|A Coyote’s Tale
by Mary Fullwood
Depth Insights, Issue 1, Fall 2011
In this historical short story the author uses the quest of the fictional character of Rose to bring together the threads of dance, ritual, nature, and the feminine during the time of the slaughter of the buffalo, the Ghost Dance, and the Wounded Knee Massacre in the United States, while in Europe, the celebration of carnival was lost to religious oppression and ancient cave drawings depicting buffalo were discovered. The author crafts a story which excavates from beneath modern notions of control and causality the irrepressible and synchronistic power of ritual and symbol at work across time and cultures.
Joy or sorrow, trust or deceit, bitterness or ecstasy, all affect the soul
which, in turn, touches the soul of the world and leaves its imprint.
We keep no secrets from the unconscious. . . .
Whatever we live out in the manifest world,
affects that world in more profound ways than we could ever imagine.-June Singer i
A wild animal has been leaving me things. Two gifts, placed with a quality that emanates shyness and intention, were precisely placed a few feet up from the base of my driveway. My sense is a coyote has been coming from the back side of Montana de Oro, the chaparral lands that drop down into my neighborhood. Coyote has a knack for bringing the invisible to light, and, therefore, I am not surprised by these guiding contributions. However, he is a trickster, one whose offerings are to be stumbled upon, or, if unnoticed, stumbled over.
The first gift from this wild presence is a coyote’s stifle, the place on the dog where its leg bends. The bones are still held by connective tissue but have been cleaned and cooked by the sun, the earth, the air and water, and, most likely, were first a meal to turkey vultures and ants. Heat has fused sand into the bone and what once was skin has hardened to rawhide. The exposed joint, held together now by dried connective tissue, carries memories of leaping, coordination, balance.
The next object appeared in the same spot one week later. At first I did not recognize it as a present. It is the navel of an orange where the exterior orange rind has been nibbled away to expose white belly flesh framing the bright orange center: it is a skillfully sculpted and articulated belly button.
These two objects are guiding contributions bringing the invisible to light. But just in case I did not “get it,” did not stumble upon these contributions, Coyote bestowed one more message that was straight up blatant, one that I stumbled over with my jaw dropped open.
It occurred in the very place I write. While things were being left on my driveway, another appeared here, in case I had any question as to who was presenting all of these presents. Beside my writing area, a Sagrada driftwood Coyote with the appearance of an orchestra conductor has been expressing a multitude of creative opinions. After sitting content in this place for several years, suddenly, with the simple gesture of putting a water glass down, his head fell off. As a bumbling human, I could have overlooked this as inconsequential, and, therefore, Coyote upped the ante by having his head roll and fall onto a second surface. Diving down seven inches onto my writing table, Coyote did not jostle one single object – not one single Sagrada stone, or the seedpod rattle, or the piece of fossilized pine resin, or Sagrada beach-worn bull teeth. It took complete skill, as if practiced time and again, for this moment to be pulled off without a hitch. Coyote was quite aware of the previous writing on the female grotto-esque and the cycles of rebirth coming out from the ashes. His third contribution was a friendly reminder that the ash-renewal cycles were incomplete.
As I watched Coyote’s head fall, wide-eyed and jaw-dropped by the precision of the event, an object revealed itself inside his body. It was something I had forgotten about. When I created this Coyote from driftwood, I had placed a piece of beach glass inside him. Upon seeing it again, I was flooded with its memory. It was once a piece of manufactured glass, most likely thrown into a gathering’s bonfire. Through the heat of fire the glass melted back into an elemental state, a molten pool, gathered ash into the purity and clarity of its body, and cooled into its renewed organic form. Thereafter, it was taken out to sea by the tides and polished all the more luminous through the rhythms and pulsations of the ocean’s body. Transformation upon transformation: ash memory held within processes of renewal.
Imagine this piece of ash-infused glass in Black Elk’s hand. The young healer is on a ship sailing east “across the big water to strange lands.” Holding this luminous mass in his hand, he looks deep into the memory of the ash and allows the heat of the glass, which is absorbing the heat of the sun, to travel his senses and warm his heart. His inner heat radiates out in the reciprocal dance with elemental earth as he travels the ocean in search of wisdom that could bring renewal. The year is 1886 and Black Elk, the young Native American healer, has joined the circus. Joining Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show to cross the big water, Black Elk recounts, “I thought I ought to go, because I might learn some secret of the Wasichus that would help my people somehow” as “it seemed that there was a little hope.” ii
Black Elk and his fellow shipmates, his circus comrades, arrived in Europe, the origin lands of the Wasichus, “White People”, at a time when secrets were kept tightly bundled in order to create a perfected and cultivated civilized appearance.iii Wasichus’ Western culture was placing priority on a closed body, one without connection to the pulse of the earth.iv When Buffalo Bill’s ship anchored, however, Trickster was at work turning things on end to break through the illusion of a closed, contained, civilized body. Trickster began creating fissures in the earth to reveal a past that far exceeded what Europeans thought was the past: and it was infused with delight.v
These fissures created great turbulence for Wasichus because the vessel of creative ritual had been omitted and emergence had become something best to keep secret. Cultures do not assimilate new knowledge or paradigm shift without first accepting ritual assistance. Without a ritualized context, as carnival had provided, the grotto-esque matters being revealed were denied. Black Elk was right to suspect there was some secret to learn that would help his people somehow: Wasichus were keeping secret the healing legacy emerging from the ground.
Prehistory’s grotto-esque legacy was literally resurfacing while carnival was undergoing its complete repression as a ritual, cultural practice; Native Americans were being killed in mass through the European “settling” of lands and the spread of disease; and Wasichu women in Europe and America were suffering from hysteria, what James Hillman describes as a medical, secular shift away from the persecution of women as witches. The “witch” became a patient, no longer evil but sick.vi Within this dark mix, Trickster appeared, offering connective tissue to heal vast lands, times and cultures.
A significant aspect of the connective tissue emerged in the form of bison coming “to revivify our humanity when it seems in its moment of greatest peril.” vii As Wasichus were tragically destroying the bison in North America, the sacred animal of Native Americans upon which their lives depended, the earth started opening to reveal the Ancient Ones.viii Bison, known to Native Americans as symbolically containing the entire universe, the earth, and all that grows from her, were once – for millennia – the sacred animal for Wasichus as well.ix Unable to remember their own sacred connection, Europeans, upon seeing North American bison, called them “buffalo” after animals seen in Africa and Asia, and showed no difficulty massacring them. Black Elk recalls,
That fall , they say, the last of the bison herds were slaughtered by the Wasichus. I can remember when the bison were so many that they could not be counted, but more and more Wasichus came to kill them until there were only heaps of bones scattered where they used to be. The Wasichus did not kill them to eat; they killed them for the metal that makes them crazy, and they took only the hides to sell. Sometimes they did not even take the hides. . . . When we hunted bison, we killed only what we needed.x
Traveling with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, Black Elk was in the thick of all the earth was opening to reveal. These revelations could have helped his people “somehow” had the discoveries not been kept secret: seven years prior to Black Elk’s arrival, prehistoric cave paintings of sacred bison had been found.
