Friday, December 31, 2010


These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all 

Paul Simon

 As the last day of 2010 opens cold and coffee steaming, surrounded by people at table staring into little silver boxes,  I think how utterly amazing it is to be alive in this time.  These are the days of signs and wonders. 

The greatest library the world has ever known is literally, right now, at my fingertips, and if I can bear to search for it, and open my mind to this web of many other minds, I can learn about almost anything that is available to be learned about, be it art, turnips,  quantum physics or Terry Pratchett's Rim World (where I like to go when it all gets too much).  I can walk into incredible visions and astounding worlds of the imagination, in full color and even in "3-D", by just walking into a movie theatre, and I can talk to someone in Bali, or India, or Helsinki instantaneously.  

For most of human history, getting enough to eat to make it through the winter has been the very first priority - now,  I can eat anything I want and far more than I need, if I so desire, whenever I want.  Exotic fruits like papayas and pineapples in the midst of winter, frozen deserts in the midst of summer, fish that come from Iceland, apples that come from New Zealand, cakes that come from Denmark.   If my teeth fall out and I have the money (that's the catch 22), I can replace them with new ones, instead of spending the rest of my days resigned to soup.

I remember Martin Luthor King, and I'm glad I've lived to see a President whose father came from Africa, and  a First Lady who is black and beautiful. I remember two teachers who told me "there had never been any great women artists" as a justification for assuming women just didn't have what it took........well, so much for that one.  I'm glad the idea pissed me off.  Go Judy Chicago, and all your brilliant colleagues!  

Physicists sound more and more like metaphysicists, and telescopes can take pictures of galaxies exploding.  I can even put on my pentacle necklace (the neat one with the onyx beads) and no one is automatically going to assume I sacrifice goats to the devil.  I can buy a computer that fits in my pocket, and hold a library of books in my Kindle.  Not to mention velcro.

I can fly through the air higher than any eagle, and look down on the tops of clouds, and cross an ocean in a day. 

How amazing to be alive!   Wow!

 "We currently live at the confluence of prophecies, making the first decade of the 21st Century an important time to be alive. We have Edgar Cayce’s warning of the repetition of destructive cycles; we have Nostradamus’ quatrains echoing paragraphs in the biblical Book of Revelations which in turn coincide with the end of the Mayan calendar......Where does this leave 2012? Will it, won’t it? If enough people share the same dream, a critical mass will create that reality. Humans are gifted dreamers, but even so we often lack the confidence to believe we are powerful creation machines.....Interestingly, at times when humanity approaches a crossroads, ‘outside’ guidance is made available in unusual ways."

And yet.....the human condition remains. Through grace and chance, I have the great privilege of sitting in this coffee shop, literate, and well fed, and able to enjoy these wonders.  Millions of other human beings also alive do not. And yet.......and it is no secret, except perhaps among those many who are either too desperately disenfranchised to know or care, or those who choose to bury their heads in the sand like ostriches (ostriches actually have much better survival skills than, say, followers of Sarah Palin, and I think they are unfairly discriminated against) that our civilization is not really sustainable, we possess weapons of unimaginable destructiveness, and we are profoundly impacting the balance of planetary life.  

We're at an evolutionary crossroads. 

"I want to  live in full possession of the knowledge that the Imagination lies at the center of reality.....the Imagination never stops. Every idol must be transformed into an icon, that we may see the light shining through it."

I don't know what to think of the 2012 business - I tend to feel that it's already here, that I've been within the change for the short decades of my life span, which isn't really very much time at all, not if you consider that it's taken (if those who believe in Atlantis are right) at least 10,000 years to get where we currently are technologically.   If you don't  believe in Atlantis, it's an even more accelerated picture.  We're not the first culture that has the potential to collapse, not the first that has the potential to exhaust ts environment to the point of insustainability, not the first that has faced an evolutionary crisis - but we are by far the biggest.

I don't have answers to much of anything anymore.  But I do think the time of the imaginal, individually and collectively, has come upon us, the Era of the Butterfly.   (In Ancient Greece a word for 'butterfly' was 'soul'.** )   We're in profound transformation as a global Being.

"Having had inexplicable experiences myself and studied many that have happened to others.....I have no doubt that we are ALL involved in the development of human consciousness and the incredible transition now taking place throughout humanity. This I am actually convinced is the case and similar processes are underway throughout all our activities on this planet. A new and very different human condition is forming before our very eyes. As it happens I am not talking about the 2012 Mayan Prophecy but in many ways I could just as easily be doing so. Unprecedented changes are coming."

Colin Andrews 
**Butterflies change from caterpillar to chrysalis to winged beings, and in many ancient paintings,  a small butterfly was often portrayed escaping from the mouth of the newly dead, symbolizing this transformation.  Plus, and (possibly important to them as well) the butterfly was the shape of the double ax, a symbol of the Great Goddess. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holle, Hell, Holy

At the beginning of December, I wrote about synchronicities in the form of songs or phrases one can find oneself singing or thinking about, without any apparent reason for it.  Often they can be quite funny and ridiculously banal.  I had found myself singing (actually, I still am, darn it) a sixties song called "Lady Godiva" - and came to the conclusion that this unlikely song, lodged somewhere in the convoluted  recesses of my unconscious and choosing to erupt with annoying frequency had something to do with "Lady God" and "Deva" - the Goddess and the divine.  

