Tuesday, April 16, 2019

"Everything is Alive"........























I  woke up recently with the phrase "everything is alive" in my mind.  To muse on that "threshold voice", I wanted to explore what "everything is alive" might mean, and this story from Alice Walker came to mind.  

Catherine Keeler  asked "How would we live if we saw the world with a 'webbed vision', meaning how would we live if we saw ourselves within a community, visible and invisible, of relationships with all kinds of living, responsive beings, including the food we eat, perhaps even the things we use and take for granted.  As if it was all a kind of "great conversation", and creating "good relationship" was a primary concern.   We would live so very differently...........


When did the world cease to be alive, and become a "thing"?  When did plants, animals, and people become "things" or "resources" or "commodities" ?   And how much of the conversation goes on without us realizing it, in spite of our objectification and de-humanization,  all the time anyway?

I reflect on a little story of my own.  At Christmas time a few years ago, because they were on sale, I bought a turkey and baked it. I felt rather silly, as I had no one to share this dinner with, being alone that Christmas day.   I remember feeling rather sad about being alone, on Christmas day,  with a baked turkey.   I realized I had cranberry sauce, but no gravy, and so I decided to try to find some at the local Walgreens,  the only place I knew would be open.  As I went into the store, sitting on the sidewalk was a young man with a bottle of  Windex offering to clean my windshield for some change.

Normally I'd provide some coins and move on, but the sight of this homeless young man, sitting there in the cold on Christmas Day, was just too much.  I got to talking with him, and finding him intelligent, I asked him if he'd like some turkey, and we ended up sitting on the porch eating that turkey dinner together.  I later paid him to do some odd jobs for me before he disappeared from that area, and I hope he found his way off the streets.   Apparently, I didn't buy that turkey just for myself, although I thought I did.  The universe responds.



The Universe Responds

by Alice Walker

A few years ago I wrote an essay called "Everything is a Human Being", which explores to some extent the Native American view that all of creation is of one substance and therefore deserving of the same respect. In it I described the death of a snake that I caused, and wrote of my remorse.

That summer "my " land in the country crawled with snakes. There was always the large resident snake, whom my mother named "Susie", crawling about in the area that marks the entrance to my studio. But there were also lots of others wherever we looked. A black-and-white king snake appeared underneath the shower stall in the garden. A striped red-and-black one, very pretty, appeared near the pond. It now revealed the little hole in the ground in which it lived by lying half in and half out of it as it basked in the sun. Garden snakes crawled up and down the roads and paths. One day leaving my house with a box of books in his arms, my companion literally tripped over one of these.

We spoke to all of these snakes in friendly voices. They went their way, we went ours. After about a two week bloom of snakes, we seemed to have our usual number: just Susie and a couple of her children.

A few years later, I wrote an essay about a horse called Blue. It was about how humans treat horses and other animals; how hard it is for us to see them as the suffering, fully conscious, enslaved beings they are. After reading this essay in public only once, this is what happened. A white horse came and settled herself on the land. (Her owner, a neighbor, soon came to move her.) The two horses on the ranch across the road began to run up to their fence whenever I passed, leaning over it and making what sounded like joyful noises. They had never done this before (I checked with the human beings I lived with to be sure of this), and after a few more times of greeting me as if I'd done something especially nice for them, they stopped. Now, when I pass they look at me with the same reserve they did before. But there is still a spark of recognition.

What to make of this? 

But what I'm also sharing with you is this thought: The Universe responds. What you ask of it, it gives.............I remember when I used to dismiss the bumper sticker "Pray for Peace". I realize now that I did not understand it, since I also did not understand prayer; which I know now to be the active affirmation in the physical world of our inseparableness from the divine; and everything, especially the physical world, is divine."**



** (From: "The Universe Responds: Or, How I learned We Can Have Peace on Earth", 
Living by the Word, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, N.Y., N.Y., 1988.)

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Closing Exhibit of Masks of the Goddess, and New Revised "Masks of the Goddess" Book




In May I will be concluding the 20 year MASKS OF THE GODDESS PROJECT, which began as an Invocation to the Goddess at Reclaiming's 20th Annual Spiral Dance in San Francisco in 1999.  I have been so privileged to collaborate with Priestesses, Playwrights, Dancers, Ritualists, Community Organizers, Photographers, Artists, Photographers, Choreographers, Writers, Singers, and Psychologists in sharing the stories and  "Faces of the Goddess".  So many from around the country participated in the Project - please know that your spirit and contribution will be there, in every mask and photograph.   

