in the final days of the 8th level of consciousness, the Galactic Underworld, which began in 1999 and is approximately twelve years in length. The final level of consciousness, the Universal Underworld, will begin on March 8th, 2011, and end on October 28th of the same year.
Clearly, according to this model, the evolutionary process is speeding up exponentially as we approach the end point of a giant fractal billions of years long. More and more is being packed into shorter and shorter periods of time. This process, as described by Calleman, strikes me as nothing other than a birthing event of Universal proportions, with each successive shift in consciousness representing another centimeter of dilation for the Great Mother. At the end of the 9th Underworld, She is 10 centimeters dilated and the new species is born.
Another apparent casualty of the controversy swirling around the 2012 Tipping Point conference was Barbara Hand Clow’s work related to Mayan prophecy and the evolution of consciousness, which is closely aligned with that of Carl Calleman. Her work was likewise omitted from the conference, though she actually lives in Vancouver, BC, and would have had much to contribute to the overall conversation about the potential birthing of a new world. I felt her absence very acutely, especially in the wake of Andrew Harvey’s impassioned plea that we turn and face our collective shadow in order to pave the way for a true awakening.
According to Hand Clow, 11,500 years ago, during the latter stages of the Regional Underworld, we experienced a catastrophe of planetary proportions (typically known as the Great Flood). This global catastrophe was a near extinction event for the human species, the likes of which humankind has yet to recover from on a collective, psychic/emotional level. She believes we are a very wounded species, as a result, suffering from post-traumatic stress on a massive scale and that we have a major opportunity now, during the latter stages of the Galactic Underworld, to revisit the cataclysmic event of our ancestors in order to finally heal it, in preparation for the Unity consciousness which is just around the corner.
What does this have to do with Birth with a capital B? Absolutely everything, in my opinion. A new species and world cannot be born without the death of the old and our traumatic past cannot be truly put to rest until it is fully faced, grieved and integrated.
Barbara Marx Hubbard was a hard act to follow but Daniel Pinchbeck (www.realitysandwich.com) managed it quite well, echoing much of what she had to say in his own very New York, bohemian intellectual way. “We are in a time of shamanic separation, initiation and rebirth, a Hero’s Journey of global proportions,” he said. Our collective rebirth on December 22, 2012, requires a public witnessing, a global synchronizing event and celebration that will anchor us in the new way of being. “We must plan a birthing moment,” he said, asking Marx Hubbard if she would help him coordinate the event, to which she readily agreed.
Pinchbeck noted that the crop circles that have been appearing this summer seem to point, through the medium of sacred geometry, the key science of ancient world, toward a dimensional shift. To illustrate his point, he described images of the Star of David and the Yin/Yang symbol, both appearing to morph into holographic, fractal variations of their more conventional selves.
After lunch, on the afternoon of the second day of the 2012 Tipping Point conference, Jose Arguelles (www.lawoftime.org) spoke about the need to shift to an organic calendar such as the one used by the Mayans, which follows the natural rhythms of human gestation with its 260 day cycles. He argued that our very minds have been colonized by the use of the Gregorian calendar which is completely fabricated and artificial, saying, “This is not a system. It’s a confusion. Anyone who follows it will be confused. We are programmed for hopeless confusion. Our sense of time divides our mind against itself. Every time we look at a clock it diminishes our telepathy and we become a little less intuitive.” He further lamented the fact that the mechanization of time leads to the mechanization of our biological functions.
Richard Tarnas (www.cosmosandpsyche.com) followed Jose Arguelles on the evening of the second day of the conference. He described how Carl Jung had prophesied in 1956 that we would soon encounter the end of an era and that a new age would be striving, struggling to be born. He saw the crisis in terms of a conflict between the “solar/masculine,” or Patriarchy, and the “lunar/feminine, a disempowered form of the feminine. “The out of balance masculine has accomplished many great things,” he said, “but what a shadow that light has caste.” He described our current state of affairs as a race between initiation and catastrophe, explaining that in indigenous cultures an initiatory experience is always an encounter with mortality which is precisely what is necessary in order to come in contact with the deepest archetypal sources of meaning. In the absence of this type of initiation, we are functional adolescents as a species.
Tarnas then asked the question, “Why do we not have rites of passage that are adequate in our culture?” His surprising answer, “Perhaps a profound evolutionary development is taking place in which the reason we don’t have initiations is because our entire civilization is going through an initiation en masse. By not having initiations, we’ve created this global pressure cooker. We’ve created a collective near-death experience in order to propel ourselves into a collective initiation and awakening.”
Tarnas called on all of us to be brave enough to undertake the shamanic descent and rebirth. This crisis is a birth process during which we need to listen with the lunar part of ourselves, the way a mother listens to her child. We need to listen to our dreams, our bodies, each other, synchronicities. Most importantly, we need to understand that all pain is birth pain. As soon as we grasp this essential, all-important fact, everything changes and how we experience suffering in our lives is completely transformed.
On the morning of the final day of the conference, Andrew Harvey (www.andrewharvey.net) spoke passionately about sacred activism. “We are in the middle of an unprecedented evolutionary crisis which could very well end in our extinction,” he said. There are two faces to this crisis: a great death, or dark night of the soul, and a great birth. He warned that the birth of a truly embodied humanity is not certain and that anyone who believes it is certain will not rise to the challenges confronting us at this time. Only a real near-death experience will provide the initiatory event that is needed. A pretend one won’t do.
