September 22, 1997. As the parrot screams across the arroyo and I sit in early sunshine, my daughter is (angrily) asking for me to buy her more things as an A.M. greeting, and two hummingbirds fight over the late summer sugar dregs. Even though it's open season on Mom, I am determinedly pulling a card, still humming to myself, " ... give me guidance, O Lord, I need that now" ... and then, so deftly, pull "Eros", Elemental #10 ... and can only stare at this old image of a fully opened orchid, magenta and detailed, veined and spotted, eclipsing scattered window-light, blurred green all around, clitoral center partially hooded.
This particular lady's slipper lived behind glass in the Conservatory, that giant confection in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. We got married in a little grove near there. The only orchids I had ever seen before that hothouse collection were the monstrous, frilly violet mutants beribboned for Mother's Day corsages at Western Hills Methodist Church. I had come all the way from West Texas to San Francisco to be with a man, and had encountered this completely exotic place, redundantly filled with imported flora. The park had prehistoric tree ferns, a fuchsia garden, a rhododendron forest, a playground full of variegated children, and bus-loads of multilingual tourists. And, there was the Conservatory's bank of bromeliads and orchids. Luscious garden state! With senses dazzled and dewy from months of fog, I was ready for love. It was the place to be courted, to mate, and to come of age.
Ironic to pull this card, this image from that time, since today I am dully aware that my libido has been way down, been so elusive for weeks. So much work, so many details, so much attention on achieving, finishing, preparing, insuring, installing, moving in - right up until Sleep time. So many things. We are the married team - pulling together mightily in the same direction. There has been no true space, or even any context for the team to turn and look at each other lately (don't they put blinders on a team of horses to direct them? Keep distractions away?).
Well, the team is unhitched now since Labor Day and school's starting. After too long obsessively working and moving into the new household right up until we would fall into bed, George has declared the parental unit "off-duty" at eight-thirty P.M. We make rounds, and then retire, together. Summer was over yesterday: for Equinox a couple of hard rain storms chilled the Air. We live on the mountainside now, and there's an urgency to enjoy, juice the last fruit, appreciate, walk in it, harvest everything, love the lovely times, and love up the land before the cold and snow force us inside.
Last night I dreamed I was Kissing Robert Mitchum. It was actually George; I knew I was really married, but it was Robert Mitchum in the kiss, and so I was married to a handsome movie star ( that voice!) I was that desirable, his amore`. And he (George) was that special. When I tried to tell my husband about these dream layers, how he, George, is so beautiful that I used this image to somehow applaud myself / us, his comment was, "Oh, yeah, you had to get Robert Mitchum to play me ..."

Eros - erotic power - driving towards satisfaction.
Masturbation - sex - procreating - loving.
The Elemental that comes to a completion, a break in the action.

Eros today: Calling the card now, for me - it is the force to cultivate, to watch for. How to participate? How ritualize? How celebrate? Recognize its presence! Breathe. Awaken slowly, but surely. Desire to arouse. Dress up!

