Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Henri....An Existentialist Cat

Following in the footsteps of Sartre and Camus......

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Desert Stars

Photo by Wally Pacholka
To Stars

With age, I've learned to watch my feet.
I've become cautious of falls,
the honest frailty of bones
and equally fragile, the choices
found at every crossroad.
Time makes us bend
We learn the habit
of looking down.
I was blessedly no where
just some where between
"here" and "there"
a truck stop off I-40
falling off the edge of the world
into a nameless desert town,
into a sweet black halcyon midnight
After a summer rain
shining asphalt
the smell of diesel, and chaparral
(below,  some where between
my feet and eternity)

you made your puddled,
gracious descent:
luminous Orion,
and faithful Sirius,
the dog star.
Antares, the scorpion's tail,
the Pleiades
dancing in Indra's shining jewel net.

And the Big Dipper
offering forever

Saturday, May 26, 2012

"Coming into Power"

"Work of seeing is done,
now practice heart-work
upon those images captive within you......."

Rainier Maria Rilke
 This print was given to me as a gift, and I have carried it around and placed it on my altar for at least 10 years.  I did not know who the artist was until recently, when I was delighted to discover Cherokee artist  Shan Goshorn's site.  What a magnificent body of work!  I was particularly moved to learn that she is also a weaver, creating "medicine baskets" in traditional designs and techniques that are woven from the words of broken contracts, and as below, the names and photos of children taken from their communities and forced to attend boarding schools. 

The image above that has spoken to me over the years is not even on her site, and I don't know what it meant to her.  But to me it speaks of "coming into power" as the maturation of integral consciousness.  The masked figure "gathers power" as he/she embodies, "drums with",  the union of opposites.  Red and Blue represent opposite elements or forces, heat and cold, fire and water.  The orbs could be both the sun and the moon, as well as the interplay and synthesis of dark and light, conscious and unconscious, heart and intellect. As the figure drums, she/he resonates with the starry rythems of creation.  The mask is, to me, self becoming transparent, personality and ego a thin mask over a field of stars, the cosmos, the greater life we are part of.  The white band in the "sky" could be the energy of spirit, or the vast rim of the Milky Way. 

Learning that the artist is also weaving  together the broken threads of the past to create healing baskets that re-member and re-join brings the idea of "coming into power", for me,  into even greater focus. I'm so pleased to share a bit about Shan Goshorn's  wonderful art.....

Shan Goshorn's award winning basket “Educational Genocide – The Legacy of the Carlisle Indian Boarding School” was created with a Cherokee-style double weave, and was made from splints of paper that had student’s names and historical documents and photographs who were taken from their parents and force to attend the boarding school.  A photograph of the Carlisle Student Body of 1912 was woven around the perimeter of the lid.

“I completely underestimated the impact that this piece would have on viewers, including Indian and non-Indian.  I was surprised that every native person seemed to have a connection to Carlisle, but it was even more surprising that everyone seemed affected by seeing the faces of those children woven into the lid.  I think that maybe seeing those children humanized this ugly, but critically formative, part in our collective history.”

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Right to Vote

 "Forty-three Catholic groups, including the University of Notre Dame and Archdioceses of New York and Washington, have sued the Obama administration over a controversial mandate requiring employers to offer insurance plans that include contraception coverage.  In a coordinated filing of 12 lawsuits in federal courts across the country, the groups argue that the mandate would unconstitutionally force religiously-affiliated institutions, like Catholic schools and hospitals, to indirectly subsidize contraception for female employees in violation of religious beliefs."  **

ABC News website
 The picture above, and the recent quote from ABC, may not seem related, but they are.  The former is an imprisoned Suffragette, whose crime, in our democracy,  was demonstrating for the right to vote, some 50 years after male slaves had been given the right to vote.  The institutions attacking Obama reflect the same patriarchal injustice - both then and now, women were not considered capable of controlling their lives, participation in society, or bodies.

 I ran across this while surfing the Web, and was unable to find the author of the article, or the author of the blog for that matter.  But their generosity and truth should be shared, so I take the liberty of copying this article about the brave women who made it possible for half the population of this country to vote in 1920.  That's not so long ago.  The "Night of Terror" occurred  Nov. 15, 1917, and was a despicable miscarriage of justice.


A True Story Everyone Should Know About

HBO released the movie "Iron Jawed Angels" in 2004.  This is the story of our mothers and grandmothers who lived only 90 years ago.

