Thursday, July 21, 2011

From Cave of Paintings to Chariots of the Gods

I did not expect her. She was Chumash. I had heard the word, but knew nothing of her people. She sat drumming under a tree, dressed in blanched skins. She was as real to me as the members of our circle, and much more visible, since the only light in our room was a candle, while in her space - visible to me when my eyes were closed - everything was bathed in white light.

I made a mental note to find out about the Chumash later, while I continued drumming for our group journey. Our dream travelers were members of an shamanic circle I have been leading for many years. We had agreed that tonight, we would go through the Tree Gate to a Cave of Paintings like those created by shaman artists in Paleolithic Europe, and by indigenous peoples in North America, Australia and Africa in more recent times. We did not focus on a specific cave, rather on the idea that the images we found painted on the rock walls would help us to enter the Cave Mind: to understand and even participate in the experience these sites were intended to facilitate for those who created and used them. We agreed to touch the painted images and see how going skin to skin might bring the great animals alive. We wanted to see whether the rock walls might yield like membranes, allowing us passage to deeper levels, perhaps to the realm of the Goddess and ancestral wisdom keepers.

While drumming for the group, I let my traveling consciousness slip down through the roots of a tree, bent on our assignment. I was surprised to find myself immediately in a verdant and dramatic landscape. Great waterfalls streamed down a giant's staircase, to the watery depths of a gorge far below. A nut-brown Native man, with black hair in a basin-cut, indicated that down there was where I needed to go. It would be a long descent. But I threw off my clothes - I realized that I had been wearing a bear skin - and took the plunge, over the falls, plummeting straight down into the watery depths of the gorge.

My body was washed clean by the cool green water. This Cave could be entered only by water, but I had no trouble breathing as I swam down to find the opening. The Native man remained close. The Cave entrance, when I found it, seemed too small for me, just a narrow slit in the rock. But I realized I had changed my body type, and become short and wiry like my new companion. With his mind, he urged me forward, through the crack. For a moment, this world went completely dark. Then I felt movement, and my inner light came on, showing me a writhing mass of snakes, their fangs ready for attack. Was this a trap, or a trial? I willed myself forward, telling myself the snakes could do me no harm, pushing them back like vines or creepers.

I came out in a womb-like space. I glimpsed rock paintings, one of them of a huge creature whose shape was unfamiliar. I did not have time to inspect it carefully, because it surged from the wall, filling my field of sight as it presented me with an enormous open maw, easily big enough to swallow me whole. I was reminded of the sandworms in Dune. I briefly considered trying to blow myself up to equal size, in bear form, but rejected this as time-wasting an unnecessary. I chose instead to dive into the mouth of the beast, as you might push an envelope into a mail drop. Utter darkness, churning, willing myself forward. On and on, very far now, it seemed, from the body I had left on the chair, drumming - though I was still in full control of that instrument.

At last, my inner light was restored as I came to the first of many doors. They were of many designs, mostly two-leaved doors. I lost count of how many opened before I came out in an airy space suffused by soft blue light. I had the impression of giant feathers, as if a great bird had recently taken flight from this space. A far wall shimmered and became transparent, and through it I saw the vessels used by far travelers who came here, eons ago, to forge a link between higher consciousness and an evolving species on this planet.

A luminous intelligence, moving like a blue ripple in the air, gave me a talisman that I recognized: a winged disk. I knew it from different cultures and far memories, especially from Egypt and from Persia. In the form given to me now, the winged disk was unquestionably a vehicle, such as Persian gods and kings were shown riding, powered by xvarnah, radiance.

Holding the winged disk, I passed from the place of blue light to a Cave of the Goddess, where fierce warrior women stood ready to challenge but welcomed me when they saw what I was carrying. I received healing and blessing in the realm of the Goddess. Then it was time to bring all of myself back to the body in the chair, and sound the recall signals for all of our group to come back from the places where their dream souls had traveled.

Quiet time, when we were all back with the lights on, for drawing and writing from our travels. Then story time, and what excellent stories were shared? Of finding a green world under the shell of a turtle goddess. Of touching the belly of a painted horse and becoming a white stallion, thundering across a plain. Of a Fish Speaker, coming alive from a painted image to deliver the message of Water. Of meeting an Eye Goddess, like one depicted in ancient Anatolia.

The professor in me always wants to ground visionary adventures of this kind in research. So I have been looking into the unexpected appearance of the Chumash woman drummer. I find that - previously unknown to me - the Chumash were great rock painters, and a whole cosmology, a star map, and a chart for interdimensional travel may be contained in their Painted Cave near Santa Barbara. A Chumash name for that cave is alahalukin, which means "that which comes around." From the perspective of humans, sun and moon and stars come around, including the big Bear in the sky, Ursa Major, which the Chumash call the Guardian. And so do winged disks, those ancient chariots of the gods.


