Wednesday, May 29, 2013


She usually calls for me in winter,
But this year, I did not hear
Until the earth was in bud.
It seemed strange
To turn toward that dark stare
To go down
When life was already celebrating
A return.

But when the Dark Goddess
demands a descent
You must go.
You must go down
To open more, pried open in your most closed places.
To let the darkness that lives there
Spill out onto the floor at your feet
Like blood,
And you must grieve
The loss of the hurt
You held so dear,
Before you can join the flowers.

Marilyn Owen
I seem to have gotten Monsanto out of my system for the time being (see 2 previous posts), and back to the Triple Goddess of the Eleusinian Mysteries.  Kore is the youthful aspect of the Goddess, the naive Spring Maiden, in Greek myth, the daughter of Demeter who is seized by Hades, and taken into the underworld.  Demeter, in her rage and grief, causes the world to die - no plants bear fruit, no bees pollinate, no flowers bloom.  At last an agreement is made in which Persephone can be returned to her mother........but because the youthful Goddess has eaten 6 pomogranate seeds, she must return to the underworld for part of the year to be the wife of Hades.  Kore becomes Persephone, the dual and integral Goddess of both life and of death.

This myth partakes, and is probably derived from, the much earlier Sumerian myth of the Descent of Inanna, wherein the Goddess descends into the underworld realm to encounter her Dark Sister, Ereshigal, Queen of Death, and it is the husband of Inanna, Dumuzi, who must travel for part of the year into the Underworld realm to become the husband of Ereshigal as well as Inanna.

     "Persephone did what Inanna did. Persephone's myth is about moving into a new state of being.  All the soul riches, the knowledge, the art, everything was running down the drain into Hades and it stayed there.  It stopped circulating.  This was the myth of the descent of Inanna as well; everything went down to Ereshkigal, the keeper of the Underworld, and got stuck there in the universal unconscious.  Ereshkigal, the mind of the underworld, was on strike - she refused to process.   We can look at both of these stories, the stories of Persephone and Inanna, and see that these two Goddesses are pathfinders.  Pathfinders to the unconscious, to the other worlds.  Persephone, Kore who becomes Persephone, creates something new that was not thought of before her journey.  And that's a very important myth for our time.  And it's also why the Eleusinian Mystery, which was about Persephone and Demeter, was the defining experience of mature spirituality in the Mediterranean basin for 2,500 years."

    ......Elizabeth Fuller, The Independent Eye
I take the liberty of copying below an excerpt from a book that has been very important to me in working with the Goddess, the 1989 THE GODDESS WITHIN, by Jennifer Barker (formerly Woolger) and Roger Woolger.  And there is a personal story about that book I would like to share because it demonstrates the way, when we "follow our bliss", we really are given "invisible means of support".

In 2003 I spent a month at Byrdcliffe artists colony in Woodstock, New York.  I was working on some pieces about Persephone, and moved by the book, wanted to contact Jennifer Barker to thank her, and ask if she might possibly give me an interview.  But although I found references to her living in Vermont and occasionally offering workshops specifically on women and the Persephone archetype, I could not find any way to contact her.  At Byrdcliffe during my residency they had a masked ball, and I struck up a conversation with another artist who lived in the area.  We agreed to meet for lunch and continue the conversation the following week, and we did.  Over coffee I told her about my work, how I loved the book, and how it looked like the Woolgers were originally from the area, but I was unsuccessful in locating the woman who wrote so profoundly about Persephone.

My lunch companion said "Oh, you mean Jennifer?  She and Roger got divorced and she moved to Vermont.  I can give you her number if you like!" It seems they were friends, and just like that I had a contact, and a personal introduction!   When something like this happens, it is not only encouragement to continue the Vision Quest, but it is also about being given a key to your own inner life, inner work.   I did end up calling Jennifer Barker and making arrangements to go to Vermont for an interview, but as it turned out I had to return to Arizona before I could make the trip.  I still very much regret that lost opportunity.


“In the true life of the spirit there is both light and dark, joy and woe, and the unconscious has both a higher and a lower aspect.  To fulfill her greater destiny, Persephone cannot have intercourse with one without embracing the other.  Her deepest challenge is to unite the dark and the light sides of the Goddess in herself.

At the heart of the great myth lies Hades, who is none other than Death personified.  When Persephone the maiden marries Hades, it is tantamount to saying that the maiden in her dies.  It is a figurative death, required by the greater wisdom of the psyche, a sacrifice that is also, as we have seen, an initiation.  Willingly or unwillingly, the Persephone woman has been called to renounce her innocent maidenly self and spend a large portion of her life going in and out of the underworld.  Most often she will do this in the role of a helper or guide to others.  Because she has been there herself, looked at the most terrible sides of human suffering, and survived, she is now a beacon. 

