Monday, October 31, 2011

The Day of the Dead - Día de los Muertos

Mariachi Wedding from All Soul's Procession, Tucson
© dominic arizona bonuccelli | AZFOTO

Dia de los Muertos 

Because I live in the Southwest, the Day of the Dead is widely celebrated, and Tucson is no slacker, with it's famous Day of the Dead Procession.  I felt like sharing a little article about it.

Día de los Muertos is on November 2nd, with celebrations beginning on November 1, (Día de Muertos Chiquitos--The Day of the Little Dead) ( also All Saints Day) and continuing on November 2, (All Souls Day). It is a joyous occasion when the memory of ancestors and the continuity of life is celebrated, and a beloved holiday in Mexico and South America.

Dia de los Muertos Altar I made in 2009 for Wesley Seminary

It was believed that at this time of the year the souls of the departed can return to visit the living (the "veils are thin"). It is not a time of mourning since, as the Latin saying goes, "the path back to the living world must not be made slippery by tears".

Celebrations for the dead originated in indigenous Mexico before the Spanish conquest. Following the Spanish conquest of Mexico during the 16th century there was a blending of indigenous customs with the new Catholic religion. All Saints' Day and All Hallows Eve (Halloween) roughly coincided with the preexisting Día de Los Muertos resulting in the present day event. Although the skeleton is a strong symbol for both contemporary Halloween and los Días de Los Muertos, the meaning is very different. For Días de Los Muertos the skeleton is not a macabre symbol at all, but rather represents the dead playfully mimicking the living.

Very often, a large community altar may include many small personal shrines, such as this simple "box" shrine.

Or here are some personal shrines made by artists.


Preparation begins weeks in advance when statues, candies, breads and other items to please the departed are sold in markets. A sweet bread, pan de muerto, with decorations representing bones is very popular, as are sugar skulls made from casts. All sorts of art objects and toys are created. This gives the economy a boost in much the same way as our Christmas season does. Alters ofrecetas (offerings) are set up in the home with offerings of sweets and fruits, corn and vegetables, as well as the favorite foods and beverages of the deceased. It's not unusual to see a good cigar and whiskey bottle beside a photograph of a loved one. These offerings may later be given away or consumed by the living after their "essence", and the loving remembrance, has been enjoyed by the dead. Marigolds are the traditional decorative flower.

The particulars of the celebration vary widely. On November 1, Día de Muertos Chiquitos, the departed children are remembered. The evening is sometimes called la Noche de Duelo, The Night of Mourning, marked by a candlelight procession to the cemetery. On November 2, Día de los Muertos, the spirits of the dead return. Entire families visit the graves of their ancestors, bringing favorite foods and alcoholic beverages as offerings to the deceased as well as a picnic lunch for themselves. Traditionally there is a feast in the early morning hours of November 2nd although many now celebrate with an evening meal.

There are sugar skulls and toys for the children, emphasizing early on that death is a part of the life cycle, and the importance of remembering those who have passed on to another kind of life.
From Tucson's All Souls Procession (photo by Dominc Bonuccelli)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Spiral Dance

Web Weaving at Tucson Spiral Dance (2000)

Weaver, Weaver, weave our thread
whole & strong into your web
Healer, Healer, heal our pain
in love may we return again

We are dark and we are light
we are born of earth and light
of joy and pain our lives are spun
male and female, old and young

No one knows why we are born
A web is made, a web is torn
But love is the home that we come from
and at the core we all are one

Of life's  Spring may we drink deep
and awake to dream and die to sleep
and dreaming weave another form
a shining thread of life reborn

