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An Indigenous Butterfly Effect

Mathematicians and physicists of certain stripes love chaos theory; so do certain types of social scientists. Oversimplified, it means that processes that appear random actually have an underlying structure, albeit a chaotic one. It’s made the leap from the various sciences now to faddish business and human resources approaches, among other things.

Most of the latter are so much hooey, attempts either to enforce certain strictures of “good behavior” on subordinates or to justify bad behavior by those in authority. But there’s one subset of chaos theory that such folks are fond of citing that, despite the fact that it does not function as they misinterpret, misapply, and misuse it, does indeed go far to explaining humanity’s collective current state.

They call it the Butterfly Effect, the notion that a butterfly moving its wings on one side of the world can effect, even alter, otherwise utterly unrelated conditions (e.g., such as weather) elsewhere on the planet.

It’s actually not farfetched, nor even especially radical. To Indigenous peoples, it’s simple common sense: That which we do today affects the earth, which in turn creates a ripple effect across the globe, and forward across time, as well. It’s why we speak in terms of life as a sacred hoop, of existence as measured by the seventh generation.

And this theory, in practice, explains much about why our world is in such a perilous state.

Here, we see Indigenous butterfly effects writ small and personal, too. We are accustomed to asking how actions affect our communities and families, and the natural world around us, too. But now, we see it in very real time, with the very embodiment of the spirits who have guided the peoples of these larger lands since the time before time: the messengers, one of whom is the Butterfly Maiden.

Today’s featured work is the very embodiment of her, as well. From its description in the Necklaces Gallery here on the site:

Butterfly Maiden Necklace

The Butterfly Maiden holds the light in her wings. In these ever-shorter days and lengthening dark, Wings summons her shape and gifts into being with this powerfully inspirited necklace. The pendant is cut freehand of solid sterling silver, forming the outline of her body wrought in stones arrayed to the Four Sacred Directions. Her body is an oval of glossy, liquid onyx; her wings, a pair of matched and angled cabochons of richly banded simbircite, glowing with the orange fire of the sun; her face is hawk’s eye, bold midnight blue banded with brilliantly chatoyant gold. Each cabochon is set into a scalloped bezel trimmed with twisted silver; a tiny stamped butterfly flutters over her own heart. Atop the Maiden is a broad, bold bail of sterling silver hand-stamped in a repeating pattern of thunderhead symbols laid base to base to point to the Sacred Directions. The pendant hangs from a cascade of highly polished sardonyx barrel beads, speckled and banded in shades of black and white, amber and copper, interspersed with pairs of small round sterling silver beads, all strung over sturdy and shimmering sterling silver chain. The center bead is flanked by a pair of larger, hand-made and hand-stamped silver beads, and four small round beads lead toward the findings at either end of the strand. The pendant is 3-7/8″ long, including the bail, by 2-1/16″ across at the widest point; the bail itself is 11/16″ long by 5/8″ across; onyx cabochon is 1-1/2″ long by 1-3/16″ across at the widest point; simbircite cabochons are 1-1/4″ across by 1-1/16″ high at the ends; hawk’s eye cabochon is 1-1/16″ across; bead strand is 20″ long (dimensions approximate). Close-up of pendant shown below. Designed by Aji; created by Wings.

Sterling silver; onyx; simbircite; hawk’s eye; sardonyx
$3,500 + shipping, handling, and insurance

Here she is robed in the shades of the monarch, but her relations, like their counterparts in this world, wear dresses and shawls of every conceivable color. Already this season we have had the orange and black and white of the monarch and the painted lady, and perhaps a viceroy, too. We have been granted repeated visitations by the Western tiger swallowtail, her fringed shawl pale yellow edged with black and blue and the tiniest bit of red, and by her opposite, the black tiger swallowtail in a black shirt beribboned with yellow and blue. Only yesterday, a mourning cloak whirled around my face, thence to land on a red willow next to me, her wine-colored wings like velvet edged with ivory lace and beads of lapis and jet.

And a few days ago, there was perhaps the clearest example of an Indigenous butterfly effect in action, and a colonial one too, a visitor from southeast Asia, perhaps driven by climate change far, far off-course: an autumn leaf butterfly — her shawl the shades of the monarch, her underskirts the color of a dried maple leaf, finding refuge in the red willows one moment, gone utterly the next.

I like to think that Wings’s version of the Butterfly Maiden represents her, too: a messenger, a teacher, of the lesson that our actions have consequences far beyond what is given to us to see — indeed, the very instantiation of the Butterfly Effect.

Her arrival was a message, as is that of those more usually here. Their spirits remind us to heed the oldest of lessons.

~ Aji








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