Friday, December 30, 2011

2012!......Spider Woman's Time

“What might we see, how might we act, 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, Theologian, "From a Broken Web" (1987)
"We do not need to invent a ground of connectedness, but only to realize it.  Inter relatedness has been experientially grasped in myriad cultural contexts - yet the force of modernity continually denies and degrades it."

Charlene Spretnak, from The Politics of Women's Spirituality
Where will the "5th World" begin?  Will Spider Woman, called also Tse che Nako, "Thought Woman" in some Pueblo traditions - will She come again, to help humanity find our way once more into the Next World?

I believe so, truly I do.  It seems important to honor Spider Woman today, so I felt like sharing some little of what I know of Her again, on the advent of 2012, this great moment, this "Fifth World", this  New Age.  I feel her threads, brushing against my cheek, my hand, these days. 

As I sit in this internet cafe, the buzz of electronically connected and connecting people all around me with their laptops and devices....I can't help but feel that, ever inventive and working with the times, the World Wide Spider Woman's latest appearance.  She's weaving all around us, waking us up.

Pueblo mythology tells that when each of the 3 Hopi worlds ended, it was Spider Grandmother who led the people through the sipapu, through the kiva (or birth canal) into the next world, the "4th  world".  Now, according to the Hopi and Mayan calendars (and this is no coincidence, since they are related cultures)....the 4th World has ended.  The Fifth World is beginning.   With so many people tuned to the "2012" myth, which has reached almost archetypal proportions thanks to Hollywood, it seems strange that so few know of Spider Woman, the universal midwife.

But, that's kind of Her way.  She stays hidden, until people are ripe to listen.  She doesn't waste her time.  She comes when the time is right, the labor pangs have begun.
"It is through the poetry of myth, mask and metaphor Spider Woman comes alive. The rock surface of an ancient petroglyph site is merely a veil between the observer and the other transcendental realms; it becomes a portal through which to enter the world of Spider Woman. As others have written before me: "She is with me now as I tell you these stories."
 Carol Patterson-Rudolph, "On The Trail of Spider Woman" (1997)

As anthropologist Carol Patterson-Rudolph has written,  to the Navajo Spider Woman ((NA ASHJE’II ’ASDZÁÁ) represents an initiation into a mature, integrated way of being.  It could be said into a  more interconnected way of seeing, a "webbed vision". She is able to bridge the sacred and prosaic dimensions of life - but for those who are not ready, Grandmother Spider will remain invisible, just as invisible as her powerful but transparent threads, as insignificant as a tiny insect,  so small she can sit on a shoulder, or patiently wait in her web,  and never be seen.

And yet, for those with eyes to see, her Web is everywhere, and she will offer wisdom with a still, small voice, carried in   the breath of the wind.

Hopi legend tells that  each previous world was destroyed when humanity fell out of harmony with the divine plan.  Not unlike the Biblical Great Flood, in some versions of the legend, the world became, once again, full of chaos and war.  At last a terrible deluge destroyed everything, and only a few survived,  led  by Spider Woman to the next higher world, changing in many ways as they  as they emerged.  In the most prevalent  version of this story,  Spider Grandmother caused a hollow reed to  emerge into the Fourth World at the sipapu, the hole in the earth (I think of the Omphallos, the world navel of ancient Greece)  from which the people emerged as they climbed up the reed into this 4th world. 

The earliest "Spider Woman" image is found among the Mayans, and she is clearly also identified as Mother Earth.  Among the Pueblo peoples of the American Southwest,  Grandmother Spiderwoman is also called "Thought Woman" ("Tse Che Nako"). She is a Creatrix deity as well, and can be  found among the Navajo, the Lakota, the Zuni, Hopi, Cherokee............she is ubiquitous.  Images of the  "Spider and Cross" are found everywhere among prehistoric peoples throughout the South and Midwest, the Mississippian mound builders.   

In Navajo rugs, “Spider Woman’s Cross” is a symbol of balance or completion.  To this day, a bit of spider web is rubbed into the palms of infant girls, so they will become a good weavers.  Spider Woman's threads weave from the center of life.  We are all Relations......."look" she seems to instruct, "see the pattern, see the threads, the symmetry.  Weave your lives from there."

In his book on Hopi religion,  John Loftin writes that:
 “Spider Woman was the first to weave. Her techniques and patterns have stood the test of time, or more properly, the test of timelessness – because they have always been present. It makes sense that one would follow the instructions of a deity who helped to form the underlying structure of the world in which one lives…..…..Weaving is not an act in which one creates something oneself – it is an act in which one uncovers a pattern that was already there.” 

