Thursday, 4 February 2010

VAGINA IMAGERY IN MARK DUNN AND SUSANNE WENGER

NIGHT-GAUNT NUN GAMARI

The Fifty-Sixth Spirit is Gremory, Gamori or Gamari/Gamary. She is a Strong and Powerful Duchess, and appears in the form of a most sensual and beautiful young woman dressed in a most revealing and sexually provocative black leather skeletal bodice of a nun’s habit. Upon her back one sees the leathery black wings of a bat.

She will also be seen with a horned duchess's crown tied about her lithe waist, riding on a great reptilian albino camel with a long serpentine neck from out of a vaginal gateway
that is the doorway into a great beehive of an obsidian Gothic cathedral. The cathedral is also a labyrinthine library of sorcery and magick and a hidden university as well as a bordello of seductive neophyte witches teaching the arcane arts of the crucified-serpent .

They are dressed as goth 'Night-Gaunt' nuns upon whose backs are to be seen the wings of bats.
The office of Gamari is to tell of all things Past, Present and to Come wherefore she or her sisters will carry one within one’s visions or dreams on a flight
through the labyrinthine vaginal barrelled hallways of the cathedral into a myriad womb rooms pertaining to different time periods and worlds. She will also tell of hidden ancient arcane books upon the occult arts and of magical treasures [revealing]what they lie in.











UFO BIMBO ASTAROTA


The Twenty-Ninth Spirit is Astaroth, 'Ashtar-oth' or Astarota. She is a mighty, strong duchess, and appears in the form of a ravishingly beautiful angelic woman who may be likened to a Cylon Marilyn Munroe in the form of of a Scandinavian Barbarella look-alike who will be seen emanating from out of a flying disk of light whose entrance is that of a vaginal shaped 'Star-Gate'.
Her interdimensional star-ship, a bee-hive flying disk, is alive, a sentient organism whose crew are all female and are like humanoid cyborgs who are manifold aspects of the craft within which they travel[the Mini-Wormhole of the Yoni-Portal is a Sentient and Intelligent Entity for it has become so due to the Information flow flowing through it & it is Feminine,although of an Inorganic Quality!].

Around the frame of the star-gate one sometimes perceives a coiling dragon, which will have upon its scales all the signs of the succubae as well as other arcane symbols engraved upon it, which when aligned in certain configurations corresponding to the stars will act as a dialling code into other worlds.

...it is said that she will make one young again.


This is achieved by erotic dalliances with her via ones visions but especially that of ones vivid erotic dreams where she visits her master within the quantum realms of the eleventh dimension whereby he will feel an ecstatic energy surge rush through his body when she mounts him to be mounted in turn.

She gives true answers of things Past, Present, and to come, and can discover all secrets. She will tell of her own ingress into this world via her star-gate of a yoni wormhole portal, which will allow one to gain access into innumerable alternate worlds spanned by a Feminine (Cylon) Artificial Intelligence that exists within those parallel universes to which she becomes as an informing Guide.

She can make men wonderfully knowing in all the Sciences. She rules over 40 Legions of female erotic Spirits like unto her self who also emanate from a myriad other worlds which are all interconnected as a Borg Hive Mind, which circle Astarota as their Queen Bee.

As a Goddess, an 'Ä’ostre' Bunny-Girl,a 'White Rabbit', she time-travels through the Vaginal Wormhole-Corridors of the Multiverse Womb Matrix Bee-Hive like a feminine version of a mediumistic Dr-Who Barbarella within her trans-dimensional Tardis of Vril Vimana; her vehicle is crewed by an all female orgasmic hippie crew of J-Rod yogini queen bee mediums whose aroused Vril energy warps space-time!


“Is it a Plane, is it a Bird… No it’s, a... Whoa! It's a flying triangle looking like a lit up … Valkyrie Class Super Vagina with wormhole engineering capability piloted by Poontang clones!”


PUSSY CAT SITRI

The Twelth Spirit is Sitri or Sytry she is a Great Princess and appears at first as a Black Cat or Leopard to sometimes manifest somewhat akin to the Egyptian Goddess Bastet, whereupon she to have the head of a Cat with the body of an Angelic Girl from whose back sprout wings of a Gryphon. After the the command of the the Magician she assumes Human form and that very Beautiful. She often visits the Magician within his Dreams to make vivid in order to wantonly seduce him and when she be highly aroused to softly 'Purr' sweet nectar to flow forth from her moistened Yoni, which when imbibed enables her Master to feel and to look young again to rid him of all ailments.

Her love juices to taste of Strawberry Sherbet, which to thereby send an electric shock of an orgasmic shiver throughout ones Nervous-System when partaken of.


WYRD ALICE SAMIGINA

The Fourth Spirit is SAMIGINA or GAMIGIN, a Great Female Shaman of a Marchioness.She can also take one unto the heights of Heaven via a Looking-Glass Pole-Star portal of a Vaginal Wormhole into other Parallel Universes< Photo 6>whereby her Master is then enabled to walk Alternate Worlds to know of the Dead yet Alive for there is no Death, merely Transitions between Universes Parallel to ones own, and when to visit, one is a Ghost.


DRUIDESS GUSIONA

The Eleventh Spirit in Order is a Great and Strong Duchess, called Gusion, Gusioni or Gusiona. She is said to initially appear as a Night Winged Creature Cynocephalus of Bat winging its way from out of the Vaginal Orifice of a Barrow mound Womb;


SOLID STATE INTELLIGENCE STAR TREK SUCCUBUS VIMANA

The Sixty-Eighth Spirit of the Patriarchal orientated Goetia is usually called Belial whom is classically perceived to ride within a Chariot of Fire like that of being seated upon a Throne, which one could imaginatively equate with a Starship like that of the Andromeda Ascendant for example. The Andromeda Ascendant is the name of a fictional Starship, which is featured in the popular Science Fiction television series Andromeda created by Gene Roddenberry whom created the superb Archetypal series 'Star Trek.'

The Andromeda Ascendant has a Cybernetic Solid-State-Intelligence. (Artificial Intelligence: AI). Andromeda appears to the crew in three formats: on the two-dimensional monitors; as a three-dimensional Holographic projection; and as the Avatar called Rommie (played by the actress Lexa Doig). The AI is considered to be an officer upon the Starship. An Avatar is a Humanoid representation of the Inorganic Cybernetic intelligence, and Andromeda has the above mentioned Holographic and Female Android Avatars, which represent the personality and physical representation of the ship's AI, in this case in the form of a rather beautiful Human Female. There is also a primary Android as her second Avatar, which can interact with the Holographic Avatar and the monitors, who can also travel, walk and act outside of the ship. The monitor and Hologram manifestations are commonly referred to within Andromeda fandom as "Core" and "Logic", respectively. Core and Logic of characters are very similar to the (Core) female Borg character called Seven of Nine from the Star Trek television series entitled Voyager played by the actress Jeri Ryan and the (Logic) Vulcan female called Tpol played by the actress Jolene Blalock from the television series Star Trek-Enterprise.

The Andromeda Ascendant is equipped with a slipstream drive for FTL (Faster Than Light) Hyperspatial travel; in other words she can generate her own Wormholes warping Space-Time
ADINKRA
so as to travel through
like that of a Woman whom goes Quantum shift Orgasmic.

From letter of 2009/6/23 at Google mail

However, one as a Psychonaut will know that the Mini-Wormhole of [the ] Yoni-Portal is [a] Sentient and Intelligent Entity for it has become so due to the Information flow flowing through it & that it is Feminine [although] of [an] Inorganic Quality! Said Yoni-Portals feed off ones 'Emotive' Charge, which 'Spins' them into weaving Informational Associative Fractal Dream Domains around ones self acting as a Strange-Attractor..."

He correlates ideas from different cognitive traditions,at times using these ideas metaphorically,as your correlation of the Buddhist Dakini concept, the Hindu-Siva and Sakti icons and the Western archeogical and neo-Pagan traditions of ley lines and the concept of Wyrd,as i this example from Google mail of 23/06/09

In the state of " state of Siva as [a ] Corpse [one's] Spirit can access the yawning black maw of the 'Yoni-Portal' in order to thence gain ingress into a Sita of Microcosmic Womb Dream Domain whereby one then becomes unified with a Durga of Macrocosmic Reality. [The] Microcosmic realm of the Quantum has its Dakini Yoni-Portals just as Macrocosmic reality has at certain nexus points of power [an ]interlinked Cross-Road weave of Ley-Line Wyrd Web...