I grew up reading Greek and Norse mythology, and received imprints for erotic archetype from both. In Norse tradition, legend tells of Freya, the Love Goddess, the "Giving One", who gave a night of erotic pleasure to each of the four dwarves who crafted for Her the magical golden necklace, Brisingamen. (Love inspires devoted craftsmanship and creativity). She embodies the Spirits of Love, Beauty, prophecy, magical sexual pleasure, and abundance in the land. To Her followers She teaches sex magic: the ability to give love in order to acquire magical transformative power. Her favors could not be commanded; Her love was always freely given.
From the Greeks, we see Eros originally being born of the immortal, Chaos. Later tradition tells of His birth from Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty at the same instant of Her own birth. Eros, thus, is that Spirit of generative creativity. Eros is the personification of imagination - bringing something into being, especially in the Creation of imagery. As Her child, Eros acts as messenger for Aphrodite. That is, generative creativity is the messenger of Beauty. With his magical arrows, Eros is executive in nature. In the old myth of Eros and Psyche we have a classic plot of romantic love, as well as a referent for the current language of psycho-analytic thought.
Psyche, a beautiful virginal princess was to be sacrificed to ensure the return of fertility to the drought-stricken land. But instead of the promised dragon as agent of her destruction, comes Eros, who accidentally shoots Himself in the foot with one of His own Love arrows. (A firm tenet of Freudian and Jungian cosmology is: "There are no accidents." Or as we say in fairy tales, "As it happened, ... as it was meant to happen!") Falling in love, the victim of His own nature, He has Psyche (the mind) swept away by the warm West Wind, to a magical castle, where invisible servants tend her, and she is visited by her new husband only in the dark of night.
Eros sweeps you away. And Love leaves you in darkness and makes you blind. And Eros, the almost demonic messenger, is a sort of monster - linking gods and humans, and humans and the Beast (Nature). As in a later incarnation of this story, Beauty and the Beast, Psyche, coached by her jealous sisters, yields to the temptation to peek at her husband. Her betrayal causes the loss of everything magical and beautiful - she is abandoned to the desert.
Psyche attempts suicide when she awakens to the reality of her betrayal of Love. When psyche / mind becomes divorced from the life force of Eros, the mind inevitably encounters despair. Eros is a close relative to the three Furies. They pursue and torture one for perversions (betrayal) of Eros with guilt and shame. When Eros is driven to the ground, (he is winged) when that Elemental force is repressed in our psyches, we see extreme weirdness in the individual, in families, and in society.
Hysteria is a symptom that manifests as a "cut-off" of the senses in response to "unacceptable" feelings or urges. The person is then curiously blasé about the resultant blindness or paralysis, since it grants such relief of inner conflict. When religion teaches denial of the erotic, or demands rigid monogamy, or inculcates basic body shame, then the repression of natural force leads to acting-out. Unacceptable fantasy which has no means of sublimation becomes unconscious Shadow. The Shadow splits off, behavior erupts into compulsion and perversion, and manipulation, abuse, and violence become the faces of the new Furies. When a natural Element itself is labeled evil or perverse, and its expression forbidden, whole economies arise, selling nature corrupt and second hand. Eros is driven to ground, sold into slavery and hawked under blank cover. Repressed elements of Eros haunt huge areas of our collective's Shadow, supporting the therapy industry and allowing an overgrown and dissociated humanity to destroy the land matrix of its birth and life.

"Speed Kills!" - definitely, but
Shame is Death - death by strangulation of Eros.

Poor Psyche! There was a happy ending, however. (Girl meets Boy, Girl loses Boy, Girl does Penance and gets both Redemption and Boy back!) Psyche begs Aphrodite for forgiveness and is set several impossible tasks. Mind alone could not separate a huge pile of seeds, but there are always allies. As she Sleeps, the ants come and separate the pile of seeds for her. (As we Sleep, we listen to the wisdom of instinct and intuition, that ant-like, bring order from confusion, Eros from Chaos. The creativity of Eros seeps into reality from the wisdom of dreams.) Tasks (normal development, or therapy) completed, Eros and Psyche are reunited in a healthy, lively balance.

When one pulls this card: Eros is an Elemental that humans have anthropomorphosed into a mere cultural experience. This archetype has been over-defined. Narrowly, and fearfully defined. Oversimplified, denied, and in the denial of ignorance, legislated into the underground of the unconscious, and there, perverted into darkest thanatos. Ex.: We have obsessive instruction of dental hygiene in America, but little sex education from professional Teachers. When one pulls this card, one is drawn to re-experience the burgeoning of the life force. One is drawn to wake up to the joy of life on Earth, and/or the participation / witnessing of the life of the people, or the life of the biosphere. If you are not thriving, you may need to experience the healing of pure Eros from some earlier developmental stage. Was Eros thwarted in your babyhood, or childhood? How was that life force cultivated through adolescence? How do you manage to celebrate it in others? What happens as we age?

