“water flows through the grass
and on the earth, opening
twisting that way or that to avoid
then vanishing into the earth
everything flows into the earth
everything flows downward.”
~ Tákis Sinópoulos
“Imagine the power of our voices and tears being heard across the continent. I believe the wolves and coyotes would howl with us, the cranes, egrets, and owls would screech, the willows would bend closer to the ground. When all these forces join together, a great transformation could overtake us, and our great grief cry could echo to the worlds beyond.”
~ Francis Weller
I was going to settle myself into this small corner of the round Earth to follow the scent of a poem arising out of several dreamscapes. It began as such:
“I, twice, was dreamed by a purple planet,
vibrant, abundant, and healthy…”
I will likely return to it, but there are more pressing matters that ache in the ever-breaking regions of my heart. These words pointed at a truth so obvious to me that bits of salty ocean began their slow crawl down my cheekbones. Cheekbones that carry the genetic whisperings of my ancestors. Cheekbones molded by the land they belonged to. Ancestral places, spaces, and creatures that informed their languages, nourished their longings, co-created their ceremonies and rituals, participated in their initiations, fed their bellies, held their deaths, and welcomed their births. Terrain that participated in the dreaming of them into being.
We are each being dreamed by a blue-green planet orbiting a star situated in a galaxy whipping its vibrant and dusty skirt through a dark, cosmic sea. Or maybe we’re being dreamed by a blue-green pupil inside the eye of a dragon slumbering atop fields of basalt. Or maybe we’re being dreamed by a blue-green lake inside the womb of a goddess perched atop a floating mountain where feathered whales fly. No matter the imagery, what remains consistent is this: we are each being dreamed by a blue-green creature held by gravity’s embrace whose complex and teeming ecologies that have taken billions of years to evolve are collapsing.
Let yourself feel the gravity of that! You are the kin of a cosmic cell that, in many present and ancient cosmologies, is likened to a web or Mother, hinting at the dynamic and vulnerable relationships that form a holographic field of interconnectivity and interdependence. As all of the complex, relational weavings of existence begin to unravel and die, so, too, does humanity. How could humanity survive when much of humanity has forsaken its earthen kin?
By being dreamed, I am pointing at the way we are shaped by our ecologies of belonging. We grow into and out of them like the green shoot coiled in the womb of the Earth. This relational cauldron of emergence and becoming is what my own ancestors, the Greeks, refer to as autochthonous. Auto (αὐτός) meaning “self,” and chthon (χθών) meaning “soil.”
We are creatures who spring from the Earth. The implications of such a cosmogonic thread disfigure and destabilize more current (last 5000 years) patriarchal Sky God cosmologies. Cosmologies that camouflage escapism as transcendence, preach of an inanimate soil, demonize the somatic-erotic, pedestalize the uninitiated masculine, perpetuate the illusion of individualism, spread propaganda about and scorn the feral Feminine, and make death seem like a hurdle in the twenty-yard dash.
I could speak to the conditions of forgetting that are reinforced by these cosmologies. Such origin stories govern and guide the quality and nature of our relationships with ourselves and the world. And those stories twist themselves tightly into systems we are each born into within Western culture. Industrial, capitalizing, colonizing, white cispatriarchal systems, to name a few.
Surely, it is necessary to engage these systems, and the ways they live within and affect each of us. But, for now, I’d like to speak to the alchemical shaping of the world made possible by a creature that has been given many names and mythic manifestations. A creature whose movements and mannerisms make it impossible to domesticate or confine. A creature whose trembling tongue of lamentation articulates ululational howls, screeches, wails, screams, and moans from chthonic chambers of remembrance. In English, we have come to call this creature Grief.
Grief is not only an emotional experience of our animality, or asseveration of love and loss. It is a creature in and of itself capable of reshaping the world if only we each make the bodies of ourselves capable of rendering such holy participation.
Mythic manifestations of Grief point at this truth through varying personified forms. Cosmogonic storying that impresses upon us the ecological function and necessity of Grief, as well as emphasizing the facets of its expression. For lamentation can be a devotional act of Gaian worship where Grief moves through us the way torrential rains reshape mountainsides and volcanic eruptions forge new landscapes.
Make no mistake, Grief is not confined to watery and moist intonations. It can be hot-tempered, raging, and furious. Snarling and drooling, its fierce protestations that thrum against its sharp-toothed wail exact attention and crystalize truth. Chthonic truths that our animal bodies cannot deny.
Many an ancestral people deified forces such as Grief for good reason. They are boundless creatures moving in and out of form and formlessness that, when worshiped and offered rituals of devotion, enable full-bodied and soul-rooted demonstrations of belonging to this world.