It is no coincidence that all the accounts we have of the abduction of Persephone pass over in silence what happens to her immediately after Hades drags her into the darkness.  It is indeed a "mystery", a word that means "something that cannot be spoken"", from the Greek myein, which means "to keep silent".  Yet we know that death and loss were central to the mystical transformation that every initiate into the way of Persephone had to undergo. 

The return to the Mother, to Demeter is no longer the return of a maiden, but of a mature goddess, who now knows sexuality, death, and separation.  The return is a reminder that the two goddesses are in fact one, that together they represent the wholeness of being of the Great Mother, who can endlessly be separated from herself, endlessly die, and endlessly be reborn, as woman, as earth, as cosmos.

This is an awe-inspiring aspect of the primordial figure of the Great Mother that we have mostly lost today:  namely,  that she contains within her all opposites.  She is both youth and age, both maiden and mother, both warrior and tender of the hearth, and most significantly, both life and death.

Greek culture has been justly celebrated for its quality of brilliance and light, its establishment of the supremacy of reason, logic, and philosophy, it's lucid vision of the outer, physical world.  If there is a god who epitomizes this consciousness, it is Apollo, sublime god of light, reason and harmony.  Yet so much emphasis upon the light could not exist without a dark shadow being cast.  So, among the gods, as with the goddesses, there are splits and polarities.  The darker brother of Apollo is thus Dionysus, lord of ecstasy, madness, divine drunkenness, and sacrificial death, the very antithesis of Apollonian clarity.  Likewise, Zeus, imperiously sitting high upon his heavenly Olympian throne, must have a dark brother to oversee the lower depths - the mysterious and barely mentioned Hades. 

Once we realize this, we can begin to see that Persephone and her mother, Demeter, represent the two major opposite aspects of the primordial Great Mother that the Greek psyche was struggling to maintain.  Their myth represents, among other things, an attempt to see the whole momentous relationship of the higher and the lower, the light and the dark worlds, as part of a dynamic relationship, a cycle of life and death in which all beings participate.

If it were left to the male gods alone, there would be no such cycle, for masculine consciousness, lacking the inner mysteries of the body, of the menstrual cycle, of pregnancy and birth, has no cyclical awareness built into it.  Which is another way of saying that masculine consciousness knows nothing of the mystery of the life force. 
Masculine, Apollonian consciousness always tends toward mutually exclusive polarities:  something is either this or that, it is either day or night, but not both.  This is the whole basis of Aristotle's logic, one of the supreme achievements of Greek culture - at least according to the official patriarchal view of Western history.

Feminine or matriarchal consciousness, symbolized by the moon, lacks the extremes of mutually exclusive polarities - dark versus light, good versus evil - those dualities Western culture, especially Christianity, has grown so fond of.  Instead there is the model of the far subtler light of the moon in her infinite variations of light, shade, and darkness, forever changing, forever renewing herself…………The awesome side of Persephone as queen of death eventually became more frightening the more it was suppressed.  And it is, of course, in its suppressed form that it returns to torment the imagination of medieval Christianity in its paranoid fear of witches.

The mature Persephone who has returned from her journey lives somehow beyond the ordinary world, but she remains nevertheless intimately familiar with it.......In her completed form she unites the beginning and the end of the life cycle, birth and death in herself;  so, as an old woman she still retains her youthfulness, and as a young initiate she cheerfully carries the wisdom of years.”


“When a woman is over identified with Persephone she will invariably be attracted to situations in which she or others get hurt.  She may have accidents for strange illnesses that render her dependant upon welfare.  She may find herself unavoidably taking care of ailing or dying parents.  She may attract to her charming but ultimately brutal and intimidating men she cannot escape from.  None of these events are her doing.  They appear out of the blue; relentless, crushing, unexplained.  When we look at these stories more closely, we find one common pattern:  she is powerless and usually passive.  These things happen to her.  Yet she seems, on examination, strangely drawn to them, as if they were indeed her fate.  We are led to suspect that the Persephone woman has a secret attachment to a deeply human and intractable theme:  the wretchedness of the innocent victim!

Only Hades can claim the victim.  Only a genuine encounter that brings the death of all ego, all attachment to innocence, can put to rest the misplaced pride of the victim once and for all.  This is Persephone's challenge, her moment of truth.” 


