Thursday, April 28, 2016

"O Successores Fortissimi Leonis" - Hildegard Von Bingham

Years ago  I performed a ritual invocation at Samhain with this haunting, visionary rendition of Hildegard Von Bingham's  "O Successores Fortissimi Leonis" by the group Vox, recorded in the early 1990's at my "Rites of Passage" Gallery in Berkeley, California.  The Invocatioin was done with 4 women in a circle, facing outward, turning the circle and with gestures of offering.  It was one of the most beautiful and powerful moments of my life.

I played the piece again today, and was delighted to find it had been uploaded on UTube.  Von Bingham's vision and prayers reach across the ages to touch us here.

Hildegard von Bingen.jpg
Illumination from the Liber Scivias 
showing Hildegard  receiving a vision
 and dictating to her scribe and secretary

"Hildegarde of Bingen, also known as St. Hildegard and the Sybil of the Rhine, was an enormously influential and spiritual woman, who paved the way for other women to succeed in a number of fields from theology to music. She was a mystic writer, who completed three books of her visions. During a time when members of the Catholic Church accorded women little respect, Hildegarde was consulted by bishops and consorted with the Pope, exerting influence over them.

She wrote on topics ranging from philosophy to natural healing with a critical expertise praised by both German advice-seekers and the highest-ranking figure in the Church, Pope Eugenius III. An esteemed advocate for scientific research, Hildegarde was one of the earliest promoters of the use of herbal medicine to treat ailments. She wrote several books on medicine, including Physica, circa 1150, which was primarily concerned with the use of herbs in medicinal treatment.
Hildegarde may be best known as a composer. 

Stemming from the traditional incantations of Church music, Hildegarde’s compositions took the form of a single chant-like, melodic line. These compositions are called antiphons and are a single line of music sung before and after a psalm. Hildegarde combined all of her music into a cycle called Symphonia Armonie Celestium Revelationum, circa 1151, orThe Symphony of the Harmony of the Heavenly Revelations, which reflects her belief that music was the highest praise to God.

Hildegarde herself created a drawing, or illumination, in her manuscript Scivias (Know the Ways), circa 1140–50, of her defining vision, in which the great span of the universe revealed itself to her in a trance as “round and shadowy…pointed at the top, like an egg…its outermost layer of a bright fire.”**

** "The Dinner Party" by Judy Chicago, Brooklyn Museum of Art

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Earth Day - "Green Hands"

I will sing of the well-founded Earth, mother of all, eldest of all beings.She feeds all creatures that are in the world, all that go upon the goodly land,all that are in the path of the seas, and all that fly; all these are fed of her store.
Homeric Hymn to Gaia

Earth Day, but truth be told, all days should be Earth Day, because our Mother Gaia is the greater life we live within, the greater life we have the privilege of being each a tiny part of.  

I found myself thinking about the many "Green Hands/Earth Hands" sculptures I've made over the years, an image that occurs over and over for me.  Rooted in the Earth, greening and flowering in our creativity and the works of our hands.  I guess, after all, each of them is a kind of blessing and a prayer.

“'What is life?' is a linguistic trap. To answer according to the rules of grammar, we must supply a noun, a thing. But life on Earth is more like a verb. It is a material process, surfing over matter like a slow wave. It is a controlled artistic chaos, a set of chemical reactions so staggeringly complex that more than 4 billion years ago it began a sojourn that now, in human form, composes love letters and uses silicon computers to calculate the temperature of matter at the birth of the universe.”

Lynn Margulis, Ph.D., collaborator with James Lovelock in the Gaia Hypothesis

“Psychologists have not begun to ponder the emotional toll of the loss of fellow life.  Nor have theologians  reckoned the spiritual impoverishment  that extinction brings. To forget what we had is to forget what we have lost.  And to forget what we have lost means never knowing what we had to begin with."
Mark Jerome Walters, The Nature Conservancy (1998)

"Wildness we might consider as the root of the authentic spontaneities of any being. It is that wellspring of creativity whence comes the instinctive activities that enable all living beings to obtain their food, to find shelter, to bring forth their young: to sing and dance and fly through the air and swim through the depths of the sea. This is the same inner tendency that evokes the insight of the poet, the skill of the artist and the power of the shaman."
Thomas Berry

"This is a dark time, filled with suffering and uncertainty. Like living cells in a larger body, it is natural that we feel the trauma of our world. So don’t be afraid of the anguish you feel, or the anger or fear, because these responses arise from the depth of your caring and the truth of your interconnectedness with all beings."
Joanna Macy

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Sherry Glasser takes on Mother Earth

 Upcoming Oh My Goddess! Show Poster Will Load Here!