According to Harvey, the way through this crisis is to ask ourselves, “What of all the causes in this burning world breaks my heart the most?” Go on asking this question like a fierce koan, he said, until you get to the place where you really connect with something in deep suffering and heartbreak. Once you have your answer, take action and don’t let anything get in your way, especially the shadow part of yourself that “couldn’t give a flying fuck about what’s going on in the world” and will attempt to sabotage your efforts to make a positive difference.
FloradeMayo (www.grandmotherscouncil.com), a Mayan elder, ended the conference with a ceremony honoring Jose Arguelles for his tireless efforts to introduce the Mayan calendar to the modern world, after which she shared the following vision:
"A being in a red cape approached me. I looked into his face and saw only white light. The being said, ‘I have a gift for you.’ He gave me an egg, a large, clay egg, about forty pounds. I said to the egg, ‘You are love. There is nothing but love. Love is all there is.’ I started this chant. The sand, the earth around the egg started breaking away from it and I started crying. As I continued to embrace the egg with love, underneath the earth was this crystalline substance. It almost looked like fresh snow. Tears were coming out of my eyes and I continued to send love out into the Cosmos. After all of the crystalline white fell out, a baby emerged. I’ve never seen such a beautiful baby. Everything was perfect. The baby was doing this baby movement. It had little wings. I said, ‘What a beautiful baby.’ The more I looked, I said, ‘You are a Golden Baby.’ I cried to my Beloved and I said, ‘Beloved, we have a Golden Child.’ I said to the baby, ‘You are so perfect and so beautiful.’ The baby opened its beautiful, almond eyes. As it opened its eyes, I realized it was an androgynous baby. I cried some more and said, ‘Beloved Creator, thank you.’ When the baby opened its eyes fully I could see the entire Universe. I sat there and I cried. I was so mesmerized by the beauty of this baby’s eyes. I dove into the eyes of the baby and I journeyed into the Universe. Afterwards, I came back into my body and I’m not the same. The vision of the Golden Child means the time is here. We have got to unite. The Golden Child is appearing everywhere. Other people are having similar visions. We must unite now. We must unite."
(To be continued…)
Barbara Marx Hubbard, who spoke on the morning of the second day of the 2012 Tipping Point conference, was a total trip: eighty years old and one of the most fully alive people I have ever encountered, though apparently she’s been diagnosed with some type of leukemia. She began with a self-deprecating laugh, saying, “When you’re a visionary from the future, it’s best not to die!” She then shared guidance she was given in 1966 that has informed her life and work. She was told, “Barbara, our story is a birth. Go tell the story, Barbara.” And so she has.
For Marx Hubbard, the entire story of Western civilization has been about progress through technological advances. She believes that story can no longer be sustained and that a new story is being born among us now. She sees the human species moving from biological procreation to co-creation, from sexuality and reproduction to supra-sexuality and self-evolution. She believes we are in the throes of a huge drive to self-reproduce: “to hold the Unknown Child in our arms and love the Unknown Child.” Homo Sapien Sapien is becoming the emergence of an entirely new species: Homo Luminous; Homo Divinous; Homo Progressivus.
According to Marx Hubbard, women and the feminine archetype are leading the way in this co-creative process. When women, especially post-menopausal women, wake up and become aware at the level of our deepest psyches, the energy that previously went into procreation becomes available for supra-sexual co-creation. We become attracted to our own creativity and fall in love with it. Over fifty and with no eggs, in the biological sense, we ARE the eggs. By saying “Yes” to the God Force, we are enlivened. Our bodies are infused with heightened consciousness. Consequently, we are not getting older; we’re getting newer. We are evolving, emerging, creating, rather than aging. We are regenerating ourselves at a cellular level, so rather than menopause, we’re talking about “regenopause.” This is more than just longevity. It’s actual mutation. When enough of us have accomplished this cellular regeneration, we create a critical mass, a resonant field, in which a new level of consciousness is stabilized.
Marx Hubbard characterized December 21, 2012, as our due date for a phase change on planet Earth. She said we need to remember to breathe because birth can be painful and difficult. Those of us who have eyes to see what’s going on must work toward the delivery of a new order of being. The nature of God is to create Godlings. We are currently toddler Godlings attempting to grow into more mature Godlings so that we can become co-creators with the divine. Earth is a tiny planet giving birth to a new species capable of being connected through the heart to the whole of life. In the new world, when something happens to one of us, it will happen to all of us instantaneously and we will all experience it fully through non-local, empathic connectivity.
In preparation, women and men must passionately unite in couples, teams, partnerships and groups, not simply to procreate but to co-create. Our creative potential can only be actualized by this joining together, which will not be easy, according to Marx Hubbard. All kinds of issues will come up to be addressed and healed. But, creativity cannot happen alone anymore, so we must follow our attractions in order to find the right chosen partners. We will need to be really bold, but if we are, she believes we will have the most amazing results.
In closing, Marx Hubbard shared a vision she had recently. In it, she became an astronaut. She felt the earth as a living system. She tumbled through the whole evolutionary spiral all the way up to the present, where she felt a pain so deep that everything stopped and empathy came flooding in, completely overwhelming all the outmoded structures. Suddenly, people began to hear and heed their inner voices. Innovations and breakthroughs began to occur spontaneously by the same power that coordinates cells and these innovations became functional capabilities in the new world.