“In her darkness and dividedness, the young Persephone woman yearns for the spirit to rescue her and deliver her from her inner confusion.  So when she learns of metaphysics and occult practices, she will frequently seek solace in the higher authorities of spirit guides, ascended masters, astrology, karma, and so forth.  This is part of the motivation that lead her to become a healer or channeler herself.  However, there is often a huge element of compensation in the way of the spirit, of channeled guides and masters, since it is all upward, into the light.  Unless she fully honors her dual nature, one that mediates between both the light and the darkness, between the living and the dead, she can become unaccountably arrested in her development.

Her true savior is not Zeus, but paradoxically, his dark brother Hades.  The wisdom of this extraordinary myth is that the source of Persephone's transformation comes from beneath, from the lower depths of soul, not from the higher reaches of spirit.  The spirit in its Olympian form cannot initiate Persephone.”


To be fully effective as a healer, Persephone must first, like all healers, heal herself.  But for Persephone this is not so easy.  Ironically her very capacity for empathy and psychic understanding is her greatest obstacle to the process.  Unless she finds outside help......all she will do is attract to her mirrors of her own unresolved victimization.

Why?  Because she does not know how to remain detached and separate from those whose suffering she feels so acutely; she lacks ego boundaries.  In her openness to the unconscious in herself and others, she is constantly fusing with the personalities and sufferings of those who are drawn to her.  Without the objectivity of a strong ego, she gets hopelessly bogged down in he morass of her patients' sufferings.


Understanding the meaning of Persephone's descent and her connection to the spirit realm is especially urgent today.  Thousands of women (and men) are currently discovering mediumistic talent or so-called channeling.  In addition to this, no one could fail to notice the minor epidemic of enthusiasm for metaphysics. Cold it be, as the late Joseph Campbell, the unparalleled authority on myth and religion observed, that the emergence of Persephone consciousness that we are currently seeing is actually part of a "twilight of the gods"?  In one of his last essays, written shortly before his death, Campbell raised the possibility that the old gods are dying and new ones are breaking forth from the collective unconscious to take their place as humanity approaches a whole new era.

If this is so, from a Jungian standpoint this would mean that the very structures and energies of the deep unconscious, which symbolically we perceive as "gods" and "goddesses" are undergoing a profound shift.  So, the type of persona who is most sensitive to such shifts, the seer or mediumistic type we are calling the “Persephone woman“, is going to be right at the center of this momentous eruption of new psychic and spiritual powers…..But to live for much of one's waking life "among the dead" can put enormous psychic strain upon any woman (or man) with a mediumistic temperament, especially when her experiences are misunderstood or feared, as is frequently the case.  More than any of the other goddess types, the Persephone woman can experience deep alienation, sometimes bordering on breakdown, if her true nature and vocation are not recognized. 

For the fact is that the underworld is essentially a place of spirits.  Which means that it is, alas, singularly lacking in warmth, substance, or what most of us would call reality.  How the Persephone or mediumistic woman relates to this realm, with its threats of dissociation, madness, and despair, therefore poses a unique challenge to our psychological understanding."


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Encouraging News! Global Protest and Native Seeds.......

 In my previous article about Monsanto I shared two important movies, and information I've gleaned about the influence this corporation has on our government, and indeed, many governments.  But Saturday may have seen the first Global Protest against a Global Corporate Power - and that is a  very hopeful thing!

And while I'm thinking of hopeful things, Tucson has a wonderful organization called Native Seed Search that has been collecting and archiving food crops, such as blue corn, mesquite, and amaranth, that are indigenous to the arid lands of the Southwest, and the native peoples who lived here.   Native Seeds/SEARCH conserves, distributes and documents the adapted and diverse varieties of agricultural seeds, their wild relatives and the role these seeds play in cultures of the American Southwest and northwest Mexico, and  promote the use of these ancient crops and their wild relatives by gathering, safeguarding, and distributing their seeds to farming and gardening communities. They are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Tucson, Az.!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

One Nation Under Monsanto? Where has Democracy Gone?

I was so happy to see national protests yesterday against Monsanto.   One of the  Senate's latest insults to Americans this week was to PROHIBIT states from legislating labeling of GMO food.   Hows that for contempt?  Not even bothering to hide the fact that Monsanto controls the Senate?  Here's a video of  yesterday's protests against Monsanto drawing a reported 2 million in 400 cities worldwide to the streets:

Congress passed a bill in March that gave Monsanto special exceptions to proceed with GMOs even if such crops were thought to be dangerous (the so called "Monsanto Protection Act")  

 This week the Senate refused by a 27-71 vote the Bernie Sanders Amendment to the Farm Bill that would have permitted states to pass bills requiring GMO labeling, effectively FORBIDDING STATES from labeling GMO engineered foods .  In essence telling the American public that this corporate entity can do whatever it wants without determining first what will be the environmental  impact, and, the American people will not be allowed to know that they are eating GMO foods.   