The women were  jailed for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote. By the end of the "night of terror"  many were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs with their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women convicted of "obstructing sidewalk traffic."

Lucy Burns

They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.
Dora Lewis

They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out. Her cell mate, Alice Cosu, suffered a heart attack and was refused medical assistance. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.  Thus unfolded the "Night of Terror" on November 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to "teach a lesson to the suffragettes" imprisoned there because they had picketed Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote. For weeks during imprisonment, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food was infested with worms.
Alice Paul
When Alice Paul embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled to the press.

Mrs. Pauline Adams in the prison garb she wore while serving a 60-day sentence.

"Iron Jawed Angels" is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say as a citizen of this country. I am ashamed that I needed the reminder.

HBO released the movie on video and DVD. I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum. I want it shown on Bingo night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn't our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.

Conferring over ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution at National Women's Party headquarters, Jackson Place, Washington, D.C.   Left to right: Mrs. Lawrence Lewis, Mrs. Abby Scott Baker, Anita Pollitzer, Alice Paul, Florence Boeckel, Mabel Vernon

It was jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul, he said,  was "strong and brave. That didn't make her crazy."  He admonished the men by adding that  "Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity."

Please,  share this with the women you know. We need to vote,  and remember the right these  courageous women fought for.  We need to remember them.

Helena Hill Weed, Norwalk, Conn. Serving a sentence in D.C. prison for carrying a  banner that said:  "Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed."

 Read again what these women went through for you!  And  do not forget why this country was founded, and what the Revolution represented.  The right to vote, and to end slavery,  was hard fought for.........even if it took many more years to include half the human population in the picture.  So, please do not take it for granted. Get out and vote!

(This post was copied from a forwarded email, author unknown.)

**MO Rep. Stacey Newman Proposes Bill to Restrict Vasectomies

Well, well, well. The birth-control debate has finally come to our swimsuit areas, gentlemen. Yesterday Missouri State Representative Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis County) filed HB1853, which would only allow a man to have a vasectomy when doing so would protect him from serious injury or prevent his death.  Ah, the legislation's on the other set of genitalia now.  Rep. Newman -- whom I'd like to nominate for Hero Squad right here and now -- has been frustrated with the recent political debates over birth control access and reproductive health. The legislation is her pointed way of combating the idea that family planning is something only women have to worry about.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Eclipse!

The solar eclipse happened the last hour of the last day of the Renaissance Faire this year, just as I was having a bit of my own "retirement party".  This photo is the white wall of my booth, where crescents formed of the sun being eclipsed.  I take it as auspicious,  and  entirely magical.

It was an extraordinary thing, to see such a crowd of people gathered before the white wall, in the midst of all the revelry, awed and even silent, before this strangely beautiful, and frightening, cosmic event.  The light, eclipsed, vanishing, how can this be?   Beneath the surface, surely there was in each face just a moment of  primal terror  - the Sun, the Sun King, is He leaving us?  Will He not return?    A pause, even there and even then.  And then, gradually, a great sigh of relief, a shout within the shout of the see Sun was returning, was not leaving us after all.   A profound moment.
Not more slowly than frayed
human attention can bear
but slow enough
to be stately, deliberate, a ritual
we can't be sure will indeed move
from death into resurrection.
But then, obscured, the whole sphere can be seen
to glow from behind its barrier shadow:  bronze,
unquenchable, blood-light.  And slowly,
more slowly than desolation overcame, overtook
the light,  
the light  is restored,
and humans turn off their brief attention
in secret relief. 
the familiar, desired,
disregarded brilliance
is given again,
given and given.

from Denise Levertov, "Mass of the Moon Eclipse"
This Great Unknowing:  Last Poems
1999, New Directions Press

Friday, May 18, 2012

50th Anniversary of Renaissance Faire

Farewell, and Thank You, to the Faire!

Me in 1997 as "Moth Woman" (non-oracular variety)
I know I've threatened to finally retire before, but honest, this time I really mean it!  But I had to stick around for the 50th Anniversary in 2012 of the first Renaissance Faire, here in Southern  California.

50 years!  As a true Rennie veteran, I have to say, go figure.  Who would have thought that Phillis and Ron Patterson's passion for history and participatory theatre, and the need to raise a little money for alternative radio station KPFA.........would have become hundreds of Renaissance Faires around the country, and a multi-million dollar international business? 

