“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction…”
While butterflies symbolize the transformation of life, they become as iconic of springtime in the west as rabbits which, due to their energetic breeding, represent fertility. Rabbits are designated as the token animal of Germanic goddess, Eostre [Eos in Greek]. Easter, for many is a season of blurred lines between the Christian celebration of the resurrection of a crucified patriarchal savior and the celebratory pagan ritual of bunnies delivering decorative and chocolatey eggs, all representing the bounty of new life springing forth throughout nature. The Easter Bunny joins a winning cast of rabbit characters we’ve grown up fondly with: Peter Cottontail… Roger… Bre’er… Thumper [from Bambi]… the Velveteen Rabbit… Alice in Wonderland’s White Rabbit… Bugs Bunny… We might even add the Duracell and Energizer Bunnies to this roster.
I’m one who’s loved Springtime all on its own, who hasn’t needed an extra excuse to indulge in unhealthy amounts of chocolate treats which [ahem!] I do year-round. The Easter Bunny was never a seasonal distraction for me. But looking through a #MeToo lens, it’s now not a big leap to see the dark side of EOStre‘s animal-spirit. From bedtime fairytales to movies to Easter, masses have been seduced & groomed through cute but de-natured props of patriarchal predation; a mostly male character lineup that’s won over hearts and minds. And somewhere there’s probably a Playboy Bunny tie-in…
Over the top? I ask, perturbed about how Easter has become such a distraction for me this year, and a dark one at that. As I scour the Internet for my own ‘easter eggs’/clues and disclaimers, a popular Mother Goose Rhyme plays like a riddle on a loop in my mind. Then the pictures below pop up as if to illustrate to me that various renowned architects have long been on this next-level trend of appropriating and translating EOStre‘s symbols. Is this their version of putting “Humpty together again”? My question seems to suddenly render Mother Goose mute…
Eostre‘s Greek counterpart – Eos “goddess of the dawn” – has been compared to Khemetic goddess Tefnut, in part because of the latter’s status as goddess of the morning dew. The dawn, like the vernal equinox announces a new day… awakening… new life/birth… springtime’s resurrection/rebirth of nature from the dark sleep of winter, etc. Figurines from the Neolithic period lay an ancient and abiding claim to the divine feminine as goddess of birth, regeneration and resurrection. Iconographies of a hybrid bird-serpent-goddess appear in ancient Khemet and Mesopotamia, which represent her co-creative powers as nurturer, transformer and deliverer of the resurrected seed from her divine masculine/god. [Left figure: Egyptian Predynastic Naganda “Bird Lady” IIa c. 3500-3400 BCE. Brooklyn Museum.] This ancient symbol has been adopted in recent times by a movement in the west whose focus on Goddess worship and femininity was precipitated by the imbalance created by homo-social male-dominated organized religions. The serpentine spiral represents kundalini energy – a life-force which both triggers the formation of the child in the female womb, and also holds the potential to uncoil from the spinal base to awaken consciousness or “3rd-eye” opening… as in Let There Be Light! [Genesis 1:3]
Hathor [Hwt-hr, meaning ‘Mansion of Heru’ ] was worshipped in Khemet as goddess of music, dance, beauty, fertility, childbirth, women, children and foreign lands. At the Temple of Dendera which was built for worship to the Goddess during the first Intermediate period of Khemet, Hathor‘s high priests were musicians and creative artists. The ancient personification of feminine love, joy, mother-hood, and nature – Hathor was the original Nile Goose that Laid the Golden Egg, which was the sun god. Women particularly aspired to embody this deeply loved goddess’s conjoined roles as wife, mother and lover which gained Hathor the titles: ‘Lady of the House of Jubilation,’ & ‘The One Who Fills the Sanctuary with Joy’. Known to assist the dead in their afterworld journeys, Hathor also used milk from her sacred sycamore tree to restore sight to Heru‘s lunar/left eye after his legendary bruising battle against Set – usurper of Khemet’s throne. “His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk and fitly set.” [SoS 5:12]
