Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Woven - 20th Annual Solstice Celebration at Zuzi's

Woven - 20th Annual Solstice Celebration @ ZUZI Dance, Tucson [from 16 to 20 December]
"The art of weaving is a profound metaphor for understanding the workings of the universe and our place in it. Through the physical process of weaving, we gain a better understanding of this world and how we as human beings are woven into it. We are bound to our bodies with the fragile threads of earth. Our skeleton is a loom on which every system is strung and woven. The meeting of opposite elements woven into a whole is the quest of many seekers to find meaning in their life. The art of weaving is the essential art of creating the unified one of two opposites. Archaeological findings suggest that weaving is at least 20,000 years old, but because weavings are so organic and biodegradable, no physical evidence this old has been obtained. In this Solstice celebration we envision honoring the interconnectedness of our humanity as we move forward with the return of the sun."

Woven - 20th Annual Solstice Celebration

14:00 - 22:30


Map data ©2017 Google
ZUZI Dance
738 N 5th Ave,
Tucson, Arizona 85705

As the shortest day of the year, the winter Solstice marks the turning from the cold, dark days of winter to the warmer, lighter days of spring and summer. Historically, this season is a time of reflection, renewal, and community celebration. ZUZI! Dance production and local dancers, aerialists, musicians, and from the Tucson performing arts community and the weaving community will host this show. This collaborative effort highlights the elemental qualities of weaving.

“Woven” is directed/choreographed by Nanette Robinson, with special guest artist and choreographer Mirela Roza and Navajo weaver Marlow Kutoni. During the performance there will be lobby demonstrations by Tucson Handweavers and Spinners Guild.

In addition to the dancers in the cast, ZUZI! Dance holds a youth aerial workshop and a community workshop that are open to anyone to learn a piece of choreography to perform in the show. This year woven into the the community piece is the newly formed dance company, Dansequence, Karenne Koo, Director. These Solstice Community Workshops have been a long-standing tradition for ZUZI! to create a space and opportunity for people of all ages and abilities to work, move, learn and grow together. 

Participants have ranged in age from 7 to 72. This multi-generational approach to dance is rooted in ZUZI!’s belief that individual perspectives shared and shaped with others creates a healthy community. We will be hosting a gallery fiber arts display from local and regional weavers that will be on sale. A portion of proceeds from sales will go to ZUZI! Dance. 

ZUZI! will be accepting donations for Sister Joses Homeless Shelter for Women of sweaters, scarves, socks, hats, gloves. Bring a donation and you will receive a $2 discount for show.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Bring On the Dark: Why We Need the Winter Solstice

"We’ve rolled back the night so far that soon we will come full circle and reach the dawn of the following day. And where will that leave us? In a world with no God and no wolf either — only unrelenting commerce and consumption, information and media ... and light. We need a rest from ourselves that only a night like the winter solstice can give us."

I remember a winter night many years ago, when I lived in the country in upstate N.Y..   I shared a house with a second story living room that had a big picture window,  A  mid-winter snowstorm had left us stranded in a shimmering blanket of snow.  One could look out on that field of white, illuminated by the dark sky, the moon, and an occasional star,  into a vast,  dark silence.   For a while the lights went out, but we had no shortage of candles, and somehow that makes the memory even sweeter for me.  The intensity of the dark and the silence the snow that long ago December was not frightening, but intimate,  a landscape for sleep, for the incubation of dreams, a place to heal from the frenzy of achievement and obligation, a darkness ripe with dormant life.  A place where we could lie together in the warmth of our bed, becoming aware of  the occasional sound of snowfall, or an animal moving outside. 

I remember recently seeing a time lapse film of cities - vast networks of light, sky scrapers and traffic rushing along freeways like blood coursing along arteries, and I was struck by how much it looked like some kind of organism frenetically pulsing and extruding itself and consuming everything around it.  The truth is, it had a terrible beauty - the shimmering, glittering urban  triumph of humanity over nature, over the darkness.  Or is it?   In the years since, I have so often thought of those winter nights.

I  take the liberty of reprinting here a wonderful article by Clark Strand, whose book is well worth reading.  He has had such nights too, of that I'm sure.  


December 19, 2014

WOODSTOCK, N.Y. — WHEN the people of this small mountain town got their first dose of electrical lighting in late 1924, they were appalled. “Old people swore that reading or living by so fierce a light was impossible,” wrote the local historian Alf Evers. That much light invited comparisons. It was an advertisement for the new, the rich and the beautiful — a verdict against the old, the ordinary and the poor. As Christmas approached, a protest was staged on the village green to decry the evils of modern light.