I did my first Faire in 1970, when I was living near MacArthur Park in L.A. and wandered into an interesting group of people doing some interesting dancing.  Somehow I entered the circle of dancers, and found myself part of a Renaissance Country Dancing troupe.  Before I knew it, I was headed for Northern California, and camping out each weekend in a historical tent with the troupe as we performed. In those days everyone stayed in character, and  I don't think I'll ever forget the night we were too rowdy and in the midst of our noisy merriment, the flaps to our tent parted.  There stood a black figure holding a candlelit lamp.  In awed silence we heard him say:  "Thou dost disturb the peace!"  Busted by the Sheriff of Nottingham!

Many years later, in the course of my strange career, I might add that I had an affair with the Sheriff of Nottingham, and married Robin Hood.  Not to mention the Pied Piper, bless his heart.

When I finished graduate school, I planned on becoming a professor of art, but somehow, I ended up joining the circus, so to speak, instead, when I re-joined the New York Renaissance Faire near Tuxedo Park...........a former botanical garden, ah, what magical summers we had there!  We would arrive the first week of July, to open the show in early August, camping, building our booths, nights spent around a campfire area we called "the Gypsy Camp" that always had music, drums, and conversation.   Such a magical place that was.......above the site there was a rather steep hill with a circle of stones, placed by unknowable ancients, a circle that marked a series of ley crossings. The stones were big boulders, and although some were out of alignment through the passage of time, the circle was clear to see, with a center stone that had veins of white quartz.    If you held a divining rod above the center stone, it "helicoptered".  We, of course, dubbed it "Spirit Mountain", and many would spend the night there on our improvised vision quests.  It was good to know that this place had once been sacred to native peoples.

Heck, we would have done it for free in the early years, and a great many of us did.  The sense of community, and creativity was so wonderful!  We made magic, and that was what the public came for.  Our booths were works of art we re-created each summer.  I remember, for example, Pam Tyrell's "De Luna Designs" booth, which she spent all of July creating, and usually most of her profit as well.  She would set up her dye pots under an amazing structure of woven sticks and painted velvet.    And Dellie Dorfman's "Pragmatic Enchantments" booths were woven works of forest art.

It was our custom to open the Faire with a blessing.  Many, but not all, were Pagans, and the "Psychic's Row" section (I was a reader for a while) had many spiritualists.  So we would gather around an old tree stump that marked a circle not too far from the entrance to the Faire, and with music (sometimes bagpipes), flowers, and chanting we would bless the day for all while patrons waiting at the gate waited to enter the Faire.  It says something about the corporate mind that a few years later we gathered once more, on the first morning of the opening weekend of another year's faire to see a group of actors, including several black cloaked "witches" complete with pointy hats and a fake cauldron, gathered around our stump, enacting a drama about witches and sheriffs.  Such irony, and of course, that put an end to our blessing.  Strange.

My friend Joyce Weiss at the Arizona Renfair
Here's a great story from those years in New York, and to the best of my knowledge, no one made it up, since I heard it from those involved.  Believe me, Magic is Afoot quite often, but you have to notice it.

Carol "the Fairy Lady" made "fairy environments", big bell jars that enclosed the beautiful fairy figures she made in environments of moss and flowers.  One morning one of the women who did face painting was in her booth, standing fascinated with a friend before a particular jar.  She told Carol that when she made some money at the end of the day, she wanted to purchase it.  At Faire's closing she was back.  "What happened?" she asked Carol.  "What do you mean", she replied, "I didn't sell that piece".  "But there were two fairies in it!" the face painter said, disappointed, and her friend, standing beside her,  echoed her statement.

"No", replied Carol, "there was only one".  

Me when I was younger and, alas, thinner, during the New York and Maryland Renfair years

One of the many mask makers I've taught is Elise "Peggy"  Linich and her Satori Masks.  To my credit, I can say that just about everyone who's ever worked for me or with me now has their own mask business, and my own designs have become, well, generic.  I guess my claim to fame is that I was one of the first mask makers on the circuit to create masks based on pagan mythology.  Certainly, I've populated the world with Green Men and Goddesses - it was a messy job, but somebody had to do it.

Rob Fletcher in Maryland

I've seen "faire brats" grow up and become parents themselves.  In Maryland there is a grove of trees planted for Rennies who have died over the years, and for sure I've seen quite a few weddings.  Time has come for me to say thank you,  many times thank you, to the places and people I've loved and met and danced with on the road. I've lived in "Brigadoon", and watched the villages rise and disappear through many seasons.  I really am retiring this year, honest........and I'm so glad to have been there.  Huzzah!

