Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Hymn to Inanna by D'vorah

Inanna by John Singer Sargent 

She of all knowing, dark wisdom....She of the deep abyss, snake’s descent, owl’s knowing...woman of the dark, the light:  We praise you, we stand in awe marveling at the myriad surprises you hold in store for us.  Your power, your mystery.

Lilith-Ishtar-Shekhinah, we worship you, in all your aspects; we sing your name.

Walk with us as we yearn to understand you... Never let us forget your presence in, around and through us, as we seek to proclaim and praise you in every corner of the world, in your many guises, by every name.

Walk with us as we love you, when we are angered by you, when we fail to comprehend you and when we renew our resolve to serve...

Be patient with us as we must be with ourselves, and each other... holding your presence even when we doubt or despair. Let us continue to walk in this new millennium as healers, casting new roles for ourselves and others, weaving new threads of oneness and wonder Ishtar-Lilith-Shekhinah, keeper of the mystery:

Be with us through ecstasy and harmony through death and destruction

And You, Inanna, who were given the setting up of lamentations, the care of children, the rejoicing of the heart, the giving of judgments,  the stirring of sexuality, the making of decisions.

In the eye of this wisdom, rising forth from the power of your being, your foresight, your intent...how is it we ever got lost, taken over, subsumed?

How did we ever become convinced we were not worthy to serve you, that you were the god/not the goddess? How did you, or we, allow ourselves to be 

and burned?

As we build a new world, allow us always to remember our inner strengths, to come from a place of understanding and compassion.  Yet let us not be swayed from our goals, and never let our kindness become weakness.  Help us to remember the lessons of our strongest foremothers and so defend ourselves when necessary, without apology,

speak for what we believe in,
take unpopular action, 
take what is rightfully ours with or without “permission.”

Work with us, inspire us, protect us as we weave your work - our work.

Help us, sweet dark lady of the night, holy winged figure of the light—rageful, wise judge, warmest heart, soulful visionary... highest priestess of the Temples to whom every knee must bend and every tongue give homage.

It is your word we write now upon the doorpost of our house and upon our gates…
Your word, acts, images and thoughts we share, rage at, weep with and learn from.
For It is You who makes rise our greatest laughter and love, happiness and peace, passion, tenderness and compassion.

You who sees and gives us our greatest anger and storm, temper and venom, jealousy and vengefulness; You from whom and with whom we learn to combine these things in the best ways possible...  as we embody and become You, in Our divine selves.

Sweet, dark Goddess/es of the earth and sky, river and mountain, night and day, Heaven and  Hell.

We seek to embody your passion, your wisdom, your strength.

Be with us now.

D’vorah bat Rita  2008
           (Adapted from a liturgy written in 1999)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Secret Life of Things: Honoring the objects we live with

Long may you run
Although these changes have come
With your chrome heart shining
in the sun
 Long may you run
.....Neil Young

A few years back I was going to sell my "$3,500.00 Home" ("Lucy" cost me that), a 1989 motorhome I lived in when I was in New Mexico.  I wanted to find someone who would appreciate her as I have, but I never did, so I ended up putting Lucy onto my property and she became my "guest house".  

There is a lot of talk about tiny houses, and I'm somewhat amazed at the prices being asked for them.......but before tiny houses, there were trailers and motorhomes.  At least when standing, Lucy cost me very little - no mortgage, no property taxes, and if I didn't like the neighborhood, I moved.  I realize motor home housing is not that good for people living in cold climates, but for people in the Southwest, and particularly seniors on a low budget, it's a real solution.  And since Lucy and I have had such a good relationship, our friendship continues.

Why should we not think of the objects that serve us, that make our lives easier, pleasurable, and beautiful.........as friends?  We are such a disposible society, hardly  anyone understands my thinking in this way.  And yet, "things" have a kind of life as well, and deserve honor for the service they've given.   Whether a house, or a car, a teapot or a beloved dress, things are infused with the energy of those who have owned and used them.  A fortunately enjoyed item can emanate peace, or comfort, or pleasure.........you want to touch it, sit in it, sleep in it, eat off of it, look at it.  It just feels good and you don't know why, and that "mana" one feels goes beyond design.

