Monday, August 14, 2017

Return to Spider Woman...........and a "Webbed Vision"



“What might we see, how might we act, if  we saw with a webbed vision?
The world seen through a web of relationships…as delicate as spider’s silk,
yet strong enough to hang a bridge on.”
 
Catherine Keller, Theologian
 From a Broken Web 

It's almost my birthday, and I find that my thoughts keep going backwards, following the threads of this journal to where it began in 2007.  And it began with my long time "calling" from "Spider Woman", the Native American Goddess who weaves the great web, who instructs the young and the uninitiated when they are ready to hear and see, whose hand weaves patterns along with the great rug weavers, who as "Thought Woman" creates the world with the stories She tells about the world.  It's time to revisit this work, because for me Spider Woman continually speaks of what we need to re-member.  **

So for any who may so generously find my journal of interest, bear with me as I trace  back some of Spider Woman's threads, seeking  pattern.  The ubiquitous Spider Woman archetype  touched me in many ways for years before I was given an Aldon B. Dow Fellowship at Northwood University in the summer of 2007, rendering an opportunity to more fully pursue my fascination.  Ultimately that fascination became three community arts projects, the first at the Midland Arts Center in Michigan.  

In the ancient stories of the Spider Woman I see a very contemporary vision  of ultimate unity,  on our planet, in our human experience, and in the unfathomable vastness of the universe.**  And just as "Spider Woman" sits in her room "thinking up good stories",  so has she endowed  us as well with the same imaginal creative gifts.  We also create the world with the stories we tell,  we are also the artists whose telling can become manifest.  So what stories are we telling, and why is it crucial to understand those stories?
"Tse Che Nako, Thought Woman the Spider  is sitting in her room thinking up a good story:  I'm telling you the story  She is thinking.".............Keresan Pueblo proverb  

When I began to work with Spider Woman, I tend to think She also began to work with me!  As I pursued my private investigation, trying not to disrespect or co-opt traditions of the Native Peoples of America where She is found in so many places,......I began to find that synchronicities continually followed my fascination. Synchronicities are perhaps the ultimate personal experience of the mysterious entanglement of consciousness.........and for me, they became touchstones along with way. 




Spiders would do strange things, like when a tiny spider dropped a thread from the ceiling and hung over my computer as I was working on my book about the project.  I would meet people who would tell me stories about magical spiders.  People would send me emails out of the blue, or offer me materials unsolicited,  that somehow were perfect for what I was envisioning. 

For example, when I hit the road to travel to Michigan I camped at a hot spring in New Mexico, and visited a nearby petroglyph site with  a man who told me about it  there.  He gave me photographs of spider petroglyphs he had taken there and elsewhere.   I stopped in Winslow, Arizona and noticed a little jewelry shop - and there saw an amazing Navajo necklace depicting Spider Woman as a Dine` weaver with a web behind her.  I stopped in Taos at the Laughing Horse Inn, and discovered a framed photograph of a Dine` weaver beside my door.  I took a photo of it, and later was surprised by the thread-like reflections on the glass of the picture as well, something that inspired me to name this Blog "threads of Spider Woman".

One of the funniest (and I am  certain Spider Woman has a great sense of humor) occurred when I stopped for coffee on my way to the second Community Arts Project at the Creative Spirit Center in Midland in 2008 (in collaboration with artist  Kathy Space).  She had created a wall of "Icons" with some 30 participants, each holding a "thread" representing inter-dependancy that went around the walls and finally out the door, representing the "threads" that connect us to everything.  It was only when I was pulling away that I noticed where I had parked!




