Sunday, April 30, 2017

Happy Beltane to All!

From the Edinburgh Beltane Festival

Happy May Day to all!

(I don't jump around fires much any more, but I hope all of you are)  And great photos from the Edinburgh Beltaine Festival!

 Some good words about this sacred day from Celestial Elf Blog:

The Beltane Festival

Beltane or Beltane is the Gaelic name for the festival that begins on April the 30th or Beltane's eve and continues on 1st May and is a celebration of purification and fertility. The name originates from the Celtic god, Bel - the 'bright one', and the Gaelic word 'teine' meaning fire, giving the name 'bealttainn', meaning 'bright fire'. Marking the beginning of the Summer season with the lighting of two great bon-fires on Beltane's eve signifies a time of purification and transition, these fires may be made of the nine sacred woods, Alder, Ash, Birch, Hawthorn, Hazel, Holly, Oak, Rowan and Willow.

Heralding in the season in the hope of a good harvest later in the year, Beltane festivals were accompanied with ritual acts to protect the people from any harm by Otherworldly spirits.

Significantly, as the Goddess (Brigid) moves through her various phases, Beltane sees the womanly aspect of the Summer Goddess banish the Old Crone aspect of the Winter Goddess in readiness for the maternal time and the fruits of nature to follow.

As this is one of the magic turning points of the Sacred Seasons, the veil between worlds is thought to be especially thin, and as a result many of the Fairy Host, the Sidhe and the Tuatha De Danann may be seen crossing between the worlds.  Particularly, the Faery Queen is thought to travel about on this night and if you gaze too long on her enchanted beauty she may whisk you away to live in her Other realms outside of time for an eternity.  The Faery Queen also represents the May Queen, although in practice the honor is usually carried out by young women who are soon to be married.
For the May Day is the great day, 
Sung along the old straight track. 
And those who ancient lines did ley 
Will heed this song that calls them back.
........Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull.

The May Queen at Beltane

Along with her May King, mythically a Jack in The Green, the Green Man or Horned God, is to take part in the Great Rite and so Open the way for the Summer. This is the Sacred Marriage of the God and Goddess, often reenacted by a symbolic union during which the Athame (magical knife symbolizing male energy) is placed by the King of May into the Chalice (Sacred Cup symbolizing female energy) held by the Queen of the May.  For a more detailed account of how this ritual was enacted in earlier time, I refer the reader to Marrion Zimmer Bradley's moving account in her fiction The Mists of Avalon.

Following this union which serves to Open the way to the Summer Lands, festivities ensue, particularly that of dancing around the May Pole. The May Pole itself is a symbol of the union of the God and the Goddess, as the red ribbons represent the fertility of the Goddess, the white represent the fertility of the God. Men begin the weaving by dancing under the upheld ribbon of the first women facing them, accompanied by music, drums beating or chanting. The dancers move forward, stepping alternately over and under each person who’s dancing toward them. The dance continues until the Maypole is completely wrapped, then the ribbons are tied off and the wreath from the top is tossed to the earth to bring its gathered power into the ground.

Whilst such public festivals are not as widespread as they once were, famously at Padstow in Cornwall there still is held an annual 'Obby-Oss' day, which is believed to be one of the oldest survivng fertility rites in the United Kingdom.   St. Ives and Penzance in Cornwall are now also seeing a revival of similar public festivities.

Beltane Lore

During Medieval times, a man might also propose marriage by leaving a hawthorn branch at the door of his beloved on the first day of May. If the branch was allowed to remain at her door, it was a signal that the proposal was accepted. If it was replaced with a cauliflower, the proposal was turned down.

The Celtic Moon month of Hawthorn is the time for lovers to attend to matters of the heart, as the Celtic fire festival of Beltane heralds the start of summer.  Crosses of birch and rowan twigs were hung over doors on the May morning as a blessing and protection, and left until next May day.
The dew on the May day morning is believed to have a magical potency - wash your face and body in it and you will remain fair all year.

Going 'A-Maying' meant staying out all night to gather flowering hawthorn, watching the sunrise and making love in the woods, also known as a 'greenwood marriage'
Oh, do not tell the Priest our plight, Or he would call it a sin; But we have been out in the woods all night, A-conjuring Summer in! 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

"Not Man Apart" & the Dark Mountain Project


     "The Answer"

by Robinson Jeffers*
Then what is the answer?

Not to be deluded by dreams.
To know the great civilizations
have broken down into violence,
and their tyrants come, many times before.