"And we'll all go together, to pull wild mountain thyme
all along the purple heather, will ye go, laddie, go?"


In remembrance and gratitude:

Amelia Sefton (Madame Ovary), Dellie Dorfman, Ro, Peggy and the "Blondettes", Chris Simone, Berkanna,  Kerry, Vicki, Taylor, Duncan Eagleson, Judith, Heidi, Green Crown, Shaman, Patrick,  Carol, Marty, Judith, Cora, Pam, Bob, Sandy...........oh, so very many.  I don't know where to begin or end.  The circle has no end.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Envisioning the Future Again

"Pomona Envisioning the Future", mural in Pomona, California (2003)
I've written about this mural before, which I see every spring when I'm in California,  but returning inspired from the Conference on Women and Mythology (see previous post) I cannot fail to see the synchronicity of the situation.  Truly, this painting, made by a community of 80 people,  embodies the essence of the conference I just is both a  prayer and an affirmation.   So once again, I'd like to share this remarkable work of art.  The Goddess works in mysterious ways.

Pomona Envisions the Future was created through Envisioning the Future (E.T.F), which took place in the Pomona Arts Colony from 2002 to 2004 and included over 80 artists. 

Pomona was the uniquely Roman goddess of fruit trees, gardens, and  orchards, and her festival, which she shared with her husband Vertumnus, was always on August 13th. Pomona protects and brings forth fruit trees, and Her name is from the Latin pomum, fruit. ("Pomme" is the French word for "apple").  Pomona was among the Numina, guardian spirits of place in  Roman mythology.  "Numinous", the sense of the unique spirit of a place, derives from this term.  A grove sacred to her was called the Pomonal, located not far from Ostia, the ancient port of Rome. Although California's name itself derives from the name of an Amazon queen, "Califa", I would also say that Pomona is truly one of the patron goddesses of the state, which is the fruit basket of America. ("Califa"  may also derive originally from the name of Kali.  Since California has been such a huge agent for change in the world, seems kind of appropriate.........)

Circle of people envisioning the future

Pomona,  east of Los Angeles, was once was the citrus growing valley of Orange county. For many years it became a prime example of urban degredation - long gone are the orange groves, replaced by freeways, smog, crime, and a  derelict downtown.  But in 2005 I was stunned to see the Great Goddess Herself, at least 3 stories high, invoking change once again.

The painting depicts  Pomona from pre-European times, through Spanish settlement, the agricultural and industrial ages,  into a bright future which restores the land in balance with humans. One detail shows future  groves growing over composting heaps of industrial waste, and finally,  a circle of multi-cultural people sitting in council and learning to the right of the painting, envisioning a new world,  which is  overseen and inspired by the purple clad, numinous Roman Goddess.  

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

"The color palette remains a restrained monochromatic blue-green. The muted colors signal the coming Industrial Revolution and environmental "dark days" to come. The decline of the citrus industry is represented by dead citrus trees that stop abruptly with the landscape at the twenty-four foot figure of the Goddess Pomona.  The Goddess's arms are outstretched as doves leave her hands in flight towards a hopeful future.
Early farm laborers

The background behind the Goddess figure is turbulent and murky.  Landscape turns to a congested sprawl of industrial pollution and over-crowded housing tracts. As the narrative moves to the right, mountains and blue sky re-emerge from a bleak present moment, revealing the misty outskirts of a glowing city at the very portal of a new age. In the foreground is a school of the future.

Students are seated on a luminous ring or "learning circle" which hovers over serene and lush rolling hills in an environment that has been restored. In the distance is a vision which is millions of years away from the actual event, the galaxy Andromeda  seen in the morning sky as it approaches our own Milky Way.  Throughout the mural along the bottom is an undulating wave representing subterranean strata. The wave contains artifacts and objects that represent the ages up to a time where the human species has finally achieved balanced health and harmony, along with a wholistic vision of the future which encompasses the universe."

