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An Intersecting of Powers

In the Light of the Four Directions Pendant Front

Today is All Souls’ here, a day for honor and remembrance. For some, it remains a day of mourning, grief still fresh and raw; for others, one of celebration, in a manner of speaking — after all, in worlds beyond this one, ancestors and loved ones come together again in the traditional way, free of pain and personal sorrow.

In this place, the church figures prominently, and so does its iconography. Part of it is what gets superimposed upon a culture in a colonial society; part of it is adoption as adaptation, both an accepting of power in other forms and an exercise of it that ensures survival. And so the church where lives are baptized and married and celebrated and mourned are topped with crosses and hung with bells, and those entering its nave on this day to mark the memories of loved ones now walked on will do so beneath the sign of the cross, and by tolling the great bell.

But in the traditional way, a cross is not a crucifix, but something more elemental.

A cross is an intersecting of powers, a sign of the Four Sacred Directions.

In cultures intimately bound and immanently braided with place, with earth and sky, air and water, existence cannot be divorced from location, nor vice versa. The earth, the land, our place upon and within it: These are all how we locate ourselves, our identities, our places within culture and cosmos, community and clan. In such a way of being, of knowing, the Four Directions (and, in some instances, their ordinal points), are the boundaries of our universe. They, and the spirits who guard and inhabit them, perform the functions of lodestone and lodestar, finding our center and charting our path around it.

And so on this day, it seems fitting that one of Wings’s rare crosses, one that itself is wrought in a design only slightly removed from the uniformly-spoked pattern representing the Four Directions, should assume its place as today’s featured work. As with so much of our relatively modern iconography, it both straddles and fuses old and new, traditional and extracultural motifs. Its south spoke evokes the imagery beneath which today’s worshippers, mourners and celebrants alike, will perform their cultural obligations . . . and simultaneously hints at the more egalitarian, more elemental form it assumes in our old ways. From its description in the Pendants Gallery here on the site:

In the Light of the Four Directions Pendant

In Native cultures, the cross is traditionally a symbol of the Four Sacred Directions, one that has been adopted and adapted in the face of invasion and colonization in ways that secure the future even as they honor the past. Wings reconceives the traditional Southwestern-style Native cross with this big bold pendant. Hand-cut of heavy fourteen-gauge sterling silver, the cross bears an inner edgeline scored freehand. At the center of the cross lies a square bezel-set cabochon of teal green turquoise webbed with a delicate inky black matrix aswirl beneath floating bits of translucent shimmering pale shades that hint at opalescence. The stone serves as the center of a hand-stamped Guiding Star, each of its own long, pointed spokes hand-scored on the individual spokes of the cross itself. The entire cross is edged in hand-stamped “rays,” flowing line patterns that open like a flower, or like the rays of a polar star. The pendant hangs from a pair of bails: the first is simple open wire to permit suspension from the larger bail. The second bail is hand-wrought of heavy silver, wide enough at the center to accommodate sizeable beads and lightly tapered at the conjoined ends, hand-stamped with matched thunderhead symbols that form the sacred space whose boundaries point to cardinal and ordinal points. On the reverse, Wings echoes the star motif on the front with a pair of nested stars: The inner one, within a larger diamond-shaped Eye of Spirit, holds his hallmark, while simultaneously serving as the center of a four-pointed polar star incorporating the same ray pattern as the one on the cross’s front. The entire pendant, including both bails, hangs 3-13/16″ long; the larger bail is 5/8″ long; excluding the bails, the cross is 3″ long by 2-7/8″ wide; the turquoise cabochon is 1/2″ high by 1/2″ wide (all dimensions approximate). Other views shown at the link.

Sterling silver; teal-green turquoise (most likely Royston)
$1,250 + shipping, handling, and insurance

And this is a work that, much like the varied concepts it represents, is spectacular in its simplicity of design, even as it remains stunningly complex in symbolism. It is, in that regard, much like our cultures themselves:  capable of adapting to the new as needed, of incorporating it into a complex matrix of powers and principles that heed the pressures of modernity while preserving tradition . . . and yet, so old as to exist somewhere beyond time itself.

So it is with the cross, an image that, for some two thousand years, a colonial power has promulgated as a symbol simultaneously of sorrow and salvation; an image that, in our far older ways, need no act of humanity, or of inhumanity, as an animating spirit, because it is animating spirits of the most elemental sort.

And on this day, for us, it will be a reminder: On a day when we remember and honor those who have walked on, we know that like us, they do so in the light and within the embrace of the Four Sacred Directions.

~ Aji

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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