Somewhere in the middle of my Jezebel phase, I made a double self-portrait. I wanted to experience and portray the corruption of the archetype of the holy sex worker. Side by side, separated by but a thin strip of tiny images of Goddess avatars, are the historical Jezebel (the Phoenician princess, Priestess of Astarte) and the bleached-blond tart Jezebel we think of today. The two portraits are surrounded by collaged markers of context: the Priestess is embedded in trees and ferns in the sacred grove, and the contemporary "fallen woman" sits in front of an old juke joint, weed in hand, encompassed by piles of slash and clear-cut mountain slopes. Jezebel as she was, and as we have come to see her today. (original title: The Corruption of the Jezebel Spirit)
I made photographs of myself in both of these aspects on the same day. The Priestess came first, a real stretch. I couldn't find much data on Phoenician ceremonial garb, and so settled on a Cretan-like ensemble of pleated sheer skirt, with one breast bared. I knew that I wanted some sacred grove imagery in there somewhere, but that she would actually be standing in the desert. The structure of having a spiritual connection to desert and oasis helped me orient some to the Persona, but I was still standing around in a gaudy costume in my living room, coaching my husband in operating the camera. There were a few shamanic moments of walking both worlds of embodying the Priestess while directing the shoot, but it was difficult to get THERE. So in the end, the posture finally used was a shot that George had prompted: the Priestess extending an inviting hand to the man who regards her. I just couldn't portray the embodiment of the sexual generosity of the temple woman all by myself. It took some sort of interaction between me and my man to evoke that reality, that pose, that image.
On the other hand, being the tart was so easy. Playing the bad girl was such fun! She is (sadly) so much more accessible. George had a great blonde wig, (worthy of Dolly Parton) and I had plenty of black lace, and generations of Texas voices to tell me what 'trashy' really looks like. I had an antique chair to slouch around on, and a little hand-rolled cigarette. I needed no coaching. At the end of this most enjoyable shoot, I sighed and wondered aloud, "Why is it so much fun to be BAD?" And was immediately able to answer myself with, "it is not bad, it is all good."
All forms of love are good. Even in the moneyed transactions of sex far from the temple, there is a spark of healing generosity, and the potential for the presence of the Goddess. It may look bad, we may even try to be bad, but the basic generative life force, the urge for connection between people is not evil: it is Elemental, it just is. In the double portrait, the Jezebel glows with a red and gold aura. There is a faint, but distinct iridescent halo around the hooker, too.

Jezebel Prayer

Jezebel, Princess of Phoenicia, wife of Ahab
Worships Astarte, the most ancient and widely revered divinity
in human history .
Astarte, the Goddess of Creation and Destruction.
In Babylon she is Ishtar. In India, Kali, in Greece, Demeter.
Osara! Freya! Isis! Nut!
When Jezebel built shrines to Astarte in Israel,
Yahweh was but newly Named.
While Jezebel planted sacred groves of trees,
The patriarchs were learning the sterner joys of deforestation.

Jezebel, Princess of Phoenicia - consort of King Ahab, - Queen?
Her devotion to the Goddess was contagious and her parties more fun!
This unlooked for competition did weaken the Yahweh cult.
The priests slandered her.
The so-called holy men framed her, and planned an assassination.
(they already had the goods on Ahab ...)

Oh, Jezebel, she saw it coming.
She did - she knew her time was passing.
She said, "Come On, Mother-killers!"
She put kohl about her eyes, put on her crown, her fine girdle.
Pomegranate-stained her lips and nipples.
Went out in such style that now
The Baptist men preachers call her harlot, whore, painted hussy,
and, Trash.
Now the manliest of men cut down the oldest of trees.
Now the Goddess, waits in our dreams, waits in the land,
For the song of Jezebel, will be sung again.

Eros, as irresistible as Time. Jostling through crowded order to recombine Elements in the wake of a fitful power. If the universe is minded, if there is such a thing as the collective unconscious, then it is here that destiny erupts into form. Concentrating power from the interplay of opposites: growing diversity from the inorganic to the organic, like the roots of a Siberian elm fracturing asphalt. How and why does mating really happen? Why any two people in particular? Why so many babies from such unconscious types? Why so much divorce? Why infertility among the intelligentsia? How new species? Is evolution real? How soul-mates? Where does personal 'chemistry', (and babies) really come from? Elemental Eros is a sort of recognition, a force both of biology and the unconscious. Evolutionary pressure.

Eros: Elemental creativity that employs some sort of minded specificity.
Natural selection. Speciation. Good breeding!
Recognition - willy nilly recombinant genetics.
Eros: Mingles the sexes, and also parts of the world, keeping planets in orbit and seasons in cycle.

March 3, 1998 Storm-riding Dream. There was an Edward Abbey type guy living on some conservancy land - a wilderness preserve - right where it bordered some other land being clear cut, or poisoned or some other sorry behavior. He was a guardian out on the edge. Some bad meanies had burned him out once already - I saw some TV-looking flashes of the proceedings of a hearing he had ... I went to speak with him, and found him living in this huge vehicle cobbled together of ancient truck parts.
I was walking with another man I knew in that preserve, and the wind came up suddenly. I saw a big tornado coming, and we ran for a low spot (back by that 'truck'), while we felt the storm sucking at our backs. Just as we were almost There (I heard and felt its approach before seeing it, and could also clearly see that dark vortex cloud), I was picked up, blown around, and sort of deposited down with the Mad Max-ed guardian-truck-owner ... we 'fell' immediately into love, and the other man was left ruefully acknowledging the caprice of his loss.

Eros is a tornado, the storm, the unexpected force of desire, the confusing chance of landing in some place, with some other ... with a resultant difference ...

© Requa Tolbert, 2011
Eros - The Tenth Elemental