Finally, Marx Hubbard advised that we start telling new stories about our lives based on imagining what we will be doing on December 22, 2012, which will be day one of the new world. “Start there and work backwards,” she said. “Hold it as real. Every aspect of your lives will be meaningful from that vantage point and you will understand the role you are meant to play in the birthing of the new world.”
There was only one element of Marx Hubbard’s presentation that I found wanting: her use of the term “co-creation” in place of the term “procreation.” The word co-creation just doesn’t do it for me, given the magnitude of what will be required of us over the course of the next couple of years. It lacks the necessary weightiness and reality of birth and the birthing process that the word procreation conveys, plus the word procreation already offers a sense of cooperation without having to add a prefix to it, since it takes two people to make a baby, not to mention an entire village to raise one properly.
So, I would like to suggest that instead of talking about co-creation, we talk about a spiritual/energetic dimension of procreation going forward. Birth is a very messy, organic, embodied process, but one that very often has a positive outcome. It seems that we, as a species, are at least a couple of centimeters dilated at this point and need all the help we can get to understand the process in which we are currently engaged and what it’s going to take to deliver an illumined new species into the world by our December 21, 2012, due date. I rest my case.
(To be continued…)
In the summer of 2011, I went off to Vancouver, BC, for the 2012 Tipping Point conference exploring the significance of the December 21, 2012, end of the Mayan calendar. As the various presenters at the conference shared, one after another, their vision of the meaning of that watershed date, a consistent theme began to emerge. As with all great synchronicities, the theme was the very one I was immersed in on a personal level at the time: the sacred marriage of masculine and feminine, resulting in a spiritual form of procreation and the birth of something new and beautiful.
The first speaker, John Kimmey (dancingawakethefifthworld.com), highlighted elements of Hopi prophecy related to 2012 that have been passed down through a sophisticated oral tradition for the past 5,000 years. In broad strokes, he painted a picture in which eventually the world would become so polarized that the West would claim the powers of masculinity while the East would become identified with the feminine principle. Ultimately, this polarity between both West and East and masculine and feminine would have to be resolved before it would be possible to enter what the Hopis call “the Fifth World.”
Kimmey saw the flooding of the Western world with spiritual teaching from the East and the rise of Western feminism in the last fifty years as hopeful signs, but bemoaned the fact that fifty percent of adults over fifty are currently single. He saw this as a major indication that we still have a lot of work to do if we are to cross the threshold into the Fifth World. According to Kimmey, what is required is nothing less than men and women finding the courage, resolve and inner resources to truly fall in love with one another. This, he said, is the most important work we can do at this pivotal time in our evolutionary history.
John Major Jenkins (http://alignment2012.com/), who followed John Kimmey, put the issue of the sacred marriage of masculine and feminine and the birth of a new world in a galactic context. He theorized that the ancient Mayans knew, without benefit of modern, scientific instruments, that our Sun would align itself with the center of the Milky Way galaxy during the relatively narrow window of time in which we currently live (an event which occurs only once every 26,000 years). Further, according to Jenkins interpretation of Mayan hieroglyphs and sacred texts, these ancient people understood that the Earth would be reborn in 2012 when Father Sun aligned with Mother Galaxy. On a related note, he added that the basic building block for the Mayan calendar, the “Tsolk’in,” which is 260 days in length, corresponds to the human reproductive cycle and that human gestation is a microcosmic, fractal-like reflection of the birth process on a galactic scale: “As Above, So Below.”
A general theme was beginning to emerge for me with these two first speakers, but it would take Barbara Marx Hubbard (www.barbaramarxhubbard.com) inspired vision the following morning to really seal the deal.
(To be continued…)
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…)
I’ve been doing my homework on New Orleans since moving here a little over a month ago; still trying to comprehend its deeper meaning in the grand scheme of human evolution; still trying to understand what this place may have to teach us as we approach our proposed due date in 2012 for the birth of a new species some are calling Homo Luminous.
As part of my research, I took a look at the sidereal birth chart for New Orleans, calculated from the date the U.S. officially took possession, December 20, 1803, and it became a de facto American city. On that date, in an official ceremony in New Orleans’ French Quarter, a representative of the French government transferred the city into the hands of the U.S. The French flag was lowered and the American flag was raised.
The chart shows four planets, Mars, Sun, Mercury and Chiron, conjunct the center of the Galaxy in the first twelve degrees of Sagittarius. All four planets are squaring Saturn. What this suggests, in a nutshell, is that New Orleans may have a special, karmic role to play in highlighting issues related to 2012. In particular, it may be destined to play the role of the Wounded Healer on a global scale during these final years leading up to the end date of the Mayan calendar. This theory is strengthened by the Jack of Hearts birth card associated with New Orleans in the ancient, Egyptian divination system known in modern times as The Love Cards. The Jack of Hearts is also referred to as the Christ card, embodying the energy of the Martyred Savior.
