Sunday, August 29, 2010

Freddy Silva on Crop Circles

human made  giant Crop Circle "The Butterfly Man", Netherlands, August 17, 2009***
I felt like copying here an article on Crop Circles by one of the world's foremost investigators, Freddy Silva. It was my pleasure to meet him and buy his dvd and book this summer. I was especially impressed with his spiritual perspectives on crop circles and ancient sacred sites.

A Brief Education Of Crop Circles 
by Freddy Silva

Crop circles are not a modern phenomenon.

They are mentioned in academic texts of the late 17th Century, and almost 200 cases- some with eyewitness accounts- have been reported prior to 1970. Since then some eighty eyewitnesses from as far away as British Columbia have reported crop circles forming in under twenty seconds; cases are often accompanied by sightings of incandescent or brightly-coloured balls of light, shafts of light or structured flying craft.

Serious attention was given to the simple circles in 1980 in southern England. The designs appeared primarily as simple circles, circle with rings, and variations on the Celtic cross up into the mid-1980s. Then they developed straight lines and created pictograms, not unlike petroglyphs. After 1990 the designs developed exponentially in complexity, and today it is not unusual to come across designs mimicking computer fractals and elements that relate to fourth dimensional quantum physics. Their sizes have also increased, some occupying areas as large as 200,000 sq feet. To date there have been over 10,000 reported and documented crop circles throughout the world, with some 90% emerging from southern England. While many still go unreported each year, the emegence of the phenomenon in the world media and the internet has allowed more information to be lodged.

If you happen to buy the story that all crop circles were originated by two sexagenarians with planks of wood, string and a weegie board, you are not in the minority. Once in a while, governments like to control public interest in unexplained phenomena by generating a disinformation method called 'debunking', a technique invented during the Cold War for the sad purpose of controlling mass opinion in the face of unexplainable phenomena (this was the prime motive of the 1953 Robertson Panel, details of which are obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act). The method is very effective because the media provides little or no scientific or factual data with which the public can form an educated opinion on the subject. This absence of evidence is then replaced by ridiculing the subject through association with other 'fringe' topics; so-called experts are brought-in to explain away all the events as freak weather conditions or the work, general pranksters, even sexually excited animals!

According to TV documentaries, all crop circles up to 1992 were made by two simple, elderly men called Doug and Dave. It has since been discovered by researchers such as George Wingfield and Armen Victorian that the D&D story was tied to the British Ministry of Defense- in collusion with the CIA, among others. Evidence supplied by a high-ranking informant in the British Ministry of Defence suggested that the government had every intent to discredit the phenomenon by putting forward two hoaxers in an effort to quell growing public interest in crop circles (for a fuller story see Crop Circles History 1991). 

When confronted to provide evidence on certain claimed formations, Doug and Dave changed their story, even reversing previous claims; or they simply remained silent when asked to explain the list of features found in the genuine phenomenon. When they claimed making all the formations around the English county of Hampshire, for example, it was pointed out that half the known formations had actually occured in another county- "Er, no, we didn't do those either," they replied. In the end, not even Doug and Dave knew which ones they had made. And although they claim to have made hoaxes since 1978- at the time the published date of the first design- evidence witheld confirmed crop circles dating back into the 1930s. The public has never heard these retractions, nor been given the opportunity to compare the mess created by D&D with the mathematical symmetry of the real phenomenon.

In 1998, however, the surviving member of the deceptive duo did make an incredible admission to British newspapers that he'd been guided by an unknown force.
Since Doug and Dave's inauguration, many copycat hoaxers have appeared on the scene. Some do it to disprove or derail researchers, some for profit, some because they are sociopaths, some because they genuinely believe they can communicate back to the phenomenon (with very interesting results, I may add). Prior to 1989 the hoaxing problem was virtually unheard of. After 1990 designs of man-made origin vary by year- in 1992 and 1998 it was as high as 90%, in 1996 as low as 20%.

That people with a good amount of training can go into a field and eventually create a coherent pattern has never been the issue- recently, a group of known hoaxers called TEam Satan/the circlemakers was paid to go to conveniently out-of-the-way New Zealand to make an elaborate formation for The Discovery Channel. The deceptive tactics used to trick a viewing public into accepting the hoax theory are dealt with here.

The issue is that no man-made crop circle has satisfactorily replicated the features associated with the real phenomenon, and this has baffled scientists and researchers. Crop circles are created by a force seemingly at odds with modern science. Central to the hoax argument is that a physical object is required to flatten the crop to the ground, resulting in the breaking of the plant stems. In genuine formations the stems are not broken but bent (left), normally about an inch off the ground at the plant's first node. The plants appear to be subjected to a short and intense burst of heat which softens the stems to drop just above the ground at 90�, where they reharden into their new and very permanent position without damaging the plants. Plant biologists are baffled by this phenomenon and farmers, who know how the land ticks, are baffled by this. It is the singlemost method of identifying the real phenomenon. Research and laboratory tests suggest that microwave or ultrasound may be the only method capable of producing such an effect.