ARTISTIC WORK AS MANDALIC VAGINAL DOORWAYS

A Writer lives as a sorcerer: runic Letters are spells and formulae. Words evoke associative Symbols at the idst of ones Triangle of Art : the Imagination.

As an artist, indivisible from a shaman, one and the same, does sculpt the cubic stone of ynchronicity at whose core one's surreal imagination glides into many an emotionally charged myth of spun electrons within the associative woven fractal weave of the bio-photon dream.

I am both writer and artist forging story paintings as dream born Mandalic Vaginal doorways for the mind to slip through; each creation is a welcoming succubus, pinned down as writhing obsidian butterflies within a grimoire of whoring wormhole muses, wantonly whispering mantric words to be written upon their fleshly skinned pages.

"The brighter the flame, the deeper the shadow thrown," the Bornless-Self Dreamer slyly says to me within the mirror darkly!

From the online writing community Helium at http://www.helium.com/users/401708 .Accessed on 18/02/09


ADINKRA

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Vagina and the Womb :Female Procreative Spaces and Forms as Metaphysical Symbols: Classical Forms and their Contemporary Adaptations:Kathy Jones and the Glastonbury Portal

The Vagina and the Womb :Female Procreative Spaces and Forms as Metaphysical Symbols: Classical Forms and their Contemporary Adaptations:Carolyn Hillyer and the Cave of Elders

The Vagina and the Womb :Female Procreative Spaces and Forms as Metaphysical Symbols: Classical Forms and their Contemporary Adaptations:the Chameleon Gate of Aertelier Wenger

The Vagina, and the Womb :Female Procreative Spaces as Metaphysical Symbols: Classical Forms and their Contemporary Adaptations:Mark Dunn's Blaspehmous Aesthetic

A  central  iconographic strategy of the Goetic magician and artist Mark Dunn is that of re imagining familiar images in unfamiliar contexts. In doing this,he creates associations between cultural forms that are conventionally disparate. This juxtaposition of disparate iconographic forms at times leads to what could be described as blasphemy,if blasphemy is understood as a style of relating with a revered or particularly a sacred cultural form in a manner that demonstrates disrespect for the value or sacrality associated with the form. One of Mark Dunn's most markedly blasphemous images is that of a nun with her legs raised to reveal her anal passage and bare vagina,as she sits wearing her nun's habit against the background of images  of  the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child and the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis nursing  a child. The iconographic density of the background of the image,filled as it is with other semantically suggestive figures besides that of the Virgin and Isis,along with an intricate,elegantly inscribed quasi-geomatric symbol,suggests that the image goes beyond its erotic,even pornographic explicitness to encompass an individualistic,even idiosyncratic symbolic universe.




The outlines of this symbolic universe and an entry into Dunn's erotic cosmography begin to emerge in his description of the passages  delicately if wantonly revealed between the nun's legs as being the gateway to an immense cathedral,which also functions as both a university and a bordello,within which can be found female members of this establishment,who are both whores and teachers of the arts of movement between dimensions.Dunn's own words comunicate the force of his imaginative world most vividly.The nun is understood as:


a strong and powerful duchess [who] appears in the form of a most sensual and beautiful young woman dressed in[ the] most revealing and sexually provocative black leather skeletal bodice of a nun's habit. Upon her back one [sees] the leathery black wings of a bat. She will also be seen with a horned duchess's crown tied about her lithe waist, and... riding on a great reptilian albino camel with a long serpentine neck, from out of a vaginal gateway that[ is] the doorway into a great beehive of an obsidian gothic cathedral.

The cathedral is that of a labyrinthine library of sorcery and magick [ and] a hidden university as well as...a bordello of seductive neophyte witch [es] teaching the arcane arts of the Crucified-Serpent that are dressed as goth 'Night-Gaunt' nuns upon whose backs are to be seen the wings of bats.

The office of Gamari is to tell of all things past, present and to come wherefore she or her sisters will carry one within one's visions or dreams on a flight through the labyrinthine vaginal barrelled hallways of the cathedral into a myriad womb rooms pertaining to different time periods and worlds. 

She will also tell of hidden ancient arcane books upon the occult arts and of magical treasures...reveal[ing where] they lie in; and to procure the sexual love of beautiful women but especially that of maidens. She governs 26 Legions of female spirits whom appear likened unto herself.

On what account does Dunn depict the beautiful and wantonly displayed nun as opening her lower orifices  to reveal an  entrance to such an incongruously conceived location and center of a truly arcane combination of forms of knowledge? The image of the beautiful nun is described as a facade for something less readily adapted to conventional human culture but which  the artist describes as being appreciable  through imagining it as the  beautiful,wantonly self exhibiting nun,something capable of enabling the kind of knowledge that Dunn describes as being facilitated by the whore priestesses in the cathedral university reached through the nun's legs. The image of the nun is Dunn's visualization of Gamari, one of the spirits of the medieval grimoire,work of invoking spirits,the Goetia.Dunn chooses to re-imagine what is often a list of  male figures in the original text in terms of nubile women of various ages,all conceived in relation to their sexuality,as in the case of the equation of Gamari with the self displaying  nun.The traditional text describes Gamari in the following way:

The Fifty-sixth Spirit is Gremory, or Gamori. He is a Duke Strong and Powerful, and appeareth in the Form of a Beautiful Woman, with a Duchess's Crown tied about her waist, and riding on a Great Camel. His Office is to tell of all Things Past, Present, and to Come; and of Treasures Hid, and what they lie in; and to procure the Love of Women both Young and Old. He governeth 26 Legions of Spirits...
In depicting Gamarin as a nun who displays her genitals,Dunn correlates a critique of the religion the nun represents,Christianity,with a complex attitude towards femininity and female sexuality emergent in his work,one which combines elements of the feminine centred spirituality of Buddhism and Hinduism with sadomasochism and demonology. In correlating a Christian image with such cultural forms he blasphemes against Christianity,using images which are  valoristic in other religious traditions,such as Tantra,which,in its Hindu and Buddhist forms,depicts female genitalia in open display, not as examples of obscenity but as expressions of the sacred symbolism ascribed to female genitalia. The female genitalia also have sacred significance in the magical streams of Western magic that also influence Dunn,from the sex magic of Aleister Crowley,whom his work seems to both admire and critique,to the  female spirituality of Wicca and the erotic magical art of Austin Osman Spare. Dunn correlates all these influences with what looks  like strong elements of the sadomasochistic.


The Vagina and the Womb:Female Procreative Spaces as Metaphysical Symbols: Classical Forms and their Contemporary Adaptations:the Yoruba Orisa Tradition


 The visual minimalism of the bindu,its circularity of structure,its symbolising of cosmic potentiality,a potentialilty that first emerges into being in terms of conjoined masculine and feminine polarities that constitute the cosmos,resonates in classical Yoruba thought and its contemporary expressions,and in  Western esoteric thought.


The conjunctions between these symbolic forms from various temporal progressions across the world facilitates an appreciation of the universality and variety in cosmological conceptions of human biology,particularly female biology and its masculine conrrelations.The similarities between the  concepts  symbolised  by the Sri Yantra and classical Yoruba thought emerges in the symbolism,both explicit and implicit, of the Opon Ifa,the tray that is a central iconographic form of Ifa,the divinatory system that is the integrative discourse of clasical Yoruba culture and which has relationships,both direct and indirect,influenced by Ifa or simply  confluent with it,with  cognitive systems across the African continent and the African Diaspora.

The qualities the  Opon Ifa shares with the Sri Yantra emerge in the evocation of a primal fecundity in terms of  an empty,at times circular centre, the constitution of this fecundity in terms of symbolism that indicates a dialectic between masculine and feminine elements and the  reflection of this dialectic in the symbolic depiction of the existential expression  of being and becoming in terms of complementary polarities.In addition,depicting a conception expressed in different terms in Indian thought,as in the complementarity of opposites in aspects of Indian thought,in general,and in Hindu and  Buddhist thought,in partuclar,as in Siva'sdance of creation and destructon and the mothering/destructive character of the goddess Kali,tthe iconography of the Opon Ifa suggests,in the face of Esu,which,along with the carved border and the empty centre, is an invarible element of the design of the tray, the necessary integration with these conceptions of symmetry understood in terms of cosmic being and human experience,  of the unexpected,the unanticpated,the paradoxical and the ambigous.