The disposibility of our culture has not only caused environmental destruction, but it's also caused us to lose this sensibility, a kind of "6th sense" that tuned us to the "secret life of things".

For example, people used to inherit collections of precious china, cups and saucers that were proudly brought out to serve tea to guests.  Those teacups (and I have a few of my own) are infused with the ancient aroma of ancestral tea leaves, and the hands and lips of people long gone.

 Yet a lineage remains in some way, something that enters into the almost forgotten ceremony of hospitable tea offering (which can include cakes as well).   Imagine people sitting to tea, eating their cakes and enjoying the lovely patterns of flowers on the cup in their hand, colors emerging from the amber liquid of the tea?  As a child I used to play with those fragile little cups and imagine their use and history.

Or how about my 75 year old sewing machine, which still works?  Think of the women who cherished this precious machine, kept it oiled and replaced the belts over the years, the changing fashions that were constructed for parties and work under that needle?

So, I write to honore my old mobile home, my friend.  Thank you for years of shelter and good dreams, for meals cooked and roads wandered.  Thank you to the many things  and machines and momentoes that have travelled in boxes or trucks or suitcases with me over the years.  

Long may you run.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Oshun and Luisah Teish

I've been a fan of Luisah Teish, priestess, activisit,  and storyteller,  for many years, and remember hearing her telling numerous times of sacred stories from the Yoruba traditions of Western Africa.  Here she tells us a tale of Oshun, the Goddess of love, beauty, and sweet water, and why a world without Oshun would not be a world worth living in.  

She will also be featured in the upcoming film  "Changing of the Gods" coming late 2017.



Sunday, August 21, 2016

The End of Democracy and the TPP - GREAT Australian video!

I would call this a brilliant satire, if it wasn't so tragically true.  Like he says, we may not have much in the way of global democracy any more, and our tax dollars will soon be going a lot more into the pockets of corporations, and say goodbye to anything like environmental protection, anywhere.......but heck, at least we have ranch dressing.


Friday, August 19, 2016

La Mariposa

I've told this story before, but it seems like a good day to tell it again, because I made a new  mask for her.


Once upon a time, in a dusty village like any other village, a  village with  three good wells,  fields of blue and yellow corn,  a white church, and a cantina, there lived a woman who was neither young, nor old.  She was brown of skin, and eye, and her hair was as brown as the sandy earth, and her clothes were  brown and gray as well. She was neither beautiful nor ugly, neither tall nor small, and she walked with a long habit of  watching her feet.

One day, she saw a tree alight with migrating butterflies.   Their velvet wings fluttered in the wind of their grace, and one circled her, coming to rest upon her open hand.  She thought that her heart would break for the power of  its fragile beauty, and she held her breath for fear of frightening it.  La Mariposa  was as orange and brilliant as the setting sun falling between indigo  mountains, as iridescent, as black and violet as the most  fragrant midnight.  At last the butterfly lifted from her hand to rejoin its nomad tribe, and its wings seemed like a whisper,  "Come with us, come with us..."

The next morning they were gone.  She held her hand out to the empty tree, as if to wave farewell, and saw that where the butterfly had rested, there remained a dusting of color, yellow, like pollen, the kiss of a butterfly wing.  And she thought  something had changed.

She went to the well to draw water, and saw her face reflected there.  She was not the same -  there were now minute lines, hairline cracks, along the sides of her face, at the corners of her eyes.  Later, she noticed  little webs of  light beneath the sturdy brown skin of her hands,  barely visible except in the dim  twilight.

This was a frightening thing.  She drew her  skirts more closely around herself, pulled her scarf over her eyes.  But as time went on,  there was something that kept emerging, something that would not be denied.  She was peeling open.  At first, it simply itched, like a rash, like pulling nettles.  As  weeks went by,  what had been easily born, could be endured,  became painful,  became an agony.  Try as she might, as tightly as she wrapped herself in her cocoon of shawls and skin and silence,  the comforting  routines of her life,  colors emerged from her hands, spilt from her mouth, colors and tears, deep waters that seeped from within,  washing away the dust of her life.