There is a petition to Obama to repeal the "Monsanto Protection Act", but I doubt it will do any good  now that the Senate has explicitly voted to prohibit labeling of GMOs for States.

 A few weeks back I posted a TED Talk by Lawrence Lessing about, in essence, corporate ownership of our government, which was once a democracy.  And the Multi-National Corporate State is doing a very bad job of governing, since, with climate change, destruction of the oceans, fracking what's left of the underground water tables............need I go on?...................their profits are going to be very bad in the not too distant future, because there won't be many people left to "consume" what little is left. 

And there is no Corporation more powerful, or scary, than Monsanto, a corporate entity that is busy playing God/dess with absolute impunity.   I posted previously about the "Monsanto Protection Act" that was just passed, and feel, in good conscience, that I need to post further for the benefit of any who may not know about why people have been marching this week against Monsanto.  Below  is the   documentary "The World According to Monsanto".   Having watched it, I BELIEVE EVERYONE NEEDS TO SEE THIS FILM.  This is truly monumental, and frightening, whether we're hearing a French scientist report that the universally used weedkiller Roundup "provokes the cell division leading to the formation of cancer", to the almost complete  loss of independent farms and  biodiversity in Uruguay.   

In India farmers are being driven to suicide because they can no longer, due the fact that Monsanto completely controls the cotton seed market,  afford to plant their traditional crops (Monsanto and the Seeds of Suicide).  As a result, they are falling deeper and deeper into debt, losing their lands, and being displaced from traditional homelands. farmer Troy Rouse talks, in the film (below) about being sued by Monsanto. (If you grow organic or conventional,  and your neighbor grows Monsanto, the two will likely cross, making you legally liable to be sued by Monsanto when they field test your seeds.)  Further, seed crops are being designed to be sterile, so that future planting must be purchased anew from the corporation****.    This means that  essential food crops could be controlled by a corporate entity demanding a tax which it can determine at will.  And what will happen if modified seeds escape into the gene pool, now that Monsanto has  carte blanche to proceed without appropriate controls  or even visibility to consumers?


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Update on the Bosnian Pyramids


In 2011 when I went to the Glastonbury Symposium, I was blown away by learning about the work of  Sam Semir Osmanagic, the visionary amateur archeologist who is attempting to excavate what he believes is a pyramid complex in Bosnia.   I admire Dr. Osmanagic's dedication and vision, and have been rather disgusted by the way, as so often happens, he has been pooh-poohed and called a fraud, although in all fairness, there are many who support him, including the President of Malaysia who visited the site.  I love Wikipedia, but their dismissal of his work is very disappointing and I think reflects a prejudice.  The fact is, if he's right,  this is the highest pyramid in the world, and the complex is 10,000 + years old.  Such a discovery would re-write what we think we know about the ancient world, and what we know about ancient Europe.
One of the developments I've been following (oh, to be young, and go volunteer to dig for a summer!  What fun that would be!)  is the discovery of what may very well be a concrete/cement that was used to construct the (as yet unproven) pyramids.  This could mean that not only were the ancients creating intentional geomantic environments that were sacred landscapes***, but they had building technologies some 10,000 years ago that included making cement.
"Results released by the Polytechnic University of Turin, Italy of chemical and diffractometry laboratory analysis done on sandstone and conglomerate blocks taken from the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun show that the samples are an inert material with a binding, similar to that found in ancient Roman concrete. These results were confirmed by analysis on the samples done at the University of Zenica,Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Stone terrace made from sandstone plates on top of the Bosnian "Pyramid of the Moon", September 2008  More photos:
In a separate independent test, Professor Joseph Davidovits,  member of the International Association of Egyptologists and author confirms this claim. “I performed electron microscopic analysis of the sample and I propose the geopolymer chemistry that was used to make this is ancient concrete,”
He further adds that the sample is composed of “a calcium/potassium-based geopolymer cement and that although he cannot date the sample, he can discern that it is not modern concrete, but more like the technique used by the Egyptians 3500 years ago.” In his book "The Pyramids: an Enigma Solved" ,Davidovits proposes that Egyptian pyramids were constructed using agglomerated stone (limestone cast like concrete)."
Outside walls of the Bosnian "Pyramid of the Sun" made of the concrete conglomerate blocks, Northern side, July 2008
Christopher Dunn, author of The Giza Power Plant (1996) writes that the pyramids were "ancient energy machines" or power sources that channelled geo-magnetic energy, which is currently a popular theory among researchers. The pyramids of Bosnia have the same elements that define the structure of an ancient "power generator system."

