Touch the Earth Gently: 23: Lord Shiva and the Hoof Foots: Class 1 Circle Dances Middle Lesson
By Alan Whitehead
Copyright Alan Whitehead & Earthschooling: No Part of this book, post, URL, or book excerpt may be shared with anyone who has not paid for these materials. Additional note by Kristie Burns of Earthschooling.
Alan speaks in a very symbolic manner in some parts of the book. Although they can be read anthroposophically, passages speaking of Atlantis, archangels, gods, etc. do not need to be taken literarily to be meaningful. I have kept the writing as close to one-hundred percent original so you will also find that he speaks of Australia often and some spelling or manners of speaking may be cultural. Any words I have changed are presented like this: <word>.
Also keep in mind that these books are written by a Waldorf teacher with decades of experience who also studied with the teacher-students of Steiner himself so he speaks to an audience that is dedicating their lives to the Waldorf method without exception. Not all of his views will be reflected in the Earthschooling curriculum and not all of them may be ones you want to embrace or are able to use. However, as I read through these passages, I am finding I can distill wisdom from even those paragraphs that do not apply to me.
“Ahem,” coughed the chairperson, standing as stiff as starch, waiting for the general hubbub in the hall to still, “thank you. This evening I am delighted to welcome Miss, ah – Terpsichore. Sorry, I didn’t catch your second name.”
An impressive female figure seemed to appear out of nowhere. She was elegant of stature and glowed with an inner radiance, emphasized by her loose-fitting rainbow-colored raiments. She carried a beautiful crafted Cithara, a kind of lyre made from curved goats’ horns.
“Terpsichore’s fine. By the way, the name rhymes with ‘hickory’, not ‘dirty floor’.
“Oh? Of course. Terpsichore is one of the Greek Muses, the third of the nine illustrious sisters. She has generously agreed to speak to us tonight on a topic of concern,” (murmur, scuffle, clip-clop, whine).
“As we all know, that fell epidemic, the Oedipus Syndrome as the doctors call it, has spread rapidly through the community. To fill Miss Terpsichore in: Some year ago a group of our sedentary but respectable citizens began to develop hard callouses on their feet. This increased as the toes joined together into a mass of tough cartilaginous material.”
“This was derisively called ‘hoof foot’ by the hoi polloi, an accurate but unfortunate tautology. The doctors prefer Oedipus Syndrome from the Greek story of Oedipus, which means ‘club foot’. The famous Greek hero had his feet impaled, hence permanently disabled, when left to die in the forest as a baby.”
“Get on with it,” yelled a high-volume impolite voice at the back of the room.
“Sorry Jack. Anyway, OS began to appear soon after the Great Banning, when the lobby group, Man Against Dance (M.A.D.) forced through a law to rid the community of dance of any kind. Jack is president of M.A.D. They say that dance was always associated with licentiousness and social abandonment. They said that women, due to the fact that their men refused, would actually get up and dance together! This of course could lead to who-knows-what breakdown of society, or even civilization as we know it.”
“Who is this Terpsichore anyway,” Jack yelled.
“Yes, what are you the Muse of?” enquired Chairperson.
“Muse of Dance, actually,” she replied patiently.
“Er, questions to the floor, as it were,” continued the Chair quickly.
A timid woman rose, “if dance is against God’s law, as the M.A.D. literature informs us, why did the Divine World institute your high office? You are from Heaven?”
“Well yes I am,” answered Terpsichore with her most seraphic smile, “and due to the limited time, I have been permitted to materialize here tonight, I’ll keep my answers brief. Volumes of sacred literature, or God’s Law as you put it, brim with examples of dance being a celebration of spiritual and temporal events of one kind or another. A favorite of mine is the story of Miriam.”
Jack folded his arms and glared.
“After the success of the Red Sea campaign, Miriam led the Hebrew women in a triumphal dance – the Dance of the Planets, a circle dance to the rhythm of the sistrum and tambourine; both of which are ‘female’ instruments. Tambourine means ‘female drum’ and is a beautiful symbol of the seven planets – the jingle – orbiting round the drum-sum; or in the Ptolemaic system, the drum-earth. The colored ribbons represent the seven planetary colors from red to violet.”
“At least the men didn’t dance,” interjected Jack.
“I beg to differ, and we gods don’t differ gladly,” retorted Terpsichore, icicles hanging from every syllable, “was King David a man? Of course, the same who slew Goliath and the same who led 30,000 men – men – on a consecratory dance before the Ark of the Covenant. But back to women. The lovely Salome, meaning ‘peace’…”
“We know what she did,” exclaimed Jack, stamping his hoof.
“Peace! Salome was neophyte of the Mysteries of the Seven Veils. Her mother Herodias, a high priestess, perceived a threat to her Movement Mysteries in the ‘head’ teachings of John the Baptist, based as they were on stillness, the inner life. So she had Salome request the over-grateful and still-drooling Herod to produce John’s ‘head’ on a platter. Salome suffered deep remorse over this, kissing the dead head and later even turning up to mourn John’s cousin’s crucifixion.”
“What about Australia, Eh?”
“Ah, Australia has a longer dance history than anyone.
“But what about us,” a dark-skinned young man leapt to his feet, “We Aborigines celebrated the most sacred rituals with our circle dances.”
“Yes, Miss Terpsichore,” said a hesitant man sitting near Jack, “tell us about Oedipus Syndrome; why are we all growing hooves?”
“I think you’ll find that is hooves. I could check with my sister Calliope, Muse of Eloquence. Well, the ‘head’ or thought culture of late has become too dominant. Intellectual materialism is the power of our times. This would be okay if it were balanced with artistic life, especially the movement arts. Or even in everyday life. Take those metal boxes you all came in tonight. What are they? Cars, tars?”
