Tuesday, March 15, 2011

on being oya to your chango

Yah, I wanna be Oya to your Chango. No domestic tranquility for me. I was cursed, to tell the truth, so that's how it would be. I think it's worked out pretty well, to tell the truth. And yah, he actually used that word 'curse' — a little dramatic, don't you think? What kind of moron curses in this day and age?

So. I'll be your Oya. We'll have our adventure. We'll ride off and conquer death together. Conquer grief together. You'll raise your battle horn and give a blast. Shofar, the way shofar was meant to be! But at the end of the day, you'll go home. Oshun, with her irresistible smile, awaits you. She'll ground you. She'll hold down the fort for you.

I figured the whole thing out recently. Was trying to explain my worldview, somehow. Not the worldview that I'd like to have. No. The cosmology in which I seem to operate.

I think it was that comment, "Too bad you don't like opera..." that helped me figure it out. See how useful our mothers are? No. I don't want to live inside the opera. It's absolutely true. Opera belongs on the stage, right?

So what kind of hypocrite am I?

A. F. C. Wallace wrote this wonderful article about time. It's published in a fairly recent issue of AOC — Anthropology of Consciousness. Last five years, maybe ten. I don't know, I can't hold on to time. Time-slipping. That's another piece of the puzzle. Wallace talks about three kinds of time.

Linear time: in which events are placed sequentially, and then we call it history. We count in days and months and years. Decades, centuries, millenia. The point is that we count. We keep track. This happened. And then that happened. This is the least interesting of the three, although it does point out that there are consequences to our actions. That's not a bad thing at all. But it makes it sound like this thing led to that thing — if we string the things out just so — and that might not be what's really going on at all. We might have left out a string or two or three in our analysis.

Cyclical time: in which it's never over. In which we have another chance to try it out again. If this cycle doesn't work out so well, hell, we'll just reincarnate, and it'll be better next time. And then we don't have to worry about death so much. Next time, next time — as if there is a next time. As if there are do-overs. As if we get a second chance or third. As if only the truly 'evolved' (spiritually speaking) will get a chance to be released. Then, and only then, are we okay with death.

And then there's:

Mythical time: in which the gods are ever-present. And so is id, ego, and superego. These things do not recycle, and they're not linear, evolving from child to adult; from magical to rational. That's long ago been demonstrated to be absolute nonsense. Mythic time is ever-present. The capricious pantheon of gods — whether Sumerian or Egyptian or Greek or Ugaritic, or the mythic time of the Songhay empire — are archetypic patterns that we play out. We look to the gods and see ourselves. In all our folly, and in our glory too.

Bachofen says that the struggle between the gods takes on a dialectical form. Can we call it dialectical mythology? First, he says, in the earliest myths, the female deities held sway. Goddesses reigned supreme. And in their hubris, they abused their power. The males rose up and conquered them. Gods! And eventually, one god supreme. And when that god becomes so tyrannical that they can no longer stand it, women will rise up, and the goddesses will return. Right.

Bachofen says mythology hands us the pattern. He doesn't say it's historically accurate. He says we carry it all ourselves. Each of us — until we discover our collectivity and rise up — and become gods.

Okay. That's not what he says, that last part. But I like it.

I've inhabited mythic time and space my whole life. I feel more comfortable there.

Teish came over one time. Voodoo queen extraordinaire. Priestess. Dancer. Storyteller... We were working on a project together. She walked into the house. Intake of breath. She walked into my bedroom. Seeing with her expert eye.

"Oya," she said.

It's not the first time I've heard that. Bibbo says it too. Candomblé practitioner from Brazil. He's told me this for years.

Oya, they agree, is the orisha of my head.

There's no Oshun for me.

That. That right there. That was the curse.

Well, fine. I can live with it.

Apparently, my entire house is 'done up' as an altar to Oya. Tribute to her. Her colors. Most of all, her feeling. A place she is at home in.

This does not at all match my mother's description of my home. Early Istanbul whorehouse, is what she calls it. Bordello. Brothel. But my mom, she likes opera. Whereas Teish — well, Teish is just stating the facts. Right?

I don't think I'm as brave as Oya. I don't think I take charge. I don't do battle, that I know for sure. I'm not a goddess of radical transformation. So what the hell are they talking about? But when they say these things, I can feel Oya's heartbeat inside my own. Maybe I don't understand bravery and battle. She's not a man, after all. Maybe Oya's bravery is something else entirely. Maybe I've got it. Maybe I don't.

Maybe Oya takes chances. Maybe Oya says yes, where others would say no. Maybe Oya leaps where others tiptoe.

And maybe Oya is only Oya when she meets her own Chango.


  1. Hmm. Now I wondering. Maybe opera's just too small a stage?

  2. So fill us in on Chango and Oshun, please? I just can't bring myself to slog through the wikipedia on them—not after getting this kind of discussion of Oya!