Thought Woman as creatrix spins the world into being with what she imagines, with the stories she tells about the world, spun from her very substance, her silken threads that are invisible, yet stronger than steel.  Threads organize into patterns, ever expanding in complexity and scale. Tse Che Nako weaves,  sharing the creative power with all of her descendants. We are all "Spider Woman's hands",  weaving, bringing the imaginal, transparent web into being.  There is a contemporary Hopi prophecy circulating on the web these days that says "the time of the lone wolf is over."  I agree.  The esoteric knowledge of our inter-dependancy, and of our quontum creative power, is no longer hidden, it's right here, before our very eyes.  
Tse Che Nako, Thought-Woman,  The Spider
  is sitting in Her room now  thinking up a good story.
  I'm telling you the story  She is thinking."

Keresan Pueblo Proverb

A spiritual paradigm is founded upon mythic roots - the "warp and woof” from which ideas grow. Following the metaphor  Katherine Keller has provided in her book "From a Broken Web" - can we can find contemporary mythic models that allow us to envision our world as it really is – a shimmering web of interconnected relationships, an ecology of being. Can we find ways to "see the world with a webbed vision”?  Can we take Spider Woman's gift, and emerge collectively into the 5th World?
As we each  rub a bit of spider web into the palms of our hands at the New Year,  wishing all my friends strength, vision, and loving Relations. 
 "The question is not so much "What do I learn from stories" as "What stories do I want to live?"   Insofar as I'm non-dual with my narratives, that question is just as much, "What stories want to come to life through me?"  

David R. Loy, "The World is Made of Stories"

Loftin, John D. , Religion and Hopi Life, Second Edition, Indiana University Press, 2003
Keller, Catherine, From a Broken Web (1989), Thames & Hudson
Patterson-Rudolph, Carol, On the Trail of Spiderwoman, 1997, Ancient City Press

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Winter Poem

From "The winter of Listening"

All this petty worry
while the great cloak
of the sky grows dark
and intense round every living thing.

What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.

What we strive for
in perfection
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
we desire,
what disturbs
and then nourishes
has everything
we need.

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.
Even with the summer
so far off
I feel it grown in me
now and ready
to arrive in the world.

All those years
listening to those
who had
nothing to say.
All those years
how everything
has its own voice
to make
itself heard.

All those years
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening.

And the slow
of remembering
how everything
is born from
an opposite
and miraculous

Silence and winter
has led me to that

So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own.
. . . . . . . . . .
by David Whyte

Monday, December 26, 2011

Life Between Life - Michael Newton

 I woke up at around 5:00 this morning because I heard my cell phone ringing loudly.  Not fully awake, I lumbered around looking for the darn thing.  When I finally found it, it showed no history of any call whatsoever.  So, awake now, I crawled back into bed, and picked up the book I'd been reading the previous night, which I opened to a page about how spirit guides contact their embodied students.....and I couldn't help but think, "well, if you're going to call, can you please leave a message?"  That's one "wake up call" I'll remember!

"Journey of Souls"  by Michael Newton Ph.D. has been around since the 90's, and there are several other books he's written about his many years of research as well.  Dr. Newton began as a hypnotherapist, and as he recounts, stumbled on a patient who "re-membered", from a transpersonal state, being in the spirit realm, between lives on earth.  He, and his colleagues, have since worked with hundreds of people to explore the subject, and the "between life therapy" he's developed aims to help people understand better the "soul purposes" of why they incarnated.  Now retired, Dr. Newton has founded the Michael Newton Institute, which trains practitioners in past and between life therapy.

I confess, it's a strange book, written in such a dry, academic style, that I sometimes have to laugh, considering the vastness of the subject.  But impossible to put down.  And my own "wake up call" may very well be about getting back to work...........

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quotes for a Quantum New Year

"Storyteller" by Lorraine Capparell
"God needs us as much as we need God.  We need God because we are God's stories.  God needs us because we are God's way to make new kinds of stories."

David R. Loy, "The World is Made of Stories

 People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons.
 From within. ”

Ursula K. Le Guin

"Progress might have been alright once upon a time, but it has gone on for too long."

---Ogden Nash

"Stories are not abstractions from life but how we engage with it.  We make stories and those stories make us human.  We awaken into stories as we awaken into language, which is there before and after us.  The question is not so much "What do I learn from stories" as "What stories do I want to live?"   Insofar as I'm non-dual with my narratives, that question is just as much, "What stories want to come to life through me?"

David R. Loy, "The World is Made of Stories"

"As you read a book word by word and page by page, you participate in its creation, just as a cellist playing a Bach suite participates, note by note, in the creation, the coming-to-be, the existence, of the music. And, as you read and re-read, the book of course participates in the creation of you, your thoughts and feelings, the size and temper of your soul.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

"With every passing hour our solar system comes 43 thousand miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in the Constellation of Hercules, and still there are some misfits who continue to insist that there is no such thing as progress."

