Fire from Heaven begins thus:
Steady old Vainamoinen
played the kantele
long, both played and sang
rejoiced in other ways too.
The music rang in the moon's cabins
the joy at the sun's windows:
the moon comes from its cabin
stepped on to a birch's crook
and the sun emerged from its stronghold
squatted on top of a pine
to hear the kantele, to
marvel at the merriment.
After Vainamoinen, that steady, balanced bard, fashioned his new birch kantele (see last blog series of three posts), we get some more elemental lessons. The Birch Kantele featured some lessons on water element grief. Now, time for some lessons about fire! In Vainamoinen's singing and playing here, we see he is emanating, creating, seated in, experiencing, a balanced, joyful, cosmic vibration or music. When sun and moon are functioning together, balanced, in our experience, there is partnership between the opposites. This balance is very simply symbolized by the archetypally feminine, reflecting/reflective, inner (the birch crook) moon and the high, radiant, masculine sun. As I mentioned in the last blog, the metaphors of "house" can pertain to the human body, and the psyche's big picture archetype of "home"; all of our associations with home. That which we "see" when we look out our inner "windows" describes our state of being, for our inner state and the manner in which we view things are one and the same. The moon's cabins would be our inner experience in the most general sense, moon being the inner, reflective experience (Sun radiates).
Louhi, mistress of Northland
the gap-toothed hag of the North
then lays hold of the sun, caught
the moon with her hands...
and she brought them straight
home to dark Northland.
This chapter describes a certain experience you may have had. In the personal development/self inquiry game, even in the very game of life, we might wonder; Why am I going along having a jolly time, feeling very cosmic and abundant, making beautiful music with my inner kantele, etc., and then BOOM! it disappears, and I am back in some negative state of insecurity, small-mindedness, fear, confusion, etc.? That's the situation Vainamoinen's dramatizing for us here.
One way to explain such a downturn is that, when we deliberately focus on personal freedom and personal development, on manifesting our authentic expression as joyous, abundant beings, we run into the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs which block that more radiant, steady state of experience. Like a partially clogged drain that backs up when you run more than a certain amount of water through it, practicing joy, singing our own cosmic kantele-song, reveals to us our thoughts and stories that counter freedom, our more expanded or cosmic perspective.
Interestingly, Louhi keeps the moon from illuminating by hiding it in a "bright-breasted rock", and inhibits the sun's radiance by holding it similarly in a "mountain of steel". Here we get the image of blockage, for these heavy earth formations are the opposite of flow. They are like a pair of concrete boots in the psyche, shackles on soul and spirit, an excess of earth element in the alchemical sense.
Most simply put, too much earth element is a condition of excessive materialism, i.e. believing in the physical realm as the only reality. That's not the steadiness Vanamoinen is promoting. Physicality has a relatively slow vibration, so for fundamentally ethereal beings like us, too much focus on the physical can indeed manifest as a heaviness, the opposite of joy's cosmic lightness of being. That the rock is "bright-breasted" is a blatant reference to the rock as the chest of a human being; Kalevala stories mention often the breast (as my translation puts it) as a reference to heart chakra.
This little mini-lesson on earth element shows that we may recognize our own lack of creative flow by a cold-heartedness, and when I talk about creative flow I am not talking specifically about painting pictures or playing a kantele. "Art" is a great forum for creativity, but the greatest painting we will render, the most marvelous song we sing, will be our life itself. When we are stuck as far as our life-creation, we do not access joy, abundance, health, peace. We hide our true nature as light-being.
In Carlos Castaneda's books, the Petty Tyrant (or Tyrant, period) is a good way to think about this Louhi aspect. Tyrants in this sense are those folks who just seem to set you off every time, whether on a regular basis or just randomly, whether it's your mother or a political party or just some song you hate. They are the fire-spark to your internal tinder, the steel that strikes your inner flint. From a website paraphrasing: 'Many people fall victim to the Petty Tyrants of the world and being defeated by one means a loss of one's vital energies. The Seer Don Juan explained to Castaneda that it was the task of Warriors to learn to face these Petty Tyrants with temperance and to prevail against their torments. Dealing with Petty Tyrants called for four qualities of warriorship: control, discipline, forbearance and timing. Whereas to be defeated meant to act in anger, and potentially join the ranks of the Petty Tyrants.'
she stole the flame, the
fire from Vaino-land's cabins
and the cabins lost their fire
and the rooms their flame;...
It is hard to be fireless
and great woe to be flameless-
tiresome for mankind, tiresome
even for the Old Man, too.