Crop circles are sometimes accompanied by trilling sounds, since captured on tape and analysed by NASA as artificial in origin, with a harmonic component in the infrasonic range.
The detection of electromagnetism also differentiates genuine formations from fakes. This naturally-occuring energy is known to exist at ancient sites such as stone circles, long barrows, tumuli, dolmens and menhirs, and in churches and cathedrals which were built upon these sites. Crop circles, sacred sites and other places of worship are also found upon intersecting points along the Earth's invisible energy grid, and the size and shape of a crop circle is typically determined by the area of these 'node' points on the Earth's surface. The frequencies of this energy are associated with changes in brainwave patterns and affect the body's biophysical rhythm, so it is not unusual to find reports of people experiencing heightened states of awareness and healings in crop circles- a situation also common to sacred sites. People may also experience dizziness, disorientation and nausea- effects caused by prolonged exposure to infrasound or microwave frequencies.

Biophysical evidence includes plants' expanded epidermal walls, and drastically extended node bends in fresh formations (normalright, crop circle far right); also observed are distortions of seed embryos, and the creation of expulsion cavities in the plants as if they have been heated from the inside. In genuine formations there is a disruption of the plant's crystalline structure, as these microscope photos demonstrate. Yet in all cases, the plants are not damaged and will continue to grow and ripen if left untouched. This would not be possible had they been trampled by force.

Genuine crop circles are areas of gently laid and swirled plants which create a floor in mathematical proportions similar to the Golden Mean, the vortex nature uses to create precision organisms such as shells, sunflowers, the spatial relationship of the bones in the human hand and galaxies. The floor of crop circles can have up to five layers of weaving, all in counterflow to each other, with every seed head intact and placed beside each other as if arranged in a museum case; the centres can contain nested, woven, crested, or wreathed swatches of plants- sometimes the center will consist of a single standing plant.
They are not perfectly round but slightly elliptical (a hoax, requiring a fixed central rope, cannot achieve this adequately). Their edges are crisply defined from the flattened crop as if drawn with a compass and incised with surgical precision. Hoaxes, by comparison, bear a stylistic resemblance to tuffs of greasy, uncombed hair- and, of course, all their plants have been trampled, bruised and crushed.

Other anomalies indicate an increase infra red output within and around a new formation, indicating that both the heat content of the plants and the watershed have been affected. Evidence even exists of four non-naturally occuring, short-life radioactive isotopes in the soil inside genuine crop circles (these dissipate after three or four hours); the soil in around them appears to have been baked.

Mathematically, genuine crop circles encode obscure theorems based on Euclidian geometry as well as the unalterable principles of sacred geometry. They have the capacity to alter the local electromagnetic field so that compasses cannot locate north; cameras, cellular phones and batteries fail to operate, and aircraft equipment fails whilst flying over them. Then there are levels of background radiation up to 300% above normal, radio frequencies falling dramatically or rising sharply within their perimeters, animals in local farms avoiding that particular area or simply acting agitated hours before one materializes, and car batteries in entire villages failling to operate the morning after one is found nearby. In some of the major events, entire towns are left without power.

Since genuine formations materialize at crossing points along the Earth's magnetic energy currents, they are influencing the energy pattern of local phehistoric sites. They reference local Neolithic sites in size/shape/direction, and are dowsable upon entry, with as many as 150 concentric rings of energy outside their physical perimeter. In fact, a year after they have been harvested and the field ploughed and re-sown, the energy imprint of the formations will still be dowsed, long after their physical traces have vanished.

This area of research has allowed for the possibility of crop circles as a healing force, and they are already being successfully employed in radionics, flower essences and resonance therapy around the world, both for people and environments in distress.

Crop circles are generally formed at night between the hours of 2-4 AM, traditionally during the shortest evenings of the English year when darkness lasts but four hours, in fields eagerly watched by farmers, military, laser alarms, scientists or hundreds of enthusiasts in their sleeping bags hoping to be the lucky ones to witness a crop circle forming. Some of those lucky few have witnessed large balls of brilliant colour project a beam of golden light into a field which next morning displays a new crop circle.Yet despite many stakeouts and fields rigged with top surveylance equipment, crop circles have appeared out of the mist right under the noses of those looking for them. On one occasion, the Circlemakers even materialized in full view of the British Prime Minister's heavily-guarded country residence.
At Stonehenge in 1996, a pilot reported seeing nothing while flying above the monument, yet 15 minutes later this huge 900 ft formation resembling the Julia Set computer fractal, and comprising 149 meticulously layed circles, lay beside the heavily guarded monument. It took a team of 11- including myself- no less than five hours just to survey the formation.
Still not convinced? This web site contains a sampling of the on-going research dedicated to enlightening the public. More will be added as time goes by.

 Look at the pictures, study the research or better still, visit a genuine crop circle. You'll get the message pretty quickly.  And when you do, tell this story to a friend.


