For Starters...What I'm Drinking
|Royce brandishing garlic press during Bill's DGD talk|
...(granted, I'm not a garlic sensitive vampire), and it's got the virus on the run!!!
*Requisite disclaimer* This anecdote is intended as comic insight into the gustatory lengths I'm willing to go to in my quest to rid myself of this cold naturally, NOT as medical advice (seriously, you knew that already, didn't you?) - but I digress...
A Primer on One Approach to Engaging with Our Archeomythology-Style Analyses of True Blood
Subsequent posts in this series (and, no doubt, future entries in The Pierced Pomegranate Tavern as well) will tend towards the story and image-dense; it occurs to me that engaging with these types of expression require a somewhat different way of sensing and thinking than we generally use when we engage with straight-up print on the page.
So, to help you get the most out of this series (and future ones) I've decided to take a brief time out from confronting female rivalry and conflict head-on to introduce you to the concept of the metaphoric mind and to share some approaches that might help you plug into yours.
SO HERE'S THE SET-UP...
The Metaphoric Mind and The Importance of Image and Story
The Primacy of the Image
Cosmologist Brian Swimme suggests that from our present understanding, human culture dates back some 200,000 years (Mendel, 2009); artifacts unearthed from the enormous time span covering more than 30,000 years of human history from the upper Paleolithic (35,000-9000 B.C.E.) forward testify to the symbolic behavior that exploded from within our ancestors from the Ice Age to the Late Classical Age (Gadon, 1989).
From this time of deepest history, our ancient forebearers perceived the world with a metaphoric mind; as Jewish mystic and rebbetzin Heather Mendel writes (2009, p. 13), they were not writers but artists - creators of carvings, reliefs, vessels, and figurines whose
...legacy to us was made of the Earth. It came from the depths of being. They shaped the warm, living clay, slippery-soft solid silk, firmly in their hands. They strengthened it by flame and decorated its hardened surfaces with a painted language of symbols - not words, but a language nonetheless, telling of their lives, of their interpretation of DivinityAccording to Mendel, whereas our "father's house" (the cultural context of the patriarchal era), is built upon the written word which corresponds to the left-brained, linear-rational approach privileged in the Western milieu, the pillars of our "great-grandmother's house" (archaic cultures: Ice Age, Old Europe as described by Marija Gimbutas, Çatal Hüyük as described by James Mellaart, the pre-patriarchal Mediterranean, Near, & Middle East and Africa, etc.) were modes of expression that flow from what neuroscientists describe as right lobe functions - the grounding of our abilities to emote and to feel, to appreciate the rhythms of music or speech, and to recognize images in a holistic manner.
Thus, our distant ancestors used the vocabulary of "imaginative stories, creative arts, and belief systems that form cultural underpinnings and tell of the inner life of the human family" to make meaning of reality and to structure their lives and relationships.
What survives from this long past era is not written history but iconic history; the rock murals, clay and bronze pots, and countless figurines - which were in the earliest human cultures almost exclusively female (originally interpreted as "fertility fetishes" they are now seen as representations of what archeomythologist Marija Gimbutas calls "The Great Goddess of Birth, Death and Regeneration"; the godhead of the time) - which as Mendel suggests speak to us of how these ancients viewed themselves, related to each other, understood the ultimate mysteries of life, and imagined Divinity:
|hair washing scene in North African rock mural|
|The Great Goddess of Willendorf, Europe, 25,000 B.C.E.|
|women on archaic Greek vase|
|The Great Goddess of Laussel, Europe, 20,000 B.C.E.|
|various female icons|
For more of this kind of art and imagery, please check out:
The potency and resonance of these age-old icons point to the enormous influence have on us even today, in our literate and lettered culture within which text and visual images tend to have an "uneasy and unequal relationship on the page" (Silko, 1996, p 167).
As Hallie Iglehart Austen writes in The Heart of the Goddess: Art, Myth and Meditations of the World's Sacred Feminine (1990), pictures speak to our hearts and our guts - those in the visual media (like True Blood) and advertising of today included. She suggests that it's hard to obscure the message of an image, since unlike words which can be mistranslated, pictures speak directly to us.
When we use images - from True Blood or from other sources - to evoke a particular feeling or mindset, or as part of our approach to analysis, please try to take them in not as what Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit: Essays on Native American Life Today author Leslie Marmon Silko calls "embellishments put to the service of the text" (1996, 167), but as modes of expression that can convey an essence of meaning.
HERE'S AN EXAMPLE USING MY CURRENT SERIES ON FEMALE RIVALRY AND CONFLICT: True Blood has shown us some plenty-powerful representations of women's relationships with one another, especially this past season (S3).
...some of which graphically depict what Naomi Wolf describes in her GIRL VS. GIRL Harper's piece as "the dark side of female rivalry"; in the case of Sookie and Debbie, it's taken to the extreme...
video clip courtesy:http://twilog.net/2010/08/i-wanna-do-bad-things-with-you-true-blood-recap-season-3-episode-8/
...and others that display striking - and at times completely unexpected - shows of female solidarity; images that seem to counter what Wolf suggests, "an antifeminist world wants to say of us—that we can't create workable teams, we can't lead effectively, and we are indeed treacherous and bitchy"?
