Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Magician

"The Magician stands with his arm raised in the classic gesture of inspired invocation.  He draws the white light of universal energy (the Above) through his  skilled hand, his will, and then through his heart, to manifest on the physical plane (the Below).  As his creative energies manifest, they are broken into the "rainbow" components of the physical world in all of it’s lovely diversity.

The Mage is an artist in every sense of the word, for his magic arises from a skilled and disciplined understanding of the tools he has to work with, his intention, and a  connection to the infinite realm from which all manifestations originate.  The Magician card urges you to remember that you are the artist - the  Mage - of your life, and now is exactly the time to manifest what you desire.  There are many talents and resources at your hand, and you may "invoke" your potential now through wise use of will, vision and inspiration."

I seem to be going through a process this summer.  A lot keeps bubbling up like lava from some fiery underground reserve, some primal source that urges me to create some new lands, and possibly level a few landscapes existing in the process!  So today I consulted my very own "Oracle", the Rainbow Bridge Oracle deck, which I finished some 10 years ago and mostly have ignored ever since.  What came up was "Meloncholy - the lessons of depression".  The solution?  "The Magician".  Wow.  Never let it be said we don't receive guidance when we ask for it!  WE are indeed the Magicians and Artists of our lives.

To view the entire deck:  THE RAINBOW BRIDGE ORACLE

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Black Madonna


I am pleased with this, the last of my "Our Lady of the Shards" series.   Over the years I've made quite a few Black Madonna images.  To me, the Black Madonna, and there are many greatly revered throughout Europe, represents the essence of the ancient sacred places that many of these images still "inhabit".  The Black Madonna is Mother Earth, the Source, the Root and Leaf and Fruit that sustain us.   She is felt  most keenly in sacred places like caves and springs.  

The one to the right  I made to install in a tree in 2005, after a numinous residency at I Park Artists Enclave.  Truly, I felt the forest there speak to me, and the "Black Madonna" became my own humble offering to the Numina of place.

The Camino is the ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, a 10th century Romanesque and Gothic cathedral that supposedly houses the bones of St. James, a Christian martyr.  It also once housed a beloved Black Madonna effigy.  Thinking about the Camino, and pilgrimages to sacred places that were once considered to be inhabited by Numina, by what the Romans called "Genious Loci" I  felt like including here  this article I wrote in 2009. 

Black Madonna of Guadaloupe
Reflections on the Black Madonna 

"There was once a vast pilgrimage that took place in Europe. Pilgrims made their way towards the town of Compostella in Spain, where an ancient effigy of the BLACK MADONNA is housed. The word Compostella comes from the same root word as "compost".

COMPOST is the living, black material that is made from rotting fruits, grains and other organic matter. From this compost -- life and light will emerge. When the pilgrims came to the Cathedral at Compostella they were being 'composted' in a sense. After emergence from the dark confines of the cathedral and the spirit -- they were ready to flower, they were ready to return home with their spirits lightened." ~~ Jay Weidner
I can't think about European traditions of pilgrimage to sacred places without  revisiting the mysterious "Black Madonnas" found in shrines, churches and cathedrals all over Europe - France alone has over 300. These icons have been the focus of millions of pilgrimages since the early days of the church, and most probably rest upon sites that were places of prehistoric  pilgrimage long before the advent of Christianity.

Why were these effigies so beloved that pilgrims traveled many miles to seek healing and guidance? Why, in a medieval world where European peasants were unlikely to see a dark skinned person was the Madonna black?  Some of the effigy statues are made of materials that are true, ebony black. And why are there so many myths that connect the effigies with trees, or caves, or special wells, and ensuing miracles of healing? 

Many suggest that the  Madonna with Child originated in images of Isis with her child Horus (the reborn Sun God). Isis was a significant religious figure in the later days of Rome, and continued to be worshipped in the early days of Christianity. In general, when Isis arrived in Rome she adopted Roman dress and complexion, and was sometimes merged with other deities, such as Venus. The images of Isis that survived the fall of Rome were perhaps the origin of later Virgin and Child icons - temples devoted to Isis continued well into the third century. "Paris" derives from the name of Isis (par Isis). 