 If you have never encountered Sherry Glasser and her personification of Mother Earth ("So, ah, how exactly do you think you got here without a Mother?") here's a beginning!  Sherry is well known in Northern California, and this performance of Oh My Goddess was presented at  Fort Bragg Town Hall, for the Ocean Protection Coalition Save The Whales Event in May of 2010.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Afghan Women's Writing Project & New Documentary

Join Us for an AWWP Benefit Screening of Acclaimed Documentary FRAME BY FRAME in Tucson, Arizona on April 9th!

Writing began for me as an escape from my burqa,

 an escape from my most painful moments. – Pari

Last week I attended a benefit screening of FRAME BY FRAME, a new film by Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli.  It was such a moving and well made film, that deeply revealed the courage of four Afghani photo journalists, one a woman, another an artist who won a Pulitzer prize.  It tell so poignantly not only the story of these artists, dedicated to telling the stories of those who cannot speak, very often at danger to their own lives, but also the healing vitality of the arts in the face of repression and tyranny.  I highly recommend this film, and highly recommend checking out and supporting if one can the organization it was screened for, the AFGHAN WOMEN'S WRITING PROJECT.  

I went to high school in Afghanistan, as my father worked for USAID, in the days before the deposition of the King, good days of prosperity and modernization  for that war torn country.  It is hard for us, especially for women, to imagine what has happened there under the tyranny of the Taliban - the Afghan Women's Writing Project is an Internet based group of volunteer teachers and networkers who assist women in the country to share and develop their writings - to tell their stories through poetry and fiction. For many of these women it is a vital lifeline, and their words are beautiful and heart-rending.


Photo by Lorenzo Tomada

Live Today

What if I die tomorrow?
Nothing is so easy.
I don’t live in yesterday
because it is gone.
I don’t live in the future
because it is not here yet.
It will come, whether I am alive or not 
I live today. It is the moment!
Live today,
Not the regrets of yesterday,
Not the worries of tomorrow…
Enjoy the moment,
The smile, the tea, the food,
The dance, the song, the walk
Enjoy the love and existence.
Live in today
Forget yesterday and tomorrow.
They are gone or not here yet. 
By Raha

"When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, taking a photo was a crime. After the regime fell from power in 2001, a fledgling free press emerged and a photography revolution was born. Now, as foreign troops and media withdraw, Afghanistan is left to stand on its own, and so are its journalists. Set in a modern Afghanistan bursting with color and character, FRAME BY FRAME follows four Afghan photojournalists as they navigate an emerging and dangerous media landscape—reframing Afghanistan for the world, and for themselves. Through cinema vérité, intimate interviews, powerful photojournalism, and never-before-seen archival footage shot in secret during the Taliban regime, the film connects audiences with four humans in the pursuit of the truth."
“A piercing, poignant and—as befits its subject—beautifully composed exploration of the challenges and responsIbilities faced by photojournalists in Afghanistan’s post-Taliban free press.” –Variety


