“Mythic Visions & Rituals” – A Free Collaborative Event Goal: Write a New Nature Myth based on the Tree of Life Mural Chicano Park, San Diego, CA
Sponsored by: Willi Paul, Principal, NewMythologist.com
“Just before his death Joseph Campbell was interviewed by Bill Moyers and that interview was later turned into the documentary, “The Power Of Myth.” In this interview he postulated the idea that humanity was in need of new mythologies. Ones that were not rooted in the ancient world as all our current ones are. But myth’s that would help us navigate this new and strange world we are creating.”
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Event Summary: Myth Lab – Tree of Life Mural
June 24 – 30, 2013
The “Tree of Life” mural is one of many urban art pieces that grace highway support beams in Chicano Park, San Diego, CA. To create a new myth around the “Tree of Life” mural, review the mural’s history and the Myth Lab process model. Use your reactions, ideas, plots and visions to create a new myth that supports nature and the culture celebrated in the painting. All submissions for New Myth #46 will be considered and published at Planetshifter.com Magazine & Network.
Please enjoy all 45 New Myths.
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A process model follows that illustrates mythic imprinting (or re-contextualization) in more depth. The goal is to integrate permaculture, transition, Nature and sustainability with the emerging values and struggles in the Chaos Age. The Myth Lab is designed as an interactive, open source and iterative experience. One goal is clear: we need to build our own messages and new myths to support our new food and governance systems.
Artifact – The New Myth Artifact is a Nature-Human combination; examples include graffiti, a bill board, historic sculpture, and a permaculture garden, with special powers and messages to the neighborhood.
Mythos – The pattern of basic values and attitudes of a people characteristically transmitted through myths and the arts.
New Mythology – Is a call for new Nature-based, globally integrated stories without allegiance to any classic mythologies. New Mythology incorporates new symbols, new alchemy and climate change era rituals and is built for the future.
The Transition Movement includes new business exchange schemes where waste is used by another business; Transition is garden sharing that allows gardeners to re-use barren lands; the movement encourages people to choose local food and offer support for smart bicycle and mass transit systems.
Mythic Imprinting – Imprinting is defined as a two-way interaction with a selected Artifact that has generates synergistic meaning for both participants and the Artifact. This iterative and transmutative process is grounded in the initiation, journey and hero work from Joseph Campbell and is one way that neighborhood artifacts can help participants generate new songs, poems and myths.
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Five Step Process
1. Discover the Artifact
The Tree of Life Mural is one of many Chicano art pieces on support columns in Chicano Park. The Park is under the eastern end of the Coronado Bridge on Highway 5, just southeast of downtown San Diego.
2. Describe the Tree of Life Mural (Artifact)
Felipe Adame, Guillermo Aranda, Arturo Roman, 1974
Guillermo Aranda, Guillermo Rosete, Felipe Adame, Vidal Aguirre, Renovated, 1992:
Location of Chicano Park, San Diego, CA
History of Barrio Struggles (click and read)
“Take-over – Fight – Art – Restoration – Renewal”
Meanings for the Tree of Life Mural
The Tree of Life is a beautiful example of the successful process of mural renovation in Chicano Park. Due to the position of the pylon, the bright colors are bathed in shadows throughout the day.
The Tree of Life is dedicated to students throughout the stages of their lives. One side portrays students from grammar, middle, and high schools, while the other side portrays students from colleges and universities, dressed in graduation robes and holding their diplomas. A reclining skeleton is visually balanced by human figures climbing out of the earth, referring to the struggle between life and death.
A second interpretation of the skeleton refers to the myth of Quetzalcoatl and his journey to the underworld to retrieve the bones of past human races. From the buried bones of the ancestors, a new race will emerge.
The central section of the horizontal composition presents a fetus, flanked by the profiles of man and woman. Above the fetus is the swastika, symbolizing transformation, the growth process. Below the fetus is a variation of the Aztec ollin symbol to emphasize the transformation in life.