Since then, I've thought deeply about how I've been losing touch with my spiritual life.  I've been passionate about the healing of the collective human psyche by "the return of the Goddess" for pretty much the past 35 years.....and possibly before that, but I lacked the literacy to conceptualize these ideas.  I feel, the more I meditate on my "waking dream",  the Goddesses are drawing me back into the rejuvenating, healing landscape of mythic mind and mythic time.

I'm grateful to Robur, a cyberspace friend who is very knowledgeable about gardens, myth and magic, and writes two fascinating blogs that explore these themes : His comments about "Lady Godiva" revealed a lot I didn't know about the legend, and helped  to further inform meanings of  my own  "synchro" language.  

Here's Roburs  article about Lady Godiva: 
Lady Godiva  rode through the streets of Coventry.   "Coventry" , I learned, is a fitting metaphor for "Lady God"'s ride, in that the dictionary defines the  word "Coventry" as:
"the state of being banished or ostracized (excluded from society by general consent); ie,  "the association should get rid of its elderly members--not by euthanasia, of course, but by Coventry"**
Thus, "coventry" is the opposite of "coven", "covenant", or "to convene", which means to bring together.....a fitting term for what happened in the course of the Church and the Middle Ages to the former Goddess as May Queen.  And although the contemporary dictionary meaning of "Coventry" has come to mean banishment,  perhaps a more ancient layer to understanding the origins of the town's original name also comes from Robur, who writes that
"The official etymology of Coventry is that it means Cofa's tree. A tree owned by Mr Cofa!  A very early spelling, 1050, is Couaentree.  I found, by chance, a reference to Coventry as bring a rebus for 'a coven round a tree'. Well, it is undeniably a rebus. But that doesn't mean anything conclusive.  There was a widespread practise for dancing round a tree on May Eve, which is the maypole. Perhaps there really was a tree, that was used for festivities."
"The story that Lady Godiva was protesting against taxes is untrue.  Apparently, at the time the procession dates from, Coventry was a village, and there were no taxes.  The procession is actually a May-Eve fertility procession, many of which are found across Europe. There is even one at Southam, just a few miles from Coventry, which is no longer celebrated.  What happened at Coventry, was that there was a Benedictine monastery there. The Christian monks did not approve of people watching the fertility procession, and so put some 'spin' on the procession, and invented this story about taxes. "

 The 1966 pop song  by Peter and Gordon (lodged in my brain until further notice or I finally get it, apparently)  is about "Lady Godiva" becoming a porn star, thus trivializing the story of Lady's Godiva's ride and turning the Lady into a kind of prostitute -  which has so often been  done to the Goddess in the course of patriarchal mythology, and continues well into the present.

Last, and thanks once more to Robur's scholarship, I've also become fascinated with a bit of information he passed on  about another  "Godiva Procession" that occurred close to Coventry in a town called  Southam, in which, according to Robert Graves (The White Goddess) two figures, one black and one white, were carried, symbolizing Holda and Hel.  I was struck to imagine the May Queen, riding to the Maypole or World Tree, accompanied by effigies representing the Nordic/Germanic Goddess as  both Life and Death.
Holle is very much associated with Yule, and with the hearth and home, especially in the winter.  But she is known throughout northern Europe, an ancient goddess that predates the advent of Christianity. ** Also known as Holda or Hulda, and she is a  triple goddess,  embodying the passages of life.  In some myths, she is "the ash girl", her face half black with soot and half white.  This 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.  As the Mother goddess, she protected the forest and was often shown among trees.  Holle in old age  is Winter's Queen, and Mother Holda is the source of  "Mother Goose"  legends, because the snow flies when the she shakes the feathers from her down bed.  In Holland, they still says that 'Dame Holle is shaking her bed'. 
"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
So in this long journey to Lady Godiva's ride and a silly song playing mysteriously over and over in my mind,  I find at last my way to Goddess, to the May Queen, and to the netherworld of (wholly and holy) Holle as well, who is both light and dark, young and old, light and shadow.

And who is Hel, the ashy side of Holle's face?  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, without knowing anything about where the concept originated from?  People no longer remember that once "go to Hell" meant to die.

"Hel" by Susan Seddon Boulet

I take the liberty of copying a wonderful description from Rowen Saille of the Order of the White Moon,
"Hel (Hell)  has been used by the early  church as a scare tactic to frighten the masses into “righteous” acts. To get the real story, we have to go back to the early Nordic people and look this death Goddess in the face. 
Hel is cast into the netherworld and becomes the ruler of that underworld 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). Ravens are messengers between this realm and the next, opening pathways to death’s realm.
Her realm is named for her, Hel or Helheim. Because She accepts all to Helheim, she also becomes the judge to determine the fate of each soul in the afterlife. The evil dead are banished to a realm of icy cold (a fate that the Nordic people found much worse in telling than a lake of fire). Unlike the Judeo-Christian concept, Helheim also served as the shelter and gathering place of souls 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."

 Johannes Gehrts
"Hel governs the world beyond that of the living. In magic, she makes thin the veil between worlds. Seidhr [SAY-theer] or Nordic shamans call upon Her protection and wear the helkappe, a magic mask, to render them invisible and enable them to pass through the gateway into the realm of death and spirit."

** For anyone who may wonder where the "flying broomsticks" of witches (or Harry Potter) comes from, Dame Holda may be the source.  Because of her association with the hearth and home, the Broom was both symbol and magical tool.  Folk traditions of "sweeping away evil from the hearth" are very ancient throughout Europe.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Santa's Raindeer & Magic Mushrooms?

