Thursday, October 11, 2007
Navajo Folk Art
In Navajo culture, there are numerous mythological tales involving individual reinvention, transformation and rebirth. These stories often include references to Changing Woman, Changing Bear Maiden, the Hero Twins and Coyote, just to name a few. A reawakening of consciousness frequently is a central theme in these tales, sometimes by chance, but generally as a result of someone aggressively seeking knowledge.
These stories remind me of a wondrous magician who rips a piece of plain white paper into a hundred fragments and miraculously restores it. From the refreshed page, the magician shapes a bird, which he transforms into a beautiful, living white dove. The metaphor of the paper dove, and these mythological stories, is that as individuals we have the power to interrupt our lives and reshape them into something pure and beautiful; the magic comes from within.
The trick in all this is to avoid basing the transformation on greed, jealousy or other turbulent, misguided wants or needs. The drama can get out of hand, and when it does a tumultuous outcome is assured. Coyote teaches us that thinking and acting on personal, selfish desire allows chaos into our lives and generates disastrous repercussions for our associates. Coyote's message is that a new and improved life includes accountability; valuable not only to the individual, but to those for whom we are responsible.
Reinvention seems logical and necessary as man struggles with reality and truth; a higher plane of understanding becomes desirable, if not essential. In numerous cultures around the globe, Snake is commonly associated with rebirth. Its ability to shed it's skin (or past) and grow into something larger and more significant makes a great deal of sense. Human beings are generally tenacious, and motivated when it comes to improving their minds and station in life.
Nature-based or agricultural societies attempt to explain their world through natural occurrences. Wind, rain, lightning and thunder are minor deities, while Mother Earth, Father Sky and Fire are more significant. Aboriginal people looked to their surroundings to educate themselves and improve their lot in life. It was all they had, and to be perfectly honest it served them well. We would all do well to know better the ways of the natural world.
The Navajo people have a legend that refers to an upward moving way. The caterpillar lives near the earth; is of the earth. If this lowly being pays attention to its surroundings, learns from them and focuses on self improvement, it has the opportunity to make a change; a metamorphosis. The end result is one of the most beautiful creatures ever created. The butterfly provides us with a striking reminder that each and every one of us has the power to re-create ourselves in beauty. The question is, will we.
With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.