**Although a dutch group claims to have made the above giant figure in one night, in the dark, there is considerable controversy as to whether that is actually true, or indeed possible, since no one actually saw it being constructed. And if there are people who can make art like this, so precisely and in the dark at that, why not join earth artists like Andy Goldworthy in fame, fortune, and the Museum of Modern art? "Who is going to invest time and money in a mega 'project' like this? No cause, no publicity, no revenue? They could have established their name nation-wide, even around the world? The DaVinci/butterfly was harvested 17th of August 2009. If they made it, why did they let the opportunity pass by?";read=157241

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Crop circles!

near Salisbury, Wiltshire, May 5th, 2010
Photo by Steve and Karen Alexander

I seem to have found a new passion, which is the extraordinary phenomenon of crop circles. I had no idea about the scope of the phenomenon, and plan to attend the Circles of Knowledge conference next summer in Wiltshire, UK. held by the Wiltshire Crop circles study group.

Here's a great video I found showing crop circles 2009-2010 - just amazing.

The Wiltshire Crop Circles Study Group describe themselves as "such called because the group is located in the county of Wiltshire in the UK, the most active area for crop circles in the world. The Group was established in 1995 to study the crop circle phenomenon in all its aspects -Physical (scientific evidence - the physical effects on plants and soil),Metaphysical (the meaning encoded in their symbolic designs),Spiritual (their transformative effect). They continue with:

"Since 1980 thousands of designs have been investigated and recorded in databases worldwide. This is impressive by anyone's standard.
  • They are found all over the world.
  • More than 6,000 have been documented since 1980.
  • Over the last twenty years analyses of thousands of plant and soil specimens from hundreds of formations worldwide have been carried out in laboratories in various countries, and most extensively in the UK and in the USA.
  • These analyses show that the cellular structure of the plants has been strongly affected and that the composition of the soil greatly altered in crop circles (man made designs exhibit no such results).
  • Their designs are based on complex geometry, ancient symbology and advanced mathematics.
  • They can be decoded.
  • The message that comes through is important for mankind at present."

I was stunned to learn, from a related site, Crop Circles and More that over 47 complex circles
have appeared in the UK this summer alone, predominantly in southern England. All the images herein are circles that manifested this summer. Without touching the metaphysical, geomantic, historical and physical mysteries of the Crop Circles, I have to say that they are simply amazing Earth Art! The "Spiral Jetty" in the Great Salt Lake (below), the famous earth work by Robert Smithson in the '70's occurs in many art books, and photos can be seen in the Smithsonian. But to the best of my knowledge, there are no crop circles in the Smithsonian, in fact, they are pretty much ignored in that corner of civilization ..... but almost 50 of these "Earth Works", beautiful mandalas and mysterious one summer! Amazing.

"The Spiral Jetty"

Photo by Lucy Pringle (

Photo by Lucy Pringle (

Photo by Lucy Pringle (

Photo by Steve and Karen Alexander

Last, I couldn't resist the circle below, which is (I believe) something similar to the archaic "Spider and Cross" or "Spider Woman" motif. This occured in West Kennett, Long Barrow, Wiltshire on the 19th of April, 2009, while, interestingly, an important native American conference ("the return of the Ancestors") was going on in New Mexico. See the Spider, Cross, and the Web?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Interlude in the former cafeteria.......

All right, finished the book (in my previous post I describe it), and got the birthday out of the way. I'm back in Tucson, and as always happens when I come back, I quickly become malcontent and crabby. Having got that out of the way as well, here I sit in the University of Arizona cafeteria waiting for the library to open.

This used to be a big cafeteria when I was a student here, but has since been turned into a kind of food court with lots of fast food counters. Gone are the displays of soups or the salad bar, the trays, plates, dish bussers and dish washers. I happen to be sitting in front of the "health food" concession, which is ironically called "IQ Smoothies". About 30 freshmen are waiting in line for their bottled water, or their smoothies in covered plastic cups with plastic straws. Many have plastic trays with plastic spoons and plastic fork and plastic knives for their paper (disposable) wrapped, healthy "wraps". And of course, disposable napkins accompany their plastic encased Smoothies with disposable straws.

That's a hell of a lot of oil turned into plastic, and a hell of a lot of trees from some forest somewhere, all in the course of about an hour.

There is a sign that says "Please recycle", and I'm glad they have it. Maybe all that plastic does, kind of, get recycled. Although I suspect a goodly percentage of it ends up in a landfill. And all those trees that come, maybe, from some clear cut forest somewhere to become something a student wipes his hands with and then throws in a trash basket.........what do they become now, since they are no longer a tree making oxygen, and housing birds, somewhere?

What I find myself wondering, confronted by this spectacle, is...........why is the idea of a cafeteria, ceramic cups, trays, and jobs for students as dishwashers.........something so archaic that it is inconceivable ?

And how "convenient" is all of this in the not too distant future? There is, as Al Gore said, a very "inconvenient truth", screaming, screaming, screaming just under the visible surface. I feel sad at this moment, even though I sit in the midst of all this youthful energy and excitement.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Spider Woman's Hands" book finished

"What might we see,how might we live if we saw with a webbed vision? The world seen through a web of relationships - as delicate as spider’s silk, yet strong enough to hang a bridge on."

Catherine Keller

I finally finished my second edition (much more comprehensive) of my limited edition book
and published it (with my other books) on It is $35.00 to $50.00, depending on whether it is purchased paperback or hard cover, image wrapped. Although the book is an ever evolving project, I feel a great relief to finally be able to document my discoveries, and my artwork and community projects, in this way.

