Monday, July 30, 2012

Talking with the Earth: Martin Grey on Sacred Sites

 "I experienced contact with something or someone sentient and much greater than my individual self. I had experienced contact, even momentary communion, with the "essence" of what could be called a transpersonal presence. Afterwards I was told by the local shaman or caretaker that I had met with the guardian spirit of the place.....Pilgrim Martin Gray described a (similar) unification experience he had while attending a Shinto religious festival."

Debra D. Carroll "From Huacas to Mesas"
DIALOGUES WITH THE LIVING EARTH, James and Roberta Swan (1989)

Thinking of Numinous, I need to include the writings of Martin Gray, who spent some twenty years of his life visiting sacred places around the world as a pilgrim.  I take the liberty of sharing below an article from his amazing book, SACRED EARTH.**

I myself have experienced things "paranormal" at places of power, including heightened energy, dowsing rods that go crazy, orbs, strange photographs, dreams, and other phenomena.  When I climbed the Tor last year in Glastonbury, all my photos were infused with violet light.....which is the color associated with the Lady of Avalon.  My camera hasn't taken "purple photos" before or since. For days after visiting Avebury I was "blissed out", and had the most wonderful dreams.

I remember when I was living with with my former husband in upstate New York in the 90's. Where we lived was a rural area rapidly being built up with industry. One of the mysterious places in the area, to me, was a field I used to visit. To get to that field, which bordered our property, one had to go through a kind of obstacle course - you crossed an old stone wall, immediately ran into a rusted barbed wire fence, and then tramped through a barrier of poison ivy, grape vines and small trees.

Braving all of this, a beautiful field appeared.  Bordered on all sides by trees, you could stand there in the tall grass, or the snow, and see nothing of the warehouses or homes nearby. It felt, oddly, as if it was somehow protected, as if you entered a special, quiet, mysterious place. The land had obviously once been worked, but it had been left fallow for many years, and in the center  of the field, if you looked, was a  "fairy circle". Small trees, bushes, even tall grasses formed a surprisingly visible circle. With my divining rods, I found there was a ley crossing in that exact spot - the rod "helicoptered" and whirled.

Duncan and I were actively involved in Earth based spiritual practices, and he facilitated a  men's group. One night when the moon was full the group, energized by drumming, decided to visit the field. There was snow on the ground, and as the young men strode to the stone wall, something pushed two of them into the snow! Being young, they got up and  thundered forward - and something pushed both of them backwards, again. They fell on their behinds in the snow! This (I was told) was enough strangeness for everyone, and the group  turned around and went home. The next day, my ex and I took offerings to the edge of the field. I remember placing crystals and flowers on a stone, and as I did, I felt such an overwhelming sense of sorrow that tears ran down my face. I believe I was feeling the sorrow of the guardian spirit of that place.  It was a very intense feeling, and sadly, a  year later there was an oil spill in a nearby truck depot, and the wetlands that bordered "the Field" suffered tremendous ecological damage, and a big tree we associated with our "Green Man" died.

Non-corporeal Beings:  The mysterious influences of spirits, devas and angelic beings associated with sacred sites
Sages and seers from antiquity have repeatedly remarked that the dimension we see with our physical eyes is not the only dimension of existence. Many other realms exist and within them a variety of beings, spirits, energies and entities. Traditional peoples the world over have spoken of the existence of these presences, calling them such names as elves, gnomes, leprechauns, devas, fairies, genies and ghosts.

Since time immemorial humans have sought contact with these unseen forces. Shamanic practitioners communicate with the spirits of animals, ancestors and the plant world. Psychics, clairvoyants and mediums conduct séances to speak with entities from nonvisible realms. Religious mystics affirm the presence of angels, deities and other heavenly beings. Whatever we choose to call these entities, and however we attempt to explain them, it is certain that something mysterious is happening in dimensions other than those perceptible by our normal senses of sight, hearing, touch and smell.

These mysterious presences seem to be especially concentrated at the power places and sacred sites. In some holy places, particularly those of remote forest and desert tribes, these unseen presences are the sole focus of ritual activities. No Christian church or Buddhist temple will be found there, only a small shrine indicating the abode of some nature spirit. In the world's more celebrated pilgrimage shrines, these presences receive less acknowledgment than the primary religious deities. While the presence of the unseen forces usually long precedes the arrival of the historical religion that now maintains the pilgrimage shrine, those forces are frequently denied, dismissed, demonized or given only marginal importance. In the temples of Burma where we find great monuments to the Buddhist faith surrounded by small shrines dedicated to a host of pre-Buddhist spirits called Nats. In the Christian churches of Europe, Britain and Ireland flow springs long ago dedicated to pagan earth goddesses. And in the courtyards of enormous south Indian temples stand numerous small shrines housing various spirits called yakshas, nagas and asuras.

These unseen forces may affect pilgrims without their having any knowledge of the forces, or they may purposely be summoned to appear by the performance of ritual actions and invocations. Traditional rituals practiced at many shrines are potent, time-honored methods for invoking various spirit forces. Such methods are not the only way to summon the mysterious powers. Focused mental intention is an effective method of invocation, and prayer and meditation are the tools of spirit communication.

