Friday, July 18, 2008

Meet me at the Crossroad ~ 12 pm

After some good sushi in Portland, Cathy and I went with Kristi and Mike to a wine bar to sample some of Oregon's pinot noir.
While we were sitting there, on a walkway overlooking the river, enjoying the lovely wine in our elegant tissue-thin glasses, a motley band of bedreaded homeless youths strode past us on their way to a riverbank squatter's camp. I think the protocol, as far as the non-homeless are concerned, concerning the homeless, beggars, street musicians, gypsies, et al, is that you do not make eye contact. But I'm never quite sure just what I am, and even if I have a temporary delusion of identity possession, at a deeper level I recognize myself as a boundary crosser, and the lines blur. As they did when I looked into the eyes of one of these fellows. I'm not sure what I was looking for. If it was recognition, I got it, because he said "Hail Satan." and strode on by.

I think I know what he meant, which was that nattily dressed yuppies (which I indeed appeared to be) sipping expensive wine with riparian entertainments while the world goes to hell in a handbasket all around them are part and parcel of said Satan's corporeal nature. Oh my. I feel like I'm always on the edge of something doubtful. And that wasn't the first label of this sort I've had applied to me.

Satan, as a title, has a grander feel than "the Devil", more like Mr. President than just one of the gang. In the grand conception of this nefarious character, which I apparently share some common appearance with, He is set up in a business, for profit presumably, in which desired experiences are exchanged for souls, and these transactions, traditionally, take place at the crossroad, any crossroad, as long as it's midnight. The most common USA version of this story features blues guitarist Robert Johnson, who alledgedly exchanged his soul for his remarkable skill in playing the guitar, the evidence of which, in the form of early blues records, are said by some to be the origin of Rock & Roll. There's some suspicion that Mr. Johnson started this rumor himself, as a marketing ploy, which would rather prove the point, no?

But as Sylvia Townsend Warner, one of my very favorite authors, wrote of one of her characters - "For though it was news to her that she had the soul of an artist, she accepted the revelation. It isn't what you do that matters; everyone has a right to earn a living, and fooling a willing public is as good a way as any other. They enjoy it, you enjoy it, everyone's happy. Where the soul of the artist comes in is when you won't let the public fool you."

Sylvia, in her marvelous first book, Lolly Willowes, described a sale - "He's one of these brilliant young authors," replied the Devil. "He sold me his soul on the condition that once a week he should be without doubt the most important person at a party."
"Why didn't he sell his soul in order to become a great writer? Then he could have had the party into the bargain."
"He preferred to take a short-cut, you see."

The popular conception of the Devil's appearance is cobbed horn and hoof from Pan, the ancient Greek deity of horny people such as shepherds and nymphomaniacs. Pan pops up all over the place.

When I was working last year on The Faun, I mentioned the fact to a self-described pagan friend of mine who lives nearby, and he cautioned me to be careful as to who I told, lest I be labeled satanic and suffer some social disapproval, such as the stake, or the waterboard. But the faun, I noted, somewhat disingenuously, is simply another character in myth. "Around here," he said, "if its got horns it's the Devil."

(more dance photos)
The story of the blues guitarist selling his soul at the crossroads, has roots, I think, in the mythology of Central Africa. The interface/crossroads deity of the Yoruba is named Eshu, and though he, just as our systems of thought, can be trickily multi-directional in the myths, I wouldn't describe him as evil, unless change itself is. If you're going to have a pole there's got to be two ends to it. If you're going to have a crossroads, there has to be a non-directional point in the center of it.

Eshu, symbolic of making connections, is the emblematic face on the Ifa divining board, shaped like the portal to every other world.

(The soundtrack to this video is a fragment of the "Owl Music" mentioned in an earlier post. WARNING: this video contains both male and female nudity, as suits a video in a post such as this. If you do not wish to view such things, don't.)

Oh! By the by ~ I consulted Ifa, in a generic* way, for my gentle readers in mass, by randomly selecting an Odu. The Odu, or path that appeared was #195, Okanran-Ate.


Odu Okanran-Ate speaks of the need for the client to be initiated.

* because I have not been initiated into Ifa, I am not a babalawo, and cannot consult the oracle in the traditional manner. No doubt this explains the answer. This kind of random selection is considered fine for a browsing student, but is not to be mistaken for a consultation performed by an initiate. See the comments for a description of Ifa consultation.