Weaver, Weaver, weave our thread
whole and strong into your Web
Healer, Healer, heal our pain
in love may we return again

~~~Starhawk, (from "The Spiral Dance")

Blessings at Samhain to all as we celebrate the year passed, and remember our Beloved Dead.

My first "Spider Woman" performance (1999) Rites of Passage Gallery

The Wheel of the Year has turned again to a new Spiral Dance.  Samhain, Dia de Los Muertos, the Witches New Year, the last Harvest Festival, and Halloween (once known as "Hallowed Eve") is almost here, and I remember the Spiral Dance , which was so very transformative for me.  I brought this great Earth Religions High Mass to Tucson  when I returned here in 2000.   I've posted about this beautiful ritual before ...and I wanted to do so again.   Believe me, when you have danced the Spiral Dance and in the process of the dance come face to face with 2,000 people - you have experienced something profound.

I looked up "The Spiral Dance" on UTube, and was surprised by two things. First, up came a picture of my former roomate, and inspirational mentor, Judy Foster.  Judy was much loved in the Bay Area, as one of the founders of  Reclaiming, and also one of the founders of Food Not Bombs in Northern California.  She passed away in 2000, and when I brought the Spiral Dance to Tucson that year, with the help of Macha Nightmare (also one of the founders of Reclaiming)  who came to facilitate the ritual, we had a place of honor for Judy on our North Altar, the altar of the Beloved Dead.

Judy Foster  (1997)

Hecate Mask made from Judy Foster's face (2001)

There is no footage of the years I participated in the Ritual, unfortunately.  I assisted in the "Invocation to the Goddess" with my  first collection of the MASKS OF THE GODDESS .  I also put together a "Fire Dance Troupe" for the 20th Annual Spiral Dance in 1999 as we called the South, the Element of Fire.  I shall never forget that!  They didn't allow photographs of the Ritual until 2008, but in the video I did find I see friends and valued colleagues - Macha Nightmare, Evelie Posche, Starhawk, Kala, Drissana Devananda and  others. I wish I could attend this year, and I thank in spirit the many people I knew there.  May we meet again soon.

The Spiral Dance Ritual (2009 video) 

The Spiral Dance Ritual (2008 video)

Tucson SD


Friday, October 28, 2011

Intuitive Empaths & Energy Theft

 I've come to believe, experientially  more than conceptually,  that mind is more than the physical body and brain, and that we are far more connected with each other, and our planet,  than we can personally imagine. We are  very permeable, indeed we have to be so, because we are constantly exchanging life force with the planet and everyone who has ever lived with every breath we take; exchanging energy and information with each step we take and every word we utter. The exchange and negotiation of energy is the fundamental dance of life.

Most people value empathy, the ability to sense and often emotionally experience, or resonate with, what others are feeling.   Empathic individuals are usually compassionate people, sensitives who often become healers, teachers, and profound listeners.  Highly empathic people have excellent "antennas" - if they have experience and discernment, they can scan the emotional and psychic environment  and determine what is going on beneath the surface.  If they don't, they can  absorb energy that is not their own unwittingly.   I believe this skill of discernment takes time to mature, and an empathic child or unskilled person can often become overwhelmed.  Because being empathic can also be detrimental, overwhelming, and even life threatening, and is one of the reasons sensitive people often become alcoholics or recluses in order to "tune out the noise".  Highly empathic people, what Dr. Judith Orloff calls "intuitive empaths", can be like velcro - everything sticks to them.  

People are always discharging emotional energy. Children scream in anger, cry in frustration, and laugh with pleasure when their needs are met, and so do adults, if not always as obviously. Sometimes it's absolutely necessary to tell our stories, to have our pain witnessed by compassionate others in order to change, to "fore-give", to let go of the trauma and move fore-ward in our lives.  But some people have become addicted to dumping negative emotional energy on others, and they can leave an empathic individual drained, or feeling scattered and crazy from absorbing their energy.  This can be true of collective energies as well. 