  3. Oshun deserves her own post. I think she'd be insulted to be relegated to a mere Comment. She will definitely have her say!

    We do not play just one part alone. I can be Chango to her Oshun. And I make a particularly splendid Oshun. Shocking, how well I do Oshun, to tell the truth. Just goes to show how complex we humans are. Resilient. Or wishy-washy. That we can slip between the raindrops of these roles.

    But my first obligation here was to Oya. These things must be done in order, you know...

  4. Regarding these time constructions:

    Linear time gets a bad rap when people commit the post hoc ergo propter hoc mistake; right up there with correlation=causation to assume that sequentiality=causation.

    My beef with cyclical time is that everybody's whose ever been reincarnated started out as some exotic king or queen or knight in shining titanium; peasant midwives and cheesemakers don't seem to come back again, and for me this casts doubt on the whole enterprise. I don't want to come back if there's not going to be cheese.

    Mythical time falls short the same way all our modeling techniques do. You might follow your inner Oya but you've already acknowledged your inner Chango and Oshun and brought Ellegua into the picture too, but all these Orishae fall short of the complicated tangle of Miraness we see even just by perusing these pages.

    An alternative to linear time that nevertheless stays in the comfortingly familiar realm of abstract geometry suggests that linear time is only two of the dimensions of time—forward and backward on a line. Now consider time in three, four, five, n dimensions. Ever read Flatland? Linear time isn't the only time; it's just the part we can understand most readily. It's what keeps everything from happening at once. The other dimensions of time flit in and out of our three-dimensional awareness and confuse the bejesus out of us, but the math is all tidy and satisfying. Time can easily be infinitely dimensioned; in fact, it has to be, because any limits on its dimensionality would make everything implode and we wouldn't have space either.

    Don't ask me to provide the mathematical details, though; those classes were two many decades back on the linear time crutch I keep leaning on, and meanwhile my clients seem to think that "now" isn't too soon for me to get two weeks' worth of work done.

    So on second thought, let's give mythical time another try. Can you find me an Orisha who handles accounting, filing, and cleaning?

  5. They're helpful — but not that kind of helpful! More often than not, we're the one's cleaning up after them. They sure do like to party.

    There is, however, an Orisha for technology... Should your computer crash, for example...

    As for the different time systems: I think we use all three. We pick and choose what serves us at the moment. Homo Pragmatica.

  6. Send over that technology Orisha, would you, please?

    Can't get my new Windows box to do much of anything. God, I hate Windows. Somebody please remind me why I give a rip that several clients seem to think having an actual piece of Windows hardware is worthwhile even though I can do it all better, faster, and easier on my Mac (with vmware for the Windows apps).

  7. So. The question is, what are you willing to sacrifice for a better Window experience?

  8. I'm willing to give up Windows altogether. Can I give up ever having a Windows experience? Oh, but then... Right. Windows is my cross to bear, as it were; I get to let it be the thing that vexes me, so that it's not something I actually care about that vexes me?

  9. Need I add that what would truly unhinge me is if my Macs started vexing me, too? Now that—that would be unbearable betrayal. A double betrayal, since it would also be my beloved UNIX vexing me.

    Whereas I've grown comfortable with having Windows to kick around. I've been hating Windows professionally since three-point-uh-oh, a good five years before normal people started hating Windows.

  10. You can't give up Windows. All you can do is try to learn it as well as you know Mac. Not exactly force it into submission (that would be rude) but decide (as the tzaddik would say) that either a) everyone has to be a martyr to someone and you have to be to W, or b) trust it, for you never know what good it might bring to the world.

    Unfortunately these gems of tzaddik wisdom have never been very helpful to me. But maybe they'll work for you. Especially, the first one.

  11. I do know it as well, unfortunately. And I choose a) the martyr plan, or rather, it chose me. When you're a consultant, it's all about attracting and satisfying the clients. Martyr for money, that's me. Of course, b) applies also whenever my efforts help my clients do more good in the world—make more efficient solar panels, produce tires that consume less fuel, reduce the cost and waste in shampoo production, make movies and music sound better…

  12. Very deep! So I know that Oya and Chango were in a love triangle. Was this what your decor represented?

  13. Apparently not! My house, I've been told, is entirely in homage to Oya. The colors, the forms, and what has been called my altar to Oya. The thing being that I've never created an altar to my knowledge. I've just placed things in a spot that felt like they should go there. Teish took one look at the totality of it all and proclaimed it all to be Oya. And then Bibbo did the same regarding me.

    To tell the truth, it wasn't comforting. But it seemed right.

    Chango, as far as I could tell, was part of the 'package' of having Oya be the Orisha of one's head. Since they were equals, I was okay with that. Mostly decided not to think about it. and not to think about poor Oshun trying her damnedest to compete—by staying home and staying put.

    I think Oya protects herself from 'triangle dynamics' more than the other two do. But maybe that's 'cause she's potentially more vulnerable?