It is beneficial to first learn something about the nature or character of the spirit entities that inhabit a sacred site. Reading guidebooks concerning the mythology and archaeology of the site or questioning shrine administrators and priests are good approaches. The unseen forces will be described in terms such as spirits, devas or angels. These terms are simply metaphors for the actual character or personality of the forces. These terms also serve as metaphorical representations indicating how the forces will psychologically and physiologically affect human beings. Next, carefully consider the character of the unseen forces dwelling at a sacred site - this important point should not be lightly dismissed. Those forces may have either beneficial or disturbing effects on different people. Invocation of unseen forces at sacred sites is a powerful practice. It is important to exercise caution lest unwanted forces be admitted into an individual's personal energy field.

Martin Gray

"There is an earth-based energy available to human beings, concentrated at specific places all across the planet, which catalyzes and increases this eco-spiritual consciousness. These specific places are the sacred sites discussed and illustrated on this web site. Before their prehistoric human use, before their usurpation by different religions, these sites were simply places of power. They continue to radiate their powers, which anyone may access by visiting the sacred sites. No rituals are necessary, no practice of a particular religion, no belief in a certain philosophy; all that is needed is for an individual human to visit a power site and simply be present. As the flavor of herbal tea will steep into warm water, so also will the essence of these power places enter into one’s heart and mind and soul. As each of us awakens to a fuller knowing of the universality of life, we in turn further empower the global field of eco-spiritual consciousness. That is the deeper meaning and purpose of these magical holy places: they are source points of the power of spiritual illumination."

Martin Gray
 Sacred Earth
** Sacred Earth is written and photographed by Martin Gray and is the culmination of twenty-five years of travel to hundreds of sacred sites in more than one hundred countries.  Gray’s stunning photographs and fascinating text provide unique insight into why these powerful holy places are the most venerated and visited sites on the entire planet. Maps adapted from the National Geographic Society show the locations of all the sites presented, and a thorough appendix includes a comprehensive list of over 500 of the world’s sacred sites.  The book can be purchased from the author on his website:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

March in Washington to Protest Dangerous hydraulic Fracturing

Thousands gathered to demonstrate against hydraulic fracturing in Washington. (photo: EcoWatch)

I have another post  about Martin Grey and Sacred Earth, but wanted to post this first.  This is what happens when the powers that be have no sense of the sacred, when the earth is nothing more than a "resource".   How much more insanity?

Over 5,000 People March in DC to Protest Fracking

By Stefanie Spear, EcoWatch
29 July 12

More than 5,000 people from all over the nation, and various parts of the world including Australia, united today on the West lawn of the U.S. Capitol demanding Congress take immediate action to stop fracking. After the rally that began at 2 p.m., rally participants marched for more than one hour, stopping at the headquarters of the America's Natural Gas Alliance and American Petroleum Institute.
People impacted by fracking in their communities joined forces with 136 local and national organizations to call on Congress to Stop the Frack Attack and protect Americans from the dangerous impacts of fracking.

 Yes, fracking can provide massive amounts of methane gas to be used domestically; but it also produces millions of gallons of wastewater that contains elements that are known carcinogens. Despite fracking freeing up cancerous agents and releasing them into the environment, there are roughly 400,000 of these wells across America.  In addition to adding carcinogens into the atmosphere, scientists earlier this month finally linked fracking to an outbreak of earthquakes in the state of Ohio. The Youngstown, OH region saw 11 small tremors in a matter of months after a year of drilling, prompting an investigation by specialists — and the results were far from favorable.

Rally speakers included, Bill McKibben, co-founder of; Josh Fox, producer of Gasland; Calvin Tillman, former mayor of Dish, Texas; Allison Chin, board president of the Sierra Club, and community members from swing states affected by fracking."As the increasingly bizarre weather across the planet and melting ice on Greenland makes clear, at this point we've got no choice but to keep fossil fuels underground. Fracking to find more is the worst possible idea," said McKibben. "The amazing thing about this problem is that there's a solution… We know that we can run the world on renewable energy. We know that we can run the world on the wind. And today, we have a reminder that we can run the world on the sun," said Fox.

Today's rally was part of the first national event to stop the frack attack. The rally is the culmination of three days of training to further escalate the movement to stop abuse by the fossil fuel industry. Large groups from swing states including Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania and North Carolina attended the training and rally to make sure that fracking is a key part of the upcoming election.

"Just weeks ago in North Carolina, our legislature ripped up decades of groundwater protections for rural drinking water, in order to allow fracking and invite in dirty industry campaign dollars. So we add our voices to the national movement calling on Congress to protect our homes, our drinking water and our health by repealing the 2005 oil and gas exemptions," said Hope Taylor, a farmer near Durham and executive director of Clean Water for NC.

Rally participants have three key demands: an end to dirty and dangerous fracking, closure of the seven legal loopholes that let frackers in the oil and gas industry ignore the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and full enforcement of existing laws to protect families and communities from the effects of fracking.

"It is time for us to come together as a people and let the law makers that work for us know that we are tired of being run over by the out-of-control oil and gas industry," said Tillman.

While at the headquarters of America's Natural Gas Alliance, rally organizers delivered six jugs of contaminated water in hazmat suits and then headed to the American Petroleum Institute where a 20-foot-high mock oil rig was smashed to the ground.  This event was a launching point for the movement, and will be followed by events in Albany, NY on Aug. 25, Philadelphia on Sept. 20 and Sept. 21, and subsequent events in other states and regions affected by fracking.

