Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Rainbow Bridge Oracle - A Divination System

I realize I've been very behind the times, as far as website tech goes, and finally I found a way to make a website with a store (at a reasonable price) with Weebly.  So the Deck can be ordered via PayPal, as well as a  Portfolio of 9 Selected Gigclee Prints on the new site.  It also has links to purchase the Book.

The Rainbow Bridge Oracle:  A Divination System by Lauren Raine

Here are a few of my favorite Cards - felt good to take another look at my own  "Sibyll"!


The Priestess sits before the doorway to the subtle realms, to the psychic and spiritual realms.  She beats her shaman's drum in invocation as she opens, or protects, the way between the unconscious and the conscious self, which can only be accessed through dreams, synchronicities, symbols and shamanic journeying - and sometimes through the creative process as well. She represents serene wisdom that comes from  depth understanding, from intuition, and from skilled access to an intuitive way of knowing.   She is a seer, an oracle,  a guardian of the Mysteries that can only be revealed when the circumstances are ripe.  She embodies feminine wisdom as she heals and teaches, qualities that you yourself possess.  You are encouraged to listen well to your inner voice by this card, and to develop your psychic and spiritual powers.  It may also be that this is a good time to find a teacher who can assist you - she or he may have already appeared in your life. 

Reversed:  You aren't listening to your inner knowing, to your intuition.  By trying to "stay on the surface of things", and by refusing to acknowledge the deeper levels of your experience these days, you're causing many problems that could be avoided.  Conversely, the card can mean that you may be studying or working with occult knowledge in  superficial and egotistic ways, and failing to comprehend the deeper significance of what you are being offered to learn and grow from. 


 In this immeasurable darkness,
 be the power that rounds your senses 
 in their magic ring,
 the sense of their mysterious encounter

 Rainier Maria Rilke

Among the Lakota, long preparations were made for the Vision Quest.  Those who sought  initiation fasted, prayed, and prepared themselves  to  "call for vision".  They then went to a special place in the wilderness.  When a young man returned with  a vision it was shared with the tribe,  and sometimes examined to see if it had prophetic or ceremonial significance for not only the individual, but for the entire tribe.

This is a tool we have largely lost.   True visionary experience is "soul language"; like dreams and synchronistic experiences, a vision has multiple layers of meaning, and transcends  time as we understand it.   Visions, like dreams, communicate universal and personal truths, and whether unintended or intentionally induced in some way, can  catalyze a spiritual path or a life's work.  You are encouraged to "call for vision" in your own way. Do it in a sacred manner, and share and discuss your vision with others of like mind.

Reversed:  Visions can be profoundly significant.......but sometimes there is also a fine line between spiritual revelation and highly subjective schizophrenia.  Practice discernment.


"Remember that not getting what you want
is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck."

The Dalai Lama

"Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it" is an old folk saying that has much truth to it.   We have all dreamed of having great wealth, or being with the best looking boy in school, or any number of  wishes.  And sometimes we do get what we think we want, but in one of the great ironies of life, our happiness can soon turn to misery and disappointment.  Sometimes getting what we think we want can be the worst thing that can happen to us, because what we want is concentrated on desires that are  immature, addictive, vindictive, greedy, or even unconsciously self-destructive. 

 The "Law of Attraction" demonstrates that we attract that which we focus upon,  and consciously (or unconsciously) what we  concentrate upon can manifest.  Loving and generous wishes attract loving and generous results. Negativity and pessimism just manifests more negativity and pessimism, creating a self-fulfilling cycle.  Bearing all of this in mind, now is an excellent time to begin to manifest!

Reversed:  You're not able to manifest what you want because of either a lack of belief in yourself, or you are too negative in your worldview. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Talking Trees

 "Speak to the Earth and it shall teach you."

Job 12:8

I've so many times spoken about "the Great Conversation", and asked myself how we can learn once again to "speak with the land".  Here's a short video I was forwarded by a forester that talks about that in another way.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lady Loreon of Isis Oasis Passes

I was so saddened to learn that Lady Loreon Vigne, founder of Isis Oasis in Geyserville, California, had passed away on July 15 at the age of 82.  Lady Loreon created a true sanctuary - for the Fellowship of Isis, for the Goddess, for her beloved endangered animals, and especially her Ocelots, for beauty, and for many, many artists, seekers, healers, friends, and wanderers.  I count myself privileged to be among them.  She was one of those who did so much, in her life, generosity, and vision, to help create and re-claim  Goddess Culture.  She will be sorely missed.