I don't like the term "psychic vampires" because of its judgemental terminology.  It implies that dreadful, inhuman people are stalking the streets, ready to suck up all of your lifeforce, when the fact is, most of us have at various times in our lives been draining or exhausting.    Sometimes people are energy draining because they are, in Buddhist terms, unskillful in their understanding of how to manage their own energy systems, in how to manage their thoughts and social interactions in other words.  Many people are energetically exhausting because they have become addicted to complaining, or have adopted a "victim" life stance, which can be addictive as well as socially supported.   Carolyn Myss spoke about what she called a "culture of woundology" as a related issue.   

Some people have learned, as children, negative ways of achieving attention, which is a form of energy theft if it's not willingly given.  I had an acquaintance I worked with who could be absolutely relentless in demanding attention, to the point where otherwise calm, poised people would "lose it" around him.  Including day I found myself screaming at him at the top of my lungs.  It was at that moment I noticed he was smiling blissfully - and I painfully saw, briefly,  a small child who had found the only way he knew to get attention. 

And many people are just plain worn out, ill, grieving, troubled by misfortune,  or elderly, and haven't got a lot of personal energy.  That doesn't make them "vampires".  That often makes them people in need of a little understanding and kindness.

True psychic vampires, I believe, are rare.  About 10 years ago, I broke my leg, and was confined to a wheelchair for 4 months.  It happened that I was offered a couch in a friends studio, which was in a lovely complex that had other studios, a few shops, and a chiropractor's office, so people were always coming and going, which I enjoyed.  But because so much of my energy was going into mending my broken bones, and I often felt weak, I became quite sensitive to how interactions with others affected me.  Some people were like bright lights - I felt enlivened when they entered the room.  Most were neutral.  But there was one woman I'll never forget.   Although she was a fascinating woman, who ironically was a practicing psychic, every time she came by  I'd be flat on my back afterwards, sometimes all day.   I don't know if I would have realized her "vampire" effect so clearly, had I not been in a sensitive lowered energy state because of my recovery.   What made her like that?  I can't possibly know, although I would bet it arises from some kind of traumatic childhood. 

So once again thanks to my friend Charlie Spillar for a great video by Dr. Judith Orloff.

Judith Orloff MD, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and intuition expert, is author of the New York Times Bestseller Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life (Three Rivers Press, 2011) Her other bestsellers are Positive Energy, Intuitive Healing, and Second Sight. Dr. Orloff synthesizes traditional medicine with cutting edge  energy medicine.  Her website is:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pictures at an Exhibition - a Little Synchronicity

"A House of Doors VI." (1985)

This life will be
my dubious masterpiece,
an exhibition
in some dusty, star-strewn gallery.
Maybe, one in a series,I'll call them
"Studies in Blue and Red":

blue for capillaries, and the sky
too vast to fathom,
red for the tangible heart.
I leave it to the Critic
to analyze technique,
style, and historical relevance.

If I don't receive a glowing review,
I pray, at least,
they will find my work original.

With renovations almost done, I find myself nervously finding little jobs to keep doing.  The reality of having returned from my summer's pilgrimage, transformed, yes, but needing to set a new course and a leering at me from the  shadows of my errend ridden life. I do mildly ask for guidance, although I sometimes imagine my guides find me frustrating. I don't dream, I'm as psychic as a brick these days, even the I Ching is bored with me.  So I find myself pondering a little synchronicity that happened yesterday morning - whether it was precipitated by what Joseph Campbell called "invisible support", or I did it without realizing I had, doesn't really matter.

I was listening to CD's the other day, and one of them was by Mussorgsky.  The collection which never fails to take me, in my imagination, to the grand galleries of an earlier era, and the windows into other worlds that a painting really is.  I thought I left all the cd's  by the player, but when I made my bed, "Pictures from an Exhibition" tumbled out from the sheets.  I went to bed with it?  That seems unlikely.  But I did, indeed,  "sleep on it".

Pictures at an Exhibition is a collection  in ten movements for piano by by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky in 1874.  Each piece is a musical interpretation of "pictures" the composer might have seen at a post-mortem exhibition of the paintings of his friend Victor Hartmann.  As Wikipedia describes the work, 

