A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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June 2007, vol 3 no 2

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Dave Tilley

Trigram Myths


The I-Ching (or yi-jing), is one of the oldest books in existence and is one of the classics of Chinese literature. In fact, the term Ching can be translated as "classic". The term "I" or "yi" means change. So the I-Ching is the classic of change. This classic has been studied for centuries. The text is a collection of sixty four hexagrams (six line symbols of change). The sixty four are derived from eight core three-line symbols called Trigrams.

The following myths derive their content from a knowledge of the I-Ching and an exploration of the eight trigrams as "spirits." They are spirits of nature: earth, sky, fire, water, wind, mountain, marsh, thunder.

The I-Ching is also a tool for divination. One flips coins or picks yarrow sticks (there are many methods) with a question in mind, and one of the sixty four hexagrams is selected by this random process. From there, the symbol and the associated texts become an index into ones own heart and mind. We ask a question, receive an answer and interpret the answer through our own personal mythologies.

I used this process of consulting the I-Ching to write the myths themselves. For each myth I did five readings and used the readings as an outline, reading the symbols and texts of each one, interpreting them via my own symbolic system to create the myths. So in essence, the I-Ching has written it's own myths.

The form of the myths is Haibun, a Japanese form that integrates prose and haiku poems. Traditionally this form has been used for travel journals, or journey stories, and this of course, is what a myth is truly about. Myths are spiritual journeys. The haiku poetic form is typically a three line poem which makes each poem, essentially, a trigram.

Cycle One: Creation As The Vase Broke

This all happened in basic space. It happened as the vase broke

In the way-back, when there was basic space, pure and hidden, it was all in the shape of a vase. In the belly of the vase was Mother Earth, she who supports us all. She who bows her head and suckles the people. But there were no people then. She was alone in the clay belly. When Mother Earth looked up now and then, she could see through the narrow neck of the vase. Above the narrows, in the mouth she could see a light.

A keyhole
Two eyes search
For each other

Living all alone underneath the domed lid was Father Sky. He who fathered the world. Father Sky is a ball of fire in the clear blue. Strong and warming he watches over the people. But, there were no people then. He burned bright but he burned alone. Father grew tired of being alone and slept in darkness. One day Father Sky looked down through the neck of the vase and saw Mother Earth and knew that he was not alone. He called to her with his long rays of light.

"You with the yellow hair of corn, so fine and so fair, come be with me." But Mother Earth could only sing to him in return, her voice running up the beam, "I can not fit through the narrowness. You must come to me." But Father Sky could not enter the narrowness of the vase-neck. He said, "We must both rush the narrowness at the same time and squeeze together."

Potted flowers
On winter windowsill
Lean to the sun

So they both rushed to the vase-neck at the same time. Their blaze and their mass, forged in their desire, shattered the vase completely. The glazed clay flew in a billion pieces into the sky in the four directions. Each piece kept with it some of Mother Earth and some of Father Sky. They all became the star children. The largest piece was the oldest piece of the vase and became Grandmother Moon.

Now Father Sky and Mother Earth rolled and played in their delight. He warmed her and she lifted up his spirits. Together they fell and together they lay in sleep in the dim light of the Grandmother Moon and the Star Children.

This all happened in basic space. It happened as the vase broke.

As The Six Were Born

This all happened between Earth and Sky. It happened as The Six were born

In basic space after the vase broke, Mother Earth lay sleeping. In her dream, she was filled with light by six rays of the setting sun. When she awoke, she felt full as if she had been to a great feast. Her belly was swollen and as she turned to rise, she felt one pain and then another.

Gentle pond
Behind an ice dam
Small expanding crack

Turning to Father Sky, she winced and grabbed hold of him. Father Sky held her and she screamed, and as she did, she opened and birthed first a son and then a daughter. But she was not still yet. She wailed again and birthed another daughter and son. Still once more, she opened up with blood and tears and brought forth the last son and the last daughter. Six in all there were, three daughters and three sons.

The first son is Thunder, the rouser whom some have called Shake. He cried out as the splitting of a tree, as the tumbling of large boulders that land in a disheveled pile. Ever he has run in the sky and the field striking out to change the situation.

Crack in the wall
Flashing in the hot night
Rumble in the chest

First daughter is Wind. She is a gentle breeze in the wood. She whispers in the afternoon between boughs and leaves. She hovers an inch above the grasses on the vast plain, and draws your hair across your brow. Gently, she penetrates the situation and brings a gradual change.

Second son is Water. He was born in the North. He flowed out of his mother easily and sought the low places. He is the one that fell into the pit and his eyes are a deep abyss. There is danger in Water and he can carry one off in a rush.

Between two trees
Holding the Sun and the Moon
The Ghost River

Second daughter is Fire and she is her father's daughter. She is also the heat in the belly of her mother. Born in the South she burns bright and hot, yet flickers in the night wind. She can roar and crackle or hiss in a soft rain.

Youngest son is Mountain. Born in the Northeast he hardly moves. He is his Mother's son and rises out of her and looks down from heights like his father. He moves ever slow and his heart is deep. At first his mother feared his stillness as it seemed he did not breath, but as Mother Earth looked at him she saw his calmness and long life.

Youngest daughter is Marsh. Her first call was a laugh and not a cry. She is gentle, fond of laughing and content. She is like her brother Mountain, often shrouded in mist, vast and still. If you look in her mirror eye you can sometimes see him there.

Long reeds
Rising from the surface
Red Winged Blackbird

Father Sky and Mother Earth raised their children in the new world. It was still young then.

This all happened between Earth and Sky. It happened as The Six were born.