Whether originally derived from Isis or not, most of these images are connected in place and myth to healing springs, power sites, and holy caves. The Black Madonna is the Earth Mother, reborn as  Catholic Mary, and yet not entirely disguised. She is black like the Earth is black, fertile (and often shown pregnant) like the Earth is fertile, dark because she is embodied and immanent, as nature is embodied and immanent. 

 I really like Mr. Weidner's reference to "compost" in speaking of the great pilgrimage to Compostella.  Compost is the fertile soil created from rotting organic matter, the "Black Matter". The alchemical soup to which everything living returns, and is continually resurrected by the processes of nature into new life, new form. Mater. Mother.

There are many legends and miracles associated with Black Madonna icons.  I suggest that the sanctity of place and intention also contribute to these myths, and phenomena.
 The icon at Guadalupe, Spain, is said to have been carved by St. Luke in Jerusalem, although this is highly unlikely. It doesn't ultimately matter how old the icon actually is. The question is, what does it embody that strikes a deep chord, that speaks to those who come to contemplate the icon? And what does the icon emanate? Can it actually have healing powers, or is the site itself a "place of power", it's energies renewed by millenia of worship and pilgrimage? What resonance does it attune those who come there to? And how significant is the act of making the pilgrimage itself, the long effort to come to a sacred place, a sacred image?
Black Madonna of Czestochowskad (Poland)
In the Middle Ages when the majority of the Black Madonna statues were created there was still a strong undercurrent and mingling of the old ways. Black Madonnas were discovered hidden in trees in France as late as the seventeenth century, suggesting these were representations of pagan goddesses who were still worshipped in groves.

Black Madonnas are also found close to caves (the womb/tomb of the Earth Mother).  The earliest human paintings, some dating back more than 30,000 years,  are found in caves in France, beautiful paintings of animals and birds.  Within these caves were also found the earliest (and only) representations of human beings for many millenia, the little sculptures of seemingly pregnant women, the so-called "Venus" figures.  I agree with archaeologist Marija Gimbutas that these figures were not some form of "neolithic pornography and fertility fetishes" but represented the prime deity, the  Mother deity herself, and the caves were regarded as  sacred wombs where the animals that provided sustenance and power to ancient hunters might be thus born again.  Caves of both return and  becoming.

In medieval Christian churches, it's interesting to note that  the black Madonna statues were sometimes kept in a subterranean part of a church, or near a special spring or well.

"Again and again a statue is found in a forest or a bush or discovered when ploughing animals refuse to pass a certain spot. The statue is taken to the parish church, only to return miraculously by night to her own place, where a chapel is then built in her honour. Almost invariably associated with natural phenomena, especially healing waters or striking geographical features"

  Ean Begg

Black Madonnas, not surprisingly, are also associated with the Grail legends. The Grail or Chalice may represent the mingling of Celtic mythology. Cerridwen's cauldron was an important myth about the womb of the Earth Mother, from which life is continually renewed, nourished, born, and reborn. 

The extent to which people make pilgrimages to these sites is amazing. For example, the Black Madonna of Montserrat, near Barcelona, receives up to a million pilgrims a year, travelling to visit the 'miracle- working' statue known as La Moreneta, the dark little one.
Black virgin of Montserrat

So why am I writing all of this? Well, because it's important to know that the ancient "Journey to the Earth Mother", which exists in all cultures and times, never ended. It just transformed again. (In fact, there is a lot I could say about the black stone (the Kaaba) of Mecca, and its prehistoric origins, but I'll leave to another time.)


Monday, August 20, 2018

"Our Lady of the Shards" series..... New Work

The Memory Keeper
These are Shrines, or perhaps Madonnas, that celebrate and "en-shrine" the lost, forgotten, broken and buried Divine Feminine, as well as all of those ancestral women who kept the important memories, wove the stories and connections, birthed the babies, buried the dead.  "Our Lady of the Shards" lies among the broken shards, debris, and re-surfacing mythos of the past.  She is the Black Madonna, the Numina at the roots of sacred springs and caves.  She is the ancient Great Mother, rising from beneath the careless feet of contemporary civilization to speak to us again, teach, and remind us. 