In 1879, Don Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola entered the recently discovered cave of Altamira in northern Spain to excavate artifacts just inside its entrance. His nine-year-old daughter, Maria, being small and playful, wandered further in and looked up. She discovered Altamira’s famous painted ceiling, where sacred bison roam with “a freeness that transcends simple religious or material concerns.” xi Sautuola published a paper on the find, stating his conviction that the paintings were Paleolithic, exceedingly older – an additional 10,000 years older – than Western culture’s concept of the beginning of time.xii His findings were considered outrageous and rejected.xiii As Jose Antonio Lasheras Corruchaga observes,
Reactions to the discovery ranged from prudence to open contempt. Everything about Altamira seemed excessive, both its antiquity and the magnitude and quality of the paintings. Moreover, it had all happened too suddenly; practically nobody was prepared for such a revelation. The discovery had not been foreseen, and consequently . . . was overlooked and relegated to oblivion for over twenty years.xiv
So threatening was this treasure that one anonymous Victorian woman commented, “Let us hope it is not true,” adding a determined proviso just in case: “but if it is, let us pray that it will not become generally known.” xv
There were Wasichus not holding secrets, though, and Johann Jacob Bachofen was one of them. A young Swiss scholar in the 1830s, Bachofen suspected Europeans once lived with an entirely different frame of consciousness. Joseph Campbell writes,
One has to keep reminding oneself, when reading this perceptive scholar, that in his day the sites of Helen’s Troy and Pasiphae’s Crete had not yet been excavated – nor any of those early neolithic villages that have yielded the multitudes of ceramic naked-goddess figurines. . . . Indeed, in his student years he had already passed beyond the learning of his century when he noticed that there were customs recognized in Roman law that could never have originated in a patriarchal society.xvi
Before there was any archaeological evidence to corroborate Bachofen’s theory, he was convinced that the origins of culture were much older than imagined and had evolved from a partnership model based on reciprocal relationship with the Great Mother. Here, all are her children coming from the earth-as-womb to return once again to be enveloped by her flesh, the earth-as-tomb.xvii
Had Black Elk encountered Bachofen a great secret would have come to light, as the elder Bachofen would have told the young healer,
It is one of my profoundest convictions that without a thorough transformation of our whole being, without a return to ancient simplicity and health of soul, one cannot gain even the merest intimation of the greatness of those ancient times and their thinking, of those days when the human race had not yet, as it has today, departed from its harmony with creation.xviii
The great cause of this scholar, from his earliest years to his death, was to offer a healing by “communicating the sublimely beautiful ideas of the past to an age that is very much in need of regeneration.” xix
Black Elk returned to America after three years. Reaching shore, he began to tear, regretful for not having found the knowledge that would “help his people somehow”. Dropping into the full experience of his sadness, he thanked the piece of ash-infused glass for accompanying him on his journey. Pressing it to his heart to once again exchange warmth, Black Elk then lifted it to his mouth and kissed the ash-infused matter. Next, he gently placed it at the ebbing edge of the ocean so it could travel on, assisting other passages. In the moment his hand released the glass and the ocean kissed his fingers, he heard words – words regarding that unrevealed secret: “regeneration, a return to sources.” Thereafter, Black Elk made his way home and found that his relations were hearing similar words through the vision of dance.
How does regeneration emerge? Through a return to sources: “life cannot be repaired, it can only be re-created.” xx The return to harmony with creation is through ritualized attunement, and Black Elk and his kin had not forgotten this despite all the tragedy that had befallen them. They had not forgotten the power of ritual.
Back home, Black Elk learned that while he was away there had been a complete eclipse of the sun and the earth had trembled. At this time, Wovoka, a Paiute healer, had a vision that in dancing the “round dance”, the ritual which became known as the Ghost Dance, the earth would roll up, the bison would return, and the Ancestors would reappear to bring forth the necessary healing. “Word came to us that the Indians were beginning to dance everywhere,” Black Elk noted, but the “Wasichus were afraid.” xxi
Coyote arrived, placing a dried coyote stifle in the center of the Great Round and joined the Ghost Dance. Twirling on his back haunches, he looked more like a two-legged being as he pranced, his front paws stretched out toward the sky to assist with rolling up the hills. But when Coyote assists, transformation may not occur in the place it is expected. Malidoma Patrice Some describes, “What goes wrong in the visible world is only the tip of the iceberg. So to correct a dysfunctional state of affairs effectively, one must first locate its hidden area, its symbolic dimension.” xxii Being Coyote is a helpful sort, his participation with the dysfunctional state of affairs lay in finding its hidden, symbolic dimension located throughout Europe. The Ghost Dance did roll up the hills to bring forth the return of bison and ancestors, but from a wholly unexpected time and place, and with such force Wasichus could no longer keep it secret.
Five years after the tragic ending of the Ghost Dance, the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890, cave upon cave began opening their painted womb interiors after incubating within the ground for as much as 32,000 years.xxiii Beginning in 1895, Altamira was joined by other prehistoric painted caves; and, in 1902 Emile Cartailhac published a paper unreservedly accepting Sautoula’s claims regarding the age of Altamira’s paintings. Sautoula, however, had died fourteen years earlier, while Black Elk was in the midst of his voyage.xxiv
The ash-infused glass washed back onshore, and was found only days after Black Elk had opened his hand to the ocean to release it. It was found by a Wasichu, a young woman named Rose, who had also traveled the big water wanting to learn something to help her people somehow, only in reverse: her trip originated in Europe and she had traveled to America. Now, at the conclusion of her trip, soon to board the ship to return home across the big water, Rose stood lifting the ash-infused glass to the sun, its beauty overwhelming her. Although impregnated with ash, the glass was capable of the greatest luminosity, and spoke: “Nature, the Great Spirit – they are not perfect. The world couldn’t stand that perfection.”xxv These words, carried within the contaminated purity of the glass, offered Rose compassion surpassing her self-judgment. Having perceived her journey as a failure, the glass opened her to another sight with electric swiftness. While pressing the sun-warmed substance to her chest, a vision moved through her so quickly and forcefully that she collapsed, cradled by the belly of the earth.
