healing haven

August 4, 2014

Tribute to My Mother

For one of my art projects, I started with a red and white background made from using a gelli plate. There was a slightly elongated light white area which, somehow, reminded me of a picture of my mother taken shortly after I was born. I added the cut out picture of her standing next to the radio, a piece of furniture everyone had in their homes at the time (pre TV) and then added some stenciled flowers in white gesso. I later added this SoulCollage piece to my moleskin art journal for Document Life Project.   I also used this as a large  insert covering a few pockets for Project Life.  Of course, journaling about my memories of her and what I learned from her and have carried within to this day are part of both the Document Life Art Journal and Project Life album.

Mom w-flowers stencils

August 1, 2008

Hall of Remembrances: Divided Identities

 

She found herself walking back to the entrance to the catacombs, taking a torch, going past the statues of Jesus, the angels and the gargoyles, wondering if she would be able to find her way back to the Hall of Remembrances.  Walking down one tunnel, Thalia came across a statue of a regal-looking cat on a tombstone. 

 

 

Oh, oh.  I didn’t come this way before.  Must have taken the wrong tunnel.  I would have remembered seeing this sleek cat.  What does it say?

 

BAST–MET

GENTLE FRIEND

FIERCE PROTECTOR

 

No date.  Wonder when this is from?  Wonder about the name—seems like an obvious combining of Bast and Sekhmet, both goddesses in Egyptian mythology, but is it?  Was Bast the name in itself or short for Bastet?  That would say a lot about the date right there.  And both gentle and fierce—how intriguing.  Well, the solid black statue doesn’t tell me why this cat was named a composite name of two Egyptian goddesses generally depicted as lionesses.

 

A faint noise coming from behind the tombstone caught her attention.  She listened, heard it again, and cautiously moved around in that direction.  She almost didn’t spot the kitten curled up on the floor, pressed against the tombstone. 

 

“Oh, how sweet.  How did you get in here?  Are you okay?”  Thalia squatted down and extended out her hand to stroke the kitten… and her hand passed tight through.  The kitten looked up at her and edged closer, obviously wanting contact.  “Why are you still here?  Did you know the cat…Bast-met?”

 

The kitten’s thoughts came throughThat is me.  I’m Bast-Met.  I’m actually the kitten who became Bast-Met.  But I’m still confused.

 

Why are you confused?  You were obviously loved by your owner.

 

Yes, I was.  But people don’t realize how important a name is.  I was confused because I was named after two different aspects of goddesses, even though both were lionesses at one time—Best and Sekhmet.

 

Lions?  I thought they were cats.

 

No.  Bast was the ancient Lower Egypt solar and war goddess and protector.  She was depicted as a fierce lioness while also associated with the sunlight so was called ‘Goddess of Fire’ or ‘Lady of the Flame.’  Later she became Bastet, her role diminishing as Sekhmet , a similar deity in Upper Egypt when Lower Egypt lost dominance in the unification of the Upper and Lower sections.  The feminine suffix of ‘et’ is the diminutive name that applies as she receded and Sekhmet rose to power.  Her gentler aspect as protector of the home and pregnant women changed as her appearance changed to a domestic cat.  Then during the times when the Greek occupied Egypt, she changed again to a goddess of the moon.

 

So Bast become Bastet and took the appearance of a domestic cat.  Why would a cat still be important?

 

Cats were revered highly because they could catch and kill threats to the fragile food supply like rats and mice and snakes.  So much so they were mummified before burial.  More than 300,000 mummified cats were discovered when Basts’ temple at Per-Bast was excavated.

 

What about Sekhmet?  Was she also a lion who changed to a cat?

 

Sekhmet was a warrior lioness goddess of Upper Egypt, the lioness being the fiercest hunter the Egyptians knew.  They thought her breath created the desert and so she was a protector of the pharaohs.  She was also a solar deity and became more powerful than Bast, so was seen as ‘The Avenger of Wrongs.’  Sekhmet was also seen as a bringer of disease as well as a healer of those diseases, with her worship centered in Memphis.  ‘She Who Is Powerful’ was depicted as a woman with the head of a lioness.  Pyramid texts themselves say the Pharaoh was conceived by Sekhmet who was the wife of Ptah, ‘The Creator.’ Other myths say she was created by the fire of Ra’s eye to use her as a weapon of vengeance to destroy men because of their wicked ways.  Sekhmet is the Goddess of the West and Bastet is the Goddess of the East.  Both are shown with heads of lionesses with Bastet wearing green and Sekhmet wearing red. 

