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Universe, Adorned: Ornament in Culture, Cosmos, and Consciousness

Human beings adorn. Scientists now say that the earliest adornments date back over 160,000 years. Why is adornment so universal? It is easy to see adornment as simply an indication of status, wealth, and identity. But adornment is also more than this. The word ‘adorn’ and ‘ornament’ relate directly to the word ‘order,’ to the pattern of the cosmos. And so to adorn has also been associated with aligning to a greater pattern, a pattern evident in the harmonic structures of nature and expressed in the aesthetics of culture and ritual. So in many traditions, to adorn is to directly enhance and pattern consciousness. To assume the boar-tooth mask or the macaw-feather crown is to bring consciousness into greater unification with the pattern of nature — to both heighten perception and to defend against unwanted forces. So adornment plays a key role in the shamanic navigation of the cosmos. In Tantric traditions, deep, loving, attention is paid to adornments. Hymns are sung to the goddess’s adornments. The entire universe itself is seen as the adornment of the primal mother power, and practices of invocation and imaginal architecting deliberately adorn the consciousness of the practitioner. Such meticulous adornment has been foundational in many animist traditions. Yet in a world of decontextualized spirituality, the architecting and adorning of consciousness through ritual patterning is often discarded in favor of spiritualities that put all the emphasis on ridding the mind of constructs rather than deliberately patterning it.  Perhaps in a post-modern, post-structuralist world, modern minds need deliberate patterning. Like the Sumerian goddess Innana, we need to adorn… for survival. Featuring music from Sidibe, harpist Andy Aquarius, and Nivedita Gunturi and drawing on the work of Tantric scholar Sthaneswar Timalsina, this episode is a patterned journey through that which shines, shimmers, jingles, defends, and aligns… listen on a good sound system, at a time when you can devote your full attention.