Kundalini Splendor

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Sappho Awakened" by Clarissa Pinkola Estes 

This wonderful piece by Clarissa Pinkola Estes ("Women Who Run with the Wolves") appeared on her face book page yesterday, and a friend sent it on to me. I am taking the liberty to post it here because I find it extremely moving. As a life long lover of women, it speaks to me at a deep level (think fifties, sixties, seventies and on even into the present, when full acceptance is still not universal.)

And, of course, after my K. awakening, I too wrote poems of ecstasy dedicated to the Beloved Within, who manifests as a real lover, not a mere metaphor. One result of Kundalini can be this awakening to the quasi-erotic nature of the relationship of oneself and the Beloved--and many of the saints experienced similar feelings (See St. Teresa of Avila, for example.) A lover is a lover, whether in the flesh or pure spirit.

I mentioned how honored I was to meet "Dr. E." at Tami Simon's party. She is truly unique, one of the great and gifted spirits of our time, one who does not fear to speak truth and act upon it. She blesses the world with her very presence, wherever she goes. She carries the flame of the goddess in her heart.

" Women Who Love Women: One Day When I Woke Up Sappho"

by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I went slightly mad one day and without any sanction, reconstructed twenty of Sappho's fragmentary poems of which often only a word or phrase still existed here and there... the rest unpreserved, repressed or destroyed.

An old feeling had come into my hands as I read the often pitifully sparse fragments, a feeling of examining the broken threads, repairing, thinking how to make thread bridges enough to carry the whole thought that might have once been in her work

A feeling came over me as a poet who knows a good deal about shape and form like a reconstructor of skulls at a museum, who can see the arcs and curves that the fragments suggest, and so reconstruct what that ancient person may have looked like to a large degree.

Part of what drove me was knowing Sappho's work had apparently survived, some say that a manuscript of her work survived up to the early centuries of A.D., but was then destroyed by conquerers and the various or specific religions they brought with them.

Sappho, is said to have lived on the island of Lesbos at Mytilene and that she came from one of the upper class families. Her father they say was named Skamandronymos, and Klay-use, was her mother's name.

It is said that Sappho was exiled along with hundreds of others ...but no one says for what purpose. What we know is that record even of her parents name for certain, have somehow seemingly been scraped.

What I knew from my studies in ethnology is that the first people a conquerer targets are the teachers, artists, storytellers and holy people... for these carry living memory of the people, and preserve and record the soul of the group, keeping the people strong in spirit and soul, and formidable in resisting being over run.

So all that is left of Sappho's work now are some sheave of brittle paper, much of her words erased in time. Though many readers of the pitiful fragments of her work say that she was -- the way many scholars have more or less categorized all women's writings for many millennia--concerned with "household and personal relationships"

... and that these concerns make up the substance of her work...I'd either say otherwise, or in addition... something has been left out of understanding her work.

While her interests may 'also' have been about household and relationship, when I read her work I was taken with its passion in the same vein as that of the ecstatic poets Rumi, Mirabai and Kabir who are writing of love because they are in love with God and they call their god, Beloved, and relate to love as lover, as marriage partner.

The more I read the many translations of Sappho’s work, the more I was convinced that her work was prayers, profound love prayers, profound erotic love prayers that not only celebrate love amongst women, but also toward the female deity...

a profound erotic love for the feminine written in the same sacred tones that mystics have used since time out of mind to worship any beneficent and bountiful creator.

Below is one of the twenty I wrote 'into', praying before hand to just ask permission, and that all be well between spirits.

Most of the suite of these reconstructed poems were performed onstage at a Women's Chorus performance in Denver, to, well, screaming acclaimation from the good and varied audience... perhaps not surprising when one considers that Sapphos work is about ecstatic undertakings such as ...

lying in the grass and eating tasty food, what I affectionately call 'taser love', you know what I mean... and the bewilderment and wilderness of betrayal, and irreversible love, and near death, petit mort states of ecstasy between life and death that can anoint loving ...

and in that spirit, even so, only Sappho can be Sappho... and she ought to have been allowed to do just that.

And with love,


[The stars are little beauty] fires;
they [glow, but they are just tiny] babies
[next to the splendor of the moon.]

Anyone who is a lover
can see how the moon
in her long gown
shakes a [silver] powder
all around her body,
then sets it afire,
and then how then she [burns]
for her lover
with such a [silver] fire,
all night long,
all night long,
turning first this way
and that in the sky,
spinning ever so slowly
before the eyes that watch her,
loving the eyes that watch her,
turning slowly,
taking all night long
in order to show
-- and slowly --
her every treasure.

(Text and image both found on Facebook)

and with love,

(Note: I will continue with Heather's story tomorrow.)

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