February 15, 2010 | 5:38pm
Thanks to the work of a horde of Cottonwood crackers, the enchanting Mago Earth Park sculpture representing the Korean version of Mother Earth will be dismantled by February 24, according to Jennifer Sing, a spokeswoman for the Tao Fellowship, which built the park as part of a planned retreat.
Already, smaller statues have been removed from the property, which sits across from the newly built Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, on Bill Gray Road, just off Arizona State Route 89A. Left for the moment are the 39-foot image of Mago (pronounced Mah-goh), a large kokopelli, a small water fountain, a few signs, an olive-green building, and two golden statues of bug-eyed harubang, mushroom-like totems who guard entrances and ward off evil.
Other statues depicting Jesus Christ, Buddha, and Confucius are now gone. But it was Mago that drew the ire of certain local yokels. Some griped that it was too tall (almost 50 feet high with its base included), others that it was (ahem) not representative of Cottonwood, which is, according to the last census, about 85 percent white.
Despite the fact that Immaculate Conception rises to a similar height right across the street, Cottonwood's Planning and Zoning Commission -- faced with a high-school auditorium filled with the proverbial pitchfork-wielders (among others) -- decided to oust the "graven image" (as one local critic described it) from its rural burg.
Actually, the statue itself is in the midst of a big nowhere, surrounded by vast stretches of vacant land. The day I visited, there were numerous sightseers taking photos of Mago, even though the park was officially closed. The entire project was the brain-child of South Korean businessman Ilchi Lee, director of the Tao Fellowship and founder of Dahn Yoga, which operates teaching centers in 10 countries, according to its Web site.
Detractors have called Dahn Yoga a cult. Dahn Yoga denies that it's a cult. But following the debate in the Verde Independent,
most of those opposed to the statue seem more concerned with their own primitive aesthetics and bigotries than how Dahn Yoga is labeled in the media.
The ugliness of this debate spurred Tracy Elise to get involved. She's the founder of the Phoenix Goddess Temple, otherwise known as the Temple of One, and dubbed "the sex church," by many. Elise's tantric temple teaches and preaches "sacred sexual healing," with several female and some male practitioners who minister to seekers on the altar of a massage bed, among other ways. Elise's story and the Temple of One are the subject of an article in the March issue of Phoenix Magazine.
At first, Elise wondered about the possibility of bringing Mago to the site of her temple, in a commercial area near Thomas Road and 24th Street, but she quickly realized this was not practical. However, she's since contacted Jennifer Sing to lend her support in finding "a new home for the mother."
Elise stated that, "I am good friends with an number of High Priestesses and Mothers across the country, and we could verify that Ma-go is part of what is perhaps the most ancient religion practiced continuously to modern times: the worship of the Mother of God, aka Goddess."
Sing e-mailed me to say that Elise had gotten in touch with her, but that, "We are not activley looking for a new home for the Mago statue." She further explained that the Mago statue "does come apart in pieces," and that, "the deadline we have been given from the Planning and Zoning Department was to have her down by Feb 24th."
She added, "We are not sure of the future plans for the land and building at this time."
It's unfortunate that the town of Cottonwood wasn't big enough for a massive Catholic church and one big statue of Mother Earth. They should have been able to coexist. By reacting as it has, Cottonwood's bought itself a boatload of bad press, and lost one reason people might have had for visiting the area.
One Asian-American pal of mine fretted that it's the times, that white people feel increasingly threatened by non-whites and other cultures. That was her read, anyway. I'd say that in much of Arizona, sadly, her observation is correct