Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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The myth of Pandora is a Greek creation story. Zeus ordered Hephaestus (blacksmith of the gods) to make the first woman. He did this using water and earth. Her name means all gifted because various gods gifted her with talents. She was married to Epimethius as a major prank. She was designed to punish disobedient humans. She was irresistible. She arrived with a box which was not to be opened. We know the part of the story in which she does open the box and evil and suffering escapes. In fact, evil runs rampant on earth as a result of Pandora’s weakness of curiosity. She has something in common with Eve, the first woman who just had to try the forbidden fruit in the garden.
When Pandora sees that she has released illness and evil on the earth she attempts to close the box quickly. In the original story she came with a jar (pithos). Later translations from the Greek changed the jar to a box. Either way, she managed to close the container with hope trapped inside. I feel this myth is pertinent to our world situation today. The evil, the misery, the illness has been released into our atmosphere. It is swirling all around us everywhere. Hope is often obscured, as if it is enclosed in some secret vessel.
Mars will be so close to the earth next week that it will visibly outshine our brightest star, Sirius. The red planet is retrograde in Scorpio as it appears shining brightly in the night sky. The planets (as well as recently demoted Pluto) are named for Roman gods because they have certain qualities the ancients identified with them. Mars rules battle and martial arts. The word martial is derived from his name. He was the father of legendary Romulus and Remus who founded Rome. Thus he is the true god-father of Rome. Citizens of Rome referred to themselves as sons of Mars and worshipped him copiously. Indeed, war was perhaps the best talent of the Romans as a civilization. They certainly developed the first global takeover strategy. Sure, they had common currency and governance from the emperor in Rome, but none of that would have been possible without their military conquests. Mars was their main man.
The famous adulterous affair between Mars and Venus has been immortalized in many ways. The symbol for Mars the planet is the same one used for the male gender and the element iron. Similarly the symbol used for Venus is the same for the planet, the female gender, and the element copper. Men actually have more iron in their blood than women, while women have more copper in the bloodstream than men. Chemically this is just a fact. There are the theories in psychiatry about communication styles and the conflicts they naturally engender between the sexes. From Roman mythology to pop culture the planets Mars and Venus represent archetypal male/female roles. In reality nobody is made up of a single archetype, although we usually have one that is more developed than the others. The Mars archetype is aggressive and militaristic. It is protective of farmers and soldiers. In the Roman Empire Mars was a unifying factor, linked to local gods in order to strengthen the empire. I can see how Mars has been the god we share with all of our war partners around the globe.
We can no longer live without war on earth. Security forces are needed to prevent all out chaos. However, as Mars approaches the earth this Memorial Day to salute his people, let us give some thought to our use of his powers. Military suicides are highest in the time before deployment because Mars is one scary boss. The general public generally hides from the gruesome details of the horror of war. This year as you pass the potato salad look to the sky as Mars passes by look directly into his flaming red eyes and take an oath to direct his energies to a higher purpose. As protector of farmers he has work to do on global warming. Happy Memorial Day, gentle reader. I wish you a cloud free sky and a clear view of his majesty, Mars, in all his glory.
One of the most symbolic of all the foods we harvest in the fall is the pomegranate. This is the fruit of the dead Hades gave the goddess Persephone before she was retuned to her mother. The pomegranate seeds she ate in the underworld created a magical bond she could not break. She was doomed to return to Hades for three months each year. This complicated story is about birth and death, cycles and seasons, sabotage and fate. She was kidnapped and raped by her husband Hades who planned to keep her forever. Persephone’s mother, Demeter, goddess of fertility, went into such a tizzy about her daughter’s kidnapping that Zeus, her husband, finally relented and brought Persephone back to her. The entire incident could have ended at that, but the pomegranate seeds she ate magically sealed her relationship with Hades and the underworld. She was, after all, since her kidnapping and rape, the queen of the underworld. Now we have three months of winter, and during that time Demeter will not produce crops or warmth for the land. Each spring when Persephone returns from her underground realm life begins anew and Demeter gets busy providing ample food for humans.
The ruby red color and the delicious taste of the pomegranate makes an exotic ingredient in all kinds of dishes and drinks. Here are a few ways to honor Persephone and enjoy the season:
Pomegranate molasses is available at Middle Eastern grocery stores, and is a wonderful ingredient. It is very handy at the bar. This beautiful alcohol free drink is named after the queen of the underworld:
Last but certainly not least I leave you with a recipe for an exotic cocktail with chocolate covered pomegranate seeds:
Hephaestus was the crafty, cunning metalworker son of Zeus and Hera. His difficult life began when his mother (or possibly his father) threw him off the planet at birth which pissed him off quite a bit and made him lame. His talent at the forge became obvious early in his life, and he was called upon to craft golden thrones for his parents. He used his extensive powers to revenge his rejection by creating a throne for his mother from which she could not escape. A deal was struck to release Hera from the throne by giving Aphrodite to Hephaestus as a wife. His marriage to the goddess of the sea was not blissful because she was unfaithful to him. He is the only god that was imperfect and the only god that worked. His mastery of fire was envied greatly by his father. His archetype as a loner craftsman can be seen in people who focus on great artistry, production and invention. In Rome he was known as Vulcan. In Tucson he is called Jerry Harris. He was an ancestor of Daedalus, who fashioned wings, as does Mr. Harris.
