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

Sunday, November 21, 2010


What we hate in ourselves is what we cannot know in ourselves 
 but what is true to the pattern does not need to be explained. 
Inside everyone is a great shout of joy 
waiting to be born 

David Whyte

I have always thought of November, and a certain time of year somewhere in March or early April (depending on where you live) as "liminal times", transitions in the year cycle that are "limons", spaces between winter and spring that are infused with a kind of transformational energy, with "becoming". With "not-yet" and "none-such", immanent with the possibility, the inevitability of change, but not-yet. At these liminal points, it seems all kinds of intersections of dimensions occur, the "veils" between this and that are not so clear, not so "in-formed". The winter snow isn't quite here yet but it's imminent. The World is dying. There is no spring yet, but a trickle of water is heard, the first fragile melt; you feel that deep subterranean humming, the invisible thrust of new life just under your feet. The World is being born. Liminal zones. Borders, edges, cracks in the veneer that offer transformation.

"Dream Weaver"

Sometimes, life really is too much. When that happens you rage, cry, lose friends because you've become dark and bitter and complaining, you don't like yourself, all your ideas of what and who you were and think you are and should be doing blow up and make no sense. Horse Latitudes. When all of that happens, there is nothing left to do except open the heart, by whatever means, and turn to spirit for support, by whatever name. You have to contact that greater life, or you will sink. There is nowhere else to go. I'm not making sense. At this moment, I'm in an airport of souls, changing planes, a waiting room. A liminal zone, where, among other things, things stop making sense. You can be, in a liminal zone, in form-lessness, somewhere between memory and creative potential. Between death and birth, between "Fall"(ing) and "Spring"(ing). I made a series of sculptures in 2009 for my brother I called "Prayers for the Dying", which I show here. I had casts of hands, and stamps with words and letters on them............and it occurred to me that words are what we use to shape our ideas of who and what we are.** Words are also what we use to make blessings, and blessings, even if we don't know what we're doing and even if we don't even believe in it, blessings, like my poem in the previous entry, are winds that fill our sails when we find ourselves marooned in the "horse latitudes". Even when we are saying goodbye.

Perhaps dying is to release form, and the breaking of "word shapes" could represent the breaking of all the ideas we encase our identity in..............the helping hands and the light assist in that process of reaching for a greater being. In the work at the top of this post ("The Heart Sutra") what lies between the child's hand and the aged hand, with it's many layered, written the Heart.

"Form is Empty, Empty is Form"

"Holy Mother Take My Hand"

I don't know where I'm going with this blog entry, but I feel it's so important, especially now, to understand our multi-dimensional being. Perhaps, in learning to not fear death, we can also learn how to more fully live.

**This reminds me of a wonderful interview with visionary artist David Jeffers I did in 2001, about working with the Goddess Lilith:

"What you believe" is just a shell. (The Goddess) 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.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

November Poems........

BE in me as the eternal moods
of the bleak wind, and not

As transient things are—
gaiety of flowers.
Have me in the strong loneliness
of sunless cliffs

And of gray waters.
Let the gods speak softly of us

In days hereafter,
the shadowy flowers of Orcus

Remember thee.

Ezra Pound


If only, when harbored
among debris, littered confusion,
we throw angry words like stones
at each other,

or walk away
the last snapshot for memory

a defiant, sullen back
or a careless kiss dockside,
hurried and heedless

if only, if only
at such partings,
we could know them
for what they are:

Goodbyes that last a lifetime.

I would have asked you
to set me adrift with love.

To fill my yellow sails
with your blessing
as I blow mine into yours.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Angels in Nebraska

In my previous post I discussed Alzheimer's, and I mentioned my Grandmother, who I loved dearly as a child. I became her caretaker at around the age of 12 when she developed Alzheimer's, until she died when I was 16. I still have a kind of empty place when I try to remember those years.

I wanted to write down this story, because I feel it's important to the previous post, a gift, I believe, from my grandmother, whose name was Glen.

Glen was from Nebraska, and she married my grandfather, who died long before I was born, when she was in her 20's. He was considerably older than her, and died in his early 50's, leaving a young widow in a small farming town with a small boy to raise in the midst of the Great Depression. Perhaps, with no money, she had no other choice but to leave her homeland, or perhaps she wanted to make a new start; but whatever her reasons may have been, like many during this time, my grandmother took my father and went west to California. In Los Angeles she worked as a seamstress.