A picture of New Orleans has gradually emerged, over the course of its three hundred year history and now with sharper focus during the first decade of the 21st century, as a city of extremes, equal parts debauched and inspired, embodying both the best and the worst that humanity has to offer. This polarized situation is embedded in the very geography of the place. On the one hand, from a strategic standpoint, New Orleans is ideally situated at the mouth of the Mississippi River where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. For this reason, it was considered the crowning jewel of the Louisiana Purchase. On the other hand, the city is nestled on a precarious crescent of land, half of which is now below sea level, between a flood-prone river and a flood-prone tidal lagoon. To make matters worse, New Orleans is a favorite destination point for the extreme weather trajectory commonly known as Hurricane Alley, whereby hurricanes begin as seedlings from as far away as the west coast of Africa, gaining strength as they move across the Atlantic Ocean, through the Caribbean Sea and finally into the Gulf of Mexico.
Viewed from the negative side of the equation, a case could definitely be made for the notion that New Orleans is a vortex for disaster, both natural and man-made. The indigenous population of the area that later became New Orleans was virtually wiped out by various European diseases that arrived along with Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Subsequently, Spanish and French colonists tossed the nascent, disease and disaster ridden city back and forth like a hot potato for most of the 18th century before finally handing it off to the U.S. in 1803.
Throughout its long history, New Orleans has endured much more than its share of misery and heartache. In a collective, urban version of the Hero’s Journey, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong here many times over, and the survivors of each new calamity have had to decide how to respond in the face of nearly unrelenting adversity. A century and a half of slavery created a festering wound at the city’s core from its earliest days with crippling consequences down to the present, including poverty, illiteracy, urban violence and de facto segregation. Massive, periodic flooding, caused by hurricanes, mega-storms and failed levees, has brought the city to the brink of extinction on a number of occasions. City-wide conflagrations have devastated the landscape and the people. Widespread yellow fever and cholera epidemics wiped out large segments of the population throughout the 19th century. And let’s not forget wave upon wave of often desperate immigrants who have made New Orleans one of the world’s true melting pots even while taxing its infrastructure and meager resources at various times.
In his recent book, Bienville’s Dilemma, Tulane University professor Richard Campanella characterizes the role of post-Katrina New Orleans on the world stage as “the ultimate warning, test case, metaphor, prophetic voice and inspiration” for the times in which we live. This describes the parameters of the Wounded Healer, or Martyred Savior, archetype to a T. Think of the Tower card in the major arcana of the tarot. From one perspective, the tower represents the human spinal column with its rainbow colored chakras lined up from root to crown. Lightning strikes the tower from all sides and on all levels simultaneously. The old, outdated structure is completely blown apart. A hurricane moves through town and washes it all away. An opportunity for something entirely new and inspired is inherent in the destruction.
What will be created in place of the old? This question has been passionately debated by the people of New Orleans (with neighborhood groups multiplying like rabbits), and to a lesser extent, the nation and the entire world, for the past five years. There is no definitive answer yet, but one thing is for certain, the creative juices are flowing here as never before. And for a city who’s dominant ethnic group, the Creoles, derive their name from the root word “criar,” meaning “to create,” that’s saying a lot.
(to be continued…)
New Orleans has been in the news a lot in the last five years since Hurricane Katrina blew through town, bringing massive flooding and devastation in its wake. Recently, the BP oil spill off the coast of Louisiana added many more daunting challenges to the post-Katrina recovery process. So, why, I asked myself, was I loading my Suburban with all my worldly possessions and moving to this shell-shocked city of hard-partying parade-lovers on the Gulf of Mexico, especially given the fact that I am basically a teetotaling Midwesterner at heart whose idea of a good time involves large doses of peace and quiet, preferably in a quaint cottage on the shore of a secluded lake! Clearly, the move to New Orleans did not seem like a logical next step for me, yet something bigger was wrapping its arms around me and pulling me along, as if against my conscious will.
I visited New Orleans for the first time in early May of this year when I spent a week helping my twin sister relocate here from the Midwest to be near her son and his family. The temperature was in the 90s the entire week and I remember making a bee-line back to my motel room after each sweat-soaked outing in search of air-conditioned relief. The skeletal structures of hundreds of condemned houses dotted the urban landscape like dead bodies that had rotted where they lay and never been properly put to rest. I fantasized about hijacking a bull dozer from one of the many neighborhoods under construction and razing all the dead houses to the ground.
Now, here I am back in New Orleans in mid-October, having just moved here myself, and I’m still having fantasies about hijacking that bull dozer and demolishing all the condemned houses. But, then, who am I to decide when someone else’s deceased loved ones are best laid to rest? My sister and I have moved into a beautiful, new apartment complex in what, pre-Katrina, was the St. Bernard Housing Project neighborhood, just a few blocks east of the Bayou St. John and City Park and a couple of miles south of Lake Pontchartrain. The weather has been perfect since the day I got here: not a cloud in the sky, in the 70s and low 80s with a gentle breeze, and I feel my body slowly relaxing into the warmth of this place.
I’m not going to sugar coat it, though. I’ve been exposed, at least secondhand, to some of the ugliness and violence of New Orleans, including gang warfare that erupted at a neighborhood parade the day after I arrived, resulting in the death of a two year-old boy. But there’s been a lot of beauty and goodness, too. The thing that moves me the most, to the point of falling in love with this place, is the outrageous creativity that seems to ooze from every nook and cranny. In fact, it may be safe to say there are more artists in New Orleans per capita than any other place on Earth, not necessarily in the formal sense of the word, though there certainly are a lot of very talented people and even world-class artists here. More to the point, though, I’m talking about creativity in the bigger sense: in the sheer exuberance and audacity of the way people live their lives. In the face of life’s many adversities, the typical response is to have a parade, for example. As the flood waters recede, have a parade! When your neighbor dies, have a parade! In fact, when your dog dies, have a parade! And as you’re boogying down the street in some wildly extravagant costume, dance up on your neighbor’s porch and maybe steal a kiss or two.
