Queen of Heaven and Earth
A Review by Shareen El Safy
Santa Barbara is fortunate to be the home of Pacifica Graduate Institute, whose advanced degrees in psychology are enhanced by the study of ancient and contemporary culture, including literature, religion, art, and mythology. Pacifica has been honored to be the home of the Archives and Library of the late Joseph Campbell, renowned mythologist and frequent presenter at seminars at Pacifica.
Pacifica hosted a seminar in Santa Barbara on May 1-2, 1993, which featured Marion Woodman, André Gregory and Diane Wolkstein. Marion Woodman is a Jungian analyst in Toronto, and author of Addiction to Perfection; The Pregnant Virgin; Leaving My Father’s House; and Conscious Feminity: Interviews with Marion Woodman; and many other well-known works. She challenges us to identify our unconscious attitudes — born of patriarchy — about our relationships, our institutions, our bodies, and the earth’s body. In the seminar, she invited participants to recreate, to imagine anew those social and political institutions that so affect our lives. How might the feminine aspect of the psyche help to reshape education, the church, health care, governmental and environmental policy? André Gregory also participated in the seminar; his classic film, My Dinner with André, portrays two men who emerge from the persona of intellect and logos into the experience of feeling — of tenderness and mutuality. John Densmore, former drummer for The Doors, punctuated the weekend with drumming and readings about his descent from the patriarchy’s house, and shared the poem, “Ego Tripping,” by Nikki Giovanni, which is reprinted on this page.
Of special interest to our focus on the Goddess was the presentation of the story of Inanna by Diane Wolkstein. One of America’s most gifted storytellers, Ms. Wolkstein has also written 16 award-winning books of mythology and folklore, including Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth; The Magic Orange Tree; and The First Love Stories: From Isis and Osiris to Tristan and Iseult. Through voice, gesture, and song she brought to life the 4,000 year old epic of the Sumerian Goddess of Love and Fertility. Deciphered from cuneiform tablets dating back to 1900 B.C.E. found in the region of the Tigris – Euphrates Rivers (now Iraq), the theoretical location of the Biblical Garden of Eden, the myth recounts the emergence of the Goddess into womanhood, her courtship and marriage, her descent into the underworld, and eventual rebirth.
Accompanied by composer Geoffrey Gordon on harp, drum, santur and flute, Ms. Wolkstein’s powerfully charged persona of Inanna awakened the audience at the large Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara with her bold, forceful delivery. Playing the roles of all the characters, including her lover, Dumuzi and her father, Eniki, Wolkstein recounted the epic creation myth beginning with: “In the first days…In the first nights…In the first years, When everything needed was brought into being, When everything needed was properly nourished…When Heaven moved away from Earth and Earth separated from Heaven and the name of Man was fixed…” In the rhythmic poem Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, receives Gifts from the God of Wisdom: Godship, Truth, Descent into the Underworld, Ascent from the Underworld, the Art of Lovemaking, the Art of Song, the Power of Attention, of Procreation, the Making of Decisions, the Giving of Judgement, and others. The entire evening was an intellectual and philosophical feast, affording the audience an opportunity to dip into the ancient, psychic realm of the feminine archetype. Metropolitan Museum of Art lecturer, Olivier Bernier wrote of an earlier performance “…to hear her, to see her perform Inanna, is to understand the true power of myth”.
Wolkstein’s and Gordon’s sensitive, stimulating performance is available on audio and video tape: The Epic of Inanna, Cloudstone, 10 Patchin Place, New York, N.Y. 10011. For further information on the Pacifica Graduate Institute, write 249 Lambert Road, Carpinteria, Ca. 93013.
Shareen El Safy is an award-winning instructor and choreographer who has performed and taught Egyptian dance in sixty major cities on five continents, including many states throughout America. She has made numerous trips to Egypt, researching dance, studying with renowned artists there, and leading her Dance Study Tours. As one of few westerners, Shareen performed raks sharqi in Cairo nightclubs during the 1988 to 1992 summer seasons. She has released a number of instructional DVD’s focusing on Oriental dance technique. Shareen presented at the 1999 World Congress of Sports and Dance, and taught and performed at the Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival (2001), and the Nile Group Festivals (2009 and 2010) in Cairo. Shareen co-produced the First and Second International Conferences on Middle Eastern Dance in 1997 and 2001. She was Publisher and Editor of Habibi from 1992-2002 and Editor-in-Chief in 1993. www.shareenelsafy.com.
12.4 A New Concept for Woman