The Opening will be May 5th, and I'll give a small slide presentation, and afterwards I'm delighted that there will several performances, including Evelie Delfino Sales Posch to sing her beautiful songs, and mask wearers Drissana and Vibra to invoke the Goddesses.  Perhaps we'll see you there!

I have also just revised and added a great deal of new material to my book 
"The Masks of the Goddess", which is available at  Blurb.com.
 You can turn pages in a "Preview" at this link:
 http://www.blurb.com/b/9380795-the-masks-of-the-goddess

Thank you once again for sharing your creativity and love of the Goddess with so many, and especially, with me.  May the Masks  continue their work. 

Lauren 
www.masksofthegoddess.com
www.laurenraine.com

Friday, April 5, 2019

ANGELS IN NEBRASKA and Other Stories in a Talking World



In an article from his webzine "Warrior of the Light", Paolo Coelho wrote:

"I let my life be guided by a strange language that I call “signs”. I know that the world is talking to me, I need to listen to it, and if I do so I shall always be guided towards what is most intense, passionate and beautiful. Of course, it is not always easy."

I have also often  found myself engaged in a "Great Conversation" that seems to be going on all around me, and occasionally I’m stunned to realize I wasn’t listening.  Lately, grounded with so many duties and laundry lists, I feel like a virtual deaf mute.  

The conversation seems to become most lively when I'm in movement. Between destinations lies a mythic land of flight and migration, a free range  in the "Bardo" of transit, where I occasionally meet Angels of the Flux pointing the way.  I'm getting ready to hit the road to go to California briefly, and already feel the longing to just be in motion........ and perhaps, those Angels, will speak to me again. 

I've shared this story before,  and today seems like a good day to share it again.  The photos above I took in 2005.

JOURNAL ENTRY, September 3, 2005.

Stopped in Cozad, Nebraska, home of the Robert Henri Museum.

When I was getting my MFA, I had to study, among others, the work of Robert Henri and the "Ash Can School" of painting, which he founded.  It was called the "Ash Can School" because Henri and collegues were tired of the romanticized,  dreamy landscapes  of their time, and instead took to painting realistic scenes of urban life in New York and elsewhere, which was a great innovation. 

The  Cozad Museum has some beautiful paintings of the tall grass prairies of Nebraska by a local artist, and a few reproductions of Henri's "Ash Can School" paintings. They don't have any of the originals. Henri's father, it seems, actually was the founder of  Cozad, but it appears that he  had to leave rather suddenly with his sons and wife when he "accidentally" shot a man in a heated argument.  He took his family  to New York, changed his name, started the first casino in Atlantic City, and his talented son went on to study art and become famous. The boy never returned to Nebraska, although he did go on to live and work in Ireland, New York, and Paris. Cozad is proud of him anyway.

I continue to fret about my commitment to art. My life seems like a tapestry, on my good days, the threads finally woven with some skill into a colorful tapestry, I see that I have achieved some small bit of mastery. And then there are days when so much precious life seems wasted, lost, too many disappointments and wrong decisions and wrong turns. Those are days that are about emptying out, discovering things that once seemed so opaque are now, well, transparent. Unimportant. What really matters?  What am I supposed to do now?

So here I sit, with a very nice cup of coffee and a sandwich at the Busy Bee Diner, where I have a front row center seat for the First Bank and Trust Company of Cozad.

That got my attention.





TUCSON SCULPTURE FESTIVAL! I'll be there!



I'm looking forward to participating in this fabulous Show in April, and will bring my recent bas relief clay mosaics, "Our Lady of the Shards"Maybe I'll see you there!

MARK YOUR CALENDARS 
FOR THE LARGEST OUTDOOR SCULPTURE SHOW
IN ARIZONA!

Featuring over 60 local, regional and national sculptors, the 

SculptureTucson Festival Show & Sale is

April 5, 6 and 7 

at Brandi Fenton Memorial Park in Tucson, AZ

In addition to a chance to see and buy art, collectors and the art-loving community will enjoy free artists talks & demonstrations, live dance & musical performances, food trucks and more! 
VISIT OUR WEBSITE
The Festival is FREE and OPEN to the PUBLIC:

Saturday, April 6th 
9:30am to 6pm
and 
Sunday, April 7th
9:30am to 4:30pm 


For more festival info: www.SculptureTucson.org 
The opening night reception, PATRON'S EVENT on Friday, April 5th from 5pm to 9pm is a chance to preview and purchase art before the festival opens to the public. Join us for a wonderful evening of sculpture, live music, and gourmet hors-d'oeuvres & cocktails catered by Hacienda del Sol.
Tickets to the PATRON'S EVENT are $50. Purchase tickets: 

https://youtu.be/lbjDTBLnTjY

Thursday, March 28, 2019

More New Masks for my Upcoming Show

BRIDGIT

I've been busy indeed getting ready for my show in May, including finally finishing a new version of  my Book about the Masks of the Goddess Project.  