It's the result of years of fascination with the native American "legend of the Spider Woman", and my sense that this myth is profoundly important for our time. Performance events, rituals, and community arts projects came from this "thread", still spinning, I hope. I think Grandmother Spider Woman is pleased with it all, and I continue to invite others to whom she also is important to write to me, and perhaps contribute to this evolving project.

" The new myth coming into being through the triple influence of quantum physics,
depth psychology and ecology suggests that we are participants in a great cosmic web of life, each one of us indissolubly connected with all others through that invisible field. It is the most insidious of illusions to think that we can achieve a position of dominance in relation to nature, life or each other. In our essence, we are one."

Anne Baring

"What is the new mythology to be,
the mythology of this unified earth
as of one harmonious being?"

Joseph Campbell



In indigenous cultures, cultures with oral traditions, stories don't end after two hours in a theater, or when we turn off the electronic box. Even today, when we talk about “spinning a good tale“, like the hands of Spider Woman, we’re participating in something that keeps spinning and evolving, generation into generation, from the waking world to the dreamtime, back into the past, and forward into the stories of those who are yet to come. In various native arts, a spider and womb motif is ubiquitous: because Spider was the first weaver, bringing order and form, balance and symmetry to primal, formless chaos from within herself. From her essence she spun the strands that became the first stories that became the world.

The Navajo (who call themselves the Dine`) revere Spider Woman (Na'ashje'ii sdfzq'q) for teaching them how to weave. To this day, an infant Navajo girl will have a bit of spider web rubbed into the palms of her hands so she will become a good weaver. Wool rugs often have “Spider Woman's Cross” woven into the pattern, representing balance, the gestalt of the four directions. Navajo weavers also often leave a flaw in the work - because the only perfect web is that of Grandmother Spider Woman.

"May we rub a spider web
into the palms of our hands".

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ritual, Myth, Theatre

Today is my birthday, and I am thinking of a conversation I had recently about journalist Bill Moyers called "invisible hands". I am not a psychic, channel, or medium, but I used to be a ritualist and choreographer, and witnessed many "magical" ways in which I became convinced that we are never alone, are, in fact, within an integral universe, profoundly connected. So, because it's my birthday, I'm going to re-print this article about my last ritual pleases me to do so, to honor that time, those people, and our "invisible means of support". Perhaps most importantly, I want to share again the poem written by Erica Swadley. May I find a way to serve again. May this coming year let the way be open.

Restoring the Balance

O Great Mother Goddess,
We call on you now. Rise up from your roots.
Hear us, our voices of pathos. See our dancing feet, how we beat out your rhythms.
With our hearts, we drum you back. We are staggering toward you.
Will you run one hundred steps to us? Will you spread your mantle of peace?
This is the sack of our offerings:
We give up our greed to feed the needy.
Here is our lust to restore compassion.
We release our hatred to stop the killing.
We forego our vengeance to discover balance.
We scorn our fears, to rebirth love.
We tread softly to bring back forests.


And Mother Answers:
No more no more no more!
I have sent you shining planets to help you remember.
Mars and Venus beg you to reconcile.
From the depths of space, Sedna appears, a planetary avatar to stop you in your tracks.
Time is ended, truth be told.
Release, forgive, restore.
Remember Me in all of My forms.
I will bring light to your shadows and make you whole,
if you will call on Me.

Erica Swadley (2004)
Sedna, Ocean Mother of the Inuit
"Myth comes alive as it enters the cauldron of evolution, itself drawing energy from the storytellers who shape it " Elizabeth Fuller (2001)

In 2004, a few weeks before our first performance of Restoring the Balance, we learned that a new planet, in the cold depths of space beyond Pluto, was discovered by NASA researchers. The little planet was named Sedna – who was also the primary character in our production. For our cast, this striking synchronicity affirmed that we were, somehow, part of a larger telling. What meaning does the story of Sedna, Ocean Mother to the Inuit people of the North American arctic, have for us today? My own mythic journey to Sedna began in January of 2004, when I had an exhibit of masks at the Muse Community Arts Center in Tucson, Arizona. There I met Grey Eagle (Kenneth M. Jackson), a Native American storyteller living in Patagonia, Arizona. Grey Eagle collected stories from indigenous peoples around the world. I felt honored when he offered me a version of Sedna, which he told me he received from Inuit activists when he lived in Alaska. I believe there are stories that want to be told. They are spun into our collective dreams on threads of synchronicity, woven into our imaginations because they are necessary, needful to a particular time and place. In a 2002 interview with actress Elizabeth Fuller, she commented about this mystery, her words drawn from her career of 40 years:
"When you create within a sacred paradigm you find a strange thing . You are communicating with sources that you know are within you, but have a greater reflection somewhere else. You touch something timeless, as potent in you as anywhere else . You can experience it with great personal power, but eventually you realize that it's not just you. This is about the immanence and multiplicity of deity, the many faces of the Goddesses and the Gods." (2002)
I organized a group to create a performance for the Global Art Project, an international arts network founded by Katherine Josten . Our event was also to be a non-denominational ritual with the theme of restoring reciprocity to humanity’s relationship with our Great Mother Earth. Central to Restoring the Balance was the story of Sedna. Ironically, the Inuit are among the first human populations to be displaced by global warming; their experience of climate change is immediate and urgent, living as many Inuit do in a precarious balance with one of the harshest environments on earth. As the western Arctic coastline recedes, they are losing their villages. Pollution and over-fishing have also contributed to the loss of their livelihood. The Great Mother has a multiplicity of faces; but, ultimately, she is our universal Mother Earth. She represents the processes of nature which includes our embodied, interdependent, cyclical existence. As the story of Sedna illustrates, to betray the feminine is to betray the source of life, with dire consequences for all.