I love  "on the road" synchronicities,  those that occur in that most liminal space of "being neither here nor there" but in transit. I guess that is my own kind of "moving meditation".   The story below is one of those synchronicities,   and occurred a few weeks after I completed my "Spider Woman's Hands" Show and community project at the Midland Arts Center in Michigan.  I went to Paducah, Kentucky on my way back home, because I was curious about the arts community developing there, and chanced to notice that there was a Native American historical site very close to Paducah, which inspired me to stop there on the way out of town.   And this is what I was doing a decade ago

August 15, 2007

"Sun Circle" and "Spider Woman's Cross" on gourd
(and "the threads" reflections  the glass case seems to have also created in the picture)

I have always felt that my imagination is most open to the ubiquitous, syncronistic voice of the Divine when I'm on the road. In other words, like many Americans who grew up in cars (and were probably conceived in one as well), I do my best thinking when I'm behind the wheelrr. Travelling puts me into the creative liminal state of "between"- free from all the demands and paradigms that "destinations" impose ( the people, duties, reality tunnels, and potent unconscious imprints that "fix" the mind into "place"). Travelling is one of the ways I can hear the "conversation" ...... it turns down the noise for me.

I went to Paducah, Kentucky, on a lovely bright day full of vast green oaks, and later, heading south, decided to take a detour and visit Wicklife Mounds, an archaeological site that was once the home of a tribe of prehistoric Mississippian Native Americans. Going back as far as 1,000 years, these people built ceremonial areas, chief's houses, and burial houses on earth pyramids and stepped rectangular mounds. Over time, the mounds grew in elevation as houses were destroyed and rebuilt. Art, pottery, and religious and tribal iconography belonging to these diverse peoples are found throughout the Southeast, with iconic associations as far as Central Mexico, the Southwest and the Gulf of California, and as far north as Canada.

I didn't expect to find Spider Woman everywhere! But there She was!  I guess I'm not really surprised though - the first thing I encountered as I walked into the little visitor's center was the "Spider Gorget" above. Later, I thought of my "Spider Woman's Hands" piece when I saw the ubiquitous "Hand with Eye", also found on ceremonial jewelry (gorgets made from shells), and pottery.


No one really knows the specific meanings of these symbols to the peoples who once lived, warred and traded throughout the Southeast. Yet within them, I personally find a continuing beauty, a familiarity, a continuing trail. The cross is ubiquitous, the symbol of the balance and ultimate unity of the the 4 directions. The Sun Circle is also completely ubiquitous. I find it interesting that the cross is found on the back of Spider in their (presumably) ceremonial gorgets - perhaps why, when it occurs in Navajo rugs (much later and among a very different people who migrated into the South West) it's still called "Spider Woman's Cross". Yet here as well as in the religious symbolism of the peoples of the South West, it seems that Spider is associated with the Earth Mother, and with creation.


To me, the "Spider Gorget" will always be profound. At the center is the weaver "Tse Che Nako", "Thought Woman" to the Keresan Pueblo peoples. Spider, spinning the world into being with her imagination, in partnership with the illumination of the Sun, spinning and weaving all things together with her "silky essence". From her very own body, from her own substance, she spins and creates.

The cross represents (to me) divine balance within an ever expanding and infinitely interconnected web of life. The Hand with Eye may represent the Divine manifestation, as well as consciousness itself.

I was amazed to see objects with this Hand in circles (and I think of my own obsession with "Spider Woman's Hands". Here is a quote from an anthropologist who studied Zuni petroglyphs in the South West, among them the occurrence of "hand" symbols. (I apologize for the use of "primitives" in the description. A more ethnocentric era.).

".......when hands were so at one with the mind that they really formed a part of it.......to reconstitute the primitives' mentality, he (Cushing, in the 1880's) had to rediscover the movements of their hands, movements in which their language and their thought were inseparably united.......the Zuni who did not speak without his hands did not think without them either." 1And so the Hand with Eye is a symbol of active consciousness (?) Perhaps, to create (weave) with active intention.  Here's another little synchronicity I found in the course of following this thread, one that is a kind of personal poetic, as I am always fascinated with words and their origins. "Wickliffe" might become "Wick - life", which I have little doubt is it's origin. "Wick", from which we get "wicker ware", "wicca", "witch" and "wick" as in the wick of a candle (this association is with an English word that meant both "weave" and "alive").. ...... so, I'll take WICKLIFFE to mean "Weaving Life" with a double affirmative!