It was my pleasure to visit Isis Oasis on my trip to California in 2012.  I visited the sanctuary and retreat center  many times in the past when  lived in California.  Reverend Loreon Vigne founded Isis Oasis in the beautiful wine country of northern  in 1978. Before that time Loreon was an artist living in San Francisco. She created a line of gift ware and jewelry called Noir Enamelcraft and as her work became popular she needed a workshop. Answering a newspaper ad, she was delighted to discover that the building was on Isis Street  ....this synchronicity was the first  "go ahead" for her.

Another reason Loreon moved  was because of her love for ocelots (and later for  servals, the "hunting cats" of ancient Egypt as well).  Both animals are endangered species.  On my visit in 2012 I was delighted when Loreon let me visit with several of the big cats.  Ocelots can purr, but they don't "meow", they  just growl their pleasure or dislike.  It was quite a treat to sit with a gorgeous cat the size of a good sized dog who growled convincingly like a tiger to let me know he wanted his ears rubbed.

"While in the city of Saint Francis, patron saint of all living creatures, I discovered my passion for one of the most beautiful cats on the planet - The Ocelot. I have been working with Ocelots since the mid-1960’s and have created a vibrant family tree of Ocelots. To my knowledge I am the only one at this time to have bred a seventh generation domestic born Ocelot, and it is my hope to continue to create more of this highly endangered feline species of North America for future generations to enjoy.

There are some that believe that Ocelots should stay purely in the wild to live or to die. Commonly held knowledge shows the difficulties that this amazing species faces in the wild - Poachers who hunt them for their beautiful fur, although it is an illegal practice, and the deforestation of their habitats.  Therefore I believe that a population of Ocelots kept in captivity is the only way to ensure their continued survival, for in ten years there may no longer be any Ocelots left in the wild in North America".

Loreon Vigne

Hymn to Isis

Bestower of Wealth, Queen of the Gods,
Speaker of Wisdom, Omnipotent Lady,
Agathe Tyche, greatly renowned Isis
through you, Heaven and Earth have their being;
and the gusts of winds and the sun with its sweet light
All who live on the boundless earth  invoke  your fair name,
honored among all
Syrians honor you as Astarte, Artemis, Nanaia; Lycians as Leto, the Lady;
Thracians name you Mother of the Gods;
and the Greeks Hera of the Great Throne, Aphrodite,
noble Hestia, Rhea and Demeter.
But the Egyptians call you ‘The Goddess’;
for you are all other goddesses invoked by humankind.

 –Isidorus, ca. 100 BCE. Adapted from Vera Frederika Vanderlip (1972) in The Four Greek Hymns of Isidorus and The Cult of Isis. Toronto: Hakkert.
 White Peacock at Isis Oasis

Mana Youngbear  sweeping before the Temple of Isis

"Dirt Sculpture" fire pit
I can't write about Loreon and Isis Oasis without including Lady Olivia.  Lady Olivia, who co-founded the Fellowship of Isis with her brother in Ireland (and now around the world)  passed away in 2013.   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.  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. 

I shall miss Lady Loreon, and it is my hope that the Sanctuary for the Goddess that she dedicated herself to will continue.  

Thank you, Loreon.   We will all miss you.

Lady Loreon Vigne dies at age 82

Friday, July 18th, 2014  by

Vigne started a program welcoming classrooms of children from Sonoma County and beyond to teach them about the once endangered animals and their unique home at the Geyserville sanctuary.  Last month, Vigne hosted the Geyserville Chamber of Commerce’s end of year dinner with a surprise guest, a snake dancer wrapped in a 20-foot live snake.

Lady Loreon Vigne was married to the late San Francisco beat era film maker, Dion Vigne who died in 1970.  Lady Loreon Vigne’s artistic career started in San Francisco where she was an artist and crafts person. Vigne created a line of giftware and jewelry called Noir Enamelcraft. Her gallery specialized in enamels and stained glass was located in downtown San Francisco.Isis Oasis

Lady Loreon had a collection of exotic Ocelot cats at her home and workshop on Isis Street in San Francisco. When the regulations against owning exotic cats in San Francisco  were imposed, Lady Loreon moved to Geyserville to provide a new home for her exotic cats.