Justin Patrick Moore said...

Great lessons in Paleopsych here Robert. I'm also enjoying the riffs on Chariot's appearing through your blog recently. As synchronicity would have it, I was reading today about Campbell's idea of the Monomyth, and of the stage of the hero's journey when he travels into the belly of the whale. Your journey into the Dune-like worm creature reminded me of this. Of course, Rudy Rucker, who was posting about the Monomyth, and his use of it in his novel "Frek and the Elixir", talked of feminist critiques of Campbell's theory, and he discussed some ways it might be adapted for a heroine instead of a hero. Bringing in more energy from the Goddess, as you are showing in your work, certainly helps as well.

Irene stenvatten said...
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Robert Moss said...

Irene - I find this very interesting since it was quite clear to me that as I pushed through the narrow passage with the snakes, I was entering the body of the Great Mother. However these snakes were pointed outward, in defensive position....

nina said...
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Robert Moss said...

Nina - Thank you for the fascinating information on the work and inspiration of David Chethlahe Paladin, and the words of his version of the pan-Native American story of genesis through dreaming. You remind me that when I first stood in front of a wall of Anasazi petroglyphs (at Bandelier in New Mexico) the stone shimmered and then became transparent, like a window, giving me a powerful wide-awake vision I describe in "Dreamways of the Iroquois".

The shamanic character of the rock paintings of North America has long been widely accepted. Curious that archaeologists elsewhere are still often reluctant to discuss the meaning of these creations in terms of consciousness and shamanic journeys.

Affinities between indeigenous and modern art - and direct borrowing by modern artists - were well-represented in the exhibition on the "Surrealist Revolution" that I visited in Vancouver B.C. last weekend, through the "conversational" arrangement of Surrealist canvases and tribal masks and statues from the Pacific Northwest (some of which had been in the personal collections of Surrealist artists).

Robert Moss said...

PS to Nina - dreams of birthing are always interesting, leading me to ask (when the dream is clearly not about literal childbirth): what new creative project may be birthing in the life of the dreamer? In my Cave journey, however, I was going the other way, traveling back through the birth canal (of the Great Goddess) deep into her womb.

Robert Moss said...

Justin - Yes, there are ancient and archetypal passages here. Fortunately, the absolute freshness of the experiences prevented me from thinking about these analogies during the journey itself; such thinking might have turned on my inner skeptic prematurely, or simply distanced me from the raw power of what was happening.

Unknown said...

Robert and Assorted Interesting Commentators;
What a fascinating guided image trip--just terrific and well told. I am an avid student of cave art and wish I had been traveling with you. I have visited the Chumash painted cave outside Santa Barbara. It is not difficult to find, but not esy, either. It is barred up, so we just parked on the dust hill and peered in tying to vibe as not much is on view. However, there are wonderful photographs in books. The author I read on cave art of California directly attibuted the paintings to a shamanic culture and the local presence of datura--a hallucinogenic widely used by the Chumash, Luisenos and others, but notoriously difficult to control (vis: deaths of experimenting 20th century teens).

@Justin Patrick Moore--the work on the Heroine's Journay has been done; find the eponymously titled book at the library or online. Joseph Campbell was a personal mentor of mine, and as a feminist, I find feminist critiques of him ill-judged. He was a great, time traveling shaman n his own right.

@Robert--shamanic journeying such as those in flight at your event seem very much about the exoticism of the journey itself (which I love!), but not so much is said about the personal signifiance of the gift. Does the winged icon continue to be meaningful to you in waking life, or is it a gift on the wing, as it were? Is the journey more important than the destination, in your experience?

Robert Moss said...

Sandy - The winged disk is of huge importance in my personal mythology, and links me to dreams and "far memories" that connect me to several ancient cultures. I was amazed to find it in the Cave of this journey, and the effect was to give me very clear orientation and valuable confirmation. I don't know whether you have read my books; you will find a rather full response to your question in the interdimensional travelogues in "Dreamgates".

Unknown said...

Funny you should ask if I've read Dreamgates; I'm 33 percent of the way through it (which is how we Kindleators measure books, pages being obsolete). Now that delicious conundrum--should I jump ahead to that section or let it surprise me when I get there?

I have read most of your books, but they are so rich with ideas, I don't pretend to memorize it all. Fortunately, I am a re-reader and find myself constantly going back, seeking out some idea I want to hear you think about again...and to some large extent, that is what your blog does--lets your readers engage with the fresh flow of image and experience. Have faith that it is doing it's work in the world beyond just the promotion of product.