 

So that’s why this statue has a jeweled collar of red and green gems.  A while back I even saw a refrigerator magnet with a picture like this statue on it.  Quite a contrast between being considered goddesses and being on a fridge magnet.  But why are you still here?

 

I was always confused as to who I really was and my mistress expected two different behaviors—sometimes I should be like a lioness, the aggressive war goddess, and other times I should be gentle like a healer and docile protector of pregnant women.  Mistress would encourage me to be ‘Avenger of Wrongs’ and ‘Lady of Slaughter,’ both titles of my suffix namesake.  But then would be upset when I caught a rat and brought it home to her to show I was the ‘Lady of Slaughter.’  No, now she preferred for me to be tame like the mummified cats.   

 

And all I wanted was to be me—a kitten needing to be petted and loved and let to develop naturally, not forced into predetermined roles.

 

Would you mind if I write your story down?  Because this also applies to modern day parents and children.

 

It does?  How?  I thought it was because I couldn’t talk to my mistress.

 

No.  Even when children are all grown up and can discuss issues like this with their parents, it usually doesn’t help.  Because parents who try to force children into a mold they want usually aren’t able to truly listen and understand what is being said.  Parents who listen and understand from the beginning usually tend not to force anything on anyone.  They realize each has their own way to grow into their adult selves. 

 

 

By this time the kitten was curled up in Thalia’s lap, purring as she was stroked.  She stretched out, putting her front paws on Thalia’s shoulders.  Thank you for listening and helping me to understand I was not alone in dealing with the expectations of others.  I would be verrrrry happppy for you to wrrrrite my storrrry.  I just wwwwanted to be mmmmme and not torrrrn in two diffferrrrent dirrrrections.  Can you call mmmmme Kitty?

 

 “My pleasure, Kitty.  You’re such a sweet kitten.  And your fur is so silky, Kitty.”

 

The purring increased in volume as Kitty’s substance solidified and matured.  Thalia and Kitty rubbed noses.  Then both Kitty’s purring and her body faded and disappeared as Thalia continued to stroke the empty air while thinking of an anonymous quote she had seen: “Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as gods.  Cats have never forgotten this.”  One more contrast.  Treated as goddesses and important enough to be preserved as mummies but now the likeness is on refrigerator magnets.  She said ‘NO’ to both aspects—she just wanted to be Kitty.

(see also http://cityofladies.wordpress.com/2008/08/02/hall-of-remembrances-divided-identities/#comments)

June 24, 2008

The Hall of Remembrances (9)

 

Come, m’lady.  The child took a step, pulling on Thalia’s hand as the others started moving further within the catacombs.  Thalia stood up, grasped the torch and followed, being led by the child who pulled ahead yet glanced back at her shyly.

 

She sent out her thought to the child.  What is your name?  A mumbled something touched her awareness.  The woman’s thought was clearer:  Later.  Just come.  We’ve waited a long time.

 

They walked in physical and mental silence, turning down one tunnel after another.  After a while, as the darkness deepened, she couldn’t help but wonder how she would return to the entrance, but figured it would happen naturally.  She thought of the stories she encouraged from hospice patients, volunteers and staff.  Of how patient memoirs were so treasured by their loved ones after the patient died, sometimes even revealing stories the loved ones didn’t know about.  She thought of how her own memoir process unearthed the web of patterns that helped clear misconceptions and resentments she had carried. 

 

Yes, we saw that in you, that which Is what we need done for us.  The man’s thought broke through her own.  Some of us have been waiting a long time to understand what happened in our lives and sometimes even in our dying.

 

Thalia felt momentarily confused.  But I record their stories before they die, not after. 

 

The woman stopped and turned around.  But you told the stories of your ancestors after they were dead.  And you’ve written poems and stories about when your loved ones appeared in a so-called “dream” and shared with you.  What is so different? 

 

Nothing, I guess.  I just never thought of this aspect until now that you mentioned it.  And never thought a walking tour in the City of Ladies would lead to this deep part of the catacombs.   I remember being intrigued by Orson Scott Card’s book Speaker for the Dead.  What a great book.

 

The woman resumed walking forward.  Just come.  You’ll see.