The Story of Sedna

Sedna lived with her widowed father by the cold northwestern sea . Many young men offered her marriage, but fearful for her father’s welfare, she refused all offers. One day a handsome man visited her . He promised Sedna a better life if she would marry him. Best of all, he promised to send provisions to her father as well . But Sedna’s new husband was really a Raven disguised as a man . He took her to a desolate island where she lived, cold and impoverished, until at last Sedna’s father came seeking her. Finding they had been deceived, he took his daughter into his kayak and paddled for the mainland. Raven, learning of their escape, caused a great storm; huge waves rolled toward the kayak. Sedna’s father, hoping to save his own life, cast his daughter from the boat. Sedna clung to the side of the boat, begging her father to save her - and in desperation, he cut off his daughter’s fingers and hands with his knife. Sedna sank to the bottom of the ocean, and as she fell, her severed fingers became the fishes, the seals, and the whales. To this day, Sedna lives in a house of bones, at the bottom of the cold sea , attended by all of her undersea children . As Grey Eagle (2004) wrote:
"Sedna is cold and naked. She is covered with a tangle of hair that she can't comb because she has no hands. And it’s also said that all the broken taboos, and sins of the people who live in the above world fall into Sedna’s underwater realm, collecting on Sedna's body. When the accumulation is too great, Sedna sobs in pain. Then the sea creatures leave the shore, and gather to comfort her."
When the “above world” no longer remembers Sedna’s sacrifice, the Inuit believe they have fallen from grace, and must suffer. When the balance is broken, when the people have forgotten how to live in grateful reciprocity with the Ocean Mother and Her creatures, the ocean will cease providing for those who depend upon Her resources . Ultimately, as Sedna suffers , so must they.
Erica Swadley as "Sedna's Shaman"
Grey Eagle continued:
"Then people know it's time to gather, time to publicly confess their broken taboos. The men, remembering the name of Sedna’s father, do a long dance of contrition. Slowly dancing, they sing a song of remorse for the sins done by man to women, to earth, and to her children. And at last, their shaman purifies herself to take the dangerous journey to the underwater world where Sedna lives. She gathers fine sand with which she lovingly cleanses the filth from Sedna’s body, and she combs her hair. And she offers Sedna the prayers of love and respect she has brought with her . "
To atone is to “rejoin”, to establish once again good relationship with a larger community of being. Such rites of “at-one-ment” and purification, to the Inuit, are periodically necessary in order to reconcile the above world with the below world. Grey Eagle (2004) concluded: When Sedna is at last comforted, She sends a prayer to Creator, asking Creator to forgive the people for the ways they have become out of balance. Her sobbing is no longer heard in the waves; the sea animals end their vigil and offer themselves again as food. And the Inuit are inspired to return Sedna’s gift by making better life stories. (p.3)

 Myths are “life stories“, archetypal templates upon which religions and civilizations are built, and individual lives are imbued with meaning. How can we also create “better life stories” for today? Life stories that speak of interdependence instead of inter-conflict? Life stories that prepare us for a sustainable future? Our stories, and our evolving cultural mythos, crystallize the ways we perceive, experience, and, live within the living body of the world. 

 James Lovelock and his primary collaborator, Lynn Margulis proposed that the Earth behaves as a vast super organism . Lovelock first published the Gaia Hypothesis in 1979. The Gaia Theory demonstrates that the Earth consists of countless systems that are interlocking and self-regulating – in essence, a complex, evolving organism. Gaia theory affirms the ancient wisdom of Inuit storytellers of good relationship within a responsive environment – to which we are ultimately accountable

The Masks of the Goddess Project (1999-2019) 

I've always been fascinated with masks as sacred tools - as “vessels” for the archetypal powers to express through the universal human mediums of art, theatre, dance and ritual. "Theatre" comes from the same Greek word as "theology,” as in theos or god . “Invoke” derives from the same Sanskrit root as “yoga” and “yoke” which mean to “join with”. In earlier times masks were created to contact the divine through ritual and ceremonial performances. To use a sacred mask was to in-voke, or to “join with the Gods”. 

 In 1999, after studying mask arts in Bali, I created mixed media, multi-cultural masks for the Spiral Dance in San Francisco. I made life casts from the faces of actual women, of different races and different ages, and masks were sculpted from mixed media . Inspired by Balinese and other indigenous mask traditions, I decided to offer my collection as contemporary "temple masks", making them available to those who wished to use them to celebrate the Divine Feminine. The collection was sent to groups that requested its use - filling with energy and collective story.