When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor
or choose the least ugly faction; these evils are essential.
To keep one’s own integrity, be merciful and uncorrupted 
and not wish for evil; and not be duped
by dreams of universal justice or happiness.
These dreams will not be fulfilled.

To know this, and know that
however ugly the parts appear
the whole remains beautiful. 

A severed hand is an ugly thing,
and man dissevered from the earth and stars and his history...
for contemplation or in fact...
appears atrociously ugly. 

Integrity is wholeness,
the greatest beauty is organic wholeness, 
the wholeness of life and all things,
the divine beauty of the universe.

Love that, not man
Apart from that

or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions,
or drown in despair when his days darken.
photo by MicStephens

I've been trying to find a way to articulate what I feel for a long time now.  This past year especially, I've found myself  overwhelmed with the destruction of the environment, and the immanent changes that are upon us.  Our global civilization, with all its promise,  and yet just in its infancy,  increasingly looks like a runaway train.  To mature, in the little time that has been given us, to meet the challenges of climate change and our evolution and promise  as a common humanity on a small to sustain that dream?

Now that the U.S. has put  Trump*** and what he represents into power, I despair.  He and his Republican  regime are calling global warming  "A Chinese hoax" even as the poles are melting, the permafrost is melting, and islands are disappearing.  They pound their chests and threaten nuclear war as they  withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Accord, prepare to end the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Energy Act, renew the pipelines that leak poison into our rivers.    I watch America become dismantled, our Constitution increasingly broken, the tyrant minds of greed and violence like the Dark Lord of Tolkien's books overtaking America.  Yes, that despair I've been feeling for a long time has deepened, and I find myself increasingly asking myself, "How do I live in these times?"

 Every generation, perhaps, has to ask that.  Or perhaps not.  Perhaps many generations behind me lived with a surety of continuity in their families, countries, tribes, environments, that, even if not true (because change is the only constant), was true for their time.  But I have lived in an extraordinary time, when change is too rapid to assimilate, and not only our tribes and nations are threatened, but our very planet, the Mother Earth we take as the ultimate changing, is threatened.   And humanity, for all of our  beauty and brilliance, is still in its infancy.

It's always been with me, this "Before the Deluge" (which is also an important movie) mentality.  It took different forms, but it was always there, the shadow that hung over my generation, born just after WWII with its inconceivable violence, and in the shadow of the nuclear bomb.  For all the prosperity of the 50's, we knew what horror humanity was capable of, and we knew life was tenuous.  I remember the surrealism of the "get under your desk" exercises, the Cold War, and the bomb shelter my father made in the closet, with a barrel of water and stacks of canned beans and tuna fish.  It was always there, the Shadow.

Berkeley was ahead of its time, and in 1970 I remember taking recycled bags to the Food Co-op.  We spoke of "voluntary simplicity", and of  Zero Population Growth, and in 1973 I had a tubal ligation so I would not contribute further to the problem.  We fought for the redwoods, we talked about growing our own vegetables, and we marched, and marched.  We marched against Vietnam, we marched for Women's Rights and birth control and abortion, we marched for Free Speech, and we began to march increasingly for the Environment.  People did sit down strikes at the nuclear power stations that so dangerously sat atop California fault lines, they chained themselves to old growth redwoods to keep forests from being clear cut.    I saw the evolution of the Women's Movement and the evolution of Environmentalism, and then the evolution of Eco-feminism, which saw the profound relationship between the two evolutionary threads.  I remember when Time Magazine did its Endangered Earth edition in 1989.  Almost 20 years later in 2006 I saw the former Vice President of the U.S., Al Gore, produce "An Inconvenient Truth", shown in all major theatres.   Not much changed.

I've come to agree with the founders of the Dark Mountain Project, and their Manifesto.  Our civilization is not sustainable, our worldwide  economic system is manifestly unethical, and our descendants cannot have the hope and privilege we have known.  And as I say that I acknowledge that the majority of human beings on this planet have never had the hope and privilege that I have.   The question is, how do you live with that?

For myself, I'm going to focus on what I love, and hope to learn to be a loving person in the time that I am granted here.  And I aspire to live in as much simplicity and gratitude as I may. Despair, anger, polarization, none of this is helping me.   My work has always  been an effort to share Her image, in many different forms and with many different faces.  I'll continue to make my shrines, and reliquaries, and words of praise to Her, in all of Gaia's vast diversity and indescribable beauty.  It has been a privilege to live within Gaia, and a privilege to live in this time.  It has been a privilege to  live.  Let my life become a prayer of gratitude, and perhaps some of those threads will go forward to those who are yet to come.  Perhaps they will not curse all of us.  But we'll never know.

