“Yield and you need not break
Bent you can straighten
Emptied you can hold
Torn you can mend”
(Tao Te Ching)
There has been an influx of moths in my place; sometimes they follow me around. After smooshing several of them, I began to wonder whether they were harbingers of some sort, and smooshing them without acknowledging their message was doing each of us a disservice.
So I researched the mythological implications of moths. These are little white or beige moths, the kind that like to work their way through your wardrobe like a buffet, thoughtfully leaving little holes here and there in your wools and silks. However, I’ve discovered that moths do indeed have stories to tell, or rather, there are stories about moths that seem to fit with my current circumstances, so perhaps their appearance is, after all, not a coincidence.
from the insects.org site:
Beauty of Color, Shape, Pattern, Symmetry
Lo, the bright train their radiant wings unfold!
With silver fringed, and freckled o’er with gold:
On the gay bosom of some fragrant flower
They, idly fluttering, live their little hour;
Their life all pleasure, and their task all play,
All spring their age, and sunshine all their day.
Butterflies and moths are “Nature’s canvases with the gift of flight.” Even in death, their mounted beauty can remain intact for centuries. Nature’s genetic paintbrushes have “painted” hundreds of thousands bilaterally-symmetrical butterfly and moth works of art. When one considers that both the topsides and the undersides of these specimens are “painted” with equal skill, and that smaller, isolated sections of these masterpieces can be viewed apart from the total specimen, one becomes aware of the virtually unlimited number of artworks in this “traveling” art show of the air.
To some artists, the butterfly and moth only symbolize beauty: the beauty of symmetry, pattern, color, shape. These artists don’t require their representations of these creatures to be interpreted. They copy these insects, some as faithfully as the Photo-realists would copy a still life, a figure, a panorama, and only ask the viewer to observe their beauty.
The Abstractive-Naturalists don’t even require the viewers to know their subject is a butterfly or moth. They enlarge small, rectangular sections of wing and present them purely as designs. Examples of this usage are represented in Kjell Sandved’s Butterfly Alphabet Posters.
Ugly and Negative
Shall mortal man be more just than God?
Shall a man be more pure than his Maker?
Behold He put no trust in His servants;
And His angels He charged with folly:
How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay,
Whose foundation is in the dust,
Which are crushed before the moth?
Although fantastically beautiful moths exist, many of them live in the tropics. Uncommon, beautiful moths such as (the Polyphemus, Cecropia, Luna) do reside in the United States, although commonly encountered moths are small and drab brown. Compare this to the many beautiful butterflies easily observed in almost any part of the world.
For this reason the moth always comes out second-best in a “beauty contest-opinion poll” against butterflies. Coupled with the stigma brought on by the misdeeds of the clothes moth, these little denizens of the closet are responsible for the tarnished reputation of moths everywhere. It is little wonder that the moth has become the unwilling symbol for that which is ugly and negative. Some of the other symbols identified with moths (like insanity) have also contributed to the moth’s position of low esteem.
Ancient Mexicans considered the butterfly important enough to dedicate an entire palace to it at Teotihuacan, just outside Mexico City. This palace is called the Palace of the Mariposa.
Teotihuacan is the oldest metropolis in Meso-America, and is the only one to possess a continuous history, from the archaic through to the purely classical period.
Historians do not agree on who the founders of Teotihuacan were; some say the Olmecs, others the Toltecs, but most agree that it was at one time the capital of a highly civilized culture later conquered by the Aztecs, the foremost of the Nahuatal Tribes.
The butterfly represents flame in the symbolism of this culture. Often pictured with the signs for water, it becomes clear that the “vision of Earth as a paradise is based on the dynamic harmony between water and fire.” The same concept is exemplified by an image of Tlaloc, god of rain, pictured on a vase bearing a butterfly motif. It is interesting to note that the butterfly is used as symbolic representatives of both the fire and rain god.
Finding no information as to why butterflies symbolize flames, Indians might have observed the many butterflies whose wings are red, orange, yellow, or combinations of all three colors. A cloud or “cumulep” of fire-colored butterflies taking off from a mud puddle after drinking, could easily be interpreted as being flame-like.
Mexican Indians might also have witnessed a “magna-cumulep” of millions of orange, monarch butterflies migrating to their over-wintering grounds in the mountains near Mexico City. A “cloud of flame” would definitely have entered their minds. The flapping of the wings would even approximate the flickering of the tongues of flame. The moth has also come to be associated with flames, although not as a symbol of fire.