Woodstock has always been a small place with a big mouth where cultural issues are concerned. But in this case the protest didn’t amount to much. Here as elsewhere in early 20th-century America, the reluctance to embrace brighter nights was a brief and halfhearted affair.

Tomorrow is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. But few of us will turn off the lights long enough to notice. There’s no getting away from the light. There are fluorescent lights and halogen lights, stadium lights, streetlights, stoplights, headlights and billboard lights. There are night lights to stand sentinel in hallways, and the lit screens of cellphones to feed our addiction to information, even in the middle of the night. No wonder we have trouble sleeping. The lights are always on.

In the modern world, petroleum may drive our engines but our consciousness is driven by light. And what it drives us to is excess, in every imaginable form.

Beginning in the late 19th century, the availability of cheap, effective lighting extended the range of waking human consciousness, effectively adding more hours onto the day — for work, for entertainment, for discovery, for consumption; for every activity except sleep, that nightly act of renunciation. Darkness was the only power that has ever put the human agenda on hold.

In centuries past, the hours of darkness were a time when no productive work could be done. Which is to say, at night the human impulse to remake the world in our own image — so that it served us, so that we could almost believe the world and its resources existed for us alone — was suspended. The night was the natural corrective to that most persistent of all illusions: that human progress is the reason for the world.

Advances in science, industry, medicine and nearly every other area of human enterprise resulted from the influx of light. The only casualty was darkness, a thing of seemingly little value. But that was only because we had forgotten what darkness was for. In times past people took to their beds at nightfall, but not merely to sleep. They touched one another, told stories and, with so much night to work with, woke in the middle of it to a darkness so luxurious it teased visions from the mind and divine visitations that helped to guide their course through life. Now that deeper darkness has turned against us. The hour of the wolf we call it — that predatory insomnia that makes billions for big pharma. It was once the hour of God.

There is, of course, no need to fear the dark, much less prevail over it. Not that we could. Look up in the sky on a starry night, if you can still find one, and you will see that there is a lot of darkness in the universe. There is so much of it, in fact, that it simply has to be the foundation of all that is. The stars are an anomaly in the face of it, the planets an accident. Is it evil or indifferent? I don’t think so. Our lives begin in the womb and end in the tomb. It’s dark on either side.

We’ve rolled back the night so far that soon we will come full circle and reach the dawn of the following day. And where will that leave us? In a world with no God and no wolf either — only unrelenting commerce and consumption, information and media ... and light. We need a rest from ourselves that only a night like the winter solstice can give us. And the earth, too, needs that rest. The only thing I can hope for is that, if we won’t come to our senses and search for the darkness, on nights like these, the darkness will come looking for us.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Conrad Bishop on "Why Make Art"

 I love the response  my friend Conrad Bishop, who along with his wife and collaborator Elizabeth Fuller is one half of the Independent Eye Theatre  gave when he was asked about making art in a time of turmoil:

"On Facebook, a friend from way back asked, “How does art help you deal with the current state of the world?” There were a number of truly inspirational replies. 

Mine was simpler.

My own art serves me the way eating or lovemaking serve me: a good thing to do while passing the time between Now and Death. The main point of living is to live

If you can give good things to other people, that’s good; and if you can have pleasure while doing it, that’s good. I suppose one might make a case that much art is financed by exploitation, as with the plutocrats who sit on the board of the Met, but that’s true of virtually every human endeavor. Our own work costs only what it takes to feed and house us, and I think we give back a lot—though not likely to those who are actually creating the wealth, working in the fields or on the assembly line. You can’t entirely escape the moral dilemma of living until you serve a free lunch to the worms.

With other art: When I experience Shakespeare or Bach or Rembrandt or Dickens, part of my feeling, intrinsic to its impact, is admiration for their making these extraordinary creations within a world that was just as distraught and demented as ours, if not more so: war, disease, slavery, torture, beggary, bigotry, the lower classes born into life sentences, sunrise followed by shitstorm—name your horror, it was there in spades.

Our own dystopian achievement is in attaining greater megatonnage, raising the stakes on Gaia’s table and our capacity for self-destruction.  But unlike the troupe at the Elizabethan Globe Theatre, we don’t have to close our doors every time the Plague breaks out, and we don’t get our teeth pulled by the local barber, something I'm particularly grateful for. I’m all for being aware of—and working to change—the vileness of human destruction on the planet, but I don’t think we have a valid claim to being uniquely vile on the historic timeline.  History seems to be an equal opportunity employer.

