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Between the Straits

Between the Straits is a collage reflecting the coinciding influences of this time in the Jewish spiritual calendar, the weekly Torah portion, and my explorations of both the Song of Songs and ancestral healing.


I created the piece on the 17th of the month of Tammuz. That day signifies a turning point in the Jewish spiritual calendar. It marks the entrance to the three weeks of mourning that lead up to the 9th of Av. This period is known as the time between the straits.


That day was Shabbat Balak. A day or two earlier I had been learning with Rabbi Dr Tirzah Firestone in her course Alchemy for the Evolving Ancestral Healer in which we were guided into the imaginal realm, following the voice of Serach bat Asher, whose incantations raised the bones of her uncle Joseph from the depths of the Nile. Our mission was to work with the pain body of our own ancestors, raising their bones from the deep as it were, opening to the negredo, the blackening breakdown, of all our previously known truths. My experience of this was that I was entering narrow straits, praying for guidance for safe passage.


Between the Straits by Chana-Toni Whitmont

The 17th of Tammuz is hugely significant in the Jewish story. Of the many disasters that occurred on this date, I will mention two.


On this day, in the 13th century BCE, as he came down from Mount Sinai bearing the Ten Commandments engraved by God, Moses saw the people dancing around their newly created golden calf idol, and he smashed those two stone tablets in anger. Many centuries later, on this day, the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem, a precursor to the disaster that was the destruction of the Temple three weeks later on the 9th of Av, and an expulsion that lasted 2000 years.


These events can be understood as cosmic shattering. In the language of Jungian alchemical ancestral healing, the “between the straits” time is the annual "negredo" of the collective unconsciousness of the Jewish people


What does it mean to be “between the straits”? What do we encounter when we make a dangerous crossing through dark wild waters in order to get to the other side?


Careful navigation is crucial. There are wild winds, strong currents, waves that threaten to swamp, jagged rocks which could easily wreak havoc. French 11th century sage Rashi warns us that when we are between the straits, we need to temper our joy, heighten our spiritual sensitivity, and consciously recall the tragedies of the past in anticipation of rebirthing. This is the time of singing up the bones.


It seems no coincidence to me that the weekly Torah portion, Balak, which reverberated through the Jewish world on the Shabbat when I created the collage, reflected a similar passage (or, other words, describes a potentially risky alchemical transformation). The ill-intent of an idolatrous king is transmuted into blessings through the intercession of God. In the story, the mercenary prophet Balaam is paid by the Moabite king Balak, to curse the threatening Israelites, but despite all of his powers of sorcery and divination, he is only able to access the healing that was otherwise buried deep within him.


Balak and Balaam gather to make offerings to invoke power for their own ego desire for destruction and dominance, trying to use the same occult dynamics as the light but for egocentric and destructive reasons. Balaam is unable to transform the light force into negativity, he is unable to create fragmentation and discord. From that negredo tension of opposites, comes the rebirth, something unexpected, a flow of divinely inspired blessings from the mouth of the most unlikely of messengers. In alchemical terms, the matter/soul/spirit triangle yields something new.


And what is that something new?


It is summed up in the verse from the Song of Songs, the verse which is associated with the Balak Torah portion (according to Rabbi Shefa Gold).


One alone is my dove, my perfect one,

One alone so luminous in her mother’s heart. (Song of Songs 6:9)


What is reborn is the recommitment to unity consciousness.


"Though Reality with a capital R appears to us as multiplicity (all the distractions of the sixty queens, eighty concubines, young maidens beyond number of the previous verse), the awakened inner eye knows and sees it all as one, sourced in and emanating from the Great mother-womb of Being", she writes ( https://www.rabbishefagold.com/one-alone-achat-hi/).


"Bilaam evolves as a prophet and opens to the truth of unity consciousness. He must learn to open his eyes to the Presence by paying attention with reverence for each step of his journey, he must learn to listen to the wisdom of his donkey, he must fall to the earth and to earthiness, with eyes unveiled and spirit humbled. Only then will the miracle of Oneness pour forth as blessing".


One final note about that Torah portion of Balak concerning the nature of the soul. I understand that the message is to strive toward recognising, as Balaam eventually did, the interconnection and interdependence of all forms of consciousness, from the plants to the single-celled animals to the human beings. I am an infinitesimal part of the four worlds - of the domem/still silent ones (ie rocks, mineral world), tzo’mey’ach/sprouting beings (ie plant world), chayim/animal beings and m’da’ber/speaking beings (ie humans).


Everything/everyone is part of a whole - interdependent and interconnected. I have come to believe that by through kavanah/intention, the power of consciousness focused will, the greater whole can be nudged toward a higher evolutionary octave.


Between the Straits was created with pattern papers from 3Quarter Designs “Precious Time” collection, Stamperia’s “Alchemy” embellishments as well as notions from my art and craft stash and significant items from my travels and my garden.

  • I placed that prophetically hopeful Song of Songs verse on an mdf wooden panel which I painted and distressed.

  • The kookaburra and magpie feathers are from my garden. They represent chayim/animal consciousness.

  • The stone in the top left corner was collected ten years ago from the Qumram caves in Israel following an extraordinary meditation there which influences me to this day. Other domem/still silent rock consciousness stones included are a piece of Libyan gold tektite (psychic protection, access to Akashic records, manifestation of personal potential), the green and red unakite polished cabochon (vision, spiritual and emotional grounding) and another stone that I haven’t identified but which seems to me to express both groundedness and elevation.

  • Sprouted beings/plants are represented by the seed pods I have collected from the bush over the years, plus the paper and acetate flowers.

  • The human element/written word (m’da’ber/speaking beings/me!! ) is represented by the cork dressmaker dummies, as well as the wooden stack of letters, ink bottle and nib.

  • Time and cycles are represented by the fob watch, the globe, and the inked chipboard cogs and gears.


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Chana-Toni Whitmont is a collage artist, crystal sound practitioner, creative, teacher and student whose practice and passions are born from her spiritual connection to her Jewish lineage and the ebbs and flows in the annual calendar cycle. She lives with her husband close to nature in magnificent Dharug and Gundungurra country (also known as the Blue Mountains of eastern Australia).


Contact: sacredvesselsounds@gmail.com