“Cars. People are even forgetting how to perform simple movements, like walking.”
Hesitant man continued, even though Jack was moving his walk mobile back and forward, the tiny motor whining irritable, “are you saying that if we learn to walk again, or dance even, that it will reverse our O.S,” his hoof tapped nervously.
“Of course; in many cultures around the world, movement education was regarded as highly as intellectual. Children in Asia spend many hours honing motive skills through dance, marital arts, Tai Chi, and the like. For a person to have a fully rounded education, the body must become as intelligent as the mind, in its own way naturally.”
“At last, I feel that I can speak!” Exclaimed the young man leaping to his hooves. No, he had feet actually, “I’ve been conducting secret dance classes for children on weekend. Yes, I admit it.”
“Get his name! Get his name!” roared Jack. Panic swept the room.
“If you wish to speak Jack, get to your hooves like everyone else. Now Graeme, please continue but remember, this could get you into a lot of strife.”
“With my young group, the 7-year-olds learned the Nine Circle Dances. I found these in an old dance book. It is banned now of course.”
“Whatever you say will be taken down and…”
“In Heaven,” interjected Terpsichore, “these Circle Dances are the expression of the Nine Choirs of Angels. ‘Choir’ in Greek means dancers. It’s in my name, which means ‘joyous dance’.” The beautiful Muse blushed but went on, “the angels dance continuously, creating life-giving movement on Earth, like the Winter Circle Dance.”
“We did that,” cried Graeme joyously, “we contracted the circle to the point, moving in and out like a pulsing jellyfish. A member of the Virgo/sense of movement phylum of the Holy Twelve, the Coelenterates.”
“Quite,” confirmed the Muse of Dance, “that old Celtic favorite, Auld Land Syne is a Hibernate, or Winter Dance. Then there’s the Aestivates, the Summer Dances. Here we break out of the circle backwards in a happy expansion, like sun rays and back to the periphery again. The ancient Druids would perform this at the Summer Solstice, around that old igneous sun, Stonehenge.”
“When I was a boy,” proffered Hesitant, “we used to do a lovely circle dance called the Maypole. All colored ribbons and flowers and…”
“And we had it banned,” shrieked Jack, irrepressible this time, “we found out that the Maypole was a fertility dance – filth! And that erection in the middle – gasp – was a symbol or a…” M.A.D.’s president fell back into his walkmobile, unable to continue.
“Jack’s right,” said Terpsichore, it is a fertility dance – a Moon dance in fact. The weaving patterns formed on the circle by the ribbon carriers mimic the undulation orbit of the Moon around the Earth. The Moon has always been associated with the gift of reproduction and genetic. The Maypole was enacted (rather than performed) on the day of the full Moon in May which is the Northern Hemisphere’s Spring.”
“My children said that they feel different moving the circle clockwise from anti-clockwise. The first feels light, the latter dark,” Graeme’s courage, hence, confidence, was increasing by the minute, “why is that do you think?”
“The clockwise circle, leading with the heart, is the Sun Circle; such as the clockwise symbols on the Tibetan Buddhist Sun Temples.”
“Good stuff,” chirped Chairperson, forgetting his impartial role, “but why is there a legal verboten on that lovely circle game – or dance really – Drop the Hankie? Surely this can’t have spiritual implications and it was always my favorite.”
<Drop the Hankie is a children’s game in which all the players but one stand in a circle facing inward. They all then move in a clockwise circle. While they are moving the one player outside the circle stealthily drops a handkerchief behind a player in the circle who must pursue and attempt to catch the one who dropped the handkerchief before the latter reaches the vacated place. This is similar to the game ‘duck duck goose’.>
“This simple dance, perfect in its many forms for Class 1, combines movement and stillness on the circle. It is an image of the sun traveling on its daily-annual journey through the fixed stars and constellations, especially the Zodiac. If you like Drop the Hankie, you go right ahead and play, er, dance,” Terpsichore cooed reassuringly, “your mind may think it’s simple, but the unconscious intelligence in your ‘dynamic body’ knows it is participating in a significant ritual indeed.’
“We won’t resort to vulgarisms, Jack,” Chairperson glared at the president, “if you wish to speak keep a civil tongue.” He mopped his brow with his hankie, regarding it fondly before putting it away.
“That’s mumbo-jumbo – superstition – not an ounce of proof. I deal with reality; take my walkmobile, it moves because it has wheels, the wheels have rims, connected to spokes…”
“How many spokes?” whispered Terpsichore faintly.
“Er, eight, but what does that…?”
“The Wheel of Dharma,” she replied transparently.
“The 8-spoked circle dance of the Wheel of Dharma – of Shiva, Lord of the Cosmic Dance – the Eastern doctrine of karma…” she began to fade, “you must dance on earth or stumble in the Land of the Shades. The feet must make intelligent movements for they are the organs of destiny. There are 52 bones in them, one for each week of the ye…” her voice was now a zephyr, her form diaphanous, “life is a dance, a joyous dance and you should enjoy…” and she was gone! Only her Cithara remained, lying forlornly on the rostrum. The hall was silent.
“Cough – er, would anyone like to sum up the feelings of the meeting,” said a bewildered Chairperson.
‘Clip, clop, clip, clop’
It was Jack. He had eased himself out of this walkmobile and was walking unsteadily towards the rostrum. He picked up the Cithara, “I know a dance based on the two concentric circles of earth and sun. I learned it when I was a nipper and it was great fun. Let’s move these heavy old walkmobiles out of the way and I’ll teach it to you.”