You’re all I ever wanted to uphold
I could never ever let you go
Opening and helping me to flow
Your fire lights the darkness of my soul
Wash me in the colors of the rainbow
Plant me in the waters of the womb
—Kan’Nal, “Space Child”
With the fall of our wisdom cultures that has brought about our current age of isolation and dislocated suffering, we have lost more than what our romantic notions of simpler times will lead us to believe. At the heart of what we have lost is what can be called “the Village.” This term is not meant to refer to any particular village or point to an example of a bygone village in particular. What it is pointing to is the soul-forging culture that was the life-blood of our ancient ways and was embodied in our close-knit communities of family and extended relations. This is what I call the Village.
At the center of the Village, though hidden from those who do not know to look for it, are the initiation mysteries. These are the rites of passage that are passed down through the elder culture within each community and tended to by said elders in order to continue to pass them on. These mysteries are not the invention of the elders but instead a skillful response, crafted over vast generations of elders, to meet the forces of transformation that we are made of. These forces arise in us whether we have rites of passage or not. Our world of today can be said to be the problematic result of having ruthlessly hunted down and decimated our wisdom traditions. The initiation forces still arise, and without the ancient wisdom of elders to tend to them, to craft us into embodied adults who are only then able to tend to the vitality of the Village, they take the forms of complex psychoses that wreak havoc on all that they touch.
While there are many forms of initiation that would help usher each unique person into their soul embodiment, some that were for all, some that were for only the exceptions, the bulk of the rites can be alchemically clarified for the sake of discussion, into two bodies of wisdom. These are the Mother Mysteries and the Father Mysteries. They are the teachings of the two pillars of birth, of embodiment, and I call them mysteries here because they are not teachings that can be reduced into instructions one could reference in a manual. Initiation teachings are born from and work primarily with our dreaming self and involve understandings that are relayed and worked with through story, dreaming, introspection, language, culture, and rooting into deep time.
Maturity & Certainty
The Mother Mysteries are the ways of life, the culture, or paths of cultivation that open and expand a person. They bring the difficult topic of complexity to the fore and weave in the skillful means of dwelling within complexity, which always implies contradiction, with a knack for harmony. As mentioned before, it is not a list of do’s and don’ts, for the dance of complexity is an ever-changing situation and one must learn to adapt, knowing when to flow and when to take form, to meet life as it arises. The eye of the storm, the pivotal crux of these teachings, is the hidden ruthlessness of allowance. It is not a lazy allowance that says “anything goes.” It is a ruthless testing of what arises to help it find its place and alignment with all else that already is. It is a deep inquiry into how each piece of the puzzle will best serve the life force.
The Father Mysteries, the culture or cultivation of certainty, is the counterpart to the maturity of the Mothers. It is the practice of focusing, cutting away, getting things done, and clarifying the path for oneself and others. It is the soul of leadership, for certainty is a powerful force to be followed in a world of primal forces at play. If the Mothers are the creators of a Village in which it is worth living, the Village we would want to exist for us, the Fathers are those who stand guard, within and without the Village, to keep the alchemical container of the collective whole. It is not a stone sentinel that allows nothing to permeate the boundaries. It is a wisened guardian of the life force that discerns the essential from the distractions.
The Mysteries Between & Beyond
These two pillars, the Mothers and the Fathers, are not alone in their tending of the sacred, for much variation lies between and beyond them. In fact, they each play a critical role at the center of the other, like the Eastern symbol of the Yin Yang. Maturity is left powerless to enact its wisdom unless it can cultivate the certainty of action and perseverance. Certainty is left to run amuck, causing ignorant destruction, unless it can cultivate the maturity of opening and patience. Left on their own, these two forces polarize each other and tend to their extremes. Such extremes bring about radical imbalance, where one force rises by stepping on the back of the other, as we see in our world today. It is the space between the two that must be tended in order to keep balance. This space is the realm of the Trickster.
The Trickster has gotten a bad rep. This is because people have taken the notion of the Trickster in a very simplistic way, not having been steeped in the storytelling of the elders to bring about a wise accounting of this vital and beautiful aspect of life. People reduce the Trickster to nothing more than a devil out to get the unwary. Of course, it may, in fact, take this form, if for no other reason than to help people back to the path of the soul, where they learn to not only see the silver lining in their challenges but discern the profound soul lessons, the soul-forging forces at play, in the once perceived wrongs done against them.
In Mythic stories, we are looking into the mirror of the gods and goddesses. These are immortal forces that are happy to stay just as they are. Why would an immortal ever change? So the Trickster arises, causing Mythic havoc of some sort, which forces the otherwise content divinities to re-relate to their situations, adjust their relationships, and learn. In some cases, the Trickster is an actual deity themselves, such as Prometheus, Loki, and Coyote. More often than not, the Trickster is a force at play in any and all of the characters in the Myth, bringing forth their strange and seemingly deviant actions that give rise to the tale’s unfolding. It is this layer of the Trickster that we have lost sight of. Our own misguided perspectives and the unskillful actions that arise from them can be a force coming from us attempting to set in motion the forces that will bring balance to our world.
The Trickster is the Child born of the Mother and Father and, as such, is an expression of both. But the Child is also a force seeking to bring about a new generation of ancestors. The Child must integrate and go beyond the Parents if wisdom is to be kept alive. To do this, one must deeply understand the spaces between. Only then can a new wave of life force be brought back into the pillars of the Mothers and Fathers to perpetuate the soul of the Village.
“One can say, ‘Teach me what you know,’ but the better request is, ‘Teach me about what teaches you.’”
—Malidoma Patrice Somé