For further information,

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Reflections on "Numinous"

A few weeks ago I had an art project called "Numinous" pop into my mind while at a hot springs.  So I've been researching and reflecting on what that means to me ever since, and a few posts that represent my "research" keep  evolving.

When I attended the Women and Mythology conference in May, I had an "ah ha" moment when a presenter, speaking of the ancient megalithic sites of  Britain as "stations within a sacred landscape", commented that myth making has always been a way for human beings to become intimate with, to commune, with what is vast, deep,  and mysterious, like the forces of nature.  In the past, people were embedded within the environment, and the environment was the body of the Mother Earth, from which all things arose, and all things returned.  "Nature" was not just a "backdrop", or as now in corporate thinking, a "resource"...........nature was a conversation full of mythological,  visionary reciprocity, intelligent, and alive.

"Speak to the Earth and it shall teach you".  Job 12:8

In an "en-chanted" environment all beings, visible and invisible, are perceived as having Mana, as being Numinous.  Raven and Magpie were not just birds........they were also Relations, and might even be, on occasion, Messengers.  Plants had Medicine Spirits, and healers invoked their gifts with gratitude and no small measure of caution for fear of offending the powers within. A mythic landscape was inhabited by animals, plants, people, weather, seasons, sacred mountains, goddess rivers, and Numen, the energy and intelligences of place, what the Romans called Genius Loci.  Culture was founded within a grand conversation with many voices, and not all of them were human or even visible without a little shamanic help.

Ancient tribes hunted antelope, buffalo, or mammoth - but not without a sense of  gratitude which expressed itself as reciprocity.  Among the Dakota, dances and prayers were necessary to honor the sacrifice of the buffalo. Their great teacher, who gave them their Great Rites and ceremonies, White Buffalo Calf Woman, manifested as both human and as the great generous spirit of the Buffalo.  Among the aborigines of Australia, there was "geomantic reciprocity".  If the landscape is sacred and holds memory, then walking across the landscape is a way of harmonizing with the "song lines".  As the land is activated by the act of a "walk about", so is the mind of the walker animated by the land.    A mythic conversation. Among the Inuit, rites of cleansing and attunement were cyclically enacted to restore the balance with Sedna, the great Ocean Mother from whose body the sea animals that sustain the tribe come. It was believed that without enacting these rituals, Sedna would withdraw, and starvation would follow.

Paleolithic artists painstakingly painted animals in caves that symbolized the dark womb of the Great Mother -  sympathetic magic meant to assist the animals to return again.   Early arts were no doubt enjoyed, and beyond a doubt are aesthetic - but their essence and purpose originated in ritual, prayer, magic.  The earth and all of its creatures, to them, was alive and communicative, and responsive.  Which is not unlike what James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis have suggested with the Gaia Theory,*** which is now taken very seriously in the world of Earth Sciences.

Calendar 2 Stone Chamber Vermont, photo by James Garfall
In 1982 I visited one of the mysterious Cairn sites on Putney mountain in Vermont. These sites have been explored by NEARA, written about by Barry Fell in America B.C.  They bear a remarkable resemblance to cairns and standing stone "Calendar sites" to be found in Britain and Ireland, which is why many believe they were made by early Celts or Phoenicians who colonized along the Connecticut River valley.  There are some 300 of them in Vermont and New Hampshire alone.  Although no one knows who built these sites, dowsers know that they are built on geo-magnetically powerful places where ley lines cross and underground water domes are.  They are, like the one on Putney mountain where I spent a radiant summer morning, often aligned with the Summer Solstice.  Regardless of who built them, they are attuned to auspicious days and the cycles of the year, and built in places that are "power places" because of their unique abilities to change consciousness.  How is it possible we have lost this sense of participation that our ancestors felt and knew?

Numen/Numina is Roman, and  meant the deities of place, presences that presided over springs, orchards, or mountains.  The Numina were later, as the Romans became influenced by the Etruscans and Greeks, personified, but in the early days of Rome they were not given human attributes.  Numinous  means a sense of Presence, the invisible intelligence (intelligences) that inhabit and are unique to a place.

I so strongly felt the presence of the Numinous when I went to Glastonbury, to visit the sacred wells, and walked within this ancient pilgrimage site.  You cannot visit the Chalice Well, or the White Spring, or walk up to the Tor which stands high over the ancient lakes of Avalon......without feeling the presence of the Numinous, and the memory of the many people who came before.  I believe one would have to be very dense indeed to not be changed in some way by visiting this ancient place of pilgrimage.

But one does not need to travel across the ocean, or even into the  maple forests of Vermont, in order to experience the "conversation".  An open mind and heart is a profound tool for communion of all kinds, with people, animals, and the invisible realms as well.  If one has the idea that the Earth is alive, then it follows that beings on the Earth are alive and thus responsive in some way.  Our experience changes when World becomes a "you" instead of an "it".  Or  "Thou".  Myth can provide a language with which to interpret.