Isis Street was one more thread in the woven cloth of  the Isis Oasis beginning.  Lady Loreon had a series of  encounters with the Goddess Isis, and decided to transform the property into an Egyptian themed retreat center.  Vigne personally created  stained glass pieces all over the property, and built enclosures for her cats and exotic birds she began to acquire. Over time the animal sanctuary was born.  34 years later Isis Oasis has provided a place for artists to be creative and groups to use the space for  retreats, workshops, weddings, concerts, and myriad other activities.

Vigne was an author and poet, with past speaking engagements at the Wells Fargo Center, local bookstores and Isis Oasis. Lady Loreon leaves a living legacy in Geyserville, Isis Oasis.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Aphrodite (Pt. 2)

Mask of Aphrodite (1999)

 "Today, I would describe a priestess as a woman who lives in two worlds at once, who perceives earthly life against the backdrop of a vast, timeless, reality."

"In the Western traditions, spirituality has been so drained of Eros, it has vitually been removed from what most people consider a spiritual life.  And there is a deep hunger to heal that wound."
In my earlier post I shared a performance piece I wrote for Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Erotic love.  I also wanted to re-post also some information about  Jalaja Bonheim,  psychologist, temple dancer, and creator of the Institute for Circle Work in Ithaca, New York who has devoted much of her life to re-sacralizing and healing  the wounds of feminine Eros.   She is the author of Aphrodite's Daughters: Women's Sexual Stories and the Journey of the Soul.  After spending her childhood in Austria and Germany, Jalaja studied classical temple dance in India before coming to the United States in 1982. She is the author of three other books as well, which were inspired by her passion for integrating sexuality and spirituality in our world. 
"I think that every woman should have the opportunity, at some point in her life, to set down her sexual baggage among people who respect and support her, and to unpack it with them.  Our isolation has reinforced the assumption that nobody shares our feelings, or cares about our story, or wants to know.  But our individual baggage is never just ours alone.  Rather it belongs to the collective.  Other women have their own piece to carry.  The time has come to speak of what we know.  In the Temple we now sit in silence, a circle of priestesses.  One by one, each of us has stepped forward to make her offering.  Each one has given her gift, revealing through her story a beauty that made us catch our breath, a courage that renewed our own.  Around us we sense the spirits of many others - mothers and grandmothers, lovers and husbands, teachers and guides, the spirits of the ancestors and the spirits of those who are yet to come."

(from Aphrodite's Daughters)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Shamans Among Us..........

Thanks to Janie Rezner and    for this story about a remarkable woman...............


Shamans Among Us

When I say the word “shaman”, what imagery immediately comes to mind? Is it a male or female? Old or young? What nationality?

There is an interesting phenomenon that most experienced ethnobotanists and anthropologists are well aware of, and it’s this: most shamans don’t like to attract much attention to themselves. They tend to dress and act exactly like the rest of the community. Only family, friends, and local villagers who at one time needed their services are usually in on the secret.

A few months ago, my colleague Shannon and I had the great honor of meeting with well-known ethnobotanist, Dr. Rosita Arvigo down in Central America. She shared some poignant plant wisdom with us (which we will be sharing with you in the coming months), but the biggest teaching I received that day came from a story about a legendary midwife that Dr. Arvigo befriended decades ago in Belize.

This woman was Ms. Hortense Roberts, known by locals as “mil secretos”, or a thousand secrets.  Born on the Island of Cozumel, which happens to be the mythical sanctuary of the Maya moon goddess of medicine and midwifery, Ixchel, Hortense came from a long line of midwives, her mother and grandmother included. When she was thirteen she had to be hospitalized after a severe asthma attack and it was here that the legend of Ms. Hortense began.

One afternoon during her stay at the hospital, a group of chicleros (gum factory workers) raced into the room with a pregnant woman on a stretcher. She was in the middle of hard labor and there were no doctors or nurses in sight, only little Hortense. Desperate, the woman on the stretcher yelled to Hortense, “Come here, child, and catch this baby!”
Instinctively, young Hortense knelt down knowing exactly what to do, guided the little baby’s head out of the birth canal, and caught the little one as it came out. She did exactly what she had watched her mother and grandmother do many times and massaged the belly until the placenta came out. Next, she removed her hospital gown and used it to wrap the baby and placenta up snug, then sat down to wait for the doctor.

