ILLUMINATION
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ILLUMINATION

You are not my mirror: I am your prism

An Art Journey to Alchemize the Lies of Racism — Part 4

I was born Jane Ida Lee.

My ancestry is Korean and my Korean name is 이재인.

The first character 이 is the family name (it means “plum tree” and symbolizes patience)

pronounced ee- without the “L” sound.

Jane is written as two characters 재 jae and 인 een.

Following family tradition,
like all my female cousins,

the first syllable of my
Korean name is Jae,
after my maternal grandmother
우재순 (Ooh Jae-Soon).

My parents added “Ida” because they liked the sound of it.

my grandmother and me

I hated my name when I was little.

Jane was too simple and plain.

Ida was weird and old-fashioned.

Lee was so stereotypically Asian and led to the inevitable

“You must be related to Bruce Lee! Do you know karate?”

People would always ask,
“What’s your real name?”

I was secretly happy that I could say,
Jane is my real name,

instead of something that sounded more “ethnic”
and was difficult to pronounce.

I used to fantasize that I had a name like
Veronica Montgomery or Cynthia Stone.

At the time, I thought it sounded more sophisticated.

But now I see, it just sounded undeniably White.

It breaks my heart to remember how I preferred these names.

I was in such deep self-denial that I wished I had

a name that represented absolutely nothing about who I was.

author’s painting

When I was 17, I got a tattoo that was a

stylized version of my last name in Korean.

I liked its simple, universal elements-
the circle and the line

(that I saw as symbols of
masculine and feminine energies.)

I had to hide this from my parents, especially my mother.

Tattoos are very common in Korea now,

but 20 years ago, it was still considered taboo.

In my mom’s mind, only gangsters had tattoos.

And she hated anything that breathed of counter-culture.

Being “respectable” in the eyes of others

was one of her most important values.
(She’s opened up a lot since then :)

When I was 21, I finally gathered the
courage to show my mom the tattoo.

She looked at it in disgust and said,

“This is the worst mistake of your life.

No man is going to marry you now.”

I laughed inside.

If this happened to be the worst mistake of my life,

I was going to have it incredibly easy.

And it was so obvious to me that any man

that did not accept something like a tattoo

was not fit to be my husband.

author’s own image. photo by tony hitchcock.

To my mom, I said,

“But, it’s an honoring of our family!

Our family name will be with me for life,

even if I get married and change my name.”

My mom groaned.

“Oh, so stupid.

In Korea, women don’t change their
names when they get married.

And, if you had to get a tattoo,

why not be like other girls

and get something small and pretty,
like a flower?

Why this big, dark thing?”

Well, because I’m not like other girls, Mom.

Her disappointment didn’t feel good, but I wasn’t surprised.

And I was thrilled to hear that Korean women didn’t change their names,

thinking it was a symbol of a more evolved society than I’d imagined.

Later I learned that historically women in Korea

weren’t included in the family registry.

It’s not that their original names

were considered valuable,

it’s that the women were seen as so insignificant

that their names didn’t matter at all.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -

I learned to love my name when I moved to Korea

after graduating from college.

Koreans pronounced my name slightly differently-

as two syllables instead of one- making it sound

more subtle and lovely to my ears.

I spent my first few years in Korea teaching English

at one of the top institutes in Seoul.

I was told by my boss to pretend

like I didn’t speak any Korean.

They were worried that Koreans would not value

me as a native English speaker if I could also speak Korean.

I hated this rule.

Why should the fact that I spoke another language

devalue my status as a proficient speaker in the other?

But I understood the reality.

The fact that I was Asian already made me

less desirable to Korean students than a White American,

White South African or other “exotic” ethnicity.

In fact, to most Koreans

(and Mexicans and Italians and others in

most countries I’ve travelled in the world)

American = White.

my parents and older brother

At the end of each term, I would smugly

reveal to the students that I actually knew Korean

and had understood what they’d been saying all along.

This would always result in delight

(they found me much more approachable/

less intimidating when they heard my

juvenile expression of their native language),

a deeper sense of bonding, and a series of questions.

The first of these would be:

“What’s your Korean name?”

“Jane.”

“Ohhh. 재인 (jae- een).
That’s a very pretty name.”

(They “heard” the name differently

once they knew it was a Korean name).

“What’s the 한자 (han-ja)?”

한자 are Chinese characters.

Traditionally in Korea, names were seen

as an important aspect of one’s destiny.

They were never random and

were often made up of Chinese characters

that conveyed a specific meaning.

(The Korean language is related to Chinese

the way English is related to Greek or Latin.

Totally different languages that share similar roots.

Written Korean uses an alphabet that was created
long after the oral language already existed.

Before that, Chinese characters were used.

Because of their complexity

(Chinese doesn’t use an alphabet

but has distinct characters that make up each word),

only a privileged few in ancient Korea were literate.

After the Korean alphabet was invented,

the literacy rate became among the highest in the world.)

Some Korean words are “pure Korean,”

but many have their roots in Chinese.

author’s collage. 복 = fortune

For the latter you have to know which

Chinese characters the Korean words are derived

from to understand their meaning,

because the same sound can have multiple meanings.

This is usually made clear through context
but with something like a name,
you would have no idea
unless it was explicitly stated.

I’ve always been into meaning and symbols,

so I was very excited at the idea that “Jane”

was not just a sound that could be written in Korean,

but a name that carried a deeper truth.

So, one day, I excitedly called my parents

and asked them to assign Chinese characters

to my name, so it could have meaning.

author’s painting

My dad laughed and said, “We already did.