What really matters is the necessity, profoundly so now, to understand that we are all intimately interconnected, entrained, entangled, and woven together into World, interconnected within the processes of manifestation. We absolutely must develop a webbed vision now. And that's what artists can do, provide potent and lasting vision.


Great Mother
Thank you for this day, My life,
My strand on the Web,
The vibration it makes.
Keep me in tune, In harmony
With your purpose.
Let me serve.
Xia

*Here's a lovely article I found by an astrologer about Spider Woman - 
http://wisewomaninwoods.blog.ca/2008/03/05/spirituality-love-spider-woman-s-web-3819808


1 Levy-Bruhl 1985: from ROCK ART SYMBOLS OF THE GREATER SOUTHWEST, Alex Patterson, Johnson Books, Boulder, Colorado.

**
http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/planetary-2015/

"We are in the midst of a global crisis of perspective. We have forgotten the undeniable truth that everything is connected. PLANETARY is a provocative and breathtaking wakeup call, a cross continental, cinematic journey, that explores our cosmic origins and our future as a species."



Thursday, August 3, 2017

Remembering "The Waters of the World Ritual" at the Goddess Conference


"We welcome you to Avalon
Thank you for bringing the Waters of your lands.
Together we'll make a great medicine of love."

I felt like looking back to my 2011 Pilgrimage to Avalon, to the Sacred Wells, and participation in the Goddess Conference there.   I shall never forget that time. 

August 3, 2011:

The Goddess Conference here at Glastonbury ended yesterday with some beautiful rituals, and I find myself feeling at a loss to write it all, but I'll try.  Having done week long ritual cycles in the past, as well as leading a few around the work of the mask, I've experienced the kind of "group mind" or entrainment that happens when one works together in sacred space and "mythic mind".  That sounds pretty lame and academic - forgive me.

https://youtu.be/Z_HnxtoaWXo



Imagine gathering the first day in groups of people who come from different parts of the world - in my case, from the "west".   We have all brought water from our homes, and speaking of this, we pour our water into a vessel, which later will become added to a vessel for all participants. As an opening ceremony, each group approaches the Priestesses of Avalon in a barge, "rowing" to share our waters to the magic isle.  This water will be joined with rituals at the "holy wells of Avalon", the Chalice Well and the White Spring.  Later small vials of this charged, healing, universal "water of the well, water of the world" are given to each of us to carry back, and we will all make a procession with our banners through the streets of Glastonbury to the river (which once was a great lake, the legendary home of the Lady of the Lake) to pour some of this water into the flowing waters.

Quite a wonderful sight, to see so many blue clad, singing women and men gathered waist high in the stream, with our vessels of water, and a woven mermaid!  Then a sharing of fruit, to remind all that the Goddess gives to us the fruits of the Earth, always, to share, and to receive.

The closing ceremony included a "give away" where all present exchanged gifts.  And I leave with my heart open, and my vials of water to share with other waters, and to remember.

You know, I honestly feel rather speechless - moved, changed by this experience, the ceremony, the people, the place.   The work is about the Goddess, and it is collective, and a field opens that is also deeply personal and transformative.  A "mystery".  One sees with mythic eyes, with archetypal vision, and waking life becomes a revelation.  For example,  at the river yesterday, I picked a branch of elderberries, finding them beautiful, and wanting to add them to the "fruits" being shared, but decided it wasn't a good idea.  I wasn't even sure they were edible.  Some seeing me with them in my hand told me that they were very magical, connected to the Crone and the Goddesses of the underworld.  That's why they were called "elderberry".  She also said they made medicine from them, and Elderberry wine.

I carried those darkly beautiful berries all the way back, thinking as I returned (wet) from the river, and pouring our waters into the worlds waters thus, about my soon to be 62nd birthday.  I'll be eligible for early retirement now.  I'm entering old age, and I don't know what it means - it's this cycle of my life now.  Sometimes, to be honest, I feel very sad and lonely in the midst of it all.  Elderberries, bearing elderberries from the river...............  Crone medicine.

