Issue#4 - December 4th New Moon - Rebirth, The Snake and The Goddess
Welcome back to Lunesence (formerly known as Lunazine), which I had to postpone for 2 years due to a string of very bad luck and financial troubles. I'm happy to be back offering something to you: an essay, a book review and a website review. The theme this month is rebirth and the snake, since this is a cold, dark time of the year, and has traditionally been the time of gestation. This is the 1st part of a 3 part series.
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About the Holidays
I found Francesca Lia Block quite by accident. I was looking online to see what Suza Scalora (one of my favorite artist/photographers) had illustrated to see if she had published any other books (in addition to her Fairies and other book) and I noticed she had illustrated the front cover of The Rose and the Beast (its a gorgeous photo illustration, by the way).
This collection of fairy tales retold by Block was intriguing. I have long been retelling fairy tales in a weird and twisted way, so I was naturally curious as to how Block treated it, and wondered if she was a sister spirit in writing. Reading about Block, I noticed she was placed by publishers in a strange liminal zone where she wasnt quite treated as a writer for an adult audience (fairy tales are always treated as childish in the Western world), but she was too dark and real for children. She now has a very avid fandom of young adult females.
The Rose and the Beast had some dark adult undercurrents in its pages, but nothing too horrifying for women coming-of-age. Inside her pages are stories of Sleeping Beauty pricking herself with heroin needles, Bluebeard the serial killer and Little Red Riding Hoods Wolf as a child molester and wife-beater. Many of the other stories were less intense - but frankly, I liked the stories that touched upon the more violent and sadistic side of society better. There was something more satisfying about them.
I found Wolf to be very suspenseful and intriguing - it had a genius quality a story that flowed so easily it seemed the author wrote it quickly and in a deep trance. The voice of the narrator was very raw it seemed honest and real. One paragraph reads: I dont know what else I said, but I do know that he started laughing at me, this hideous tooth laugh, and I remembered him above me in that bed with his clammy hand on my mouth and his ugly ugly weight and me trying to keep hanging on because I wouldnt let him take my mom away, that was the one thing he could never do and now he had (p. 127-128)
Bones was another one of the stories I just loved. It begins with I dreamed of being a part of the storieseven the terrifying ones, even horror storiesbecause at least the girls in stories were alive before they died. (p. 153) Bones continues with We were all over his house. On the floor and the couches and tables and beds. He had music blasting from speakers everywhere and I let it take me like when I was at shows, thrashing around, losing the weight of who I was - the self-consciousness and anxiety, to the sound. He said, Youre so tiny, like a doll, you look like you might break. I wanted him to break me. Part of me did. He said, I can make you whatever you want to be. I wanted him to. But what did I want to be?
As you continue to read, you discover that Derrick Blue is a modern-day Bluebeard, collecting bones in deranged, serial killer fashion And the story gains in suspense while you root for the female narrator to escape his Casanova clutches.
Block ends her book with a punch in her story Ice. It first reads: She came that night like every girls worst fear, dazzling frost star ice queen. Tall and with that long silver blond hair and a flawless face, a perfect body in white crushed velvet and a diamond snowflake tiara. How many hordes of young women can relate to their hearts getting run over as the men (or boys) they love fall for an ice queen?
Blocks genius is that she writes in a down-to-earth, yet metaphorical fashion for her readership: the young female. She finds the archetypal themes still threading through contemporary society and shines light on them, while catching a raw and honest young womans voice, as if in snapshot.
About the only weak link that I found was her story Charm. I got a little lost in Charm and wasnt always certain or interested in what was happening. It could have been my mind-state at the time however, and the other stories were well worth it, so I should give Charm another chance.
Im now another fan of Francesca Lia Block, for
her modern-day risks in lyricism, her magical realism, her metaphorical,
mythical themes, her archetypal yet fleshed out characters
The Rose and the Beast is divvied into 9 stories, her book is both a fast
intriguing read, and one you can easily put down if you are interrupted
constantly by a busy lifestyle. The book is definitely worth buying, and
in this case, you can tell a book by its cover!
- © 2003 Katharina Woodworth. All Rights Reserved.
Website of the Month: Suza
- © 2003 Katharina Woodworth. All Rights Reserved.
Lunesence is published by Aquafemina - Finding myth and
meaning in today's fast-paced lifestyle.
