Jan 13 2012
by Ivan M. Granger
Medusa says –
I was wisdom
black as night.
Now they call me:
So I hide
behind this hissing curtain
you are free
to not see.
what is a lonely
old lady to do?
I still wait
for some daughter,
so wounded by the world,
to seize these snakes
and part my locks wide.
I still wait
for some bold, tired
wild child of mine,
determined to die
seeing what’s reflected
in my unblinking eye.
/ Photo by Sophoco /
I awoke early today, before the sun. Observing the nighttime, its embodiment of mystery, the unknown, vastness. Night brings both peace and fear. It does not distract us from ourselves. Whatever we bring with us into the night we must confront.
So I thought of this poem I wrote several years ago…
I read a lot of Greek mythology in my childhood. I loved the fantastical adventures, the heroes, the monsters, the convoluted relationships of the gods. I was fascinated that so many common words and phrases have their origins in the names and stories of Greek myths. It connected me with my Greek ancestry, through my father’s side of the family.
And I also had the vague, semi-formed idea that there was something deeper being said in these myth stories.
I discovered something a few years back that struck me: Medusa, the quintessential monster of Greek mythology, was originally a much loved Goddess. Her name comes from the Greek word “metis” (related to the Sanskrit “medha”) meaning “wisdom.” Her worship is thought to have originated in Northern Africa and been imported into early Greek culture. She was black-skinned, wore wild, matted hair (with, of course, snakes), stood naked, wide-eyed, and embodied the mystery of woman, the wisdom of the night, the truths too profound or terrible to face in the daylight.
Medusa is, in effect, a Mediterranean version of the Indian Goddess Kali.
Medusa was eventually subsumed into the safer, patriarchal worship of Athena, who carries Medusa’s head upon her shield.
This discovery inspired me to look at the figure of Medusa more deeply, more reverently. What is the wisdom that terrifies? Why the snakes? Why the petrifying open-eyed stare? And how does such a bringer of terrible wisdom feel about being rejected by her children as a “monster”?
So I hide
Behind this hissing curtain
One way to understand the snakes about Medusa’s head is as the awakened Kundalini energy, having risen from the base of the spine to the skull — something well-understood in the Mediterranean mystery schools of the ancient world. This vital, snake-like energy is the Goddess energy. Medusa, the Goddess, is the Snake Mother.
Yet, She has formed of this living energy a curtain, a veil that hides Her Face from a world not ready to bear witness to Her. This curtain is the veil of illusion that creates an artificial sense of separation between the world and the Divine.
And the curtain does indeed hiss. When you are quiet and your thoughts settle, you begin to hear a soft sound seeming to issue from the base of your skull. Initially, it sounds like a creaking or crackling noise, a white noise, a sort of a hissing. The deeper you go into silence, the more the sound resolves itself. Eventually, you recognize it permeating your whole body and all things.
You must pass through this hissing curtain in order to meet the deep truth waiting for you on the other side.
I still wait
For some bold, tired
Wild child of mine,
Determined to die
Seeing what’s reflected
In my unblinking eye.
Medusa’s eye does not blink. This is partly what is so terrifying about her gaze. She stares boldly out and sees Reality as it is. She sees it plainly, fearlessly, and without interruption. There is no pause for interpretation or “filtering.” Medusa’s truth is raw. She is the Divine Mother who sees all of Her Creation in every living instant.
Looking in Medusa’s eye, what is it that you see reflected? Yourself, of course. And this truly is shattering, for you see the truth of yourself. You see the unreality of your little self, your social self, your ego self. That little self is a phantom, a mental creation only.
Medusa, in her shattering wisdom, does not protect you from this realization. Her love for you will not allow you to struggle on with such a false notion holding you back from your true nature.
Seeing this truth, you die. The little self dies.
But, in dying to the little self, your true nature suddenly shines forth. The real Self, which is one with the Divine, emerges. Every aspect of yourself that felt broken and that you labored so long to heal, is suddenly made whole; in fact, you realize nothing was ever broken. That sense of incompleteness was the result of denying the vastness you truly are while clinging to the illusion of the little self.
This is Medusa’s gift to Her children. This is Her terrible wisdom. It is the truth that blesses you through death, and then gives you greater life than you had previously imagined possible.
|Ivan M. Granger|
Ivan M. Granger grew up in Oregon and Southern California. He has also lived on the island of Maui. He now lives in Colorado with his wife, Michele.
When asked why he writes poetry, Ivan says, “Poetry has an immediate effect on the mind. The simple act of reading poetry alters thought patterns and the shuttle of the breath. Poetry induces trance. Its words are chant. Its rhythms are drum beats. Its images become the icons of the inner eye. Poetry is more than a description of the sacred experience; it carries the experience itself.”
He adds, “My poetry is not fixed. When I read my own poems, I say them aloud, I repeat random lines, change the words around. Sometimes I sing them or chant them. I play with these poems until my mind relaxes enough to let the sacred spark shine forth.”
Poetry Chaikhana readers often ask me about myself. Who is the guy behind all those poetry emails? What drew you to sacred poetry? And just what does “Poetry Chaikhana” mean?
As a way to answer some of those questions, I thought I’d post an audio interview I did a couple of years ago. I talk a little about myself, and a lot about poetry — the transformational power of poetry, the ways poetry naturally expresses the sacred experience, the non-dogmatic nature of poetry. And I read a few poems.
I hope you find it inspiring and thought-provoking…
Click to listen: Interview with Ivan M. Granger
Ivan M. Granger is the creator and webmaster of the Poetry Chaikhana website.