What do we really know?  What knowledge might we have lost?  Fascinating to speculate.  Atlantis rising..........

***A great Blog that follows the Bosnian Pyramids excavation, as well as discussion on related themes is Old Europe   (  Here I've copied from an article:

"In ancient times architecture was considered not only a creation of form to limit or define space, but also inherently a sacred form that concentrated beneficial earth and cosmic energies and dispersed harmful earth and cosmic energies. The subtle energies of earth and cosmos were taken very seriously in the spiritually advanced societies of the past. The ancients were conscious that certain architectural features transformed invisible energetic fields that exercise subtle but predictable influences on the human body and on the environment.
In spite of our scientific progress in the modern day, we still know very little, in comparison to the ancients, about the relation of forms both natural and artificial to subtle and invisible but potent energies from earth and sky. Since 2006, researchers from many different disciplines have visited the Bosnian Pyramid Valley. These researchers have made pioneering discoveries that have allowed us to dramatically expand our modern understanding of the nature and purpose of the Bosnian pyramids and pyramid structures across the planet. A two-year study performed by biologist Dr. Sulejman Redžić from the Faculty for Natural Sciences at the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, has shown that the soil temperature on the Bosnian pyramids and nearby areas is 5 degrees Celsius warmer than elsewhere in Bosnia.
Astonishingly, Dr. Redžić was able to identify several plant species on the pyramids that are typical of warmer Mediterranean climate zones. This means that these ancient pyramid structures create an artificial microclimate in the Visoko Valley. U.K. scientist Dr. Harry Oldfield developed a photographic method similar to Kirlian photography that captures the "shapes" of electromagnetic energy in a two-dimensional photograph.
Images: rising energy fields of the Bosnian pyramids
Dr. Oldfield's photos of the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun showed that the electromagnetic fields above the pyramids are oriented toward the vertical rather than the horizontal. This is unusual because the electromagnetic patterns above natural features such as hills and mountains are normally vertically oriented. Vertically oriented electromagnetic fields are characteristic of artificial (manmade) structures. In addition, Dr. Oldfield recorded more activity than expected, with strong electromagnetic fields above the Bosnian Pyramid of The Sun.
Corroborating Dr. Oldfield's findings, Dr. Slobodan Mizdrak, a physicist from Zagreb, Croatia, led a team of experts who measured both electromagnetic radiation in the Bosnian pyramid complex in 2010 and 2012. The team also measured an unusual 28 kHz ultrasound phenomenon exiting the top of the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun. A two-day experiment in April 2012 demonstrated that the source of the ultrasound "energy beam" is beneath the pyramid at a depth of 2440 metres (1.86 miles). Analysis of collected data has shown that a metallic plate located deep under the pyramid in combination with underground water flows and unexpectedly high concentrations of negative ions generates electric power of more than 10 kilowatts. 
Image: artistic reconstruction of the Central Fire
The presence of high concentrations of negative ions has also been detected also in other locations of the valley, namely inside Ravne tunnel labyrinth. Different measurements performed during the past six years have shown a tremendous increase in negative ions inside the tunnel system, reaching levels of up to 40,000 ions per cubic centimeter 200 meters inside the tunnel system. Negative ions are atoms or molecules that have more electrons than protons in their nuclei. Series of analyses in the last 120 years have proven that negative ions clean the air of dust, spores, mold and pollen and provide numerous health benefits to human beings. Thousands of people who have visited the underground tunnel labyrinth during the past six years have been able to experience the healing power of this negative ion-rich location.  
Janez Pelko, a Slovenia researcher who studied the effects on the human aura of a short stay in Ravne tunnel labyrinth, demonstrated that the human aura increases and reconstitutes itself significantly in almost 80% of cases among people after a one-hour stay inside the tunnel labyrinth. Janez Pelko's research is mainly inspired by the work of Prof. Konstantin G. Korotkov, a renown Russian scientist who invented the Gas Discharge Visualization technique (GDV), which represents a breakthrough beyond Kirlian photography, allowing direct, real-time viewing of human energy fields.
Thus we come to the conclusion that ancient cultures had developed an understanding of the subtle effects of various invisible life energies and created structures to both generate and magnify them."