William said...

Is the world really ready for a convergence of Dan and youtube?

Dan Dutton said...

Oh I hope so! But it doesn't really matter; ready or not, here I come!

Kim said...

W ...... T........ F !!??? Man, what are you smokin??!! You lost me completely with the odu. .... And what about us non-gentle readers? Beautiful video, btw.

Dan Dutton said...

For information on smoke, see previous blog.

I think that Eshu was giving me the standard koan ~ that is; one needs to know what Ifa is, ie "initiated" in order to interpret the oracle.

Jimi said, "Are you experienced ... not necessarily stoned, but beautiful?"

There are some interesting sites about Orisa Eshu and Ifa online. I'd take what you read with a (large) grain of salt tho!

Cathy said...

I'll have what he's having. ;-}

The video is mesmerizing, and the owl-sounds are otherworldly.

How does one go about consulting Ifa? I mean what's the process?

Oh, and if you're interested, Your Satanic Majesty, I would sell (or rent) my soul for another trip to Portland.

Dan Dutton said...

Oh you're so sweet! (& you needn't abandon all hope ~ that Milton, so histrionic. So, deal!

An initiated babalawo can consult Ifa for a client. (baba means father, awo means - secrets, in the sense of "the mysteries", so 'father of secrets". (That's what Dezi was blithering about when he sang babaloo, though perhaps he didn't know it.)

There are two methods, both use "random chance generators" to create a binary series. I'll describe one: The Baba picks up 16 palm nuts in his left hand (16 is a large handful) - and attempts to pass them to his right hand. If one nut remains, a double mark (II) is made in the iye-irosun (sacred wooddust) on his opon Ifa (divining tray - like the mine in the picture) If two nuts remain, he makes a single mark (I) - otherwise he casts again. This casting continues until there are two vertical columns of four figures each.

The sixteen primary odus (or roads) are called meji, or twins, because the 2 columns are identical. From these initial 16 odus, 240 additional permutations are possible, so that in all there are 256 odu. Each odu is a path, or tendency of directions of force, or quality of circumstances, etc. - each has a particular nature, and the babalawo is a babalawo because he has memorized 256 verses telling illustrative mini-parables for each combination - there are many verses associated with each of the 256, so the baba chooses the one which is most appropriate for the consulting client, and recites it.

Each odu also comes with a prescription of particular actions. Sometimes a person is advised, as the oracle advised this blog's readers, that they need to be initiated into Ifa. There is always a prescribed sacrifice - and in order to get the benefit of the oracle one has received, the sacrifice has to be made.

Maybe I'll do a blog on sacrifice!

I think that Ifa is the precursor of the computer and the internet, or to put it another way, the internet is a simulcrum of Ifa - the binary code and mathematically generated pathways to info have something in common. And some people attach a quasi-oracle status to the images and ideas they stumble on online.

Cathy said...

Maybe I'll do a blog on sacrifice!

Just stay away from my cats, you devil.

Dan Dutton said...

Do you mean your familiars?

Anonymous said...

This video was both familiar and then I never saw it before? Where am I? Is this the approach? Already?

William said...

The Approach came and went.

But was it ever really here?

Dan Dutton said...

I'm still amazed, on the one hand, that we didn't have a live-cam outside pointed at the eclipse & projected onto the video screen above the dancers, or maybe even better, on a tiny portable tv ~ on the other hand, the idea of some cosmic obscuration (from our angle only) argues for "not seeing" ~

It reminds me of the two Edies in Grey Gardens:

Little Edie: I just want some freedom.

Big Edie: Well you can't get it dear, not when you're being supported.

Little Edie: You can't?

Big Edie: No.

Little Edie: I think you can't get freedom when you're not being supported. Oh it's awful both ways!

The thing that got me at The Approach was at the end, when the video just ran out, the screen turned blue, of course, automatically. When I came out into the theater a woman I didn't know rushed up to me and said, "I've seen all 4 now (of The Secret Commonwealth dance operas ~ I was impressed!) - and I have just one question! (uh oh! thinks I.) What was the meaning of the blue at the end?
Ha ha! So ~ I kindof swallowed my deer-in-the-headlights look, thought hard & said, "Blue is the color of infinity." She nodded.

Are you sure Delphi worked this way?

Happier said...
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