The nurses frantically rushed into the room, saw what had occurred, and pleaded with Hortense to not tell the doctors what had just happened. Forgetting that she was a child, they handed her her first cigarette. For some, adulthood starts well before age 18.
Thus began a life of perhaps the most important work there is, delivering babies into the world. Not only that, Ms. Hortense had 8 children of her own AND adopted 14 unwanted babies, raising them all to adulthood!

In Dr. Arvigo’s words, “If she delivered a baby that a woman didn’t want, Hortense wrapped it up, put it in the crib, and took care of it. Sent them all to school. So she raised 22 kids, most of the time as a single mother.”  That was just a peek into the depths of Ms. Hortense.

According to Dr. Arvigo, everywhere they went together, someone would say, “That’s Ms. Hortense and she delivered me!”, or “She delivered all of my babies!”

Rosita told us a story that gives me goosebumps as I write this:

“Hortense was a female shaman. She had such a connection with animals. All the time that she was staying with me, animals, and birds, and creatures that I never see would come up on the porch and just walk in front of you. Armadillos, all kinds of animals. 

Hortense was with me one winter for about four months. She was sleeping in the downstairs bedroom and I was in the upstairs bedroom. One morning I heard a strange noise. It sounded like something scratching. So I got up out of bed and I looked down to the first floor veranda and there’s a jaguar walking across the downstairs porch. And off it goes, over my deck and jumps into the bush. When Hortense got up , I said, ‘Hortense, you won’t believe it! I saw a jaguar this morning and it was right on the porch by your bedroom!’

She said, ‘SHHH! Don’t you dare say a word. That jaguar comes every night to sleep.’ She said, ‘You didn’t notice that it’s injured?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, as a matter of fact it was limping. It was kind of walking on three legs.’ And she said, ‘That jaguar knows this is a safe place and it comes every night for protection and as soon as dawn comes, off it goes. And it will be there until that leg is healed, so don’t you dare tell a soul.’”

Rosita said that she saw that jaguar about 10 more times. If you were careful, you could get up in the early morning and as soon as the sun came up, off it went.  One night, Rosita asked her if she could sleep with her and wait for the jaguar to come. And it did. Almost exactly at 10 o’clock at night. The animal came limping in and it layed down. The door was open, but there was a screen door. In bed she could see the cat’s back. It was about 6 feet long. A big, big animal and all night long you could hear it breathing.

It was guarding, but was also there for its own healing. It felt safe because of Hortense. It was there because she was there.”  In addition to her gifts as a midwife, Ms. Hortense had an innate connection with the natural and spiritual world. Her knowledge of medicinal plants, home remedies, and spiritual healing was enough to fill a library, and she had a lifetime of hands-on experience with patients, big and small. She healed thousands of sick people, using only traditional methods and prayer, and welcomed everyone into her home without prejudice.

According to Ms. Hortense, much of her knowledge came through dreams in which she was shown which herb to use for a particular patient and how to prepare it. In a beautiful essay that Dr. Arvigo wrote to honor Ms. Hortense after her passing, she says:  “She had humility, and would never big-up herself – in her own words, ‘you could never be too humble.’”

She wore no special garb, had no elaborate ceremony or entourage of devotees. Ms. Hortense lived a life of loving service to others and revered nature like few others do. If you asked her if she was a shaman, she would probably smile to herself and tell you no.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Aphrodite (Part 1)

"Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love "
Leonard Cohen, "Dance Me To The End Of Love"
Aphrodite was "born from the sea", and without writing about the many sources of the mythic Aphrodite, it seems fitting that the Goddess of love should have her power and source in the vast depths of the ocean.  I also have to say that I believe Aphrodite ........ very, very  wounded in our world, and I don't need to go very far to demonstrate my claim. 

As I wrote earlier, I seem to be needing to re-make the Masks of the Goddess, and doing that means re-visiting the Goddesses.  Or, perhaps, they are re-visiting me.....  I have not yet made a new mask for Aphrodite/Venus, but I did find a performance I wrote  some 20 years ago, and felt like sharing it on this blog.  Funny how  it is with much more difficulty  that I write about the domain of Venus,  than it is for me to talk about Kali, or Hecate, or many others. 

I've been unpartnered and unmarried for a long time, and I like it that way.  I cannot say, to be honest with myself, that I've been very good at marriage, although I've loved  men, and treasure many memories.  But at 65 romantic love seems thankfully a long way in the past.  And yet, I remember a few years ago when I was at a conference in England.  There was a presenter there who was a scholar of ancient music.  In his late 60's, he had that tall, elegant, aristocratic English  face and gesture,  and I remember watching him with fascination, admiring both his knowledge, and his beauty.

