Monday, June 22, 2009

Choose Your Head Wisely:

There's a Yoruba story that before we are born, we get to choose our head in Obatala's pottery shop. The people of Nigeria make some of the most beautiful pottery in the world, so they know a thing or two about clay. Well the story goes that most people rush to grab the biggest heads, or apparently attractive ones, without checking them out closely to see if they might have a little crack in them somewhere. I know this is true, and not just because I've spent some time making pottery.

After choosing their head, the people rush to be born. Between the other world, realm of the dead AND the unborn, and this world, the world of the living, there's an immense gulf strafed with cosmic storms. The newly chosen heads are bombarded with all sorts of adverse weather - rain, hailstones, lightning, fierce hard gusts, etc. and unfortunately many of the not so well made heads with tiny cracks crack even further, or supposing they're not sufficiently fired and still soft in places, then they will surely be in sad shape by the time they reach the portal of birth. All this intense happening is so overwhelming that generally speaking our minds are wiped out by the time we emerge as babies and we tend not to remember that we chose our head. This leads to wonder or even dissatisfaction with the head we have, and we spend the rest of our life complaining about it, completely oblivious to the fact that it is exactly the head we chose and no other, and that there's nothing and no one to blame about it, not circumstance nor anyone but ourselves! It is so simple, and yet almost no one realizes that all you have to do is look into the mirror to recognize that your head is your own, and moreover, you owe everything you have to it. This is why the head is the most important orisa. Before you offer a sacrifice to any other, you should first consider your head.

This scene of the choosing of head is the second one in You'll Always Come Back. Pete chooses his head from the many stacked on the shelves in Obatala's pottery shop.

In Yoruban, the word for head is Ori. Here's what wiki-wacki says:

"Ori, literally meaning "head," refers to one's spiritual intuition and destiny. It is the reflective spark of human consciousness embedded into the human essence. In Yoruba tradition, it is believed that human beings are able to heal themselves both spiritually and physically by working with the Orishas to achieve a balanced character, or iwa-pele. When one has a balanced character, one obtains an alignment with one's Ori."


Cathy said...

Such a wry, funny, wise legend!

Dan Dutton said...

I've always liked this story ~ it's neat now to be able to tell it myself. & I can't wait to see it come to life in performance! (tho making a LOT of heads will be a chore! I'm thinking of using the Chinese method ~ ie a mold & slurry.)