A small yellowish moth which flies about the fire at night is called ‘tun tawu by the Cherokee Indians– a name implying that it goes in and out of the fire. When it flits too near and falls into the blaze the Cherokee say ‘tun tawu is going to bed.’ Because of its affinity for the fire it is invoked by the Indian doctor in what they call ‘Fire Diseases,’ among which sore eyes and frostbite are included.
It may be somewhat difficult to understand why a moth or butterfly could symbolize sensuality, and the symbol does trace a rather circuitous route. Because a moth is physically attracted to light, and because sensuality involves physical attraction, the moth has come to symbolize sensuality; it physically succumbs to seductive light. Also, because butterflies represents femininity, and females are most often associated with the word sensual, the butterfly has also become associated with the word sensual.
A page of the wind in the book of the sky,
the fragile butterfly
Another characteristic of both moths and butterflies is their fragile nature. Their thin wings and antennae, their powdered color that comes off on your fingertips adds to their stature as a symbol of impermanence.
Indian Watcher, Big Boss
In the book, Navaho Indian Ethnoentomology by Wyman and Bailey, contains a paragraph relating to the butterfly (or possibly the moth) as some kind of “Big Brother.”
“Mixed up [as to sex] on them real classy ones, supposed to be the head of all moths, they don’t fly but stay in one place and all moths pile up around him which makes me believe moths have their boss.” The Black Swallowtail “is the big boss, he watches Indian.” The work did not explain in what reference, whether as a god or as an everpresent insect, or just how this butterfly watched Indians. It is possible that the eyespots or “ocelli” present on the wings aided in the impression the Indians had that this butterfly could watch them.
The sorcerers of the Yaqui Indians of Mexico refer to the moth as a symbol of knowledge. In the book Tales of Power by Carlos Castaneda, the moth is such a central figure it is included as the major character on the cover of the book. It is revealed by Don Juan, a Yaqui sorcerer, “knowledge is a moth.” He expresses metaphorically that “the moths are the heralds, or better yet, the guardians of eternity,” for some reason, or for no reason at all, they are the depositories of the gold dust of eternity. He continues, “the moths carry a dust on their wings, a dark gold dust. That dust is the dust of knowledge.” “Knowledge comes floating like specks of gold dust, the same dust that covers the wings of moths.” “The moths have been the intimate friends and helpers of sorcerers from time immemorial.” Don Juan adds, “Moths are the givers of knowledge and the friends and helpers of sorcerers.”
The association of the moth with knowledge coincides with the Blackfoot Indian belief that the butterfly “is a little fellow flying about that is going to bring news to someone tonight.” In addition, the Yaqui associates some danger with the moth and its knowledge. The Navaho Indian also feels that “moths and butterflies, especially moths, are very dangerous.” The Yaqui feels the powder on a moth’s wings is knowledge. The Navaho associates the powder on lepidopteron wings with insanity, the drive to commit incest and the power of an aphrodisiac and the power to run fast. The old adage “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” is quite applicable here.
THE SILK MOTH: is a multicultural symbol of rebirth and reincarnation. It is also connected with metamorphosis, as it changes from the caterpillar to the moth after a period of silky gestation. Admired more than many common moths for their symmetry of pattern and colour, and the preciousness of their fibres, they are also connected with the night and the flame, creatures of secrets and illumination. The silk worm feeds on the mulberry, so ingests wisdom. However, the continuous fibre that they weave is ultimately to their own doom, as unravelling the thread will kill the insect.
The expression “like a moth to a flame” also tells of a feeling of inner compulsion, the will being powerless to alter what is inherently felt. But the sensual moth, drawn to the heat of the flame, is also identified with the opportunity for transformation. Moths are female in symbolism, less giddy and pretty than butterflies; the silk moth is strongly associated with the Bassano family (see their family website, www.peterbassano.com/shakespeare).
No revolution in outer things is possible without
prior revolution in one’s inner way of being.
Whatever change you aspire to . . . must be
preceded by a change in heart.
~ I Ching Hexagram 49
What inner revolution are you ready to undertake?
Stargazing Tip for April 9
The Moon huddles quite close to the brightest star of Virgo tonight. Spica is a little to the upper left of the Moon as they rise in early evening.
