Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The "Elephant Whisperer"

Painting by Jonathan Truss
 Lawrence Anthony was  a legend in South Africa.  The  author of 3 books including the bestseller The Elephant Whisperer, he bravely rescued wildlife and rehabilitated elephants all over the globe from human atrocities, including the courageous rescue of Baghdad Zoo animals during the US invasion in 2003.

Reading recently, with extreme disgust, about Trump's repeal of laws that prohibited trophy hunters from bringing their "prizes", the heads of elephants and other endangered animals, into the U.S., I remembered this wonderful story about the intelligence, and memory, of elephants. 

Anthony  died on March 7, 2012  in a hospital in Durban and his body was brought to his game reserve and home  to be buried. Two days after his passing, a remarkable thing happened.  The wild elephants he had come to know and rescue showed up at his home, led by two large matriarchs.  According to a story widely circulated,  shortly after his death  two herds he rescued and worked with before releasing into the wild  started moving to his house, which they had not visited in over a year. They had walked patiently for  miles.  The herds were visible in the background whilst the funeral took place. They later split again into two groups  and moved to their separate parts of the reserve.  Lawrence's wife, Francoise, was especially touched, believing the  elephants wanted to pay their respects to a friend.

According to Truth or Fiction, a fact finding site similar to Snopes,  this story of two herds of elephants  reintroduced into the wild, and later  travelling to the home of Anthony after his death is true. 

"Reports that two herds of South African elephants that were rescued by wildlife conservationist Lawrence Anthony traveled to his home to pay their respects upon Anthony’s death are true.   This according to a March 11, 2012 article by the New York Times.   Anthony’s son, Dylan Anthony, told the New York Times that the elephants gathered on the edge of the reserve near his house every night after Lawrence Anthony's  death.
Anthony was the author of numerous books on wildlife conservation. He also created the 5,000-acre Thula Thula wildlife sanctuary and adopted herds of elephants that would have been killed, according to the  Times obituary.  Elephants have been known to grieve the deaths of friends and relatives. They sometimes stay beside the bodies of loved ones to mourn for up to three full days, according to a January 30, 2013 article by the Daily Mail.

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Candle in the Night

I keep the above little bit of a color xerox (2 inches by 1 inch)  in a small frame in my studio, and recently a conversation with a friend brought it to mind, so perhaps it's a good time to tell its story.  The image of a hand holding a flame  is a detail from a painting I did for my "Rainbow Bridge Oracle" deck back in 1993.  It was my version of "The Hermit" in the traditional Tarot, which became later "Solitude" as my own  Oracle deck evolved.   The model was me (I used  people I knew as models) and the image represented my concept of  of the card in shamanic terms. 

I also keep it there because, well, I view it as a miraculous little reminder.  That's because when I did the first 5 paintings (they are small, 10" x 17") I took them to be color xeroxed (which was still expensive at that time).  When I copied this painting all that came back was a big piece of paper with this little detail in the middle!  I tried again and the whole image was reproduced, and it wasn't till I took the bundle of papers home that I noticed what had actually been copied in that "mistake".  Of all the details to zoom in on!

So I keep it as guidance.  

When one finds a way through through the solitary  "dark night of the soul",  one becomes a pathfinder.  My little "excerpt" mistake reminds me that I need to try to be a candle in the night, to  try to share what I learn along the way.....  You never know,  the light you carry  might help to illuminate the way for someone else.

"A woman, bearing a flame in her hand, emerges from the darkness.  Originally based upon the Tarot card "The Hermit", this image is about bearing the light of truth, the flame of consciousness.  The woman pictured has returned from the journey into the "underworld" passages of her long, and solitary,  journey to wisdom.  Her journey may have been precipitated by a quest for understanding, or perhaps by an emotional crisis or by a loss of faith.  Whatever the catalyst, her initiatory journey  was the solitude necessary to "know thyself".  She emerges with the kindled flame of illumination that led her back into the world.  The final  phase of that journey is to become a "light-bearer"  - to share what has been learned, offering that knowledge to others on the path.  

If this image is speaking to you, you have learned more than you probably realize, and/or healed yourself in some important way.  Now you've come back to tell the tale.  Whether you heal with your hands, words, craft or art, or by your wise presence in the world, you have much to do now.  Hold that light before you wherever you go.