Soon, sleep became impossible.  Standing by her window one day, shivering,  she shook  with fear.   "Please help me", she cried, "I'm not the same".  

Then she noticed a beam of sunlight that fell across the floor of her little room like honey.  Motes of dust gathered in the golden light, becoming  a flurry of butterflies dancing through an open window into a sky as blue and vast as forever.   

And La Mariposa  opened her arms, took the gift of wings, and rose.

When her neighbor came to walk with her that evening, she found only a dusty shawl and an old brown skirt upon the floor, the early stars glimmering through an unshuttered window.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Quan Yin Mosaic

I seem to be fascinated with Quan Yin this summer, and have made several pieces.  In this one I managed to get in Quan Yin's vase with the healing waters, and a blooming tree at her other hand.  They aren't yet where I want, because my vision of Quan Yin, who could also be White Tara, or the Virgin of Guadaloupe, or any other manifestations of divine compassion...........has to do with radient blessings streaming forth from the Being.  

In the one below  I saw those Blessings manifesting as flower petals.  It seems to me that a Great Soul, a Boddhissatva, would be like a light house, emanating light, warmth, beauty and healing.  A fountain.  Like a vision*** I had at a painful time in my life, a vision of "White Tara" that I never forgot..........

Of course, no one can match the matchless mosaic art of Ginny Moss Rothwell, who lives here in Tucson.  That below is, unbelievably, a mosaic icon.  

"Quan Yin and the Dragon King"

And here is her Quan Yin again, as a contemporary woman:

"Quan Yin and the Dragon" by Ginny Moss Rothwell


This vision came with help from a teacher of mine, Jewel. Jewel is a shaman, who lives on her land  THE SOURCE, in Shutesbury, Massachusetts. When I met Jewell I was living in Brattleboro, Vermont. I was divorcing from my former husband and was full of the grief, anger, and remorse that comes with the ending of a marriage.  I went to see Jewell for an energy healing. When she put me on her table, she said prayers from The 21 Praises to Tara before she began.  I didn't know about these  prayers to the Goddess Tara at the time, although they became important to me later.

I slipped into a trance state - it seemed as if I was watching short clips from movies, without any sound. I saw African men drumming around a fire, then the body of an emaciated black woman lying on a bed, I saw a ceremonial room of some kind with thousands of orange marigolds, and  a white man, balding and heavyset with glasses, and many more brief images. 

At some point, I felt I was pulled backward, given some distance, so that these "movie clips" became like a vibrant patchwork quilt, all occurring at once. I remember thinking how beautiful they were from that perspective.

Suddenly, a Great Being arrived. I cannot actually describe that presence, because there was no form - she was composed of light. The only identification I felt I could make was that she was female. She didn't speak to me, only radiated the most intense compassion I have ever felt. She also radiated a profound sense of humor! It was as if she was saying, "Look Lauren, take a good look at this. It's going to be alright. You'll meet again. Don't take on so."
I shall never forget the power of that radiant being.  As with all true visions, the image is very clear in my mind, it doesn't slip away.  I later learned that Jewell always  begins her sessions with prayers to the Goddess Tara. And to me, that was the Goddess White Tara; which is why I have prayed to her and tried to honor her with my masks ever since.   

And, come to think of it. I've been very fortunate in that way!
Om Tare Tu Tare Tare Soha

Monday, August 8, 2016

Coreopsis Interview revisited........

"Spider Woman" - Ritual Event "Restoring the Balance" at the Muse Community Theatre (2004)
In 2014 I did an interview for Coreopsis Journal of Myth and  Theatre, a wonderful online magazine.  I really enjoyed answering the questions, and ran across it again this week in the course of answering new questions for an interview.  Felt like sharing it again, and especial thanks again to Lezlie A. Kinyon, Ph.D for her faith in me.