The fetus is nurtured by the tree of life, growing within an idyllic landscape. A mother breast-feeds her baby; children play in a cool, refreshing stream; primal man and woman float over their paradise. The landscape itself may refer to Tamoanchan, the mythical place of origin where Quetzalcoatl buried the ancestors’ bones. “In the Central Mexican codices, Tamoanchan is represented by a flowering cleft tree emitting blood.” The tree supporting the fetus does have new growth upon its branches; and the vertical line of dark brown below the ollin symbol could be viewed as a cleft within the tree. Tamoanchan, an ancient Mexican Eden or paradise, can be found within Chicano Park.
Quetzalcoatl, one of the main deities of pre-Hispanic civilizations, is present in most of 15th-century Mesoamerica. From the beginning, he has been attributed countless mysteries: he is considered a man, a deity, a priest, a myth or a legend.
The origin of his name comes from the Nahuatl and means “Quetzal”: a bird of beautiful plumage and “Coatl”, which means snake, resulting in what is commonly known as “the Plumed Serpent.” This deity was one of the most popular in Hispanic tradition and refers to the union of terrestrial and rain waters, which, among agricultural peoples, was essential for their survival, thus signifying the origin of life itself.
Legend has it that when the creation of the world was finished, the gods and humans lived in harmony, everyone was happy, except for the god Quetzalcoatl, who observed in anger as humans were subjugated by the other gods. So he decided to adopt the human condition to share the knowledge and art that the deities possessed.
Upon his arrival in the world of the humans, he wandered through many lands until he came upon Tollan, a place that is said to be located today within the State of Hidalgo, in Mexico.
When he arrived, they were offering a sacrifice in honor of his brother, Tezcatlipoca, and, angered by this barbarity, Quetzalcoatl halted the execution. The priest who performed the sacrifice shouted angrily and the sky turned gray with clouds that heralded a major storm with lightning and thunder.
Quetzalcoatl calmed them and assured them that while he was in the city, Tollan would flourish like no other. He then raised his hands to the sky and the winds began to blow, clearing away the clouds. From that moment on, men wanted to worship him as a deity, but he rejected any kind of luxury and invited to them live with humility and to learn with purity of soul.
From then on, Tollan grew and prospered. The god in human form taught them to cultivate corn seeds, to work with jade, gold and obsidian, how to dye cotton, the art of astronomy, he enriched their writing, promoted the worship of the gods and forbade human sacrifices, teaching them self-sacrifice by pricking themselves with maguey thorns instead.
He created an order of maidens dedicated to the cleaning and maintenance of the temples. In short, the city became a grand, beautiful and sacred city.
But Quetzalcoatl’s brother, the god Tezcatlipoca, was not happy with his relative’s performance, so he devised an evil plan to destroy his image. One day, Tezcatlipoca disguised himself as an old man and brought a gift to Quetzalcoatl, who received it with great joy and humility, realizing that it was a maguey that brought forth a delicious liquid.
However, what Quetzalcoatl didn’t know was that the delicious liquid was “octli” or “pulque”, an intoxicating drink which had yet to be discovered.
Quetzalcoatl drank it with pleasure; he drank and sang like never before. He was so ecstatic that, being filled with carnal desires, he took as his woman Quetzalpetatl, a priestess belonging to his cult, thus breaking his celibacy.
The next morning he felt utterly unclean and made the hardest decision of his life, for he was no longer worthy to lead Tollan. He headed for the sea, built a boat out of snakes and sailed toward the setting sun, promising the Toltecs to return to Tollan in the year “Ce Acatl” to avenge for the betrayal. Coincidentally, that same pre-Hispanic year was the year 1519 AD, the year when the first Spaniards arrived on the very coast by which Quetzalcoatl disappeared.
On the other hand, according to some historians, the representations of Quetzalcoatl depict him as a tall and bearded white male. That’s why it is assured that this notable personage may have been, in fact, genuine: a Viking who reached the shores of the Gulf of Mexico to later become the god of the Toltecs, because of all the new knowledge that he instilled.
Even more puzzling is the fact that all cultures described him similarly, with only minor variations. Quetzalcoatl is the main protagonist of many of the major Mesoamerican myths and legends that continue to intrigue us.
3. Mythic Imprinting & Re-Contextualization of the Artifact
Consider the following tools or catalysts as you transform the Artifact into a new myth:
- Tree of Life Mural
- Quetzalcoatl’s Journey
- Symbols and Analogies and Metaphors
- Other Stories, Paintings, Poems, & Songs
- Initiation, Journey and the Hero (Joseph Campbell)
- Nature Elements: Wind, fire, water, ice, etc.