Rose’s journey to America had begun shortly after hearing Adolph Bandelier’s report of Cochiti Native American clown rites. She had been in the midst of researching the ancient rituals and mythologies coming to light in Greece when she happened to attend a lecture on Bandelier’s account of unrepressed, living sacred clown rituals. This gave Rose tremendous hope and inspiration: she felt that she could help her people somehow by experiencing the carnival rituals firsthand, seeing how they tied to the ancient ones in Greece as well as to those having recently been repressed throughout all of Europe. Bandelier’s expression of shock and disgust at these rites did not sway Rose: for she knew otherwise. She knew these were sacred rites similar to those repressed in Europe, as her community loved telling the old tales, especially the elders; they felt fortunate that their ritual legacy had survived as long as it had, their home being one of the last places in Europe where carnival remained vital into the mid-1800s.xxvi
Rose was born after carnival had been completely repressed: banned, or turned into a tourist-type activity. It was when the cultural thrust throughout Europe was to become “civilized” by repressing and forgetting one’s grotesque bodily nature.xxvii Rose, however, was also born into this small community that fought to remember, concerned that the repression of ritual, a cultural forgetting, would begin to affect their townswomen as so many women of European descent who were now suffering hysteria. Rose’s community believed that hysteria as dis-ease occurred through forgetting and repressing the grotesque living body and its greater connection to the World’s Body. When body is not connected to World’s Body, it is unable to mediate invisible forces, and hysteria becomes a disorder rather than a rite of passage.xxviii
The morning Rose was born those present knew she would be a healer, a mediator between the invisible and visible worlds. She was an incredibly healthy newborn but her umbilical cord had scar tissue keeping the placenta’s nutrition from reaching her. Her health meant the scar tissue had provided a different type of nutrition, and, if initiated and guided, it would lead to her calling and not to dis-ease.
Taking these matters to heart, Rose’s father, Trebor, walked into the garden. He sat on the partially-frozen, moist ground enwrapped by rose bushes and wept tears of relief because their baby was healthy; but he also cried knowing her path would be hard. The family and community would need to teach her their old ways – the ways that became repressed, categorized and demonized as witchcraft – and doing so would be risky. It would require Trickster’s protection so she could become a powerful female healer and not fall prey to the greater culture that would diagnose her medial capacities as hysteria, as a disease.xxix
From the ground Trebor spied a rose growing when it is usually too cold for any to mature. Curious and perplexed, he crawled over to look carefully. It was growing upside down. A full, mature, plump and fragrant rose was growing from a very meager stem that split under the weight of the rose yet still managed to send the essential nutrition to it. This rose had a counterpart: a heavy bud had strained another stem, also blooming upside down, but no more life could be delivered to its body. This dead rose was still fragrant and colorful, containing the invisible informing matter. The two roses combined exemplified the newborn’s entrance into the world, and, from this wild yet cultivated matter, Rose received her name.
Thus, Rose was raised knowing the old ways. She was taught the medicinal principles of plants, the trance states for shape shifting to assist healings, ritual connection to the earth, and reverence for countless thousands killed throughout Europe for possessing these practices. Now a grown woman, Rose was working to understand hysteria, linking it to the repression of carnival. She saw herself as hunting invisible game, since hysteria was illusive and mercurial.xxx Hysterical symptoms were known to suddenly change: “Paralysis or anesthesia could shift from one side of the body to the other, from one limb to another. Headaches would replace contracture of a limb, loss of voice, the inability to taste.” xxxi Most specialists believed that women were suffering their wombs, but those involved in the Suffragist feminist movement believed women were suffering the constraint of being “civilized.” For many women, the hysterical fit was considered “the only acceptable outburst – of rage, of despair, or simply of energy – possible.” xxxii
Studying myths and rituals from ancient Greece, Rose found they provided clues into hysteria, especially since the word originated from the Greek language, its translation being “womb”. One clue was hysteria’s description as “epidemic” in both Europe and America. Because hysteria as “dis-ease” is not physically contagious, Rose looked at the word poetically, as it was also commonly interchanged with the phrase, “a condition spreading wildly.” xxxiii These two pieces were linked to the ancient Greek god of ecstatic states, Dionysus. His female followers, maenads, were described as wild, and the word “epidemic” was tied to the god’s arrival: Dionysus’ epidemia, his arrival on land. Dionysus arrived by ship cart, the carrum navale, to participate in festivals that had now become repressed.xxxiv His carrum navale offered a clue even a minor sleuth would be able to detect: ties between the god of embodied medial ecstasy, also the god of women, and, the repression of his passage, the carrum navale, seemed to be affecting women.xxxv Therefore, Rose suspected Dionysus brought the disease and would be the one to cure it; or rather, festival practices devoted to irrational and feminine consciousness, the ritualized expression of medial, creative madness, would be the cure.xxxvi
Rose also learned that there was a temple for Dionysus close to the temple of Aphrodite in Argos, and their union held ecstasy as a force that “takes us out of ourselves, but not out of our bodies,” whereas hysteria is the inability to embody medial, ecstatic states of consciousness.xxxvii Aphrodite was born from the vast sea, and represents the archetype of the human body, and the Body of the World; she was Matter, Mater, said to be older than Time. Dionysus is the phallic god striving toward her fertilization.xxxviii
The specific clue to hysteria that Aphrodite offered was the danger of disconnecting human body from World Body. The womb celebrated in carnival was the womb of the earth. The womb of hysteria, as dis-order, was isolated, existing disconnected in a woman’s body, described by physicians as a “wandering womb,” an insatiable animal roaming inside.xxxix Rose, however, learned that hysteria was not originally a disease, but rather a festival rejoicing in the grand womb of Mother Earth: the ancient orgiastic religious festival of Aphrodite was Hysteria. Hysteria was a festival long before it became a disease, one where “women dressed as men, and men as women, the men even wearing veils.” xl
Rose was most taken by Artemis, goddess of the hunt and protectress of wild animals. She related to this duality of care revealed by the goddess: hunting recognized as a sacred act where an animal gives itself over, and a hunter is only noble when in tune with this relationship. Additionally, Artemis’s festival was similar to a carnival ritual the elders in her community had created and loved recounting:
At the Korythalia, a festival in Artemis’s honor, women would dance with exaggerated phalli attached to their male costumes. In their imitation of men, women would enact male sexual gestures, letting the rhythm of the other half of the universe pass through them. In this way their power was increased, and hopefully the harvest.xli
A sculpture of the goddess wearing a garment of many suckling breasts and wild animals made more sense to Rose than the corsets women were wearing in her day.xlii It was fear and repression of the mercurial, grotesque body, its permeability and mutability, which was erupting into the epidemic of hysteria, the mercurial disorder. Women were suffering their bodies, haunted by the very matter – inescapable matter – that had been celebrated in carnival. What once had been a source of vigorous pleasure in European carnivals had become “the morbid symptoms of private terror.” xliii Women had become afraid of meat (carne) because the flesh of animals was heat-producing and stimulated the production of fat and passion, and they had become afraid of their bowels, Trickster’s revered “lower bodily stratum.” xliv
As quick as lightning, on the day Rose heard Bandelier’s account of Cochiti Native American clown rites, she knew she must travel the big water to help her people somehow. A flash of liberation surged through her as Bandelier described a culture still engaged in sacred antics celebrating the Great World through playful delight in the lower bodily stratum. Rose could barely hold still, as the accounts were not only familiar to her because of the ones her community told, but also similar to the festivals in ancient Greece. These playful rites were only startling to present-day Europeans and Euro-Americans because they had forgotten their own traditions.xlv
Bandelier shared his impressions from two stays with the Cochiti Indians: the first in 1880 and the other in 1882. Describing ceremonial dances, he related how clowns first performed obscenities of mock sodomy, coitus and masturbation “to greatest perfection” and to “the greatest delight of the spectators.” Over one hundred men, women, girls and boys watched, “not one with the indecent look. Women were applauding the vilest motions.” xlvi After a sacred dance ceremony, the clowns returned, according to Bandelier, with their “abominable gestures”, in one instance carrying a girl into the center of the dance area to perform coitus: one clown from behind and the other against her head. Bandelier added, “Of course all was simulated, and not the real act, as the women were dressed. The naked fellow performed masturbation in the center of the plaza or very near it, alternately with a black rug and with his hand. Everybody laughed.” xlvii
Rose could not imagine hearing anything that could make her happier. She had stumbled upon living, sacred, carnival rituals happening in her day! Cochiti clowns were still practicing the healing power of homeopathic medicine, renewing human connection to self and World, body to Body. They demonstrated that the means of soul renewal and healing could be found within the assimilation of poison:
Every existence is poison to some and spirit-sweetness to others.