---Ransom K. Ferm

"What's a day without a good rationalization?"

---Fred (Bartender at the Crystal Korner Bar, Madison, Wisconsin)

copyright, The Global Art Project

"Our job was not to just re-tell the ancient  myths, but to re-invent them for today.  Artists are the myth makers."

Katherine Josten, The Global Art Project

 "Tse Che Nako, Thought-Woman
  The Spider
  is sitting in Her room now
  thinking up a good story.
  I'm telling you the story
  She is thinking."

Keresan Pueblo Proverb

Monday, December 19, 2011

Winter Solstice

Photo by NASA
When language was young, when even the gods and goddesses had not yet entirely taken human form but still ran with the deer in the forest, or flew with the wings of crows, or were glimpsed the depths of a numinous pool........ even then,  I think this was a holy day.  The Sun was returning to the sleeping world.

Fires were lit to welcome the Shining One returning from the underworld.  Stones aligned with the  Sun's journey made a pathway, and food and drink were left to give the young god strength.  Perhaps  they  danced through the long cold night, helping him on his way, keeping vigil.

Planet Earth turns her face toward her star again,  she circles round,  and we turn with her, every  creat(e)ure  within her fragile, azure skin.     Happy Solstice!

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

Gary Snyder


So the shortest day came, and the year died,

And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,

To drive the dark away.

They lighted candles in the winter trees;

They hung their homes with evergreen;

They burned beseeching fires all night long

To keep the year alive,

And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake

They shouted, reveling.

Through all the frosty ages you can hear them

Echoing behind us—Listen!!

All the long echoes sing the same delight,

This shortest day,

As promise wakens in the sleeping land:

They carol, feast, give thanks,

And dearly love their friends,

And hope for peace.

And so do we, here, now,

This year and every year.

Welcome Yule!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Creativity, Art and Shamanism

untitled (1970)
"We slowly pull focus, lifting up and away from being embedded in our lives until we attain an overview.  This overview empowers us to make valid creative choices." 

Julia Cameron, "The Artist's Way"

I've been thinking about the blog entry I wrote on Depression, thinking about it on two levels.  First, I've been considering what the gifts of that depression may be,  what I've needed to look at, change, grieve, or accept.  I haven't made any art since my residency at Wesley 2 years ago, and so I took out The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, intending to begin her course. 

The other thing I considered was the need to remember the  trans-personal nature of creativity - of mind.  Spider Woman's Web.  What came to mind recently is a group I belong to who are mostly practicing and  retired therapists.  Although I have great respect for them, I've been feeling ill at ease in the group.  Psychologists can tend to "pathologize" - they often see others in terms of  an assumed standard of mental health and normalcy.  I understand  why,  and I honor the experience they bring to the group.  And yet..........something is missing for me, there is not enough room in the group for the mystery, I find that I am often censoring myself.........

Untitled (1972)
There's a thin line between trans-personal, trans-formative, "non-ordinary states", and madness.  Sometimes "madness" is also brilliant insight.  Sometimes creativity arises  from a liminal zone that should not be explained away or dismissed because it's outside of an "acceptable emotional spectrum".  Just because we can't see ultra-violet with our eyes doesn't mean it's not there.

Carl Jung, who formed the concepts of synchronicity and the collective unconscious, had "spirit guides" that he considered a source of  crucial insights, aspects of his  psyche, "which he could produce, but which could also produce themselves, as having their own life".  Among his "guides" were  the archetypal mentor figure Philemon, an ancient Vedic scholar, and Basilides,  an early Gnostic teacher in Alexandria., Egypt. It's also not well known that Jung's family included members who were known locally as mediums.
 "Inspiration may be a form of super-consciousness, or perhaps of sub-consciousness....I wouldn't know.  But I am sure it is the antithesis of self-consciousness."
untitled (1985)
Aaron Copeland

Recently I was talking with someone about  artists as shamans, and as in the past,  I both agree and disagree with this comparison.  It's highly presumptuous for most artists to call themselves "shamans".  Traditional shamans, while their practices and symbol systems may vary widely, do universally have a great deal of structure within which they work - they have cultural and tribal support, traditional systems that go back through many generations,  systems of "visioning", containment,  ordeals or initiations,  and means of psychic protection that have evolved for hundreds of years.  They have a  lot of "invisible support"  as well, a "strong container" within which their responsibilities are clear,  often hereditary, and they are generally expected to be mature and richly experienced before they can  begin practicing as shamanic healers.  It's not a random, chaotic process at all.
"In the case of the Sami, my Shaman teacher was trained in her culture for thirty-five years before she could practice hearings on people outside of her extended family. When I pondered this, given the fact that she was born into a prestigious lineage of Shamans and that her talents were obvious when she was a child, I wondered why she had to study for so long before treating those outside of her kin group............My Shaman teacher was not only a healer, but she was also a student of folklore. This is important, because she always insisted that the three principal sources of her shamanic knowledge were Sami folklore (tales, legends, and so forth); teachings from the ancestral lineage-from her father, who was her mentor, and from other ancestral spirits, who spoke to her from the spirit world; and teachings from spirit entities (what we might call "spirit aides" or "power animals."