Couldn't resist posting this.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Solstice - Pax Gaia

"Only now can we see with clarity that we live not so much in a cosmos (a place) as in a cosmogenesis (a process) -- scientific in its data, mythic in its form."  
~ The Universe Story by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry  

The Winter Solstice was perhaps the earliest universal holy day, celebrated in different ways  throughout the world from the earliest days of human culture. When language was young, when even the gods and goddesses had not yet taken human forms in the human imagination, but ran instead with deer in the forest, flew with the wings of crows, or were glimpsed nameless from the awed depths of every numinous pool........ even then, this was a holy day, a day of celebration. 

This is an extraordinary Solstice, with a full lunar eclipse.  

Long ago ancestors lit fires to welcome the "shining god" who was the sun returning from mysterious underworld depths. They built stones or made circles or created doorways to be aligned with the sun's pathway. They lit fires as sympathetic magic, fires to light and imitate the Sun's passage (which is why we still light candles, and Christmas lights, today). 

Photo by Lewis Meyer (2010)

Welcoming the Sun, they left offerings of food to show their gratitude, and invented songs or danced throughout the longest cold night, encouraging, helping the Sun on its  difficult journey to the promise of new life.

I remember today that holy days begin among our most ancient, instinctual roots, taproots that reach down, deeply entwined within the visible and invisible web of  Gaia's life. Planet Earth turns her face toward her star again, circling in brilliant orbit, bearing every evolving, responsive, living, infinitely intertwined be-ing within her fragile, exquisite azure skin on her long journey.   

Perhaps we sense, as the sun rises,  that pre-verbal, instinctual knowing, found hidden beneath the pages of any book written with five fingered hands, beneath each inscribed layer of words, signs, hieroglyphs, pictures in jet or ochre or sepia, luminous beneath the oldest pages.  A veneer peels away, revealing a pentimento, an ancient heartbeat, shared again with all beings that keep vigil on the long night of the winter Solstice.  

The light is returning again.  

Here's from a recent entry from Macha's Blog  about what her community does  at the Solstice:
"In my tradition, we gather on the beach at sunset on the longest night of the year, and as the Sun goes down over the waves, we all plunge into the ocean as a ritual purification; then return to warm up at the big waiting bonfire in the sand.

Later we return to homes, often lots of us in one home, where we sing Yule carols, light candles, drink hot brews. We feast and eat Sun cookies the children have baked. We gather near the fireplace telling and listening to stories, playing games, perhaps doing divination.

As dawn approaches, we go outside and gather in the high places around the Bay Area and sing and sing and sing up the Sun – often in the rain, but always we can see the lightening skies.

When we perform these acts – when we sing the carols, trim our trees, light candles – we reenact the things our ancestors did, we reconnect with them, and we honor our heritage. Celebrating Midwinter together allows us to reaffirm the continuance of life."

I pledge allegiance
to the soil of Turtle Island,
and to the beings
who thereon dwell
one ecosystem in diversity
under the sun
With joyful
interpenetration for all.

Gary Snyder

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Amaterasu and the return of the Sun

Mana Youngbear  (2004)


Hail and Awake!
Children of the blue, brown and green Earth
I have come from my shining abode in Heaven
I am Amaterasu Omikami  - Great Woman Who Possesses Noon
Here is a gift for you:
A mirror, to draw you from your cave of sleeping
To see yourself in all your wonder:
Allow me to introduce you - to yourself!

Mary Kay Landon

A wonderful story for the Solstice comes from Japan, the tale of Amaterasu,  Goddess of  the Sun.

Angered by her vulgar, violent brother Susanowa,  god of storms,  Amaterasu Omikami fell into despair about the ugliness and the ignorance of the world.  She retreated to a cave, and refused to  come out. And so, deprived of her warmth and light, the world began to die.

All the deities and spirits came to the mouth of her cave, and begged the goddess to come out. But Amaterasu Omikami, withdrawn into her dark musings,  would not, and all the pleas of those gathered could not persuade her to return to the world.

At last, the little goddess Uzume placed a mirror at the entrance to the cave.  Then Uzume, known for her high humor, began to dance. Her dance was so bawdy, so absurd.......that everyone gathered had to laugh, in spite of their dire circumstances. They laughed and laughed and laughed!

At last, with so much raucous laughter, even Amaterasu's dark thoughts were interrupted with sheer curiosity.  She opened the cave door just a crack, and peeked out.  And at that moment, her radiant,  face was reflected in the mirror. At that very moment, she saw how beautiful she was - and rememberd how much joy and laughter there still was in the world.  And that is how Amaterasu left her cave of dark despair, forgot about her anger and disillusionment, and joined the dance, shining again in all of her glory.  

There are caves of darkness into which we all retreat. For a day, a month, too many years, perhaps a lifetime. Sometimes, we have to be tricked away from abysses of the heart in order to see how beautiful, how valuable, how important the light in each of us really is.   Then we find the the will to rejoin the hilarious, heartbreaking dance of life - and once again,  be the Sun.

Laura Janesdaughter (1999) 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Poem for Light

The Solstice is about the return of the light and so I thought I'd find poems, stories, and images that talk, one way or another, about Light.