Interview questions:

1.  Where can we see your work?

2. What do you want the world to know about your work?

I guess I would feel that I’ve succeeded if in some small way my work helps in the greater work of bringing reverence to the Earth, and to the arising of the Divine Feminine.

3. Who – or what - do you see as your main influences?

Early on I became influenced by the writings of Kandinsky (“Concerning the Spiritual in Art”) and others, and rejected what I saw as an aesthetic that disregarded spirituality and mysticism as being outside of “high art”. I find it ironic that spirituality was a significant impulse in the early development of Modernism. Theosophy, the Golden Dawn, Anthroposophy, as well as Einstein's new physics, enormously inspired the work of such innovators as Mondrian, Kupka, Kandinsky, Arthur Dove, and others.

Later I discovered Joan Halifax (“Journey of the Wounded Healer”), met Alex and Allyson Grey (“The Sacred Mirrors”) and others, and began to think of art process in new terms. Art for healing, art for transformation of consciousness, art as a bridge between dimensions. During the 80’s I was involved with a group called the Transformative Arts Movement, and I even wrote a book based on interviews I did with visionary artists.

Rachel Rosenthal developed a form of contemporary “shamanic theatre” that I found profound. I saw her perform Pangaian Dreams in 1987, and every hair on my body stood up. Sometimes, like a Sami shaman making the “yoik” she would allow sounds to come through her that were absolutely electric, sounds and words that charged the room. The Earth Spirit Community’s Twilight Covening  introduced me to participatory ritual theatre and I made the Masks of the Goddesscollection for the Reclaiming Collective’s 20th Annual Spiral Dance. I have great admiration for what these two groups have developed as ritual process.

3.     Much of what you do seems to tell a story – even the single, stand-alone pieces. Where do you think that comes from?

The poet Muriel Rukeyser famously commented that “the Universe is made of stories, not atoms”.

I believe Native American mythology - and perhaps contemporary quantum physics - would agree with her. My patron Goddess is surely Spider Woman, the ubiquitous Weaver found throughout the Americas in one mysterious manifestation or another.  Among the Pueblo peoples of the Southwest she was also called “Thought Woman” (Tse Che Nako). As a Creatrix she brought the world into being with the stories she told about it. 

Myths and religions are stories, some more glorified, archetypal, literalized or contemporary than others. I think it is so important for artists of all kinds to recognize that we are weavers of the stories of our time, we are holding threads that recede behind us and extend beyond us into the future. We’re never weaving alone. So - what kind of stories are we shaping, collaborating with, how do we understand the gift of “telling the world” that Spider Woman has bestowed on us?  

"Tse Che Nako, Thought Woman Weave the World" (2007)

5. How would you describe your art...? (influences, history, school-of-art, your aesthetic) 

Perhaps “Cross disciplinary”? I seem to jump around a lot, from sculpture to ritual theatre to painting to…………….whatever seems to be the best medium of expression at the time. Different “languages”.  I guess I could say that my art-making is my spiritual practice, whether it is done with community (as in theatre and ritual) or alone in my studio.

6. What did you learn from working in theatre?

Being a visual artist is solitary, and I’ve always wanted art forms that were participatory, collaborative. Masks lead right into theatre, and questions about the traditional uses of masks as well. Masks are such metaphors – you can’t look at a mask, really look, without it suggesting some kind of being that wants to manifest through it.  They are vessels for all kinds of stories.

My colleagues (among them Macha Nightmare, Ann Waters, Mana Youngbear, Diane Darling) and I have developed some wonderful ways of working with masks and community theatre/ritual. In early Greek theatre a performance had three components – the musicians, the narrators or Chorus, and the masked performers, who would pantomime and dance the characters. We’ve often used that approach, particularly with a Theatre in the Round, a Circle.

Because the masks are dedicated to the Goddess, we’ve brought neo-Pagan sensibilities to the ways we designed our performances. This can include creating a ritual entranceway so the audience enters a magical space, adding audience participatory components to the performances, calling the elemental Quarters and/or casting a Circle  in theatrical ways, and concluding all performances with some kind of energy raising activity with the audience. In Wicca that’s called “raising the Cone of Power” and by so doing the blessing or overall intention is “released to do its work”, finishing with “de-vocation”, which is often a great conclusion with humor, or everyone gets up and dances, etc.