I chose the most simple characters,

in case you ever learned to write 한자.”

(OK, so not the most poetic origin story,

but I was just happy I had a real Korean name.)

Here is the 한자 of my first name.

이 李 plum tree (obviously not unique to me)

재 在 to exist

인 仁 wise, virtuous person

When combined, the characters become like poems

and carry a new meaning.

Together, 재인 translates to “compassionate philosopher.”

I found this fascinating.

I had just graduated from college with

degrees in Philosophy and Psychology,

which seemed like a perfect mirror to this name

that I didn’t even know I had.

I was also born with my sun (and many other planets)

in Sagittarius, sign of the philosopher and truth-seeker

and my moon in Pisces- the sign of the compassionate artist.

I felt this deep sense of destiny and a new appreciation for my name.

I never thought I would change it.

image creator unknown

But, a few years ago, Yeeve Rayne

came to me as my new name.

It came while I was channeling a trilogy of stories

from Mother Earth that honor the Divine Feminine.

They are simple creation stories.

They are also living maps and mirrors

that reflect and guide the journey of my life.

The second story is called the
“Rebirth of the Golden Butterfly Queen.”

In the story, the Queen sings a song

that wakes people to the treasures within.

The first time I said my new name aloud

in the presence of another person,

was just before I performed this song.

I hadn’t yet been using the name because it

felt awkward. It didn’t yet feel real.

But, after saying aloud

“My name is Yeeve Rayne,”

I heard the lines of the song differently, as if for the first time.

Everything clicked into place,

and I knew this was indeed my new name.

“I am the Golden Queen

I am here to overthrow the reign of shame…

I sing my own legend to honor

the worlds’ history

that lives inside of me…

“I am spreading seeds to create
new gardens of Eden…

I contain every color
and every flower
each of my parts fitting together
without any dilution whatsoever…”

photo by Tony Hitchcock

As Jane represents a sort of everywoman (Jane Doe, Plain Jane),

Eve, “mother of all life,” stands for all women.

But the way the biblical Eve has commonly been understood

does not embody the true Divine Feminine.

(Eve also means “serpent” which

may be closer to the truth.)

I was not brought up with any religion,

yet this ancient story of Adam and Eve

and the Fall still affects me.

It is imbedded in our Western collective unconscious.

And with it, an inherent sense of unworthiness,

the guilt and shame that accompanies pleasure,

and the demonization of the body and the feminine.

The odd spelling of Yeeve, seems to signify

an evolution of that feminine archetype.

Not the help-mate that brought shame

and expulsion from the Garden of Eden

and suffering for all future generations.

But the force of nature that is pure desire,

that knows Earth as Heaven

and the body as a holy vehicle of creation.

The one who embodies the divine union

of the masculine and feminine

and co-creates new gardens of Eden.

author’s painting. 못 됐다 = bad but literally translates as ‘unfinished,’ similar to sin as ‘unripe’

The third story is called
“The Tree Beyond Good and Evil.”

It tells of a woman who possesses

the power of fire.

No one knows her name

or where she comes from.

She belongs to no one

yet is the most tethered of all.

For she keeps her world-
the Land of Eternal Winter-

alive, one small flame at a time.

But her people never know warmth,

cannot let the heat penetrate their skin-

until she fully expresses her power

and sets the entire world aflame.

Until she accepts the totality of who she is,

dissolving her old limited identity,

the waters of life cannot pour through her

to quench the burning world.

I didn’t know how this story ended,

until I embraced my new name.

“And the fire woman, who was no longer

needed or feared, knew herself.

She knew herself as beloved.

And the whole world knew her name…

Yeeve Rayne.”

I performed this story a few months ago,

and someone commented on how much it

reflected our current experience- the global

pandemic, fires raging across the land.

(There’s a dragon in the story that

forces people to stay huddled indoors.

But it also brings the usually private people

of Winter closer together.

And teaches them to light their own fires.)

Like you, perhaps,

I have been using this time

To move a little slower.

To be more present.

To understand more.

To love better.

To be kinder to my body.

To hold precious that which is precious

and let go of that which is

ready to burn way.

To nourish the parts of me that

have been starving

And warm the parts of me

I’ve left out in the cold.

And now I reclaim all of me.

author’s drawing.

I honor where I’ve come from- my Korean ancestry,

and especially my mother and grandmothers.

I honor their struggles and their pain

and what they had to do to survive.

And I’m so grateful for their beauty, their tenacity,

their self-respect, their courage, their talents and

their passion for life.

I honor the Western culture and land

and people I was born and raised with.

I honor the grief and accept the ignorance

and self-denial that has led to-
and continues to create-
such destruction and violence.

And I’m so grateful for the abundance,

the freedom, the natural beauty, the creativity

and the diversity I’ve had the privilege to live within.

I let go of my attachment to suffering.

It is not a betrayal of my ancestors,

to all those suffering in the world,

or the younger me

to let go.

I let go of my identity as

one who doesn’t belong.

As one who is separate

because she is worse or
special because she is best.

I let go of comparison.

I let go of my fear of being

left behind.

I let go of my race

against time.

I let go of my need to

be validated by others.

I see myself.

My name is Yeeve Jane Ida Lee Rayne.

I am not your mirror.

I am your prism.

Let us penetrate each other with our light.

That through us,
new rainbow worlds of belonging,
freedom and possibility be made manifest.

author’s painting

*you can read part 1 of the journey here

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Supporting sensitive, magical creatives to stop over-giving, reclaim your space, & create the perfect conditions for you to thrive-your very own Garden of Eden

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