The central purpose of the tray is that of a consecrated space at the center of which the diviner casts the divinatory instruments.The images carved on the tray could also suggest aspects of the world view that underlies the divinatory system,a suggestiveness operating at various levels of explicitness and implicitness.

Each Opon Ifa demonstrates both the invariable or constant as well as the variable features in the composition and carving of the Ifa tray. One unvarying feature is the face at the top of the tray facing outwards from the surface. Another is the empty space at the centre of the tray. The last is the border that encloses the empty centre. The variable aspect of the form is the circular shape of the entire structure. The Opon Ifa could be either circular or square or both,as in a square circumference enclosing a circular centre.


Each of the invariable elements in the composition of the Ifa tray represents an aspect of the metaphysical structure that underlies the divinatory process. Taken together, they encapsulate the interrelationship of these metaphysical conceptions in constituting the hermeneutic process through which Ifa divination is actualised. Even when the Ifa priest does not use the tray in divining, these metaphysical elements are understood to remain constitutive of the divinatory process.

The empty space at the centre of the tray is the space where the divinatory instruments are thrown to enable their configuration spell out Ifa's response to the querent's questions.The empty space implicitly  becomes a womb of becoming,where the divinatory patterns,the Odu, emerge and re-emerge into the multiplicity of identities they are capable of realizing.

At one level, the Odu are geomantic patterns. At another level, these patterns symbolise the organising categories of the textual corpus of the system.At another level,they are understood as  volitional agents.At yet another level,they are perceived as  a means of developing and organising a systemic construction of the scope of existence, in terms of its extant forms and its possibilities of realisation, from the most abstract to the most concrete. As Joseph Ohomina describes them:

The Odu are the names of spirits whose origin we do not know…. They are the spiritual names of all phenomena, whether abstract or concrete: plants, animals, human beings, the elements, and all kinds of situations. Abstractions such as love, hate, truth and falsehood; concrete forms such as rain, water, land, air and the stars; and situations such as celebrations, conflict and ceremonies, are represented in spiritual terms by the various Odu.


The Odu are organised in terms of a fractal realisation,in which the first pattern,Ogbe,consisting of two pairs of lines,making four,is replicated,but with some modifications,in the second set of patterns,Oyeku,which consists of four pairs of lines,making eight. These basic configurations are then developed in terms of pairs that represent modifications of these primary patterns,until a basic sixteen patterns is realised from the permutational possibilities established through the structure of Ogbe,the first basic set,and first developed through the replication and modification of Ogbe in Oyeku.

The permutational processes through which the 256 Odu patterns are developed represents an implicit generative symbolism: the realization of these primary patterns in terms of twin pairs,Eji Ogbe and Oyeku Meji; the subsequent development of other patterns that represent a development of the possibilities of the primary pattern,Ogbe,and its modificatory interaction with Oyeku.This generative process is enabled by the paradoxically empty fecundity of theOpon Ifa,and suggested by the description of the further 245 Odu developed from the primary 16 or Oju Odu,face of the Odu,as the omo Odu or children of Odu.


The patterns of the first 16 Odu are here organised around an image of an Opon Ifa.Their order in this composite image is arranged from left to right unlike the right to left reading order of traditional Ifa iconography.




The divinatory process, therefore, could be understood as a process through which this data base of ontological values is galvanised in relation to particular situations represented by the queries presented to the oracle. These situations are interpreted in relation to their ontological identification in the various Odu. The correlation between this understanding of the Odu and ideas about female biology emerges in the feminine characterisation of the Odu and the resonance of this characterisation in the sculptural realisation of the space on which the Odu are configured in divination. The Odu are collectively understood as female and, in this collective identity, as being the wife of Ifa. The divinatory process, therefore, could be understood as being characterized in terms of a relationships between a female and a male personality. This implies a generative process that emerges on the space where the Odu patterns are formed, graphically represented by the empty centre of the divination tray. Within this empty space, therefore, the macrocosmic values represented by the Odu in their fundamental characterisation as cosmic forms converge with the microcosmic patterns represented by the client’s query. The empty space, therefore, becomes a generative space, a womb of transformation, akin to the vaginal space where new life emerges after its transformation within uterine space. The correlation of macrocosmic and microcosmic frameworks in the divinatory process could be understood to be expressive of a convergence of forces similar to the integration of the power of life which is universal but manifests anew in each life form with the distinctive genetic encoding that emerges from the gene banks of both parents in the conception and growth of new human life.




The face at the top as well as the spiral motif at its circumference-if i am using the right word-would represent aspects of the traditional Yoruba world view that are central to the metaphysics and hermeneutics of ifa divination. the face at the top would be the face of eshu,who embodies a spectrum of ideas. it could be understood as embodying  the creative dynamism that animates the cosmos,manifest in terms of the transformation of one state of being of being to another in terms of the experience of change and paradox.It also evokes the communication between various modes of being effected through divination,since eshu is the messenger of Ifa and carries sacrifices to the other orisha or deities. the spiral motif is described by lawal as evocative of thecreative,transformative principle embodied by eshu.

A dynamic weave of various patterns frames the space, suggestive of the hermeneutic fecundity of the divinatory processes that are enabled by and take place on the empty centre of the divination tray, which this work is derived from. The intertwined spirals evoke the dynamism of ase, the capacity of existence that enables being and becoming. They also suggest the integrative existence of spiritual and material forms of being, as well as the cyclic character of life ,death and rebirth. The humanised figure that recurs on both sides of the tray foregrounds human agency in the interpretation of and engagement with the various hermeneutic possibilities made manifest by the casting of the divinatory instruments on the empty centre of the space. The divinatory instruments are themselves represented by the eighth beaded chain at the centre bottom of the divinatory space, directly opposite the face of Esu, thereby evoking the twinness of function and of identity between the ambivalence, the disruptive insight enabled by Esu, and the restorative knowledge made possible by Ifa, Orunmila, of whom the divining chain can be understood as synecdochal.


Other abstract, geometric configurations shape the border around the empty space, evoking various powers at play in the dynamic relationship between being and becoming represented by the divinatory process and the analogue of the empty space with the womb of being from which Odu enables hermeneutic possibilities and their relationship with actual historical experience as it emerges into being through the interventions made possible by divination. Grids, triangles resting on each other’s bases, their apexes rimmed by circles, the entire ensemble reinforced by another similar configuration which touches the bottom structure at the apex of both structures; this point of conjunction framed by a circular form; suggestive of the use of geometric forms in evoking and invoking spirits in other parts of Africa a,in Asia and in Western magic, as well as the symbolism of numbers in classical Yoruba thought, the geometric forms being describable in terms of numerical relations.





.
The women backing babies who hold up the tray are a central motif of traditional Yoruba art and thought and  evoke a host of ideas associated with motherhood. particularly in relation to the principles of emergence into being represented both by the act of giving birth to new human life and that of perceiving the processes involved in giving birth to new possibilities of existence and participation in that process. This perception and participation is embodied by the Ifa oracle's ability to enable its clients  negotiate various possibilities in their management of their lives.








The woman backing a baby and holding up the tray that is reminiscent of an Ifa divination tray evokes the correlations between Ille,the Earth,who makes life on earth possible,and Odu,the composite female deity described as foundational to the wisdom of Ifa,the presence of whom may be understood as suggseted by the spiral patterns on Ifa trays,evoking her identity as “Osumare, the ever moving rainbow serpent, symbol of continuity and permanence…who encircles the world to hold it together…the principle of movement, the integrating force that bids the primordial elements together” .

The circular structure of the Opon Ifa, is undertsood as  "the intersection of heaven and earth and a stage for metaphysical theater [as] evident in the popular saying "Aarin opon niita Orun" ("The middle of the tray connects with heaven"Abimbola 2000:177)and is correlative with the circular structure of Igba Iwa,the calabash of being,the "cosmic gourd with two halves",symbolising

the popular Yoruba saying "Tako, tabo, ejiwapo" ("The male and female in togetherness")...the   top half signifies maleness as well as the sky/heaven--the realm of invisible spirits .The bottom half represents femaleness and the primeval waters out of which the physical world was later created. A mysterious power called ase is thought to hold the gourd in space, enabling the sun and moon to shine, wind to blow, fire to burn, rain to fall, rivers to flow, and both living and nonliving things to exist[recalling the Indian concept of  "Rta or Cosmic Order, the inflexible law of universal order and harmony whereby all disorders and chaos is restored to equilibrium. Rta is, in essence the ordering principles of nature which gives to everything from the vast galaxies, down to the nucleus of an atom, their nature and course.].This power emanates from a Supreme Deity known (among other names) as Alase ('Owner of ase'), Olorun ('Lord of the Sky') and Olodumare (the 'Eternal One and Source of All That Exists').