Stardate: April 9, 2009
The tears are flowing this morning, a relentless stream following the inner crease of my eye, along my nose and down my cheeks to be deftly wiped away before they escape. I don’t know why today is any different than yesterday, or tomorrow. Since being let go from my job at the beginning of January, it’s all been like one long flowing day, punctuated with stress here and there, but otherwise rather dull and numbing.
How is it that every time change occurs in my life, it has to be everything all at once? Is it my sense of impatience in general that controls even the manifestations of my higher self? Are we both equally impatient? And yet, I must be patient, for I have been waiting for what seems like an eternity for something to happen that will push me into the place where I will flourish. Perhaps this is it. If only it wasn’t so gut-wrenchingly devastating at the same time. I wish I could muster up more enthusiasm in light of these developments.
Perkily, Steve went apartment hunting yesterday, online, and found a junior one bedroom apartment that he’s put dibs on in Costa Mesa. Funny how the very construct we met upon so many years ago has also facilitated our separation. It’s not as though it happened suddenly, and blind-sided us. It became a wedge, like a curtain drawn between hospital beds, and severed our connection. While there is a fondness between us, we’ve lost our soul connection. I wonder, sometimes, if it was ever really there.
I wonder what the point of our union was in the first place. If it was to get me here to California, it has seemingly failed in its purpose, since I will be leaving to go back to Canada shortly. Of course, that too is my choice. I could stay here, but I have no where to go. Doesn’t seem like much of a choice. I don’t feel safe here. And I’m not sure why I feel any differently about being in Canada, but some things reach me at gut-level and I’ve intuited this as being the best course of action.
I am afraid. I am afraid of being alone for the rest of my life. I am afraid that I will amble from one job to the next as a means of paying my bills without deriving any joy or satisfaction out of my daily work. I fear that I will not be able to support myself and Gabriel to a standard that will match what we are leaving behind. I fear that he will also someday abandon me in favor of living with his father. I fear that I will never figure out what it is that I am here to do on this earth, making it all a pointless exercise in futility, like pounding sand. I fear that I will start off this new segment of my life with so much less than I started with, and that I won’t have the strength, ambition or focus to make it back to good. Sometimes I fear I’ve made such a mess of things that it is too far gone to fix; that it’s irreparably damaged.
I have this sense of diminished worth that I carry like a mantle. Who gave this to me, I wonder? Was it intended to protect me during my meandering through life? Did I put it there to protect myself from undue interest; to not have to measure up to anything because I was running under the radar? How can it be that I have not been able to maintain an intimate relationship with another human being? Am I meant to be alone?
I get these inspirational quotes via email. Today’s is “Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness” attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes. Some days they inspire me; other days, like today, they merely sound insipid.
Yesterday I worked on a background piece to go behind the text for my March chapbook contribution. I layered fluid acrylic paints on a canvas sheet and, once dry, added some gilding with a Staedtler Hot Foil Pen. I was looking for my other foiling supplies, but do you think I could find them? No… *sigh* time to clean up my sh*t, I’m thinking… sad, really, when one can’t find the supplies one needs. I thought I put it in a specific spot but then I cleaned up my workbench and moved it to somewhere else… must’ve been a really good, safe, spot.
ANYways… today I scanned the canvas so that I could print out these little blocks of sampled parts of it on fabric transfer sheets (which I haven’t yet done), and then cut up the sheet into pieces to share/include with the March pages. While searching for the foiling supplies I went through different drawers and bins and discovered a bunch of stuff that I was hoarding for that “special project” and decided that this one was as good as any, and split the spoils into ten little piles, to be included in (yet another hoarded “cool” thing) these fabric pouches, onto which I’ll be applying the iron-on transfer. My but that was a long-winded discourse.
Apart from that, the day was relatively unproductive. I listened to Scott Blum’s “Summer’s Path” … I love audiobooks, and Audible is a fine purveyor thereof. And I spoke to my friend Cindy, in Chilliwack, whose home I’ll be squatting in after our move up there in a few months and until I get a job and resettled, if there is such a thing. And I also managed to coordinate with someone on a possible temp job, which is great, considering I haven’t worked since the beginning of January… but I hear it’s like riding a bicycle.
Another slow dive into self. Every time I think I’ve embraced my darkness and am ready to re-emerge into light, I go deeper still into the murk. It’s not pretty here. It’s lonely. Frightening, sometimes, but no matter how hard I try to turn away from peering at myself a little more closely, I look again, awestruck, sort of like when you drive by a traffic accident and your head swivels of its own volition. Is there any blood? Any deceased? Curiosity tinged with apprehension, as the eyes survey the scene to take it in… but hurry! You don’t want to hold up the traffic; we’ve been waiting long enough already, stuck in this traffic jam of life.
