Soul Food Archive: Wisdom Traditions & Sources
Main Courses are offered on a frequently changing menu. Here are words and images to ingest and digest for inner nourishment. We hope these hearty meals invite you to taste and savor, to muse, reflect and remember, to journal, to create art...that is, to feast on food for the spirit.
Pascha #2, by Archimandrite Kiprian,
Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY*
Our current main course, below, is just one of several Soul Food offerings. Please visit, also, our buffet of Guest Caterer Specials and, for lighter fare, our Desserts & Snacks counter. And, to sample earlier menus, we hope you'll check out the Soul Food Archive. Like all who prepare foodstuffs, we hope to hear from those we serve! Space to leave comments, or read others' comments, on our cuisine follows each Soul Food offering.
We all have examples that come under this heading, whether from our own experiences or second-hand. From totem animals to beloved pets, everyone has favorite animal-friend stories. Here are a few of ours:
This is Ixchel (IK-shel), the Mayan moon goddess of Guatemala’s highlands.* She governs several realms, among them healing, fertility and childbirth. Ixchel is known as “Our Grandmother,” and her partner in the lunar healing arts is her human-sized rabbit—a scribe who also records the Mayan lunar calendar. Here, both are decked in beads. And notice how the two merge with one another: Ixchel’s right arm encircles the bunny’s shoulders, and her companion’s paw returns this embrace.
Also from the lore of the holy ones comes the story of St.Columba of Ireland saying goodbye to his white horse.* Columba, whose life covered much of the 6thc.C.E, was a Celtic Christian monk-founder of many abbeys, including Kells and Durrow. Columba—or Columcille in Irish—may be most famous for establishing the monastery of Iona off the Scottish coast for his missionary work among the Picts. Legends tell of an aged Columba, weary and aware of his approaching death, visiting the farmlands of Iona. As he sat to rest, a white workhorse who carried the abbey’s milk-pails ran to him, laid its head on Columba’s arm and drenched the monk with its tears. When one of the brothers tried to lead the horse away, Columba stopped him, then embraced and blessed the horse who had come to say farewell. That very night, the saint died.
And there is, of course, the famous tale of Mohammed sitting at table, where his cat fell asleep on his flowing silk sleeve. Rather than disturb his friend, the Prophet cut off the sleeve!
Closer to our time are the many popular-culture pairings of human and animal. From old time radio dramas,* comes the most familiar of all: the Lone Ranger and his valiant steed Silver.This “fiery horse with the speed of light” accompanied his human from 1933-1954 on U.S. radio broadcasts; the pair later found their way to television and film. As the Lone Ranger’s radio adventures wound down, along came Sergeant Preston in Challenge of the Yukon. Mountie William Preston, traveling by dog sled, kept law and order on the wild Alaskan frontier. Ever by his side was brave companion Yukon King, a law-enforcing dog whose bark alone terrified many a bad guy.
And, from our own Center staff comes Thomas Hedberg with a lifelong fascination with hedgehogs—yes, hedgehogs. Here he’s at a rescue facility for wounded wildlife in Vienna, holding a baby hedgehog. Long before this, however, Tom’s European schoolmates had dubbed him “Hedgehog” because of the (faint) resemblance of his last name to this animal—not found in the U.S., but very familiar to boys from Europe. And, before meeting his first live igel (the German name), Tom had been captivated by the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale Hans My Hedgehog, the sad tale of a young fellow born with an animal head. “Hedgehog-ness” has tracked Tom since childhood. He says, “Clearly, I am supposed to ask what qualities this little animal has that need my attention. And, also, I keep remembering words I heard long ago: Understand that thou hast within thyself flocks of cattle…sheep...and goats…the birds of the sky are also within thee.* I can add my inner hedgehog to this list.”
In Jungian psychology, animals in dreams and stories and synchronistic events are often thought to represent the instinctive forces of the unconscious.* Jung said that anyone who overlooks the instincts will be ‘ambuscaded’ by them (i.e., become a beast). Also, we know how, in many stories, it’s an animal—a wise fox, a magical bird—who leads the hero/ine into the beyond and onto the next stage of development. Thomas’ story is a good example of this; his inner hedgehog has been pointing the way throughout his life!
