The trouble with analogies is that they are at least one step away from the Truth of things. The longest journey begins with but a single step, and so you can go a long way away from the Truth of things just by committing to an analogy. For instance: on a stormy afternoon a rumble of thunder passes by and we are told "That's Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp fighting it out at the O-K Corral!" and yet our father told us that it was but the rumble of ionized air when a lightning flash passed through the atmosphere! This could create a crisis of faith between a boy and his father and that would be very sad. If the boy is George Bush, well it could be disastrous. But it doesn't really matter who the boy is, there was trouble which could be avoided if George had just been struck by lightning.
The picture to the left here is another case in point. The image shows a shrine to a local fertility god framed by two sacred trees which have the attributes of the primal male and female. During a drought the local tribal women paint the figure in red mixture made from goats blood and milk. They festoon the trees with garlands made from their hair and offer cups of beer on the ground before the shrine. Since they can't make beer during a drought they have the responsibility of always saving aside a jar or two of beer. In good times they will rotate out the cups of beer to insure quality of offering. They drink the "exhausted" beer themselves. During a drought they may not be able to offer as many cups of beer, but still, they can count on a few cups of beer for the family until the rains come back. If they run out of beer and the rains still have not come back they will chop down the sacred trees and burn the figure in a huge bonfire. They dance and toss wood into the fire as long as they can. When they have exhausted themselves they collapse on the earth. Then the rains come, filling up everyone's jars, the local streams run again, and the night air is filled with the sounds of animals again. In gratitude they take the last log from the fire and fashion a figure from it. They prop it up at the site of the last shrine and plant two seedlings of their sacred trees.
That's not a shrine to any thing, it's a piece of driftwood, flotsam pulled out of the Hudson and propped up against a couple of trees. But the story told more and conveyed more than just the collection of the words and that influenced how one might view that picture, even after reading this.
Now suppose it happened that you felt very strongly that your life had been blessed by Life, the land, water, sky and spirit of the place has sustained you through many hard seasons. There's a place you like to go to, a stream of water flowing past an enormous cedar tree. The roots of this tree embrace the earth, covered deeply with moss, a spring trickling out from below, through the moss covered roots and down to the fast flowing stream. It has a quiet and a calmness which is Great. You take some clay from the stream and you start forming the clay into a figure that gives you the same feeling somehow. A round bellied female form whose arms extend out and up to embrace the sky while Her feet arm firmly in the Earth below. You put it nestled against the mossy hollow there. When you go there you can close your eyes and still see the green and the rich brown while the stream still tumbles and the spring sparkle... in that time without time you feel not apart from the All, but truly a Part of it. That is one step closer to the Truth of all things.
Others took to resting by the stream and one puts a large rope around the trunk of the tree, to see how big it is around. He leaves the rope. In time people have meditated on the Rope in that Holy area, the shrine of our lady of clay, and perhaps they have collected many truths about the story of our lady. Let us say that in that far away time I come to the shrine and park my bike against the gate post, walk up the trail and down the path. I kneel in the moss as had thousands through the years, a pair of round depressions in the moss from all those knees. As I start to meditate on the figure of clay I notice a small depression, like a belly button. I lean in carefully to see it better. It's a fingerprint! I note one or two others here and there. I sit back and think about it, all the various stories of whose finger and when? My time is up, I leave the shrine confused and somehow distant from my Goddess. Many days later in the city I take my recently acquired AK-47 and my improvised suicide vest and stride toward my assigned target, finally feeling as if I know where I am in the scheme of things.
Clearly it's best not to examine the symbols very closely, nor the figures of clay sitting in the Holy of Holies. Leave the spirit where it belongs, deep in that mossy hole you call a heart while the spring of Life still trickles from your breast.