In an NPR interview, a resident of Austin compared her city with the rest of Texas: “a diamond in a goat’s butt.”  That’s my sense of the place of art in the world.

Some would hope that the diamond might improve the goat’s digestive tract. I’d like to believe our new novel will have a butterfly effect, bringing peace, empathy, and better puppet shows to the 23rd Century, but I wouldn’t bet on it. “Confirmation bias” makes us love the stories that confirm our values, while making other people think. Euripides gave us portraits of immense passion and empathy, even as Athenian oligarchic democracy went to hell with imperialist ambition and atrocity.

At best, our art can do nothing more than preach to the choir. I tell myself, though, that the choir needs serious preaching to, lest they all stay home to gorge on Cheetos.

I guess my answer to the query is that art helps me deal with the current world by doing something that, still at the age of seventy-five, I’m struggling to learn how to do."

Conrad Bishop, 2017

(from our blog DamnedFool.com)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

America the Banana Republic by Neal Gabler

"Thanks to Trump the tinhorn dictator and those who elected him, this country is no longer a beacon of freedom, but a laughingstock......There is no longer even the pretense of concealment as there was in the good old days of Republicanism. Sure sounds like a banana republic to me. "

I take the liberty of sharing this article by Neal Gabler because, well, I think he's right. 

I know this has nothing to do with art, with consciousness, with synchronicity or myth..........but it has everything to do with the dismantling of the country I have lived in, and for all my activism and criticism, loved. 

In one short year I've watched the EPA removed and all environmental controls left to the wisdom of big oil and other polluters who seem determined to destroy everything in sight at the expense of future generations.  I've watched the NEA and NEH dismissed, as if the great Arts and Humanities of America are nothing.  I've watched us become the only nation not part of the Paris Accord, a president ridiculing the greatest threat to life humanity has ever faced.  I've watched a president laud Nazis, even as a World War was fought to defeat them, and relatives of mine died in it.  I've watched national monuments destroyed.  I've watched the war on education, medicine, health care,  intellectuals, and science.  I've watched NASA  become under the control of an evangelical, climate denying man who has no background in science.  I've watched our "ambassador to the Vatican" be replaced with the wife of  Newt Gingrich just to "get even" with the Pope.   I've watched a sexual predator, proudly proclaiming his right to "grab women's pussy" become president, along with his former sex worker wife as "first lady".  I've watched my tax dollars now increase, even as school lunches, tuition waivers, food stamps, aid to disadvantaged children, heating help to seniors freezing to death in  cold climates are scheduled to be removed removed from the budget.  Yet we pay to benefit  Trump's vacations, and an ever increasing military budget.  Corporate lobbyists are no longer even trying to disguise their contempt for people like me, the American public. 

In a land of refugees,  I've watched the most desperate of  refugees refused compassion.  I've seen the Constitutional separation of church and state dismissed  offhand, to benefit vicious, oppressive religious fanatics who, in my opinion, profane the  name of "Christianity".   I've watched efforts to  deny the rights of Muslims, Jews, Gay People, Women............ 

America.  What are you anymore?  For all our faults, you were also a place of hope, inspiration, innovation.    I'd pray that somehow "America" can recover from this, but I no longer trust what some people call "prayer".  I wonder:  is "America" over now?  Has it been replaced with an evolving tyranny of cruel mediocrity, the slow creeping banality of evil?  

Below is a picture of immigrants at Ellis Island, turn of the Century.  Any of them could look very much like I imagine my round-faced Swedish great  grandmother looked, just off the boat, so bravely seeking a  new life in the new world  at just 17 years of age.  Or my French Huguenot great grandfather, fleeing religious discrimination in his Catholic homeland.  Or my grandson's Jewish great-great grandparents, fleeing the violent pogroms of Russia.  Or my friend Susan's parents, arriving in New York and not knowing that they were each the last of their families as they fled  Nazi occupation of Poland.  Or my friend Mark's Irish great grandparents, their faces so desperate for work and maybe  just a good meal as they left behind  the potato famine of Black '47.  Or.........you name it.  For all the problems, and yes, slavery, yes, the genocide of the native people, yes, the omission of women in the plan.......... this was still a place of hope.   And in my small lifetime, I've seen that go forward, believe it or not, I've seen so many things change for the good.

Yes, I'll go back to art.  And beauty.  And Gaia.  And the Goddess.  Because that is what we all have to do, the best of what we each have to offer.  I'll share what I love, and what little  I know, and I'll adapt.

