I was given two tools: a wine carafe and a knife.
18 September, 2012
The first lesson was the knife. I hated it, I hated the task: being held to a standard of challenge, of knowing the standard and being unyielding when the standard was unmet. Of being, not cruel, but hard; of offering the support of critique and voicing an awareness of failure.
It was Ordeal work - both in supporting the Ordeal I was serving as challenge-master for, and in finding in myself a place where I could do this thing, rather than do what I wanted to - rather than be softer, gentler, more cuddly, more gracious, a haven rather than a fight. And I did the work. And it was hard. And I became stronger.
And I was glad of the resting time afterwards, the space to recover. Holding to the knifework is hard. The surgeon's mind - knowing when is the time to cut and when is the time to put the knife away - is a sharp and dangerous place, and it is not easy work. I had longed for the place I thought of as more of the carafe - the healer, the sustainer, the refuge - and having to cleave to something sharper was exhausting.
There is a common false dichotomy in the gendering of tools - the knife as active, the cup as passive - the phallic nature of the thing that penetrates taking that masculine, dominating, urgent energy in symbolism, while the thing that contains and holds is that vulvar feminine, submitting to its contents, patient. This is all through a lot of ceremonial magic and other things, and cultural things, and perhaps it infects the brain even when one doesn't symbolise the hieros gamos by stabbing something in the wine as a matter of standard protocol.
The idea is that the knife is work, and the cup just kind of sits there.
This idea, of course, is bullshit.
Even at its most simplistic, the vessel to hold power must be as strong as that which it holds or it will fracture. That strength must be a held strength, something that sustains, not the sort of burst strength of a single action. To cut takes strength in a moment; to hold takes strength over time.
Hold the power. Hold it available. Be the well, the place from which strength can be drawn.
Hold the image of the possible so that it can be found as a reflection.
Try not to run dry.