Right or wrong, when Glenn developed dementia, my father would not put her into a nursing home, but confined her to a room in our house. When we went to Afghanistan in 1963 (he worked for A.I.D.) she went with us, and lived her last years in our house there, no longer the grandmother I knew. When she died my father took her body back to the States, to the little town of Dewitt where her husband was buried. It was never discussed again.

In 2005, I was driving cross country to a residency in Connecticut. One day out from Tucson, I stopped at a rest stop in New Mexico for lunch. Sitting at a picnic table, I noticed something shiny under the table, and looking down saw a pair of pliers by my feet. Expensive looking, since no one was around to claim them, I threw them on the floor of the car when I got ready to leave, and didn't think about it again.

Somewhere around Missouri, I had the idea of taking a little detour, and seeing if I could visit my Grandmother's grave. No one had been there since my father took her body there all those years ago, and if I didn't go, no one ever would again. I wondered if the little town of Dewitt even existed still? But there it was on the map, not far from Beatrice. So I headed north, visited the Prairie museum, found Dewitt, and found at last the little graveyard.

I remembered visiting that site when I was a child with my family, and I remembered the Black Eyed Susans that were ubiquitous - so that's what I planted at her grave. Then I explored Dewitt, a town of about 1000 people. Dewitt, surprisingly for such a small town in the Prairie Lands, seemed to be prospering, due to the Tool and Die company there, which was founded by a Danish immigrant named William Petersen in the 1920's. There was even a little Dewitt museum with historical information, and a bronze statue of Mr. Petersen was proudly displayed on the green lawn at its entrance.**
It should be obvious where this is leading, but not to me at the time............I went on down the road, happy about my detour to my Grandmother's grave, and ended up in Connecticut eventually. Where, when cleaning out my car, I found that pair of pliers on the floor. On each side, they were stamped: "Vise-Grip: The Original".So now I never go anywhere without my "magical pliers", which I like to think my Angel in Nebraska provided for me.

Nebraska Sunflowers

**I am very sad to learn, from Wikipedia, that "On October 31, 2008 the plant was closed and 330 jobs were lost when manufacturing of Vise-Grips and other tools moved to China."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Alzheimer's and Integral Consciousness

'So here, we see hope. We see that Alzheimer's is neither a decline nor a reduction of the person, but an opportunity to move into the higher plane; an opportunity for self-discovery, the self-discovery and self-transcendence we must all accomplish, in our own journey of ascension."

Maurie D. Pressman, M.D.

This entry is no doubt going to meander. Increasingly, I find myself observing what I call the "non-local" or integral nature of "mind". (Boy, does that sound pretentious, but I can't come up with anything more elegant at the moment.)

For example, yesterday I pulled out a folder of prints from a show I had at a friend's gallery 5 years ago. I haven't spoken with him since, but looking at the prints I found myself thinking fondly of him, remembering many good conversations. Later in the day, Lewis called. He said he found himself thinking about me, and on an impulse picked up the phone. So we talked about what we've both been doing in the past 5 years...........and I put down the phone once again reflecting that we are, indeed, telepathic beings.

Lewis, like myself, is dealing with the care of elderly parents. I spent most of my adolescent years as caretaker for my grandmother, who developed dementia. Lewis is trying to cope with his mother who has Alzheimer's. It is profoundly stressful, profoundly painful, to deal with not only the physical, but the gradual cognitive loss of a loved one. To see that person we recognize gradually slip away from identity, memory, this world.

I left our conversation with the name of a book I thought he might want to read by a psychologist who believes that understanding Alzheimer's is about understanding the nature of our multi-dimensional being. And there was also a story I felt like sharing, a story about my grandmother, but I think I'll leave that until my next blog entry.

The book (It is very much in the form of a journal, and many passages have a kind of "stream of consciousness" form) is written by the founder of ISSEEM, Elmer Green, who is also one of the founders of Biofeedback. Dr. Green agreed with his wife and life-long collaborator, Alyce, to study the progression of her disease from a spiritual perspective. The Ozawkie Book of the Dead - Alzheimer's isn't what you think it is! *

Here's an excellent excerpt from a review by T.M. Srinivasan:

"The book under review is by 'the father of clinical biofeedback' in this country and co-founder of the Council Grove Conference for the study of Voluntary Control of States of Consciousness, the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, and lately, the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine. His long time associate and wife, Alyce Green had Alzheimer's for the last seven years of her life. Elmer tended to her during these years and "explored the realms of consciousness beyond Alzheimer's and death."