When I got to the cafe at the Assembly Hall, gathering for the closing rituals, the cook was saying to someone "Oh, someone left a nice bottle of elderberry wine here last night.  Potent stuff.  "(!) 

I was amazed. since I was standing there with the same berries in my hand - so I asked her if I could try it!

And so I sat, waiting for the "gifting ceremony", with a nice glass of (like she said, potent stuff!) elderberry wine in my hand, feeling awed, and as if, on top if it all, I had some very magical "medicine" that had just been gifted to me, even before the "gifting ceremony" had begun.  Elderberry wine.  Healing tonic....... gifts of the crone goddess, potency.


It works that way. The huge generosity of world, and when people come together in love and ritual.........when we forgive, love, and join the waters.........

At the closing, white veils were drawn, the "mists of Avalon", and we left for homelands, bearing our vials of love, and "holy-wholly" water. From the Well of the Lady, the Well of becoming...........

Speechless.

Lammas blessings to all.







Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Saga


…the word saga has been translated out of its original meaning, which was ‘She-Who-Speaks,’ that is, an oracular priestess, such as were formerly associated with sacred poetry. The literal meaning of saga was ‘female sage.’ The written sagas of Scandinavia were originally sacred histories kept by female sagas or ‘sayers,’ who knew how to write them in runic script."
”Barbara G. Walker, The Crone: Woman of Age, Wisdom, and Power  **
Travelling across the country this summer gave me a lot of time to think about things as the road rolled ahead of me, the terrain changing as I went.  Sometimes I think of my life like that, a road that unfolds before me and behind me, with various pit stops along the way.  As I age I increasingly find there is no longer anywhere to "get to", no where I am particularly rushing toward or away from.  The road has all kinds of eddies and side roads and chance encounters, and increasingly, that's what I notice and savor.   This summer I did, inspite of many difficulties that came up, a lot of internal healing, an intention I see I began the trip with.  Ask and ye shall receive.....but that's another story........what I did do this summer was give myself a personal "rite of passage".  I am a Saga now.

I've never liked the term "Crone" as it's used to speak of women in the third phase of life, although I like, of course, the meanings that have been re-associated with it as women seek to reclaim feminine power  (Maiden, Mother, Crone).  But part of my dislike of the word has to do with the meanings that were associated with it in the past. 

Here's what wikipedia has to say about the word:
"The crone is a stock character in folklore and fairy tale, an old woman who is usually disagreeable, malicious, or sinister in manner, often with magical or supernatural associations that can make her either helpful or obstructing. She is marginalized by her exclusion from the reproductive cycle, and her proximity to death places her in contact with occult wisdom. As a character type, the crone shares characteristics with the hag.  The word "crone" is a less common synonym for "old woman," and is more likely to appear in reference to traditional narratives than in contemporary everyday usage.The word became further specialized as the third aspect of the Triple Goddess popularized by Robert Graves and subsequently in some forms of neopaganism."  
Wikipedia/Crone
"Saga" is a Scandinavian word that means "a long, ancestral or heroic story".  I've been thinking that I prefer to use this word to "crone".  A long, wise story, woven into the threads of many stories.  I like that much better.  It re-empowers the grandmothers, the old women who, in a patriarchal and monetary culture that defines a woman's worth by her beauty and sexual appeal...........it defines old women for what their real value really is:  people who've lived long lives,  who know things, who have accomplished things, who have wisdom and depth.  

According to mythologist Barbara Walker, Saga also means "She Who Speaks". Similar to the masculine "Sage", a Saga is a wise old woman, a female mentor and teacher. Similar, but not, to my mind, quite the same in it's meanings, and that is because of the context of "story" that imbues the word and its origins.   She-Who-Speaks is the potent teller of story, because she embodies a long, interwoven, generational, story - a Saga.  In pre-literate cultures, the Saga and the Sage held a thread that was woven through many lives into the past, and her/his long  memory was the precious gift that kept the stories and myths that comprised the knowledge of a people  alive.  

