Nature and the Sacred Sciences
The Wild Rainbow Irises of Southern Louisiana
By Tara McKinney
As circumstance would have it, due to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11, Inner Sight’s Isha Lerner was forced to postpone a business trip to Tokyo scheduled for the following week. The most unfortunate events in Japan allowed Isha to travel to New Orleans (where I live), instead, for a pilgrimage around Southern Louisiana collecting wild Louisiana Iris essences during the short window of opportunity when they are in peak bloom in late March and early April.
Together, Isha and I traveled to an ancient swamp in Abbeville, Louisiana, where four species of Irises have grown side by side and undisturbed over several hundred years. To make a long story short, through the generosity of Bud and Rusty McSparrins, who own and operate a wild Iris sanctuary populated with thousands of Irises from the Abbeville swamp, we were able to gather the precious Louisiana Iris essences that are now available through our site and which Isha will be sharing with the people of Japan during her visit there in the Fall.
The connection between the Sacred Sciences and Flower Essences is perhaps best epitomized by the plant signature of the Iris: in particular, the wild Iris of Southern Louisiana. The luminous Iris gets its name from the Rainbow Goddess of Greek mythology. Given the Iris’ rainbow-themed signature, which truly represents the flowering of consciousness in all its multi-hued dimensions, from the deepest depths to the highest heights, it should come as no surprise that Southern Louisiana, the site of recurring cycles of utter devastation and astonishing rebirth over the past 300 years, is known as “Iris Heaven” or “The Center of the Iris Universe.” Much like New Orleans’ human citizens, its Iris community is an amazingly resilient and highly-creative melting pot of iridescent displays.
I cannot stress enough the significance of the theme of death and rebirth as the absolute wellspring of the Sacred Sciences, flowing forth from the Mystery Schools of the ancient world. Without this process of utmost surrender to the natural ebbing and flowing of life, one’s inner knowing is superficial and distorted. Irises essences function like shamanic guides through the inner terrain of natural death and rebirth cycles, facilitating one’s descent to the greatest depths of embodied experience, as well as one’s subsequent ascent to the heights of sublime transcendence, along with every color of the spectrum in between.
Since the dawn of recorded history, the Iris has been a thread woven into the fabric of civilization. It has been the flower of royalty and priests, used in the practice of magic and medicine, alike. Of the approximately 200 species of Iris, five are indigenous to Southern Louisiana. Hundreds of years ago in the general vicinity of New Orleans, Irises grew in such profusion, in such close proximity to established civilization and in so complete a color representation that they were impossible to ignore. It seems likely that many a Native American or European explorer would have stumbled across these beauties and regarded their spectacular rainbow display of color with awe and admiration. Surely, among the people of the local swamp culture, noted for their connection with the mystical and occult, colorful voodoo rituals involving shamanic descent and rebirth would have been a common occurrence. And, surely, the equally-colorful, wild Louisiana Irises would have played an integral part in such practices.
Of the five Iris species indigenous to Southern Louisiana, perhaps the most noteworthy is the I. Fulva, a feisty, little Iris if ever there was one. Originally limited to the vicinity of New Orleans where she grew wild along the bayous in the heart of the city, the I. Fulva stands only two to three feet in height, with a single flower on each stem. Her claim to fame, and it’s a big one, is the fact that she single-handedly introduced the color red to the genus Iris. In fact, when shipped to England in 1814, this species created a major sensation by virtue of her red color alone. Tuning into the essence of this Iris is like encountering a cross between Pippi Longstocking and Mother Kali: playful, spunky, passionately creative and fiercely compassionate. Her emergence on the Iris scene represented the potential for nothing less than full embodiment in the human laboratory of experience and, consequently, the full, rainbow spectrum display of life on planet Earth.
New Orleans has long been known for its full, rainbow spectrum display of creativity on the grand stage of the evolutionary drama in which we are all engaged, and many people and cultures from around the world have been inspired by its particularly colorful vortex of energy. The people of Japan are a timely case in point. The first faint shimmering of a Rainbow Bridge between New Orleans and Japan began to appear in the 1920s when the Japanese were first exposed to the sound of New Orleans-style jazz, with its deepest roots in the intense yearning of New Orleans’ pre-Civil War slave population for freedom and creative expression. It was love at first sound for the Japanese people, perhaps hearing the echoes of their own yearning for true freedom and the full range of creative flowering.
The Rainbow Bridge connecting New Orleans and Japan has grown stronger and more vibrant over the years. These days, the Japanese have more Louis Armstrong impersonators and Jazz enthusiasts per capita than any other country on earth! As an expression of their love for New Orleans’ culture and people, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the people of Japan donated more than $40 million dollars to New Orleans’ relief efforts. Now, in the wake of the recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan, the people of New Orleans are returning the favor, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for relief efforts there. In this context, the Iris theme (stylized in the form of the ubiquitous New Orleans’ Fleur de Lis) emerges more powerfully than ever as a symbol of rebirth and creative renewal, as well as of the Rainbow Bridge between New Orleans and Japan.
Our prayer for you, as well as for the people of Japan, is that our Louisiana Iris essences help facilitate your rebirth and renewal into the full range of creative expression and freedom that is the birthright of all human beings on earth at this time in our evolutionary journey.