The Buddha’s Last Instruction

“Make of yourself a light,” 
said the Buddha,
before he died.

I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal – a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.

An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.

The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.

No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.

And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire –
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something 

of inexplicable value.

Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I'll be reading a paper again at the annual Conference on Pagan Studies at Claremont School of Theology in January - I always leave so inspired by the people I meet there.  I wish that the Pagan movement was not so marginalized by our society, because every time I go, I remember how very urgent the work of re-weaving our spiritual identity back into not only human community, but the  community of Gaia, Mother Earth, really is. When I think of it, most of my numinous and magical experiences happened in the wild, within the Great Conversation.


Stone, rounded in my hand
tell me your story - the secret waters
that shaped you,
veining and coursing into darkness
humming their songs
of bones, pottery shards,
stones smoothed past memory or telling  
be my teacher.
Hawk,  tell me what you see. 
Small on the ground, I am blind. 
In widening circles you write an
incantation for the far journey
in the sky.  Be my teacher.
Fire, speak, if you will.
Illuminate the shadows
filling this careful house of sticks
I have built.  Burn me empty and full,
teach my feet to dance.
Fire, you be my teacher.

Rain, tell me.  I am listening.
Your voice is a multitude, 
your story grows
in the telling.  Into the mouth
the mouth of the ocean,
this song you sing. 
Rain, you will be my teacher.

    ~My help is in the mountain~

    Where I take myself to heal
    The earthly wounds
    That people give to me.
    I find a rock with sun on it
    And a stream where the water runs gentle
    And the trees which one by one give me company
    And so I must stay for a time
    Until I have grown from the rock
    And the stream is running through me
    And I cannot tell myself from one lone tree.
    Then I will know that nothing touches me
    Nor makes me run away.
    My help is in the mountain
    That I take away with me.

    Earth cure me.  Earth receive my woe.
    Rock strengthen me.  Rock receive my weakness.
    Rain wash away my sadness.  Rain receive my doubt.
    Sun make sweet my song.
      ~Nancy Wood~

Sunday, December 12, 2010

White Tara (2)

Om Tare, Tu Tare,
even in the darkest prisons, you offer your hand
Your touch cools hatred and grief.
From you, the demons of delusion fly
Praise Tara, whose fingers adorn her heart
Light radiates from a wheel in Your hand.

Valerianna mentioned Jewell in her recent comment, which is magical, as I had just written this entry which talks about energy work Jewell facilitated.   I've been reading "Journey of Souls" by Michael Newton recently, and I felt like sharing a very important vision I had in 1997, a vision that became the inspiration for all the masks I made dedicated to the Goddess Tara.  It was a profound gift.

In 1997 I was finally divorced, and all ties were severed between us.  The ending of the marriage did not bring out the best in either of us, and I felt a great deal of remorse, emotional confusion, and grief.  In my effort at growth that summer, I went to a well known energy healer in Massachusetts,  Jewell.  She put me on her table, and I went almost immediately into a trance state.

I found myself watching what seemed like a "clip"  from a movie - each scene was rapidly replaced by another scene.  I still remember some of these "vignettes" vividly - a ceremonial room decorated with thousands of orange marigolds;  an emaciated old black woman lying on a dirty bed;  a heavyset white man with glasses, bundled up in a kind of fur parka;  African drummers, drumming with passiona around a fire, and more.  Gradually,  I felt myself "pulled back", so that I seemed to be watching these scenes from a greater distance, as if they formed a patch-work quilt.  I remember thinking how incredibly beautiful it all was from that perspective, a work of art.

Then I became aware of an immense energy - a being that radiated (there's no other way to describe it) tremendous compassion.   She had no form, just white light.  The only thing that seemed identifiable was that I felt the Being was female;  and I felt she was communicating something like "Don't take on so, Lauren, look at all of this.  You'll meet again.  You can move on now."  I might add that she also radiated an equally huge sense of humor;  I felt  like a child getting a hug from an angel.  If that makes any sense........

And then I came to on Jewell's table.  After we spoke, I learned that Jewell often began her sessions with a prayer from the 21 Praises to Tara, a Tibetan prayer to the Goddess Tara.  To me, that visitation was White Tara, Goddess of Compassion, manifesting to help me move forward to a new stage of life.  I've revered her ever since.

Manna Youngbear as "White Tara" (2004)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

White Tara

           WHITE TARA

            I went to meet that savage creature
            I have run from, lifetime after lifetime
            the shape within the shadows
            a creature of smoke and bared fangs.

            I went to meet it at last

            It took me into its vast arms,
            and I kissed its terrible face.

            And I thought I would die.
            I thought I would be swallowed,
            but I was not swallowed.

            For that creature I thought
            would devour me
            returned my embrace.

            I looked into eyes
            soft and liquid, filled with tears
            the eyes of a lonely child,
            my own lost child,
            my brother, my sister,
            my lover, my mother.

            And with great tenderness
            Fear lay upon my breast, and slept.

            What bound me for so long
            flowed out of me,
            my heart expanded,
            and I found I could hold

            the world entire
            in my open arms.

            I will make my arms a circle
            I will make my heart a circle

            I will walk all my sorrows,
            all my fears Home.

            I will walk
            circles around them
            until at last I find
            that bright and spacious center

            Come with me. Take my hand.
            We will do it together

            We will walk Home.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Prema Dasara and the 21 Praises to Tara

I wanted to write about the Goddess TARA from Buddhist Tibet, and share a story about my own "encounter with Tara".  But I feel before I do that, I'd like to share the work of an extraordinary woman who has devoted her life to bringing the Blessings of Tara to literal life, in dance and in prayer.

