Monday, July 11, 2011

BHJ continues: Shaman-artist and Spider Woman Labyrinth

Dear Birth Peeps,
It has been easier for me to paint than write of late, so the painting has progressed. This week you will see many new images. Thank you for your patience.

Yesterday I showed the mandala painting to my friend Alberto (for the first time). We exchanged few words as Alberto looked long at the painting, taking in all the details. Later he said that this painting was not meant to “hang in a gallery. It is a power piece… for healing.”

Yes, it is meant to invoke a turning in of the mind, a healing; it is meant to be a psychic map. Even the painter’s mind is turned inward and taken on a daily journey.

Some years ago I happened upon an exhibit (at the Albuquerque Art Museum) of about four to six intricate pen and ink drawings by an African shaman. If memory serves me correctly, the shaman-artist would sit with a patient and patiently draw an incredibly elaborate, detailed drawing for hours; judging by the detail, it seemed a drawing might take days… The shaman’s “medicine drawing” was a wildly labyrinthine visual journey, including many intricate “Celtic-like” knots, and what drew me in to the drawing were the almost hidden little faces and tiny figures. I wondered who were these characters throughout the drawing? Were they spirits or ancestors peering out from within the loops or little windows and caves? What were they doing? Perhaps they were trapping, taking, healing whatever illness had taken over the patient’s body and mind.
I sensed how healing and calming the presence of an artist-shaman, who was absorbed in his/her own drawing trance, might be to a patient watching the drawing emerge.

One of the Tasks of the Ordeal is to confront Change, Death, and to anticipate and prepare for "Rebirth," i.e., one's new role as mother or father, all the changes that follow giving birth. The Great Myths, rituals and initiations are rooted in reenacting the inevitable tragedy, fear of, and Mystery of Life and Death.

Part of how we can change birth in our culture is to dare to prepare parents for this inevitable confrontation and change within themselves, perhaps within their relationship as they transition from being a "couple" to being parents.

In my new book, The Labyrinth of Birth, page 81, I describe Spider Woman's Drawing in the Sand. It is partially visible in today's image...

"When death comes to the stone-age people on Malecula, an island in the South Pacific, the dead person's soul approaches the entrance to the underworld and finds it guarded by Le-Lev-Lev, the Spider Woman. Le-Lev-Lev draws a single unbroken line in the sand, then erases half of it. The dead person's soul has to complete the drawing to be allowed to enter. If she (or he) cannot complete the drawing, she will be eaten by Spider Woman. If the lines are successfully drawn, the dead are allowed to enter the underworld where there is a beautiful lake representing the Water of Life."

Initiation involves preparing for and experiencing symbolic death and rebirth. This initiation myth and ritual of the Malecula points to conscious Preparation for Change, for Death (death of a belief, expectation, how the relationship was, and sometimes death of the baby, or the mother, or a loved one during the time of birth). In this mature way of holistic preparation, the initiate learns the pattern of Spider Woman's labyrinth before death or the trial comes.

Birth attendants are trained and trained to know what to do when the unwished-for happens in birth. Even if a birth attendant has not encountered a certain complication before her training is complete, her role-playing, tests, and conversations about that possibility have allowed her to memorize the path she would take should the emergency arise. So when this complication arises, like the half-drawn labyrinth in the sand, a well-prepared birth peep can do her part, she can complete the other half of the drawing.

In a similar way, parents deserve to be prepared before their Ordeal, so they have a clue how to "complete their drawing in the sand."

How is this done? This is the Task of the new Elders, Birth Peeps and birth mentors, to figure this out.


PS... You can order a copy of the beautiful Labyrinth of Birth book from our online store. This makes a wonderful gift for anyone you know who is about to give birth, and any birth peep who wants to learn how to teach this process to parents.