February 21, 2013, The Invisible but Vital Life Energies of the Bosnian Pyramid Valley

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Great Tunisian Kiss-In

Photo by Said Koriche 
There are times when I'm amazed at how human beings can turn reality on its ears.  It is illegal to kiss in public in Tunisia, where fundamentalists are becoming prominent (ever notice how so many governments, in various flavors, always seem to attract people who love guns and hate love in any form?)
The good news for Tunisia is that after a couple was arrested for kissing hundreds of young people defiantly turned out en masse for a kiss-in on Bourguiba Avenue, under the slogan, "Let them arrest all the lovers in Tunisia".  Bravo!  There's hope yet!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Chautauqua and the "Burned Over Land"

"What is in my mind is a sort of Chautauqua - like the traveling tent-show Chautauqua’s that used to move across America, an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer. The Chautauquas were pushed aside by faster -paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement. Perhaps because of these changes the stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep. In this Chautauqua I would like not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply to dig deeper into old ones that have become silted in with the debris of thoughts grown stale, and platitudes too often repeated.

There are eras of human history in which the channels of thought have been too deeply cut and no change was possible, and nothing new ever happened, and “best” was a matter of dogma, but that is not the situation now. Now the stream of our common consciousness seems to be obliterating its own banks, flooding the lowlands, disconnecting and isolating the highlands and to no particular purpose other than the wasteful fulfillment of its own interna
l momentum. Some channel deepening seems called for."

Robert Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"

Robert Pirsig wrote the above in the 60's, long before the internet.  I wonder what he would say about that over-flowing river now.  

I began this blog in June of 2007,  when I went to Midland, Michigan on a Fellowship from the Alden Dow Creativity Center to pursue my project "Spider Woman's Hands". It's hard to believe almost 6 years have passed, and reviewing those early posts, I try now to see who I was, where these trails have lead me.  I saved the quote above almost from the beginning of this blog, because I have spent many years in Chautauqua County, New York, and because I felt my creative journey was not just a "personal vision quest", but, in creating a blog and having a show, also my own "kind of a Chautaqua".  It arose from a desire to share my discoveries in the course of my wanderings.  I see that I wrote in August of 2007,
"But this has, now that I think about it, been a Chautauqua for me. Bringing forth what I know and have to share to a new community. It hasn't been easy, and one leaves not knowing what I've left behind.  You have to let it go, and not concern yourself with how many people care about what what you're doing, not care about how much money you make or don't make, not care about what any institution or magazine or even colleague thinks art "is". Ultimately, it has to become your spiritual path, your meditation, but also your voice in the Conversation, your thread that seeks to weave you you into harmony and gathering  depth."
I have always disliked the cliche about art "You do it for yourself".  That's a convenient way to dismiss artists, along with other cliches I've heard a million times.  And a convenient way to justify the  laziness and disrespect of the general public for innovative arts, which often treats artists as somewhere between cute, useless, great for real estate agencies that want to gentrify neighborhoods, and vaguely unpatriotic.  Artists don't get multiple degrees, make economic and other enduring sacrifices, and dedicate their lives to the pursuit of expression  just to "do it for themselves".  They don't congregate in art districts (which are increasingly diminished, thanks to all those real estate agencies who monitor arts districts for profit) because they just want to be isolated.   They congregate for creative discourse, and innovative art districts of the past, and places like the "West Banke" to Soho to the Haight Ashbury were  seminal points of cultural transformation and dissemination, engines of creativity on the cutting edge of culture that reflect and germinate seeds that become an emerging paradigm 20, 30, or 50 years hence.  Artists make art because they want to communicate. With their inner life, spirit,  their communities, their nations, the world. It's a discourse continually seeking response and enlivenment.
Lilydale, Chautauqua County, NY, circa 1920***
So why am I having this rant?  Well, I don't exactly know, except that 6 years down the road from my fellowship about the Great Weaver, Spider Woman, I find that I myself am increasingly "dis-connected", without the desire I once had to talk about my art or show it.  I don't know if all places are as indifferent as Tucson seems to be, but it's time to cut loose and head for Chautauqua County, to see what  the fertile "burned over lands"*** can germinate in my spirit again, to hang with the mediums at Lilydale, sit around a bonfire at the Pagan Festivals in Brushwood, hear a concerto at the Institute, walk once again in magical Leolyn Grove, and find the Chautaqua spirit again.  And, come July, that's exactly what I will be doing, Goddess willing!
 For anyone not familiar with the term Chautauqua was an adult education movement popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I think the word, which is native American, means something like "place where the fish are".  The first gatherings, and the title of the Chautauqua Institute which is still very active, were named after beautiful Chautauqua Lake. Chautauqua assemblies spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s, and from rural Pennsylvania to Colorado town had their Chautauqua tents raised close by the railroad stations. The Chautauqua brought entertainment and culture, from violin concertos to storytellers like Mark Twain,  for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day.  President Theodore Roosevelt was quoted as saying that Chautauqua is "the most American thing in America."  And I think it was............the Chautauqua embodied that generosity that is one of the very good things about America, a  desire to share and disseminate  that is in the American character. 

