Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Conference on Pagan Studies

5th Annual Conference on Current Pagan Studies
Claremont School of Theology,
Claremont, California

February 7th and 8th, 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Reflections on Visioning

"Spider Woman's Hands" - 2007 (Alden Dow Fellowship)

Back in Truth or Consequences for a little while, I find grief, and a feeling of lack of purpose are my frank companions. I miss my brother. There are many things I wish I could have said to him, when I had the chance.

I'm about as psychic as a brick these days (and perhaps that is unfair to bricks, since I have never actually had an intimate conversation with one.) But that is why I was pleased when a bit of magic happened this morning.
"Spider Woman's Hands" - Mississippian Gorget, ca 1300 ad.

I was in my studio trying to finish up the paper I will be reading at the Claremont Conference on Pagan Studies soon - it's on Spider Woman, of course. Last night I was up late trying to find out (unsuccessfully) who or from where the "prophecy of the return of the Spider Woman" came from. I confess, writing academic papers is frustrating to me, and so I wander around the vicinity of the typewriter, taking every chance to get distracted. So I bent down to check on the heater, and (I swear!) a tiny little brown spider fell down on it's web seemingly from the top of my head! I carefully positioned a plate under my nose to catch it, and then moved it to the window to watch it. Once again, a little spider (I would be alarmed, were it ever a large one) has dropped down from my head or my hat right before my nose. Spiders have done some pretty interesting things around me in the past few months.........

I like to think it's Spider Woman's way of saying "hello".

I've been thinking about visions. There was a time when I was blessed with several significant visions (by visions, I mean visionary experiences had while in a conscious or voluntary trance state, and not while asleep) that have very much informed my life and my art.

I'd like to say that visions are Grace, divine gifts. Among the Lakota, long preparations were made for the Vision Quest, in order to invite visions, and when a vision occurred it was shared collectively, discussed, and determined if it had prophetic or ceremonial significance for not only the individual recipient, but for the entire tribe. This is something we have entirely lost, and indeed, we cannot differentiate between someone who has had a true vision (which, in native wisdom, would be considered a gift), and a schizophrenic.

(I think of the great visions of St. Teresa, or the works of Hildegaard Von Bingham. I do not think they would fare so well in today's world.)

"The Universal Mind Lattice", Alex Grey

I remember a conversation years ago in Brooklyn with Alex and Allyson Grey about the shared vision they had while taking LSD. Their need to communicate that vision resulted in "THE SACRED MIRRORS". The need to understand it set them on their spiritual path (by the way, they have recently bought a retreat center in upstate NY where they are planning on housing the Sacred Mirrors and developing a center for sacred arts. Visit the link above to learn more.)

Here's the point - true visionary experience is meant to be shared. Art is one way, ceremony or ritual is another. To be given true vision, which is archetypal, collective, and exists on multiple layers of meaning, and then deny it's value, is an enormous waste. So here I am this morning (and I just noticed a single shining transparent spider thread stretching from my window pane to some infinite point into the air..........well, I've been feeling lately that these gifts I need to share, communicate. A blog is a good place to start; maybe someday I can produce a few paintings as well.


This occurred in 1989. I was driving on an interstate in Virginia heading north. I became very tired, and pulled off the road. Almost immediately, I fell into a half-sleeping, half-trance state.

My little red Toyota pick up began to fly! It seemed as if it could fly not only through distance but perhaps through time as well. I looked down and I was over a green landscape, green and misty. Below I saw patterns of dolmens laid out in a spiral. There were lines of people who were coming up a hill toward that spiral pattern, reverently, as if in a ceremonial procession.
Then I was in a Southwestern landscape. I found myself contemplating petroglyphs on a cliff - spirals, figures, circles, layers of petroglyphs that receded into the rock face. And then I was flying over Los Angeles! I saw freeways making vast, snakelike patterns across the land, culminating in a figure eight infinity sign. What this means to me is that the living Earth, Gaia, speaks through the land, and through us, across the ages - even now, unseen, ever present.

And then I opened my eyes to a soft Virginia morning. In the "Song of Medusa" (with the voice of my character "Sibyl") I described that vision, from the imaginary perspective of a Neolithic shaman):

"I do not know the meaning of such a vision; perhaps it belongs to some distant past or a future beyond imagining. But I do believe this: the Song of Her purposes is written upon the land in all places, and in all times."