Reversed:  You may have become be too withdrawn from the world, too used to your isolation.  The card may be reminding you to connect now with others -  you are too alone, and too much isolation can mean an end to learning, and simply a fearful retreat from life.   Share and participate -  that's the emergence you are finally in need of."

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Frau Holle


I  pull this post out just about every winter,  along of course  with the one on Father Christmas and Odin.......so I'm going to indulge myself again.   I love Frau Holle, who emerges from the landscape of Northern myth at this time of year, and leads us back and back and back to ancient origins........if you've encountered this piece before, please indulge me..........

One of the  Goddesses that reflects the flux of seasonal cycles, and belongs truly to Winter,  is the Nordic  Frau Holle. Holle has very ancient origins indeed, and may have been a prehistoric, a pre-Christian  Weaver Goddess, a Spinner of fate. 

Mother  Holle is very much associated with Yule, and with the warmth of hearth and home, especially in the winter.   Also known as Holda or Hulda, she is a manifestation of the Pagan  triple goddess,  embodying the passages of life through birth to death, in both light and dark. In some early  myths, she is "the ash girl", her face half black with soot and half white.  

This remarkable metaphor  comes from a story of how,  in order to marry the God of Winter she had to come to him neither naked nor clothed, and neither in light or darkness (thus, both the "White Goddess"  and the "Dark Goddess").   Like the myth of  Persephone, who becomes the Queen of both death and spring,   Holle (perhaps, fittingly, related to words like  "Holy", "wholly",  and "whole"?)  in old age  is Winter's Queen, and encompasses the Circle of dualities

As old Mother Holle/Holda, it was believed that  she brought  soft snow to put the world to bed.     Mother Holda is the source of  the  "Mother Goose"  legends, because the snow flies when she shakes the feathers from her down feather bed.  In Holland, they still say that 'Dame Holle is shaking her bed'

 For anyone who may wonder where the "flying broomsticks" of witches (or Harry Potter) comes from, Dame Holda is probably  the original source.  Because of her association with the hearth and home, the Broom was both a symbol as well as a  magical tool.  Folk traditions of "sweeping away evil from the hearth" are found throughout Europe. As a symbol of the Hearth ("the Heart of the household") it is interesting to see this also transformed into the "vehicle of witches" as Pagan mythology, and folk rituals, became transformed and often diabolized in later Christian times.    In later folktales, Frau Holle becomes a fearsome hag, riding her broom and bringing the storms of winter.

"Frau Holle, as she is known in Germany, was called The Queen of the Witches. The brothers Grimm tell a story of step-sisters who both go to visit Frau Holle in the 'nether realms'. They begin their journey to her by falling in a well............Holle's name is linguistically related to the word Halja, which means "covering", and is the ancient Teutonic name for Hel, the Norse land of the dead. Holle is sometimes called the Queen of the Dead, and resides in the 'nether' regions. She possibly lent her name to the country Holland, 'the land of Holle', which is also called the Netherlands because many parts of the country are below sea-level." 
Sandra Kleinschmitt

Holda/Holle/Hel  is  both light and dark, young and old, illumination and shadow, living in the "nether world" and the material world. Holle demonstrates the non-duality of nature.  Spring becoming Summer becoming Winter becoming born again.   Whole.
 As the mythologist Joseph Campbell pointed out in many ways throughout his writings, to understand the evolution of myth is to understand many interconnected things, including the evolution of language and religion.  One of my personal images that I often find myself making are  "dual" masks, masks that are half black and half white, or half "underground" and half "above ground vegetation".  "Helkappes".........

"Our Lady of Chaos and Order" (2013)
 I think this reflects my sense of how very important holistic consciousness is, personally and collectively, whether we speak of "shadow work", the coming to terms with the ebbs and flows of self, or the cycles of our Mother Earth, the ebbs and flows of the seasons and the creation/death/rebirth cycle.  Whether microcosm or macrocosm, to try to live within the perspective of  the Whole. 

So who is  Hel, the ashy side of Holle's face, from whose name we get "Hell"?  

Besides being the origin of the word people use daily as a swear word, and millions of Christians have a mighty fear of going to if they don't get baptized or redeemed (and blissfully ignorant of where the  concept originated from).  