It’s actually very effective, and can be integrated as good theatre. For example, in “Restoring the Balance” (2004) we concluded with “Spider Woman”. While the music played and the narrators told the tale, “Spider Woman” wove invisible threads. With a rising crescendo of assistants, she wove a web with the entire audience. And indeed, for  that moment of breathless intensity everyone in the theatre was literally connected, holding onto a thread “from the Great Web” with everyone else. The “Blessing” was  experienced as part of the performance. 

7. What would you like to say to other artists (of any genre)?

"Our job was not to just re-tell the ancient myths,
but to re-invent them for today. Artists are the myth makers."

Katherine Josten, The Global Art Project

I agree entirely with Katherine Josten, who founded the Global Art Project in Tucson, Arizona – we are the myth makers of our time.  So, what kind of myths are we disseminating?  What are the new stories, how are the old stories still important - or not? 

We have become a global society, with a global crisis. I may sound like I’m preaching, but personally, I don’t want to experience any more art forms that are self-indulgent, nihilistic, violent forms that don’t further evolution into empathy in some way.
I’m not entirely comfortable when people speak of contemporary artists as “shamans” as I have too much respect for the long traditions of indigenous shamans, which have evolved within their particular cultures for thousands of years. But I do know artists can participate in healing and vision, and can find new contexts for creating new forms of what might be called contemporary shamanism.

I’d like to quote from a 1989 interview I did with the early performance artist, Rafael Montanez Ortiz. In the 80’s he studied  energy healing , as well as working with some native shamans in the U.S. and South America. Raphael was also a great influence for me. In the conversation I recorded and transcribed, we were talking about what an “art of empathy” might be, and he spoke about his studies in native Shamanism:

“You feel what you do……….Within the participatory traditions found in (indigenous) art, there is no passive audience. That's a recent idea, which is part of the compromise, the tears and breaks from arts original intentions. Ancient art process was a transformative process; it wasn't a show, it wasn't entertainment.

We need to see ourselves again as part of a brilliant, shimmering web of life. An artist at some point has to face that issue. Is the art connecting us and others in some way, or is the art disconnecting us and others? I think it is not enough to just realign ourselves personally either – as we evolve, our art should also do that for others, and further happen outside of the abstract. It must be a process that in its form and content joins us with the life force in ourselves, and in others.”

8. Do you feel that the questions of the spirit influence what you do?

I think Spirit influences much of what I do, and I’m not alone in that by any means!  There’s a many-layered conversation going on all the time when you open creative channels.  

Working in the collective process of ritual theatre is always amazing. When you make a strong, vibrant container with performance that is alive and meaningful for the participants, then dreams and synchronicities abound, the “container” of the developing work becomes charged. “If you build it, they will come””.

I remember in Joseph Campbell’s “Power of Myth” interviews with Bill Moyers, he spoke about “invisible means of support”. I think we’re supported by quite mysterious sources all the time, and when an artist finds her or his “burning point”, or for that matter a group shares it, doors do seem to open where we did not think they would.

9. Would you like to tackle your relationship to the fines artes?

Oh, I get a headache when I think about “the art world”! But I did get an MFA, I have been a part of it, and I’m probably unfair in my allergic reaction. It’s just that I think the premise of the “art world”, as it reflects capitalism, is way off from the original functions of art. 

Of course artists need to be supported by their communities. But when art becomes an “investment” and value is determined as a financial commodity (witness some of those Sotheby Parke Bernet auctions) you enter into a form of  “soul loss”. Within this construct there is no acknowledgement of the transformative dimension of art. The conversation is corrupted. People are taught to appreciate a work of art because it is hanging in a museum, or worse, it is “worth millions”. 

I always cringe inwardly when I hear someone talk about a painting they have in terms of what they paid for it, or what they hope it may be “worth”. The real “worth” should be what pleasure, insight, meaning, and questions they derive from being in the presence of a work of art, from being able to live with it in some way. 