So the next time I attend a "croning"  party for a woman, I'll say:  "You've become a Saga".   



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How Do We Talk With The Earth?


I was very disappointed that circumstances forced me to return to Tucson and I was not able to remain at Brushwood for the festivals as I hoped this year.  I have come there to heal and "talk with the land" for many years, and the land (and people) always inform me of what I need to know.  I feel very fortunate that I could have all those "pagan summers" at the Brushwood Folklore Center in Western New York, working at the festivals, building my Moss Garden shrine deep in the woods,  spending time with my visionary friends Frank and Darlene Barney who created Brushwood, and their daughter Theresa and her husband Dave..........and the many people who have come there over the years to celebrate with ecstatic exuberance the land, Gaia, the Goddess and the God, the rising of the Dog star, the walking of the Labyrinth, the recreation each year of little shrines and gardens, at festivals like Starwood,  Sankofa and Sirius Rising.

For years I've been making works  I ended up calling  "Earth Shrines" or "Earth Icons".   I've made them from bird nests, twigs, and found places that seem to insist on making a little shrine.  The pieces I hang on walls always seem to have roots and eyes woven into the designs.  I finally understand that  the roots represent our inter-dependancy with all other living beings, our deep roots of nourishment in the Earth.  And the  eyes are the presence and intelligence I experience everywhere, the  conversation inherent in the woven fabric of the  entire world, in our bodies, in the trees,  in the slow dance of ecosystems,  in the breath of the sky, in the tendrils and roots that  twine and seek and speak deep under our feet.  



Frank Barney and I had a conversation a number of years ago, and I want to share it again, because it's important.  We were riding through the “village” that seems to bubble out of the ground when the big festivals happen.  It's like I used to feel with the Renaissance Festivals when I worked at them........like Brigadoon, the festivals appear, then gradually  disappear.   I asked Frank what it was like to live with a particular place since childhood, to raise your family there, to grow up within his environment of forests and meadows,  and eventually become  its caretaker and spiritual collaborator.  "How", I asked, "do we learn to  speak with the Earth?"


Frank (who is a dowser as his father was) answered my question as he always does, in his own inimitable round-about way. He was answering in circles, literally, as we toured, looking at favorite trees, niches,  feeling the geomagnetic intensities of various places, the “green breath” of the forest, that watchful "presence" I always feel among the trees.


Most of the voices of nature are small and delicate,” he told me, “and can easily be silenced. They can be made invisible, or driven underground. And when that happens, people forget that they ever existed at all. Within a short time, they forget what it was like to live in such a rich chorus of voices, among so many stories, intelligences, lives.......and then  they’re living without them in a world that has lost not only that living  population, but also its mystery and vitality. An increasingly flat world with only human voices. “

“If you violate a person, be it a child or an adult, they shut up. You silence them. They withdraw - although, with human beings, the energy of that violence is likely to erupt in some future way, in some future violence. Places, like people and animals, also have voices. Violate a place, like putting a Wal-mart parking lot over it, and all the voices that belong to that place leave.  The land is silenced. ”

“What I've been trying to do” he said, “for the past 30 years is to create a place that can facilitate communion with the Earth. By treating the land with respect, by acknowledging the presence of so many other intelligences, visible and invisible, that are evolving within the immanent cycles of life, right here, on the land. On this land, with all of its uniqueness. "





"And there are different ways we've accomplished that.  For example, because we didn't have much money, we couldn't do what many people do when they acquire a piece of land. Which is to come in with big machines that level and dominate the land, bulldoze it flat, force it to do what they want it do. We didn't have the financial means to do that, even if we wanted to, so Brushwood evolved gradually, organically, according to the dictates of the land, its contours and water ways and bumps and swamps and resources. And also its energy leys and vortices. 