Hell  has been used, very effectively,  by the early  church  as a scare tactic to frighten the masses into “righteous” acts. People no longer remember that once "go to Hell" meant, simply,  to die and go to the underground realm of the Dark Goddess.  To get the real story, we have to go back to the early Nordic peoples with their Triple Mother,  and look this death Goddess in the face.  

"Hel" by Susan Seddon Boulet

Hel has a realm in the netherworld or the underworld (and the idea of underworld, or womb/tomb Goddesses is very ancient indeed, going back to the Paleolithic, and may be part of the apparent sanctity of caves and their amazing cave paintings.).  She is the ruler of that underworld country  to which souls who have not died in battle will depart. As thanks for making Her ruler of the netherworld, Hel makes a gift to Odin. She gives him two ravens, Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Memory).  In Nordic mythology Ravens are messengers between this realm and the next, psychopomps that can open pathways.  

 Johannes Gehrts
The name of Her realm is Helheim, and perhaps like Maat of Egypt, Hel is the judge of each soul that enters her realm.   Those who were cruel and evil in life must endure a place of icy cold for a while as punishment (a fate that the  people of ancient Scandinavia and Germany apparently  found much worse than a nice warm lake of fire). Unlike the Christian concept of Hell as a place of eternal damnation and punishment, however, Helheim also served as the shelter (womb of regeneration) for  souls waiting to be reincarnated. 

"Hel watches over those who died peacefully of old age or illness. She cares for children and women who die in childbirth.  She guides those souls who do not choose the path of war through the circle of death to rebirth."

 Rowen Saille of the Order of the White Moon

Like Persephone, who is both the Spring Maiden and the Queen of  Hades, Hel as the dark side of Holle governs  the underworld or invisible realm. In magic, like Hecate, she is a pathfinder  where the  veil between worlds is thin.
"Magic is the art of changing consciousness  at will."
 ............ Starhawk

 Seidhr [SAY-theer] or Nordic shamans called upon Hel's protection, and in doing so they  wore  "the helkappe", a magic mask, to render them invisible and enable them to pass through the gateway into the realm of death and spirit.  The Helkappe was a mask,  thus understood as a transformative, liminal tool that enabled one to  transit between the seeming dualities of life..........and like masks and sacred drums  throughout the world's traditions, it was infused with shamanic power.  
To take the wisdom of this  metaphor further, to thus wear a mask  as a psychic  tool was to  engage consciously with the continual flux of personae - young/old, dark/light, good/bad, male/female.   This is the realm of the soul, beyond duality, beyond time.  Wearing the "Helkappe", in whatever way one may imagine such a mask........enables one to enter both realms.

A wonderful commentary on Holle/Hel come from the   Goddess Inspired  Blog  by Silvestra, who has helped me to understand the  non-duality of this myth, and it's unfathomably ancient origins.  Rather than me try to paraphrase her, I take the liberty of copying the article here, and provide the link to her Blog below.

"Mother Holle  started off Her existence as the Goddess of Death and Regeneration. During the Neolithic in what Marija Gimbutas termed Old Europe people believed in the cyclical nature of all existence. Every ending was understood to be the beginning of a new chapter. Death, rather than being the final end, was seen as a resting stage prior to new life. Just as seeds rest deep undergound during the cold winter months waiting to sprit up as a seedling in spring, so were the dead seen as having returned to the Goddess’ dark womb to await renewal and rebirth.

The Goddess of Death and Regeneration was associated with winter and the colour white. Small stiff white Goddess figurines with small breasts and exaggerated pubic triangles were placed alongside the dead in order for Her to accompany the person on her or his journey of renewal. The Goddess of Death and Regeneration was not feared or seen as being evil, but instead was considered to be benevolent and generous.
                       Mandorla of the Spinning Goddess (1982)  by Judith Anderson
“She holds dominion over death, the cold darkness of winter, caves, graves and tombs in the earth….but also receives the fertile seed, the light of midwinter, the fertilized egg, which transforms the tomb into a womb for the gestation of new life.”..... Marija Gimbutas 

Old white-haired Mother Holle and Her underground realm are one interpretation of this aspect of the Goddess. In the fairy tale Mother Holle is described as being kind and generous and very just. She lives at the bottom of a well. The well itself can be interpreted as being the birth canal leading to Her dark underground womb...........Mother Holle is described as having ugly big teeth, a big nose and a flat foot. The latter shows her love for weaving or spinning, another sacred act associated with the Goddess: She is the Life Weaver, the Spinner of Destiny and Fate.