"The sudden loss of the artist shook Mussorgsky along with others in Russia's art world. Stasov helped organize an exhibition of over 400 Hartmann works in St. Petersburg.  Mussorgsky lent works from his personal collection to the exhibit and viewed the show in person. Fired by the experience, he composed Pictures at an Exhibition in six weeks. The music depicts an imaginary tour of an art collection. Titles of individual movements allude to works by Hartmann.......He described the experience in June 1874: "Hartmann is seething. Sounds and ideas float in the air and my scribbling can hardly keep pace with them."

When I get that I'm experiencing a synchronicity, an event that has, like the figures in dreams, symbolic and meaningful content, I try to meditate upon the event.  A synchronicity is a "Living Metaphor", and can represent guidance, solutions to questions, or, as the Trish and Rob MacGregor ( suggest in their wonderful new book Synchronicity and The Other Side, a synchronicity may represent spirit contact.

Perhaps, it's just plain time to go back to work, back to the studio.  I'll take my little synchro as encouragement, and a reminder.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Renovations and Gratitude........

"The Star - Grace" (1993)
the pink room
Ever since returning from England, I've done nothing but work 24/7 (I even lost 15 pounds in the process).  Settling my mother into assisted living, and renovating her house, which has fallen into great disrepair.  I feel very far away from the realms of art and poetry, although I confess, it's been a lot of fun (and muscle).  I've been learning the mysteries of carpentry, plumbing, and tiling, all that "guy stuff" I never got to learn when I was younger.  It's really rewarding to see broken, ugly spaces become bright, beautiful, and working!  It's actually be very interesting peeking into the worlds of carpenters and electricians, their patience and magical skills, watching these men climb up the roof , or tear open a wall and know exactly what will be behind it.

 The point to all of this is that I need to not only rescue the house, but need to generate some income in the future, and my idea is to find roomates, or  create a sometimes B&B, especially during the winter months here in Arizona, when the gem show goes on and the snowbirds flee harsh winters. 

kitchen with "La Mariposa" presiding
I don't know if this is something I'll actually do, but at least I now have lots of room for friends to visit, and it's time to fill the house with people, conversation, art and poetry, and potlucks.   Soon,  I hope!

Anyway, the end of renovation is almost in sight, and we'll see if I can then recapture some of the more esoteric aesthetic skills I once had. 

Hanging some of my artwork has been interesting - I find myself reflecting that many of the works I most love, that are most deeply important to me...............most people can't relate to at all.
It''s been an irony in my life that the work I consider my most challenging or conceptually successful nobody seems to want, and the things I make for fun, like many of my masks, always sell and people notice. There are times, to be honest, when I churn out yet another Green Man mask, happy that someone will enjoy wearing it, happy that it pays the bills, and yet............

I feel sometimes that the work I'm most proud of sits in a closet, lost or destroyed. The painting above, "Grace", for example.

the blue room
 I remember when I made it, on a dark winter in upstate New York, the snow just outside my window, everything white and infused with incipient magic.  I felt so wrapped in magic that winter, I could just close my eyes, and the visions would come like that painting, and many of the images that later became the "Rainbow Bridge Oracle".   The intensity of that visioning/creating time I can still taste when I look at that painting, the inexhaustible Grace that flows to us.  And yet I've never been able to sell a single print of that painting, and have pretty much given up on the entire series. Never the less, it always hangs above my bed, to remind me that the Earth, and the Universe, is generous, generous beyond anything imaginable.  And to remind me to remember to live with Gratitude.

So, forgive me friends, if I'm not very literate these days............swinging a hammer seems to do that.  But wanted to share the current fruits of my labor, and a wonderful reflection on gratitude by film maker Louie Schwartzberg (thanks again to Charlie Spillar).  He is an award-winning cinematographer, director, and producer whose career spans more than three decades.  I found the imagery here so's good to remember, every single day, what a gift the day is. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Food as Medicine - Two New Movies