Be the Friend. Then you can eat from a poison jar
and taste only clear discrimination.xlviii
The clowns knew the sacredness of eating and drinking from the poisoned jar. They were capable of assimilating matter, which, for others, would be poison. In these rites, they were great healers for the collective health of the community – a community extending to embrace the earth, all of its inhabitants, and the cosmos itself. In one clown rite that Bandelier described from his visit in 1882, “The whole is a filthy, obscene affair. Drinking Urine out of bowls and Jars used as Privies on the house tops, eating excrements and dirt, ashes and clay, washing each others’ faces with Urine and with every imaginable dirt, imitating cohabitation and Sodomy, were the principle ‘jokes’ of the abominable leaders.” xlix
Brimming with happiness that these rituals were alive, Rose packed a modest pack and crossed the big water to meet the Cochiti. At least that was her intention, but Coyote had another tale to tell.
“To ritualize is to make (or utilize) a pathway through what would otherwise be uncharted territory.” l Rose’s community knew her journey would be uncharted and were distressed that the few bits of mapping they could provide fell on deaf ears. Excited and swelling with enthousiasmos, the elixir of Dionysus, Rose refused to hear their expressed concerns; it was not until her feet touched the ground in America that she wished she had listened.li Many had tried to explain just how large America was and that New Mexico was nowhere near the East Coast, the place where her ship would port. Others explained that there would be many days where she would be traveling on foot and would need inventiveness to create or find shelter. And, mostly, they were concerned about her medial connection with the invisible.
Because of her capacity as a medium, Rose’s community was deeply troubled by the impact entering America would have on her. She seemed gravely ignorant of the losses Native Americans were experiencing, and she was not absorbing the elders’ expressed concerns. They knew Rose would have medial receptivity with the spirit-souls of the Native Americans who were unjustly killed, just as she had with those unjustly killed as witches in Europe. Additionally, Rose’s connection to Artemis and the sacred hunt would mean she would have medial connection to the mass slaughter of buffalo, the Native Americans’ most sacred animal. Without question, the elders knew Rose would be tremendously affected by the horrific events borne by the ground: the land had absorbed four hundred years of tragic loss, which Rose was born capable of hearing.lii
It was time, however, to let go; her community had done their best to prepare her and now it was up to the Great World. However, they did have one last trick: they made her a pair of traveling shoes. If they ritualized her feet they knew she would find her pathway on this uncharted journey. Stitched into the leather soles was the guidance of the trickster-god, “guide of souls,” Hermes. The town’s chief leather worker stitched wings into these shoes, gifting Rose with Hermes’ capacity to travel through many worlds upon winged feet.
Rose traveled in America as invisibly as the invisible forces greeting her. Her mother had given her dried healing herbs for the journey and each night Rose would create a small fire offering medicinal smoke to the invisible guests. Most nights she wept silent tears that felt like the land’s, and she would listen, listen to the spirit-grief held in the land and allow her body to leak in order to assist its release.
One night, while staring into the dance of flames, Rose began to consider the potential of hysteria. She posed what felt like a revolutionary question: What would enter the world at this transitional time if every woman suffering hysteria, instead of being diagnosed and dismissed, was initiated and guided? This was the tradition within her family and community – and practiced worldwide in cultural pockets where hysterical symptoms are seen as an initiatory entrance into shamanism. What might now enter the world if hysterics’ mystical states of consciousness were assisted into form; what Roger Walsh describes as “the highest goal and highest good of human existence.” liii
Rose was delighted and excited by this image, commingling with the flames: hysterical contracture of limbs becoming expansive dance movements; hysterical loss of voice a wailing song; inability to taste, the return of carnival’s feast; rage, despair and energy, maenadic connection to the earth re-membering suffering and joy. She envisioned a carnival of unbounded women awaiting Dionysus, god of joy and suffering, of maenadic ecstasy, arriving by ship cart. Women would be joined by unbound men who knew the feminine from within their own selves, no longer wanting to conquer it, whether it be woman’s body, Mother Earth’s body, or the body of people who live in relationship with the earth. Such a vision would require rolling up the hills, or so she sensed; the words seemed to be growing and branching out from the ground.
Rose stopped whenever she encountered dead buffalo. She would sit with their decomposing bodies no matter the state of decay or the intensity of the smell; sit and witness the processes of life changing their bodies into new matter – flies, maggots, ants, foxes, coyotes, vultures, sun – and wait. Rose would wait for the moment when the dead shifted its energy, for the release. These bodies were many; it was a journey with many souls.
And then the day came, the one day she could hardly believe would ever present itself: she arrived in the land of the Cochiti. Rose looked out over a desert mesa, northeast of their home, watching an electric storm dancing the pathway. But the night warned her otherwise. In the night, she heard the land say it was not her place to witness the sacred clown ceremonies, that the wounds were still too fresh for her to be anything more than a tourist. It would not be fair to the Cochiti, or to her, and would create a rupture rather than a healing. Rose was shattered. She trembled with shame and disappointment, knowing how far she had traveled only (as she perceived) to fail: she could not see her respect for the voice of the land as her success. But that night, the Great World gave her a grand display, thankful and pleased that she heard, and would honor, its wisdom.