The following morning, as I sat down to breakfast at the B and B I was staying at, he walked down the stairs and joined us!  And suddenly, I found myself a girl again, animated, shy, vulnerable, longing,  and quite disturbed by all the emotions that arose.  Aphrodite........

(from "The Goddess Suite" 1998)

The stage consists of three levels;  to the upper right is the Archetypal  Realm.  Here is posed the masked Aphrodite, spotlighted. 

The second level,  middle left, has a raised platform on which is a table and chair.  Nadine is seated at the table, with a glass of wine, photos to the side of her  notebook, a pen holder.   She examines several, plays with pen. 

Below the stage, and to the lower left, not always visible, is the Realm of Uncertainty, and the Heyoka, in black and white, is occasionally seen.  And she/he will always be unpredictable. 

Men.   Why do I always have to deitize  or demonize them, and then obsess, obsess, obsess,  little pieces of me lost bit by bit.....where?  Where do all those little pieces of self, little pieces of soul,  go? Where they somehow stolen from me?  Or do they wander in the dark like lost children, the shy little soul parts,  always trying to find their way home?

I've never really been very good at it.  Why can't we just reproduce by some kind of cell division?  You know, you look in the mirror and notice a few weird bulges.  So you pack a bag and check into the local mitosis center for a "birth of self" retreat?

(picks up glass, takes a drink)

Sex. That's what they call it now, or words somewhat more course.  Long gone is the clinical "intercourse", which manages to imply, nevertheless, some kind of mutual exchange of energy.  To make love....... you don't hear that either.  

Sex.  Reduced to a commodity. We "have sex".  It sounds like "having a beer" . We have each other.  We have cornflakes, we have Cheerios.   Names.  Labels.   Sex surrogates, swing parties, single bars.  Maximize your orgasmic potential.    Consumable.  Buyable. Disposable........O Brave New World!

And beneath the skin, beneath it all,  there is ......

 (sets down glass, looks at audience)

something so vast, so rich and so deep,  spilling out like a super nova through the cracks of every kiss, every stupid, heartbreaking,  hilarious drama, every tear streaked parting, every breathless beginning.  You look back; what was that all about?

And then we rush around looking for therapy,  for why, after the fact,  immersion in Aphrodite's tide pool made us .....crazy, mad, projective, dysfunctional.  Co-dependant. Delusional, temporarily insane............

(soft) Listen to Her laugh like thunder, like silk, like rose petals on a tsunami. 

(louder) Listen to Her laugh like thunder, like silk, like rose petals on a tsunami.......
No answers.  Oh, you'll come up with a few of them later. Ha!  Fit  the ocean into a bottle if you can.  Tame Aphrodite?  Make Her safe?  She'll rip you apart.  In Her waters.

And there, in that other realm,  where no one grows old, where lips are always ripe to be kissed, she lives,  with Her Lovers,  locked in one eternal embrace,   spewing flowers and butterflies and little Gods and Demons from their ferocious heat, their cosmic creativity,
 their immaculate pleasure, their effortless separateness and merging.

While WE just get old,  haunted by old ghosts that chase you around the house like dust balls.  You sweep and sweep, but they always come back.  Old ghosts with eyes like leaves, lips like flowers.  There's a face in the crowd,  your breath stops, "It's you, you haven't aged a bit, you're still so lovely......." but the face is gone, and that was 30 years ago.
I loved them all. Their potbellies and sweat and bad jokes,  all the Gods that possessed them.
(Aphrodite tinkles laughter)

 I remember candlelight.  Moonlight, beaches, whiskey bars,  kissing goodbye at airports and somehow, never, ever to meet again.........all those breaks and  losses and tears and memories and kisses.  Rivers.

The river. 

I erase all my regrets from the storyline.  I remember when everything ignited, when all of Your waters flowed from me, Aphrodite.  And  they rippled out like waves to all the world.

And we made love.  And we made love.  And we remade  all of  Your creation. 

And those, those are moments worth remembering.

Ah, Aphrodite.  I am unmade in your waters. 

Lights dim, fade out on Nadine.  Heyoka appears, disappears.    Aphrodite steps into floodlight,  throws roses into audience as she leaves stage.

