Monday, November 25, 2013

Lady Olivia Passes

   I was saddened  to learn that Lady Olivia, one of the founders of the international Fellowship of Isis, passed away this past month at the age of 96.  She's had a long life, and done so much to inspire, teach, initiate, and serve the Goddess - she will be missed by many.

I've many times gone to Isis Oasis in California, a Center for Goddess Spirituality that  is dedicated to the Fellowship of Isis.   Lady Olivia, who lived in Ireland, came there for many years.    If  you have met any of the Fellowship, you immediately are struck by what a wonderful, warm, life-affirming and creative group of people they are. 

Lady Olivia
, who co-founded the Fellowship of Isis with her brother in Ireland (and now around the world)  was much loved by friends and family everywhere.  I met her briefly when I was at the Goddess Conference in Glastonbury in 2011.  Recently a movie has been made about the Fellowship and Lady Olivia.  She came to Isis Oasis for Convocation and initiation of priestesses for many years from her home in Ireland.  

It will be strange to be in a world without Lady Olivia, although I know her work continues.

Friday, November 22, 2013

"Accidental" Yonis - What would Jung Have to Say?

Al-Wakrah stadium.       Photograph: Aecom
The design for Qatar's new Al-Wakrah sports stadium has quickly gone viral: with its shiny, pinkish tinge, its labia-like side appendages and its large opening in the middle, the supposedly innocent building ("based upon the design of a traditional Qatari dhow boat") was just asking for trouble.

A while back I wrote about Yoni stones, the documentary "Half the Sky",  and the strange "Black Stone of Mecca", once apparently  dedicated to an ancient, pre-Islamic  Arabian Moon Goddess, and its amazing silver "yoni" container.  Hmm.  In the context of such a phallic, patriarchal world, one wonders what Jung might have to say about it all..................or Marija Gimbutas.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Goddess Help Us, Monsanto Wins the Nobel Peace Prize

I've posted several times about the dangers of GMO's, and posted the film "The World According to Monsanto".  GMO's are illegal in Poland, and riots have ensued in France because of them.  Well, here's reality turned on its ear. 


Monsanto wins prestigious World Food Prize

If only, if only it were a joke……..

If you thought the world couldn´t get any crazier, news this week that a Monsanto executive is to receive the World Food Prize for its services to agriculture might make you think again.
Robert T Fraley, Executive Vice President of Monsanto, along with Mary Dell Chilton, founder of biotech giant Syngenta, have been announced as this year´s winners for the prestigious food prize, which has a $250,000 reward. Fraley, who has been with Monsanto throughout much of its dark history, is being lauded for his invention of GMOs, while Chilton is applauded for spending “the last three decades overseeing the implementation of the new technology she developed and further improving it to be used in the introduction of new and novel genes into plants.”

The accolades are set to be given to these cretinous executives on World Food Day, October 16. If this insane plan goes ahead without a public backlash, we will be rewarding CEOs who have systematically:
  • Monopolized our food and driven millions of farmers into poverty
  • Designed dangerous artificial growth hormones for dairy cows
  • Created franken-seeds and prohibited investigation into their long-term effects
  • Tried to block the labelling of GMO foods
  • Patented food in a sickening attempt to own nature itself (Hey, Monsanto! I grow my own broccoli, what you gonna do about it?)
  • Enforcing these patents by suing and threatening smallholders and family farmers who violate Monsanto´s iron rule
  • Caused mass suicide among millions of farmers whose GM crops fail
  • Invented pesticides that kill bees and endangered other wildlife
  • And later had the audacity to launch legal action against the European Union after it finally banned bee-killing pesticides in May this year.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Doris Lessing Passes Away

 We have a bequest of stories, tales from the old storytellers, some of whose names we know, but some not. The storytellers go back and back, to a clearing in the forest where a great fire burns, and the old shamans dance and sing, for our heritage of stories began in fire, magic, the spirit world. And that is where it is held, today.