Olodumare is also understood,in one  version of Yoruba cosmogony as " a praise title of Odudua...the Self-Existent Being who created existence [and who is ]both male and female[known as] known as Iya Agbe--'Mother of the Gourd' or 'Mother of the closed calabash; She is [sometimes] represented in a sitting posture,nursing a child. Hence prayers are often addressed to her bywould-be mothers.
















It is the equivalent,on a flat,two-dimensional plane, of the three dimensional form of the circular rim at which the upward and downward facing halves of the calabash of being converge,representing the point of intersection of the spiritual and material aspects of being symbolised by both calabashes.It is " the intersection of heaven and earth and a stage for metaphysical theater [as] evident in the popular saying "Aarin opon niita Orun" ("The middle of the tray connects with heaven". 

The woman holding up the Opon Ifa,her maternal associations foregrounded by her carrying a baby on her back,suggests the foregrounding of matrixial potential in an interpretation of the ground of being in the Yoruba Orisa tradition:

Oduduwa [a central cultuiral Yoruba culture hero is understood ] as the Supreme Goddess, an embodiment of Heaven and Earth.... credited with the priority ofexistence ...  regarded as having independent existence, and as co-eval with Olorun [aka Olodumare], the Supreme Deity with whom she is associated in the work of creation ... Oduduwa is known as Iya Agbe--'Mother of the Gourd' or 'Mother of the closed calabash; She is [sometimes] represented in a sitting posture,nursing a child. Hence prayers are often addressed to her by  would-be mothers (Lucas 1948:45).D. Olarimiwa Epega, another Yoruba elder, makes a similar point: "Odudua is the Self-Existent Being who created existence. He is both male and female ...  ( Babatunde Lawal, "Ejiwapo: the dialectics of twoness in Yoruba art and culture",African Arts, Spring, 2008.)

Susan Wenger develops this matrixial conception in terms that depict this feminine force in terms of collective psychology,and,therefore,as intimate to human being at the most profound subconscious levels: " Oduduwa,the great,dark goddess,residing in the depth of the human psychiod...who preordained time,space,and the collective psychoid (Susanne Wenger and Gert Chesi, A Life with the Gods in their Yoruba Homeleand.Worgl:Perlinger Verlag,1983).She goes further to to develop the correlations of the verbal dynamism and animistic identity of Odu in terms that further amplify the matrixial  symbolism that correlates the ground of being,understood as Osumare/Oduduwa with the primordial wisdom of Ifa,depicting  Odu as word,vocative cave,uterus,womb,and receiver of phallic  impulse:"[Odu] is both the word [and] the dark cave of the mouth that symbolically corresponds to the uterus from which speech is born and in whose mysterious depths the flame-like tongue delivers its phallic sacred cargo." (Adapted from Susanne Wenger and Gert Chesi, A Life with the Gods in their Yoruba Homeleand.Worgl:Perlinger Verlag,1983.81.) Judith Gleason further integrates the visual strands that constitute the correlation of the Odu,female identity and calabash symbolism, in her retelling of an Ifa narrative:

The sixteenth major odu [Ofun Meji,an organisational category and active agent in the Ifa system of knowledge and divination],container of all mysteries,the complete calabash of Oduduwa as formulated in the language of Ifa,is all but inaccessible-placed out of the way and out of ordinary thought processes.What was lost at the "time" of Ose Meji must be regained,but how?The redemptive process might said to begin with the final episode in the saga of witches :Oshe Oyeku.
Odu,the female principle imagined as a container,the fourth elemental being to issue  forth from the python's egg,having grown too "old",expresses her desire to go underground.Seated on her mysterious cylinder box,she calls her four advisors-Obatala,Babaluaye,Ogun,and Oduduwa (an active emanation of her self )-and gets them to agree to her departure by promising revelations to those of their children who come to solicit,to adore her properly in her house in the forest.

This house has become the ceremonial apare-box containing a calsbh (her body),which contains in turn (or is surrounded by )the four calabashes given to her on that occasion by the four advisors.Obatala gives a calabash of chalk,Babaluaye offers his favorite substance,osun (red powder),Ogun-charcoal powder,and Ododuwa-mud.These gifts imply four roads,four corners of the universe.They are the original four major signs.From one of them will be born another forest principle,as once Odu from the pythons egg.Ofun,the calabash of chalk (efun) who gives (fun)himself,produces Obatala,the white divinity as Orisan-nla,greater than,the beginning and the end,first and last,the container of them all.The egg within becomes the womb,passivity becomes creativity personified.Surely this is part of the meaning of the orisha Obatala as Ofun.

Igadu (igba, "calabash",and Odu )becomes an orisha,the divinty worshipped by diviners who have attained the highest degree of self knowledge-that is,the profoundest understanding of Ifa.Only such diviners may install the terribly powerful calabash of existence,once closed never to be reopened except under horrific circumstances, "symbol of the sky and earth in their fecund union,container of the supreme wisdom of Ifa, [the installation of which validates ]an esoteric principle of universal symbiosis.

 (Judith Gleason,A Recitation of Ifa: Oracle of the Yoruba (New York:Grossman,1973)188-191)



Taken together, these interpretations could be understood as correlating images of cosmic continuity, linkage between differing ontological forms, macrocosmic and microcosmic elements and the process of mediating between them as these mediations suggest change and transformation from one state of being to another. All these associations relate ultimately to the transformative potential associated with the special relationship between the female and biological life and between the earth and life.

The power to enable the creation of life and to nurture it suggested by female biology is also suggested by powers attributed to a group of women who are described as demonstrating various manifetsations of this power in a self conscious manner that indicates a control of ase,the power that enables being and becoming and which suffuses the universe.







One conception in terms of which the control of ase is described is that of the ability to traverse space,both physical and spiritual,a power often represented in terms of the ability to fly in the form of a bird,but which could also be understood to symbolise  traversing various realms of being as the bird traverses  both land and sky.This bird symbolism is evoked in both the calabash of being,where the birds are shown at the intersection between the two halves of the calabash,symbolising the conjunction of spiritual  and physical universes in terms of ase,described as holding the universe together.


In one Opon Ifa,a concourse of birds rims the circumference of the tray,evocative of the constellation of matrxial powers associated with the conjunction between the feminine forces of Odu,and Ille,Earth, the latter,who,as the primal maternal force, Iya Nla ,the Great Mother,is the patron of the aje,and like the  female Orisa,is correlative with the Orisa Mopo,described by Wenger as the patroness of women's actvities,including their erotic vocations of conception and childbirth,emblematised by her role as potter,who creates form out of preexistent space,thereby actualising the latent potentiality of space,as the woman's body is latent with the potential for new life.







The relationships between female procreative power and associations which emerge in relation to those procreative powers in terms of the imagery of flight,as  evoked by the bird   imagery of the Orisa tradition,in general, and of Ifa,in particular,is is further dramatised  in the image,from Tibetan Buddhism,of the Dakini,a name which can be translated as  "Traveller in  Space".The space traversed by the Dakini is both physical and multidimensional/spiritual since the Dakini is able to appear and disappear at will across physical space but her being also represents the metaphorically conceived spaces of the ground of being and its conception as consciousness,of which physical space is metaphorical.According to Wikipedia "In this context, the sky or space indicates shunyata, the insubstantiality of all phenomena, which is, at the same time, the pure potentiality for all possible manifestations."

The evocation of flight in both physical and spiritual space as one of the powers of Awon Iya wa,Our Mothers,the Aje,exemplars of the creative and destructive spiritual powers of women,  could be correlated with ideas of cognitive flight developed by the Olorisa-Orisa devotee-Susan Wenger,who is influenced by Tibetan Buddhism, in relation to her art,to  her relationship with nature as well as with the construction of oracular insight in  relation to  Ifa. These correlations amplify the relationships of endogenous  Yoruba conceptions of the feminine with other cultures.