Mana Youngbear as "Tara"

At our first meeting I put the masks in a circle, asking members to choose one. We shared a shamanic journey, and discussed our imagery afterwards to determine who felt called to work with a particular mask and why. Another way of expressing it might be to discover which masks “wanted to be activated”.

Kathy Huhtaluhta as "Corn Mother"

Our group's hope was that these cross-cultural “faces of the Divine Mother” would emphasize the global significance of our event, the universal need for healing. Katherine Josten, who chose the role of Sedna, is the founder of the Global Art Project, a network creating partnerships between individual artists and groups around the world . As we prepared our performance, Katherine (2004) observed in her journal that:
The work of our group is not to re-enact the ancient goddess myths, but to take those myths to their next level of evolutionary unfolding. Artists are the myth makers. It is time for us to create the next chapter, to join the energies of Goddess and God. The integration of male and female must occur in order to bring balance to the earth and human consciousness. A dialogue needs to occur so the pain of both may be brought to light and transmuted.
I was moved by what she wrote: restoring balance to the divided human spirit is what the work is truly about. How can there be peace when our collective psyche is divided against itself?

Altar at the Muse Community Arts, created by participants

Valarie James as "The Virgin of Guadaloupe"

The performance was at Nations Hall, in Tucson, Arizona, on April 9th, 2004. A community altar, built by the cast as a collaborative installation, became part of the ritual . The stage and audience formed a circle, a theatre in the round. We opened with Erica Swadley's poem, “Invocation to the Great Mother”, and closed with Morgana Canady’s performance of Spider Woman . Casting “threads” into the audience, she wove, and for that moment, to my great delight, 300 people were joined by weaving the Web together.

Afterwards, biodegradable burlap cords from “Spider Woman’s Web” were distributed among cast members, and scattered throughout the desert, symbolically extending our web and its blessing to a greater world . In addition, as part of the Global Art Project, photographs, letters, and a video were sent to the AFEG-NEH-MABANG Traditional Dance Company, in Limbe, Republic of Cameroon.

Afterward: The Surprising
Authentic ritual is what anthropologist Victor Turner (1975)described as “communitas”: a collaboration between participants and a larger, invisible, extended community . If it has potency, ritual, like art, can include participants in a conversation whose mythological roots go far back into the past, and forward into the imaginal future. To enter fully into ritual space is to shift consciousness in order to undertake a mythic pilgrimage .
In Turner’s (1971) article, “Pilgrimages as Social Processes ”, he wrote that a “limen” or a “liminal state” is a doorway that enables actors and ritualists (as “pilgrims”) to enter into a sacred space or pilgrimage center . In this magic circle there is a fertile realm where deities, ancestors, and power animals may be encountered, and transformations are possible . Perhaps we were given such a special blessing at our auspicious event, in the form of photographs taken by Tucson photographer Ann Beam . When Ann returned the photos we were amazed to see anomalies in many of them. These strange “spirit photos” are, for me, another layer to that event, a pentimento .

A photo of Erica Swadley, in her role as Sedna’s shaman (she was not masked for her performance), showed two separate faces superimposed on each other. After examining this photo, the photographer (Ann Beam) commented that one of the faces looked like Erica, but another appeared to be Asian.

This was a photo of the end of the performance. The cast is dancing in a circle, and a white form appeared in the photo, superimposed between cast and audience. We called this one "the Visitor".Here's the image in negative.

In a photograph of Quynn Elizabeth, whose dance was devoted to the Hindu Goddess Kali , an inexplicable, goat-like form dramatically appeared behind her, and the suggestion of a goat appeared in other photographs of her dance as well . To Quynn, Morgana, and Erica, whose performances were devotional as well as theatrical, the photographs were affirming, a kind of “greeting card” from spirit guides. I have since learned that in the traditional worship of Kali in India, goats were often sacrificed. Some viewers of these photographs have suggested that a “spirit goat” materialized in the photograph as a symbol of our offering . We did not have a goat to offer the Goddess when we invoked Her, so perhaps one was “ethereally” provided for us.

When I looked at the “goat” photo the first time, I personally recalled the ancient Hebrew ritual of the s capegoat. When deemed necessary, this ritual was p erformed for the well-being of the tribe. A litany of all the sins, troubles, and sorrows of the time was recited, then “laid” upon the back of a goat .

 The goat, a beast of great merit, was then released into the desert to symbolically bear these burdens away. A cleansing had occurred and a new cycle could begin . 

Not unlike the rituals of the Inuit, the act of naming the sins and broken taboos helped the tribe to return to psychic and emotional balance, and to a more harmonious relationship with the Sacred. In the modern world, we have generally lost meaningful ritual, and, as such, we rarely have significant ways to collectively regain “at-one-ment .” We have no long ritual cycle of prayers and dances and confessions. W e have few tribal shamans to help us bear our “better life stories“ to Sedna in the World Below . We scapegoat each other. We scapegoat women. We scapegoat the living Earth without awareness. There is no “symbolic goat” to carry our “sins” into the chaotic wilderness of the collective unconscious; to carry our negativity into the desert so we can begin again in a new way.