I was once privileged have a conversation with one of the founders of Eco-feminism,  Gloria Orenstein.*  Dr. Orenstein is a Professor of Comparative Literature and Gender Studies at USC in Los Angeles.  In the 80's she became friends with, and worked with,  a hereditary  Sami shaman.  (I have an article about her work with the Sami, and can't seem to find it on line - I'll try writing to her and see if she'll let me print it  in this blog.) I always remembered the story she told me about the first time she went to visit her mentors' family in Finland.  It was winter, very dark, and they had driven for many miles into the countryside, at last arriving at a house where she was given a room to sleep in.  She said that she lay in bed wondering if she was crazy,  coming all the way from Los Angeles in the dead of winter.   Then she heard voices outside the window.  They seemed to be calling for  "Caffe, Caffe".  In the morning she asked her hosts why people were outside in the freezing  night, asking for coffee.  They responded that this was a good sign, it meant she would receive help.  It seems that in Samiland, like flowers and food in Bali, or whiskey to the Orishas of Cuba, coffee was an offering made to the spirit world.

I don't mean, of course,  to negate the work of many contemporary shamans, such as Sandra Ingerman ("Soul Retrieval") or Michael Harner, who have studied  traditions from around the world and evolved  new forms of contemporary shamanism.   

'St. George and the Dragon" (1969?)
 I think I'm digressing.  I wanted to demonstrate that making even the most visionary art does not make one a shaman, however, art process can be shamanic within it's healing capacity, and the way it can reveal the seamlessness, the weaving,  of our inner lives.  There is a liminal dimension to the creative process one can hardly fail to notice.

Going over some of my very old drawings, I was amazed to find the one above, which I did when I was about 18,  of "St. George and the Dragon".  I knew nothing whatsoever about feminism, the Goddess,  or mythology ...... and yet I can read what became my life purpose, like hieroglyphics, in this little drawing.  Here is a divine female figure, which I symbolized with wings, who seems to have a snake around her waist and in her hand.  She's merged into the rather tragic looking figure of the dragon about to be slain by George, who looks nothing at all like a saint to me.  (In fact, he looks kind of like my abusive boyfriend of the time.) This is a classic heroic tale - so why did I make "George" so un-noble?  Behind him is a barren, rocky land, in contrast to the depths below the dragon figure, with vegetation bubbling up from the dark earth, and even  something that looks like a dark moon shape as well.

The meanings I can now draw from these symbols represent many years of study and discussion as I became a feminist, and became involved in Eco-feminism and Goddess theology.  In 1968 or so there might have been people like Merlin Stone thinking about the banished Goddess, the Earth Snake***, and the development of patriarchal religions, but I sure wasn't exposed to it until well into my 30's.

The drawing really is a kind of "future memory".

"Skin Shedder Mandala" (1985)
 **"Synchronicity and The Shaman of Samiland" in UNCOILING THE SNAKE: ANCIENT PATTERNS IN CONTEMPORARY WOMEN'S LIVES (A Snakepower Reader). Edited by Vicki Noble. Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1993. 

***I just noticed that the article above is a "SNAKEPOWER READER"..........!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I just had to post this again!  Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Depression - visiting Saturn's Shrine

"Age", 1986
 "Today we seem to prefer the word depression over sadness and melancholy.  Perhaps its Latin form sounds more clinical and serious.  But there was a time when melancholy was identified with the Roman god Saturn.  To be depressed was to be "in Saturn", and a persona chronically disposed to melancholy was known as a "child of Saturn"......melancholic thoughts are deeply rooted in Saturn's preference for days gone by, for memory and the sense that time is passing.  These thoughts and feelings, sad as they are, favor the soul's desire to be both in time and In eternity, and so in a strange way they can be pleasing."
Thomas Moore, "Care of the Soul"

"The Well of your Joy is as deep as the Well of your Sorrow."

           Kalil Gibran

The past week or so I slipped into a depression.  I've been so busy taking care of everything for so long, it was "unexpected".  As if such things could be expected, put into the calendar.  I became depressed because I'm living in a house alone where my mother and brother once lived, their cats and noise and lives, and they will never return.  I became depressed because I remembered that tigers, and polar bears, and so many creatures are leaving the world, and it suddenly was very real to me.  I became depressed because a lot of people have come to my house recently, and not one commented on my art, or even my orchids,  but all of them talked, exhaustively, about money, and it sickened me.  I became depressed because........

