I am writing from the Hotel Sovana in Tuscany where Laura Hansen and I are facilitating a 'retreat in motion', a pilgrimage of sort that takes us outwardly to visit Etruscan and medieval sites while we journey within through our SoulCollage(R) cards.
At the opening of our first circle I introduced the group to the Archetype of the Melusina. All the 16 participants (from four countries and various States) were invited to make a card for Her and enter into Her womb aware of the desires and doubts of this moment, asking to be transformed in whatever way we are consciously or unconsciously seeking. Laura had printed the widest possible selection of Melusina images and we were all soon busy giving this ancient figure our individual interpretations by making a card for Her. In this newsletter you can see my latest SoulCollage(R) card for Her and a few other examples that were created last Sunday.
The title of this newsletter may sound like the refrain of a sentimental song, and indeed it does speak about a unique kind of love. I call the Melusina 'mine' (and she can become yours as well) because my love affair with Her spans almost four decades of admiring, painting, sculpting and looking for Her in remote places.
'Melusina' is the name I favor among those used for the bi-tailed Siren whose legends and myths are found across time and space in almost all ancient cultures. What has always puzzled me is her consistent but obscured presence in the carved decorations of ancient European cathedrals and silvan chapels. I have seen how she has been intentionally disfigured or even completely removed from portals and columns, and how she is often described as a medieval representation of a monster if mentioned at all by guides and scholars. She has been dismissed but she has not gone away, her powerful exquisite feminine presence has been only partially silenced by this disregard that seems to be melting away, at least in some circles.
Early Christians carved her likeness above the entrance into their simple ancient chapels, her legs-tails spread widely, the mouth of her vagina inviting us to enter the place of worship as if entering into her womb where we would be reabsorbed and restored to a state of innocence and pure potentiality. There we could be awakened to spiritual life and return to the world with new eyes. As devotees exited after worship they stepped over the chapel's threshold as if they were traveling through the birth again and again. These early Christians were simply applying an ancient widespread symbol to their new religion. In southern Tuscany, where she is still widely present both in stone and in spirit, the Etruscans carved her likeness above the entrance of their monumental tombs where she was receiving the soul of the dead protecting its passage into the richer afterlife.
The disfiguring and the oblivion of the Melusinas were step by step consciously orchestrated as the Christian church, in its desire to define itself as a religion completely different from the ancient cults, abandoned the natural awareness of the feminine role in creation and in transformation, in favor of a patriarchal vision and image of a monotheistic male god.
What I discover over and over in her ancient presence is a quality of love akin to the force that holds the universe together. You may call this force with a different name, more scientific or neutral, and yet you would still refer to the quality that consistently recreates order out of the creative chaos, allowing life to manifest into cohesive harmony rather than disperse in the centrifugal fugue of entropy.
She is Refuge from the chaos we experience in heart and mind with the firm hold she has of her two tails flaying in opposite directions; she is Nurturance and Transformation by virtue of her ability to live simultaneously in all the elemental dimensions, from which she teaches how to receive the sustenance we need accordingly to our essential nature. But most of all she is Mother that births and rebirths, welcoming us in her ctonic womb where the elements are brought to their original separateness to be remixed again in a new formula.
Her body itself is an alchemical cauldron. She breathes the air we breathe and often she sports wings. She is a creature of the primordial waters where she travels freely thanks to the fish part of her body. Her tails, partly siren-like partly snakes hint to her travels in the underworlds of darkness and mystery. She welcomes us in the fire of her belly protected by her earthy womb. She moves freely in all four elements which she contains in her body.
At 5:30am on the morning of the Summer Solstice we will participate in an astro-architecture solar even at the cathedral of Sovana. The sun will enter a pertuge in the absid and its first ray will travel on the walls and columns of the church touching symbolic places and telling us the eternal story of Life exploding into Summer once again.
Upon entering and then exiting we will salute the Melusina who has been gracing the portal of this church since the 9th century AD.
If you are intrigued you will be able to read more about Her on my website and participate in some of the works I am planning next year under her auspices. In the meantime read what you can but do not believe all you read, because she has been vilified and reduced to folklore too often. Times are changing for Her as well.
As I am writing this note stretched on my bed, the windows wide open to welcome the morning sun and the fragrant smells of the garden, two swallows fly in. They circle the room twice chirping cheerfully, seemingly very aware of my presence, and fly out again waving their bifurcated tails.
I share with you their Solstice blessings and send you my best wishes for a fruitful expansive summer,
My Melusina - Council Suit
I am the ancestral Mother, the brewer of the primordial Waters.
I am the Queen of origins.
I breathe into the invisible net that holds the universe together.
I am the keeper of the Fire that burns under the cauldron of all earthly possibilities.
Everything finds its beginnings in my womb. I bless the round and low, the tall and pointed with rebirth.
There is not much published on the Melusine, or bi-caudate Siren. And some of what you will find is inaccurate or seen through culture specific eyes that do not take into account the depth of symbolic meaning contained in her presence. Imagine that early archeologists upon finding her above Etruscan tombs' doorways called her the "winged demon". There is a researcher from the Netherlands who is writing her second book on the Siren. Although she goes beyond the manifestation of the Siren as Melusine, she has done some good research and educated guessing. Her name is Selma Sevenhuijsen (so far published in Dutch and Italian). I met the Melusine as a young woman and since then, besides reading what I find (with a grain of salt) I have been "journeying" with her through drumming, creativity and visioning, to understand her better as a universal archetype, regardless of contextual cultural applications. Selma does not like the word "Melusine" because of the legends associated to it in French lore. I personally do not like to call her Siren or Mermaid because for similar reasons. I find it limiting and misleading. Maybe one day she will reveal another name, appropriate to these times and to the need we presently have of her presence.