The Great World created a hailstorm to push Rose into the mouth of a cave tucked in the cliff-line of the mesa. Rose suddenly felt alive in this space, the first time on her travels where she felt joy, lightness, even hope. Fire, her beloved traveling companion, was built this time to her left and she felt grateful for Fire being with her throughout the journey. The firelight, leaping about the cave, revealed an aspect of carnival unanticipated by Rose. It was a feeling of longevity, of Mother, of Time Eternal, it was the depths of renewal which she never would have understood without this visceral moment. Without knowing it, Rose was experiencing Mother Earth’s womb, the womb of the grotto-esque.
Feeling more at home than ever before, Rose began to dance. She hunched and moved like a four-legged being as the ceiling of the cave was low. Dancing for hours, Rose finally dropped onto the soft dirt floor and was penetrated by the fire’s light softly touching the ceiling and walls. Suddenly, the fullness of any life ever presented to her entered the cave in the form of a Coyote placing a dried stifle down on the ground beside her. He began to dance the rhythms of the flames while she lay nestled in the earth. His dancing shifted to that of a two-legged, twirling in circles on his back haunches while his front paws reached to the sky. Coyote danced a healing and was having great fun shape-shifting into various guises of sacred clowns. He would twirl, horned and painted, and then transmute into black and white stripes, laughing. Rose became a participant and in mock play tried to catch him. Flutes sounded from deep within the cave, eerie and alive, and Coyote took Rose into a lovers’ embrace. It was a sublime healing union of masculine and feminine energies swirling and fertilizing the ground and the cosmos.
Awaking the next morning, Rose was disoriented. The fire had completely cooled and the sun swept in, kissing the lip of the cave, kissing Rose. Suddenly she spied the oddest thing: the navel of an orange was beside her. As she looked carefully, she saw that an animal had nibbled the exterior to create the appearance of pale flesh encircling a bright orange belly button. She laughed, knowing this strange gift was from Coyote, but was yet to know how much it would affect her and her work. With the cooled ash, Rose made ash circles in the floor of the cave, watching the swirl of red earth, black, white and gray ash create its own cosmos. This drawing announced that it was time to begin her journey home. Rose extended a nod of gratitude in the direction of the Cochiti, and thanked the cave for initiating her into something wholly unfamiliar and familiar all the same.
Rose arrived on the East Coast for the sea-journey home. Her travels had been the length of a pregnancy and now she was in the throes of labor pains, although she assumed them to be the pain of self-judgment: she had wanted to help her people somehow and felt she had failed, having traveled so far and not experiencing Cochiti clown rites firsthand. But as she walked the edge between land and sea, a luminous lump, a piece of beach glass once molten and now impregnated with ash, revealed something else: the words, “Nature, the Great Spirit – they are not perfect. The world couldn’t stand that perfection.” liv These words, carried within the contaminated glass, were imbued with compassion. Pressing its substance to her chest, Rose felt a vision move through her quickly and forcefully. It was the vision of a buffalo woman dancing – actually, it was a drawing of a buffalo woman dancing, of the same texture and quality as the ash circles she had made on the cave’s floor in New Mexico. In her vision, the buffalo woman came to life through ash drawn on a yellow stone mass, both seeming to drop down from the sky.
This buffalo woman, her lower body human and upper body buffalo, was moving in a hunched position. She was the source of everything, dancing at the beginning of creation. Coming out of the vision, Rose was reminded of her own posture dancing in the New Mexican cave. Both dances felt so familiar, hers in the cave and the buffalo woman’s in the vision, as if it were a ritual dance posture older than time. The image left Rose breathless, and even though the image seemed to come from the sky, she was certain it unfolded inside a cave.lv Placing the ash-infused glass back down into the ebbing sea as the water kissed her fingers, Rose thanked the glass for its words of solace and most beautiful vision.
Now on the carrum navale, traveling the big water home, Rose frequently studied the navel that Coyote had placed in the cave and delighted in the memory of his swirling embrace. She was certain the navel related to the buffalo woman’s dance, presented in the form of a Coyote riddle. Rose also remembered that Argos was famous for its citrus orchards but was not sure if that had any connection.
Many years passed before the riddle was solved. The year following Rose’s and Black Elk’s separate returns was morbidly dark, shadowing the Wounded Knee massacre. Black Elk, a witness to the massacre, described,
It was a good winter day when all this happened. The sun was shining. But after the soldiers marched away from their dirty work, a heavy snow began to fall. The wind came up in the night. There was a big blizzard, and it grew very cold. The snow drifted deep in the crooked gulch, and it was one long grave of butchered women and children and babies, who had never done any harm and were only trying to run away.lvi
The people were massacred because “Indians were beginning to dance everywhere,” and the “Wasichus were afraid.” lvii Native Americans had been dancing the great round Ghost Dance for healing, to roll up the hills and bring back the ancestors and sacred buffalo; the massacre was the climax of their traditional healing ways in relationship with the earth.lviii
Upon hearing the reports, Rose was convinced that the Ghost Dance, with its vision of rolling up the hills, was far too powerful not to lead to renewal and bring it forth. The world is most dark before the entrance of light. She cried tears of tremendous grief. She cried for the many nations of Native Americans and for what appeared to be the final repression of their traditions: those so similar to the past ways known to her community and repressed by the very same forces. Rose also cried because Native Americans had not forgotten the power of ritual dance. Her community was right: hysteria was the symptom manifesting her culture’s forgetting. Forgetting was affecting the soul.lix Since the trauma of the witch burnings, Wasichus had abandoned and slowly forgotten their legacy of sacred, healing dance: during the time of the witch hunts, the women had performed maenadic dancing, then known as crises dances, in order to bring themselves into close contact with the world of the ancestors, the great wellspring, the primordial source people seek in times of crises and transition. This had been forgotten.lx
Broken by all of the tragedy, Rose did not know how to carry her soul’s work forward. Completely disheartened, utterly grief-stricken, Rose could hear only the faintest sound telling her that the answer was contained within the citrus belly riddle and the close approximation – visually and phonetically – of the word “citrus” with “circus”. Many a day Rose would walk through town, guided by her well-worn leather Hermes shoes, staring intently at the navel. On one such day, in the middle of winter, a wise-woman called out as Rose passed by. With a boisterous laugh she cried, “How’s that tether work of yours coming?” Caught off guard, Rose took a few steps backward, looked up and noticed she had never seen this elder before. She possessed a large belly and an even larger laugh and was seated on a bench with her legs spread and skirts up. Rose was jostled; she felt awakened and dreaming all the same and asked, “Excuse me?” This woman, laughing even harder, revealed her vulva, and Rose had to look down – not out of embarrassment or modesty but because she could feel dormant earth stirring back to life under her feet.lxi Rose had never felt more intimidated; a ripple of unease, and yet complete delight, shook her. This woman stood up, seeming just as short standing as when seated, fully round like the earth with a round belly, and said, “I am Iambe. Your tether work – isn’t that what you’re doing? Aren’t you trying to find the tether for the wandering womb?”