**The Envisioning the Future project was lead by artist Judy Chicago, photographer Donald Woodman and Cal Poly Pomona. The mural was painted by lead artist and mural project facilitator Kevin Stewart-Magee, and Envisioning the Future artists/participants Lief Frederick, Sandra Gallegos, Cori Griffin-Ruiz, Rupert Hernandez, Lynne Kumra, Yolanda Londono, Amy Runyen, Chris Toovey, Mary Kay Wilson, Erin Campbell, Athena Hahn, Joy McAllister and Fred Stewart-Magee. Artists Magu (Gilbert Luján) and Judy Baca consulted on the project. The mural is located at the intersection of Thomas and Second Streets in downtown Pomona, California in the Pomona Arts Colony.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Women & Mythology Conference 2012

Bronze Age Bee Goddess

"This gold plaque from Rhodes (7th Century BCE) portrays a powerful goddess of the natural world.  Myths and reality converge in the mysteries of bees.  The facts of their life cycles and behaviors provide the basis for stories of communication, prophecy, healing, and rebirth.  The founders of ASWM have chosen this image to represent the rich harvest to be gathered when women collaborate and communicate to promote understanding of women’s ancient myths.  The Bronze Age bee goddess also reminds us of our essential connection with the stories of all creatures, and our need to ensure their continued survival."

Speaking of "Pollinators", note the Melissae, or Bee Goddess on the logo of the Conference I just attended with my collaborator, Macha Nightmare.  (The name "Deborah" or "Devorah" also means "bee", and probably derives from a time when there was also a bee deity among the Semites).  I was not thinking of the logo for the Conference when I wrote the previous article about "Pollinators", but after attending the conference, I see now why I was thinking of this.  I love it when I find myself entrained with other minds and a bee, you discover you participate in a kind of collective consciousness, and you don't even know it!  Abby Willowroot, creator of the Goddess 2000 Project, once said that she was sure she had a collaborator who lived in New Jersey, and she would probably never meet him.  She was only half kidding.

I have to say that the  Conference was amazing, and I felt very honored to be there among such an august company.  People who have informed my world view since college, among them Charlene Spretnak, Vicki Noble, D'Vorah J. Grenn, Marna Hauk, Joan Marler, Max Dashu, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Ana Castillo, Miriam Robbins Dexter, Annie Finch, Judy Grahn, Patricia Monaghan, Luisah much packed into only two days, so affirmed to hear the words of these women who have spent a generation pollinating a new paradigm for the future. 

My understanding of the importance of the kind of re-mything these scholars, teachers, artists and mythologists are doing was renewed.  I believe it's urgent for our time, because it's about re-membering when the Earth was not a "resource", but the body of the Deity, the Great Mother.  That re-birth of the Great Goddess is about bringing balance , healing, and perhaps survival itself.  Re-ligion derives from a Latin word, religios, that meant to "link back", to re-connect, re-weave, and mythology/religion form the templates upon which civilizations, and individual values, are formed.

The scholars who have devoted themselves to re-discovering and imagining ancient cultures of the Goddess are not saying we can return to a time that existed 5,000, 6,000, 7,000 years ago.  But by understanding what was, might have been, by seeing the submerged strata of artifacts, symbols and archetypes upon which contemporary mythos has been built, we can imagine and re-myth into the 21st century stories and theologies that are appropriate, and inspiring,  for the time we live in, its crisis, and its potential for great transformation. 

The "Her-story" these brave pioneers have unearthed is so important, and I am appalled at how little attention their work receives.  So many people are devoted to trivializing and denying their work, just as women's work in general is trivialized and denied.  Gender imbalance is deeply embedded in our culture, so deeply embedded that it takes courage to dig deep into mythic substratum of the collective unconscious.  Another way of putting it is......institutions and individuals in power rarely release power-over without conflict and upheaval.  In this country male slaves were freed, and allowed to vote, some 60 years before women of any color were granted that right, and only after the women themselves rose up and demanded it.  That's well worth thinking about as we face, once again, patriarchs in Washington who would like to deny women birth control.

I especially enjoyed the talks on Archeomythology, and the evolution of Marija Gimbuta's work on old Europe.  This is such a new field, a cross-disciplinary approach to understanding ancient sites and cultures that Gimbutas and her colleagues developed.  I find it truly paradigm changing, like looking at the world through an entirely different lens.

Some of the speakers,  among them the amazing Mirium Robbins Dexter, were also quite funny when they pointed out some of the prejudices of prevailing academia.  For example - the ubiquitous neolithic female figurines, with their round breasts and vulva shapes, or  sometimes a pregnant belly.  They point out that until recently they were (and still are) viewed as "fertility fetishes" or even a kind of pre-his-storical pornography.  Shift the view, and it's easy to see that they were, in all probability, like crosses or the Star of David are today, images of the deity herself, the regenerative  Earth Mother, sacred images.

