Music session in Ireland: dancing the last dance: Nataraja and the Goddess
excerpted from OM, baby! a pilgrimage to the eternal self, by Jack Haas
What happened on that particular night is that the session started like any other session- the music began, people took thoughtful note of it, and the joy of the Celtic muse flooded joyfully, though without visceral effect, through the atmosphere of the pub. But then the truth revealed itself in a startling display. And that truth came in the form of a woman fiddler who did not play the notes in a solely traditional manner, like a verbatim parrot repeating the same old tune over and over again. No, she played music the only way true music can be played. Which is to say, she played from her heart. And my God what a heart she played upon. Let me tell you, the fiddle transformed from the manifest realm of wood and metal, and softened into the ethereal realm where it became the living voice of her resounding inner ventricles, as she soared her way beyond the mainstream, beyond the usual, beyond the practicable, and took that instrument of heaven into the very reaches of her soul and made it sing with a voice that could shatter the moon.
And man was she quick. She was lightning and flesh fused together in an escalating invocation to the grandeur of our divine heritage. She was the spirit of song cascading in a downpour of dexterous mania. She was the held energy of the cosmos suddenly released in a whirling torrent upon the unexpecting pilgrims of the keep. And I… I was done for.
I like to believe that I can dance as fast or faster than any fiddler can play. And I state this delusion not so much out of braggary, but as a challenge; for I will gladly and with great privilege be defeated on the mortal battlefield of the song, if ever I come upon a fiddler who can beat me. And to be sure, at that moment I will be one man who has found victory and defeat in the very same event.
But what happened that night was not a contest, not about speed anyway. If it was, then it was a contest between that heartful woman’s violin, and my own equanimity. And yet it was not a contest, it was a massacre. I was destroyed. I was obliterated. There was no battle, no war, no surrender. I lost, instantly. And what I lost was… myself.
As I said, this particular session began like any other session, but it was only too soon apparent- to myself if no one else- that this was no ordinary session. This was revelation. This was the end of what had been and the birth of a wholly new way of being. This was the unchecked, unmitigated, unrehearsed inflammation of the tendons and the heart.
After a few brief moments of trying to hold my own- of trying to sit still and quell the tumult rising within me, and thus affecting a common, controlled enjoyment of the pleasantries of pub life- I came undone. I left my seat, rushed through the throng of idlers, and landed a few feet in front of her majesty. And I danced. My God did I dance. Amongst a crowd who almost instantly became a thundering mob of appreciative spectators, and who instantly accepted my barbarism, and then lifted me further with their hoots, and claps, and screams, and howls, and my fiddler running me up relentlessly into the unleashed reaches, further and further, faster and faster, with no brakes nor bars to hold me, only a flaming fury of unleashed exaltation ensconcing me, as her spirit and song washing into and through me and the notes rising unrelenting, climbing higher and higher and driving me inexorably into an apocalyptic insanity of bliss and insobriety that was born to smash the world in two.
Dancing with abandon, dancing the last dance, the dance that would end in a new beginning, I lost myself into the music until I became a living, manifest expression of the music.
Entering the ecstasy and passion, and breaking through the hold of personhood, I became Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance, an incarnation of Shiva, the destroyer, and I was gripped and wild in the accumulation of all past energies leading to this one emancipative, apocalyptic moment, when the entire history of my lineage and peoples would converge upon the microscopic moment of cosmic transformation where I would rapturously dance out the old rhythm, and rapturously welcome the new.
Dancing Shiva’s tandava, his dance of destruction, I was destroying myself in an act of agony and celebration. And yet I was creating out of that very destruction. I was dying and being reborn in the same now-moment where Genesis and the Apocalypse meet as one carnal supernova eradicating all that was and creating all that has yet to be.
I danced like a man who had never before danced nor had known of dancing. Or perhaps I danced like a man who had always been dancing all his life, and had never done anything but dance, and yet this was the first time he had become the Lord of the Dance, and so became the dance itself.
I danced the dance my people had been trying to dance for millennia. A dance of agony and ecstasy, a dance of abandon and release. And I danced it.
Without knowing it I danced the dance which destroyed the past so as to reclaim the eternal beginning of now, so as to be that which has not yet been, so as to release my ancestors and become myself, so as to let go of all history, all thought, all memory, all ties, all links, all familiarity and foundation, and to rise out of the tired old design like a novel pattern obliterating the sky.
I danced without fear, without knowing, without anything that had ever existed in me prior to that dance; no longer the me who was there before the dance that destroyed me, I became something that never had been. I broke through, and became new.
I was dancing the karmic dance of newness, stomping and flailing and swinging about wildly in a triumphant expression of an existence which knows nothing of itself but that it is a glory to be alive. A great glory.
When the tune finally ended I was almost dead. Fortunately I had been resurrected, and so I had just enough life left in me to turn spontaneously towards her majesty on the fiddle, and, bowing with hands together in the traditional namaste, I gave due honor to the one who had resurrected me from the grave.
Stumbling back to my seat like Lazarus after the resurrection, I sat through the rest of the session in a convalescent stupor of merriment and exhaustion, and sucked back a few more pints of the holy analgesic.
When the music was finally over and the crowd headed out of the establishment, I went up to the one who had danced me out of myself so as to thank her and give due homage. After our cordial salutations, she introduced herself as Efa, making comment that her name was the Gaelic version of Eve. Of course. I should have known. I had been lifted off the ground by the Mother herself. I had entered into Her rhythm, and had been quickened by the Goddess incarnate. No one else on earth could have done that to me but the Goddess Herself, living through the radiance and roar of one of Her own inspired emanations.
I had danced the dance of my spirit on earth, and I had done so to the vibration and rhythm of the earth Herself.
After years of wandering and wondering why it was that I had come to this maddening world, and what it was that I was supposed to do, I had finally landed in the lap of the living Mother, and had been elevated out of an old story and into the revelation of a new song.
Perhaps this world and life would never reveal the true nature of my existence. Perhaps I would continue to be plagued by uncertainties, discontentment, and disquiet. Perhaps I had come to this confounding earth for many reasons which would remain beyond my knowing. But at least I now knew one of them. I had come to dance. Om, baby!
by Jack Haas