See,  The Re-Enchantment of the World:  Secular Magic in a Rational Age, Edited by Joshua Landy and Michael Saler, Stanford University Press, 2009
cover for The Re-Enchantment of the World

** Here's a great Blog about the sacred sites of New England:

 *** On James Lovelock and Gaia Theory:

Friday, July 27, 2012

On Gender Imbalance and Violence

"The dangers of being alone with men (or walking alone at night where groups of young men are) is never mentioned in sermons on Sunday morning. Or talked about in social studies. We just know to "be careful," that's all. It is tucked away on the underbelly of life. It is a taboo subject." 

Janie "Oquawka"Rezner, MA

When I was in Bali I visited the Temple of Hanuman, which had a forest full of grey monkeys.  It was not uncommon to see a family unit, the females often with an infant at her breast.  Once I bought a bunch of bananas, and began to distribute them.  Then a big monkey, clearly the "alpha male", sauntered up, looking every bit like a human bully,  bared his impressive fangs, and grabbed the entire bunch from me.  I wasn't about to argue, and I stood there watching as he ate all the bananas.  All the other monkeys gathered around him, hoping he'd drop one. I remember thinking  "I sure hope we can outgrow that one." 

In the wake of the tragedy in Colorado, my friend Janie, author and host of a radio show in California based on women's and environmental issues, sent me the article below. Last year my home town of Tucson saw the shooting of Gabrielle Gifford and the deaths that followed that rampage.

Why is it that pointing out gender imbalance, and inequity, is taken as a condemnation of all men? We all know the names of thousands of great men who have brought peace and love to the world. Addressing these issues is addressing human evolutionary issues. No doubt some find it controversial, but Janie is right: No one talks about it, and yet most young women, including the young woman I once was, live with the fear of rape and violent abuse. I felt this article was worth sharing.

The Overwhelming Maleness of Mass Homicide:
Why aren't we talking about the one thing mass murderers have in common? 
By Erika Christakis  July 24, 2012 

Accused movie-theater shooter James Holmes makes his first court appearance at the Arapahoe County courthouse on July 23, 2012 in Centennial, Colo.
There’s a predictable cycle of mourning and recrimination that follows a massacre like the shootings last week in Aurora, Colo. First come the calls for unity and flags flown at half-mast. Then the national fissures appear: the gun lobby stiffens its spine as gun-control advocates make their case. Psychologists parse the shooter’s background, looking for signs of mental illness or family disarray. Politicians point fingers about “society run amok” and “cultures of despair.”
We’ve been down this path so many times, yet we keep missing the elephant in the room: How many of the worst mass murderers in American history were women? None. This is not to suggest that women are never violent, and there are even the rare cases of female serial killers. But why aren’t we talking about the glaring reality that acts of mass murder (and, indeed, every single kind of violence) are overwhelmingly perpetrated by men? Pointing out that fact may seem politically incorrect or irrelevant, but our silence about the huge gender disparity of such violence may be costing lives.
Imagine for a moment if a deadly disease disproportionately affected men. Not a disease like prostate cancer that can only affect men, but a condition prevalent in the general population that was vastly more likely to strike men. Violence is such a condition: men are nine to 10 times more likely to commit homicide and more likely to be its victims. The numbers are sobering when we look at young men. In the U.S., for example, young white males (between ages 14 and 24) represent only 6% of the population, yet commit almost 17% of the murders. For young black males, the numbers are even more alarming (1.2% of the population accounting for 27% of all homicides). Together, these two groups of young men make up just 7% of the population and 45% of the homicides. And, overall, 90% of all violent offenders are male, as are nearly 80% of the victims.
We shouldn’t need Steven Pinker, one of the world’s leading psychologists and the author of the book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, to tell us the obvious: “Though the exact ratios vary, in every society, it is the males more than the females who play-fight, bully, fight for real, kill for real, rape, start wars and fight in wars.” The silence around the gendering of violence is as inexplicable as it is indefensible. Sex differences in other medical and social conditions — such as anorexia nervosa, lupus, migraines, depression and learning disabilities — are routinely analyzed along these lines.
For millennia, human society has struggled with what to do with young men’s violent tendencies. Many cultures stage elaborate initiation ceremonies, presided over by older men, which help channel youthful aggression into productive social roles. But in contemporary society, we have trouble talking about the obvious: the transition from boy to man is a risky endeavor, and there can be a lot of collateral damage.
(Skeptics will claim that the perpetrators of horrific acts like the Aurora shootings are such aberrations that we can hardly build public policy around their evil behavior. But it’s a mistake to view mass murderers as incomprehensible freaks of nature. For example, we know that the young men who go on murderous rampages are not always sociopathic monsters but, rather, sometimes more or less “regular” men who suffered from crushing depression and suicidal ideation.
No reasonable person can imagine how despair could possibly lead to premeditated mass homicide. However, the fact that depression is so frequently accompanied by violent rage in young men — a rage usually, but not solely, directed at themselves — is something we need to acknowledge and understand.
Our refusal to talk about violence as a public-health problem with known (or knowable) risk factors keeps us from helping the young men who are at most risk and, of course, their potential victims. When we view terrible events as random, we lose the ability to identify and treat potential problems, for example by finding better ways to intervene with young men during their vulnerable years. There is so much more we need to learn about how to prevent violence, but we could start with the sex difference that is staring us in the face.
Erika Christakis, M.P.H., M.Ed., is a Harvard College administrator who blogs at The views expressed are solely her own.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Do Not Lose Heart"

A friend forwarded this beautiful article by Clarissa Pinkola Estes PhD, author of "Women Who Run With the Wolves".  Her comment about the tornado/water spout is poignant for me especially, since I have been having dreams of being at the center of a tornado, and able to see the "eye".  (And thanks once again to Joyce for her generosity).