Because many, most people on this planet, it seems to me,  have to live with tyranny, with inequity, with endless corruption,  and somehow, in the impoverishment of it, they still have to strive to find meaningful lives. I've been fortunate.  Very fortunate.   Maybe people like me have  been naive, or overly idealistic in a world too damn  full of Trumps and Putins and the rest, and somehow we've managed to dream other dreams.   Maybe now is our time to come to terms with the "real world", if only briefly - because a truly  vast global tragedy of environmental destruction  awaits all of those who will follow us.  But for this moment, it helps to acknowledge, as Neal Gabler has, the reality. 

Tomorrow, some of us, acknowledging that, will figure out where to go from here.  Those dreams are still good dreams.

America the Banana Republic

When people call Donald Trump an authoritarian, it almost gives him more credit than he deserves.
You don’t think favorably of authoritarians; they are despicable. But you do think of them as monstrously large, grievously terrifying, as somehow taking the measure of the polity they control and drawing on its stature to puff themselves up, even as they destroy their nation’s moral core. Despots like Mussolini and Hitler epitomized evil on the grandest possible scale. To call them clowns would trivialize the unconscionable horrors they inflicted.
Trump is certainly an authoritarian, but he is more of a tinhorn dictator, a tiny, negligible man who, rather than inflating himself with the nation’s grandeur, has managed to deflate the nation with his own insipidness. Thanks to him, America is now a banana republic. It is no longer a country of soaring ideas and idealism, a beacon to the world, an example of freedom at home and a protector of freedom abroad, an anchor of sanity in a world often bouncing on the waves of madness.

Whatever her failings, America was once majestic. Now she is hopelessly diminished — a wealthier version of the corrupt nations in the developing world that we used to ridicule. And we owe it all to Donald Trump for making America small again.
The meme of America withering into a banana republic is not a new one. Some observers made the claim after the 2000 presidential election, when Republicans successfully wrested the presidency from Al Gore, just the way cabals do in those banana republics. And it was toted out again in 2008 during the great financial meltdown when the economy was revealed to be not some great dynamo but a façade hiding a giant swindle, banana republic style. Citing the inability of the congressional Republicans to do anything but dither in the face of crisis, Paul Krugman called us a “banana republic with nukes.”
In Vanity Fair, the late Christopher Hitchens was more expansive. He enumerated the many ways in which America, the last great hope of mankind, had become a banana republic — primarily the way the government was willing to bail out the oligarchs while letting the general public suffer.
The chief principle of banana-ism is that of kleptocracy, whereby those in positions of influence use their time in office to maximize their own gains, always ensuring that any shortfall is made up by those unfortunates whose daily life involves earning money rather than making it.
Hitchens added that there is absolutely no accountability for the thieves. This all should sound very familiar this week, as Republicans retool the entire tax system to rob from the poor and middle classes and give to corporations and the wealthy. If that isn’t a banana republic, I don’t know what is.

But Krugman and Hitchens were writing before we had a bona fide banana republic dictator to rule our kleptocracy. And while America long has had the economic and social characteristics of a banana republic, it took Trump, who has the instincts and temperament of a gangster, to finish the transformation. There is no disguising it now. We are what we are.
Tick down the list. If kleptocracy is the hallmark of a banana republic, Trump is the kleptocrat-in-chief. He not only appears to be using the presidency as his own personal ATM, now promoting a tax-cut scam by which he stands to gain tens of millions of dollars, he also has been petty enough to steer business to his hotels and hawked his “Make America Great Again” tchotchkes. Check.
Apparently not satisfied to have enriched himself at the public’s expense, Trump has brought unprecedented nepotism to the presidency in a way that only tinhorn dictators do, giving his family access to the public trough while placing his unqualified cronies in positions of power. In this administration, everyone may be on the take. Check.
Just about every Trump directive, from health care to the environment to so-called tax reform to trade policy, seems expressly designed to give benefits to a small coterie of the wealthiest Americans while the rest of the country goes to hell. There is no longer even the pretense of concealment as there was in the good old days of Republicanism. Sure sounds like a banana republic to me. Check.
Like other tinhorn dictators, Trump has no use for the essentials of democracy.
Like other tinhorn dictators, Trump has no use for the essentials of democracy. He openly attacks a free press and has a house press of his own, Fox News, and soon, quite possibly, Time Inc., the acquisition of which has been partially financed by the Koch brothers. More, there are allegations that he may using the levers of government to punish his press opponents, using the Justice Department’s antitrust suit against the proposed AT&T purchase of Time Warner to try to force the divestment of CNN.
This, too, is unprecedented in an American democracy, but not in a banana republic. Meanwhile, the Voice of America has placed on administrative leave (a reporter whose bias has leaked into his stories and who on the side has been advancing Trump’s right-wing agenda and casting racial epithets at others in the media. Check.
Trump has taken aim at the electoral process itself, not only claiming that his loss of the popular vote was a fraud, but empaneling a government commission whose sole purpose is thought to be the disenfranchisement of voters who might oppose him. This is pure banana republicanism and an affront to democracy. Check.

