Cardinals derive their name from the red garments worn by Catholic priests. Ironically, cardinals are birds that mate for life, who celebrate the equality of the male and the female, one of the few bird species that sing together. The Christian world, on the other hand, has no such model in its pantheon of God to honor the feminine so equally and fully as the cardinal pair who so deeply honor each other.
Early one recent morning I was reading to Jan the sentence: “We kill while we live, …” At that exact moment we heard a loud SMACK upon our window. Stunned, we looked up to see a burst of feathers floating in the air. We approached and saw a female cardinal lying stunned upon the ground, slowly and laboriously arching her wings, trying to catch her breath.
I was immediately reminded of the grackle that had similarly crashed into our deck door a couple of years ago, and after a few hours of rest sat up and flew off. Confident of the cardinal’s recovery too, I went for the camera and took a few pictures.
Jan said that she was dying. Then the cardinal pulled in her wings and gave one last violent shudder. The last thing we saw was a fluttering of the crest at her crown. She was dead.
Deeply saddened, I touched her soft feathers, thinking to bury her. Jan suggested that I instead put her out front atop a rotting pumpkin that the crows and squirrels peck at. I moved her there and within a minute a crow came and cautiously circled around the pumpkin. It made its way closer and closer and finally grabbed the still warm carcass and took off, a rich, fresh feast to feed upon, nourishment for the day.
We were both deeply emotionally affected by this death, especially as we watched the male cardinal perched upon a branch searching listlessly for his lost bride. I was compelled to write this blog, as the synchronistic sacrifice of the cardinal’s life, coupled with the words I’d read, carried a message I felt obligated to deliver.
We had been reading from a book by Marie-Louise von Franz, The Puer Aeternus. She’d been quoting from a novel by a German writer whose main character suffered from a severe inner split. He refused a true relationship with life and love in this world, honoring instead his rational mind, with its order and principles that obstructed a life truly embodied and lived. Such an attitude avoids the true crucifixion that engagement in life requires: emotional attachment with all its ecstasies and deep disappointments that are the hallmark of a life truly lived.
The line I had been reading as Mrs. Cardinal crashed to her death reflected a very rational truth, to live is to kill. For life to be sustained, as the crow amply demonstrated, it must feed upon the vitality of life. And though this is indeed a rational truth that must be accepted, it must also not be allowed to be a license to kill feeling and love.
To love, to feel, to attach, to connect, these are the hallmarks of the feminine. If we allow ourselves only the cool detachment of the rational we refuse to suffer the emotional reality of life, in fact, we cut ourselves off from life itself, as we remain frozen and sterile, focused instead on our own power, gain, and advantage.
What the world needs now is love, sweet love. This is the feminine, resident not just in women but equally in men, that is so neglected, disregarded, and disdained that we find ourselves steeped in bloodbaths of mass proportion, rationally iced in numbers and strategies for killing, neglecting not only our emotional attachment to fellow humans but to all of nature as well.
Our dear cardinal assumed her place on the cross, the little Goddess who sacrificed herself to deliver the message: Yes, life is consumed to support life in this world, a cruel but true paradox. But this is no excuse to refuse to engage in life with deep emotion, which for us in that moment was love for Mrs. Cardinal and her powerful gift, and sadness for Mr. Cardinal as he mourned her passing.
The only thing that matters now is the ascension of the Goddess in all our lives, in all our actions. Only love can redeem the world now. The feminine principle of love is the redeemer. Let the death of the female cardinal not be in vain.