The relief on the left comes from Hathor‘s Temple of Dendera. Resembling a modern-day light bulb, the Dendera Light as it’s referred to is a depiction from the Hermopolis theology of creation. This theology presents the Ogdoad [8 primordial male-female twin deities] and the Cosmic Egg – from which all life is born. The lotus flower from the primordial sea of Nun gave birth to the sun god, Atum-Ra in a stage known as the first occasion (Dunand, 2004). This flower – pictured around the neck of the goose & at the base of the Dendera Light – is symbolic of Upper Khemet, from where the Nile River flows. The surrounding bulb in the Dendera light relief represents the field of the universe or Cosmic Egg/”Golden Egg” within which the process of creation… birth… enlightenment… springtime… resurrection occurs, and kundalini awakens – as depicted by the rising serpent within. Originally accessible only to high priest initiates, the accompanying texts at Dendera warn against abuse of such knowledge… seemingly in agreement with and reference to the West African mythology from Mali of the Dogon:
“In the beginning, Amma, alone, was in the shape of an egg: the four collar bones were fused, dividing the egg into air, earth, fire, and water, establishing also the four cardinal directions. Within this cosmic egg was the material and the structure of the universe, and the 266 signs that embraced the essence of all things. The first creation of the world by Amma was, however, a failure. The second creation began when Amma planted a seed within herself, a seed that resulted in the shape of man. But in the process of its gestation, there was a flaw, meaning that the universe would now have within it the possibilities for incompleteness. Now the egg became two placentas, each containing a set of twins, male and female. After sixty years, one of the males, Ogo, broke out of the placenta and attempted to create his own universe, in opposition to that being created by Amma. But he was unable to say the words that would bring such a universe into being. He then descended, as Amma transformed into the earth the fragment of placenta that went with Ogo into the void. Ogo interfered with the creative potential of the earth by having incestuous relations with it. His counterpart, Nommo, a participant in the revolt, was then killed by Amma, the parts of his body cast in all directions, bringing a sense of order to the world. When, five days later, Amma brought the pieces of Nommo‘s body together, restoring him to life, Nommo became ruler of the universe. He created four spirits, the ancestors of the Dogon people; Amma sent Nommo and the spirits to earth in an ark, and so the earth was restored. Along the way, Nommo uttered the words of Amma, and the sacred words that create were made available to humans. In the meantime, Ogo was transformed by Amma into Yurugu, the Pale Fox, who would always be alone, always be incomplete, eternally in revolt, ever wandering the earth seeking his female soul. “
In Genesis1:28: “God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth‘” (NRSV). As a well-intentioned environmental steward mansplains from biblcal text: “First the word “subdue”. In Hebrew this is kabash. You can’t get around it; it does mean… “enslave”, and even in the harshest instances “molest” or “rape”… Ummh, Yurugu/Set better stay in his lane!!! In my own well-intentioned effort to not throw the baby out with the bathwater, I’ll follow the lead of the Shulamite sistah who knows “love is strong as death” [Song of Songs 8:6]. She is the Southern Queen to whom the God of Revelation [3:11] says: “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” May our circle 4ever B unbroken... ❤ ❤ ❤ 121
Dunand, Françoise, and Christiane Zivie-Coche. 2004. Gods and Men in Egypt: 3000 BCE to 395 CE. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
“Every strand of American music comes directly from Congo Square,” musician and trumpeter, Wynton Marsalis once said of this national treasure – the historic birthplace of jazz and Rhythm-‘n’-Blues. Situated in what is now the Louis Armstrong Park in Tremé, the oldest African-American neighborhood in the tricentennial city of New Orleans – at 2.35 acres, today Congo Square measures approximately half of what it was in its heralded 19th century years.