Banana republics are often agent states — that is, they operate at the behest of larger states. In fact the phrase “banana republic” first was coined by the writer O. Henry back in 1904, to describe the dependence of Central American countries on American businesses like United Fruit, which ran plantations in those countries and exported bananas.
Now, America itself is one of those agent states, thanks to Trump’s troubling obeisance to Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Let’s not pretend otherwise just so we can save some face. There is no more face to save. American elections interfered with by Russia and a president intimidated by a Russian dictator? Check.
In banana republics, ideology is nothing, policy is nothing, ethics are nothing. Power is everything. Trump is notoriously nonideological. He has no policies or any interest in them. His sole desire is to feed his own inflated ego. In this, he stands with other banana republic potentates. Check.
Tinhorn dictators do everything they can to dismantle a system of checks and balances. Trump has done everything in his power to do the same.
Tinhorn dictators do everything they can to dismantle a system of checks and balances. Trump has done everything in his power to do the same — from dismissing FBI Director James Comey, who was investigating Trump, intimidating the Justice Department and taking over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to…. well, you name it. Untrammeled power is his goal. Check.
In a banana republic, power is concentrated in the hands of one man or a small coterie. Trump has been openly contemptuous of any delegation of authority, even calling himself the “only one that matters,” which is dictator talk, not the talk of a democratically elected chief.
What’s more, he actively has worked to damage any countervailing authorities, essentially gutting the entire diplomatic corps, to cite just one example. Check.
In a banana republic, the dictator makes his own rules and lives by his own reality. Clearly, Trump thinks he is above the law, be it legal or moral. He boasts of it. He also is above fact. The latest example of the thousands of his presidency: According to The New York Times, he privately has declared that the Access Hollywood tape was not actually him! Banana republic time. Check.

And last but not least, there is the tragi-comic state itself — a kind of laughingstock of governance. America has joined that company of buffoonish nations that keep tripping over their own feet. By one account, when Trump took his first world tour in May, other leaders were aghast at Trump’s ineptitude. One foreign expert commented on how “rapidly the American brand is depreciatingover the last 20 weeks.” Check.
Donald Trump has demeaned himself, but he has also demeaned the country that was deranged enough to elect him. These characteristics speak to a corrupt and desiccated nation, one that is staggering into oblivion.
The “alt-right” insist that until Trump, America was going the way of Rome — rotting from the inside. They are wrong. It is not decadence that is destroying America, but petulance. We are going not the way of Rome but the way of Guatemala or Zimbabwe or the Philippines — the way of banana republics. Thus does this once great nation tumble.
Check and double check.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The "Elephant Whisperer"

Painting by Jonathan Truss
 Lawrence Anthony was  a legend in South Africa.  The  author of 3 books including the bestseller The Elephant Whisperer, he bravely rescued wildlife and rehabilitated elephants all over the globe from human atrocities, including the courageous rescue of Baghdad Zoo animals during the US invasion in 2003.

Reading recently, with extreme disgust, about Trump's repeal of laws that prohibited trophy hunters from bringing their "prizes", the heads of elephants and other endangered animals, into the U.S., I remembered this wonderful story about the intelligence, and memory, of elephants. 

Anthony  died on March 7, 2012  in a hospital in Durban and his body was brought to his game reserve and home  to be buried. Two days after his passing, a remarkable thing happened.  The wild elephants he had come to know and rescue showed up at his home, led by two large matriarchs.  According to a story widely circulated,  shortly after his death  two herds he rescued and worked with before releasing into the wild  started moving to his house, which they had not visited in over a year. They had walked patiently for  miles.  The herds were visible in the background whilst the funeral took place. They later split again into two groups  and moved to their separate parts of the reserve.  Lawrence's wife, Francoise, was especially touched, believing the  elephants wanted to pay their respects to a friend.