It is fun to have a chance to practice my mastery of my art.........I have not made many masks in the past few years, mostly because since I stopped doing the shows and "being out there" there have been few requests for masks.  But this is what I am good at, and it has been a great privilege for me to make these Goddess masks for others to use.  

I remember when I first started learning about the "Temple Mask" traditions of Bali, and started working with Ida Bagus Anom in Mas, which is near Ubud.  I was so inspired with the idea of sacred masks, masks that were used to "in-voke" the Gods, masks that were the "special masks" that were kept in the Temples, anointed and cleansed with holy water by the Balians, and maintained and created by a class of mask makers............it seemed so familiar to me, that concept.  Perhaps I once lived in a culture like Bali where masks were sacred, in some other lifetime............

 So when I returned to the U.S., the idea of making a collection of "Temple Masks" devoted to the Divine Feminine made sense to me.  And then my opportunity came along with an invitation to create masks for the Invocation of the Goddess at the 20th Annual Spiral Dance in San Francisco.  It seems fitting indeed that the Project should end in San Francisco as well, 20 years later.  And I am ....... happy to realize that the masks did fulfill that dream, and I have this chance to close with honor for the many people I've been privileged to share them with.

INANNA

CERES/DEMETER 

ISIS

HECATE

ERESHKIGAL

BAST

Monday, March 25, 2019

New Documentary about Ursula Leguin.....and more.......

"Earthsea" Map of the Legendary Land by Ursula Le Guin

  "To light a candle is to cast a shadow."

Ursula K. Leguin
One of my sheroes is Ursula Leguin, one of the worlds great Spider Women. Like Tse Che Nako of the Pueblo peoples, the worlds she has spun for all of us will always live in my heart, and her wisdom always comes home. I reflect that I have spent quite a few days in her worlds, on the boat Lookfar with Ged, among Those Who Walk Away From Omelas because paradise will never, ever  be enough, watching the passing of May's Lion and remembering a time when such things were sacred...........so many worlds she has taken me to. I feel quite bereft that she is not in this world with us any longer.

A recent documentary about her life is just released:  https://vimeo.com/268831999


Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin Official Trailer from Arwen Curry on Vimeo.


Ursula LeGuin Quotations:
• We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.
• There are no right answers to wrong questions.
• It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.
• The greatest religious problem today is how to be both a mystic and a militant; in other words how to combine the search for an expansion of inner awareness with effective social action, and how to feel one's true identity in both.
• The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerant uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.
• I certainly wasn't happy. Happiness has to do with reason, and only reason earns it. What I was given was the thing you can't earn, and can't keep, and often don't even recognize at the time; I mean joy.
• Reason is a faculty far larger than mere objective force. When either the political or the scientific discourse announces itself as the voice of reason, it is playing God, and should be spanked and stood in the corner.
• If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives.... But close up a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. Love doesn't just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.
• What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?

And here is a video by an artist who also, like me, has visited the world of the Kesh, and knows what it is like, I think,  to be Always Coming Home.




Kesh from Vanessa Renwick on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

At the Equinox.......


















The Big Thaw

starts with a trickle

water running through silence
as innocuous as breath

a slight relaxation
at the corners of the mouth.

Just when winter
has become a habit.
An old coat the sun peels off 
with just  a touch,

your foot
leaves a signature
in new mud
shiny as  new skin
or fresh, primed canvas

You notice a blade of grass
green, defiantly green.

Inhale,
you take your coat off

a crocus opens
in the blue iris
of some one's glance.


Lauren Raine
Vermont, 1982

Friday, March 8, 2019

Bast, Cat Goddess of Egypt


Another new mask, this one dedicated to one of my favorite Goddesses, Lady Bast.  I have enjoyed the friendship of quite a few of her loyal subjects, and they are, indeed, a noble and wise following.
Bast

Her paws whisper on temple floors
Her eyes luminous as the moon
Her ears pricked, alert to danger
Her whiskers sense currents from the unseen world.

Guardian of cats and women and children
Possessor of the uchat, the all-seeing eye
Bast wards against dangers in the spirit world -
Evil beings, enchantments, nameless things
Visible only to cats.