Let me be clear, as the word “worship” can be fettered with all manner of perversions that would suggest blindly following doctrines interpreted and translated in favor of paradigmatic powers that express little love for the web of life. The winding roots of worship enter a coiled embrace with the mycelium networks of honor and reverence. Worship points at that which is worthy of song and dance, praise and ritual, art and embodiment. Or as a dear friend recently wrote me, “worship means sucking its fingers, licking its eyelids, crying its tears, and climbing inside its mouth when it laughs.”
For the ancient Greeks, Grief pressed its life through matristic narratives pledging right-relationship and justice, and through such narratives made clear the consequences of forgetting one’s place of belonging. Mother Nyx (Night), for example, a primordial goddess who represents the sacred relational agreements of the Cosmos, birthed the Erinyes (Furies) into the world. Should humanity cause an imbalance within the ecology of their belonging, these chthonic deities were a divine response toward a restoration of balance. They sought justice when blood was shed, particularly that of mothers.
Fury is hot and activating! When moved through our mythic animality, the expression of such hallowed anger is life-affirming. Fury cracks like thunder the fear-induced, oppressive, and violent silence enforced by aforementioned paradigms of forgetting. Paradigms that fear the power of such primal, earth-rooted, and feral articulations of Grief.
We could also turn to the migratory passage Grief took through Demeter (Earth Mother) when her daughter, Persephone, was abducted by Hades and brought to the Underworld. In her agony and despair, all the fertile fields began to die, leaving those of the land to starve. In this way, Grief announced the severity of loss felt by Demeter, as well as the ramifications of a patriarchal culture thieving from the Earth. For this telling is a mark of appropriation, where the older myth grants Persephone agency and intent when entering and returning from the Underworld. Such mythic manifestations gift us a very important admonition in these times of disembodiment and feverish numbing: grieve before all is lost!
Grief is a creature born out of the throngs of relationship. Without the quivering web of interconnectivity, Grief would slumber like a tree in winter. It grows through the fine tendrils of kinship and community, veining its way through every chord of existence rolling off the tongue of Mystery. Such an ennobling creature announces itself when sacred agreements are broken, when profane pronouncements are buried, when beloveds shapeshift their way into the arms of Death, when thresholds of change are crossed, and when the unfathomable crashes upon our lives like an Amphitritan wave.
We are in the midst of the unfathomable. Our Mother is heaving and writhing as her body is pillaged, plundered, and raped. Smoldering and sobbing, Gaia continues to receive the ash and slaughter of her children. Her oceanic womb is acidifying. Her rivered veins receive daily toxic infusions. Her forested lungs are ablaze. Her tectonic hips are being emptied of their black menstrual blood.
Can you feel the way your heart quavers as Grief knocks around the bony chamber of your lungs? It makes its way into the heart by burrowing through the concave soles of feet, infusing marrow with an ache that cannot be soothed for bones refuse all gestures of alleviation.
Human beings are not guaranteed survival as we quicken our way toward the sixth mass extinction. There is much that has been lost, and much more devastation to come. Our kin and ecologies of belonging are disappearing, their song and dance never to be seen again. Does that not make you drop to your knees, weighted by the gravity of despair?
For these times demand not hope from us, but instead a soul-rooted, co-conspired midwifing of impossible dreams. And for such impossibility to transpire, Grief must be admitted. For Grief, that feral creature Love portends, has a crucial role to play in these calamitous and uncertain times. When its shrieking bellow and aching cry usher through our bodies the numb and slumbering just might feel the fiery chill of a necessitated waking.
What happens when we let Grief move through our soul-rooted ways of belonging? What happens when we not only understand grief to be an emotional expression or process of transformation, but also as a chthonic body of inspiration crawling and clambering its way across the land? What happens when we cultivate and refine our capacity for full-bodied listening, and begin to conjure the grief cry of the Earth?
And as that grief cry slithers and slides from the creaturely mouth of one’s soul, beseeching all in heart-shot to re-member the fecund soil from which they spring, a chorus of belonging could resound. A belonging that extends itself through endless relational webworks that include ancestors and future ones just as much as those still walking, crawling, flying, rooting, burrowing, and swimming the Earth.
What happens when we are compelled toward devotion of Grief on behalf of our blue-green Mother floating in a cosmic sea whose very miraculous existence tethers us to the mystery and magic of our shared lives? Can you let the gravity of your sorrow carry you downward to where everything flows back into the Earth?
Will you say yes to the feral feminine lurking in the holy dark, singing out to you from the womb of the Earth? Join Amanda at Courting the Holy Dark: Stalking the Face of Your Feral Feminine, August 3-7 2020.
What can happen when Mothers gather, braiding the many voices of the Earth together, strengthening the presence and articulation of this note? Would you like to find out with Amanda? Click here for more information on her Council of Mothers: A Virtual Community Monthly Gathering.
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