New Orleans, Louisiana [NOLA] is a major US port whose strategic location facilitates the trafficking of commercial goods between the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River system, which historically included trans-Atlantic cargoes of enslaved Africans. Congo Square was a gathering place Read More
“If you don’t own your masters, your masters own you.” On his B’Earth’Day [June 7th] in 1993, Prince changed his name to the unpronounceable ‘Love Symbol’ of his recently released 14th studio album following disagreements with Warner Brothers [WB], the label which originally signed him in 1977. It was a public act of rebellion against WB’s restrictions over him and his prolific creativity. Likening their contractual relationship to one of indentured servitude or slavery, Prince explained: Read More
Mazisi Kunene – freedom fighter, literary icon, Africa’s poet laureate, and South Africa’s first poet laureate – was born in Durban, in the modern-day province of KwaZulu-Natal on May 12th, 1930. Kunene championed African oral traditions, conveying their inherent value in his writings which were originally in Zulu before being translated into other languages. Read More
From ancient times to the present day, Africa’s collective imagination has to one degree or another been influenced by the leopard as a symbol of its cultural and spiritual potency. The black panther is the melanistic color variant of leopards in Africa, so perhaps the phenomenal success of the movie of the same name can be used as a current barometer of that potency. North, south, east, west, and diaspora – the leopard is a powerful symbol of African warriors, sages, magicians, priests, gods, goddesses, queens, and kings. In West Africa, sculptures from Ife and Benin portray the leopard as a symbol of wisdom. This statue from ancient North Africa depicting King Tutankhamun riding through the underworld on the back Read More
Queen Nyabingi is one of several likely inspirational fonts for Marvel’s comic book renderings of Wakanda’s Dora Milaje, an elite group of female bodyguards who will soon be slaying on the silver screen [2/16/18] in Ryan Coogler’s directorial rendition of Black Panther – the movie. Though fictional, Marvel’s African kingdom of Wakanda is geographically situated around the source of humanity’s genesis, which happens to be where the legendary Nyabingi greatly impacted history as well as our pathways to a pan-African consciousness. A real-life fusion of warrior-queen archetypes that arose in the ancestral Nile River mythologies of Khemet, Goddess Nyabingi’s spirit also lives in the diffusion of beats and flows that birthed hip-hop in today’s diaspora.
Best known for fiercely championing her spiritual, cultural, and political spheres of power through liberation struggles against the Euro-patriarchal rape of her region – rubberstamped at the 1884 Berlin Conference and euphemistically referred to in history books as the “scramble for Africa” – Nyabingi fought hard against her colonial adversaries. In Khemet, this collective adversary was known as Seth (god of the wilderness, storms, chaos, violence, famine, illness and foreign oppressors) who was so jealous of Ausar’s richly-endowed kingdom and popular reign that he murdered, mutilated and then scattered pieces of the king’s body [diaspora of enslavement] in order to ascend the throne and sow his dehumanizing brand of chaos in the name of progress…
Against this quintessential enemy of Africa and usurper of her resources, Nyabingi also becomes a force of reparations whose shamanic powers are transmitted through oracular healer-priestesses, traditionally called bagirwa. In this role, she is reminiscent of the Khemetic goddess Hathor whose fervent warrior aspect is identified in the leonine goddess Sekhmet. Nyabingi’s shamanic powers also mysteriously link her to Seshat, a Khemetic goddess whose characteristic dress is made of panther skin. Historically, spiritually-endowed women have stood out as leaders of liberation movements throughout the African continent – in part because, like rape, imposed rule has infringed upon the domains of the divine African feminine. Ideological descendants of parasitic shadow-queens such as Victoria [“grand-mother of Europe” 1837-1876] and/or the neo-colonial sychophants who uphold their standing in Africa’s sacred geographies and imagination, are complicit in the continuing rape of humanity’s Mother[land].