After having been unable to act, suddenly Rose stumbled over: Iambe got life going again with her shrewd observation.lxii Could the Coyote riddle be that simple? Rose had been trying to unravel it for six years and suddenly the answer was there with electric swiftness.
Rose saw the navel belly as the tether. It was the umbilicus, the navel, the hub, the source of all things, the center of the Great World’s body, the still point of the universe each person possesses.lxiii It was the Great Umbilicus tying body to World Body, capable of restoring hysteria to that of a festival, one in which both men and women partake from all cultures. The body connected to Body is the assimilation of the belly or the womb to a cave, of the intestines to a labyrinth, of breathing to weaving, of the veins and arteries to the sun and moon, of the backbone to the axis mundi.lxiv
And just as suddenly a flood of reports were breaking through Europe’s dykes. These matters could no longer be held secret anymore. Since 1879, Rose learned, the earth had been opening up, spreading her legs just like Iambe, to reveal painted interiors where buffalo (actually bison) roam free. Suddenly, the earth’s womb revealed ancient ancestors who had revered bison as the natural symbol of the entire universe.lxv Rose began to wail; she cried grief and relief until utterly exhausted. She cried for the hundreds of years of deaths and suffering for both Native Americans and European witch-healers. She cried because the Native American Ghost Dance did work – just not in the expected place! Hill upon hill was rolling up in Europe revealing sacred paintings of bison, deer, mammoths, lions, horses, and dancing, shape shifting shamans; even little round-bodied goddess-women – sculptures carved from mammoth ivory and limestone found at the open mouths of these caves. They were figures that looked like Iambe, to be held in one’s hand as a tether, carried as an umbilicus connection to the Great Mother Earth.
The hills rolled up to reveal Altamira, Niaux, Marsoulas, Castillo, Tuc d’Audoubert, Chauvet, Les Trois Freres, to name but a few of the Paleolithic caves with painted sacred bison created by ancient ancestors constituting the “fragile but significant continuum of human consciousness.” The caves are a reservoir of a spiritual mentality that survived “to revivify our humanity when it seems in its moment of greatest peril.” lxvi Not only are the bison and other wild animals bountiful and powerful deep within the earth’s womb: in a few instances, bison are shaman-healers, part bison, part human. One, located in Les Trois Freres, is named “Small Sorcerer with a musical bow.” He is a flute playing, step dancing bison-shaman noted to be carrying a female in his belly as if pregnant.lxvii
Evidence of ancient ancestors dancing is preserved in the floor of Tuc d’Audoubert. Just before reaching the chamber with two clay bison, one is confronted with six rows of heel prints sealed into the clay floor, suggesting the disciplined movements of a group of dancers.lxviii John Pfeiffer comments, “We can speculate about their postures and how they were dancing. The ceiling is so low that they would have had to be stooping or crouching, possibly imitating the actions of some four-footed animal, perhaps the bison.” lxix Additional evidence of ritual dancing, in communion with the dancing of prehistoric lantern light and the figures on the walls, are flutes and fragments of flutes found in the caves. Made of bone, they were designed to play in the fashion demonstrated by the dancing bison-shaman at Les Trois Freres: in front of the body like a recorder or traditional Native American flute.lxx Pfeiffer describes the trance-inducing effect of the music, dance, space, and quality of sound the flutes would have produced in the caves – sounds muffled and scrambled and reverberating, swelling and fading, soft and thunderous: “Imagine . . . the sound of flutes rising high and clear as a human cry or a bird from some place impossible to locate.” lxxi
This knowledge was too much to bear directly, but thankfully, Rose’s community re-membered that such moments must be ritualized in order to be assimilated, and they extended their memory of ritual’s necessity out to others. The necessary ritual, in this instance, required carnival because the juxtapositions were otherwise just too great: modern hysterical women afraid of their own fat when time was confirming carnival’s legacy of delight in the flesh through sculptures of rotund, sacred women; carnivalesque, bountiful sexual bodies situated in the mouth of the grotto, the cave, revealing that carnival’s grotesque – that which had become demonized – had been the ritual celebration of the grotto-esque by ancient ancestors; the grotto-caves serving as earth wombs, human’s umbilical connection to Mother Earth, revealed at a time when high-minded men were chasing after women’s “wandering wombs”; the ancient sacred reverence of bison by early Europeans, revealed on the heels of Wasichus tragically slaughtering North American bison to near-extinction; artistic evidence of a millennia-old, European shamanic tradition uncovered after the killing of so many of Europe’s shamans, the witch-healers, and Native Americans and their shamans – both communities having nature-based healing practices connected to Mother Earth. Just when those interconnected to beloved Mother Earth were most disempowered and without hope, the Great Mother rolled up her hills, bringing back the ancient ones, bison and ancestors, the trance dancing and trance music pulsing through her flesh, as Native Americans danced the round Ghost Dance.
And so Rose’s community began to dance, understanding the tragic loss of their culture’s nature-based ritual traditions. They would return to these traditions – and create new ones – no matter how many generations it would take to rebuild them to bring forth healing renewal for the Great Earth and her inhabitants. They danced the struggle against repression, of people against domination, the struggle of memory against forgetting.lxxii Rose’s community would no longer tolerate the repression of their nature-based traditions or the repression of Native American’s traditions, traditions older than recorded time, rooted in the grotto-esque, Mother Earth – healing was never more essential. It was time for life to be re-created by a return to sources.lxxiii
Coyote arrived and placed the dried coyote stifle in the center of the round. He danced two-legged on his haunches, twirling and reaching his front paws to the sky as a dry breeze smelling and feeling like a zephyr from New Mexico swirled their dancing round. Dancing his way over to Rose, Coyote had the strangest request: he asked for the navel belly so he could take it to another. Rose was happy to oblige, thankful for all of his blessings. Off in the distance, Rose saw Iambe laughing. As Rose looked at her, she remembered that Iambe was another name for Baubo, Demeter’s maid-servant, known for dancing in service of moving the myth on. As trickster, Baubo and her dance assists the swing of the earth from degeneration to regeneration.lxxiv And so Rose looked towards Iambe, watching her lift her skirts on yet another bridge as everyone continued to dance.
The ritual psychodrama has been acted out, the sacred rites performed, the ancient magic has worked its spell on us. Through orgiastic excess and folly, through the embrace of the opposite within us, through the baptism of frenzied chaos we are reborn, revitalized by the laughter of the gods with whom we have danced and played.
Purged of the tensions and anxieties of our existence, we face life anew, reassured with new hope and expectation for the future in the new cycle. . . .
The magic techniques are locked somewhere in our memory, and since the dawn of time we have repeated them at the same cosmic moment when time stands still and the curtain to the supernatural world is parted.