Wenger transmutes the idea of flight in terms of the flight of consciousness, where the spiritual space the witch is understood to traverse through her avian powers is accessed through an immersion in nature and its occult properties:

Here I am,one with the water;I think and feel like the river,my blood flows like the river,to the rhythm of its waves,otherwise the trees and the animals wouldn't be such allies.I am here in the trees,in the river,in my creative phase not only when I am here physically, but forever-even when I happen to be travelling-hidden beyond time and suffering,in the Spiritual Entities, which,because they are Real in many ways,present ever new features. I feel sheltered with them-in them-because I am so very fond of trees and running water-and all the gods of the world are trees and animals long,long before they entrust their sacrosanct magnificence to a human figure.
(Adunni:A Potrait of Susan Wenger by Ralph Brockman and Gerd Hotter.

The correlation of the female identity of Wenger with the flight associated with the female figure of Awon Iya Mi lends itself to a correlation of the conception of flight in the world of spirit with the Tibetan Buddhist conception of the Dakini, the space travelled by both the Buddhist figure and Wenger being understood as the ground of being.

The image of flight, as expressed in the iconography of birds in flight, evocative of flight in terrestrial as well as in spiritual realms, is also associated with Ifa, as expressive of the oracle’s power to demonstrate a  comprehensive grasp achieved through cognition across terrestrial and spiritual dimensions of being, of the  queries presented to it. In correlating the image of the bird, as a biological form that is yet expressive of extra-biological powers, with the powers of oracular insight of the prestigious Ifa oracle, Ifa iconography underlines the construction of the feminine in relation to exoteric and esoteric powers in traditional Yoruba thought.




The Vagina and the Womb :Female Procreative Spaces as Metaphysical Symbols: Classical Forms and their Contemporary Adaptations:Indian and Hindu Thought

In the human effort to make meaning of existence,people have developed symbols to represent those ideas they value most.Some of the most powerful symbols,in their capacity to affect people and draw together a broad range of human experience,as demonstrated  in their pervasiveness across cultures,are symbols drawn from  human biology.Biological processes are the most immediate experience of human beings and so resonate deeply with the mind.One of these clusters of biological images are those drawn from human female biology.Female biology is congruent with procreative capacity  and its expression in terms of monthly flows of blood from the womb through the vagina, a process related to the life sustaining power of blood and its profound associations.Female biology is also intimately related to ideas about beauty and the opposite of beauty,ugliness.It is intimately related to sexuality and its possibilities,both positive and negative.It is also suggestive of the associations that emerge from conjunctions between the onset of monthly blood flows at puberty,to the relationship between lunar time and these monthly flows,to the cessation of menstruation  at menopause and the relationship between these blood  flows ,the creation and dissolution of eggs in the womb that leads to them,and the progression of age,its relationship to the appearance and powers of the body and the constitution of the mind through experience

These female biological processes and associations are conjoined in a number of cultures and practices  as expressions of  the  powers and experiential possibilities unique to women.These powers and experiential zones are correlated with larger terrestrial and cosmic processes of which female biology is understood as both symbolic and demonstrative  at the level of the microcosm represented by the human body,of which the earth is macrocosmic,as the earth is itself a microcosm of the cosmos.At various scales of being,human,terrestrial and cosmic,in the focus on the capacity to generate life,nature is feminised.

Perhaps the most systematic and wide ranging of these symbolic complexes emerges in Classical Indian thought,in which,as one of the myriad  expressions of  the broad range of cognitive approaches represented by  Indian philosophy and religion,the universe is understood as brought into being by a female creative power, Devi,that power itself expressed in terms of a range of female figures.This feminine force is at times paired with a masculine force,as demonstrated by the conjunction between Shiva,the male potency,and Shakti,the female.These masculine/feminine conjunctions are represented by images of Shakti sitting astride Shiva ,an image which suggests the description of the masculine power of Shiva as a passive potency that needs to be actualised by the active power of Shakti.






A classic expression of female procreative power in terms of cosmic force  is the geometric symbol the yantra,from Indian iconography,in which the frontal appearance of  the  female genitalia



is represented in terms of a downward facing triangle. The downward facing triangle is  symbolic of the yoni,Sanskrit for the vagina, as indicative of cosmic becoming, expressed in terms of human procreative capacity.  This symbolism is depicted in terms of  sculpture and painting,as in this example of the  Kali yantra,an embodiment of Kali,described as a goddess who is both maternal and destructive,dramatising  both the nurturant qualities necessary for giving birth and the destructive creativity represented by the dissolution and tranformation effected through time and change.




The symbolism of the yoni triangle is also represented by the  yoni mudra,one of the symbolic hand gestures named mudras,the yoni mudra being described by one source as  an " attitude by which the primal energy inherent in the womb, or source of creation, is invoked."

The first three images below are examples of the formal construction  of the yoni mudra,with the third  image showing the mudra being used in a ritual context.The fourth image is an example is of an unwitting formation of the mudra by a woman holding her hands in front of her trousers.


                                       









 

At the centre of the yantra is a point, the bindu.The  bindu is a Sanskrit term for the point that symbolises the potentiality from which the cosmos emerges. The other geometric forms that constitute the  yantra are organised around the bindu, evoking the emergence of the cosmos  from the primal potentiality represented by the bindu. The understanding of the bindu as the zone at which  creation begins and [therefore] "the point at which the unity becomes the many...the sacred symbol of the cosmos in its unmanifested state" ( Madhu Khanna (1979). Yantra: The Tantric Symbol Of Cosmic Unity. Thames and Hudson. Wikipedia)  is suggsted by Paul de Celle's depiction of the bindu in terms of fractal geometry,thereby evoking  the replication of the fundamental structure of the universe in terms of its expressions at various levels of manifestation.This fractal symbolism is reinforced by its similarity to Indra's net,an image from Asian  verbal art,which depicts the cosmos in terms of a net of infinite extension,with a jewel hanging at each point of the net,each jewel reflecting every other jewel in the infinite structure,thereby evoking the idea of mutuality of reflection,of perception and being,at various points in an infinite universe.




The relationship between the symbolism of the yoni,the symbolism of the downward facing triangle, and that of the bindu, is depicted in a contemporary  piece of jewelry which conjoins the yoni/triangle and the bindu in terms of a gold yoni with a diamond bindu pendant,the precious metals of which suggests the superlative signficance of the concepts symbolised by the desgn of the jewelry.




The conjunction of the yoni image and the bindu reinforces the matrixial symbolism of both images,correlating the ground of cosmic becoming and its expression in terms of a source of  of human biological becoming, in one image.

 In the yantra known as the Sri Yantra,the universe is depicted as emanating from the bindu in terms of interrelated masculine and feminine forces,symbolised by intersecting upward and downward facing triangles. The masculine polarity is represented by four upward facing triangles,the feminine by five downward facing triangles,symbolic of the interrleationship of  feminine and masculine powers in the creation and constitution of the universe.



The upward facing triangles can be described as evocative of the Shivalingam,the Sanskrit term for the erect penis of Shiva,with the phallus understood as a conduit for the power of life expressed in terms of the capacity for procreation.Such an interpretation would imply an understanding of the Sri Yantra as an abstract,geometric expression of the union of Shiva and Shakti depicted in naturalistic terms with Shakti  on top  of Shiva.The relative positioning of both figures suggested by the upward facing Shiva triangles and the downward facing Shakti triangles is depicted in another image of the union of the divine figures expressed in terms of images of  the conjunction of female and male genitalia in terms of the lingam standing in a semi-circular form representative of the yoni, expressed in  sculpture and in an example of a  mudra.










 The visual minimalism of the bindu,its circularity of structure,its symbolising of cosmic potentiality,a potentialilty that first emerges into being in terms of conjoined masculine and feminine polarities that constitute the cosmos,resonates in classical Yoruba thought and its contemporary expressions,and in  Western esoteric thought.