Goddess Nyabingi’s legend begins in Mpororo (Uganda’s southern region) where Queen Kitami’s rule was disrupted with the theft of her sacred drum by a man named Kamurari. Though Kamurari used the sacred drum to found a dynasty, it was the formidable ancestral presence of Queen Kitami upon whom the reverent title of ‘Nyabingi’ was bestowed by successive generations. Nyabingi’s compelling presence was deeply acknowledged as she spoke paranormally with and through her chosen female prophets and priestesses from behind the bark-cloth veils they wore.
By the time of Welsh-American journalist and explorer Henry Morton Stanley’s search for the source of the Nile River in the late 1800s on the heels of British explorer David Livingstone’s efforts, Goddess Nyabingi had earned a reputation in the colonial imagination as a “great sorceress.” Her priestesses exercised considerable political power in the Uganda/Rwanda [‘Wakanda’?] borderlands through such acts as collecting tributes from local chiefs. British and German colonials waged war against African women by making alliances with corruptible men, including these same local chiefs. One such example was the alliance they made with Mwame Musinga which led to his treacherous usurping of the throne that the widowed Rwandan queen-mother’s son – like Heru of Khemet through queen-mother Auset – was heir to.
In 1911, a rebel priestess named Muhumusa formed a spiritually-based military resistance against the wazungu (Europeans) in the name of Nyabingi. So effective was this resistance that the British fought back by passing the 1912 “Witchcraft Act” which threatened to burn the accused at the stake. Muhumusa’s eventual capture in 1913 led to her detention for life which ended with her death in 1945. However, other popular Nyabingi-inspired revolts such as the 1928 Rebellion arose from what a wazungu colonial described as “armed witchcraft dances,” resulting in the killing of colonial-puppet chiefs. “These fanatical women are a curse to the country!” a colonial commissioner was led to declare as the resistance leaders successfully fought and evaded capture.
These warrior-queen-led uprisings were gradually suppressed through a collaborative colonial team effort involving coercive missionaries who would impose Christian baptism onto Africans under threat of punishment as political subversives of the Nyabingi resistance. Eventually, the reparations or healing aspects of the bagirwa’s cultural role regained precedence over the political-warrior dimension of the black freedom struggle.
By the 1930s the Nyabingi resistance had been effectively subdued in East Africa. However, it had caught fire in the Jamaican Rastafari movement which began with Europe’s colonization of Africa – AKA ‘Ethiopia’ and/or ‘Zion’ to believers – though the forced exile of enslaved Africans scattered throughout ‘Babylon’ dated back to centuries prior. The Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr.’s 1920s prophecy – “Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned; he shall be your Redeemer” – set the stage for how Jamaicans would come to regard the 1930 coronation of Haile Selassie as Emperor of Ethiopia (a neighboring East African country which had itself successfully resisted European colonization attempts). A member of the Solomonic Dynasty, Selassie was born Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael – hence the Ras-Tafari designation and belief in him as the prophesied messiah, Jah Rastafari or alternatively Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Though His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie, was welcomed with great enthusiasm during his 1966 visit to Jamaica, he was eventually dethroned [9/12/74] back in Ethiopia for reasons which began with the famine his country suffered in 1973.
The oldest of the Rastafarian subgroups is Nyabingi – a name which the Jamaican group believe to mean ‘Death to all Oppressors’ – connecting their faith with the African warrior-queen’s powerful spirit of liberation from tyranny. The Rastafari chant ‘bingi’ through prayer, music, dance, and biblical reasonings, calling on nature and the universe of her mystical powers to destroy the wicked reign of ‘Babylon’ – as they believe Jah alone has the right to do – and establish their New Jerusalem or Zion in Africa. In Jamaica, Nyabingi’s rhythmic heartbeat is played by men on a trinity of drums: Thunder (a bass drum also referred to as the “Pope Smasher” or “Vatican Basher”); Funde (the middle drum which maintains the dominant heartbeat and has the least improvisational role); and Akete or Repeater (the smallest, highest pitched drum that plays the most improvisational role as carrier of spirit).