 Prema Dasara has traveled throughout the world, creating devotional dances based upon the Tibetan Prayer, the "21 Praises to Tara".  It was my privilege to attend one of her teachings in Portland last spring (hosted by Lena Grace, her assistant,  and her husband Jack).  Prema and her students are bringing the Blessings of Tara to many places with their prayers that are  mandala dances devoted to the 21 different aspects of the Divine Tara. It's powerful work, and I greatly admire Prema, Lena,  Jack, and their Friends I was privileged to meet while I was there.

Please visit Prema's website to learn more, and find out about her schedule for the coming year.  

Sunday, December 5, 2010


My counselor, a pragmatic and wise psychologist, has listened to many of my synchronicities, metaphysical ideas, tales of goddesses, and magic over the years;  I've often wondered if she doesn't secretly think I'm nuts sometimes.  The other day she surprised me by handing me a book by  Stanislof Grof, one of the early pioneers of  LSD and altered states, and one of the developers of contemporary transpersonal psychology.  She encouraged me to write about my "out there" stories, as she felt I would find a "defining pattern" in so doing; she said that all of our stories are important now.
I've copied below a video and link by Dr. Grof*, in which he talks about a term he coined called "Holotropic Consciousness".   I suppose my own term  might be "Web Vision".  I do agree with my counselor...........we all need to "tell our stories" now.  From the Telling a fundamental unity can be glimpsed.

I think my (non-physical) guides have quite a sense of humor. Years ago, when I was thinking of doing a performance with the Masks of the Goddess in Tucson, I kept waking up singing an obnoxious old surfer song, with a chorus line that went "She's real fine, my 409" (the 409 was a '60's car).  I never could  figure out from what corner of my psyche that song was dredged from until much later, when I noticed that "Restoring the Balance", the best event I did with the collection, was held on April 9th, 2004.

Lately I've been singing "Lady Godiva", another old song from the 60's, which has been equally annoying as a mental "muszak".  According to legend, Lady Godiva rode naked on a horse through the streets of Coventry, England, to ease the tax burden of the citizens imposed by her husband, who agreed to relieve the toll if she did this.  The song was recorded in 1966 by Peter and Gordon.  Pulling out my Jungian Inner Pun book, I decided that it had something to do with "Goddess" - "Lady God" and "Deva" being what I get from the word. "Coventry" is an interesting addendum to the idea, in that the actual definition of the word "coventry" means:
"the state of being banished or ostracized (excluded from society by general consent); ie,  "the association should get rid of its elderly members--not by euthanasia, of course, but by Coventry"**
Thus, "coventry" is the opposite of "coven", "covenant", or "to convene", which means to bring together.  So, addressing this syncronicity as one might seek to interpret a "waking dream", with multiple layers, I would say that I am reminded that the Goddess, the Divine Feminine, has too often been banished from our world, to our great detriment.  Lady Godiva, naked for all to see, rode through the streets to protest and defy her husband's cruelty and injustice.  It is further interesting that the pop song is about "Lady Godiva" becoming a porn star, trivializing the story and turning the Lady into a kind of prostitute*** -   which is what has so often been  done to the Goddess in the course of patriarchal mythology,  except when she appears in the guise of a dutiful wife or mother with a submissive role.

 Robur d'Amour    commented that there is a Lady Godiva procession which is an annual event in Great Britain, and he very kindly provided a photo, which I take the liberty of copying below.  In his comment (on this post) he also provides a link to a photo from a 1911 procession led by Druids.....further indicating the symbolism of the Lady.  Of the picture below (thanks Robur): 
"This is a very recent procession........Miss Godiva now wears a body stocking." 

Hmm.  Now, I asked, can I hum something else, like maybe the "Ode to Joy" or a little Paul Simon?

But there is one more postscript:  just recently I was offered the opportunity to attend and present a workshop at the Goddess Conference in 2011 in Glastonbury, England. I'm delighted to go and meet these wonderful folks who carry on the Lady's work ........more on this later!

(2010 Goddess Conference)


Stanislav Grof "Holotropic"


****"Whore" possibly derives from an ancient Semitic word, "Hara" or "Hora". It's original meaning may go back as far as Babylonia and Sumaria, when women served as priestesses, thus, it was related to a title for a fertility priestess. To this day,  a circle "fertility" dance, the "Hora", is still danced at Jewish weddings.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

4 American Heroes

Last night I  heard a speech by Bill Moyers, in which he made a profound argument for resisting the manipulation of the media, so much of which is controlled by corporate interests and fear-based propaganda.  So, since the "Season of Giving" can sometimes feel more like the "Season of Gimme",  I felt like writing about a few  "Heroes" - people who are quietly living lives of amazing generosity every day. It's been my privilege to meet a few "quiet heroes" personally, and I want to encourage any who may be interested to read about (or support if you can)  their projects.   The truth is, people like this are all over the place, doing kind, transformative, generous work.    This is the kind of news we need to hear  a whole lot more of.