THE SONG OF MEDUSA, Lauren Raine & Duncan Eagleson


This vision came with help from a teacher of mine, Jewel. Jewel is a true shaman, who lives on her land which she has developed as a teaching center, THE SOURCE, in Shutesbury, Massachusetts. When I met Jewell I was living in Brattleboro, Vermont. I was divorcing from my former husband, Duncan, and was full of the grief, anger, and remorse that comes with the ending of a marriage.

I went to see Jewell for an energy healing. When she put me on her table, she said prayers before she began.

I slipped into a trance state - it seemed as if I was watching short clips from movies, without any sound. I saw African men drumming around a fire, then the body of an emaciated black woman lying on a bed, a ceremonial room of some kind with thousands of orange marigolds, a white man, balding and heavyset with glasses, and many more.

At some point, I felt I was pulled backward, given some distance, so that these "movie clips" became like a patchwork quilt, all occurring at once. I remember thinking how beautiful they were from that perspective.

Suddenly, a Great Being arrived. I cannot actually describe that presence, because there was no form - she was composed of light. The only identification I felt I could make was that she was female. She didn't speak to me, only radiated the most intense compassion I have ever felt. She also radiated a profound sense of humor! It was as if she was saying, "Look Lauren, take a good look at this. It's going to be alright. You'll meet again. Don't take on so."

I shall never forget the power of that radiant being. I later learned that Jewell begins her sessions with prayers to the Goddess Tara. And to me, that was the Goddess White Tara; which is why I have prayed to her and tried to honor her with my masks ever since. And,come to think of it. I've been very fortunate in that way!

Om Tare Tu Tare Tare Soha

Mana Youngbear as "Tara", 2004

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Remembering Peace Pilgrim - an American Saint

To see the 2002 Video:

Peace Pilgrim:
An American Sage Who Walked Her Talk


"The second relinquishment is the relinquishment of the feeling of separateness. We begin feeling very separate and judging everything as it relates to us, as though we were the center of the universe. In reality, of course, we are all cells in the body of humanity. We are not separate from our fellow humans. The whole thing is a totality. From that higher viewpoint there becomes just one realistic way to work, and that is for the good of the whole. As long as you work for your selfish little self, you're just one cell against all those other cells, and you're way out of harmony."

Friends of Peace Pilgrim
PO Box 2207 - Shelton, CT 06484-1841
tel. 203-926-1581

I mentioned PEACE PILGRIM in my last post, and felt like reading her book again, which is a tremendously inspiring collection of her sayings and writings gathered by friends up until her death in 1981. For those who are unfamiliar with her, Peace Pilgrim, in 1953, at the height of nuclear armament, took a vow to walk for Peace until all of humanity could live in peace. In her own words,

"I felt guided or called or motivated to begin my pilgrimage for peace in the world - a journey undertaken traditionally. The tradition of pilgrimage is a journey undertaken on foot and on faith, prayerfully and as an opportunity to contact people. I wear a lettered tunic in order to contact people. It says 'PEACE PILGRIM' on the front. I feel that's my name now - it emphasizes my mission instead of me. And on the back it says '25,000 MILES ON FOOT FOR PEACE.' The purpose of the tunic is merely to make contacts for me. Constantly as I walk along the highways and through the cities, people approach me and I have a chance to talk with them about peace.

I have walked 25,000 miles as a penniless pilgrim. I own only what I wear and what I carry in my pockets. I belong to no organization. I have said that I will walk until given shelter and fast until given food, remaining a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace. And I can truthfully tell you that without ever asking for anything, I have been supplied with everything needed for my journey, which shows you how good people really are."

With nothing but the clothes on her back, relinquishing worldly goods as well as her name, Peace Pilgrim travelled across the U.S., Canada and into Mexico 7 times - for almost 30 years, until her death in a car accident. She devoted her life to becoming "a walking prayer" for peace.........within herself as a practice, and as a witness and advocate to the world and all of those she met along her way. As always, I find her simplicity, and practicality, helps me to return to what matters.

Q: Do you work for a living?
A: I work for my living in an unusual way. I give what I can through thoughts and words and deeds to those whose lives I touch and to humanity. In return I accept what people want to give, but I do not ask. They are blessed by their giving and I am blessed by my giving.

Q: Why don't you accept money?
A: Because I talk about spiritual truth, and spiritual truth should never be sold - those who sell it injure themselves spiritually. The money that comes in the mail - without being solicited - I do not use for myself; I use it for printing and postage. Those who attempt to buy spiritual truth are trying to get it before they are ready. In this wonderfully well-ordered universe, when they are ready, it will be given.