The Weaver

Our Lady of the Desert Spring

The Black Madonna

Bone Woman

Our Lady of the Midwives

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Waiting for the Barbarians at the Hot Springs

"The Memory Keeper" (2018)

I realize I haven't written for a long time now.  Not really writing, spontaneously.  This was originally intended to be a journal, a journal that began with an artist residency based on my quest to follow the "trail of Spider Woman".  To envision what She might represent, across the ages, across the miles, and across cultures into this crucial contemporary time we live in.  I wonder how far I have come or  strayed from that path, which began  in 2007?
Spider Woman's Hand (2007)

It is my birthday, the last year of my sixth decade.  I guess I have become old, certainly the mirror tells me so, so do my bones.  Sometimes the world seems strange to me, like it's moved on, and, well, here I am, seemingly by the roadside with a few old friends commiserating,  wondering if we have anything anyone wants any more.   And no.  We don't have time to be polite in saying that.

The helper here at the hot springs who handed me a towel is a pleasant, large boned young man with big hands and  a bra under his tee shirt.  He seems like a sweet kind of  person.  I know I'm legally supposed to treat him like a woman now,  but frankly, he just looks and sounds like a  young man in a stuffed bra.  If he takes the bra off, does he have the option to become a man again?  Is womanhood just a "choice" or even a "recreation"  now?  This could get confusing.  Sometimes it seems as if the world has moved on in directions I don't understand.

I often go to a hot spring not far from me, where the waters without fail remove the stress and emotional crusting and debris that accumulates, like lint to Velcro,  to obscure clarity of mind.  At the very least, I relax, and watch old videos that the proprietress makes available.  I've had some great insights and a few visionary "directives" here over the years.  In 2012, for example, I  enjoyed the whole pool to myself late at night under the stars.  Sitting in the waters I "downloaded" an entire Proposal for an art project, neatly presented as a kind of academic paper,  complete with a title: "Numina - Masks for the Elemental Powers".  Seriously.  Sacred waters have power.   That gift later became a series of masks, and my friend Ann Waters ended up creating a play performed in Willits, California called  Numina:  The Awakening.

 And then there was the  dream I had at Harbin Hot Springs in 1999 that foretold the "Masks of the Goddess project".   Sacred places, be they hot springs, mountain tops, or numinous caves the way for the Divine to speak.  My idea of being an artist has always been a bit like being a stenographer, able and willing to do transcription.  Does anyone care about what I "transcribe" anymore?  I honestly don't know.  The "art world" has  apparently no use for me, and I have quit wasting money applying for things.   I cross art world taboos:  religion, spirituality, it's not political, it's not "contemporary", I'm not "emerging" (does that mean I've "emerged"?  Where did I emerge from and when did it happen?).  And yet the Powers that Be keep sending me visions, darn it, that I just have to try to make manifest.

So here I sit at dawn.  This is the last year of my 6th decade.   A friend says I should write a memoir, which seems like real vanity  to me -  although in truth, what I love best are the stories people tell of their lives.  Why should I not enjoy telling my own "epic"?  Memory is all that one finally has left.  At the end, perhaps not even that - I suppose in the passage and logic of the soul, memory gets in the way of new becoming.  Forgive me, I stray now into metaphysics, something I don't particularly do much anymore.  "The World is not with us enough, O Taste and See"  wrote Denise Levertov.  Abstractions get in the way of that important truth, even fascinating  metaphysical abstractions.

This becomes increasingly important at 70.  "O Taste and See!"  You don't need abstractions at 70.  You need sunsets, mountains purple and azure, starscapes, the tender hands of children, the taste of old champagne and fresh bread........... you need to love the World.

I have had one revelation while soaking this day.  A visionary experience that I had, oh, back in 1989, came to me vividly for recollection.  The vivid memory of that experience was preceded by the  image of a tortoise I met recently in my garden.  Tortoise represents to me Turtle Island, the Earth, our patient Mother.  When a tortoise shows up I pay attention.

The vision happened in my old red Toyota pick up truck, in a rest area somewhere in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  It was 1989, and  I had just driven across the country, heading for my summer home at the New York Renaissance Faire.  I became exhausted and pulled off the road, and fell into not so much a sleep as a trance state.  It seemed that my car started flying up into the sky, so that I got a good birds eye view of the landscape below.  What I saw was a misty, green land below, and a great circle of standing stones.  Approaching the Circle was a group of people clad in white, all coming for some kind of ritual. (I reflect that I am going to  Avebury this fall, to attend a conference on Earth energies and sacred sites).

