The Dragon’s Healing Breastplate
Excerpt from the book,
Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems, p.187
By Lynda McKinney Lambert
It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure ~ Joseph Campbell
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ~ Luke 12:34
Photography, an interest and passion for me since I earned my first camera by selling Girl Scout cookies, remains a focus to this day. From childhood to the present, I am seldom without a camera nearby. I’ve captured some memorable photographic images with my camera. I’m inspired by the landscape and nature at any time of day, in any season. But, in my imagination, there are even more distinct and vivid photos I collected from the stories I read through my lifetime romance with literature. Each story is a snapshot of people, place, and time.
In my memory-scapes, I stand as a witness where I observe some special women who show details of their lives in a unique slice of time and place. Each woman has a connection with a Divine presence and each has some aspect of the fiber arts at the center of their story. The women’s stories were passed down from antiquity via oral tradition and writings by historians. The texts from different cultures at various time periods give us insight and inspiration for living a meaningful life in our own time and place. The women in the writings add valuable information that will enlighten or help contemporary people to understand timeless universal truths. The imprint of the past cannot be erased. It won’t disappear but remains with us through the generations.
I’m innately aware of the perpetuity of traces that human history has left behind for all of us to discover. It’s imperative that I look for the layers of history’s traces in order to fit together the pieces of the enigma of our individual life story. At times, I have a sense that I am walking over layers of ancestors; walking in their footprints; listening to their voices; learning about life’s meaning directly from them. In my being, I hear the voices from the ‘world without end.’ I listen.
In each of my favorite stories, there’s a remarkable woman who saves the lives of other people, or she brings healing through the creative use of fiber arts such as thread, yarn, weaving. embroidery or working with precious beads and stones.
Storytellers of early Greek Mythology introduced me to a young girl named Ariadne. The vivid picture I have of her in my mind is unforgettable. In the Greek worldview, there are humans, like you and me, who are mortal. We will live our life, grow old, and die. As a contrast, in Greek and Roman myths, we encounter supernatural gods, goddesses and mythical, magical creatures that are immortal. Many of the unusual, hybrid creatures in myth originate when an immortal has a sexual encounter with a mortal.
Ariadne was an immortal. She’s a beautiful young woman who stands in my imaginary photo with a ball of red thread in her outstretched hands. In the mythological tale, Ariadne is the daughter of King Minos of Crete. He is the son of Zeus. His queen, Pasiphae is the daughter of Helios. Ariadne, of course, is a royal princess in an immortal family of the gods.
Similar to many myths and folk tales, immortal Ariadne fell passionately in love with a strikingly handsome young, mortal, man. Theseus came from Athens; he was visiting Crete at this time. It so happened that 7 youth and 7 maidens were required to be sacrificed to the Minotaur, a vicious creature – half bull and half man. The legendary Minotaur was kept in a maze called a Labyrinth. As the myth unfolds, we learn that fourteen young victims were randomly selected to be sacrificed periodically (some sources say it is every year, another says every 7 or 9 years) in order to appease the gods who had brought a plague upon Crete. To Theseus was a youth who volunteered to kill the Minotaur. He and the others would enter the Labyrinth, where they would be devoured by the Minotaur. No one who entered this lair ever found a way back out again because the maze was so complex. It was designed and created by 2 gods therefore, once a mortal stepped inside of it, they were doomed.
The twist in the story is that Ariadne was in charge of the Labyrinth where the sacrifices were made.
As Theseus was about to go into the Labyrinth, Ariadne gave him a sword and a ball of red thread into his hand. He walked through the complicated Labyrinth slowly and unrolled the ball of thread. He found the Minotaur asleep in the center of the maze and he killed it with the sword Ariadne gave him. Theseus followed the trail of red thread to escape from the Labyrinth and all the others who had entered with him came out safely as well.
In my imaginary photo collection of heroic women, there is another who stands with a scarlet cord in her hand. We find the story of Rehab in the Old Testament Book of Joshua (2nd chapter). The time period was when the Hebrews were just entering into the Promised Land. Two spies were sent into Jericho to scope out the city and the people in advance of the coming invasion of the Hebrews. The 2 spies encountered Rahab who spun and dyed flax on the roof of her home. Her house was built into the city wall.
“(18) Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. (19) Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. (20) But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.” (21) And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window”
Rahab placed a scarlet cord that she made, in the window, and it hung down over the outside wall of the city. The cord was a signal to the men who would be coming to destroy the city that this house was not to be touched. Her house would be passed over, and everyone inside the house marked by the scarlet cord would be spared when the moment arrived for the destruction of the entire city to begin.
These stories, found in historic texts, compel me to ask:
“What is there about a piece of spun fiber, such as a red thread or a scarlet cord which is significant enough to guide Theseus through a complex maze in Greek myth?
Or, why was a woven cord used as a sentinel to warn and protect a home and its inhabitants as it did with Rahab?
In both stories there was an impending danger that threatened the lives of the women, their families and a significant life-altering change that occurred. The red thread and scarlet cord are symbolic images that pivot events and bring a triumphant victory in the lives of both women. Both thread and cord provided a way out of disaster for the people in the stories. They also provided escape from imminent death in both stories.
