The idea of women as an essential part of ceremony and as guardians of the life of the nations had become heretical at the time of the Spanish Inquisition and it was worth your life and livelihood to talk about, never mind actually participate in such acts . Although Black Elk does not speak of women’s mysteries and practices, only of his own experience, Revelation’s Scarlet Women begin as an ideal represented as a ‘luminary’ or heavenly body, go through a birthing process described as a passage through several constellations, find themselves embodied on earth with all the physical necessities and mental and emotional issues that entails, and after completing a process of purification finally become the physical embodiment of the heavenly ideal. The first scarlet woman in Revelations is compared with precious stones. Carnelian is red, symbolizing the planet Mars and protection against evil. Opals are a symbol of the planet Venus and hope innocence and purity. She is circled by aquamarines, symbolizing the planet Mercury and offering courage and faith to travelers. The twelve pearly doors are the stars that lie behind the meaningful movements of the planets.
Behold! a door opened in the sky, and it was that first voice
which I now heard like a trumpet call speaking to me, the enthroned god, saying:
Come up hither and I shall make known to you the perfections which must be attained hereafter.
Immediately, I came to be in the Breath-Trance.
behold a throne was placed in the sky and on the throne the eternal one was seated
The enthroned one was in appearance like and opal and a carnelian
and a rainbow encircled the throne in appearance like an aquamarine.
Introduced as a constellation in the heavens instead of a luminary, and described as a winged woman giving birth,this next scarlet woman must flee to protect her new-born son just as both the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalen did. Like Black Elk’s scarlet virgins, she holds the life of the nations in her hands. Once the child is safely born, Revelations says:
Babylon the Great was remembered before the God, to give her the wine-cup of the ardor of his passion
Apocalypse translates as unveiling, and I am looking at it as a ceremony that purifies and reveals our true selves. Unfortunately most take it as either a history or a prophecy. As such, it has been used as a tool for attacking women. The current feminist mythos would have us believe that women are blameless victims of an unequivocally abusive patriarchy. Being the daughter of a woman who was well on the anti-social side of the personality disorder spectrum, I have to consider other possibilities. My mother was certainly not blameless or a victim. If I am not to repeat her behavior, I have to be self-aware. It should not be a great surprise to any one that earthly embodied women may be as in as great a need of self-revelation and spiritual transformation as men. When the Jezebel is visited during the Breath-trance, she is described as:
‘A Mystery, Babylon the Great, the ‘Mother’ of the temple prostitutes and of the earth’s stenches’
When we visit the fourth scarlet woman through the Breath Trance, we find she has now passed through both birthing a child and an inner purification. Bysuss is the silky fibers certain types of shellfish use to attach themselves to rocks. It was woven into a very fine white cloth only worn by on special occasions, and only by those who had earned the right to do so. Her successful process is recognized by all as Revelations says:
To her was given the right to cloth herself in bysuss, brilliant and pure, for bysuss are the awards to the devotees.
At the end, Revelation’s scarlet women do succeed in attaining the perfections shown at the start:
Hither! I shall show you the Bride, the Lamb’s wife
He carried me way in the Breath Trance to a mountain great and high
and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out from the sky from the God
and this, her luminary, was alike a very precious stone
like an opal glittering, having a wall great and high
having twelve gateways and at the gateways twelve divinities.
I started to write that I could not understand why this would be considered a heresy, when I realized that the power of the institutionalized church depends on only one person, and that a man, becoming a heavenly ideal. These circumstances give me a clue to what both my grandmothers and the horse dancers were fleeing and why they needed to hide themselves.
Black Elk says:
Four of the most beautiful maidens in the village were ready to take their part.
They wore buckskin dresses that were dyed scarlet and their faces were scarlet too.
- To her who would represent the west they gave the hoop of the nations.
- They gave the healing herb and the white goose wing, the cleansing wind, to the maiden who represented the north.
- To her of the east, they gave the holy pipe.
- To her of the south they gave the flowering stick
Thus the four maidens, good and beautiful, held in their hands the life of the nation.
- behold a throne was placed in the sky and on the throne the eternal one was seated in appearance like an opal and a carnelian. Her luminary was alike a very precious stone like an opal glittering, having a wall great and high, having twelve gateways and at the gateways twelve divinities and on the gateways were inscribed the names of the tribes of Israel
- A winged woman, clothed with the sun , the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars. she has a babe in her womb and keeps crying out with the pangs of childbirth, racked with the pain of parturition
- A Mystery, Babylon the Great, the ‘Mother’ of the temple prostitutes and of the earth’s stenches. A woman sitting on a scarlet beast, arrayed in purple and scarlet, over-jewelled with gold, precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden wine-cup.
- To her was given the right to cloth herself in bysuss, brilliant and pure, for bysuss are the awards to the devotees.
Clearly, the Horse Dancers and Black Elk’s version of the scarlet woman who hold the future of the nation in their hands is very different from the whole ‘scarlet whore of Babylon’ mythos so widespread in fundamentalist Christianity. Revelation’s scarlet women may be represented in the stars as:
- the orange red star Situla or the Water Bucket in the constellation of Aquarius
- red giant Hamal in Aries as the carnelian blood of the lamb
- the red dwarf cluster Praesaepe in Cancer as the crib or manger
- the Hyades cluster in Taurus as the wine-making sisters
The ancient tradition of the scarlet lady and the dancing horse not only has deep roots, it still lives in the Domo Vaquero practices of the Iberian peninsula as can be seen in this you-tube video of a contemporary horse dance .