- © 2000 - 2003 - Katharina Woodworth. All rights reserved. All work herein is copyright (c) 2000 - 2003 - Katharina Woodworth unless it is otherwise noted the work of another author.
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The Goddess and the Snake
by Katharina Woodworth
The Year of the Snake
In Chinese mythology, dragons are originally snakes, and dragons are considered very beneficial and benevolent creatures. In contrast, the most famous snake in the Western mythos is the Serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. For centuries, the snake has been perceived as an evil and maligned creature, the physical home of devils, demons and Satan. The serpent has been something to fend off and kill. According to Webster's New World Dictionary (3rd Edition), the snake is "(2) a treacherous or deceitful person", and the serpent is "(2) a sly, sneaking, treacherous person." Serpent with a capital "S" is "Satan, in the form he assumed to tempt Eve (Gen 3:1-5)" and serpentine is "of or like a serpent, especially evilly cunning or subtle; treacherous." Legend has it that St. Patrick drove all the "snakes" from the shores of Ireland. Since there are no biological snakes on the island, it is rumored that snakes symbolized the Pagan religion and the Church killed Celtic leaders, priests, priestesses and healers on St. Patrick's Day.
The Evil Serpent of the West
The Caduceus & The Tree of Life
Snake Goddesses & Priestesses
According to Walker, "The ancient Aegean world worshipped primarily women and serpents. Men didn't participate in religious ceremonies until late in the Bronze Age, when Cretan kings were allowed to become priests of the bull-god. Even then, the priest's role was subordinate to that of the priestess, until the priest himself took the title of 'serpent.' The word for 'priest' among ancient Akkadian peoples literally meant 'snake charmer'."
The ancient divinatory art of herpetomancy was alive before Biblical times and is still practiced today. Seers use a live snake to foretell the future. In ancient Greece, the Oracle of Delphi was called Pythia and communicated with the underworld through a serpent. In South America, white anacondas are shamanic helpers; they appear in visions and dreams as spirit guides who swallow and then give birth to the initiate. In China, there were once bone-setting shamans who were visited in dreams by a snake that splits apart, only to be mended by the dreamer. Every two years, Hopi Indians perform a snake dance in which they handle live rattlesnakes.
Even today, some belly dancers and gypsy dancers dance with large snakes. There is also a newly rediscovered form of yoga called Snake Yoga, which is being practiced and taught in the U.S. by Le'ema Kathleen Graham.
Symbolically, the serpent has been considered to be the power beneath the earth that makes the plants grow. This is similar to the Great Earth Dragon, whose movements beneath the earth are said to cause earthquakes. In inner Mongolia, it is still believed that snake spirits may inhabit a house and must be satisfied with sacrifices or bad luck will ensue. Altars are tended for the house's serpent spirit, and must not be moved without the spirit's permission.
"The final chapter of this ongoing story occurred in my 60th year on day one of the Year of the Snake. On that night I had a dream of a snake coming to me in my sleep to be healed. I had no sense of what it needed healing from or why I could do it. I called it an Adder in my dream. It was a poisonous snake: long, slim and black. I had no fear as it slowly moved up my back and rested its neck around the top of my right ear. That was the spot on my body that was healing for the snake. I could see toxins coming out of the snake as it lay on me. I remained perfectly still in my dream for a long period of time as the snake released its yellow toxic fluids. I somehow knew that it would need four healings to be completely well.
"The next three nights as I went to bed I could feel the snake before
I fell off to sleep. It was right there waiting for me. These three nights
it only seemed to need less than a minute of healing before it moved down
near my feet. It coiled up there to spend the night with me."
I have never had dreams of snakes but I remember clearly once during my first years at college, while I was working out in a gym for the first time, I was stretching on a floor mat and rested for a minute when I "saw" a snake sleeping and beginning to rise from its sleep at the bottom of my spine and womb area. I was unfamiliar with the symbolism of the snake at the time, and related the story to my then-boyfriend. He was very excited for me, because he knew I was going through a symbolic rebirth.
Returning Snake Energy into Our Lives
I do believe that our own society will again begin to revere the symbol of the snake for its healing and regenerative properties, through our attention, practice, dreams and inner work. As the great mythographer Joseph Campbell once said, "Serpent gods do not die."
- © 2003 Katharina Woodworth. All Rights Reserved.