So I hope we are agreed that these magical tales have a focus on the human cocreative process, which is always quite naturally happening. Maturity and reclamation of the cocreative process in our little corner of the universe, learning to use its creative processes and materials, is the point to alchemical wisdom teachings. The Birch Kantele starts, then, with the moment in the process where what has gone before is dissolved back into its state of the non-manifested.
All of our major life changes are like that; something which was solid to our perception smashed, in pieces. The pieces of the Sampo are now very much like seeds ready for the grain mill, for the fermentation of beer or other spirits (see last post), or for the ground, as we will see presently. They are now potential, the energetic "stuff" of creation, ready to be reconfigured. This is the beginning part of the creative process, you could say, though it's really always circular, spiraling, and/or rising and falling. The rising and falling is insinuated when Vainamoinen "fluffs up the waves" in the verse soon to follow.
Since Vainamoinen is a musician, he starts by thinking about music.
Steady old Vainamoinen
ponders in his brain:
'Now some music would be good
and some merrymaking right
for this new state of affairs
upon these fair farms;
Notice the association between merrymaking or joy, and creation (fair farms). Our lives are indeed fair farms. The adjective applied frequently to Vainamoinen, "steady", refers to his soul- and spirit-connectedness as being reliably there, something we can depend on- unlike what we experience in the "outside" world.
but the kantele is lost
my joy has gone forever
He did have a kantele which was lost in the sea along with the Sampo.
Vainamoinen next calls upon another artist, the smith Ilmarinen, for help. Remember, in symbolic interp of the Jungian sort, all of the characters are available in our psyches. As imaginative creators we do have an inner Ilmarinen we can call upon, and probably do; a masterful creator of new and renewed experiences and perspectives.
you forged once, forged yesterday
so forge today, too:
forge an iron rake
on the rake a mass of prongs-
a mass of prongs, a long shaft
with which I can rake the waves
fluff up the billows...
to get back the instrument
to reach for the kantele...
Though as usual I could go at it from a few perspectives, let's say Vainamoinen, in his raking, is doing some sort of combing of his experience, his psychic material; thoughts, emotions, feelings, memories and associations. As he is now sad, he can observe and learn from his water element sadness while he experiences it; the thoughts which attend it, for example, such as what caused it to appear, the "reason" for it. He will indeed do this in the conversation with the birch soon to come. Thought is definitely there in "fluff up the billows", a metaphor of applying air (thought) to water (watery emotion or sadness). Some sadness is natural and beautiful, a response to grief, for example, and Vainamoinen has lost something here. Grief, like all watery emotions, is like a wave, and the wise ride the wave like surfers, maintaining some inner balance whenever possible, aware of the configurations of the wave and how to use it to get to shore. This wave action is, by the way, quite the same as birth pains, birthing being an obvious earth-and-water-element creative event.
So sadness can be part of our conditioning, as we learn to identify with powerlessness, use it to manipulate others, to get attention, to avoid our creativity, etc., etc. The birch tree will elaborate for us presently. Ilmarinen's snaky field is similar to Vainamoinen's raking of the waves; he is digging up aspects of self that are buried (unconscious) and/or involve earth element. When done with this turning over of one's buried psychic material the "inner earth", the aspects of experience which are in alignment with that element are ready for a new experience, a new way of being in the world. Ready to plant those Sampo-seeds!
For men, learning about earth element and water element is important since the feminine elements are less encouraged in a man's conditioning, even less evident in the physical apparatus. However, since my culture is pretty clueless about the feminine elements, even women have much to learn about the feminine. We are conditioned out of it, leaving many of us stranded on some limbo-like island, endeavoring to create joy in a lopsided airy culture of thought, fact, speed, linearity, and disconnection from Earth. It would seem from the illustration below that Vainamoinen's from another time and place...or is he? No- he is as close to us as our imagination, as our ability to feel our way into the experience depicted by Kleiman!
However, the light itself, a cosmic principle, is enough, though we will find that our intellectual mind can be useful as well as we use it to untangle the BS we've accumulated. We can zap those goofy, fearful assumptions with our masculine light-swords, 'cause it takes one to know one! This self inquiring activity is common in alchemical fairy tales, as in Cinderella's separating of beans from the ashes; she's sifting through her experience, her thoughts, emotions, feelings, behaviors, and taking that which still has life for her, discarding that which is no longer fertile.
Since the blacksmith's work is that of fashioning something useful and/or beautiful from iron using all 4 elements, metalsmiths get to represent psychological and psychospiritual transformation in general. That's why Ilmarinen's help is requested for this project of reshaping, renewing, renovating, recreating Vainamoinen's experience of power, joy, abundance, security, which was lost in the (inner) conflict which destroyed the Sampo.
to the rollers of steel, to
the copper moorings.
There were craft, two craft,...
one craft was a new craft, the
other was an old craft.
Guess which one is picked? Three guesses, first two don't count! This boat-choice is a very clear pointer to Vainamoinen's choosing a new experience, specifically one in the realm of water element. Symbolically, guys-in-boats is very like the surfer image, for they are riding the water element. Choosing the new boat is worthy instruction, since adult humans in general keep picking the old boat, unlike the rapidly cocreating child. Notice rollers of steel (I guess in some translations they are oak); like the Sampo's mill-grinding action, rollers imply moving with the cycles, circles, spirals of the creative process.
If you know how to use that natural power, your project is always aided. The old traditional ways of observing lunar and planetary cycles and asking for assistance from the four elements and their deities, consciously moving with and honoring the seasons, is the same as this roller symbol. The metal copper is usually designated a feminine metal, the metal of Venus. Good indication for working with water element, right?