I offer here a final glimpse into a personal memory-scape, where my own life experience at a time of crisis and uncertainty. In this picture, I hold in my hands an object that appears to be a talisman from the ancient past. A talisman is a protective garment or piece of jewelry that is worn to ward off evil spirits, defeat enemies in a battle, or bring healing, energy and clarity to mind of the one who wears it. The talisman is a sacred object.
It is an art work I created at a terrifying time, a life crisis. This tale is not from antiquity, yet the images, metaphors and influences are clearly present. These noble women served as guides in my journey through uncharted territory. The most notable aspect of the talisman which I call, ‘The Dragon’s Healing Breast Plate,’ is that this art work marks the end of my sighted life and the beginning of my life of profound sight loss.
‘The Dragon’s Healing Breastplate’ is a mixed-media fiber sculpture. It has the appearance of an ancient necklace that would be worn by royalty. It looks like some sort of ceremonial neck piece with a dragon image as the center of interest to signify the importance of the person who wears it. It is not really a wearable adornment but a clever deception.
This encrusted beadwork ‘show-stopper’ is what I label ‘Unwearable Art,’ and it holds a special place in my own personal life journey.
In my academic lectures and research articles, I have always had a keen interest in studies of ancient and medieval mythology and imagery. The many parallels I discovered between contemporary culture, our daily life and the historic stories from the past led me to devote my research inquiries to new discoveries and revelations.
While on a trip to New York City in August 2007, I purchased the beads and central dragon image that I planned to use in a new project. What I did not know on that sunny August afternoon was that I would not be physically able to bring it to completion as I anticipated.
Shortly after I started work on this piece, I suddenly lost most of my eyesight. With only one fourth of the piece completed, it came to a screeching stop. I could no longer see the piece at all and had no way of ever knowing I would be able to do this kind of intricate bead working in the future. I plunged into despair at times, yet always kept this dragon image in my thoughts. I longed to be able to create such magical, inspired work again.
After five years of adjustment to my new life and with the help of significant blind rehabilitation, I returned to this work to pick up where I had left off. I can tell you, it was not an easy task. I experienced many frustrating failures, tangled messes of thread and beads, and discouraging mistakes before I finally reached the place in my mind where I had the confidence to be able to work again on this piece. Just as the Dragon image in ancient Eastern Culture is one of healing and protection, this particular Dragon became a healing symbol, or, a trophy, to me. The Dragon signaled that, just as Rahab did so long ago, I had won the battle and beat the doubts. I rejoiced in the victory of my own return to wholeness. The mixed-media fiber object, the dragon image, is symbolic of my own creative journey and healing. Creating this piece of art connected me with confidence in divine guidance, and deep understanding that I intuitively share healing through my artworks.
I ask myself – “What do I see when I look at this artwork?”
I view a picture of an inner landscape; it shows the terrain inside the Labyrinth of my own inner struggles. Inside this complex maze, I can visualize a creative path that required new visions. Ariadne’s ball of red thread and Rahab’s scarlet cord is a powerful metaphor; it connects and guides me.
Some days, I move forward in my chair as I sit in my office and write stories or create poems. Other days, I hold tight to a slender needle with thread in my hand. I’ve researched the time and place in which my slice of story occurs. Willfully, I walk into the mists of the unclear, uncharted Chronicle.
The final snapshot: Rahab, Ariadne and me. We stand together in this place. Here is where our eyes see glory!
Meaning of Rahab’s name: —The first part, Ra,” was the name of an Egyptian god. Rahab was an Amorite who lived in Jericho at the time of its destruction.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lynda McKinney Lambert is a blind author and visual artist who was nominated for The Skirt Best of the Net for an Essay in 2017. Her poem, “Red December,” won the award for a “single poem prize” in the 2017 Proverse (Hong Kong) Poetry Prize and will appear in the forthcoming anthology, Mingled Voices #2 this year.
She has authored 2 full-length books:
Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage, Kota Press, 2003.
Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems, DLD Books, 2017.
Lynda’s work has appeared in Indiana Voice Journal; Spirit-Fire Review; Breath & Shadow; Wordgathering; Naturewriting; The Pangolin Review; Plinth; YAWP; The Avocet; Plum Tree Tavern; Magnets & Ladders; and many more.
Lynda is a retired professor of fine arts and humanities who loves wading in the creek behind her house and watching the night sky. Lynda and her husband of 57 years, walk their 2 dogs (Mitchell and Miss Dixie tulip) in the woods along the banks of the Connoquenessing Creek. While Lynda is doing research on her family genealogy, making art or writing, her 2 cats (Miss Bessie and Miss Opal) hang out in her office and nap while she is working.
Lynda recently created a collection of nature -themed poetry for her first chapbook, “first snow.” She is also working on a full-length book of poetry (Star Signs: New and Selected Poems) for publication in late 2018.
Visit her Author’s Page for more information on ordering her books. http://www.dldbooks.com/lyndalambert/
Lynda is a Peer Advisor and writes articles for Vision Aware Blog, on the American Foundation for the Blind website.
Lynda authors the blogs:
Walking by Inner Vision: www.lyndalambert.com
Lynda is a well known visual artist who exhibits her mixed-media fiber work interntionally. He has won major awards world-wide for over 40 years for her paintings, wood cut prints, and fiber art.