According to Truth or Fiction, a fact finding site similar to Snopes,  this story of two herds of elephants  reintroduced into the wild, and later  travelling to the home of Anthony after his death is true. 

"Reports that two herds of South African elephants that were rescued by wildlife conservationist Lawrence Anthony traveled to his home to pay their respects upon Anthony’s death are true.   This according to a March 11, 2012 article by the New York Times.   Anthony’s son, Dylan Anthony, told the New York Times that the elephants gathered on the edge of the reserve near his house every night after Lawrence Anthony's  death.
Anthony was the author of numerous books on wildlife conservation. He also created the 5,000-acre Thula Thula wildlife sanctuary and adopted herds of elephants that would have been killed, according to the  Times obituary.  Elephants have been known to grieve the deaths of friends and relatives. They sometimes stay beside the bodies of loved ones to mourn for up to three full days, according to a January 30, 2013 article by the Daily Mail.

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Candle in the Night

I keep the above little bit of a color xerox (2 inches by 1 inch)  in a small frame in my studio, and recently a conversation with a friend brought it to mind, so perhaps it's a good time to tell its story.  The image of a hand holding a flame  is a detail from a painting I did for my "Rainbow Bridge Oracle" deck back in 1993.  It was my version of "The Hermit" in the traditional Tarot, which became later "Solitude" as my own  Oracle deck evolved.   The model was me (I used  people I knew as models) and the image represented my concept of  of the card in shamanic terms. 

I also keep it there because, well, I view it as a miraculous little reminder.  That's because when I did the first 5 paintings (they are small, 10" x 17") I took them to be color xeroxed (which was still expensive at that time).  When I copied this painting all that came back was a big piece of paper with this little detail in the middle!  I tried again and the whole image was reproduced, and it wasn't till I took the bundle of papers home that I noticed what had actually been copied in that "mistake".  Of all the details to zoom in on!

So I keep it as guidance.  

When one finds a way through through the solitary  "dark night of the soul",  one becomes a pathfinder.  My little "excerpt" mistake reminds me that I need to try to be a candle in the night, to  try to share what I learn along the way.....  You never know,  the light you carry  might help to illuminate the way for someone else.

"A woman, bearing a flame in her hand, emerges from the darkness.  Originally based upon the Tarot card "The Hermit", this image is about bearing the light of truth, the flame of consciousness.  The woman pictured has returned from the journey into the "underworld" passages of her long, and solitary,  journey to wisdom.  Her journey may have been precipitated by a quest for understanding, or perhaps by an emotional crisis or by a loss of faith.  Whatever the catalyst, her initiatory journey  was the solitude necessary to "know thyself".  She emerges with the kindled flame of illumination that led her back into the world.  The final  phase of that journey is to become a "light-bearer"  - to share what has been learned, offering that knowledge to others on the path.  

If this image is speaking to you, you have learned more than you probably realize, and/or healed yourself in some important way.  Now you've come back to tell the tale.  Whether you heal with your hands, words, craft or art, or by your wise presence in the world, you have much to do now.  Hold that light before you wherever you go.

Reversed:  You may have become be too withdrawn from the world, too used to your isolation.  The card may be reminding you to connect now with others -  you are too alone, and too much isolation can mean an end to learning, and simply a fearful retreat from life.   Share and participate -  that's the emergence you are finally in need of."

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Frau Holle


I  pull this post out just about every winter,  along of course  with the one on Father Christmas and Odin.......so I'm going to indulge myself again.   I love Frau Holle, who emerges from the landscape of Northern myth at this time of year, and leads us back and back and back to ancient origins........if you've encountered this piece before, please indulge me..........

One of the  Goddesses that reflects the flux of seasonal cycles, and belongs truly to Winter,  is the Nordic  Frau Holle. Holle has very ancient origins indeed, and may have been a prehistoric, a pre-Christian  Weaver Goddess, a Spinner of fate. 

Mother  Holle is very much associated with Yule, and with the warmth of hearth and home, especially in the winter.   Also known as Holda or Hulda, she is a manifestation of the Pagan  triple goddess,  embodying the passages of life through birth to death, in both light and dark. In some early  myths, she is "the ash girl", her face half black with soot and half white.  