The human condition known as revenge is ancient and well documented. The Greek goddess Nemesis represents retribution. She lives in the underworld with Hecate. She feels no remorse and hesitates at nothing to deal out vengeance when it is required. She is a neutral spirit with a balanced approach. She has the task of taking happiness from the undeserving while bringing more joy to those who earn it. She is pictured with a balance scale, doing calculations. She is concerned with issues of money. Her name is related to the word number, and the word economy. She is not vengeful, but is an accountant from the underworld.
The collective as well as your personal consciousness about wealth, money and right livelihood are the province of Nemesis. She keeps the accounts in balance. Abundance and prosperity follow the laws of nature. Knowledge as well as belief influence the outcome of all your earthly investments. Spiritual integrity in work and business ethics are measured against one’s degree of avarice and destructive behavior. Can you find ways that your beliefs about receiving limit you now? Can you think of ways to budget a more secure financial future for yourself through awareness? Some Americans call her “Death and Taxes”, to say she is hard to avoid. She is impossible to avoid, and she is counting all the time. She will deliver what is due from the wheel of karma because that is her job.
Psyche is the goddess of the soul. Her curiosity and her great beauty made her life difficult. She was the object of Aphrodite’s jealousy. The story of Beauty and the Beast is almost exactly the tale of Psyche. She earns her place in the pantheon by enduring hardship and deceit. Psychic has come to mean the ability to sense beyond the obvious. Our experiences in life that test our ability to see through disguises are maturing our psyches.
Mintha, Greek goddess of the mint plant is a fertile herbal mother. Stewing, growing, and drinking mint can cause euphoric uplift. Soothing, aiding digestion of food and intuition, mint tea opens the senses and the mind. Bathing or washing with mint stimulates the skin and the circulation. The high notes of these aromas evaporate quickly. The use of mint in aromatherapy is widespread and well accepted. Peppermint oil is used for everything from headache cure to memory tonic. In the middle east, especially Morocco, mint tea is the beverage of choice for all occasions.
Growing mint is easy. I grow several varieties, with the most dominant ones winning out and taking over the space. A source of moisture is all they need to spread like crazy underground. To harvest it, cut it and hang your bundles in a dry dark place until dry. I store mine in brown paper bags once dry because I have too much to use jars. I harvest mass amounts throughout the year. In the summer we drink it every day for the cooling qualities. Mints mix very well with other herbs and fruits to create flavor layers in tea.
Mintha, the water nymph of myth, had an affair with Haides, god of the underworld, pissing off Persephone, his wife. In an all too common scenario in Greek mythology, angry wife takes revenge on the nymph, in this case by by stomping on her. She turns into the mint plant so that every time Persephone steps on her the aroma of mint wafts all over the angry queen. So whether you want to uplift your spirits or annoy an angry queen, the goddess Mintha is the tool for the job.
Each of us is operating inside of a myth. We hold beliefs that are common to our culture, our friends, and our family. Some people use icons, art , music, and movement to bring the beliefs into physical existence. I was first given instruction in Tibetan Buddhist mythology when The Dalai Lama came to Tucson in 1993 to teach patience. The group of us who would be in a retreat with his holiness were offered a year long training and initiation to the ideas and methods he uses. This was infinitely helpful, since the Tibetan practices are complicated and follow ancient traditions. By studying each month and going on retreat once with our teacher, a monk who was also a law professor, we had a very good head start when the time finally came to study with him.
We gathered in a hotel conference room to hear teachings, meditate, and exchange questions and answers with his holiness. He empowered us all to Green Tara, emphasizing to us that she was known for her swift action. We were to visualize her in great detail, having a postcard sized image to follow in our packets. The really difficult instruction was that the eyes were to be slightly open, gaze fuzzy and unfocused. I had not done such a visualization that required precision like that before, and found it to be challenging. Meeting her as I did for the first time when I was 42, I was not very accomplished as a Green Tara visualizer. The yoga I had done had always involved holding asana poses so long and so precisely that the mind and body required full attention to the task at hand, and therefore rose above distractions. Sitting still in a room full of people in folding chairs picturing an incarnation of the mother of all Buddhas was a new experience. I have since had the very good fortune to study with his holiness twice more, once in Zurich in 2005, and again in Tucson a few months later in 2005. Each time, although he covers the same texts, Shantideva’s Bodhisattva Way of Life, I deepen my understanding and ability to practice.