Stephanie Pope essay Eclipsed Words for
myth and poetry



Eclipsed Words posted 9-15-06 stephanie pope

Last night I went to bed thinking about words. More precisely, I went to bed thinking about eclipsed words. The word and idea ensue from an on line discussion in a dream forum. We were talking there about apocalyptic image-ideas in apocalyptic times and how to turn over the impulse to violence; instead of annihilation, transformation. In such times the psychic element, the image of apocalypse itself, morphs in eclipse, as becoming responds to terror and terrorisms.

One word-smyth proffers an image idea in the form of the word, evolve. Evolve, contains its whole world and within it is found another word-world not separate from itself. The second word is love. Evolve contains a new order of love for the world it evolves. The word reminds me that to evolve, even god’s love for the world will go into eclipse.

Olmec TabletThis morning the New York Times on line reports the amazing find of what some believe to be a 3,000 year old script. In Writing May Be Oldest In Western Hemisphere, John Noble Wilford reports the discoverers of this stone slab bearing 62 signs suggest “the order and pattern of carved symbols appear to be that of a true writing system and that it has characteristics strikingly similar to imagery of the Olmec civilization, considered the earliest in the Americas.” The Olmec precede the Aztec and Mayan and are primarily remembered for their sculpture of colossal stone heads.

The image of a word square the stone slab suggests caused me to go to the on line dictionary and look up the word acrostic for photo by Stephen Houston its roots.  Interestingly, it forms from two Greek words; akrostikhis grounded in the word akron, meaning head, and stikhos, a word for the shadow line or base line; the lines hidden in the shadows of poetic lines rise up out of them like a stairway. This is the idea-image behind the word. So the idea of script itself reminds me of a memory before writing begins. There once was a world before the world begins, a muddy center and an inspiration where the forces of a word were forged and out of which new words will have sprung (and will spring still!) I am also reminded how no matter how far back you go in time, you cannot find the origins of the first myth. The myths arise like the gods it seems. No god comes first.

Typhon and ZeusI began to explore the depths of memory just now. If I were to do so here I would introduce the house of memory and the goddess of this house, Mnemosyne. I would also share some of the findings regarding The Art of Memory before linear B script, what forms the shadow line in our own written language. I cannot lay that out this morning, it would make today’s essay too long.

Instead, this morning let me remind in creation itself and of beginnings rising up out of endings. There is, in the upper right hand corner of that slab a feathered creature with long plumage. It also appears at the bottom but ************ Zeus and Typhon
you cannot really see that in the photo here. I’ll return to that image soon.

The art of poetics belongs to the house of memory. Words begin as images in the mind and any mind re minds from that muddy core. There is a mythos in the logos of mind. It spawns both a cosmogony, the account of creation as world and a theogony, the coming into being of the gods, their number and nature. Because you cannot separate the cosmos from the gods since the myths tell us the physical space is the god (for example Ge or Gaia is Mother Earth and Ouranos is Father Sky), one understands all worlds, as in all creation, abide in their beginning in love and in procreation. The myths seem to know ―not really that we are one world, the same everywhere and getting along well within ourself everywhere― but that we are many ones forming and reforming a world bringing it back into an original integrity from which it sprang (and/or springs anew!)

The gods love the world and bring it into being this way. The gods generate (procreate) and the juices fructify everything in a spirit of generosity. More importantly, creation arises as an encounter.

The creation story also shares the disorder of creation. Creation is negative. It kills to create. Chaos is called upon to reorient the world. The world loves its order, its certainty and stability, its predictability. It hates its uncertainty or at least fears its powers which appear suddenly from nowhere. Our civilizing structures are always working to shut out and foreclose upon anomalies shoring up our ideas of reality and god. Eventually our own god-ideas can make us sick and sicken our worlds. It robs the
world of its remembering from that muddy core. 

Our inheritance in western mind of creative ideas begin in Hesiod. In truth at first, Chaos came to be, he writes. (Theogony, 116) What people sometimes call an abyss and a disorder is life-giving and life-restoring. Chaos is capable of love-making. It is a first ancestor. Once there wasn’t a sky, once there were no stars. Once, there was only a love-making and it was not separate from cosmos and creation, whom it loved. But, it is other than this, its creation. It remains unknowable and unnameable, even unimaginable to behold. It is wholly Other were it not for soul, er, this...'space' operating. This space is of no time and no place yet is necessary and fortunate as are we who recognize and honor it in our own stories-in-the-making.

The story found in the mesoamericas of the spirit of love creating the world tells of the disappointments in creation. Things seem bad and the gods of creation destroy each world and renew it, i.e. make a completely new world out of the old.

feathered serpentSo, too, the Greek myths tell first of Ouranos and Cronos and then Cronos and Zeus and then Zeus and Typhon. Like the Greeks, the Olmec, Toltec, Aztec and Mayan tell of a sun-eater. The Popol Vuh calls him a sovereign plumed serpent. His name is Quetzalcoatyl. He is birdlike, with long plummage like the bird in the found codex.

Within the frame of very different mythological systems one recognizes a general concept of order from chaos. Each conception represents a totality and will differ; each sustains its own unity principle and a sense for its own dissolve in a cycle not reflective of wholeness as much as some kind of completion. The totality neither exists within nor without. More properly, the totality is as it always is ―re-maining (Hillman's idea of the return of the main repressed)always exactly what it is―in the beginning as in the end of things.
 image taken from the
Codex Borbonicus.

The beginning and the end cannot be told apart just as the gods are not separate from the cosmos in which they create.  Finally, there is a sense in all of this that is an expectation in renewal. The sun-eater returns along with the forces of the sun. The pattern of disorder is embedded within the new system of order, warmth and nourishment it brings. So that one may finally come to know in the story down inside the words; what shall come to be, comes to renew all. Furthermore, what will have been has given itself to bring this about.

On The Feathered (benevolent and creative water) Serpent:

"...No thing existed but a vast empty sky and a great calm sea -- until the gods who dwelt in the primordial sea, called collectively Heart of the Sea, Heart of the Lake and, individually, Maker, Modeler, Bearer, Begetter, and Sovereign Plumed Serpent, the Maker of the Blue-Green Plate and the Blue-Green Bowl (the visible earth and sky), joined with the gods of the primordial sky, called collectively Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth. Together these Great Ones conceived the emergence of the earth which arose "just like a cloud, like a mist, now forming, unfolding. Then the mountains were separated from the water, all at once the great mountains came forth." And there were plants and, in time, people. The gods set in motion the process of "sowing," seeds sprouting in the dark and mysterious regions beneath the earth leading to their "dawning."
***************************-excerpt taken from Popol Vuh : The Definitive Edition of the Mayan **********************************************Book of the Dawn of Life & the Glories of Gods & Kings, Dennis Tedlock, translator

Related Poetry:
Sol's Kin ---- ©2004 Like A Woman Falling, Selected Poems

Additional Links:
Book review of Tedlock's Popol Vuh
a mythopoetic of Quetzalcoatyl in plasma science
the myth of Quetzalcoatyl
the pervasiveness of Quetzalcoatyl

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