Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Tao of Celestial Nats

There are different kinds of collecting, as there are different ways of appreciating, and enjoying, art and artistry. Often, things are of quite differing aspect to different people: flags to which soldiers about to die once rallied are now often but fashion accessories. Here in Thailand, images of Che Geuvara and Serpico (Al Pacino), attached to pick-up trucks, have become much the same thing. As a kid, I liked stuffed animals. I collected stamps, coins, and later, comic books. Then in 1986 I became intriqued by Hopi Katchina "dolls". About the significance to actual Hopis of many of the Katchinas, I still have but little real knowledge, although they often did seem to have a real message. I bought and sold African carvings, finding myself particularly attracted to some Dogon ones. I grew to love stories of Dogons and Hopis yanking the chains of anthropologists, missionaries and "art dealers". Then I discovered the amazing Burmese Nat. I am very moved by the concept of Nat. It is mythology at its best, and I love mythology. For years now I have also pursued interest in Yao Ceremonial Paintings. I love them as art. What religious meaning they have had for those from who's culture they arose, is vague at best to me. But I find them fantastic, stimulating to imagination, curiosity and even the intellect. Today I made this list: Yao Pantheon Above all are the Three Pure Ones, associated with the "Orion's Belt" stellar constellation; they are: To Ta, Heavenly Worthy of the Virtue of Tao, Yen Si (Leng Si), Promordial Heavenly Worthy, or Original Beginning, who holds the Pill of Immortality, and Leng Pu, Sacred Jewel. These three are, above all, above all, and so do nothing. The Supreme Jade Emperor on High Yu-huang Shang-Ti (or Nyut Hung), and his earthly alter ego who roves our mundane world, Seng Tsiu Master of the Saints, can be considered supreme, being the highest active authority. Celestial Master Marshal Teng (or Tang), Tsiou Yun-suei, the blue warrior, representing wealth and power, is also of high position, but not quite as high. Other Celestial Masters are Marshals Chao, Ma and Chang. T'ai Sui is the God of Time and an Intermediate Tribune in charge of yearly cycles. Lei T'in Sai, the Li Celestial Master (depicted with a sword held in front of him) is another of highest authority. Chia Fin and Tsiep Tin Ling Hung, Lords of 10 Infernal Tribunals (or 10 Tribunals of Hades) are family forebearers. You Tin K'o Chiem is the Palace of the Right's Treasurer Tzou Tin K'o Chien is the Palace of the Left's Treasurer Tin Fo Tei Fo, the Governor of the Skies and Underworld is depicted with a variety of little helpers facing left Tom Tong Hoi Fan, who eats a red triangle (representing a red-hot plowshare), is also considered a major deity. Tsong Tan or Heng Fei is the Administration, the "Whole Altar", a group Yang Kin Sui Fo, depicted with a variety of little helpers facing right, is Governor of this World and the Waters. His Liason Officer rides a white horse in the clouds. Tsiang T'in, or Master Chang, like Lei T'in Sai, holds a magical sword in front of himself (but tends to have muttonchops not a fu-manchu). He's God of the Spirits and Essences, often with a white crane symbol of immortality on his left shoulder. Tai Wai, High Constable Shang Yuan, Hoi Fan Ton, Nyut Hung, Heng Fai and Tsiang T'in Sai are also of the 17, and perhaps the two Treasurers are not... Then there are Kiem Keng, Tzu Tsong and others Chinese Tao divinities include the Master of the Stars of the Central Heavens, The Jade Maidens, the Immortal Masters of Magic, the Treasurers of Wealth and Salaries, the Third Lady Empress Chao (a real empress of the Tang Dynasty), the Castigator of Diseases, and others Right now, aspects of ancient but still-living cultures are hardly high fashion, but I don't care. That there should be one Treasurer for the Right, and another for the Left, somehow seems right to me...

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