And somehow I think it's important, as our world becomes both more frenetically "connected" and also more strangely  isolated within all that remember the Chautauqua, our personal "Chautauquas" as well as the generosity and enthusiasm of another era.
Concert at the Chautauqua Institute

***For a good article in the Huffington Post about Lilydale Spiritualist Community (I love Lilydale)

***The "Burned Over Land" refers to the area of Western New York where Chautauqua County is where for the past 200 years all kinds of Utopian experiments and communities, spiritualist and religious movements have come and gone. In the 19th century  the "burned-over land," in  upstate New York saw the strange origins of the  Mormons**, Seventh Day Adventists, the Shiloh Community, as well as the beginnings of American Spiritualism and Lilydale Assembly, and of course the Chautauqua Institute.  The past century saw the first encampments for the Suffragettes, and many of the underground railroads for escaped slaves as well.   Continuing in the tradition of exploration, it's also the home of the  Brushwood Folklore Center.

**OK, I can't resist this bit of strange information, which to me is as weird  and as ironic as the ancient Goddess Yoni Stone at the center of the pilgrimage to Mecca. .    Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the Prophet of Mormonism:

"Joseph Smith, Jr. (December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844) was an American religious leader and the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, the predominant branch of which is Mormonism. At age twenty-four, Smith published the Book of Mormon, and in the next fourteen years he attracted thousands of followers, established cities and temples, and created a lasting religious culture.
Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont, and by 1817 had moved with his family to an area in western New York later called the burned-over district because it was repeatedly swept by religious revivals during the Second Great Awakening. The Smith family was not united in their religious views, but they believed in visions and prophecies, and participated in folk religious practices typical of the era. According to Smith, beginning in the early 1820s he had visions, in one of which an angel directed him to a buried book of golden plates inscribed with a Judeo-Christian history of an ancient American civilization."

One of the "revelations" of Smith concerned the appearance of Christ among the native Americans just before the coming of the white men, and of course the famous Golden Plates.  What most people do not know is that 1) the Burned Over zone was ripe with prophets and vision in that era,

2) there was a pervasive religious motif and legend among the native peoples, including the Seneca and the Iroquois, of "Peace Maker", a great spiritual leader who came, like White Buffalo Woman among the Lakota, to unify the tribes and teach the ethical codes.  No doubt Smith interpreted this existing legend to mean Jesus.

 And 3) throughout the Mississippian, as well as more northerly tribes, there was high religious status associated with copper objects, including sacred copper and brass plates, which were probably derived from early contact with Spaniards or French explorers.  Native tribes had not yet developed metallurgy (although there is some evidence of copper axes found among the mound builders), so copper and brass plates would have been highly prized, even considered magical.  Smith, being surrounded by earlier native American lore, would have been aware of the importance of "sacred brass plates" in tribal lore.  (     

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"Toxic Masculinity" & Gender-Based Violence

Homicide, battering, and rape statistics overwhelminglhy demonstrate that women and girls suffer great violence in this country, and thoughout the world. But apparently these patriarchs don't think it's worth passing a bill to protect them, or even make a passing comment on the problem.  But the good news is that the bill passed.  The bad news is that these people are still in Washington.
Sheryl WuDunn, co-author of "Half the Sky", which became a powerful documentary aired on PBS last year, said that gender violence and discrimination is the "Injustice of our century", and I believe she is absolutely right.  So deeply embedded in our culture is the oppression of women, that it was some 70 years after freed black male slaves were given the vote that women were allowed to also vote in the U.S. - and only because courageous women made that possible through great sacrifice.  We have a Martin Luthor King Day, but there is no day devoted to the Suffragettes, to Susan B. Anthony or Lucy Burns,  or Margaret Sanger, who first made birth control available to women, or innumerable others who worked to give to women the same rights over their lives, finances, and bodies that men took for granted.  Nor is the work over.

I love TED talks, and was delighted to hear this one by Jackson Katz, Ph.D., who points out that addressing gender based violence is not "just a women's issue", but a profound human issue.  I think all boys and men should hear him. 

Jackson Katz, Ph.D for TEDxFiDiWomen.