I had a real revelation in Bali, where they really don’t have an understanding of what we call “being an artist” at all, let alone the rather “macho” myth of the alienated “great artist”. When I lived there, I found that virtually everyone made some kind of art, whether dance, offerings, music, etc., and virtually all of it was “dedicated to the Gods”.  It all had a ceremonial/ritual purpose. Art to the Balinese is a way to pray. 

They obviously make many things for money, including masks. But the “special masks”, the sacred masks, are kept in the Temples, commissioned and repaired by traditional Brahman mask makers. They are not made available for tourists except as they may be seen in performances of the traditional dramas such as the battle between light and dark represented by the dragon/lion Barong and the witch Rangda; after such uses they are “purified” with holy water before being returned to the Temple.. 

This revelation became an inspiration to create a contemporary, multi-cultural collection of “Temple Masks”. That’s how I conceived of “The Masks of the Goddess”,  as special masks dedicated to the Divine Feminine throughout world mythologies.  

10. A Couple of technical questions: 

a) what is the process you undergo in creating a mask?

For the face masks I find a person with a face I like. Then I take a plaster impregnated bandage cast that becomes a plaster positive cast, and then I form the mask over that cast with a thin, flexible leather. The technique is very similar to the old Italian “del Arte” mask technique.

b) how did you find *your* media and materials in the very beginning?

I’d like to think the masks found me. But I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that in the very beginning I started making masks because I was broke. I was a jeweler at the Renaissance Faires and business was bad, so I started making masks hoping they would sell better. They did, and very soon they began to introduce me to a whole new world.

11. What do you think the state of visionary art is today? 

There are some great visionary artists out there. Film in particular, with special effects technology, is quite astounding. Think about AVATAR – what an incredible feat, to create an entire cosmos in that way. The Life of Pi  - astounding. 

Ritual Theatre is an art form that is literally “visionary”, and I wish it was more widely experienced in mature, effective ways for audiences other than  groups that are generally esoteric. As Americans, many feel we’ve lost our rituals by and large, or the ones we have don’t have much energy left in them. People are hungry for  potent events that offer rites of passage, mythic enactment and immersion, and shared transpersonal, visionary experiences. It’s really a very ancient human heritage continually renewed. 

I was thinking of a ritual I experienced with the Earth Spirit Community years ago close to Samhain, All Souls Day. We processed in the twilight through a field with candles into the ritual hall, accompanied by the distant sound of drums.

The final segment of the ritual involved everyone being seated on the cold floor, in a large dark room, and blindfolded. For what seemed like forever we heard distant voices, people brushed by us, hands moved us around, strange music was heard. It was powerfully disorienting, suggestive, and frightening. Then at last our blindfolds were removed, and we found ourselves in a room beautifully illuminated with candles. In the center of the room was a woman in white, surrounded with light, flowers, fruits, water – the Goddess herself, the “return of the light”. Finally, as we left we were greeted by figures with mirrors for faces: we beheld our own reflections.

I’ll tell you, you felt that experience! We had truly been “between the worlds”. When we left the ritual and gathered for food and drink, every one of us felt love for each other and joy for being alive.

12. Any final words? 

Here’s a quote I love by the Buddhist philosopher David Loy:

"Stories are not abstractions from life but how we engage with it. We make stories and those stories make us human. We awaken into stories as we awaken into language, which is there before and after us. The question is not so much "What do I learn from stories" as it is "What stories do I want to live?" Insofar as I'm non-dual with my narratives, that question is just as much, "What stories want to come to life through me?"

"Dream Weaver" (2009)


David R. Loy, "The World is Made of Stories" (1999)
Ortiz, Raphael Montanez Ph.d, "Interveiw with Lauren Raine" (1989)
Josten, Katherine, "Interview with Lauren Raine", the Global Art Project (2004)

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Top 100 Documentaries Website

If you don't know about this extraordinary free resource, and you're a film and education devotee like me, here it is.  100 mostly recent documentaries on a variety of important, inspiring, hopeful, and need to know subjects.