As we strive to create a better future, we can look to our rich heritage of global goddess and heroine tales for insight into peaceful, creative, and effective means to achieve our goals. Let me introduce you to the delightful ancient story of two young Chinese heroines, Gum Lin and Loy Yi Lung.
Summarized from Merlin Stone’s Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood: Gum Lin’s village was starving due to a drought. Even the bamboo she needed to make objects to sell had disappeared. Searching for bamboo on a nearby mountain, she found a lake, but a locked gate stopped its abundant waters from flowing down to the village. A dragon living in an underwater cave held the key. Gum Lin sang sweetly until the dragon’s daughter, Loy Yi Lung, arose from the depths and together they hatched a plan. They sang in unison to draw the dragon to the surface. While Loy Yi Lung continued her song and the dragon listened, Gum Lin swam to the cave where she encountered treasures she could easily steal for herself. She ignored them and found the key. She unlocked the gate and the waters gently flowed down the mountain in a newly-made river, nourishing the rice and bamboo. In time, Loy Yi Lung moved to the village where she and Gum Lin happily sang at the edge of the water.
I find this story to be deeply prescient about our own time. From the hoarding of the Earth’s natural resources to the ways we can create lasting change, the story offers us both lessons and affirmations. What are its most powerful elements?
It rejects the worldview of challenges and conflicts as warlike battles in favor of transformation. Too often, in both real life and ancient and modern tales, war and violence are the first response to challenge and conflict. This rarely solves problems for long, ignoring core issues and leading to cycles of violence. Instead, the women opt for gaining the key by soothing the angry dragon with song and empowering the lake to create a river to bring its water to the people for all time.
Draw on the powerful bonds between women. Gum Lin and Loy Yi Lung are both allies and friends whose mutual trust is essential to their success. When we seek out others who share our goals, in contrast to our culture’s celebrated lone hero model, we diversify talent, enjoy the emotional support that enables long-term perseverance, and model the cooperative culture we seek.
Women’s spiritual power creates lasting impacts. Gum Lin and Loy Yi Lung’s achievements turn on their spiritual power, expressed by magical singing. Using our own spiritual power could mean calling on the sacredness of all beings as justification for our goals or creative endeavors of all kinds that express the deepest meaning of our causes. When we use our spiritual power, we draw others to our cause by demonstrating our integrity, showing the relationship of our work to greater values, and engaging the spiritual power of others, all of which promotes long-lasting resolutions.
Commit to the common good over individual gain. When Gum Lin gives up the jewels in order to search for the key, she grounds her endeavor in commitment to the well being of all, which promotes the trust that glues allies in joint purpose and ensures the best possible outcome.
Work in harmony with nature. The women succeeded by enabling the mountain and lake to follow Nature’s plan for nourishing the village. When we tap into Nature’s innate impulse to life and balance, whether by reversing environmental catastrophes or working towards goals that promote the peace, justice, and equality that are all necessary for a healthy planet, we connect our work to Nature’s immense power, to the unifying vision of bettering everyone’s future, and to all those movements striving for a better world.
We’ve all seen elements of the story succeed in our own time. Just a few of the effective modern tools I think of are:
- Activist and service organizations that are led by consensus, have a diversity of members, and network with one another;
- Changing hearts and minds with the spiritual powers of truth, beauty and belief in the sacredness of all beings through community education; art, performance and literature; and formal and informal conversation and dialogue,
- Committing to the common good by having integrity as a core organizational value and providing services that benefit those most in need, and
- Basing proposed solutions on Nature’s laws and demonstrating the relationship of political, social, and economic concerns to environmental justice.
Considering the elements of the story as we strategize can also help us to devise even more effective tools based on our specific causes.
I’ve especially seen the effectiveness of elements of the story over the past year. In many communities, diverse coalitions joined together to protest racial injustice and, when COVID struck, non-profit and public organizations quickly formed networks to provide food banks, recruit volunteer phone banks to check in on vulnerable residents and deliver food and medication, offer financial assistance to those losing jobs, support education, prevent evictions, and more. Activists exemplifying both spiritual power and commitment to the common good rose up to organize these efforts and be voted into office. The value of science in policy-making became obvious. As we heal from our traumas, opportunity exists for a more cooperative, resilient, and morally and spiritually-focused future world based on the foundation of these works.
The story of Gum Lin and Loy Yi Lung and its messages are both ancient and modern, and challenges us to find effective, compassionate, creative, peaceful, and just means to bring the metaphorical water down the mountain to nourish all beings in our global village physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. As we light the path to a better future may we and our descendants all sing with joy like Gum Lin and Loy Yi Lung and their village.
Carolyn Lee Boyd is a writer, student drummer, retired human services administrator, herb and native plant gardener, and past/current denizen of Michigan, New York City, and New England. Her essays, short stories, memoirs, reviews, and poetry have been published in, among others, Sagewoman, Feminism and Religion, The Goddess Pages, Matrifocus, The Beltane Papers, and various anthologies. She would love for you to visit her at her website, www.goddessinateapot.com where you can find some of her free e-books to download as well as contact her.