First,  Marc Gold and the 100 Friends Project I met Marc when he came to Tucson for a fundraiser ...he is a retired teacher from California, who now devotes all of his time to raising money and travelling around he world to distribute it where he finds it is needed.  Here's what one of the original "100" has to say:

"My good friend Marc Gold has built one of the most captivating projects (and one of the most interesting lives) that I know of. While traveling in the Himalayas in 1989, Marc (probably) saved the life of a destitute woman by pulling a few dollars from his pocket to fund her emergency medical care. Struck by Actually Experiencing the huge difference that small sums of western money can make in so much of the world, Marc, before his next trip to Asia, wrote a letter to one hundred of his friends. He told them the story of the destitute woman, told them that on his upcoming trip he was going to share more of his money with other impoverished individuals, and promised that if any of his friends would like Marc to give away some of their money too, he would gladly do that -- and report back on the whole adventure. Marc guessed his friends and family might send $300-$400, but they sent over $2,000.

From that beginning Marc has spent the past two decades building The 100 Friends Project. His current goal is to distribute, person-to-person, a total of $1 million (I joke to Marc, a 59-year old teacher who has lived "paycheck-to-paycheck" his entire life, that his goal is to become a "reverse millionaire"), and it seems that he is well on his way." (
I met Dana Dakin when I taught a "Masks of the Goddess" class at Kripalu in 2008, and sat open mouthed while she shared her story over dinner.  Inspired by Olga Murrey's work, she decided she would start a micro-lending program to help impoverished women when she turned 60.  She put her intention out into the universe, and was led on an amazing adventure that became Women's Trust of Ghana;  now a model program that recently won the prestigious Purpose Prize Award.  Here's a little bit of her story.....

"In the 1980s,  I met a woman named Olga Murray celebrating her sixtieth birthday. To mark the occasion, she was heading off to Nepal to start an orphanage. Her vision, courage, and determination left an indelible mark on me. In 2003, the orphanage and Olga were still going strong and I turned sixty. Based on the adage that life is lived in thirds, the first third you learn, the second third you earn, and the final third you return, and with Olga as a role model, I decided to greet the youth of old age with my own way to give back. I also knew that whatever I did it had to benefit women and girls. This was reinforced by the information I repeatedly uncovered that all social indicators are positively impacted when you help women to help themselves; their families and their communities are the beneficiaries. The next step was to decide where to begin a microfinance program. 

I had a personal trainer Tetteh, a delightful young Ghanaian man, whose father lived in Ghana. My  reading  indicated that Ghana was a relatively safe place to travel with English being the language of the government. These were very important criteria. Being a woman planning to travel alone and not being much of a linguist, I began to talk to people I knew about my idea of going to Ghana to find a village where I could start a microfinance program. I contacted my alma mater Scripps College to speak to a professor who had been featured in an article in the alumni magazine about her research on Mami Waters, a West African goddess. All were helpful and moved me to another contact. Making the plane reservation was the hardest part. 

On March 2003, with my stomach in knots, I boarded my flight for Accra. The following day I explored Accra, got my feet under me somewhat, and wondered in my jetlagged state what I would do next. My feeling all along was that the village I would adopt would be in the northern part of Ghana where the poverty was particularly acute.

I received a call from the front desk that there were two gentlemen to see me. Passing through the lobby I noticed two men – one elderly in a flowered shirt, pants, and sandals, and the other in a long white caftan, bearded and barefoot, and carrying a staff. “Well,” I thought, “that’s not them.” And, of course, it was “them”. The older man was Tetteh’s father, and his companion was a fetish priest from a village just north of Accra. They were to bring me to Pokuase village where they had located a room in an inn run by the only white person in the village. Checking out of the hotel, with suitcases in tow, I got into their car and away we went."('s-story-founding-womens-trust-inc)
And here's the story of the woman who inspired Dana, leaving for Nepal to start an orphanage at the age of 60.  As I subscribe to the Foundation, in her 80's now, Olga is, indeed, still going strong.

Olga Murray and the Nepal Youth Foundation :

Broken Leg, Broken Children

Olga Murray had fallen hard for Nepal – so hard, in fact, that she slipped and fell on a trek in the Himalayas. Carried for days in a basket on the shoulders of a Nepalese porter back to Kathmandu, she consulted a young Nepali orthopedic surgeon who had just opened a small hospital for children.  Day after day, she saw kids with the most terrible disabilities being brought to the hospital, often carried for days down mountain trails, accompanied by dazed relatives, many of whom had never been out of their villages and had never seen a car or electric lights.
Olga Murray with a broken leg, carried in a basketSome of these children were abandoned at the hospital by families too poor to feed a child who couldn't contribute to their survival. Others were so badly disabled that they couldn't get to school over the mountain trails when they returned to their villages. Still others had intolerable home situations.
With friends, Olga began giving scholarships to some of these kids.
The Nepal Youth Foundation was formed in 1990. Two years later, Olga Murray retired from the practice of law after 37 years, and  began to devote all her time to the welfare of Nepali children. (

And last, a local Heroine, Kathe Padilla, who I met while she sat with her very modest brochures at a card table at the 4th Avenue Arts Faire.  Kathy spends part of her time in Tucson, and part of her time in Zambia at the orphanage and school she helped found near Lusaka.  In Zambia, a recent census shows that as much as 60% of the population may be under 20 years of age.    Her story is simple;  she learned that there were as many as 10,000 orphaned street children in Lusaka, and being a mother herself, decided she just couldn't stand it.  She went to Africa to learn what she could do.
"In 1999, Kathe Padilla flew to Zambia to see how she could help the growing number of orphaned children living on the streets of Lusaka. With a group of concerned Zambian professionals, she organized the first Board of Directors of what came to be the Chishawasha Children’s Home of Zambia(CCHZ)."
header image with two logo images and repetitive links

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Spider Woman Story (not my own)

Danica Connors is a lovely woman I met while cooking in the community kitchen at Brushwood Folklore Center the summer of 2008. Brushwood is a place that hosts many summer festivals, including Sirius Rising and the former Starwood Festival. Danica was there to teach a class on herbs and flower essences - she is also a professional singer and actress living in Rhode Island.