Music is "Dance me to the end of love" by Leonard Cohen.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Net Neutrality - a Funny Video About A Serious Concern.........

I remember when FM was all about alternative radio - that's gone.   I also remember when Cable TV was an innovation.  We all know that's gone too, and if you watch cable, be prepared to watch more commerials than program.  Is the Internet about to go the same way?  We just can't let them do it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Photo by Kristy Thomas

Chubasco means storm, squall, monsoon.  And that's what it is right now, the Monsoon Season that takes place in the great Sonoran Desert during July and August.  Last night mighty crashes of thunder accompanied lightning, and sheets of rain as Chubasco moved in fast, right on schedule in the afternoon, the streets ran like a river, the trees groaned.  And two hours later it was all gone, and everything in the desert sighed in delight, rich, rich, rich with water.......................and then also the life of the desert comes up, overnight, the ground begins to green.  Morning glories are everywhere, and wild flowers, all in a hurry, all knowing that this wealth will not last, will not be forever, they have to blossum and seed now, now is the time.

My name came from this phenomenon, the summer storms, the wonderful, vast energies of the Thunder Beings, the blessings of the Rain Katchinas.   Chubasco!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The World of Steve McCurry

I lived in Afghanistan in the 60's, and have many photos and memories from there.  But the photos of  Steve McCurrey are incomparable.  The portfolios on his website (of many places)  are absolutely riveting...............

Friday, July 11, 2014


Here is a story dedicated to Pele, the Goddess of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano.   It was written by a woman who is part Hawaiian, and once or twice was  performed by a fire dancer. Pele is a truly a Spirit of Placer, a  numinous force many feel they encountered  when they visited the great volcano.  She has many native stories, but in telling her story among contemporary people, what arose was that She was one of the  one of the great elemental builders of our planet, the very fires at the heart of the world that  create new land.

I am Pele Honua Mea!

Pele of the Sacred Earth.
I come from the fiery heart of the Earth.
I am creation,
I am molten fire!

I erupted into the ocean

many, many years ago.
I spewed  lava 

in pure ecstasy into the sea,
In ecstasy, I rose in  clouds
of red and black,
and the mountains
rose with me from the ocean floor
the islands you call Hawaii.

I gave these green and beautiful Lands.
Honor my sacred mountain, Kilauea!
Take not one small rock from my body!
Do not violate me!

Or feel my wrath!

You call me capricious,

unable to see that my fires
are the fires of Creation
shaping new lands.
Deep in the sea I stir the waters, 

I stir the air.  I stir the fires 
of newborn  life
as I rise from the core of the Earth.

Begin again
in new and fertile ground!
Be remade 

in this time of the great change! 


Thursday, July 3, 2014

On Masks, Theatre, and the Goddess

The Goddess has a thousand faces - maiden, mother, wise old woman, teacher, warrior, healer, destroyer, lover, nurturer of new life or the flame of creativity. She is found throughout world religions and mythologies, with names like red Kali, Inanna Queen of the stars, Quan Yin the compassionate, suffering Sedna ocean mother to the Inuit, Aphrodite the capricious goddess of love, and Mary, the Virgin. To me, most of all, she is Gaia, Anima Mundi , the feminine “World Soul”. And in the years I've spent studying Goddess traditions I've come to believe that re-discovering these universal stories of the sacred feminine is very important. For the transformation and profound affirmation they offer to women - and collectively, for the healing of our world. It's my privilege to share some of that telling with women and men through the use of my masks. 

I remember a conversation I shared with Dorit Bat Shalom, an artist I know who brought Israeli and Palestine women together in “Peace Tents ” to share their stories. Dorit asked: " How can there be peace in the Middle east without the Shekinah?" And she went on to say "The Shekinah has been driven away from the holy lands. We cannot heal without Her. " What does it mean, truly, that the displaced, degraded, denied, less? And it is ironic that so much strife now takes place now in the very heart of what was once the ancient fertile homeland of the Great Mother, of Inanna, Astarte, of Isis.  

Artists are mythmakers - and myths are the templates of dreams, art  and religion, the templates upon which both civilizations and individuals name what is sacred, and what is profane. I think the question Dorit raised is profound: How indeed can there be peace, in the Mideast or anywhere else, when deity, and human values, are personified and polarized as almost exclusively male? A mythos that denies “ the feminine face of God”, and degrades or belittles the sanctity of feminine experience - has left us a humanity profoundly divided against itself.