Daughter of Ra, the sun
Lady of the East, the Moon
Her eyes hold light in darkness 

Listen:

Ra the mighty sun 
appears at dawn as a baby
At sunset he is dying, and when he dies
Darkness falls.

But Bast prowls the Nile, 
gazes into the setting sun
Holds his fire in her eyes
Shining in the dark, 
until Ra is born again.

Bast is Mistress of the science of relaxation.
Bast luxuriates in her sensuality and agility.
She plays  with her children:
But leaps ferociously to their defense.

She is The One Who Tears, Little Lion -
Her sharp claws are the vengeance of Ra. 

Those who love Bast honor every cat.

Speak to them with respect
Lay gifts at their paws.
They call to her:

“Mau Bast! Mau Bast!”

Here is her blessing
Her secret wisdom is yours to know:

Sunny spots are best for dreaming.
Never waste a moonlit night,
and accept reality with supreme indifference
to the opinions of mere mortals.

by Mary Kay Landon

Sunday, March 3, 2019

New Mask: Saraswati



Love is Saraswati's river
flowing through our lands.
She will feed the rice fields,
She will accept our woven offerings.
She will bear our ashes
and the fires of Kintamani
to the sea.

Formless, she neither takes nor gives;
we impose these significances
upon the flowers we cast in her.

From birth to death,
Saraswati's river sustains us to the sea.
(2000) 


When I was in Ubud quite a few years ago to study Balinese mask traditions, , every morning and at twilight I beheld the stately procession of 5 white geese making their way up the busy street I lived on, and then in the evening, heading back to whatever rice paddy they called home. Although people on motor scooters often went around them if they could, I was amazed at the utterly un-Western patience with which Balinese motorists followed behind the geese; they did not honk at them (although the geese certainly honked their own mysterious way up the street), nor did the Balinese try to shoo them out of the way.

"Sacred to Saraswati", explained my friend Nyoman.

Saraswati is the Hindu Goddess of the arts, of beauty, of beautiful language, and of  truth, all of which are related. From Her transcendant river flows  inspiration, nourishment for body and soul. She is often shown accompanied by a white swan.  As the embodiment of speech, Saraswati is present wherever speech exists.   And so it is that She is pre-eminently associated with the best in human culture: poetry, literature, sacred rituals, and rational communication between individuals. Even today, when a new baby arrives, grandmothers make a five pointed star - called "Saraswati-sign" - on the newborn's tongue with honey. The tongue, the organ of speech, is thus "hitched to Saraswati's star" early.

Saraswati

"Saraswati is the Goddess of learning, art, knowledge, and wisdom. The Sanskrit word sara means "essence" and swa means "self." Thus Saraswati means "the essence of the self." Saraswati is represented in Hindu mythology as the divine consort of Lord Brahma, the Creator of the universe. Since knowledge is necessary for creation, Saraswati symbolizes the creative power of Brahma. Goddess Saraswati is worshipped by all persons interested in knowledge, especially students, teachers, scholars, and scientists.

In Her popular images and pictures, Saraswati is depicted with four arms (some pictures may show only two arms), wearing a white sari and seated on a white lotus. She holds a book and a rosary in Her rear two hands, while the front two hands are engaged in the playing of a lute (veena). Her right leg is shown slightly pushing against Her left leg. She uses a swan as Her vehicle. There is a peacock by Her side gazing at Her. This symbolism illustrates the following spiritual ideas:

The white sari that the Goddess is wearing denotes that She is the embodiment of pure knowledge. The four amms denote Her omnipresence and omnipotence. The two front amms indicate Her activity in the physical world and the two back arms signify Her presence in the spiritual world. The four hands represent the four elements of the inner personality. The mind (manas) is represented by the front right hand, the intellect (buddhi) by the front left hand, the conditioned consciousness (chitta) by the rear left hand, and the ego (ahankara) by the rear right hand. A book in the rear left hand signifies that knowledge acquired must be used with love and kindness to promote prosperity of mankind.


Two swans are depicted on the left side of the Goddess. A swan is said to have a sensitive beak that enables it to distinguish pure milk from a mixture of milk and water. A swan symbolizes the power of discrimination. Saraswati uses the swan as Her carrier. This indicates that one must acquire and apply knowledge with discrimination for the good of mankind. Knowledge that is dominated by ego can destroy the world."

- Bansi Pandit The Goddess Saraswati

Friday, March 1, 2019

New Mask: Persephone




Persephone  is truly the Goddess of the Equinoxes, because She is both symbol  of spring and life's renewal when she returns to her mother Demeter at the turning of the seasonal Wheel, and she is also Goddess of death, wife of Hades, and Queen of the Underworld in the ending and dormant times as the Wheel turns.  

