Friday, May 28, 2010

Spider Woman Speaks.......

It doesn't matter what you call me.
I've had a lot of names.
Bring your offerings if you wish.
I’ll give them to the Bird People,
to the Mouse People.

I’ll tell you something.
Because you came here
with empty hands.
Your spirit has become woven into bad things.
It’ s time to weave a new story now.

Walk out into the desert
and sit beneath a cholla.
Notice the shapes of things:
A hawk against the sky,
the shape of the sky,
the shapes of shadows,
the shape
of your own shadows,

and cracks in the land
like a spider web,
full of light.

Take a deep breath
of the stories that live here.
Stories that wrap themselves
around old bones and pottery shards,
stories that howl at the moon,
fly with russet wings,
hide in the arroyo.
You say you can't see it.

Well, take a look around!

You don't need to climb a mountain
to get the big picture.
All of its snaking rivers
and twining roots
are inside of you.

All those threads
come right out of your hands
and out of your hearts
all those threads go on forever.

Into the Earth
and into each other,
into all your stories,
into everyone you'll ever know
into all those who came before you
and all those who will come after you

O, Mitakuye Oyasin.

Big Sur, Threads, and Syncronicities

The greatest beauty is organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe. Love that, and not man apart
Robinson Jeffers, "The Answer"
I've just hit the road - a healing stop in the Sur, that magnificent stretch of California coastline beloved to Henry Miller and Robinson Jeffers. Beloved to me, tracing my personal Song Lines, winding slowly up that winding road, remembering some 50 years of such treks to family campgrounds and Love-ins and war protests, finally, motels, heaven help me, how decadent can one get . Now, just to sit by the deep blue ocean, listen to seagulls, be. Sitting by the beach, I got into a short conversation with a jade hunter (there's lots of deep green jade in the Sur), living in his old rv.........he told me about places to visit, and left me with a piece of jade for my medicine bag.

  This past morning, as I got into my car, I noticed the crystalline, shimmering threads of a spider web across the side mirror. Looking closely, I saw a tiny spider spinning her art on my mirror, the very one I use to see where I'm going (hopefully, even when I don't really have a clue). I gave Spider Woman my grateful thanks, and thanked her emissary for her artistry as well, carefully transferring the tiny spinner from mirror to finger to a leaf. A few minutes later, still packing, I saw a spider there again! This, I reasoned, is a persistent spider, and a worthy sign! Who says metaphors only occur in dreams or poetry? For me, perhaps because I"m a visual artist, this is the "conversation" I'm always having with World, or World is generously always having with me, if I have the occasional quietude to listen. After two weeks in L.A. ........oh, so much noise, so much human distraction, so much interference.............I always leave L.A. feeling like someone who has lost their sensory apparatus and must struggle forward half blind, feeling around in the conceptual dark. Anyway, I wanted to remember here another of those syncronistic threads that happened in 2007.........I was reminded because I just, serendipitously, followed up a link to a nature sanctuary and festival site that I never heard of before called Our Haven ( and learned it is in a place called French Lick, Indiana. For those interested in synchronicity this is a good story, and I'm taking the liberty of copying from my 2007 entry. Who casts the threads? Or, do we just unconsciously follow them, occasionally waking up enough to notice the shimmering strands on the mirror? So, strange as it sounds, I'm sitting in a motel on the magnificent California coast, remembering a trip to Indiana 3 years ago............

  September, 2007: The moon is full and the night is very hot, somewhere in Missouri. Cicadas drone their mating calls, an Indian summer chorus. I’m still allergic to everything, wondering if my dignity is forever gone along with the use of my nose. But Magic has been afoot. Quite often I don’t write or talk about days like this, because I doubt the intersections and weave that I see, worse, I'll try to figure out what it all "means".

When synchronicities chose me, or I blunder into them, they flurry about with such literary qualities that I sometimes think its like being inside a novel where the plot is about to become clear. I had my map on the motel bed, ready to open it yesterday a.m. I was thinking about two things. The first was the fact that I was 30 some miles from industrial Gary, Indiana, and the road was apparently flooded there. This could mean hours getting through Gary. And then there was Chicago. The prospect was not appealing. The other item on my mind were my friends Morgana and Phil, who live in Indianapolis. I glanced at my dog-eared map. Now the cover was page two of “Routes of Interest”, and my eye fell on “Indiana” (right in the center of the page, with “Louisiana” below it.) The authors suggested I take a scenic drive through West Baden and visit historic French Lick Springs. The prospect of possibly discovering a new hot spring seemed attractive, and I opened the map to find that I could head on down to Indianapolis, maybe see my friends, and take a hilly route to a possible soak, ending up on 64, which would eventually lead me to route 70. I decided a trip to Indianapolis was a good idea, and headed down the road, taking my bearings at Roseville. I would follow the “rose line”, a fanciful idea I played with as I toodled along in my little pink car. 