In 2003, just before the invasion of Iraq, a group of women created a performance in Oakland, California, that was dedicated to peacemaking. Participants approached a masked “ Sophia” , who held a mirror over her heart. As they drew near, each saw themselves reflected in the mirror. Because Sophia, whose name means "wisdom", ultimately means "know thyself". In all our complex diversity, male and female, dark and light. Then can we become true peacemakers. 

When I studied mask arts in Bali, I realized the Balinese had no understanding of our western discourse on the meaning of, to them, is a way to commune with the deities and spirits of their Hindu religion. Temple masks are not "art objects" - they "belong to the Gods", and are imbued with special meaning and energy, just as the telling of their stories was more than entertainment. 
"Theater" comes from the same Greek word as "theology" - theos , or "god". In traditional cultures, masks, drama and dance are about contacting the divine, and refreshing the mythologies that inform their cultures.. Masks are never made lightly. Animated by the body, masks are threshold tools that mediate between this world and the realms of spirit. There are many procedures to be followed, including choosing the right materials from the right place, asking ancestral spirits what kind of mask is required for specific ceremonies, and consecrating the finished work. A great deal of preparation was necessary, and masks were activated and de-activated with great respect. 

As psychologist Stephen Larsen commented in The Mythic Imagination :
"The primary function of the mask is to unite the indwelling wearer (and the observer) with a mythic being, or as Jung would say, 'an archetypal power'. The mask, as we have found in our own work, becomes a transformer of energy, a medium of exchange between ego and archetype. Thus in traditional societies one finds taboos surrounding the mask, its recognition as a power object.”
Among natives of central Mexico, masks used for corn and rain dances were destroyed after a number of years, because they believed they accrued too much power over time. 

This sensibility is found in Japanese Noh Theatre. Noh masks are created according to traditions that go back many generations to represent personae that have firmly become animated by the mask. Actors will often sit for days with a mask, creating fusion with the character. An artist I know once told me of an African mask at the Museum of Art in Milwaukee that, legend had it, sweated. She said she went to view it over a number of days, and sure enough, there it was, if carefully observed, sweating away.

 How is it possible that something like that can occur in a glass case before hundreds of people unnoticed?
 Magic is literally on display.
 Performance with sacred intent is about giving play, voice, and possibility to the mystery of our multi-dimensional being. We dance and are danced, and find ourselves engaged in a conversation. "We're really praying" Drissana Devananda, a Tantric dancer, said, 
 "It's a devotional practice. We're not bodies seeking the spirit, but spirits seeking bodily experience. Dance is about remembering to function from our whole bodies, the "body mind". That is the place we remember the Goddess."
What happens when we invite the archetypal powers, the Goddesses and Gods, into our magic circle? 

The answer is, "If you build it, They will come ." There is a magnetic field the work engages, a field of syncronicity and relatedness we step into. 

"When you create within a sacred paradigm", playwright Elizabeth Fuller said,
 "You find a strange thing. You are communicating with, and being fed by, sources you know are within you, but have a much greater reflection somewhere else. You are in touch with something timeless.” 

Theatre is circle work. It's been said that no one person holds the truth - rather, within a circle, the truth becomes visible from many different perspectives. This is true of sacred theatre - as the group becomes a strong container, it generates energy that flows to the audience, an expanding circle. "Circularity", the Spiral, is the essence of artforms devoted to the Goddess, to Mother Earth. The wheel of the elements, of the year, circulate. Water and wind move across the landscape like a sinuous snake. All things circle and wind and spiral. 

Masks are also about circles. To me, masks are an impeccable metaphor for the personae that encircle our souls. Who are we, really? In the course of our lives we inhabit a noisy council of selves. The metaphor of the mask leads into that essential inquiry....Is this me? Or this? Can I wear this mask, become it for a while, express its unique qualities, feel it in my body, find it's story? I believe we are transformed into more compassionate beings when we can witness, embrace, and truly celebrate the " circle of self" , from dark to light, mundane to divine, as the whole being each of us really is. Not as an abstract concept, but as an authentic experience to be had within our spontaneous, creative imaginations, and in the sensory, visionary immediacy of our bodies.
One way to do that is to use the mask consciously - putting on and taking off "faces",  becoming self-aware shape shifters. 