Last December, my family held a graduation party for me and my siblings. Alia and I had graduated high school and my elder sister, Gullafroz, and my elder brother, Arif, graduated from university.
At the end of the party, as I was serving tea to everyone, my auntie called me to talk. She began, “Look you are graduated now, for example, you learned everything and you are smart now.” She said “for example” to make fun of me. Every time my auntie came to our home, she always said school was not a good option and advised my sisters and me to get married rather than go to school.
I was searching for my sisters from the corner of my eye; they were at a side of the room talking to each other. They smiled back and rolled their eyes—meaning they had already heard the lecture.
“When I was your age,” she said, coming close to look straight into my eyes as if she was telling the world’s biggest secret, “I was married and had a child. My in-laws were so happy to have me as their son’s bride. You have to marry soon because you are young and quick. I was young once too, and I could finish my house chores faster than anyone else.”
I said to myself, “I can do math faster than those house chores.”
She continued talking about her early life. But I was not listening. My mind was on a memory from Kandahar.
After I finished third grade at school in Kabul, my father found a job in Kandahar and the whole family had to move there. It was mid-December when we arrived. We had to live in a small apartment with two tiny square rooms and a square yard. A tiny bathroom was on one side and it shared a wall with the kitchen, which only had room for one person to cook while standing.
There was a girls’ school about three blocks away from our home, which my sisters and I attended. I really liked my school. I wore a long black dress down to my knees and black pants that I pulled high so that my ankles could be seen. My ankles were whiter than those of the Pashtun girls I saw. I really wanted them to see my ankles. I thought they would be jealous of my white feet; instead they looked at us as if looking at something dirty. And of course, we had to wear the white headscarves. Gulafroz was covered in black from head to toe since she was older. I ironed my uniform every night before going to sleep and polished my black sandals.
One summer morning, I got dressed and took my pink umbrella to shield my head from the sun although it was only 6:30 a.m. and the sun had not risen yet. When my sisters and I arrived in front of the school gate, there were two men standing there. They looked like tall, long birds with wide eyes. To see them, I had to raise my head high and move my umbrella to the side. They were frowning.
One of them asked, “Almond-eyed people, where are you going?” The other one spoke in a Pashto accent. I could not understand all the things he said, but I understood this: “Go back. School is closed. Go back home. Never again, no female school.” The two men exchanged some words in Pashtu and then burst out laughing.
One of the men was dressed in a dark brown pirhan tumban, the traditional dress for men. He had dark eyes, a steadfast gaze, and thick eyebrows. He looked down at me and frowned so that his thick eyebrows almost came together.
He shrieked at me, “I said go home, stupid Hazaras!”
“I want to go to my school,” I said.
They stepped forward and pushed the three of us to the ground. Our black uniforms filled with dust. They shouted and told us to go home and never come back again.
We were scared and ran back home. Two weeks passed but still the school was locked. My sisters and I were so depressed being at home that my father started taking us with him to the hospital where he was working twice a week.
One day it was too hot to play outside so I sat in the waiting room observing the patients and the doctors doing their work. A Korean doctor entered the room. She wore a white coat and she looked fascinating to me. For a moment, I saw myself instead of that woman. The desire to be proud of myself and make my father proud of me rushed into my heart and cut it so deep that I had to leave the room.
I sat outside in the harsh sunlight and cried. There was something I was longing for and it was hurting me. A woman, Khala Majan, who was cleaning the hospital, came to me. She asked, “What on earth caused my child to cry this innocently?”
“I want to go to school.” I said. When I said this out loud I realized all I wanted was to be able to return to school in my black uniform and carry my pink umbrella above my head.
Khala sat down beside me and wiped my tears. “You want to go to school? Then go,” she said. “Why you are crying? Your tears won’t change anything. Remember your dreams won’t come to you; you have to walk to them. And to walk to your dreams you need feet and eyes. If your faith in going to school is still strong, then nothing on earth can prevent you from going.”
Then Khala suggested I attend a school that was three miles away from the hospital, about a two-hour walk from our home. After three days of begging, my father finally agreed to let us go. After six weeks of no school, we began walking to our new school.
We had to walk about three to four hours to get to school and home again. It was a very long way but it was fun for us. So we would not get lost we remembered the shops along the way: a music store that played Indian classic music, a vegetable store with all my favorite fruits, a mosque painted white with a door we always kissed as our mother told us to do and finally, a bookstore. I liked to stand outside this bookstore to look at the books they put out on display.
I recognized that bad won over good when two men pointed their guns to my father’s forehead and shouted to him to get out of Kandahar because he worked with foreigners. I do not blame those men. If we put pens and pencils in empty hands of men and make them busy with writing about the beauty of their life, then murderers and enemies of peace won’t have the chance to put guns in their hands and teach them to point their guns toward us.
Today I am happy that I have continued school and finished high school. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if we had not returned to school, although the answer is simple: we would believe all the things our auntie said to us. Gulafroz would get married, then me and then Alia. We would miss the future we dreamed of. We would not work in the office we dreamed about. I would never get the house with the library in it that I want. I would miss the woman I wanted to become.
By Arifa, age 17
This piece has also been published by Women’s eNews. Photo by Global Partnership for Education.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Book of Shadows and Grace (Pt. 2)

My second offering for National Poetry Month, and also the Tucson Poetry Festival, which is going on this weekend.  Looking back to poems I re-discovered in my files, poems some 30 years old.  You can learn a lot about the threads that have woven your life together by reading very old poetry you once wrote.