By Clarissa Pinkola Estes 

Mis Estimados: Do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in the world right now...Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is - we were made for these times. 

Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement...I grew up on the Great lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able crafts in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind...Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold it's own, and to advance, regardless.

We have been in training for a dark time such as this, since the day we assented to come to Earth. For many decades, worldwide, souls just like us have been felled and left for dead in so many ways over and over brought down by naivete, by lack of love, by being ambushed and assaulted by various cultural and personal shocks in the extreme. We have a history of being gutted, and yet remember this especially - we have also, of necessity, perfected the knack of resurrection. Over and over again we have been the living proof that that which has been exiled, lost, or foundered can be restored to life again.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency too to fall into being weakened by perseverating on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails. We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't you say you were a believer? Didn't you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Understand the paradox: If you study the physics of a waterspout, you will see that the outer vortex whirls far more quickly than the inner one. To calm the storm means to quiet the outer layer, to cause it to swirl much less, to more evenly match the velocity of the inner core - till whatever has been lifted into such a vicious funnel falls back to Earth, lays down, is peaceable again. One of the most important steps you can take to help calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion or desperation thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl.

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip towards an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take "everyone on Earth" to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these -- to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both, are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes ©2003 All rights reserved


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Black Tara Revisited

I've been interested to notice that for the past 6 months or so, on the "stats" for this blog,  a two year old post about Black Tara, and another post about Kali get the most hits.  Why are people googling these aspects of the Dark Goddess so consistently? 

Ture, Dark Mother of Bones and Blood
Silent night and smoldering ruins
the Wheel always turning
Black heart center
of understanding.
Grant the art of Letting-go
in the still silence
of your dark smile
Om tare tuttare ture soha


The Tibetan Goddess Tara is celebrated with a long prayer called "The 21 Praises to Tara". The Goddess has 21 manifestations - peaceful and wrathful - all  expressions of divine mercy and wisdom. In the painting below, Green Tara is surrounded by smaller figures, each representing a different aspect of the Goddess (such as "White Tara", "Red Tara", etc.)Black Tara is a wrathful manifestation, identical in form and, probably  source, to Hindu Kali. Like Kali, she has a headdress of grinning skulls, like Kali, she is black, like Kali she has three eyes. Like many Tibetan deities in the wrathful aspect, she has the fangs of a tiger, symbolizing ferocity, a ferocious appetite to devour the demons of the mind. Her aura or halo is fiery, energetic, full of smoke symbolizing the transformation of fire.

Kali is the great Dark Mother of India. In Hindu mythology, when the world was being devoured by demons, there came a time when even the great Gods couldn't battle them. And so Durga manifested Kali the terrible, the "last ditch savioress". Kali is the One who brings the forest fire, levelling the ground so new growth can occur, the surgeon who cuts away morbid tissue so flesh can heal.

The icon of Kali, dancing on the prostrate body of Shiva, is a strange image to the western sensibility. Christian theology is dualistic, but Hinduism and Buddhism are not. In Bali, the curbs of Ubud are all painted like a checker board, black and white, as are the altar clothes. This is to remind those who walk down the street continuously of Sekala and Neskala, the continuing balance of Dark and Light, the yin/yang of life. Kali appears in Bali as the dreadful, fanged, bloodthirsty Rangda. Battles with her are always fought by the benign dragon, the Barong, in dreadful graveyards. But no one ultimately wins. Because the battle must continually be fought. And Rangda, work done, often then returns to the heaven realms, to become beautiful, peaceful Uma, wife of their version of Lord Shiva. Kali, whose name means "Time" (Kala) lives beyond form, beyond the pairs of opposites, the truth beyond the skeins of karma and time.

Tara has been my revered and mysterious divine teacher for many years. I won't presume to say I can understand a Goddess ......... they are archetypal, collective intelligences ..........but if I was going to make a tenuous statement, it would be when you call on a Goddess, She's not going to give you a polite reply that's been spell-checked. The ineffable work with us in the arena of energy, in the field of dreams and soul language.  But Black Tara Kali,  is so important to our time, dancing Her tough love, crimson lips full of that vast, vast laughter. 

There's a great film called "The Shipping News" (with Kevin Spacey). Towards the end of the movie, a storm has destroyed his old family's house, a weary old house haunted with too many dark secrets, too much ancestral karma. Moored atop a crag, the house has been blown at last into the ocean below to vanish beneath the waves. Confronting the littered place where it once stood, Spacey (who has become a newspaper reporter) comments:

"Headline: House disappears in storm. The view is great."


Kali is called "she who devours time".  Hindu  legend tells that Kali was so full of the rapture of battle that she destroyed all before her as she danced.  None could stop her,  so  Lord Shiva lay  down before her.  When Kali stepped on her husband's body  her madness ceased  and she stopped at last.  But there is a Tantric interpretation that the aroused Lord Shiva represents the  ecstasy of death,  and hence trans-form-ation.  Kali is  the destroyer of the illusions of time.