This remarkable metaphor  comes from a story of how,  in order to marry the God of Winter she had to come to him neither naked nor clothed, and neither in light or darkness (thus, both the "White Goddess"  and the "Dark Goddess").   Like the myth of  Persephone, who becomes the Queen of both death and spring,   Holle (perhaps, fittingly, related to words like  "Holy", "wholly",  and "whole"?)  in old age  is Winter's Queen, and encompasses the Circle of dualities

As old Mother Holle/Holda, it was believed that  she brought  soft snow to put the world to bed.     Mother Holda is the source of  the  "Mother Goose"  legends, because the snow flies when she shakes the feathers from her down feather bed.  In Holland, they still say that 'Dame Holle is shaking her bed'

 For anyone who may wonder where the "flying broomsticks" of witches (or Harry Potter) comes from, Dame Holda is probably  the original source.  Because of her association with the hearth and home, the Broom was both a symbol as well as a  magical tool.  Folk traditions of "sweeping away evil from the hearth" are found throughout Europe. As a symbol of the Hearth ("the Heart of the household") it is interesting to see this also transformed into the "vehicle of witches" as Pagan mythology, and folk rituals, became transformed and often diabolized in later Christian times.    In later folktales, Frau Holle becomes a fearsome hag, riding her broom and bringing the storms of winter.

"Frau Holle, as she is known in Germany, was called The Queen of the Witches. The brothers Grimm tell a story of step-sisters who both go to visit Frau Holle in the 'nether realms'. They begin their journey to her by falling in a well............Holle's name is linguistically related to the word Halja, which means "covering", and is the ancient Teutonic name for Hel, the Norse land of the dead. Holle is sometimes called the Queen of the Dead, and resides in the 'nether' regions. She possibly lent her name to the country Holland, 'the land of Holle', which is also called the Netherlands because many parts of the country are below sea-level." 
Sandra Kleinschmitt

Holda/Holle/Hel  is  both light and dark, young and old, illumination and shadow, living in the "nether world" and the material world. Holle demonstrates the non-duality of nature.  Spring becoming Summer becoming Winter becoming born again.   Whole.
 As the mythologist Joseph Campbell pointed out in many ways throughout his writings, to understand the evolution of myth is to understand many interconnected things, including the evolution of language and religion.  One of my personal images that I often find myself making are  "dual" masks, masks that are half black and half white, or half "underground" and half "above ground vegetation".  "Helkappes".........

"Our Lady of Chaos and Order" (2013)
 I think this reflects my sense of how very important holistic consciousness is, personally and collectively, whether we speak of "shadow work", the coming to terms with the ebbs and flows of self, or the cycles of our Mother Earth, the ebbs and flows of the seasons and the creation/death/rebirth cycle.  Whether microcosm or macrocosm, to try to live within the perspective of  the Whole. 

So who is  Hel, the ashy side of Holle's face, from whose name we get "Hell"?  

Besides being the origin of the word people use daily as a swear word, and millions of Christians have a mighty fear of going to if they don't get baptized or redeemed (and blissfully ignorant of where the  concept originated from).  

Hell  has been used, very effectively,  by the early  church  as a scare tactic to frighten the masses into “righteous” acts. People no longer remember that once "go to Hell" meant, simply,  to die and go to the underground realm of the Dark Goddess.  To get the real story, we have to go back to the early Nordic peoples with their Triple Mother,  and look this death Goddess in the face.  

"Hel" by Susan Seddon Boulet

Hel has a realm in the netherworld or the underworld (and the idea of underworld, or womb/tomb Goddesses is very ancient indeed, going back to the Paleolithic, and may be part of the apparent sanctity of caves and their amazing cave paintings.).  She is the ruler of that underworld country  to which souls who have not died in battle will depart. As thanks for making Her ruler of the netherworld, Hel makes a gift to Odin. She gives him two ravens, Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Memory).  In Nordic mythology Ravens are messengers between this realm and the next, psychopomps that can open pathways.  

 Johannes Gehrts
The name of Her realm is Helheim, and perhaps like Maat of Egypt, Hel is the judge of each soul that enters her realm.   Those who were cruel and evil in life must endure a place of icy cold for a while as punishment (a fate that the  people of ancient Scandinavia and Germany apparently  found much worse than a nice warm lake of fire). Unlike the Christian concept of Hell as a place of eternal damnation and punishment, however, Helheim also served as the shelter (womb of regeneration) for  souls waiting to be reincarnated. 

"Hel watches over those who died peacefully of old age or illness. She cares for children and women who die in childbirth.  She guides those souls who do not choose the path of war through the circle of death to rebirth."