Having said this,  I allow myself here to move out of the great universal language of archetype, and will get a bit personal.  The truth of life in nature is that everything is changing, everything dies to become something else, or at least, make way for something else.  As beings embedded in nature, this is true of us as well, whether we like it or not.  The summer ends, and as we feast on the delightful fruits and breads of the harvest, we barely notice, indeed, we find ingenious ways to deny, the slow creep of winter.  And yet that beautiful, or horrific, or both, Leveler is already advancing over the horizon, implacable and indifferent.   Both Demeter and Hades have jobs to do.  

This is true of nature, this is true of biological life, and  it's true of our psyches as well.  When Persephone calls, I listen to what She has to say, whether it occurs in the flowering fields, or is a painful cry echoing from caverns deep in the Underworld.  And that is the point at which Hecate may appear with her torch (but that is another story).  

We all love the Song of Persephone in the spring, the song that tells us "this is the time to BE", to feel the honey sun on your shoulders, to love, to move away from the lonely tunnels of the mind and into the great Conversation of the fields, of the planet.

When Persephone calls from the caverns, not so easy.  Recently I had a meltdown from out of seemingly "know where".  All of a sudden, I couldn't sleep, found my face full of tears that would not emerge from my eyes, was angry, very angry, and having just completed a massive project  wanted nothing more than to jump into my car and just keep going, free.  I didn't, but I really, really wanted to.    You try to discover the language and content of that dark song too, what you need to know to become more fully human, what the soul is trying to tell you.  You don't "transcend" the nighttime  voice of Persephone, you listen and change,  you ultimately mature, you keep on moving.

We are approaching (again) the Vernal Equinox.  This is the liminal Goddess  Persephone's  time, the poised moment of Balance.  Which moving away from psychological jargon simply means realizing that we must, somehow, say "yes" to all of it, and keep moving, keep dancing the light and shadow dance.  Persephone will dance with us, will educate, if one can  accept this Moving Point of Balance.   

We are all, in the final analysis, Wanderers.


"Pesephone II" 2016
Persephone the Wanderer
by Louise Glück,

In the first version, Persephone
is taken from her mother
and the goddess of the earth
punishes the earth—this is
consistent with what we know of human behavior,

that human beings take profound satisfaction
in doing harm, particularly
unconscious harm:

we may call this
negative creation.

I am not certain I will
keep this word: is earth
“home” to Persephone? Is she at home, conceivably,
in the bed of the god? Is she
at home nowhere? Is she
a born wanderer, in other words
an existential
replica of her own mother, less
hamstrung by ideas of causality?

You are allowed to like
no one, you know. The characters
are not people.
They are aspects of a dilemma or conflict.

Three parts: just as the soul is divided,
ego, superego, id. Likewise

the three levels of the known world,
a kind of diagram that separates
heaven from earth from hell.

You must ask yourself:
where is it snowing?

White of forgetfulness,
of desecration—

It is snowing on earth; the cold wind says

Persephone is having sex in hell.
Unlike the rest of us, she doesn’t know
what winter is, only that
she is what causes it.

She is lying in the bed of Hades.
What is in her mind?
Is she afraid? Has something
blotted out the idea
of mind?

She does know the earth
is run by mothers, this much
is certain. She also knows
she is not what is called
a girl any longer. Regarding
incarceration, she believes

she has been a prisoner since she has been a daughter.

The terrible reunions in store for her
will take up the rest of her life.
When the passion for expiation
is chronic, fierce, you do not choose
the way you live. You do not live;
you are not allowed to die.

You drift between earth and death
which seem, finally,
strangely alike. Scholars tell us

that there is no point in knowing what you want
when the forces contending over you
could kill you.

White of forgetfulness,
white of safety—

They say
there is a rift in the human soul
which was not constructed to belong
entirely to life. Earth

asks us to deny this rift, a threat
disguised as suggestion—
as we have seen
in the tale of Persephone
which should be read

as an argument between the mother and the lover—
the daughter is just meat.

When death confronts her, she has never seen
the meadow without the daisies.
Suddenly she is no longer
singing her maidenly songs
about her mother’s
beauty and fecundity. Where
the rift is, the break is.

Song of the earth,
song of the mythic vision of eternal life—

My soul
shattered with the strain
of trying to belong to earth—

What will you do,
when it is your turn in the field with the god?



“Persephone the Wanderer” from Averno by Louise Glück.
Copyright © 2006 by Louise Glück.