In the short time I’ve been here, it has become increasingly clear to me that this city is also one of those Ground Zero places on the planet in the evolutionary scheme of things and, furthermore, that its natives are the canaries in the mines of broad evolutionary patterns that are occurring worldwide. If Barbara Hand Clow is right in her assertion that a catastrophe of global proportions occurred about 11,000 years ago (see her book, Catastrophobia), causing a massive flood that wiped out most of the human species and thoroughly traumatized the rest of us down through successive generations to the present, then Hurricane Katrina may well have restimulated unconscious memories of that cataclysmic event for those who survived the flooding here.
Hand Clow theorizes that the primary thing holding us back from awakening into our full potential as a species in these next couple of years as we approach 2012 may well be unprocessed, unconscious trauma from that global catastrophe 11,000 years ago. From this perspective, the apocalypse already happened all those millennia ago. It doesn’t have to happen again, certainly not at a magnitude that wipes out the entire human species. We don’t have to recreate it in the present. According to Hand Clow, to the extent we can feel the past, we can heal the past. The catch is we have to fully face it and feel it and that’s a big catch, indeed.
The people of New Orleans have experienced their own mini-apocalypse in recent years in the form of Hurricane Katrina, followed by the BP oil spill. Feelings of loss are still very raw and intense here. It seems possible to me that the collective wound of the event that almost caused our extinction 11,000 years ago may have opened up here and that the citizens of New Orleans have been peering into the gaping abyss of it for a number of years now. Perhaps we can learn something about how best to heal from such a catastrophe by examining the best that is occurring here in terms of rebirth and renewal.
(On that note, to be continued…)
NOTE TO THE READER: I wrote this piece in 2002 after returning to the U.S. from Ireland, my ancestral homeland, where I had lived for two years. I recently found it while rummaging through some files on my computer. I share it with the public for the first time here.
Before leaving Dublin for Galway, I buy a couple of cassette tapes of traditional instrumental Irish music, recommended to me by a street musician who was playing the pipes in the square in front of Trinity College yesterday. The music is mostly bagpipes and fiddle. Once on the train, I put my walkman on and settle in for the two hour trip across the middle of Ireland. My feet tap away under me as the scenery rolls by: chubby sheep followed by golf courses followed by more chubby sheep. Everything is green, green, green, though it’s the dead of winter. I settle into a deep reverie. I am listening to the very soul of Ireland distilled into various musical notes, melodies, harmonies: the pipes expressing the essence of something unbearably sad, while the fiddle makes the sadness somehow light and bearable. The experience is bittersweet with a capital B. I feel haunted, wounded, delighted and amused all at the same time.
As we pull into Galway, with a breath taking view of Galway Bay to the south, a huge aching sadness washes over me. I realize it’s the same feeling I’m having with the pipes, greatly magnified. This must be what the locals refer to as “The Hunger,” the collective hunger of a million plus famine ghosts, never properly laid to rest. I am not prepared for this. I WANT TO FEED THEM. But, first I want to curl up in the fetal position and weep. It seems as if the sadness is coming from the very air I’m breathing. It’s everywhere. Forcing myself up and out of the train, I quickly check my stuff at the hostel where I’ll be staying and set out to explore this place.
A sign reading “McInerney Law Office” in Galway’s main square reminds me that I am now in McInerney country, the land of my maternal ancestors. Everything here is hyper-quaint, like a Disney set of the quintessential Irish village: overflowing flower boxes and colorful street musicians everywhere. Without thinking about it too much, I find myself browsing in a bookstore in the town square. I’m drawn to a book on the Famine written by a native of County Clare, apparently the epicenter, not to mention my ancestral ground zero. The bulk of the book is reprinted copies of newspaper accounts of the Famine that had originally appeared in the Clare Journal of 1845-53. The author explains that his inspiration for its writing is the stories of the “Great Famine” told by his grandparents and their friends around the fire of his childhood home.
I buy the book and take it back to my room at the hostel. I give in to the sadness I have been feeling all afternoon as I read one heartbreaking account after another and let the tears fall where they may. Weeks later, I still can’t get the images out of my mind: naked, emaciated people collapsing in the streets, dying of starvation or one of the plague-like diseases that accompanied the Famine. Over a million men, women and children carted off and buried in mass graves all over the southwest of Ireland in the short span of a decade, from 1845 – 1855. Another one to two million flee Ireland on “coffin ships,” so named because the death toll during their passage is extremely high. Those who survive became part of the Irish diaspora in places like Australia, Canada and the U.S. Apparently, those, like my great-great-grandparents, Francis McKinney and Eliza McInerney, who emigrated from County Clare in 1852, typically did so because they were from the lowest rungs of the tenant farmers class and had lost their land during the Famine.
There are stories of great cruelty and opportunism on the part of the British and even among the Irish owning class (the “Anglo-Irish,” as they were called) but also many stories of great kindness and compassion on the part of both those who had and those who had not. To this day, the subject of the Famine is a very loaded one for the Irish and the British, as I was to discover later. There are those who consider it an example of genocide on the part of the British, bent on exterminating a race of people they considered inferior, “no better than pigs,” according to editorial commentary of the time. Others believe the British government did everything it could to alleviate a situation caused not by colonial design but by an act of nature. Evidence suggests that the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes.