Then I seemed to be flying over a southwestern landscape, red canyon walls that were covered with layers of patterns of petroglyphs that seemed to recede back into the stone.  and then once again, I was flying in my truck, this time over Los Angeles, and below me I saw the freeways of L.A., forming a perfect figure eight, the infinity symbol.  And was over, I was in a rest stop in Virginia.

What I realize now it that this vision was about my life..........I've  loved the stone circles in New England and overseas,  I'm made and participated in rituals, I've learned to dowse, I've sensed the footfalls of ancestors, I've been to ancient sites of England.  And I've lived in the Southwest, and followed  petroglyphs of Spider Woman, like touchstones along the path.   Last, how many times have I driven the highways and freeways of America, the infinity loops of Los Angeles, where I grew up?  Those patterns underlay my life, but they are also the underlying patterns of Gaia, of Turtle Island.    The Pattern is not lost, even if it is too large and too ancient for us to see.

Memoirs.  I've been blessed to see more than one of what people call miracles........... and how do you talk about such things?  I think I got out of the prophet business quite a long time ago!  Especially now, when I do indeed feel like an anachronism along the side of the road.....people do not sit at tables facing each other and sharing visions much anymore, they sit before  little electronic boxes in their rooms with the doors closed.   Standing beside the road, sometimes it seems a little lonely.

So why don't I write any more?  Truth is, I'm depressed. I don't feel a need to apologize for that.
 Depression may in fact be an appropriate, if futile, response right now. The Earth is heating up, the oceans are filling up with plastic, California is burning and Florida is sinking, millions of fellow beings on this beautiful world are becoming extinct every week, refugees are fleeing drought and war, and my grandson doesn't have a very hopeful outlook for his future.  We desperately need visionary leaders, and instead,  America is sinking into savagery and fascism under a corrupt regime headed by a would be dictator paid off by a corporate oligarchy.  Goodbye, America.

Still, practically speaking, it doesn't help me, or anyone else, this depression which  I don't know how to come out of , how to get "positive" and "enlightened".  I'm dark and melancholy these days, and I don't believe in numbing drugs or quick fix therapies.  There is something very American about that denial of the spiritual function, and emotional deepening, of depression.

I think about the Roman practice of the Saturn shrine, a somber place that was set aside in their gardens, where one might sit in sacred solitude, and allow the  melancholy  God  to inform and converse with  one's psyche.  There is a place for the voice of Saturn, for the torches of Hecate, in the gardens of our lives.  I claim the right to examine this long life I have been privileged to have, to ensadden about the losses and the disappointments, to be depressed about the eternal violence, greed and stupidity of humanity,  to grieve the daily destruction of the only Mother Earth any of us will ever know, and the decimation of America, which for all it's faults, was also a place of hope and idealism and great innovation.  My country.

When I was a child in the 50's my family toured Italy.  My mother dragged us to many Roman temples and mausoleums and museums, and I am embarrassed to say that all I really remember of it all, outside of the wonderful cats in the Coliseum, are the statues without noses.  They always seemed to be without noses, and in my 10 year old imagination, I pictured Romans as toga clad people without noses.   Much later, when contemplating pictures of those impressive (noseless)  marble statues, I imagined breaking floods  of  roaring barbarians, crossing the Rubicon and riding into civilized Rome, looting the Temples, raping the women (women always seem to be perceived as loot), and shouting with glee as they knocked the noses off of every statue they saw.  That, I believe, accounts for the facial disfiguration of Roman gods or generals.

Waiting for the Barbarians. ( I do not refer here, by the way, to the poem by  C.P. Cavafy,  or the famous book by  Pulitzer prize winner J.M. Coetzee ,  or even the very promising  forthcoming movie which will star Mark Rylance).  I co-opt the term for my own uses.  As an educated, and thus privileged woman, sitting here sipping coffee and enjoying the sound of running waters and dawn birds, sometimes I cast myself as an aristocratic late Roman woman.  How  might she  have felt, sitting in her Atrium with her family, "waiting for the barbarians" to arrive?  In the modern version, will all the sculptures in my sculpture garden be noseless one day, as the barbarians ride in with their motorcycles, hideously angry, sexist hip hop music blaring, NRA assault rifles in hand? Will they gleefully knock the noses off of every Goddess in the place?