Part 2 of the book deals with their experiences as Alyce slipped into her own world initiated by Alzheimer's. Alyce, during times of profound lucidity, was able to communicate an experience of dual consciousness, of being both "here and there". She was in "two bardos" (to use a word from Tibetan Buddhism), moving from the present to the other which was beyond death as she progressed with Alzheimer's. For example, she tells Elmer in one passage, with much sadness, about the "big goodbye that is shortly coming up" (knowing about the present) and then says "they had taken her to see the great temple" (aware of the beyond). [p. 423]

Elmer kept a diary from May 8, 1989 till after Alyce passed away on August 6, 1994. The widely swinging moods, the sudden show of affection towards Elmer, the awareness of events at several levels all makes this part very informative and touching.

The last part is titled "Learning to enter the Yogic states of deep stillness". This part deals with karma and how to get over its entanglements, Theta Brainwave Training, channeling, and stories about dreams experienced by Elmer and several others, who received instructions and support from Alyce. In a series of three synchronicities, Elmer meets his school friend and sweetheart, Gladys Strom. All these synchronicities are arranged by Alyce, who wants a companion for Elmer during his travels and lectures.

The book also contains information from an earlier book by the author that dealt primarily with biofeedback [Elmer and Alyce Green, "Beyond Biofeedback", Knoll Publishing Company, Fort Wayne, IN, 1989]. "

*Published by Philosophical Research Society, 3910 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90027, 2001. Total pages 873.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Compost" and the Black Madonna


I've always loved the idea of "compost". When I became a gardener, I was delighted by the daily visit to the compost heap, the alchemical magic of watching it gradually become fertile soil, coveted by renegade watermelon seeds that sprouted at it's outskirts, and mice that nibbled at it's warm, smelly, decomposing wealth.

I ran across the idea of "energetic compost" today in a recent article by Sig Lonegren, a spiritualist minister and geomancer who lives in England. I myself have seen "fairy rings" that marked places of geomantic energy when I lived in the Northeast.........I love his description of how he turned to Mother Earth to help him with "psychic compost". Reading his thoughts about "compost", I had to pull out and re-read one of my own articles as well, about the "Black Madonna" - to me, these ideas are intimately intertwined.

Sig writes:

"I would like to suggest an approach that employs some geomantic magic (for dealing with fear and negativity). Crossings of underground veins of primary water are very yin. I see them like a psychic vacuum cleaner that sucks energy into the Earth. It helps things to fall apart, to decompose. Yes, there are some beneficial things that can happen by spending time over places like this. For example, it's a great place to put your compost pile. But mostly, it is deleterious to human health. It shrinks your aura when you spend time over such places, and helps you get a number of different degenerative dis-eases - like cancer, arthritis, auto-immune diseases and difficulty in sleeping.

But these yin centres are great places to get rid of stuff that is no longer useful to you. I learned this in the early eighties when another geomancer moved in to my area and began writing me rather provocative unpleasant letters. One day, I had had enough, so I took his letter to a place on my lawn where there was a crossing of veins of primary water, and Mother Nature had made it clear by leaving a small circle of English Daisies. As I lit the letter, I asked Her to take this negativity and use it as compost for the new. I just didn't want this negative energy in my life any more. (
He never wrote again.) Six months later, someone asked me about this guy and what had been irritating me, and I couldn't remember! I still can't."

The Black Madonna

Black Madonna of Guadalupe, Spain

"Older yet, and Lovelier Far, this Mystery
and I will not forget."

Robin Williamson

"Black Madonnas" are found in shrines, churches and cathedrals all over Europe - France alone has over 300. These icons have been the focus of millions of pilgrimages since the early days of the church, and probably rest upon sites that were pilgrimage sites long before the advent of Christianity.

Why were these effigies so beloved that pilgrims travelled many miles to seek healing and guidance? Why, in a European medieval world where peasants or even aristocracy were unlikely to see a dark skinned person was the Madonna black? Some of the effigy statues are made of materials that are true, ebony black. And why are there so many myths that connect the effigies with trees, or caves, or special wells?