"Kali is the surgeon. She cuts away what has to go. I ask for that quality to come into me when I have to cut something out of my life; an addiction, or a relationship that no longer is about growth. And I ask it be done precisely, cutting away the dis-ease, malignancy, the aspects that no longer serve. That's what Kali is to me: the last resort savior. When the Gods couldn't kill the demonic forces that ravaged the Earth, they called on a woman's wrath.

We've all forgotten that the Goddess, the Divine, dwells within us. She dwells within us all the time, and not just when you wear a mask, or are in a workshop, or a ritual. In Tantric
philosophy, we're all considered emanations of the Gods and Goddesses - we are their
material aspects on this plane of existence. We're not bodies seeking the spirit, we're spirits  
seeking bodily experiences. Sacred performance, for me, is about remembering that. And remembering is truly a devotional practice. In Hindu traditions  everyone has a deity they focus on as their personal deity. In the West, as we reclaim forms of the Goddess for spiritual
practice, we need to create a relationship with the Goddess form we have chosen, in order to
manifest what we need for spiritual and emotional growth, to invoke the help of that Goddess. That practice is not just cerebral. We function out of our whole self, our bodies and spirits. The body-mind. That is the place we can re-member, the place we can communicate with the Goddess within ourselves.

Kali is so much about contemporary life. Women need to become angry now.  About the
women of Afghanistan, the meaningless wars, the destruction of our environment.  The demons  of insatiable greed that are devouring our planet. Those souls who await the future are being denied their birthright. Kali is the catalyst for saying "No more".She's the voice of women whose voices aren't being heard, the voice of women who need to open their mouths and speak for the first time. It's time to embrace the sword of Kali and cut away the delusions that are  destroying our world.

 Kali is the ferocious mother who says "get away from my children, or I'll kill you."Mothers aren't saying that. They're giving their children away, giving them away to war, giving them away by allowing our environment to be depleted, giving permission to the powers that be to destroy their future." 

Drissana Devananda (2001)

***I am embarrassed to find this worthy commentary about Kali in my files, and not the credits. I hope, should the author ever find me, he or she will accept my apology, and appreciation for the wise scholarship.
"Kali's black complexion symbolizes her all-embracing nature. Says the Mahanirvana Tantra: "Just as all colors disappear in black, so all names and forms disappear in her".Kali is free from the illusory covering, for she is beyond the all maya or "false consciousness." Her red lolling tongue indicates her omnivorous nature —her indiscriminate enjoyment of all the world's 'flavors'. Her sword is the destroyer of false consciousness.

Her three eyes represent past, present, and future, — the three modes of time — an attribute that lies in the very name Kali ('Kala' in Sanskrit means time). The eminent translator Sir John Woodroffe in Garland of Letters, writes, "Kali is so called because She devours Kala (Time) and then resumes Her own dark formlessness."
Kali's proximity to cremation grounds where the five elements or "Pancha Mahabhuta" come together, and all worldly attachments are absolved, again point to the cycle of birth and death. "

Monday, July 23, 2012

Flashback to the 60's....

I looked up the word "Flashback" and no one seems to remember where it originally came from, but as it was used in the '60's it originally refered to "flashing back" to an acid trip.  Acid culture is long gone but thanks to Google one can revisit it through Google, the  Akashic Record, right here at my finger tips without the inconvenience of having to die or leave my body.  How great is that! So I was thinking about the 60's and I remembered  going to those cavernous auditoriums where  Cream and The Doors and Love  played, not to mention the Whiskey A Go Go and Love Ins.  I was so into being one of "Vito's dancers", before I was whisked off to college and the more serious clime of Berkeley, to the relief of my father.  Artist Vito Paulekas  was a catalyst for change in Los Angeles in the '60's.....he  probably coined the term "freak out"..........  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Burned Forest, Terrible Beauty near Nogal, N.M.

"There’s another emotion associated with art, which is not of the beautiful but of the sublime. What we call monsters can be experienced as sublime. They represent powers too vast for the normal forms of life to contain them.....Another mode of the sublime is of prodigious energy, force, and power."

Joseph Campbell

 My friend artist  Georgia Stacy took these photos of the burned forest near Nogal, New Mexico.   It threatened her home in June, and she was evacuated for a while.    Georgia is so attuned to the "spirits of the land" around her, and she said that, as terrible as it was, she had a sense that there was something necessary, something about balance, in this.  The photo above, brilliant green of new life through the charred branches, speaks volumes. We spoke of the erry beauty of these images, and how she saw houses in charred ruin, with signs that say "no trespassing" and "private property" lying among the ashes.

That speaks as well.

All photos copyright Georgia Stacy 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Universe Responds

"I the Song, I walk here"

Native American chant

I've always loved this poem..........I ran across it a long time ago while studying traditions of some of the Plains Indians.  To sing or chant is to become  entrained with others, with the environment, with one's footsteps.  Deity for these people was neither a "He" or a "She", but a Song to become harmonized with, to feel beneath your feet.

 Max Weber once commented that modernity is characterized by the "progressive disenchantment of the world." **   A mechanistic view of the world does not animate it, nor allow us to participate within it. A mechanistic worldview leaves us isolated from the world, and ultimately, from each other as well.  If we lived within an "in-chanted" world, how differently might we live?