Instead of Star trek, is the future to be more like the Road Warrior? A glorious patriarchal dream of one alpha male duking it out with another for supremacy?    Is it decent for me to even care about art, in what sometimes looks like the "end times".........with so much suffering, now, and hovering on the horizon?  And here I am.  I've partaken of the higher benefits of a great civilization, been part of an optimistic generation.

  I just finished a piece called the Memory Keeper.  She holds an overflowing bowl.......... she shares waters from another time, sustaining and growing the seeds of the future.  What else can any of us do, waiting for the barbarians?

Here I am, writing  at last.  I'm being truthful, and personal.  It seems like the day to do it.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

"The Weaver"

Weaver, Weaver, weave our thread
whole and  strong into your web
Healer, Healer, heal our pain
in love may we return again

We are dark and we are light
we are born of earth and light
of joy and pain our lives are spun
male and female, old and young

No one knows why we are born
A web is made, a web is torn
But love is the home that we come from
and at the core we all are one 

Of life's  Spring may we drink deep
and awake to dream and die to sleep
and dreaming weave another form
a shining thread of life reborn

~~~ Starhawk, from "The Spiral Dance"

Sunday, August 12, 2018

"The Parting Glass"............ wonderful Celtic drinking song!

This is true blessing at the bar............ it could easily be my own theme song!  I have always loved Celtic music for the exquisite blend of bitter and sweet.  Enjoy!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

"Our Lady of the Midwives"... Reflections

          "The breath of the ages 
            still ghosts to the vitality
            of our most early and unwritten forebears
            whose wizardry still makes a lie of history
            whose presence hints in every human word
            who somehow reared and loosed 
            an impossible beauty enduring yet:
            and I will not forget."

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

"Our Lady of the Shards" is a series of Madonnas I have been working on for a year or so now.  Our Lady of the Shards lies among the broken shards, debris, lost artifacts, and resurfacing mythos of the past.  She has been buried by time, his-story, and by endless war, and co-option of what was once sacred.  She is the Black Madonna, the dark Earth mystery at the roots of timeless sacred springs and caves, the generative "Numina" of place.  She is also the buried work and lives of the women who wove the ancient stories, who birthed our ancestors, the memory keepers and the comforters.  Perhaps collectively my "Madonnas" are  the Divine Feminine, arising into the world again at our greatest need, insisting that we see, re-member, re-claim. 

A number of years ago I met a midwife who was retiring.  Her hands had brought many children into this world, so I asked if I could take a cast of her hands.  She took what she told me was the "Midwives Gesture".  My Icon celebrates her life and work, and the lives of Midwives going back into prehistory, those un-named ancestors who brought us here through that Portal.

My Madonnas are also visual prayers, iconic images that pray that humanity will turn toward life-giving and life-nurturing once again, toward generation instead of destruction, toward reverence for our Mother Earth. 

            "I hate the scribblers, who only write of War
             and leave the glory of the past unsung between the lines."

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

I reflect on the ongoing tragedy of patriarchal culture and priorities, whereby the military, whereby technologies devoted to Death, are celebrated, funded excessively, endlessly rewarded and mythologized.  The U.S. has the highest military budget in the his-story of humanity.  What might be accomplished, if even a fraction of that went to serve Life, communion and love,  instead of Death?  Entire museums are devoted to famous generals, great epics about conquering armies and the rape and murder of women and children, like the Iliad or the Odyssey, are celebrated classics.  While ubiquitous Midwives of new life of all kinds.......are forgotten, un-known, trivialized, un-important.  How might we live, how might we act, if the welcomers of souls into this world were as celebrated, as honored, as those who are experts at killing? 


How might we live, how might we act, if Our Lady of the Midwives rose in all of Her power to teach us a new way of being?

            “What might we see, how might we act, 
               if  we saw with a webbed vision?
              The world seen through a web of relationships
               .…as delicate as spider’s silk,
              yet strong enough to hang a bridge on.”

             Catherine Keller,  From a Broken Web