Monday, 9 November 2009

The Vagina and the Womb:Female Procreative Spaces as Metaphysical Symbols: Classical Forms and their Contemporary Adaptations:Source Text

 In the human effort to make meaning of existence,people have developed symbols to represent those ideas they value most.Some of the most powerful symbols,in their capacity to affect people and draw together a broad range of human experience,as demonstrated  in their pervasiveness across cultures,are symbols drawn from  human biology.Biological processes are the most immediate experience of human beings and so resonate deeply with the mind.One of these clusters of biological images are those drawn from human female biology.Female biology is congruent with procreative capacity  and its expression in terms of monthly flows of blood from the womb through the vagina, a process related to the life sustaining power of blood and its profound associations.Female biology is also intimately related to ideas about beauty and the opposite of beauty,ugliness.It is intimately related to sexuality and its possibilities,both positive and negative.It is also suggestive of the associations that emerge from conjunctions between the onset of monthly blood flows at puberty,to the relationship between lunar time and these monthly flows,to the cessation of menstruation  at menopause and the relationship between these blood  flows ,the creation and dissolution of eggs in the womb that leads to them,and the progression of age,its relationship to the appearance and powers of the body and the constitution of the mind through experience

These female biological processes and associations are conjoined in a number of cultures and practices  as expressions of  the  powers and experiential possibilities unique to women.These powers and experiential zones are correlated with larger terrestrial and cosmic processes of which female biology is understood as both symbolic and demonstrative  at the level of the microcosm represented by the human body,of which the earth is macrocosmic,as the earth is itself a microcosm of the cosmos.At various scales of being,human,terrestrial and cosmic,in the focus on the capacity to generate life,nature is feminised.

Perhaps the most systematic and wide ranging of these symbolic complexes emerges in Classical Indian thought,in which,as one of the myriad  expressions of  the broad range of cognitive approaches represented by  Indian philosophy and religion,the universe is understood as brought into being by a female creative power, Devi,that power itself expressed in terms of a range of female figures.This feminine force is at times paired with a masculine force,as demonstrated by the conjunction between Shiva,the male potency,and Shakti,the female.These masculine/feminine conjunctions are represented by images of Shakti sitting astride Shiva ,an image which suggests the description of the masculine power of Shiva as a passive potency that needs to be actualised by the active power of Shakti.






A classic expression of female procreative power in terms of cosmic force  is the geometric symbol the yantra,from Indian iconography,in which the frontal appearance of  the  female genitalia



is represented in terms of a downward facing triangle. The downward facing triangle is  symbolic of the yoni,Sanskrit for the vagina, as indicative of cosmic becoming, expressed in terms of human procreative capacity.  This symbolism is depicted in terms of  sculpture and painting,as in this example of the  Kali yantra,an embodiment of Kali,described as a goddess who is both maternal and destructive,dramatising  both the nurturant qualities necessary for giving birth and the destructive creativity represented by the dissolution and tranformation effected through time and change.




The symbolism of the yoni triangle is also represented by the  yoni mudra,one of the symbolic hand gestures named mudras,the yoni mudra being described by one source as  an " attitude by which the primal energy inherent in the womb, or source of creation, is invoked."

The first three images below are examples of the formal construction  of the yoni mudra,with the third  image showing the mudra being used in a ritual context.The fourth image is an example is of an unwitting formation of the mudra by a woman holding her hands in front of her trousers.


                                       









 

At the centre of the yantra is a point, the bindu.The  bindu is a Sanskrit term for the point that symbolises the potentiality from which the cosmos emerges. The other geometric forms that constitute the  yantra are organised around the bindu, evoking the emergence of the cosmos  from the primal potentiality represented by the bindu. The understanding of the bindu as the zone at which  creation begins and [therefore] "the point at which the unity becomes the many...the sacred symbol of the cosmos in its unmanifested state" ( Madhu Khanna (1979). Yantra: The Tantric Symbol Of Cosmic Unity. Thames and Hudson. Wikipedia)  is suggsted by Paul de Celle's depiction of the bindu in terms of fractal geometry,thereby evoking  the replication of the fundamental structure of the universe in terms of its expressions at various levels of manifestation.This fractal symbolism is reinforced by its similarity to Indra's net,an image from Asian  verbal art,which depicts the cosmos in terms of a net of infinite extension,with a jewel hanging at each point of the net,each jewel reflecting every other jewel in the infinite structure,thereby evoking the idea of mutuality of reflection,of perception and being,at various points in an infinite universe.




The relationship between the symbolism of the yoni,the symbolism of the downward facing triangle, and that of the bindu, is depicted in a contemporary  piece of jewelry which conjoins the yoni/triangle and the bindu in terms of a gold yoni with a diamond bindu pendant,the precious metals of which suggests the superlative signficance of the concepts symbolised by the desgn of the jewelry.




The conjunction of the yoni image and the bindu reinforces the matrixial symbolism of both images,correlating the ground of cosmic becoming and its expression in terms of a source of  of human biological becoming, in one image.

 In the yantra known as the Sri Yantra,the universe is depicted as emanating from the bindu in terms of interrelated masculine and feminine forces,symbolised by intersecting upward and downward facing triangles. The masculine polarity is represented by four upward facing triangles,the feminine by five downward facing triangles,symbolic of the interrleationship of  feminine and masculine powers in the creation and constitution of the universe.



The upward facing triangles can be described as evocative of the Shivalingam,the Sanskrit term for the erect penis of Shiva,with the phallus understood as a conduit for the power of life expressed in terms of the capacity for procreation.Such an interpretation would imply an understanding of the Sri Yantra as an abstract,geometric expression of the union of Shiva and Shakti depicted in naturalistic terms with Shakti  on top  of Shiva.The relative positioning of both figures suggested by the upward facing Shiva triangles and the downward facing Shakti triangles is depicted in another image of the union of the divine figures expressed in terms of images of  the conjunction of female and male genitalia in terms of the lingam standing in a semi-circular form representative of the yoni, expressed in  sculpture and in an example of a  mudra.










 The visual minimalism of the bindu,its circularity of structure,its symbolising of cosmic potentiality,a potentialilty that first emerges into being in terms of conjoined masculine and feminine polarities that constitute the cosmos,resonates in classical Yoruba thought and its contemporary expressions,and in  Western esoteric thought.



The conjunctions between these symbolic forms from various temporal progressions across the world facilitates an appreciation of the universality and variety in cosmological conceptions of human biology,particularly female biology and its masculine conrrelations.The similarities between the  concepts  symbolised  by the Sri Yantra and classical Yoruba thought emerges in the symbolism,both explicit and implicit, of the Opon Ifa,the tray that is a central iconographic form of Ifa,the divinatory system that is the integrative discourse of clasical Yoruba culture and which has relationships,both direct and indirect,influenced by Ifa or simply  confluent with it,with  cognitive systems across the African continent and the African Diaspora.

The qualities the  Opon Ifa shares with the Sri Yantra emerge in the evocation of a primal fecundity in terms of  an empty,at times circular centre, the constitution of this fecundity in terms of symbolism that indicates a dialectic between masculine and feminine elements and the  reflection of this dialectic in the symbolic depiction of the existential expression  of being and becoming in terms of complementary polarities.In addition,depicting a conception expressed in different terms in Indian thought,as in the complementarity of opposites in aspects of Indian thought,in general,and in Hindu and  Buddhist thought,in partuclar,as in Siva'sdance of creation and destructon and the mothering/destructive character of the goddess Kali,tthe iconography of the Opon Ifa suggests,in the face of Esu,which,along with the carved border and the empty centre, is an invarible element of the design of the tray, the necessary integration with these conceptions of symmetry understood in terms of cosmic being and human experience,  of the unexpected,the unanticpated,the paradoxical and the ambigous.



The central purpose of the tray is that of a consecrated space at the center of which the diviner casts the divinatory instruments.The images carved on the tray could also suggest aspects of the world view that underlies the divinatory system,a suggestiveness operating at various levels of explicitness and implicitness.

Each Opon Ifa demonstrates both the invariable or constant as well as the variable features in the composition and carving of the Ifa tray. One unvarying feature is the face at the top of the tray facing outwards from the surface. Another is the empty space at the centre of the tray. The last is the border that encloses the empty centre. The variable aspect of the form is the circular shape of the entire structure. The Opon Ifa could be either circular or square or both,as in a square circumference enclosing a circular centre.



Each of the invariable elements in the composition of the Ifa tray represents an aspect of the metaphysical structure that underlies the divinatory process. Taken together, they encapsulate the interrelationship of these metaphysical conceptions in constituting the hermeneutic process through which Ifa divination is actualised. Even when the Ifa priest does not use the tray in divining, these metaphysical elements are understood to remain constitutive of the divinatory process.

The empty space at the centre of the tray is the space where the divinatory instruments are thrown to enable their configuration spell out Ifa's response to the querent's questions.The empty space implicitly  becomes a womb of becoming,where the divinatory patterns,the Odu, emerge and re-emerge into the multiplicity of identities they are capable of realizing.