In 2005, during a residency on the 150 acres of IPark, the land spoke to me, and I had time and space to speak back, to engage in a conversation, and my own " Black Madonna" arose from that numinous time.

Many suggest that the Madonna with Child originated in images of Isis with her child Horus (the reborn Sun God). Isis was a significant religious figure in the later days of Rome, and continued to be worshipped in the early days of Christianity. In general, when Isis arrived in Rome she adopted Roman dress and complexion, and was sometimes merged with other deities, such as Venus. The images of Isis that survived the fall of Rome were perhaps the origin of later "Virgin and Child" icons - temples devoted to Isis continued well into the third century. "Paris" derives from the name of Isis ("par Isis")

fresco from the Temple of Isis at Pompeii

Mother Earth

Whether originally derived from Isis or not, most of these images are connected in place and myth to healing springs, power sites, and holy caves. I believe The Black Madonna is also the ancient Earth Mother, metamorphosed in the form of Mary, and yet not entirely disguised. She is black like the Earth is black, fertile (often shown pregnant) like the Earth is fertile, dark because she is embodied and immanent, as nature is embodied and immanent.

I did not realize until recently that there are many pilgrimages in Europe to Black Madonnas. A significant pilgrimage route is the one that concludes at the Cathedral of Santiago at Compostella, the endpoint of "The Camino", the long traditional pilgrimage still made by thousands today across Spain.

Pilgrimage routes to Compostela

It's believed that the earliest pilgrimages were made to the "Black Madonna of Compostella", a very ancient effigy. Compostella comes from the same root word as "compost". Compost is the fertile soil created from rotting organic matter, the "Black Matter". The alchemical soup to which everything living returns, and is continually resurrected by the processes of nature into new life, new form. Matter. Mater. Mother.

"From this compost -- life and light will emerge. When the pilgrims came to the Cathedral at Compostella they were being 'composted' in a sense. After emergence from the dark confines of the cathedral and the spirit -- they were ready to flower, they were ready to return home with their spirits lightened."

~~ Jay Weidner

[Digitized image of Our Lady of Montserrat]

There are many legends and miracles associated with Black Madonna icons. The icon at Guadalupe, Spain, is said to have been carved by St. Luke in Jerusalem, although this is highly unlikely. It doesn't ultimately matter how old the icon actually is. The question is, what does it embody that strikes a deep chord, that speaks to those who come to contemplate the icon? And what does the icon emanate? Can it actually have healing powers, or is the site itself a "place of power", it's energies renewed by millenia of worship and pilgrimage? What resonance does it attune those who come there to? And how significant is the act of making the pilgrimage itself, the long effort to come to a sacred place, a sacred image?

In the Middle Ages when the majority of the Black Madonna statues were created there was still a strong undercurrent and mingling of the old ways. Black Madonnas were discovered hidden in trees in France as late as the seventeenth century, suggesting these were representations of pagan goddesses who were still worshipped in groves. Black Madonnas are also found close to caves (the womb/tomb of the Earth Mother). In churches the statues were sometimes kept in a subterranean part of a church, or near a sacred spring or well.

"Again and again a statue is found in a forest or a bush or discovered when ploughing animals refuse to pass a certain spot. The statue is taken to the parish church, only to return miraculously by night to her own place, where a chapel is then built in her honour. Almost invariably associated with natural phenomena, especially healing waters or striking geographical features" Ean Begg
Black Madonnas, not surprisingly, are also associated with the Grail legends. The Grail or Chalice may represent the mingling of Celtic mythology. Cerridwen's cauldron was an important myth about the womb of the Earth Mother, from which life is continually renewed, nourished, born, composted, and reborn.

The extent to which people make pilgrimages to these sites is amazing. For example, the Black Madonna of Montserrat, near Barcelona, receives up to a million pilgrims a year, travelling to visit the 'miracle-working' statue known as La Moreneta, the dark little one.

So why am I writing all of this? Well, because it's important to know that the ancient "Journey to the Earth Mother", which exists in all cultures and times, intimately connected to long ago "pagan" sacred sites, sacred sites that probably always had an intrinsic geomantic power.... never ended. It just transformed again. The pilgrimage is a human pilgrimage, an impulse that is made, ultimately, throughout many cultures and times.