 The Nobel-prize winning novelist Doris Lessing passed away on Sunday morning in London at the age of 94.  Doris Lessing was important to me, especially her Shikasta series, which I've always felt was  prophetic.   In 2008 a Synchronicity brought her "blessing" to me again, in the form of a book that reminded me to remember "the habit of loving".  In honor of  Doris Lessing, I felt like copying that post again.  

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Doris Lessing  and  my "Book of Common Miracles"

"Writers are often asked: "How do you write?" But the essential question is:

"Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?"

Into that space, which is like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas - inspiration. If a writer cannot find this space, then poems and stories may be stillborn. When writers talk to each other, what they discuss is always to do with this imaginative space, this other time. "Have you found it? Are you holding it fast?"
 Doris Lessing,
Nobel Prize Speech, 2007

My friend Rose says that I should compile a little book about syncronicities. I think, if I did, I would call it the "Book of Common Miracles", or perhaps, "Grace". Because I've often felt there is a Conversation going on that, once we notice, becomes continually more animated. In other words, we're often "tapped on the shoulder" by angels, and pre-occupied with our daily concerns, fail to notice little miracles fluttering under our very noses, attempting to wake us up.

David Abram commented that perception is "a reciprocal phenomenon organized as much by the sourrounding world as by oneself", and suggested that a two-way dynamic of intention, or energy exchange, may be going on. In contrast to our idea of a non-living world we simply "observe", he went on to say that "the psyche is a property of the ecosystem as a whole", suggesting that we move beyond the notion that "one's mind is nothing other than the body itself".* A Conversant World. Or as writer Alice Walker has often said, "the Universe responds."

So the story I would like to tell concerns one of my  favorite writers, a woman whose visionary books, most significantly SHIKASTA, has informed and inspired me since the mid '70's, Doris Lessing. The excerpt above is from her 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature speech, which she received at the age of 88. The visual is her personal note and autograph, found on the back cover of a paperback I found lying on the sidewalk at my feet, a pile of discarded books just a few blocks from where I live in downtown Tucson, Arizona. To me, it's a talisman - infused with energy from the living hand of this prolific and visionary writer, whose long and enduring gift she has never failed.

I've been very depressed this winter, which led me to go into therapy to tell and reveal to myself, some of the stories of my personal life, and hopefully untangle them so I can move through the bardo of transition I've been mired in. I do not like the cynicism and bitterness that post-menopausally "haunts" me.......the Habit of Loving is the discipline from which creativity arises, and without it  the river dries up. I've been blessed to find a wise counselor to listen to me. And in the "unmasking process" (as she puts it) I've often felt like a ghost within the "legend" of my former self.......therapy is rather a painful process! And I've had plenty of doubts as to whether being an artist matters anymore.

So when I found"The Habit of Loving" at my feet while strolling down a residential street near where I live I picked it up with pleasure. To find a personal autograph on the inside (dated 1982) by the pure magic. Personal magic - because if it was by Stephen King, or any of the thousands of authors I don't know or don't care about, it wouldn't mean a thing to me. But this is a talisman, as if, in some wonderful way, a creative spark was passed on to me from someone I tremendously admire. And a reminder to not only respect, but CHERISH the gifts of creativity and expression we're given. It's too easy to forget - they are high privilege.  And they need to be shared.

In her acceptance speech, Lessing remembers her life early life in Africa, in Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, as well as her life in England. And she urges us to remember how precious knowledge, and the gifts of literacy, really are

"We are a jaded lot, we in our world - our threatened world. We are good for irony and even cynicism. Some words and ideas we hardly use, so worn out have they become. But we may want to restore some words that have lost their potency.

We have a treasure-house of literature, going back to the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans. It is all there, this wealth of literature, to be discovered again and again by whoever is lucky enough to come up on it. Suppose it did not exist. How impoverished, how empty we would be.

We have a bequest of stories, tales from the old storytellers, some of whose names we know, but some not. The storytellers go back and back, to a clearing in the forest where a great fire burns, and the old shamans dance and sing, for our heritage of stories began in fire, magic, the spirit world. And that is where it is held, today.