Vainamoinen is getting busy here;
off he went to broom the sea
and to sweep the wave.
Here we are given another tool-image for the clearing and cleansing of that which no longer serves us; the broom, archetypal tool, along with the cauldron, of the witch. First you bring up what's not wanted, then you remove it, send it off elsewhere to wherever it's wanted.
He gathers water lilies
He keeps raking but does not find his old kantele. I suppose this supports his "new boat" status, for when we experience true loss of the old, like the wave it is really nowhere to be found. Viewed as self inquiry, this raking and sweeping process is, however, edifying in itself. In discarding the old we clear the way. It prepares us for the next step.
Steady old Vainamoinen
trudges off homeward
his head down, in bad spirits
helmet all askew;
he told this in words:
'No more will be that
joy of a pike's tooth
An askew helmet would be like unsettled thoughts, unprotected 6th and 7th chakras. But don't worry, Vainamoinen's still up to the task of water element wisdom. For that's exactly what the upcoming birch is; a strongly water element associated tree. The birch/poplar family generally loves water and some are especially good at gathering and holding the same. When a large balm of gilead (a poplar) was felled right by my house here, a huge reservoir of water gushed out from the trunk.
The white birch Vainamoinen talks to is also associated with "new beginnings" because of its whiteness. White can symbolize innocence, basically, like unto a baby or a virgin, or the white dress of marriage or death (lots of cultures use white for mourning). It's the blank canvas on which we paint a new life experience. "Green tree" speaks of new growth as well;
As he trod a glade
skirted the edge of backwoods
he heard a birch tree weeping
a curly birch shedding tears.
He went up to it
drew nearer to it
he asked it, he talked:
Why do you weep, lovely birch
green tree, why do you go on
white-belt, why do you complain?
You'll not be taken to war
not be wanted for battle.'
In line with that association, Vainamoinen does make a sexual distinction; he points out that the birch will never be needed for war. It's associated with the feminine also because it is a soft wood, though some birches are hard, and soft wood isn't used for weapons. Hard = masculine- like iron, for example, or maple or oak. Vainamoinen's looking beyond the typical masculine causes or interpretations of grief; surely the loss of young life as well as the fear of death itself are part of a man's facing battle.
No, Vainamoinen is forging a new understanding of the feminine water element, a deeper, more complex, more compassionate understanding which will help him fully en-joy his human experience. Notice he is in close conversation with the element; he is "nearer" his feminine sadness, asking it questions. He's not on Prozac, however useful mood altering drugs may be for brief periods. He's inquiring as to What Women Really Want by inquiring into his own sadness.
Notice Vainamoinen "skirted the edge of backwoods"; inner work is often described as taking place behind or underneath. That's because it is looking for the experience below or behind our ordinary consciousness which is founded in the "outer" experience.
"Curly", like curvy, is feminine, too, as opposed to the masculine straight line. Also, just as he was depicted in the last post as hanging out at the tip of a headland, and on a beach, he is here on another edge. The edge is where you can see both sides, for one thing; it's called liminal space, and it frequently appears in these stories. It's the provenance of Hermes, the keeper of boundaries, for which this art of interpreting symbolism/metaphor is named: hermeneutics. Symbolism, like dreaming, is liminal, for it translates from one world (soul) into the physical realm and vice versa.
Our birch , as well as Vainamoinen of course, is in good company, as the bard, the poet, and the magician (nowadays folks like to talk about shamans, too, within this general grouping) typically are cocreated through facing the dark side. They not only discover the riches of wisdom and compassion that develop from journeys into suffering; they develop the ability to manipulate their own experience through their art and therefore for others through their art. Of course everyone can join the club, if they turn their dark experiences, their transformative lead, into some sort of wisdom-gold.
I wrote a paragraph I had to delete here, trying to explain how the different layers fit together, and it's so frustrating I gave up! That's why the genre uses the different sections; language is linear and can't show more than one layer at a time. You have to play the game of similars, associations, and connect the symbolic story-dots. It's a fun game for me! Obviously.
Röda läppar döljer dina tänder /och din tunga är så sträv Eld och rimfrost är i dina ögon/är du kvinna eller räv? Jagar slugt och vilt i natten /Långa ärmar döljer dina klor Leker lystet med ditt byte /munnen din är röd av blod
Nouse kirki kiimalle/perähyöry höngylle
Nouse ilman nojumata/kihko ilman kirromata
Vild och farligt vacker är du/Kjolen döljer knappt din svans/Lockar längre ut i mossen/med din galna rovdjursdans
Just när dina kläder fallit/och din nakna kropp jag sett/skrattar du och öppnar käften/ger mig djupa kärleksbett
Stiger lust till livligt lystnad /rusar sav i stammen upp
Stiger sejdens hjälp förutan/rusar utan galder rakt
Red lips hide your teeth/and your tongue is so coarse
Fire and frost are in your eyes/are you a woman or a fox?
Wild and sly you hunt in time of darkness/long sleeves hide your claws
with your prey you play/your mouth is red with blood
Rise now lust and rave desire/rush on upwards, sap in birchstem
Rise without a word of witch craft/rush without a rune of making!
You are wild and frighteningly beautiful/skirt barely hides your tail
Luring deeper into the woodlands/with your mad wild predator dance
Just when your clothes fall/and I see your naked frame
you laugh and open your jaws/and give me deep bites of love
Rise now lust and rave desire /rush on upwards, sap in birchstem
Rise without a word of witch craft /rush without a rune of making!
Next- the birch tree's answer!