Finally, here is a photograph we’ve held onto for years, because of the mood captured by the photographer, and our soft spot for yellow cats. (Jean Cocteau has been quoted as saying, “I love my cats because I love my home, and little by little they become its visible soul”).
And, as usual, a few questions:
- What title would I give this photograph?
- Have I ever had a relationship with an animal as close as the one in this picture? Or, as intimate as that of Ixchel and her rabbit, or Columba and his white horse?
- What dream or story animals have touched me? Or, perhaps, have my closest animal friends been replicas—a collection of pictures or figurines? a toy animal?
- Do I have an “inner (any animal) ” that has been part of my life, in the way the hedgehog has kept showing up for Tom? And, if so, why this animal?
- If I live in a non-animal environment, are there a few ways I might increase my connection to the animal world?
Read Others' Comments...
Hi everyone, Thanks for the animal companions soul food. I
would title the last picture, "At the Heart of Things." Here are
two books that relate: a new one: "Unlikely Friendships" (Jennifer
Holland), about inter-species animal bondings, and "The Expression
of the Emotions in Man and Animals" (Charles Darwin, 1872, Dover
reprint). I was sorry to read of Toby's passing, but he lives on
in your memories and the world of the web.
The cat is looking right at the viewer in the photo, while the woman is looking down at the page. The cat is engaging us in a dialog. My husband has written a book called "Does God Ever Speak Through Cats" about his faith journey accompanied by our cats. Clearly they have been near and dear to us. I joke with him that our cat Minnie knows more about him than our friends.....closer than family. Thanks for the opportunity to know Tobias.
Thanks to you both, Jasmine and Sally, for your thoughts, and also for the remembrance of our Tobias. For those who may be interested in Sally's husband's book, please watch for our fall Guest Caterer Special (mid-October), which is being prepared by this author. And...if the kitty is involving us in a dialogue (which he or she certainly seems to be), what is our response???
The Center Staff
* Credits for this page:
~ Pascha #2 by Archimandrite Kiprian, Holy Trinity Icon Studio, Jordanville, NY
A family in old Russia welcomes visitors with special Pascha (Easter) treats. Gratefully used with permission from Holy Trinity Icon Studio, Jordanville, NY, 13361. This excellent website is the source for inexpensive traditional icon prints and mounted icons.
~ Mayan goddess Ixchel with her companion rabbit (600-800 C.E.), formed as a Mexican ceramic whistle 3” x 4 ¼” tall. A reproduction of this statue is in our Center garden. Picture courtesy of Sacred Source, Crozet, VA (www.sacred source.com). This very special firm has created cottage industries worldwide to produce their replications of old and new divinities of many cultures. See, for more on Ixchel, Hallie Iglehart Austen’s The Heart of the Goddess: Art, Myth and Meditations of the World’s Sacred Feminine (Berkeley: Wingbow Press, 1990).
~ “St.Columba Bidding Farewell to the White Horse,” John Duncan (Scottish, 1866-1945). Reproduced with the kind permission of the Carnegie Dunfermline and Hero Fund Trusts, Andrew Carnegie House, Dunfermline, Scotland.
~ For recordings of these adventures and many others, visit www.radiospirits.com.
~ Hans Mein Igel is Grimms’ tale #108. Can you guess what happens to Hans by the end of the story? Thomas’ quote is from the 3rdc. C.E. Christian teacher, Origen [Leviticum Homiliae, V,2].
~ Jung on the instincts: see The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, Volume 9i of Jung’s Collected Works (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959), ¶660.
~ An old book for children, well worth unearthing: Creatures of Paradise: Pictures to Grow Up With, by Bryan Holme (NewYork/Toronto: Oxford University Press/London;Thames and Hudson, 1980). Animals in art from around the world.
WATCH FOR OUR NEXT MAIN COURSE—THE DAY OF THE DEAD—IN SEPTEMBER!