The Universe Responds
by Alice Walker

A few years ago I wrote an essay called "Everything is a Human Being", which explores to some extent the Naive American view that all of creation is of one substance and therefore deserving of the same respect. In it I described the death of a snake that I caused, and wrote of my remorse.

That summer, "my" land in the country crawled with snakes. There was always the large resident snake, whom my mother named "Susie", crawling about in the area that marks the entrance to my studio. But there were also lots of others wherever we looked. A black-and-white king snake appeared underneath the shower stall in the garden. A striped red-and-black one, very pretty, appeared near the pond. It now revealed the little hole in the ground in which it lived by lying half in and half out of it as it basked in the sun. Garden snakes crawled up and down the roads and paths. One day leaving my house with a box of books in his arms, my companion literally tripped over one of these.

We spoke to all of these snakes in friendly voices. They went their way, we went ours. After about a two week bloom of snakes, we seemed to have our usual number: just Susie and a couple of her children.

A few years later, I wrote an essay about a horse called Blue. It was about how humans treat horses and other animals; how hard it is for us to see them as the suffering, fully conscious, enslaved beings they are. After reading this essay in public only once, this is what happened. A white horse came and settled herself on the land. (Her owner, a neighbor, soon came to move her.) The two horses on the ranch across the road began to run up to their fence whenever I passed, leaning over it and making what sounded like joyful noises. They had never done this before (I checked with the human beings I lived with to be sure of this), and after a few more times of greeting me as if I'd done something especially nice for them, they stopped. Now, when I pass they look at me with the same reserve they did before. But there is still a spark of recognition.

What to make of this?


I think I am telling you that the animals of the planet are in desperate peril, and that they are fully aware of this. No less than human beings are doing in all parts of the world, they also are seeking sanctuary. But I am also telling you that we are connected to them at least as intimately as we are connected to trees. Without plant life human beings could not breathe. They are the lungs of our planet. Plants produce oxygen. Without free animal life I believe we will lose increasingly the spiritual equivalent of oxygen. "Magic", intuition, sheer astonishment at the forms the Universe devises in which to express life - to express itself - will no longer be able to breathe in us.


But what I'm also sharing with you is this thought: The Universe responds. What you ask of it, it gives. The military-industrial complex and its leaders and scientists have shown more faith in this reality than have those of us who do not believe in war and who want peace. They have asked the Earth for all its deadlier substances. They have been confident in their faith in hatred and war. The universe, ever responsive, the Earth, ever giving, has opened itself fully to their desires. Ironically, Black Elk (the Lakota shaman) and nuclear scientists can be viewed in much the same way: as men who prayed to the Universe for what they believed they needed and who received from it a sign reflective of their own hearts.

I remember when I used to dismiss the bumper sticker "Pray for Peace". I realize now that I did not understand it, since I also did not understand prayer; which I know now to be the active affirmation in the physical world of our inseparableness from the divine; and everything, especially the physical world, is divine.

(From: "The Universe Responds: Or, How I learned We Can Have Peace on Earth", Living by the Word, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, N.Y., N.Y., 1988.)

Hot Springs Satori?

Well, in the existential department, I'm looking for direction again, so I guess I'll need to be a bit self-absorbed for a while.  In pursuit of this, on the 4th of July I went to my favorite funky hot springs  in Safford, AZ, and had the whole place to myself.  I sat in the water watching the moon and an art project called "Numinous" plopped into my mind, numbered and indented as if it was neatly typewritten in academic Proposal format!  It included 3 different components.  (I didn't see any footnotes, however.) This doesn't happen to me very often when I'm blissfully bathing in hot water under the moon.

Well, actually, come to think of it, it sometimes does.  I'm a double Leo, I live in the desert, and I used to be a fire dancer.  Fire, fire, fire, love the stuff, except when it involves forests.  And yet, it seems that water is the element that provides refuge for my soul, the creative "spring".

I remember a vivid dream I had  in 1998 at Harbin Hot Springs about being given an antique typewriter that was buried in the ground.  As I dusted the dirt off of it it began to type by itself, spewing forth pages and pages of stories about Goddesses. Then the pages turned into pictures, and the pictures turned into a long line of women, dressed in beautiful costumes.  Women of all colors, black, blue, white, red, and yellow, stood before me like a luminous, expectant  rainbow.  Not long after I returned to my studio in Berkeley, I was invited to attend  a meeting to plan the upcoming Spiral Dance in San Francisco. That year the theme was diversity, and the group wanted masks to celebrate the Goddess.  And so I began work that summer on a series of  masks.  At the  Spiral Dance that October my dream came true.  Twenty-five women in a rainbow of colors formed a masked procession.  The dream proceeded the creation and event.....and I think, when we engage with the mythic or archetypal realm, many people find what is circular and seamless.......***

Last year I went to the Holy Wells in Glastonbury, and participated in a Waters of the World Ceremony at the Temple of the Goddess.  Now that was true magic.......This year I've had to stay  closer to home, so I settled for "The Essence of Tranquility" hot springs, one of the better kept secrets of eastern Arizona.   And, because it was the 4th of July, no one was there so I had the whole place to myself!

