"We must assume our existence as broadly as we in any way can; everything, even the unheard-of, must be possible in it. That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular, and the most inexplicable that we may encounter." --- Rainier Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
Dear ones, I am writing to you on Wednesday rather than my usual Thursday evening scramble before the Friday morning post. This has been, for me, a week about change.
I’d expected to have The Keeper of Rivers completed to share with you, but the design keeps changing, flowing away in many different directions — unlike anything I might have imagined when I began the felt piece. I’m stepping away for awhile to let the waters settle and to wait for clarity.
Change has been the theme of the rest of life too. The on-going heatwaves, fires, floods & wars and the all the political & cultural crises around the world…. And, for me, there’s the personal turmoil of trying to get ready for a move that will change our lives in significant ways. Last Saturday, my body decided to join the dominant chorus of change, my heart shifting rapidly back & forth between a more-or-less steady beat and A-fib (which doctors have described as the heart just lying there quivering.) I’m scheduled for a couple of rather invasive cardiac tests tomorrow morning to get more information for a possible surgery. I do plan to watch the Jan. 6 Committee’s hearing in the eveining, with its information about big changes –past, present, future. And so life goes along….
As they say, Change is the one constant in life. I was delighted to come across Rilke’s inspiring encouragement (above) as I sorted through papers yesterday!
All this has led to larger thoughts about Change & Transformation, including the intrinsic role these play in mythologies from all over the world.
Tricksters, of course, are the ultimate transformers, changing both themselves & the world as they go along their way. Certainly this transforming is one of the things that drew me to Trickster. But myths & tales of transformation are by no means limited to tricksters. They are, rather, an intrinsic theme of many old myths, legends, and tales. I love the ancient stories of Selkies & of Swan Maidens (see post on 1/21/22) & other such tales that blur the line between human and other-than-human lives. I believe these stories tell deep truths. I’ll think about this some more.
Last week I included a striking example of a Salmon Transformation Mask. I love how these masks seem to show one individual being, but then open wide to show that the One is truly Many and the Many are One — humans, plants, animals & spirits woven into an inextricable web of connections.
This week I want to share the images of a Sun Transformation Mask from the Nuxalk people. This magnificent creation was “collected” ca. 1865 and now languishes — undanced — in a European museum. Still, it is filled with a power that I can feel, even if only through its image on a page.
I do not know how the Nuxalk people read this image. The closed mask makes me think of Raven with his prominent curved beak. The open mask is typical of Sun images throughout the northern Pacific coast of North America. And at least this speculation fits with one of the Nuxalk creation stories.
Way back in my 2nd post of Sharing Trickster’s Hoard (3/19/21), I told you the Haida story of how Raven brought the Light. The story that follows here is the Nuxalk verision of the myth depicting Raven as Light-bringer. It is quoted from the website of the Nuxalk Nation: http://www.nuxalk.net/html/four_carpenters.html :
“Nuxalkmc Elders tell us that in the beginning of time, when the world was covered in darkness, the very dim light was the colour of copper. The people were in constant sadness and prayed to the Creator, Alhkw’ntam, to give them light. Alhkw’ntam held the sun in a box in his long-house in the land above, Nusmata, and let no one see the light.
The Four Carpenters who made the world were sitting around a fire in Nusmata, when the eldest, Yulm, grabbed a piece of charcoal out of the fire and shook it in his hands. When he opened his hands it was a bird. The second Carpenter then made the wings. The third one made its eyes. The youngest one gave it life. The Carpenters asked the bird to say his name and the bird flew into the sky and cried out, “qwaxw, qwaxw, qwaxw!” The Carpenters gave the bird the name, Qwaxw, Raven. The people begged Raven to get the light for them.
He flew to Nusmata and observed Alhkw’ntam’s granddaughter, Skimina. He thought of a way to get the globe of light from her grandfather. Raven transformed into eagle down first and lay on the water where she drank every morning; but, she blew him away. Then he became a hemlock needle; but, she blew him away. Finally, when he muddied the water, she drank and he was taken in. She became pregnant and Raven was born to her very fast.
Raven grew up very fast and Alhkw’ntam loved him. When Raven cried for the box holding the globe, his grandfather refused to give it, until he could no longer bear the cries. Raven rolled the globe of light back and forth and finally, broke it against the wall of the longhouse. The light leaked out into the world through the smoke vent and became the sun, stars and moon. The people were no longer sad, because the darkness was gone.”
Today, who & where are the Tricksters who bring not darkness but Light?