Sinead O’Connor’s song “The Famine” plays on a sound loop through my mind during the time I spend among the mass graves in the southwest of Ireland, where no one goes for a walk through the countryside without a pocketful of crackers or bread crumbs for any hungry ghosts they will surely encounter along the way. It goes like this:
Okay, I want to talk about Ireland
Specifically, I want to talk about the Famine
About the fact that there never really was one
There was no Famine
See, Irish people were only allowed to eat potatoes
All of the other food
Meat, fish, vegetables
Were shipped out of the country under armed guard
To England while the Irish people starved…
And this is what I think is still hurting me.
See, we’re like a child that’s been battered
Has to drive itself out of its head because it’s frightened
Still feels all the painful feelings
But they lose contact with the memory.
And this leads to massive self-destruction
Alcoholism, drug addiction
All desperate attempts at running
And in its worst form
Becomes actual killing.
And if there ever is gonna be healing
There has to be remembering
And then grieving
So that there can be forgiving
There has to be knowledge and understanding.
An American Army regulation
Says you mustn’t kill more than 10% of a nation
‘Cause to do so causes permanent “psychological damage”
It’s not permanent but they don’t know that
Anyway, during the supposed “Famine”
We lost a lot more than 10% of our nation
Through death on land or ships of emigration
But what finally broke us was not starvation
But it’s use in the controlling of our education
Schools go on about “Black ’47″
On and on about “The Terrible Famine”
But what they don’t say is in truth
There never really was one.
So let’s take a look, shall we?
The highest statistics of child abuse in the EEC
And we say we’re a Christian country
But we’ve lost contact with our history
See, we used to worship God as a Mother
We’re suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Look at all our old men in the pubs
Look at all our young people on drugs
We used to worship God as a Mother
Now look at what we’re doing to each other
We’ve even made killers of ourselves
The most child-like trusting people in the Universe
And this is what’s wrong with us
Our history books, the parent figures, lied to us.
I see the Irish
As a race like a child
That got itself bashed in the face.
And if there ever is gonna be healing
There has to be remembering
And then grieving
So that there can be forgiving
There has to be knowledge and understanding.
Something shifts for me in Galway. Ireland becomes equal parts bagpipes and fiddle, Famine and faeries, tragedy and enlightened whimsy. I meet with Father Cogley, a Catholic priest who conducts ancestral healing masses all over Ireland, but especially here in the Famine zone. He’s not your typical priest, but then I’m not your typical Catholic. In fact, I’m not Catholic at all, in the traditional understanding of that designation. I’m what you might call a Tibetan Buddhist/Celtic/Essene. Father Cogley wears the hat of a Jungian analyst in addition to his priestly garb. We get along just fine. He basically analyzes me in the space of a little over an hour. It’s a humbling experience.
He explains that members of the Irish diaspora who fled Ireland at the time of the Famine and its immediate aftermath, carried especially deep patterns of dispossession, homelessness, restlessness, hunger and disorientation. This was because during the centuries preceding the Famine, their ancestors had been systematically run out of their homes in other parts of Ireland and forced to locate to the southwest region. “When Cromwell invaded in the 1600s, he said to the Irish ‘You can go to Hell or you can go to Connaucht [i.e. the southwest].’ Most of them opted for Connaucht. So, by the time of the Famine, the people of this region had already been pretty thoroughly traumatized.”
Father Cogley tells me it takes at least seven generations to heal a trauma of this magnitude, and that’s a best case scenario, assuming that the trauma is faced and worked with in a conscious way. He asks me what patterns I think I hold that have come down to me through my family tree. I squirm uncomfortably. “Gee, let me think. I’ve moved at least once a year throughout my entire adult life. No place really feels like home. I’m always restless, always moving.” I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface here, but it’s a start. He doesn’t let me off the hook. “You can heal the Famine’s legacy within yourself,” he says, “by honoring your ancestors, the ones who are buried in the mass graves: the hungry ghosts.”
The seeds of The Famine Heart Project, dedicated to “feeding” the hungry Famine ghosts, are planted in that moment. I spend the next couple of years traveling around the southwest of Ireland, sometimes alone, sometimes in the company of like-minded Irishmen, meditating on the mass Famine graves, offering the nourishment of love to the hungry ghosts who still congregate there. It is a profoundly life-altering experience. I feel waves of blissful, healing energy flowing through me all the way down my ancestral line to the present and beyond.
Notes From Ireland: Close Encounters with Faeries and Dakinis, the Wisdom Goddesses of Ireland and Tibet
NOTE TO THE READER: I wrote this piece in 2002 after returning to the U.S. from Ireland, my ancestral homeland, where I had lived for two years. I recently found it while rummaging through some files on my computer. I share it with the public for the first time here.