 I'm sure most who might be reading this blog are aware of these two recent movies, but just in case, I wanted to post about them, because I think they are both so very important.  FORKS OVER KNIVES
features the work of two medical doctors, and research and commentary from many others, who advise Americans to adapt a whole foods, vegan diet.
"The film  examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods."
I think the films research and interviews are beautifully presented and very convincing - I know the film will be a lifesaver for many people, now and in the future.  What I also appreciated was that they also addressed the issue of cruelty to animals and the terrible environmental damage, and waste of land use,  that the cattle industry in particular represents. 

The other film I love is FAT, SICK AND NEARLY DEAD, an often very funny film by Australian filmmaker Joe Cross.  At only 41, Joe found himself grossly overweight, and taking dozens of pills daily just to function.  In his own words, "Enough was enough!", and so he went to the U.S. and started a 60 day juice fast, also driving across the country from New York to California in the process.  Along the way to getting off all pills, losing weight and regaining his health, he met many people, including a desperately overweight and ill truck driver who he met in a truck stop in Winslow.  Joe inspired Phil to do the same thing, and a year later Phil is giving workshops at health food stores, his own health and life "rebooted" as well.  Joe Cross is quite a character, and  I just love this film!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

 A demonstrator sits near a make-shift tent during the Occupy Wall Street protest outside the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco, California October 5, 2011.  Photo courtesy  REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Here (thanks to Charlie for the links) are a few people taking their concerns to the streets.  Interesting article about the demonstrators, and a video link too.  Encouraging.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Reflections on Unsustainibility and "SOWF"

Ever since I came back from England I've been in a vast flurry of renovation, caretaking, and other duties that has reduced me from inspired to dogged.  Well, that's composting.  But one word has kept popping into my mind even as I carry out endless boxes of construction debris and possible psychic debris as well.

I doubt it would have much meaning to most, unless, like me, you are a long time fan of the visionary writer Doris Lessing, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2007.  That word is SOWF, derived from her novel SHIKASTA, published in  1979. SOWF  was the sustaining force that the protagonists in her book, the "Emissaries of Canopus", attempted to re-establish for the suffering inhabitants of the planet Shikasta, a planet that had fallen out of alignment with the stars (galactic center), and had become, as a result, invaded by parasitical, predatory forces that fed on the planets, and it's inhabitants, creativity and life force. One such emissary is Johor, from the planet Canopus, who has come to help the inhabitants during the "last days" before the cataclysmic shift, or war, which takes place on more than physical levels.

SOWF meant "Substance of We Feeling".

As the novel nears its conclusion, the planet Shikasta, clearly an allegory for our world,  is in chaos, as systems collapse, resources become scarce, war approaches, youth riot, and the "energy pirates" that have parasitized the planet for millenia struggle to keep their stranglehold on the minds of the people of Shikasta. Among other things, there are camps of orphaned children everywhere - some of the characters in the novel are living in Africa, trying to work with the camps.

I was thinking of that recently, the strange prophetic quality of some of the passages of her novel.  In the mid 70's, no one knew about AIDS, and certainly no one could have predicted that a time would come when Africa would be full of orphaned children.  I doubt she would have been aware of the "2012" prophecies, popularized by Jose Arguelles in the 80's, either. 

And SOWF?  Not only the world's religions speak now of the interconnectedness of everything (Spider Woman's Web is a metaphor I use)......quantum physics,  ecology, and consciousness studies are demonstrating that this is, indeed, the foundation and real truth of everything.

Shikasta is not a fun story that I frequently go back to and read for pleasure.  And the novels were not, overall, well accepted by the literary community when Lessing, a well-established writer by the 70's, shifted gears to enter into the realms of the Canopean and Sirian Empires.   But for me, Shikasta, and SOWF, have never left my imagination.