Friday, January 13, 2012

The Hierophant on the Front Porch

A happy Friday the 13th to all!  For nighttime reading, I go through a great many books related to my different research projects, so it’s always interesting to come across passages in books that relate, synchronistically, to archetypal symbols that I’m exploring in unrelated projects and discussions.  Among other things, I hope eventually to write a book on the hidden magical traditions relating to different types of vernacular architecture and living spaces, which would get into ways that we can appreciate and engage the magic in ordinary houses and other types of buildings.  At the moment, I’m reflecting on the cultural uses of front porches, so, using our online library catalog, I did a keyword search for “porch,” and got the book “Porch Stories: A Grandmother’s Guide to Happiness” by Jewell Parker Rhodes, [NY: Atria, 2006].  It is through these types of keyword searches that I become aware of other books, that, though unrelated to my topic, take my curiosity off in new directions.

So, I had been thinking of porches as transitional spaces, where we mediate between our public and private worlds.  Also, because of the ways front porches project into semipublic space, they say something about how we present ourselves to the world.  However, in light of our previous discussion about the Hierophant, we can see how the grandmother who shares her wisdom—often as she sits upon the front porch telling stories--takes on a hierophantic role, and how the front porch thus becomes a hierophantic space.  That is, it becomes a place where we can demonstrate deep values through “things said, things done, and things shown.”

To illustrate how Rhodes’ grandmother was effective in transmitting her values, the author says, “Grandmother’s guidance is everlasting.  More than anyone, she taught me how to live.  She taught me how to nurture myself, and my children, with words.”  She goes on to describe the many living spaces where this teaching occurred: “Like a magician or conjure woman, she turned all spaces into womanist spaces.  The kitchen table, the garden, the porch, a child’s bedroom, the living room, even the basement with its coal furnace and damp laundry were all spaces where Grandmother taught values as effortlessly as she breathed.  Wherever Grandmother reigned, there was spiritual uplift and healing” [137].

So, this suggests a new image for the Hierophant: the elder on the front porch.  Now, I’ll have to go through my more modern-themed tarot decks to see if anyone has thought of this.  I’m also curious as to how the different fairytale decks might portray grandmothers.

By the way, “Porch Stories, though a very slim book, has a lot of other good stuff in it, including some family experiences of communicating with the dead, and pithy African-American proverbs like, “Every good-bye ain’t gone,” and “Every shut eye ain’t sleep.”

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