I catch my first glimpse of Tara, the Buddhist Goddess Tara, that is, in 1987. My journey has led me into a doctoral program in the Psychology of Religion and Women’s Spirituality at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. A woman by the name of China Galland is giving a slide presentation of dark, feminine images of divinity, in conjunction with the release of her new book Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna. When I see the image of the Green Tara, I experience a profound sense of recognition, longing and affinity. China explains that in the Tibetan scheme of things, Tara is understood as a fully-enlightened, female Buddha. She is also a Bodhisattva, a being of infinite compassion who has taken a vow not to rest until all being are liberated from suffering. For China, this green form of Tara, as well as several other dark, feminine forms of the sacred which exist cross-culturally, represents everything that has been submerged, repressed, denied. She is the Dark Mother, the Womb of God. Everything is held in Her embrace. Nothing is left out. Nothing is artificially set apart from anything else.
Once I find Tara, I can’t let her go. Or is it She who isn’t letting me go? For me, She is the answer, in iconographic form, to the problem of dualism/dissociation with which I have been wrestling throughout much of my academic career. And She is so much more than a mere image. In fact, She has become a real presence in my life. My dreams and waking moments are taken up with Her. I read everything I can find about Her, meditate daily on Her image, and eventually write my dissertation on Her role in recovery for Buddhist 12-Steppers. I even spend a year on the staff of a Buddhist retreat center in Colorado, Tara Mandala, named in Her honor and devoted to Her compassionate mission. In 1997, I change my name to Tara, in recognition of the fact that my identity and inner world have been so completely transformed by Her influence, and also as a way of affirming my Irish ancestry. Through the symbolic act of renaming myself, my Buddhist and Celtic worlds, previously unrelated, begin to collide and then to interweave.
In the winter of 2000, the time is finally right for a long anticipated pilgrimage to Ireland. I have a strong intuition that somehow the Hill of Tara (after which, by the way, the plantation in Gone With the Wind is named), Ireland’s most high holy place and seat of royal power for centuries, and the Buddhist Goddess Tara, are connected. I have no evidence whatsoever to back this up. I go to Ireland with only the prayer that I will be guided to the deepest possible truth about this matter.
Seriously jet lagged, I find myself browsing in a bookstore at Trinity College, in Dublin, on the very day of my arrival in Ireland. Serendipitously, I happen upon The Book of Tara, written in 1996 by Michael Slavin, a journalist who, according to the book jacket, has lived in Tara Village at the base of the Hill of Tara for the past thirty years. He asserts that because Tara Hill is fundamentally a spiritual place, its mysteries are, ultimately, beyond the reach of historians, archaeologists and scientists, and can best be known by dreamers, storytellers and mystics. Since I fall within the latter category, I feel emboldened in my quest. Back in my room, reading The Book of Tara that night, I have a premonition that I am going to meet Michael and that he will help me know the secrets that are “unspoken” but “can be heard in whispers” at the Hill of Tara.
In the morning I set out for the Hill of Tara with a tour group scheduled to stop briefly at Tara before going on to Newgrange, another historic site dating back to the Stone Age. We get off the tour bus at Tara, located about thirty miles north of Dublin and I make a bee-line for the gift shop at the base of the Hill, hoping to find Michael Slavin there, or at the very least to find out how to contact him. I am a woman on a mission. Two young Irishmen follow me into the shop and before I have a chance to inquire, they ask the clerk if Michael is around. Turns out he’s only in on odd days and this is one of the even ones. I tell the clerk that I’ve been reading Michael’s book and would like to speak to him about the Hill of Tara. “Michael loves to talk about the Hill,” she says, and gives me his number so that I can “ring him up.”
The next thing I know, I’m talking to Michael Slavin on the phone, telling him I’ve come all the way from the United States to be at the Hill of Tara and asking if he’d mind talking to me about the place. “That would be lovely,” he says in his lilting brogue, “I’ll be there in ten minutes.” Sure enough, ten minutes later I’m being introduced to Michael by the two Irishmen. He’s a man in his late seventies with one of those wonderful, map-of-Ireland faces. He couldn’t be more delightful in a grandfatherly sort of way. Taking both my hands in both of his, he says, “Tara, welcome to Tara.”
It becomes obvious very quickly that I will not be getting back on the bus to Newgrange, so I retrieve my backpack and tell the tour guide I’ll be staying at the Hill. “That’s very good,” he says, “Having Michael Slavin all to yourself is much better than listening to me ramble on, anyway.” I pick Michael’s brain for about an hour and he is very generous in answering all my questions with great candor, passion and lucidity. Michael believes, with persuasive historical evidence to back him up, that the Hill of Tara is named after the Celtic queen Tea who traveled from Northern Spain to Ireland in the 3rd century B.C.E. According to legend, she took up residence at the Hill and is, in fact, buried there, though her body has yet to be found. He goes on to say that during the British occupation of the Irish Republic, there was an archaeological dig at the Hill whose mission was to find the Ark of the Covenant, also rumored to be buried there. Michael dismisses this notion as “pure foolishness.”
Finally, Michael says he has to go but if I stay overnight at Mrs. Maguire’s Bed and Breakfast, just down the road a bit, he’ll be happy to take me up to the Hill the following morning and show me where he thinks queen Tea’s body is buried. We make a plan to meet at 10:30 a.m. and say our goodbyes. I spend the rest of the day reading The Hill of Tara and chatting with Mrs. Maguire who, by her own admission, has “the gift of the gab.” Her ancestors have lived at the base of Tara Hill for the past six generations, and, along with her husband, Dezzy, she’s raised five children there, one of whom owns and operates the gift shop where I first spoke with Michael Slavin on the phone.