Ask any modern storyteller and they will say there is always a moment when they are touched with fire, with what we like to call inspiration, and this goes back and back to the beginning of our race, to fire and ice and the great winds that shaped us and our world.
The storyteller is deep inside everyone of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is attacked by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise . . . but the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us - for good and for ill.

It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative.

The poor girl (in Zimbabwe) trudging through the dust, dreaming of an education for her children, do we think that we are better than she is - we, stuffed full of food, our cupboards full of clothes, stifling in our superfluities?

I think it is that girl and the women who were talking about books and an education when they had not eaten for three days, that may yet define us. 
© The Nobel Foundation 2007
*"The Perceptual Implications of Gaia", David Abram, THE ECOLOGIST (1985)


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Misogyny and "crazy women"

On the bus recently, I listened to a group of noisy adolescents, out from school, carry on.  Their  common language was continually interspersed with "slut", "ho", and "F--k", so much so that I was shocked.  A daily language that makes absolutely profane sexuality, and in particular, girls and female sexuality.  So very sad to see this as the ugly petri dish within which these girls are blossuming into their female beauty and potency.  A very long cry from, say, the coming of age "Pollen Ceremony" for young women among the Navajo. 
I reflected on why the imagined world of Jane Austen is so popular to many sensitive young women, in the face of such brutality and vulgarity everywhere. 
I have to thank  Max Dashu  for forwarding this article by "Dr. Nerd" Harris O'Malley, which articulates so well something I know most women have had to deal with in one form or another.  At least, I did in my youth, and it was a long process learning to not become disempowered and self-negating.   Examining language is so important, as it reveals what is deeply, and collectively, embedded beneath the surface currents of social interaction. 
"There are certain words that are applied to women specifically in order to manipulate them into compliance: "slut," "bitch," "ugly/fat" and, of course, "crazy." These words encapsulate what society defines as the worst possible things a woman can be. Slut-shaming is used to coerce women into restricting their own sexuality into a pre-approved vision of feminine modesty and restraint. "Bitch" is used against women who might be seen as being too aggressive or assertive... acting, in other words, like a man might. "Ugly" or "fat" are used -- frequently interchangeably -- to remind them that their core worth is based on a specific definition of beauty, and to deviate from it is to devalue not only oneself but to render her accomplishments or concerns as invalid.

"Crazy" may well be the most insidious one of the four because it encompasses so much. At its base, calling women "crazy" is a way of waving away any behavior that men might find undesirable while simultaneously absolving those same men from responsibility. Why did you break up with her? Well, she was crazy. Said something a woman might find offensive? Stop being so sensitive. The idea of the "crazy" woman is so vague and nebulous that it can apply to just about any scenario."

"The association between women's behavior and being labeled "crazy" has a long and infamous history in Western culture. The word "hysteria" -- defined as "behavior exhibiting excessive or uncontrollable emotion, such as fear or panic" -- is derived from the ancient Greek word "hystera," meaning uterus. Until the early 20th century, female hysteria was the official medical diagnosis for a truly massive array of symptoms in women including but not limited to: loss of appetite, nervousness, irritability, fluid retention, emotional excitability, outbursts of negativity, excessive sexual desire and "a tendency to cause trouble."

While some of the symptoms of "female hysteria" could be signs of legitimate (if misdiagnosed) mental health issues, most of it described male (as the medical field was a men-only profession up until the mid-19th century) discomfort with women's behavior and sexuality. Calling it a medical issue meant that men didn't have to respond to behavior that challenged male sensibilities or belief structures. Instead, labeling women as "hysterical" made it much easier to diminish women's concerns and issues without having to pause to consider them as possibly being valid.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Dancing the Goddess: Masks for the 21 Praises to Tara

It is with the purpose of bringing benefit to beings in this world of chaos and confusion that the Mandala Dance of the Twenty-One Praises of Tara is offered.

It is in respect and gratitude to the Lineage holders of the various Tibetan Buddhist traditions who have maintained and embellished the ancient teaching of chanting the Praises of Tara.