I have no explanation for Anne’s photographs except what they mean to me. Nor can I prove that the photos are authentic – although I know they are . I feel the appearance of the spirit photographs are a final blessing, a reminder perhaps that we are never really alone.
"We have heard this sacred story together", Grey Eagle wrote, "And now we can close with: That’s the way it was, and that’s the way it is".
Beam, A., (2004), All photographs are reproduced with permission of the artist. 
 Fuller, E. (2001) Interview with Lauren Raine. 
 Grey Eagle, a/k/a Jackson, K.M. (2004). The story of Sedna. Unpublished manuscript. Josten, K. (2004). Unpublished journal. 
 Lovelock, James ( 2006), GAIA - A NEW LOOK AT LIFE ON EARTH, Oxford University Press. Margulis, Lynn, (1999). SYMBIOTIC PLANET: A NEW LOOK AT EVOLUTION, New York: Basic Books. 
 Rosenthal, R. (1989). Interview with Lauren Raine. 
 Swadley, E. (2004) . “Invocation of the Great Mother.” Unpublished poem. 
 Turner, V.W. (1975). Dramas, fields, and metaphors: Symbolic action in human society . New York: Cornell University Press. 
 Weller, A. (2001). Interview with Lauren Raine. 

Additional Resources

Ala Mankon Cultural and Development Association (A.M.A.C.U.D.A. Traditional Dance Group, AFEG-NEH-MABANG Dance), Limbe, Republic of Cameroon. 
 Clipman, W., at
 Fuller, E., The Independent Eye Theatre, at .
 Grey Eagle, 1995 Gordan Ekvall Tracy Memorial Award for Ethnic Performers, at
 Greinke, J., at
 Huhtaluhta, K., Sami Records, at
 James, V., Las Madres Project, at
 Josten, K., The Global Art Project, Tucson, AZ, at 
 Quynn, E., The Institute for the Shamanic Arts at WomenKraft Bldg., Tucson, Arizona, 
 Quynn, E., Earth Tribe TV, at
 Raine, L., “The Masks of the Goddess Project” & “Spider Woman’s Hands”, &
 Smith, A. & Smith, A. (2004). Rainbow Didge Music ( 
 Youngbear, M., Willits Young Actors Theatre, at

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Farewell to New Mexico

"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

Returning to Tucson, cars and asphalt and noise, the urban cacophony (and summer heat), I feel melancholy. The solitude and solace of New Mexico's vast skies and open space worked it's magic for me, peeling away the dross like old paint, revealing essential layers beneath. I hope I can retain this spaciousness.

"A House of Doors", lithograph (1986)



He opened the door and walked outside.
It was summer, I remember cicadas
scratching a hole in the door
where a man used to be.

The house I live in
has various dimensions.

I recall white rooms,
wallpapered with old letters.
Some rooms are tombs for the heart,
full of damp bones
and useless ornaments.

I remember a pink room
that pressed me until I couldn't breath

Some rooms diminish
some rooms compress.
Rooms can be tricky.
What I remember are doors.
I live in a house of doors.


She stood at the door
and walked outside.
It was spring, I remember
lilacs framed by a window
where a girl in a white dress stood.

A white dress,
flying like a flag,
a white dress
opening like a morning glory.


I opened the door:
she was sitting there,
the girl with the Kodak smile.
The sign on the door said 1969,
it was February in Berkeley.
The plum trees were red in the rain,
steam rose from an espresso machine

the girl listens
to the boyfriend whose name
I don’t remember, cigarette in hand
a baton, orchestrating. She listens,
she knows the punch line.

When I closed the door
she slipped away behind me,
riding a train
I could see in perspective

riding to a vanishing point.


An onion, that's it.
All those layers.

Just when you think
you can name yourself,
you discover new layers,
you’re forming a new skin,
a new ring.

But there's a core.
And where
does that core start?


This room I live in.
These walls.
They seem to be getting thin.
I can almost see through them today.

Today I feel
like a Chinese box
one inside another.
I consider a state of grace:

I think
I think I may be the gate
that opens
into another room
made of clouds, or sky
or something
I can't name.

I remember white dresses I wore
I remember doors
I can't remember the girl's name.

"Funny", she said,
"how time takes the names out of things,
and bleaches the rest kind of transparent."

Chiefly, I remember doors.


you open a door
any door

and you have to walk outside
into something tender
like a touch
on a winter night
into a quiet yard
because of a voice you hear

or a bell
or a train
pulling away

Lauren Raine

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Art, Collaboration, "Pollination"

"Cornmother" mask in "Restoring the Balance", 2004

"Indigenous people have always known corn metaphorically in two or more of the four senses, mother, enabler, transformer, healer; that I use throughout this weaving. Although early European settlers took the grain only, there is evidence in America today that the Corn-Mother has taken barriers of culture and language in stride and intimated her spirit to those who will listen, even if they don't know her story or call her by name."