At one level, the Odu are geomantic patterns. At another level, these patterns symbolise the organising categories of the textual corpus of the system.At another level,they are understood as  volitional agents.At yet another level,they are perceived as  a means of developing and organising a systemic construction of the scope of existence, in terms of its extant forms and its possibilities of realisation, from the most abstract to the most concrete. As Joseph Ohomina describes them:

The Odu are the names of spirits whose origin we do not know…. They are the spiritual names of all phenomena, whether abstract or concrete: plants, animals, human beings, the elements, and all kinds of situations. Abstractions such as love, hate, truth and falsehood; concrete forms such as rain, water, land, air and the stars; and situations such as celebrations, conflict and ceremonies, are represented in spiritual terms by the various Odu.


The Odu are organised in terms of a fractal realisation,in which the first pattern,Ogbe,consisting of two pairs of lines,making four,is replicated,but with some modifications,in the second set of patterns,Oyeku,which consists of four pairs of lines,making eight. These basic configurations are then developed in terms of pairs that represent modifications of these primary patterns,until a basic sixteen patterns is realised from the permutational possibilities established through the structure of Ogbe,the first basic set,and first developed through the replication and modification of Ogbe in Oyeku.



The permutational processes through which the 256 Odu patterns are developed represents an implicit generative symbolism: the realization of these primary patterns in terms of twin pairs,Eji Ogbe and Oyeku Meji; the subsequent development of other patterns that represent a development of the possibilities of the primary pattern,Ogbe,and its modificatory interaction with Oyeku.This generative process is enabled by the paradoxically empty fecundity of theOpon Ifa,and suggested by the description of the further 245 Odu developed from the primary 16 or Oju Odu,face of the Odu,as the omo Odu or children of Odu.


The patterns of the first 16 Odu are here organised around an image of an Opon Ifa.Their order in this composite image is arranged from left to right unlike the right to left reading order of traditional Ifa iconography.




The divinatory process, therefore, could be understood as a process through which this data base of ontological values is galvanised in relation to particular situations represented by the queries presented to the oracle. These situations are interpreted in relation to their ontological identification in the various Odu. The correlation between this understanding of the Odu and ideas about female biology emerges in the feminine characterisation of the Odu and the resonance of this characterisation in the sculptural realisation of the space on which the Odu are configured in divination. The Odu are collectively understood as female and, in this collective identity, as being the wife of Ifa. The divinatory process, therefore, could be understood as being characterized in terms of a relationships between a female and a male personality. This implies a generative process that emerges on the space where the Odu patterns are formed, graphically represented by the empty centre of the divination tray. Within this empty space, therefore, the macrocosmic values represented by the Odu in their fundamental characterisation as cosmic forms converge with the microcosmic patterns represented by the client’s query. The empty space, therefore, becomes a generative space, a womb of transformation, akin to the vaginal space where new life emerges after its transformation within uterine space. The correlation of macrocosmic and microcosmic frameworks in the divinatory process could be understood to be expressive of a convergence of forces similar to the integration of the power of life which is universal but manifests anew in each life form with the distinctive genetic encoding that emerges from the gene banks of both parents in the conception and growth of new human life.





The face at the top as well as the spiral motif at its circumference-if i am using the right word-would represent aspects of the traditional Yoruba world view that are central to the metaphysics and hermeneutics of ifa divination. the face at the top would be the face of eshu,who embodies a spectrum of ideas. it could be understood as embodying  the creative dynamism that animates the cosmos,manifest in terms of the transformation of one state of being of being to another in terms of the experience of change and paradox.It also evokes the communication between various modes of being effected through divination,since eshu is the messenger of Ifa and carries sacrifices to the other orisha or deities. the spiral motif is described by lawal as evocative of thecreative,transformative principle embodied by eshu.

A dynamic weave of various patterns frames the space, suggestive of the hermeneutic fecundity of the divinatory processes that are enabled by and take place on the empty centre of the divination tray, which this work is derived from. The intertwined spirals evoke the dynamism of ase, the capacity of existence that enables being and becoming. They also suggest the integrative existence of spiritual and material forms of being, as well as the cyclic character of life ,death and rebirth. The humanised figure that recurs on both sides of the tray foregrounds human agency in the interpretation of and engagement with the various hermeneutic possibilities made manifest by the casting of the divinatory instruments on the empty centre of the space. The divinatory instruments are themselves represented by the eighth beaded chain at the centre bottom of the divinatory space, directly opposite the face of Esu, thereby evoking the twinness of function and of identity between the ambivalence, the disruptive insight enabled by Esu, and the restorative knowledge made possible by Ifa, Orunmila, of whom the divining chain can be understood as synecdochal.


Other abstract, geometric configurations shape the border around the empty space, evoking various powers at play in the dynamic relationship between being and becoming represented by the divinatory process and the analogue of the empty space with the womb of being from which Odu enables hermeneutic possibilities and their relationship with actual historical experience as it emerges into being through the interventions made possible by divination. Grids, triangles resting on each other’s bases, their apexes rimmed by circles, the entire ensemble reinforced by another similar configuration which touches the bottom structure at the apex of both structures; this point of conjunction framed by a circular form; suggestive of the use of geometric forms in evoking and invoking spirits in other parts of Africa a,in Asia and in Western magic, as well as the symbolism of numbers in classical Yoruba thought, the geometric forms being describable in terms of numerical relations.





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The women backing babies who hold up the tray are a central motif of traditional Yoruba art and thought and  evoke a host of ideas associated with motherhood. particularly in relation to the principles of emergence into being represented both by the act of giving birth to new human life and that of perceiving the processes involved in giving birth to new possibilities of existence and participation in that process. This perception and participation is embodied by the Ifa oracle's ability to enable its clients  negotiate various possibilities in their management of their lives.









The woman backing a baby and holding up the tray that is reminiscent of an Ifa divination tray evokes the correlations between Ille,the Earth,who makes life on earth possible,and Odu,the composite female deity described as foundational to the wisdom of Ifa,the presence of whom may be understood as suggseted by the spiral patterns on Ifa trays,evoking her identity as “Osumare, the ever moving rainbow serpent, symbol of continuity and permanence…who encircles the world to hold it together…the principle of movement, the integrating force that bids the primordial elements together” .

The circular structure of the Opon Ifa, is undertsood as  "the intersection of heaven and earth and a stage for metaphysical theater [as] evident in the popular saying "Aarin opon niita Orun" ("The middle of the tray connects with heaven"Abimbola 2000:177)and is correlative with the circular structure of Igba Iwa,the calabash of being,the "cosmic gourd with two halves",symbolising

the popular Yoruba saying "Tako, tabo, ejiwapo" ("The male and female in togetherness")...the   top half signifies maleness as well as the sky/heaven--the realm of invisible spirits .The bottom half represents femaleness and the primeval waters out of which the physical world was later created. A mysterious power called ase is thought to hold the gourd in space, enabling the sun and moon to shine, wind to blow, fire to burn, rain to fall, rivers to flow, and both living and nonliving things to exist[recalling the Indian concept of  "Rta or Cosmic Order, the inflexible law of universal order and harmony whereby all disorders and chaos is restored to equilibrium. Rta is, in essence the ordering principles of nature which gives to everything from the vast galaxies, down to the nucleus of an atom, their nature and course.].This power emanates from a Supreme Deity known (among other names) as Alase ('Owner of ase'), Olorun ('Lord of the Sky') and Olodumare (the 'Eternal One and Source of All That Exists').

Olodumare is also understood,in one  version of Yoruba cosmogony as " a praise title of Odudua...the Self-Existent Being who created existence [and who is ]both male and female[known as] known as Iya Agbe--'Mother of the Gourd' or 'Mother of the closed calabash; She is [sometimes] represented in a sitting posture,nursing a child. Hence prayers are often addressed to her bywould-be mothers.
















It is the equivalent,on a flat,two-dimensional plane, of the three dimensional form of the circular rim at which the upward and downward facing halves of the calabash of being converge,representing the point of intersection of the spiritual and material aspects of being symbolised by both calabashes.It is " the intersection of heaven and earth and a stage for metaphysical theater [as] evident in the popular saying "Aarin opon niita Orun" ("The middle of the tray connects with heaven". 