In the  2010 film Cave of Forgotten Dreams  ,   Werner Herzog  followed an exclusive expedition into the nearly inaccessible Chauvet cave in France, which houses the  most ancient visual art known from the upper Paleolithic era.  Why did these  ancient artists create these spectacular paintings of lions, horses, mammoth and other animals deep within  sacred caves?  Mirrium Dexter pointed out that the only human image within the site is a female lower torso, or vulva form......the bull image was painted above it a later time.  Although it's never commented on in the movie, or in most discussions of the cave and its sacred paintings,  Dexter suggested that the symbolic act of  painting and honoring the animals within the cave was because the cave represented the womb/tomb where the magic of rebirth occurs, and by the act of honoring and representing  the animal powers which were both allies and sustenance for these ancient peoples, they were offering them for re-birth within the cave/womb of the Great Mother.  Hence, the vulva form, and later, the images of  breasts, belly,  and vulva forms, symbols that occur as the earliest images of  the human body.

Malta Temple

By viewing the ancient world through a lens different than the traditional eye of patriarchal prejudice we see that the entire landscape was  sacred, and to enter the Temple, or the Cave, was to enter the body of the Mother who gave life, death, and rebirth.  While we cannot know what exactly these ancient peoples thought or did, we can imagine, and bring forth into our time, the meaning of a sacred landscape, a sacred Earth, wherein the profoundly interwoven processes of life are revered.  To understand archeomythology is to enter a mind that mythologized the landscape in order to have an intimate, immanent relationship with the landscape, the living world.

More thoughts from the conference later.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Butterfly Mind, Pollen Heart

Beauty above me, 
Beauty below me,
Beauty before me,
Beauty behind me,
I walk in Beauty.

Navajo (Dine`) Prayer

"Art is not a thing, it's a way of life" 

(seen on the billboard of the First Congregationalist Church this morning in La Verne, Ca.)

It's May Day as I write, Beltane, although, considering the previous article, "May Day" may also mean a huge cry for planetary help.  

 I love the painting above, which I found in a magazine; I don't know who the artist is, but thank him or her often for this  "Butterfly Woman" from whom thoughts like butterflies emanate out into the world to do their work. Perhaps the artist will forgive me that I do not know his or her name........but be glad that the work has gone forth to do its work in my heart and imagination.  Pollen:  agent of new life, new hope, transformation. 

As we (well, some of us) wind our way to the May Pole, and plant that metaphor into the still fertile earth, weaving our dreams into the ribbons of this ancient ritual of fertility, perhaps I can find a way to image the celebration of love and hope with a vast, global cry for help that sounds like a beating heart beneath the surfaces of our lives, just beneath our feet.  As the drums and penny whistles sound, as we dance, may we all become Pollinators for our time, for the future.

Like the woman who walks above, this is my prayer:    May we have butterfly minds, pollinator hearts.

Peace March against the war in Iraq, San Francisco, 2003

The ancient Greek word for "butterfly" is ψυχή (psȳchē), which means "soul" or "mind".  And I have often found them mysteriously "soulful", as they seem to flit in and out of mystery.  The picture above, for example - it was from the San Francisco Chronicle at the time of the great peace march against the incipient Iraq war, and shows three friends with their "soul icons" - me in the mask of Sophia, Alan Moore, founder of the Butterfly Gardeners Association, and Nicole, creator of "Cosmic Cash".  Note that her icon, also, has occurred in this synchronistic photo. 

Transformers, pollinators .......... they begin their lives as caterpillars, build a crysalis, and generate imaginal cells...........
"When a caterpillar nears its transformation time, it begins to eat ravenously, consuming everything in sight. The caterpillar body then becomes heavy, outgrowing its own skin many times, until it is too bloated to move. Attaching to a branch (upside down, we might add, where everything is turned on its head) it forms a chrysalis—an enclosing shell that limits the caterpillar’s freedom for the duration of the transformation.....Tiny cells, that biologists actually call “imaginal cells,” begin to appear. These cells are wholly different from caterpillar cells, carrying different information, vibrating to a different frequency–the frequency of the emerging butterfly. At first, the caterpillar’s immune system perceives these new cells as enemies, and attacks them, much as new ideas in science, medicine, politics, and social behavior are viciously denounced by the powers now considered mainstream. But the imaginal cells are not deterred.  They continue to appear, in even greater numbers, recognizing each other, bonding together, until the new cells are numerous enough to organize into clumps. When enough cells have formed to make structures along the new organizational lines, the caterpillar’s immune system is overwhelmed. The caterpillar body then become a nutritious soup for the growth of the butterfly."