Eventually, I get around to asking Mrs. Maguire what Tara Hill is all about for her. She tells me she goes for a walk on the Hill almost every day and for her “it’s about the wee people and the faeries.” She suggests I go up on the Hill by myself and walk around and be very quiet, insisting that that is the only way I will really understand. Two mornings later, I do just that, though the weather is very cold and wet and the wind is absolutely wild. I have on five layers of clothing, including a new sweater from the Aran Islands bought the day before at the Tara gift shop, plus Dezzy’s rubber boots. At first, my head is full of questions: Who was Tea really? Could she actually be buried here? And what about the Ark of the Covenant? What really happened on this Hill? etc., etc. After about an hour of this, I have driven myself nuts and am not feeling at all quiet or peaceful. So, I just give up, thinking I will have to come back some other time, on some other trip, when I can stay longer and really settle in to whatever the place has to tell me.
At this point, I am at the apex of the Hill looking across Ireland toward Galway, which amazingly enough, can be seen from the Hill, though it is at least 200 miles away! I look down the western slope of the Hill and there in a little, protected valley at its base is the most beautiful tree I have ever seen. I have to look again because it appears to have a halo of rainbow colored light encircling it. As I walk toward it, I see strips of bright cloth and yarn hanging from some of its branches. When I am within three feet of it, I see that its trunk is shimmering with tiny orbs of luminous energy. I can hardly believe what I’m seeing, but there’s no denying it. Then I see that crystals and mirrors and jewelry and colored glass and coins and candles are nestled in every nook and cranny of the tree’s trunk and lower branches. It’s leaves look like faerie wings fluttering in the breeze. The energy coming off the tree is pure bliss. I am hit with wave after wave of it. I walk around the tree and from every angle it is absolute perfection, so beautiful I can hardly bear it. Finally, I sit down under the tree on one of its roots, which forms a perfect meditation seat, and begin to meditate.
As soon as my eyes are closed and I have taken a few deep breaths, I begin to feel as if I have stumbled into a swarm of bees, except that instead of being stung, I am caressed by thousands of tiny, silk wings. I have the realization that I am in the midst of something like a faerie hive. I am overcome with a deep sense of homecoming. I understand that I am, in fact, IRISH, and that, ultimately, this is what it means to be Irish. It’s as if I have passed through a spiritual vortex of some sort and into something both uniquely Irish and fundamentally universal at the same time. I am immersed in the collective Irish soul, which is, itself, floating in the ocean of pure awareness common to us all. I know that nothing can ever desecrate or diminish, in any way, this holy place ~ not foreign invasion, not Famine, not “The Troubles,” not the Irish diaspora. Here, under this faerie tree, I know that Irish people, both those who still live in Ireland and those who have been forced to leave their homeland, are essentially whole and intact, despite any and all appearances to the contrary.
More insights flood in. I see that the faeries are none other than the Irish version of what in Tibet are known as “dakinis,” or wisdom goddesses. Tara is one such dakini (in addition to being a Buddha and a Bodhisattva). The Tibetans teach that the dakinis are protectors of various gateways into other dimensions of reality. They protect “terma,” sacred teachings that have been buried in trees and rocks and other natural settings until such time as they can be reclaimed. I understand that Ireland’s sacred teachings have, of necessity, gone underground. But they have not been lost. The faeries are protecting them, saving them, holding them, for the Irish people, for all of humankind. In the Tibetan tradition, the dakini Tara, in her green manifestation, is the protector of the forests. She lives there among the trees. It’s obvious that this Buddhist Tara is a close cousin to the little green faerie bees protecting Ireland’s precious spiritual resources.
Mrs. Maguire is waiting for me when I arrive back at the Bed and Breakfast, wanting to know how things have gone up on the Hill. “I found the faerie tree,” I blurt out, smiling. “Achhh, you found the faerie tree, did’ya?” she says, delightedly. “I’ve been going there since I was a wee girl and so have most of the locals.” I take this information in for a moment. “It was glowing with light!” I say in wonder. “Yes,” she says simply. “It does that.” After a hearty Irish breakfast, I visit Michael at his bookshop and tell him my news, as well. “Aye, then you know what Tara is really all about now, don’t'cha?” he says, with a big grin on his face. “In the end, it’s not about whether Tea or the Ark of the Covenant is buried here,” I say. “It’s about the spiritual teachings buried here and the faeries protecting their ancient Celtic treasure.” “That’s right. That’s exactly right,” he says, and seems very pleased. I have passed the test and am unceremoniously welcomed into the tribe and treated accordingly.
Meanwhile, I continue to reflect upon the magic of the faerie tree. “Coincidentally,” the pictures I took of the tree could not be developed. The entire roll of film was mysteriously defective. So, I am left with only the memory of my experience, which is, I suspect, exactly what the faeries/dakinis intended. A quick internet search yields others who have made the connection between Irish faeries and Tibetan dakinis. The mystic Bhagavan Das describes the dakinis, whom he claims to be able to see, as “very subtle, petite, naked faeries” who “flit around like humming birds in the air and inside your mind.” Likewise, independent scholar Max Dashu asserts that dakinis and faeries are simply different cultural variations on the underlying wisdom goddess stream. I imagine the little faerie bees at the Hill of Tara have had a good laugh at my expense and are shaking their heads in wonder that it took me so long to figure out something which, in retrospect, seems so obvious.