The breach in dimensions between the old and the new cycle activates that memory.lxxv
The ash-infused glass washed back onshore and Mary was taken by its luminosity. She was in the midst of creating a driftwood Coyote sculpture and slipped the remarkable piece of glass into his body to incubate. Years later, Coyote’s head fell off to reveal the glass and animate the writing of memory. Coyote also placed two gifts on the driveway to assist: a dried coyote stifle and the dried navel of an orange where he had nibbled the exterior to create a belly-flesh surround. And, as Mary pressed the ash-infused beach glass to her heart, she heard words, “Nature, the Great Spirit, they are not perfect, regeneration, a return to sources, requires trickster’s assistance.”
NotesMary Fullwood, PhD, MFA, CMT, is a writer, artist, educator, and body worker. She is presently writing Sagrada Tales and Other Adventures where “A Coyote’s Tale” appears within the first of four cycles of tales weaving Trickster mythology with the re-enchantment of art, ecology and psychology. Dr. Fullwood lives in Los Osos, California
i June Singer, The Power of Love, 146.
ii Black Elk as told through John G. Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks, 165. I am drawing on John (Fire) Lame Deer who refers to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show as the “circus.” See Lame Deer and Erdoes, Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions.
iii “Wasichu” is the Lakota term used to designate the white man, but has no reference to the color of his skin. See Black Elk Speaks, 7 and 223. Peter Stallybrass and Allow While observe, “In The History of Manners (The Civilizing Process, I) Norbert Elias uses a host of specific examples to show how the social control of body functions such as eating, yawning, spitting, ejecting mucus, fidgeting, touching, inflicting pain and so forth, has a long and complex history. His contention is that public regulation of the body . . . is a restructuring of personality with enormous consequences.” (Stallybrass and White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, 89.)
iv For Instance, Michael Mayerfeld Bell notes, “All orifices of the body are closed. The processes of bodily exchange are deemed vulgar, gross, and signs of personal failure. The classic body does not spit. It does not sweat. It does not cry. It is dirty even to speak of excrement, vomit, ejaculate, and menstrual blood except in polite, disdainful, or scientific language which sanitizes and distances material truth. . . .” (Mayerfeld Bell, “Deep Ecology: Mikhail Bakhtin and the Call of Nature”, CNS 5, no. 4 (1994): 73, 65-84.)
v Joseph Campbell observes in relation to Johann Jacob Bachofen, living from 1815-1887 that, “In Bachofen’s day the absurdly recent Biblical date for the creation not only of mankind but of the world (3760 B.C., according to one manner of reckoning; 4004 by another) was still, in most quarters, accepted as about correct.” (Campbell, “Introduction”, in J.J. Bachofen, Myth, Religion, & Mother Right, xxx. These dates correspond with the first archaeological evidence of warfare, the beginning of dominator models of culture. See Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade, xviii and 44.)
vi James Hillman, The Myth of Analysis, 254.
vii Jamake Highwater, The Primal Mind, 210.
viii In 1800, there was an estimated forty million bison in the United States and by 1883 there were none. Less than six hundred bison remained in all of North America. (National Park Service, nps.gov/wica/Bison.htm.)
ix Black Elk and Joseph Epes Brown, The Sacred Pipe, 6, note 8.
x Black Elk as told through John G. Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks, 164.
xi Jean Clottes and Jean Courtin have described paintings of bison, observing, “The individualizing of the figures, more evident for the bison than for any other animal, translates true artistic intention, a freeness that transcends simple religious or material concerns.” (Clottes and Courtin, The Cave Beneath the Sea, 101.) “Bison can still be found in Europe in the forests of Russia and Poland.” (Matilda Muzquiz Perez-Seoane, “Techniques, Individual Artists, and the Artistic Concepts in the Painting of Altamira”, The Cave of Altamira, ed. Antonio Beltran, 71.
xii Until the late-1800s, Western culture believed all of creation dated back only to 4000 B.C. Note that this date corresponds to the first Kurgan invasions in Old Europe. See Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade, and, J.J. Bachofen, Myth, Religion & Mother Right.
xiii This was the primary response even though decoration of cave walls was as old as some of the flint tools and bone objects excavated from the ancient deposits in the mouths of the caves. See Lawson, Cave Art, 23-25.
xiv Jose Antonio Lasheras Corruchaga, “The Cave And Its Surroundings”, The Cave of Altamira, ed. Antonio Beltran, 22. Additionally, he notes, “Perhaps one reason for the resistance to the acceptance of Altamira’s authenticity was simply that so many new discoveries relating to the prehistory of mankind were coming one after the other so quickly that it was too much to take in. Theories of biological and cultural evolution had to be assimilated into a background of thought that included beliefs in divine creation and in the existence of an “antediluvian man.” To complicate this process scholars were confronted with the existence first of highly sophisticated Paleolithic objects found in France, and then of the masterpieces in the cave of Altamira. The revolution in thinking about Paleolithic people that assimilating these discoveries would require was understandably difficult for scholars who still believed that the rudimentary development of prehistoric people would not allow for refined artistic expression.” (Ibid, 23-24.)
xv John Pfeiffer, The Creative Explosion, 26. Also see, Alexander Marshack, Ice Age Art, 4.
xvi Joseph Campbell, “Introduction”, in J.J. Bachofen, Myth, Religion, & Mother Right, xxviii.
xvii Anne Baring and Jules Cashford observe, “Images of giving birth, offering nourishment from the breast and receiving the dead back into the womb for rebirth occur in the Paleolithic as they do 10,000 years later in the Neolithic and 5,000 years after that in the Bronze and Iron Ages....” (Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image, 9.)
xviii Campbell, “Introduction”, in J.J. Bachofen, Myth, Religion, & Mother Right, xxvii.
xix Ibid, xxxvii.
xx Mircea Eliade quoted in Robert Ryan, The Strong Eye of Shamanism, 222.
xxi Black Elk describes, “The Wasichus were afraid of something . . . and the agent came and told [us] to stop dancing. . . . The agent went away, and [we] kept on dancing. . . . Word came to us that the Indians were beginning to dance everywhere. . . . There was a big meeting with the agent . . . . He made a ruling that we could dance three days every moon. . . .” (Black Elk as told through John G. Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks, 191-193.)
xxii Malidoma Patrice Some, Ritual, 43.
xxiii For accounts of the Ghost Dance and the Wounded Knee massacre see the recounting of Dick Fool Bull at Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota, 1967 and 1968, recorded by Richard Erdoes in Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz, American Indian Myths and Legends, 481-484. Also see John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes, Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions, 237-248; and, Black Elk as told through John G. Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks.
xxiv Andrew Lawson, Cave Art, 23-25.
xxv John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes, Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions, 76.