We bring people here who have an earth friendly ethos and mythos. They can feel safe here, they can interact and create and explore without ridicule or hostility. They come here to connect, to play, or to heal. They can do ritual, make things like art or theatre or music, wear masks or costumes, dance, have discussions, make love, get naked in the sun or rain if they like, the children can ride their bikes or play in the mud - they feel safe. So the Earth can speak through them in all the things that they say and do.


That’s how we talk with the Earth.
 We let the Earth talk through us.”




Erecting the Thunder Bird (2008)
Throughout the week long festival, prayers and intentions were collected,
and deposited in the Thunder Bird "messenger " -  similar to the ancient
Celtic  Lammas rituals  of the burning of the Wicker Man.




Photos of  Sirius Rising are by, and copyright,  Roy Jones

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Telling the World in a Time of Drought" - Reflections on Art, Myth and Ritual


“What might we see, how might we act, if we saw with a webbed vision? The world seen through a web of relationships…as delicate as spider’s silk, yet strong enough to hang a bridge on.”
 Catherine Keller, From a Broken Web

Recently I travelled cross country, joining conversations that always seemed to end with a question.  Since many of my friends are artists (I include writers, performers, ritualists, dancers, storytellers, and a number of shamans in the category as well) the question seemed to come down to "what do we do now?"  How do we, in a time that seems bent on eliminating education, free speech, environmental preservation, social ethics, and possibly even any kind of consensual truth…..as practitioners of the arts, increasingly marginalized by society, how do we find meaningful identity? 

My own response is that I believe it's vital for artists to remember that we are myth makers.  Throughout history artists of all kinds have possessed the imaginal tools to invent and re-invent the myths that were the cultural underpinnings for their time.  

Phil Cousineau, author of  Once and Future Myths: The Power of Ancient Stories in Our Lives (2001) cautioned that if we don't become aware of both our personal and our cultural myths which "act like gravitational forces on us" we risk becoming overpowered, overshadowed, and controlled by them.  Myths are in many ways the templates of how we compose our societal and personal values, as well as how people organize their religions.  As Cousineau commented further, "the stories we tell of ourselves determine who we become, who we are, and what we believe."  

The human mind has a unique ability to abstract.  A stone is not always a stone - sometimes it becomes a symbol of something, a manifestation of a deity, or it can also become intentionally invisible, even when it stubs our toes.  An interpretation of "God" is something that whole nations have lived or died for.  And depending on the aesthetics of a particular culture, foot binding, skull extension, or bouffant hairdos can be experienced as erotic beauty.  If the worlds we know are, indeed, experienced through the lens of the stories we tell about them, then how are those stories serving or not serving the crucial time we live in?

A renunciate myth of the Earth as "not real" or a "place of sin and suffering" does not serve the environmental crisis facing a global humanity.   Stories that make women lesser beings do not release the creative brain power of half the human race.  A cultural mythos that celebrates violence and competition do not contribute to nurturance and sustainability.   Stories of "rugged individualism" may not be as useful in a time when science, sociology, ecology, theology, and even physics are demonstrating that all things are interdependent. 

I remember years ago participating in a week long intensive with the Earth Spirit Community of New England.  The event took place in October, in celebration of the closing of the year, the "going into the dark" time.  The closing ritual occurred at twilight.  Bearing candles, different groups wove through the woods toward a distant lodge from which the sound of heartbeat drums issued.  Slowly the lodge filled, illuminated with candles.  As we sat on the floor, lights gradually went out, we were blindfolded and the drums abruptly stopped. 

We felt bodies rush by us as hands turned us.  The sounds of wind, and half understood voices, someone calling, someone crying, or a bit of music came from all directions.  As we lost any sense of direction or time we became uncomfortable, frightened and disoriented.  I felt as if I was in a vast chamber, the very halls of Hades, listening to echoing voices of the lost.  And when it felt like the formless dark would never stop:  silence.  And the quiet sound of the heartbeat drum returned, re-connecting us to the heart of the Earth.

