Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Speed of Joy

Anna's Hummingbird
Ever since I learned to identify the song of our local hummingbird, I have been a fan. I love to scan the treetops in search of this tiny creature, bravely declaring its dominion. Within that gracile body is a thundering heart. They dive and whirl in the air to warn other hummingbirds that the vicinity and all its nectar is spoken for. My relationship with the hummingbird as a symbol has been colored by these facts. Still, its bright, iridescent presence among the flowers, its penchant for sweetness and its tiny form have lent it an association with joy, love, dance and playfulness.

Medicine Cards Joy especially is the quality I Remember from Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson. This amazing oracle deck and book, published in 1988, greatly influenced my understanding of animals as totems and symbols. Still, it is important to blend the teachings of others with your own experience. Recently, this little bird has brought me a message by activating my memories and knowledge. When something unusual or out of the ordinary happens, we humans are hardwired to notice. Our survival may depend on it. In modern society where so much seems routine, the appearance of a hummingbird sitting in a nest is reason to gasp in awe.

I was going out to my car and happened to look to the left. I saw a flash of movement suddenly stop in a gangly tree. The nest was hardly more than a hammock strung in the fork of a branch. I tried to get closer but I was spotted and the bird flew out of sight. Later, I desperately wanted to show the nest to my daughter but we were in a rush. On another occasion, the nest was blending in with the tree branches. When I finally found it again, it looked too small and thin to support any weight and I wondered if it had been abandoned. Still, the hummingbirds are all around our condo and the adjacent carport. They have not gone.

Every day that I looked for the nest, I knew I was searching for joy. I was looking for a way out of my depression and apathy. The struggle against my greatest fear, that life is mostly misery, was taken up by this tiny bird. Or, I had assigned the bird this task. I don't really think that some conscious mind is trying to communicate with me through the daily comings and goings of nature. Rather, I think my own mind is speaking to me through symbolism, the language of dreams. How can I make sense of the cycles of my life? How can I accept the time that is passing away from me? How can I achieve contentment, let alone, joy? I have to keep looking. Joy is fleeting, like a hummingbird. It cannot last. It will not stay. But that moment, when it alights so close to you that the colors are dazzling, is worth it. Worth the pain, worth the struggle and worth the wait. It is always nearby. It is always singing.

Navajo Hand Etched and Hand Painted Hummingbird Pottery
On my honeymoon, I bought a southwestern-styled vase with a handle. The round belly of the jug features an etching of a hummingbird resting on some flowers Only later did I find out that it was a wedding vase created by Cecelia Benally, a Navajo artist. Maybe the hummingbird is the perfect reminder that joy in relationships is also fleeting. Not just in marriage, but in our relationship to ourselves.There will be highs and lows, dips and dives, as I endeavor to integrate all the various parts of my self. During the process, I have to remember to look for joy in places common yet unexpected and enjoy it before it zips away.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Wisdom is renewed! Athena and the Shadows

It's been quite a while but my love of goddesses cannot be ignored. Sometimes, you have to go back to basics and kindle the passion that started you on a certain path to begin with. Familiar ideas spring forth, seemingly from no where, but I think the mind has hidden depths. To reach these shadowy places, I am diving down with a simple concept. Like attracts like. If I hold up an image of humanity that inspires me, encourages me, comforts me, I will pull my own ability to do those things from myself.

A woman of strength and clarity lies buried within, like a forgotten statue, stuck in the sea floor.

To bring her to the surface, I started with a simple technique. I drew a card. Use tarot, use oracle cards, angel cards or goddess cards. There are many websites that will let you do a virtual spread or just pick one. Also, apps can put tarot decks and oracle decks at your fingertips. I used Goddess Enchantment Oracle app by Indie Goes Software. My first card was Athena, Goddess of Wisdom.

The Athena Fountain (Pallas-Athene-Brunnen)

Emerging fully formed from the head of Zeus, her father and king of the Olympian deities, she represents wise counsel, strategy, reason, intellect and warfare (but also peace.) She is the patroness of Athens, Greece. It is said that she and Poseidon competed for possession of the city. He brought forth a spring for the people to drink from, but since he was an ocean god, the water was salty. Athena created the first olive tree. She won Athens, making olives and olive oil a few of her sacred symbols. 

The symbol of the owl most resonates with me. Athena was sometimes called Athena Glaukopis meaning "blue-eyed" or "gray-eyed". Originally, it may have meant "bright-eyed". In any case, the relevant link is between the big, bright eyes of the owl and Athena's wisdom. Being able to see in the dark and is an apt metaphor for being able to "see" the truth of a matter. Also, there is a species of small owl that is indigenous to the area around Athens. It can be found on ancient coinage with Athena and is sacred to her.

If anyone can help us to see beyond the shadows, it is Athena and her owl companion.

Athene Noctua

Going back to my cafepress shop, I found a jumping off point from back in 2005! My Goddess of Wisdom design features an owl, though not an Athene Noctua. Still, the eyes are compelling, seeing deep into a problem and beyond it. It is no wonder owls are used to represent learning and knowledge. We see them every June when the graduates celebrate their hard work. We also see them in popular culture, movies and television. Wisdom can only come with time, I think. And it is more than learning facts. It is the synthesis of those facts along with a respect for the patterns of human behavior that we see again and again. Athena herself would never fight for a cause that was unjust. She is also the patroness of civilization, agriculture, handicrafts, all the things that allow us to live together in peace and prosperity. 

I hope she will bring these blessings to you and put the right tools in your hands.