I envy the “whimsy” art girls. They remind me of the popular girls in high school, dressed in Lacoste shirts with upturned collars, hair flipping just right, Farah Fawcett-like, banding together in their dimpled butter cream frosted cheer. I tried then, to be part of the crowd, but I never did pull it off. I didn’t fit in anywhere, really. Defiantly, I just stopped trying, instead embracing my deviance. But I’m quiet so who could tell? It was a silent revolution.
Why can’t I go there, to the bright and cheery part of the garden, where all is light and airy? I coo with the rest of them at the pinks and oranges, the gingham and flowers, the ribbons and ruffles and swirly things. I just can’t make them. When I try, they look like I tried too hard, and I never quite succeed in getting ‘there’ wherever ‘there’ may be.
That stuff seems like foreign artifacts from another civilization that I just can’t grasp. Like the natives in South America that were surprised to have men from a Spanish armada show up on the beach when the vessel that they traveled in to get there was bobbing offshore in plain sight, but their minds didn’t recognize it as a boat and dismissed it outright, seeing nothing but smooth ocean. They thought these men were gods instead of their impending oppressors. Amazing, the brain… isn’t it?
To me, color has meaning in a visceral sense. It slugs me in the belly, like Alex did, when I was four; he was trying to be a bully and succeeded, since he was already in grade school and whooooshed the wind right out of me. I got to slug him back, in his big fat jelly belly, because our parents ‘talked’ and it was deemed appropriate punishment. Betchya he wasn’t so happy to be slugged in his belly by a little four year old girl, intent on inflicting pain in kind. Call it instant karma. Wind for wind.
Color rattles through me like the wind and carries on conversations with my hands, with or without my intervention. Sometimes, like Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, I can see colors when I close my eyes; sensations translated into streams of light, swirling through me like vortices. There is a word for it, though I can’t remember what it is. There is a word for everything.
I’ve been working on my March pages of the chapbook project, and was getting ready to heave-ho my printer from the balcony and watch it shatter to pieces down below… but I finally changed what I was using as printing support (switched from satin ‘sheets’ to vellum) and will be “free-form” stitching the two together tomorrow with the sewing machine. Initially I was going to print both sheets on the satin but my printer seemed to have an insatiable appetite for satin sheets (hmmm…) but I’m glad that at least the top sheets were successfully printed. I have the writing to work on still, and also the assembly of the February pages to finish up. I’m happy that I am at least making some progress.
I worked some more in my visual journal (or art journal… or whatever you want to call it) this evening. I painted this background by layering GAC 500 diluted Golden fluid acrylics in Interference Oxide Red, Green Gold, Quinacridone Red, and Paynes Gray. I used a salvaged strip from one of the printer-digested satin sheets I mentioned earlier, and pasted it down with my favorite adhesive, ArtQuest’s Perfect Paper Adhesive, and layered some over the top of the image as well, as the printer ink was not set. I am completely enamored with Paynes Gray.
Well… took the paint chips off and instead wrote a Pablo Neruda poem onto the background:
Soliloquy in the Waves
Yes, but here I am alone.
perhaps it says its name, I don’t understand,
it mutters, humps in its load
of movement and foam
and withdraws. Who
can I ask what it said to me?
Who among the waves can I name?
And I wait.
Once again the clearness approached,
the soft numbers
rose in foam
and I didn’t know what to call them.
So they whispered away,
seeped into the mouth of the sand.
Time obliterated all lips
with the patience of shadow and
the orange kiss
I stayed alone,
unable to respond to what the world
was obviously offering me,
that richness spreading itself,
the mysterious grapes
of salt, love unknown,
and in the fading day
only a rumor remained,
further away each time,
until everything that was able to
changed itself into silence.
Maybe I’ll add more “stuff”… dunno yet. Ready to move on to another page in the meantime.
An art journal entry from March 31st, resulting from a group skry I did on Monday night. Not quite successful in translating the experience visually, but it’s close enough. Fuzzy photo courtesy of my iPhone and low lighting. My other camera’s battery ran out of juice just as I was getting ready to shoot some photos. Not sure about leaving the color paint chips on there… my Winsor & Newton watercolor chart was starting to spew forth the color samples, so I thought I’d put them on the pages, but I’m not sure yet… I think I’ll sleep on it.