Black Madonna of Czestochowskad (Poland)

Procession to the Black Madonna, Poland


Sig Lonegren, SunnyBank 9 Bove Town Glastonbury, Somerset BA6 8JE England,

The Cult of the Black Virgin (1985) by Ean Begg;

Miraculous Images of Our Lady (1993) by Joan Carroll Cruz;

The Virgin Goddess: Studies in the Pagan and Christian Roots of Mariology (1993) by Stephen Benko.

Martin Gray: Sacred Sites (

Jay Weidner, (

James Swan, Sacred Sites, (

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Solar Eclipse, 2017

I have always loved the word "Dapple". "Dappled light" to me is "integral light", the play of shadow and sun, yin and yang, light and dark that is ever in contrast, ever creative, ever illusive. Maybe because I had tea today in flickering, dappled light several poems came to mind, one my own, one a famous poem written in the 19th century by Gerald Manley Hopkins. And then I also found a beautiful poem by Tucson writer Arthur Naiman, in which he disagrees (poetically speaking) with Mr. Hopkins.


How are we turned
again and again
to find ourselves moving
into the shadow land
where our best and finest intentions
drift out of true,
and into the truly opposite?

Love becomes hate
hope turns into despair
inspiration hardens into dogma.

we must find our faces again
in dark waters
revealed among fallen leaves,
our reflected sins,
our cherished scars,
the dappled shapes of light and dark
that surface toward a whole.

There is something that wants us to open
Something that pours from the crevices
where we have broken

Something that laughs like a river in the morning

Solar Eclipse, 2017

Pied Beauty

by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 – 1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-color as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh fire-coal chestnut falls; finches wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.
Contra Hopkins
by Arthur Naiman*
(A response to "Pied Beauty", in the same style and form)
The world does not need God for us to praise it—
Its beauty aches inside our jagged loins.
Lightning that tears the sky to show the hot white light behind;
The crannied, riddled earth; the colors that emblaze it;
A jumble of two pulses unthinking passion joins;
Healing from the taproot, redemption of the blind.

Blood like holy water shrouds each birth;
Fish amid the coral like random, sparkling coins;
Waves that curl and sputter; the forest veined and lined;
The earth is all the grace we need on earth:
Embrace what’s kind.

*Copyright Arthur Naiman (2002)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mandelas and Midwives

"Non-Local Quantum Mandela" (2010)

Finally sent off my Guggenheim application..........whew, what a lot of work! But good for me to really review my 5 year project as it required, giving better form to what is meaningful to me, what "strands" I've been following. It's been a long trip!

"Tse Che Nako, the Thought Woman, Weaving the World into Being" (2007)

Among the Navajo, to this day a bit of spider web is rubbed into the hands of infant girls, so that they will become Good Weavers, and Grandmother Spider Woman will bless them. Weaving, as interviews with many traditional Navajo (Dine`) weavers have revealed, is a spiritual practice for them, a practice for creating inner and outer balance. To "weave a beautiful pattern" is a metaphor for weaving a beautiful mind, a beautiful life.

Two Talking Masks: "The River Face" & "The Bone Goddess"

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

"Ancestral Midwives" (2009)

Monday, November 1, 2010

The New Story - Brian Swimme

I truly do believe that story (myths) is the name of the country where the archetypes enact their dramas, the Gods and Goddesses weave their relationships and teach their values. Within the Mythic Realms we find the templates of societies, and as individuals, each of us is "in-formed" by story, by mythos. Which is why the ancient Native American archetype of Spider Woman has been so fascinating to me.

Also called "Thought Woman" in Southwestern Pueblo cultures, Spider Woman is a primal creatrix who imagines things that come to be; she weaves the world continually into being and dissolution with the stories she tells. At the center of the great Web (symbolized by the ubiquitous cross (representing the union of the 4 directions) that is always associated with her) Spider Woman/Thought Woman sees the ever evolving pattern, the resonance, the harmonies and the disharmonies. The gift of weaving, and the gift of story, are the gifts Spider Woman endowed her grandchildren with.

In various Pueblo mythologies, when the world fell out of balance, it was Spider Woman who led the people from the deluge and destruction of the dying "Third World" into the "Fourth World", which is our time. As the Hopi (and Mayan) calendar or cycle is almost ended, perhaps, it is Spider Woman who again will lead us into the new world, by helping us to spin "new stories".

There are some who say the "world wide Web" is Spider Woman's latest appearance.

I wanted to share this video with Brian Swimme, and revisit again the New Stories Foundation, which I find so inspiring!