The woman holding up the Opon Ifa,her maternal associations foregrounded by her carrying a baby on her back,suggests the foregrounding of matrixial potential in an interpretation of the ground of being in the Yoruba Orisa tradition:

Oduduwa [a central cultuiral Yoruba culture hero is understood ] as the Supreme Goddess, an embodiment of Heaven and Earth.... credited with the priority ofexistence ...  regarded as having independent existence, and as co-eval with Olorun [aka Olodumare], the Supreme Deity with whom she is associated in the work of creation ... Oduduwa is known as Iya Agbe--'Mother of the Gourd' or 'Mother of the closed calabash; She is [sometimes] represented in a sitting posture,nursing a child. Hence prayers are often addressed to her by  would-be mothers (Lucas 1948:45).D. Olarimiwa Epega, another Yoruba elder, makes a similar point: "Odudua is the Self-Existent Being who created existence. He is both male and female ...  ( Babatunde Lawal, "Ejiwapo: the dialectics of twoness in Yoruba art and culture",African Arts, Spring, 2008.)

Susan Wenger develops this matrixial conception in terms that depict this feminine force in terms of collective psychology,and,therefore,as intimate to human being at the most profound subconscious levels: " Oduduwa,the great,dark goddess,residing in the depth of the human psychiod...who preordained time,space,and the collective psychoid (Susanne Wenger and Gert Chesi, A Life with the Gods in their Yoruba Homeleand.Worgl:Perlinger Verlag,1983).She goes further to to develop the correlations of the verbal dynamism and animistic identity of Odu in terms that further amplify the matrixial  symbolism that correlates the ground of being,understood as Osumare/Oduduwa with the primordial wisdom of Ifa,depicting  Odu as word,vocative cave,uterus,womb,and receiver of phallic  impulse:"[Odu] is both the word [and] the dark cave of the mouth that symbolically corresponds to the uterus from which speech is born and in whose mysterious depths the flame-like tongue delivers its phallic sacred cargo." (Adapted from Susanne Wenger and Gert Chesi, A Life with the Gods in their Yoruba Homeleand.Worgl:Perlinger Verlag,1983.81.) Judith Gleason further integrates the visual strands that constitute the correlation of the Odu,female identity and calabash symbolism, in her retelling of an Ifa narrative:

The sixteenth major odu [Ofun Meji,an organisational category and active agent in the Ifa system of knowledge and divination],container of all mysteries,the complete calabash of Oduduwa as formulated in the language of Ifa,is all but inaccessible-placed out of the way and out of ordinary thought processes.What was lost at the "time" of Ose Meji must be regained,but how?The redemptive process might said to begin with the final episode in the saga of witches :Oshe Oyeku.
Odu,the female principle imagined as a container,the fourth elemental being to issue  forth from the python's egg,having grown too "old",expresses her desire to go underground.Seated on her mysterious cylinder box,she calls her four advisors-Obatala,Babaluaye,Ogun,and Oduduwa (an active emanation of her self )-and gets them to agree to her departure by promising revelations to those of their children who come to solicit,to adore her properly in her house in the forest.

This house has become the ceremonial apare-box containing a calsbh (her body),which contains in turn (or is surrounded by )the four calabashes given to her on that occasion by the four advisors.Obatala gives a calabash of chalk,Babaluaye offers his favorite substance,osun (red powder),Ogun-charcoal powder,and Ododuwa-mud.These gifts imply four roads,four corners of the universe.They are the original four major signs.From one of them will be born another forest principle,as once Odu from the pythons egg.Ofun,the calabash of chalk (efun) who gives (fun)himself,produces Obatala,the white divinity as Orisan-nla,greater than,the beginning and the end,first and last,the container of them all.The egg within becomes the womb,passivity becomes creativity personified.Surely this is part of the meaning of the orisha Obatala as Ofun.

Igadu (igba, "calabash",and Odu )becomes an orisha,the divinty worshipped by diviners who have attained the highest degree of self knowledge-that is,the profoundest understanding of Ifa.Only such diviners may install the terribly powerful calabash of existence,once closed never to be reopened except under horrific circumstances, "symbol of the sky and earth in their fecund union,container of the supreme wisdom of Ifa, [the installation of which validates ]an esoteric principle of universal symbiosis.

 (Judith Gleason,A Recitation of Ifa: Oracle of the Yoruba (New York:Grossman,1973)188-191)



Taken together, these interpretations could be understood as correlating images of cosmic continuity, linkage between differing ontological forms, macrocosmic and microcosmic elements and the process of mediating between them as these mediations suggest change and transformation from one state of being to another. All these associations relate ultimately to the transformative potential associated with the special relationship between the female and biological life and between the earth and life.

The power to enable the creation of life and to nurture it suggested by female biology is also suggested by powers attributed to a group of women who are described as demonstrating various manifetsations of this power in a self conscious manner that indicates a control of ase,the power that enables being and becoming and which suffuses the universe.







One conception in terms of which the control of ase is described is that of the ability to traverse space,both physical and spiritual,a power often represented in terms of the ability to fly in the form of a bird,but which could also be understood to symbolise  traversing various realms of being as the bird traverses  both land and sky.This bird symbolism is evoked in both the calabash of being,where the birds are shown at the intersection between the two halves of the calabash,symbolising the conjunction of spiritual  and physical universes in terms of ase,described as holding the universe together.



In one Opon Ifa,a concourse of birds rims the circumference of the tray,evocative of the constellation of matrxial powers associated with the conjunction between the feminine forces of Odu,and Ille,Earth, the latter,who,as the primal maternal force, Iya Nla ,the Great Mother,is the patron of the aje,and like the  female Orisa,is correlative with the Orisa Mopo,described by Wenger as the patroness of women's actvities,including their erotic vocations of conception and childbirth,emblematised by her role as potter,who creates form out of preexistent space,thereby actualising the latent potentiality of space,as the woman's body is latent with the potential for new life.








The relationships between female procreative power and associations which emerge in relation to those procreative powers in terms of the imagery of flight,as  evoked by the bird   imagery of the Orisa tradition,in general, and of Ifa,in particular,is is further dramatised  in the image,from Tibetan Buddhism,of the Dakini,a name which can be translated as  "Traveller in  Space".The space traversed by the Dakini is both physical and multidimensional/spiritual since the Dakini is able to appear and disappear at will across physical space but her being also represents the metaphorically conceived spaces of the ground of being and its conception as consciousness,of which physical space is metaphorical.According to Wikipedia "In this context, the sky or space indicates shunyata, the insubstantiality of all phenomena, which is, at the same time, the pure potentiality for all possible manifestations."

The evocation of flight in both physical and spiritual space as one of the powers of Awon Iya wa,Our Mothers,the Aje,exemplars of the creative and destructive spiritual powers of women,  could be correlated with ideas of cognitive flight developed by the Olorisa-Orisa devotee-Susan Wenger,who is influenced by Tibetan Buddhism, in relation to her art,to  her relationship with nature as well as with the construction of oracular insight in  relation to  Ifa. These correlations amplify the relationships of endogenous  Yoruba conceptions of the feminine with other cultures.

Wenger transmutes the idea of flight in terms of the flight of consciousness, where the spiritual space the witch is understood to traverse through her avian powers is accessed through an immersion in nature and its occult properties:

Here I am,one with the water;I think and feel like the river,my blood flows like the river,to the rhythm of its waves,otherwise the trees and the animals wouldn't be such allies.I am here in the trees,in the river,in my creative phase not only when I am here physically, but forever-even when I happen to be travelling-hidden beyond time and suffering,in the Spiritual Entities, which,because they are Real in many ways,present ever new features. I feel sheltered with them-in them-because I am so very fond of trees and running water-and all the gods of the world are trees and animals long,long before they entrust their sacrosanct magnificence to a human figure.
(Adunni:A Potrait of Susan Wenger by Ralph Brockman and Gerd Hotter.

The correlation of the female identity of Wenger with the flight associated with the female figure of Awon Iya Mi lends itself to a correlation of the conception of flight in the world of spirit with the Tibetan Buddhist conception of the Dakini, the space travelled by both the Buddhist figure and Wenger being understood as the ground of being.

The image of flight, as expressed in the iconography of birds in flight, evocative of flight in terrestrial as well as in spiritual realms, is also associated with Ifa, as expressive of the oracle’s power to demonstrate a  comprehensive grasp achieved through cognition across terrestrial and spiritual dimensions of being, of the  queries presented to it. In correlating the image of the bird, as a biological form that is yet expressive of extra-biological powers, with the powers of oracular insight of the prestigious Ifa oracle, Ifa iconography underlines the construction of the feminine in relation to exoteric and esoteric powers in traditional Yoruba thought.