 

After a few more twists and turns they entered a large cavern with many, mostly marble, sarcophagus’ and statues along the walls and throughout the room.  Marble benches were scattered around.  No one else was in the place.  The trio escorted her to a bench in front of a large, ornate statue of a weeping angel. 

 

 

The little girl’s hand started trembling.  Thalia looked from the statue to the child still clinging to her hand.  Looking back at the engraving, she read: 

                                       MARIA ESTAL…   (part was missing) 

                                            9 YEARS OLD  

                                 MUCH BELOVED DAUGHTER

 

Is this your tombstone?

 

The child bobbed her head.  She seemed small for her age.  Thalia sat down on the bench and drew Maria close.  What would you like to share with me?

 

With tears running down her face, Maria’s thoughts gushed forth.  It says my papa loved me but how could that be?  When he did those things to me?  The priest said it was wrong and papa was bad.  He couldn’t have loved me.  Her weeping escalated into sobbing, so holding her and waiting was appropriate.  Finally the sobs subsided.  Then the sickness came for mamma and me.  They all said it was because papa was bad but he cried when we were sick on the bed.  Then mamma died of fever and I got worse.  Papa said he loved me but the priest said he was bad and didn’t love me.  Was I bad?  Is that why papa did bad things to me?  Is that why I died?

 

No, you were good.  Your papa did things he shouldn’t have but you were good.  It wasn’t your fault he did those things to you or that you and your mama died.  Tell me more about your papa.

 

Maria wiped her sleeve across her nose and continued.  Mama said papa had been in a war, fighting far away.  When he came home he was different.  Then there was another baby coming and papa started touching me.  Mama was busy with the baby and didn’t see.  They argued about things that happened during the war, but I didn’t understand.  There was a long pause.  Are you sure I am good and not bad?

 

Yes, I am sure.  And even though your father did some bad things doesn’t make him all bad.  His actions were bad but he could have also loved you.  And sometimes war changes people and makes them act bad.  After being away in a war you might have looked so clean and fresh that he just was glad to be home, and he wanted to be part of your innocence and freshness.  What he did was very bad, but he could still love you.  Maybe he was sorry about what he did.  Look at the weeping angel—maybe he picked it out because  it represents him weeping for what he had done.  Can you understand that?  Thalia thought of all the adults who could only see the world in black or white, and couldn’t understand shades of gray in people or allow for forgiveness.  Their anger festered for years, or even for their whole lifetime, and made their lives bitter and the lives of the people around them miserable.  They couldn’t separate the action from the person.  If adults couldn’t understand, how could a child?

 

I think so… maybe.  I’ll try.  I always thought the angel was weeping because I was so bad. 

 

No, that’s not why the angel is weeping.  We grow when we can learn to forgive.  It’s hard, but important.  Forgiveness heals us and is more important for us than for the person we forgive, but both are important.

 

Maria moved to gently touch the weeping angel and the engraving of her name and where it said she was the beloved daughter.  As she sighed, she smiled.  Thank you, m’lady.

 

No, I am not a “m’lady.”  I am just a woman on a walking tour of the City of Ladies.  Now I am not sure where I am.

 

A new-energy thought chimed in.  We will call this place the Hall of Remembrances.  Will you come back and help us tell our stories?  There are many stories here needing to be told.

 

She looked up to see many other pale figures emerging from the walls and statues, clustering around this latest thought-speaker.   He appeared to be the one with authority.  In his outstretched hand was a coin that seemed to have real substance.   Remember us! 

 

The coin was suddenly in her hand, solid and heavy.   A male head on one side and a woman standing on the other side. 

 

 

She looked at him, as he stood there with more physical essence than the others.  That’s Apollo on the one side; the muse Thaleia, as I know her, on the other.  Take this coin and remember us.  We await your return.  Others like yourself are welcome, also.       

 

I will return now and again, and perhaps others will also come to help you.  Thank you all for sharing with me and inviting me.  For now I need to return and continue the tour.  But I will be back to the Hall of Remembrances for more of your stories. 

 

And suddenly she was back at the entrance to the catacombs, coin in hand, ready for the next adventure, even as she wondered why Apollo and Thalia were on the same coin.

 

 

 

(see also http://cityofladies.wordpress.com/2008/06/25/the-hall-of-remembrances/#comments)

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