Friday, April 09, 2010

7, La Escalera

The ladder is a useful thing. You use them, well, to get high. To reach things you can't reach without help. You could use a ladder to get out of a tight spot, to escape; or you can you use a ladder to bridge the place you are and the place you want to be.

I guess I once didn't think of the ladder as a spiritual symbol, but interestingly, both my Yoruba orishas Obatala and Eleggua asked for ladders to go with their sacred tools.I've thought about that a lot, and I guess a ladder can be seen as a reminder that there is a way out of one's problems, a way, that, coincidentally, involves looking up. Although in truth you can use a ladder to go down, hopefully preserving your route of escape; perhaps it's a kind of 3-dimensional metaphor for that most famous of occult sayings, "as above, so below." Obatala, whose number is eight, no doubt likes the fact that there are eight rungs on this ladder; eight steps toward one's higher self.

As a spiritual symbol a ladder also says that if you want to take yourself higher, you have to exert yourself; to focus hand over hand and climb toward your goal. If something is wanting in your life, it's kind of a reminder that even if you would really rather have the clouds open and shower you with blessings, ultimately you have to work to reach something new and better. Faith, of course, is necessary in thinking that our spiritual ladder is resting on something solid and that our goal is up there just out of sight.

I'm reminded also of those giant seige ladders of olden days: a ladder could be the means for a bunch of serfs storming the king's castle. There's resilience there as each time the ladder is pushed from the walls somebody pushes it right back and tries again. But most modern ladders are pretty plain and utilitarian: certainly this one, from the Loteria Mexican bingo deck, is actually just a flimsy paper card from a game. But real life is often pretty plain and mundane, and that's just fine; because here in a simple wooden ladder is a reminder of hope.

Besides, they sure do come in handy for changing light bulbs.

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