Here, Lorena soothes Bill's Civil War era wife Caroline Compton. We were led to believe that Lorena meant to "turn" Caroline or perhaps kill her when the camera panned over Bill recoiling in horror after professing that he would not allow his maker to harm his wife in the previous scene, but what really happened was that Bill - barely able to control his hunger - had, as Lorena said, already done enough to hurt Caroline by returning to the home they shared and making himself known to her not as the husband she had known and loved but as a vampire. Out of expediency (another of Bill's messes to clean up), pity - or perhaps in solidarity with a woman who was hurting as she herself had once hurt in life, Lorena comforts Caroline and insists that Bill show her his love by "making her forget".
As you let these images wash over you, try plugging into your metaphoric mind - let it bring you into contact with the way the world is - and was - understood by humanity's long line of artists, storytellers, and poets.
Did you try it? Did this approach enhance your engagement with the images in any way? Bring you deeper into their impact or meaning? No!?! Try again!
Can you see how these and other images from True Blood might be connected to other images from the past or present that also tell stories for the psyche (how depth psychologist Carl Jung described myth); how they might carry along cultural currents, or recapitulate deeply felt archetypal themes? How they might loop into and illuminate these kinds of shared experiences - which that may be part of YOUR lived experience?
Maybe this has been part of your strategy for interpreting True Blood all along, like the folks over at a TB blog I recently discovered which appears to overlap somewhat with ours in terms of approach: The Ancient Pythonness seem to do.
I'll bet that if you practice this approach each time you encounter imagery - whether it be in the remaining installations in this series on female rivalry and conflict, future Pierced Pomegranate Tavern entries that rely heavily upon the visual, or even out there in the wider world - you might just find that your way of perceiving pictures and three-dimensional art like sculpture shifts, deepens even.
So give it a shot!
Image and Story Are Connected; Stories (like True Blood) Tap Into An Alternative Consciousness
This should come as no surprise...Silko writes that in the Pueblo view, "From the spoken word, or storytelling, comes the written word, as well as the visual image" (1996, p. 21). This motif of connection between words and images, stories and art was alive in pre-modern societies as well; the myths and oral histories which have come down to us from old contain kernels of ancient wisdom that are accessible to us now.
Even today, humans are storytelling beings; we lead storied lives. The story is a basic communicative and meaning-making device pervasive in the human experience; it's an attempt to explain and understand what is happening to us. Stories are an innate activity by which we strive to establish who we are in the changing contexts of our lives.
Ever heard soap operas referred to as "stories"? 'Cause that's exactly what they are! Those shows like General Hospital, One Life To Live, and All My Children - sometimes derided as trifling forms of entertainment since they're mainly aimed at...GASP...women - follow a non-linear, "looping" associative style in which the narratives unfurl that is evocative of what Lowinsky (1992) calls the "mother tongue" as well as of the way Silko (1996) describes qualities of Pueblo narrative - a story within a story that incorporates both positive and negative aspects of family and clan history, the idea that one story is only the beginning of many stories and the sense that stories never truly end.
As Lowinsky writes, these kind of stories weave back and forth through generations, in the familiar flow of "women's talk". She contrasts action shows on T.V. in which "the myth is heroic; the hero defeats the villain, right and wrong are clearly defined, courage and strength are virtues" with soaps in which "the myth is matriarchal; fate takes a hand with the good as well as the bad, relationships are complex and of central importance, betrayal is an ever-present possibility, miscarriages, deaths, sudden illnesses, and axe murderers spring out of the shadows at hapless humans" (1992, p. 15).
Sound familiar? Substitute shifters, vampires, weres, or telepathic waitresses for the hapless humans above and we've got True Blood, haven't we? True Blood is considered by some to be a "vampire soap" and it is just that in many respects (communal focus, story structure). In these ways the show seems linked to the literary tradition out of which contemporary novels like A Weave of Women by E.M. Broner and The Red Tent by Anita Diamant flow - poetic books that celebrate and give to voice women's mysteries, that express the ancient continuity and unity of women, and that point to the strength of interconnection and interdependence with others.
It's a feast for the metaphoric mind, indeed!
TO SUM UP; in our analyses of True Blood that use an archeomythology-style approach, images and stories of the past and present meet, and little-known histories are dusted off and mingled with symbology and mythology in the making.
Gadon, E. W. (1989). The once and future Goddess. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco
Lowinsky, N.R. (1992). Stories from the motherline: Reclaiming the mother-daughter bond, finding our feminine souls. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc.
Mendel, H. (2009). Dancing in the footsteps of Eve. Washington: O Books.
Silko, L.M. (1996). Yellow woman and a beauty of the spirit. New York: Simon & Schuster.