I wondered why the place was called French Lick. I later learned that the area, before it was settled by white people, had been an important migration route for buffalo because of salt licks in the area. The new settlers had followed the buffalo to the wells. The first Europeans to settle at French Lick were French Jesuit missionaries, and one of the first businesses established in the area was salt mining. “Routes of Interest” informed me that I could have a soak at the Pluto Baths for $20.00. This is no longer true - any soaking areas where the public might have once taken the curative waters are now replaced with expensive spas. I don’t know why they were called Pluto Waters either, but there on the ceiling of the French Lick Spa were huge, Rococo, paintings of Pluto, Persephone, Orpheus, Eurydice, Cerberus, and the Underworld.

I felt a bit like I was within a personal mythic event, because the myth of Persephone and Hades has been significant to me for many years - my little novel, THE SONG OF MEDUSA, was based on it. 

I have identified with the Persephone archetype strongly in my past - Jennifer Barker and Roger Woolger wrote eloquently about this in their 1989 book "The Goddess Within", a book that informed my interest in Goddess spirituality. It is interesting to note that Pluto means "wealth". The wealth of the below, the hidden, the depths of the earth. 

What the area meant to the native people who lived there, I do not know, although I’m sure it was, like all places where healing waters bubble out of the earth, a sacred, energized place. Maybe it was a place of pilgrimage, in the same way that people still go to the Chalice Well in Ireland. Maybe it was sacred because the buffalo went there. At any rate, my trip was spiritually blessed - Morgana gave me the 2nd degree Reiki initiation. Which I would not have achieved, had I not passed through Indianapolis because I wanted to avoid a flood in Gary. I learned from Phil that he went on his Vision Quest, preparatory to doing the Sun Dance this summer - at the state park in French Lick. So I left with a sense of adventure.

The heart of French Lick is the recently restored West Baden Springs, “The Carlsbad of America”. Although I couldn't afford to stay there, I stopped to admire this amazing architectural feat. I felt the ghosts of a more elegant time, come to "take the waters". This historic building was once called the “8th Wonder of the World” because it boasted the largest suspended glassed dome in the world, and hosted dignitaries such as Teddy Roosevelt. Restored only within the past year to its original turn of the century splendor, 6 stories of guest rooms, spas, restaurants, and bars encircle a huge sunlight center, with inlaid marble tiled floor, and art nouveau statues of the muses. 

Here’s the synchronicity that tops them all. After the stock market crash of 1929, the owners went bankrupt, and actually sold the famous resort to the Jesuits for a dollar. It was a Jesuit seminary until the 60's, when it was purchased by the Whitings of Midland, Michigan, and became a campus of Northwood University until 1983. After that the building sat desolate until it was restored just this year! Northwood, on whose campus I had just spent the summer as an Alden Dow Fellow, and done a community arts project at the Midland Arts Center called "Spider Woman's Hands". This had been their southern campus!

A final note here (I'm in 2010 again, and getting ready to drive to San Francisco)...........when I returned to Tucson that fall, within about two weeks I received a mask order from a woman living in French Lick, Indiana. Honest.

                     Syncronicities are Spider Woman's way of saying "hello"

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pomona revisited..........

I've been in Pomona, California, dealing with family issues and money issues........exhausting. So, needing sustanance, I went to visit the Goddess of abundance, who makes her blessing for all to see, and strangely rarely noticed, in the half abandoned mall of the town named in her honor. I felt like sharing this community painting, which is really a kind of blessing, and a prayer. Here's something I wrote in 2006 about it.


Roman Goddess of Fruitfulness, Orchards, and Gardens

Pomona was the uniquely Roman goddess of fruit trees, gardens, and orchards, and her festival, which she shared with her husband Vertumnus, was always on August 13th. Pomona watches over and protects fruit trees and cares for their cultivation, and Her name is from the Latin pomum, fruit. "Pomme" is the French word for "apple".Pomona was among the Numina, guardian spirits of Roman mythology, who watched over people, places, or homes. The Numina are, in essence, the holy spirits of place, from which the word "numinous" derives. Pomona protected and inspired the abundance of the fruitful gardens and orchards. She had her own priest in Rome, called the Flamen Pomonalis. A grove sacred to her was called the Pomonal, located not far from Ostia, the ancient port of Rome.