Mother Holle was known all across the Germanic world. She was called Holle in Germany, Hel or Hella in Scandinavia and Holde on the British Isles. She is the origin for the word hell and its German variant Hölle, as well as words such as holy and holding in English and Höhle (= cave) in German.

The Scandinavian Goddess Hel is probably the most widely known version of Mother Holle as Goddess, although by the time the Indo-European Norse wrote down their religious beliefs, Hel was no longer the benevolent Regeneratrix of the Neolithic. She had become the dreaded Queen of the Dead.

As was the case during the Neolithic, Hel’s realm Nifhelheim also lies below the earth at the root of the World Tree. Incidentally the bottom of the World Tree is also home to the three Norns, Weavers of Destiny. While, as said above, originally the Goddess of Death and Regeneration was also the Weaver of Fate and Fortune, later beliefs separate Her more and more into Her various aspects. 

 Despite being feared by the Norse as the dreaded Hag of Death, Hel has Her benevolent roots hidden in plane sight. Being linked to the earth, She is one of the old Vanir Earth Goddesses, Vanir meaning “the Giving One”.

In Central Europe Mother Holle also evolved over time. Instead of becoming the Goddess of the Underworld, though, She became the Queen of Elves and the Mistress of Witches. Her character was actually very similar to that of Greek Hekate, the old Crone who roams the world with Her fearsome dogs.   Around 900CE Frau Holle had become an old weather hag who was said to ride in on Her broom stick bringing with Her whirlwinds and snowfall. Her life-giving generous nature was retained more in Germany than in Scandinavia, as even during Christian times She was seen as bringing life to the land causing growth, abundance and good fortune."


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Spider Woman's Hands.... Images for Artist's Book

This is the time of year I go through the tedious process of applying for things, which I try not to be disappointed by when the rejections roll in.  I figure it's kind of like "artist Bingo".......sometimes you win.  And I've "won" a few times in the past, and been fortunate to have some great residencies and even a few awards and fellowships.  So this was an application to make an artist's book in the spring at the Women's Studio Center  in New York. Usually I tear my hair out when I make these applications, but this was fun!  

A book would consist of no more than 20 pages all silk screened and hand bound, so the pages would really be part of a "bound theme show" in a way.  I returned to my many  years of devotion to the Legend of the  Spider Woman in coming up with these prototypes for pages.  With so much competition, I seriously doubt I'll be considered, but, the ideas were fun to make and who knows, maybe they could become a book anyway.  I shall never tire of images that speak to me of the meaning of "A Webbed Vision".

All images are copyright Lauren Raine MFA (2017)

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Song of Medusa

"Older Yet, and Lovelier Far, this Mystery.  And I will not forget."

Robin Williamson, "Five Denials on Merlin's Grave"

Looking back through my files, I discovered that THE SONG OF MEDUSA, a short novel I wrote in collaboration with the artist and writer Duncan Eagleson, who I was privileged to know back in 1993, had disappeared, even though I completed it and had it self-published in 2000.  It wasn't on my computer, it wasn't on my website, I couldn't even find a copy of the book in my bookshelf.  Then I realized it was to be found here, on this Blog.  I decided to archive it on my website, and in the process had a lot of fun making illustrations for it, and doing a bit of editing. 
It needs a lot more work, true, and it seems sometimes  preachy or naive......but reading the manuscript after all these years was good for me.  To  be honest, this story, although I understand the sources of  its inspiration, remains a bit of a mystery to me.  I've never had the desire to write a novel before or since.  This character seemed to have a life of her own, a story that insisted upon being written down.  For example, I had no idea that the Oracle of Delphi breathed fumes from underground caves in order to reach an altered state of consciousness when this story flowed onto the page for me.    Maybe writers experience that all the time, the sense of being a bit of a "channel" for a persona that wants to be heard....but it was a fascinating experience for me.


"I, the Song, I Walk Here"
.....Lakota  poem

Reading  brought back  what I believe in still, the impulse from which this story arose.  And it was  inspired, obviously, by the work of archeologist Marija Gimbutas and Riane Eisler, a long fascination with mythology, and my own experiences in dowsing and visioning.  EARTHMIND,  the "Song of Gaia".  So here's the story resurrected.   Mr. Eagleson graciously and elegantly contributed to its telling, and I feel it shouldn't just disappear.   Thank you, Duncan. 

