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Friday Feature: A Spirit World, Too

There are days when the world as it is seems too much: too harsh and hard for mere mortals to navigate.

When those days stretch out into entire seasons? Adaptation doesn’t feel like enough; it feels as though we need magic if we are to make it on this earth so drastically altered.

Magic is not precisely the word we use, of course; there are no wands or wizards here. But our ways encompass far more than the world the dominant culture bounds with its own magical label, “science.” We have always known that whole worlds exist that we cannot see or touch — and that sometimes, we are able to see and touch all the same, despite their lack of existence on this plane.

For us, it could hardly be otherwise; after all, many of our cultures (most? all?) tell of our origins rooted in other worlds and planes. The fact that we no longer inhabit the Underworld, that we no longer live among the stars, does not mean that those worlds have ceased to exist, merely that our own is bounded, for the moment, by this one that we can see and hear, taste and smell and touch. For those cultures who live upon Grandmother Turtle’s back, the world beneath the waters still exists, even if those alive today have never seen it.

And we know, from science, that all of Turtle Island was once underwater, a very different world from the one we inhabit now.

But it’s not merely origins, nor even destinations. It’s also what the dominant culture might call other planes of existence: the worlds of visions and dreams, to say nothing of the worlds of prophecy and futures that might be but are not yet. And in our way, there are those who see into these worlds from this side of the barrier, the seers of visions and dreamers of dreams, those to whom the gift of prophecy is given, who are able to call upon the spirits for clarity in a way that seems, to the rest of us, like magic.

Today’s featured work encompasses both seer and spirits, multiple animating forces and powers in one corporeal form. From its description in the Other Artists:  Sculpture gallery here on the site:

BearHawk Sculpture

In his trademark style, master carver Ned Archuleta (Taos Pueblo) melds together the spirits of a traditional elder and an animal into one mystical piece. Here, it’s the elder and a bear, traditional symbol of medicine and power, rendered in smooth, flowing, silken lines of clay-colored alabaster shot with bits of warm golden-hued streaks in the stone. About six inches in overall length, it sits on a wooden base.

Alabaster on wooden base
$225 + shipping, handling, and insurance
Requires special handling; extra shipping charges apply

In this instance, the relevant spirits do not include Turtle. Perhaps it’s unnecessary, given that she is part of this very land mass, named for her so long ago. This small, compact work holds the spirits of three beings in one: a human elder, the hawk whose name he bears, and the bear with whom he shares corporeal form, at least in part.

What today’s work teaches is what a religious devotion to a colonial, empirical “science” forgets: that not all that exists is empirically knowable at any given moment. It reminds us that there are more forces at work than is given to most of us to perceive. Some, like this elder, have the power not merely of such perception, but of access.

We shall need the help of their kind increasingly now: The world is changing at a rate far faster than our own human abilities to adapt. But this world is a spirit world, too, and the lessons are there if only we remember to seek them.

So is the wisdom to put them to use.

~ Aji








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