Birth imagery is everywhere, from the paradox of the pomegranate in ancient writings to the joyful and whimsical life-giving nature of the Northern Lights found in Native storytelling. Whenever I have been challenged by a birth, or face great joy or loss in our own family, I go to my books. Research is my way of coping with challenges. I haunt creaky-floored second hand bookstores, sit on the floor of the library, reading my way to new understanding.
This month, I started with Tomson Highway's prose, both profound and profane. His imagery of the spirit child who is formed in the Northern Lights and tumbles to earth is magical. There is a bubbling life-force in his words. Then I moved on to reading tales of Persephone and the pomegranate; stories of the potency of life. Seven stars on the tiara created a fetus. Seven seeds of a pomegranate forced the eternal union between Persephone and Hades, creating both life and death in the seasons. I seek connection in these writings...
"As its galaxies of stars and suns and moons and planets hummed their way across the sky and back, the Fur Queen smiled enigmaticaly, and from the seven stars on her tiara burst a human foetus, fully formed, opalescent, ghostly."
- Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway
"A single fruit grew on that tree, a bright pomegranate fruit. Persephone stood up in the chariot and plucked the fruit from the tree. Then did Aidoneus prevail upon her to divide the fruit, and, having divided it, Persephone ate seven of the pomegranate seeds."
- The Golden Fleece by Padraic Colum
When I found myself attending my 600th birth on the same day that there was a loss in our family, I drew strength from the words that I had read. To help my client birth her baby who was posterior, a star-gazing child, I gave her images of tumbling and turning, slipping then sliding (thanks to Tomson Highway). Her baby finally tumbled from her body. The next day I bought a pewter pomegranate as a gift, to honour the lives both lost and found.
When I look at the birth books on store shelves, I am saddened by their lack of depth. But when I broaden my search to include ancient texts, modern literature, history books, poetry, and the oral traditions of other cultures, I am inspired. I hope that, in turn, my explorations help others to find meaning.
In memory of the spirit baby...