I doubt anyone reading this is going to take the time to read the whole story, so I copy below 
an excerpt .......I  especially like the "Afterward", because it brings back memories of when I lived in Vermont, the very real magic I always sensed in the land there, and some of the people I knew there and then.   An  a dream some of us had of a possible future where the Earth was sacred, alive, a Song we could  learn to harmonize with.  That's still a hope worth finding stories for.  


September 21, 2037 
As the trail winding up Spirit Mountain grew steeper, Susan was a little out of breath.  She could see the granite shelf summit ahead,  the  quartz and granite  bones of this place  common to this part  of New England.  Great rounded boulders loomed on either side of her,  painted whimsically with colorful abstractions of lichen and moss.
Susan remembered when she lived in Colorado,  the rock climbing she did when she was  younger, and was amused at herself;  the mountains of  southern New Hampshire  were among the oldest ranges in the U.S.,  great-grandmother mountains  rounded and soft,  folded and smoothed by  a long, long life.  These were not  the Rockies, and she knew she was out of shape.  
It was late September,  a brilliant fall blessed by the right amount of rain and sun.  The sugar maples were almost psychedelic in their glory of reds, yellows and  oranges.  The sun was  bright, tender and poignant with a frailty felt only during Indian Summer; the last and perhaps sweetest days of summer.  Such days were the grand finale to that great burst of  fertile creation that began in the Spring.  To her, it seemed as if all the land, and all the devas of the plant kingdom,  were giving their final concert, their master chorale for the season.  Soon the first frost would come, and Susan would walk with her morning coffee into a garden fallen overnight, a precious  world melting away like a  dream,  ready to sleep beneath the immanent blanket of snow.
Below her came  a long procession of  people,  making their way up the trail between rock outcroppings.  Some carried baskets of food, homemade bread, and torches, candles;  all carried flashlights and blankets.  Just behind her came Martin,  lugging the ceramic  dombek drum they had purchased on their trip to Morocco.  After him came his little tribe of drummers.  They met without fail every Thursday night  in their living room.    “You are amazing“, she thought, a momentary flash of sweet, familiar lust  surging through her as she watched  his long , denim clad legs stride up the mountain.  The cup of those brown legs around her hips....she inwardly smiled.  Another good sign, that after all these years, and on this day especially, she could feel that so strongly.    
It was the evening of  the Fall Equinox,  a very special Fall Equinox, because it was also to be a full moon.  She felt the pulse of the land beneath her feet, heat,   a coursing of energies she envisioned as a beating heart, humming through her and around her.  The  drummers would sing that heartbeat into their circle after the sun went down; she knew they were already attuning themselves to it even as they walked.  Susan took a deep breath, and let sensation come into her.  Her body vibrated, she knew she was moving into an increasingly ecstatic state of heightened perception. She folded her hands before her chest Indian style, and  greeted the presence she felt here.  And  Spirit Mountain greeted her.  She took her shoes off.
“Breathe, just breathe”.  With each inhale,  Susan  let the sense of  Gaia come into her.  She never knew what else to call it; “earth energies”,  “Creator”,  “Source”;  to her it was Gaia, and she visualized roots that grew from her feet,  roots that went down deep into the Earth, connecting her with the web of all life.  It wasn’t even that abstract;  that was simply what it felt like.  As if she became bigger.
Her breathing became rhythmic, releasing  the small concerns of her personal life, the tensions and conflicts of the day,   breathing in that light, that pulse that  rose effortlessly through her now bare feet, an erotic heat in  her vagina and womb, up her spine, into her heart. “Hello,  hello” she said out loud.  “Here we are.”  In answer,  currents flowed up her legs, into her hands.  Susan paused, close to  the summit, and leaned against a huge granite boulder, slightly dizzy.....“not so fast,   I have to open gradually to this ...”  Closing her eyes for a moment, she felt Martin’s hand on her back.  He was  feeling it as well.  She almost heard  his “Are you all right?”,  but he hadn’t spoken.  Speech was becoming difficult for him.  
The warmth of his hand on her back and his strong male presence steadied her.  A little further up the trailhead was an arbor woven of branches and grapevines.  Tanya and James stood on either side of it, silently ready with the sage smudge sticks they used as each person entered the place where the ceremony would be held.  A raucous crow flew suddenly across the path, to land in a nearby tree.  It squawked at them as if to say “well,  hurry up!” and flew off.  
Martin broke his trance to laugh;  they had, as far as he was concerned,  been welcomed.
The top of Spirit Mountain was flat granite shelf.  It was a splendid view;  to the east the spire of an old church rose from an ocean of trees, and the Connecticut River was visible, winding like a snake through the landscape.  Before her, ten boulders formed an imperfect circle.  Perhaps they had once been more  regular, but erosion or earthquake had, over time, worked them out of  alignment.   At the circle’s center stood a huge boulder,  shot with veins of quartz;  crystalline intrusions flashed here and there on it’s surface as it reflected the setting sun.  Susan wondered, as always, how the long ago people who once came here had managed to move rocks weighing several tons into these placements.  
