member of:Observers of the Interdependence of Domestic Objects and Their Influence on Everyday Life

This group has been active for a long time and has already made some remarkable assertions which render life simpler from the practical point of view. For example, I move a pot of green color five centimeters to the right, I push in the thumbtack beside the comb and if Mr. A (another adherent like me) at this moment puts his volume about bee-keeping beside a pattern for cutting out vests, I am sure to meet on the sidewalk of the avenida Madero a woman who intrigues me and whose origin and address I never could have known...
--Remedios Varo

(Slideshow is of Artwork by Remedios Varo)
By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.
--Franz Kafka

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Transformation: Erzulie-Ewa and the Green Lion

Transformation: Erzulie-Ewa and the Green Lion

In Candomblé Ketu, Ewá represents the water element, and is the goddess of enchantment, beauty, and harmony. Like Erzulie, in the related Voodoo pantheon, she is universally loved and loving and "represents all that is fragile and sensitive." According to Morwyn, in Magic from Brazil, "Euá was so beautiful that men would fight to the death to possess her. In order to stop the carnage she changed herself into a puddle of water that evaporated to the sky, condensed into a cloud, and fell as rain. Thus she is known as the deity of transformation."
The story resonates a bit with the Biblical flood, the idea of a transformative force, a cleansing force, that comes through water, which itself is not only representative of cleansing but also of emotions (think how we describe a "torrent" of emotions "flooding" over us or "bubbling" or "welling" up, or how we might call a relationship "stagnant," or we might keep our emotions "bottled" up or "dammed" up). Here, that positive emotion, Ewá's sense of love, rises above the violence of all those men who want her, and washes it away.

In Sacred Possessions, Vodou, Santeria, Obeah, and the Caribbean, Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert writes about a book called The Cathedral of the August Heat:

"The life-giving power of Vodou pervades the entire text. The veve, or mysical sign, for Erzulie, goddess of the erotic and divinity of dreams, presides over the first part of the novel. The power of Erzulie--'her elan, all the excessive pitch with which the dreams of men soar, when, momentarily, they can shake loose the flat weight, the dreary, reiterative demands of necessity'--imbues this section of the text. Conceived in the spirit of expansiveness characteristic of the cult of Erzulie, where all anxieties, all urgencies vanish, the section ends with the prefiguration of the power of laughter, the volcanic laughter that erupts in the world of the lost people like a seismic shock, spreading through the Caribbean region. The supernatural laughter corresponds to the image of the netherworld in folk tradition as the place to which fear has fled after its defeat by laughter. Folk laughter, the cosmic laughter of the lost people, represents the end of the 'mystic terror of the authority and truth of the past, still prevailing but dying, which has been hurled into the underworld'--the defeat of the forces that have zombified the people..."

The story of Erzulie, the story of Ewá, also reminds me of the Chinese bodhisattva Guan Yin, who also caused a massive transformation, defeating violence: during an unjust and forced visit to the Underworld, she was so overwhelmed with compassion for the souls which suffered untold tortures there, her very love transformed that hell into a paradise. She changed, simply by being full of compassion, the very order of things (something to think about the next time someone calls you a naive utopian). She is, like Ewá and Erzulie, the patroness of mothers and of sailors, and she can be called upon to bring rain;

"Other gods are feared, she is loved...Her throne is upon the Isle of Pootoo [P’u T’o], to which she came floating upon a water-lily. She is the model of Chinese beauty, and to say a lady or a little girl is a ‘Kuan Yin’ is the highest compliment that can be paid to grace and loveliness."--Source.

Alchemists, the precursors to our modern chemists, also strove for major transformation. The endless writings on the steps necessary to transmute base metals into gold are thought by some to have been mere code for a higher transmutation, an internal transmutation, in which the base form of the self becomes light, reaches higher consciousness. Alchemists sought to create an elixir of healing and eternal life, and one of the code names for that ultimate elixir was "the remedy of the green lion."

Here, she is decked out in finery and jewels, as Erzulie, who ignores utterly all the stresses of economics and regular old checkbook balancing, always demands for her ceremonies. As her dress melts into water which settles into a small lake, her scarf billows out into clouds which begin to detach in the form of birds. All of this takes place by a tall tree reaching in all directions, which represents the presence of Legba, Loa of the crossroads, who must be called upon in order to achieve any contact with the Vodou pantheon or the spirit world. Between them paces the green (I promise, he's green, or will be soon) lion.


  1. Zoe, you are an amazing teacher, a wonderful inspiration. I always feel so grateful when I read your post, every one is like a magnificent pearl of wisdom and beauty. Thank you.

  2. You know how much I love this post.

    So interesting.

    Love Renee xoxoxo

  3. Beautiful new painting, Zoe! I love the omniprescence of trees, water and, of course, those expressive eyes that recur in your works, because all of them celebrate life and its constant transformation. Bravo!

  4. Hello zoe.

    Love your work! Love the green lion!

    How intersting to read about Ewá who represents the water element! I guess the water element can be reinforced with much Love.

    I'm sure Chinese Guan Yin is the same as Kwan Yin(観音) or Kannon bodhisattva.

    Thanks a lot for sharing all those!

  5. thanks, guys...
    sapphire--yes, she's the same one. she should really have her own post, lots of interesting stuff about her :)

  6. Super gorgeous. Thank you! In my many years of study w/ all these elements, I hold these in particular as personal talismans/protective forces. But i had not yet seen their connection!
    Good, inspiring work! Ashe, Axe! Madeleina