I've been rolling the ideas that "arrived" around in my head ever since.  "Numinous"....and I plan on researching the word a bit more in a future entry.  Here's what I scratched on to a piece of damp paper..........the first time I've had a  vision that was so academic...........although, it's really a variation on what I've always done since the day I first walked into a stone chamber with a ley crossing in Putney, Vermont, in the summer of  1982, thanks to master dowser Sig Lonegren.  I felt vibrant energy there, I watched my divining rod "helicopter", and I've been asking myself ever since:  "How do we speak to the Earth?  How does the Earth speak to us?" 

So, please forgive me, friends, if I try to get a handle on this...........


Component 1)  Masks.  In traditional societies masks are "Liminal Tools".  Traditionally they were perceived as being mediation tools between shamanic states, or different dimensions of being.  A mask might allow spirits to participate, communicate, even prophesize and heal.  They can be seen in this respect as a way to permit "numina" or the spirits of place to to communicate through the medium of the mask, and the one who wears the mask. 

Component 2) Story.   What might the spirit of a place, the "genius loci"  say?  How would "place" speak to participants?  Perhaps, though visioning exercises, art process, meditation, creating handmade books, masks, or shrines that "engage and invite the numinous"?

Component 3) Vision. How might Numina be  "personified" or "voiced"  in contemporary terms, even as they are now "dis-placed"? *

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

Marilou Awiakta

***Artist Lorraine Chapparell's amazing "Hands" sculpture also had its inception in a dream in which she saw the piece in an art history book, complete with its title "Hands".  "The dreams are easy; it's bringing them to physical fruition that takes time." she said about the almost 10 tears between the dream and creating the sculpture.

Images are copyright Lorraine Capparell (

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"A Blessing Way" Synchronicity

In the house made of dawn
in the house made of evening twilight,
in beauty may I walk,
with beauty above me, beauty below me
I walk with beauty all around me,
I walk with beauty it is finished.
.......Navajo (Dine) chant
 The Navajo word for sand-paintings means "place where the gods come and go." 
Sand-painting has been used for centuries in religious rituals and healing ceremonies performed by Navajo medicine men.  A sand-painting is made  in the ceremonial hogan and destroyed at the end of the ritual, in much the same way that Tibetan sand paintings are also destroyed.  In order to preserve this  tradition in the 1940's, Navajos began to create permanent sand-paintings, changing the design slightly to protect the religious significance when these paintings were shown publicly.
I've been feeling very unsure, this summer, about where to go from here.  I putter around the house, take care of my mother's needs, and spend a lot of time looking back, since I don't know what is foreward. 

Yesterday I was listening to the Ode to Joy, of all things, pondering The Question, when I felt something crawling around my mouth.  Wiping my mouth with my hand, I found a tiny spider, which quickly disappeared when I set her down on the table.  I've had many strange synchronicities with Spiders, and tend to think of them as Spider Woman's little reminders.  Perhaps the meaning of this is to speak - and indeed, I've been thinking that the next step for me is to teach and share whatever bits of wisdom and experience I may have.

I turned to the very beginning of this Blog, which was the day I began my cross country trip  to pursue my Spider Woman Project.   I found this little article I had written just prior to leaving for Michigan (I began my Community Arts Project "Spider Woman's Hands" in Midland, Michigan with a fellowship from the Alden B. Dow Creativity  Center.  Midland is the home of Dow Chemical.  It was a strange place to end up weaving a "Web of All Life" ritual art project..........but, maybe not........)

Friday, June 1, 2007

If synchronicity can be the touch of the Spiderwoman, if a synchronicity or two could be touchstones along the path,  I'm off to a good start as I pack my car. Just two days ago I was helping Randy Ford to move.  I was reading that morning about Spiderwoman as She occurs in Navajo mythology, reading as well some of their beautiful chants that are used by Singers in various curing ceremonies. Randy needed boxes, and so I went to U haul to purchase a few. Standing in line, I saw I was behind a couple with a little girl.  They were heading for Window Rock, Arizona, and I could hear that they were speaking in Navajo.

"As opposed to the other Navajo [Diné] Chant Ways, which are used to effect a cure of a problem, the Blessingway [Hózhó jí] is used to bless the "one sung over," to ensure good luck, good health and blessings for all. It is sometimes referred to by English speaking Diné as being "for good hope." The name of the rite, Hózhó jí, is translated as Blessingway, but that is certainly not an exact translation. In the Navajo language (diné bizaad) the term encompasses everything that is interpreted as good - as opposed to evil, favorable for man. It encompasses such words as beauty, harmony, success, perfection, well-being, ordered, ideal. The intent of this rite is to ensure a good result at any stage of life, and therefore the translation of Blessingway.”

So, let the journey begin as a "Blessing Way".


Post Script in the Now:   I remember that when I got back to Tucson at the end of that summer,  as I headed for my house, car still packed, I had a very sudden need to go to the bathroom and stopped at the nearest convenience store.  A young woman was standing by the entrance when I came out, and she begged me for a ride.  Of course I took her, and on the way to where she was going, she told me she was Navajo from Northern Arizona, and she wanted to go home.  It's not that common to meed Navajo people in Tucson.  That kind of "wrapped" the trip for me.  A ritual, a Blessing.