THE MOON BOAT
It is repeatedly recorded that when the moon sent a deluge upon the earth she also provided a means of salvation – a boat that carried her children to a new world where they could live redeemed lives. The boat that she provided was an ark, a crescent moon boat and in this her people were carried to the sun, the place of warmth and light.
The arrival of this boat, this crescent shaped vessel of light is of great significance for, says Harding, 'instead of being engulfed by the water’s of the moon, the initiate can embark in her boat and so become one of her company. It is a poetic and religious symbol with which we are very familiar. The salvation being found by taking a new attitude toward the powers of the instinct.’
Esther Harding from Women’s Mysteries
Several years before I had the dream described in the previous section on Initiation. Precognitively it somehow seemed to distill & encapsulate the whole dis-orienting & painful experience that lay before me - of dying to my former self - the necessary process we are told - that must occur if transformation is to be achieved.
But it is a dangerous, perilous phase on both a personal and collective level and the outcomes are far from certain. The three nights of darkness when the moon cannot be seen is a symbolic period of time – like the Hundred Years in Sleeping Beauty’s fairy-tale. It will take as much or as little time as it needs.
The arrival of the Moon Boat, when finally it emerges is the first chink of light – of hope - so longed for by the ancients - and appearing at certain latitudes quite literally in the shape of a silvery boat - floating across the night sky.
Muslims all over the world still await its first appearance at the end of Ramadan - for only then can the month of fasting end & their Eid celebrations truly begin.
The Moonboat, like the Ark is a recurring archytypal symbol, protecting Noah & his pairs of animals during the Great Flood of Genesis, and Gilgamesh before him in the ancient Sumerian myth.
On a collective & personal level the Flood represents being overwhelmed by the unconscious - and the ark or moon boat, the means of rescue from such forces. Their arrival also denotes the beginnings of the ability to observe the tumultuous terrain from the safety of one’s vessel - and ideally in the company of one able to help integrate our experiences.
I remember vividly visiting the Valley of the Kings on Luxor's West Bank many years ago and being shown such a painted boat at the entrance to a tomb embarking upon its perilous night sea journey between life and death. Our animated guide drew our attention to the depths surrounding the flimsy vessel and to formidable looking characters all around it.
Enemies! he cried out to us with great with urgency.
Enemies all around!
In the Egyptian pantheon it is often Nephthys - the sister goddess of Isis who guides such vessels through these dangerous waters on their way to their afterlife resting places.
The ‘boat’ protects us in a ritualistic sense- gives us perspective - sometimes for the first time. We can look back then in safety - we can understand what we didn’t understand before. We can begin to ask questions.
What was it that caused the shadow to fall & overwhelm us so?
And to answer we can look right back to the beginning – to where the tale began. And as our understanding grows, so too metaphorically does the light of the waxing moon - for the cycle turns on and ever on and she becomes fat & full in the night sky and returns once more to the start - as can we - and from here we can go on – differently - more consciously- more aligned with our souls.
When finally, I awoke from my own dream long ago, I fancied for a moment that I was still lying in that boat. But then I found I was in the comfort of my own bed. The old woman who had come to me was gone, but I knew she had been there.
And years later looking back I remembered – even in the midst of falling apart – and though part of me was lost - another part of me was waiting, hoping, praying - yet also knowing that her light would return & she would scoop me up out of the deep, dark depths and carry me home once more.
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A journey through darkness toward healing and forgiveness
edited by Hazel Marshall