My depression fell over me like a heavy grey blanket, making it hard to move.  What I found depressing as well was how very little permission I had from others, or myself, to experience it. Spiritually oriented acquaintances I tend to avoid at such times, because depression is not very positive or uplifting, and you can feel like a leper.  Even my former therapist (seemed) to look at me like was a kind of lapsed alcoholic, and suggested a self-help book by a popular psychologist, and to begin her exercises right away. 

To be honest, I thought wistfully of a long ago bar I used to go to in a long ago town, and the fine therapy of crying in one's cups with a fellow sympathizer.  In retrospect, there was some real use to that.

 In a culture that demands an impossible standard of  constant economic growth and individual productivity, where pharmaceuticals promise relief, and a better, newer, probably more expensive self-help workshop to transform your higher consciousness and find lasting bliss is in order........I miss  simpler times when I had the Mole's Eye Bar, and a vodka tonic.

So I stayed home alone, and let my depression be, and invited Saturn and Hecate to visit.

That intense time before the Solstice, it seems to me, is "Saturnine", the month of endings, celebration of the dead, composting of the year, going underground, dreaming, life review.........age. What does "age" mean?  Memory, slowing down, reflection, loss.  Sometimes wisdom, sometimes depression. 

Why must we always "keep up"?  Should we feel shame, failure, if we "fall behind"?  I recognize that we have responsibilities, obligations.......but inner life doesn't always respect such timetables.  Where can people "falling behind" go? Retreats, dream temples, monasteries, where the "fallen" can go to rekindle their souls?  Is there a garden shrine at least, a compassionate space, a psychic allowance within  the whirlwinds of our lives where we are not punished for "falling apart" just a little, for being "depressed", where some inner or outer voice isn't telling us we're "losers"?
I find myself in increasing retreat from the continual "stimulation" of our time.  Some days I look at my computer with a kind of terror, because it represents such an overwhelming vista of possibility.  I now allow that.

And  I don't despise my depressions anymore, rather, I consider them worth listening to.  In fact, they sensitize me, restore my empathy, and compassion.

As everything seems to accelerate and accelerate, I, at least, find it harder and harder to touch things.   To touch the depths of the stories of our lives, to touch anyone, to relish and taste within the onslaught.  Somewhere beneath the pavement there are still those layers of history, layers that belong to lives that preceded us, old bones, old trails, leys and currents and the ghost of the hidden sea.   I sleep on all these stories, they want me to dream them, to open the conduit.

The pace, and of course the urban disconnect from natural cycles........leaves little room for the kind of Saturnine composting of spirit that a good depression can give, the  cyclical return to the dark that is, I believe, reflected in all organic "compost". To rot, fall apart, not know, slow down, fall by the wayside, re-form, be re-formed by the organic, collective forces we are woven into within the cycles of the planet, and within our souls.

Roman gardens used to have lots of little shrines, and  a special shrine was devoted to the morose god, Saturn. A place, it was understood, one went to be alone, to brood, perhaps to grieve. A place to be melancholy.  The word "melancholy" derives from a word that meant "black bile", believed in the  middle ages to be one of the four "Humours", the four (like the four directions or cardinal points) whose balance was believed to determine one's emotional and physical state - those humors were:  blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile.  So here is the idea of balance, and that balance must include the dark as well as the light, the depressive as well as the enlivened.  

As I get older, and my personal energy reserves are more concentrated and precious, I have come to believe that giving melancholy its due, discovering what the gifts of depression, taking time to allow the uncomfortable depths sometimes, not always, revealed in Saturn's solitary corner of the garden - is essential to nourishing, indeed sustaining, my spirit. Just as Romans understood the need to have a shadow-dappled seat dedicated to Saturn in the gardens of their lives, I have my own seat devoted to Saturn, devoted as well to Hecate, goddess of the underworld.  To make offerings before a shrine is a  invocation, and invitation.  To "take a seat" is another kind of opening. 

Hecate, like Saturn, represents age.  She's an old woman, past menopause, past ambition, close to the door that separates this world and the other world.  In the story of Persephone, Hecate is the one who bears a torch, illuminating her passage through the dark caverns of the underworld.  I've always loved that metaphor.

"In us is also a dark angel (Hekate was also called "angelos") - a consciousness (she was also called "phosphoros") that shines in the dark and witnesses such events because it is already aware of them a priori.........Part of us is not dragged down but always lives there, as Hekate is partly an underworld Goddess."

"The Dream and the Underworld", James Hillman

Hecate is the patroness of women (and men) who are no longer producing hormones. Hormones are very potent drugs that induce us to want to reproduce, and thus carry on the evolutionary, planetary urge. When estrogen or testoserone is gone one's consciousness changes.  I've heard lots of women say that  life's illusions seem to peel away. Veils that have muffled all kinds of personal illusions, beliefs, and ideals and drive fall away ..........and there you are. Depressed sometimes.  Revealed. Clarified. Ignorant. Thankful. 

