“No tree… can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.” Carl Gustav Jung
Earth is the domain of heaven and hell. Hell is the brutal realm of animal consciousness where all life resides in ever-changing conflict and inter-dependency. Axis Mundi connects hell and heaven. It is a path only man can traverse. Heaven is the light from which everything springs; it is eternal, where everything is one and man is one with everything. However, to exist, our lives are conditioned on having roots in hell.
This shaman figure, made of bone, is depicted wearing a hat with seven heads, presumably representing ancestors, historically important clan members or wise men. The heads are the shaman’s helper spirits or guides in the world underpinning the world of the living; the world before it’s tangible to our senses. The spirit helpers provide the shaman with multiple perspectives which is the essence of wisdom, the stock-in-trade of shamans. The triangular shaped head, pointing down and perfectly balanced on the torso, implies an open mind with no predilections. The figure has a disproportionally large head (40% of its entire body while man naturally is 14%), implying that, unlike others who use their physical body when working, the head plays an outsized role in the shaman’s work.
Moreover, the figure is sexless as, unlike most work in tribal societies which is exclusively the domain of one sex or the other, a shaman can be male or female. As well, without sexual identity, the shaman’s perspective is unbiased, nondual.
Sunset, August 22, 2020, Kaizouji Temple, Kyoto, Japan.
Before midnight, August 1st, 2020, Awaji Island, Japan.
Awaji was the first of a group of islands born from Izanagi, a creator deity in Japanese mythology.
This surreal figure (wood and pigment, 21 cm) is from the Lega tribe of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is called “Sakimatwematwe” or “Mr. Many Heads who has seen an elephant on the other side of the river.” As an aphorism, to see the greatest animal in the jungle (which is not easily seen as it is on the other side of the river) requires wisdom, fairness and omniscience, characteristics of someone who can view things from the different perspectives of many heads.
This object is in the Tomkins Collection. The collection can be viewed at tomkinscollection.org.
Three years ago I was in LA in a shop that sells clothing and accessories. There I found the pendant in the photo above. Store manager said he had found it at a flea market and that it was a “Navajo star.” While I’m not a jewellery kind of guy, the pendant was sufficiently engaging that I purchased it. Researching after, I couldn’t find a Navajo star like it or another similar star. But that was of no matter as I liked the pendant as it was, regardless of any associations or stories that often accompany artworks. In time the pendant revealed itself as a symbol of pantheism, the view that everything is a manifestation of God.
The pendant depicts two stars with a common center. The shorter star ends in points and the longer one ends in heads. The shorter star represents energy/light. The longer star represents matter. Energy and matter have a common center as they are equivalent (E=M*C*C). The common center is God; hence, a pantheist pendant
The heads at the endpoints of the longer star represent consciousness; five heads, five senses. The longer star also appears like a “spread eagle” cheerleader pose, a celebratory pose.
When we realize we are one with everything and one with God, we experience the world via our senses, not our mind. That’s something about which to celebrate.
I’ve made 25 copies of the pendant and give them out to friends who would wear them. Three years later, I still have 15. I suspect none would be left had I offered them for sale.