As well as the Ottawa area code, 613 is the average number of seeds in a ripe pomegranate, corresponding with the number of mitzvoth (commandments) in the Jewish torah. Amongst some poets, Ottawa spoken word artists in particular, it is common knowledge that King David had his crown fashioned after the plume at the top of the pomegranate fruit.
The connection between the pomegranate and kings is deep. In the final episode of a recent BBC documentary series, Dr Francesca Starakopoulou re-explores the Garden of Eden as a literal archetype, pointing to Adam not as a symbol of the everyman, but as a king. In particular she looks to the story of King Mari, who founded the city of Mari, a Sumerian and Amorite city in present day Syria. Its first golden age was around 2900BC, when it was one of the largest and most important cities in the region.
For the ancient world the understanding of the garden was not the wild of pre-civilization, but a cosmically symmetrical and carefully architected sacred space. The architect, or gardener, was closest to God, and in the Eden story actually represents God embedded within creation, just as kings represented hierarchical liaisons with a patriarchal deity.
Of course, a poet or satirist might ask, why is a king not an everyman and an everyman not a king?
After organizing the Pomegranate Poetry Showcase on Easter Sunday I experienced a torrent of chaos in my life, manifested as hefty fines, home repairs, social strains, and an opportunity to leave my job to be more in integrity with how I would like to be working and living. All of this happened in the span of a few days, none of them planned, and each building on the other without any sense of security or grounding. Beyond a story about me, I’ve seen the reflection in dozens of people around me that there have similar moments over the past week.
In many ways it resembles chaos, a total loss of shape or control. It reminds me of my exploration of one of Aleister Crowley’s rituals in which he banished chaos from his house. Of course, the house or temple is the body, and so is the Tree of Life from Kaballah. Daath is the void, in which the magician confronts choronzon (chaos) on the way to the Kether, the godhead. On the body it corresponds with the throat chakra, between the heart and the crown. It is so interesting that is after a spoken word showcase called pomegranate, a symbol of reaching for a personal connection to divinity, that the chaos transpired.
Last night, at a men’s group that I’m a part of, a friend of mine shared a chapter from a book called Healing the Wounded King: Soul Work and the Quest for the Grail by John Matthews.
The Arthurian mythos of the Holy Grail is a quest to retrieve the androgyny of the spirit. At what point did a king’s accomplishment become disconnected from the godhead and from the architecture of the cosmic garden? The medicine for the wounded king is to do the shamanic work, to become re-rooted to the Earth. In the Arthurian court it was important for the king to become married to the land through a ceremony in which a particular woman was chosen to represent the Earth.
The reflection is a strong one for me, especially with the recent publishing of my book. How many ways have we made the author (note: Arthur/author) the king of artists, and literalized the complexity of congealing that is woven into the page and the aleph of the alphabet.
How many ways have we disconnected ourselves from the source of all inspiration, the channel of the cosmic artist, the creator? Matthews suggests taking a shamanic journey to the underworld of the soul to convene with the women of the well for guidance.
In the aftermath of my chaos I landed on the lawn of my teacher and shaman Kaariina, at her house by the ocean. One of the first things that she gave me was a book called Feather Medicine by Francesca Mason Boring, a native Shoshone woman from Oregon who does ceremonial family constellations. It’s a beautiful gentle way of writing, a style of writing and breathing that is completely intricately woven into the land that the characters are a part of.
For the Shoshone, every family constellation originates with Coyote. The medicine of Coyote is that he always does everything backwards. My friend Stephanie, one of the other students sitting with Kaariina this morning had the suggestion that, since she would be around the house all day she should put her clothes on backwards and tune in with coyote, who can take you backwards to the origination of your lineage.
After we did our work with kings at the men’s group and spoke about the importance of reconnecting with the land and the shamanic teachings I looked over to my friend Coyote, a pipe carrier and lodge keeper who goes by that name. I remembered the story from the morning and looked down to find that I’d unintentionally been wearing my shirt inside out all day.
My friend Coyote told a story about seeing a living coyote approach him while he was on his lawn. It actually knelt over its front legs and stretched out as though it were bowing in front of him and his daughter. He did the same, and showed us that elevation comes through the ability to soften and be humbled.
Continuing to reach for the crown,
Listening to the echoes,
From the women of the well.
Art is “Sacred Garden” by Amanda Sage. Created on a print of the painting “The Emerald Kingdom.”