I told her I was writing a book about the Legend of Spider Woman. When she told me the story below, I knew I was in the presence of another Spider Woman. I've met quite a few, and am pleased indeed to know they're around, helping with the weaving. So I felt like sharing her story, which I transcribed from a tape, below.

"As a child I’ve always liked spiders. I would find them in the corners of my room and say “goodnight” to them. I think the spider motif has always followed me, because the very first role I played was as Charlotte in “Charlotte’s Web”! I think Spider Woman has always been a part of my life, my friend and guide.

The most visionary experience I had occurred on my 25th birthday. At the time, I was finding it very difficult to end a relationship that had become destructive. I had a dream that I was in the house I spent my childhood summers in. In my dream, I was chasing a spider, but it was always out of my reach.

I crawled under beds, over tables….and finally the spider ran underneath the sink in the kitchen. I peeked beneath the sink, and there I saw a gorgeous web - a beautiful, illuminated web hidden away underneath, with a spider right in the middle of it! I looked closer, and I could see that different parts of the web held different experiences of my life, suspended on the web. As I watched, a strand broke off. It floated into the room and then it turned into the man I was breaking up with. I heard a woman’s voice speak then; she told me why our relationship was over, and why it needed to end.

Then my former lover walked out of the door and out of my life (in the dream). I understood that I was supposed to go back to touch the web where it had broken off. I realized I was now free to make a choice now about where to go next……and as soon as I touched the web, I woke up!

To me, this dream experience was a kind of soul release, and a birthday blessing as well. It also felt like so much more, as if Spider Woman was teaching me something about how continuity works. It was a reminder to me that the Web is under everything. I had to look under tables, under beds, and finally under the sink before I could find her.

Spider Woman always seems to come at pivotal points in my life. If she shows up with a dream or a synchronicity, I know it’s time to pay attention because something significant is going on. With that said, I have another story to tell about Her.

My husband and I moved into our apartment this past Yule. I found several beautiful spiders there and, as I always do, I welcomed them into our home. Not long afterwards, I was at the stove making cinnamon apples, and I turned around to reach for some fresh cardamom. As soon as I did, I heard what sounded like a shotgun going off! I had mistakenly turned the heat on beneath a Pyrex pot that held the apples. It shattered everywhere – except in a semi-circle close to me. My face was inches from the pot when I turned around. I was absolutely terrified with shock – and then I saw a spider, walking right across that little cleared area.

Just as loud as day, I heard a voice say: “I keep you, you keep me.” At that I burst into tears with gratitude."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanks Giving


"God's abstention is only from human dialects;
the holy voice utters its woe and glory
in myriad musics, in signs and portents.
Our own words are for us to speak,
a way to ask and to answer."

Denise Levertov

There are some gifts that come to us
just once or twice in a lifetime
gifts that cannot be named
beyond the simple act of gratitude.

We are given a vision so bountiful
we can only gaze with eyes wide,
like a child
in summer's first garden.

We reach our clumsy hands
toward that communion
that single perfection
and walk away speechless, blessed.

And breathe,
in years to come, breathe,

breathe our hearts open
aching to tell it well:

to sing it into every other heart
to dance it down, into the hungry soil
to hold it before us

that light,
that grace given
voiceless light


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

LILITH as Archetypal Guide

Sculpture by Lorraine Capparell
"Originally the Goddess ruled, or co-created, the magical life cycle forces of sexuality, birth, life and death. With the coming of patriarchal religions, the power of life and death became prerogatives of the male God, while sexuality and magic were split off from procreation and motherhood. In this sense, God is one, but the Goddess became two."
Barbara Koltuv, The Book of Lilith

Further reflections on things Liminal - I felt like re-printing a 2001 interview with visionary artist and song writer David Jeffers of San Francisco,  who is also a mystic and scholar of the Kabballah. David lives in the Bay Area, but I'm not going to provide a link, as he requests anonymity because of the personal nature of our conversation.

Lilith, according to some Biblical stories, was created with Adam from the original primordial red clay. Because she would not submit to his authority Lilith was banished from Eden, and fled into the wilderness, becoming a fearsome demon, and partnering with Sammael, a fallen angel. Then God created a second woman, Eve, to be Adam’s companion (in some versions, from a spare rib). All was well until Eve was seduced by a mysterious serpent (often portrayed as Lilith) to eat an apple from the Tree of Knowledge, which she unfortunately also offered to Adam. She was thus doomed to suffer God’s punishment and Adam’s dominion for her disobedience.

And what of Lilith in later patriarchal tradition? Lilith, at home in the night world of her moonlit desert, became “The Great Whore“*, a succubus who flew on black wings to men’s beds, arousing them as they slept, and to the cradles of women to steal away their children.

