Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Medicine Baskets

A Medicine Basket is a container, woven of many strands,  for healing.

I seem to be having a long case of "writers block" (good thing I'm a visual artist and never seem to run out of images).  I'm hoping that anyone who may be reading this blog is not annoyed to discover me doing this.  Recently at Open Studios  I got into a discussion about this mask.  The mask was  involved in a dream the woman who performed it had - what is interesting is that I made the mask before she had the dream!  But we have done this before, and it illustrates the "seamlessness" of creativity.  I called the mask the "Medicine Basket Mask" and subtitled it "Gather and Offer" because of a poem that was given to me by a workshop participant at Kripalu in 2008.  

"Medicine Basket" is such a wonderful term, and embodies the archetypes of  WEAVING,  VESSELS FOR HEALING created from many threads.  I return to the work of Cherokee artist   Shan Goshorn,  as she is a weaver of contemporary   medicine baskets  which she makes in traditional designs and techniques  They are woven from the words of broken contracts, and the names and photos of children taken from their families and forced to attend boarding schools. “Educational Genocide – The Legacy of the Carlisle Indian Boarding School” was created with a Cherokee-style double weave, and was made from splints of paper that had student’s names and historical documents and photographs. The artist  weaves together the broken threads of the past to create healing baskets that re-member and re-join.

When I made the mask for my friend Mana Youngbear, she told me that she had dreamed it!  My friend saw in her dream a woman wearing a mask that was a basket, the face emerging from the fibers of the basket.  This image had meaning for me on many levels.  A Medicine Basket is a container, woven of many strands, meant to store or provide forces for healing, understanding, consensus, and offering to the divine, the "greater pattern".   We can create  baskets, sacred containers for  healing or empowerment or memory - the "medicine"  that is needed at a given time, place, for a particular person, or a collective "weaving of the energies" . We are also "baskets" ourselves, our intentions and histories woven into the container of our  lives, and those threads have been woven into the lives of everyone else we've ever known as well.  

"Tse Che Nako, Thought Woman, Weaving the World with the Stories She Dreams" (2008)

Now, as everything seems to be unravelling in a world we've made the mistake of taking for granted,  I feel the compulsion to make a new "Medicine Basket Mask".  The mask I have in mind has an open mouth - it will be less passive and in "dreamtime" as the one above.  This one will speak the weaving, the medicine.  The time for being merely receptive is past, now is the time for us to act, to become "the medicine".   

"Basket Mask" by Ilana Stein (2008)
Another mask came to mind, as I thought of woven personae......that of Ilana Stein, which she called "Gathering and Offering" from the poem she made for her mask when I taught at the Kripalu Institute.  Ilana was a well known midwife from New York, and the mask, and the poem, she made shortly before she died of cancer in 2008.  That is a remarkable story too...........so here are excerpts from the poem, and her mask, again.  Those things that move me, they remain embedded within my creative source, and they keep coming forward when the time is right.   I am always amazed at the treasures I've been given as blessings,  and questions,  when I look back.  

May each of us, in these crucial times, make strong Baskets with all our communities, our friends, our inner sanctuaries.  May we  Become strong Baskets.

Gather and Offer
by Ilana Stein

Gather towards the North
Gather towards the South
Gather towards the East
Gather Above, gather below

and gather the great Mystery

Gather what you’ve studied
Gather what you’ve learned
Gather how you’ve lived,
and gather what you’ve earned.
Gather what you’ve loved
Gather what you’ve lost.
Gather what you’ve soiled
and gather what it’s cost
Gather what you’ve wasted
and gather what you’ve saved

Gather who your friends are
and gather how they’ve cared
Gather your relations and  how you’ve fared
Then Gather birth and celebrate,
Gather death and cry
Gather hope, regret and longing and
gather up the why

Gather up the waiting, gather struggles,
Gather all the goals you’ve met and
gather up the bravery
Gather faceless fear and all the broken promises. Gather yesterday today,
and gather time tomorrow

Gather what you’ve ruined
and gather when you’ve failed.
Gather up the personal, gather up the frail
Gather up the culture, gather up the myths
Gather all the songs you’ve sung,
and all expressive art
Gather dances,  gather dreams,
and gather up your heart

Gather in the garden, 

Gather at the beach.
Gather on the mountain, 

Gather what’s in reach
Gather in the workplace, 

Gather on the roads
Gather in the home you’ve made

and gather all your kin
Gather your impatience, your frustration and your greed.
Gather up the words you’ve said,
Gather what you need.

Gather up your journey and all
 the time you’ve spent
Gather up your courage and walk inside your tent.
Gather up your secrets
and gather up your wisdom
Gather what you’ve forgotten
Gather what you’ve meant.

Gather faith and reverence
Gather truth and and gather lies
Gather secrets great and small -
Gather wisdom of the ages
and wrap them all  in your shawl
Gather sickness, gather health,

Gather tenderness and rage
Gather all your stories
Gather on the stage

Gather up your gatherings,

stir the basket’s bounty
Gather all remaining threads
and search across the county:

Then offer up your gatherings

to all nations and creations

Offer to your children and offer to your kin
Offer to the hungry, the needy and the grim
Offer to the blessed and offer to the prim
Offer to the kings and queens
Offer to the beggars and the paupers,
Offer to the jesters and 

Offer to the priestesses

Offer to the birds, chipmunks and the deer
Offer to the badger, mole, the frogs,
and o yes the bear
Offer to the green spring shoots,
the white and yellow crocus
Offer to the budding trees
the bushes and the rushes

Offer to the sand and mud,
the concrete and the buildings
Offer to the cook and maid
the seamstress and the butler
Offer to the farmers, offer to the farm
Offer to the doctors and offer for no harm

Offer to the visionaries,  offer to the artists
Offer to the frightened, offer to the scared
Offer to those endangered

 and to the unprepared
Offer to the hurting, offer to be healed,
Offer to your neighbor and offer to the field

Offer grace,  offer peace,  offer possibility
Offer privilege,  trust,  and faith
Offer gratitude, wonderment and awe
Offer loving kindness

Offer up your story

Offer honor and integrity
Offer for community

Offer your vulnerability

Offer what you’ve learned
Offer what you have
Offer what you know
Offer what you’ve shared
Offer both your ears,
your shoulders and your tears
Offer all you’ve gathered, 

offer all your cares.

You’ve gathered through the springtime,
the summer and the fall.

Now rest and build your strength up.
Cycle with the moon.
Cycle through the mystery time.
Close your eyes and sleep.

Dream the dreams of where you’ve been.
Dream of where you’re going –
Then gather.


1 comment:

Gail said...

these masks and these words are so lovely