A manifesto for change

"The Dark Mountain Project is a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilization tells itself. We produce and seek out writing, art and culture rooted in place, time and nature."

The Dark Mountain Project was initially created as a journal by the former  deputy editor of the Ecologist, Paul Kingsnorth.  He and colleagues became disillusioned with the narratives of environmentalism, and so they decided to write their own.  Eventually this evolved into a large artistic, literary, and scientific community, as well as workshops and the "Uncivilization Festivals".  As he explains:

"Out of this huddle came a slim, self-published pamphlet that we called Uncivilisation: the Dark Mountain Manifesto. It was a clarion call to those who, like us, did not believe that the future would be an upgraded version of the present, and who wanted to help forge a new cultural response to the human predicament. It called for a clear-sighted view of humanity's true place in the world.  We had no idea if this would resonate, but it did - all over the world. We sold hundreds of manifestos and attracted enthusiastic support from thousands of people. A movement began to coalesce. What was most fascinating – and telling – about it was the common thread running through it. So many of the communications we received were from people who professed a profound sense of relief. They too had been going through the motions about 'saving the planet' but had long since stopped believing it. Coming across other people who didn't believe it either, and who wanted to forge a new way of looking at the future, got a lot of people very excited.

To me, this is the most exciting thing about the Dark Mountain Project. It has brought together people from all over the world, from varied backgrounds – writers, poets, illustrators, engineers, scientists, woodworkers, teachers, songwriters, farmers – all of whom are tied together by a shared vision. It is a vision that a few years back would have seemed heretical to many greens, but which is now gaining wide traction as the failure of humanity to respond to the crises it has created becomes increasingly obvious. Together we are able to say it loud and clear: we are not going to 'save the planet'. The planet is not ours to save. The planet is not dying; but our civilisation might be, and neither green technology nor ethical shopping is going to prevent a serious crash."

*Much of Jeffers' poetry was written in narrative and epic form, but he is also known for his shorter verse and is considered an icon of the environmental movement. Influential in some circles, despite or because of his philosophy of "inhumanism", Jeffers believed that transcending conflict required human concerns to be de-emphasized in favor of the boundless whole. This led him to oppose U.S. participation in World War II, a stand that was controversial after the U.S. entered the war

** Paul Kingsworth on the founding of the Dark Mountain Project:

Sunday, April 23, 2017

James Lovelock and Gaia Theory

James Lovelock, with biologist Lynn Margulis, developed the Gaia Hypothesis, which is now  Gaia Theory .  After the massive outpouring of support for the sciences and climate change research from yesterday's Earth Day marches around the U.S. and in Washington, D.C., I felt like honoring their work.  

They offered a new, and yet very ancient, one might say "original" paradigm to the scientific community, and to the world.  Gaia theory is widely accepted by the Earth Sciences community, and certainly  Gaia  captured the imagination and hearts of many others  in my generation -  to artists, mythologists, philosophers and theologians.  Lovelock proposed that the Earth is a living being, self-regulating, interdependant in all its systems, responsive to change.  And we participate in that organism's evolution.  

 "Once upon a time the Word for World was Mother."

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Happy Earth Day!

Photo courtesy J.J. Idarius

We have a beautiful mother
Her hills
are buffaloes
Her buffaloes

We have a beautiful mother
Her oceans
are wombs
Her wombs

We have a beautiful mother
Her teeth
the white stones
at the edge
of the water
the summer
her plentiful

We have a beautiful mother
Her green lap
Her brown embrace

Her blue body
everything we know.

Alice Walker

"Speak to the Earth, and it shall teach thee"



Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Silbury Moment with the Bard............

                                                            Photo by John Haxby

I re-found this delightful Telling from Celtic Mythology by the great Bard, Robin Williamson, with images of Silbury Hill, which I once Circled..... and just had to share it again.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Shadow Effect - reflections

 "Everyone carries a Shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious."
   Carl Jung

"You must go into the dark in order to bring forth your light. When we suppress any feeling or impulse, we are also suppressing its polar opposite. If we deny our ugliness, we lessen our beauty. If we deny our fear, we minimize our courage. If we deny our greed, we also reduce our generosity. Our full magnitude is more than most of us can ever imagine.”   