from Imaginal Cells and the Body Politic by Anodea Judith Ph.D.
Photo from:
 If we can see that our thoughts participate in  pollinating the future, we can  perhaps find ways of living with simplicity and honor, even in a time so very out of balance.  Regardless of where one is, there is a profound need to "walk in Beauty".  To be "on the Pollen Path".

Without the grace of the pollinators, the butterflies and hummingbirds and bees, there will be no future.  This idea is fundamental to spiritual traditions of native peoples of the Southwest, including the Pueblo peoples, the Navajo and the Apache.  As shown above, when this young Apache woman came of age and entered into her fertile years, she was honored by the tribe with symbolic pollen.

 "The Pollen Path" is a healing and initiatory ceremony/concept among the Dine` that variously enacts a mythic journey, and demonstrates a cosmology of non-duality.  "Pollen Path" art and sand paintings often show the union of opposites, such as red sun and blue moon, as well as mandalas, the balance achieved within the circle.   In keeping with May Day, Psyche in Greek mythology was a beautiful girl who was loved by Eros, the god of Love. Here is "fertility", generation, pollination..........the union of soul/mind with love.  

As I imagine a "pollen path" for our time,  and emanations of hope and beauty,  I reflect as well that some butterflies, like the Monarch or the Painted Lady, are migratory.  Monarch butterflies will migrate over very long distances, as amazingly frail as they seem.  Some travel from Mexico to the norther parts of the United States and into Canada, a distance of over 2,500 miles. 

Lastly, a few thoughts from one of my favorite storytellers, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, on the work of the Butterfly Dancer.  May we all, women and men, young and old, become Butterfly Dancers this May Day.
  "The (Hopi) butterfly dancer must be old because she represents the soul that is old. She is wide of thigh and broad of rump because she carries so much. Her grey hair certifies that she need no longer observe taboos about touching others. She is allowed to touch everyone: boys, babies, men, women, girl children, the old, the ill, and the dead. The Butterfly Woman can touch everyone. It is her privilege to touch all, at last. This is her power. Hers is the body of La Mariposa, the butterfly."

"La Mariposa
" from Women Who Run with The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Clarissa Pinkola Estes  tells the story of waiting to see the "Butterfly Dancer" at a ceremony.  Tourists, unused to Indian Time, wait throughout a long, hot, dusty day to see the dancer emerge, expecting, no doubt a slender, ephemeral Indian maiden, and they are no oubt they were shocked out of their patronizing cultural fantasy to see at last the grey haired  Dancer/Pollinator emerge, slow, not young, with her traditional tokens of empowerment.
"Her heavy body and her very skinny legs made her look like a hopping spider wrapped in a tamale. She hops on one foot and then on the other. She waves her feather fan to and fro. She is The Butterfly arrived to strengthen the weak. She is that which most think of as not strong: age, the butterfly, the feminine."
Because in the agricultural ritual these dances symbolize and invoke, call in, the forces that initiate the  vital work of pollination, this is no job for for an inexperienced girl, no trivial token flight for a  pretty child. It's a job for one who has lived through many cycles, and can seed and generate the future from a solid base.
"Butterfly Woman mends the erroneous idea that transformation is only for the tortured, the saintly, or only for the fabulously strong. The Self need not carry mountains to transform. A little is enough. A little goes a long way. A little changes much. The fertilizing force replaces the moving of mountains.

Butterfly Maiden pollinates the souls of the earth: It is easier that you think, she says. She is shaking her feather fan, and she’s hopping, for she is spilling spiritual pollen all over the people who are there, Native
Americans, little children, visitors, everyone. This is the translator of the instinctual, the fertilizing force, the mender, the rememberer of old ideas. She is La voz mitológica."

"La voz mitológica". The mythic voice.  The Mythic Voice re-enchants the world around us, lending luminosity to each footstep, and pollinates, energizes, en-chants those who hear.   It is transparent, permeable.  And one way to walk the Pollen Path.

* The Pollen Path