Each mask has its reserve of energy. Women and men exploring mythology may chose to work with an archetype for specific reasons, sometimes to call back something they feel has been lost. A woman named Turquoise, for example, discovered a joyful opportunity to reconnect with "the instinctual woman" when she created a performance for "Artemis". "I found ", she wrote, "renewed love for the animals, the trees, for all living things. I saw my surroundings illuminated with light, the light of nature." 
Some may find themselves drawn to a figure because it affords them an opportunity to explore something they believe they do not know. Enacting the myth of Inanna's descent to meet her dark twin Ereshkigal has been powerful visioning for women into the "underground" of the psyche. Dwelling in the underworld, Ereshkigal may be understood as the “shadow self”, difficult to meet, destructive until her story can be told and known, a dialog can occur. The descent of Inanna is among the most powerful universal myths of death, fragmentation, and psychic integration, and enacting this myth for an individual, or as group process, can symbolically be seen as an intiation into mature empowerment - personal, and collective. Like the Elysinian Mysteries of Greece and Rome, an enactment of the universal cycle of death and rebirth. 

The Goddess within can manifest in the imagination in intimate, contemporary ways. She is a living presence expressed in the "here and now" of our lives. Three young women, for example, created a dance for Lilith as three aspects: a dark winged, elemental Lilith, Lilith cast out of Eden, and finally, Lilith as she appears today - a vamp. 

Finally, sacred intention in theatre and art can create a sacred space, a liminal zone where the "mythic self" can find voice and expression. Which is why it is important to "invoke" with respect, and to "devoke" as well (with gratitude), perhaps especially when working with masks. I used to make sure that all my events had "Heyoka" as well, a person who acted as the Sacred Clown, reminding us that there is chaos, humor and uncertainty as well.

"Mystery" derives from a Greek word, myein , which means "to keep silent ". There are Gnostic experiences that cannot be spoken because they are, simply, larger than any words can express. They cast us into the field of a consciousness that is greater than our individuality. Their expression belongs to dreams, art, and myth. That was surely why the Elusinian rites of Greece and Rome, which endured for 2,000 years, were called "Mysteries". 

Here is a story that demonstrates the power that ritual theatre can have, shared by Ann Weller, an artist and community activist in California. Ann took on the difficult task of personifying the Dark Goddess for a community theatre event in 2000. At the approach of the millenium, its purpose was to symbolically witness and transform the violence of the past century into a new, evolved consciousness. As Ann described her process:
"The Dark Goddess is found in many cultures by many names, and is not aspected lightly. The work calls forth an internal capacity for psychic empowerment, an energy not easy for our limited ego selves to encompass. Because the work is, I believe, ultimately, impersonal. I was a brief vessel for an immense archetypal intelligence manifesting within the drama we created. And yet, the experience did bring personal change. You can't work with sacred theatre and not be changed in some way. I was being re-constructed, whether I was aware of it or not, to better serve Her. I found myself confronting aspects of myself that were just not useful any more. Which meant better serving myself. That's how I look at it. The little overlay of how I imagined myself, which had never been very effective, was now utterly obvious to me. My authentic power began to manifest."

In 1999, and in 2006,  it was my privilege to see 30 of the masks used for the  Annual Spiral Dance in San Francisco. By offering to "aspect" a Goddess, each woman who wore her mask that night was providing a blessing for all gathered, allowing the power of each aspect of the Divine Feminine to radiate into the world. This is an ancient tradition made contemporary, and it was my privilege to participate with many others in this over the years that followed.  It is my hope that this will be carried on by other women in the future, with or without masks, with or without me or my colleagues participating.
There is a way of knowing that we are the artists of our lives, a way of seeing our creativity as a conversation we are having with an infinitely creative, conversant world. Like the Web of Grandmother Spider Woman , the threads of myth are spun far behind us, and weave their way far into the futures of those not yet born. May we dance empathy instead of despair, may we tell the stories that make life sacred and loving, profound and reverent. For today, and for the future. 

Copyright Lauren Raine MFA  2003, 2008, 2014

All photographs by Thomas Lux, Ann Beam, Ileya Stewart, Jerri Jo Idarius and copyright the artists. 

With gratitude to: Elizabeth Fuller, THE INDEPENDENT EYE THEATRE
Dorit Bat Shalom, "The Peace Tent ", inteview 2002
Drissana Devananda, interview 2001
Ann Weller, "Restoring the Balance" , interview 2001