  Debbie Ford

I was remembering "The Shadow Effect"  (see trailer  below about the movie), which was mostly narrated by, and based on, the work of psychologist Debbie Ford, who wrote "The Dark Side of the Light Chasers", a book I've liked since I discovered it in the late 90's.  I enjoyed the movie, particularly the appearances of Deepak Chopra and James Van PraaghI admire Debbie Ford's work, although I have to confess, all that hugging in the workshops would no doubt drive me up a wall.  I'm just not a hugger.  And sometimes I get annoyed by the "do these exercises, make this realization, and you'll fulfill your destiny and be all you can be" idea..........I don't really believe in destiny any more, and trying to "be all you can be" can have some serious setbacks, like exhaustion, arrogance, and self-delusion. Which is "shadow", now that I think about it.   Sometimes the prize is not about getting richer, more love, or a better job, not about "getting" anything - it's about deepening our souls, and in the end, that's all that matters.  But I'm a crank sometimes, and what this movie has to say is  nevertheless vital, pragmatically, personally, and collectively, because it's about the essence of integral consciousness.

"The well of your joy is as deep as the well of your sorrow" 

 Kalil Gibran

 I've often written about the importance of the The Dark Goddess, and the importance of the Dark Goddess to all of planetary life now.  In other words, it's urgent that we develop true compassion for ourselves, and thus, each other, holistic compassion.    As individuals, the scales of Maat tip when too much of ourselves are unconscious, hidden away in the so-called "shadow" aspects of psyche. That's the true meaning of balance.
 Perhaps I should begin with one of my own "shadow" aspects, the "victim" archetype. I felt like sharing the following quote from Carolyn Myss because I agree with some (not all)  of her observations about what she called "woundology".
"One day, in passing, I introduced a friend of mine to two gentlemen I was talking with.  Within two minutes, my friend managed to let these men know that she was an incest survivor. Her admission had nothing whatsoever to do with the conversation we'd been having, and what I realized was that she was using her wounds as leverage. She had defined herself by a negative experience.  In workshops and in daily life I saw that, rather than working to get beyond their wounds, people were using them as social currency.  They were confusing the therapeutic value of self-expression with permission to manipulate others or define themselves with their wounds. Who would want to leave that behind? Health never commands so much clout!"

Carolyn Myss,  Why People Don't Heal and How They Can
  I want to comment first, as she does, that actual victimization, and the psychic wounds that arise from these experiences, should not be negated, nor should the "blame the victim" phenomenon ever be allowed to occur  Further, a sense of victimhood can be learned from our parents, and can have roots that extend far back into family and cultural history.  Having said that, I also believe, from my own experience in therapy, that healing and self-understanding comes from being able to tell our painful stories, and by the telling we can integrate those stories into the larger story, developing compassion for ourselves and strength from those experiences.  We "fore-give", and move fore-ward.  The question of whether this role is a shadow issue arises when one lingers in the role of "victim" because it is familiar, and more importantly, it has great power because it  allows one to avoid responsibility for anything, and even provides a kind of social currency with others. To put it another way - you can't win with such  a "victim".

In the past few years,  entering my 60's and becoming a SAGA (no "crone" for me.  Saga is so much better, a Finnish derived word that means both "old woman"  and "long story") I've been noticing how much the "victim" or "wounded" archetype has big real estate in our world, as well as my own past persona.  It's a shadow aspect that is rarely spoken about, because, frankly, it has so much leverage and ambiguity attached to it.  I've also had to notice that there are individual interactions with people and groups that are about supporting each other's insecurities - and success, leadership, or individual accomplishments can be punishable by ostracism.  Believe me, I've been in circles with "victims" (myself included) that could deflate any natural leader or brilliant contributor in no time flat, and continually reduced the group to a comfy  "circle of mediocrity". 

Shadow Work is harsh.  I think a stubbornly internalized and unrealized  need to retain the role of  "victim" is on the same page as the unconscious need to dis-empower or denigrate the perceived gifts and strengths of others.  We cannot afford to genuinely victimize ourselves by clinging to the exhaustive role of  "victim" at a certain point in the quest for maturity - equally, we cannot afford to "make ourselves small" and hide our light so that others will "like" us, nor unconsciously coerce this tyranny on others so we won't feel "threatened".  Empowerment is like the symbol of the Tree of Life - as above, so below, as without, so within. The roots run deep, into dark waters.

 "He governs the flowing of all waters, and the ebbing, the courses of all rivers and the replenishment of springs, the distilling of all dews and rain in every land beneath the sky.  In the deep places, He gives thought to music great and terrible; and the echo of that music runs through all the veins of the world in sorrow and in joy; for if joyful is the fountain that rises in the sun, its springs are in the wells of sorrow unfathomed at the foundations of the Earth."   J.R.R. Tolkein, "The Silmarillion"

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Story Masks: Bast

 I've been wanting to share my archive of not just masks, but stories from the 20 plus years of the "Masks of the Goddess" Project.  Here is the story of Bast, from a 2000 performance directed by Diane Darling.   I think Bast was pleased............