Marilou Awiakta, "The Corn-Mother Incognito. Or Is She?"
from SELU - Seeking the Corn-Mother's Wisdom
I remember a documentary years ago about a famous Hopi potter, who said that she saw patterns and motifs when she went walking in the morning, and they just wouldn't leave her alone until she "wrote" them into her pots. I wondered what it meant to be an artist whose work was attuned to a long tradition of transmission - a purposeful thread woven into the fabric of daily life, not just for one's assertion of individuality, but in service to the tribe, the ancestors, the gods..........

This morning I woke up thinking about collaboration, not just among colleagues, but also what Bill Moyers called "invisible support". I've been given a lot of grace in my life, and although I haven't been fortunate, like the Hopi potter, to belong to a tribal tradition, still, I've had moments when I felt I got my "orders". And those have been among my most magical moments. Here's one of my favorite stories. It happened when I was still working with the Masks of the Goddess collection in 2002, and affirmed, for me, that idea of "greater collaboration".

""Myth comes alive as it enters the cauldron of evolution, itself drawing energy from the storytellers who shape it." Elizabeth Fuller, The Independent Eye Theatre

"Corn Mother" has many names throughout the Americas - She is the sustainer, the Demeter of this continent. The Cherokee Corn Mother is called Selu, and her story is one of sacrifice and renewal, with compassion for the ignorance of her children, who in fear destroy the very source that sustains them. It is a myth with profound significance for our own time.

In 2002, I had given the collection of masks to choreographer Mana Youngbear, who was directing a performance in Oakland. I had no idea of what she planned, but planned to attend the show. About a month before her event, I attended an unrelated event at the University of Creation Spirituality (now the Naropa Institute). It included a moving meditation about the wounding of the Divine Feminine in Western religions, led by a woman minister. She spoke of the tragedy of the Inquisition. I sat cross-legged on the floor, surrounded in the darkness by about 300 people, many of them weeping.

Yet when I closed my eyes, I saw vividly something that had nothing to do with the ceremony I was participating in. I saw a Native American woman, wearing a deerskin costume, dancing with an ear of corn in each hand. Her image remained with me throughout the evening, and I decided to make a mask about her. I placed ears of corn on each side of the face, and painted a rainbow on the mask's forehead.

A week before the performance, Mana told me there was one dancer in her cast, Christy Salo, who had no mask. Christy had created a dance derived from the Cherokee legend of Selu. Now she had a mask!

And when Christy danced she blessed the audience with corn meal, completing the circle for all of us.

Here's the interview I taped with Christy after the performance.

Christy as "Selu", (2002)
"I made a bouquet of corn for Mana and Stephen's wedding, with a necklace of rainbow beads on it I bought at a garage sale, the same bouquet I used later to dance Green Corn Woman at our performance. The wedding was at a retreat in California, and after the ceremony, I met a woman walking about the property. She told me she really didn't know why she was there! She had been heading to Oakland, and felt an urge to turn off the road. When she drove by the sign for the center, she impulsively pulled in. And there she was, in a lovely place with a wedding in progress. As we talked, I realized she was the woman I bought the rainbow beads from, the same beads that were decorating Manna's bouquet, even as we spoke! I like to think she was a touchstone on my journey to Cornmother.

Mana is part Cherokee, so perhaps that was why she asked me if I wanted to dance Cornmother when she cast her show. We didn't have a mask for the Corn Goddess, but I was inspired to create a dance anyway. I knew very little about Her, and meant to do some research at the library, but a friend turned up with a wonderful book called BROTHER CROW, SISTER CORN full of indigenous corn legends. I also stopped at a used bookstore, and opening a rather esoteric book at random, discovered I was looking at an article about the Corn Maiden. I was stunned to learn it was illustrated by Vera Louise Drysdale, the first woman I met, years ago, when I lived in Sedona. With that, I sensed I was ready to begin.

I felt I was following an invisible, mythic thread - and the feeling of familiarity continued as I created a costume. I looked for materials associated with Corn Mother, and within a few days, Manna had left me a message. "Christy" she said, "There's a Hopi woman at Isis Oasis you need to meet! She gave me some 300 year old corn meal to give to you!" I felt the spirit of Corn Woman encouraging me indeed!

Corn Mother's story represents the wealth that comes from the hard work of forgiveness. How can we be fed, how can we create peace, if we cannot learn the lessons of forgiveness, if we cannot learn tolerance for our differences? That is the beginning place we will need in order to evolve into a peaceful Rainbow Nation. To me, the Rainbow as actually a circle. Half the rainbow disappears into the ground, into an underworld realm, where it exists beneath the Earth, hidden, but at the foundation never the less. Like the Corn Mother. We're all Her children, especially in America, with our mixed bloodlines. We have "rainbow blood".

We received the new mask at the time of the lunar eclipse, in May of 2002, and decided at that auspicious time to consecrate it with some dried corn. As we did, a flash of light went off in the room! At first we thought it was a light bulb, but looking around, realized there were no electric lights on in that room. We looked at each other amazed, and we felt the presence of Corn Mother."

** Elizabeth Fuller, Conrad Bishop, "The Independent Eye" Theatre