Preface – Why the masculine?
Loreto and I own that we are reinforcing a gendered polarity simply by using the terms masculine and feminine. The world as we know it operates and speaks in terms of this polarity. Therefore, as a starting base line for conversation, we feel compelled to use terms familiar to all, free of assumptions or not. This is not unlike conversations on race. Ignoring the gender polarity is like ignoring race. Mired as our societies are in both, we cannot but refer to them in these terms. Just as someone saying they are colorblind or post-racist is racist, so is not acknowledging that there is such a divide as the masculine and feminine.
Further, Why the Divine Masculine?
In a few words, Loreto and I were looking at what the Divine Masculine means in light of the Divine Feminine: We noticed a great deal of ambivalence in celebrating the Divine Masculine when we did the original call out for art for this event. For the “Divine Feminine” program produced the previous year, people were bursting and enthusiastic about celebrating the Divine Feminine. In our welcome, we asked: Why this difference in receiving the Masculine? Might it have to do with unacknowledged aggression associated with patriarchy? the way we were brought up? the coming-of-age support we might not have had? What could we do for ourselves and the next generations to embrace the Divine (Feminine, Masculine, other) in all of us? What art can we present to address these ideas or any other ideas about the Divine Masculine?
In light of world news that hits particularly close to home, I dedicate this post to the persons manifesting the feminine being violently attacked or losing lives through depraved gendered violence against their persons.
“The Divine Masculine Comes Into Age” was a six-hour interactive visual and performance installation featuring original visual art, dance, movement, song and poetry. Artists and audiences interpreted the divine masculine to continue the dialogue from the divine feminine art event the previous year.
That Saturday was a gorgeous day.
Quiet with a cool spring breeze and a warm sun.
In the morning, while Loreto and I cleared up the living spaces, my roommate Alicia and friends rigged up the deck with colorful dupattas and created a shaded covering above, reminiscent of fluttery Tibetan tents.
I set out some prasad
Friends began arriving, arms laden with food.
Seth set up the PA system on our deck and we waited for a critical mass.
Bunty brought the dhol.
In a three part welcome, Loreto and I planned to invoke the Divine Masculine – first, we asked and discussed the implications of the question why invoke the Divine Masculine at all; second, with permission from everyone, we invoked the divine masculine; third, we planned a friendship bonding ceremony inspired by the the Indian raksha bandhan ceremony
Our reflection process
When we were passing the idea of doing this year’s show on the Divine Masculine, Loreto and I noticed a marked quiet. We took four days to draft what exactly we wanted to explore, agonizing over the word choice for the call for art. Even then, the pool of applicants was noticeably smaller than last year’s call to explore the Divine Feminine.
While we sincerely desired to celebrate the divine masculine, we felt we still had to proceed with caution. What made us cautious? We wanted to affirm the masculine while at the same time acknowledge the patriarchy that sculpts and shapes gender privilege. We understand that patriarchy makes a celebration of the divine masculine filled with great ambivalence.
There is much suspicion about the masculine. With rampant daily violence against women increasingly captured in the news, the divine masculine is seen by many as an oxymoron. Lore and I believe that the divine in the masculine is suffocated by the many guises of patriarchy. We urge people to assess that the masculine need not be defined by patriarchy. We ask that we not allow patriarchy to shut down the divine potential in the masculine in us – not to allow patriarchy to scapegoat the divine by giving the masculine a bad rap. We must reclaim the divine potential in all in our journey to self actualization.
Once the destructive nature of patriarchy was identified as a major cause for the ambivalence people feel towards the masculine, we considered how we might allow ourselves to feel keenly for the masculine potential. Numbing feelings leads to ambivalence. What’s more, many battle with shame. I propose that shame comes primarily from patriarchal teachings. I called on and recited the great poet laureate Tagore’s poem “The World has gone mad” to reflect on the word shame, so prevalent in his analysis of the madness we see in our world. Upon analyzing the poem, I concluded that we may only rid this world of shame through compassion. Ridding this world of shame and forgiving society and perpetrators for what has happened (to us personally), ultimately allowing us to be compassionate towards ourselves, enabling us to see clearly how patriarchy terrorizes the world, and most importantly, allowing us to accept the light within each of us. Without forgiveness, we will not be able to walk with a clear conscience or give the world the best in each of us. This forgiving is not intended to “wipe the slate clean” – indeed, it burns it in our memory strongly neither with judgement nor acceptance, but as newly-made conscious conscientious people who walk with lightness, who, instead of searching revenge, redirect the life energy constructively in practicing gratefulness for the daily bounty we receive and practicing affirmations as we find and walk our paths.
