Tuesday, February 27, 2007

la Lirica

Peter Popham has an article in The Independent today noting that Italy is celebrating four centuries of la Lirica (opera). He writes, "The first performance of an opera which is recognisably the ancestor of the masterpieces of Verdi and Wagner took place on 24 February 1607 in the city of Mantua, near Lake Garda in northern Italy. It was Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi, a staging of the powerful Greek myth in which the poet Orpheus descends into the Underworld in search of his love Eurydice and persuades Persephone to release her - on condition that he does not look back while in the realm of the dead. Orpheus breaks the condition, and Eurydice has to return to hell forever."

Then he goes on to say, "It was fitting that a musical setting of this great pagan myth should have sired the art form which, in the centuries ahead, became a formidable rival to established religion as a crucible of high emotion and spirituality."

I have always been deeply moved by Monteverdi's music and simply love Ofeo. I shall be delighting in this opera again in March when I travel to Leeds to a performance by Opera North. Orfeo builds on the work of the Camerata, Florentine artists and musicians who wished to re-create the dramatic theatre so loved by the pagan Greeks and Romans.

The story of the Goddess Persephone is one of the oldest of all Greek myths. As such it takes us to the very heart of our being and universal concepts of life and death. It portrays the strong bond between a mother and her daughter and the difficult transition through puberty. Above all the three Goddesses - Demeter, Persephone and Hecate - show us how to stand against the suffering that women and children often have to bear in a patriarchal world.

And speaking of patriarchs, Orpheus fails in his bid to rescue Eurydice from the underworld. He has all the charm of his poetry and music. He has a deep love for his wife. But he lacks the one thing all men need to discover. He fails to trust the women in his life. He cannot trust Persephone to be true to her word and he cannot trust Eurydice to follow him. He cannot free Eurydice from the underworld because he cannot trust her to be wild and free.

It is here that this great pagan myth stands against established religion. It tells us that man's failure to trust women is a disaster. Wild freedom, life abundance all are dependent on this trust. Which reminds me to dance "Kore" this Spring - a beautiful choreography that evokes Persephone.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Divine Diversity

The news that a previously unexplored part of the Antarctic sea floor has led to the discovery of new species set me thinking about a topic that has vexed me for some time. Evolution produces an amazing degree of diversity. Think of the little beauty pictured above as just one example of this incredible diversity. It has evolved to have no red blood cells so that it can live in extreme Antarctic cold

Thing is if you believe in Divinities and your "Scripture" is what you see, hear, taste and feel in the world in which we evolved then you sure have to believe that the Divinities are utterly head-over-heels in love with diversity.

The tragedy is that human activity is destroying natural diversity much faster than new species are discovered. Sadly religion has and is playing a big part in setting a milieu in which this is possible. The cry of one god, one faith, one belief has gone out for over three millennia and now much of the world believes it. Global faith, global economy, global uniformity. Since the cry of one god, one faith began just how many belief systems, languages, dialects, cultures, ways of life have we lost? How much wisdom has been swept aside? How many people have been killed or imprisoned in order to impose uniformity? If we do not value and support diversity in human culture how can we begin to value and support it in the world around us.

If the Divinities are utterly head-over-heels in love with diversity then they are going to reveal Themselves in so many diverse forms and be known by so many names. How beautiful and evocative that is. But more than that Pantheasm has to lead us to actively embrace and sustain diversity in our lives and in our world.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Awakening Earth

On Saturday my wife led a day of sacred dance to celebrate the awakening earth. There is something unutterably beautiful about dancing with others to honour the sacred. For me dance is the herstory of creation; In the beginning was the dance and the dancer was a woman. Sacred dance heals, empowers and brings unity and joy.

The world and faith seem to have been seduced by the word. But the word divides - Credo, I believe - but what of those who don't? What about the guilt of not believing it all yourself? The word takes away our freedom by codifying dogma. The word makes us passive as we sit quietly and listen.

Dance unites - it unites those who dance together in the circle, it expects no credo other than a belief in our common humanity, it takes us back through generations of mothers and fathers to the first outpouring to the sacred tens of thousands of years ago. Dance makes us free, it carries no dogma, it brings profound power and healing. Dance makes us active in every sense as we embrace space and time with our whole bodies.

It is so sad that the patriarchal religions of the word are so suspicious of dance. Maybe they cannot abide the freedom and empowerment it brings? Maybe deep down they still see active, moving, raptured bodies as sinful? Maybe it is that women have always been the real power of dance? But that is their loss and I embrace the freedom, the grace, the beauty, the power and the rapture that dance brings. The sense that we are all divine parts of the one circle of life I know as Goddess.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Second Annual Brigid in Cyberspace Poetry Reading

Last year, Reya suggested a poetry reading across the blogs, in honour of Brighid. This year the call has gone out again to honour the Goddess of Inspiration. I love this poem : -

Brige in February by Rose Flint

I saw her last week, coming down the sky
with a white following
billowing up in a furl of swansdown
loud as the quickening wind

She flew in over the blue rooftops
over the flatlands and the hills
over etched white horses and towers
over islands couched deep in the violet of snow

Her feet were gold, fire-blinding, striking
sparks from the earth-anvil, flares
and radiance coming off her
flash-fires of light – light storms

Lambs sip milk from the ewes
swan-clans strut the meadows
the snake has come from her hole
tongue flicking at the new
shiver of green in the wind,
the blind opaque squints of the furrows
are opening, transparent as sky

She’ll strip the iron habit of winter out of your bones
lick the glow of gold in a flush through your skin –
open your mouth to her kiss
she’ll inspire you,
her spark in your heart
the beginning of healing
the ancient beginning of new life’s song.

Imbolc blessings

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