It is in unity with the people of Tibet who universally call out to Tara, who chant Her Praises from childhood and who recognize in Her the Universal Mother and Protector.

It is in order to acknowledge the dignity and capability of women to accomplish the highest spiritual attainments that this Mandala Dance of the 21 Praises of Tara is offered.

May All Who See These Praises Danced Or Who Hear These Praises Sung Be Inspired To Attain The Highest Expression Of Humanity To Be Themselves The Embodiment Of Compassion And Wisdom.

Earlier this summer I was asked to consider creating a collection of masks for Tara Dhatu.  The magnitude of the project, which will entail going to Bali in the next year and working with Balinese mask artists in Mas, has been a bit daunting, along with trying to understand the specific ideas, images, and context for each Manifestation of Tara within the lineage, as well as personal style, Prema Dasara  has developed with her community.  So I recently created a new Blog to document (and invite feedback) the course of the Project.   Here's the link if anyone is interested:

The Blog will pursue a collaborative work in progress.  Composed of  sketches, comments, descriptions, and quotations, these materials will become a series of masks dedicated to the 21 Praises to Tara, the wonderful sacred  Mandela dances created by Prema Dasara, as well as  a book archiving the Project.  The masks will be used in devotional dance in June of 2015 at a Conference at the famous Buddhist Temple of  Borobodur.  Dating from the 8th and 9th centuries, the Temple compound is located in central Java, and  is a UNESCO World Heritage site.   It will be a great privilege to participate in this Project.

It is also my privilege to make, in this collaborative way, my own offering to Tara, who I know only in the most personal of ways, and to whom I shall always feel blessed by.  Here's my own story. 
 Tara Dhatu


What a wonderful journey this will be!   Some recent notes........................

This is a mask devoted to White Tara I had made to my design in Bali in 2000.  It belongs now to Lena Grace in Portland.  It was a successful collaboration with the carvers of Mas - beautifully carved, serene expression, and made big enough to be comfortable on most Western faces.

Stern Tara
I like this stern face.   Prema noted that she would prefer the Lightning Bolts are horizontal, which could be easily done in the course of painting the mask.

Serene Tara
This face derives from a sample mask I made for Prema in 2010.  She looks very Balinese to me, and very "vegetal", a face that belongs to the Lotus gardens.

 Moon Face

One of the Taras is specifically related to the Moon, and so this round, serene face would belong to Her.

Laughing Tara

This collage is actually derived from a mask I had made in Mas for the Japanese Sun Goddess Amaterasu.  The Balinese are familiar with this oriental, laughing face, and would have no problem doing it well - the odd nose on this mask is the result of my insistence that, when carving the mask, they make it big enough to fit a large Caucasian nose.  They had a tough time with that idea, but managed............

 Wrathful "Black Tara"

The images I have seen of Wrathful Tara are very similar, and no doubt reflect the same roots, to images of Kali - the skulls in the headpiece, extended "fang" teeth.  For that reason, this image is similar to "Kali", and I'm reticent to make the image prettier.......ferocity, and the banishing of demons, does not seem like it belongs to an attractive face............

Kali Performance 2010 (Photo courtesy Lena Grace)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Green Hands, Green Heart"

The green plants

from water      air
the soil
from water      earth
earth        water
air            light
earth and sunlight

vibrating waves
grasses in the sun

........Felicia Miller

 I've been playing with some "faux patina" finishes lately, and re-visiting the many images I seem to carry about with me of "Green Hands, Green Heart".  Satisfying results!  I  think these  dreams and callings of "Green Hands" are a good sign..............a good image for a personal icon. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

GAIA - "The Pale Blue Dot" by Carl Sagan

Pale blue dot image with a wider field of view to show more background
"Sagan pointed out that "all of human history has happened on that tiny pixel," shown here inside a blue circle, "which is our only home" (speech at Cornell University, October 13, 1994).