I think I've always  been a part of that wave of women and men who have been dedicated to bringing the Divine Feminine back into the world, to "restoring the Balance".  And I have always sensed what Clarissa Estes called "the Wild Woman archetype" (and "the Dangerous Old Woman") just under the surface of the various repressions, trivializations, and enslavements I've seen or experienced as a female being in this world.  A force  that bubbles up from the ground like melting permafrost, like a call in the moonlit night, echoing from within the darkened woods,  "Amazons" ran like the sap of maple trees  in the early  spring of 1982 when I was living in the woods of Vermont, like hearing  an ancient voice.  "Veils" I remember writing around that time as well.  And "Cocoons"  is so old........I think I wrote it in 1976 or so, shortly after hearing of the death of Tim Buckley.

Amazons I.

At the bottom of this cup
sweet illusions coagulate 
tacky residue

so be it.
I spin tea leaves
place the Tarot
consult the oracle
to receive the same answer:
there is no exit.

All my dreams are steel now,  
and of brier
an arm raised, sun burnt,
with a gleam of metal
edges sharp,
the forge.

At the bottom  of this cup
my secret Amazon waits

for the full moon of Artemis
for the hunt.

Amazons II.

Take me with you, sister
let me ride the pale Pegasus,
the moon is humming
the time has come

See the way,  open at last
incandescent as the stars
and the words they form
above our heads.

A woman waits in  black oak tree
with a shining face

Only she can know my heart

Amazons III

It is not my fault
that you came here,
blundering through the woods
with the subtlety of a lame bear

did you think the moon belonged  to you?
did you think you could trespass in this country
disregarding the boundary markers
with your clumsy spear and your wooden arrows
your goatskin bladder of sour wine
your huge faith in your  importance?

We are calling on powers you have no right to.

This is no circle of insipid muses
gently urging you to smiling inquiry.

One breasted women are not gentle.
Our scars are for remembrance.

It is not my fault you hang there,
pinned to a beech tree.
You still do not understand your danger.

You have never been able 
to see the teeth
sharp and white
beneath the smile.

Amazons IV.

At the river's edge
I set my armor down
laid down my sword and bow
untied my hair

this I did for you.

I approached you resting
lying in the grass
at the river's edge
your body brown
graceful as a tree

you waited for me.
I approached you with desire

O my enemy


Veils can be as sheer
as gossamer, as ectoplasm 
the cloak of stars so fine 
you might touch what lies beneath
so transparent you might see eyes
almond, or round, 
under such a veil.

Some are more solid.
Some are colored like lead.
Some are shrouds.
Some are not fabric, but cement.
Some are given armaments
conforming somewhat to the figure
these are set gradually to harden.
Some are tombs for the heart.


(for Tim Buckley)

6 years ago
I slept under a lemon tree
in Ojai watching the fall of pollen
yellow and orange,
on our hands, our hair
I saw patterns in the water
that spoke a private language.

I am pollen
I know the life 
of lemon trees
the water runs in me
I am of no substance
I encompass the length of the ocean.

What I most cherished
has fallen from my hands.
I have no hands.
Fortune, ambition and chance
are trails of smoke
behind me.

I have left the pain of slow decay
to become something less than light.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Book of Shadows and Grace - Pagan Poems of Love and Parting

I found in my files a forgotten collection of poems, written between 1972 to 1995, that I called the "Book of Shadows and Grace".  Some of them were from the halcyon years in Berkeley, when I lived in an artists warehouse (extinct now), and also when I had my "Rites of Passage" Gallery there (also extinct because of real estate*)

So I felt like unearthing them from the compost pile of my file cabinet, and sharing them on this journal.........some of them I still like, and they bring back memories, like a fragrance carried on the wind.   I see that most of them are very Pagan, and most of them are also about love.  And I reflect, reading these poems I mostly forgot, that they are an attempt to realize a profound truth about love:  it is always a blessing, no matter what.

 The first poem, At Beltane,  I wrote after realizing that someone I felt passionate love for  would never be able to return my affections.  What do you do with love that cannot find the "traditional" expression?