Coming of Age
We released an additional offering (as part of our original call, we solicited answers to questions we had for people to recount their adolescent experiences, needs, and desires): We acknowledged that we are at that age where we are about to create and build sustainable ways to live… We are at that age where we are called to open arms to the next generation… our responsibility is to provide them with every knowledge we didn’t have or wished we had… this is why we asked our artist friends to reflect on coming of age rituals as part of their artwork.
Calling the community to speak
And thus, in order to celebrate what we do have and and acknowledge that everyone in attendance came in the spirit of community.
We acknowledged that, yes the world has gone mad, but in this madness, we might find light.
At this point, we asked if anyone had any additional thoughts or concerns they wished to share
We asked if we may now call the divine masculine?
In this madness can there be light?
Welcome & Invocation of the Divine Masculine, featuring Bunty on dhol
Bunty then resounded the deck in percussion. I joined in dance, welcoming and in thanks to friends
Invocation for Divine Masculine Comes Into Age, Somerville Open Studios 2013, Site #70
Why, the Green Tara, of course.
I was super nervous about invoking the Divine Masculine. Three weeks before the event, I was trespassing in a favorite Tibetan store. I passed that ubiquitous rack of Buddha cards. Then I saw breasts. I went closer to make sure it wasn’t an errant necklace, and there she was in all her green glory, The Green Tara. I pulled the card out and proceeded to read. As it turns out, she came into being when after years of Tibetan male Buddhas, devotees saw a need to honor the female worshippers. The Green Tara was manifested – and get this! from her Shakti roots!! And we all know must concede (haha) that before there was anything divine about the masculine, we had the great fertility goddesses of yore… and here is the Tara, considered “the Mother of Buddhas” – So in my brain, I jumped for joy with some in-the-moment-made-up validation! Of course, the divine masculine will be called by his Maa 😉
What’s more! The Green Tara has a shloka associated with her “om tare tuttare ture soha.” She is a remover of delusions of all kinds, corresponding to the following human frailties:
- lions — pride
- wild elephants — delusion and ignorance
- forest fires — hatred
- snakes — jealousy
- robbers — wrong views, including fanatical views
- prisons — greed and miserliness
- floods — desire and attachment
- demons — doubts caused by delusion
Additionally, she removes the delusion of duality – who could be more perfect to call in the divine masculine?!
Community Bonding Ritual: Raksha Bandhan adaptation
We rounded off the invocation with an adaptation of a bonding practice from South Asia called the raksha bandhan as a variation on the friendship bracelet traditions world wide. Traditionally Hindu girls tied bracelets on their brothers once a year. And by their brothers accepting the bracelet, they vow to protect their sisters for the rest of their lives. Tagore adapted this ceremony to be inclusive of all people, irrespective of race, religion or culture. Loreto and I adapt it further. Instead of protecting, we ask people (irrespective of gender) to consider what it is to watch out for someone for the rest of your life. How this may relate to community building. We also ask them to make the bracelets they present. Consider the stranger on the deck. Welcome them to community. Consider the old friend you’ve known for ages… perhaps take for granted. Tell them the richness they bring to your life as you tie the bracelet on them.
Bringing people together through music and chant
In our immediate community, while we are fortunate that for years there has been an open space to honor the feminine, we acknowledge there is a need to carve a similar space for critically exploring the masculine.
Seth Heidkamp: Guitar Soundscape Installation
sister piece to “Divine Feminine” soundscape
There is a need for affirmative community-based support systems to navigate the artificial nature of these patriarchal social constructs. Young people need guidance to honor how the masculine and feminine manifest in themselves as they negotiate not only a patriarchal structure but also the myth of invincibility and agelessness.
We urged artists to create pieces that dream up coming-of-age rituals that resist the patriarchal definition of the masculine and instead offer alternate nurturing models that support youth in celebrating and exploring their unique natures.
To combat the “Boys will be boys” attitude, I presented my pastel “Baby Devi on her Vahana”
Josh broke my heart with the introduction to his recitation of Aleister Crowley’s “Hymn to Pan“
Kawan Virdee & Mike Webber: Sub Bass Drone Sound Installation
filtering the y-chromosome from the Human Genome Project
I also presented a video of my gender blending wearable art line [X]Walk from a few days before
Trevor: Didgeridoo; Colin Farhan: Throat Singing; Justin: Melodica; Pampi: Yama-Yami in dance
acknowledging suffering motivated by fear and finding liberation by confronting delusions manifested by fear
Four Elements: Improvised Contemporary Chamber Renaissance Funk