 Rowen Saille of the Order of the White Moon

Like Persephone, who is both the Spring Maiden and the Queen of  Hades, Hel as the dark side of Holle governs  the underworld or invisible realm. In magic, like Hecate, she is a pathfinder  where the  veil between worlds is thin.
"Magic is the art of changing consciousness  at will."
 ............ Starhawk

 Seidhr [SAY-theer] or Nordic shamans called upon Hel's protection, and in doing so they  wore  "the helkappe", a magic mask, to render them invisible and enable them to pass through the gateway into the realm of death and spirit.  The Helkappe was a mask,  thus understood as a transformative, liminal tool that enabled one to  transit between the seeming dualities of life..........and like masks and sacred drums  throughout the world's traditions, it was infused with shamanic power.  
To take the wisdom of this  metaphor further, to thus wear a mask  as a psychic  tool was to  engage consciously with the continual flux of personae - young/old, dark/light, good/bad, male/female.   This is the realm of the soul, beyond duality, beyond time.  Wearing the "Helkappe", in whatever way one may imagine such a mask........enables one to enter both realms.

A wonderful commentary on Holle/Hel come from the   Goddess Inspired  Blog  by Silvestra, who has helped me to understand the  non-duality of this myth, and it's unfathomably ancient origins.  Rather than me try to paraphrase her, I take the liberty of copying the article here, and provide the link to her Blog below.

"Mother Holle  started off Her existence as the Goddess of Death and Regeneration. During the Neolithic in what Marija Gimbutas termed Old Europe people believed in the cyclical nature of all existence. Every ending was understood to be the beginning of a new chapter. Death, rather than being the final end, was seen as a resting stage prior to new life. Just as seeds rest deep undergound during the cold winter months waiting to sprit up as a seedling in spring, so were the dead seen as having returned to the Goddess’ dark womb to await renewal and rebirth.

The Goddess of Death and Regeneration was associated with winter and the colour white. Small stiff white Goddess figurines with small breasts and exaggerated pubic triangles were placed alongside the dead in order for Her to accompany the person on her or his journey of renewal. The Goddess of Death and Regeneration was not feared or seen as being evil, but instead was considered to be benevolent and generous.
                       Mandorla of the Spinning Goddess (1982)  by Judith Anderson
“She holds dominion over death, the cold darkness of winter, caves, graves and tombs in the earth….but also receives the fertile seed, the light of midwinter, the fertilized egg, which transforms the tomb into a womb for the gestation of new life.”..... Marija Gimbutas 

Old white-haired Mother Holle and Her underground realm are one interpretation of this aspect of the Goddess. In the fairy tale Mother Holle is described as being kind and generous and very just. She lives at the bottom of a well. The well itself can be interpreted as being the birth canal leading to Her dark underground womb...........Mother Holle is described as having ugly big teeth, a big nose and a flat foot. The latter shows her love for weaving or spinning, another sacred act associated with the Goddess: She is the Life Weaver, the Spinner of Destiny and Fate.

Mother Holle was known all across the Germanic world. She was called Holle in Germany, Hel or Hella in Scandinavia and Holde on the British Isles. She is the origin for the word hell and its German variant Hölle, as well as words such as holy and holding in English and Höhle (= cave) in German.

The Scandinavian Goddess Hel is probably the most widely known version of Mother Holle as Goddess, although by the time the Indo-European Norse wrote down their religious beliefs, Hel was no longer the benevolent Regeneratrix of the Neolithic. She had become the dreaded Queen of the Dead.

As was the case during the Neolithic, Hel’s realm Nifhelheim also lies below the earth at the root of the World Tree. Incidentally the bottom of the World Tree is also home to the three Norns, Weavers of Destiny. While, as said above, originally the Goddess of Death and Regeneration was also the Weaver of Fate and Fortune, later beliefs separate Her more and more into Her various aspects. 

 Despite being feared by the Norse as the dreaded Hag of Death, Hel has Her benevolent roots hidden in plane sight. Being linked to the earth, She is one of the old Vanir Earth Goddesses, Vanir meaning “the Giving One”.

In Central Europe Mother Holle also evolved over time. Instead of becoming the Goddess of the Underworld, though, She became the Queen of Elves and the Mistress of Witches. Her character was actually very similar to that of Greek Hekate, the old Crone who roams the world with Her fearsome dogs.   Around 900CE Frau Holle had become an old weather hag who was said to ride in on Her broom stick bringing with Her whirlwinds and snowfall. Her life-giving generous nature was retained more in Germany than in Scandinavia, as even during Christian times She was seen as bringing life to the land causing growth, abundance and good fortune."