Early in Jóusè d’Arbaud’s 1926 Provençal novella, The Beast of Vacarés, the narrator, a 15th century gardian or bull herder, describes how in summer la Vièio ié danso—the Old Dancer— “can be glimpsed on the dazzling salt flats” that surround the Vacarés lagoon in the Camargue region of Southern France.
In a note, d’Arbaud explains that la Vièio is how locals refer to mirages in this liminal landscape where earth, sea, and sky merge. “Mirages are common in the Camargue,” he tells us:
They begin with a vibration in the air, a trembling that runs along the ground and seems to make the images dance; it spreads into the distance in great waves that reflect the dark thickets. How not to see in this mysterious Vièio, dancing in the desert sun, a folk memory of the untouchable wild goddess, ancient power, spirit of solitude, once considered divine, that remains the soul of this great wild land?
“The untouchable wild goddess . . . once considered divine . . .”
Nearly a century later, d’Arbaud’s words still have the power to startle and move us, vividly evoking Earth’s sacredness. Here is a man, himself a bull herder in the region he so lovingly describes, who seems to have been a devotee of the Goddess, the “ancient power” he venerates and bring to life for his readers. Indeed, in an early poem, “Esperit de la Terro” — “Spirit of the Earth”— d’Arbaud explicitly dedicates himself to the old gods sleeping below the earth, vowing to “defend” and “aid” them. How extraordinary to discover this writer making such a commitment, well before the rise of our recent feminist spirituality and ecofeminist movements. D’Arbaud speaks directly to our current environmental, theological, social, and political concerns.Continue reading “Glimpsing La Vièio ié Danso – “The Untouchable Wild Goddess” – in Jóusè d’Arbaud’s Beast of Vacarés by Joyce Zonana”