I love Upworthy for when I need an inspiring Reality Check.  This morning they didn't let me down with the voice of Carl Sagan, reminding us of where we really are.  Awesome! True!

ps:  Many don't know that Biologist and Evolutionist Lynn Margulis, who collaborated with James Lovelock to create the Gaia Theory, was married to Carl Sagan.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

" Before They Are Gone" - Stunning Photos of Vanishing Tribes


'And when they disappear we will lose something that is very, very
 important to us - it's where we came from, it's our origins."


I grew up in the Nuclear Era, with the ever present threat of The Bomb hanging over our future.  Perhaps I am part of an Apocalypse Generation, living with a future that could hold the dream of Star Trek, Space, and a New Age as easily as it could hold the fall of atom bombs. Some of those dreams I remember from the 50's and 60's have come true - the very technology that allows me to write in this Blog is right up there with Robbie the Robot when i pause to consider it.  But  our notions of the future never  could have envisioned "An Inconvenient Truth" -  the Sixth Extinction,  the falling away of so much so quickly.   Who could have imagined there would be a world without polar bears, or tigers, or gorillas, the stuff our childhood legends were made of?

And, so much human diversity as well, disappearing.  So I applaud the  brilliant photos and dedication of   Jimmy Nelson    and what he has to say in the video below about his journey of discovery.  I'm so glad he left this eloquent record of some of the remaining indigenous peoples of our planet.  



Friday, November 8, 2013

"Black Madonna" 2013

"Black Madonna" 2013, mixed media

I seem to be fascinated with the Black Madonna, and if I was Catholic, I would undoubtedly join one of the many, very ancient and traditional, Pilgrimages to the Black Madonna that occur throughout Europe, including Poland, Spain, France, and elsewhere.   Many believe that the Black Madonna has its roots in Pre-Christian worship of Isis, portrayed with Her child Horus throughout the Roman world and, of course, Egypt. 

But I believe the origins may go back even farther. 

The Black Madonnas are almost always associated with Sacred Sites, places that contain a holy well, spring, or are associated with a sacred cave.  In other words, places of numinous power within the earth, places that ancient peoples knew to enhance visionary experience, heal, raise energy, enhance fertility, and facilitate communion with the spiritual realms. 

The earliest representation of the human figure, going back as far as 40,000 years and possibly farther...........are the ubiquitous so-called "Venus"  figures, such as the famous "Venus of Willendorf", as well as representations of a stylized vulva found in visual iconography.    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.  Archeo/mythologist 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,  Dexter suggested that 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, they were offering them for re-birth within the cave/womb of the Great Mother.

So perhaps my sculpture is a contemporary echo of that image, the "Black Madonna" in Her most primal form, roots and source and life radiating out from Her belly, Her breasts.  This is a Diety that brings us back to our own very primal roots, reverence for the Earth Mother that births us, sustains us, and takes us back to be re-born. 

Another aspect of the Black Madonna to me, which of course I so often refer back to, is the element of "composting" (which isn't unrelated to "rebirth").  Composting is a biological process of renewal, and I believe it's a soul process as well. 
"I do what the poet Gary Snyder calls "composting" — You let everything you do/learn/think/read/feel sink down inside yourself and stay in the dark, and then (years later maybe) something entirely new grows up out of that rich darkness. This takes patience."
Ursula K. Leguin

It's believed by many that the earliest pilgrimages on the "Camino" in Spain were made to the "Black Madonna of Compostella", a very ancient effigy. Compostella comes from the same root word as "compost". Compost is the fertile soil created from rotting organic matter, the "Black Matter". The alchemical soup to which everything living returns, and is continually resurrected by the processes of nature into new life, new form. Matrix/Creatrix. Matter. Mater. Mother.
"From this compost -- life and light will emerge. When the pilgrims came to the Cathedral at Compostella they were being 'composted' in a sense. After emergence from the dark confines of the cathedral and the spirit -- they were ready to flower, they were ready to return home with their spirits lightened."

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Meet the Anti-Fracking Nuns

I was inspired by this short video about a group of nuns in Kentucky who are fighting to save their land, their "Mother House" against "eminent domain" of the oil companies.  I'd like to see everyone showing their spirit, and spiritual committment to their land, against the corporate "eminent domain" that is destructive everywhere.