In ancient Sumaria, Lilith was a moon goddess, possibly the night-time version of Inanna. She may have assisted women with night births as a midwife figure. Many suggest that Lilith represents the instinctual force of female Eros: capricious, creative, potent, self-willed. In the language of myth, throughout the course of Western religion, no Goddess was more "scapegoated" than Lilith.

In the interview below, David shows how the "Goddess who became a demon" is not only misunderstood, but she is a great teacher. For him, Lilith is what we are most terrified of: the fire of erotic desire, self-expression, and the profound rage of the disenfranchised. Repression can mask psychic energies, but it cannot eliminate them. Driven into the "night side", the unconscious, they have destructive shadow power. During the Inquisition, millions, mostly women, were killed as witches. The wound of Lilith continues today in may guises. I find David's insights profound.

An Interview with David Jeffers (2001)

I think Lilith has always been with me. Before I learned that Lilith is often shown with the feet of an owl, my first talisman was a pair of owl’s feet. My brother wanted to teach me to shoot a gun, and when he took a shot an owl fell to the ground. I cut off the owl's feet after it died, and tied them with a black ribbon. I was about 8 years old at the time, and I always carried them with me when my father beat me. I didn't know it, but that was my first talisman.

My first encounter with Lilith as an adult was in bed, in that state of wakefulness just before sleep. Suddenly, an enormous force seemed to come over me. I couldn’t move. Only when I surrendered was it no longer frightening. I remember a terrifying sound, like screaming whistles and grinding stones, deafening. I had this experience for quite some time, finally changing when Lilith came to me in the dream state, when she took on a human form. What was the meaning of that sound? I think it is what we perceive as "sound" when people cross thresholds, interplane abysses. The threshold experience that inspires terror. We misunderstand terror: our ideas of fear fall under superficial notions of duality. Nice things are good, scary things are bad. Terror is, in fact, often the prelude to transformation.

There are times you need to recognize there are powers so much greater than yourself, powers that are undeniably potent. It brings you to your knees. Which means to me Lilith is anti-ego. Lilith is about going beyond our small selves. How can one aspire to contact the divine without recognizing the difference between that vast power, and your own small, limited self? If you believe your understanding or personal power is comparable, you cannot access the influx of divinity. It doesn't work. That's what devotional mysticism is about.

Lilith occurs in the Kabbalist Tree of Knowledge within the mystical traditions of Judaism. There are also medieval paintings in which Lilith is shown perched on a certain branch of the alchemist’s “Tree of Wisdom“. Eventually, the seeker will meet her. When I prayed, "send me one who is divine", it was not a nurturing aspect of the Goddess that came: it was Lilith. I had to be unraveled, I had to be re-woven. She was the appropriate guide for the emotional work I was doing. Lilith was the only deity within those mystical traditions who could help me with my rage, my pain, healing my abuse. I could only go so far in therapy.

I didn't know at first it was Lilith who came to answer my prayers, but when I met her in my dreams, there was no doubt in my mind. She appeared as a disheveled young girl - her clothes were ripped and her hair was matted. In my first dream of Lilith, I took a gardenia from her room. She came screeching after me as a pubescent girl, utterly enraged. “I can keep the flower if I want,” I told her, “because it's my dream." And Lilith told me I was wrong. "All dreams are mine," she said, "because you are in my world. You come here when you are asleep, and you will respect that I am the queen of this dimension."

The key to understanding Lilith is what happened when I realized I was wrong, and said, "I'm sorry". The pain of Lilith is so much about the universal sanctity of human pain. I remember telling my therapist "All I ever really wanted was for my father to say, "I'm sorry", and mean it." Anyone could have said that to me, and it would have been healing and good. This is the same feeling I had in my dream. Apologizing changed how Lilith dealt with me. She received something she needed, and our relationship could become "Well, maybe we can work something out." She was willing to bargain, which is very Middle Eastern. You are expected to negotiate.

I asked Lilith if I could pay for the flower with a five-dollar bill. She said she would give me change, and put five ancient coins into my hand. Each was worth a fortune, worth so much more than what I offered to pay! She gave me a gift of immeasurable value, and then those gold coins melted in my hand, to become absorbed into my bloodstream, my being. “Now,” Lilith told me, “we can speak the same language; we can communicate with each other.” And that was the beginning of a dream relationship that lasted for over 10 years.

Lilith, to me, is the most intelligent archetypal power. She rules the liminal landscape between the subconscious and the conscious mind, and can help make that information conscious and usable in your life. Lilith is the bridge. She is about the origin of the soul. In medieval art, Lilith is often shown as the serpent in the tree of knowledge, which is considered evil in fundamental religions. But why did she want to make Eve wise? Because it is good for your eyes to be opened. That's all Lilith offered Eve.

"What you believe" is just a shell. Lilith is about breaking the shell. Sometimes you have to fall apart to be put back together, because that's the only way to be re-integrated. You cannot veneer Lilith’s teachings on top of who you think you are. She’ll change you first.”

*"Whore" possibly derives from an ancient Semitic word, "Hara" or "Hora". It's original meaning may go back as far as Babylonia and Sumaria, when women served as priestesses, thus, it was related to a title for a fertility priestess. To this day, "Hara" is an esoteric term used for the womb or 2nd Chakra center, the center of creativity and sexuality. And a circle "fertility" dance, the "Hora", is still danced at Jewish weddings.

"Seeing in the Dark" (2009)
Lauren Raine