Pomona has a special personal significance to me, and I made a mask for this Goddess as a tribute, a history, out of the gratitude that is Her due, and perhaps, as a hopeful invocation as well. For She is truly one of the Goddesses of California, fruit basket to America. My family home is in Pomona, California, a town east of Los Angeles that once was the lovely citrus growing valley of Orange county. Now, and for many years, it's a prime example of urban destruction and despair. Long gone are the orange groves, replaced by freeways, smog, crime, and a deserted, almost derelict downtown. I have occasionally returned to Pomona to visit my brother, who still lives there, and always found it sad and depressing.

I was amazed, in 2005, to discover that an arts colony had moved into downtown Pomona, perhaps because it's one of the few places where rent is still inexpensive in Los Angeles. There are studios, galleries, and coffee houses where previously only empty storefronts, homeless people with their shopping carts, and drug dealers had been.

But I was absolutely stunned while walking a street I long have regarded as a reflection of the awful waste of urban blight, to see none other than the Great Goddess Pomona Herself, in all Her glory and at least 3 stories high. The detail above does not show the images of groves growing over composting heaps of industrial waste, or a circle of people sitting in council to the right of the painting, envisioning a new world, overseen and inspired by the numinous, purple clad, Roman Goddess. Art, at it's best, can provide us with those lasting and illuminated moments of revelation that give us the strength to, indeed, envision a new future. Hats off, and heartfelt gratitude, to the artists and community who brought the Goddess to downtown Pomona.

Here's a writeup about the mural from

Pomona Envisions the Future is a mural created through a community-based project named Envisioning the Future (E.T.F), which took place in the Pomona Arts Colony from 2002 to 2004 and included over 80 artists. The mural is 140' x 42' acrylic on prepared concrete substrate on the west side of the Union Block building. It consists of four walls at right angles to each other.

The Envisioning the Future project was lead by artist Judy Chicago, photographer Donald Woodman and Cal Poly Pomona. The mural was painted by lead artist and mural project facilitator Kevin Stewart-Magee, and Envisioning the Future artists/participants Lief Frederick, Sandra Gallegos, Cori Griffin-Ruiz, Rupert Hernandez, Lynne Kumra, Yolanda Londono, Amy Runyen, Chris Toovey, Mary Kay Wilson, Erin Campbell, Athena Hahn, Joy McAllister and Fred Stewart-Magee. Artists Magu (Gilbert Luján) and Judy Baca consulted on the project. Cheryl Bookout was the Envisioning the Future project coordinator.

It depicts the history of the City of Pomona from its pre-European past, through its agricultural and industrial ages into its bright future which restores the land in balance with humans. The mural was restored and finally finished in 2008 with funds from the City of Pomona Board of Parking Place Commissioners. A bronze plaque from the Downtown Pomona Owners Association was added on October 4, 2008 at the re-dedication ceremony. The mural is located at the intersection of Thomas and Second Streets in downtown Pomona, California in the Pomona Arts Colony.

Tongva Indian prepares food

It begins by depicting the pre-European landscape with the indigenous Tongva people in the dark sepia color palette. The image of a by-gone natural open landscape rounds the corner and transitions into the historic past of rolling hills and open land erased and replaced by the familiar citrus groves established by the first European settlers.

Early Hispanic farm laborers working the fields

The color palette remains a restrained monochromatic blue-green. This is atypical of the traditional portrait of time as depicted in the multitudes of idyllic brightly colored packing house labels. Instead the muted colors signal the coming Industrial Revolution and environmental dark days to come. At the reveal wall recesses to the main wall the decline of the citrus industry is represented by dead citrus trees that stop abruptly with the landscape at the twenty-four foot figure of the Goddess Pomona. Pomona, originally the Roman Goddess of orchards, was selected as the name for the city in the late 1800s.

The Goddess's arms are outstretched as doves leave her hands in flight towards a hopeful future. The background behind the goddess figure is turbulent, murky and orangey-brown. The landscape turns to a congested urban-suburban sprawl of industrial pollution and over crowded housing tracts. As the narrative moves along to the right, mountains and blue sky emerge from the bleak present and the misty outskirts of a glowing city at the portal of a new age. In the foreground is a school of the future.

