So. Lately two odd things have been happening. Firstly I have been dreaming about my mother. A lot. Every night nearly. And she is so cross with me. So irritated. And secondly I have, of all things, a problem with my navel. An irritation, to put it mildly. And, if one thinks symbolically, as I am wont to do, they are quite obviously connected.
Cos the navel, the umbilicus, the belly button – is our birth scar. A reminder of our attachment…and our separation. And so I wondered…what does it mean if one’s navel becomes sore? If it goes beyond sore to become raw and infected? If one’s very centre (remember Leonardo puts the navel at the very centre of his Vitruvian Man) is hot and burning and weeping? Is it one’s motherhood that is called into question? Or one’s connection to the world? Cos, remember, the navel is also the omphalos – the supposed centre of the world, the axis mundi.
The most famous one was at the temple at Delphi – where the stone was said to allow direct communication with the gods via fumes coming up from the underworld. There’s one in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem too. In fact, they’re all over the place, depending on religion.
So I started thinking about oracles. And gods. About talking to gods.
Which reminded me that Joyce liked the word. He uses it a fair old bit in Ulysses, but this I like the best.
“One of her sisterhood lugged me squealing into life. Creation from nothing. What has she in the bag? A misbirth with a trailing navelcord, hushed in ruddy wool. The cords of all link back, strandentwining cable of all flesh. That is why mystic monks. Will you be as gods? Gaze in your omphalos. Hello. Kinch here. Put me on to Edenville. Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one.
Spouse and helpmate of Adam Kadmon: Heva, naked Eve. She had no navel. Gaze. Belly without blemish, bulging big, a buckler of taut vellum, no, whiteheaped corn, orient and immortal, standing from everlasting to everlasting. Womb of sin.”
Ach, we could be here hours with that one passage alone. Some say the navel is an erogenous zone, because the navel and the genitals have a common tissue origin. But Osho reckons that it only becomes erogenous if one’s sexuality is repressed, in which case the navel becomes hyper-sensitive as repressed sexuality starts building up behind it. Hmm.
It's certainly got a lot going on. Ayurveda teaches that there are nearly 72,000 nadis (the Indian equivalent of acupuncture points) around the navel area and in the ancient Indian myths, Vishnu’s navel was considered the omphalos – from his navel a new world emerges.
Does the body speak in metaphors? I feel so. Thomas Aquinas reckoned the navel was the ‘bodily metaphor for spiritual things’. Nice bit of vagueness there, Tom. But, like I say, isn't it to do with finding one’s centre, one’s axis mundi…to do with nurturing everything – body, soul and spirit (cos, let’s not forget where my mother is right now, huh?).
Of course, you could argue that I am just a dirty little baggage who didn’t clean or dry her belly button properly. Did you know that scientists have discovered 1,400 strains of bacteria in human umbilici? At the North Carolina State University they actually conducted a Belly Button Biodiversity study and found 662 unrecognised strains that could be unique new species. How cool is that? Maybe someone should study my belly button – I could be harvesting the cure for EVERYTHING! In my world navel.
But seriously, people, watch out. Keep your omphalos clean, for pity’s sake. Or else…
(warning: do not watch if about to eat or if squeamish).
PS. As I was writing this an email popped into my inbox and I nearly fell off my chair.
Children’s navel inspired artwork to be celebrated at the Sea Life Roadshow!
What? WHAT??? Ah, but the eye sees what it wants to see – or rather, in this case, sea. Sadly it was naval, not navel. But hey… I read on.
“On display at the event will be a naval inspired artwork - When I Dream, I Dream of Home…”
And there we are, back again. Sailors lost on stormy seas. Writing home. Dreaming.
The serpent eats its tail/tale.