The ancient people who made this stone circle millennia ago were a mystery.  There was evidence that Phoenician or Celtic colonists  had once settled along the Connecticut river,  fishing, sailing, and marking places that were sacred to them with standing stones and cairns very similar to prehistoric sites in Ireland and Europe.  Perhaps this was Tiranog, the “blessed land to the West” of  ancient Irish legend.  The controversy surrounding these structures and “calendar sites” had never been settled.  The vanished people who so laboriously moved enormous and carefully selected  stones to mark this place could just as easily have been native Americans long lost to history.  It really didn’t matter to Susan.    
What all of these mysterious places,  including Spirit mountain, did share in common was geomantic intensity.  They were places of power, ley crossings.  A divining rod held over the quartz boulder at this circle’s center frenetically turned like the blades of a helicopter.  To a geologist, they were places of geomagnetic force.  But it took no theory or scientific knowledge to experience the presence of  this place.  At last, just like the ancients who once came here,  people were beginning to realize that these were places of communion.  One did not build condos on them.
In the deepening twilight, people passed through the woven entranceway, seating themselves around the circle.  Some brought blankets to wrap themselves in,  and some of the older folks had folding chairs.   Beneath the white quartz  stone were offerings of food, wine and written prayers to the ancestors of this place,  as well as a  basket of seed as offerings to the animals and nature spirits who lived here.  And quite a few small personal shrines had been set up in an inner circle.  Susan saw her friend Margo’s little Goddess statue resting on a red silk cloth.  Nearby was a brass statue of the Buddha,  a photo of the late Dalai Lama placed at his feet.  From a crevice in the stone hung a laughing leather Greenman mask .  Candles in colored votive holders flickered like a shimmering rainbow around the base of the stone.
Four drummers sat at each of the four directions,  already synchronized into a deep heartbeat rhythm.  They were in trance,  attuned to each other and the qualities of the element each drummer was inviting to be present, air, fire, water and earth.  Their rhythms flowed into the azure twilight as Martin sat down to join them, his dumbek between his knees.  Susan walked around the circle,  bowed to the center, and then picked up a pack of matches on the ground to light citronella torches mounted around the periphery.  
At last she sank down to join the chanting, to enter into deep receptivity.  She saw that she was a little nervous, and tried to shake it out of her body for a minute.  She was one of the focalizers tonight, and although she had served in that way before,  she never knew exactly what she would do until the moment arose.  Years as a public speaker and environmental activist still made it difficult for her to completely relax into a wholly intuitive way of working within a group, trusting that indescribable merging that always happened.  She took another deep breath and visualized her roots going down into the earth.  It didn’t matter, she remembered.  “It doesn’t matter in the least whether I’m nervous or not.  It’s not about me, and it never is.”
She could see it now, if she unfocussed her eyes;  a glow that seemed to come from the granite floor she sat cross-legged on, a pulse that attuned her to the drums,  light that seemed to pour from cracks in the ancient boulders.  Her unease was gone, unimportant.
Tonight they would offer thanks for the food grown and harvested throughout the summer; not just for them, but for all those who eat.  They would chant and pray and dance their gratitude for being fed by the Earth and all the beings upon Her, and, in a ritual of reciprocity, they would offer their prayers, music, gratitude and love back,  sending it down into the Earth to sustain and nurture the One who sustained and nurtured them.  Susan was one of the women tonight who would  become a kind of filament for the energies held by the ritual.  In the course of the ceremony, she would  open herself to communion with the spirit of place, with Gaia in all of Her manifestations; and what visions she received she would share with the group.  
Sometimes what came to her was empathic, a feeling of sadness or disharmony that needed to be witnessed by the group, or simply a tremendous love that radiated between all present, renewing them.  Sometimes she received images that were far from grandiose and very specific - once she saw a piece of baked  liver on a plate before one of the women present.  It seemed that she was both pregnant and anemic.
Later in the evening there would be feasting, baskets of pumpkin bread, cheese, and fruit  brought out, and bottles of wine and honey mead opened.  The drummers would continue to  drum until the sun rose, letting rhythms flow through them in constantly changing waves, moving beyond exhaustion into ecstasy.  Several couples would also spend the night on the mountain;  Susan could see three tents discreetly set up at the far periphery of the circle.  These were mated pairs who wanted to conceive,  and had chosen this auspicious place and time, the energies evoked by this gathering, to invite a child to join them.  It was doubtful, Susan thought, that anyone who stayed the night would sleep.  
Before closing her eyes to chant, Susan looked around the circle.  It was a big gathering;  it looked like nearly half the population of Putney had come, although she was sure other circles and gatherings were going on in different places.  South of her,  at the Temanos center,  her friend Jewell would be facilitating a gathering.  She visualized Jewell’s strong, lined face, her famous rattle in her hand, and a momentary flash of love, support flooded her;  she knew Jewell was aware her, and very busy.
“Gaia.  Gaia,  thank you.  I am here.”

