Sunday, July 27, 2014

Night-Silence ~ Nachtstilte


Hush now, hush: on feet of silver
Through the night see silence go,
Silence that from gods delivers
Greetings to the watch below...
What ’twixt souls could not be spoken
In the daytime’s empty din
From high realms that night has woken,
Into light star-bright now broken,
Sullied by no word or token
God speaks deep within.



Stil, wees stil,
Op zilv’ren voeten
Schrijdt de stilte door de nacht.
Stilte, die der goden groeten
Overbrengt naar lager wacht.
Wat niet ziel tot ziel kon spreken
Door der dagen ijl gegons
Spreekt, uit overluchtse streken
Klaar, als ster in licht zou breken,
Zonder smet van taal of teken
God in elk van ons.


Poem by the Dutch poet P.C. Boutens (1870-1953)
translation: John Irons
Painting: "Licht" - Juke Hudig

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Conversation with a Butterfly

I am sitting relaxing in my garden. The day is warm, with a few fluffy sheep’s-wool clouds sailing through a sky of piercing lapis, although the shade of the young maple tree under which I am sitting offers me some relative coolness.

A butterfly alights on one of the maple leaves, close enough for me to reach out and touch it. I do not do so, of course, being glad enough of its company. Its wings match the blue of the sky: a little piece of heaven flown down from above. ‘How are you?’ asks the butterfly courteously. I feel the need to be honest. ‘A little down’, I replied, ‘but rather better since you have come to visit me. ‘Ah,‘ said the butterfly unsurprised, ‘that is to be expected. I tend to have that effect upon those whom I visit.’ I noticed that I felt better the longer the butterfly remained with me. ‘Perhaps you could stay with me, then I would always feel better.’ I suggested.

‘Oh, no!’ exclaimed the butterfly emphatically. ‘It just doesn't work like that. Were I always to stay with you, my attraction would diminish to the point where you would not even notice my existence, because you would then simply take me for granted. In my experience, that is what tends to happen, which is why I prefer just to visit, rather than remain.’ I had a mischievous thought. ‘Then perhaps I could capture you!’ I said. ‘That way you would have to stay with me, and I would always have you close by!’ The butterfly smiled knowingly. ‘No, that would not work either! As soon as I am captured, I change. I become something else entirely that you would not even recognise. So you see, there’s no point in trying to catch me.’

‘Then when you fly away, I will follow you wherever you go!’ I laughed, rather smugly pleased with my own persistent ingenuity. ‘That way, you would always be free, and I would always be near you.’ ‘Still no good!’ The butterfly patiently explained. ‘You may chase after me for as long as you want. But if you chase me, you will discover that I always stay just out of reach. Better to just be still in yourself. That way, if you are lucky, I will come to visit you as I have now. Besides,’ the butterfly continued with a flutter of its azure wings ‘my little life is over soon enough. My visits tend to be brief ones, sometimes short, sometimes a little longer. And sometimes those whom I visit do not even realise that I have visited them until after I have flown away. That is the way it is.’

The butterfly fluttered its wings more vigorously, and I felt that it might fly away at any moment. ‘Please wait just a little!’ I asked. ‘’Won’t you tell me your name before you go?’ The butterfly smiled. ‘My name is Happiness.’ It replied. 

Painting by Odilon Redon

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Inanna and the Old Woman at the Gate

This is dangerous work, this thing we women do, feeling everything, passing through the gate that way. This is our play with the spirits: we gain what we risk. So it is with Inanna; what she would gain and therefore what she must risk is life itself. Inanna hears Ereshkigal crying, so she has to go. She has to go: after all, isn't Inanna a woman?

We stand on the crack between the worlds in our women's bodies. We look both ways on the horns of life, forward, to see our children through, backward, to remember. That's why our love takes so much courage. Inanna comes through here, asking me the way. I know her symptoms - haven't I seen them a hundred times before? I would have cried for her if she hadn't so many tears for herself already. I am Daughter of the Sun, Inanna says, but I am so wet, I am so wet, I am rain without a river to collect me, I am a flood with no banks to embrace me, and still I cannot stop crying. Old Woman, what can I do with all my water?

"You have the water of life itself in you", I tell her, "It is your responsibility to cry it home." How Inanna cries! She cries as if she has already become the wind: It's not enough, she says, the way I've made myself up, it's not enough; my crown and my kingdom, it's not enough, all my light - not enough, my stores of wealth - not enough, the soldiers who would trade away everything for one night with me - not enough. My sweet companion Ninshubah, who has stepped her path from childhood to womanhood alongside my own - not enough. Even Dumuzi, my king, flesh of my flesh, not enough. My own beloved sons - who are to me as life itself, not enough. There are some kinds of tears that cannot be wiped away. Like prayers, they announce us.

My body! Inanna cries, this hopeless beauty of mine is like the skull of a melon. I don't know who has eaten my insides. This candle of flesh I carry only illuminates everything yellow as bones of sand. I know what Inanna is saying when she asks me how to get through that gate, when she asks me how to dream. Old Woman, Inanna says, teach me how to dream.

"Don't ask me that!" I tell her, "We all know how to dream. Just some of us listen to our dreams. So you just listen to whatever it is stampeding inside you, pulling you over. You just ride it where it takes you. Aren't you yourself the morning and the evening star? There's no woman can't walk through walls, navigating her dreams. There's no woman can't walk through time - don't you have two sons to prove it?"

Can't I give her something more? Inanna wants to know. Something to make it safe? But all I can give her are the words I keep as the witness at the gate: "Ereshkigal is your own sister, and all the scribes in Sumer haven't any more power than what's written in the mother's milk you shared: that's the ink that draws us into this world. And what draws us in draws us out again, both directions."

I didn’t tell her the rest. What good would it do? What must be, must be. But even the underworld rewards the courage of love.

Text: The Descent of Inanna ©Madronna Holden

Photo: model Anna Chipovskaya by Nicolay Biryukov

Saturday, July 12, 2014


Love is so very much more than an experienced emotion. It is a universal force of being. It cannot be destroyed. At times it might seem to us that this happens, when we feel that other forces overwhelm us. But even then - especially then - love transforms itself, finds new forms to replace those forms which, sometimes for reasons which are difficult for us to understand at the time, it no longer needs. No, love cannot be destroyed. But it can be transformed. And in that process of transformation it burns even brighter.