- Permaculture and Transition Principals and Values
- Global Warming and Agri-DNA Profiteering
4. Write the New Myth
Take event week to read the data and reflect, scribble and draft your vision for the Tree of Life Mural in mythic re-birth. Consider: Characters, Plot / Subplot, Themes, Conflicts, Outcomes, Values & Morals.
5. The Completed New Myth & Ritual Experience is Shared with the Community
Send Submissions to Willi: firstname.lastname@example.org
New Myth #46 will be published with your additional ideas and art at Planetshifter.com Magazine & affiliates
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Original White Board for Event by Willi
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Hi Jessica, Alek and Patrick –
That mural just begs for many interpretations. I shall follow the first idea that has come to me and see how it develops.
The mural itself is located under a highway. What is a highway? It is a symbol by itself. It allows people to travel fast. Speed is an important component of modern life. People are nowadays habituated to live, move, and communicate fast. Fast interaction can be efficient, but it can also be superficial. Speed, depending how you are using it, can allow you to see opportunities and get information or to smash your vehicle beyond recognizability. There is something going on under the surface. There is a mural on concrete. Concrete is a strong material and supports the road (under specific circumstances it would be the reason for the road to fall down) by which people are being driven to their destinations. Many of them are unaware what is going on under the surface. They rarely let collective consciousness (a sea from which their individual consciousness with its daily preoccupations has emerged as an island) interrupt them. They take that road and that car for granted. Most of them were born in the most dynamic century ever. They shall live in the most confusing century ever. Will they look around and observe that road and that life from a different angle? Will they let habits, the media, and herd mentality to do the thinking? Traffic and life have their rules. When is the time to question the rules if you (you are even forced to do so) move so fast? What would happen if you disobeyed the rules? Death or rebirth? What will happen if you obey the rules?
Watch the movie The Fountain.
Aleksandar Malečić, Pančevo, Serbia
Tree of Life Myth
The tree from which all life flows is built upon the bones of the dead. In another time they wandered freely through both worlds, swimming and dancing in cool water, seamlessly slipping into womb-water, into the heat of the sun, the heat of imagination. Their world burned with the reality of shadows. Until one day, falling from the sun, the clouds, a single feather. Permanent structures began to crop up, one by one, like corn stalks rising in the still night. Shadows overtook them by the stream. A woman prayed with her child in her arms. They are supported by the bones of the dead. In the still night the rushing wind is heard beneath the hard hooves of the fire-chariots’ mounts. Inside, they burn with gasoline. The hands of the mother clutch her child. Above, below, the roar. How unlike a stream it is, how unlike water over rock. They paint on green for the grass, blue for the water. In the early morning it is almost reverent, the hushing of the rushed slows at Venus’s hour. They build their temples below ground, remembering the face of the mother, the dance beneath the cool shade of the trees.
In the 1880s, the Russian mystic Helena P. Blavatsky declared that the Christ would return to Earth around 1975; moreover, she proposed that he would be born along the Pacific Coast, somewhere between San Diego and San Jose. At the first Parliament of World’s Religions at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, this was an attractive idea, and her disciples were offered $200-million cash to build a city in expectation of the event. The first base established to promote the teaching was in Point Loma. Eventually the group entered into negotiations for 25-million coastal acres and the commercial proceeds from the mineral rights were designated to a Trust Fund intended as a gift for the Messiah at his advent. The Plan was disrupted, however, in decades of war, and all evidence of this history was covered-up and the Treasure stolen. The group’s headquarters was burned down in the 1940s, and their various outposts were infilitrated and ruined by saboteurs.