The End
Lauren Raine, Duncan Eagleson 1993 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Vision Questing


The divine manifestation is ubiquitous,
Only our eyes are not open to it.
Awe is what moves us forward.

Live from your own center.
The divine lives within you.
The separateness apparent in the world is secondary.
Beyond the world of opposites is an unseen,
but experienced, unity and identity in us all.
Today the planet is the only proper “in group.”
Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.
We cannot cure the world of sorrows,
but we can choose to live in joy.

You must return with the bliss and integrate it.
The return is seeing the radiance is everywhere.
The world is a match for us.
We are a match for the world.
The spirit is the bouquet of nature. . . .
Sanctify the place you are in.
Follow your bliss. . . .

~ Joseph Campbell 
"The Sacred Mirrors" (http://www.sacredmirrors.org)
Joseph Campbell in his "The Power of Myth" interviews with Bill Moyers famously said "Follow your Bliss.......and doors will open where you don't expect them to."  Bill Moyers agreed in his own way, commenting that he felt sorry for people who seemingly  "had no invisible means of support".

I have not been able to write, or even make art lately, a block I hope will pass.  So I look back, look back, look back, and that is appropriate for this time of year, the time of Samhain.  This post is from exactly 6 years ago, what I was thinking about then.  

I lost my two oldest friends in the past 5 years,the poet Felicia Miller and the composer and writer Joanna Brouk.   I know that I am not immortal as well, and think often, "what can I leave behind?"  Well, there is a body of work, lots and lots of art and writing!  Who knows what will happen to all that, since I have neither descendants to preserve it, nor patrons to eagerly collect the "works of Lauren Raine"!  Still, I love my work and am glad of the creative life I've been privileged to live.  And if there is a "message" I could convey, it is that of the Goddess and viewing the world through a different paradigm, and also, the grace and help and magic that continually surrounds us, the "web of being".  I so often find I write about that, wanting to re-affirm for myself and for others "what I saw" at the margins.

"Spiral" by Catherine Nash
I am remembering  today my  rather miraculous  journey that began with a book I wanted to write just after I finished my MFA, a project that took me across the country and introduced me to a nomadic life.  Perhaps the reason I feel like telling this winding story  is two-fold:  It seems important to pass on the good news that we so very often, if we undertake that which we feel passionate about, find that "doors open where you least expect them to", as Joseph Campbell said. When I look back at many of the creative undertakings in my life, I have to admit the presence of the miraculous was there, collaborating with me.  