The second, "In Praise of Waters", I wrote after I was divorced, in the dismal wake of that experience so many others have also shared.  One of the  most painful, and yet transformative moments of a divorce  of any kind is the remembering of, not the other's wrong doing, but your own piece of the failure of love.  Again, what do you do with that?

"The Rune of Ending", I never showed to anyone.  I don't know if it's a particularly good poem, but it is painful to read again, still, I was trying to make some kind of benediction for myself and my ex-husband on the occasion of our divorce.  A canyon that opened between us indeed, a canyon many have had to turn, and walk away from.

The last poem, "The Green Man", is about spring, the great Eros of nature, which includes us.  All hearts are renewed with the coming of the Green Man, the great Pagan catalyst of new life.  He is always there, calling among the trees.

The art is all mine, mostly lithographs.

*It may be that, as Rebecca Solnit has commented, small artist run  galleries and artist warehouses, in major urban areas at least,  will be an extinct phenomenon, along with the Dodo.  To read Solnit's thoughts on this, read her article "The End of Bohemia".

The Book of Shadows and Grace,  Part 1.

At Beltane

Set me free now.
You walked among my dreams,
I will bless you as I go.

I pause at the door, key in hand
breathing in the last of you.
Pleasure that pierces heart and reason:
there are no words to frame this
all I can give
is to give it back 

Back to the World.
To the dreaming earth
the singing waters,
dancing flames,
to the open sky.
To the Circle at the center of all things.

World, here is my heart's unspoken delight.
I offer it back to you with gratitude
to play among the leaves
lighting  my dappled path.

I open my hand:

a scarlet bird 
flashes among the trees.

Fly free,
Bird of Paradise
fly into the morning
from the other side of forever.

In Praise of Waters

How are we turned,
again and again,
to find ourselves 
moving into the shadow land
where our best and finest intentions
drift out of true, and into the truly opposite?

     love becomes hate
     hope turns into despair
     inspiration hardens into dogma.

we must find our faces again
in dark waters.

Revealed among fallen leaves
our reflected sins
our cherished scars,
the dappled shapes of light and dark
that surface toward a whole.

There is something that wants us to open

that pours from the crevices
where we have broken

     Something that laughs 
     like a river in the morning.

The Rune of Ending

What can be said now
when all words are spent
when the final word has been spoken?
We go now to our separate houses
relieved, at least.  A course has been named.

     Our lives are severed, our story is told.

We will each surely tell that  story, 
and strive and laugh
and talk late into the night,
and kiss lips salty with tears and with love

     but not with each other.

Here the tearing ends,
here ends remorse and reprisal
here end dreams and plans.

We will not travel to Scotland, 
to walk among ancient monoliths 
in the white mists of our imaginations.
We will not walk again on a warm beach in Mexico,
toasting each other with margaritas.

That was once, it has to be enough.
I will not call you mine, husband
you will not call me yours, 
and our cat is now your cat, 
our teapot is now my teapot.
I touch a potted plant, 
remembering its place
on our breakfast table.

     We divide the spoils,
      humane, courteous, fair.

A canyon has opened between us,
we are each old enough
to know its name 
to view its depths without passion.
There is no bridge to cross this time.
I must now forgive myself,
and you,
cast my stone into this abyss
and bless the ghost woman
who has not yet come
to stand by your side
and wave with grace 
from across this canyon's lip

     then turn
     and walk my own path.

The Green Man

I walked among the trees
I wore the mask of the deer.
Remember me,
try to remember.

     I am that laughing man 
     with eyes like leaves.

When you think that winter will never end
I will come.  You will feel my breath, 
warm at your neck.
I will rise in the grass,
a vine caressing your foot.

I am the blue eye of a crocus
opening in the snow.
I  am a trickle of water, a calling bird,
a shaft of light among the trees.

You will hear me singing
among the green groves of memory,
the shining leaves of tomorrow. 

      I'll come with daisies in my hands,
      we'll dance among the sycamores
      once more.

**My thanks again to Robin Williamson, the Bard indeed, for a few images
     I will never forget, including "eyes like leaves" and "songs of love and  
     parting".  The blood of the Green Man runs true in him. 

*** And to Joanna Brouk, whose "Mask of the Deer" I never forgot.  
To those whose magical images never left me, even when I borrowed them....thankyou.