As blindfolds were removed I found myself in a room warmly illuminated with candles.  On a central platform sat a woman enthroned in brilliant white, illuminated with candles and flowers.  At her feet were baskets of bread.  Slowly we rose, took bread and fruit, and left the "Temple".  And as we left, on each side of the entrance, stood a figure in a black cape.  Each had a mirror over his or her face – mirror masks, reflecting our own faces.  

Now that was a ritual telling of the myth!  We had entered mythic space, we had participated together in the Great Round of death and return to the light - and none of us would ever forget it.

I am suggesting that artists, troubled as my friends and I have been, step away for a while from the complex questions of identity so beloved by the art world, cast aside as well the dismissal, even hostility of the current anti-intellectual environment.  Instead, let us view ourselves  as engaged in a sacred profession.   We are pollinators of the imagination,  holding  threads in  a great weaving of myth, threads that extend into a time  yet to come, and far back into a barely glimpsed past.  If "the Universe is made of stories, not atoms" as the poet  Muriel Rukeyser famously said, the only real question for us now is "what kinds of stories are we weaving"?     

"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 



References:

Keller, Catherine;  From a Broken Web: Separation, Sexism and Self,
       Beacon Press  (1988)

Baring, Anne;  "A New Vision of Reality" from her website
       http://www.annebaring.com/

Cousineau, Phil; Once and Future Myths: The Power of Ancient Stories in
        Modern Times,  Conori Press (2001)

The Earthspirit Community, Twilight Covening (1993),   
         http://www.earthspirit.com/ 

Rukeyser, Muriel;  The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser,  McGraw (1978)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Zoe's Camino de Santiago

All photos are copyright Zoe d'Ay (2014)


Camino de SantiagoMy friend Zoe d'Ay, who lives in Glastonbury, England, in 2014 walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain at the age of 68......something I have so often dreamed of myself!  She brought the Camino alive with her photos, and it was my delight to make a Blog for her and share vicariously her stories of "The Way" along with her beautiful photos of her Pilgrimage.  I wanted to  re-visit the Blog,  and walk with her again. The posts go backward, with the beginning of her journey at the beginning of the Blog. 


 

 

 



 










The scallop shell is the symbol of the Camino, pointing the way all along the long pilgrimage route.   After Compostella, many pilgrims, as Zoe did,  continue on to Finisterre, "Lands End", where they truly finish their pilgrimage before the vastness of the Atlantic ocean.   As David Whyte wrote: "Because now, you would find a different way to tread, and because, through it all, part of you could still walk on,  no matter how........."


FINISTERRE

The road in the end taking the path the sun had taken,
into the western sea, and the moon rising behind you
as you stood where ground turned to ocean: no way
to your future now
but the way your shadow could take,
walking before you across water,
going where shadows go,

no way to make sense of a world that wouldn't let you pass
except to call an end to the way you had come,
to take out each frayed letter you brought
and light their illumined corners, and to read
them as they drifted through the western light;
to empty your bags;
to sort this and to leave that;

to promise what you needed to promise all along
and to abandon the shoes that had brought you here
right at the water's edge,

not because you had given up

but because now, you would find a different way to tread,
and because, through it all,
part of you could still walk on,

no matter how, over the waves.” 

― David Whyte

 

All photos are COPYRIGHT Zoe D'ay

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

"Now I Become Myself" by May Sarton


This poem has been coming into my mind this summer, and so I post it in this Blog.  
For all the complaints I, and friends, make about entering into old age and becoming Elders, 
this is the real prize of it.  There is a Circle, glimpsed sometimes, woken to on splendid mornings,
wherein "There is time and Time is young."
Now I Become Myself

Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
‘Hurry, you will be dead before-’
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

May Sarton

                          

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Alphabet vs the Goddess.........reflections.



“Older yet, and lovelier far, this Mystery………and I will not Forget.”
Robin Williamson

Travelling for 3 weeks, and now, on the Summer Solstice, landed at last at Brushwood in Chautauqua county N.Y., where I have spent many summers. 