But the native people still feel the mystical impulse that inspired HPB and her disciples, even after the land was overrun by concrete ribbons and Range Rovers. We see, for example, the “Tree of Life” mural on the freeway pylon. It is a cross; but instead of the sacrifice of the Christ, we see a birth and the mystery of Reincarnation; a womb is surrounded by the ancestors in their priestly robes, with their “secret-scrolls” in-hand, along the left, representing the past being reborn; we see the children of today along the right, who will certainly die but are themselves the living embodiment of their great-grandparents’ visions and dreams; between a man and woman, in the center, is the womb of the alchemical mysterium coniunctionis, below the great medicine wheel that represents all people. The crown of the mural is a swastika of good fortune, the reverse of the symbol for the nationalist-socialist agenda that included a world of Volkswagons; ironically, just above the mandala is the roaring sound of traffic overhead, a not-so-subtle victory of those who used the blood of Mother Earth to set us in motion on a go-cart track elevated above the natural life depicted surrounding the tree: a mother nursing a baby at an ever-flowing river, two children at-play, and a man and wife in the nude and free.
Then Round 2
Wow–I really like the overlap between the observations.
I like Alek’s focus on the highway, and his emphasizing the gross conforming stupidity of the unquestioning herd who takes surface appearance as the limit of awareness.
I like Jessica’s idea of life out of death, and again, the irony of a scene of nature hiding below the roar of the fire-eating chariots, and the unnatural noise in place of the quiet sounds of the stream.
Both of these themes can be found in my historical framing and close reading of the “cave painting” of the Primitive Tribe of the Future.
I like how the theme of “mindlessness” and “ignorance” is present in all three. Speed is the virtue here; motion confused as action; like tumbleweed in a windstorm: all branches, no roots.
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Land Sky River Stars. New Myth #46
by Willi Paul, NewMythologist.com
The Two Peak Tribe migrated to the northern range of the Oregon coastal mountains from Salt Lake City some 23 years ago, initially bound together as a Permaculture Guild. Tomu is a former ARMY grunt from South Chicago was squatting on the land adjunct to the river canyon when the missionaries showed up.
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Tomu needs a way over to the sunny side of the river canyon. The Tribe’s current shady side is alongside a splashy waterfall and on top of a soil-poor land fertile enough to grow a food forest – and new stories for his people. 40 precarious feet to the next phase of their lives without a ladder or a leap of permie faith.
One night, Tomu dreams of a great black eagle who offers to help the Tribe cross the divide if he can raise his chicks in safety on the warmer mountainside. Eagle tells the Tribal children to gather hair and dried grasses so a strong twine can be spun.
Then Tomu wakes up!
He doesn’t know if the master bird is coming in real life but he starts in on the hybrid rope bridge just in earnest.
The shady side of their half of the twin mountains was never warm to the Tribe. The shadow of its sister peak kept their village cool with a sparse afternoon sun. Only a limited number of crops grow. Think “year round partial eclipse”; many hugs but few fruits or raps:
A one eyed-patch mythology?
The river is roaring or trickling depending on the season. The Tribe sources fish and water at the falls, bathing and meditating.
Building such a connection between old land and the new world brings danger and rewards. A young woman, a runner with long black hair and toned muscles named Zollum earned the right to throw the rock with the twine over the chasm attached to a small team of Tribe builders waiting to tie the two lands together as vision for the outpost and bi-directional barter path requires.
The tribe engineered a cabin built of young trees, lashed tight by strong reeds that grow along the river banks on the beams in the middle of the canyon. Something like the open carriage that Kings traveled in with long handles in ancient times. A grail on poles, graced by mist; a security outpost passing permaculture code between the dark and light. Fishing without the bears is a real joy and remains of the catch enhance their compost.
Tribefolk now come from many regions to chart the stars and Moon cycle from the roof portal, a river drenched observatory cooed by the rushing sounds of the water below and ancient wind through the sparkling canyon.
Tomu and the Tribal Council eventually decided to integrate gates at both ends of the sky river outpost. The “passage barter” requested brought much needed goods and services to the Tribe and word of the friendly passage spread throughout the territory. Like the defunct Panama Canal in the old world, the observation deck and bridge brought much needed security to the mountains. And if hostiles come their way, they have the handy option to cut the bridge down quickly to prevent their advance.
The tribal dream for many, many years – for both elders and their children – was ample sun and soil for a food forest. Landing on the other side of their sister mountain brought this yearning into a beginning.
The sign at the Food Forest Deer gate says:
Night Shade – Sun Shine
Water Capture – Release
Plant Diversity – System Security
Education – Enchantment