The Old Man, Ukko, is a sort of sky god, very similar in his heavenly aspect to the Christian God, to Jupiter/Zeus, to Thor. An anthropomorphic creator-god theoretically gets tired of people who are stuck, since creator gods are in it for the creativity. I know how he feels. Life without that spark which ignites creative inspiration? Yawn. In the song which ends this post, Jakob Dylan also notes that this loss of fire is fatiguing.
"Vaino-land" would be Vainamoinen, symbolically; his state of being, as in the windows and the moon's cabins. Vaino-land is the ethereal "place" which Vainamoinen inhabits, experiences, and thus creates, based on his beliefs, perspectives, creative expression, his conditioning, his soul-and-spirit, and more. So my experience could be called "Colleen-land".
Since fire is the subject of the story, time to deliver a brief on it. Fire isn't just anger, a boundary-setting, archetypally masculine behavior exhibited by many animals and even a few plants. Fire's anger is also almost inseparable from aggression, and that aggression is what we are experiencing when we feel the burn, fire's excessive, piercing heat. The sun of course rules fire here, since it's the biggest one we have "close". Fire is also, as Coyote fire-stealer above shows us, the divine "spark" of creativity. In a stone cold experience, our passion is gone; passion for survive-and-thrive, passion for love, passion for creativity, passion for our own destinies, for the Divine. Without passion, we can't experience the joy and abundance Vainamoinen sang with his kantele; we are too cold, slow, hard. When we thaw out our inner spark we experience more and more heartfelt connection, more love for our own creative process.
Check out this sweet video, an old Karelian dude striking fire to light his pipe! I would guess the whitish tinder he holds up is a strip of birch bark. It's from a film, Reenactment of a Karelian Wedding (excerpt). Check it out and compare it with the sort of weddings we do in America these days! The music is kantele.
and he flashed forth flame
with a sword of fiery blade...
Yes, he got fire by striking
and he hides the spark of fire
in a golden purse
in a silver case
and he had a maid lull it
a lass of the air wag it
to form a new moon
to start a new sun.
The Air-lass tends the fire tenderly "in a golden cradle/in a silver sling", repeating the gold-and-silver alchemical reference above of purse and case. I am not by any means including all the lines of this particular runo or story, in case you are not accessing a copy of it somehow. Notice the sword, symbol of air element, and this poetry of spark and air, of human breath and steel. Of course archetypally masculine air and fire are inextricably intertwined, in a tale of fire, for fire must have air. And of course air stands on its own, as well as combining with fire. All kinds of light fall under the element, not just the flaming sort.
Notice also that the sun and moon are hidden in a rock and in steel, and this is how we strike fire; feminine rock and masculine steel collide with force. The number of ways this masculine-feminine metaphor could be played with in this scenario are many, truly! As happens when masculine and feminine mate, here is the beginning of life itself; "the clouds squirmed, the heavens mewed", like a baby and a kitten. The Air-lass nurses the spark as tenderly as one must nurse a tinder-fire in the hands, as depicted in the video above.
but the silly girl dropped the
fire, the careless girl the flame...
Heaven was split into holes
the sky all in windows:
the red spark of fire broke away
the red tine whizzed off-
down through the heavens it spilled
and pierced the clouds flickering
through the nine heavens
clove the six bright lids.
Since the Old Man of the sky, Ukko, is also a god of light, as that's where light comes from, he is the creator of lightning. A thunerstorm was said to be Ukko enjoying conjugal relations with his wife, Akka.
Notice the windows again. Why and how would there be a sky split into windows? Again, we can imagine we're not only talking about the sky, as in the physical experience of an atmosphere above earth and that which we can see of the space beyond it; stars, sun, etc. We can imagine we are talking of Vaino-land again, of his experience. So here comes this bolt of fire, and it's entering Vainamoinen's body and psyche. ZAP! That's kind of how anger is, and anger is the destructive aspect of fire, you could say part of the creative circle, the "ring of fire" which creates, destroys, creates, destroys. The "nine heavens" I am not sure about, but heavens refer to levels of consciousness, usually. Therefore it might refer to the oversoul level, the higher self, the conscious mind, unconscious mind, etc. There are many ways to order the different vibrational levels or frequencies of human experience. I believe the "bright lids", mentioned a number of times in Kalevala, refer to the energetic centers of the human body, called in my culture now chakras, borrowed from Hindu philosophy and healing.