Occasionally, I even notice phosphorescent threads of wisdom, gleaming, candid in the dark and lovely mystery of it all.  I think any new mask of Hecate might be both black, and white.  Maybe Hecate, in her mask and role as old woman, may represent the SOUL aspect of self.  "Part of us is not dragged down, but already lives there........." as Dr. Hillman said.

Already lives there, the gestalt, the storyteller as well as the story. Looking at the yin/yang symbol I wear on a ring, I remind myself that somehow the various parts of my being are, like the dark teardrop and the white teardrop, in flux and co-creation. This weaving of story is not only enlightenment, it is also "endarkenment", the self that waits, is circular, un-named, yin. That "already lives there."

I think to honor her, to honor Saturn, we have to stop blunting the descent, which is hard in a culture that so powerfully rejects the idea, no longer even has a recognizable "god" or a "goddess" to help initiates find their way.  We don't see "melancholy" as about balancing the humors, we see it as something inconvenient, wrong with us, we're ashamed, we're guilty of being "negative", we want it to go away as quickly and efficiently as possible so we can "get back in the race". 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

History of The U.S. Dept. of Peace

We all know where a whole lot of our national resources go.  That's right, the Department of Defense, which, judging from the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, isn't all that "defensive".  And even though we're in deep financial trouble, and Obama promised to end the war(s) when he was elected, the wars go on, and still get a big, big piece of the pie that might fund the environment, schools, the jobless and homeless, etc..  I'm not going to rant about patriarchal mythos (yet), but in asking why we don't have a "Department of Peace", I was kind of amazed to learn the history of people and times who have, in fact, tried to create just that.  It was first proposed in 1793, along with the founding of the Constitution..............It looks to me like this is an idea whose time has come - and gone - and come - and gone - and come.....***

  From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The history of legislation to create a Department of Peace

The peace movement in the United States has a proposed legislative history that dates to the first years of the republic:

1793: Dr. Benjamin Rush, Founding Father (signer of the Declaration of Independence), wrote an essay titled "A plan of a Peace-Office for the United States". Dr. Rush called for equal footing with the Department of War and pointed out the effect of doing so for the welfare of the United States in promoting and preserving perpetual peace in our country. First published in a 1793 almanac that Benjamin Banneker authored, the plan stated (among other proposals):
--Let a Secretary of Peace be appointed to preside in this office; . . . let him be a genuine republican and a sincere Christian. . . .Let the youth of our country be instructed in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and in the doctrines of a religion of some kind; the Christian religion should be preferred to all others; for it belongs to this religion exclusively to teach us not only to cultivate peace with all men, but to forgive—nay more, to love our very enemies.
--To subdue that passion for war . . . militia laws should everywhere be repealed, and military dresses and military titles should be laid aside. . . .
1925: Carrie Chapman Catt, founder of the League of Women Voters, at the Cause and Cure for War Conference, publicly suggested a cabinet-level Department of Peace and secretary of peace be established.

1926/1927: Kirby Page, author of A National Peace Department, wrote, published and distributed the first proposal for a cabinet-level Department of Peace and secretary of peace.

1935: Senator Matthew M. Neely (D-West Virginia) wrote and introduced the first bill calling for the creation of a United States Department of Peace. Reintroduced in 1937 and 1939.

1943: Senator Alexander Wiley (R-Wisconsin) spoke on the Senate floor calling for the United States of America to become the first government in the world to have a Secretary of Peace.

1945: Representative Louis Ludlow (D-Indiana) re-introduced a bill to create a United States Department of Peace.

1946: Senator Jennings Randolph (D-West Virginia) re-introduced a bill to create a United States Department of Peace.

1947: Representative Everett Dirksen (R-Illinois) introduced a bill for “A Peace Division in the State Department”.

1955 to 1968: Eighty-five Senate and House of Representative bills were introduced calling for a United States Department of Peace.

1969: Senator Vance Hartke (D-Indiana) and Representative Seymour Halpern (R-New York) re-introduced bills to create a U.S. Department of Peace in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The 14 Senate cosponsors of S. 953, "The Peace Act", included Birch Bayh (D-IN), Robert Byrd (D-WV), Alan Cranston (D-CA), Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Edmund Muskie (D-ME). The 67 House cosponsors included Ed Koch of New York, Donald Fraser of Minnesota, and Abner Mikva of Illinois, as well as Republican Pete McCloskey of California.

1979: Senator Spark Matsunaga (D-Hawaii) re-introduced a bill to create a U.S. Department of Peace.

