A Phoenix for Peace


Every autumnal equinox (at least for us on the northern hemisphere) on the 21st of September the world celebrates (at least in theory) the international day of peace, as insituted by the UN in 1981. The period surrounding the equinox, when day and night are of equal length, has traditionally been a time for reflection of what has passed, a time for balance and making your spiritual accounts in preparation for the dark months of winter. The Sun slides into Libra and the Jewish holiday Yom Kippúr is also celebrated during this period. Yom Kippúr, the day of atonement, comes at the end of the ten ‘days of awe’, where everyone needs to truly repent their actions and misdeed of the last year. A process of purification. Then, during the day of atonement, your soul is laid down on the scales of truth and your name will be written down in one of two books – the Book of Life or the Book of Death.

Not that unlike what would happen to the dead in ancient Egypt. When the deceased started their journey into the kingdom of the dead, first their hearts had to be weighed by Anubis on the scales of Ma’at (a concept including truth, justice and balance. Represented as a goddess of justice and a natural order. In Hebrew emet means truth). The heart would be weighed against the feather of truth. If the heart (the soul) would weigh just as much as the feather, the dead would be free to enter the afterlife. But if you were deemed too heavy, you had no option but to be engulfed by the terrible Ammit, a hybrid of a crocodile, a lion and a hippopotamus.

As most other mythological creatures, Ammti has many siblings around the world, among them the immense Eagle in the mythology of the Toltecs, a pitch black, unending and impersonal god encompassing all beauty and all terror. The Eagle devours souls en masse when they part from the body on their way to the afterlife. Only a select few, those who are in balance, will escape. On our turf we also have a relative of sorts, of a more literary kind. The button moulder from Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt.

The world is in imbalance. Maybe it’s always been like this since we got the clever idea to eat from that tree (you know), learned about good and evil and were thrown out from a purely instinctive reality and into a dual worldview.. These later years the Feather of Truth has been waved from the barricades across the Middle East, from Egypt to Syria forceful and effective prayers have been shouted to Ma’at, but even though the underlying idea has been to balance the scales and to fight for the cause of truth, it looks like we’re operating with a see-saw and not a set of balanced scales.

Where is hope? The hope of equilibrium, siblinghood and balance? In tactical strikes and business as usual? Doesn’t that just make our hearts heavy and throw us happily into the Book of Death, into the maw of Ammit, into the beak of the Eagle, into the spoon of the Button Moulder?

A legendary bird with more positive connotations than the Eagle of the Toltecs has, as the Arab Spring, its origins in Egypt. A bird that lives for 500 years before self-immolating, becoming ashes and then resurrecting. The Egyptians called it bennu. We know it as the Phoenix. Just like the Eagle the Phoenix is immensely big, with a wing span encompassing the entirety of the world. But while the feathers of it’s dark counterpart have the nuance of black holes, the coat of the Phoenix shines like red gold. And where the Eagle pitilessly engulfs and devours when confronted with the suffering of the world and a lack of foresight, the Phoenix sheds tears. Tears that can heal all pain.

On the 21st of September, on the day of equilibrium and balance, on the Peace Day of the UN, I will tell Chasing the Phoenix, a performance about fear, isolation and hope. About the longing for peace and real community. And about the search for the Feather of Truth.

7pm – 8pm in the studio of Idékokeriet, Bygg N, Trondheimsveien 2, Oslo, Norway.

More about Chasing the Phoenix
Road description Idékokeriet

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