Monday, February 19, 2007

A Little Bit of History Repeating

Do you believe in past lives?

I haven’t really worked through the intricate details of what I believe about life and death (still sorting through what is mine and what belongs to my traditional Roman-Catholic upbringing), but I have, at various points in my life, attributed strong stirrings inside of me to possible past lives of mine. I feel like certain lessons that were not learned in past lives were passed down to me. If I can't master the lessons in this life, then I'll be given another chance in my next life.

In my late teens and early twenties, I was pretty convinced that one of my former selves was some kind of rebel in the French Revolution. How a simple Ukrainian girl ever ended up in the French Revolution is beyond me, but I used to have recurring dreams of being decapitated by guillotine or sometimes hung. The specifics of my dream used to vary a bit (e.g. sometimes the blade was sharp and swift, but most times it was rusty and dull), but one thing was always constant: in every dream, I had a large tomato stuffed into my mouth, and when I involuntarily clamped down on it with my teeth, it signified I was dead.

It always seemed strange but inconsequential to me that I had a tomato in my mouth in these dreams, until I learned about the fascinating folklore history of the tomato in Europe. Apparently, tomatoes were largely considered to be poisonous (or at least unfit to eat) until the late 1700s and early 1800s… around the time, coincidentally, of the French Revolution. Hmmm… are you thinking what I’m thinking? Funny that I always had a tomato in my mouth while being executed, despite not knowing about its supposed fatal qualities until recently. Perhaps a former self of mine knew something about the fruit that I didn’t?

Anyway, one thing I do know about past life exploration is that many people who search for their former selves inevitably claim famous or otherwise prominent people as their own. After all, it’s much more exciting to say “I was Marie Antoinette in a past life and I was executed by guillotine in the most public of fashions” than it is to say “I was a random Francophone who died for no good reason before anybody could even remember my name”. That said, though, I’m pretty sure the majority of us were mostly nameless or faceless people in past lives, perhaps with notorious figures sprinkled in every once in a while.

Lately I’ve been feeling the pull of a peasant or pioneer archetype. The toiling aspect has been minimized considerably (on purpose. Who likes to toil?!), but the urge to harvest and preserve the fruits of the earth is there, big time. Granted, I’ve romanticized the peasant figure quite a bit (read: almost entirely), but I attribute my newfound inclinations to make jam, pickles, soup stocks, and wool socks to a former self of mine who did things like these regularly to survive. I’ve also been bitten by a gardening bug, but who can blame me when flowers like these are popping up everywhere?

I’m curious to know what you were in your past lives? Orators, sculptors, builders, queens or kings? Slaves, merchants, revolutionaries, midwives, healers, witches? Maybe we were all of these and more, maybe we were none…


ink said...

my dad thinks i must've been a field mouse of some sort in my past life, preyed upon by hawks and such. when he used to take me outside as a baby, i'd get upset and hide in his shoulder when the wind would flutter the leaves in the tree. these days - i'm no longer afraid of leaves, but wings terrify me. birds waddling around are okay. birds with flapping wings - a whole different story. they brought me to the butterfly sanctuary once when i was little and i fainted dead from terror (also the wings). And manta rays with that huge wing-span? On a class field-trip, I backed away from the pool until I was against the wall and started hyperventilating.

by the way - i love the reference to the propellerheads song.

dana said...

I never thought about being an animal in a past life... arrogant me, I guess.

I love the propellerheads song, too, so imagine the dismay I felt to see it on a Pantene commercial... ugh. No TV can really be a good thing sometimes!