Parallels between Nyabingi‘s prototype sacred drum, and its usage in East Africa can thus be interpreted and understood in the purpose and symbolism of Rastafari expression in the Caribbean. The natural and spiritual forces which connect Nyabingi in the pan-African consciousness also pulse and flow through her waterways: the northbound Nile River from its Great Lakes’ cradle to its ancient flowering in Khemet (known as the Gift of the Nile); and the waterways which map the Atlantic slavery routes with each hurricane that forms off of the West African coast, wreaking destruction at what some consider to be Babylon’s doorstep… “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it…” [SoS 8:7 KJV]
Seminal to the music of Rastafarians, Nyabingi drumming is the same powerful heartbeat pulsing in the reggae stylings of such renowned artists as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Black Uhuru, Steel Pulse, Burning Spear, and many others who came up through the faith – rocking locs like the warriors in Kenya’s struggle for uhuru (freedom) against Britain’s colonial rule. Indeed, reggae’s popularity in the 1960s and 70s brought Rasta consciousness to the global masses, which worried those who did not want their liberational cultural faith (mis)appropriated and/or corrupted.
Such reckonings came out of lessons learned from Babylon’s predatory and parasitic dealings against its African host(ess), including: spiritual resources from Khemet having been re-scripted and weaponized through the work of missionaries in their colonial rape or ‘scramble’ for Africa’s natural resources; the twin-enterprise of slavery through which Africa’s human resources had been stolen and displaced in the so-called New World; as well as the appropriation of her cultural resources. In the Caribbean-Bronx [NY] alchemy which created hip-hop’s seminal heartbeat [through DJs such as Kool Herc], one feels Nyabingi’s continuing struggle to drive that final, fatal stake through the vampire’s collective… heart [???]. Nyabingi reminds us to not be complicit in the rape against the dominion of the divine African feminine, the spoils upon which ‘Babylon’ has built its arrogant and twisted sense of superiority and entitlement. #UbuNtu… #ReparationsNow
The California sycamore in the meadow of the Topanga canyon hilltop rustled as if it had just spoken. Nya Okatsa’s back remained molded against the wizened tree trunk as the sudden jerk from Malik’s head in the cradle of her crossed legs belied the nonchalant sprawl of the rest of his six-foot frame on their picnic blanket. He squinted upwards, his eyes sorting through the noonday sun and shadow as the overhead canopy settled from the agitated mid-July gust that had just blown. Seeing the coy arch of Nya’s brows within her silhouette, Malik broke into a broad grin – unfazed by her confession that she’d been a tree-whisperer from birth. Read More
In African oral tradition we have a communication concept surrounding the power of the word to generate and/or aesthetize life. In BaNtu culture, this is referred to as Nommo. This same concept in Khemet was referred to as Hekau – “words of power” which were key to the alkhemical authority of god-as-magician. Often viewed as the female version of Djehuti (Khemet’s god of magical arts and foremost scribe of the gods) goddess Seshat accompanied Khemet’s widowed Queen Auset in guarding murdered King Ausar‘s reconstituted and mummified corpse to ensure that he would go on to become God of the afterlife. Read More
~ Posted in honor of African-American Music Appreciation Month, June 2017 ~
“The artist is meant to put the objects of this world together in such a way that through them you will experience that light, that radiance which is the light of our consciousness and which all things both hide and, when properly looked upon, reveal. The hero journey is one of the universal patterns through which that radiance shows brightly.” [Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss] Read More
The biggest night in show business is the annual Academy Awards show which pulls in a television viewing audience of 40 million (give or take). It’s where the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (founded in the 1920s) recognizes the merits of its most talented artists/craftspeople and honors them with a golden idol, a statue whose nick-name Oscar means ‘divine spear.’ The specter of Hollywood as an ideological battlefield where dreams and stories as cultural artifacts fight, bleed and die for acceptance in the dream factory run by mainstream [white] gods is not farfetched from the industry’s competitive, often cut-throat reality. Harsher still are the ironic implications of the Oscar award itself whose form Read More