As one of the themes for my July 1st workshop was “the magic of shining,” we touched on the idea of shining deeds/actions/gestures, etc. which then led to discussion of related concepts, including “glamour bombing” and the Judaic practice of “the beautification of a mitzvah.” These things are on my mind, because I’ve been thinking about how to tie them in with my most recent daily one-card tarot readings from the “Art of Life” tarot deck by Charlene Livingstone. So, I got the Temperance card, which features a Pissarro painting of a “Woman Washing Her Feet in a Brook” along with the Heraclitus quote, “The unlike is joined together, and from differences results the most beautiful harmony.” Prior to that, I got the Two of Pentacles, featuring “Blue Dancers” by Degas, and FDR’s quote that happiness “lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” So, I’m concerned with applying creative effort in bringing the unlike together in a shining manner.
A mitzvah (plural mitzvot) tends to be a ritual obligation related to fulfilling a commandment, and also acts as a blessing or brings blessings. On a practical basis, this is often applied to a family’s ritual paraphernalia. For example, in fulfilling the commandment to observe Shabbat, one might take extra care in setting out the Sabbath table with the most beautiful tableware and settings, Kiddush cup, candlesticks, etc. When you can perform a ritual action or blessing beautifully, artfully, elegantly, you are making a shining gesture. If your ritual calls for paraphernalia that can be beautified, this also brings in qualities of shining. The extra attention you put into this brings a heightened level of mindfulness to the ritual act. In addition to enhancing your attunement with Deity, you create shining moments.
Shining gestures need not be limited to religious devotions or magical actions: they can also be brought into ordinary routines, including personal transactions. For example, when paying your babysitter or the kid who rakes your yard, rather than just handing him or her a wad of dollar bills, you could put the money into one of those little red envelopes with gold-embossed characters used for making cash gifts at Chinese New Year—even when it isn’t Chinese New Year. (You can get the envelopes at Asian markets.)
Putting extra style and flair into one’s actions is very much part of the African aesthetic. At our workshop, I mentioned Robert Farris Thompson’s theories on how “the flash of spirit” is brought into Kongo decorative and performative arts in order to activate spiritual power and magic. We also find this aesthetic at work in ordinary transactions. So, if I recall correctly, (sorry—I have forgotten the source), I read the account of an anthropologist who loaned a local chieftain his typewriter, and as a “thank you” gesture, the chief had his head wife’s beautiful younger sister deliver the anthropologist three mangoes on a decorated plate. The anthropologist noted the chief could have just handed him a bag of rice as an equivalent offering, but such a prosaic gesture would have gone against the culture’s way of doing things. Instead, having a beautiful, high status woman present an arrangement of fruits that was decorative yet elegant in its simplicity elevated the act into a shining gesture, as well as a performance.
I will try to pursue the idea of bringing artfulness and beauty into magic, as well as the magic of everyday living, (and also try to explain a bit about glamour bombing), in upcoming blogposts. Meanwhile, if any of my readers have ideas or personal examples for bringing the quality of shining into your actions, or just doing common things with a little extra flair, I would really enjoy hearing about them.