A Production of The Folk Life ( Inc. 1976)
John McLaughlin and Jamie Downs, Editors


CD Reviews: “Roots & Wings,”
(dba The Digital Folk Life. Org)

Cosy Sheridan, “The Pomegranate Seed” (CMS Records),

In some sense based on Maureen Murdock’s The Heroine’s Journey, the 1990 antidote to Joseph Campbell’s regrettably one-sided presentation of the human psychic journey to wholeness, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, (1949) Cosy Sheridan’s newest offering on CMS Records presents a succession of mythic (sometimes comic) tales, from Persephone’s forced descent into the underworld at the behest of its lustful lord, thro a meeting of Dorothy and Eve at a fork in the yellow brick road, to a satirical recognition that “The Little Train That Could,” puffing up to the top of the phallic hill, is not a necessary goal for women, and on to an almost – perhaps not, in context - light-hearted meeting with herself, “Alone With a Bathing Suit,” and then a lecture to Mattel about Barbie’s bizarre anatomical-cultural model for girls.

Then it’s back to the profundities of the twinned sacrifices of Iphigenia and Cordelia, the one so that “the big boys” of the Trojan War could go on with their games, the other on the altar of her father, King Lear’s, expectations, the artist finding older, mytho-cultural parallels to modern media’s games with young women’s lives and psyches. “The Losing Game” of living with the TV on, absorbing shallowness as if it had real depth, drives her back to Persephone, “Demeter’s Lost Daughter,” making pearls out of pain at the bottom of the world, and on to the brutally honest realities of real-world family abuse (“A Bad Cliché”) surviving in earned, strange beauty, looking back on false hopes, asking for “A Flower From Inside Eden” or an escape from “My Mother’s Hope”, and finally, a perhaps dream-autobiographical meeting with the Furies, puppet allies rather than real enemies, as she at last comes to some sense of triumph over her ghosts and emerges into the sunlight, with “You Can Always Go Home”, a message she had denied to Dorothy, so long ago. Hard-earned vision of a womanly Heroine.

It’s a journey that requires careful listening to catch the intended parallels and contrasts that enrich this understanding of how women’s way (one woman’s way?) is in fact not the same as men’s way (or some men’s way?). Joseph Campbell’s Hero is not a model for Heroines, with different tasks and outcomes. How could it be? Men set out to go along a circular path with avoidable choices along the way, choices from which they may shrink back, with obvious consequences in failure to grow; women set out to descend into a chthonic, ultimately unavoidable depth, from which their ascent is as triumphant as their descent (this at least could be one reading of Murdoch alongside Campbell). It could be said that we are different species, in some important ways, and until we understand how we inhabit the universe differently, we will continue to have difficulties in understanding how – at the same time – we are all human beings, men and women together. So this is a necessary feminist project in musical form, as Cosy says:

“These songs are the music for a performance piece I created about one woman’s descent into the underworld and her eventual return. It was originally written as a project for a psychology degree, but it grew into something more personal significant to me; it became my story in mythic form. It’s how I found my way back home. It helped me turn regret into compassion, shame and sadness into a personal wisdom and joy. I hope that my story helps you find the wisdom and myth of your own life, whether you are still in the underworld, or haven’t yet descended, or if you have already found your way home. Good luck. You are not alone. We are all waiting for you with open arms – Cosy.”

(Copyright, John McLaughlin, 4/04/2004)