Monday, May 13, 2013

On Myth and Mythmaking

Linda Johnson as "Bridgit"

"If we don’t become aware of both our personal myths and the cultural myths that act upon us like gravitational forces, we risk being wholly overpowered and controlled by them.  As the maverick philosopher Sam Keen has written in Your Mythic Journey, ‘We need to reinvent them from time to time. . . .  The stories we tell of ourselves determine who we become, who we are, what we believe."
Phil Cousineau was a colleague of Joseph Campbell, and I recently re-discovered this article in my files, which I haven't read since 2001 (time to go through my files again). It's important, especially now, for artists (and everyone) to remember that they are Myth Makers, people who imagine the templates for each new era.  It's work that matters. 

 On Myth and Mythmaking
 excerpt from book by  Phil Cousineau
 Once and Future Myths: The Power of Ancient Stories in Our Lives (2001)

I was raised on the knee of Homer, which is an Old World way to describe growing up on stories as old as stone and timeless as dreams.  So I see myth everywhere, probably because I am looking for what my American Indian friends call “the long story,” the timeless aspect of everything I encounter.  I know the usual places to look for it, such as in the splendor of classic literature or the wisdom stories of primal people. 
Valerie James as "Sophia"

I want to explore the aspect of myth that most fascinates me: its ‘once and future’ nature.  Myths are stories that evoke the eternal because they explore the timeless concerns of human beings—birth, death, time, good and evil, creativity and destruction.  Myth resembles the god Proteus in the Odyssey, a shape-shifting creature who knows the secret that the lost Greek sailors long to hear—the way home.  But they must learn how to get a grip on him, if only for one slippery moment, so he might surrender his hidden wisdom.

This is what I call ‘mythic vision.’  The colorful and soulful images that pervade myth allow us to step back from our experience so that we might look closer at our personal situations and see if we can catch a glimpse of the bigger picture, the human condition.
" The new myth coming into being through the triple influence of quantum physics, depth psychology and ecology suggests that we are participants in a great cosmic web of life, each one of us indissolubly connected with all others through that invisible field. It is the most insidious of illusions to think that we can achieve a position of dominance in relation to nature, life or each other. In our essence, we are one."

Anne Baring
 But this takes practice, much like a poet or a painter must commit to a life of deep attention and even reverence for the multitude of meaning around us.  An artist friend of mine calls this ‘pulling the moment,’ a way of looking deeper into experiences that inspire him.  In the writing classes I teach, I refer to this mystery as the difference between the ‘overstory,’ which is the visible plot, and the ‘understory,’ which is the invisible movement of the soul of the main characters.   In this sense myth is a living force, like the telluric powers that stream through the Earth.  It is this mythic vision, looking for the ‘long story,’ the timeless tale, that helps us approach the deep mysteries because it insists there is always the stories we really live by, rather than the one we like to think we are living, and moreover, decide if our myths are working for or against us.

If we don’t become aware of both our personal myths and the cultural myths that act upon us like gravitational forces, we risk being wholly overpowered and controlled by them.  As the maverick philosopher Sam Keen has written in Your Mythic Journey, ‘We need to reinvent them from time to time. . . .  The stories we tell of ourselves determine who we become, who we are, what we believe.’

"What is the new mythology to be,  the mythology of this unified earth  as of one harmonious being?" 

Joseph Campbell
Icon by Bets

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day with Robin Williamson and Gaia

I am a lover of the steady earth
and of her waters

she says:
let the light be brilliant 
to one who will cherish color;
what if there be no heaven?
she says:
touch my breasts
the fields are golden

her songs are all of love
life long
every blue yonder
her grass harp rings

in her rivers our cherished sins
our musts drift voiceless
in her clouds

she will rust us with blossom
she will forgive us
She will seal us with her seed
~~Robin Williamson

For Mother's Day I remember Gaia, Mother Earth, whose unlettered love and generosity and endless creativity gave birth to all of us.  And there is no greater Bard, in my opinion, to celebrate Her than Robin Williamson, whose song above (and sung below!) celebrates Her with the long and sweet magic of his poetry, and his own Celtic lineage.

 "She will seal us with Her seed."

And below Robin's Homage to Gaia, I could not resist placing his best known, and truly magnificent poem "Five Denials on Merlin's Grave", that winds and meanders among the silent standing stones and the green meadows and the roaming stories of the ancient Celts....if you have not heard this poem, especially if you are of Celtic descent, it is so much worth hearing, and will evoke something "Older yet, and Lovelier Far......." that
still ghosts to the vitality
of our most early and unwritten forebears
whose wizardry still makes a lie of history
whose presence hints in every human word
who somehow reared, and loosed, an impossible Beauty
enduring yet............and I will not forget.