Her paws whisper on temple floors
Her eyes 
luminous as the moon
Her ears pricked, 
alert to danger
Her whiskers sense currents from the unseen world.

Guardian of cats and women and children
Posessor of the uchat, the all-seeing eye
Bast wards against dangers in the spirit world -
Evil beings, enchantments, nameless things
Visible only to cats.

Daughter of Ra, the sun
Lady of the East, the Moon
Her eyes hold light in darkness 


Ra the mighty sun appears at dawn as a baby
At sunset he is dying, and when he dies
Darkness falls.

But Bast prowls the Nile, gazes into the setting sun
Holds his fire in her eyes
Shining in the dark, until Ra is born again.

Bast is Mistress of the science of relaxation,
Bast luxuriates in her sensuality and agility
She plays  with her children:
But leaps ferociously to their defense.

She is The One Who Tears, Little Lion -
Her sharp claws are the vengeance of Ra. 

Those who love Bast honor every cat.
Speak to them with respect
Lay gifts at their paws.
They call to her:

“Mau Bast! Mau Bast!”

Here is her blessing
Her secret wisdom is yours to know:

Sunny spots are best for dreaming.
Never waste a moonlit night,
and accept reality with supreme indifference

To the opinions of mere mortals.

by Mary Kay Landon with Diane Darlilne (2000)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Story Masks: "The Bone Goddess"

I love stories, discovering the stories that "wrap themselves around old bones" and wrap themselves around each of us.  With masks, the story is as much a part of the mask as the mask itself.  Masks are by their very nature "vessels for Story",  stories ever evolving in mysterious ways. If you let the mask "talk to you", much can be revealed.  While re-visiting the  Superstition mountains not so long ago, I remembered an encounter I had once with a persona of the land, a Numen of the mountain.  She spoke, I listened. Her name, I think, was the Bone Goddess.  


I was the first one.
I am this land,
and you no longer know me.

Ah well. So what. I've been here a long time.
A long time.

In the beginning, I was alone. 
Alone in this place.
Me, and Old Man Mountain, 
sleeping beneath the hot sun. 

Running when the sun was young,
waking up the People in my country: 
Ho, Hare, Snake, Mallow, Saguaro. 
There were more People then.
Some have gone.
We spoke together then, laughed more. 

These ones,  these new ones, 
they think they own the place.

Ha! They dig and dig, 
but they will not find me!

Listen, I will tell you something, 
since you have come here with your hands empty.

You are full of holes.

Sometimes a person stands up and just walks outside
and keeps on walking into the sun, and does not know why.
There comes a time when you have given so much of yourself away 
there is nothing left, when you have become transparent,
when you can be seen through to the bone, 
when your spirit has become woven into bad things.

That's when you find yourself in my country.

Walk into the desert
sit beneath a cholla and be silent.  
Notice the shapes of bald mountains. 
Old Man, sleeping. 
The shape of his shadows, 
the shape of the sky, the color of shadows. 
That is when you must find beauty 
in a cholla 
crack in the sun like an old bone. 

That's the time when you must collect your own shadows.

I may help you. 
Bring your offerings if you wish, 
I will give them to the Bird People, the Mouse People, the Lizard People,
walk in the shimmering heat, the silence, you may find me.

If I want you to.
I may tell you stories that wrap themselves around old bones, 
around quartz and turquoise, pottery shards, 
stories of Snake and Coyote 
and cracks in the land like a spider web, 
full of light.

And I may not.

I was the first one. This is my place.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Rumi and Rilke Moment........

Georgia at White Sands (2015)

Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors,
and keeps on walking,
because of a church
that stands somewhere in the East.

And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead. 
And another man,
who remains inside his own house,
dies there,
inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children
have to go far out into the world
toward that same church,
which he forgot.
Rainer Maria Rilke  (translated by Robert Bly)

Spring at White Sands (2015)

When grapes turn
to wine, they long for our ability to change.
When stars reel
around the North Pole,
they are longing for our growing consciousness.

Wine got drunk with us,
not the other way.
The body developed out of us, not we from it.

We are bees, and our body
is a honeycomb.
We made
the body, cell by cell, we made it.

Rumi (Translated by Robert Bly)