xxvi In relation to the repression of carnival, John Jervis observes, “These processes of repression and appropriation do not occur uniformly, however. As late as the 1830s and 1840s, many carnivals had escaped the earlier waves of bans and proscriptions.” (Jervis, Transgressing the Modern, 22.) Additionally, Allon White explains, “It is important to underscore the point that even as late as the nineteenth century, in some places, carnival remained a ritual that involved all classes and sections of a community, as it had once done for the whole of Europe. The disengaging of the middle class from it was a slow, uneven matter and part of that process was the ‘disowning’ of carnival, and the gradual reconstruction of the concept of carnival as the culture of the other.” (White, “Hysteria and the End of Carnival”, The Violence of Representation, 161.)
xxvii Jervis states, “By the 1860’s, carnival was largely overthrown; banned or transformed into civic parades or trade fairs, the paraphernalia of spectacle. With the Enlightenment and the ‘civilizing process’, it had come to be seen as unruly, and incompatible with the norms of civilized behavior, decency, respectability, and a coherent sense of self-identity. It had, apparently, become little more than a memory – but a deeply troubling one. . . . And of course present-day carnivals are generally revivals or recreations, generally having more to do with consumerism, the leisure industry and tourism than anything else.” (Jervis, Transgressing the Modern, 23.)
xxviii As Laurie Layton Schapira states, “But in order to function positively, the medial woman must have a strong ego vessel, one which knows its boundaries, can discriminate the personal from the transpersonal and can communicate. Her ego must be permeable, so that she can receive the collective impressions which it is her task to mediate. Thus the traditional patriarchal model of ego structure does not suffice.” (Laurie Layton Schapira, The Cassandra Complex, 56.)
xxix James Hillman notes, “The first English work on hysteria was printed in 1603 by Edward Jorden, an expert on matters of witchery for James VI of Scotland. His book, A Brief Discourse of a Disease Called the Suffocation of the Mother, is a watershed, separating the ancient superstition call possession from the modern superstition called hysteria.” (Hillman, The Myth of Analysis, 254.)
xxx Ilza Veith, Hysteria: The History of a Disease, 1. The notion of invisible game comes from Rumi. See the poem “Wean Yourself” in Coleman Barks, The Essential Rumi, 70-71.
xxxi Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct, 203.
xxxii Ibid., 41. Smith-Rosenberg tells us that symptoms “began with pain and tension, most frequently in the “uterine area.” The sufferer alternately sobbed and laughed violently, complaining of palpitations of the heart, clawed her throat as if strangling, and at times abruptly lost the power of hearing and speech. A deathlike trance might follow, lasting hours, even days. At other times violent convulsions – sometimes accompanied by hallucinations – seized her body.” (Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct, 201.) Also see Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper, for a personal account of this historical experience and time.
xxxiii Contemporary examples of usage of the words epidemic and wildly include Elaine Showalter stating, “During the decades from 1870 to 1910, middle-class women were beginning to organize in behalf of higher education, entrance to the professions, and political rights. Simultaneously, the female nervous disorders of anorexia nervosa, hysteria, and neurasthenia became epidemic.” (Showalter, The Female Malady,18.); and, Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English explaining, “[T]he victim of hysteria might either faint or throw her limbs about uncontrollably. Her back might arch, with her entire body becoming rigid, or she might beat her chest, tear her hair or attempt to bite herself and others. Aside from fits and fainting, the disease took a variety of forms: hysterical loss of voice, loss of appetite, hysterical coughing or sneezing, and, of course, hysterical screaming, laughing, and crying. The disease spread wildly, not only in the United States, but in England and throughout Europe.” (Ehrenreich and English, For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts’ Advice to Women, 137.)
xxxiv Carl Kerenyi, Dionysos, 141.
xxxv As Catherine Johns observes, “There were processions [which] included a figure of the god borne aloft on a ship-cart, the carrum navale. This later Latin name may be connected with the origin of the word ‘carnival’ as well as with the carnival ‘float’ itself.” (Johns, Sex or Symbol? Erotic Images of Greece and Rome, 86.)
xxxvi Rollo May asserts, “Ecstasy is the accurate term for the intensity of consciousness that occurs in the creative act. But it is not to be thought of merely as a Bacchic “letting go”; it involves the total person, with the subconscious and unconscious acting in unity with the conscious. It is not, thus, irrational; it is, rather, supra-rational. It brings intellectual, volitional, and emotional functions into play all together.” (May, The Courage to Create, 48-49.)
xxxvii Rachel Pollack, “Aphrodite – Transsexual Goddess of Passion”, Archetypal Sex, ed. James Hillman, 10, and, Rafael Lopez-Pedraza, Dionysus in Exile: On the Repression of the Body and Emotion, 45.
xxxviii Barbara Walker, The Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 44; Thomas Moore, The Soul of Sex, 21; and, Walter Otto, The Homeric Gods, 92.
xxxix James Hillman, The Myth of Analysis, 254.
xl Ibid., 262.
xli Nor Hall, The Moon and the Virgin, 129-130.
xlii Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English describe, “A fashionable woman’s corsets exerted, on average, twenty-one pounds of pressure on her internal organs, and extremes of up to eighty-eight pounds had been measured. (Add to this the fact that a well-dressed woman wore an average of thirty-seven pounds of street clothing in the winter months, of which nineteen pounds were suspended from her tortured waist.) Some of the short-term results of tight-lacing were shortness of breath, constipation, weakness, and a tendency to violent indigestion. Among the long-term effects were bent or fractured ribs, displacement of the liver, and uterine prolapse (in some cases, the uterus would be gradually forced, by the pressure of the corset, out through the vagina).” (Ehrenreich and English, For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts’ Advice to Women, 109.)
xliii Allon White, “Hysteria and the End of Carnival”, The Violence of Representation,158.
xliv Joan Brumberg, Fasting Girls, 173. Additionally she writes, “A woman who ate inevitably had to urinate and move her bowels. Concern about these bodily indelicacies explains why constipation was incorporated into the ideal of Victorian femininity.” (Ibid., 175.) Peter Stallybrass and Allon White further explain, “A common mechanism, which the hysteric employs in order to cope with the imminent sense of the body surging up against itself in a way experienced as ‘sensation’, is a top/bottom displacement, reversing, in an uncanny manner, the ritual inversion of the body found in carnival. In carnival the exaggeratedly bulging and dirty lower stratum is given priority and turned into the source of comic display. In the hysteric, terrors associated with the lower bodily stratum are converted into symptoms of the top half of the body.” (Stallybrass and White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, 185.)
xlv Franchot Ballinger, Living Sideways: Tricksters in American Indian Oral Traditions, 124-125.
xlvi Adolph Bandelier quoted in Charles Lange, Cochiti, 303.
xlviii Rumi quoted in Joan Halifax, The Fruitful Darkness. Also see Robert Sardello, Freeing the Soul From Fear, 87.
xlix Bandelier quoted in Lange, Cochiti, 304.
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