Students are seated on a luminous ring or "learning circle" which hovers over serene and lush rolling hills in an environment that has been restored to near primordial conditions. In the distance is a vision which is millions of years away from the actual event, the galaxy Andromeda is seen in the morning sky as it approaches our own Milky Way.

Throughout the mural along the bottom is an undulating wave representing subterranean strata. The wave contains artifacts and objects that represent the ages up to a time where the human species has achieved balanced health and harmony, with a vision of the future which encompasses the universe.

Last, let me share another one of the gifts of the Goddess........the astounding Jacaranda tree, which blooms wholly purple in May, dropping it's lavender snow everywhere among the unheeding smog and traffic............ever generous. Pomona, casting her purple blessings.

Monday, May 10, 2010

White Tara Mask finished

"The 21 Praises to Tara" celebrates the Bodhissatva Goddess of Tibet's many aspects. Among them, Red Tara, Green Tara, wrathful Black Tara, and White Tara are all manifestations to assist those who call on Her for help. White Tara is "She Who Hears the Cries of the World", the embodiment of unconditional love. Tara sees beyond all veils, all dualities, to the ultimate unity, the perfection within all Beings. With infinate compassion, Tara as Bodhissatva abides to ease the world's suffering. She bears a lotus blossum, the flower that symbolizes perfected mind, rising from the murky depths of illusion, to bloom in transcendant beauty.

This was a poem I wrote in 1997 about White Tara. It was actually based upon a dream that "pursued me" for several years........a dream in which I was relentlessly pursued by a terrifying, smoky, amorphous creature. Finally, being exhausted with running, I turned to face the monster, no longer caring what the outcome might be. From the fire and smoke emerged a young boy, who quietly came forward and lay down with his head on my lap.


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,
and I let it take me in its vast arms,
and I kissed its terrible face.

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

Because that creature
I thought would devour me

returned my embrace
I looked into eyes
that became soft and liquid,

and 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.

And what bound me for so long
flowed out of me,
and my heart expanded,
and I found I could hold
the entire world

in my open arms.

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

I will walk my sorrows, 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.

Lauren Raine, 1997

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Black Tara Mask Finished

Finally finished the Black Tara mask, now working on White Tara. I felt like sharing this 2000 excerpt from an interview with ceremonial dancer Drissana Devananda, about her performances devoted to Kali - Black Tara and Kali are very similar in meaning and origin.

"Kali is the surgeon. She cuts away what has to go. I ask for that quality when I have to cut something out of my life; an addiction, or a relationship that no longer is about growth. And I ask it be done precisely, this cutting away of dis-ease, malignancy, the aspects that no longer serve. In myth, Kali was the last resort savior. When the Gods couldn't kill the demonic forces that ravaged the Earth, they called on a woman's wrath.

We all have the ability to call the Goddesses into ourselves. I can do this in my dance, but in everyday life it's more difficult. That's why I thrive on performance, because I can freely let those forces work through me. What I forget is that we can call on them at other times. We've forgotten that the Goddess dwells within us, all the time, and not just when we wear a mask, or are in workshop, or a ritual. We are, in Tantric terms, extensions or emanations of the Gods and Goddesses - we are their material aspects. We're not bodies that are seeking the spirit, we're spirits that are seeking bodily experiences.

In the Hindu tradition, everyone has a deity they focus on as their personal deity. In the West, as we begin to reclaim the Goddess for spiritual practice, we each need to create a relationship with the Goddess form we have chosen, in order to manifest what we need for spiritual and emotional growth, to invoke the help we need. That practice is not just cerebral. We function out of our whole self, our bodies and spirits. The body-mind. That is where we re-member, we communicate with the Goddess within ourselves.

Women need to become angry. Now. About the women of Afghanistan, the meaningless wars, the destruction of our environment. The demons of insatiable lust are devouring our planet. Those souls who await the future are being denied their birthright. Kali is the catalyst for saying "No more". She's the voice of women whose voices aren't being heard, women who need to open their mouths and speak for the first time. It's time to embrace the sword of Kali and start cutting away the delusions. This is the ferocious mother who says "get away from my children, or I'll kill you." Mothers today aren't saying that. They're giving their children away. Giving them away to war, giving them away by allowing our environment to be depleted, giving permission to the powers that be to destroy their future. This is the dance of Kali."

Drissana Devananda