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.