2001: Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) re-introduced a bill to create a U.S. Department of Peace. This bill has since been introduced in each session of Congress from 2001 to 2009. It was re-introduced as H.R. 808 on February 3, 2009 and is currently supported by 72 cosponsors. In July 2008, the first Republican cosponsor, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) signed on.

2005: Senator Mark Dayton (D-Minnesota) introduced legislation in the Senate to create a cabinet-level department of peace a week after Dennis Kucinich introduced a similar bill in the House.

And we still don't have a Department of Peace. 

Here's in remembrance of Peace Pilgrim, who devoted her life to peace. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Healing with Masks in New Zealand

I wanted to introduce some wonderful people in New Zealand who are using their "Multi Mask" system to heal and renew hope..........I take the liberty of just copying their ezine, since they can describe what they do better than I.

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Home of the
Multimask System
since 2004...Maskworx is a "one-stop-shop" for Anyone who wants to make an articulate mask - a vivid mask that speaks volumes visually!!

Image of Multimask

A user-friendly
system based on
the Multimask,
a neutral face shape made from paper
with embossed
cutting lines on the back.


Find out about our
9 step
Mask Making System and our range of
Resource and Tool Kits

Visit our Website

Photo Gallery

Be inspired now!

View a stunning array of masks made by our community of mask makers – young and never-too-old.

Visit our Photo Gallery

The Maskworx team has developed a ‘family’ of Blogs for user-support and for sharing mask ideas from around the world
Visit our Mask Blogs
Contact Details

Crown Road
New Zealand

T: 64 9 272 2981
64 9 274 0142
E: Email
W: Web Site

Emerging from Emergency:  
Mask-making transforms kids, classrooms and communities in Crisis
Butterfly Quake Mask by Manning Intermediate

More and more we are discovering the value of making masks in times of crisis, stress and loss...
And when personal loss (Loss with capital 'L') starts leading us around on a leash, then it's time to do something practical and mindful...
Research shows it may take up to two years before symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder show up in survivors following a traumatic episode or disastrous event.  To address the largely unseen "aftermath injury" (the emotional fallout that remains long after the physical injuries have healed) why not make a mask to tell your story?  

Bus image supplied by Tall Poppies
Mask-making works like a tour bus - you revisit what has happened (whatever the devastation may be), you plot a pathway through it (using the Multimask® starter base, plus a map of the creative pathway), then you arrive at some form of resolution (a step closer to recovery). 
This final enews for 2011 samples some of the "emerge from emergency" mask projects covered thus far in classrooms and communities here in New Zealand and overseas...

Quake Masks in Canterbury

Quake Mask
Treasured Quake Mask by Riccarton Primary
This year a good proportion of our mask-making projects were done in the Canterbury quake zone where, in February, "a giant eraser" earthquake wiped out the central business district as well as much of the eastern suburbs of Christchurch. 
Through making Debrief & Development Masks in schools we have learned so much we put together a not-boring-or-sad-guide to emergency mask-making (publication pending). 
"Congratulations on developing and delivering the emergency mask-making model to Christchurch school children. The earthquakes have inspired a great variety of creative responses, which has brought real comfort and support to our city."
Bob Parker, Mayor, Christchurch City
Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria
Bushfires Story by Mount Martha Primary  
Eighteen months after the tragic bush fires of 2009 in Victoria, 7 Australian schools made myths & legends masks, and whilst not strictly 'crisis masks', some of these mask stories referenced the terrible bush fires. 
Studying local myths and legends is a good way to prepare for the next natural disaster.  Disaster preparedness is a HOT topic right now!
At Risk Girls in Cambodia
Mask-making in Phnom Penh
Cambodia was once the heart of a great empire in South East Asia but the Khymer Rouge communist regime lead by Pol Pot from 1975-78 changed all that with the savage deaths of 21% of the Cambodian population in "The Killing Fields".  The regime destroyed the protecting framework of traditional Khymer life leaving young girls easily preyed upon. 
Today Cambodia is emerging and the image above shows young women are bringing a new face to the reconstruction.  Even the security guard made a mask in this class!
Goddess Masks in India
Mask-making in Jaipur
Early marriage, early pregnancy, illiteracy and life-long poverty all contribute to an early death, issues still continuing to face young Indian women today. 
The above image shows a class in one of the slum districts of Jaipur making "goddess masks". Annette's sister Lynne is the project leader.
Domestic Violence in Nicaragua
Mask-making in Nicaragua
A group of Nicaraguan women were each given two Multimasks® with which to portray how it feels to be on the receiving end of abuse. 
The image above shows how abuse leaches the colour out, diminishing one's potential.  We can also see how creative expression brings back the vibrant colour. 
The mask is a larger than life representation, and it's through this kind of symbolic work that women begin to show and grow their potential again (after abuse renders them smaller than life meant them to be). 
Gang Wives in Christchurch
Gang Wives
 Mumzy Mask in Christchurch
The Mumzy's Group in Christchurch make 'identity' masks together.
Lifting the lid on Pandora's Box
Pandora's Box Mask by Meadowbank School
While Canterbury was sifting through the "rubble of trouble" following real life disaster, Meadowbank School in Auckland made Pandora's Box masks to portray disease, sadness, despair and death. 
Students chose dark colours, black, grey blue, purple and brown to symbolise SADNESS (above).  Some children chose the tear drop as symbol of despair, while others chose the rainbow as symbol of HOPE (below)... 
 Pandora's Box Mask by Meadowbank School
Hands-on Practical & Emotional Literacy
When grief and loss, fear and uncertainty come into the classroom it is possible to look deeply at "curly topics" not covered by the curriculum.  If left unexamined these curly topics may morph into a "hidden curriculum". 
And yet the 'monster' force melts quite easily if tackled early with the creative force!
Children prefer to get their issues out into the open. When we offered quake kids the option of expressing their feelings on the reverse side of the mask so no-one could see it, none took up this offer. Totally unabashed they all wanted to strut their stuff!
The Mask is the primary hands-on practical and emotional literacy tool for "facing the unthinkable".  Just because IT is unthinkable, does not mean it is unpicturable! 
Mask-making activities can capture the complexities of the difficulties being faced.  Recovery is just around the corner...where you can put your "happy face" back on!! 
Pippy the Hippie 
Pippy the Hippie by Columba College
If your class or community needs a helping hand to face the 'unthinkable' email Annette at and she will put a Starter Pack together to help you kickstart the creative response to crisis. 
Alternatively, visit our website
Don't be shy, anyone can do it (with a good measure of support from us)!!