Notice also the cleaving. Air element especially is noted for this cleaving ability; the air element sword or any other blade. To cleave means to separate the one into two. What this tells us is that the aggressive aspect of air and fire is a duality-based experience for humans. Of course there is no reason to get aggressive unless there is an "other" to aggress. From the unitive state, that which may seem in my experience to be the "other" is understood as also me, so aggression is stupid. In duality consciousness, we make "other" even of ourselves, and commit internal and even external (self mutilation, etc.) acts of aggression against ourselves. Theoretically the Louhi character would be good at showing us how we block our life-creation, our personal development, through beating up on ourselves, among other things.
'Brother, smith Ilmarinen
let us go and look
let's get there and learn
what that fire is which has come
that strange flame that has tumbled
out of the heavens above
down to mother earth-
whether it is the moon's ring
or else the sun's disc!'
Ilmarinen is the cosmic smith-god, so obviously he is very interested in the nature of fire. Here, the two give us a big tip, as far as learning about alchemy; get your butt off the chair, get out there (or in there) and learn, go and look! Observe fire in all its forms, both within and without.
Both ring and disc are circular, right? So that points us towards unity consciousness, as do moon's silver and sun's gold. All will now be explored from that unified window, that "higher" or more expanded, detached perspective. This chapter could not be any more blatant about its alchemical roots if it tried; it's like alchemical classes for kindergarteners! The two brothers will now explore the archetypal masculine and feminine qualities of fire.
Ukko is supposedly a descendant of a god called Ilmarinen, which makes sense. As I have said, in Finnish and surely other cultures, there is not a big line of demarcation created between humans and deities. The superb blending of human and sacred experience in these Finnish/Karelian stories is a great lesson for those of us of Judeo-Christian heritage who have been led to believe that "holy" and "human" are two different concepts entirely. This borderland between the sacred and the human experience is of course what poetry, metaphor, symbol is all about, so who better for the project than the steady bard?
Here's one of my favorite songwriters, son of the uber-famous Bob. Great poetry, and it describes very well what happens when Louhi removes the sun from our worlds. Jakob uses the image of a sun that never gets high in the sky, thus its radiant power is greatly diminished. If you are in a valley, in fact, the sun isn't seen when it's low enough; I know that since it's my personal experience here on the lee side of a hill.
In that sort of inner low low sun experience, we end up in slave mode; soldiers who give their lives in obedience to "bandits and cowboys unable to hold their own guns". Of course guns are fire element. "Boom boom thunder" is like Ukko's lightning storm; too much immature fire element= "no sleep coming". The "cool water" that can balance out this way of being is water element, of course. That we "bootleg and bottle it like rum" is actually a literal event, for when we are conditioned to believe we can't easily access the peaceful flowing grace of water element, sort of the opposite of the heat and flash and excitement of fire, we purchase it, expect it to come from some "container", whether it's a religious dogma, a lover, or an actual bottle of booze!
Jakob's poetry is worthy of a blog of its own, but alas, my hours are numbered... hats off to you, Jakob! I will just ask you to notice he refers to precious metals, surely gold and silver, very early on. And he does use the word "steady"...
We'd feel much better if we sunk this treasure/And laid our armor down
These precious metals and these captain's letters/They are no use to us now
In the day we struggle with fatigue much greater/Than any offer was
We bow down and worship these bandits and cowboys/Unable to hold their own guns
I know that soldiers are not paid to think/But something is making us sick
Onward and steady/Able and young/In the valley of the low low sun
In the shade we wander along a highway's shoulder/Into the back of beyond
Burning the daylight into a pastime/That's too wise to come more than once
It's boom boom thunder ain't no sleep coming/Out mining a slippery world
Of snow covered beaches and junkyards of diesel/And bombers named after girls
On bridges of black ice not built for the rush/There's a new kind of beast getting up
That's stranger than fiction/Speaking in tongue
In the valley of the low low sun/Hold on for the slow turning
Smoke if you've got 'em boys/This is bottom hiding out
Down under the stairs/Tomorrow has come
Like it's drunk on the blood/Of the men who have dared to be there
The earth's still climbing as it keeps on grinding/Its way up around the sun
As cool water crashes down to the masses/bootlegged and bottled like rum
My dreams are humble lean as arrows/Streetwise ready and fair
As we bum rush the ages tied to the rails/On high seas not fit to be sailed
Whatever we've taken does feel like heaven/But baby we just look like hell
Act like you mean it where paradise was/In the valley of the low low sun
Act like you mean it where paradise was/In the valley of low low sun