If there is any point to sharing this journal, it may well be my effort to affirm this perception, express my clumsy gratitude.  Life really is far more magical than we can imagine, and we're usually too busy to notice.
"First Chakra" by Beth Ames Swartz

"Life is what happens when you're making
other plans."......... John Lennon

In 1987, I graduated from the University of Arizona, feeling very unsure of what it might mean to be an artist.  I found many aspects of the art world cynical and devoid of depth or relevance.   I remember  conversations Catherine Nash  and other fellow students had about  New Age spirituality, my fascination with tribal arts, pouring over Kandinsky's "Concerning the Spiritual in Art", or Jose Arguelles "The Transformative Vision", my utter delight at seeing Alex Grey's "The Sacred Mirrors" in Art Week for the first time.  These were sources that truly moved me.

"You develop your skills and technical expertise, and then trust the process. You learn all you can learn, and then go into the studio and forget everything. There is an emptying out, being willing to confront not knowing. We really do not have a language in this culture for these kinds of experiences."
 Beth Ames Swartz
 So I boldly, if naively,   announced that I would go on a Vision Quest to write a book based on interviews with transformative, spiritual artists, since such people were generally ignored or pooh-poohed by the contemporary art world.  I made a book outline and proposal, interviewed my friends, and then made a list of some of the artists I wished I could interview, among them Alex Grey, Ingo Swann, and others.  I had one small problem:  I was a virtual unknown in the arts world.  How could I get anyone to take me seriously enough to let me interview them?

Synchronicities are like touchstones, you follow one and it leads to another.  Around this time I had a memorable dream - I was in construction gear with a hard hat on, and I was working on a big steel bridge.  Next to me was a black man in similar gear, and after a while he put down his tools, and said to me "we're just going to have to go to the authorities for help."  The "authorities"?  But amazingly, a few days later  I received a little booklet in the mail, which I have no memory of ordering,  from, I believe, Lucis Publishing.  It was an Alice Bailey pamphlet titled "Building and Bridging:  The New Group of World Servers".  Bridges, I thought, there it is again.

The following week, I was invited to a party, where I met an artist named Beth Ames Swartz, whose installation "A Moving Point of Balance" was soon to be on view at the University Art Museum.  I didn't really know anything about her, but at the party I shyly introduced myself, and rather audaciously told her I was writing a book about spiritual artists, and could I interview her.

Beth not only agreed, but told me she was one of the founders of the Transformative Art Movement, was organizing a conference, and would I like to have her list of contacts!  "I'm into bridge art" she told me.  That evening, when I looked through the papers she had given me, I found myself with a  list that included a number of the artists I had been thinking of, including Alex Grey and the great performance artist Rachel Rosenthal.  Now I had a personal introduction from Beth!

So I booked a crafts booth at a Renaissance Faire near New York City to pay my way, and off I went, on a journey that took me to NYC, and later Los Angeles, San Francisco, and points in between. So many surprising things happened!  I got my interview with  artist Rafael Ortiz about his Physio-Psycho-Alchemy, for example,   not because I sought him out, but because a co-worker at the Renaissance Faire mentioned that she knew him, and he was organizing some kind of conference about spiritual art at Rutgers.  Which is also how I became involved in Rafael's Art and the Invisible Reality Symposium, where I met many other artists pursuing spiritual expression.  And the Quest continued.

Just recently it was my pleasure to see that interview with Rafael published, at last, in the Coreopsis Journal of Ritual Theatre.  Circles and spirals..............

"The problem is we’re so skimpy and stingy, so timid about asking. The Universe is willing to give; its there for the asking.  When I work, I feel that ‘seamlessness” every much, because half of the time I don’t know where the ideas actually come from. They come in all kinds of forms. An idea can be formed in a sound, or in a very articulate kind of language….but it’s all part of the same thing. This comprehension of holism is very important at this point in time. I think it is also very important to the planet for us to be able to think in those terms" 
I tried for a quite a while to get my book published, but was never successful.  To be honest, I think it was my own fault this was so - I had an underlying lack of confidence in myself that, in retrospect, undermined me every time.  I have seen this as a problem throughout my career, and it is a pleasure to be of an age and time of life now where, well, it's not relevant any more.  I don't care anymore about competition or ambition, I care only about the unfolding that m art offers me as I live this life.

Perhaps someday I'll go back to the Art and Spirituality project, with new perspective and much greater confidence.  I think such voices as Beth Ames Swartz, Rafael Ortiz, and many others (and me too!) are needed now.