 Melanie and Annette wish you a happy summer holiday break and look forward to assisting many more smart mask-making projects in 2012...

Friday, December 2, 2011


"Magic" painting by Rob Schouten
 "If you do not believe in magic, your life will not be magical.  Magic like the power of Stonehenge is part of the unknowable - that which you cannot describe, but which exists and makes your life extraordinary.  It is that mysterious and intriguing part of your spiritual life.  Magic is what we are all looking for, but if you try to hold it and name it and describe it, you will lose it.  You must talk around magic, describe what led you there, and give thanks for that part of the universe that is unknowable and full of color and strength and magic.  Out of relationship comes magic.  Out of the friction of forgetting and remembering comes magic.  Out of the mists of dawn and the mysteries of creation comes the magic that we call life.  Out of your passion for existence comes magic."

The Power Deck by Lynn V. Andrews   
with paintings by visionary artist Rob Schouten. 
Recently I've had a (bevy? myriad? cluster?) of synchronicities around "magic".  Last night I found myself telling a friend to see a movie called "The Color of Magic".  In my last email with Prema Dasara  she closed by saying "magic sometimes happens".

I have always prayed to  Tara when I'm in trouble.  How I "met" Tara is a magical story.  So, prior to my surgery in early November to remove a tumor, I prayed to Tara.  The day before going to the hospital, I was delighted to receive an email from Prema Dasara.  More than a year and a half ago we had discussed making masks for her Mandala Dance, "The 21 Praises to Tara".  She was inquiring if I still wanted to make them. I took this as great encouragement  before I went "under".  All is well now, and I feel I kind of have a promise to fulfill to Tara, although, unfortunately, Prema  has had to put her project off because of health problems.

Prema Dasara and "The 21 Praises to Tara" Mandala Blessing Dances

But the idea came to me - why not do a second collection of my own  Masks of the Goddess?  Ever since 2008, when  the masks were sold at a Benefit Auction, many people have contacted me wanting to use them for events, rituals, dances.   I have thought about creating another collection,  in new ways and forms, to be held in trust for those wishing to use them "in a sacred manner."I do not believe I have the energy to create community events myself anymore, but there are many who would use them to do so.

As I rolled this around in my mind yesterday, I thought I'd pull a card from one of my decks - and behold, up came "Stonehenge and Magic".   Ancient monuments, the womb of the Great Mother, seem to be what I write a lot about these days..........and what happens in the womb?  Well, things get incubated prior to being born.  Or re-born.

I love what Lynn Andrews wrote about magic above.  Perhaps magic is like the Dark Matter that surrounds and penetrates everything, the infinite backdrop upon which we're all unknowing organizing our lives, filling out our weekly calendars. Synchronicities, like dreams, are sometimes hard to understand. But......I think I'll initiate the birth of a new collection of masks.  It won't be the same as the old project, because I'm not the same.  But I'm going to trust in a bit of Magic.

My project (1998-2008) "The Masks of the Goddess"