A synchronistic encounter with a psychic reader, on the street in Boulder, Colorado, had me thinking as I drove the long hypnotic miles, about the significant advice he gave me.  “Ask and ye shall receive”……and my journey began with questions that slowly have found their answers on the road.  I've spent so much of my life in motion, and driving seems to be a moving meditation for me, the "in transit" state.  I don’t know how to explain that, except that “listening” in various ways is important as I travel, and being on the road is being in that “between” realm, freed from the habitual patterns of  life.

One of the things the psychic, sitting alone at a small table,  told me, with his water-clear pale blue eyes looking into mine, was that I should write.  That I should write about my life.  Write about my life........how vain that seems to me, to produce "memoirs".  And yet, what other  frame of reference  can we have, if not our lives?  So here I am, someone who has not been able to write for over a year, someone who would much rather be out in the woods meditating on the extraordinary variety of greens to seen on moss, sitting under a lightning struck old growth maple tree I know pretty well,  sensing the Fey Folk and warding off the less ephemeral mosquitos………here I sit at the keyboard.  But the Tree and the Moss will have their day too.   And the language spoken in that wood calls me back and back, and is full of twigs and luna moth wings and the cry the phoebe bird makes and sienna shades of tree cambrium  whorls that tell the tale of a hundred seasons.........and rarely speaks the human tongue.  Too long apart from that conversation I become stupid, I forget my real place in  World.

It’s ironic that I should receive "instructions" from spirit to write, because my companion on this trip has been THE ALPHABET VERSUS THEGODDESS, a 1996 book by Leonard Shlain. * The author (who I met when I lived in the Bay Area and greatly admired)  was a man of many interests.  He was a neurosurgeon who wrote about art and culture, exploring the intersection between brain, consciousness, aesthetics and culture.   He eloquently proposes that the demise of the Goddess and the descent of women throughout the world  had much to do with the evolution of literacy, and the loss of visual language and oral transmission, recording how these phenomena coincide throughout his-story.
The demise of the Goddess represents the fracturing of the human spirit, literally divided against itself.  Dr. Shlain  explores his premise throughout the evolution of the monotheistic “literate” religions,  and their patriarchal origins, to explose a universally renunciate  mythos, appallingly violent and misogynist, that always follows the development of “literate religion”.   In other words, Schlain argues that the increasing left brain, “masculine” domination of society became concretized with the development of writing, along with the loss of right brain, visionary/intuitive “feminine”  modes of consciousness and accompanying values.   

Yes, I can write I reflect,  but I think in images.  When I have studied mediumship I experience  Spirit communicating through symbolic images...........and I have never met a medium, or an animal communicator, who hears long and authoritative sentances.  Spirit, and animals, seem to communicate largely with universal language of image, symbol, sometimes sound and smell as well.  So do dreams, in timeless, visionary  ways.  

The first thing a new human encounters are the mobile faces of her or his parents, the language of facial expressions.  Perhaps that is why I’ve always been so fascinated with masks, and why it is so important to help the  “art illiterate” to understand  that a painting, any  work of art, is really a conversation.  It invites reply, response, engagement.  

Leonard Slain's book is a provocative, important book.



*In this groundbreaking book, Leonard Shlain, author of the bestselling Art & Physics, proposes that the process of learning alphabetic literacy rewired the human brain, with profound consequences for culture. Making remarkable connections across a wide range of subjects including brain function, anthropology, history, and religion, Shlain argues that literacy reinforced the brain's linear, abstract, predominantly masculine left hemisphere at the expense of the holistic, iconic feminine right one. This shift upset the balance between men and women initiating the disappearance of goddesses, the abhorrence of images, and, in literacy's early stages, the decline of women's political status. Patriarchy and misogyny followed.

Shlain contrasts the feminine right-brained oral teachings of Socrates, Buddha, and Jesus with the masculine creeds that evolved when their spoken words were committed to writing. The first book written in an alphabet was the Old Testament and its most important passage was the Ten Commandments. The first two reject of any goddess influence and ban any form of representative art.